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The High School Freshmen by H. Irving Hancock

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When he had finished getting his clothes on, Ripley stalked moodily
past the main group.

"You mucker," he hissed, "I suppose you feel swelled up over having
had a chance to fight gentleman. You-----"

"Oh, Ripley, dry up---do!" interjected Ted Butler. "You call
yourself a gentleman, but you talk and act more like well, more
like a pup with the mange!"

"A pup with the mange! Great!" came the gleeful chorus from a
half score of freshmen.

"I'm not through with you, yet, Prescott!" Fred Ripley called
back over his shoulder. "I'll settle my score with you at my

Then, as he put more distance between himself and the other Gridley
High School boys, Ripley added to himself:

"That settlement shall stop at nothing to put Dick Prescott in
the dust---where he belongs."

"Oh, freshie, but you've coolness and judgment," cried Thompson,
approvingly. "And you've broken one cad's heart today."

"I'm sorry if I have," declared Dick, frankly, generously. "I
wouldn't have had any heart in the fight if he hadn't started
in to humiliate me. I wouldn't have cared so much for that, either.
But he started to say something nasty about my parents, and I
have as good parents as ever a boy had. Then I felt I simply
_had_ to fit a plug between Ripley's teeth."

Fred Ripley had pain in his eyes to help keep him awake that
night. Yet he would have been awake, anyway, for his wicked
brain was seething with plans for the way to "get even" with
Dick Prescott.



For a week Gridley High School managed to get along without the
presence of Fred Ripley. That haughty young man was at home,
nursing a pair of black eyes and his wrath.

Yet, in a whole week, a mean fellow who is rather clever can hatch
a whole lot of mischief. This Dick & Co., and some others, were
presently to discover.

All outer wraps were left in the basement in locker rooms on which
barred iron doors were locked. In the boys' basement were lockers
A and B. Each locker was in charge of a monitor who carried the
key to his own particular locker room.

As it happened Dick Prescott was at present monitor of Locker A.

If during school hours, one of the boys wanted to get his hat
out of a locker the monitor of that locker went to the basement
with him, unlocking the door, and locking it again after the desired
article of apparel had been obtained.

Thus, in a general way, each monitor was responsible for the safety
of hats, coats, umbrellas, overshoes, etc., that might have been
left in the locker that was in his charge.

Wednesday, just after one o'clock one of the sophomore boys went
hurriedly up the stairs, a worried look on his face. He went
straight to the principal's office, and was fortunate enough to
find that gentleman still at his desk.

"What is it, Edwards?" asked the principal, looking up.

"Dr. Thornton, I've had something strange happen to me, or to
my overcoat, if you prefer to put it that way," replied Edwards.

"What has gone wrong?"

"Why, sir, relying on the safety of the looker, I left, at recess
in one of my overcoat pockets, a package containing a jeweled
pin that had been repaired for my mother. Now, sir, on going
down to my coat, I found the pin missing from the pocket."

"Did you look thoroughly on the floor, Edwards?"

"Yes, sir; hunted thoroughly."

"Wait; I'll go down with you," proposed the principal.

Both principal and student searched thoroughly in the locker.
Dick, as in duty bound, was still there, on guard at the door.

"Mr. Prescott," asked puzzled Dr. Thornton, did any student have
admittance to the locker after recess today?"

"None, sir," answered Dick promptly.

"Hm! And you're absolutely sure, Mr. Edwards, that you left the
little package in your overcoat pocket?"

"Positive of it, Dr. Thornton."

"It's so strange that it startles me," admitted the good principal.

"It startles me a good deal," confessed Edwards, grimly, "to think
what explanation I am to offer my mother."

"Oh, well, it _must_ turn up," replied Dr. Thornton, though vaguely.
"Anyway, Edwards, there has been no theft. The door is locked,
and the only two keys to it are the one carried by the monitor
and a duplicate which is kept locked in my own desk. You'll probably
find it in one of your pockets."

"I have been through every pocket in my clothes at least seven
times, sir," insisted the dismayed Edwards. "And that is a rather
valuable pin," he added; "worth, I believe, something, like fifty

"Rest assured that we'll have some good explanation of the mystery
before long," replied the principal as soothingly as he could.

Edwards went away, sore and disheartened, but there was nothing
more to be said or done.

Thursday morning Dr. Thornton carried the investigation further,
but absolutely no light could be shed on the missing pin.

But at recess it was Frank Thompson who came upstairs breathless.

"Dr. Thornton," he cried, excitedly, "it's my own fault, of course,
but I'm afraid I've seen the last of my watch. It's one that
father carried for a good many years, and at last gave me. The
works are not very expensive, but the case was a gold one."

"How did you lose it?" inquired the principal, looking up over
the gold rims of his spectacles.

"Why, I had to hurry to make school this morning, sir, and, as
you know, it's a rather long walk. So I carried my watch in the
little change pocket in my reefer in order to be able to look
at it frequently. I reached the locker just in time not to be
late, and forgot and left my watch in the reefer. When I went
down just now I found the watch gone."

"Oh, but this is serious!" gasped Dr. Thornton, in dismay. "It
begins to look like an assured fact that there is some thief at
work. Yet Prescott alone has a key to that locker."

"Prescott is all right. He's no thief," put in Thompson, quickly.

"I agree with you, Mr. Thompson. I consider Mr. Prescott too
manly a fellow to be mixed up in anything dishonest. Yet something
is wrong---very wrong. For the safety and good name of us all
we must go to the bottom of this mystery."

That, of course, was all the satisfaction Thompson could expect
at the moment. He went out to the remainder of his recess, feeling
decidedly blue. Nor was Dr. Thornton any less disturbed.

When recess was over, the entire body of students was questioned
in the general assembly room, but no light was forthcoming.

"Of course, in view of what has happened," counseled Dr. Thornton,
"the young gentlemen will do well to leave nothing of value in
their coats in the locker rooms. And while nothing distressing,
has yet happened in the young ladies basement, I trust they will
govern themselves by what has happened on the young men's side."

Dick Prescott felt much concerned over it all, though he did not
imagine that anyone suspected _him_ of any share in the disappearance
of articles of value.

Friday there were no mishaps, for the very simple reason that
no one left anything of value in the locker rooms.

On Monday Fred Ripley was back again. With the aid of a little
help from the druggist the haughty young man presented two eyes
that did not show any signs of having been damaged. Fred himself
offered no comment on his absence. He seemed anxious to be on
especially good terms with all of the upper classmen with whom
he usually associated.

During the first period of the morning Ripley had no recitation
on. He sat at his desk studying. Presently as permitted under
the rules, he whispered softly with the boy seated behind him.

Then, suddenly, Ripley rose and tip-toed down the aisle to the
desk. The principal himself sat there in charge.

"Dr. Thornton," began Ripley, in a low voice, "I was away last
week, and so didn't hear all the school news. I have just learned
about the locker room thefts, and so I'm uneasy. Just as the
bell rang I was having trouble with the pearl and diamond scarf-pin
that I often wear. There wasn't time to adjust it, so I dropped
it in my overcoat pocket. I would like to go down to my coat,
now, and get it."

"Prescott is reciting in IV. Physics," replied Dr. Thornton, rising.
"However, in view of all that has happened, I think we shall
do well to go down and call him out of class. I don't want any
more valuable articles to be missing."

Principal and student went quietly to the floor below. Dr. Thornton
thrust his head into the physics laboratory and quietly called
Dick out, explaining what was wanted.

"You'll come, too, won't you, doctor?" asked Ripley.

The principal nodded without speaking. As the three reached the
barred door, Dick inserted the key, then threw open the door.
Fred marched over to his coat, thrusting his hand into a pocket.

"By thunder, it's gone!" gasped Fred.

In an instant Dr. Thornton bounded into the locker room. He himself
explored every pocket in the boy's coat.

"Strange! strange!" muttered the bewildered principal.

"All the other thefts happened in this locker, didn't they?" inquired
Ripley, suspiciously.

"Yes---if thefts they were," admitted Dr. Thornton.

"Nothing missing from the other locker room?"


"Doctor," went on Ripley, as though loath to utter the words,
I hate to suggest anything of the sort. But---er---but---has the
monitor of this locker been searched after any of

"Ripley, you forget yourself!" cried the principal.

"What do you mean!" flared Dick, in the same breath, turning crimson,
next going very white.

"Doctor, I'm sorry," spoke Ripley, with great seeming reluctance,
"but that pin is a costly one. I ask that the monitor be searched!"



"Ripley, you don't realize what you are saying!" cried Dr. Thornton,
gazing at the sophomore in very evident distress.

"I only know that I'm all broken up, sir, over losing my costly
pin," persisted Fred. "And I know my father will be angry, and
will raise a row at the School Board's meeting."

Dick Prescott, standing by, had turned from scarlet to white,
and back again.

"But Ripley," explained the principal, almost pleadingly, "the
act would be illegal. No one has a lawful right to search the
person of anyone except a properly qualified police officer.
And even the police officer can do so only after he has arrested
a suspected person."

"Oh, then I suppose, sir, there's no show for me to get any real
justice done in this matter," muttered Fred, with an air of feigned

But by now Dick Prescott felt that he must speak---or explode.

"Dr. Thornton," he cried, chokingly, "the charge made against
me, or, at least, implied, is an outrageous one. But, as a matter
of justice to me, now that the hint has been cast, I ask that
_you_, sir, search me right here and now."

"Then you've had time to hide the pin!" muttered Fred, in a very
low voice.

Dick Prescott heard, but he paid no heed to the fellow.

"Dr. Thornton, will you search me---_now_?" insisted the young

"But I don't want to, Prescott," appealed the principal. "I haven't
the remotest suspicion of you, anyway, my dear boy."

"I ask the search, sir, just as a matter of justice," Dick insisted.
"If it were not too strong a word, then I would say that I _demand_
to be searched here and now."

Suiting the action to the word, Dick Prescott, standing proudly
erect, raised both arms over his head.

"Now, please, doctor, just as a matter of simple justice," begged
the young freshman.

"Oh, very well, then, Mr. Prescott," sighed the principal. "But
I never had a more distasteful task."

Into one of the side pockets Dr. Thornton projected a shaking
hand. He drew out only some scraps of paper, which he promptly
thrust back. Then he inserted a hand in the jacket pocket on
the other side.

"Ouch!" suddenly exclaimed the principal, in very real pain.

He drew the hand out, quickly. A drop of blood oozed up at the
tip of his forefinger.

"Mr. Prescott," demanded Dr. Thornton, "what is that pointed object
in your pocket?"

"_What_?" demanded Fred Ripley, tensely.

Dick himself thrust a hand into that pocket, and drew forth---Fred
Ripley's missing pin.

"What---why---who-----" gasped the freshman, suffocatingly.

"Oh, yes, of course," jeered Fred Ripley. "Astonished, aren't
you---you mucker?"

The last two words Ripley uttered in so low a tone that the principal,
gazing in horrified fascination at the pin that he now held in
his own hands, did not hear.

"You coward!" cried Dick, hotly, and clenched his fist, intent
on driving it against the sophomore's face.

But Dr. Thornton knew enough about High School boys' fights, to
galvanize himself into action. Like a flash he bounded between
the two boys.

"Here, here, Prescott, none of that!" he admonished.

"I---I beg _your_ pardon, sir," gasped Dick, in a tone which made
it very plain that he did not include his enemy in that apology.

"May I trouble you for my pin, sir, now that it has been recovered?"
asked Fred, coolly.

"Why---um!---that depends," replied Dr. Thornton, slowly, speaking
with a painful effort. "If you, or your father, have or would
have any idea of a criminal prosecution, Ripley, then it would
be improper to return your pin. It would have to be turned over
to the police as an exhibit in evidence. _But_ do you intend
anything of that sort, Mr. Ripley?"

"Why, that's as _you_ say, doctor," replied the sophomore, quickly.
"It's a matter of school discipline, and belongs to your province.
Personally, I know that I would rather not have this matter go
any further."

"I---I don't know what to do," confessed Dr. Thornton, in anxious
perplexity. "In any event, before doing anything, I think I had
better consult the superintendent and the Board of Education.
Mr. Prescott, I will say, freely, that I am most loath to believe
anything of this sort against you can be possible. There must
be---must be---some---er explanation. I---I---don't want you
to feel that I believe your guilt as yet assured. I---I-----"

Here Dr. Thornton broke down, dabbing at his eyes with his
handkerchief. Almost unconsciously he passed the pin, which he
was yet holding, to Fred Ripley.

"Lock the locker door, Mr. Prescott---and give me the key,"
requested the principal.

Dick passed over the key, then spoke, with more composure than
might have been expected under the circumstances:

"Dr. Thornton, I am as innocent of any thieving as you yourself
can be. Sooner or later the right of this will come out. Then
you will realize that I didn't steal anything. I'll prove myself
innocent yet, sir."

"I hope so, my boy, I---I---hope so," replied the principal.

As they ascended, Fred Ripley stepped aside to let the other two
go first. He was afraid to have Dick Prescott behind him just

No sooner had the trio entered the general assembly room than
it quickly dawned on all the students of both sexes that something
was unusually wrong.

Dick's face was red as fire. Had he been guilty of the thefts,
he might have been cooler about it all. Conscious innocence often
puts on the appearance of guilt.

Somehow, Dick got to his seat. He picked up a book, mechanically,
and pretended to be deeply absorbed in study.

"What's up?" whispered the fellow seated behind Fred.

Ripley turned enough to raise his eyebrows significantly and let
his questioner see him do it. Instantly all seated near the lawyer's
son became intensely curious.

Wondering glances strayed from over book-tops, even from the far
corners of the big assembly room.

Then the curious glanced at Dr. Thornton so often that the much
disturbed principal soon called another teacher to the desk and
left the room.

At recess, Purcell, of the sophomore class, was found in charge
at the door of Dick's old locker room. Ripley held his tongue
until he was out in the school yard. Then he broke loose before
those who would listen to him---and the number was large.

Dick & Co. had gathered by themselves in another corner of the
yard. Here, however, they were soon joined by a small mob of
the fellows, especially of the freshman class. Dick had his say.
He didn't want to say much, but he related, in a straightforward
way, what had happened.

"It's one of Fred Ripley's mean tricks," declared one of the freshmen.
"Fred Ripley can't fool anyone. He put that pin in Dick's pocket

"But two thefts---two things were missed last week, when Ripley
wasn't at school at all," spoke one boy, in an undertone.

"Yes; that's the queer part of it," agreed another boy. "Ripley
couldn't have had anything to do with those other cases."

This latter was the view that was occurring to Mr. Thornton, as
he sat in the principal's room, poring and pondering over the
whole distressing matter.

Thompson and the other football leaders came trooping over to
Dick & Co. as soon as they heard the noise. Prescott was a hero
with the football crowd. There was no use in telling them anything
against their little freshie hero.

"Prescott, it would look foolish to talk much," declared Thompson,
in a voice that was husky from real emotion. "Just give me your
hand, old man!"

Dick took the proffered hand, pressing it hard and gratefully.
Then the rest of the football squad pressed forward, each insisting
on a hearty handshake.

"Nobody except those who want to, will stomach this silly charge
against Dick," grunted Tom Reade to Dan Dalzell. "See how it's
turning out? Our old pal and leader is holding a regular reception."

"'Scuse me," begged Dan, hastily. "There's Laura Bentley beckoning
to me."

He hastened over to the girl's side. There were tiny drops in
the corners of Laura's eyes that looked like suppressed tears.

"Dan," she said, coming straight to the point, "we have heard,
of course. What a silly charge! See here, you pals of Dick's
are going to walk home with him from school this noon?"

"Surest thing that ever happened in the world," declared Dalzell,

"Just so," nodded Laura. "Well, if you won't think it strange
or forward, six of us girls want to walk along with you boys.
That will be a hint that the freshman class, if not the whole
H.S., passes a vote of confidence in Dick Prescott, the most
straightforward fellow in the class or the school."

"Bully for you, Miss Bentley!" glowed Dan. "We shall be looking
for you young ladies when school lets out."

When the outside bell rang for reassembling, such a guard of honor
had chosen to gather around Dick, and march in with him, that
it looked more like a triumphal procession.

"I feel better," sighed the boy, contentedly to himself, as he
dropped into his seat. "What a bully thing a little confidence

When school let out, Dick & Co., each partner escorting one of
the freshman girls, strolled down the street. A good many more
of the students chose to drop in behind them. Dick could say
nothing, but his heart swelled with pride.

"The way to get famous and respected, nowadays, is to steal something,
and to get found out," sneered Fred Ripley, bitterly, to Clara

Straight to his own door did some two score in all of the Gridley
H.S. students escort Dick Prescott.

"Three cheers for Dick!" proposed some one.

"And for Dick and Co.!" shouted another voice.

The cheers were given with gusto. So much noise was made, in
fact, that Mrs. Prescott came to open the door.

Something in his mother's face---a look of dread and alarm---spoiled
the cheering for Dick. As soon as he could he got inside the

Little did the young freshman suspect the ordeal that awaited
him here.



"What's wrong mother? Have you heard-----" the boy began, as
soon as the door was closed.

"Yes, Richard."

"But, mother, I am inno-----"

"Oh, Dick, of course you are! But this fearful suspicion is enough
to kill one who loves you. Come! Your father is in the store.
Dr. Thornton is upstairs. He and---and---a policeman.

"Policeman!" gasped Dick, paling instantly. "Do they mean to-----"

"I don't know just what they mean, Dick I'm too dazed to guess,"
replied his mother. "But come upstairs."

As Dick entered their little parlor he was dimly aware that the
High School principal was in the room. But the boy's whole gaze
was centered on a quiet little man---Hemingway, the plain clothes
man from the police station.

"Don't look scared to death, Prescott," urged Dr. Thornton, with
a faint attempt at a smile. "We want to go through with a little
formality---that is all. This matter at the High School has
puzzled me to such a degree that I left early today and went to
consult with Mr. Hemingway. Now, he thought it best that we come
around here and have a talk with you."

"I can begin that talk best," pursued Hemingway, "by asking you,
Prescott, whether you have anything that you want to say first-off?"

"I can't say anything," replied Dick, slowly, "except that I know
nothing as to how any of the articles missed at school came to
vanish. Ripley's pin was found in my pocket today, and I can
only guess that some one---Ripley, perhaps dropped it in my pocket.
Ripley has some feelings of enmity for me, anyway. We had a
fight last week, and---" Dick could not repress a smile---"I thrashed
him so that he was out of school for several days."

"But Ripley was not at school for the last few days, until today,"
broke in Dr. Thornton. "Now, a pin and a watch were missed while
Ripley was not attending school."

"I know it, sir," Dick nodded. "As to those two articles I cannot
offer even the ghost of an explanation."

"I don't like to accuse you of taking Ripley's scarf-pin, nor
do I like to suspect him of putting up such a contemptible trick,"
explained Dr. Thornton, thoughtfully. "As far as the incident
of the scarf-pin goes I am willing to admit that your explanation
is just as likely to be good as is any other."

"Prescott, what did you do with the other pin and the watch?"
shot in Policeman Hemingway, suddenly and compellingly.

It was well done. Had Dick been actually guilty, he might either
have betrayed himself, or gone to stammering. But, as it was,
he smiled, wanly, as he replied:

"I didn't do anything with them, Mr. Hemingway. I have just been
explaining that."

"How much money have you about you at this moment?" demanded Hemingway.

"Two cents, I believe," laughed Dick, beginning to turn out his
pockets. He produced the two copper coins, and held them out
to the special officer.

"You may have more about you, then, somewhere," hinted the officer.

"Find it, then," begged Dick, frankly, as he stepped forward.
"Search me. I'll allow it, and shall be glad to have you do it."

So Policeman Hemingway made the search, with the speed and skill
of an expert.

"No; you've no more money about you," admitted the policeman.
"You may have some put away, though."

"Where would it be likely to be?" Dick inquired.

"In your room, perhaps; in your baggage, or hidden behind books;
oh, there's a lot of places where a boy can hide money in his
own room."

"Come along and show me a few of them, then, won't you please?"
challenged the young freshman.

Mrs. Prescott, who had been hovering near the doorway, gave a
gasp of dismay. To her tortured soul this police investigation
seemed to be the acme of disgrace. It all pointed to the arrest
of her boy---to a long term in some jail or reformatory, most

"Madame," asked the plain clothes man, stepping to the door, "will
you give your full consent to my searching your son's room---in
the presence of yourself and of Dr. Thornton, of course? I am
obliged to ask your permission, for, without a search warrant
I have no other legal right than that which you may give me."

"Of course you may search Richard's room," replied his mother,
quickly. "But you'll be wasting your time, for you'll find nothing
incriminating in my boy's room."

"Of course not, of course not," replied Hemingway, soothingly.
"That is what we most want---_not_ to find anything there. Will
you lead the way, please? Prescott, you may come and see the
search also."

So the four filed into the little room that served Dick as sleeping
apartment, study-room, den, library and all. Hemingway moved
quickly about, exploring the pockets of Dick's other clothing
hanging there. He delved into, under and behind all of the few
books there. This plain clothes man moved from place to place
with a speed and certainty that spoke of his long years of practice
in this sort of work.

"There's nothing left but the trunk, now," declared the policeman,
bending over and trying the lock. "The key to this, Prescott!"

Dick produced the key. Hemingway fitted it in the lock, throwing
up the lid. The trunk was but half filled, mostly with odds and
ends, for Dick was not a boy of many possessions. After a few
moments the policeman deftly produced, from the bottom, a gold
watch. This he laid on the floor without a word, and continued
the search. In another moment he had produced the jeweled pin
that exactly answered the description of the one belonging to
Mrs. Edwards.

Dick gave a gasp, then a low groan. A heart-broken sob welled
up in Mrs. Prescott's throat. Dr. Thornton turned as white as
chalk. Hemingway, an old actor in such things, did not show what
he felt---if he really felt it at all.

"These are the missing articles, aren't they?" asked the policeman,
straightening up and passing watch and pin to the High School

"I believe them to be," nodded Dr. Thornton, brokenly.

Mrs. Prescott had staggered forward, weeping and throwing her
arms around her son.

"O, Richard! Richard, my boy!" was all she could say.

"Mother, I know nothing about how those things came to be in my
trunk," protested the boy, sturdily. After his first groan the
young freshman, being all grit by nature, straightened up, feeling
that he could look all the world in the eye. Only his mother's
grief, and the knowledge that his father was soon to be hurt,
appealed to the softer side of young Prescott's nature.

"Mother, I have not stolen anything," the boy said, more solemnly,
after a pause. "I am your son. You believe me, don't you?"

"I'd stake my life on your innocence when you've given me your
word!" declared that loyal woman.

"The chief said I was to take your instructions, Dr. Thornton,"
hinted Hemingway.

"Yes; I heard the order given," nodded the now gloomy High
School principal.

"Shall I arrest young Prescott?"

At that paralyzing question Dick's mother did not cry out. She
kissed her son, then went just past the open doorway, where she
halted again.

"I hesitate about seeing any boy start from his first offense with
a criminal record," replied the principal, slowly. "If I were
convinced that this would be the last offense I certainly would
not favor any prosecution. Prescott, could you promise-----"

"Then you believe, sir, that I stole the things that you hold
in your hand?" demanded the young freshman, steadily.

"I don't want to believe it," protested Dr. Thornton. "It seems
wicked---monstrous---to believe that any fine, bright, capable
boy like you can be-----"

Dr. Thornton all but broke down. Then he added, in a hoarse whisper:

"---a thief."

"I'm not one," rejoined Dick. "And, not very far into the future
lies the day when I'm going to prove it to you."

"If you can," replied Dr. Thornton, "you'll make me as happy as
you do yourself and your parents."

"Let me have the watch and pin to turn over to the chief, doctor,"
requested Hemingway, and took the articles. "Now, for the boy-----?"

"I'm not going to have him arrested," replied the principal, "unless
the superintendent or the Board of Education so direct me."

From the other side of the doorway could be heard a stifled cry
of delight.

"Then we may as well be going, doctor. You'll come to the station
with me, won't you?"

"In one moment," replied the principal. He turned to Dick, sorrowfully
holding out his hand.

"Prescott, whatever I may do will be the result of long and careful
thought, or at the order of the superintendent or of the Board
of Education. If you really are guilty, I hope you will pause,
think and resolve, ere it is too late, to make a man of yourself
hereafter. If you are innocent, I hope, with all my heart, that
you will succeed in proving it. And to that end you may have
any possible aid that I can give you. Goodbye, Prescott. Goodbye,
madam! May peace be with you."

Half way down the stairs Dr. Thornton turned around to say:

"Of course, you quite comprehend, Prescott, that, pending official
action by the school authorities, you must be suspended from the
Gridley High School!"

As soon as the door had closed Dick half-tottered back into his
room. He did not close the door, but crossed to the window, where
he stood looking out upon a world that had darkened fearfully.

Then, without having heard a step, Dick Prescott felt his mother's
arms enfold him.




That did not mean expulsion, but it did mean that, until the school
authorities had taken definite action on the case, young Prescott
could not again attend H.S., or any other school under the control
of the Board of Education.

The five other partners of Dick & Co. had faced the school defiantly
when taking Dick's books from his desk and strapping them to bring

Dan Dalzell thrashed a sophomore for daring to make some allusion
to Prescott's "thefts." Tom Reade tried to thrash another sophomore
for a very similar offense, but Reade got whipped by a very small
margin. That fact, however, did not discourage Reade. He had
entered his protest, anyway.

Dave Darrin extracted apologies for remarks made, from three different
sophomores. All of the partners were diligent in protecting and
defending the reputation of their chief.

Every day the "Co." came to see Dick. They made it a point, too,
to appear on the street with him. Not one member of the football
team "went back on" the suspended freshman. All treated him with
the utmost cordiality and faith wherever they met him. Laura
Bentley and some of the other girls of Dick's class stood by him
unwaveringly by chatting with the suspended freshman whenever
and wherever they met him on the street.

"Pooh, old man, a fellow who has all the brains you displayed
in making that football stroke doesn't need larceny as an aid
to getting ahead in the world," was the way Frank Thompson put

"Thank you, Thompson. It's always good to have friends," smiled
Dick, wistfully. "But, just now, I appreciate them more than

"The football team and its best friends are giving Fred Ripley
the dead cut," pursued Thompson. "And say, you know the junior
class's dance comes off the night after tomorrow night. Juniors
are always invited, but members of other classes have to depend
on favor for invitations. We've fixed it so that Ripley couldn't
get an invite. He tried, though. Now, Prescott, you'll receive
an invitation in tomorrow morning's mail. Fix it to be there,
old man. Do! You'll find yourself flanked by friends. If any
fellow looks at you cross-eyed at the junior dance, the eleven
will throw him out through a window!"

Dick looked more wistful than ever. He had never had many lessons
in dancing, but he took to the art naturally. Had life been happier
for him just then he would have been glad to take up the invitation.
Besides, Dave Darrin had told him that Laura Bentley was invited
and meant to go.

"Now, you'll come along, of course," asked Thompson, coaxingly.

"No-o-o," hesitated Dick, "I don't believe I shall."

"Oh, nonsense, old man!"

"I believe I'd rather not," replied Prescott, sadly; "though I'm
tremendously grateful to those who want me to come and who would
try to make it pleasant for me."

Thompson argued, but it was no use.

"Why, every one of your partners is going," said Frank. "Here
comes Dave Darrin now. He'll tell you so."

"Nope," said Dave, with all the energy at his command. "We understand
we're to be invited, and we'd give almost anything to go, but
Dick & Co. don't go unless the Dick part of the firm is with us."

The junior dance came off, and was a good deal of a success in
many ways. Only one of the ten boys of the freshman class who
were invited attended. Eight girls of the same class were invited,
but only two of them accepted. Laura Bentley decided, at the
last moment, against attending.

Within ten days two important games came off between the Gridley
H.S. and other crack high school teams. Gridley won both.

"It would be cheeky in me to go to the game, when I'm suspended---hardly
a H.S. boy, in fact," Dick explained to his partners. "But you go.

"No, sir!" muttered Greg Holmes.

"Not if you feel that you can't go," protested Harry Hazelton.
"Dick & Co. go together, or not at all."

Gridley H.S. won both games by the skin of their teeth.

"We can't succeed much longer without our mascots," Thompson declared
impressively before all the members of Dick & Co. The six freshmen,
walking along the street together had been rounded up and haled
into the store where the football squad held its "club" meetings.

"Humph! I'd be a poor mascot for any body," muttered Dick. "I
haven't been able to bring even myself good luck."

"You just come to a game once, all six of you," begged Ben Badger.
"Then you'll see how we can pile up the score over the enemy!
Don't let it get out of your heads that you're our real, sure-thing
mascots. Why, if it hadn't been for you six youngsters we probably
wouldn't be playing football any more this season."

Other members of the squad tried to ply their persuasive powers,
but all in vain. Dick Prescott, though not breaking down or wilting
under the suspicion that lay against him, felt convinced that
it would be out of place for him to attend High School affairs
while on the suspended list.

"Humph!" grunted Thomp. "The only thing I can see for us to do
is to spend a lot of the Athletic Association's money in hiring
a swell detective to come to town and find out who really did
take the things at the old H.S. Then we'd have you with us again,
Dick Prescott."

Though under such long suspension Dick was not going backward
much in his studies. He had his books at home, and every forenoon
he put in the time faithfully over them.

One of these November evenings Dick had the good fortune to have
Dave Darrin and Greg Holmes up in his room with him. The other
partners were at home studying.

Dick and his friends were talking rather dispiritedly, for the
long suspension, without action, was beginning to wear on them
all. Dick's case was now quietly before the Board of Education,
but a result had not yet been reached by that slow-moving body.
Of course, the members of the Board had now more than a good
idea that Dick & Co. had been behind that "dead ones" hoax; but
the members of the Board were trying to do their duty in the
suspension case, and tried not to let any other considerations
weigh with them.

"We've all heard that old chestnut about the silver lining to
the cloud," observed Dave, dejectedly. "If it's true, then silver
seems to be mighty scarce these days."

"Richard! Ri-i-ichard!" called the elder Prescott, loudly, from
the foot of the stairs that led up from the store.

"Yes, sir," cried Dick, bounding to the door and throwing it open.

"Laura Bentley has called us up on the 'phone. She says she wants
to talk to you quicker'n lightning, whatever speed that may indicate.
She adds, mysteriously, that 'it's the biggest thing that ever

"Coming, sir!" cried Dick, bounding down the stairs, snatching
at his cap and reefer as he started, though he could not have
told why he picked up these garments. Dave and Greg, acting on
some mysterious impulse, grabbed up their reefers and hats, and
went down the stairs hot-foot after their chum and leader.

"Hullo!" called Dick, reaching the telephone instrument in the
back room of the store. "Yes, Miss Bentley, this is Prescott."

"Then listen!" came the swiftly uttered words. Dick discovered
that the girl was breathless with excitement and the largeness
of her news. "Are you listening?"

"I'll catch every word," Dick replied.

"Well, I'm at Belle Meade's house. Belle and her mother are here.
Mr. Meade is out. You know where the house is---corner of Clark
Street and Stetson's Alley?"

"Yes; I know."

"Well, the room between the dining-room and the parlor is in darkness,
and has been all evening. There's a window in that room that
opens over the alley. The Meade apartment is on the second floor,
you know. Well, Belle was passing that window---in the dark---and
she heard voices down below in the alley. She wouldn't have thought
anything of it, but she heard one of the speakers raise his voice
and say, excitedly: 'See here, I did the trick, didn't I? Ain't
Dick Prescott bounced out of school! Ain't he in disgrace! And
he'll never get out of it!'"

"Then another voice broke in, in a lower tone, but Belle couldn't
hear what was said. She's back in the dark by that open window
now," Laura Bentley hurried on, breathlessly. "The two parties
are still there, talking. It's hardly a minute's run from where
you are. Can't you get some one in a hurry, run up here and jump
on the parties? _Please_ do, Dick! It'll be the means of clearing
up this whole awful business!"

"Won't I, though?" answered Dick, breathlessly, into the 'phone.
"I have two chums here now. We'll be there like greased
lightning---and, oh, Miss Bentley, _thank_ you!"

Neither Dave nor Greg needed to ask any questions, for both had
stood close to the receiver, drinking in every word. Now they
shot out through the front of the store with a speed and turbulence
that made studious Mr. Prescott gasp with amazement.

"Careful, now, fellows!" warned Dick a few moments later. "We
want to _hear_, as well as _catch_! Softly does it."

Well practiced in running, not one of the three freshmen was out
of breath by the time that they reached the head of Stetson's

Just before turning the corner at the head of the alley, Dick
and his freshmen chums halted to listen and reconnoiter.

Peeping cautiously around the corner, Dick, Greg and Dave made
out dimly one figure well down the alley. There was not light
enough there to recognize the fellow. And the three boys could
make out some one past this first fellow, but the second individual
stood well in the dark shadow of the delivery doorway of a store.

"Let's see if we can't creep up a little nearer," whispered Dick
Prescott, softly.

"They may see us coming," warned Dave.

"If they do, we'll just make a jump in and nab them anyway," Dick
rejoined. "Remember the main game---capture!"

Cautiously, a foot at a time, and in Indian file, the three freshmen
stole down the dark alleyway. Then Dick halted, passing back
a nudge that Dave Darrin passed on to Greg Holmes.

"Now, ye needn't think ye're goin' to renig," warned the fellow
who was nearer to the boys. "I done the whole job against Prescott,
and I done it as neat as the next one. Why, _you_ never even
thought of the trick of slipping that watch and pin into Prescott's
trunk, did ye? That was _my_ brains. I supplied the brains,
an' you've got to raise the cash to pay for 'em! How did I do
that trick of slippin' the watch an' pin into Prescott's trunk!
Oh, yes! Of course, ye wanter know. Well, I'll tell ye when
ye hand me the rest o' the money for doin' the whole trick---then
I'll tell ye."

Something in a very low whisper came, in response, from the second
party who was invisible to the prowling freshmen.

Dick Prescott felt that there was no need of prolonging this scene.
He had heard enough.

"Now, rush 'em! Grab 'em---and hold 'em!" shouted Dick, suddenly.

As the three freshmen shot forward into the darkness something
that sounded like an almost hysterical cheer in girls' voices
came from the open, dark window overhead.

But neither Dick nor his chums paused to give thought to that
at this important moment.

The unknown who had been doing most of the talking wheeled with
an oath, making a frantic dash to get out of the alley and onto
the street.

But Dick shot fairly past him, dodging slightly, and made a bound
for the second party to this wicked conference.

Just beyond the doorway in which this second party had keen standing
was a yard that furnished a second means of exit from the alley.

It was this second party to the talk that Dick was after. He
left the other fugitive to his two active, quick-witted chums.
They were swift to understand, and grappled, together, with the
rascal fleeing for the street.

The three went down in a scuffling, fighting heap.

Like a flash the fellow that Dick was after seemed to melt into
the adjoining back yard. Prescott, in trying to get in after
him in record time, fell flat to the ground just inside the yard.

Yet, as he went down Prescott grabbed one of his fugitive's trouser
legs near the ankle.

"Let go!" hissed the other, in too low a voice to be recognized.

Before Dick, holding on grimly, had time to look upward, the
wretch lifted a cane, bringing it down on Dick's head with ugly



If that ugly blow hadn't proved a glancing one, Dick Prescott
might have been for a long siege of brain fever.

As it was, he was slightly stunned for the moment.

By the time he could leap up and look about him, rather dizzily,
his late assailant had made a clean escape.

"No time to waste on a fellow who's got away," quoth Dick.

He staggered slightly, at first, as he hurried from the yard back
into the alleyway.

"Now, you quiet down!" commanded Dave Darrin hoarsely. "No more
from you, Mr. Thug!"

"Lemme go, or it'll be worse for ye!" threatened a harsh voice
that, nevertheless, had a whine in it.

"What use to let you go, Tip Scammon?" demanded Darrin. "We know
you, and the police would pick you up again in an hour."

"Lemme go, and keep yer mouth shut," whined the fellow. "If ye
don't, ye'll be sorry. If ye _do_ lemme go, I'll pay ye for the

"Yes," retorted Dave, scornfully. "You'd pay us, I suppose, with
money you picked up in some way resembling the trick you played
on Dick Prescott."

"Well, money's money, ain't it?" demanded Tip, skeptically.

"Some kinds of money are worse that dirt," growled Greg Holmes.

This was the conversation, swiftly carried on, that Dick heard
as he stepped back to his friends.

Scammon was lying on his back on the ground, with Dave seated
across his chest. Greg bent back the wretch's head, holding a
short club that the two freshmen had taken away from Tip in the

"Where's the other one, Dick?" gasped Dave, as he saw young Prescott
coming back alone.

"He got away," muttered Dick. "He hit me over the head, and stunned
me for a moment, or I'd be holding onto him yet."

"Who was he?" demanded Greg, breathlessly.

"I don't know," Dick admitted. "I'd give a small part of the earth
to know and be sure about it."

That admission of ignorance was a most unfortunate one. Tip Scammon
heard it, and the fellow grinned inwardly over knowing that his
late companion had not been recognized.

"What are we going to do with this fellow, Dick?" asked Dave.

"I'm wondering whether he ought to be arrested or not," Dick replied.
"Fellows, I feel mighty sorry for Tip's father."

And well might all three feel sorry. So, far as was known, this
crime against Dick was the first offense Tip had committed against
the law. He was a tough character, and regarded as one of the
worse than worthless young men of Gridley. Tip was a handy fellow,
a jack-of-all-trades, with several at which he might have made
an honest living---but he wouldn't. Yet Tip's father was old
John Scammon, the highly respected janitor at the High School,
where he had served for some forty years.

"I say, fellows, I wonder if we can let Tip go---now that we know
the whole story?" breathed Dick.

"Say, I'll make it worth yer while," proposed Tip, eagerly.

"How about the law?" asked Dave Darrin, seriously. "Have we any
right to let the fellow go, when we know he has committed a serious

"I don't know," replied Prescott. "All I'm thinking of is good,
honest old John Scammon."

"It'd break me old man's heart---sure it would," put in Tip, cunningly.

At the first cry from Belle and Laura Bentley, however Mrs. Meade,
who was also in the secret, had hurried down into Clark Street.
Just as it happened she had espied a policeman less than a block
away. That officer, posted by Mrs. Meade, now came hurrying
down the alleyway.

"Oho! Tip, is it?" demanded the policeman. "Let him up, Darrin.
I can handle him. Now, then, what's the row about?"

Thereupon Dick and his chums had to tell the story. There was
no way out of it. Officer Connors heard a little of it, then

"The station house is the place to tell the rest of this. Come
along, Tip. And you youngsters trail along behind."

Though the station house was not far away, a good-sized crowd
was trailing along by the time they reached the business stand
of the police. Tip was hustled in through the doorway, the three
young freshmen following. Leaning over the railing, smoking and
chatting with the sergeant at the desk, was plain clothes man

"Hullo," muttered that latter officer, "what's this?"

"A slice out of one of your cases, I guess, Hemingway, from what
I've heard," laughed Connors. "According to these boys, Tip is
the fellow who knows the inside game of the High School thefts."

"Let's have Scammon in the back room, then," urged Hemingway,
leading the way to the guard room. The sergeant, also, followed,
after summoning a reserve policeman to the desk.

Then followed a sharp grilling by the keen, astute Hemingway.
Dick and his chums told what they had heard Tip say before they
pounced upon him. Tip, who was a round-headed, short, square-shouldered
fellow of twenty-four, possessed more of the cunning of the prize
ring than the cleverness of the keen thief.

"I've been caught with the packages on me," he admitted, bluntly,
and with some show of bravado. "I guess I can't get outer delivering

"Then you stole that pin and the gold watch from the locker at
the High School?" demanded Hemingway, swiftly.


"How did you get into the locker room?" shot out Hemingway.

"Guess!" leered Tip, exhibiting some cheap bravado.

"Maybe I can find the answer in your clothes," retorted the plain
clothes man. "Stand still."

The search resulted in the finding of about ten dollars, a knife,
and three queer-looking implements that Hemingway instantly declared
to be pick-locks.

"You used these tools, and slipped the lock, did you?" asked Hemingway.

"Didn't have to," grinned Tip.

"Took an impression of the lock, then, and made a key, did you?"

"Right-o," drawled Tip.

"I'll look into your lodgings," muttered Hemingway. "Probably
I'll find you've got a good outfit for that kind of work. I remember
you used to work for a locksmith."

Tip, however, was not scared. He knew that there was nothing
at his lodgings to betray him.

"Then you used these picklocks to open Prescott's locked trunk with?"
was Hemingway's next question.

"'Fraid I did," leered Tip.

"What time of the day did you get into the Prescott flat?"

"'Bout ten o'clock, morning of the same day ye went through
Prescott's trunk an' found the goods there."

"The same goods that you placed in the trunk, Tip, after breaking
into the Prescott flat while Mr. and Mrs. Prescott were down in
their store and young Prescott was at the High School?"

"That's right," Tip grinned.

"You picked the lock of young Prescott's trunk, stowed the watch
and pin away in there, and then sprung the lock again?"

"Why, say, ye muster seen me," declared Scammon, admiringly.

"The week before that day you must have been at the High School,
helping your father, especially in the basement during session

"I sure was," Tip admitted. "I had ter, didn't I, to have a
chance ter get inter the locker room?"

"What did you say the name of the fellow was who hired you to
do the trick?" swiftly demanded Hemingway, changing the tack.

"I b'lieve I _didn't_ say," responded Tip, giving a wink that
included all present.

"Tell me now, then."

"Not if ye was to hang me for refusing," declared Scammon, with
sudden obstinacy.

"Yet you've told us everything else," argued the plain clothes

"Might jest as well tell ye everything else," retorted Tip. "Didn't
these High School kids find the packages on me?"

"Then tell us who the chap was that you were talking with tonight."

"Not fer anything ye could give me," asserted Tip Scammon, with
great promptness.

"Oh, well, then," returned Hemingway, with affected carelessness,
"Prescott can tell us the name of the chap he grappled with in
that back yard."

"Yep! Let young Prescott tell," agreed Tip with great cheerfulness.
That was as far as the police could get with the prisoner. He
readily admitted all that was known, and he had even gone so
far as to tell how he had stolen the watch and the pin, and how
he had secreted them in Dick's trunk, but beyond that the fellow
would not go further.

"Did you have anything to do with placing Ripley's pin in Prescott's
pocket?" questioned Hemingway.

"Nope," declared Tip, in all apparent candor.

"Know anything about that?"


"Then how did you know that that particular morning was the right
morning to hide the other two stolen articles in Prescott's trunk?"

"I heard, on the street, what was happenin'," declared Tip,
confidently. "So I knew 'twas the right time ter do the rest
of the trick."

At last Hemingway gave up the attempt to learn the name of the
party with whom Tip had been talking in Stetson's Alley on this
night. Then Tip was led away to a cell.

"Come on, fellows," muttered Dick to his chums. "Since Tip is
under arrest, anyway, and has confessed, and since the whole thing
is bound to become public, I want to run down to 'The Blade' office,
find Len Spencer, and send him up here to get the whole, straight
story. _With this yarn printed I can go back to school in the

"Now, see here, Dick," expostulated Dave Darrin, as the three
chums hurried along the street, "in the station house you told
the police you didn't get a look at the other fellow's face."

"Well, that was straight," Prescott asserted.

"Do you mean to say you don't know who the fellow was---you really
don't?" persisted Dave Darrin.

"I don't know," Dick declared flatly.

"You've a suspicion, just the same," asserted Greg Holmes, dryly.


"Who was it, then?" coaxed Greg Holmes.

"Was it Fred Ripley?" shot out Dave Darrin.

"Will you fellows keep a secret, on your solemn honor, if I tell
you one?" Dick questioned.

Dave and Greg both promised.

"Well, then," Prescott admitted, "I'm convinced in my own mind
that it was Fred Ripley that I had hold of for an instant tonight.
But I didn't see his face, and I can't prove it. That's why
I'm not going to tell about it. But this fellow wore lavender
striped trousers, just like a pair of Fred's. There is just
a chance or two in a thousand that it wasn't Ripley---and I'm
not going to throw it all over on him when I can't prove it.
Fellows, I know just what it feels like to be under suspicion
when you really didn't do a thing. _It hurts---awfully_!"



Ben Badger sat perched aloft among the bare, spreading branches
of a giant maple near one corner of the school grounds. The maple
stood at the curbing of the sidewalk.

Down below stood nearly a hundred High School boys of Gridley.

That Ben was on sentry duty was apparent from the eager looks
that those below frequently cast up at him. At times, too, the
general impatience sought relief in questions hurled at Ben.

Finally, from the lookout aloft came down the rousing hail:

"Here he comes! fellows! Here he comes! No---here _they_ come!
The whole crowd---Dick & Co.!"

A flutter passed through the crowd below, vet not one of the Gridley
H.S. boys stirred from the ranks just within the school yard gate.

Back on the main steps of the High School building nearly three
score of the young ladies were irregularly grouped. They were
silent, but expectant.

For "The Blade" had been read in many a Gridley home that morning.
The news had traveled fast over Gridley. Though the paper had
contained no announcement that Prescott would return to school,
every High School boy and girl had felt sure of that.

Down the street, three abreast, came Dick & Co., with proud, firm
stride. Very likely the partners were even more exultant than
was Prescott himself.

Then the freshman sextette came in full sight from the gateway.

"Who's this?" yelled Ben Badger in his loudest voice.

From the crowded tanks below welled up the chorus:

"Dick & Co.! Dick & Co.! Good old Dick! Bully old Co.!"

Prescott and his chums halted, thunderstruck by the volume and
force of that unexpected chorus.

Immediately on top of it rolled out lustily the complicated High
School yell, given with a vim never before heard off the football

And then:

"What's the matter with Dick Prescott?" demanded Ben Badger, in
stentorian tones.

From one half of the H.S. boys came the roaring response:

"He's the whole cheese."

Then, from the other half:

"-----for a _freshman_!"

Dick & Co. recovering from their amazement, were coming on again
now. Young Prescott's heart thumped hard. He was no popularity-chaser,
but only the fellow who has been down hard, for a while, knows
how good it is to be _up_ once more.

As Dick neared the gate Ben Badger dropped down out of the bare
maple tree, for Ben had yet other duties on the reception committee.

He and Frank Thompson suddenly snatched Dick Prescott out of the
ranks of his chums, and hoisted him aloft. This these two husky
first classmen were well able to do.

Across the school yard they started with him, while the rest of
the fellows followed, giving voice to the High School yell:

"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-id-ley!"

The girls grouped on the steps parted, letting the leaders and
followers through.

With the rush as of an army the excited youngsters bore Dick Prescott
up a flight of stairs. Half a dozen of the fellows sprang ahead
of Badger and Thompson, throwing open one of the doors of the
general assembly room.

Again the High School yell broke loose, sounding, in that confined
space, as though it must jar the rafters loose.

Dr. Thornton had risen from his chair behind the desk. It was
before coming-in-hour, and there was no rule that commanded quietude
before the bell rang. Yet such a din had never before been heard
in the room.

But just then Dr. Thornton caught sight of red-faced, happy-looking
Dick Prescott on the shoulders of Badger and Thompson. Then the
principal laughed in sheer good humor.

Wheeling, Badger and Thompson carried Dick straight up to the
platform, where they deposited their human burden at the edge.

"Welcome to our city!" yelled Badger, sonorously.

"Mr. Prescott," greeted Dr. Thornton, holding out his hand, "I
am heartily glad to see you back here."

"No more pleased, sir, than I am to be here," returned the young
freshman. "And I must thank you, doctor, for the promptness with
which you sent the note around to me informing me that the suspension
had automatically ended."

While the cheering was going on out in the yard, and while Dick
was being carried in triumph into the building, Fred Ripley and
Clara Deane had just turned in out of a side street and come within
view of the demonstration.

"They're shouting out something about Prescott," murmured Clara.

"Oh, I suppose the mucker has been allowed to sneak back into
school," returned Ripley, in disgust.

"It's a shame to allow that class of young fellows in a high school,"
declared Miss Deane. "If a higher education is necessary for
such people, they ought to be sent to a special school of their

"If Gridley H.S. goes on being cheapened I shall go to some good
private prep. school somewhere," hinted Fred.

"That _would_ be a splendid idea," glowed Clara. "I wouldn't
mind going to some good seminary myself."

"If we do, let us hope we can find a town that will contain both
schools," suggested Fred, with an attempt at gallantry. "For
that matter, Clara, there are co-ed private schools, you know."

"I don't want to go to one," retorted Miss Deane, promptly. "Co-ed
schools are just like co-ed colleges. The boys may have a good
enough time, but the co-ed girls are shoved into the background.
Co-ed boys pretend they don't know that the co-ed girls are alive.
The High School is better, for a girl, than any co-ed private
school, for in the High School girls are treated on an even footing
with boys."

"We'll both of us keep that prep. school idea in mind, though,"
proposed Ripley, just before the pair entered the school building.

By the time that this exclusive pair entered the general assembly
room the scene before them was none too pleasing. The congratulatory
crowd being too large for Dick alone, his five partners were holding
separate little receptions for groups, relating how Dick, Dave
and Greg had captured Tip Scammon. Such speculation there was
as to who Tip's unrecognized companion could have been the night
before. As Fred stepped into the big room he was conscious of
many unfriendly glances that were sent in his direction.

As early as possible Dick Prescott sought out Laura Bentley and
Bell Meade, and to them he expressed his heartiest thanks for
the splendid aid they had given him toward this present happy

So great was the clamor, in fact, that, when the gong outside
struck the "minute-call" at 7.59, no one in the assembly room
seemed to hear it. Then came the jingling of the assembly bell
in the big room. A murmur of surprise ran around, for time had
passed rapidly since Dick's appearance. In another moment the
only sound was that of quiet footfalls as the young ladies and
gentlemen of the Gridley H.S. moved to their seats. In a few
seconds more only the ticking of the big clock was heard.



By recess the feeling had quieted down. Dick Prescott was only
a freshman, but it is safe to say that he was the most popular
freshman who had ever "happened" at Gridley H.S.

However, the noisy spirit of welcome had spent itself Dick & Co.
were given a chance to go away quietly by themselves and talk
over their own affairs.

Fred Ripley appeared to be the only unhappy boy in the lot. He
kept to himself a good deal, and the scowl on his face threatened
to become chronic.

Recess was nearly up when Thomp and Captain Sam Edgeworth, of
the eleven, approached Dick & Co. A nod from Edgeworth drew Prescott
away from his chums.

"Prescott, as you know, we don't usually allow freshmen to mix
much with us in the athletic line. But the fellows feel that
you are a big exception. You couldn't possibly make the team
this year, of course, but we well, we thought you might like a
bit of the social end of the squad. We thought you might like
to come around to our headquarters and see us drill and hear our
talk of the game. Would it interest you any?"

"Would it?" glowed Dick. "Why, as much as it would please a ragpicker
to be carried off to a palace to live!"

"Do you care to come around and see us this afternoon?" pursued
Captain Sam. "Say three o'clock."

"I'd be delighted."

"Then come around and see us, Prescott. Maybe you'll be interested
in something that you see and hear."

"I wonder-----" began Dick, wistfully.

"Well, what?" asked Thomp.

"Could you possibly include my chums in that invitation? They're
all mightily interested."

"Yes," nodded Thompson, "they're interested, and they all helped
you to spring that trick on the Board of Education. It's more
than half likely that we owe the continuance of football this
season to Dick & Co."

"Bring your friends along, then," agreed Captain Sam Edgeworth,
though he solemnly hoped, under his breath, that he wasn't establishing
a fearful precedent by showing such wholesale cordiality to the
usually despised freshmen.

"We'll use all six of you as our mascots," laughed Thomp.

"And er---er---" began Dick, a bit diffidently, "we have something
that we've been talking over, and we want to suggest to you---if
you won't think us all too eternally fresh."

"Anyway, the idea'll have to keep," muttered Edgeworth, as the
gong clanged out. "There goes the end of recess."

The long lines were quickly filing in at two entrances? and the
work of the school day was on again.

It was barely a quarter of three when Dick & Co. walking two-and-two,
came in sight of the otherwise unoccupied store that formed the
football headquarters.

"We're too early," muttered Prescott, consulting his watch. "We'll
have to take a walk around a few blocks yet, fellows."

"Why?" Dan Dalzell wanted to know. "What difference does a matter
of a few minutes make?"

"Haven't you had it rubbed into you enough that you're only a
measly freshman?" laughed Dick. "And don't you know a freshman
is called a freshman only because he can't dare to do anything
that looks the least little bit fresh? From an upper classman's
point of view we've had a thumping big privilege accorded us,
and we don't want to spoil it by running it into the ground.
So I vote for a walk that will make us at least two minutes late
going into the football headquarters."

"My vote goes with yours," nodded Dave Darrin.

The good sense of it appealed to all the chums, so they strolled
away again, and came back three minutes late, Outside the door
they halted. Some of the awe of the conscious freshman came
upon two or three of the chums.

"You go in first, Dick," urged Tom Reade.

"It was you who got the invite, anyway," hinted Greg Holmes.

Laughing quietly Dick turned the knob of the door. He went in
bravely enough, but some of his chums followed rather sheepishly.

Fred Ripley, who had dropped in five minutes before, saw them
at once, and scowled.

"'Ware freshmen!" he called, rather loudly.

Nearly all the members of the regular and sub teams were present.
Most of them were going through an Indian club drill at the further
end of the room. At Fred's cry several of them turned around

"Oh, that's all right," called out Edgeworth. "These particular
freshmen are privileged. Welcome, Dick & Co.!"

"Privileged? Welcome?" gasped Ripley, in a tone of huge disgust.
"What on earth is the High School coming to these days?"

"If you don't like to see them here, Ripley," broke in Thompson,
"you know-----"

"Oh, well!" growled Fred, with a shrug of his shoulders. Then,
disdaining to look at Dick & Co., this stickler for upper class
exclusiveness turned and stalked out of the store, closing the
door after him with a bang.

For some minutes Dick and his chums stood quietly against the
wall at one side of the big, almost bare room. Then Edgeworth
called out:

"Now, fellows, we've had enough of indoor work. We'll take a
brief rest. After that we'll go over to the field and practice
tackles and formations until dark."

Released from the drills Thomp came over to shake hands with the
freshmen visitors. Edgeworth presently strolled over, and a few

"By the way, captain," spoke up Thompson, finally, "I think Prescott
told us that the mighty freshmen intellects of Dick & Co. had
been trying out their brains in the effort to get up some new
football stunts."

"That's so," nodded Sam.

"Have we time to listen to them?"

"Yes," decided the football captain; "if it doesn't take them
too long to explain."

Ben Badger kicked forward an empty packing case.

"Here's a platform, Prescott. Get up and orate!" he called.

Dick laughingly held back from the packing case until Badger and
Thomp lifted him bodily and stood him on top of the box.

"And cut it short, and make it practical," admonished Ted Butler,
"or take the dire consequences!"

"Why, I don't know, gentlemen of the football team, that it's
much of an idea," Dick began, "but my chums and I have been thinking
over the complaint of the Athletics Committee that you haven't
as much money, this season, as you'd like."

"Money?" echoed one. "Now, you're whispering. Whoop!"

"Money---the root of all evil!" shouted another.

"Get wicked!" adjured a third.

"What my friends and I had to suggest," Dick went on, "was that,
as we understand it, the folks of the town don't contribute much
cash for upholding the fame of High School athletics."

"The School Alumni Association does pretty well in that line,"
replied Edgeworth. "The public in general do pretty well by buying
tickets rather liberally to our games. It's the expenses that
are the great trouble. You see, Prescott, instead of maintaining
one team, we really have to support two, for the subs are necessary
in order to give us practice. Then the coach's expenses are heavy.
Now, the Alumni Association owns our athletic field, but a lot
of lumber and carpenter work is needed there every year, making
repairs and putting in improvements. Then, when we play high
school teams at a distance from here the railroad expenses eat
up enormously."

"And we have to play mostly teams at a good distance from here,"
laughed Ben Badger, "for we've played the nearby elevens time
and again, and Gridley has eaten up the other fellows in such
big gulps that we have to get on dates, these days, with teams
so far away that they don't know much about us."

"But there's plenty of money in the town," replied Dick. "The
business men have some of it. The wealthy people have a lot of
it, too. It is a Gridley brag that the people of this city are
public spirited to the last gasp. Now, if you can get public
spirit and money on good speaking terms there wouldn't need to
be any lack of funds for High School athletics."

"All right," nodded Edgeworth, trying to conceal a slight impatience
"But how are you going to introduce public spirit effectively
to money?"

"That's what we freshmen have been wondering," Dick replied.
"Now, every student in the Gridley H.S.---boy students and girl
students---gets a share of the reflected glory that comes from
the work of one of the best high school elevens in the United
States. So, as we see it, the whole student body should get together
in the raising of funds. And when I say 'funds,' I don't mean
pennies or dimes."

"This is becoming interesting," called out Ben Badger.

"That my chums and I would suggest," Dick continued, "is that
the whole student body of Gridley H.S. be enlisted, and sent out
to scour the town, holding, out a subscription paper that is properly
worded at the top."

"How worded?" demanded Ted Butler.

"My freshmen chums and I have prepared a draft of the paper.
May I read what we suggest as a heading for the paper?"

"Hear! Hear!" cried a dozen.

"Thank you," Prescott acknowledged, gratefully. Then, drawing
a paper from his pocket, he read as follows:

_"'Gridley is justly proud of its public spirit, and rejoices
in having the best in several lines. Few if any cities in the
United States possess a High School football team that can down
the eleven from Gridley H.S. We are proud of our High School,
and as proud of its reputation in athletics. We believe that
Gridley prominence in athletics should be fostered in every way,
and we know that real athletics cost money---a lot of it! We,
The Undersigned, therefore subscribe to the Athletic Committee
of Gridley H.S. the amounts of public spirit set down opposite
our names in dollars.'"_

After Dick Prescott had ceased reading it took nearly a full minute
for the cleverness of this direct appeal to local pride to strike
home in the minds of the football squad. Then loud applause broke

"Freshie!" roared Sam Edgeworth, over the din, "that's genius,
compressed into a hundred words!"

"It's O.K.!" declared Thompson, with heavy emphasis.

"Bully!" roared Ben Badger.

Then one pessimist was heard from:

"It's good, but it takes something mighty good to force people
to part with their own cash."

"Don't you think that, with every H.S. boy and girl going around
with the paper, it will force subscriptions?" Dick inquired.

"Oh, well," granted the pessimist, "I believe it will cost enough
money out of the public to pay all the cost of printing the subscription
papers anyway."

"If we didn't need that kicker on the team, we'd throw him out
of here," laughed Sam Edgeworth, good-naturedly.

Then the matter was put to informal vote, and it was decided to
ask the permission of the Athletic Committee to put through the
scheme presented by Dick & Co.

"And now it's time to be off for the field," proclaimed Sam Edgeworth,
with emphasis. Coach Morton will be waiting for us, and he isn't
the man who enjoys being kept waiting."

"Come along with us, Dick & Co.," called Thompson. "You'll have
a chance to see whether you approve of our way of handling the

So Dick and his partners went along. Though they could only stand
at the edge of the field and look on, yet that was rare fun, for
no other freshmen were on the same side of the fence.

As all six of the boys knew considerable about the theories and
rules of football, and as all of them watched closely the plays
between Gridley H.S. and the subs, they soon saw the reason why
Gridley had one of the most formidable High School teams in the

"Oh, for the day when _we_ can try to make the team!" uttered
Dick Prescott, his eyes gleaming with anticipation.

The fund-raising scheme offered by Dick & Co. went before the
Athletic Committee that same evening. It was accepted, as Prescott
and Darrin, hanging about outside the H.S. building, learned an
hour later.

In three days more the subscription papers had been printed and
were distributed. Every boy and girl in the school received one,
with instructions to bring it back, "filled out"---or take the

Then the canvassing began.

Would it work? Dick & Co. felt that their own reputations hung
in the balance. And it was bound to be the case that some of
the students, though they took the papers, did a lot of prompt
"kicking" about it.

_Would it "work"_?



For a full week the boys and girls of Gridley H.S. scoured the
town, trying their fortune everywhere that money was supposed
to lurk.

The great Thanksgiving game was coming on. Gridley was to play
the second team of Cobber University. This second team from Cobber
had beaten every high school team it had tackled for the two
preceding years.

Gridley, in this present year, had not met with a single defeat
in a total of nine games thus far played. In six of the games
the opponents had not scored at all.

But could Cobber Second be beaten?

The Cobber eleven was one of the finest in the country. Even
the second team was considered a "terror," as its record of unbroken
victories for two years testified.

So much awe, in fact, did Cobber Second inspire among the high
school teams that Gridley was the only outfit to be found that
dared take up the proposition of a Thanksgiving Day game with
the college men.

"Gridley can't win!" the pessimists predicted.

Even the heartiest well-wishers of Gridley H.S. felt, mournfully,
that too big a contract had been undertaken.

Dick & Co., however, under the inspiring influence of their leader,
were all to the hopeful.

"We'll win," Dick proclaimed, "because Gridley needs the game.
When Gridley folks go after anything they won't take 'no' for
an answer. That's the spirit of the town, and the High School
is worthy of all the traditions of the town."

"Talk's cheap, and brag's a good dog!" sneered Ripley.

Three sophomores who overheard the remark promptly "bagged" Fred
and threw him over the school yard fence.

"Come back with any more of that," warned one of the hazers, "and
we'll scour your intellect at the town pump."

Being a freshman, Prescott didn't say too much. Neither did his
chums. Yet what they did say was bright and hopeful. Their spirit
began to soak through the student body.

"You see, gentlemen," Coach Morton warned the football squad one
morning at recess, "you've _got_ to win. The school believes
you can do it, and the town is beginning to believe it. If you
lose to Cobber Second you'll forfeit the respect of all the thousands
of Gridley folks who are now saying nice things about you."

"Write it down," begged Thompson. "We're going to beat Cobber
Second off the gridiron."

"Good!" cheered Mr. Morton. "That's the talk. And be sure you
live up to it!"

"We've got to live up to it," asserted Thomp, solemnly.

"Right-o!" came the enthusiastic approval from as many members
of the student body as could crowd within easy hearing. The girls
were all there, too, for in these days the girls were as much
excited as others over the prospects of winning.

"Shall I tell coach and students, Cap?" called Thomp to Edgeworth.

"It won't do any harm," nodded Sam. "Confession will make our
deed more binding."

"What deed?" demanded Coach Morton, scenting some mystery that
he was not yet in on.

"Why, you see, sir," proclaimed Thomp, "every member of the team,
and every sub who stands any show to get into the game, has taken
the oath of the dub."

"'The oath of the dub'?" repeated Sub-master Morton. "That's
a new one on me.

"It's a new one on us all," admitted Thompson, gravely. "We've
taken the oath, but it's so dreadful that most of us shivered
when it came our turn to recite the patter---the ritual, I mean."

"What is this 'oath of the dub'?" asked the coach.

"It's fearful," shivered Thomp. "Any of you fellows feel better
able to explain?"

He glanced around him at the other visible members and subs of
the school eleven, but they shook their heads and shrank back.

"Well, then, I'll have to tell you myself," conceded Thomp, with
an air of gloom. "It's a fearful thing. Yet, as I've been through
with it once, one more time can't hurt me---much."

Thomp made an eloquent pause. Then, reaching his right hand aloft,
his eyes turned toward the sky, he recited, in a deep bass voice:

"I have pledged my honor, as a gridiron specialist, that
Gridley H.S. shall lug away all the points of the game from Cobber
Second. If we fail, then may everyone who espies me mutter: 'There
goes a dub!' May the word 'dub' haunt me in my waking hours, and
pursue me, mounted on the nightmares of slumber! May my best
friends ever afterward refer to me only as a 'dub.' For if I fail
the school, then am I truly a 'dub,' and there is no help for
me. If I fail, then may I never, so long as life lasts, be permitted
to lose sight of the patent fact that I _am_ a 'dub'! So help
me _Bob_!"

A roar of laughter and approval went up from all who heard. Coach
Morton tried hard to preserve his gravity, but his sides shook,
and his face reddened from the effort. At last he broke loose.
When he could control his voice Mr. Morton demanded:

"What genius of the first class invented the 'oath of the dub'?"

"It wasn't a senior, sir," Thomp confessed.

"What junior, then?"

"Not a junior, either."

"_Who_, then?" insisted the submaster.

"Tell him, Sam."

"That oath, Mr. Morton, required and received the concerted brainpower

"Dick & Co.!" shouted the football squad in chorus.

A good-natured riot followed.

"Dick & Co. will soon get the notion that they're the whole High
School," growled Fred Ripley to Purcell.

"They are a big feature of the school," laughed Purcell. "You're
about the only one, Fred, who hasn't discovered it. Rub your
eyes, man, and take another look."

"Bah!" muttered Ripley, turning away. Just then the gong clanged
the end of recess.

"Now, that 'the oath of the dub' has been given out," suggested
Dick Prescott to his chums, after school, "we ought to find Len
Spencer and give it to him. He'll print it in tomorrow's 'Blade'
and that will send local pride soaring. That'll help a whole
lot to success with the subscription papers."

After the papers had been in circulation a week the Athletics
Committee held an evening session, in the room of the Superintendent
of Schools, in the H.S. building.

By eight o'clock nearly a hundred and fifty of the boys and girls
had assembled. More came in later.

The subscription papers, and the amounts for which they called,
were turned in to Coach Morton. It was soon noticed that many
of the subscriptions had been paid by check.

Laura Bentley was the first to turn in a paper.

"Twenty dollars," she announced, quietly, though with evident pride.

"Eleven dollars," announced Belle Meade.

After a good many of the girls had made accounting they boys had
a brief chance.

When it came Dick Prescott's turn he spoke so quietly that those

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