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The High School Freshmen by H. Irving Hancock

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nearest him thought he said six dollars.

_"Sixty dollars?"_ repeated Mr. Morton, more distinctly. "The
best offering yet."

"I've one more," added Prescott, in the same low voice.

"Then speak up more loudly," directed the submaster. "There are
a lot of young people here who want to hear."

"Here," continued Dick, handing in another paper, "is a communication
signed by the members of the city's Common Council. They signed
as individuals. They agree to hire the Gridley Military Band,
of twenty-eight pieces, to be on hand at the Thanksgiving game
and to play for our High School eleven."

None of Dick's partners had secured less than twenty-five dollars.

When all the subscriptions had been turned in, and the amount
footed up by Coach Morton, that gentleman announced, in tones
that betrayed excitement:

"The total subscriptions amount to nineteen hundred and sixty-eight
dollars. That will put us on a fine footing for this year, and
leave a good balance over for next year!"

Then the enthusiasm broke loose in earnest. Two score of fans
turned, at once, to find Dick & Co., who had started the scheme.
But Dick & Co. had quietly vanished.

Before it adjourned that night, the Athletics Committee, with
the help of Captain Sam Edgeworth, found one effective way of
rewarding those who had conceived this highly successful subscription

Dick Prescott was appointed cheer-master for the great Thanksgiving
Day game. More, Dick was to name any one of his chums as assistant

As the cheer-master bosses the noise that is so indispensable
a part of the game, the honor that had come to young Prescott
was no mean one. No Gridley freshman had ever before achieved

Dick left to his partners the selection of assistant cheer-master.
_They_ settled on Dave Darrin.



Once upon a time Thanksgiving Day was an orgie conducted in honor
of that national bird, the turkey.

In these happier days, in every live community, the turkey must
wait until the football game has been fought out. Then the adherents
of one eleven eat crow.

Gridley's great game of the year was scheduled to begin at three

However, a large part of the fun, at a really "big" game consists
in being on hand an hour ahead of time and hearing and seeing
all the fun that goes on.

Promptly at the tick of two o'clock the Gridley Band blew its
first blast, to the tune of "Hail, Columbia!"

The band was stationed close to the ground, in the center of the
stand reserved for the High School student body. Off the right
of the band rose four tiers of bright-faced, wholesome-looking
High School girls. To the left of the band sat the boys.

Across the field, on a much smaller stand, sat the hundred or
so followers of the team from Cobber. The Cobbers had no band.
Few feminine faces appeared on the Cobber stand. The Cobber
colors, brown and gray, floated here and there on the breeze in
the form of small banners.

Gridley's stand was brilliant with the crimson and gold banners
of Gridley H.S. These bright-hued bits of bunting waved deliriously
as the band's strains floated forth.

But as "Hail Columbia" belongs to all Americans, the Cobbers elected
to flash their bunting, too.

Suddenly the music paused. Then came pressing contempt for the
hostile eleven: "All coons look alike to me!"

Cobber's friends took the hint in an instant. To a man the visiting
delegation arose, hurling out the Cobber yell in round, deep-chested

Just outside the lines, behind a huge megaphone mounted on a tripod,
stood Dick Prescott, cheer-master. At his side was Dave Darrin,
whose duties were likely to prove mainly nominal.

Dick swung the megaphone from left to right, as he called out
through it:

"Now, then---number seven!"

From the boy's side came the prompt response, in slow, measured
cadence, every word of it distinct:

"C-O-B-B-E-R! Born in misfortune! Reared on trouble. Grew to
be a disgrace---and died in tears!"

Cobber's friends had to "chew" over that. They had nothing in
their repertory of "sass" that seemed to fill this bill.

To return an inapt yell would be worse than silence. So the visitors
sat scowling at the field.

"Score one on Cobber's goat," grinned Dave Darrin.

Presently, after some whispering on the visitors' stand, this
rather lame one came from the college crowd:

"C-O-B-B-E-R! C-O-B-W-E-B! Our trap for the foolish little fly!"

One of the few girls on the visitors' stand rose to wave her brown
and gray banner. She slipped and fell through between the seats.

Quick as a flash Dave Darrin sprang to the megaphone, swinging
it around at the enemy, and bawling this atrocious pun:

"Now you spider! But now you can't!"

That brought a laugh, even from the visitors. The hapless girl,
with the help of some of her male friends, was hoisted up once
more to a seat and safety.

"Look at the poor girl," laughed Dick to Darrin. "She's wearing
our colors now---crimson face and a gold locket under it."

"If she wasn't a girl, I'd yell that over to 'em," laughed Dave.

The band was playing again, in its most rollicking rhythm, the
old air from "Olivette," "Then bob up serenely!"

The laughter started on the Gridley side, but it spread all the
way around to the Cobber seats.

As the minutes flew by it became apparent, from a survey of the
filled seats, that at least two thousand, outside of the Cobber
and the Gridley H.S. delegations, were present at the game. This
meant a healthful addition to the athletics fund.

By and by Cobber recovered its nerve on the seats. Cobber yells
floated forth on the air. Yet, for every sing-song taunt the
visitors found that the home fans had an apt retort. This was
where Dick Prescott's ready wit came in, for it was his task to
call for all the cheers, yells, songs or taunts.

Two-thirty came. Dick called for the High School song. The band
accompanied, while the entire student body sang.

At its completion Cobber answered, as might have been expected,
with cat calls.

Within the next few minutes Dick ran the H.S. boosters through
nearly the whole repertory of cheers and songs.

Then, just after quarter of three, Dave made an important discovery.

"Here come the teams," he whispered.

Dick, without turning to look, swung the megaphone so that its
wide mouth aimed straight at the band leader.

"You know what now, leader!"

In a twinkling the musicians rose. A cornetist flared forth with
a bugle call. Down came the leader's baton. The bugle call shaded
off into a single strain from the band. Then out crashed: "See,
the conquering hero comes!"

With both teams marching onto the field the call was for courtesy.
Gridley H.S. and Cobber rose in their seats. The other spectators,
mostly, also stood up. Cobber Second came marching around in
review before Gridley H.S. seats, and received a rattling volley
of good, staunch old American cheers.

Gridley H.S. eleven took the other side of the field. With Sam
Edgeworth at their head they went past the visitors' seats, and
received the most thundering welcome that Cobber knew how to give.

Passing the two grand stands the captains wheeled their men marching
them out into the field. Two footballs bounded from the side
lines, and both teams began preliminary practice plays.

After that the band played a couple of lively airs. The people
on the grand stands did not pay much heed to the practice work.
They knew that the players were merely warming up.

Coach Morton came down along the side lines, halting close to the
cheer-master and his assistant. After the first greeting Mr.
Morton turned his eyes anxiously toward the field.

The day was ideal---not too cold. Though the sun was out, there
was some cloudiness, yet without a sign of rain or snow. The
field was in excellent shape for a fast game.

"Why, Dick, you're _trembling_!" grunted Dave Darrin, in amazement.

"I know it," Prescott confessed, half guiltily.

"What's the matter?"

"Oh, nothing; only I'm so excited I can't quite keep still."

"Afraid for _our_ side?"

"We're going to win!" asserted Dick, stubbornly.

"Yet you're shaking!"

"It is buck fever, I guess. O Dave, I _do_ love this grand old

Coach Morton half turned, sending a comprehending smile at the
earnest young freshman.

"I wonder if you'd feel like that," ventured Dave, "if you were
one of our fellows out there on the gridiron."

"Not for a second," spoke up Prescott, promptly. "I know what
I would be doing though."


"I'd he Singing inside---singing songs of triumph over the game
we were going to win---the game we just _had_ to win!"

"You'd be pretty confident," smiled Darrin.

"Yes, I would," Dick asserted. "I believe it's the only spirit
worth having---the firm conviction that you're going to win, and
that nothing can stop you."

Coach Morton turned long enough to say:

"Prescott, I wish you were old enough and big enough to be out
there on our team now. When your time comes I certainly hope
you'll make the eleven. Your spirit is what every high school

Blushing a bit, Dick drew the score card out of his pocket. He
knew the Gridley side of it by heart, already, but he wanted to
read it over again. This was the line-up that he saw:

Gridley H.S. Positions Cobber Second
Evans .....left end..........Paisley
Butler.....left tackle.......Jordrey
Beck.......left guard........Smith
Badger.....center ...........Halsey
Thompson...right guard.......Jennison
Edgeworth..right tackle......Potter
Stearns....right end.........Adams
Jasper.....right half-back...Haddleston
Trent .....left half-back....Dill

"Why isn't Edgeworth in center?" asked Dave, glancing down over
Dick's shoulder.

"Played down a bit too fine to hold center in a big game like
this," Dick answered. "Edgeworth is a corking center, and I wouldn't
be afraid to see him there today. But Ben Badger is every bit
as good."

Coach Morton drew in his breath sharply. Referee Henderson had
just signaled to Badger, acting captain for the home team, and
Halsey, captain of the Cobbers, to come in for the toss. The
players halted in their work to await the result of that toss.

"You call, Halsey," nodded Ben Badger.

"Up!" warned the referee, and flipped the coin.

"Tails!" sang Captain Halsey.

"Heads it is," announced Referee Henderson.

Ben Badger grinned.

"It's all starting _our_ way," clicked Dick Prescott, in an undertone.
He seemed lost in a transport of ecstasy.



"We'll kick from the north end," announced Captain Badger, promptly.

With a grunt of satisfaction, Gridley loped off for its positions.

The band broke loose in a wild hurrah of a tune. Spectators belonging
to both sides took up a wild cheer until the referee raised his
right hand for silence. The opposing teams were lined up.

Darting forward to center field the referee placed the ball, then
ran backwards off the gridiron.

His whistle went to his lips. It was an instant of strained attention.

Trill-ll! It was not a cheer, but a subdued, breathless gasp
that rose from the two camps of fans as the opposing lines rushed
at each other. Dick could not help a slight groan, for Adams,
of Cobber, reached the pigskin first. But Adams kicked it off
over the line. Here was Gridley's prompt chance.

Evans kicked the ball from the twenty-five-yard line. It was
stopped by Huddleston, who started to run with it. Luckless plan!
Gridley's line came thundering down upon him almost ere Huddleston
had stepped off! Bump! The combatants piled into and over each
other. Huddleston was downed on his fifty-yard line. At this
instant Dick bethought himself. Placing his mouth to the megaphone,
he roared:

"H.S. cheer!"

It rolled out with full volume while the referee was placing the
ball. By the time it died out Cobber's captain could be heard



Here, the heavier boys from Cobber began to do their fine work,
and Gridley hearts sank.

Cobber made a first down on three plays. It ended in a bad fumble,
however, for steady Thompson went down over the ball on the Gridley
forty-five-yard line.

"H.S. cheer once more!" bellowed Dick.

The High School boys and girls answered with a will, drawing it
out so long as to cause the referee to frown. When it ended Badger's
signals ripped out fast and clear.

The ball came back to Quarter-back Winters. He started Gridley
faces to glowing again, for Winters did one of the things that
had made the team famous. This was the Gridley fake kick. With
any lesser team it would have been good for twenty-five yards.
Even against the big, alert fellows from Cobber that fake kick
was good for eight yards. But not yet did the full effect of
the move come. For Cobber was off-side and Trent burst through
the line on a spurt that was good for thirty-three yards.

Two snappy line plays followed that made the Cobber boys feel
the cold sweat ooze. It would have been Gridley's first down,
but a little slip penalized the home players for fifteen yards.

Most of the people of Gridley back in the seats wore now standing
up in their excitement. They had dreaded much from the bigger
college boys, but now the spectators saw that Gridley could hold
its own for strategy, ruse and speed.

Cobber lost its temper just a bit, now, before the smiling faces
of these High School boys. Some rough playing followed, but the
home boys kept their tempers.

Soon Ben Badger signaled another fake kick formation. That was
Gridley's specialty for this game, one long planned and worked
for. Quarter-back Winters again got the ball. With a handsome
forward pass he made it Thompson's, and it went to the enemy's
seven-yard line.

"Question---four!" appealed Cheer-Master Prescott, through the

Back from twenty boys on the home stand came the heavy query:

_"Where's Cobber?
Where's Cobber?"_

From all the rest of the H.S. fans came the roaring answer:

"Lost! Suitable reward and no questions asked!"

Then the Cobber fans hurled back this hint:

_"Brag's a great dog,
Brag's a smart dog,
Brag's a good dog, but-----
Look out for the cat!"_

Cobber now developed their own famous bulldog tactics. From the
seven-yard line Gridley moved the ball less than two yards in
three plays. Cobber got the ball, and then other things began
to happen. Cobber's big fellows worried the ball back for eleven
yards. Then the visitors, who carried thirty per cent. more
weight, began with heavy mass plays. Gridley began to go down,
to double up and collapse before that heavy, rough play, in
which fatigue, not speed was the object of the opponents.

It was not scientific play, but it was grueling on the High School
boys. Even confident Dick Prescott's heart began to sink. Coach
Morton was breathing hard.

Unless Gridley could hold the enemy's rush back effectively enough
to get the ball once more on downs, the college boys seemed likely
to rush it right over the High School goal line.

Had Cobber tried any kicks, Gridley would have had the ball, and
would have known what to do with it. But Captain Halsey knew that.
He depended, now, wholly on heavy mass rushes and plays.

Yet the Gridley boys were by no means asleep---or lazy.

"I won't tire our men all out in the first half," muttered Badger
to himself. "But I won't let them stroll through our line."

Even the heavy Cobber men, though they advanced doggedly, did
not make any too great progress.

Down at the Gridley fifteen-yard line the High School boys developed
their greatest stubbornness and strength. So well did they oppose
the college boys that, by preventing progress in three successive
plays, the home boys again got the ball. They could not move
it sufficiently far forward, however. Cobber took the ball again.

"Better let up on the cheers, don't you think, sir?" Dick inquired.

"Yes," nodded Coach Morton. "It would only worry our boys now,
and they've got enough on their minds as it is."

Again Cobber took the offensive. At the next down a man had to
be sent from the field, and a substitute sent out. But the casualty
went to Cobber, not to the High School team. That fact gave the
major part of the audience grim satisfaction.

"There they go, now!" muttered Dave Darrin, in disgust. "Nothing
is going to stop the big fellows!"

"They're getting nearer our goal line," Dick admitted. "But a
game is never won until it's finished. Cobber, as yet, hasn't
even gotten the touchdown!"

A minute later Cobber _had_. To the Gridley onlookers it sent
a shock of dismay. The college men certainly had scored.

"It's Cobber's beef, not science," Dick stoutly asserted. "Our
fellows play with more speed and real skill. _Say_---look at

For Bentley, of the college eleven, had just missed the kick from

Five points for the visitors! The teams swiftly changed ends
and lined up. The whistle's call sent them off to the fray, for
there were but three minutes left of the first half.

Cobber won the kick but didn't carry it far. Gridley got down
as far as the enemy's twenty-yard line. Then the smaller High
School boys were fairly pushed back into their own territory,
losing twelve yards of their own side of the field.

Trill-ll! The first half was over.

"Sam, can you do better? Do you want to go back on the job?"
asked Ben Badger.

"No," replied the Gridley captain. "It's been tough on us, but
you've done everything that I could have done. I'm satisfied,
and I believe the coach is."

"We'll ask him," proposed Badger.

Morton was hurrying toward his boys. The coach's face was impassive.
For all his looks showed he might have been congratulating himself
on a winning.

"No; there's no need to change captains," decided the coach.
"It's like changing a horse in mid-stream. I don't see, Badger,
that you're lost any tricks that Edgeworth could have made.

"What's our weak point?" asked Ben.

"There isn't much of a weak point, anywhere, as far as your play
goes," Mr. Morton responded. "In many respects your play has
been better than Cobber's. Weight is your poor point."

Nevertheless the coach made several suggestions in the time that
was allowed him.

"Whenever you get a proper chance, Captain, and have the ball,
open up the play as much as you can. Don't give Cobber a chance
to bump you any when it can be avoided."

In the meantime the Cobber fans, as was their right, were hurling
the most abusive cheers and taunts. Dick, as cheer-master, allowed
this to pass until nearly the end of the intermission. At last
he gave the sudden call through the megaphone:


The number sounded ominous; so did the cheer that was designated
by it. The Gridley H.S. boys on the grand stand responded hardly
more than half-heartedly:

_"Com-pan-nee served first!
That's our steady rule!
Manners the best are taught
In Gridley school!

"But he who waits laughs best!
'Tis but a distance short
'Twixt laugh and weep---
Your joy'll be short!"_

"H.S. cheer!" exhorted Prescott, at once.

It came, with a more thundering volley. Yet Gridley folks stirred

"That's what comes of putting a freshman, without judgment, on
the calling job," muttered Fred Ripley sarcastically.

The whistle blew. Cobber got the ball, and kept it moving. Once
there was a brief setback when Gridley got the pigskin and sought
to push it back. After four yards, however, Cobber took it and
moved down the field with it.

It seemed impossible to offer effective resistance to the heavy
college men now.

Gridley hearts sank from sheer weight. Gridley had met more
than its match!



It was almost a touchdown for Cobber when Ben Badger rallied his
men enough to fight the college men back some twenty-odd yards.
But then the tide turned once more, and Cobber began to fight
its way back to the High School goal line.

The spectators had given up hope, all save those who sat in the
Cobber seats.

This was to be the first defeat of the season, and the whipping
was to come from worthy foemen. Yet are home folks ever satisfied
to see their own youngsters beaten?

Defeat was now conceded, however. Even Coach Morton, though his
face did not betray him, had given up all hope.

Dick, however, kept calling for the cheers and yells. The student
body did their best, but their spirits were low.

Once Morton turned and frowned, but Freshman Prescott did not
see him. The coach feared that this jubilant racket would get
on the nerves of the Gridley battlers.

"How many minutes will it take Cobber to cross our line?" murmured
Dave in Dick's ear.

"They won't do it before next year," Prescott staunchly retorted.

Just then Cobber lost fifteen yards on penalty, and Gridley H.S.
had the ball at the moment when it was sadly needed.

"Band, four bars of 'Hot Time in the Old Town!'" yelled Prescott
through the big megaphone.

The leader's baton fell like a flash. The band itself sharing
in the excitement fairly ripped the air out in gallop time.

As Ben Badger heard he straightened up for a moment, shaking his
long locks in the wind. A smile crossed his face. Then he bent
over the ball for the pass.

"Nine---fourteen, eighteen---seven!" he called.

Evans darted quickly out on his end. Quarter-back Winters moved
his feet somewhat to left. Trent, left half-back, shot swiftly
away to an altered position.

Captain Halsey, of the college team, saw instantly that it looked
like a long pass and a sprint around Gridley's left end. A football
general must change front swiftly. At the signal, Cobber disposed
itself to bunch against the High School left.

The whistle blew. Winters got the ball, and made the movements
for a kick. Cobber men, in the air on the jump, halted somewhat
uncertainly, some of them.

It was a fake kick, and a royally good one. The ball went to
Stearns instead. Out around the right end dashed the little left,
with Gridley support thumping over the ground to back him up.
But Stearns was the best Gridley runner on the field today.
Moreover, he had not been worked as hard as had Evans.

A nimble dodge, and Stearns was past the first Cobber interference.

A howl of delight went up from the home fans.

Then Cobber's secondary defense made a dash for Stearns. The
latter found himself balked, so headed straight for them. Through
the line he made a dash. It was too much for little Stearns.
Down he went, and a groan of disappointment went up from the
Gridley seats.

Yet only to one knee went the swift little end. He was up and
off again like a shot. One Cobber man wheeled and would have
grabbed the little right end, but there was where Frank Thompson
played for all there was in him. He pitched forward, falling
headlong, and Smith, of Cobber, fell over him.

It was a sprint, now! For an instant the field close to Stearns
was clear of opposition.

Wild cheering broke loose. Dick Prescott fairly danced for joy.

Ah! Here came some of the belated Cobber men, supporting their

There was a heavy crash. Stearns, caught in the midst of the
mixup, went down, but he covered the pigskin!

Then the linesman hurried up. The news was so good that it flew
from mouth to mouth along the east side boards:

"Forty-two yards!"

Cobber's captain gasped. It had been close playing all afternoon.
He had looked for nothing like this. Clearly, Gridley's fake
kick tactics were all of the real thing.

For the first time Halsey and his best men felt much of their
confidence ooze.

Down almost over the line, Gridley soon had the ball, while the
home fans were again standing up and cheering. Then a penalty
set the ball back. But Gridley soon had the ball again.

In two plays the doughty High School boys carried the pigskin
eight yards. Only nine to go!

As Badger's signals rang out for the third pass, Badger's men
were seen to spread. Another fake kick?

Then the ball went backward. Winters, of course, took it. Like
magic, while watchful Cobber stood opened up, the Gridley line
closed in again. Artful Dodger Winters still had the ball. Thompson,
Edgeworth, Badger and Beck butted in solidly behind the lithe
quarter-back. The rest of Gridley followed.

Cheek of cheek! The out-weighed High School boys were giving
Cobber a dose of Cobber medicine. It was a mass-play---a
battering-ram assault.

And Gridley got it over! An inch past the line Winters tripped
and went down, covering the ball.


Five to five a tie score!

"Kick the goal!" came the hoarse appeal from the east side seats.

"Kick as you never kicked before!"

Gridley fans could fairly hear themselves shake now. Hats were
off and waving. The High School girls stood up, frantically waving
their crimson and gold banners.

Cool, steady, like one without nerves, Thompson went back into
the field and poised himself for the kick.

At the whistle the dull thump of a boot against the pigskin was
heard all over the field. The ball arched and soared. Even before
it came toward earth a wild "hurrah!" went up from the east side.
The ball went straight between the bars!

Score: "Six to five!"

Badger and his young reliables were quietly smiling, now. Captain
Halsey began to look glum.

"Four bars of 'Hot Time' once more!" begged Dick Prescott, in
a voice that sounded as if palsy-touched.

The band blared out while the teams were changing ends.

Once more Cobber got the ball on the kick-off. A massed rush
was made for Gridley's goal, but it didn't get far. With eleven
minutes left to play, and a lead on the score, Badger had resolved
on using up all the reserve strength, if need be. Gridley had
not yet called on any substitutes, and several capable young "subs"
waited just outside the lines, frantic for a call. Let Cobber
be rough, if that suited the college men.

Cobber lost the ball on downs.

Then Gridley took the pigskin.

"Play for time," was Badger's signaled order.

Not much in the delay line is possible under a vigilant referee,
yet all the time that strategy _could_ gain was taken advantage of.

Thrice the ball was fought over the center of the gridiron. Then
it settled slowly toward the High School goal, making slow, stubbornly
fought advances.

Three minutes left to play!

Gridley H.S. got the ball once more, under the distance rule.

Now Badger called out the same signal that had been used for that
most effective fake kick.

Captain Halsey smiled as he saw the High School fighters spread out
swiftly, just as they had done before.

Halsey thought he knew this time! That same old ruse of dashing
around the left end; then a fake kick and a dashing race by Stearns.
Halsey's swiftly telegraphed orders disposed his men to meet
the former dodge more effectively.

The whistle sounded, and the ball was passed. But what Halsey didn't
know was that, the second time this signal was called it meant the
players were to do exactly what they seemed spreading out for.

So the ball actually went around the left end this time, Evans
making the best sprint that was left in his stiffening muscles.

He covered twenty-four yards before he was brought to earth.

Here was where delay came in. While Cobber was fighting stubbornly
to regain the pigskin, the whistle sounded the end of the second

Gridley had won from the big enemy!

Now pandemonium broke loose. Two thousand people leaped up and
down, yelling themselves hoarse.

So many hats went into the air that it was a miracle if every
man recovered his own headgear.

The band didn't play; the student body didn't sound a yell. What
would have been the use? There was too much noise.

Dick made a bound, landing beside the band leader.

"Hustle your men, please! Get out into the field and lead our
men off."

It needed quick work, for the players were already leaving the
grounds. The wildest fans were getting over the lines, mingling
with the late players.

But the band got there on the run. Above all the din Ben Badger
was quick to realize the meaning of the new move. He caught his
men back, forming them just behind the forming band. Off marched
the victorious team to the air of "Hot Time!" That brought down
the cheering harder than ever.

While it lasted, Dick and Dave, by frantic movements, succeeded
in holding a large proportion of the student body back in their

As soon as the band had reached the far end of the field, and
the human racket had died down somewhat, Freshman Prescott succeeded
in making himself heard:

"Now! Our final yell of victory!"

This was the High School yell, followed, instantly, by the taunting

"Is there any game you _do_ play, Cobber?"

But there came no answer from the depths of the gloomy Cobber



That closed the football season in a blaze of glory. Gridley
H.S. had closed the year without a defeat.

The day after Thanksgiving football is deader than marbles. Gridley
H.S. boys and girls settled down to study until the holidays came

The next thing of note that happened in the student world jarred
the whole town. There might have been a much bigger jar, however.

Dave Darrin often worked, Saturday nights, in the express office.

One night in early December he was employed there as usual. At
about nine o'clock Dick Prescott and Tom Reade dropped in.

"Pretty near through, old fellow?" Dick asked.

"I will be when the 8:50 gets in and the goods are checked up,"
replied Dave. "The train is a few minutes late tonight."

There being no one else at the office, except the night manager
and two clerks, Dick and Reade felt that they would not be in
the way if they waited for Dave.

Twenty minutes later the wagon drove up with the packages and
cases that had arrived on the 8:50 train.

"You two can give a hand, if you like," invited Dave, as the packages
were being passed up to the counter, checked and taken care of.

Prescott and Reade pitched in, working with a will.

"Here, don't shoot this box through as fast as you've done the
others," counseled Dick, as he picked up a small box, some eighteen
inches long and about a foot square at the end. "The label says,
'Extra fragile. Value two hundred and fifty dollars.'"

Dave reached out to receive it, as Dick laid it carefully on the

"Packages of that value have to be handled with caution," muttered
Dave. "When a fellow puts on a valuation like that, it means
that he intends to make claim for any damage whatever."

"Hold on," muttered Dick, eyeing the counter. "There's something
leaking from the box now."

Dave took his hands away, then bent over to have a look with Dick.

A very tiny puddle of some very thick, syrupy stuff was slowly
forming on the counter.

"I wonder if the contents _have_ been damaged?" muttered Dave,
uneasily. Then added, in a whisper:

"The night manager will blame us, and hold me responsible, if
there _is_ any damage."

Both boys carefully inspected the tiny puddle for a few moments.

"Say, don't touch the box again," counseled Prescott, uneasily.
"Do you know what that stuff looks to me like, Dave?"


"Do you remember the thick stuff that Dr. Thornton showed us in
IV. Chemistry the other day?"

"Great Scott!" breathed Dave Darrin, anxiously. "You don't mean

"But I _do_!" Dick nodded, energetically.

"Wow! Don't stir from here. I'll call the night manager."

Night Manager Drowan came over at once, eyeing the box and the
tiny pool of thick stuff.

"I never saw nitroglycerine but once," remarked Mr. Drowan,
nervously. "I should say this stuff looks just like it. We
won't take any chances, anyway. Dave, you go to the telephone,
and notify the police. Your friends can stand guard over the
box so that no one gets a chance to go near it."

But, while Dave was at the 'phone, Mr. Drowan hung over the box
as though fascinated.

"It takes fire to set this stuff off, doesn't it?" he asked.

"No," Dick replied. "If it's nitroglycerine in that box,
a light, sharp blow might be enough to do the trick. At least,
that was about what Dr. Thornton said."

Dave came back with word that the police would send some one at

"They asked me whom the stuff was addressed to," Dave continued,
"and I had to admit that I didn't know."

"It's addressed to Simon Tripps, to be called for. Identification
by letter herewith," read Dick Prescott, from the label.

"Yes; I have the letter," nodded Mr. Drowan. "It contains the
signature of the party who's to call for the box. That's all
the identification that's asked."

At this moment Officer Hemingway, in plain clothes, came in, followed
by a policeman in uniform.

Hemingway took a look at the stuff slowly oozing out of a corner
of the box.

"My bet is nitroglycerine---what the bank robbers call 'soup,'"
declared Hemingway, almost in a whisper. "All right; we'll take
it up to the station house. Then we'll send for Dr. Thornton,
who is the best chemist hereabouts. As soon as we get this stuff
to the station house I'll hustle back and hide against the coming
of Mr. Tripps. If he comes before I get back, jump on the fellow
and hold him for me, no matter what kind of a fight he puts up."

Dave gazed after the retreating figures of the policemen.

"Bright man, that Hemingway," he remarked. "If Tripps shows up,
we are to jump on him and nail him---no matter if he hauls out
two six-shooter and turns 'em on us"

"We can grab any one man, and hold him," returned Dick, confidently.
"All we've got to do is to get at him from all sides. See here,
Dave, if a fellow comes in and tells you he's Tripps, you repeat
the name as though you weren't sure. As soon as we hear the name,
Tom and I can jump on him from behind, and you can sail in in
front. Eh, Reade?"

"It sounds good," nodded Tom. "I'll take a chance on it, Dick,
with you to engineer the job."

In ten minutes Officer Hemingway was back. He stepped into a
cupboard close to the counter, prepared for the coming of Tripps.

Half an hour later the police station's officer in charge telephoned
that Dr. Thornton had carefully opened the box, and had declared
that it contained four pounds of nitroglycerine. Nor had Dr.
Thornton taken any chances of mistake. He had taken a minute
quantity of the suspected stuff out in the yard back of the station
house, and had exploded it.

At a moment when the office was empty of patrons Mr. Drowan stepped
into the cupboard for a moment, as though searching for something.

"How late do you stay open?" whispered Hemingway.

"Ten o'clock, usually, on Saturday nights, but we'll keep open
as late as you want, officer."

"Better keep open until midnight, then."

So they did, Dick telephoning his parents at the store to explain
that he was at the express office helping Dave.

Midnight came and went. A few minutes after the new day had begun
Hemingway came out of the cupboard.

"You may as well close up, Drowan," the plain clothes man decided.
"The fellow who calls himself Tripps isn't going to show up.
If he had been going to claim his box he'd have been here before

"You think he got scared away?" asked the night manager.

"The fellow was probably keeping watch on this office. He saw
what happened, and decided not to run his neck into a noose.
You'll never have any word from Tripps."

"Isn't it just barely possible," hinted one of the clerks, "that
the man wanted the stuff for some legitimate purpose?"

"A man who knows how to use nitroglycerine," retorted Hemingway,
gruffly, "also knows that it's against the law to ship nitroglycerine
unlabeled. He also knows that it's against the law for an express
company to transport the stuff on a car that is part of a passenger
train. So this fellow who calls himself Tripps is a crook. We
haven't caught him, but we've stopped him from using his 'soup'
the way he had intended to use it."

"Wonder what he did want to do with it?" mused Dick Prescott.

"There are any one of twenty ways in which the fellow might have
used the stuff criminally," replied the plain clothes man. "Of
course, for one thing, it could be used to blow open a safe with.
But safecracking, nowadays, is done by ordinary robbers, and
they're able to carry in a pocket or a satchel the small quantity
of 'soup' that it takes to blow the lock of a safe door, or the
door off the safe."

After thinking a few minutes, Hemingway went to the telephone,
calling up the chief of police at the latter's home. The plain
clothes man stated the case, and suggested that the story be told
to "The Blade" editor for publication in the morning issue. Then,
if anyone in town had any definite suspicion why so much nitroglycerine
should be needed in that little city, he could communicate his
suspicions or his facts to the police.

"The chief agrees to my plan," nodded Hemingway, leaving the 'phone.
"Me for 'The Blade' office."

"See here," begged Dick, earnestly, "if there's to be a good newspaper
story in this, please let me turn it over to Len Spencer. He's
one of our best newspaper men. He'll write a corking good story
about this business---and, besides, I'm under some personal obligations
to him."

"So I've heard," replied the plain clothes man, with a twinkle
in his eyes. Hemingway heard a good deal in his saunterings about
Gridley. He had picked up the yarn about Dick & Co., Len Spencer
and the "dead ones."

"So that 'The Blade' gets it, I don't care who writes the story,"
replied the policeman, good-humoredly.

Dick swiftly called up "The Morning Blade' office. Spencer was
there, and came to the telephone.

"How's news tonight?" asked Prescott, after naming himself.

"Duller than a lecture," rejoined Len.

"Would you like a hot one for the first page?" pursued Dick.

"Would I? Would a cat lap milk, or a dog run when he had a can
tied to his tail? But don't string me, Dick. There's an absolute
zero on news tonight."

"Then you stay right where you are for two or three minutes,"
Dick begged his reporter friend. "Officer Hemingway and some
others are coming down to see you. You'll want to save three
or four columns, I guess."

"Oh, now, see here, Dick-----" came Reporter Spencer's voice,
in expostulation.

"Straight goods," Dick assured him. "When I say that I mean it.
And, this time, I not only mean it, but _know_ it. Wait! We'll
be right down to your office."

Nor did it take Len Spencer long to realize that he had in hand
the big news sensation of the hour for the people of Gridley.

Everyone in Gridley either wondered or shivered the next morning
at breakfast table.

Four pounds of nitroglycerine are enough to work fearful havoc
and mischief.



Monday's "Blade" contained additional light on the nitroglycerine
affair---or what passed as "light."

Len Spencer and the local police had discovered that at least
three of the wealthiest men in town had received, during the last
few weeks, threatening letters from cranks.

These cranks had all demanded money, under pain of severe harm
if they failed to turn over the money.

It now developed that the police chief and Officer Hemingway had,
some time before, arrested a nearly harmless lunatic, who, it
was believed had written the letters. The man with the unbalanced
mind did not appear dangerous, yet, in view of his threats, he
had been quietly "railroaded" off to all asylum for the insane.

Now, the arrival of four pounds of nitroglycerine at the local
express office was believed to show that the lunatic had had comrades,
or else that the crazy man had been used merely as a tool.

Hemingway hurried off to the asylum, to interview the unfortunate
one. All the plain clothes man succeeded in getting, however,
was a rambling talk that didn't make sense.

Monday's "Blade" announced that the chief of police had been authorized
to offer a reward of five hundred dollars for information leading
to the arrest and conviction of the party or parties behind the
criminal shipment of the giant explosive to Gridley.

Everyone believed that the frightened rich men had combined to
offer the reward. Many wondered that the offered reward was not

All of the student body at the High School were busy talking about
the affair in the big assembly room before the session opened.

"I see where my parents have made a great mistake," sighed Frank

"How?" demanded Ben Badger.

"Instead of wasting my time at the High School they should have
apprenticed me to a good journeyman detective," grumbled Thomp.

"Oh, but couldn't I use that five hundred, if only my training
had fitted me for such deeds as running down a nitroglycerine

"It isn't anything to joke about," shuddered one of the girls.
"It's awful! Would four pounds of the dreadful stuff destroy
the town of Gridley?"

"No," Badger informed her; "but it would be enough to blow up
several wood-piles and destroy a lot of clean Monday wash."

"There you go joking again," protested the girl, and turned away.

"Oh, well," declared Fred Ripley, "we must possess ourselves with
patience. We shall soon know the whole truth."

"Do you really think so?" asked Purcell.

"It's one of the surest things conceivable," railed Ripley. "That
bright constellation of freshmen known under the musical title
of Dick & Co. will solve the whole affair wit, in forty-eight
hours. Indeed, I'm not sure but Dick & Co., even at this moment,
carry the secret looked in their breasts."

Fred glanced quickly around him to see how much of a laugh this
had started. To his chagrin he found his bantering had fallen

"Oh, well," gaped Dowdell, gazing out of the window near which
he stood, "I know one important fact about the mystery."

"What's that?" asked half a dozen quickly.

"None of the five hundred is destined to come my way.

"That jest saddens a lot of us with the same conviction," muttered
Ted Butler, shaking his head.

"But this I _do_ know," continued Dowdell, "if the weather continues
cold there'll be some elegant skating before the week is out."

Gridley did not slumber over the nitroglycerine mystery. Len
Spencer, though he could gain no actual information, managed to
have something interesting on the subject in each morning's "Blade."
The people of Gridley talked of the mystery everywhere.

There was one other mild sensation this week that lasted for a
part of a day. Tip Scammon came up for his trial. He pleaded
guilty to the thefts from the High School locker room, and also
guilty to the charge of entering the Prescott rooms in order to
hide his loot in Dick's trunk. By way of leniency toward a first
offender the court let Tip off with a sentence of fourteen months
in the penitentiary. This sentence, by good behavior on the part
of Tip, would shrink to ten months of actual imprisonment.

In every way the police and the prosecuting attorney tried to
make Tip reveal the name of his confederate. But Tip, for reasons
of his own, maintained absolute, dogged silence on this head,
and went to the penitentiary without having named the person who
met him in the alleyway that evening when Tip himself was caught.

The promise of skating was made good. Wednesday afternoon it
was discovered that the ice in Gaylor's Cove was in splendid condition,
and strong enough to bear.

Thursday a series of High School racing contests were planned
for Saturday afternoon. There was so much money left over in
the Athletics Committee's treasury that it was voted to offer
a series of individual trophies for boy and girl skaters in different

Moreover, in these skating events members of the freshman class
were to be allowed to compete.

"Now, see here, fellows," urged Dick, when he had gotten his partners
aside, "some of the freshman class ought to be winners of some
of the events. We want to give our class a good name. And, out
of the six of us, there ought to be one winner for something.
I wish you'd all do your best to get in shape. You'll all go
over to the cove with me this afternoon, of course."

They did. More than a hundred of the student body, most of them
boys, were on the ice that afternoon.

Some went scurrying by for all they were worth. These were training
for the races.

Others gathered in the less traveled parts of the cove, which
was a large one, and practiced the "fancy" feats. Tom Reade and
Dan Dalzell put themselves in this class. Dick and his other
partners went in for speed.

Friday afternoon there was an even larger attendance.

Gaylor's Cove was about half a mile long, with an average width
of a quarter of a mile. At the middle the cove was open for a
long way upon the river.

At some points on the river proper the ice was strong enough to
bear. Near Gaylor's Cove, however, the river current was so swift
that the river ice at this point looked thin and treacherous.
No one ventured out on the ice just beyond the cove.

Friday night many a High School boy and girl studied the sky.
There was no sign of storm, nor did the conditions seem to threaten
a thaw. Saturday morning was cold and clear. The temperature,
at noon, was just above freezing point, though not enough so to
bring about a "thaw" in the ice.

By one o'clock Saturday afternoon Gaylor's Cove was a scene of
great activity. Two thirds of the High School students were there,
most of them on skates. There were three or four hundred other
youngsters, and more than a hundred grown-ups.

"All we need is the band," laughed Dick Prescott, as he skated
slowly along with Laura Bentley.

"The click-clack of the skates is enough for me," Laura replied.

"You are not down in any of the girls' contests, are you?" he

"No; does that disappoint you, Dick?"

"N-no," he said, slowly. "Still, it's fine to see every event
all but crowded."

"In how many events are you entered?" asked the girl.

"Only one, the freshman's mile. That will be swift work, and
there are two turns, the way the course is to be laid out."

"Why didn't you enter more of the freshman events?" Laura asked.

"Well, it will take a lot of good wind to keep going at a swift
pace for a mile. I want to save all my strength and wind for
that one event."

"What is the prize in the freshman's mile?" asked Laura, fumbling
in her muff for the card of the day's events.

"You noticed that handsome Canadian toboggan, didn't you?"

"The one with the side hand-rails?" Laura asked, looking up brightly
into his face. "Yes; that ought to have been one of the prizes
in the girls' events."

"Why?" queried Dick, looking a bit disconcerted.

"Why, those hand-rails are meant for timid girls to take hold
of. A boy would never want a toboggan with hand-rails."

"Perhaps the fellow who's going to win the freshman's mile expects
to invite some of the young ladies to go out tobogganing with
him," hinted young Prescott.

"Is it _fixed_ who shall win that race?" demanded Laura, teasingly.

"Hardly that," Dick rejoined, dryly.

"Then how do you know the coming owner's intentions, if you don't
know who is going to win the race?" Miss Bentley insisted.

"Well, you see, it's this way?" Dick admitted, "I've made up my
mind to win that race."

"So you regard the race as being as good as won by yourself?"
smiled the physician's daughter.

"It's one of the rules of Dick & Co.," Prescott answered, as they
turned and skated slowly back toward the center of the cove, "when
we go into anything we consider it as good as won from the outset."

"Well, I like that spirit," Laura admitted. "Faint heart never
yet won anything but a spill."

Laura had her card out by this time, and was studying it
leisurely, trusting to her companion to guide her.

"I see Fred Ripley is entered for the grand event in fancy skating,"
she observed.

"Yes; are you interested in him?"

Something in the directness of the question caused the girl to
bite her lips.

"Now, that's hardly fair, Dick," she cried, flushing with vexation.
"No; the fact is, I'm hoping he'll lose."


"Because, Fred has never been very nice to you, Dick."

That was direct enough, and Dick flushed with pleasure.

"Thank you, Laura; that's more handsome than what I said to you."

"I accept your apology," she laughed. "Look! There goes Fred
Ripley now! How foolish of him."

Fred was heading straight out of the cove toward the river. He
was a fine skater, and now he was showing off at his best. He
had adapted a "turn promenade" step from roller skating, and
was whirling along, turning and half dancing as he sped along.
It was a graceful, rhythmical performance. Despite the fact
that young Ripley was not widely liked, his present work drew
considerable applause from the spectators.

That applause acted like incense under the young man's nostrils.
He determined to go farther out, maintaining his present step

"Look out, Ripley!" warned Thomp. "The ice won't bear out there."

Fred didn't reply by as much as a look. He kept on out toward
the thin ice.

Cra-a-ack! Splash! The thin ice had broken. Ripley, moving
backwards, did not realize his fix until his feet; shot into the
water. Down he came on his back, breaking more of the ice.

A yell, and he was gone below the surface.

And now everybody seemed shouting at once. A hundred people ran
to and fro, shouting out what ought to be done.

"Get a rope! Run for a doctor! Bring fence rails! Telephone
for the police!"

That's the usual way with a crowd, to think up things that others
ought to do.

Dick Prescott espied Dave Darrin ahead. Dropping Laura's arm
without a word, Dick skated swiftly up to Dave, called Darrin,
then lightning. As he worked young Prescott shot out a few hurried

Then another great cry went up. Dick Prescott was sprinting fast
toward the thin ice. Close to where Fred Ripley had gone down
there was another great rent in the ice.

Dick Prescott was "in the freeze," in quest of his enemy!



So suddenly and heavily did he break through the thin ice that
Dick went underneath the surface.

"Help!" roared Fred, in a frenzy, as he came to the surface.

The skates on his feet clogged all his movements, and acted like

"There's Ripley, but where's Prescott?" shouted several.


That last cry went up as a sound of relief, when Prescott's
brown-haired pate, hatless, bobbed up close to where he had gone down.

"Good boy, Prescott!"

"Go in and get Ripley."

"Save yourself, anyway! Don't be over-foolish!"

A dozen more cries went up from cove and shore.

Yet it is doubtful if Prescott heard any of them.

In the first instant that his eyes came above the level of the
water, Dick took in the details of Ripley's whereabouts.

Dick had to calculate at lightning speed.

"O Prescott," gasped Fred, when he saw his would-be rescuer, "can't
you break the ice between us? I can't keep up much longer."

"Get hold of the edge of the ice, Ripley," called Dick. "Just
rest lightly on it. Don't try to make it bear your weight---it
won't! It'll help hold you up, though, if you keep cool."

"Cool?" groaned Fred. "I'm freezing. In pity's name get to me

Fred was so wholly self-centered that it didn't occur to him that
the freshman must be just as chilled as he himself was.

Dick's legs ached with the cold chill of the icy water. He was
free of the weight of skates, however, and he trod water during
the few seconds that he needed for making up his mind what it
was best to do.

Much depended upon the help that those on shore gave, but Dick
had left his orders with Dave Darrin, and he trusted the shore
end to his capable lieutenant.

Fred, though hardly more than able to keep himself afloat, managed
to reach the nearest edge of ice.

He clutched at it eagerly, then, disregarding excellent advice,
he tried to climb out upon it.

There was another crash. With another yell, Ripley sank again,
to the horror of those on shore.

But Prescott did not see this. The freshman, after trying to
calculate the exact distance across the intervening ice, dived
below the glassy surface. He was swimming, now, under the ice.
As he swam the freshman kept his eyes open, swimming close
to the ice, yet not touching it.

So he came up, in the open. But where was Fred?

"Ripley just sank!" came the hoarse chorus from shore and cove.

This was serious enough. He who sinks for the second time in
icy waters, especially when hampered by skates, may very likely
not come up again.

"It must have been about here that he went down," calculated Prescott,
deliberately, as he swam through the open water. "Now, then!"

Down went Dick. To those looking on, it was heroic---sublime?
Yet it looked as though the rescuer must be dooming himself.

"One Prescott is worth a dozen Ripleys" murmured one man who,
unable to swim, was obliged to stand looking uselessly on.

There were still many who were shouting confusing advice as to
what others ought to do. A few were even running about trying
to do something.

Dave Darrin was actually "on the job."

He had pressed Dick's other partners into service and as many
of the High School boys as possible. They got off their skates
in a rush.

"Tom," shouted Dave, "you and Greg get some of the fellows and
rush down as many ties as you can from that pile by the railroad
tracks. Dalzell, you and Harry get down at the edge of send him
your way. Make a raft by laying four ties side by side, and lash
the ends. Do it as quick as a flash. I'll be there by that time."

Tom and Greg quickly had a dozen men running for railroad ties,
a pile of which stood less than an eighth of a mile away.

By the time that the man with ropes arrived, and two more behind
him, bringing more, there were a dozen railroad ties on the ice
by the outer edge of the cove. Harry Hazelton and Dan snatched
short lengths of rope and knotted them around either end of the

"Some of you men make another raft, just like that one!" shouted
Dave, who, at the time, was busily engaged in making a noose at
one end of a long coil of half-inch rope.

"Here, you two men get hold of the other end of this," ordered
Dave, running up with the coil of rope.

Then, hardly waiting to make sure that they had the rope, Dave
turned to Harry and Dan, calling to them to help him push the
raft out beyond the cove. A dozen men and boys tried to help,
all at once, but Dave and Harry saw to it that no speed was lost
by blundering.

The raft was not difficult to push out over the ice.

"Now, let me have it alone," shouted Dave. "The ice may break
at any point beyond."

So Dave tugged and pushed, guiding the small raft before him.

Cra-ack! Dave and the raft went through the ice, but Darrin quickly
climbed up astride of the ties.

Out beyond, Dick was holding up Fred Ripley, whom he had found
and brought to the surface. Fred's eyes were nearly closed.
After his second drop below, the Ripley lad was nearly spent.

Glancing back, Dave saw that another raft was being pushed out
by the two men who held the rope that was noosed under his shoulders.

"Now, halt where you are!" Dave Darrin shouted back. "Toss me
a long rope that I can throw out to Prescott!"

The rope came swirling. Dave caught it easily enough. Then,
still sitting on the raft, his legs, of course, in the water,
Darrin recoiled the rope.

"Can you spare a hand to catch, Dick?" shouted Dave.

"Surely!" came back the steady answer.

The coil flew out across the thin ice. One end splashed in the
water. Guiding the all but helpless Fred, Dick swam to the rope's

Further back the two men who held to the rope connecting with
Dave had seated themselves across the second raft. If the ice
broke at _that_ point they would have little difficulty in making
themselves safe.

"Ripley, stir yourself!" ordered Dick. "Can you take hold of
this rope, and keep hold of it" Can you climb across the thin
ice, holding onto the rope and being towed if the ice breaks?"

"I---I---I'm afraid," chattered Ripley. "You come with me!"

"It'll be a good deal easier if you can go first, and alone,"
spoke the freshman, rather sternly. "I think I can keep myself
afloat until you get over to solid ice. Then the rope can be
thrown back to me."

"I'm afraid, I tell you," insisted Fred, his teeth clicking against
each other. "Can't you see that I'm all in?"

"You'll have us both all in, if you don't get some courage together,"
young Prescott insisted. "Come, be a man, Ripley!"

"I'm freezing to death here," moaned Ripley, closing his eyes.

Somehow---he could never tell just how, afterwards, Dick managed
to slip the rope under Fred's shoulders. With infinite effort---for
he had to keep them both afloat, the freshman double-knotted the

"Come, now, you've got to help yourself across the ice, while
Dave hauls on the line," urged Dick.

Fred made a motion as though to bestir himself but he did it so
feebly that Prescott gave him a sharp pinch.

"Ouch!" flared Fred, now seeming to be wide awake. "Prescott,
you have the upper hand here. Don't be a bully!"

"I don't want to," spoke Dick, quietly, trying to keep his own
teeth from rattling. "But you've got to stir yourself, or else
I must do it for you. Now, get started over the thin ice.
Dave will haul. Never mind if the ice breaks under you; the rope
is tied around you. You're sure to be hauled to safety if you
help yourself. Now, then, Dave! Begin to haul in!"

It needed another pinch to make Fred Ripley bestir himself properly.
He half whimpered in protest, but Prescott was past minding _that_.

Hardly had Ripley gotten his full weight upon the ice than it
broke under him. He splashed into the water with a great howl,
but alert Dave Darrin hauled in just enough of the rope. Ripley
was safe, and could make the next attempt to get out on the ice.

Meanwhile, Prescott swam to another part of the ice edge. He
rested his hands on that edge, not heavily, but just enough for
some support. At the same time he kept his tired, aching, almost
frozen legs in motion just to keep himself from growing any more

Four times Fred Ripley broke through the thin ice, but each time
Dave Darrin, astride the first raft, pulled in on the rope just
in time.

After getting himself out of the water for the fifth time, Ripley
crawled over stronger ice, and went on past the hole in which
Dave sat on the raft.

Then Ripley was able to get to his feet, tottering toward the
shore, shaking as though with fever and chills.

A cheer went up from those who watched. The enthusiasm would
have been vastly greater had not the crowd had its eyes on Dick
Prescott, who must yet be saved if aid could reach him before
his numbed limbs could sustain him no longer.

"Get that rope off, Ripley," bawled Dave Darrin. "Hurry! I must
throw it to Dick, or he'll go down!"

"I can't get it off," mumbled Fred, tugging vainly, almost aimlessly,
as he still moved coveward.

As he was on staunch ice, now, three or four men ran toward him.
One, with a sharp knife, waved the others away and quickly slashed
the noose away from Fred's shoulders.

"Go on, you pup!" grumbled the man with the knife. "Now, we'll
try to get help to the _man_!"

Fred was not too far spent to flash angrily at that taunt.

"You'd better be careful whom you speak to like that!" snarled
Ripley. "You're a low-bred fellow, anyway!"

But the man who had slashed the rope free didn't even hear. He
had turned toward Darrin, to make sure that Dave could draw the
rope toward him fast enough.

"One of you people get Ripley's skates off for him, and help him
ashore," called Tom Reade.

"Why don't _you_?" some one in the crowd answered.

"Because my job," retorted Reade, "is keeping my eyes on my chum,
ready to help if anything comes up that I can do."

Four or five hurried to Fred's aid. He had been walking on his
skates, which, at best, is an awkward style of locomotion. Two
men held him up, while two of the H.S. boys quickly took off his
skates. After that Fred, leaning on one of the H.S. boys, made
much quicker time to the shore.

Here a man with a sleigh waited.

"Pile him in here," directed the driver. "Dr. Gilbert has gone
up to the Avery House and is getting things ready. I'll have
Ripley back in a jiffy."

"Oh, that's all right," sang out a boy in the freshman class.
"But the main thing is to hustle back and be ready to take Dick

"And I'll pray all through the round trip that you may get Prescott
back to shore alive," fervently replied the driver, as he brought
the whip down across the horse's back.

Dave Darrin, too, was chilled. That was why, when he had drawn
all the rope in and had coiled it, he made a throw that fell short.

"Courage, Dick, old fellow," he shouted. "I'll get it to you,
in a jiffy."

Nervously, quickly, Dave hauled in the rope. He coiled rapidly,
yet with care.

"Now, may Heaven give me the strength to throw this coil far enough
to do the trick!" prayed Dave Darrin, as he made the second cast.

There was frenzy behind that throw. Hurrah! There was four feet
of rope to spare as it splashed into the open part where Dick
still hung, though he was fast weakening.

"There's a noose on the end---I fixed it, Dick! Get it over your
head and under your shoulders!" bawled Dave Darrin.

It was only the coolness of a last desperate hope that enabled
the freshman to adjust the noose sufficiently.

"All r-r-r-i-ight!" he called, unable to make any further effort
to stop the rattling of his teeth.

"Come on, then!" cheered Dave.

It was team play between two freshmen, but it was worked out.
Dick, after a while, reached solid ice. Tom Reade and Dan Dalzell
risked themselves a good deal in going far out to meet him. But
they got their leader and rushed him toward the cove.

Soon a dozen H.S. boys were running around Dick. Some of them
had him upon their shoulders; others were trying to help.

As they rushed him across the cove to the sleigh that had just
arrived, the cheering was deafening.

Others in the crowd had already run up along the road, which was
lined as Dick and Darrin were driven along as fast as the horse
could go. Tom Reade stood on the runners behind. As soon as
the door of the hotel was reached, Reade aided the driver in rushing
the boys inside.

Even here the cheering followed them in volleys.

"Come on---into a cold room with you, at first," ordered Dr. Gilbert,
appearing, while a dozen H.S. boys came in his wake. "You don't
want to get near a fire yet. Strip them, both, lads, and rub
them down for all you're worth. Don't mind peeling a little skin

Dick and Dave were rushed into a room. With so many hands to
help, they were soon stripped. Then rough Turkish towels were
plied upon them until even their skins began to show the red of
blood and life.

"Now, wrap blankets about them, and bring them into a warm room,"
ordered the doctor.

As they entered the other room they espied Fred Ripley, already
seated in an arm-chair by the stove, a bowl of something hot in
one hand.

The driver of the sleigh now came in.

"You lads will want something warm and dry to put on," he declared.
"Give me your orders. The distance isn't far. I'll drive to
your homes and get the clothes and things that you want."

"No, thank you," returned Ripley, stiffly. "I've already had
a telephone message sent, and my father's auto will bring out
what I need."

"But you youngsters will want something?" asked the driver, turning
to the plucky freshmen.

Dick and Dave stated their requests, Prescott adding:

"But please be sure to make our parents understand that we're
safe. We don't want them seared to death."

Fred Ripley took a long swallow of the steaming stuff in his
bowl. As he did so he took a furtive glance in the direction
of the freshmen.

Was he going to attempt to thank them for having risked their
own lives to help him back to safety?



Ben Badger came to the shore edge of the ice, megaphone in hand
announcing in stentorian tones:

"Our friends are safe---even jolly. The sports will now go on!"

First on the card was a free-for-all dash of a half mile, standing
start. The trophy was a regulation target revolver.

Badger, of the first class, and Purcell, of the sophomore, held
the lead and all but tied each other at the outset. Third in
order came Stearns, the agile little right end of the eleven.
When half the distance had been traveled it was noticed that
Stearns was creeping up on the leaders.

"Look out, Ben, or the little fellow will get you!" roared friends.

Stearns continued to gain, slowly. Purcell dropped back to third
place. None of the other eight in the race seemed likely to do
anything effective.

"A little more steam, Ben!"

"Stearns, you can get it!"

In the last eighth of the distance Stearns made good. Summoning
all his football wind and speed the little right end closed and
shot ahead. Not once in the remainder of the course did Ben Badger
quite catch up with his smaller opponent. Stearns won by some
fifteen yards.

The racers came slowly back, breathing harder than usual. As
soon as jovial Ben felt equal to the task of further announcing,
he picked up the megaphone, shouting:

"As I didn't win, all the further events are postponed!"

There was stupefied silence for a few moments. Grown people and
the students looked from one to another. Then a guffaw started
that swelled to a chorus of laughter.

"The next event on the card," called Ben, satisfied with the effect
of his joke, "is the free-for-all fancy skating event. The contestants
will come before the judges one at a time. Each entrant is limited
to two minutes, actual time."

There should have been some girls entered in this event, but there
were none. Six H.S. boys from the different classes came forward.

"Fred Ripley loses his chance," muttered some one.

"He _had_ his chance. A fellow who prefers to skate into the
freeze is counted out," replied Thomp.

Just as the contestants were moving out Greg Holmes came hurrying
down to the ice.

"Am I too late?" he called.

"Not if you think you've got anything good," replied Badger.

Greg promptly proceeded to put on his skates, covertly watching
the performance of the first fellow to show off. It was good
work that Greg watched, but he thought he could beat it.

"You'll have to go last on the list," nodded Ben, as Greg came
skating up.

Greg merely nodded, though inwardly he grinned. "That just suits
me," he told himself. "The fellow who skates last will be freshest
in the minds of the judges."

When it came Greg's turn he avoided most of the fancy figures
that the other fellows had shown off amid much applause. Still,
Greg showed a bewildering assortment of "eights," "double-eights"
and some magnificent work along the "turn promenade" order that
Ripley had been doing before the accident.

Then Greg came in, promenading backward on his skates.

"I'm going to fall," he called to the judges, "but it will be

"Fall it is, then," nodded Sam Edgeworth, one of the judges.

Greg was moving jauntily along, still doing the backward promenade.
Suddenly one of his skates appeared to catch against the other.
Down went Greg, backwards. Despite his announcement the moment
before, a sympathetic murmur went up from many of the onlookers.

But Greg, sitting down suddenly as he did, pivoted around like
a streak. Throwing his hands back of his head, he sprang to his
feet. At the first he was doing the forward promenade. The whole
manoeuvre, including the fall, had occupied barely four seconds.
Now, wheeling into the back promenade Greg glided before the

"Time," called the holder of the watch.

"I'm willing," nodded Greg. "And I'm willing any contestant who
wants should try my stunt before the verdict is given."

The conference between the judges did not last long and Greg got
the decision.

"The freshman mile will come along later," announced Ben, through
the megaphone. "The committee want to put in a freak race first."

The "freak" was a quarter mile, nearly go-as-you-please. In this
race each contestant had on his left skate, but no skate on the
right foot. The contestant who reached the finish line first
won---"even if he slides on his back," Ben announced, sagely.

Tom Reade hurried onto the ice as one of the entrants in this
race. He had practiced it well, and won it easily, securing a
silver medal. Greg's prize had been a gold medal, but over this
fact Tom allowed himself to feel no envy or disappointment.

Several other events came along in quick succession. Everyone
seemed to forget that the freshman mile had not yet been skated.

It was called last on the list. Just as the skaters were moving
forward some one detected a figure hurrying down the slope over
the snow.

"Here comes Dick Prescott!"

"Is he going into the race after all?"

A lively burst of cheers greeted the freshman as he reached the
edge of the ice.

Dick looked as cheery and as rosy as ever. No onlooker could
see that Prescott's late adventure had injured him in the least.

"Going to race, Dick?" called some one.

"Surest thing," laughed the freshman, "if I can find my skates.
If not, I'm going to try to borrow a pair of the right size."

"Here are your skates," called Laura Bentley, gliding forward
over the ice. "I picked them up for you, and I've been holding
'em ever since.

"That's what I call mighty good of you," glowed Dick. "Thank you
a thousand times."

Dick sat down on a wooden box. He could have had the services
of half a dozen seniors to fasten on his skates, but he preferred
to do it for himself.

Clamps adjusted, and skates tested, Dick struck off leisurely,
going up before the starter and judges. These were grouped near
the starting line.

"Standing start," announced Ben. "Each man exactly to the line.
Pistol signal. False starts barred, and the usual penalties
for fouling. Get on line, all!"

Then the starter moved forward, pistol in hand.

"On your marks!"

"Get set!"


Dick, at the left end of the line, crouched forward somewhat.
Nearly the whole of his right runner rested on the ice. His
left foot was well forward, the toe of the skate dug well into
the ice. His right arm pointed ahead, his left behind.

Crack! At the sound of the shot Dick let his right foot spring
into the air. As it came down, ahead, he gave a vigorous thrust
with his left. The style of start was his own, but it worked
to a charm. A hearty cheer went up when the spectators saw that
Dick was leading by five yards.

At the first turn, however, Prescott's adherents---and they were
many this afternoon---felt a thrill of disappointment. Walter
Hewlett, whose skating had been strong and steady so far, passed
Dick at the turn.

"Hardly fair, after all," murmured several. "_Of course_, after
what he's been through, no matter how much nerve Prescott may
have, he can't be anything like up to his usual form."

Had Dick heard them he would have smiled. He knew that the skating
was warming him up and taking away whatever of the chill had been

As they neared the second turn the distance between Dick and Hewlett
was about fifteen yards. The other freshmen were far enough
behind both not to appear to count.

Now Prescott turned on steam. He reached the second turn only
eight yards behind Hewlett, and that latter freshman made the
poorer turn.

Down the home stretch now! Dick began to work deep breathing
for all he was worth. Instead of taking slow, deep breaths, he
breathed rapidly, pumping his lungs full of air.

That _rapid_ deep breathing started his heart to working faster,
sent the blood bounding through his arteries.

It would have been exhausting if carried out too long. But now,
on what was left of the home stretch, it acted almost like pumping
oxygen into his lungs.

Swiftly the distance melted.

"Hurrah!" rang the yell. "There goes Prescott ahead!"

Not only ahead, but gaining in the lead. Five yards to the good,
then ten, twelve, fifteen. Dick Prescott shot over the finish
line a good eighteen yards ahead. Then the victor came to a stop,
panting but happy.

Five minutes later, when all the congratulations were over, he
skated up beside Laura Bentley.

"You saved my skates for me, Laura, and brought me luck all through.
I want _you_ to have the first ride on that toboggan."



It didn't take long for the Gridley boys who were most interested
in athletics to figure up that three out of the eight prizes offered
had gone to the freshman class.

More than that, the three freshmen winners were all members of
the firm of Dick & Co., Limited.

"Saturday's work, and some other things, show us that Dick & Co.
are going to be heard from a whole lot in the athletics of future
years at this school," Ben told Dick at recess Monday morning.
"Whew! But I'm sorry I'm not going to be here to watch the progress
of you freshmen!"

Monday afternoon, while he was eating the midday meal, just after
school had been dismissed, Dick received, by messenger, a note
from Lawyer Ripley, asking the young freshman to call at his office
at three o'clock.

Though actually retired, the wealthy lawyer maintained an office
in one of the big buildings on Main Street. To this office Mr.
Ripley went once in a while, to transact business.

"As I haven't a dollar in the world," smiled young Prescott, "it
is hardly likely that he has been engaged to bring a suit against
me. Oh, hang it, I know! He means to thank me for hauling Fred
out of the water. What an infernal nuisance!"

For a few minutes Dick was inclined to disregard the invitation.
He spoke to his mother about it.

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