The High School Boys' Canoe Club
H. Irving Hancock
Part 1 out of 4
E-text prepared by Jim Ludwig
The High School Boys' Canoe Club
Dick & Co.'s Rivals on Lake Pleasant
By H. Irving Hancock
I. The "Splendid" War Canoe
II. "RIP" Tries Out His Bargain
III. Buying Fuel for a Bonfire?
IV. Hiram Pries a Secret Loose
V. Birch Bark Merchants
VI. Meeting the Fate of Greenhorns
VII. "Danny Grin" is Silent
VIII. What an Expert Can Do
IX. Dick Trembles at His Nerve
X. Putting Up a Big Scheme
XI. All Ready to Race, But-----
XII. Susie Discomfits a Boor
XIII. The Ripley Heir Tries Coaxing
XIV. The Liar has a Lie Ready
XV. At the Greatest of Feasts
XVI. A Scalp-Hunting Disappointment
XVII. The Good Word by Wire
XVIII. "Won't Win Against a Mudscow"
XIX. What Ailed Gridley?
XX. "Dinky-Rat Hot Sail!"
XXI. Nature Has a Dismal Streak
XXII. Fred is Grateful---One Second!
XXIII. Trentville, The Awesome
THE "SPLENDID" WAR CANOE
"It's the wreck of one of the grandest enterprises ever conceived
by the human mind!" complained Colonel W.P. Grundy, in a voice
broken with emotion.
A group of small boys grinned, though they offered no audible
"Such defeats often---usually, in fact---come to those who try
to educate the masses and bring popular intelligence to a higher
level," was the colonel's declaration, as he wiped away a real
or imaginary tear.
On a nearby lot stood a large show tent, so grayed and frayed,
so altogether dingy as to suggest that it had seen some summers
of service ere it became briefly the property of Colonel Grundy.
Near the entrance to the tent a temporary platform had been built
of the board seats taken from the interior of the tent.
Near the platform stood a grim-visaged deputy sheriff, conversing
with an auctioneer on whose face the grin had become chronic.
Some distance from the tent stood a group of perhaps forty men
of the town of Gridley.
"The whole outfit of junk won't bring five hundred dollars," predicted
one of these men. "How much did you say the judgments total?"
"Seventeen thousand four hundred dollars," replied another. "But
the man who attached the show has a claim for only six hundred
and forty dollars, so he may get most of his money."
Here the auctioneer stopped talking with the deputy sheriff long
enough to go over to the platform, pick up a bell and ring it
vigorously. A few more stragglers came up, most of them boys
without any money in their pockets.
Off at one side of the lot six boys stood by themselves, talking
in low tones, casting frequent, earnest glances toward the platform.
These youngsters were Dick Prescott, Dave Darrin, Greg Holmes,
Tom Reade, Dan Dalzell and Harry Hazelton. Collectively they
were known in the boydom of Gridley as Dick & Co.
Our readers are already familiar with every one of these lads,
having first been introduced to them in the "_Grammar School Boys
Series_," with its four volumes, "_The Grammar School Boys of
Gridley_," "_The Grammar School Boys Snowbound_," "_The Grammar
School Boys in the Woods_" and "_The Grammar School Boys in Summer
Athletics_." The varied and stirring exploits of Dick & Co.,
as told in these books, stamped the six chums as American boys
of the best sort.
Then, in "_The High School Freshmen_," the first volume of the
"_High School Boys Series_," our readers went further into the
history of Dick & Co., and saw how even freshmen may impress their
personalities on the life and sports of a high school. The pranks,
the fights, the victories and achievements of that first year
in high school had done much to shape the characters and mould
the minds of all six of our boys.
The present narrative deals with all that happened in the vacation
after Dick Prescott and his friends had finished their freshman
year. The summer now lay before them for whatever might come
to them in the way of work and pleasure. Though none of the six
yet knew it, the summer was destined to bring to them the fullest
measure of wonder and excitement.
And now let us get back to Dick & Co., that we may see just what
"Pshaw! There comes Fred Ripley," exclaimed Harry Hazelton.
"And he probably has a few ten dollar bills in his pockets," remarked
Greg Holmes, rather enviously. "He will buy something."
Fred Ripley, as readers of "The High School Freshmen" remember,
was the son of a wealthy local lawyer, and a bitter enemy to Dick
Prescott and his friends.
"Fred just came here to buy something and then look at us with
his superior smile," grunted Hazelton. "What do you say if we
all walk away before the bidding begins?"
"Then Rip would grin," returned Tom Reade. "He'd know just why
we went away. I came here to see what's going to happen, and I
won't be chased away from here by Fred Ripley."
"Let's see if Fred can have any real fun with us," proposed Dick,
with a quiet smile.
"He can have fun enough with us, if he guesses why we are really
here," Dave Darrin uttered resentfully. "Ripley seems to think
that money is made and supplied to him just in order that he may
rub gall and wormwood into those whom he doesn't like!"
Fred kept well away from Dick & Co., though the six boys saw that
he occasionally sent a covert look in their direction.
"Time to begin," said the deputy sheriff, after glancing at his
Up to the platform jumped the auctioneer, bell in hand. Holding
it with both hands he again rang vigorously for a full minute.
The net result was to bring one shabby-looking man, two grammar
school boys without a cent of money, and three children of not
over four years of age into the lot.
"Ladies and gentlemen," began the auctioneer, in his glib tones,
"we are presenting to-day a most unusual opportunity. Prizes
will be distributed to many enterprising people of Gridley, though
these prizes are all so valuable that I trust none of them will
go for the traditional 'song.' It is seldom, indeed, in any community,
however favored it may be in general, that such a diversified
lot of excellent things is put under the hammer for purchase by
discriminating buyers! As you all know, Colonel W.P. Grundy's
Great & Colossal Indian Exposition & Aboriginal Life Delineations
has met with one of the too-common disasters of the road. This
great show enterprise must now be sold out in its entirety."
After an impressive pause, the silence was broken by a sob. Those
in the crowd who were curious enough to turn, beheld the colonel
with a handkerchief to his eyes, his shoulders heaving. Somehow
the colonel's noisy grief failed to excite the sympathy of those
assembled. It was suspected that the wrecked showman was playing
"Such a wealth of treasures is here offered," continued the auctioneer,
"that for the first time in my career I confess myself unable
to decide which article or lot to lay before you first."
"You said that last week at Templeton," laughed a man in the crowd.
Whereupon the auctioneer once more addressed his hearers in a
burst of vocal fireworks.
"I wonder what Prescott and his mucker friends are here to bid
on?" Fred Ripley was asking himself. "Whatever it is, if it's
nothing that I want for myself I'll bid it up as high against
them as I can. For, of course, they've pooled their funds for
whatever they want to get. They can't put in more than a quarter
apiece, so a dollar and a half is all I have to beat. I'll wager
they already suspect that I'm here just to make things come higher
for them. I hope they do suspect!"
It was just after the Fourth of July. The summer sun shone fiercely
down upon the assemblage.
"Perhaps, first of all," announced the auctioneer, after pausing
to take breath, "it will be the proper thing to do to offer the
tent itself. At this point, however, I will say that the foreclosing
creditor of the show himself bids two hundred dollars on the tent.
No bid, unless it be more than two hundred dollars, can be accepted.
Come, now, friends, here is a fine opportunity for a shrewd business
man. One need not be a showman, or have any personal need of
a tent, in order to become a bidder. Whoever buys this tent to-day
will be able to realize handsomely on his investment by selling
this big-top tent in turn to some showman in need of a tent.
Who will start the bidding at three hundred dollars?"
No one started it. After the auctioneer had talked for five minutes
without getting a "rise" out of any Gridley citizen, he mournfully
declared the tent to be outside of the sale.
"Has anyone here any choice as to what he wants me to offer next?"
questioned the salesman of the afternoon.
There was no response.
"Come, come, gentlemen!" rebuked the auctioneer. "Don't let the
July sun bake your intellects, or the first cool day that comes
along will find you all filled with unavailing regrets. Hasn't
some one a choice as to what should be offered next?"
Still receiving no reply, he heaved a sigh, then added:
"I see that we shall have to start action in some way. Therefore
we'll bring out something that is action personified, with grace
mingled. Bring out the ponies. Gentlemen, I am now going to
offer you your choice of eight of the handsomest ponies you ever-----"
"But there are forty ponies and thirty-two good wagon horses,"
piped up a business man in the audience.
"There were," corrected the auctioneer, mournfully. "But most
of the live stock was rented. Colonel Grundy had hoped to buy
the stock gradually out of the receipts of the show. All that
he owned in the way of live stock consisted of eight ponies.
And here they come! Beauties, aren't they?"
Despite the heat of the day it was as though a frost had settled
down over the scene. Many of the men present were butchers, grocers
or others who had hoped to pick up cheap horses to be used in
"Ponies are no good in this town," cried one man. "Lead 'em away.
Come on, neighbors."
"Wait, wait!" urged the auctioneer. "There are some bargains
yet to come that will interest you all. Since we have the ponies
on the spot let us begin to run them off. It will teach you all
how to bid quickly when you see wonderful bargains bought up under
The bidding, however, was lax at first. A stable boy mounted
one of the little animals, riding about at reckless pace.
"Now, start the bidding!"
After five minutes talking an opening bid of five dollars for
the pony had been made and this had been advanced to seven.
With all the zeal at his command the auctioneer drove the bidding
along. It reached fourteen dollars, and there stopped. At last
the pony was knocked down to a man who thought he could use the
animal in a very light delivery wagon.
"Now, gentlemen, wake up!" begged the auctioneer. "Let us have
some bidding worthy of the fair name of Gridley for good judgment
in business matters. Lead the roan pony forth."
Undoubtedly the first pony had been a fair bargain at fourteen
dollars. The bidding on the second animal began at ten dollars,
going quickly to eighteen. From that point the offers traveled
slowly until twenty-six dollars had been named. At this price
the pony was sold.
From that time on the ponies were "knocked down" rather briskly,
though the highest-priced one of the first seven brought only
Now came the eighth.
"You see what this animal is for yourselves, gentlemen," declared
the auctioneer. "We don't need to have this sleek little animal's
paces shown. We are in a hurry to get through. Who opens with
"He is a handsome little animal, isn't he?" exclaimed Dick Prescott,
crowding forward and gazing at the pony with glistening eyes.
"I wish I had the money to buy him," whispered Dave Darrin.
"Maybe I couldn't use that kind of a cut-down horse!" glowed Tom
Reade, while Harry and Dan looked on longingly.
"That's what the muckers are here after!" thought Fred Ripley,
who had been watching them closely. "Now, no matter how much
money they may think they have, I'll show them how easy it is
for a fellow of my financial standing to step in and get the chestnut
pony away from them!"
"Who starts the bidding with twenty dollars?" demanded the auctioneer.
"Ten," finally responded a man in the crowd.
"Thank you. But, gentlemen, ten dollars is a shame for a beautiful
animal like this. Who makes it twenty? Start it right up now!"
Presently the bidding had reached sixteen dollars. Dick and his
chums had crowded still closer to the pony, looking on with lively
"Here's where I sting Prescott and his crew!" muttered Fred Ripley
under his breath. Then, aloud, he called:
"Thank you," smiled the auctioneer, nodding in Ripley's direction.
"Here is a young man of sound judgment and a good idea of money
values, as his manner and his whole appearance testify."
"Someone hold Rip, or he'll burst," laughed Greg Holmes in Dick's
But Fred thought the chums were conferring as to how far they
could go with what means the six of them might have at hand.
"They will get going soon," thought Fred gleefully.
Just then Dick Prescott piped up:
"Twenty-two? Thank you," bowed the auctioneer. "Another young
gentleman of the finest judgment. Who says twenty-five?"
"Twenty-three," offered Fred.
"Twenty-five," called Prescott promptly.
An instant after Dick had made this bid he felt heartily ashamed
of himself. He hadn't intended to buy the pony, and didn't have
the money. He had obeyed a sudden instinct to tease Fred Ripley,
but now Dick wished he hadn't done it.
"Twenty-six!" called young Ripley.
The auctioneer looked at Prescott, but the latter, already abashed
at his own conduct, made no further offer.
"Twenty-eight!" called a man in the crowd, who knew that the wealthy
lawyer's son usually got whatever he wanted very badly. This
new bidder thought he saw a chance to get the pony, then later
to force Fred to pay a still higher price for the animal.
"Thirty!" called Ripley, with a sidelong glance at Dick & Co.
"Did I hear you offer thirty-five?" queried the auctioneer, singling
out Dick Prescott.
But Dick remained mute. However, in the next instant Greg Holmes,
ere Prescott could stop him, blurted out with:
"Thirty-four!" called Ripley briskly.
Greg opened his mouth, but Dick nudged him. "Don't bid, Greg.
You'd feel cheap if you had to take the pony and couldn't produce
the money," Dick admonished him.
"Thirty-five!" called the man who had raised the bidding before.
"Thirty-six," from Ripley.
"Thirty-eight!" called the man.
"Thirty-nine!" offered Fred, though he was beginning to perspire
"Forty!" promptly offered the man.
"Forty-one!" said Fred.
And there it hung. After three minutes more of hard work on the
auctioneer's part the pony went to Ripley at forty-one dollars.
"I don't know what my father will say to me for this," groaned
the lawyer's son. "But, anyway, Prescott and his crew didn't
get the chestnut pony, and this is the last piece of live stock,
so there's none left for them."
He cast a triumphant look in the direction of those whom he termed
"the mucker boys."
"Rip was bidding to keep us from getting a look-in!" whispered
Tom Reade gleefully.
"That was what I thought," nodded Dick Prescott. "That was why
I threw in a couple of bids---just to make him pay for his meanness.
But I'm sorry I did it."
"Step up and pay your money!" ordered the auctioneer. "Don't
keep us waiting all day."
"Won't a deposit do?" demanded Fred, coming forward.
"Yes; we'll take fifteen dollars, and hold your purchase until
one hour after the sale closes," replied the auctioneer. "Then,
if you don't come along fast with the remainder, your deposit
will be forfeited."
"I'll raise the money all right," drawled Ripley, with an important
air, as he passed up three five dollar bills. "Give me a receipt
for this, please."
"You've money enough there to pay it all," said the auctioneer.
"Yes; but I may bid on something else," Fred replied.
"Good luck to you," laughed the auctioneer.
Presently along came a miscellaneous lot of the weapons that had
been used by cowboys and Indians connected with the show. The
auctioneer tried to close these out in one lot, but there were
Several of the younger men did brisk, but not high bidding for
the rifles. These were disposed of.
Then tomahawks were offered for sale, singly. The first ones
offered went at an average of twenty-five cents each. At last
Dan Dalzell secured one for a nickel, paid his money and proudly
tucked his purchase under his arm.
"Bring out the grand war canoe!" called the auctioneer at last.
Now every drop of blood in Dick Prescott's body tingled. His
chums, too, were equally aroused. It was this that they had hope
of securing---if it went off at a price next to nothing!
So intensely interested were the six young high school athletes
in the proceedings now that each one steeled himself to prevent
betraying the fact. All were aware that Fred Ripley's malicious
eyes were watching them. If he suspected that they wanted the
canoe he could put the bidding up to a figure that would make
their wishes impossible of fulfillment.
Dick yawned. He looked intensely bored.
"Come along," proposed Dave in an audible voice. "There's nothing
here we can get."
"Yes; it's getting tedious," hinted Tom Reade.
Dalzell and Hazelton also appeared to lose all interest in the
"I was in hopes they'd want that canoe," muttered Fred Ripley,
feeling as though he had been cheated out of a great pleasure.
"As it happens I know all about that canoe. Wow! Wouldn't they
groan if they put up all their money for the canoe---_and then
Just then the canoe was brought out. It was bolstered up on a
long truck, drawn by a pair of horses. Twenty-eight feet long,
slender and of graceful lines, this canoe, with its oiled birch
bark glistening in the sun, was a thing of beauty. It was one
of the genuine articles that the show had carried---of real Indian
model and workmanship.
"Gaze upon it, gentlemen!" cried the auctioneer enthusiastically.
"Did you ever see the like of this grand war canoe? History
in every line of it! Picture to yourselves the bygone days in
which such a canoe, filled with painted braves, stole along in
the shadows fringing the bank of some noble stream. Portray to
your own minds such a marauding band stealing down stream upon
some settlement, there to fall upon our hardy pioneers and put
them to the death!"
"I'm glad I'm living now, instead of in those days," called a
man from the crowd, raising a laugh.
"Gentlemen, before you are through," suggested the auctioneer,
"one of you will be the proud and happy possessor of this magnificent
war canoe. It is a priceless gem, especially when considered
in the light of good old American history. Now, who will start
the bidding? Who will say, clearly and distinctly, thirty dollars?"
"We're not brave enough in these days!" called a voice from the
"That's right, friends---have fun with me," retorted the perspiring
auctioneer. "But don't let this valuable, beautiful trophy get
away from you."
Yet, though the auctioneer labored for a full five minutes he
couldn't raise a bid.
"Take it away! Take it back!" ordered the auctioneer wearily.
"I was in hopes it would appeal to the artistic sense of this
town, but it doesn't! Take it away."
"If no one else wants it," drawled Dick Prescott, "I'll offer
"Thank you for good intentions, anyway," replied the salesman
on the platform. "Two dollars I'm bid. Who says ten? Now, do
wake up, friends!"
But the bidding lagged.
"This beautiful war canoe!" cried the auctioneer desperately.
"It was the pride of the show. A real Indian canoe, equipped
with gunwale seats and six Indian paddles. And only two dollars
offered. Gentlemen, do I hear three? No! Last call! It's
Dick Prescott and all his friends were now in the seventh heaven of
prospective delight. It seemed unreal, that they could get this
treasure for any such sum.
"If I must do it, I must," groaned the auctioneer. "Two I'm offered.
Does anyone say more. Make it four! No? Make it three! No?
Last call! Going, going-----"
In another instant the big war canoe would have been knocked down
to young Prescott at two dollars. Dick was "all on edge," though
he strove to conceal the fact.
"At two dollars, then!" groaned the auctioneer. "Two dollars!
All right, then. Going, going-----"
Just then the word "gone" would have been uttered, and the canoe
gone to Dick & Co.
"Three dollars!" called Fred Ripley.
There was a pause, while the auctioneer exhorted the crowd to
"Four," said young Prescott, at last, but he spoke with pretended
"Five," chimed in a man who now seemed to take an interest. The
bidding now went up slowly, a dollar at a time, with these three
bidders, until twelve dollars was reached. Then the man dropped
out. Dick was outwardly calm, though his chums shivered, for
they knew that their combined capital did not reach the amount
now being offered.
"I'm afraid that canoe is going to Dick's head," whispered Harry
Hazelton anxiously to Tom Reade.
"Let him alone," retorted Tom in a low voice. "It's one of Dick
Prescott's good points that he generally knows what he's doing."
"But we have only-----"
"Never mind if we're worth a million, or only a single dollar,"
interrupted Reade impatiently. "Watch the battle between our
leader and Rip, the Mean!"
Now the bidding became slower, fifty cents at a time being offered,
bids coming only when the auctioneer threatened to "knock down."
"I don't want to get this confounded canoe fastened onto me,"
grumbled Fred Ripley to himself. "I want to stick Prescott and
his crowd for all I can, but I must look out that I don't get
stung. I know better than to want that canoe, no matter how good
"Sixteen," said Dick at last, feeling more desperate inwardly
than his face showed.
"Sixteen-fifty," from Ripley.
"Seventeen," offered Dick, after a pause.
"Seventeen-fifty," announced Fred, after another long bait.
"Eighteen!" followed up young Prescott. He was in a cold perspiration
now, lest the fight be forced too far.
To his astonishment, Fred Ripley, an ugly sneer on his face, turned
his back on the bidding.
"Are you through, gentlemen?" demanded the auctioneer, after a
keen look in the direction of the lawyer's son.
"I am," Ripley growled over his shoulder.
"I am offered eighteen! Eighteen! Eighteen! Who says nineteen?
Make it eighteen-fifty! Who says eighteen-fifty? Eighteen and
a quarter! Are you through, gentlemen? Then going, going---gone!
Sold to Master Prescott at eighteen dollars. Young man, I congratulate
you. Walk right up and pay your money! All, or a deposit?"
Dick, who had been collecting loose change from his chums, now
"I'll pay a deposit of seven dollars," he announced.
"Hand it here, then. Seven dollars; thank you. Here's your receipt.
Now, remember, Prescott, you have until the end of one hour after
the sale closes. Then, if you're not here with the other eleven
dollars, you must expect to forfeit this deposit."
"I know," Dick nodded.
Then he hurried off to his chums.
"Come along," he said, with desperate energy, as he led them away
from the field. On the sidewalk he halted.
"We've got it, fellows!" he exulted. "We've got it! Hooray!"
"Yes; we've got it, if we've got eleven dollars more---which we
haven't," Greg remarked.
"We've eleven dollars more to raise," Prescott went on hurriedly.
"Roughly, that's two dollars apiece. We must hustle, too."
"No hustle for mine," yawned Dan Dalzell. "I'll just step down
to my bank and get the money. Will two dollars be enough, Dick?"
"Stop that talk," ordered Dave Darrin, getting a grip on Dan's
shirt collar. "If you don't, I'll thrash you! Dick has a scheme.
Out with it, old chap!"
"The scheme is simple enough," said Prescott hurriedly. "We must
each get two dollars, and get it like lightning. That will come
to a dollar over the amount we need, but we shall need the extra
dollar, anyway. So hustle! Borrow the money from anyone who'll
let you have it. Offer to work the money out at any time---any
old kind of work. The only point is to come running back with
the money. Get it in any honest way that you can, and don't one
of you dare to fail, or we'll lose our deposit money and our canoe.
Nor did Prescott lose any time himself, but raced down the street,
turned into Main Street and ran on until he came to the little
cross street on which stood the bookstore conducted by his father
"Mercy, Dick! What makes you run so?" asked Mrs. Prescott. Dick
was rejoicing to discover that there was, at this moment, no customer
in the store.
"Mother," replied her son, "I want to borrow three dollars this
minute. I'll be responsible for it---I'll pay it back. Please
let me have it---in a hurry!"
Then, briefly, he poured out the story. Mrs. Prescott's hand
had already traveled toward the cash register.
"We're very short of money just now, my boy. Try to earn this
and pay it back quickly. You know, trade is slow in the summer
time, and we have several bills to meet."
"Yes, I'll pay it back, mother, at the first chance---and I'll
make the chance---somehow," promised young Prescott. "Thank you."
The money in his hand, Dick raced back to the lot where the show
tent still stood.
He was back before any of the others and waited impatiently.
Dave Darrin came up ten minutes later.
"Did you get it?" asked Dick anxiously.
"Yes," replied Dave laconically, pushing two one dollar bills
into Dick's hand.
One by one the other boys arrived. Each had managed to round
up his part of the assessment.
With thirteen dollars in his hand, Dick went up to the auctioneer's
"I am ready to pay the other eleven dollars on the canoe," Prescott
announced, speaking as calmly as possible.
"All right," agreed the clerk. "But you'll have to find some
man you can trust to take the bill of sale. We can't pass title
to a minor."
"Why didn't you tell me that before?" Dick demanded.
"That's all right. It wasn't necessary before, but it is now.
Just find some man who will treat you all right and give you
the canoe. Then we'll take the money and make out the bill of
sale to him."
Fred Ripley now sauntered up, offering his money. He was given
the same directions for finding a man to whom title could pass.
Dick looked about him. Then across the lot, and over on the further
side of the street he saw his father.
Dick returned quickly to the lot with Mr. Prescott, explaining
the situation. The bookseller listened gravely, but offered no
objections. He stepped over, paid the money for Dick, then said:
"I must be going. Turn the canoe over to my son."
"Yes, sir," replied the auctioneer's clerk. "Men, haul out the
truck that has the canoe on."
Mr. Prescott had already walked away. Dick and his chums greeted
the coming of truck and canoe with a wild whoop. Then they piled
up on the truck to inspect their treasure.
Fred Ripley, returning with Mr. Dodge, a local banker, saw the
six youngsters climbing up to look at their purchase. A broad,
malicious grin appeared on Ripley's face.
"Sold! sold!" gasped Dave Darrin. Then his face flushed with anger.
For the canoe, which looked well enough on exhibition, proved
to have three bad holes in her hull, which had been carefully
concealed by the manner in which the craft had been propped up
on the truck.
The great war canoe looked worthless---certain to sink in less than
sixty seconds if launched!
"RIP" TRIES OUT HIS BARGAIN
Had a meaner trick ever been played on boys with whom it was so
hard to raise money?
"Ha, ha, ha!" chuckled Fred Ripley, so loudly that the dismayed,
angry boys could not fail to hear him.
"You sneak! You knew it all the time!" flared Dave Darrin, gazing
down in disgust at the lawyer's son.
"Maybe I did know," Fred admitted, yet speaking to Mr. Dodge.
"You see, one of my father's clerks served the papers which attached
There was no help for Dick & Co. They had parted with their money
and their "property" had been turned over to them.
It is an ancient principle of law that the buyer must beware.
The auctioneer had been most careful not to represent the canoe
as being fit for service. He had offered it as an historical
Dick & Co. looked at the canoe anxiously.
"What shall we do with it?" asked Dave Darrin moodily.
"Make a bonfire of it?" asked Danny Grin.
"Might as well," Greg nodded.
"No, sir!" Dick interrupted. "Tom, what do you say? You're one
of the really handy boys. Can't this canoe be patched up, mended
and put in commission?"
"It might be done," Tom answered slowly.
The other five stood regarding him with eager interest.
"But we'd have to get an Indian here to show us how to do it."
"Where are the Indians that were here with the show?" asked Harry
"They went away as soon as the show was attached," Dick answered.
"Probably they're hundreds of miles from here now. They were
only hired out to the show by their white manager, and they've
gone to another job. Besides, they were only show Indians,
and probably they've forgotten all they ever knew about
canoe-building---if they ever did know anything."
"Then I don't see but that we're just as badly off as ever," sighed
Greg. "We're out eighteen dollars and the fine canoe that we
expected would provide us with so much fun."
"The paddles look all right, anyway," spoke up Harry Hazelton,
lifting one out of the canoe and looking it over critically.
"Oh, yes, the paddles are all right, and the river is close at
hand," spoke Dave Darrin vengefully. "All we need is a canoe
that will float."
"If it were a cedar canoe we might patch it easily enough," Prescott
declared. "But I've heard that there is so much 'science' to
making or mending a birch bark canoe that an amateur always makes
the job worse."
"Haw, haw, haw!" came boisterously from Fred Ripley. He and Mr.
Dodge were now standing before the table of the auctioneer's clerk.
Fred was paying down the remaining twenty-six dollars on the
price he had bid for the handsome chestnut pony.
"Yes, you're laughing at us, you contemptible Rip!" scowled Dave,
though he spoke under his breath. "You can afford to lose money,
for you always know where to get more. You knew this canoe was
worthless, and you deliberately bid it up on us---you scoundrel!"
"Shall we make Colonel Grundy a present of this canoe?" suggested
Danny Grin dolefully.
"The poor old man hasn't money enough to get the canoe away from
here, even if he wanted to," replied Dick, in a voice of sympathy.
"But how did the show folks manage to use this canoe?" asked Tom
"They didn't, except on a truck in a street parade, I imagine,"
Dick replied. "And that must be how the holes came to be in the
bottom. The sun got in its work on the bark and oil, and blistered
the body of the canoe so that it broke or wore away in spots.
The sale was over, but a few odds and ends remained. Fred Ripley,
having now paid the whole of his forty-one dollars through Mr.
Dodge, ordered his handsome new purchase led out.
A man came out, holding the pony's halter. He walked slowly,
the pony moving contentedly after him.
"A fine little animal!" glowed Fred, stroking the glossy coat.
"He---er---looks rather old, doesn't he?" ventured Mr. Dodge.
"Not so very old," Fred answered airily. "There is a lot of life
and vim left in this little fellow. And he can show speed, too,
or I'm all wrong."
Then Fred's eye roved toward the pile of stuff on which no one
"There's a good saddle," suggested Ripley. "The real western
kind," nodded the auctioneer.
It looked the part.
"I'll give you two dollars for the saddle," Fred offered.
"You'll pay ten if you get that saddle," replied the red-faced
"Put it up and let us see how the bids will run," proposed Ripley.
"The sale is closed. Anything that is sold now will go at private
sale," retorted the auctioneer.
"Oh, come now!" protested Ripley. "I'd like to trade with you."
"You can, if you produce the price. At least, your friend can.
I can't deal with you, for you're a minor."
Fred tried vainly to persuade the auctioneer to lower the price
of the saddle, but finally concluded to pay ten dollars for it
and two dollars for a bridle. A worn saddle cloth was "thrown
in" for good measure. Ripley handed the money to the auctioneer's
"Saddle up," directed Fred, tossing a quarter to the man who held
the pony's bridle.
Though flushed with his bargain, Fred was also feeling rather
solemn. He had parted with nearly all of the sixty dollars his
father had handed him that morning as his summer's spending money.
He was beginning to wonder if his pony would really take the
place of all the fun he had planned for his summer vacation.
"Here is your mount, sir," called the man who had done the saddling.
"Now, let's see what kind of a horseman you are."
"As good as you'll find around Gridley," declared Fred complacently.
Putting a foot into the left stirrup, he vaulted lightly to the
"He has a treasure, and we're stung," muttered Dave Darrin in
a low voice. "Those that have plenty of money and can afford
to lose don't often lose!"
Before starting off Fred, glancing over at Dick & Co. standing
dolefully on the truck, brayed insolently:
"Haw, haw, haw!"
Dave clenched his fists, but knew that he could do nothing without
making himself ridiculous.
"Get up, Prince!" ordered young Ripley, bringing one hand smartly
against the animal's flank.
"He's going to call his pony 'Prince,'" whispered Danny Grin.
"It looks like an appropriate name," nodded Dick wistfully.
For some reason the pony didn't seem inclined to start. Fred
dug his heels against the animal's side and moved away at a walk.
"A-a-a-ah!" murmured a crowd of small boys enviously.
"Now, show a little speed, Prince," ordered Fred, digging his
heels in hard.
The pony broke into a trot. Someone passed Ripley a switch, with
which he dealt his animal a stinging blow. Away went pony and
rider at a slow canter.
"Fine gait this little fellow has," exulted Fred, while cheers
went up from the small boys.
Suddenly the animal slowed down to a walk. Fred applied two sharp
cuts with the switch, again starting his mount. Fred turned
and came cantering back toward the group, feeling mightily proud
Suddenly the pony stopped, trembling in every limb.
"Get off, young man!" called someone. "Your pony is going to
Fred got off, feeling rather peculiar. He wished that the six
fellow high school boys over on the truck would move off.
Mr. Dodge hurried over to the young man, looking very much concerned.
"Fred," murmured the banker, "for all his fine looks I'm afraid
there is something wrong with your pony."
"What is it?" asked Fred, looking, as he felt, vastly troubled.
At that moment an automobile stopped out in the road.
"Beg your pardon, Mr. Dodge," called the chauffeur, "but are you
going to want me soon?"
"I want you at once," called back the banker, adding in a lower
voice to Fred:
"Flannery, my new chauffeur, was a coachman for many years. He's
a fine judge of horseflesh."
Flannery came up, an inquiring look on his face.
"I want you to look this pony over and tell me just what you think
of him," directed the banker.
Flannery went over the pony's "lines" with the air of an expert,
as, indeed, he was.
"Fine-looking little beast," said Flannery. "He has been well
fed and groomed."
Then he looked into the pony's mouth, examining the teeth with
"Used to be a nice animal once," decided Flannery, "but he was
that a long time ago. He's about twenty-five or twenty-six years
"_What_!" exploded young Ripley, growing very red in the face.
"Thinking of buying him, sir?" asked the chauffeur respectfully."
"I've already bought him," confessed Fred ruefully.
Flannery whistled softly. Then he took the pony by the bridle,
dragging him along over the ground at a trot, the crowd making
way for him.
"Wind-broken," announced the ex-coachman, leading the trembling
animal back. "Bad case, too."
"A veterinary can cure that," Fred declared, speaking more airily
than his feelings warranted.
"Hm!" replied Flannery dryly. "You find the veterinary, Master
Fred, and I'll show the gentleman how to make his fortune if he
can cure wind-broken horses."
"Then what good is the pony?" demanded Fred in exasperation.
"Well, the hide ought to fetch three dollars, and there are a
good many pounds of soap fat in him," replied Flannery slowly.
"And is that all the good there is in this pony?" cried Ripley.
He felt like screaming.
"It's all the good I can see in him, sir," replied Flannery.
"Then I won't take this pony," young Ripley declared, flushing
hotly. "It's a downright swindle. Here, my man, hand my money
back and take your old soap box."
"Not to-day," declared the auctioneer briefly. He and his clerk
were now preparing to depart.
"You'd better!" warned Fred.
"Then I'll have you arrested."
"Run and get a policeman," Fred ordered, turning to a crowd of
"All right," smiled the auctioneer. "If you'll be quick about
it I'll wait for your policeman."
But Mr. Dodge, who had shaken his head toward three boys who had
shown signs of being willing to run for a policeman, now led young
Ripley to one side.
"No use making any fuss about it, I'm afraid, Fred. You saw the
pony when it was offered for sale, didn't you?"
"And you didn't ask to have him run? You didn't demand the privilege
of trying him yourself?"
"What representations did the auctioneer make about the pony?"
pressed Mr. Dodge.
"Why, he said the pony was a fine-looking animal-----"
"And that's no lie," responded Mr. Dodge gravely. "What else?"
"That's the only representation that I did make," broke in the
auctioneer, who had strolled slowly over to them. "I also said
that the pony showed all of his good points."
"I'm afraid you'll have to swallow your loss, Fred," suggested
the banker. "I'm sorry that I had even an innocent part in this
"Trade?" screamed Fred, now losing all control of himself. "It
wasn't a trade at all! It's piracy! It's highway robbery! It
was a barefaced swindle, and this swindler"
Fred glared at the auctioneer.
"Go slowly, young man," advised the salesman of the afternoon.
"You're a swindler, and a mean one, taking downright advantage
of other folks," stormed young Ripley. "But you won't get away
with this swindle. My father is a lawyer---the best lawyer in
the place---and he'll give you good reason to shiver!"
"All right, young man. Send your father after me---if he'll take
the case. But I'm going down to see him, anyway, for I must give
him an accounting of the money taken in this afternoon. Come
along, Edson," to his clerk.
Very red in the face, Fred Ripley stood with his fists clenched,
trying to avoid the eyes of the many grinning men and boys gathered
Dick & Co. had gotten down from the truck. They did not join
in the fun-making at the enemy's expense, though naturally they
did not feel very sorry for young Ripley.
"Will you ride your pony home, sir?" asked the man who had done
"No," said Fred shortly. He felt tempted to tell the man to lead
the worthless animal away and shoot it. Then he changed his mind.
"Take this half dollar," he said, "and take the pony down and
leave it in our stable."
For another thought had just occurred to Fred Ripley. If he
kept a close mouth, and watched his chance, he hoped that he
might yet be able to make some sort of "trade" with the pony
as an asset.
BUYING FUEL FOR A BONFIRE?
"Well, what are we going to do with our magnificent war canoe?"
asked Greg Holmes dolefully. "Does the bonfire idea go?"
"It doesn't," Dick retorted. "Although we don't know anything
about such a job, and though it is supposed to need a sure enough
expert to do it, we're at least going to try the thing out and
see if we can't make this canoe float, and carry us safely, at
"We'd better decide how to get it away from here, anyway," proposed
Tom Reade. "We haven't any lease of this lot."
Over near the road a group of men and boys were laughing heartily.
It was at the lawyer's son that their mirth was directed. As
for Dick & Co., the Gridley crowd felt only sympathy. The proceedings
of the afternoon had but emphasized the old idea that at an auction
sale one must either use great judgment or take his chances.
"Say," called Dick, "there goes the very man we ought to ask for
advice. Harry, will you run over and ask Hiram Driggs to come
Hazelton, nodding, hurried away at full speed. "Hiram Driggs
is an awfully high-priced man," sighed Tom Reade.
"Perhaps his mere advice won't come high," young Prescott answered.
"If it does, we'll begin right by telling him that we have no
money---that we've nothing in fact but a birchbark white elephant
on our hands."
Driggs came over promptly, his keen, shrewd eyes twinkling.
"So you boys have been buying away from my shop, and have been
'stung,' eh!" queried Driggs, a short, rather stout man, of about
"Robbed, I'd call it," replied Dave Darrin.
"Same thing, at a horse trade or an auction sale," hinted Hiram
dryly as he got up on the truck. "Let's have a look at your steam
For a few moments Driggs looked the canoe over in grim silence.
"Whew!" was time final comment.
"Pretty bad, isn't it?" Dick inquired.
"Well, for my part, I'd sooner buy a real wreck," Driggs announced.
"This may be an auctioneer's idea of honor. What was his name?"
"The auctioneer's name? Caswell," Dick answered.
"I'll make a note of that name," said Driggs, drawing out notebook
and pencil, "and keep away from any auction that has a man named
Caswell on the quarter-deck. Now, boys, what do you want to know
about this canoe that your eyes don't tell you?"
"About how much would it cost us to fix her?" asked Prescott.
"Thirty dollars---maybe thirty-two," said Driggs, after another
casual look at the canoe.
"Let's announce the bonfire for to-night," urged Greg.
"We haven't any such sum of money, Mr. Driggs," Dick went on.
"Too bad, boys, for you'd probably have a lot of fun in this craft.
If you want to sell it, maybe I could allow you four dollars
for the craft as she stands."
"We'd hate to part with the canoe," Dick continued.
"I know, I know," remarked Driggs sympathetically. "It was wanting
a boat badly when I was a boy that drove me into the boat business.
But I didn't have to handle birch bark then, or my first craft
would have sunk me. Say, boys, great joke how young Ripley got
stung so badly, wasn't it?"
"I know about how he feels," remarked Dick.
"Yes, of course," smiled Driggs. "But you boys are entitled to
some honest sympathy. I don't imagine young Ripley will get much
sympathy, will he?"
"Not a heap," Greg Holmes answered.
"Well," resumed Driggs, "I ain't a mite sorry for the boy and
his make-believe pony. But I wish I could help you with your
boat, for I know you haven't any loose money to throw around like
Driggs dug his hands deep into his pockets and wrinkled his brow
At last he looked up hopefully.
"I'll tell you what I've been thinking about, boys. The town
will be laughing at young Ripley to-morrow. But Rip, he'll be
passing the laugh around on you young fellers, too. Now, I don't
mind Rip's troubles; but it's different with you boys, and I know
how it stings to part with all the money you could scrape together.
Now, let's look this job over. I could say about thirty dollars
for this job. It will cost twenty, and the other ten dollars
would be profit, interest on my investment in my shop and so forth.
Now, I'll let this job go at just the cost---twenty dollars,
and throw off the profit and trimmings. Yes---to you young fellows---I'll
call the job twenty dollars."
"That's kind of you," said Dick, with a grateful sigh. "But we
want to be honest with you, Mr. Drigg---Twenty dollars, or five,
or a hundred---it would be all the same to us. We haven't the
"Not so fast," returned Driggs, his eyes twinkling. "I'll give
you credit, and treat the debt as a matter of honor between us."
"But I don't know how we'd pay you back," Dick went on. "As it
is, we've borrowed a good bit of money that we've got to pay back."
"Exactly," agreed Driggs, "and you want to pay the other money
back before you pay me. Yes; I'll take the job at cost---twenty
dollars, and I'll throw in the use of one of my teams and trucks
to come up here and get the canoe."
"But I'm afraid, sir, that we'd be a very long time paying you."
"No, you won't," Driggs disputed. "I don't allow long time bills,
but I'll show you a way to pay me back fairly early, if you boys
have the energy---and I believe you have. Now, you see, first
off, boys, we'll need a lot of birch bark. I haven't any in stock,
and the kind that is sound and good for canoe building is scarce
these days. Now, first off, you'll have to range the woods for
bark. Do you know where to find it?"
"Yes," Dick nodded. "Over on that place they call Katson's Hill."
"But that's about eleven miles from here," objected Driggs.
"I know it is," Prescott answered. "But the point is that Katson's
Hill is wild land. No tax assessor knows who is the owner of
that land, and it wouldn't bring enough money to make it worth
while to sell it at a sheriff's sale. So a number of farmers
turn their cattle in there and use it for free grazing ground.
As no owner can be found for the land we won't have to pay for
the birch bark that we cut there."
"That's so," Driggs acknowledged. "But it's an awful distance,
and over some mighty rough bits of road. You'll be about dead
after you've packed a load of birch bark in from Katson's Hill."
"That wouldn't be anything, compared with having to do without
our canoe," Dick returned.
"Maybe not," Driggs conceded. "Now, boys, is there much of that
birch bark on Katson's Hill?"
"There must be several shiploads," Dave Darrin replied.
"Good enough. Then, see here. I'll take this job at twenty dollars,
if you boys will get the birch bark. After you've brought in
enough to patch the canoe then you can bring in enough more to
amount to twenty dollars. Is that a go?"
"It's wonderfully kind of you," Dick answered gratefully.
"Not much it isn't," Driggs grinned, "and it will make that young
Ripley cub feel mighty sore and cheap when he finds that he was
the only one who got 'skinned' at this auction. But before you
get through cutting and hauling birch bark you may think I'm a
pretty hard taskmaster. I'll call it a go, if you boys will."
"We'll pay our full debt, Mr. Driggs, and pay you a load of thanks
"All right," nodded Driggs, jumping down off the truck, in haste
to get away from the embarrassment of being thanked. "Some of
you just hang around here until my man, Jim Snowden, gets up here
with the truck. After Jim starts away with your war canoe then
you can leave the rest to me, except cutting and hauling several
loads of birch bark to square up matters."
Driggs beat a hasty retreat now. When he had gone the members
of Dick & Co. exchanged glances. Then Holmes began to dance
his best idea of a jig.
"We'll have that bonfire at eight o'clock tonight, Greg," Dick
reminded him with a smile.
"Will you?" demanded Greg, scowling fiercely. "If any of you
fellows have any matches, then just keep away from that canoe,
or I'll fight. We can't afford to take any risks. Whoop!"
"Whoop!" answered Harry Hazelton, standing on his head.
"Whoop!" echoed Dave Darrin, giving Danny Grin a playful punch
that sent Dalzell sprawling.
They were as happy a lot of boys as one could wish to see. They
were to have their canoe and all the sport that that meant. It
was to be a safe craft---as good as new! For Hiram Driggs was
a dependable and skilful boat builder.
"Hey, too bad you fellows got stung so fearfully," cried a grammar
school boy in passing. "I'm mighty sorry."
"Thank you," Dick answered. "But we're going to have the canoe
repaired. We'll be having lots of fun in the war canoe after
a few days."
"How you going to get her fixed?" asked the other boy.
"Hiram Driggs has taken the job, and you know what he can do with
"Whee! I'm glad on you're going to have the canoe fixed all right,"
nodded the other boy, and passed on.
Forty-five minutes after Driggs' departure Jim Snowden came up
with the truck. With the help of the boys he loaded the canoe
from the other truck, then started away.
By this time the news had spread to other boys that Dick & Co.
would soon have their war canoe afloat in fine order---that Hiram
Driggs stood sponsor for the prediction.
That evening Fred Ripley had a somewhat unpleasant talk with his
"You've no business with pocket money," said Squire Ripley sternly.
"You have no idea of the value of it."
"I thought I had made a good bargain," said Fred sullenly.
"So does every fool who parts with his money as easily as you
do," returned the lawyer. "Well, enjoy yourself, my boy. If
you'd rather have that paralyzed pony than the money I gave you
to enjoy the summer with, I suppose you're entitled to your choice,
though I don't like your judgment."
"Of course," suggested Fred, "since I've met with misfortune you
won't be too hard on me. You'll let me have a little more money,
so I won't have to go through the summer like a mucker."
"I'll give you no more spending money this summer," retorted the
lawyer, adding, grimly: "If I did, you'd probably go and buy a
cart to match your horse."
In fact Fred felt so uncomfortable at home that, just after dark,
he started up Main Street.
"Where's your horse, Fred?" called Bert Dodge. "Why are you walking
when you own one of the best steeds that ever came out of Arabia?"
"Shut up, won't you?" demanded Fred sulkily.
Bert chuckled for a while before he went on:
"Of course, I'm sorry for you, Fred, but it's all so funny that
I can't help laughing."
"Oh, yes, it must be awfully funny," replied young Ripley testily.
"But you can afford it," said Bert. "You can get more money from
"I suppose so," Ripley assented, not caring to repeat his interview
with his father. "Anyway, I'm glad that Dick Prescott and the
rest of his crowd got fooled as badly as I did. And they can't
get any more money this summer."
"I guess they must have gotten some already," Bert rejoined.
"Didn't you hear the news about that canoe?"
"What news?" asked Fred quickly.
"Why, they've engaged Hiram Driggs to put the canoe in good order."
"Where did they get the money?" asked Fred, his brow darkening.
"I don't know," was Bert's rejoinder. "But they must be able
to raise money all right, for Driggs has the canoe down at his
yard, and he has promised it to them in a few days."
This news came like a slap in the face to the lawyer's son. He
remained with Bert for another hour, but all the time Fred brooded
over the fact that Dick & Co. were to have their canoe after all.
"At that, I don't know that they will have their canoe," Fred
remarked darkly to himself as he started homeward.
Shortly after midnight Fred Ripley sneaked away from his home,
turning his face in the direction of Hiram Driggs' boatyard.
HIRAM PRIES A SECRET LOOSE
When he left home Fred Ripley had no clearly defined idea as to
what he meant to do.
However, he had in one pocket a keen-bladed pocket knife. Well
wrapped in paper a short but sharp-edged chisel rested in one
of the side pockets of his coat.
At the outset his only purpose was to do irreparable mischief
to the war canoe. The means of accomplishing that purpose he
must decide upon when he reached the boatyard.
How dark it was, and how hot! Late as the hour was the baking
heat of the day did not seem to have left the ground. Fred walked
along rapidly, fanning his perspiring face with his straw hat.
"They'll have their war canoe in the water in a few days, will
they?" the lawyer's son muttered. "Humph!"
Through the side streets he went, keeping a sharp lookout. Conscious
of the fact that he was bent on an unworthy errand, Fred did not
care to be recognized abroad at this unusual hour.
In a few minutes he had reached the boatyard. This was surrounded
by a high board fence, and the gate was locked.
"It won't do to get over the fence," young Ripley decided. "I
might be seen and watched. But I know a way."
At one corner of the yard the fence ran almost, though not quite
to the bank of the river.
Keeping well within the shadow of the fence, young Ripley hastened
toward this point.
Here the amount of space was not sufficient for him to step around
the end of the fence. However, by grasping it on both sides Fred
could swing himself around it and into the boatyard. He did so
with ease, then halted, peering cautiously about the yard.
"No one here," the lawyer's son decided at last. "Whew! I wouldn't
dare even to stumble over a tramp taking a nap here. This is
ticklish business, or it would be if I were caught here. Now,
where is the canoe?"
Early in the evening the moon had shone, but now the stars gave
all the light there was to be had. It was so close in the yard
that Fred soon pulled off his jacket, carrying it or his arm.
Nowhere in the open yard was the canoe to be seen. There were
three semi-open sheds. Into each of these in turn Ripley peered.
The canoe was nowhere to be found.
"I'm a fool to lose my sleep and take all the risk for this!"
grunted the boy, halting and staring moodily about him in his
great disappointment. He now glared angrily at a large building,
two-thirds boathouse and one-third boat-building shop.
"Hiram Driggs had the canoe taken in there!" muttered the boy.
"Just my luck. I couldn't get into that building unless I broke
a window---and I don't dare do that."
Still determined to get at the canoe, if possible, Fred stole
down to the inclined platform from which boats were carried to
the water. But the water-front entrance to the boathouse also
proved to be locked.
"There's no show for me here," grunted the young prowler. "I
wonder if any of the windows have been left unlocked."
His good sense told him that it would be a serious matter indeed
to raise a window and enter the building---if he were caught.
But Fred, after a few moments of strained listening, decided to
take the chance. At any hazard that he dared take he must get
to the war canoe and put it out of commission for all time.
He tried three of the windows. All of them proved to be locked.
"I'm going to have some more of my usual luck," groaned young
Ripley. "I wonder why it is that I always have such poor luck
when I have my heart most set on doing a thing?"
He was slipping along to the fourth window when he heard a sound
that almost caused his heart to stop beating.
Merely the sound of footsteps pausing by the gate to the boatyard---that
was all, for a moment. But Fred cowered in acute dread.
"Who's in there?" called a steady voice, that filled Fred Ripley
with consternation, He knew that voice! It belonged to a member
of the Gridley police force.
"Talk about your tough luck!" shivered Fred. "This is the limit!
Now, I'm in for it."
For a few moments he crouched close to the boathouse nearly paralyzed
with fright. His consternation increased when a sound over by
the fence indicated that the policeman was trying to mount that
Now, Fred's courage returned, or enough of it to enable him to
try to escape. Bending low, he turned and ran swiftly, almost
noiselessly. His speed astonished even himself. He gained the
corner of the fence by which he had entered the yard. Taking
a firm hold, he swung himself around the fence and out of sight
just as the policeman's head showed over the top of it.
Fortunately for the fugitive, the policeman, in climbing the fence,
had made noise enough to drown the slight sounds produced by Ripley's
His first thought being of burglars, the policeman drew his revolver
as soon as his feet touched the ground inside the yard. With
his left hand he held an electric pocket flash lamp, whose rays
he flashed into the dark places.
Fred did not stop until he found himself safely within the grounds
of his home. There he halted, fanning himself with his hat and
taking long breaths. If discovered by anyone he could easily
claim that he had found the night too hot to sleep inside and
had come outdoors for air.
The next morning, about ten o'clock, Hiram Driggs, who had already
been visited by Dick & Co., on their way to Katson's Hill, was
called upon by Policeman Curtis of the Gridley force. Curtis,
being off duty, was in citizen's clothes.
"Did you miss anything out of the plant this morning, Mr. Driggs?"
inquired the guardian of life and property.
"Nothing that I know of," Driggs answered. "Why?"
"I thought I heard burglars about here last night, while on duty,"
the policeman explained. "I came up over the fence, and looked
about the place, but couldn't find anything. Yes, I did, too,
though. I'll talk about that in a moment. You see, I went off
duty at one o'clock this morning, so I didn't spend much time
here. I'm on house reserve duty to-day. Now, for what I found
here. I didn't find a living soul in the yard, but on the ground,
near one of the open sheds, I came upon a chisel wrapped in a
newspaper. I hid it, then, but I'll show it to you now. Maybe
it belongs to the shop, and if so I've no business with it. But,
if you don't recognize the chisel as yours, then I'll take it
up to the station house and turn it over to the chief."
"After all that stretch o' talk," smiled Driggs, "you ought to
show me a whole case full of chisels."
"I hid it over here," Curtis explained, going over to one of the
open sheds. "I tucked it in under this packing case. Here it
is, now, just where I left it. Do you recognize it as yours?"
From the newspaper wrapping Driggs took the small but keen-edged
implement. He regarded it curiously. Then he turned the paper
"Do you recognize it?" persisted the policeman.
"Mebbe," said Driggs. "I guess you can leave it here. But, in
case any question should come up about it in the future, suppose
you write your autograph on the handle of the chisel."
Driggs passed over his fountain pen, the policeman obligingly
obeying the request for his signature on the wood.
"Now, just for good measure, write your name across the top of
the newspaper, too," Driggs proposed. Curtis did so.
"You seem to attach a good deal of importance to this find," hinted
"Mebbe," assented Driggs indifferently. "Mebbe not. But you
and I will both know this paper and the chisel again, if we see
it, won't we?"
"We ought to," nodded the policeman. "But you don't consider
the matter as important enough, then, to interest the police?"
"I wouldn't think o' bothering the police force about a trifling
little matter like this," returned Driggs carelessly.
Just as soon, however, as the policeman had gone, Driggs darted
into his private office. There he took up the telephone receiver
and asked for Lawyer Ripley's residence number.
"Is Master Fred at home!" he inquired, when a servant of the Ripley
household answered the telephone. Fred was at home, the servant
replied, and then summoned Fred to the telephone.
"Well, who is it, and what is it?" asked Fred crossly.
"Hiram Driggs," responded the boat builder dryly. "That's 'who
is it.' As to 'what is it,' if you'll take a quick run over to
my office at the boatyard I'll tell you the rest of it."
"What on earth can you want to see me about?" Fred demanded.
Even over the wire, the note of dismay in Ripley's voice was plainly
evident to Driggs, who chuckled.
"I can't tell you, over the wire, all that I want to see you about,"
Driggs replied. "You'd better come over here at once. I can
promise you that it's something interesting."
"I---I don't believe I can come over to-day," Fred answered hesitatingly.
"The weather is too hot."
"Mebbe the weather will get hotter, if you don't come," Hiram
Driggs responded calmly.
"That's a joke, eh?" queried Fred. "Ha, ha, ha!"
"Depends upon the feller's sense of humor," Driggs declared.
"Well, you're coming over, aren't you?"
"Ye-es, I'll come," Fred assented falteringly, for his guilty
conscience made a coward of him. "You're a fine fellow, Mr. Driggs,
and I'm glad to oblige anyone like you. I'll be right over."
"Thanks, ever so much, for the compliment," drawled Driggs in
his most genial tone. "Such a compliment is especially appreciated
when it comes from a young gentleman of your stripe. Good-bye."
That word "stripe" caused Fred Ripley to have a disagreeable chill.
He remembered that "stripes" are an important part of the design
on a convict's suit of state-furnished clothes.
"But he needn't think he can prove anything against me," Fred
muttered to himself, as he started down the street. "Of course,
I know I lost that chisel last night, and Driggs may have found
it in his boatyard. But he can't prove that the chisel belongs
to me, or to our house. There are lots more chisels just like
that one. If Driggs tries to bluff me he'll find that I'm altogether
too cool for him!"
Nevertheless, it was an anxious young man who walked into the
boat builder's office a few minutes later. Hiram Driggs, smiling
broadly, held out his hand, which Fred took.
"Sorry I wasn't here when you called last night," said Driggs
"I don't know what you mean," Fred rejoined promptly. "I didn't
call at your house last night."
"Oh, no," Driggs replied. "I meant when you called here."
"I didn't call here, either."
"Ever see this before?" asked Driggs, holding up the chisel.
"Never," lied Fred.
"That's curious," said Driggs musingly. "Officer Curtis, the
man on this beat, found the chisel here, and it was wrapped up
in part of this newspaper."
Driggs brought forth from one of the drawers of his desk the newspaper
"What has that scrap of paper to do with it?" asked Fred, speaking
as coolly as he could.
"Why," explained Driggs, turning the paper over, "here's the mail
sticker on this side, with your father's printed name and address
pasted on it just as it came through the post-office."
Fred gasped audibly this time. Driggs surveyed his face with
a keen, tantalizing gaze.
"Mebbe 'twas your father, then, who was in the yard last night,
and who refused to answer the policeman's hail," suggested the
boat builder. "I'd better go up to his office and show him these
things and ask him, I guess."
"But I don't believe my father will know anything about it," spoke
young Ripley huskily.
"Then your father will want to know something about it," Driggs
went on. "He's a man of an inquiring turn of mind. Let's run
up to his office together and ask him."
"No, no, no!" urged Fred, his face growing paler.
"Then why were you here last night?"
"I wasn't here," protested the boy.
"Perhaps I can tell you why you were here," Driggs went on, never
losing his affable smile. "You don't like Dick Prescott, and
you don't like his boy friends. Prescott has been too many for
you on more than one occasion. But that is no reason why you
should enter my yard after midnight. That is no reason why you
should want to do harm to a war canoe or to any other property
that happens to be in my yard. I really don't know whether you're
to be blamed for being a glib liar, Ripley. You've never given
yourself much practice at telling the truth, you know. But I
have this to say: If anything happens to that canoe, or to anything
else here, I shall make it my business to get hold of Officer
Curtis, and he and I will drop in and show your father this chisel,
and this piece of paper that it was wrapped in. As you will see,
Curtis has written his signature on the paper and on the handle
of the chisel, so that he may identify them again at any time.
Now, Ripley, I won't look for you to pay this yard any more visits
except in a proper way and during regular business hours. Good
Hiram Driggs held out his hand as smilingly as ever, and Fred
took it in a flabby grasp, feeling as though he were going to
faint. Then without a word Ripley slunk out of the office, while
Driggs gazed after him still smiling.
"The mean scoundrel!" panted Fred, as he hurried away, his knees
trembling under him. "There isn't a meaner fellow in town than
Hiram Driggs, and some day he'll go and tell my father just for
spite. I know he will! Now, I've got to find some good way
to account for that paper and chisel I'll put in the day thinking
up my story."
BIRCH BARK MERCHANTS
Away over on Katson's Hill six high school boys, stripped to their
undershirts and trousers, were toiling hard, drenched in perspiration
and with hands considerably the worse for their hard work.
"What we're finding out is that it's one thing to strip bark for
fun, and quite another thing to take it off in pieces large enough
for a boat-builder," Dick Prescott declared.
"It isn't as fast work as I thought it would be, either," Dave
Darrin declared, running his knife slowly down the trunk of a
"What we need is to bring a grindstone along with us," Tom Reade
grunted, as he examined the edge of the largest blade in his jackknife.
"I simply can't cut with this knife any more."
"I couldn't cut with a fine razor," declared Greg Holmes. "Look
at the blisters on my hands from the cutting I've already done."
"Never mind your aches and pains," comforted Dave Darrin. "We're
doing this to pay charges on our canoe, and Hiram Driggs has been
mighty kind about the whole business. Think of the fun we're
going to have when that canoe is launched; Now, fellows, Hiram
Driggs has been mighty good to us, so I want to propose a plan
for your approval. Whenever Driggs tells us that we've cut and
hauled enough birch bark to pay him, then we must come out here
and get still a few more loads, to pay him in good measure and
show that we appreciate his kindness. Never mind how much our
backs ache or our hands smart. Do you agree?"
"I'll fight any fellow in the crowd who doesn't agree," announced
"You can't get up a fight with me on that score," retorted Greg.
The others also quickly assented to Dave's plan.
By and by the youngsters halted for half an hour to eat the luncheons
they had brought with them. Then they went at their work again.
At half-past three o'clock in the afternoon they tied up in bundles
as much of the bark as each boy could carry, then started homeward.
"We ought to get home in time for supper," Dick declared hopefully.
It was about eight o'clock in the evening when they reached Greg's
gate. The return was harder than they had expected. The road
seemed to be twice as rough as it had been in the morning; they
were utterly fagged, and discovered that even a load of birch
bark can weigh a good deal under certain circumstances.
"Pile it up in the back of the yard," Greg suggested, "and we'll
take it around to Mr. Driggs in the morning."
"Then we can hardly get back to Katson's Hill to-morrow, if we
wait until the boatyard opens at eight o'clock," said Dave. "We
ought to start for the hill before six, as we did this morning."
"We'll none of us feel like going to Katson's Hill early to-morrow
morning," smiled Dick wearily. "Fellows, I guess we'll have
to put in twice as much time, and go every other day. I'm afraid
it's going to be a little too much for us to do everyday."
So this was agreed upon, though rather reluctantly, for Dick &
Co. were anxious to repay Driggs at the earliest date.
Not one of the six boys appeared on Main Street that evening.
Each of them, after eating supper, crept away to bed to ease
the aching of his muscles in slumber.
The next morning they met at Greg's gate shortly after seven o'clock.
"The loads will seem lighter to-day," laughed Dick.
"But to-morrow---oh, me, oh, my!" groaned Reade, making a comical
"It's the 'White Man's Burden,' you know," Dick laughed.
"What is?" Dave inquired.
"Debt---and its consequences."
"My father has a horror of debt," Tom announced.
"Well, I guess the black side of debt shows only when one doesn't
intend to make an effort to pay it," Dick suggested. "The whole
business world, so we were taught at high school, rests on a foundation
of debt. The man who doesn't contract debts bigger than he can
pay, won't find much horror in owing money. We owe Hiram Driggs
twenty dollars, or rather we're going to owe it. But the bark
we're going to take in to him to-day is going to pay a part of
that debt. A few days more of tramping, blistered hands and aching
backs, and we'll be well out of debt and have the rest of the
summer for that great old canoe!"
"Let's make an early start with the bark," proposed Tom. "I want
to see if the stuff feels as heavy as it did late yesterday afternoon."
"Humph! My load doesn't seem to weigh more than seven ounces,"
Darrin declared, as he shouldered one of the piles of bark.
"Lighter than air this morning," quoth Tom, "and only a short
haul at that."
When Hiram Driggs reached his boatyard at eight o'clock he found
Dick & Co. waiting for him.
"Well, well, well, boys!" Mr. Driggs called cheerily. "So you
didn't back out."
"Did you think we would, sir?" Dick inquired.
"No; I knew you boys wouldn't back out. And I don't believe you
threw away any bark on the way home, just to lighten your loads."
Hiram went about the yard starting the day's work for his men,
then came back to the boys.
"Now, just bring the bark over to the platform and we'll look
it over and sort it," suggested the boat builder.
Dick & Co. carried their loads over to the platform, where they
cut the lashings.
"We'll make three heaps of the stuff," Driggs proposed. "One
heap will be the worthless stuff that has to be thrown away.
Another heap will be for the pieces that are good but small; they'll
do for patches. The third heap will be the whole, sound strips.
Mebbe I'd better do all the sorting myself."
So the boys stood by, watching Driggs as he sorted the bundles
of bark with the speed of a man who knows just what he wants.
A quantity of the bark went on to the "worthless" heap, yet there
was a goodly amount in each of the other piles by the time that
the boat builder was through sorting it.
"You've done first rate, boys," he announced at last. "Is there
much more of that bark on Katson's Hill?"
"We ought to be able to bring in fifty times as much bark as we've
brought already," Dick answered.
"I wish you would," Driggs retorted.
"And give up the whole of our summer vacation?" Danny Grin asked
"Well, there is that side to it, after all," Driggs admitted quickly.
"It must be a tough job on your backs, too. But, boys, I wouldn't
mind having a lot of this stuff, for birch bark canoes are coming
into favor again. The only trouble is that birch bark is hard
to get, these days, and costs a lot to boot. So it makes birchbark
canoes come pretty high. At the same time, there are plenty
of wealthy folks who would pay me well for a birch-bark canoe.
Now, I know that you boys, owning a canoe that will soon be in
the water, won't be anxious to give up your whole summer to doing
jobs for me. But couldn't you bring in a lot more bark if you
had a team of horses and a good-sized wagon?"
"Of course we could," Dick nodded. "But we haven't any horses
or a wagon."
"I was thinking," Driggs went on slowly. "I can spare my gray
team and the big green wagon. Any of you boys know how to drive?"
"All of us do," Dick answered, "though I guess Tom could handle
a team better than any of the rest of us."
"Then suppose you take my team out at six o'clock to-morrow morning?"
Driggs suggested. "I'll have to charge you four dollars a day
for it, but I'll take it in bark as payment. With the wagon you'll
be able to bring in a lot more bark than you could without a wagon."
"It's a fine idea, sir," glowed Dick, "and you're mighty kind
"Not especially kind," smiled the boat builder. "I can use a
lot of this bark in my business, and I'm glad to get it on as
reasonable a basis as you boys can bring it to me. You see, it's
lucky that Katson's Hill is wild and distant land. If we had
a land owner to deal with he'd make us pay high for the privilege
of stripping the bark."
"But why couldn't you send your own workmen out to cut the bark?"
Dick asked. "They've as much right on Katson's Hill as we have."
"Oh, yes; I could do that," Driggs assented. "And I could make
a little more money that way, mebbe. But would it be square business,
after you young men have trusted me with your business secret
as to where bark can be had for nothing?"
That was a ruggedly honest way of putting it that impressed Dick
"I'll tell you what you---might do, Mr. Driggs," hinted Tom Reade.
"You might lend us a grindstone, if you have one to spare. Then
we can sharpen our knives right on the spot and cut bark faster."
"You can have the grindstone," Driggs assented. "And I'll do
better than that. I can spare half a dozen knives from the shop
that are better than anything you carry in your pockets. Oh,
we'll rush this business along fast."
Six utterly happy high school boys reported at Hiram Driggs' stable
at six o'clock the next morning. They harnessed the horses, put
the grindstone in the wagon and all climbed aboard. Two seats
held them all, and there was room for a load of bark, besides,
several times as large as Dick & Co. could carry on their backs.
Work went lightly that day! The shop knives cut far better than
pocket knives could do, and the stone was at hand for sharpening.
Six laughing and not very tired boys piled aboard the wagon that
afternoon, with what looked like a "mountain" of prime birch bark
For seven more working days Dick & Co. toiled faithfully, at the
end of which time they discovered that they had about "cleaned"
Katson's Hill of all the really desirable bark.
"Your canoe will be dry enough to launch in the morning," said
Driggs, as he received the last load at his stable. "Come down
any time after eight o'clock and we'll put it in the water."
Were Dick & Co. on hand the next morning?
Dan Dalzell was the last of the six boys to reach post outside
the locked gate of the yard, and he was there no later than twenty-one
minutes past seven.
MEETING THE FATE OF GREENHORNS
At five minutes before eight Hiram Driggs arrived, keys in hand.
"I see you're on time," he smiled, unlocking the gate and throwing
it open. "Now come in and we'll run your canoe out on the river
Even in the dim light of the boathouse Dick & Co. could see the
sides of the canoe glisten with their coating of pitch and oil
that lay outside the bark. The war canoe looked like a bran-new
"Do you like her?" queried Driggs, with a smile of pride in the
work of his yard.
"Like her?" echoed Dick, a choking feeling in his throat. "Mr.
Driggs, we can't talk---yet!"
"Get hold," ordered the boat builder. "Carry her gently."
Gently? Dick & Co. lifted their beloved treasure as though the
canoe carried a cargo of eggs.
Out into the morning sun they carried her, letting her down with
the stern right at the water's edge.
"O-o-o-oh!" It would be hard to say which one of Dick & Co. started
that murmur of intense admiration.
"Now, if you can take your eyes off that canoe long enough," proposed
Driggs, after all hands, the builder included, had feasted their
eyes for a few minutes upon the canoe, "come into the office and
we'll attend to a little business."
Not quite comprehending, the high school boys followed Driggs,
who seated himself at his desk, picking up a sheet of paper.
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