The High School Boys' Canoe Club
H. Irving Hancock

Part 3 out of 4


Fred, with a shriek, felt the dog's teeth in the back of his shirt.

"Get out, you beast!" begged young Ripley in a faint voice.

Gr-r-r-r! was all the answer. Plainly the dog liked the taste
of that shirt, for he held to it tight.

"Get away---please do!" faltered Fred in a broken voice. "Get
away. Don't bite. Nice doggie! Nice, nice doggie! Please let


But Towser didn't attempt to bite as yet. For a bull-dog, and
considering how fully he was master of the field at present, Towser
displayed amazing good nature. Only when young Ripley moved did
the four-footed policeman of the camp utter that warning growl.

"Nice doggie!" coaxed Fred pleadingly. "Good old fellow!"

To this bit of rank flattery Towser offered no reply. It began
to look as though he would be quite satisfied if only his captive
made no effort to get away.

"Wouldn't I like to be on my feet, with a shotgun in my hands!"
gritted Fred.

"Gr-r-r-r," replied Towser, as though he were an excellent reader
of human minds.

For a few moments Fred lay utterly quiet, save for the trembling
that he could not control.

During those same moments Towser made himself more comfortable
by shifting himself so that he lay with his paws across Fred's
left shoulder-blade. His teeth remained firmly fastened in Ripley's

"Now, how long are you going to stay here, you beast?" glared
Fred Ripley, though he did not dare emphasize his displeasure
by stirring. It was an instance in which his own displeasure
amounted to infinitely less than that of the dog.

Over at the hotel Dick Prescott was reading this telegram to his

"Letter received. Am communicating with other members of Council.
Will let you know when I have word. Signed Howgate."

"Oh, you'll get your authorization all right," Laura declared
cheerily. "It's only a matter of form."

Laura did not tell something she knew---to the effect that at
her request Dr. Bentley had wired Mr. Howgate, urging that the
permission be granted to the boys to race as a high school

"May we take you young ladies out in the canoe this morning?"
Dick inquired.

"Only a few of us, or for very short, trips," Laura replied.
"The fact is, we girls are to play hostess to you this noon."

"Hostess?" asked Dave, looking puzzled.

"Yes; we are going to be your hostesses at luncheon," Laura smiled.

"But I thought you girls were going to skip luncheon in favor
of the picnic meal to-night."

"Wait until you boys see the luncheon," laughed Susie Sharp, "and
you'll be sure to think we might as well have skipped that meal.
It will be light and shadowy, I promise you. Toast, lettuce
salad, moonbeam soup, sprites' cake, feather pudding and ghost

"Won't there be some dog biscuit?" asked Danny Grin hopefully.

"You shall have a special plate," Susie promised.

So the canoe was hauled up on the float and left there, and a
general chat followed.

At noon, Dr. Bentley joined the young people, talking with them
pleasantly, after which he led the way to the hotel.

There, in a little private dining room, the boys met Mrs. Bentley
and Mrs. Meade. The luncheon was soon after served.

It was a dainty meal, though far more elaborate than Susie had
led the boys to expect.

At the end of the meal a waiter, looking duly solemn, presented
at Danny Grin's elbow a plate holding three dog biscuits.

"Thank you," said Dan Dalzell politely. "But I shall keep them
for future use."

Very calmly, notwithstanding Dick's slight frown, Dan placed the
biscuit in his coat pockets, though some of the girls found it
hard indeed not to giggle.

After the meal the party adjourned to the lawn under the shade
of some fine old elms. A little later a farm wagon, drawn by
a pair of horses, stopped near the group.

"Now, you must excuse us, boys," announced Laura, rising with
a mysterious air. "We girls have a little errand to perform.
We shall be back before half-past four o'clock."

"Wouldn't it be better to be back a good deal before that time?"
urged Dick. "You see, we can't carry more than three passengers
at once, and we are to have eleven guests to ferry across the

"Why, didn't I tell you?" asked Laura, looking astonished. "My
father said it would be an imposition to ask you boys to make
four round trips this afternoon, and as many more to-night, so
he has engaged one of the hotel launches to take us over, and
to call for us this evening. You don't mind, do you, boys? But
we would like to have you here at half-past four o'clock to go
across the lake with us."

"We'll be here," Dick promised promptly.

Six high school boys watched the girls drive off in the farm wagon,
waving handkerchiefs and parasols back to the boys.

"Two o'clock," remarked Dick, looking at his watch. "Suppose
we take a spin up the lake?"

"Or go back to camp, to make it more ship shape?" suggested Tom

"What's the use?" inquired Prescott. "We fixed everything as
well as we could before leaving there this morning. As to the
safety of the camp, Harry's dog, Towser, can be depended upon
to look after that."

So Dick & Co. headed up the lake in their canoe.



"That's an odd sight, over yonder," announced Dave, pointing shoreward
with his paddle.

They were now nearly three miles above the hotel landing. They
had entered a section of the country given over to truck gardening.

"Women gathering in the produce," said Dick, after a glance.

"I don't like that," uttered Dave in disgust.

"I thought we had progressed too far, and had become too civilized.
Years ago I know that women used to work in the fields, but I
thought we were above that sort of thing."

"Perhaps the farmer's sons' were all girls," suggested Danny Grin.

"I don't like it, anyway," retorted Dave.

"Nor I," agreed Tom. "To have women at work in the fields makes
it appear as though the men are too lazy."

The sight on shore was not interesting enough to claim long attention,
so the young canoeists proceeded on their way.

At a little after four o'clock, however, they were back at the

Not long after, eight young women were sighted riding along in
a farm wagon, while Dr. and Mrs. Bentley and Mrs. Meade strolled
down one of the paths.

The wagon reached the pier first, just as a launch in charge of
one of the hotel employs came puffing out of a boathouse near

"Come here, boys, and help us unload the wagon," called Susie

Dick & Co. sprang in answer to her summons.

"Why, what on earth have you here?" demanded Dave, opening his
eyes wide as he saw the contents of the wagon.

There were dozens of ears of corn, a sack of new potatoes, cucumbers,
tomatoes, a dozen big watermelons and a bushel of early summer

"Sh!" warned Laura mysteriously. "Didn't we promise you we'd
rob some farmer for the feast? Did you think that boys are the
only ones who can go foraging for a country picnic?"

"You girls didn't go foraging---did you?" gasped Dick Prescott.

"We surely did," retorted Susie Sharp.

"Didn't we say we would do so? And doesn't all this stuff prove

"Then you paid the farmer for it," guessed Tom Reade wisely.

"We didn't do any such thing," Miss Sharp insisted. "Did we,

Seven other young feminine heads shook in vigorous denial.

"We didn't pay the farmer, and we didn't make any arrangement
with him," said Laura quietly, her eyes twinkling with mischief.
"We simply drove out along the road until we came to the field,

"-----Ravaged it," supplemented Belle Meade demurely. "We went
through that field like war, famine and pestilence combined!"

"Hurry!" called Susie peremptorily.

So the boys made haste with the vegetables and fruit, transferring
everything to the bow of the launch, where it was neatly stacked.

"What do you think of that?" Tom demanded of Dick in a whisper
at the first opportunity.

"The girls are chaffing us," Dick answered knowingly. "Stole
the stuff, did they? That is, stole it in earnest? Nonsense!
They're too nice girls for that! But I guess even nice girls,
like some decent fellows, find enjoyment, once in a while, in
making believe they are doing something desperate. Of course
they didn't really steal this stuff."

"If they did," muttered Tom, "they'd be the kind of girls we wouldn't
want to know."

"It's all right," Dick assured him. "Sooner or later the truth
of this joke of theirs will all come out. There are no finer
girls in the country than they."

By this time the older people had joined them. Dr. Bentley's
party embarked in the launch, taking up all the room there was.

"Pass us your bow-line, and we can just as well give you boys
a tow," proposed the doctor. "There is no use in your paddling."

"Thank you very much, sir," Dick answered, "but paddling is just
the fun for which we bought this canoe. We do it because we like
it. And we'll show you how fast we can get across the lake."

With a toot of the whistle the launch started. Dick gave the
word to his chums. At first the canoe, even under moderate paddling,
went ahead of the launch, though gradually the launch drew up.

"You boys look as if you were working," called Dr. Bentley.

"We're doing very little work, sir," Dave answered. "We could
make the canoe go faster than this, but it would hardly do to
run ahead of our guests."

In truth the canoe slipped rapidly through the water with the
expenditure of only a moderate amount of energy on the part of
Dick & Co.

In a few minutes the lake had been crossed. A point was found
at which the launch could be backed in. By this time the boys
were on shore, their canoe hauled up, and they stood ready to
help their guests ashore.

"We've landed a little below the camp," said Dick, "but it won't
take us more than a minute to walk there. After we've taken
you into the camp we'll return for the garden truck."

Gr-r-r-r-r! came a warning sound through the bushes.

"Towser!" spoke Harry Hazelton sharply. "I'm ashamed of you!"

"You ought to be!" came the answer in another voice, and a surly
one, at that.

"Fred Ripley?" muttered Dick. "What on earth can he be doing

Unconsciously all of the picnickers hastened their steps. Then
they came upon a truly ludicrous sight.

Fred lay where he had been lying ever since ten o'clock that morning.
He was coatless, stretched out face downward, with Towser still
camped across his shoulder, and the dog's teeth still fastened
in his shirt.

"Come and call this measly dog off!" ordered Fred, in a surly
tone. "This is a fine reward that I get for trying to do you
fellows a friendly turn!"

Dick, Dave and Tom were the first to get within range and obtain
a glimpse of the extraordinary scene. They halted, gasping, though
their glances swiftly took in the whole affair. They comprehended
what Ripley had been doing, and how the dog had come upon the

By this time the other members of the party came in sight. Fred
still lay on the ground, scowling and fuming over his undignified
position, while Towser still kept an eye open for business.

"Call this dog off!" Fred ordered again.

"How did the dog happen to catch you here?" Dick asked quietly.

"Call this dog off and I'll tell you," snapped Fred. "I was trying
to do you fellows a good turn, but the dog had to interfere and
get hold of the wrong party."

"You were trying to do us a good turn?" gasped Dick wonderingly.

"Yes---but it will be the last time, unless you call this dog
off," snarled young Ripley.

Perhaps it is hardly necessary to say that not one in the party
believed Fred's extraordinary story.

"Hazelton, get this dog of yours away, or I'll go to court and
secure an order to have the beast shot!" snapped young Ripley.

But at this moment another voice was heard calling from the roadway:

"Fred! Fred! Are you there?"

It was Squire Ripley's voice, though the lawyer himself could
not be seen as yet.

"Yes, sir; your son is here," Dick answered. "Come and see just
how he is here!"

"Get your dog off quickly, Hazelton!" urged Fred.

But Harry, at a slight sign from Dick, didn't stir or open his
mouth to call off his dog.

Through the brush came the sound of hurried steps. Then Lawyer
Ripley stepped into the group.

"Fred, what on earth does this mean?" demanded the lawyer, staring

"That's just what we thought you might like to find out, sir,"
Dick replied. "We've been away from camp all day, and just came
back to this scene, Mr. Ripley. You are something of an expert
in the matter of evidence, sir. Will you kindly tell us what
you make out of this? There is our tent cut down. There are
all of our food supplies in a pile, except what you see scattered
about on the ground. Your son appears to have been headed for
the lake when our dog overtook him and pinned him down. As a
lawyer, Mr. Ripley, what would you conclude from the evidence
thus presented?"

"Call that dog away!" ordered Mr. Ripley.

"Willingly, sir," Dick agreed, "now that you have had opportunity
to look into all the evidence that we found. Harry, will you do
the honors?"

Smiling slightly, Hazelton stepped forward to speak to Towser.
That four-footed guardian of the camp displayed some resentment
at first over the idea of letting go of Fred's shirt. After a
little, however, Hazelton succeeded in getting his dog away and
tied to a tree.

Fred rose to his feet, his face fiery red while he trembled visibly.

"What is the meaning of this, young man?" demanded Lawyer Ripley.

"The meaning," choked the lawyer's son wrathfully, "is just this:
I was coming by this place this morning in the runabout, when
I heard a good deal of coarse laughter down here. I knew the
voices weren't those of boys, and so I knew that something must
be up. I got out of the car and came over here. I saw two tramps
in the camp. They had already cut down the tent, and when I arrived
they were planning to cart the food away. Then they saw me as
I stepped forward. I told them what I thought of them for thieving
in such fashion. Then the tramps got ready to jump on me and
thrash me. Just as I raised my hands to defend myself this dog
came bounding out of the woods and the tramps ran away. Having
no more sense than any other fool dog, the cur pinned me down
and held me here."

"All day?" asked his father.

"Yes; I've been a prisoner here for hours," quavered Fred. "And
now these fellows want to make out, before the high school friends
of mine," nodding toward the girls, "that I was the thief and

"That story is straightforward enough," commented the lawyer,
turning to the others rather stiffly. "Do any of you wish to
challenge it?"

No one spoke.

"I'll tell you what I wish, father," broke in Fred angrily. "I
want an order from the court to have that dog seized and shot.
He's a vicious and dangerous brute!"

"I think such a court order will be easily obtained," replied
Mr. Ripley frigidly.

Harry Hazelton turned pale, clenching his fists, though he had
the good sense not to speak just then. The other boys all looked
highly concerned.

"Were you bitten by the dog?" asked Dr. Bentley quietly.

"I---I don't know yet," replied Fred. "I can't tell."

"Mr. Ripley," said Dr. Bentley very quietly, "if you contemplate
seeking a court order for having the dog shot, then I suggest
that you permit me to take the young man aside and examine him.
I am a physician, with a good many years of practice behind me,
and any court would pronounce me competent to testify as to whether
your son has been bitten, and, if so, to what extent."

"I don't choose to be examined here," Fred declared sulkily.
"If I want anything of that sort done our own physician can do

"Young man," replied Dr. Bentley, "your father is an eminent lawyer.
He is therefore qualified to inform you that if you decline an
examination now as to the presence or absence of injuries on your
body, your refusal would have to be taken into account in contested
court action for the death of the dog."

"Dr. Bentley is quite right, and he has stated the matter accurately,"
replied Mr. Ripley. "Fred, do you desire to be examined now?
If so, we can go away to some secluded spot with the doctor,
and with the dog's owner and any other witness desired."

"I don't want to do anything now but to get away from here," replied
Fred sulkily. "I want to be rid of Prescott and his friends as
soon as possible."

"Very good, then," nodded his father. "You may do as you like,
but if you refuse Dr. Bentley's suggestion for an immediate examination
you will stand no chance of securing an order dooming the dog."

Fred's further answer was an angry snort as he turned away. His
father lingered to say:

"If your suspicions that my son was here improperly are anywhere
near correct, then you are entitled to my most hearty apology.
Fred is a peculiar and high-strung boy, but I believe his impulses
are right in the main. I will add that I believe his account
of how he came to be in this strange plight. He took the car
early this morning. I am just returning from a spin in our larger
automobile. I saw my runabout at the edge of the road and it
occurred to me to stop and see if my son were here. Is there
anything more to be said about my son's peculiar experience here?"

"Nothing, thank you, Mr. Ripley," replied Dr. Bentley, after a
sidelong glance at Dick.

"Then I will bid you all good afternoon," replied Squire Ripley,
raising his hat to the women.

Dr. Bentley watched the lawyer out of sight, then turned to Hazelton
with a smile.

"Harry," remarked the physician, "your dog won't be shot by order
of the court."



It proved a glorious affair, that picnic by the edge of the lake.

Tom and Dan took Clara and Susie out in the canoe to watch them
as they fished.

The other four boys fell to with a will, reweaving in new guy
ropes and erecting the tent again.

Then firewood was gathered in armfuls and several campfires started.

Just before dark the canoe came in with a cargo of nearly four
dozen fish.

These Tom and Dan took to one side and quickly cleaned. Just
as Dick and Dave were beginning to realize with some embarrassment
that they had nowhere near enough dishes for such an affair, the
man from the launch appeared with two baskets of dishes. He then
brought up three folding tables and proceeded to set them up,
next bringing on campstools. Dr. Bentley had overlooked nothing.
Last of all paper lanterns were strung from the trees, and just
at dark these were lighted.

Potatoes were set to boil in a kettle. Embers were raked down
and corn still in the husks was set in the embers and covered
up to roast. Some of the girls sliced more tomatoes than the
whole party could eat. Cucumbers, too, were prepared.

Fish were broiled on grates over the fires. All was ready just
before dark.

Dick gave the launch man a hearty invitation to join them at supper,
the latter shaking his head, expressed his thanks and hurried

What an appetizing meal it was! Nothing seemed to have gone wrong.
It was a merry party indeed that sat down around the tables.

Suddenly there came an interruption. "Camp! Oh, I say---camp!"
called a gruff voice from the road.

"Here!" called Dick, rising from the table. "Who is it?"

"Any girls there?" demanded the same voice.

"Several," Dick acknowledged.

"Having a picnic, are you?" demanded the strange voice.

"The best ever!" Dick replied heartily.

"Lots of fresh vegetables, too, eh?"

"Ye-es," Dick assented slowly, and with a peculiar feeling. He
recalled the laughing talk of the girls about "stealing," and
now wondered what was about to happen.

"I guess they're the girls I want, then," continued the voice
of the unseen speaker.

Dick & Co. felt a swift spasm of uneasiness, for that voice sounded
as though it might belong to the law.

A moment later a roughly dressed man moved down into the circle.

"My name is Dobson," said the new comer, looking hard at the girls.
"I reckon you were in my truck garden this afternoon, weren't

"Why---er----ye-es," admitted Laura, the first to find her voice.
She rose and faced Mr. Dobson with a look of budding uneasiness.

"Took lot of my vegetables, didn't you?" pressed the farmer.

"Ye-es," faltered Laura, "but-----"

"Excuse me, miss, but there aren't many kinds of 'buts' about a
transaction of that kind," insisted the farmer.

Here, Dr. Bentley, who had looked less concerned than anyone else
present, broke in:

"Your name is Dobson?" he asked.

"Not Gibson, then?" pressed the doctor.

"Course my name isn't Gibson, if it's Dobson," retorted the farmer.
"There is a man named Gibson who lives 'bout a quarter of a mile
from my place."

"Then I imagine I shall have to take you one side and have a little
conversation with you," smiled the doctor, rising. "Will you
follow me?"

The farmer nodded without speaking and the two men walked away.

Ten minutes later Dr. Bentley returned to the young people.

"I appeased the farmer's wrath," he announced, with a laugh.
"And now, young ladies, if my judgment is worth anything, I think
it is about time to let the cat out of the bag."

Eight high school girls flushed and looked rather confused.

"Why, has anything wrong been going on?" inquired Mrs. Bentley
anxiously, while Mrs. Meade waited breathlessly for the reply.

"Nothing extremely wrong," replied Dr. Bentley. "I will explain
what happened. Some of these young ladies, having heard that
boys occasionally rob orchards or gardens for a feast, laughingly
promised the young hosts of this evening that they would steal
the necessary vegetables for to-night's supper. Now, while some
boys may sometimes do such things, it is needless to add that
no boy with a good home and a mother's training is likely to become
engaged in such petty pilfering. I don't believe the boys for
a moment credited the girls with any real stealing."

"We didn't," spoke up Dick promptly. "We knew there was a string
to the joke somewhere."

"These young ladies consulted me," went on Dr. Bentley. "Of course
they wanted the whole matter kept very quiet, and they made me
promise secrecy. I told them that I didn't like their plan at
all, but they coaxed, and I will admit that I yielded to their
coaxing very much against my best judgment. They wanted to be
able to say that they hadn't paid the farmer, or made any arrangement
whatever with him. That much is true. They didn't approach the
farmer---they sent me. I went to Farmer Gibson and made the
arrangement with him for the supplies, paying him in advance a fair
price for whatever the young ladies would take out of his garden.
Yet, in spite of my care in the matter, and my very explicit
directions to them, it seems that they went astray, and descended
upon the truck garden of Mr. Dobson, instead of that of Mr. Gibson.
Mr. Dobson, not having received any pay, very naturally objected to
being looted of his vegetables while Mr. Gibson received the money.
But I have been able to explain matters in a satisfactory manner
to Mr. Dobson, and have sent him on his ways"

Eight very crestfallen high school girls listened to this recital.

The boys, had they not felt a manly sympathy for their discomfited
friends, would have laughed outright.

"I am glad that it is no worse," said Mrs. Bentley in a relieved
voice. "At the same time, it was a very silly performance."

"It was," nodded the doctor, who turned to the girls to add:

"My dears, as you succeeded this time in making me your very reluctant
accomplice, I am in no position to say very much to you. But
I trust you all realize the situation and its outcome, and that
you will never allow yourselves to be made ridiculous again in
any such way."

"I don't believe we shall," Laura replied. "We felt ashamed of
ourselves afterwards, but we were silly enough to feel because
we had pledged ourselves to forage for fruit and vegetables that
the joke must be carried out."

"Tom Reade," snapped Susie Sharp, "you are just bursting with
laughter that you can hardly hold back."

"Not I!" Tom denied promptly. "I am congratulating myself that
we boys had sense enough not to take seriously your claim that
you had been robbing anyone's garden. As it happened, you did
that very thing, but you didn't know it, and you didn't mean to."

There was an embarrassed silence. Then Dick proposed:

"Let's have a good-natured laugh all around and forget the whole

That relieved the awkwardness of the situation. After that a
watermelon was cut and brought to the tables.

"Gridley, ahoy!" called a voice across the dark waters.

"Who's there?" called Dick.

"Preston High School Canoe Club. May we visit your camp?"

"Shall I invite them over?" asked Dick, looking at Mrs. Bentley
and then at the girls.

Receiving their consent, he called out:

"Come in, Preston High School! Welcome!"

A soft splashing of paddles showed where the visitors were coming
in to shore. Dan Dalzell taking the camp lantern, ran to meet them.

A moment later six Preston lads were stepping ashore, one after
the other. Dick, having excused himself at table, came forward
also to greet them.

Two of the Preston High School boys were already acquainted with
Laura Bentley and some of her friends. Introductions followed

"Drop into the Gridley seats and have some of the watermelon,"
Dick pressed the visitors, he and his chums standing in order
to do the honors of the occasion.

"It looks as though we had been trying to invite ourselves to
a banquet," laughed Hartwell, "big chief" of the Preston High
School "Indians." "We didn't mean to seem as rude as that, Prescott."

"All I know," smiled Dick cordially, "is that you are all heartily
welcome. Can we stir up a fire and broil some fish?"

"Don't think of it, thank you," begged Hartwell. "We've had our
suppers---dinners, the hotel folks insist on calling 'em. It's
jolly enough for us to be allowed to join you and see the watermelon
passing around."

"Chug! chug! Puff! puff!" sounded the returning launch. Dick
glanced apprehensively at Dr. Bentley and the ladies. Did the
coming of the launch mean that it was about time for the pleasant
evening to break up?

"Might I ask where and how you find such delicious watermelons
in this neck of the woods?" inquired Brown, of the Prestons.

"Ask the young ladies," piped up Danny Grin, thereby getting himself
much disliked for at least the next thirty seconds.

"Dr. Bentley and the young ladies obtained the melons from a farmer,"
explained Tom Reade, giving Dan an unseen poke in the small of
the back.

"These melons look good enough to steal," laughed Hartwell, and
was unable to understand the total silence that greeted his assertion.

"Help wanted from a couple of you boys!" called the voice of the
launch man.

Four of Dick & Co. raced down to the water's edge. They came
back, staggering under a big bucket covered on the top with bagging.

"What is this?" asked Dick.

"Ice cream," explained the doctor. "Mrs. Bentley's suggestion."

"We fellows of Preston High School feel ashamed of ourselves for
having intruded," exclaimed Hartwell. "May we be permitted to

"At any time after ten o'clock," smiled Mrs. Bentley graciously.
"We shall be very much disappointed if you leave us at present."

There was a clatter of dishes and spoons. Mrs. Bentley and Mrs.
Meade presided over this part of the camp feast.

"We needn't ask you Gridley fellows if you've been having a good
time," declared Hartwell presently. "But we hadn't any idea that
we should intrude on an affair of this sort. In fact, while business
must be barred now, I will admit that business was the object
of our call."

"What sort of business?" inquired Dick Prescott.

"We came to challenge you fellows to a race," explained Big Chief

"A race?" chuckled Dave. "Queer how you've bit us where we live!"

"Do you think you can beat us in a canoe race?" asked Hartwell.

"Yes," Dick rejoined. "All we need to arrange is the date. We'll
beat you on any date that you name! That isn't brag, please
understand! It's merely the old, old Gridley High School way."

The young ladies applauded this sentiment merrily.



"Want to try us out, Gridley?" hailed Big Chief Hartwell, from the
Preston High School canoe.

It was nearly ten o'clock the next morning, but Dick & Co. had
just finished putting their camp to rights after breakfast, for
they had slept late after the feast.

"Do we want to try you out?" Dick answered laughingly. "Why,
we don't have to do that. We shall be ready to hand you a beating,
though, at any time you ask for it. We can't help beating you,
you know. It's the Gridley way!"

"Brag is a good dog," derided Brown from the bow seat of the Preston

"We keep both dogs here," Dave shouted tantalizingly.

"Are you coming out to wallop us?" Hartwell insisted.

"Yes; if you insist upon it," Dick agreed. "But we don't like
to do it."

"Get into your canoe and come out and see how much of your brag
you can make good," was Hartwell's calm reply.

"What? Now?" Prescott inquired.

"'Now' is always the best time to do a thing," declared Mason,
of Preston High School.

"Oh, no," smiled Dick, with a shake of his head. "You fellows
have been out for some time this morning. You'll have to give
us time to warm up properly."

"I didn't suppose Gridley needed a little thing like that," Hartwell
taunted. "You Gridleyites are such sure winners, you know, that
you ought not to need such a little thing as preparation."

"One of the reasons why Gridley wins," Dick retorted, "is that
we always use common sense when entering sporting events. So
we'll ask you to oblige us with a gift of our rights in the matter.
In fifteen minutes we'll be ready for you."

Gently the canoe was launched in the water. Harry, with a remembrance
of yesterday's events, called Towser, saying sternly:

"Stay right here, boy, and watch. Maybe you'll get the rest of
Rip's shirt to-day."

"And maybe he won't," chuckled Dave. "That's what I call holding
out false hopes to a dog. Rip won't venture within five miles
of here to-day. Yet perhaps Towser will bag some other game for

"Into the canoe with you, you loitering braves!" called Big Chief
Prescott firmly.

Away went the Gridley war canoe, gliding smoothly.

"Our craft is the 'Pathfinder'," called Hartwell, across the water.
"What do you call your boat?"

"The 'Scalp-hunter'," smiled Dick. As a matter of fact he and
his friends had forgotten to name the canoe, but he supplied the
name on the spur of the moment. It made a prompt hit with his

"You don't believe you can win any race with such paddling as
yours, do you?" Hartwell called derisively.

"We don't show all our fine points to the enemy until the battle
is on," was Prescott's amiable answer. "Even then you won't see
all our best tricks; you'll be too busy paddling to keep in sight
of us."

Only very gradually did Dick allow his crew to warm up to their
work. The Preston boys soon paddled over to the middle of the
lake, and there lay resting.

"Now, we'll go back and give them a brush," Dick murmured to his
chums. "Don't exceed any orders that I give in the brush. Don't
be at all uneasy if we find the Prestons going ahead of us."

"Haven't we got to win?" queried Dave.

"Especially after all the brag we've been throwing in their
direction?" Tom supplemented.

"We'll win if we can do it easily," Dick answered. "Otherwise
we won't."

"Then what becomes of our Gridley talk?" asked Greg.

"The difference is that this isn't a real race to-day," Prescott
explained. "This is only a brush, and we're in it only to see
what the Preston boys can show us about canoe handling."

At a rather slow, easy dip, the "Scalp-hunter" ranged up near
the "Pathfinder."

"All ready there, Gridley?" called Hartwell rather impatiently.

"As ready as we're going to be," said Dick.

"Flying start, or from a stop?"

"Either," Dick nodded.

"Then," proposed Hartwell, "move along until your prow is flush
with ours. When I give the word both crews paddle for all they're
worth. Steer for the two blasted pines at the lower end of the

"That's good," Dick agreed.

Very gently the war canoe ranged alongside, her bark sides,
well-oiled, glistening in the sunlight. The Preston canoe was not
of bark, but of cedar frame, covered with canvas.

Hartwell evidently wanted a wholly fair race, for he even allowed
the "Scalp-hunter's" prow the lead of a couple of feet before
he shouted:

"Go it!"

Amid a great flashing of paddles the two canoes started. The
Preston High School craft soon obtained a lead of a foot or so,
and held it. Now the contest was a stubborn one. Gridley gained
two feet more.

"You see," called Dick in a low voice, "this is the Gridley way."

"Is it?" Hartwell inquired. "Hanky-pank!"

Plainly enough the last two words were a signal. Though the Preston
High School boys did not make much visible change in their style
or speed of dip, the "Pathfinder" now gained perceptibly. Within
a minute she had a lead of a clean ten feet, and seemed likely
to increase the interval.

"Why don't you come along, Gridley?" called back the big chief
in the leading canoe.

"Too early," smiled Dick. Nor did he allow the Gridley boys to
increase their speed. Presently the "Pathfinder" led by two lengths.

"Why didn't you tell us," Hartwell demanded over his shoulder,
"that the much vaunted Gridley way is 'way to the rear?"

"We haven't reached the pines yet, have we?" Dick asked.

"No; and you won't, to-day, unless you push that clumsy tub of
yours along faster."

"Don't wait for us," Dick answered goodnaturedly. "We'll be here
after a little while."

"We'll wait for you when we land," laughed Hartwell. "Mumble

Another secret signal, surely, for again the "Pathfinder" began
to increase the distance from the Gridley rival.

"We'd better stop, and pretend we're only fishing," muttered Tom
Reade, but Dick kept grimly silent. He was watching every move
of the Preston paddlers.

"Why, they're leading us four lengths," muttered Darrin, in an
undertone. But Prescott appeared unworried.

"We'll try to brace our speed, by and by," Dick answered.

"And so will the other fellows," Tom surmised. "They're not going
at anything like their pace as yet."

For a quarter of a mile the canoes held the same relative position.

"Now, liven up," Dick called softly. "One, two, three, four!
One, two, three, four!"

Catching the rhythm, Dick & Co. put in some good strokes, their
paddling becoming faster and stronger. A length and a half of
the interval was closed up.

"Porky-poo!" ordered Hartwell.

Answering, the Preston High School boys paddled as though fury
now possessed them. They held the pace, too.

"Hit it up hard, now," Dick commanded. "One, two, three, four!"

Never had Gridley responded more nobly on any field of sport or
other contest than now. The paddles flew, their wet blades gleaming
in the air, only to disappear under the water again. Each recovery
was swift, prompt rhythmic!

But Hartwell's crew was also showing the stuff of which it was

"Stop paddling---back water!" shouted Hartwell finally.

The "Pathfinder" lay on the water, motionless, only two yards
from the shore on which stood the blasted pines.

At that same instant the Gridley High School "Scalp-hunter" was
a trifle more than seven lengths astern.

"That was good and warming," smiled Big Chief Dick, as the second
canoe came up.

"Yah, yah, yah!" retorted the Preston High School boys, betraying
their delight in derisive grins.

"Where is that wonderful, all-conquering way you were telling
us about?" chaffed Hartwell.

"You'll find out when we race," smiled Prescott calmly.

"When we race?" repeated Preston's big chief. "Didn't we race
just now? Or do you consider that it wasn't a race just because
you weren't in it?"

"It wasn't a race," Dick answered. "Merely a brush."

"Brush?" repeated Hartwell indignantly. "Didn't we challenge
you fellows, and didn't you accept? Also, didn't you lose?"

"We lost the brush," Dick admitted.

"You lost the race to us," Hartwell declared stoutly. "Preston
High School beat Gridley High School by several lengths!"

"Hardly that," Dick retorted coolly. "Preston High School merely
distanced some boys from Gridley High School. You didn't defeat
a Gridley High School canoe crew."

"Why didn't we?" the Preston High School big chief questioned.

"Because, if you recall all the chat we had last night, the
'Scalp-hunter's' crew isn't yet official. We haven't been
authorized by the Athletic Council of Gridley High School."

"Is that the way you get out of it?" blurted Hartwell.

"No," Dick smiled. "That's the way we get Gridley High School
out of the charge of defeat. As soon as we're authorized to represent
Gridley High School as an official canoe crew, then you may claim
any victory you can obtain over us. But you haven't beaten our
high school yet for the reason that we don't officially represent
Gridley High School. Isn't that all clear?"

"I suppose so," Hartwell assented disappointedly. "But we took
it that we were racing the Gridley High School Canoe Club."

"Then after this you want to do more thinking," Dick laughed.
"But don't feel too disappointed, Preston. Just as soon as we
receive sanction from our Athletic Council we'll give you a race
in earnest, and a chance for all the glory you are able to take
away from us."

There was some further good-natured talk, after which the two
canoe clubs separated.

Dick guided the "Scalp-hunter" back to camp. There, as soon as
the canoe had been hauled ashore, Dave Darrin threw himself on
the grass, remarking:

"This morning teaches us something! We're in no class with those
Preston High School boys. We've no business racing, in the name
of our school, before next summer!"



"We'll race within a few days," Dick declared serenely. "We've
got to race soon, for our funds won't hold out long and we can't
stay here all summer."

"The Athletic Council will thank us for losing the race," murmured
Greg Holmes, ironically.

"We won't lose," Dick maintained, "unless you fellows throw the
race against Gridley."

"Throw the race?" echoed Tom Reade indignantly. "Dick Prescott,
do you think we'd do a thing like that?"

"I'm sure you wouldn't," their big chief admitted coolly.

"Do you mean to say that we didn't do our best this morning?"
questioned Danny Grin.

"Our very best?" added Hazelton.

"We all did the best that was in us---this morning," Dick went
on. "But we'll be a lot better prepared when we get into a real

"I don't believe I can paddle any harder than I did at the finish
this morning," Reade argued. "In fact, I know I can't. My back
aches yet with the work that I did."

"I don't doubt it," Dick smiled. "I know that my back aches."

"Then how are we going to win in any other race against Preston
High School?" Darrin asked curiously.

"Did you fellows study the paddling work of the Prestons this
morning?" Prescott asked.

"I saw their paddles ahead of us all the time," Greg murmured.

"That was a good place to have their paddles, for study," Dick
laughed. "Couldn't you see, from their paddling, why they beat
us with ease?"

"No! Could you?" challenged Tom.

"Yes. The Preston fellows dip their paddles better than we do.
They dip so that the blade always cuts the breeze, instead of
meeting it. When they recover they turn their paddles so as to
slip them out of the water without throwing any back strain on
the canoe's progress. I was studying their paddling work all
the time, and I hoped that you fellows were doing the same."

"The Prestons have a lighter, swifter canoe, anyway," contended

"I think they have some advantage over us, that way," Dick nodded.
"At the same time I am certain that we ought to beat Preston
by beating their style of paddling."

"Beating their style of paddling?" echoed Reade. "Why, according
to what you've told us we can't even equal their paddling."

"We're going to equal it," Dick answered, "and we ought to beat
it. At two o'clock, fellows, we're going out for two hours of
drill. Then I'll try to explain what I think I saw of the Preston
superiority in dipping and recovery. If I really observed correctly,
then we ought to be able to do much better, for I also think I
see how to improve on the Preston High School paddle work enough
to make their performance look almost clumsy."

"If you can do that," proclaimed Hazelton ungrudgingly, "then
you're a wonder, Dick."

"We shall see," smiled the big chief.

"And if we don't see straight," mumbled Reade, "then Preston will
hand us such a wallop that we won't even have the nerve to take
up a challenge from Trentville High School."

For the rest of the morning Dick & Co. were much more thoughtful
than usual. They had met defeat---a thing they didn't relish.
Yet they knew, in advance, how much worse they would feel if
they met a defeat when officially entered as a Gridley High School
crew---for the honor of their school was dear to them all.

The noonday meal was over before one o'clock. Dick would not
allow the "Scalp-hunter" to be put in the water a minute before
two. He wanted to be sure that digestion had proceeded far enough
so that they might do their best.

At the time appointed, however, he took the crew out on the water,
and there carefully explained what he thought he had learned of
the better paddling style of the Preston High School boys.

"You certainly did see a whole lot that I didn't see," Reade admitted,
"and I believe that you saw it straight, too, Dick."

"We can certainly shoot the old canoe ahead faster, already,"
Dave murmured delightedly.

"Now, Dick, what are the improvements you thought you might have
on the Preston style?" Danny Grin asked eagerly.

"To-morrow will be time enough to try out improvements, or any
kind of frills," Prescott answered patiently. "For this afternoon
let us confine ourselves to paddling as well as the Preston High
School fellows do it. To-morrow we'll see if we can't do better
than they do."

After a little more practice it was surprising how much more easily
they took to the new style of paddling.

"Rest on your paddles for a few minutes," Dick ordered. "Get
in some deep breaths. Then I'm going to pump up your speed to
the best that you can do with the new stroke. We'll try to go
to the hotel landing flying."

When all was ready Prescott gave the word.

"Now, your best speed, and all the strength you can properly put
into the work. Go! One, two, three, four! One, two, three, four!"

Across the lake sped the canoe, Dick & Co. fully aware that they
were now traveling at a speed that had been impossible to them
that same morning.

"Stop paddling! Back water! Stop backing!"

With deft movements of his own paddle, Dick swung the canoe in
gently against the float.

Out of the boathouse near by came Bob Hartwell.

"I've been watching you fellows," he called.

"That's fair enough," Dick answered.

"You're doing some better than you did this morning," Hartwell
went on. "You've almost got our stroke."

"Almost?" repeated young Prescott, raising his eyebrows. "Haven't
we improved a good deal on your Preston High School action?"

Bob Hartwell began to laugh.

"You fellows from Gridley are always world beaters, aren't you?"
he demanded good-humoredly. "At first, I thought it was all brag
on your part, and that you fellows were suffering from enlarged
craniums complicated with bragitis. But now I begin to see that
you talk confidently just in order to convince yourselves that
you can't be beaten at anything. And I don't know that it's such
bad 'dope,' either, as the sporting writers put it."

"Let's hear you try some," urged Dick.

"Brag?" asked Hartwell. "No; I don't believe I have mastered
the idea well enough to do any really sincere bragging as yet.
However, if you ever beat us at anything except brag, then I'm
going to try to copy your form in the boasting line."

By this time Dick & Co. were dragging their canoe up onto the

"I hope Rip isn't sneaking anywhere about these grounds," muttered
Danny Grin.

"Who's Rip?" Bob Hartwell asked curiously. Then: "Oh, I beg your
pardon for being too inquisitive," as he saw Dick frown at Dalzell.

"I'm going to remain on the float, while you fellows go up into
the hotel grounds," said Tom.

"All of you go, and I'll stay and watch your canoe," suggested
Bob Hartwell. "That is, if you're willing to trust me as sentry."

"Of course we're willing," Dick responded. "But it's only right
that one of our own crowd should do such work. Are you coming
up with us, Hartwell?"

"Why, yes," Bob answered, "if I can't be of any service to you

Slowly the boys sauntered up through the walks. Then out on the
porch came Manager Wright, waving a yellow envelope.

"That's probably the answer from the Athletic Council of Gridley
High School," Dick explained, turning to Hartwell. "You don't
mind if I run on ahead and leave you, do you?"

"You may run on ahead and leave me if you're as handy at running
as you are at bragging," chuckled Bob. All of the boys in the
group were soon at the porch. Mr. Wright descended the steps
to hand Dick the envelope.

Dick tore open the envelope hurriedly.

"It's all right!" he called gleefully. "Mr. Howgate sends this

_"'Athletic Council approves and sanctions your representing Gridley
High School on the water with your Canoe Club. Wish you success!
Be careful not to risk lowering Gridley's standard in sports
through recklessness.'"_

"When do Gridley and Preston race in a regular event?" demanded
Bob Hartwell promptly.

"Mr. Wright has been most kind to us about several matters," Dick
answered. "I'd like to ask him what date will be most satisfactory."



"How can we help Mr. Wright by racing?" queried Hartwell.

"By enabling me to advertise a canoe race between high school
boys as an attraction to bring added guests to this hotel," the
manager explained for himself. "Let me see. This is Thursday.
If the race were to be held day after to-morrow---saturday---would
that give both crews time enough to get ready?"

"Saturday will suit Gridley," Dick answered promptly.

"And Preston also," guaranteed Bob Hartwell.

"At three in the afternoon on Saturday?" asked Mr. Wright.

"Yes, sir," Prescott nodded. "But will you have sufficient time
to advertise, Mr. Wright?"

"Plenty of time," replied the manager, "if I send my letters away
by tonight's mail. I will advertise in a Gridley paper, and also
in Preston and Trentville. I will send copy to papers in a few
other towns as well, and I will see to it that the railway folks
know about it. Fortunately the railway people will attend to
their own advertising, as it will give them some chance to bring
extra passengers. Now, boys, does either crew wish to draw any
expense money to help in preparing for the race?"

"Preston High School doesn't want any expense money, thank you,
sir," Bob declared quickly. "Our fellows all have abundant funds."

"The Gridley High School crew is a lot of near paupers," Dick
admitted with smiling candor.

"Then you may have-----"

"Thank you, Mr. Wright," Prescott went on. "I don't know that
we could use money if we had it, but in any case I am certain
that we couldn't accept it from the hotel management without risk
of sacrificing our standing as amateurs. We might be ruled out
as 'professionals' for accepting money for the race."

"Pardon me," broke in Mr. Wright, as a bellboy handed him a telegram.
As he read the message a smile appeared on his face.

"Perhaps this will put a different aspect on the matter," beamed
the hotel manager. "This telegram is from Mr. Howgate, and says:"

_"'Am mailing you check for forty dollars. Please allow Prescott,
Captain Gridley High School Canoe Club, to draw on you for that
amount, for boat uniforms and other expenses. Money voted by
Council from High School Athletic fund.'"_

"That's thoughtful," murmured young Prescott, wholly taken aback.
"However, I don't believe we shall need the money."

"You ought to have some sort of uniform," suggested Hartwell. "We
Preston chaps have canoe uniforms."

"We can paddle just as well without special uniforms," smiled

"But how would it look for good old Gridley High School?" hinted
Bob generously. "Remember, in appearance, as well as in performance,
you have the prestige and honor of your school to consider."

"I think you will do well to accept the money and get uniforms,"
Mr. Wright declared thoughtfully. "You will have to telegraph
for them in order to have them here by Saturday."

"I have the A.B. Lollard catalogue up in my room," suggested Hartwell
"I'll run up and get it, and you fellows can look it through and
make a quick decision."

"When you have the choice of uniforms made," said Mr. Wright,
"write your telegram and bring it to me to sign. The Lollard
people know me, and will honor my order."

Now that matters had been arranged so as to be strictly within
amateur usages, Dick, Dave and the others found that they had
a new cause for interest as they glanced through the bewildering
display of uniforms offered in the catalogue.

When the choice had been made Dick turned to young Holmes to say:

"Greg, run down to the landing to relieve Tom, and ask him to
hurry up here. We want him, too, to approve our selection or
to state his disapproval."

Reade arrived with a breathlessness that testified to his having
run all the way. Needless to say, he heartily agreed with his
chums as to the uniform selected by them.

The uniform chosen was not expensive. It consisted of sleeveless
cotton shirts, white cotton trousers, knee-length, and with a
red stripe down the sides, and thin, light boating shoes.

The total cost, per boy, was three dollars and eighty-three cents.
Certainly not an expensive canoeing uniform! There would be
some express charges to pay in addition.

"You'll have about fifteen dollars left for anything else that
you may need," suggested Mr. Wright.

"Yes; but we don't wish to spend it," Dick replied. "It is only
the thought of the Gridley High School that makes us decide on
any uniform at all."

"You couldn't have been more modest," smiled Bob Hartwell, as
he thought of the more expensive uniforms of his own crew.

The telegram was prepared. Mr. Wright signed it and sent it away.
Then he hastened to his office to prepare his own advertising

As the Gridley girls were nowhere to be seen about the grounds,
Dick did not inquire for them. Instead he and his chums hurried
back to the lake, where they put in another hour in hard practice.
Prescott kept his crew out on the lake, in about the middle,
where his low---spoken directions could not be heard from the

"Are we going to win, now?" asked Dan Dalzell.

"How can we help it, when we are to wear such dazzling uniforms?"
queried Reade.

"We've got to do a lot of hard work tomorrow, and on Saturday
morning," Dave added. "I doubt if we yet paddle anywhere near
the Preston High School performance."

"We'll work hard to-morrow," Dick agreed, "but after that we will
have to be satisfied with what we've done. Saturday morning we
don't want to do any hard work. Just enough exercise to keep
our muscles supple for the real fray of the afternoon."

"We ought to stay out longer now," urged Hazelton.

"Do you fellows think so?" asked Dick thoughtfully. "It seems
to me that we've done enough hard canoe work for to-day. We don't
want to go stale from too much training."

"But we can't---we mustn't lose the race on Saturday," almost
groaned Dave Darrin.

"Then we'll do better not to overtrain," said Dick quietly. "Unless
I hear a big kick I'm going to turn the canoe toward our camp."

There was no objection, though some of the members of Dick & Co.
frowned slightly. They had great confidence in Dick's judgment,
yet he seemed to them over cautious in training.

"I wish it were Saturday night," murmured Tom Reade, lying on
the grass full length, after they had landed.

"So that you'd know how it feels to be licked and to have your
school licked, too?" inquired Danny Grin.

"Stop that talk!" ordered Tom gruffly. "We're not going to be
beaten. We'd hardly dare show our faces again in Gridley if Preston
High School took us into camp."

"Then how will the Preston fellows feel if we distance 'em?" Greg

"Oh, it won't matter as much over at Preston," Tom replied coolly.
"Preston hasn't such a big reputation for winning athletic events
as Gridley has."

"The more I think of it," muttered Dave, "the more I marvel at
our cheek. We are barely more than freshmen. As yet we've entered
the sophomore class only by promotion. Yet we get away from home
and immediately start in to fight under the Gridley colors, just
as though we were real juniors or seniors! My, but I'll hate
myself if we get walloped Saturday afternoon!"

"We'd all dislike ourselves," smiled Dick Prescott calmly. "That
is why we haven't any thought of allowing ourselves to be beaten,
either by Preston or Trentville."

"I wonder if Trentville is as good as Preston?" asked Tom curiously.

"We can't tell until we see them work," suggested Greg.

"Who's going to eat, and when?" asked Dan. That started the crowd
to making preparations for the camp supper. It was prepared in
good time, and six healthy boys sat down to enjoy it. After that
came a period of blissful idleness. Then, more or less reluctantly,
the youngsters set about washing the dishes and setting the camp
straight in general.

"Better throw some wood on the fire; it's getting pretty dark,"
suggested Dick. "I'll get the lantern and light it."

Gr-r-r-r-r! came the voice of Towser, in the near distance.
It was followed by barks and yelps, all in the voice of Hazelton's

"What trouble has the pup gotten into?" demanded Harry, throwing
an armful of wood on the campfire, then wheeling sharply.

Gr-r-r-r! Wow-wow! Woof! sounded closer at hand, accompanied
by considerable noise in the underbrush.

"That pup's in trouble," declared Tom sagely. "Come along, fellows!
Bring the lantern, Dick!"

Six boys, headed by Dick with the lantern, went to meet the bull-dog.
They came upon Towser, growling in a most excited manner, threshing
something about him in the bushes as he came toward them.

"Hold still, boy!" commanded Harry. "What is it, old chap?"

Then he came upon the dog. In the darkness it was not easy to
make out what ailed Towser. But Prescott came closer to the dog
with the lantern.

"Towser has his foot caught in a steel trap. I'm afraid his leg
is broken," quivered Hazelton, as he threw himself on the ground
beside his pet. "Hold still, boy! Let me take it off of you."

The dog permitted himself to be held while Tom Reade pried open
the jaws of the steel fox trap, the chain to which the pup had
dragged over the ground.

"That's a queer accident," commented Greg Holmes.

"Accident?" flamed Harry. "This thing is no accident. It was
done on purpose, and I wouldn't need but one guess to name the
two-legged cur that did this!"

All of the boys understood at once that Hazelton was accusing
Fred Ripley of setting the trap.

Towser, as soon as released, limped a little, but proved that
his leg was not broken, though it had been cut in the trap.

"Woof!" he exploded angrily, as soon as he found that he could
run about on his injured leg. Then, showing his teeth, he growled
menacingly and bounded through the woods, Dick & Co. following

"Towser knows that his enemy is still near!" called Harry exultantly.
"Come on, fellows! We'll catch that sneak!"

A bull-dog's strong point is not his scent. He led the boys to
the roadway, then halted, growling, plainly at fault.

Perched up in a tree not fifty yards away, well hidden by the
foliage, were Fred Ripley and another youth. For a few moments
they listened breathlessly to the pursuit, then appeared to feel
more at their ease.

"You didn't work the trap trick quite right," whispered Fred to
the youth in overalls beside him.

"Better luck next time," whispered back the stranger. "But no
matter. I see how we can fix the canoe so that it couldn't win
a race against a mudscow!"



"There's an automobile full of Gridley folks coming up to the lake
to-day!" cried Susie Sharp excitedly as she ran to meet her girl
friends at the landing stage.

"How do you know?" asked Laura eagerly.

"Mr. Wright has just received a telephone message, asking that
arrangements be made to give them supper here. They're going
back in the evening."

"Dick will be so pleased!" cried Laura. "All of our boys will
be delighted, I imagine," replied Susie dryly.

"Of course; that is what I meant," explained Laura, flushing slightly.

"I know. You think that Dick Prescott is the only boy at Lake
Pleasant," teased Miss Sharp.

"Stop that!" begged Clara Marshall. "Don't talk nonsense."

At one end of the float lay the "Pathfinder." At the other end
lay the "Scalp-hunter," as shining as a thorough overhauling and
a coating of oil could make her.

Over the latter canoe the Gridley High School girls had posted
themselves as a sort of guard of honor.

Not that there was any suspicion that either of the canoes would
be tampered with. High school and college sports are "clean."
No underhanded tricks are resorted to by competitors for the sake
of winning.

In the boathouse near by sat the members of both crews, mingling
on the most friendly terms. With them were some of the officials
of the race.

Dotted along the water front of the hotel grounds were many little
groups of waiting spectators in chairs, on campstools or sitting
on the grass.

In the morning buoys had been set on the lake at each end of a
measured course. The course was to be a mile, around the upper
buoy and returning to the starting line. The usual rules of boat
and canoe racing were to apply as to clear water, fouling and
the like, as well as the right of way at the upper buoy in case
the rival canoes were close together.

"It's half-past two o'clock now," announced the starter, glancing
at his watch.

"At two-forty," stated the referee, "I shall order both canoes
into the water. As soon after that as each crew captain chooses
he may put his men aboard and take such warming-up work as he
may wish. At two-fifty-six the first gun will be fired, and both
crews must come promptly to the judges' boat for alignment. At
exactly three the second shot will be fired---the starting signal.
Has either captain any questions to ask?"

Neither captain had any questions.

"Let me know, time-keeper, when it is two-forty," said the referee,
going toward the door. "Both captains will be on the alert to
avoid delays."

As the referee glanced out he saw that at least four hundred spectators
were on hand. Two stage loads of men, woman, boys and girls had
already arrived from Preston. Trentville also had sent a delegation.

"What's all that yelling with 'Gridley' in it?" cried Dick, jumping
up and moving toward the door.

He was followed by his chums. They reached the float in time
to see the automobile bus from Gridley coming down to the water
front. In it were some thirty people of all ages.

"Oh, you Prescott!" yelled one irrepressible young man, through
a megaphone. "Don't you dare make fools of us this afternoon!
Gridley must win!"

"Don't worry!" Dick shouted back, waving his hand. "Gridley is
going to win!"

"Yes, sirree!" called Bob Hartwell, laughingly. "Preston High
School guarantees Gridley to be a winner---for second place!"

People now came crowding down upon the float to such an extent
that Mr. Wright had to use the services of four hotel employs
in coaxing them to keep back out of the way of the crews.

"No further admittance to the float, ladies and gentlemen!" called
the hotel manager. "Keep it clear for the use of the crews!"

"Remember, Prescott," shouted a voice, "nothing but a win!"

"That's the Gridley way," Dick called back.

"Crew captains!" shouted the referee. "Ready to launch your craft!
Time for a bit of preliminary practice."

"Take hold and launch!" cried Bob Hartwell, running forward.

Over into the water went the Preston High School canoe with a
splash. The Preston boys began to fill their places.

"Gridley, stand by to launch!" called Prescott, "Slide her in,

As graceful as a thing of life the big war canoe slipped into
the water, then lay there like a swan. Dave Darrin took hold
of the bow-line, the pretty craft resting lightly against the

"Aren't you going to take your men out and warm them up, Prescott?"
asked Referee Tyndall.

"No, sir; only for the last five minutes. We want only work enough
to start the blood to moving well."

So only Dave stood by the canoe. Hatless, the Gridley High School
boys paced up and down the float, awaiting word from Big Chief
Prescott before embarking.

"I wish Dick would put our boys to work at once," murmured Belle
uneasily. "Look what a fine showing Bob Hartwell's Preston fellows
are making out there."

In truth the Preston boys were making a splendid showing with
their brisk, steady, sturdy paddling. Many a cheer went up from
shore for them.

"Time for us, Gridley," announced Prescott, when some minutes
had passed.

Alertly his chums sprang to their posts. In a twinkling they
were seated, each with his paddle in hand, holding lightly to
the float.

"Shove off," said Dick, in a very low voice. As the "Scalp-hunter"
started for the middle of the lake a wild Gridley yell broke loose.

But none of the boys paid heed. Each had his ears alert only
for the orders of the captain.

Somehow, as the canoe moved out, each one had the same feeling.
The "Scalp-hunter" was not moving quite as it should do.

"There is at least one of you fellows who isn't doing all he should,
or just as he should," Dick murmured quietly. "Which one is it?"

There was no immediate response, though all five of the boys gave
renewed attention to their work. Still, all of them had the same
uneasy impression that there "was a screw loose somewhere."

"It's just as though we had a drag holding us back," Dick muttered

"Perhaps it's only because we're not quite warmed up yet," Tom

"No; it isn't that," Prescott responded. "I wish I knew just
what does ail us. Take the second speed, fellows, and each of
you watch his dip and recovery. Remember, it's the disciplined
paddling that wins a canoe race."

At the next speed they went forward a little faster, to be sure.
Yet there was a decided lack of speed or a pull-back somewhere.

"Don't lose your nerve, Gridley!" floated Hartwell's voice over
the water as the Preston canoe shot by at a wind-jamming speed.

"Want a tow, Gridley?" hailed someone from shore.

"Next speed, fellows! Hit it up hard," called Dick Prescott.
Perspiration from extreme nervousness broke out on his forehead.

Strive as he would, the crew captain of the Gridleys could not
shake off the gloomy depression that assailed him. Something
was wrong---radically wrong! The "Scalp-hunter" was not showing
a winning gait!

"Best speed---and work, fellows!" called Dick, as quietly as ever,
though in his voice there was a note almost of despair.

Now, indeed, the Gridley craft sped through the water. Yet all
of her crew, and many people on shore, realized that the war canoe
was not showing a prize-taking gait.

How Dick, Dave, Tom and the others worked, bending all their energies
to the task! Yet all felt the same awful doubts.

Bang! The first gun had sounded.

"Down to the line, fellows!" Dick called. "Put in all the steam
you can. I was wrong not to have warmed you up before. Get your
blood to moving. One, two, three, four! Hump it! Hump it!"

Their bodies streaming with perspiration, breath coming fast,
their faces deeply flushed, Dick & Co. bent to their paddling.
They were moving fast, yet not as fast as they should be moving
and back.

"What on earth can ail our boys?" cried Laura Bentley anxiously
as she watched.

"They're moving fast," replied Clara Marshall.

"Yet not the way they should move," Laura insisted. "There's
nothing about them of the easy, brisk form that Preston High School
shows to-day."

"Don't hint at defeat!" shuddered Belle Meade. "We might be able
to stand a Gridley defeat, but the boys couldn't."

Preston's canoe now rested on the water, ready to be aligned at
the referee's order. Gridley's craft seemed to be straining as
she neared the line.

Suddenly three sharp, short, shrill blasts sounded from the whistle
of the judges' launch.

"Prescott!" roared the referee.

"Now, what's up, I wonder?" Dick asked himself, with another
sinking feeling at heart.

The judges' boat was making fast time toward the Gridley High
School entry.



"Captain Prescott, what is wrong with your boat?" demanded Referee
Tyndall, as the judges' launch stole up close.

"Something seems to be wrong with us, I'll admit, sir," Dick made
answer. "I'll be greatly obliged to you, sir, if you'll tell me
what it is.

"What are you towing?" asked the referee bluntly.

"Towing?" repeated Dick in bewilderment.

"That's what I asked," repeated the referee. "When you came down
on this last spurt I'm sure that at one moment I saw a length
of line rise above the water astern of you. Then, further back,
I saw something else jerked to the surface."

"Why, we can't be towing anything," Dick insisted. "You saw our
canoe launched."

"Late start, if you don't line the canoes up at once, referee,"
warned the time-keeper.

But Mr. Tyndall had his own views.

"The starting time will be delayed," he announced sharply. "Captain
Prescott, take your canoe to the landing stage."

"All right, sir."

"Captain Hartwell you will follow."

"Very good, sir."

Going in to the landing stage Dick gave his crew an easy pace,
yet they were soon alongside the float.

"Now, take your canoe out of water, Gridley," commanded the referee,
stepping ashore from the launch. "I want a look at the craft."

Dick & Co. lifted the war canoe to the float bow first. Just
as the stern cleared the water a cry went up from scores of throats.

For the referee had grasped a line made fast to the bottom of
the canoe near the stern.

Hauling on that line he brought in several yards of it---then,
at the outer end of the line came a light blanket, dripping.
Through the middle of the blanket the end of the line had been

Dick Prescott gasped. His chums rubbed their eyes. Bob Hartwell,
who had landed, looked on in utter consternation.

"For the love of decency!" gasped Referee Tyndall. "Who rigged
on a drag like that."

The blanket, towing below the surface, was a drag that could be
depended upon, perhaps, to delay the canoe at least one length
in every dozen that her crew could put her through the water.

"None of our fellows did that trick," Dick declared hotly. "You
saw us launch our canoe, Mr. Referee, and she was clear when
we launched her."

"I naturally wouldn't suspect the Gridley crew of rigging a drag
on the Gridley canoe," remarked the referee dryly, as he followed
the line back to the canoe. "See! Some scoundrel managed to
twist a screw-eye into one of your frame timbers underneath.
The line is made fast to the screw-eye. Captain Prescott, that
could have been done by someone hidden under this float while
your craft lay alongside. He could bring his mouth above water,
under the timbers of this float. Then, with his hand and arm
hidden under water the same rascal could easily reach out and
fasten in the screw-eye."

"Prescott," gasped Bob Hartwell, in a disgusted voice, "I hope
you don't believe that any of our fellows, or their friends, could
be guilty of such contemptible work!"

"Hartwell," Dick answered promptly, resting a hand on the arm
of the Preston High School boy, "I am offended that you should
believe us capable of suspecting Preston High School of anything
as mean as this. Of course we don't suspect Preston High School!"

The referee himself now twisted the screw-eye out of its bed in
the canoe frame. Then he gathered up the wet cord and blanket
and hurled the whole mass shoreward.

"I'd pay twenty-five dollars out of my own pocket," the race official
declared hotly, "for proof against the scoundrel who tried to
spoil clean sport in this manner!"

Nearly all of the crowd of spectators had now surged down close
to the float.

"I think we could make a pretty good guess at who is behind this
contemptible business," snarled Danny Grin, his face, for once,
darkened by a threatening frown.

"Who did it?" challenged Referee Tyndall. Dalzell opened his
mouth, but Prescott broke in sharply with the command:

"Be silent, Dan! Don't mention a name when you haven't proof."

"Can it possibly be anyone from Preston?" asked Hartwell anxiously.
"If it is, I beg you, Dalzell, to let me have the name---privately,
if need be. I'd spend the summer running down this thing."

"I know whom Dalzell has in mind, Hartwell," Dick rejoined. "It's
no one from within a good many miles of Preston, either. But
we have no right to make accusation without an iota of proof."

"Then you decline to allow the name to be furnished?" blurted
the referee.

"I refuse, sir, for the same reason that you would," Dick answered
coolly. "Only a coward, a knave or a fool will accuse another
person without some reasonable proof to offer. No great harm
has been done, anyway. The drag was found in time."

"Get your canoe out, Hartwell," ordered Mr. Tyndall. "This time,
when we launch them, we'll make sure that both craft are in good

When the "Pathfinder" was hauled up on the float she was found
to be free from any evidences of trickery.

"Now, launch, and we'll watch each canoe until it puts off," announced
Mr. Tyndall. "Captain Prescott, will ten minutes be enough for
you before the sounding of the first gun?"

"Yes, sir."

"I'd rather you gave Gridley plenty of time, sir," urged Bob Hartwell.
"If we can't win from Gridley High School fairly, we don't want
to win at all."

"First gun, then, at three-twenty-eight," called Mr. Tyndall.
"Second gun at three-thirty."

Slowly the "Pathfinder" followed the "Scalp-hunter" out into midlake.

"How does your craft go now, Gridley?" hailed the big chief from

"She goes like a canoe now," Dick called back joyously.

Then he set his chums to easy paddling. All six of Dick & Co.
felt a thrill of joy at realizing the difference in the canoe's

"We'll win, all right," predicted Prescott joyously.

"If we don't, we'll make motions that look like putting up a hard
fight, anyway," Tom answered him.

"I wish I had my foot on the neck of the cur that rigged the drag!"
muttered Darrin vindictively.

"I don't," Dick answered quietly. "The fellow who rigged the
drag probably wasn't the same fellow who planned the scheme."

"I'm going to provoke a fight with a certain party, one of these
days, anyway," threatened Dave, his brow dark with anger.

"Forget it now," Dick urged. "The fellow whose mind is ruled
by an angry passion isn't in the best form for athletic work.
Banish all unpleasant thoughts, all of you fellows."

By degrees the big chief from Gridley warmed up his braves in
the war canoe. He had them going in earnest, at nearly their
best speed, just as the first gun was fired---a pistol in the
hand of the starter on board the judges' boat.

"We'll go over there in our best style," Prescott called. "Try
to give the people on shore something worth looking at---they've
waited long enough to see something! One, two, three, four!
One, two, three, four!"

In absolute precision the Gridley High School boys moved at their
work, their swift, deft, strong strokes sending the birch bark
craft darting over the water in a fashion that brought a cheer
from shore.

"Deep breathing just as soon as we're at rest at the line," Dick
warned his chums. "At the start try to make the first breath
carry you for four strokes!"

In a short time the referee had the canoes with their noses at
the line, and at an interval from each other satisfactory to him.

"Thirty seconds to the start!" called the time-keeper. "Twenty

In the Gridley canoe each boy sat bent slightly forward, his paddle
raised at the proper position.

"Ten seconds!" called the starter. Then-----

Bang! Away shot the canoes. Over all other sounds could be heard
Dick's low-toned:

"One, two, three, four! One, two, three, four!"

The Preston boys heard him, and Dick noted, with amusement, that
they unconsciously adapted their own stroke to his count.

"Cut that numeral business," grunted Bob Hartwell, across the
water. "You're queering our fellows."

"They mustn't listen to our signals," Dick laughed back. "One,
two, three, four!"

"Come on, fellows; get ahead of that Gridley crowd, where we can't
hear 'em," urged Hartwell. "Hanky pank!"

At that the Preston canoe managed to get a slight lead. Dick
did not vary his count, however. He had no objection to being
led slightly to the upper buoy.

Soon, however, Preston High School made the distance two lengths.
Dick began to count a bit faster.

"Put a little more steam on, fellows," he urged.

So the gap was closed up somewhat. But Hartwell, glancing back,

"Mumbleby hoptop!"

Whatever that signal meant the Preston boys were now paddling
a stronger and slightly swifter stroke. Dick, too, increased
the stroke.

Despite it all, however, Preston was now securing more and more
of a lead by almost imperceptible gains. Dave Darrin, in the
bow seat of the war canoe, eyed the water interval between the
two canoes with a frowning glance.


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