The High School Boys' Fishing Trip
H. Irving Hancock
Part 1 out of 4
E-text prepared by Jim Ludwig
The High School Boys Fishing Trip
Dick & Co. in the Wilderness
By H. Irving Hancock
I. Tom Reade has a "Brand-New One"
II. Dodge and Bayless Hear Something
III. Dick & Co. Driven Up a Tree
IV. Stalling the Red Smattach
V. Bert Dodge Hears the Battle Cry
VI. Paid in Full---To Date
VII. The Box That Set Them Guessing
VIII. The Man With the Haunting Face
IX. The Start of a Bad Night
X. Powder Mills, or Just What!
XI. In a Fever "To Find Out"
XII. Dick Makes a Find
XIII. Perhaps Ten Thousand Years Old
XIV. More Mystery in the Air
XV. The Scream That Started a Race
XVI. The Camp Invaded and Captured
XVII. Dick Makes Fish Talk
XVIII. A Kettle of Hot Water for Someone
XIX. Bert Dodge Hears Frightful News
XX. A Frenzied Ride to Safety
XXI. Real News and "Punk Heroes"
XXII. Tom Tells the Big Secret
XXIII. "Four of Us are Pin-Heads!"
TOM READE HAS A "BRAND-NEW ONE"
"Warm night," observed Tom Reade, as he paused not far from the
street corner to wipe his perspiring face and neck with his handkerchief.
"Middling warm," admitted Timmy Finbrink.
Yet the heat couldn't have made him extremely uncomfortable, for
Tom Reade, amiable and budding senior in the Gridley High School,
smiled good naturedly as he stood surveying as much as he could
make out of the face of Timmy Finbrink in that dark stretch of
Timmy was merely a prospective freshman, having been graduated
a few days before from the North Grammar School in Gridley.
Tom, himself, had been graduated, three years before, from the
fine old Central Grammar, whence, in his estimation, all the "regular"
boys came. As a North Grammar boy, Timmy was to be regarded only
with easygoing indifference. Yet a tale of woe quickly made Tom
Reade his young fellow citizen's instant ally.
"Aren't you out pretty late, Timmy, for a boy who isn't even a
regular high school freshman as yet?" inquired Reade, with another
smile. "It's almost nine-thirty, you know."
"Don't I know?" wailed Timmy Finbrink, with something of a shiver.
"It's getting later every minute, too, and I'm due for a trouncing
when I do go in, so what's the odds?"
"Who's going to give you that trouncing?" Tom demanded.
"My father," replied Timmy Finbrink.
"What have you been doing?"
"Pop told me to be upstairs and in bed by nine o'clock, without
fail," Timmy explained. "I came along just five minutes ago,
and found that pop has the house planted for me. I can't slip
in without his knowing it."
"Oho! So your father has the other members of the family stationed
where they can see you, whichever way you go into the house?"
asked Reade, with genuine interest in the unfortunate Timmy.
"Nope," explained Timmy, with another shiver. "Mother and sister
are away visiting, and pop is all alone in the house."
"But he can't watch both the front and back doors at the same
time," Reade suggested hopefully.
"Can't he do just that, though?" sputtered Timmy. "I've been
scouting on tip-toe around the house to get the lay of the land.
Pop is smoking his pipe, and has placed his chair so that he
can see both the back and the front doors, for he has the room
doors open right through. There isn't a ghost of a show to get
in without being seen---and pop has the strap on a chair beside
him!" finished Timmy, with an anticipatory shiver.
"Timmy, you're a fearfully slow boy," Tom drawled.
"What do you mean?"
"I can fix it so you can get into the house while your father
is doing something else," Tom declared.
"Can you? How? Ring the front door bell, while I slip in at
the back door?"
"Nothing as stale as that," scoffed Tom Reade. "That wouldn't
call for any brains, you see. Come along and we'll look over
the lay of the land. Cheer up, Timmy! You'll have plenty of
chance to slip into the house, get upstairs, undressed and be
in bed before your father has time to get over the surprise that's
coming to him."
"What are you going to-----" Timmy began breathlessly, but Tom
interrupted him with:
"Keep quiet, and be ready to follow orders fast."
As they gained the front gate of the Finbrink yard Tom's keen
eyes noted a brick lying on the grass. As that was just what
he wanted, he pounced upon it.
"Now, Timmy, do you know where you can find a fairly good-sized
bottle---without going into the house or taking the risk of being
seen by your father?"
"Yes; there's one back of the house, with the ashes," Timmy answered
"Go and get it, and don't make any noise."
Timmy disappeared in the darkness beyond, but soon returned carrying
an empty quart bottle.
"Good enough!" whispered Reade, eyeing the bottle with cordial
interest. Then he noiselessly approached the house, laying the
brick on the grass under one of the front windows.
"Now, Timmy, you slip around to the back of the house," whispered
the young schemer. "Just as soon as you hear a crash you watch
your swiftest chance to slip into the house and upstairs to bed.
"Sure! What you-----"
"Don't stop to ask questions. Get on your mark and look out for
your own best interests!"
Rejoicing in the possession of such a valuable ally as Tom Reade,
Timmy vanished in the darkness. Tom Reade waited until he judged
that the youngster must be in position near the back door. Now
Tom gripped the bottle in his left hand, crouching over the brick.
With his felt hat in his right hand, Tom reached up, hitting a
window pane smartly with the hat. At the same instant he brought
the bottle crashing down over the brick.
As the bottle smashed against the brick Mr. Finbrink, in the dining
room of the house, jumped up so quickly that he dropped his pipe.
"Some young rascal has smashed a front window!" he gasped, as
he bolted into the parlor.
That was just what the noise had sounded like, and Tom Reade had
intended that it should do so.
"I'll catch the young scamp!" gasped Mr. Finbrink, making a rush
for the front door, which he pulled open.
Pausing an instant, he heard the sound of running feet in the
"The young scoundrel went west, and he has a good start," grunted
Mr. Finbrink, as he gave chase in that direction. "Hang it, I
don't believe I can catch him!"
That guess proved well founded. After running a short distance
Mr. Finbrink halted. He had not caught sight of the fugitive,
nor could he now hear the running steps.
"I wonder how many panes of glass the young scamp broke?" muttered
the irate Mr. Finbrink.
Retracing his steps quickly, Mr. Finbrink halted in front of his
house, scanning the windows. Not a crack in a window pane could
he discern, which was not remarkable, in view of the fact that
no panes of glass had been broken.
"I need a lantern," Mr. Finbrink said to himself, and went inside
the house. Soon afterwards he came out with a lighted lantern,
and began his inspection. Three windows showed no sign of damage.
Nor did the fourth. Then Mr. Finbrink chanced to glance down
at the ground. There rested the brick, the fragments of the broken
bottle lying around it.
"Say, what's that? What's that?" ejaculated Mr. Finbrink, much
puzzled. Soon, however, he began to see light on the riddle.
His lips parted in a grin; the grin became a chuckle.
"Humph! That goes ahead of anything I ever had the brains to
think up when I was a boy," laughed the man. "That's a good one!
It sounded for all the world as though someone had smashed one
of my windows with a brick-bat. Ha, ha, ha! That's an all right
one! I'd be willing to shake hands with the boy who put up that
joke on me. How about my own Timmy, I wonder? No; Timmy wouldn't
be smart enough for this one---but he may have smart friends.
I'll look up that young hopeful of mine!"
With that purpose in view, the lantern still in his hand, Mr.
Finbrink passed into the house and then up the back stairs. On
the next floor he pushed open the door of a room, holding the
lantern high as he scanned the bed.
There lay Master Timmy, covered only with a sheet, his head sunk
in the depths of a pillow, eyes tightly closed, and breathing
with almost mechanical rhythm.
"Oh, you're asleep, aren't you?" demanded his father, in a low,
ironical voice. "How long have you been asleep, Tim?"
But Timmy's only answer was the beginning of a snore.
"Are you very tired, Timmy?" continued his father craftily.
Still no answer.
Mr. Finbrink held the lantern so that the rays shone fully against
the boy's closed eyelids. Any youngster genuinely asleep would
have opened his eyes instantly, and Mr. Finbrink knew it. But
Timmy began to snore in earnest.
"I'm glad you sleep so soundly," went on Mr. Finbrink. "It shows,
boy, what a clear conscience you have! No guile in your heart!
But I wish you'd wake up and tell me who broke the bottle against
the brick and made me sprint down the street."
Still young Master Timmy snored.
"In your sleeve you're laughing, to think how you fooled your
father, aren't you?" murmured Mr. Finbrink. "Well, it was a good
joke, and I admit it, young man, so I'm not going to trounce you
this time. But I'd be glad if you'd wake up and tell me who put
you up to that game."
Master Timmy, however, was disobliging enough to slumber on.
"All right, then," nodded the father. "I say again, it was a
good joke. Good night!"
Only a little louder snore served as the son's answer. Mr. Finbrink
went out, closed the door and his footsteps sounded down the hallway.
"Whew!" gasped Master Timmy, opening his eyes presently. "That
was a mighty narrow squeak! But I got out of it this time.
That Tom Reade is a sure enough wonder!"
Mr. Finbrink, however, had slipped back, catfooted, and was now
outside the door, where he could hear the barely audible mutterings
of his son and heir.
"So it was Tom Reade, eh?" murmured Mr. Finbrink, as he started
for the stairs in earnest this time. "I might have guessed it
was Tom Reade. He has genius enough for even greater things than
that. But Timmy has certainly helped, at least, to earn a right
not to be strapped this time." Then the father returned to his
chair downstairs, to resume his interrupted smoke. Within the
next half hour Mr. Finbrink chuckled many a time over the remembrance
of the pranks of his boyhood days.
"But we had no Tom Reade in _our_ crowd in those good old days,"
he repeated to himself several times. "If we had had a Tom Reade
among us, I think we would have beaten any crowd of boys of to-day!"
Meanwhile Tom's love of mischief was speeding him into other experiences
ere he reached his bed that night. Some of the consequences of
his mischievous prank were to be immediate, others more remote.
"Humph! But that did sound just like a window breaking," Tom
chuckled as he slowed down to a walk. "Whee! I'd like to show
that one to Dick Prescott. I wonder if he is up yet?"
Whereupon Tom walked briskly over to the side street, just off
Main Street, whereon stood the book store of Prescott, Senior,
with the Prescotts' living rooms overhead.
"Good evening, Mr. Prescott. Good evening, Mrs. Prescott," was
Tom's greeting as he walked into the store. "Is Dick up yet?"
"He went upstairs not more than two minutes ago," Mrs. Prescott
replied. "He can't be asleep yet. Shall I call upstairs to see?"
"On second thought, perhaps not," Tom replied. "Thank you, just
as much. But I've something new that I'd like to show Dick.
Do you mind if I slip out around the back of the store and try
a new trick on him? It won't hurt anyone; there'll be a crash
of glass, but it won't break any good glass---merely a bottle."
"I think that perhaps our son needs a little enlivening," smiled
"Thank you," answered Tom. "You won't be startled, will you,
"I don't see how I can possibly be startled, when I've been so
kindly warned," laughed Mrs. Prescott.
Then, as Reade darted from the store, Mrs. Prescott added, to
"I think the back of Tom Reade's head contains more pranks than
that of any other boy I ever knew."
"I don't imagine our own son is any too far behind him," replied
Mr. Prescott dryly.
A minute or two passed. Then there sounded under one of the store's
rear windows a most realistic crash of glass. With it mingled
another sound, not so easy to determine, followed by a loud yell
and the noise of running feet. Now, out in the street the cry
"There he goes! Get him!"
"Throw him down and hold him!" yelled another voice.
"Mercy!" gasped Mrs. Prescott.
"Don't be alarmed, my dear," smiled Mr. Prescott. "It's only
the natural aftermath of Tom Reade's newest startler."
Dick Prescott, after yawning twice, and before starting to disrobe,
had decided that his adjustable screen was not fixed in the window
of his bedroom as securely as it should be. In endeavoring to
fix it he found it necessary to remove the screen from the window.
Hardly had he done so when, gazing down into the darkness, he
saw a dimly visible figure flitting over the ground below.
"Who's that?" murmured Dick to himself. "What's up?"
Whoever the prowler was, he was flitting over to the ash cans
set out by a neighbor. One can contained ashes only, the other
contained various kinds of rubbish. It took the prowler but a
moment to find an empty bottle in the second can. Then he came
straight over toward the rear window of the store, which was
situated directly under Dick's own window.
"There's some mischief afloat," murmured Dick, unable to recognize
his chum in the darkness. "I can't get down in time to catch
him, but I'll mark him so that I'll know him when I overtake him."
Tip-toeing over to his washstand, Dick quickly picked up the water
pitcher. He returned to his window just as Tom crouched under
the store window with a bottle in his left hand and his felt hat
in his right.
Then Tom struck the harmless blow against the window, at the same
time breaking the bottle.
"Gracious!" gasped Dick, believing that the store window had been
A yell from Tom arose as the contents of the pitcher deluged him.
Reade was up and away like a shot, reaching the street only to
cause a hue and cry to be started after him as he ran.
So swiftly had Tom moved, that by the time Dick Prescott reached
the street both pursuers and pursued were a block away and going
fast. Dick was about to join the chase when his father called
"Dick! Dick! Come back here!"
"Yes, sir," replied young Prescott, halting, wheeling, then springing
back. "But that scoundrel smashed the rear store window!"
"No, he didn't," laughed Mr. Prescott. "That was Tom Reade, and
he was playing a trick on you---with our permission. Now he's
being chased. Do you want to go out and aid that crowd in capturing
"Of course I don't, sir," replied Dick, who knew full well that
such a sturdy high school athlete as Tom Reade was in very little
danger of being caught by any citizen runners to be found on the
street at that time of night. "But what did Tom do, Dad?"
"I don't just know," admitted the bookseller. "Reade told us
there would be a smash of glass, but that it would be harmless.
He warned your mother, Dick, so that she wouldn't he startled
when it came. Tom did the right thing in warning your mother.
I wish all boys could realize that only cowards and fools go
about frightening women."
"But something else happened," insisted Mrs. Prescott. "I wonder
what it was?"
"Suppose we take a lantern and go out in the back yard and see,"
While Dick was finding the lantern the elder Prescott closed the
front of the store, also drawing down the shades for the night.
Dick's mother followed him into the rear yard. The fragments
of the bottle under one of the store windows told the whole story
to one as experienced in jokes as Dick Prescott.
"But see how wet the ground is," Mrs. Prescott remarked after
Dick had explained the trick.
"That was because I didn't recognize the joker, and emptied the
contents of my water pitcher on him just as he broke the bottle,"
Dick smiled. "Poor old Tom. That was really a shame!"
"But why did you pour the water on him?" asked Mrs. Prescott.
"Because I felt sure that the prowler was up to some mischief,
and I wanted to mark him for identification, mother," Dick explained.
"If we had found a fellow on the street looking as though he
had just come out of the river, we'd have known our man, wouldn't
we? Poor Tom! I don't blame him for letting out that yell when
that drenching splash hit him."
"I hope he didn't get caught by the men who started after him,"
sighed Mrs. Prescott.
"Don't worry about Tom, mother," urged Dick. "No one about here
could catch him, unless he happened to be a member of the Gridley
High School Eleven!"
But was it true that Tom Reade had escaped without disaster?
That remained to be seen.
DODGE AND BAYLISS HEAR SOMETHING
"If we start to-morrow we must hustle all day long to-day," declared
"That's true," agreed Greg Holmes, as the two boys stood on a
side street not far from Main Street in Gridley.
"I wish the rest of the fellows would hurry along," Dave went
"At all events, I wish Dick would hurry up, as he has charge of
the arrangements," Greg made answer. "Oh, my! But I'm getting
anxious to see the fish nibble."
"I thought you didn't care especially about fishing," Dave murmured,
regarding his friend.
"Probably, as far as mere fishing goes, I don't care so very much,"
young Holmes assented. "But when fishing means weeks of outdoor
life, free from the noise and dust of the town---then I'm simply
wild about fishing as an excuse for getting away. Probably at
the end of our fun we'll all be so sick of fish, from having had
to eat so much of it, that any one of us will run away and hide
when we suspect that the home folks are planning to send us on
errands to a fish store. It would be all the same to me if we
were going clamming, or hunting, or on any other kind of expedition,
as long as it brought us to life under canvas and sleeping in
the very place where pure, fresh air is made. Here comes Dick
Young Prescott came swiftly up to his friends.
"Well, I think I've gotten about everything fixed," Dick announced.
"Tell us all the plans," urged Greg eagerly.
"What's the matter with waiting until all the other fellows show
up?" Prescott inquired. "That will save me from having to go
twice over the same ground. While we're waiting I'll tell you
Tom Reade's latest one."
"A funny trick?" queried Greg.
"Needless question!" rebuked Dave Darrin. "Tell us about the
latest one, Dick."
Thereupon the leader of Dick & Co. told of Tom's scheme for making
people think one of their windows broken.
"Did it sound real?" Dave demanded.
"Did it?" inquired Dick. "It fooled me. I thought surely that
our rear store window had been smashed to pieces. The sound is
as natural as any joker could wish. But I haven't told you the
other half of the story."
Thereupon Dick told about the pitcher of water dumped so unerringly
on Tom, and of Reade's flight with the crowd pursuing him.
"I'd like to have been near enough to hear just what Tom said
when the water struck him," laughed Darrin.
"Did the people running after him catch him?" asked Greg.
"I don't believe so," Dick Prescott smiled. "When Tom gets under
way in earnest, his middle name, as you may have observed, is
Double Speed---and then a bit more."
"Who's talking about me?" gruffly demanded Reade, coming up behind
the group. "Dick, you old rascal! That was a mean trick you
played upon me when you hurled that water down on me last night!
But say, didn't it sound just like a three dollar pane of glass
going to pieces?"
"It certainly did," laughed Prescott. "And by the way, Tom, did
the water, when it struck, make you think at all about what you've
read of Niagara Falls?"
"Hang you!" grumbled Tom, shaking a fist. "Why did you pour the
wet stuff on me like that?"
"Because I was fooled myself," Dick promptly rejoined. "I thought
some rascal was plotting mischief to the store. I wanted to mark
that rascal with a suit of wet clothes, then run down in the street
and collar him with his wet clothes on as a marker. But Dad called
me back, and so I missed you. I heard the crowd after you, however.
Did you get caught, Tom?"
Reade's answer was something of a growl.
"What happened between you and the crowd?" pressed Darrin, scenting
some news from Reade's mysterious, half-sulky manner.
"Never you mind," Tom growled.
"Don't tell us," Dick urged. "We can guess a few things, anyway.
You've a bruised spot over your left cheek bone that looks like
the mark of a punch on the face."
"Go ahead and tell us what happened, Tom," urged Greg.
Reade only scowled.
"Anyway, you must have avenged yourself," Dick smiled. "Just
look at the way the knuckles of your right hand are skinned.
You certainly hit someone hard."
Tom flushed quickly as he glanced at the knuckles in question,
then thrust his right hand into his pocket with an air of indifference.
"Be a good fellow and tell us the finish of the adventure," begged
"Certainly," grinned Reade. "The end of my adventure was-----"
"Yes, yes!" pressed Greg, as Tom hesitated.
"The end of the adventure came," Tom continued maliciously, "when
I turned out the gas in my little room and hopped into bed. I
slept like a top, thank you."
"Now, now, now!" Dick warned him. "Thomas, you're hiding something
"If I am, it's my own business, and I've a right to hide it,"
retorted Tom, smiling once more, though still uncommunicative.
At this moment Hazelton and Dan Dalzell, otherwise known as Danny
Grin, came up. They, too, had to hear all about the bottle-breaking
"How did you ever come to think of a thing like that, Tom?" asked
"I thought of it before I tried it out at Dick's," Reade rejoined,
and explained how he had helped Timmy Finbrink out of a scrape.
"What did you say the fellow's name is, Tom?" Dick asked.
"His name is Timmy Finbrink," Reade rejoined, "and he looks the
part. Just one glance at Timmy, and you know that he's all that
the name implies."
Then followed, for the benefit of the two latest arrivals, the
story of Tom's attempt in the rear of the Prescott bookstore.
Harry and Dalzell duly admired the bruise on Tom's face.
"Now, be a gentleman, Tom," urged Harry mischievously, "and let
us have a good, satisfying look at your skinned knuckles."
"Umph!" grunted Reade.
"Or, at least," pursued Harry relentlessly, "tell us just what
it was into which you ran to get such a mark on your face."
"Umph!" retorted Reade once more. "Danny, in the name of mercy,
take that grin of yours around the corner and lose it!"
"I'll try," promised Dan, "provided you'll tell us who caught
you last night, and why he punched your face."
But Tom, knowing that he had them all wild with curiosity, refused
to reveal the secret.
"Now, let's get back to the big fishing trip," begged Greg Holmes.
"Dick, what's the plan?"
"We start to-morrow," Prescott rejoined.
"Humph!" grunted Holmes. "We knew that all along. What we want
are the particulars in detail."
"In the next place, then," Dick replied, "we shall devote a good
deal of our time, while away, to the pleasurable excitement of
"Perhaps you won't be able to get away," Greg retorted, "if you
go on stringing us in that fashion. I warn you that we're becoming
"That's right," nodded Dave Darrin. "Get down to actual particulars,
"Well, then," Prescott resumed, "we meet at the same old grocery
store in the morning. There we stock up with food."
"Are we going to hire a horse and wagon for transporting our tent,
cots, bedding and food?" Dan asked.
"No," Dick replied. "I've been thinking that over, and the funds
won't stand it. So I've rented a push cart for two dollars.
We can keep it as long as we need it. The tent, folding cots,
blankets, pillows and kitchen utensils will go on the cart."
"Do we have to push that cart?" demanded Danny Grin, looking displeased.
"We do, if we want the cart to go along with us," Dick admitted.
Danny Grin groaned dismally as he remarked:
"That one detail of the arrangements just about spoils all the
pleasure of the trip, then."
"No, it won't," Dick reported promptly. "I've looked into that.
The wheels are well greased---the axles, I mean. I've loaded
the cart with more weight than we shall put on it, and it pushes
along very easily. If we come to a bad stretch of road, then
two fellows can manage the cart at a time. The scheme saves us
a lot of expense, fellows."
"Will all the food go on the cart, tool" asked Dave.
"Each one of us can carry some of the food," Dick replied.
Then his eye, roving from face to face, took in the fact that
his chums were not impressed with the proposed method of
"Cheer up, fellows," he begged. "You'll find that it will be
pretty easy, after all."
"I'd rather believe you, Dick, than have it proved to me," was
Tom Reade's dejected answer. "I thought we were going away for
pleasure and rest, but I suppose we can work our way if we have to."
None of these high school boys are strangers to our readers.
Everyone remembers the first really public appearance of Dick
& Co., as set forth in the first volume of the "_Grammar School
Boys Series_." Then we met them again in the first volume of
the "_High School Boys Series_," entitled, "_The High School Freshmen_."
That stormy first year of high school life was one that Dick
& Co. could never forget. In the second volume, "_The High School
Pitcher_," we found Dick & Co. actively engaged in athletics,
though in their sophomore year they did not attempt to make the
eleven, but waited until the spring to try for the baseball nine.
In the third volume, "_The High School Left End_," Dick & Co.
were shown in their struggles to make the eleven, against some
clever candidates, and also in the face of bitter opposition from
a certain clique of high school boys who considered themselves
to be of better social standing than Dick and his chosen comrades.
In the "_High School Boys' Vacation Series_" our readers have
followed Dick & Co. through their summer pleasures and sports.
In the first volume of this present series, "_The High School
Boys' Canoe Club_," the adventures are described that fell to
the lot of Prescott, Darrin, Reade and the others in the summer
following their freshman high school year. In the second volume,
"_The High School Boys In Summer Camp_," our readers found an
absorbing narrative of the startling doings of Dick & Co. in the
summer following their sophomore year. And now, in this present
volume, we at last come upon our young friends at the beginning
of their vacation season after the completion of their junior
year, with its football victories. Now they are budding seniors,
ready to enter the final, graduating class of Gridley High School
in the coming autumn.
As Dick looked into the faces of his chums he laughed.
"So you don't like the push-cart idea, eh?" he demanded. "All
right; if you fellows would rather loaf than eat-----"
"We can hire a horse, and still have money enough left to eat,"
protested Tom. "See here, Dick, although fishing is great fun
while it lasts, we shan't be out all summer on a fishing trip.
We don't need such a lot of money for, say, only a two or three
"Yes; I think two or three weeks will see us in from our fishing
trip," Prescott admitted. "But if we do come back early, fellows,
then we shall need some other kind of a trip for August, won't we?"
"Say, that's right!" cried Dave Darrin, his eyes glistening.
"Fellows, we are troubled with wooden heads. While we've been
thinking of nothing but a fishing trip in July, Dick has actually
had the brains to figure out that we might like to go away on
some other kind of outing in August."
"Such an idea did occur to me," replied Dick.
"What's the scheme for August, Dick?" demanded Greg eagerly.
"Out with it!" insisted Hazelton.
Dick shook his head.
"Now, don't be mean," insisted Danny Grin. "Dick, you owe it
to us, almost, to let us get a little look at the machinery that's
moving in the back of your head."
"I haven't an August plan---at least, not one that is clear enough
for me to submit it and put it to vote before you," Dick went
on. "Fellows, let's set about this present fishing trip, for
this month, and then, while we're away, talk up the proper scheme
for August. Whatever we do in the way of fun, next month, will
be sure to be better planned if we wait a little before talking
"All right, then," agreed Tom Reade with a sigh. "But I warn
you, Dick, and all you fellows, that if Prescott is too stingy
with news about his August plan, I shall put forth one of my own."
"What's your August plan, Tom?" demanded Greg.
"I'm not going to tell you---yet," Reade rejoined, shaking his
"There are a lot of things that you're not telling us," Dave reminded
him. "Just for one little thing, you're not telling us what happened
to you last night after you let a lot of strange men chase you
out of Dick's street."
"They didn't chase me off the street!" declared Tom indignantly.
"Then what did happen?" quizzed Danny Grin.
"They all tried to beat me in a foot race," Tom declared, "and
I put it all over them!"
"Yet someone must have passed you, or got in front of you," teased
Greg. "Look at the bruise on your face, and your knuckles."
"Oh, that happened when-----" began Tom, then paused abruptly.
"Yes, yes," pressed Danny Grin. "Tell us about it."
"All right," agreed Tom, "I will. You see, when I got home and
into bed, I had a sort of nightmare. Just suppose, for instance,
that the mark on my face is where the nightmare kicked me and
that I skinned my knuckles against the bedstead when I tried to
jump over the bed to return the nightmare's kick."
"Tom Reade," called Dave sternly, "hold up your right hand!"
"Look out, Darry! You're not going to ask Tom to swear to the
truth of a yarn like that, are you?" asked Dick anxiously.
"You may let your hand down again, young man," decided Dave, and
Tom, as his hand reached his side, heaved a sigh expressive of
"Now, have you fellows got your tackle all ready?" Dick went on.
"Remember the different things in the way of tackle that each
of us was to bring."
The others assured their leader that the matter of tackle had
been attended to.
"Then your bedding and your clothing are the only other matters
to be considered," Dick went on, "as we're to travel light."
"As we don't take a horse along," suggested Tom, "then I take
it that we are not going to carry any planking for a tent floor."
"We can't very well do that," Dick answered him. "Fellows, the
real thing for us to do, on this trip, is to learn how to move
fast and light. We must learn how to do without many things and
yet have just as good a time."
"I think that's good sense," murmured Dave. "At the same time,
I'll admit, at first blush, that I don't care particularly for
the motion of the push cart. That means a lot of extra work for
us, if we change camping sites often."
"Then let's put it to a vote whether to hire a horse and wagon,
and give up the idea of an August trip," proposed Dick.
"No need whatever of taking any vote," broke in Tom. "All of
us want that August trip, too, and we know that we haven't purses
as big as a bank's vault."
And that opinion prevailed, without dissent.
"Greg's house ought to be the best place to keep the push cart
over night," Dick continued. "I'll have the cart there at four
this afternoon. Suppose you fellows meet us there, with your
bedding and clothing for the trip?"
This also was agreed upon.
While the boys stood there chatting not one of them suspected
how eagerly they were being watched by two pairs of eyes.
On the same side of the street, only a door below them, was an
unrented cottage. One of the windows of this cottage, upstairs,
was open, though closed blinds concealed the fact. Between these
blinds peered two young men.
That cottage was the property of Mr. Dodge, vice-president of
one of Gridley's banks.
Readers of "_The High School Left End_" have good reason to remember
the banker's son, Bert Dodge. He and his friend, Bayliss, also
the scion of a wealthy family, had been members of the notorious
"sorehead" group in the last year's football squad at Gridley
As our readers well remember, Dodge and Bayliss had carried their
opposition to Dick & Co. to such dishonorable extent that they
had been given the "silence" by the boys and girls attending the
Gridley High School.
Dodge and Bayliss had thereupon left home to attend a private
school, and they had gone away from Gridley with bitter hatred
of Dick & Co. rankling in their hearts.
Just at this present moment Dodge and Bayliss were back in the
home town. Deeply and properly humiliated by the contempt with
which they were regarded in Gridley, these two "soreheads" had
concealed from all but members of their families the fact that
they were in town.
Bert had secured from his father the keys of the cottage. Two
cots had been placed in a front room. Late the night before
Dodge had brought food supplies to the cottage. Here the two
youngsters were to remain secretly for a few days until Bayliss
received from his family, then abroad, the money needed for his
summer outing. What the elder Dodge did not know or even suspect,
was that his son and Bayliss had returned with some half-formed
plans of paying back old scores against Dick & Co.
"I knew this cottage was the place for us," Bert whispered. "As
I told you, Bayliss, this corner is a favorite meeting place for
Prescott and his fellow muckers."
"From what I hear, they're going to leave town for a few weeks,"
"Yes; going out into the wilds on some sort of fishing jaunt."
"I wish we knew their plans better than we do," murmured Bayliss.
"Don't believe they know 'em themselves any too well," sneered
Bert Dodge. "However, we don't need to know where they're going.
We can follow 'em, can't we?"
"Yes; and get jolly well thumped for our pains, maybe," retorted
"Well, if you're afraid, we'll let 'em depart in peace," mocked
"Who's afraid?" demanded Bayliss irritably.
"I hope you're not," retorted Bert Dodge.
"If you're not afraid---if you're as thoroughly game as I am---then
we'll have some satisfaction out of those fellows."
"Lead me to it!" ordered Bayliss hotly.
"I will, to-morrow morning," promised Bert Dodge. "If you stick
to me, we'll make those muckers sorry they ever knew us!"
"We must be under way by nine o'clock," the listeners heard Dick
say. "We go west, over Main Street. We must start promptly,
for we have sixteen miles to go to our first camp at the second
lake in the Cheney Forest."
"Do you hear that?" whispered Bert. "The idiots have given us
their full route! We can leave at four in the morning, and won't
have to follow 'em at all. We can be there ahead of time, and
have all the lines laid."
"Somehow," sounded Dave Darrin's voice, "I have a hunch, fellows,
that we're going to have the finest time we ever had in our lives."
"We would have," sighed Tom Reade, "if it weren't for that push
"At four o'clock this afternoon, then, and be prompt," called
Dick, preparing to leave the others.
"Wait a moment," urged Dave.
"What's the matter?" inquired Dick, halting.
"Tom's just on the point of telling us what really happened to
him last night," smiled Darry.
"Humph!" grunted Reade, walking briskly away.
"I can tell what's going to happen to 'em all on some other nights,"
whispered Bert Dodge in his friend's ear.
"To get square with those muckers, who drove us out of Gridley
High School and out of town is my only excuse for living at present,"
DICK & CO. DRIVEN UP A TREE
"Yes?" replied Prescott, turning and looking back at Tom, whose
turn it now was to furnish motive power to the loaded cart.
"How far did you say it was from Gridley to the second lake?"
"I've pushed the cart more than that far already," grunted Tom.
"I'm willing to wager that the lake is more than a hundred and
twenty miles from Gridley."
"Suppose it is," scoffed Dave, falling back beside the cart "Tom,
just think of the fine training your back muscles are getting
out of this work!"
"I'll tell you all about that, Darry," grumbled Reade, "when you've
had your turn for ten minutes. How much longer does my turn run,
"Five minutes," replied Prescott, after glancing at his watch.
"Are you going to be able to hold out that long?"
"Yes; if I live that long," sighed Tom.
Dick and Hazelton had each taken their fifteen minute turns at
pushing the cart. The boys had already put some distance between
themselves and Gridley. Dick & Co. were tramping down a well-shaded
road bounded by prosperous-looking farms. Two miles further on
the boys would branch off through a long stretch of woods where
the road was rougher. Here two youngsters would be needed for
the work, one pushing, while the other hauled on a rope made fast
to the front of the cart.
Five of the boys were well laden with miscellaneous packages of
food. Tom, on account of pushing the cart, had been permitted
to place his load on the already well-packed cart.
"Time's up," called Dick. "Dave to the bat."
Smiling, Darry packed his own parcels in the cart.
"Whew! But it's good to get away from that thing," grunted Reade,
mopping his forehead, as he stalked on ahead.
"Here, you, Tom!" called Danny Grin. "Take your personal pack
off the cart and tote it like the rest of us."
Reade turned a comically scowling face to Dalzell.
"Danny," he demanded rebukingly, "why couldn't you hold your tongue?"
"Because, when I'm working hard, I don't like to see you shirk,"
replied Dalzell with a complacent grin.
"But consider Darry," urged Reade. "Note how strong, lithe and
supple he is. Boy, he is much better fitted for pushing my personal
pack on the cart than I am for carrying it."
"Stick a pin in the chat, Tom," advised Darrin briefly, "and take
your truck off the cart. I want to begin enjoying myself."
"I'd carry twice as much as I have to, just for the sheer joy
of hearing you kick like a Texas maverick by the time you've had
the cart handles for two minutes," laughed Tom, as he took his
own parcels off the cart. "Now, David, little giant, let us see
you buckle down to your task---like a real or imitation man!"
Darry braced himself, gave a hitch, then started forward briskly.
"Get out of the way, you loiterers!" called Dave, overtaking Tom
and Greg and shoving the front end of the cart against them.
"Don't block the road!"
"That's what comes of hitching an express engine to a freight
load," grunted Reade, as he made for the side of the road, brushing
There was bound to be a lot of "kicking" over the work of handling
the push cart, but Dick & Co. were in high spirits this hot July
Weeks before, when first planning this trip, all had begun to
"save up" toward outfits of khaki, leggings and all, and blue
flannel shirts. These khaki clothes made the most serviceable
of all camping costumes.
"I begin to feel like a soldier," laughed Dick contentedly.
"So do I," agreed Tom Reade. "I feel like a poor dub of a soldier
who has been sent to march across a continent on the line of
the equator. I believe eggs would cook in any of my pockets!"
"Cut out all the grumbling and the discomfort talk," warned Dave
"Well, I don't know that I need to grumble, if you can feel contented
behind that old cart," laughed Reade. "How does it go, Darry?"
"I haven't begun to notice, as yet," replied Dave coolly.
Tom eyed him suspiciously.
"Darry," he remarked presently, "you're talented."
"In what way?" Dave inquired.
"You're one of the most talented fibbers I ever encountered.
You've been pushing that cart all of four minutes, and you pretend
that you don't notice the work."
"I expected to work when I left home," Darrin informed him. "If
I hadn't felt that I could endure a little fatigue, then I'd have
remained at home and looked for a job sleeping in a mattress factory's
Tom subsided after that. Dave's fifteen minutes were up presently,
but he declined to accept relief at the push cart until they reached
the point where their road branched off on to the rougher highway.
Now, Greg and Hazelton took the cart, Greg at the handles, Hazelton
pulling ahead on the rope.
Thus they went along, for some five minutes, when Dick, who was
in the lead, reached a small covered bridge over a noisy, rushing
Just as Dick gained the entrance to the bridge his gaze fell upon
a large white sheet of paper tacked there. The word "Notice,"
written in printing characters, stared him in the face.
Dick read, then called back quietly:
"Halt! Here's something we've got to look into at once."
The cart handlers willingly enough dropped their burden. All
hands crowded forward to read what was written underneath on the
sheet of paper. It ran thus:
"All passers-by are cautioned that a mad dog, frothing at the
mouth, has passed this way, going west. Officers have gone in
pursuit of the animal, but passers-by may encounter the dog before
the officers do. The dog is a huge English mastiff, without collar.
Turn back unless armed!"
"Fine and cheery!" exclaimed Tom Reade, looking rather startled
despite his light comment.
"And, just as it happens, this is the only road in the country
that we want to use just at present," commented Dick Prescott.
"Shall we go ahead, keeping a sharp lookout?" asked Dave.
"I don't know," Dick muttered. "We'll have to think that over
"There are six of us, and we can cut good, stout clubs before
we proceed farther," suggested Greg Holmes.
"Yes, and probably, if attacked, we could finish the dog," Dick
went on. "Yet, most likely, before we did kill the brute, he'd
have bitten at least one of us."
"I'll go on, if the rest of you fellows want to," observed Danny
Grin. "At the same time, it looks like taking a big chance, doesn't
"It's taking a chance, of course," Dick admitted. "The dog may
be running yet, and we might never get within ten, or even twenty,
miles of him. Or, the officers may have caught and killed the
brute by this time. Or, the mastiff might bound at us from the
woods at any moment now."
"Whether we go back or keep on, we're fairly likely to meet the
mad dog," suggested Tom. "Mr. Chairman, I rise to move, sir,
that we cut clubs at once, and do the rest of our talking afterwards!"
"The motion is seconded and carried," called Dick, darting into
the woods. "Come on and find the clubs."
Less than forty seconds afterwards each of the six boys was cutting
a stout sapling, which he forthwith trimmed.
"I believe I could kill anything but an ox with this," observed
Reade, eyeing his bludgeon.
"Look out!" called Danny Grin, as if in alarm.
In a twinkling Tom dropped his club, dashed at a young oak tree
and began to climb, thinking that the dog had suddenly appeared.
"Stop that nonsense, Dan---and everyone of you!" called Dick sharply.
"Let no one knowingly give any false alarms, or we might disregard
a real warning when it comes."
Tom sheepishly dropped to the ground, picked up his cudgel, then
gazed at Dalzell with a look that had "daggers" in it.
"I'll owe you one for that, Danny Grin," Reade remarked, "and
I'm always careful about paying my debts."
"Now that we have our clubs," suggested Dick, "let's get back
to the road and discuss what we're going to do."
"Surely," hinted Dave, "we can find some other road and keep on
"Undoubtedly," Greg nodded. "But the mad dog might cross through
the woods and be found waiting for us on that other road. Or,
he may now be headed for the second lake, or even be there now."
"Let's vote on what we're going to do," urged Hazelton. "Dick,
what do you say?"
"I don't know what to say," their young leader answered. "I don't
like to see our party cheated out of our vacation. Neither do
I care to take too many chances of having our vacation changed
into a tragedy. I've never had hydrophobia, but I've a strong
notion that it wouldn't be pleasant. I know just how you fellows
feel. You hate to lose your fun."
"We do hate to lose our fun," agreed Darry.
"And yet you don't want to have an encounter with a dog that has
"We don't," approved Tom Reade. "Dick, you have a truly wonderful
intellect when it comes to successful guessing."
"There's a cloud of dust up the road to the west," discovered
In an instant all eyes were turned that way.
"Can that be the dog?" asked Darry. "Something is traveling this
way and stirring up a lot of dust."
Whatever the moving object was, it appeared to be half a mile
away up the straight, dust-covered road.
"Until we find out what it is," Dick suggested, "I believe that
tree climbing will prove healthful exercise."
Quickly they moved the push cart a little to one side of the road.
Then they ran for trees, but every member of Dick & Co. retained
his hold on his bludgeon.
The dust cloud was coming nearer. From the elevation of his perch
in a tree Dick soon discovered and announced:
"It's a horse and wagon coming this way."
"Maybe it's the officers returning from the hunt," suggested Reade,
who was on a lower limb of the next tree.
"There's only one man in the wagon, and he's whipping up the horse,"
"There are good enough reasons for the man wanting his horse to
hurry," chuckled Danny.
"Maybe the dog is in pursuit now," hinted Darrin.
Dick, who had the best view of the road to the westward, peered
"I don't see anything to suggest a pursuing dog," Prescott made
answer. "If the dog is near, he must be running under the trees
along the side of the road."
Greg climbed up beside his leader.
"Why, that man has stopped whipping the horse," young Holmes declared.
"And is lighting his pipe. That doesn't look as though he were
very much scared about anything."
"We'll stay where we are until we've talked with the man," Dick
Just before reaching the other end of the covered bridge the driver,
a farmer, and with what looked like a light load of farm produce
in the body of the wagon, slowed his horse down to a walk, at
which gait he drove over the bridge. Then, sighting the boys
up in the trees, and each with a club, he reined up.
"Hello, boys!" he called drawlingly. "Who's been a-chasing you?
What scared you?"
"Read that notice, sir, tacked up at the bridge entrance," urged
Alighting, and drawing a pair of spectacles from a vest pocket,
the farmer complied.
"Mad dog, eh?" he drawled. "Sho!"
"Did you see anything of the brute?" called Darry.
"No; I didn't," answered the farmer. "Don't believe there is
any mad dog along the way, either. I've reined up and talked
with neighbors during the last hour and a half along the way.
They didn't mention nothin' 'bout any peevish dogs. Now, it
stands to reason that the officers would have stopped and warned
folks along the road, don't it? And the neighbors would have
passed the gossip with me, wouldn't they?"
"Didn't you see any officers coming from this way?" asked Dick.
"Nary one," rejoined the farmer. "Only fellers that passed me,
coming from this direction, was two young dudes---I sh'd say about
your ages. They was in a high-toned speed wagon-----"
"Automobile?" asked Reade.
"Said so, didn't I?" drawled the farmer. "Them dudes looked mighty
tickled about something. They was laughin' a whole lot and looked
mighty well pleased with themselves. Do you reckon they was
any friends of your'n, trying to have fun with you?"
"I can't recall any friends who would try to put up such a pleasant
surprise for us," said Dick dryly, as he slipped down to the ground.
"What did the fellows in the automobile look like, sir?"
That farmer possessed well-developed powers of observation, as
was proved by the minute descriptions he gave of the two young
Dick's chums, who had now joined him at the roadside, looked puzzled.
Then light dawned in Tom's eyes.
"Jupiter!" cried Reade. "If it weren't that they're not in this
part of the country, I'd say that the pair were Dodge and Bayliss!"
"How do you know they're not in this part of the country?" asked
Prescott dryly. Then, of the farmer, he further inquired:
"What kind of a car were they driving, sir?"
"A red Smattach, last year's model," answered the man.
"That's just what the Dodge automobile runabout is, and Smattach
cars are not common in this section," muttered Prescott. Then
he went over to take a keener look at the written notice on the
sheet of white paper.
"This looks like disguised handwriting; it's backhanded," Dick
mused aloud. "But I notice one thing peculiar. Who makes a funny
little quirl at the beginning of a letter 'm,' such as you see
in this writing?"
"Bert Dodge!" flashed Dave Darrin, an indignant light flashing
in his eyes. "So we're six simpletons, held up by his shady tricks,
are we? If Bert Dodge is anywhere ahead of us on the road, then
I hope we have the good luck to meet him under conditions where
he can't jam on the speed and get away from us!"
"Joke on you all, is it?" asked the farmer, grinning quizzically.
"It looks like it," admitted Dick sheepishly. "You're sure that
none of the folks west of here heard anything of a mad dog, are
"Pretty sure," nodded the farmer.
"Then this notice isn't really needed up here," replied Dick,
carefully pulling the tacks, after which he folded the paper and
tucked it in one of his pockets. "We're mightily obliged to you,
"Oh, you're welcome," grinned the farmer, as he gathered up the
reins over his horse. "I've got to be getting along. I'm late
in Gridley now."
"If that man is too talkative in Gridley, folks will hear how
we got sold," yawned Tom, gazing after the farm wagon. "Then---my!
Won't folks be laughing at us?"
"It's a mean trick," cried Dave indignantly. "I wish I had that
Dodge fellow here, right now! I believe that I'm master of enough
English to convey to him an idea of just what I think of him!"
"I wouldn't waste any of my carefully acquired English on him,"
growled Tom Reade.
"What would you do---skin your other knuckles?" inquired Danny
"We're wasting too much time punishing a fellow who isn't here,"
Dick broke in. "Let's get forward. After another mile Dalzell
and I will take the cart and get it over some of the ground.
Now, forward, march!"
It was noticed that Dave Darrin walked with clenched-fists. Tom
took long strides that carried him in advance of the others.
Dick Prescott was mostly silent, yet in his eyes there was a steady
light, and a grim look about his mouth, that bespoke the possibility
of some inconvenience to Bert Dodge and his friend, should that
pair fall into the hands of Dick & Co. within the next hour.
At noon Dick & Co. halted. Under the shade of a group of trees,
close to a roadside spring, they built two small fires. Over
one they made coffee; over the other, they fried bacon and eggs.
This, with bread, constituted the meal. A brief rest, then on
they went once more.
It was toward five o'clock when Dick and Tom, who knew the road
from having tramped over it before, announced that they were less
than half a mile from the point where they would turn in to go
to the second lake.
At this time Greg and Dan were managing the push cart. Tom and
Dick strode on ahead, watching for the first sign of the path
that should lead down to their intended camp site.
Suddenly, however, Prescott seized Reade by the arm, halting him.
"What's the matter?" asked Tom.
"Sh!---" Dick piloted his friend in behind a line of bushes, then
went cautiously ahead.
"Look over there!" whispered Dick.
Tom Reade gave a start when he found himself gazing at a red
runabout that stood just off the road and apparently deserted.
"Humph! That's a Smattach, too," declared Tom. "It must be the
Dodge car. Bert and Bayliss must be somewhere about."
Dick stood surveying the car with speculative eyes.
"I know what you're thinking about," Tom whispered. "Wait; I'll
go back and halt the fellows and bring Dave forward with me."
In a few moments this had been done. Darry gazed at the red Smattach
with gleaming eyes.
"This is surely our chance!" he muttered. "Now, what can we do?"
All three were silent for a few moments. Then Tom Reade smote
his thigh with one hand.
"I have it," he muttered excitedly.
"Then don't be stingy with your secret," urged Dave. "Out with
at least a part of it."
For some moments Dick, Dave and Tom remained engaged in a rapid
interchange of whispers, all the time glancing about them.
STALLING THE RED "SMATTACH"
"That's the very thing!" muttered Tom Reade at last.
"It can't get us into any scrape with the law, can it?" queried
Dave Darrin, with almost unwonted caution.
"I don't see how it can," smiled Dick Prescott. "I'm no lawyer,
but I can't see how our trick, the way we intend to play it, can
be called a breach of the law."
"Let's not lose any time with the game," urged Reade. "Let's
get in and do it before Dodge and Bayliss come back. I wonder
where they are, anyway?"
"I don't care where they are," said Dave, "as long as they keep
away from here until we're through with what we intend to do."
From its place in the runabout car Tom drew forth a wheel-jack.
This he and Dave fitted under an axle, raising the wheel half
aft inch off the ground. Dick rapidly remove the tire from that
By the time he had finished Tom ran with the jack around to the
other front wheel, removing the tire from it also.
As the red runabout carried no extra tires the little car was
now hopelessly stalled until relief was brought to the scene.
"Now, I'll slip back and bring the fellows on," Dick whispered.
"Tom, you take Dave down to the camp site. I'll be right along
with the other fellows."
Tom and Dave started along the forest path, each carrying a tire
slung over one shoulder.
Dick, darting back, brought up the other fellows. All took a
gleeful look at the red Smattach as they passed, then hurried on.
Down to a level bit of ground at the lakeside Dick led the last
of his friends. Tom and Dave were already there, the two pneumatic
tires standing against the trunk o a tree.
Dick's first move was to take a rope from the cart. This, after
being passed through the rubber tires, was tied between two trees,
"Now, let's rustle all the stuff off the cart," urged Dick. "Be
quick about it. We want the tent up in good shape before darkness
It is not much of a trick to raise a tent twelve feet by twenty,
when there are six pairs of hands to do it. The two centre poles
were adjusted to the ridge-pole, and all three were pushed in
under the canvas.
"Up with her," called Dick.
As the tent was raised, Tom and Greg were left holding the centre
poles in place. With a sledge Dick drove a corner stake, and
a guy-rope was made fast to it. One after another the remaining
corner stakes were quickly driven and the ropes made fast. The
tent would now stand by itself.
Dick and Dave, Tom and Greg now attended to two stakes at a time,
making the other guy-ropes fast.
"Danny, you may set in all the wall-pegs," said Dick, standing
back to survey the really neat job.
"I've been thinking-----" began Dalzell.
"Then let Hazelton do the wall-pegging," retorted Dick tersely.
"I've been thinking-----" Dalzell went on, "that it would be awfully
funny, wouldn't it, if that red Smattach belonged, not to Dodge,
but to some fellow we've never seen before?"
"It would be inexpressibly funny!" growled Tom Reade. "And what
would be funnier than anything else would be our frantic efforts
to make a satisfactory explanation."
"We could be arrested for theft, couldn't we?" asked Greg, glancing
up apprehensively from the side wall pegging.
"Hardly that," replied Dick, with a shake of his head. "Theft,
as I understand it, usually carries with it the sale of the plunder,
or its concealment. We have hung up the tires where anyone who
is interested may see them. Still, it would be awkward making
explanations to strangers, and we'd all feel mighty cheap."
"Then maybe we'll have our chance to feel that way," suggested
Danny Grin, his mouth opening still wider.
"Don't waste your time on pleasant thoughts, like that," grunted
Reade. "Try to think of something sad."
"If it's the Dodge car, could Bert make any trouble for us?" Darrin
wanted to know.
"Hardly," answered young Prescott. "We've simply played a clever
trick on Dodge and Bayliss. As our excuse we could point out
a trick they palmed off on us earlier in the day. We'd be quits.
You needn't fear Dodge. Never, since that time when he got so
awfully beaten over the assault charge he made against me, has
he felt that he wanted to face me in court again."
"You fellows wait here, and don't be worried if I don't come back
soon," interposed Darry suddenly.
"What are you going to do?" demanded Tom Reade.
But Dave had slipped away. When he chose to be as mysterious
as that, Dick Prescott knew better than to question his chum.
Rapidly the work of straightening camp proceeded. Dave was back
in a little more than half an hour. Yet he returned so noiselessly
that he was in camp before the others realized his presence.
"Well-----?" asked Dick eagerly.
"Come into the tent, fellows," whispered Dave.
When Darrin had them inside he went on, in a low voice:
"It's the Dodge car, all right. I hid behind a tree nearby the
car and waited until they returned. When they found the front
tires missing they were furious. Bayliss said we fellows had
done it, but Bert said he didn't believe we were anywhere near
here as yet. I slipped away and left them arguing. Dodge wants
Bayliss to walk to the nearest place where he can telephone to
a garage to send a man out with new tires. Bayliss says it's
the Dodge car, and Bert can do the walking. It looks as though
they would come to blows, and, as I've been gently reared, with
a distaste for fighting, I slipped away."
"If they want to come down and look along the edge of this lake,
they'll soon find out where their tires are," Dick Prescott chuckled.
"But they'll have to come right in here to camp and ask for their
"Which they won't greatly care about doing," laughed Reade.
"Let them stay away until their nerves improve, then," said Dick
briefly. "Now, let's see; we've got to set up the cots and bedding,
and get the two lanterns filled and trimmed for the evening.
That ought not to take many minutes."
Nor did it. When this had been done, Dick asked:
"Fellows, you know what we came here to do? Fish wouldn't taste
bad for supper, would it? Which two of you want to go and try
your luck for perch? They'll bite, even after dark."
Tom and Hazelton made a hasty selection of tackle, also producing
a can of bait that had been brought along from Gridley.
Then Tom and Harry disappeared, taking with them one of the lanterns.
A quarter of a mile below the camp were the ruins of an old pier
from which they could cast their lines.
Where the perch are plentiful there is little skill involved in
such fishing. Perch will bite after dark. The hook is baited
and dropped in. The fish take hold greedily, rarely falling from
the hook afterward.
While Tom and Harry were still fishing darkness fell. The two
Gridley boys fished on in silence, adding frequently to the two
crotched stick "strings" that flopped on the end of the pier.
"We've thirty-nine perch. That's enough, even for a hungry crowd
like ours," said Tom at last, after lighting the lantern.
"Here is the fortieth, then," called Hazelton, as he felt a tug
at his line. He landed a pound perch almost under Tom's nose.
"Good enough business, this," declared Tom contentedly. "I hope
the fellows have everything else ready."
Tom carried the lantern; each boy carried a string of fish. As
they neared camp, Danny Grin espied them, and ran forward to
see the size of the catch.
"Here they are!" called Dalzell. "They've fish enough to feed
a fat men's boarding house!"
"Bring them here," called Dick from a board beside which he and
Greg crouched, each with a knife in hand.
One after another the fish were scaled and cleaned with a speed
known only to old campers. Dave had two frying pans hot over
a fire. In went the perch, sputtering in the fat and giving forth
"My, but they're going to taste good!" declared Danny Grin.
Leaving Greg to finish with the cleaning of the fish Dick passed
to another campfire, throwing into a hot pan the material for
Ere long the meal was on the table---two boards placed across
the tops of two boxes. It was a low table, but it served the
"My, but this fish tastes good!" murmured Tom Reade, as he picked
a piece of fried perch free of the backbone and began eating it.
"We'll all of us find it the best meal ever, just because we've
tramped far enough and worked hard enough to make any kind of
decent food taste great," Dick smiled.
The supper over, and one of the campfires replenished, all six
of the youngsters took the dishes down to the lake, carrying along
two kettles of hot water, where a general dish-washing ensued.
With so many to do the work, the camp was spick and span within
"Now, I'm going to enjoy one thing that I haven't had all day,
and that's some real rest," Prescott declared, throwing himself
down upon the grass. "I don't believe I shall move until bedtime."
But he did. Already trouble was hovering over the camp. From
out of the darkness beyond three pairs of eyes studied the campers
in silence. One pair belonged to Bert Dodge, another the young
Bayliss, and the third to a man of about middle age.
Dodge and Bayliss were thoroughly angry.
BERT DODGE HEARS THE BATTLE CRY
Ten minutes after Dick had thrown himself on the grass a rustling
was heard above the camp. Then down the slope strode three figures.
Dick sat up, regarding the visitors in silence until they came
within the fringe of the light of the campfire.
"Hello, Dodge," was Prescott's ready greeting. "I didn't hear
"Then maybe you will, before long," retorted Bert, in a voice
of barely suppressed fury. "Prescott, you sneak, how long since
you have added grand larceny to your other bad habits?"
"Try that over again," requested Dick calmly. "I don't believe
I quite catch you."
"Yes, you do," Dodge retorted. "Come now, no lying about it."
"The nearest that I come to understanding you, as yet," Dick answered
in an unruffled voice, "is that you appear to be trying to be
"I'll be more than offensive with you, before I get through!"
cried Bert, his temper rising.
The third member of the visiting party was a man of about forty
years, of sandy complexion and with a stubby, bristling red moustache.
He looked like a man who had been born a fighter, though his
face expressed keen attention rather than a desire to be quarrelsome.
In dress this man looked as though he might be a farmer. Dick
and his friends judged the man to be a rustic constable.
"A nice trick you played on us!" Bert went on angrily. "You took
our front tires off the wheels of the car and ran away with them."
"Easy! Careful!" Dick smilingly advised. "Did anyone see us
take the tires off and run away with them?"
Bert looked astonished, then gulped chokingly. Did Prescott and
his friends intend to deny the charge?
"No one had to see you take the tires," Bert went on angrily.
"All that is necessary is for us to discover the merchandise
"Then you have missed some tires, and you think I'm wearing them?"
"Don't try to sneak, lie or equivocate" commanded Bert Dodge,
his face flushing with anger. "Those are my tires hanging from
"Are they?" Prescott inquired, in a tone of the mildest curiosity.
"You know they are!"
"Then, if the tires are your property, just help yourself!" Dick
coolly answered. "If they are your tires, I will even offer to
forego making any storage charges for the time they have been.
"Hang you!" choked Bert
Then he turned to the man with them, demanding:
"Don't you see a pretty clear case of grand larceny here?"
"I can't sa-ay that I do---yet," drawled the stranger.
"You'll never see a clearer case!" quivered young Dodge.
To this the stranger did not reply. He had been looking over
this sextette of high school boys, and if one might judge from
his face, the man seemed to be rather favorably impressed by Dick
"If these are your tires," Dick went on smoothly, "would you mind
removing them from our camp?"
"I won't," Bert answered hotly. "You fellows, who stole the tires,
will take them back to the car from which you stole them, and
there you will put the tires on again."
"You've missed some part of the idea in your haste," declared
"What do you mean?" gasped Dodge.
"I mean simply that we'll have nothing whatever to do with taking
back the tires, or putting them on your wheels."
"Then I'll see what I can do to punish you all!" flared Bert hotly.
"You're none of you any better than a lot of low-lived thieves!"
The situation was growing too warm for Dave Darrin, though Dick
was still smiling.
Darry jumped to his feet, advancing upon Bert Dodge, who retreated
a couple of steps.
"Dodge," Dave began, "you want to put a halter on your tongue.
You can't come here to this camp and call too many names. You
don't amount to much, of course, and nothing that you know how
to say should be treated very seriously. It would be hard for
a rascal like yourself to be really insulting to anyone possessed
of the average degree of honor. But we came up here for pleasure
and rest. Both your face and your voice---not particularly your
words---are disturbing. If those are your tires, kindly take
them and get out of camp!"
"You fellows will carry the tires back to the road, and you'll
put them on the wheels," retorted Dodge hoarsely.
"As Dick has already told you, we'll do nothing of the sort,"
Dave flashed back at him. "All we want, Dodge, is for you to
get out of this camp. Incidentally, if you want the tires, we
shall offer no objections to your taking them with you."
"What have you to say to that?" demanded Bert hotly, turning to
the man with the stubby red mustache.
"It seems to me like good judgment," replied the stranger.
"You say that?" screamed Bert, going into a blind passion. "Is
that what we brought you here for?"
"I don't really know what you did bring me here for," replied
the stranger. "All I know is that you stopped me, when I was
driving past with my load of produce for the Gridley markets,
and you offered me two dollars to come down here and not say much
unless I was spoken to. I didn't come until you paid me the money.
It was good pay, and I'll stay here an hour longer if you really
think I owe you that much time."
"You're not a constable, or a sheriff's officer, are you, sir?"
asked Dick pleasantly.
"Not unless someone made me one when I wasn't looking," replied
the stranger, with a shrewd smile.
"I understand," nodded Prescott. "This fellow Dodge hired you
to come down with him for more than one reason. In the first
place, he and Bayliss were afraid to come here without backing.
For another thing, Dodge thought that we'd guess you to be a
constable, and I'll admit that I did mistake you for an officer
at the outset. Dodge thought your presence would frighten us.
You look like a decent man, sir, and I'm sorry to see you in
such company. These two fellows were chased out of the Gridley
High School just because they were considered unfit to associate
with the members of the student body."
"That's a lie!" sputtered young Dodge.
"If you want to find out, sir, whether I'm speaking the truth,"
Dick went on, looking at the stranger, "just ask any well-informed
citizen of Gridley whether Bert Dodge and his chum, Bayliss, were
really chased out of the Gridley High School. You'll soon discover
who the liar is---Dodge or myself."
"Hang you!" roared Bert, advancing with fists clenched. "I'll
punch your head off your shoulders!"
"Wait one moment, though," advised the stranger, stepping between
Dick and Bert. "Here, young man!"
"What's this?" Bert demanded, as the stranger forced something
into one of his hands.
"It's the two-dollar bill you handed me," replied he of the stubby
moustache. "I reckon that I made a mistake in taking it."
"Aren't you on my side any longer?" gasped Bert, in utter
"I reckon not," was the crisp answer. "I didn't realize that
I was in such bad company."
"But you've only that mucker's word against mine!" cried Bert,
flying into another rage.
"I've watched you both, and I'm a pretty good judge of human nature,"
replied the farmer. "I prefer to believe this young man that
you seem to dislike so much."
"You're a nice one---you are!" uttered Bert, glaring in disgust
at the ally on whom he had counted.
"Perhaps you can calm down, Dodge, long enough to listen to reason,"
Dick suggested. "First of all, I am going to admit that we did
remove the front tires of your car and that we brought the tires
here and hung them on that line."
"Do you hear that?" demanded Dodge eagerly, turning once more
to the farmer. "They admit stealing my tires."
"I didn't quite notice that the young man went as far as to admit
theft," the farmer replied. "What I heard was that these young
men took your tires. As yet I haven't heard their reason for
removing the tires of your car."
"The reason for doing so was," Dick went on coolly, "that we had
some questions to ask of this fellow Dodge. We knew that if he
had to come here to look up his tires, we'd have a chance to ask
the questions. Dodge, you thought you were having fun with us
when you decorated the entrance to that covered bridge with your
notice about a rabid mastiff at large in that part of the country,
didn't you? You thought that a mad-dog scare would send us
helter-skelter home. If it gives you any satisfaction, I'll admit
that the notice did startle us for a brief time. But we soon got
at the truth of the matter, and learned that posting the notice was
"Can you prove it?" sneered Dodge.
Ignoring the question, Dick went on:
"Perhaps, had your trick affected only ourselves, then the trick
would have been only a piece of meanness without any very serious
results. But are you sure, Bert Dodge, that no one but ourselves
was alarmed by that notice? Do you know whether any woman traveling
over the road may have seen that notice, and then, noticing any
strange dog trotting in her direction was frightened, into convulsions,
or actually frightened to death? Do you know whether some man,
traveling along the road on really important business, read the
notice and was afraid to continue on his errand, thereby losing
a good deal of money through your foolish trickery? Do you know,
for certain, that twenty serious consequences to other people
have not followed on the heels of your stupid, senseless joke?
Have you any way of being certain that the sheriffs officers
are not already searching industriously for the two foolish young
fellows who took so many desperate chances in attempting such
a 'joke' as that of which you two fellows were guilty?"
"Who's going to prove that Bayliss or I put up that notice?" sneered
"There's at least one witness," Dick answered, "who would testify,
at any time, that he passed by you on the road when you were both
laughing loudly over a joke you had played. Then there's the
notice itself. A handwriting expert could swear that it was done
with a pen held by your hand."
"Where's the notice?" asked Bayliss suddenly.
"It's where we can produce it at any time that it's wanted," Prescott
made reply. "If anyone has been injured, Dodge, in health or
in business, by your stupid, brainless bit of horse play and meanness,
then I imagine that you'll find yourself in for a serious time
of it. So now you know why we took the tires off your automobile.
We knew that our campfire would show you the way to our camp,
and that you'd surely be here to hear what we had to say to you.
Dodge, we don't care particularly for you, or for Bayliss, either,
but if the warning I've given you about pasting up such lying
notices to scare people traveling over a public highway is of
any use to you, then you're welcome to what you've learned."
The coolness of this proposition was such as to take Bert's breath
away for a few seconds. When he recovered, he turned to the
red-moustached farmer, sputtering:
"Well, what do you---you think of that cast-iron nerve and cheek?"
"If the facts have been correctly stated," replied the farmer,
"I believe these young men have done you a service, and that you'd
show more of the spirit of a man if you admitted it."
"Humph!" muttered Dodge.
"Humph!" echoed Bayliss.
Then, enraged at the tantalizing smile on Prescott's face, Bert
lost all control of himself.
Striding over, he shook his fist before Dick's face, at the same
"All you need is a trimming with fists, and I'm going to give
you one---you hound!"
PAID IN PULL TO DATE
Then, struck by a sudden consideration of prudence, Bert stepped
back two or three feet, looking appealingly at the farmer.
"Will you stay here long enough to see fair play done?" Dodge
demanded of the farmer.
"If there is going to be a boxing exhibit, with plenty of science,
and all fair play," grinned the farmer, "I don't believe there
are enough of you young fellows here to chase me away. Start
things moving as soon as you like."
With that the stranger drew out a pipe, which he proceeded to
fill and light.
"Get yourself in shape, you mucker!" breathed Bert fiercely, pulling
off his coat and tossing his motoring cap after it to the ground.
"Come on---get ready!"
"I'm no rowdy," Dick declared coolly, making no move to put himself
"No; you're a coward, with a long line of talk, but no spirit
in you!" jeered young Dodge.
"If I'm a coward, what possible glory would there be in your fighting
me?" Dick smiled.
"Let me have the sneak!" begged Dave, stepping forward, but Dick
pushed his churn back. Tom Reade took tight hold of Dave's right
With the prospects of an encounter vanishing, Bert Dodge's valor
went up tenfold.
"Get up your guard!" he roared. "I've been taking boxing lessons
and I want to teach you one or two things."
"I haven't been taking any boxing lessons lately," Dick remarked
"Oh, that's why you're afraid to act at all like a man, is it?"
scoffed Bert in his harshest voice.
"No; my main reason for not caring to fight you, Dodge, is that
I don't like the idea of soiling my hands."
"What's that?" screamed Bert in added fury. "You insult
"If I'm a mucker, then you don't need to feel insulted at my opinion
of you," Dick suggested, with a smile.
But this hesitancy on the part of Prescott was filling Bert Dodge
with more valor every instant.
"Prescott, I've owed you something for a mighty long time," quivered
Bert. "And now it's coming! Here it is!"
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