Infomotions, Inc.Co. Grilling on the Football Gridiron / Hancock, H. Irving (Harrie Irving), 1868-1922



Author: Hancock, H. Irving (Harrie Irving), 1868-1922
Title: Co. Grilling on the Football Gridiron
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): dick; bayliss; prescott; darrin; gridley; dave; bert; dodge; dick prescott; football; coach morton; dave darrin; bert dodge; gridley high; coach; captain wadleigh; theodore dodge; school; high school; football squad; young prescott; fred ripley; lawyer ri
Contributor(s): Krohn, Julius, 1835-1888 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 48,683 words (really short) Grade range: 6-8 (grade school) Readability score: 73 (easy)
Identifier: etext12691
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Title: The High School Left End
       Dick & Co. Grilling on the Football Gridiron

Author: H. Irving Hancock

Release Date: June 23, 2004 [EBook #12691]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE HIGH SCHOOL LEFT END ***




Produced by Jim Ludwig




THE HIGH SCHOOL LEFT END

or Dick & Co. Grilling on the Football Gridiron

By H. Irving Hancock



CONTENTS

CHAPTERS
     I. Sulking in the Football Camp
    II. The Start of the Dodge Mystery
   III. Dick Stumbles on Something
    IV. The 'Soreheads' in Conclave
     V. At the End of the Trail
    VI. The Small Soul of a Gentleman
   VII. The Football Notice Goes Up
  VIII. Dick Fires Both Barrels
    IX. Bayliss Gets Some Advice
     X. Two Girls Turn the Laugh
    XI. Does Football Teach Real Nerve
   XII. Dick, Like Caesar, Refuses the Crown
  XIII. Bert Dodge "Starts Something"
   XIV. The "Strategy" of a School Traitor
    XV. A "Fear" for the Plotter
   XVI. "The Cattle Car for Yours"
  XVII. Facing the "School Cut"
 XVIII. "Prin." Gets in the Practice
   XIX. Laura and Belle Have a Secret
    XX. In the Line of Daring
   XXI. The Price of Bravery
  XXII. The Thanksgiving Day Game
 XXIII. Sulker and Real Man
  XXIV. Conclusion




CHAPTER I

SULKING IN THE FOOTBALL CAMP


"Football is all at sixes and sevens, this year," muttered Dave
Darrin disconsolately.

"I can tell you something more than that," added Tom Reade mysteriously.

"What?" asked Dick Prescott, looking at Reade with interest, for
it was unusual for Reade to employ that tone or air.

"Two members of the Athletics Committee have intimated to Coach
Morton that they'd rather see football passed by this year."

"_What_?" gasped Dick.  He was staring hard now.

"Fact," nodded Tom.  "At least, I believe it to be a fact."

"There must be something wrong with that news," put in Greg Holmes
anxiously.

"No; I think it's all straight enough," persisted Tom, shaking
his head to silence Holmes.  "It came to me straight enough, though
I don't feel at liberty to tell you who told me."

All six members of Dick & Co. were present.  The scene of the
meeting was Dick Prescott's own room at his home over the bookstore
kept by his parents.  The hour was about nine o'clock in the evening.
It was Friday evening of the first week of the new school year.
The fellows had dropped in to talk over the coming football
season, because the week had been one of mysterious unrest in
the football squad at Gridley High School.

Just what the trouble was, where it lay or how it had started
was puzzling the whole High School student body.  The squad was
not yet duly organized.  This was never attempted until in the
second week of the school year.  Yet it was always the rule that
the new seniors who, during their junior year, had made good records
on either the school eleven, or the second eleven, should form
the nucleus of the new pigskin squad.  Added to these, were the
new juniors, formerly of the sophomore class, who had shown the
most general promise in athletics during the preceding school
year.

Gridley High School aimed to lead---to be away at the top---in
all school athletics.  The "Gridley spirit," which would not accept
defeat in sports, was proverbial throughout the state.

And so, though the football squad was not yet formally organized
for training and practice, yet, up to the last few days, it had
been expected that a finer gridiron crowd than usual would present
itself for weeding, sifting and training by Coach Morton.  The
latter was also one of the submasters of Gridley High School.

Since the school year had opened, however, undercurrent news had
been rife that there would be many "soreheads," and that this
would be an "off year" in Gridley football.  Just where the trouble
lay, or what the "kick" was about, was a puzzle to most members
of the student body.  It was an actual mystery to Dick & Co.

"What is all the undermining row about, anyway?" demanded Dick,
looking around at his chums.  Dick was pacing the floor.  Dave,
Tom and Greg Holmes were seated on the edge of the bed.  Dan Dalzell
was lying back in the one armchair that the room boasted.  Harry
Hazelton was standing by the door.

"I can't make a single thing out of it all," sighed Dan.  "All
I can get at is that some of the seniors and some of our class,
the juniors, are talking as though they didn't care about playing
this year.  I know that Coach Morton is worried.  In fact, he's
downright disheartened."

"Surely," interjected Dick, "Mr. Morton must have an idea of what
is keeping some of the fellows back from the team?"

"If he does know, he isn't offering any information," returned
Harry Hazelton.

"I don't see any need for so much mystery," broke in Dave Darrin,
in disgust.

"Well, there is a mystery about it, anyway," contended Tom Reade.

"Then, before I'm much older, I'm going to know what that mystery
is," declared Dick.

"You're surely the one of our crowd who ought to be put on the
trail of the mystery," proposed Dalzell, with a laugh.

"Why?" challenged Prescott.

"Why, you're a reporter on 'The Blade.' Now mysteries are supposed
to constitute the especial field of reporters.  So, see here,
fellows, I move  that we appoint Dick Prescott a committee of
one for Dick & Co., his job being to find out what ails football---to
learn just what has made football sick this year."

"Hear!  Hear!" cried some of the others.

"Is that your unanimous wish, fellows?" asked Dick, smiling.

"It is," the others agreed.

"Very good, then," sighed Prescott.  "At no matter what personal
cost, I will find the answer for you."

This was all in a spirit of fun, as the chums understood.  Yet
this lightly given promise was likely to involve Dick Prescott
in a good deal more than he had expected.

Readers of the preceding volumes in this series know Dick & Co.
so well that an introduction would be superfluous.  Those to
whom the pages of "The High School Freshmen" are familiar know
how Dick & Co., chums from the Central Grammar School, entered
Gridley High School in the same year.  How the boys toiled through
that first year as half-despised freshmen, and how they got some
small share in school athletics, even though freshmen were not
allowed to make the school athletic teams, has been told.  The
pranks of the young freshmen are now "old tales."  How Dick Prescott,
with the aid of his chums, put up a hoax that fairly seared the
Board of Education out of its purpose to forbid High School football
does not need telling again.  Our former readers are also familiar
with the enmity displayed by Fred Ripley, son of a wealthy lawyer,
and the  boomerang plot of Ripley to disgrace Prescott and brand
the latter as a High School thief.  The same readers will recall
the part played in this plot by Tip Scammon, worthless son of
the honest old High School janitor, and how Tip's evil work resulted
in his going to the penitentiary for the better part of a year.

Readers of "_The High School Pitcher_" will recollect how, in
their sophomore year, Dick and Co. made their first real start
in High School athletics; how Dick became the star pitcher for
the nine, and how the other chums all found places on the nine,
either as star players or as "subs."  In this volume also was
told the story of Fred's moral disasters under the tyranny of
Tip Scammon, Who threatened to "tell."  How Dick & Co. were largely
entitled to the credit for bringing the Gridley High School nine
through a season's great record on the diamond was all told in
this second volume.  Dick's good fortune in getting a position
as "space" reporter on "The Morning Blade" was also described,
and some of his adventures as reporter were told.  The culmination
of Fred Ripley's scoundrelism, and his detection by his stern
old lawyer father, were narrated at length.  Perhaps many of our
readers will remember, the unpopular principal of the High School,
Mr. Abner Cantwell; and the swimming episode, in which every High
School boy took part, afterwards meekly awaiting the impossible
expulsion of all the boys of the High School student body.  Our
readers will recall that Mr. Cantwell had succeeded the former
principal, Dr. Thornton, whom the boys had almost idolized, and
that much of Mr. Cantwell's trouble was due to his ungovernable
temper.

During the first two years of High School life, Dick & Co. had
become increasingly popular.  True, since these six chums were
all the sons of families in very moderate circumstances, Dick
& Co. had been disliked by some of the little groups of students
who came from wealthier families, and who believed that High School
life should be rather governed by a select few representing the
move "aristocratic" families of the little city.

Good-humored avoidance is excellent treatment to accord a snob,
and this, as far as possible, had been the plan of Dick & Co.
and of the other average boy at the High School.

"Let us see," broke in Dick, suddenly, "who are the soreheads
in the football line?"

"Well, Davis and Cassleigh, of the senior class, for two," replied
Dave Darrin.

"Dodge, Fremont and Bayliss, also first classmen," suggested Reade.

"Trenholm and Grayson, also seniors," brought in Greg Holmes.

"Then there are Porter, Drayne and Whitney," added Dave.  "They're
of this year's Juniors."

"And Hudson and Paulson, also of our junior class," nodded Harry
Hazelton.

Dick Prescott had rapidly written down the names.  Now he was
studying the list carefully.

"They're all good football men," sighed Dick.  "All men whose
aid in the football squad is much needed."

"Drayne is the stuck-up chap, who uses the broad 'a' in his speech,
and carries his nose up at an angle of forty-five degrees," chuckled
Dan Dalzell.  "He's the fellow I mortally offended by nicknaming
him 'Sewers,' to mimic his name of 'Drayne.'"

"That wouldn't be enough to keep him out of football," remarked
Dave quietly.

Dick looked up suddenly from his list.

"Fellows," he announced, "I've made one discovery."

"Out with it!" ordered Dan.

"Perhaps you can guess for yourselves what I have just found."

"We can't," admitted Hazelton meekly.  "Please tell us, and save
us racking our brains."

"Well, it's curious," continued Dick slowly, "but every one of
these fellows---I believe you've given me all the names of the
'soreheads'"

"We have," affirmed Tom Reade.

"Well, I've just noted that every fellow on my sorehead roll of
honor belongs to one of our families of wealth in Gridley."

Dick paused to look around him, to see how the announcement impressed
his chums.

"Do you mean," hinted Hazelton, "that the soreheads are down on
football because they prefer automobiles?"

"No." Dick Prescott shook his head emphatically.

"By Jove, Dick, I believe you're right," suddenly exclaimed Dave
Darrin.

"So you see my point, old fellow?"

"I'm sure I do."

"I'm going to get examined for spectacles, then," sighed Dan plaintively.
"I can't see a thing."

"Why, you ninny," retorted Dave scornfully, "the football 'soreheads'
have been developing that classy feeling.  They wear better clothes
than we do, and have more pocket money.  Many of their fathers
don't work for a living.  In other words, the fellows on Dick's
list belong to what they consider a privileged and aristocratic
set.  They're the Gridley bluebloods---or think they are---and
they don't intend to play on any football eleven that is likely
to have Dick & Co. and a few other ordinary muckers on it."

"Muckers?" repeated Harry Hazelton flaring up.

"Cool down, dear chap, _do_!" urged Darrin, soothingly.  "I don't
mean to imply that we really are muckers, but that's what some
of the classy group evidently consider us."

"Why, they say that Cassleigh's grandfather was an Italian immigrant,
who spelled his name Casselli," broke in Dan Dalzell.

"I believe it, son," nodded Dave.  "Old Casselli was an immigrant
and an honest fellow.  But he had the bad judgment to make some
money in the junk business, and sent his son to college.  The
son, after the old immigrant died, took to spelling his name Cassleigh,
and the grandson is the prize snob of the town."

"And Bayliss's father was indicted by the grand jury, seven or
eight years ago, for bribery in connection with a trolley franchise,"
muttered Greg Holmes.

"Also currently reported to be true, my infant," nodded Dave sagely.
"But the witnesses against the elder Bayliss skipped, and the
district attorney never brought the case to trial.  Case was quashed
a year later, and so now the Baylisses belong to the Distinguished
Order of Unconvicted Boodlers.  That trolley stock jumped to six
times its par value right after the case against Bayliss was dropped,
you know."

"And, from what I've heard Mr. Pollock say at 'The Blade' office,"
Dick threw in, "the fathers of one or two of the other soreheads
got their money in devious ways."

"Why, there's Whitney's father," laughed Dan Dalzell.  "Did you
ever hear how he got his start thirty years ago?  Whitney's
brother-in-law got into financial difficulties, and transferred to
the elder Whitney property worth a hundred and twenty-five thousand
dollars.  When the financial storm blew over the brother-in-law wanted
the property transferred back again, but the elder Whitney didn't
see it that way.  The elder Whitney kept the transferred property,
and has since increased it to a half million or more."

"Oh, well," Dick interrupted, "let us admit that some of the fellows
on the sorehead list have never been in jail, and have never been
threatened with it.  But I am sure that Dave has guessed my meaning
right.  The soreheads, who number a dozen of rather valuable pigskin
men, are on strike just because some of us poorer fellows are
in it."

"What nonsense!" ejaculated Greg Holmes disgustedly.  "Why, Purcell
isn't in any such crowd.  Of course, Purcell's father isn't rich
beyond the dreams of avarice, but the Purcells, as far as blood
goes, are head and shoulders above the families of any of the
fellows on Dick's little list."

"If that's really what the disagreement is over," drawled Dan,
"I see an easy way out of it."

"Go ahead," nodded Dick.

"Let the 'soreheads' form the Sons of Tax-payers Eleven, and we'll
organize a Sons of poor but Honest Parents Eleven.  Then we'll
play them the best two out of three games for the honor of representing
Gridley High School this year."

"Bright, but not practicable," objected Dick patiently.  "The
trouble is that, if two such teams were formed and matched, neither
team, in the event of its victory, would have all of the best
gridiron stuff that the High School contains.  No, no; what we
want, if possible, is some plan that will bring the whole student
body together, all differences forgotten and with the sole purpose
of getting up the best eleven that  Gridley can possibly send
out against the world."

"Well, we are willing," remarked Darrin grimly.

"No!  No, we're not," objected Hazelton fiercely.  "If the snobs
don't want to play with any of us on the team, then we don't want
to play if _they_ come in."

"Gently, gently!" urged Dick.  "Think of the honor of your school
before you tie your hands up with any of your own mean, small
pride.  Our whole idea must be that Gridley High School is to
go on winning, as it has always done before.  For myself, I had
hoped to be on the eleven this year.  Yet, if my staying off the
list will put Gridley in the winning set, I'm willing to give
up my own ambitions.  I'm going to put the honor of the school
first, and myself somewhere along about fourteenth."

"That's the only talk," approved Dave promptly.  "Gridley must
have the winning football eleven."

"Well, the whole thing is a shame," blazed Reade indignantly.

"Oh, well, don't worry," drawled Dan Dalzell.  "Keep cool, and
the whole thing will be fixed."

"Fixed?" insisted Reade.  "How?  How will it be fixed?"

"I don't know," Dan confessed, stifling a yawn behind his hand.
"Just leave the worry alone.  Let Dick fix it."

"How can you fix it?" asked Reade, turning upon their leader.

"I don't know---yet," hesitated Prescott.  But, like Dan, I believe
there's a way to be found."

"Going?" asked Hazelton.  "Well, I'll trot along, too."

"Yes," nodded Greg.  "It's a shame to stay here, hardening Dick's
mattress when he ought to be lying on it himself.  It's time we
were all in bed.  Good night, Dick, old fellow."

Four of the boys were speedily gone.  Darrin, however, remained
behind, though he intended to stay only a few minutes.  The two
were earnestly discussing the squally football "weather" when
the elder Prescott's voice sounded from the foot of the stairs.

"Dick?"

"Yes, sir," answered the boy, throwing open the door and springing
to the head of the stairs.

"Mr. Bradley, of 'The Blade,' wants to talk with you over the 'phone.
In a hurry, too, he says.

"I'll be right there, Dad.  Coming, Dave?"

Darrin nodding, the two chums ran down the stairs to the bookstore.
Dick caught up the transmitter and answered.

"That you, Dick?" sounded the impatient voice of News Editor Bradley.

"This is Dick Prescott, Mr. Bradley."

"Then, for goodness' sake, can you hustle up here?"

"Of course I can."

"Ask your father if you can take up a late night job for me.
Then come on the jump.  My men are all out, and everything is
at odds and ends in the way of news.  I can't get a single man,
and I wish I had three at this minute."

"Dave Darrin is here.  Can I bring him along?"

"Yes; he's not a reporter---but he may be able to help.  Hustle."

"I'll be walking in through the doorway," laughed Dick, "by the
time you've hung your transmitter up.  Good-bye."  Ting-a-ling-ling!
"Now, Dave, get your father on the jump, and ask his leave to
go out on a late night story with me."

Fortunately there was no delay about this.  Dave received the
permission from home promptly enough.  The two youngsters set
out on a run.

What healthy boy of sixteen doesn't love to prowl late a night?
It is twenty-fold more fascinating when there's a mystery on
tap, and a newspaper behind all the curiosity.

The longing of these sturdy chums for mystery and adventure was
swiftly to be gratified---perhaps more so than they could have
wished!

News Editor Bradley was waiting for them in the doorway of "The
Blade" office, a frown on the journalistic face.




CHAPTER II

THE START OF THE DODGE MYSTERY


"This is the way it always goes," jerked out Bradley, as the two
High School boys hurried into the office after him.

"One of my men is sick, and the other two are somewhere---where,
I can't find out."

"All" his men sounded large enough; as a matter of fact, the only
reporters "The Blade" employed were three young men on salary,
and Dick Prescott, mainly as gleaner of school news.  Dick didn't
receive any salary, but was paid a dollar a column.

"What's happening, anyway?" Dick asked coolly.

"You know Theodore Dodge?" demanded Mr. Bradley.

"I know him when I see him; he never talks with me," Prescott
replied.

"Theodore Dodge is the father of a fellow in our senior class
at High School," Dave put in, adding under his breath, "and the
son is one of our football 'soreheads.'"

"Dodge has vanished," continued Bradley.  "He went out early this
morning, and hasn't been seen since.  Tonight, just after dark,
a man walking by the river, up above the bend, picked up a coat
and hat on the bank.  Letters in the pocket showed the coat to
be Mr. Dodge's.  The finder of the coat hurried to the Dodge house,
and Mrs. Dodge hurriedly notified the police,  asking Chief Coy
to keep the whole matter quiet.  Jerry (Chief Coy) doesn't know
that we have a blessed word about this.  But Jerry, his plain
clothes man, Hemingway, and two other officers are out on the
case.  They have been on the job for nearly three hours.  So far
they haven't learned a word.  They can't drag the river until
daylight comes.  Now, Prescott, what occurs to you as the thing
to do?"

"I guess the only thing," replied Dick quietly, "is to find
Theodore Dodge."

Mr. Bradley gasped.

"Well, yes; you have the right idea, young man.  But can you find
Dodge, Dick?"

"When do you go to press?"

"Latest at four o'clock in the morning."

"I think I can either find Theodore Dodge, or else find where
he went to," Prescott replied, slowly.  "Of course, that's brag---not
promise."

"You get us the story---straight and in detail," cried Bradley,
eagerly, "and there'll probably be a bit extra in it for you---a
good bit, perhaps.  If Dodge doesn't turn up without sensation
this is going to be our big story for a week.  Dodge, you know,
is vice-president and actual head of the Second National Bank."

"Whew!" thought Dave Darrin, to himself.  "It's easy enough for
any suspicious person to imagine a story!  But it might not be
the right one."

"Some time ago," asked Dick thoughtfully, "didn't you publish
a story about some of the big amounts of insurance carried by
local rich men?"

"Yes," nodded Bradley.

"I think you stated that Theodore Dodge carried more than any
other citizen of Gridley."

"Yes; he carries a quarter of a million dollars of insurance."

"Is the insurance payable to his widow, or others---or to his
estate?"

"I don't know," mused News Editor Bradley, a very thoughtful look
coming into his face.

"Well, it's worth while finding out," pursued Dick.  "See here,
suppose Dodge has been using the bank's funds, and found himself
in a corner that he couldn't get out of?  Then, if the insurance
money goes to his widow, it would be hers, and no court could
take it from her for the benefit of his creditors.  If it goes
to the estate, instead, then the insurance money, when paid over,
could be seized and applied to cover any shortage of the missing
man at the bank."

"So that-----?" interrogated the news editor, his own eyes twinkling
shrewdly.

"Why, in case---just in case, you understand---that Mr. Dodge
has gone and gotten himself into trouble over the bank's funds,
then it's probable that he has done one of two things.  Either,
in despair he has killed himself, so that either his widow or
the bank will be protected.  If the missing man didn't do away
with himself, then probably he has put up the appearance of suicide
in the hope that the officers of the law will be fooled of his
trail, and that either a wronged bank or a deserted wife might
get the insurance money.  Of course, Mrs. Dodge might even be
a party to a contemplated fraud, though that's not a fair inference
against her unless something turns up to make it seem highly probable."

"My boy," cried Mr. Bradley admiringly, "you've all the instincts
and qualities of the good newspaper man.  I hope you'll take up
the work when you get through the High School.  But now to business!"

"Where do you want me to go?  Where do you want me to take up
the trail?  Where it started, just above the river bend?  That's
out in the country, a mile and a half from here."

"Darrin," begged the news editor, "won't you step to the 'phone
and ring up Getchel's livery stable?  Ask the man in charge to
we want a horse with a little speed and a good deal of endurance."

While Dave was busy at the wire Dick and the news editor talked
over the affair in low tones.

"With the horse you can cover a lot of ground," suggested Bradley.
"And you're right about taking up the trail where it started.  In
half an hour, if you don't strike something big, you can drive back
here on the jump for further orders.  And don't forget the use of
the 'phone, if you're at a distance.  Also, if you strike something,
and want to follow it further, you can have Darrin drive in with
anything that you've struck up to the minute.  Hustle, both of you.
And, Darrin, we'll pay you for your trouble tonight."

Horse and buggy were soon at the door.  Dick sprang in, picking
up the reins.  Dave leaped in at the other side.  The horse started
away at a steady trot.

"I hope those boys have brains enough not to go right past the
story," mused Bradley, gazing after the buggy before he went back
to his desk.  "But I guess Prescott always has his head squarely
on his shoulders.  He does, in school athletics, anyway.  Len
Spencer is the man for this job, so of course Len had to be laid
up with a cold and fever that would make it murder to send him
out tonight."

Horse and buggy were soon at the door.  Dick sprang in, picking
up the reins.  Dave leaped in at the other side.  The horse started
away at a steady trot.

"I hope those boys have brains enough not to go right past the
story," mused Bradley, gazing after the buggy before he went back
to his desk.  "But I guess Prescott always has his head squarely
on his shoulders.  He does, in school athletics, anyway.  Len
Spencer is the man for this job, so of course Len had to be laid
up with a cold and fever that would make it murder to send him
out to-night."

"Dick," muttered Dave excitedly, "you've simply got to make good.
This isn't simply a little paragraph to be scribbled.  It's a
mystery and is going to be the sensation of the day.  This is
the kind of story that full-fledged reporters on the great dailies
have to handle."

"Yes," laughed Dick, "and those reporters never get flurried.
I'm not going to allow myself any excitement, either."

"No, but you want to get the story---all of it."

"Of course I do," Prescott agreed quietly.

"If you do this in bang-up shape," Dave went on enthusiastically,
"it's likely to be the making of you!"

"How?" queried Dick, turning around to his chum.

"Why, success on a big story would fairly launch you in journalism.
It would provide your career as soon as you're through High School."

"I don't want a career at the end of the High School course,"
Dick returned.  "I'm going further, and try to fare better in
life."

"Wouldn't you like to be a newspaper man for good?" demanded Dave.

"Not on a small-fry paper, anyway" replied Prescott.  "Why, Bradley
is news editor, and has been in the business for years.  He gets
about thirty dollars a week.  I don't believe Pollock, who has
charge of the paper, gets more than forty-five.  That isn't return
enough for a man who is putting in his whole life at the business."

"Thirty dollars has the sound of pretty large money," mused Dave.
"As for forty-five, if that's what Mr. Pollock gets, look at the
comfort he lives in at his club; and he's a real estate owner, too."

"Yes," Dick admitted.  "But that's because Pollock follows two
callings.  He's an editor and a dealer in real estate.  As for
me, I'd rather put all my energies into one line of work."

"Then you believe you're going to earn more money than Pollock
does?" questioned Dave, rather wonderingly.

"If I pick out a career for income," Dick responded, "I do intend
to go in for larger returns.  But I may go into another calling
where the pay doesn't so much matter."

"Such as what?"

"Dave, old fellow, can you keep a secret?"

"Bosh!  You know I can."

"A big secret?"

"Stop that!"

"Well, I'll tell you, Dave.  By and by there are going to be,
in this state, two appointments to cadetships at West Point.
Our Congressman will have one appointment.  Senator Alden will
have the other.  Now, in this state, appointments to West Point
are almost always thrown open to competitive examination.  All
the fellows who want to go to West Point get together, at the
call, and are examined.  The fellow who comes off best is passed
on to West Point to try his luck."

"And you think you can prove that you're the brightest fellow
in the district?" laughed Dave good-humoredly.

"There are to be two chances, and I think I can prove that I'm
one of the two brightest to apply.  And Dave!"

"Well?"

"Why don't you go in to prove that you're the other brightest
fellow.  Just think!  West Point!  And the Army for a life career!"

"I think I'd rather scheme to go to the Naval Academy, and become
an officer of the Navy," returned Dave slowly.  "The big battleships
appeal to me more than does the saddle of the cavalryman."

"Go to Indianapolis?" muttered Dick, in near-disgust.  "Well,
I suppose that will do well enough for a fellow who can't get
to West Point."

"Now, see here," protested Dave good-humoredly, though warmly,
"you quit talking about Indianapolis.  That's a favorite trick
with fellows who are cracked on West Point.  You know, as well
as I do, that the Naval Academy is at Annapolis.  There's a vacancy
ahead for Annapolis, too."

"Oho!  You've been thinking of that?" demanded Dick, again looking
into his chum's eyes.

"Yes."

"Yes; if I can come out best in a competitive examination of the
boys of this district."

"Two secrets, then---yours and mine," grinned Prescott.  "However,
it'll be easier for you."

"Why?"

"There aren't so many fellows eager to go to the Naval Academy.
It doesn't draw as hard as the Army does."

"The dickens it doesn't!" ejaculated Dave Darrin.

"No; the Navy doesn't catch young enthusiasm the way the Army
does.  You won't have so many fellows to compete with as I shall,"
said Dick.

"I'll have twice as many---three times as many," flared Darrin.
"The Naval Academy is the only real and popular school in the
United Service."

"Well, we won't quarrel," laughed young Prescott.  "When the time
comes we'll probably find smarter young fellows ahead of us, headed
for both academies."

"If you do fail on West Point-----?" quizzed Dave.

"_If_ I do," declared Dick, with a very wistful emphasis on that
"if," "then, after getting through High School I'll probably try
to put in a year or two of hard work on 'The Blade,' to help my
parents put me through college.  They're anxious to make me a
college man, and they'd work and save hard for it, but I wouldn't
be much good if I didn't try to earn a lot of the expense money.
One thing I'm resolved upon---I'm not going to go through life
as a half-educated man.  It is becoming more true, every year,
that there's little show for the man with only the half-formed
mind."

Then the two turned back to the subject that had brought them
out on this September night---the disappearance of Banker Theodore
Dodge.

"In a minute or two we'll be in sight of the river bend," announced
Darrin.

"There it is, now," nodded Dick, slowing down the horse and gazing
over yonder.  "Some one is there, and looking hard for something."

"Yes; I make out a couple of lanterns," assented Dave.  "Well"---as
Dick pulled in the horse---"aren't you going to drive over there?"

"That's what I want to think about," declared young Prescott.
"I want to go at the job the right way---the way that real newspapermen
would use."




CHAPTER III

DICK STUMBLES ON SOMETHING


A few moments later Dick Prescott guided the horse down a shaded
lane.  "Whoa!" he called, and got out.

"What, now?" questioned Darrin, as his chum began to hitch the
horse to a tree.

"I'm going to prowl over by the bend, and see who's there and
what they are doing."

Having tied the horse, Dick turned and nodded to his friend to
walk along with him.

"You know Bradley told us," Prescott explained, "that the police
do not know that Dodge's disappearance has leaked out to the press.
Most folks in Gridley know that I write for 'The Blade.' So I'm
in no hurry to show up among the searchers.  I intend, instead,
to see what they're doing.  By going quietly we can approach,
through that wood, and get close enough to see and hear without
making our presence known."

"I understand," nodded Darrin.

Within two or three minutes the High School reporter and his chum
had gained a point in the bushes barely one hundred and fifty
feet away from where two men and a boy, carrying between them
two lanterns, were closely examining the ground near the bank.
One of the men was Hemingway, who was a sort of detective on
the Gridley police force.  The other man was a member of the uniformed
force, though just now in citizen's dress.  The boy was  Bert
Dodge, son of the missing banker, and one of the best football
men of the senior class of Gridley High School.

"It's odd that we can't find where the trail leads to," the eavesdroppers
heard Hemingway mutter presently.

"I'm afraid," replied young Dodge, with a slight choke in his
voice, "that our failure is due to the fact that water doesn't
leave any trail."

"So you think your father drowned himself?" asked Hemingway, looking
sharply at the banker's son.

"If he didn't, then some one must have pushed him into the river,"
argued Bert, in an unsteady voice.

"And I'm just about as much of the opinion," retorted Hemingway,
"that your father left his hat and coat here, or sent them here,
and didn't even get his feet wet."

"That's preposterous," argued the son, half indignantly.

"Well, there is the spot, right there, where the hat and coat
were found.  Now, for a hundred feet away, either up or down stream,
the ground is soft.  Yet there are no tracks such as your father
would have left had he taken to the water close to where he left
his discarded garments," argued Hemingway, swinging his lantern
about.

"We've pretty well trodden down whatever footprints might have
been here," disputed Bert Dodge.  "I shan't feel satisfied until
daylight  comes and we've had a good chance to have the river
dragged."

"Well, of course, it is possible you know of a reason that would
make your father throw himself into the river?" guessed Officer
Hemingway, with a shrewd glance at the son.

"Neither my mother nor I know anything about my father that would
supply a reason for his suicide," retorted Bert Dodge stiffly.
"But I can't see any reason for believing anything except that
my poor dad must now be somewhere in the river."

"We'll soon be able to do the best that we can do by night," rejoined
Hemingway.  "Chief Coy has gone after a gasoline launch that carries
an electric search-light.  As soon as he arrives we'll go all
over the river, throwing the light on every part of the water
in search of some further clue.  There's no use, however, in trying
to do anything more around here.  We may as well be quiet and
wait."

"I can't stand still!" sounded Dodge's voice, with a ring of anguished
suspense in it.  "I've got to keep hunting."

"Go ahead, then," nodded the detective.  "We would, too, if there
were anything further that could be looked into.  But there isn't.
I'm going to stop and smoke until the launch heaves in sight."

Both policemen threw themselves on the ground, produced pipes
and fell to smoking.  But Bert Dodge, with the restlessness of
keen distress, continued to stumble on up and down along the
bank, flashing the lantern everywhere.

Presently Dodge was within sixty feet of where his High School
mates crouched in hiding.

Suddenly the livery stable horse, some four or five hundred feet
away, whinnied loudly, impatiently.

Natural as the sound was, young Dodge, in the tense state of his
nerves, started and looked frightened.

"Wh-what was that?" he gasped.

"A horse," called Hemingway quietly.  "Probably some critter passing
on the road."

"I wish you'd see who's with that horse," begged young Dodge.
"It may bring us news.  I'm going, anyway."

With that, swinging the lantern, Bert Dodge started to cut across
through the woods with its fringe of bushes.

Dave Darrin slipped away, and out of sight.  Before Dick could
do so, however, young Dodge, moving at a fast sprint, was upon
him.

Bert stopped as though shot when he caught sight of the other boy.

"Dick Prescott?" he gasped.

"Yes," answered Dick quietly.

"What are you doing here?"

"I came to see what news there is about the finding of your father."

Hemingway had now reached the spot, with the other policeman some
yards to the rear.

"You write for 'The Blade,' don't you?" challenged Bert.

"Yes," Dick assented.

"And 'The Blade' people sent you here?" cried Bert Dodge, in a
voice haughty with displeasure.

"Perhaps 'The Blade' sent me here," Dick only half admitted.

"Sent you here to pry into other people's affairs and secrets,"
continued young Dodge impetuously.  Then added, threateningly:

"Don't you dare to print a word about this affair!"

Dick looked quietly at young Dodge.

"Did you hear me?" demanded Bert.

"Yes."

"Then what's your answer?"

"That I heard you, Bert."

"You young puppy!" cried Dodge, advancing threateningly.  "Don't
you address me familiarly."

"I don't care anything about addressing you at all," retorted
Prescott, flushing slightly under the insult.  "At present I can
make allowances for you, for I fully understand how anxious you
are.  But that is no real excuse for insulting me."

"Are you going to heed me when I tell you to print nothing about
my father's disappearance?" insisted young Dodge.

"That is something over which you really have no control," Dick
replied slowly, though not offensively.  "I take all my orders
from my employers."

"You young mucker!" cried Bert, in exasperation.  "You print anything
about our family misfortunes, and I'll thrash you until you can't
see."

"I won't answer that," Dick replied, "Until you make the attempt.
But, see here, Dodge, you should try to keep cool, and as close
to the line of gentlemanly speech and conduct as possible."

"A nice one you are, to lecture me on that subject," jeered Bert
Dodge.  "You---only a mucker!  The son of-----"

"Stop!" roared Dick, his face reddening.  He advanced, his fists
clenched.  "If you're going to say anything against my father
or mother, Bert Dodge, then stop before you say it!  Before I
break your neck!"

"Stop, both of you," interjected Hemingway, springing between
the white-faced High School boys.  "No blows are going to be struck
while members of the police department are around.   Dodge, of
course, you're upset and nervous, but you're not acting the way
a gentleman should, even under such circumstances."

"Then drive that fellow away from here!" commanded Bert.

"I can't," confessed the officer.  "He is breaking no law, and
has as much right to be here as we have."

"Oh, he objects to my saying anything against his father or mother,
but he's out tonight to throw all manner of slime on my father's
name," contended Bert Dodge.  His voice broke under the stress
of his pent-up emotion.

"You're wrong there, Dodge!" Dick broke in, forcing himself to
speak calmly.  "I'm here to gather the facts on a matter of news,
but I am not out to throw any insinuations over your father, or
anyone whose good name is naturally precious to you.  Sometimes
a reporter---even an amateur one---has to do things that are unpleasant,
but they're all in the line of duty."

"'The Blade' won't print a line about this matter," raged Bert
tremulously.  "Mr. Ripley is my father's friend, and his lawyer,
too.  Mr. Ripley will go to your editor, and let him know what
is going to happen if that scurrilous sheet-----"

Here Bert checked himself, for Dick had begun to smile coldly.

"Confound you!" roared Bert Dodge.  He leaped forward, intent
on striking the young junior down.  But Officer Hemingway pushed
Dodge back forcefully.

"Come, come, now, Dodge, we won't have any of that," warned the
officer.  "And, if you want my opinion, you're not playing the
part of a gentleman just now.  Prescott understands your state
of mind, however.  He knows you're so upset, your mind so unhinged
by the family trouble that you're doing and saying things that
you'll be ashamed of by daylight."

"I suppose, next, you'll be inviting this reported fellow to go
on the boat with us when it comes," sneered Bert Dodge.

"That would be for the chief to say.  Reporters are, usually,
allowed to go with the police.  Come, come, Dodge," urged Hemingway,
laying a kindly hand on the young man's shoulder, "calm down and
understand that Prescott is not offering to make any trouble,
and that he has been very patient with a young fellow who finds
himself in a heap of trouble."

"I can cut this short," offered Dick quietly.  "I don't believe
it would be worth my while, Mr. Hemingway, to ask the chief's
permission to go on the boat with you.  'The Blade' can find out,
later, whether you discover anything on the river."

"Where are you going, now?" demanded Bert unreasonably, as Prescott
turned away.

"Back to the horse and buggy," Dick replied coolly.

"Then I'm going with you, and see you start back to town," asserted
Bert Dodge.

Hemingway did not interfere, but, leaving his brother policeman
at the river's edge, accompanied young Dodge.  In a few minutes
they arrived at the spot in the lane where Dick had tied the horse.
Here they found Dave Darrin seated in the buggy.  Dave glanced
unconcernedly at them all, nodding to Hemingway way, who returned
the salutation.

"Now, I'll watch you start away from here," snapped Bert.

"All right, then," smiled Dick, climbing in, after unhitching,
and picking up the reins.  "I won't keep you long."

With that, and a parting word to the policeman, Dick Prescott
drove away.

"I saw Hemingway coming, and knew you wouldn't need me," Dave
explained with a laugh.  "So, to save Bert a double attack of
nerves, I slipped off in the darkness, and came here.  But what
on earth ails Dodge, anyway?"

"Why, for one thing, he's worried to death about the disappearance
of his father," replied Dick Prescott.

"I've seen people awfully worried before, and yet it didn't make
madmen of them," snorted Darrin.

"Well---perhaps-----"

Dick hesitated.

"Well----?" Darrin insisted, rather impatiently.

"I'm half inclined to think that Bert Dodge has been leading the
soreheads who sulk and  won't play football in the same team with
some of us common fellows," Dick laughed.  "If so, the very fact
of my being sent to look into the news side of his father's disappearance
would make Bert feel especially sore at me."

"By George, you've hit the nail right on the head there," cried
Dave.  "That's the trouble.  Bert has been leading a kick that
was aimed very largely at Dick & Co., and now it almost puts him
out of his head to find that Dick Prescott, of all the fellows
in the school, has been sent by 'The Blade' to gather the facts
concerning Theodore Dodge's mysterious disappearance---or death."

"Mr. Dodge isn't dead," replied Prescott slowly.

"What?  And say!  Do you realize, Dick, that you're letting the
horse walk?"

"I intended to," returned Dick.  "Whoa!"

"There's a boat coming up the river and showing a search-light,"
broke in Dave, pointing.

"I saw it.  That's why I stopped the horse.  It must be Chief
Coy's launch that he went after.  Yes; there it is, putting in
where we first saw Bert Dodge and the officers."

"Well, if you're not going to keep track of the launch, why don't
you hit a fast gait for the office?" queried Darrin.

"There is plenty of time yet," Dick replied, "and we've nothing
to report to the office yet.   I'm just waiting for that boat
to take on its passengers and get well away from the spot."

"Oh!" guessed Dave.  "Then you're going back and make your own
search of the place?"

"You're clever," nodded Prescott, with a low laugh.  "Yes; it
may be that Hemingway and his companion have made a fine search.
Or it may be that they've missed clues that a blind man ought
to see."

So the two High School boys sat there, in the buggy drawn up at
the side of the road, for the next fifteen minutes.  In that time
the launch took on the waiting passengers, and the light played
over all that part of the river, then started down stream.

Dick slowly headed the horse about, this time driving much closer
to the river's bank than he had done before.

"There's a lantern under the seat, Dave.  I saw it when we started
from 'The Blade' office.  Haul it out and light it, will you?"

For some minutes the two High School boys searched without much
result.  At last Dick and Dave began to move in wider circles,
away from the much-tramped ground.  Then, holding the lantern
close to the ground, Prescott moved nearer and nearer to the railway
track, all the while scanning the soil closely.

"Look there, Dave!" suddenly called Prescott.  "No-----Don't look
just yet," he added, holding the lantern behind him.  "But tell
me; you've often seen Mr. Dodge.  What kind of boots did he wear?"

"Narrow, pointed shoes, and rather high heeled for a man to wear,"
Darrin answered.

"Exactly," nodded Dick.  "Look there!"

Darrin bent down over a soft spot in the soil close to the railway
roadbed.  There were three prints of just such a boot as he had
described.

"You see the small heel print," continued Prescott, in a whisper.
"And you note that the front part of the foot makes a heavy impression,
as it would when the foot is tilted forward by a high heel."

"I don't believe another man in the town ever wore a pair of boots
such as made these prints," murmured Darrin excitedly.  "And they're
headed away from the river, toward the railroad!  And look here---other
footprints of a different kind!"

"You're right!" cried Prescott, holding the lantern closer to
the ground and scanning some additional marks in the soil.  "Coarse
shoes; one pair of 'em brogans!  Mr. Dodge had companions when
he went away from here."

"They may have been forcing the man somewhere with them," quivered
Darrin, staring off into the black night about them.

"No; not a sign of a struggle," argued Dick, still with his gaze
on the ground.  "No matter who Mr. Dodge's companions were, he
went with them willingly.  Gracious, Dave, but we were right in
believing the banker to be still alive!  Coat and hat at the water's
edge were a blind!  Mr. Dodge has his own reasons for wanting
people to think him dead.  He has  sloped away.  Here's the track.
Which way did he and the fellows go?"

"Away from Gridley," declared Darrin, sagely. "Otherwise, Mr.
Dodge would have been seen by some one who would remember him."

"We'll go up along the track, then."

This they did, but the roadbed was hard.  Besides, anyone walking
on the ties would leave no trail.  It was slow work, holding the
lantern close to the ground and scanning every step, besides swinging
the lantern out to light up either side of their course.  Yet
both lads were so tremendously interested that they pushed on,
heedless of the flight of time.

They had gone a mile or more up the track, "inching" it along,
when they came upon an unmistakable print of Mr. Dodge's oddly
pointed boot and narrow, high heel.  They found, too, the print
of a brogan within six feet of the same point.

"This is the way Dodge and his queer companions came," exulted
Dave.

"But I don't believe they followed the track much further," argued
Prescott, pointing ahead at the signal lights of a small crossing
station.  "If Mr. Dodge were trying to get away from public gaze
he wouldn't go by a station where usually half a dozen loungers
are smoking and talking with the station agent."

"We're lucky to have the trail this far," observed Dave Darrin.
"But we can't follow it accurately at night.  Say---gracious!
Do you know what time it is?  Half-past one in the morning!"

"Wow?" ejaculated Prescott, halting and looking dismayed.  "It'll
take us a good many minutes to get back to where we left the horse.
It'll be after two o'clock when we hit 'The Blade' office.  Dave,
we simply can't follow the trail further tonight.  But we must
strike it first thing in the morning.  It'll be a big thing for
'The Blade' to be the folks to find the missing banker and clear
the mystery up."

"Unless Dodge just kept on until he came to one of the stations,
and took a train.  Then the trail would be a long one."

"He didn't take a train tonight," returned Prescott, shaking his
head.  "If he wanted to disappear that would be the wrong way
to go about it.  He'd be recognized from the descriptions that
will go about broadcast.  No, sir!  Mr. Dodge must be hiding in
some of the big stretches of woods over yonder.  A regiment could
hide and be lost in the great woods."

"It's a trail I hate to leave," muttered Dave Darrin.

"But we've got to wait until daylight.  We can't do much in the
dark, anyway.  I've got to get back to 'The Blade' office.  Get
your bearings here, Dave.  To make doubly sure I'll cut a slice
out of this tie to mark the place where we found this print, for
it may be indistinct by daylight."

Marking the location Dick Prescott wheeled and began to hurry
back, followed by Darrin.  In due time they reached the buggy,
took the light blanket from the horse, unhitched and jumped in.
Fast driving took them to "The Blade" office.

"You didn't learn anything, did you?" questioned Bradley.

"Yes; we did," Dick informed him.  "The police, with their launch
didn't get any trace of Mr. Dodge, did they?"

"No," admitted the news editor.  "I've talked with Hemingway within
the last hour.  The police will begin dragging the river by daylight."

"They won't find the banker that way," chuckled Dick.  "He's alive."

"Have you seen him?" demanded the news editor.

"No; and I'm not going to say too much now, either," returned
Dick, with unusual stubbornness.  "But 'The Blade' wants to take
the keynote that Theodore Dodge is alive, and will turn up.  I
believe Dave and I are going to make him turn up during the next
spell of daylight."

"We surely are!" laughed Darrin.

Mr. Bradley pressed them close with questions, but neither boy
was inclined to reveal the secret of the trail along the railway
roadbed.

"We're going to keep it all as our own scoop," Dick insisted.
"And please, Mr. Bradley, don't post the police about our idea.
If you do, the police will get the credit.  If we keep quiet,
'The Blade' will get all the credit that is coming."

The news editor laid before Dick all the proofs and copy that
had been prepared so far on the absorbing mystery of the night.
Prescott made some newsy additions to the story, and through
it all took the confident keynote that the vanished banker would
soon be heard from in the flesh.

The work done, and Bradley having already seen to the return of
the horse to the livery stable, Dick and Dave went into an unused
room, where they threw themselves down on piles of old papers.
Tired out, they slept without stirring.  But they had left a
note for the office boy who was due at six o'clock to sweep out
the business office.

That office boy came in and called the High School pair at a few
minutes after six.  Dick's first thought was to instruct the boy
to telephone the Prescott and Darrin homes at seven in the morning,
sending word that the two boys were safe but busy.  Then Dick
hastily led the way to a quick-order restaurant near by.  Here
the boys got through with breakfast as quickly as they could.
That done, they bought sandwiches, which they put into their
pockets.

As they came out of the eating house the streets were still far
from crowded.  Laborers were going to their toil, but it was yet
too early for the business men of the city to be on their way
to offices, or clerks to the stores.

"Now, let's get out of the town in a jiffy," proposed Dick.  "We
don't want to have many folks observing which way we go.  We'll
travel fast right up along the railway track."

Once started, the two boys kept going briskly.  Both had been
drowsy at the outset, but the impulse of discovery had them in
its grip now, and fatigue was quickly forgotten.

Something more than half an hour after the start the boys halted
beside the tie that Prescott had whittled in the dark a few hours
before.

"There are the footprints," quivered Dave, staring hard.

"They're not as distinct as they were a few hours ago," replied
Dick.  "Still, I think we can follow them.  I'm glad they lead
toward the woods."

"Yes," Darrin agreed.  "The direction of the footprints shows
that Mr. Dodge and his companions didn't have any notion of boarding
a train and getting out of this part of the world."

Yet, though both of these young newspaper hounds were keen to
follow the trail, they did not find it any easy matter.  Dick
and Dave reached the edge of the woods.  Then, for a short time,
they were obliged to explore carefully ere they came again upon
one of the bootmarks of fastidious Banker Dodge.  It was a hundred
feet further on, in a bit of soft mould, that the next bootprint
was found.  Had these two High School boys been more expert trackers
they would have found a fairly continuous trail, but their untrained
eyes lacked the ability to see other signs that would have been
evident to a plainsman.

So their progress was slow, indeed.  They could judge only by
the direction in which each last footprint was pointed, and they
had to remember that one wandering through the woods might travel
over a course whose direction frequently changed.

"Dave," whispered Prescott, "I think we had better separate a
little.  We might go along about a hundred feet apart.  In that
way there is more chance that we'll come sooner upon the next
print."

There were perhaps six hundred feet into the woods, by this time,
and stood looking down at the fifth footmark they had found.

"All right," nodded Darrin.  "We're a pair of rank amateurs at
this kind of work, anyway."

"Amateurs or not," murmured Dick, with a smile?  "we seem to be
the only folks in Gridley who are on the right track in this mystery
at present."

"I'm full of misgivings, anyway," muttered Dave.

"Why?"

"I can't help feeling that we should have turned our news over
to Chief Coy or Hemingway.

"Again, why?"

"Well, if we lose our man now, we'll soon feel that we ought to
have turned the whole thing over to the police while the trail
was fresh."

"Dave, don't you know, well enough, that newspapers do more than
the police, nowadays, in clearing up mysteries?"

"This may be more than a mystery," hinted Dave.  "Even if we get
through to the end of this trail---or mystery we may find a crime
at that end."

"All the more need, then, for moving on fast.  See here, Dave,
I'll follow just the way this footprint points.  You get out a
hundred feet or so to the right.  And we'll move as fast as we
can, now."

The wisdom of this plan was soon apparent, for it was Dave Darrin
who discovered the next footprint.  He summoned Dick Prescott
with a sharp hiss.

"Yes; all right," nodded Dick, joining his comrade and gazing
down at one of the narrow bootmarks.  "But don't send a long signal
again, Dave.  We might be close, and warn some one out of our
way."

"What shall we do, then?"

"We'll look frequently at each other, and the fellow who discovers
anything will make signs to the other."

Three minutes later Dick Prescott crouched low behind a line of
bushes, his eyes glistening as he peered and listened.  Then he
began to make wildly energetic signals to Dave Darrin.

The head partner of Dick & Co. had fallen upon something that
interested him---tremendously!




CHAPTER IV

THE "SOREHEADS" IN CONCLAVE


Dave Darrin came stealing over, as soft-footed as any panther.

Dick did not turn around to look at his chum.  He merely held
up a cautioning hand, and Darrin moved even more stealthily.

In another moment Dave's head was close to his chum's, and both
young men were gazing upon the same scene.

"Davis and Fremont-----" whispered Darrin in his chum's ear.

"Bayliss, Porter and Drayne," Dick nodded back, softly.

"Trenhold, Grayson, Hudson," continued Darrin.

"All the 'soreheads,'" finished Dick Prescott for him.

"Or nearly all," supplemented Dave.

Indeed, the scene upon which these two High School boys gazed
was one that greatly interested them.

On a little knoll, just beyond the line of bushes, and on lower
ground, fully a dozen young men lounged, basking in the morning
sun, which poured through upon this small, treeless space.

Though the young men down in the knoll were not carefully attired,
there was a general similarity in their dress.  All wore sweaters,
and nearly all of them wore cross-country shoes.  Evidently the
whole party had been out for a cross country run.

Now, the dozen or so were eagerly engaged in conversation.

"It's too bad Purcell won't join us," remarked Davis.

"Yes," nodded another fellow in the group; "he belongs with us."

"Oh, well," spoke up Bayliss, "if Purcell would rather be with
the muckers, let him."

"Now, let's not be too rank, fellows," objected Hudson slowly.
"I wouldn't call all the fellows muckers who don't happen to
belong in our crowd."

"What would you call 'em then?" growled Bayliss angrily.  "Time
was when only the fellows of the better families expected to go
to High School, on their way to college.  Now, every day-laborer's
son seems to think he ought to go to High School-----"

"And be received with open arms, on a footing of equality," sneered
Porter.

"It's becoming disgusting," muttered Bayliss.  "Not only do these
cheap fellows expect to go to the High School, but they actually
want to run the school affairs."

"I suppose that's natural, to some extent," speculated Porter.

"Why?" demanded Bayliss, turning upon the last speaker in amazement.

"Why, the sons of the poorer families are in a majority, nowadays,"
returned Hudson.

"Say, you're getting almost as bad as Purcell," warned Porter.

"If I am, I apologize, of course," responded Hudson.

"I've no real objection to the sons of poorer men coming to the
High School," vouchsafed Paulson, meditatively.  "But you know
the cream, the finer class of the High School student body, has
always centered in the school's athletic teams.  And now-----"

"Yes; and now-----" broke in Bayliss harshly.

"Why, these fellows, who are not much more than tolerated in the
High School, or ought not to be, make the most noise at the meets
of the training squads," continued Paulson.

"And some of 'em," growled Fremont, "actually have the cheek to
carry off honors in scholarship, too.  Take Dick Prescott, for
instance."

"Oh, let the muckers have the scholarship honors, if that's all
they want," retorted Bayliss "A gentleman hasn't much need of
scholarship, anyway, if he's an all-around, proper fellow in every
other respect.  But the, gang that call  themselves Dick & Co.
are a fair sample of the muckers that we have to contend with."

"No," objected Fremont; "they're the very worst of the lot in
the High School.  Why, look at the advertising those fellows get
for themselves.  And not one of them of good family."

"Fellows of good, prominent families don't have to advertise themselves,"
observed Bayliss sagely.

It was plain that by "good" family was meant one of wealth.  These
young men had little else in the way of a standard.

"It makes me cranky," observed Whitney, "to see the way a lot
of the girls seem to notice just such fellows as Prescott, Darrin,
Reade, Dalzell---fellows who, by rights, ought to be through with
their schooling and earning wages as respectful grocery clerks
or decent shoe salesmen."

"But this talk isn't carrying us anywhere," objected Bayliss.
"The question is, what are we going to do with the football problem
this year?  We don't want to play in the same eleven with the
cheap muckers, and have 'em think they're the whole eleven.  The
call for the football training squad is due to go up some time
next week."

"Bert Dodge says-----" interrupted Paulson.

"Yes, Dodge is the fellow I wish we had here with us today," interposed
Bayliss.  "Dodge is the one we ought to listen to."

"Poor Dodge has his own troubles today," murmured Hudson.

"Yes; I know---poor fellow," nodded Bayliss.  "I wish we fellows
could help him, but we can't."

"I was talking with Dodge yesterday, before his own troubles broke
loose," went on Hudson.  "Dodge's idea is that we ought all to
keep away when the football squad is called.  Then Coach Morton
may get an idea of how things are going, and he may see just what
he ought to do."

"But suppose the muckers all answer the call in force?" inquired
Trenholm.  "What are we to do then?"

"We're to keep out of the squad this year," responded Bayliss
promptly.  "See here, either we fellows organize the Gridley High
School eleven ourselves, and decide who shall play in it, or else
we stay out and let the muckers go ahead and pile up a record
of lost games this year."

"That's hard on good old Gridley High School," murmured Hudson.

"True," agreed Fremont.  "But it'll teach the town, the school
authorities, the coach and after this year, that only the prominent
fellows in the school should have any voice in athletics.  Let
the muckers be content with standing behind the side lines and
rooting for the real High School crowd."

"Shall we put it to a vote?" asked Bayliss, looking about him.

"Yes!" answered several promptly.

"Then, as I understand it," continued Bayliss, "when the football
call goes up, we're all to ignore it.  We're to continue to ignore
the call, and keep out of the school football squad this year,
unless the coach and the Athletics Committee agree that we shall
have the naming of the candidates.  Is that the general agreement
among ourselves?"

"Yes!" came the chorus.

"Any contrary votes?"

Momentary silence reigned in this conclave of "soreheads."

"Yet," continued Bayliss, "we've started training among ourselves.
This morning's cross-country is part of our daily training.
If we have to refuse the football call, and stay out of the squad,
are we to drop our present training?"

"Hardly, I should say," responded Fremont.  "I have something
to suggest in that line.  If we can't go into what is really a
gentleman's eleven under the High School colors, I propose that
we organize an eleven of our own, and call ourselves simply the
Gridley Football Club.  We can bring out an eleven that would
put things all over any school team that the muckers could organize
without our help."

"We wouldn't play the muckers, would we?" demanded Trenholm.

"Certainly not!" retorted Bayliss, with contemptuous emphasis.

"We won't even know that a mucker High School team is on earth,"
laughed Porter.

"I think we understand the plan well enough, now, don't we?" inquired
Blaisdell, rising.

"We do," nodded Porter.  "And we'll all do our full share toward
bringing control of High School affairs back to the aristocratic
leadership that it once had."

"Hoist our banners, and let them proclaim: 'Down with the muckers!'"
laughed Hudson, rolling up the hem of his sweater.

"We want a good, not too fast but steady jog back to town," announced
Bayliss.

At the first sign that the "soreheads" were preparing to leave
the spot Dick had taken advantage of their noise to slip away.
Dave had followed him successfully.

Then, from another hiding place these two prowling juniors, grinning,
watched the "soreheads" move away at a loping run.

"We certainly know all we need to about that crowd," muttered
Dick, a half-vengeful look in his eyes.  "The snobs!"

"Oh, they're cads, all right," assented Dave.  "Yet that bunch
of fellows contains some of the material that is needed in putting
forth the best High School team this year!"

"Humph!" commented Dave disgustedly.  "Yet, Dick, I was almost
surprised that you would stop and listen, without letting the
fellows know you were there."

"It does seem sneaky, at first thought," Prescott admitted, almost
shamefacedly.

"Hold on there!" ordered Dave.  "I don't believe you'd do a thing
like that, Dick Prescott, unless you had an honorable reason for
it."

"I did it because the honor of the High School is so precious
to me---to us all," Dick replied.  "We want to put forth a winning
team, as Gridley High School has always done.  Now, these 'soreheads'
aim to defeat that by keeping a few of the best players off the
eleven.  I listened, Dave, because I wanted to know what the trouble
was, and just who was making it.  Now, I guess I know how to deal
with the 'sore-heads.' I'll make them ashamed of themselves."

"How?"

"One thing at a time, Dave.  In our excitement we've almost forgotten
that we started out to find Theodore Dodge and clear up the mystery
of his disappearance."




CHAPTER V

AT THE END OF THE TRAIL


"The further we go the more mysterious this becomes," mused Dick,
as he and Darrin stood together over a clump of faintly-marked
footprints, a quarter of an hour later.

"How does the mystery increase?" Darrin inquired.

"For one thing, we don't always find the bootmarks of the men
who were with Mr. Dodge.  Yet once in a while we do.  There are
the prints of all three.  When Theodore Dodge passed by this way
the other two men were with him, or had him in sight.  And our
course shows that the three were plunging deeper and deeper into
the woods.  But come along.  There must be an end to this, somewhere."

Ten minutes later Prescott and Darrin felt that they had come
to the end of the mystery.  For the faint trail had led them up
a slight, stony slope, and now the two boys lay flat on the ground.

Below them, in a bush-clad hollow, two miles from the world in
general, stood a little, old, ramshackle shanty.  The location
was one that seekers would hardly have found without a trail to
lead them to it.

To the door of this shanty a broad-shouldered, rough-looking and
powerful fellow of forty had just come.  The man, who was poorly
clad, wore brogans, and held in his right hand a weighty, ugly-looking
club.  The fellow was smoking a short-stemmed pipe, and now stood,
 with his left hand shading his eyes, peering off at the surrounding
landscape.

Dick and Dave hugged the ground more closely behind their screen
of bushes.

"It's all right, Bill," announced the lookout in the doorway.

"'Course this," growled a voice from the inside.  "Too far from
the main line o' travel for anyone to be spying around.  Besides,
no one guesses-----"

"Well, you can go to sleep if ye wanter, Bill.  I'm goin' ter
sit up and smoke."

With that the brogan-shod man disappeared inside the shanty.
Dick and Dave glanced at each other with eager interest.

"I wonder whether they have Mr. Dodge in there with them?" breathed
Dick, in his ear.

"If Mr. Dodge is in there he's keeping amazingly quiet," Darrin
responded doubtingly.

"Within a very few minutes," Prescott rejoined, "I'm going to know
whether Mr. Dodge is in that shanty."

"We found his footprint close enough near here," argued Dave.

"Yes, and I feel sure enough that Mr. Dodge is there.  But why
don't we hear something from him?  The whole business is so uncanny
that it gives one that creepy feeling."

For a full quarter of an hour the two chums remained hidden, barely
stirring.  From the shanty, at first, came crooning tones, as
though the man in brogans were humming over old songs to himself.
Occasionally there was a snore; evidently Bill was drowsing the
day away.

"Now, I'm going down there," whispered Dick.

"Look out the big fellow doesn't catch you," warned Darrin.  "I've
an idea he'd beat you to a pulp if he caught you."

"I'm not as big as he is," admitted Dick, grinning, "but I think
I might prove as fast as he on my feet."

As Prescott started to steal down into the hollow Dave reached
about him, gathering all the fair-sized stones within reach.

"If Dick has to come from there on the rim," soliloquized Darrin,
"a few stones hurled at the face of that ugly-looking customer
might hold him back for a while.  And I used to be called a pretty
fair pitcher!"

Prescott, in the meantime, was stealing around the shanty, applying
his eyes to some tiny cracks.

At last he turned, making straight and cautiously up the slope.

As he came near, Dick sent Dave a signal that made that latter
youth throb with expectancy.

"Yes!  We've found Theodore Dodge!" whispered young Prescott eagerly.
"He's in there, lying on the floor, bound and gagged."

"Whew!  And what is Mr. Brogans doing?"

"Sitting on the floors smoking and playing solitaire with a dirty
pack of cards.  The other rascal, Bill, is sleeping at a great
rate."

"What are we going to do now?"

"Dave, are you willing to stay here, hiding and keeping watch
on the place?"

"Surely," nodded Darrin, with great promptness.

"If the wretches should try to take Mr. Dodge away from here-----"

"I'll follow 'em, of course."

"And leave a paper trail," nodded Dick.

"Here is all the paper I have in my pockets," he added.

"I have some, too," muttered Dave.

"I'll be back as speedily as I can get help."

"You ought not to be gone more than an hour."

"Not as long as that, I hope.  Goodbye, Dave, and look out for
yourself."

After going the first hundred yards Dick Prescott let himself
out into a loping run, very  much like that used by the "soreheads"
in getting back to town.  With a trained runner the cross-country
style of running is suited for getting over long distances at
fair speed.

Twenty minutes later young Prescott reached a farm house in which
there was a telephone.  He asked permission to use the instrument.

"Go right in the parlor, and help yourself," replied the farmer's
wife.

As Dick rang on, and stood waiting, transmitter at his ear, he
first thought of calling for the police station.

"No, I won't, either," he muttered.  "This belongs to my paper.
Let them tip off the police.  Hello!  Give me 'The Blade' office,
Gridley, please."

Dick waited patiently a few moments.  Then:

"Hullo!  'The Blade?' This is Prescott.  Is Mr. Pollock there?
He is?  Good!  Tell him I want to speak with him."

Then Mr. Pollock's voice sounded over the wire.

"Hullo, Prescott!  Why aren't you on hand, with that big Dodge
story hanging over our heads?  Why, it brought me down hours before
fore my time."

"Pollock, I've found Dodge," replied Dick Composedly.  "At least,
Darrin and I-----"

"What's that!" broke in the editor's excited voice.  "You've found
Dodge?  Alive?"

As rapidly as he could young Prescott told the story.  Mr. Pollock
listened gladly.

"Now, where are you, Prescott?"

Dick told Mr. Pollock the name of the farmer from whose home he
was telephoning.

"Just you wait there, Prescott.  And, oh!---pshaw!  I came near
forgetting to tell you the biggest news of all---for you.  Mrs.
Dodge this morning offered a thousand dollars' reward for the
finding of her husband, dead or alive.  You'll get that reward---you
and Darrin!  But I've no more time to talk.  Stay right where
you are until I reach you."

Nor was it long before Dick, pacing by the farmyard gate, saw
an automobile approaching at a lively clip.  In it were the chauffeur
and Editor Pollock.

The latter waved his hand wildly when he caught sight If his High
School reporter.

Right begged this automobile sped another, in which sat Chief Coy,
Officer Hemingway and a uniformed policeman, in addition to the
chauffeur.

"We didn't lose much time, did we?" hailed Mr. Pollock, as the
first auto slowed up "Jump in, quick!  Show us the way."

"I suppose there's some excitement down in Gridley, about this
time?" laughed Dick, as the two autos raced along once more.

"Not a bit," replied the editor.  "And for the very simple reason
that no one knows that Dodge has been found."

"His family know it, of course?" queried Dick.

"No; not a word.  Chief Coy kept it quiet, and asked me to do
the same.  He didn't want the Dodge family all stirred up by false
hopes in case you had made a mistake.  The silence will keep 'The
Evening Mail' from learning the news for a while.  And I've had
our forms left standing.  We're all ready to run out an extra
---in case you haven't made a mistake, Prescott," added Mr. Pollock
quizzically.

Dick smiled resignedly at this implied doubt.  But the autos were
making fast time, and soon the machines had gone as far on the
way as they could be used.

"Now we'll have to get out and strike across country, through
the woods," Prescott called.

So far Dick had resolutely tried to keep out of his mind any thought
of that thousand-dollar reward.  It sounded too much like "Blood
money" to take pay for helping any afflicted family out of its
troubles.  Besides, it had been the glory of doing a piece of
bright newspaper work that had allured the two High School boys
at the outset.

"Yet a thousand dollars is---a thousand dollars!" Dick couldn't
help feeling, wistfully, as he piloted his party across fields
and through the woods.  "A thousand dollars!  Five hundred apiece
for Dave and me!  What a fearful big lot of money!  What we could
do with it, If we had it!  I wonder whether it would be right
and decent to take it?"

Then, as he neared the place where he had left his chum on post
Dick Prescott found other and anxious thoughts crowding into his
mind.

Was Dave Darrin, staunch and reliable Dave---still there, on
post, and unharmed?

Was Theodore Dodge there?  Were his captors still with him?




CHAPTER VI

THE SMALL SOUL OF A GENTLEMAN


A few minutes later all fears and doubts were dispelled.

Dave Darrin rose to greet the newcomers informing them, in a whisper,
that all was still well in the old shanty below.

He of the brogans and club heard a slight noise outside.  Swiftly
he rose and darted to the door, ready to pounce.

But he beheld the policemen, with the newspaper trio just behind
them.  More, Chief Coy and his subordinates had their revolvers
drawn.

"Howdy, gents?" was Mr. Brogans' greeting as he dropped his club
and tried to grin.

"Take care of him, Hemingway," directed Thief Coy, briefly.

"Me?" demanded Brogans, in feigned astonishment.  "What have _I_
done?"

The noise roused Bill, who sprang up.  But Bill must have found
the police wonderfully soothing, for he quieted down at once.

Both rascals were taken care of.  Then Theodore Dodge was found
lying bound and gagged on the floor.  A ragged, foul-smelling
coat had been substituted for the one that had been left at the
river's bank.  The banker looked up at the intruders with a stupefied
leer, betraying neither alarm or pleasure.

As soon as the two rough-looking fellows had been handcuffed Mr.
Dodge was freed, and his tongue also, but Chief Coy, after raising
the banker and questioning him, muttered:

"Clean out of his head.  Daffy.  Must have wandered away from
Gridley during a loony streak.  He isn't over it yet."

The two rough-looking ones protested loudly against being deprived
of their liberty.

"I don't really know that you fellows have done anything," admitted
Chief Coy.  "But I'm taking you along on suspicion that it was
you, and not Mr. Dodge himself, who bound and gagged him."

This retort, given with a great deal of dry sarcasm, silenced
the prisoners for the time being.

"We ought to have this out an hour before 'The Evening Mail' people,"
exulted Editor Pollock.  "Prescott, my boy, you're a born reporter!
And, Darrin, you're not much behind."  "Theodore Dodge found by
two "Blade" reporters!  That won't sound bad!"

The briefest questioning was enough to show that Theodore Dodge
was in no condition to give any account of himself.  He did not
reply with an intelligible word.  His eyes held only a vacant
stare.  It was as though memory and reason had suddenly snapped
within his brain.

"The doctors will want him," commented Chief Coy.  "And we can't
be hustling back a bit too soon."

It had been a gloomy morning at the home of Banker Dodge.

Through the night, none had slept.  Anxiety had kept them all
on the rack.

Mrs. Dodge, a thin and nervous woman, had gone from one spell
of hysterics into another, as morning neared.  A trained nurse
had to be sent for.

Then in a calm lull Mrs. Dodge had telephoned for Lawyer Ripley,
who lost his breakfast through the speed with which he obeyed
the summons of the distracted wife.

As a result of the lawyer's visit the reward of a thousand dollars
had been offered.

The house was quiet again.  Dr. Bentley, having been called for
the third time, had administered an opiate, and Mrs. Dodge was
sleeping.  The other members of the family tip-toed restlessly
about.

Bert Dodge felt in a peculiarly "mean" frame of mind that morning.
The young man simply could not remain in one spot.  The more
he had thought, through and through the night, the more he had
become convinced that his father had killed himself because of
some entanglement in the bank's affairs.

"And I'll be pointed out as the defaulter's son," thought Bert
bitterly.  "Oh, why couldn't the guv'nor think of some one besides
himself!  We'll have to move away from Gridley, of course.  But
the disgrace will follow us anywhere we may go.  Oh, it's
awful---awful!   Of course, I'm not in any way to blame.  But, oh!
What a disgrace!"

It was well along in the forenoon when Bayliss, returning homeward
in sweater and running togs, espied Bert's white, wan face near
the front door.  Bayliss signaled cordially to young Dodge, who,
glad of this kindliness at such a time, went down the walk to
the gate.

"No news of your father yet, I suppose?" asked Bayliss.

"No," sighed Bert.

"Too bad, old fellow!"

"Yes; the uncertainty is pretty tough on us all," Dodge replied.

"Oh, you'll hear before the day is out, and the news will be all
right, too," declared Bayliss, with well-meant cheeriness.  "Then
you'll be with us on the morning cross-countries again.  We missed
you a whole lot this morning, Bert."

"Did you?" asked young Dodge, brightening.

"Yes; and, by the way, we've decided on our course---for our set, you
know.  We're going to ignore the football call next week.  If Coach
Morton asks us any questions, then we'll let him know how the
land lies.  We won't try to make the High School team if the muckers
are allowed the same show.  We'll have a select crowd on the eleven,
this year, or else all of our set will stay off."

"The muckers have some good football men among them, too," grumbled
Bert.  "Of course  for that gang that call themselves Dick & Co
we can't any more than make guesses.  But some of them would be
handy on an eleven I guess."

"Yes; if they were not muckers," agreed Bayliss loftily.  "But
there are enough of our own kind to make as good an eleven as
Gridley High School ever had."

"It's a pity we can't get up our own eleven play the muckers,
just once, and beat them out for the right to represent Gridley."

"It wouldn't be so bad an idea.  But they might beat us," retorted
Bayliss dryly.  "So, on the whole, our fellows have decided not
to pay any heed whatever to Dick & Co. or any of the other muckers.
After this the line must be drawn, at High School, between the
gentlemen and the other kind."

"All plans looking in that direction will have my hearty support,"
pledged Bert Dodge.

"I know it, old fellow."

"It's queer that the question never came up before about the muckers,"
Bert mused.

"We never had Dick & Co. in school athletics, until last year,"
replied Bayliss significantly.

"That fellow, Prescott, is about the worst-----"

Bert Dodge stopped right there.  Bayliss, too, started and turned.
Around the nearest corner some folks were making a big noise.  Then
around the corner came two autos, while a crowd raced along on the
sidewalks.

"Hurrah!  Mr. Dodge is found.  Dick Prescott and Dave Darrin found
him!" shouted a score of urchins in the crowd.

Bert and Bayliss both gasped.  Then the autos slowed up at the
curb before the gate.  The police prisoners were still in the
second car.

Bert took a look, recognized his father, despite the strange look
in that parent's face.

"Help them bring my father in, Bayliss!" called young Dodge.
"I'll run to prepare the folks."

In another moment there was a turmoil of excitement inside the
Dodge house.  While the excitement was still going on Bert came
out to inform the crowd that both his father and mother needed
quiet and medical attendance.  Bert begged the crowd to go away
quietly.

Dick and Dave were standing before the gateway way while Editor
Pollock answered some of the queries of the crowd.

"Great luck for you fellows, Prescott and Barren!" called some
one in the crowd.  "You two will know what to do with a thousand
dollars' reward!"

Bert Dodge wheeled about like a flash, and facing Dave and Dick,
shouted:

"If that's what you two fellows are hanging around here for,
you'd better clear out!  Take it from me that you fellows will
get no thousand dollars, or ten cents, out of our family!"




CHAPTER VII

THE FOOTBALL NOTICE GOES UP


Mr. Pollock, usually a very calm man, wheeled upon young Dodge.

"My lad, when you find out what Prescott and Darrin have done in
the way of rescuing your father, you'll feel wholly ashamed of
yourself.  I don't believe either young man has given a second
thought to the reward."

People in a crowd take sides quickly.  Bert heard several muttered
remarks from the bystanders that made him flush.  Then, choking
and angry, he turned and darted for the house.

By this time Mr. Pollock, Dick and Dave were speeding for "The Blade"
office.

Already a run had started on the Second National Bank.  A crowd
filled the counting room and extended out onto the sidewalk.
Their depositors, largely small business men and people who ran
private check accounts, were frightfully nervous about their money.

Up to noon the bank paid all demands, though the accounts were
adjusted slowly, while the crowd grew in numbers outside.  At
noon the Second National availed itself of its privilege of closing
its doors promptly at that hour on Saturday.

Dick Prescott wrote with furious speed at "The Blade" office.
In another room Mr. Pollock wrote from the facts supplied by
Dave Darrin.  In half an hour from the time these three entered
the office the "Extra" was out on  the street---fifteen minutes
ahead of "The Mail," which latter newspaper contained very little
beyond the fact that Mr. Dodge had been found, and that he was
now under the care of his family.  "The Mail" stated that the
discovery had been made by "two High School boys" aiding the police,
and did not name either Dick or Dave.

On Monday the bank examiner arrived.  He made a quick inspection
of the bank's affairs, and pronounced the institution "sound."
The run on the bank stopped, and timid depositors began to bring
back their money.  The members of the Dodge family could once
more hold up their heads.

In the meantime Dr. Bentley had called in a specialist.  Together
the two medical men decided that Theodore Dodge had suffered only
from an extreme amount of overwork; that the strain had momentarily
unbalanced his mind, and had made the deranged man contemplate
drowning himself.

By means of a modified form of the "third degree" Chief Coy, by
this time, had succeeded in making the two vagrants confess that
they had found Mr. Dodge, with his coat and hat off standing by
the bank of the stream.  Guessing the banker's condition, and
learning his identity, the two men, though they did not confess
on this point, had evidently coaxed the banker away to their shanty
away off in the heart of the woods.  Undoubtedly it had been their
plan to keep the banker under their own eyes, with a view of extorting
a reward from the missing man's family.  The judge of the local
court finally decided to send both men away for six months on
a charge of vagrancy.

And here the matter seemed to end.  Though Lawyer Ripley urged
the prompt payment of the offered reward to Prescott and Darrin,
Mrs. Dodge, influenced by her son, demurred.  At Mr. Pollock's
suggestion Dick and Dave promptly drew up and signed a paper releasing
the Dodge family from any claim.  This paper was also signed by
the fathers of the two boys, and forwarded to Lawyer Ripley.
That gentleman man returned the paper to Dick, with a statement
that he might have something to communicate at a later date.

Tuesday morning, with many secret misgivings, Coach Morton, who
was also one of the submasters of the High School, posted the
call for the football squad.  The call was for three o'clock Thursday
afternoon, at the gym.

"Humph!" was the audible and only comment of Bayliss, as he stood
before the school bulletin board at recess and read the announcement.

"I guess the day for football here has gone by," observed Porter
sneeringly.

"Of interest to ragamuffins only," sneered Paulson, as he turned
away to join Fremont of the senior class.

"Listen to the wild enthusiasm over upholding the school's honor
in athletics," muttered Dave, scowling darkly.

"We knew it was coming," declared Tom Reade.

Abner Cantwell was still principal at Gridley High School, though
that violent-tempered and unpopular pedagogue had been engaged,
this  year, only as "substitute" principal.  There were rumors
that Dr. Thornton, the former and much-loved principal, would
soon be in sufficiently good health to return.  So the Board of
Education had left the way clear for dropping Mr. Cantwell at
any moment that it might see fit.

Dick & Co. had gathered by themselves on this Tuesday, at recess.
They did not discuss the football call, nor its reception by
the "soreheads," for they had known what was coming.  Just before
recess was over, however, there were sudden sounds of a riot around
the bulletin board.

"Tear that down!"

"Throw 'em out!"

"Raus mit!"

"The mean cheats!"

There was a surging rush of High School boys for the bulletin
board.

Bayliss and Fremont, both of the senior class, who had just posted
a new notice, were now trying to push their way through an angry
crowd of youngsters that had collected.

"They're no good!"

"A disgrace to the school!"

"Send 'em to Coventry!"

"No!  Handle 'em right now!"

There was another rush.

"Get back, you hoodlums!" yelled Bayliss, his face violet with
rage.

"I'll crack the head of any fellow that lays hands on me!" stormed
Fremont.

"Oh, will he?  Come on, then, fellows!"

Fremont was caught up as though by a cyclone.  Two or three fellows
seized him at a time, passing him down the corridor.  The last
to receive the hapless Fremont propelled him through the main
doorway of the school building.  Nor was this done with any gentle
force, either.

Bayliss, not attempting to fight, was simply hustled along on
his feet.

Out of one of the rooms near by rushed Mr. Cantwell, the principal---or
"Prin." as he was known, his face white with the anger that he
felt over what he regarded as a most unseemly disturbance.

"Stop this riot, young gentlemen!" commanded the principal sternly.

"Send in the riot call, like you did last year!" piped up a disguised,
thin, falsetto voice from the outskirts of the rapidly growing
crowd.  Quite a lot of the girls had gathered, too, by this time.

The principal turned around, sharply, as some of the girls began
to giggle.  But Mr. Cantwell was unable to detect the one who
had thus taunted him.

Coach Morton peered over the railing of the floor above.

"Mr. Morton!" called the principal.

"Yes, sir."

"Sound the assembling gong, if you please."

Clang!  clang!  clang!

The din of the gong cut their recess four minutes short, but not
one of the excited High School boys regretted it.  They had had
a chance to express themselves, and now fell in, filing down to
the locker rooms, then up the stairs once more to the assembly
room.  Bayliss and Fremont came in, joining the others.  They
were white-faced, but strove to carry their heads very high.

The sounding of the gong had stopped the circulating of the paper
that had been so angrily torn down from the bulletin board.  It
was in Dick Prescott's hands now.

The notice had announced the formation of a "select" party for
a straw ride for the young men and young women of the junior and
senior classes on Thursday afternoon, starting at two-thirty o'clock.
Invitations would be issued by the committee, after requests
for tickets had been passed upon by that committee.  Bayliss,
Fremont and Paulson signed the notice of the straw ride.

This was the means by which the "soreheads" chose to announce
that they would ignore the football squad call for Thursday.

Wisely, for once, the principal did not choose to question the
young men regarding the excitement attending the close of recess.
Studies and recitations went on as usual.

But feeling ran high.  The "soreheads" and their sympathizers
were known, by this time, to all the other young men of the student
body.  During the rest of the day's session many a "sorehead"
found himself being regarded with black or sneering looks.

Of course the self-elected "exclusive" set was not numerously
represented in the High School.  Most of the boys and girls did
not come from well-to-do families.  Some who did had refused to
have anything to do with the "sorehead" crowd.

The instant that school was dismissed that Tuesday afternoon scores
of the more boisterous boys rushed from the building, across the
yard, and double-lined the sidewalk leading from the gateway.

"Ugh!  ugh!  ugh!" they groaned, whenever any of the "soreheads"
tried to walk this gauntlet in dignified silence.

"Let's keep out of that, fellows," advised Dick, to his chums,
who grouped themselves about him.  "Groans and catcalls won't
smooth or soothe any hard-feelings."

"I don't blame any of the fellows for what they're doing to the
snobs," blazed Dan Dalzell indignantly.

"I don't say that I do, either," Dick replied quietly.  "But there
may be better ways of  teaching fellows that they should stand
by their school at all times."

"I'd like to know a better way, then," flared Tom Reade.

"Let's have it, instanter, Dick, if you've got one," begged Greg
Holmes.

"Yes; out with it, old chap," begged Harry Hazelton.

But Dick Prescott smiled provokingly.

"Perhaps, with the help of some of the rest of you," he replied,
"I shall be able to find a way of cooling some hot heads.  I hope
so, anyway."

"Dick has his plan all fixed, now," Dan whispered, hopefully,
to Tom.

"If he has," quoth Reade, under his breath, I wish he'd tell us
his scheme."

"Humph!" retorted Dan.  "You know Dick Prescott, and you know
that he never shoots until he has taken time to aim."




CHAPTER VIII

DICK FIRES BOTH BARRELS


"Oh---great Scott!" gasped Tom Reade, as he paused at an item in
"The Blade" the following morning.

That item had been written by Prescott.  There could be no doubt
about it in Reade's mind.

"What's the matter?" asked Tom's father.

"Oh, Dick has been paying his respects to a certain clique in
the High School, I take it," Tom replied, with a grin.  "I heard,
yesterday, that he was going to shoot into that crowd.  But---and
here's a short editorial on the same subject, too.  Wow!  Dick
has fired into the enemy with both barrels!"

A moment later Tom passed the paper over to his father.  Dick's
article read:

_There is a possibility that Gridley High School will not be in
the front ranks in football this year.  Those who know state that
a "sorehead" combination has been formed by the young male representatives
of some of our wealthier families.  These young men, having elected
themselves, so it is said, the salt of the earth, or the cream
of a new Gridley aristocracy, are going to refuse to play in the
football eleven this year.

Even young men who belong to "prominent" families may have some
gifts in the way of football ability.  Three or four out of the
dozen or more "soreheads" are really needed if Gridley High School
is to maintain its standing this year.   The remainder of the
"soreheads" may, with advantage to the High School eleven, be
excused from offering themselves.

The "soreheads," it is stated, feel that it would be beneath the
dignity of their families for them to play on an eleven which
must, in any event, be recruited largely from the sons of the
Gridley families less fortunately situated financially.

Strangely enough, though they don't intend to play football this
year, these "soreheads" have been training hard of late, one of
their practices being the taking of an early morning cross-country
run together.

The average young man at the High School is as eager as ever to
uphold the town's and the school's honor and dignity on the football
gridiron this year.  Whether the so-called "soreheads" will reconsider
their proposed course of action and throw themselves in with the
common lot for the upholding of the Gridley name and the honor
of the High School will have been determined within the next few
days.  It is possible, however, that this little coterie of self-appointed
"exclusives" will continue to refuse to cast their lot with the
commoner run of High School boys, to whom some of the "soreheads"
have referred as "muckers."  A Gridley "mucker," it may be stated
in passing, is a Gridley boy of poor parents who desires to obtain
a decent education and better himself in life._

"Is that article true?" demanded Tom Reade's father.

"Yes, sir," Tom responded.  "Dick wouldn't have written it, if
it hadn't been.  But turn over to the editorial column, and see
that other little bit."

The editorial in question referred to the news printed in another
column, and stated that this information, if correct, showed a
state of affairs at the High School that needed bettering.  The
editor continued:

_If there are in the High School any young snobs who display such
a mean and un-American spirit, then the thoughtful reader must
conclude that these young men are being unjustly educated at the
public expense, for such boys are certain to grow into men who
will turn nothing of value back into the community.  Such young
men, if they really need to study, should be educated at the expense
of their families.  Both the High School and the community can
easily dispense with the presence of snobs and snobbery._

"I guess there'll be some real soreness in some heads this morning,"
laughed Tom's father.

"Won't there!" ejaculated Tom, and hurried out into the street.
It did not take him long to find some of his chums and other
High School boys.  Those who had not seen "The Blade" read the
two marked portions eagerly.

Bert Dodge had "The Blade" placed before him by his sister.  Bert
read with reddening cheeks.

"That's what comes of letting a fellow like Dick Prescott write
for the papers," Bert stormed angrily.  "That fellow ought to
be tarred and feathered!"

"Why don't you suggest it to the 'soreheads'?" asked his sister,
quizzically.  Grace Dodge was an amiable, democratic, capable
girl who had gone through college with honors, and yet had not
gained a false impression of the importance conferred by a little
wealth.

"Grace, I believe you're laughing at me!" dared the young man
exasperatedly.

"No; I'm not laughing.  I'm sorry," sighed the young woman.  "But
I can imagine that a good many are laughing, this morning, and
that the number will grow.  Bert, dear, do you think any young
man can hope to be very highly esteemed when he sets his own importance
above the good name and success of his school?"

Bert did not answer, but quit the house moodily.  He encountered
some of "his own set," but they were not a very cheerful-looking
lot that morning.  Not one of the "soreheads" could escape the
conviction that Dick Prescott held the whip hand of public opinion
over them.  What none of them appreciated, was the moderation
with which young Prescott had wielded his weapon.

Dodge, Bayliss, Paulson and Hudson entered the High School grounds
together, that morning, ten minutes before opening time.  As the
quartette passed, several of the little groups of fellow students
ceased their talk and turned away from the four "soreheads."
Then, after the quartette had passed, quiet little laughs were
heard.

All four mounted the steps of the building with heightening color.

Before the door, talking together, stood Fred Ripley and Purcell,
whom the "soreheads" had endeavored to enlist.

"Good morning, Purcell.  Morning, Ripley," greeted Bayliss.

Fred and Purcell wheeled about, turning their backs without answering.

Once inside the building the four young fellows looked at each
other uneasily.

"Are the fellows trying to send us to coventry?" demanded Dodge.

"Oh, well," muttered Bayliss, "there are enough of us.  We can
stand it!"

Yet, at recess, the "soreheads" found themselves extremely uncomfortable.
None of their fellow-students, among the boys, would notice them.
Whenever some of the "soreheads" passed a knot of other boys,
low-toned laughs followed.  Even many of the girls, it proved,
had taken up with the Coventry idea.

"Fellows, come to my place after you've had your luncheons," Bayliss
whispered around among his cronies, after school was out for the
day.  "I---I guess there are a---a few things that we want to
talk over among ourselves.  So come over, and we'll use the carriage
house for a meeting place.  Maybe we'll organize a club among
ourselves, or---or---do something that shall shut us out and away
from the common herd of this school."

When the dozen or more met in the Bayliss carriage house that
afternoon there were some defiant looks, and some anxious ones.

"I don't know how you fellows feel about this business," began
Hudson frankly.  "But I've had a pretty hot grilling at home by
Dad.  He asked me if I belonged to the 'sorehead' gang.  I answered
as evasively as I could.  Then dad brought his list down on the
table and told me he prayed that I wouldn't go through life with
any false notions about my personal dimensions.  He told me, rather
explosively, that I would never be a bit bigger, in anyone's estimation
than I proved myself to be."

"Hot, was he?" asked Bayliss, with a half sneer.

"He started out that way," replied Hudson.  "But pretty soon Dad
became dignified, and asked me where I had ever gotten the notion
that I amounted to any more than any other fellow of the same
brain caliber."

"What did you tell him?  asked Bert Dodge, frowning.

"I couldn't tell him much," retorted Hudson, smiling wearily.
"Dad was primed to do most of the talking.  When he stopped for
breath mother began."

"It's all that confounded Dick Prescott's doings!  It's a shame!
It's a piece of anarchy---that's what it is!" muttered Paulson.
"On my way here I passed three men on the street.  They looked
at me pretty hard, and laughed after I had gone by.  Fellows,
are we going to allow  that mucker, Dick Prescott, to make us
by-words in this town?"

"No siree, no!" roared Fremont.

"Good!  That's what I like to hear," put in Hudson dryly.  "And
what are we going to do to stop Dick Prescott and turn public
opinion our ways"

"Why-----"

"We-----"

"The way to-----"

"We'll-----"

Several spoke at once, then all came to a full stop.  The "soreheads"
looked at each other in puzzled silence.

"What are we going to do?" demanded Fremont.  "How are we going
to hit back at a fellow who has a newspaper that he can use as
a club on your head?"

"We might have a piece put in 'The Evening Mail,'" hinted Porter,
after a dazed silence.  "That's the rival paper."

"Yes!" chimed in Bayliss, eagerly.  "We can write a piece and
get it put in 'The Mail.' Our piece can say that there has been
a tendency, this year, or was believed to be one, to get a rowdyish
element of the High School into the High School eleven, and that
our move was really a move intended to sustain the past reputation
of the Gridley High School for gentlemanly playing in all school
sports.  That  will hit Dick & Co., and a lot of others, and will
turn the laugh back on the muckers."

This proposition brought forth several eager cries of approval.

"I see just one flaw in the plan," observed Hudson slowly.

"What is it?" demanded half a dozen at once.

"Why, 'The Evening Mail' is a paper designed to appeal to the more
rowdyish element in Gridley politics.  'The Mail's' circulation is
about all among the class of people who come nearest to being
'rowdyish.'  So I'm pretty certain, fellows, that 'The Mail' wouldn't
take up our cause, and hammer our enemies with the word 'rowdy.' 'The
Blade' is the paper that circulates among the best people in Gridley."

"And Dick Prescott writes for 'The Blade'!"

A gloomy silence followed, broken by Bayliss's disconsolate query:

"Then, hang it!  What can we do?"

And that query stuck hard!




CHAPTER IX

BAYLISS GETS SOME ADVICE


On that fateful Thursday morning every High School boy, and nearly
every High School girl saw "The Blade."

The morning paper, however, contained no allusion whatever to
the football remarks of the day before.

Instead, there was an article descriptive of the changes to be
made out at the High School athletic field this present year,
and there were points and "dope" (as the sporting parlance phrases
it) concerning the records and rumored new players of other High
School elevens that were anxious to meet Gridley on the gridiron
this coming season.

Thursday's article was just the kind of a one that was calculated
to make every football enthusiast eager to see the season open
in full swing.

Again the "soreheads" came to school, and once more they had to
pass the silent groups of their fellow students, who stood with
heads turned away.  The reign of Coventry seemed complete.  Never
before had any of the "soreheads" understood so thoroughly the
meaning of loneliness.

At recess all the talk was of football.  None of this talk, however,
was heard by the "soreheads."  Whenever any of these went near
the other groups the talk ceased instantly.  There was no comfort
in the yard, that morning, for a "sorehead."

When school let out that afternoon, at one o'clock, Bayliss, Fremont,
Dodge and their kind scurried off fast.  No one offered to stop
them.  These "exclusive" young men could not get away from the
fact that exclusion was freely accorded them.

Fred Ripley, as had been his wont in other years when he was a
freshman, walked homeward with Clara Deane.

"Fred, you haven't got yourself mixed up at all with that 'sorehead'
crowd, have you?" Miss Deane asked.

"Not much!" replied Fred, with emphasis.  "I want to play football
this year."

"Will all the 'soreheads' be kept out of the eleven, even if they
come to their senses?" Clara inquired.

"Now, really, you'll have to ask me an easier one than that,"
replied Fred Ripley laughingly.

"I had an idea that all of the fellows whose families are rather
comfortably well off might be in the movement---or the strike or
whatever you call it," Clara replied.

"Oh, no; there's a lot of us who haven't gone in with the kickers---and
glad we are of it," Fred replied.

"Still, don't you believe in any importance attaching to the fact
that one comes of one of the rather good old families?" asked
Clara Deane thoughtfully.

"Why, of course, it's something to be quietly proud of," Fred
slowly assented.  Then added, with a quick laugh:

"But the events of the last two days show that one should keep
his pride buttoned in behind his vest."

As for the "soreheads" themselves, there weren't any more meetings.
As soon as they actually began to realize how much amused contempt
many of the Gridley, people felt for them, these young men began
to feel rather disgusted with themselves.

Across the street, and not far from the gymnasium building, was
an apartment house in which two apartments were vacant.  Being
well acquainted with the agent, Bayliss borrowed the key to one
of the apartments.  Before half past two that afternoon, Bayliss
and Dodge were in hiding, where they could look out through a
movable shutter at the gymnasium building.

"There go Prescott, Darrin and Reade," Bayliss soon reported.

"Oh, of course; they'll answer the football call," sniffed Dodge.
"It was over fellows just like them that the whole trouble started."

"And there's Dalzell, Hazelton and Hanshew.  Griffith is just
behind them."

"Yes; all muckers," nodded Dodge.

"There's Coach Morton."

"Of course; he has to attend," replied Dodge, coming toward the
shuttered window.  "But I'll wager old Morton isn't feeling over-happy
this afternoon."

"I don't know," grumbled Bayliss.  "There he is at the gym. door,
shaking hands with Dick Prescott and Dave Darrin, and laughing
pretty heartily."

"Laughing to keep his courage up, I reckon," clicked Bert Dodge
dryly.  "Morton knows he's going to miss a lot of faces that he'd
like to see there this year."

Then Dodge took up post at the peephole, while Bayliss stepped
back, yawning.

Several more football aspirants neared and entered the gym.  The
name of each was called off by Bert.

"This is the first year," chuckled Bayliss, "when Gridley hasn't
had a chance for a star eleven."

"I'll miss the game, myself, like fury," commented Dodge.  "All
through last season, when I played on the second eleven, I was
looking forward to this year."

"Now, don't you go to getting that streak, and quit us," warned
Bayliss quickly.  "Our set is going to get up its own eleven;
don't forget that!  And we're going to play some famous games."

"Sure!" admitted Dodge.  But there was a choke in his throat.

Just a few moments later Bert Dodge gave a violent start, then
cried out, in a voice husky with emotion:

"Oh, I say, Bayliss, look-----"

"What-----"

"_Hudson_!"

"What about him?"

"Quick!"

"Well, you ninny,"

"Hudson is going in the-----"

With a cry partly of doubting, partly of rage, Bayliss leaped
forward, crowding out Dodge in order to get a better view.

Hudson was actually ascending the gym. steps, and going up as
though he meant business.

"He's gone over to---to---them!" gasped Bert Dodge.

"The mean _traitor_!" hissed Bayliss.

Hudson did, indeed, brave it out by going straight on into the
gym.  As he entered some of the fellows already there glared at
him dubiously.  But Hudson met the look bravely.

"Hullo!" cried Dick.  "There's Hudson!"

Coach Morton heard, from another part of the gym.  Turning around,
the coach greeted tile reformed 'sorehead' with a nod and a smile.
Then some of the fellows spoke to Hudson as that young man moved
by them.  In a few  moments more, Hudson began to feel almost
at home among his own High School comrades.

Then Drayne, another 'sorehead,' showed up.  He, too, was treated
as though nothing had happened.  When Trenholm, still another
of the "soreheads," looked in at the gym., he appeared very close
to being afraid.  When he saw Hudson and Drayne there he hastened
forward.  By and by Grayson came in.  At the window across the
street Bayliss and Dodge had checked off all four of these "deserters"
and "traitors."

"Well, they'll play, anyway---either on school or on second,"
muttered Bert, to himself.  "Oh, dear!  Just think the way things
have turned out."

These four deserters from the "soreheads" were all out of that
very select crowd who did respond to the football call.

Promptly at three o'clock Coach Morton called for order.  Then,
after a very few remarks, he called for the names of all who intended
to enter the football training squad for this season.

"And let every fellow who thinks he's lazy, or who doesn't like
to train hard and obey promptly, keep his name off the list,"
warned the coach dryly.  "I've come to the conclusion that what
we need in this squad is Army discipline.  We're going to have
it this year!  Now, young gentlemen, come along with your
names---those of you who really believe you can stand Spartan
training."

"I think I might draw the line at having the fox---or was it a
wolf---gnawing at my entrails,  as one Spartan had to take it,"
laughed one youngster.

"Guess again, or you'd better stay off the squad this year," laughed
the coach.  "This is going to be a genuinely rough season for
all weaklings."

There was a quick making up of the roll.

"Tomorrow afternoon, at three sharp, you'll all report on the
athletic field," announced Coach Morton, when he had finished
writing down the names.  "Any man who fails to show up tomorrow
afternoon will have his name promptly expunged from the squad
rolls.  No excuses will be accepted for failure tomorrow."

There was a crispness about that which some of the fellows didn't
like.

"Won't a doctor's certificate of illness go?" asked one fellow
laughingly.

"It will go---not," retorted coach.  "Pill-takers and fellows
liable to chills aren't wanted on this year's team, anyway.  Now,
young gentlemen, I'm going to give you a brief talk on the general
art of taking care of yourselves, and the art of keeping yourselves
in condition."

The talk that followed seemed to Dick Prescott very much like
a repetition of what Coach Luce had said to them the winter before,
at the commencement of indoor training for baseball.

As he finished talking on health and condition Mr. Morton drew
from one of his pockets a bunch of folded papers.

"I am now," he continued, "going to present to each one of you
a set of rules, principles, guides---call them what you will.
On this paper each one of you will find laid down rules that
should be burned into the memories of all young men who aspire
to play football.  Do not lose your copies of these rules.  Read
the rules over again and again.  Memorize them!  Above all, put
every rule into absolute practice."

Then, at a sign, the young men passed before the coach to receive
their printed instructions.

"Something new you've gotten up, Mr. Morton?" inquired one of
the fellows.

"No," the coach admitted promptly.  "These rules aren't original
with me.  I ran across 'em, and I've had them printed, by authority
from the Athletics Committee.  I wish I had thought up a set of
rules as good."

As fast as they received their copies each member of the squad
darted away to read the rules through.  This is what each man
found on the printed sheet:

_"1. Work hard and be alive.
  2. Work hard and learn the rules.
  3. Work hard and learn the signals.
  4. Work hard and keep on the jump.
  5. Work hard and have a nose for the ball.
  6. Work hard all the time.  Be on speaking terms with the ball
every minute.
  7. Work hard and control your temper and tongue.
  8. Work hard and don't quit when you're tackled.  Hang onto the ball.
  9. Work hard and get your man before he gets started.  Get him
before the going gets good.
 10. Work hard and keep your speed. If you're falling behind
your condition is to blame.
 11. Work hard and be on the job all the time, a little faster, a
little sandier, a little more rugged than the day before.
 12. Work hard and keep your eyes and ears open and your head up.
 13. Work hard and pull alone the man with the ball.  This isn't a
game of solitaire.
 14. Work hard and be on time at practice every day.  Train faithfully.
Get your lessons.  Aim to do your part and to make yourself a
perfect part of the machine.  Be a gentleman.  If the combination
is too much for you, turn in your togs and call around during
croquet season."_

"What do you think of that, as expounding the law of football?"
smiled coach, looking down over Dave Darrin's shoulder.

"It doesn't take long to read, Mr. Morton And it ought not to
take long to memorize these fourteen rules.  But to live them,
through and through, and up and down---that's going to take a
lot of thought and attention."

To the four ex-"soreheads" not a word had been said about the
late unpleasantness, nor was this quartette any longer in Coventry.

Trenholm, Grayson, Drayne and Hudson were the four best football
men of the Bayliss-Dodge faction.  Now that they were to play
with the High School eleven all concerned felt wholly relieved.

As the young men were leaving the gym. that afternoon Coach Morton
found a chance to grip Dick's arm and to whisper lightly in his
ear:

"Thank you, Prescott."

"For what, Mr. Morton."

"Why, for what you managed to do to hold the school eleven together.
That was clever newspaper work, Prescott.  And it has helped
the school a lot.  I'm no longer uneasy about Gridley High School
on the gridiron for this season.  We'll have a team now!"

With a confident nod the coach strolled away.

As the gym. doors were thrown open the members of the new football
squad rushed out with joyous whoops.  Some of the more mischievous
or spirited actually tackled unsuspicious comrades, toppling their
victims over to the ground.  That line of tactics resulted in
many a "chase" that brought out some remarkably good sprinting
talent.  Thus the squad dissipated itself like the mist, and soon
the grounds near the school were deserted.

Bayliss and Bert Dodge went away to nurse a grievance that nothing
seemed to cure.

For these two, now that their strong line of resistance had been
broken, found themselves secretly longing, as had the four deserters,
for a place in the football squad.

Bert Dodge sulked along to school, alone that Friday morning.
Bayliss, however, after a night of wakefulness, had decided to
"eat crow."

So, as Dick, Dave and Greg Holmes were strolling along schoolward,
Bayliss overhauled them.

"Good morning, fellows," he called, briskly, with an offhand attempt
at geniality.

All three of the chums looked up at him, then glanced away again.

"Oh, I say, now, don't keep it up," coaxed Bayliss.  "We High
School fellows all want to be decent enough friends.  And how's
the football?  I don't suppose the squad is full yet.  I---I half
believe I may join and take a little practice."

"Thinking of it?" asked Dick, looking up coolly.

"Yes---really," replied Bayliss.

"See the coach, then; he's running the squad."

"Yes; I guess I will, thanks.  Good morning!"

Bayliss sauntered along, blithely whistling a tune.  He knew Coach
Morton would give him the glad hand of welcome for the squad and
the team.

"Oh, Mr. Morton," was Bayliss's greeting, as he encountered the
coach near the school building steps.

"Yes?" asked the submaster pleasantly.

"I---I---er---I didn't make the meeting yesterday afternoon, but
I guess you might put my name down for the squad."

"Isn't this a bit late, Bayliss?" asked the submaster, eyeing
the youth keenly.

"Perhaps, a bit," assented the confident young man.  "However-----"

"At its meeting, last night, Mr. Bayliss, the Athletics Committee
of the Alumni Association advised me to consider the squad list
closed."

"Closed?" stammered Bayliss, turning several shades in succession.
"Closed?  Do---do you mean-----"

"No more additions will be made to the squad this year," replied
the coach quietly, then going inside.

Bayliss stood on the steps, a picture of humiliation and amazement.

"Fellows," gasped Bayliss, as Prescott and his two chums came
along, "did you hear that?  Football list closed?"

"Want some advice?" asked Dick, halting for an instant.

"Yes," begged Bayliss.

"Never kick a sore toe against a stone wall," quoth Dick Prescott,
and passed on into the school building.




CHAPTER X

TWO GIRLS TURN THE LAUGH


By this time training was going on briskly.  Four days out of
every week the squad had to practice for two hours at the athletic
field.

There were tours of work in the gym., too.

Besides, it was "early to bed and early to rise" for all members
of the squad.

Even those who hoped only to "make second" were under strict orders
to let nothing interfere with their condition.

Three mornings in the week Coach Morton met all squad men for
either cross-country work or special work in sprinting.  And this
was before breakfast, when each man was on honor pledged to take
only a pint of hot water---nothing more---before reporting.
On the other mornings, football aspirants were pledged to run
without the coach.

Yet, with all this, studies had to be kept up to a high average,
for no man on the "unset" list could hope to be permitted to play
football.

Hard work?  Yes.  But discipline, above all.  And discipline is
priceless to the young man who really hopes to get ahead in life!

"You're not playing fair," Dave cried reproachfully to his chum
one day.

"Why not?" Prescott questioned mildly.

"You're using hair tonic!" Darrin asserted, with mock seriousness,
as he gazed at Dick's bushy mop of football hair.  "You're growing
a regular chrysanthemum for a top piece to your head."

"Oh, my hair, eh?" smiled Dick.  "Why, you can have as fine a
lot of hair if you want to take the trouble."

"Don't I want it, though?" retorted Darrin.  "What kind of tonic
do you use?"

"Grease," smiled Prescott.

"Nothing but grease?"

"Nothing much."

"What kind of grease?"

"Elbow!"

"Now, stop your joshing," ordered Dave promptly.  "No kind of
muscular work is going to bring out a fuzzy rug like that on anyone's
skypiece."

"But that's just how I do it," Dick insisted.  "Not a bit hard,
either.  See here!  Just use your finger tips, briskly, like this,
and stir your whole scalp up with a brisk massage."

"How long do you keep it up?" demanded Dave, after following suit
for some time.

"Oh, about ninety seconds, I guess," nodded Prescott.  "You want
to do it eight times a day, and wash your head weekly, though
with bland soap and not too much of it."

"Is that honestly all you do to get a Siberian fur wig such as
you're wearing?"

"That's all I do," replied Dick.  "Except---yes; there's one
thing more.  Go out of doors all you can without a hat."

"The active curry-comb and the vanished hat for mine, then," muttered
Dave, with another envious look at Dick's bushy hair.

Nor did Dave rest until the other chums all had the secret.  By
the time that the football season opened Dick & Co. were the envy
of the school for their heavy heads of hair.

With all the hard work of training, Coach Morton did not intend
that the young men should be so busy as to have no time for recreation.
He understood thoroughly the value of the lighter, happier moments
in keeping an athlete's nervous system up to concert pitch.

Though the baseball training of the preceding spring had been
"stiff" enough, Dick & Co. soon found that the football training
was altogether more rugged.

In fact, Coach Morton, with the aid of Dr. Bentley as medical
director, weeded out a few of the young men after training had
been going on for a fortnight.  Some failed to show sufficient
reserve "wind" after running.  A few other defectives proved not
to have hearts strong enough for the grilling work of the gridiron.

All the members of Dick & Co., however, managed to keep in the
squad.  In fact, hints soon began to go around, mysteriously,
that Dick & Co. were having the benefit of some  outside training.
Purcell came to young Prescott and asked him frankly about this
report.

"Nothing in it," Dick replied promptly.  "We're having just the
same training as the rest of the boys.  But I'll tell you a secret."

"Go on!" begged Purcell eagerly.

"You know the training rules---early retiring and all?"

"Yes; of course."

"Well, we fellows are sticking to orders like leeches.  Every
night, to the minute, we're in bed.  We make a long night's sleep
of it.  Then, besides, we don't slight a single particle of the
training work that we're told to do by ourselves.  We've agreed
on that, and have promised each other.  Now, do you suppose all
the fellows are sticking quite as closely to coach's orders?"

"I---I---well, perhaps they're not," agreed Purcell.

"Are you?" insisted Dick.

"In the _main_, I do."

"Oh," observed Prescott, with mild sarcasm.  "'In the main'!
Now, see here, Purcell, we High School fellows are fortunate in
having one of the very best coaches that ever a High School squad
did have.  Mr. Morton knows what he's doing.  He knows how to
bring out condition, and how to teach the game.  He lays down
the rules that furnish the sole means of success at football.
And you---one of our most valuable fellows---are following some
of his instructions---when they don't conflict with your comfort
or with your own ideas about training.  Now, honestly, what do
you know about training that is better than Coach Morton's information
on that very important subjects"

"Oh, come, now; you're a little bit too hard, Prescott," argued
Purcell.  "I do about everything just as I'm told."

"You admit Mr. Morton's ability, don't you?"

"Yes, of course."

"Then why don't you stick to every single rule that's laid down
by a man who knows what he is doing?  It will be better for your
condition, won't it, Purcell?"

"Yes, without a doubt."

"And what is better for you is better for the team and for the
school, isn't its"

"By Jove, Prescott, you're a stickler for duty, aren't you?" cried
Purcell.

He spoke in a louder tone this time.  Two girls who were passing
the street corner where the young men stood heard the query and
glanced over with interest.

Neither young man perceived the girls at that moment.

"Why, yes," Prescott answered slowly.  "Duty is the main thing
there is about life, isn't it?"

"Right again," laughed Purcell.

One of the girls looked swiftly at the other.  They were Laura
Bentley and Belle Meade, friends of Dick's and Dave's, and also
members of the junior class.

"Well, I'm going to take a leaf out of your book," pursued Purcell.
"I'm really as anxious to see Gridley High School always on top
as you or any other fellow can be."

"Of course you are," nodded Dick.  "The way you put our baseball
team through last season proves that."

"I'm going to be a martinet for training, hereafter," Purcell
declared earnestly.  "I'm going to be a worse stickler than old
coach himself.  And I'm going to exercise my right as a senior
to watch the other fellows and hold their noses to the training
grindstone."

"Then I'm not worried about Gridley having a winning team this
year," Dick answered.

"By Jove, you had a lot to do with that, too, didn't you, Prescott?"
cried Purcell.  "You put it over the 'soreheads' so hard that
we never heard from them again after we got started."

"You helped there, also, Purcell.  If you and Ripley and a few
others had gone over to the 'soreheads' it would have stiffened
their backbone and nothing could have made it possible, this year,
for Gridley High School to have an eleven that would represent
all the best football that there is in the grand old school."

In the first two years of their school life Dick and Dave had
spent many pleasant hours in the society of Laura and Belle.
So far, during the  junior year, the chums had had but little
chance to see the girls, for the demands of football were fearfully
exacting.

Laura, being almost at the threshold of seventeen years, had grown
tall and womanly.  Bert Dodge began to notice what a very pretty
girl the doctor's daughter was becoming.  So, one afternoon while
the football squad was practicing hard over on the athletic field,
Bert encountered Laura and Belle as they strolled down the Main
Street.

Lifting his hat, Dodge greeted the girls, and stood chatting with
them for a few moments.  To this neither of the girls could object,
for Bert's manners, with the other sex, were always irreproachable.

But, presently, Laura saw her chance.  She did not want to be
rude, but Bert's face had just taken on a half-sneering look at
a chance mention of Dick's name.

"You aren't playing football this year, Bert?" Laura asked innocently.

Bert quickly flushed.

"No," he admitted.

"Of course everyone can't make the eleven," Belle added, with
mild malice.

"I---I don't believe I'd care to," Dodge went on.  "I---you see---I
don't care about all the fellows in the squad."

"I don't suppose every boy who is playing on the squad is a chum
of everyone else," remarked Laura.

"Such fellows as Prescott, for instance, I don't care much about,"
Bert continued, with a swift side glance at Laura Bentley to see
how she took that remark.  But Laura showed not a sign in her
face.

"No?" she asked quietly.  "I think him a splendid fellow.  By
the way, he and Dave Darrin haven't received the reward for finding
your father, have they?"

Bert gasped.  His face went white, then red.  He fidgeted about
for an answer.

"No," he replied, cuttingly, at last, "and I don't believe they
ever will."

"Oh, I beg your pardon," cried Laura in quick contrition.  "I
didn't know that it was a tender spot with you, or your family."

"It isn't," Bert rejoined hurriedly.  "It simply amounts to this,
that the reward will never be paid to a pair of cheeky,
brazen-faced-----"

"Won't you please stop right there, Mr. Dodge?" Laura asked sweetly.
"Mr. Prescott and Mr. Darrin are friends of ours.  We don't like
to hear remarks that cast disrespect in their direction."

"Oh, I beg your pardon," answered Bert, trying not to be stiff.
But he was ill at ease, leaving the girls very soon after.

Yet, in his hatred for Dick and Dave, young Dodge resolved upon
a daring stroke.  He enlisted Bayliss, and the pair sought to
"cut out" Prescott and Darrin with Laura and Belle.

Neither Dick nor Dave was in love.  Both were too sensible for
that.  Both knew that love affairs were for men old enough to
know their own minds.  Yet the friendship between the four young
people had been a very proper and wholesome affair, and much pleasure
had been derived on all sides.

Nowadays, however, Bert and Bayliss managed to be much out and
around Gridley while the football squad was at practice.  Almost
daily this pair met Laura and Belle, as though by accident, and
the two young seniors usually managed, without apparent intrusion,
to walk along beside Laura and Belle, often seeing the pair to
the home gate of one or the other.

"You two fellows want to look out," Purcell warned Dick and Dave,
good-naturedly, one day.  "Other fellows are after your sweet-hearts."

"I wonder how that happened," Dick observed good-humoredly.  "I
didn't know we had any sweethearts."

"What about-----" began Purcell, wondering if he had made a mistake.

"Please don't drag any girls' names into bantering talk," interposed
Dave, quickly though very quietly.

So Purcell said no more, and he had, indeed, meant no harm whatever.
But others were  noticing, and also talking.  High School young
people began to take a very lively interest in the new appearance
of Dodge and Bayliss as escorts of Laura and Belle.

Then there came one especially golden day of early autumn, when
it seemed as though the warm, glorious day had driven everyone
out onto the streets.  Dodge and Bayliss met Laura and Belle,
quite as though by accident, and manifested a rather evident
determination to remain in the company of the girls as long as
possible.

Finally Laura halted before one of the department stores.

"Belle, there's an errand you and I had in mind to do in there,
isn't there?" Laura asked.

"May we have the very great pleasure, then, of your leave to wait
until you are through with your shopping?" spoke up Bert Dodge quickly.

Laura flushed slightly.  Just then more than a dozen of the football
squad, coming back from the field, marching solidly by twos, turned
the corner and came upon this quartette.  There were many curious
looks in the corners of the eyes of members of the squad.

Despite themselves Dick and Dave could feel themselves reddening.

But Laura Bentley was equal to the emergency.  "Here come the
school's heroes---the fellows who keep Gridley's High School banner
flying in the breeze," she laughed pleasantly.

Both Dodge and Bayliss started to answer, then closed their lips.

"Won't you please excuse us, boys?" begged Laura, in her usual
pleasant voice.  "Here are Dick and Dave, and Belle and I wish
to speak with them."

From some of the members of the football squad went up a promptly
stifled gasp that sounded like a very distant rumble.

Dick and Dave, looking wholly rough and ready in their sweaters,
padded trousers and heavy field shoes, stepped out of the marching
formation as though obeying an order.

The chums looked almost uncouth, compared with the immaculate,
dandyish pair, Dodge and Bayliss.  The latter, with so many amused
glances turned their way, could only flush deeply, stammer, raise
their hats and---fade away!

The lesson was a needed and a remembered one.  Laura and Belle
took their afternoon walks in peace thereafter.




CHAPTER XI

DIES FOOTBALL TEACH REAL NERVE?


"Get in there, Ripley!  Don't be afraid.  It's only a leather
dummy.  It can't hurt you!  Now, tackle the dummy around the
hips---_hoist_!"

A laugh went up among the crowd as Fred, crouching low, head down,
sailed in at that tackling dummy.

Young Ripley's face was red, but he took the coach's stern tone
in good part, for the young man was determined to make good on
the eleven this year.

"Now, Prescott!  Show us that you can beat your last performance!
Imagine the dummy to be a two hundred and twenty pound center!"

Dick rushed in valiantly, catching the dummy just right.

"Let go!" called the coach, laughingly.  "It isn't a sack of gold!"

Another laugh went up.  This was one of the semi-public afternoons,
when any known well-wisher of Gridley was allowed on the athletic
field to watch the squad at work.

For half an hour the young men had been working hard, mostly at
the swinging dummy, for Coach Morton wanted much improvement yet
in tackling.

"Now," continued the coach, in a voice that didn't sound very
loud, yet which had the quality of carrying to every part of the
big field,  "it'll be just as well if you fellows don't get the
idea that only swinging leather dummies are to be tackled.  The
provisional first and second teams will now line up.  Second has
the ball on its own twenty-yard line, and is trying to save its
goal.  You fellows on second hustle with all your might to get
the ball through the ranks of the first, or School eleven.  Fight
for all you're worth to get that ball on the go and keep it going!
You fellows of the first, or School eleven, I want to see what
you can do with real tackling."

There was a hasty adjusting of nose-guards by those who wore that
protection.  The ball was placed, the quarter-back of the second
eleven bending low to catch it, at the same time comprehending
the signal that sounded briskly.

The whistle blew; the ball was snapped, and quarter-back darted
to the right, passing the ball.  Second's right tackle had been
chosen to receive and break through the School's line.  On School's
left, Dick and Ripley raced in together, while second's interference
crashed into the pair of former enemies as right tackle tried to go
through.  But Fred Ripley was as much out for team work this day as
any fellow on the field.  He made a fast sprint, as though to tackle,
yet meaning to do nothing of the sort.  Dick, too, understood.  He
let Ripley get two or three feet in the lead.  At Ripley, therefore,
the second's interference hurled itself savagely.  It was all
done so quickly that the beguiled second had no time to rectify
its blunder; for Fred Ripley was in the center of the squirming,
interfering bunch and Dick Prescott had made a fair, firm, abrupt
tackle.  In an instant the ball was "down."  Second had gained
less than a yard.

"Good work!" the coach shouted, after sounding the whistle."
Ripley and Prescott, that was the right sort of team work."

Again second essayed to get away with the ball.  This time the
forward pass was employed---that is to say, attempted.  Hudson
and Purcell, by another clever feint, got the ball stopped and
down; third time, and second lost the ball on downs.

Now School had the ball.  As the quarter-back's signals rang out
there was perceptible activity and alertness at School's right
end.  As the ball was snapped, School's right wing went through
the needful movements, but Dick Prescott, over at left end, had
the ball.  Ripley and Purcell were supporting him.

Straight into the opposing ranks went Ripley and Purcell, the
rest of the school team supporting.  It was team work again.
Dick was halted, for an instant.  Then, backed by his supporters,
he dashed through the opposition---on and on!  Twice Dick was
on the point of being tackled, but each time his interference
carried him through.  He was over second's line---touch-down,
and the whistle sounded shrilly, just a second ahead of cheers
from some hundred on-lookers.

As Dick came back he limped just a bit.

"I tell you, it takes nerve, and a lot of it, to play that game,"
remarked one citizen admiringly.

"Nerve?  pooh!" retorted his companion.  "Just a hoodlum footrace,
with some bumping, and then the whistle blows while a lot of boys
 are rolling over one another.  The whistle always blows just
at the point when there might be some use for nerve."

The first speaker looked at his doubtful companion quizzically.

"Would it take any nerve for you," he demanded, "to jump in where
you knew there was a good chance of your being killed,"

"Yes; I suppose so," admitted the kicker.

"Well, every season a score or two of football ball players are
killed, or crippled for life."

"But they're not looking for it," objected the kicker, "or they
wouldn't go in so swift and hard.  Real nerve?  I'd believe in
that more if I ever heard of one of these nimble-jack racers taking
a big chance with his life off the field, and where there was
no crowd of wild galoots to look on and cheer!"

"Of course killing and maiming are not the real objects of the
game," pursued the first speaker.  "Coaches and other good friends
of the game are always hoping to discover some forms of rules
that will make football safer.  Yet I can't help feeling that
the present game, despite the occasional loss of life or injury
to limb, puts enough of strong, fighting manhood into the players
to make the game worth all it costs."

"I want to see the nerve, and I want to see the game prove its
worth," insisted the kicker.

Second eleven, though made up of bright, husky boys, was having
a hard time of it.  Thrice coach arbitrarily advanced the ball
for  second, in order to give that team a better chance with High
School eleven.

And now the practice was over for the afternoon.  The whistle
between coach's lips sounded three prolonged blasts, and the young
players, flushed, perspiring---aching a bit, too---came off the
field.  Togs were laid aside and some time was spent under the
shower baths and in toweling.  Only a small part of the late crowd
of watchers remained at the athletic field.  But the kicker and
his companion were among those who stayed.

Coach Morton stood for a time talking with some citizens who had
lingered.  As most of these men were contributors to the athletic
funds they were anxious for information.

"Do you consider the prospects good for the team this year?" asked
one man.

"Yes," replied Mr. Morton promptly.

"Is the School eleven decided upon in detail?" questioned another.

"No; of course not, as yet.  Each day some of the young men develop
new points---of excellence, or otherwise.  The division into School
and second teams, that you saw this afternoon, may not be the
final division.  In fact, not more than five or six of the young
men have been definitely picked as sure to make the School team.
We shall have it all decided within a few days."

"But you're rather certain," insisted another, "that Gridley is
going to have as fine a School team as it has ever had?"

"It would be going too far to say that," replied Coach Morton
slowly.  "The truth is, we never know anything for certain until
we have seen our boys play through the first game.  Our judgment
is even more reliable after they've been through the second game."

By this time, some of the football squad were coming out of locker
rooms, heading across the field to the gate.  Coach Morton and
the little group of citizens turned and went along slowly after
them.  The kicker was still on hand.

Just as the boys neared the gate there were heard sounds of great
commotion on the other side of the high board fence.  There were
several excited yells, the sound of running feet, and then more
distinct cries.

"He's bent on killing the officer!  Run!"

"Look out!  Here he comes!  Scoot!"

"He's crazy!"

Then came several more yells, a note of terror in them all.

Five youngsters of the football squad were so near the gate that
they broke into a run for the open.  Coach Morton, too, sped ahead
at full steam, though he was some distance behind the members
of the squad.  The citizens followed, running and puffing.

Once outside, they all came upon a curious sight.  One of the
smallest members of Gridley's police force had attempted to stop
a big, red-faced, broad-shouldered man who, coatless and hatless
had come running down the street.

Two men had gotten in the way of this fellow and had been knocked
over.  Then the little policeman had darted in, bent on distinguishing
himself.  But the red-faced man, crazed by drink, had bowled over
the policeman and had fallen on top of him.  The victor had begun
to beat the police officer when the sight of a rapidly-growing
crowd angered the fellow.

Leaping up, the red-faced one had glared about him, wondering
whom next to attack, while the officer lay on his back, more than
half-dazed.

Making up his mind to catch and thrash some one, the red-faced
man came along, shouting savagely.  It was just at this moment
that Dick Prescott and Greg Holmes, sprinting fast, came out through
the gateway.

"Look out, boys!  He'll kill you!" shouted one well-meaning citizen
in the background.

"Will he?" grunted Dick grimly.  "Greg, I'll tackle the fellow---you
be ready to fall on him.  Head down, now---charge!"

As though they had darted around the right end of the football
battle line, and had sighted the enemy's goal line, Prescott and
Holmes charged straight for the infuriated fellow.

"Get outer my way!" roared red-face, turning slightly and running
furiously at them.

Dick's head was down, but that did not prevent his seeing through
his long hair.

"Get out of my way, you kid!" gasped the big fellow, halting in
his amazement as he saw this youngster coming straight at him.

Greg was off the sidewalk, running a few feet out from the gutter

But Dick sailed straight in.  As he came close, red-faced seemed
to feel uneasy about this reckless boy, for the big fellow, holding
his fists so that he could use them, swerved slightly to one side.

Fifty people were looking on, now, most of them amazed and fearing
for young Prescott.

But Dick, running still lower, charged straight for his man.
The big fellow, with a bellow, aimed his fists.

Dick wasn't hit, however.  Instead, he grappled with the fellow,
just below the thighs, then straightened up somewhat---all quick
as a flash.

That big mountain of flesh swayed, then toppled.  Red-face went
down, not with a crash, but more after the manner of a collapse.

As he fell, Greg darted in from the street and fell upon the big
fellow's chest.  In another instant young Prescott was a-top of
the fellow.

"Keep him down, boys!" yelled Coach Morton.

Just before the coach sprinted to the spot Dave Darrin, then Tom
Reade, and then Tom Purcell, hurled themselves into the fray.

When the coach arrived he could not find a spot on red-face at
which to take hold.

The policeman, limping a bit, came up as fast as he could.

"Will you young gentlemen help me to put these handcuffs on?"
asked the officer, dangling a pair of steel bracelets.

"Will we?" ejaculated Dave.  "Whoop!"

"Roll the fellow over!" called Dick Prescott.

With a gleeful shout the squad members rolled red-face over,
dragging his powerful arms behind his back.  There was a scuffle,
but Coach Morton helped.  A minute more and the handcuffs had been
snapped in place.

In the eyes of the recent kicker, back on the field, there now
appeared a gleam of something very much akin to enthusiasm.

"What do you say, now?" asked that man's companion.  "Though,
of course, Prescott and Holmes knew that help wasn't far off."

"It doesn't make any difference," retorted the recent kicker.
"Either boy might have been killed by that big brute before the
help could have arrived."

"Then does football teach nerve?"

"It certainly must!" agreed the recent kicker.




CHAPTER XII

DICK, LILE CAESAR, REFUSES THE CROWN


A few days later the members of the school team, and the substitutes,
had been announced.  Then the men who had made the team came together
at the gymnasium.

Who was to be captain of the eleven?

For once there seemed to be a good deal of hanging back.

If there were any members of the team who believed themselves
supremely fitted to lead, at least they were not egotistical enough
to announce themselves.

There was a good deal of whispering during the five minutes before
Mr. Morton called them to order.  Some of the whisperers left
one group to go over to another.

"Now, then, gentlemen!" called Coach Morton.  "Order, please!"

Almost at once the murmuring stopped.

"Before we can go much further," continued the coach, "it will
be necessary to decide upon a captain.  I don't wish to have the
whole voice in the matter.  If you are to follow your captain
through thick and thin, in a dozen or more pitched football battles,
it is well that you should have a leader who will possess the
confidence of all.  Now, whom do you propose for the post of captain?
Let us discuss the merits of those that may be proposed."

Just for an instant the murmuring broke out afresh.

Then a shout went up:

"Purcell!"

But that young man shook his head.

"Prescott!" shouted another.

Dick, too, shook his head.

"Purcell!  Purcell!"

"Now, listen to me a moment, fellows!" called Purcell, standing
very straight and waving his arms for silence.  "I don't want
to be captain.  I had the honor of leading the baseball nine last
season."

"No matter!  You'll make a good football captain!"

"Not the best you can get, by any means," insisted Purcell.  "I
decline the honor for that reason, and also because I don't want
the responsibility of leading the eleven."

"Prescott!" shouted three or four of the squad at once.

Purcell nodded his head encouragingly.

"Yes; Prescott, by all means!  You can't do better."

"Yes, you can!  And you fellows know it!" shouted Dick.

His face glowed with pleasure and pride, but he tried to show,
by face, voice and gesture, that he didn't propose to take the
tendered honor.

"Prescott!  Prescott!" came the insistent yell.

Above the clamor Coach Morton signaled Dick to come forward to the
platform.

"Won't you take it, Prescott?" inquired the coach.

"I've no right to, sir."

"Then tell the team why you think so."

As soon as coach had secured silence Dick, with a short laugh,
began:

"Fellows, I don't know whether you mean it all, or whether you're
having a little fun with me.  But-----"

"No, no!  We mean it!  Prescott for captain!  No other fellow
has done as much for Gridley High School football!"

"Then I'll tell you some reasons, fellows, why I don't fit the
position," Dick went on, speaking easily now as his self-confidence
came to him.  "In the first place, I'm a junior, and this is my
first year at football.  Now, a captain should be a whole wagon-load
in the way of judgment.  That means a fellow who has played in
a previous season.  For that reason, all other things being equal,
the captain should be one of the seniors who played the gridiron
game last year."

"You'll do for us, Prescott!" came the insistent call.

"For another thing," Dick went on composedly, "the captain should
be a man who plays center, or close to it.  Now, I'm not heavy
enough for anything of that sort.  In fact, I understand I'm cast
for left tackle or left end---probably the latter.  So, you see,
I wouldn't be in the right part of the field.  I don't deny that
I'd like to be captain, but I'd a thousand times rather see Gridley
win."

"Then who can lead us to victory" demanded Dave Darrin briskly.

Dick promptly.  "He's believed to be our best man for center.
He played last year; he knows more fine points of the game than
any of us juniors can.  And he has the judgment.  Besides, he's
a senior, and it's his last chance to command the High School
eleven."

"If Wadleigh'll take it, I'm for him," spoke Dave Darrin promptly.

Henry Wadleigh, or "Hem," as he was usually called, was turning
all the colors of the rainbow.  Yet he looked pleased and anxious.

There was just one thing against Wadleigh, in the minds of Hudson
and some of the others.  He was a boy of poor family.  He belonged
to what the late but routed "soreheads" termed "the mockers."
But he was an earnest, honest fellow, a hard player and loyal
to the death to his school.

"Any other candidates?" asked Coach Morton.

There was a pause of indecision.  There were a few other fellows
who wanted to captain the team.  Why didn't some of their friends
put them in nomination?

Dick & Co. formed a substantial element in the team.  They were
for "Hen" Wadleigh, and now Tom Reade spoke:

"I move that Wadleigh be considered our choice for captain."

"Second the motion," uttered Dan Dalzell, hastily.

Coach Morton put the proposition, which was carried.  Wadleigh
was chosen captain, subject to the approval of the Athletics Committee
of the alumni, which would talk it over in secret with Coach Morton.

And now the team was quickly made up.  Wadleigh was to play center.
Dick was to play left end, with Dave for left tackle.  Greg Holmes
went over to right tackle, with Hazelton right guard.  Dan Dalzell
was slated as substitute right end, while Tom Reade was a "sub"
left tackle.

Fred Ripley was put down as a substitute for left end.  As one
who kept in such close training as did Prescott he was not likely
to miss many of the big games, and Fred's chances for playing
in the big games was not heavy.  Yet Ripley was satisfied.  Even
as a "sub," he had "made" the High School eleven.

"I think, gentlemen," declared Mr. Morton, in dismissing the squad,
"that we have as good a team to put forward this year as Gridley
has  ever had.  The only disquieting feature of the season is
the report, coming to us, that many of the rival schools have,
this year, better teams in the field than they have ever had before.
So we've got to work---well like so many animated furies.  Remember,
gentlemen, 'coldfeet' never won a football season."

Bayliss and Dodge when they heard the news, were much disgusted.
They had hoped that subs.  Instead, Dick and three of his cronies
had been put in Gridley's first fighting line, only two of the
redoubtable six being on the sub list.

School and second teams, being now sharply defined, fell to playing
against each other as hard and as cleverly as they could.

Wadleigh's choice as captain was confirmed by the Athletics Committee.

"But I'd never have had the chance, Prescott, old fellow, if it
hadn't been for you," "Hen" protested gratefully.  "Dick, I won't
forget your great help!"

"I didn't do anything for you, Hen," Prescott retorted, with one
of his dry smiles.

"You didn't?" gasped Wadleigh.

"No, sir!  I did it for the school.  I wanted to see our team
have the best possible captain and the winning eleven!"

Bert and Bayliss happened to be passing the gymnasium when they
heard of the selection of Wadleigh.

"Bert," whispered Bayliss, "I believe you're at least half a man!"

"What are you driving at?" demanded Dodge.

"We owe Dick Prescott a few.  If you're with me we'll see if
his season on the gridiron can't be made a farce and a fizzle."




CHAPTER XIII

BERT DODGE "STARTS SOMETHING"


As always happens the schedule of the fall's games was changed
somewhat at the last moment.

In the first change there was a decided advantage.  Wrexham withdrawing
its challenge almost at the last, Coach Morton took on Welton
High School for the first game of the season.

Now, Welton must have played for no other reason than to gratify
a weak form of vanity, for there were few High School teams in
the state that had cause to dread Welton High School.

For Gridley, however, the game served a useful purpose.  It solidified
Captain Wadleigh's team into actual work.  The score was 32 to
0, in favor of Gridley.  However, as Dick phrased it, the practice
against an actual adversary, for the first time in the season,
was worth at least three hundred to nothing.

"But don't you fellows make a mistake," cautioned Captain Wadleigh.
"Don't get a notion that you've nothing bigger than Welton to
tackle this year.  Next Saturday you've got to go up against
Tottenville, and there's an eleven that will make you perspire."

Coach Morton had Tottenville gauged at its right value.  During
the few days before the game he kept the Gridley boys steadily
at work.  The passing and the signal work, in particular, were
reviewed most thoroughly.

"Remember, the pass is going to count for a lot," Mr. Morton warned
them.  "You can't make a weight fight against Tottenville, for
those fellows weigh a hundred and fifty pounds more, to the team,
than you do.  They're savage, swift, clever players, too, those
Tottenville youths.  What you take away from them you'll have
to win by strategy."

So the Gridley boys were drilled again and again in all the special
points of field strategy that Coach Morton knew or could invent.

Yet one of the best things that Mr. Morton knew, and one that
always characterized Gridley, was the matter of confidence.

Captain Wadleigh's young men were made to feel that they were
going to win.  They did not underestimate the enemy, but they
were going to win.  That was well understood by them all.

Now, in the games of sheer strategy much depends upon nimble ends.

Dick Prescott, in particular, was coached much in private, as
well as on the actual gridiron.

"Keep yourself in keen good shape, Mr. Prescott," Mr. Morton insisted.
"We need your help in scalping Tottenville next Saturday."

As the week wore along Mr. Morton and Captain Wadleigh became
more and more pleased with themselves and with their associates.

"I don't see how we can fail tomorrow," said Mr. Horton, quietly,
to "Hen" Wadleigh, just  after the School and the second teams
had been dismissed.

It was not much after half-past three.  Practice had been brief,
in order that none of the players might be used up.

"Prescott, in especial, is showing up magnificently," replied
Wadleigh.  "He and Darrin are certainly wonders at their end of
the line."

"You must use them all you can tomorrow, and yet don't make them
fight the whole battle," replied Coach Morton.  "Save them for
the biggest emergencies."

"I'll be careful," promised Wadleigh.

Dick and Dave walked back into the city, instead of taking a car.

"How are you feeling, Dick?" asked Dave.

"As smooth as silk," Prescott replied.

"I don't believe I've ever been in such fine condition before,"
replied Dave.

"That's mighty good, for I have an idea that the captain means
to use us all he can tomorrow."

"Oh, Tottenville is as good as beaten, then," laughed Dave, with
all the Gridley confidence.

"I'd like to know just how strong Tottenville is on its right end of
the line," mused Prescott.

"I don't care how strong they are," retorted Darrin, with a laugh.
"You and I are not going to use strength; we're going to rely upon
brains---Coach Morton's brains, though, to be sure."

The two chums separated at the corner of the side street on which
stood the Prescott bookstore and home.  Dave hurried home to attend
to some duties that he knew were awaiting him.

Dick, whistling, strolled briskly on.  He saw Dodge and Bayliss
on the other side of the street, but did not pay much attention
to them until they crossed just before Dick had reached his own
door.

"There's the mucker," muttered Bayliss, in a tone intentionally
loud enough for the young left end to overhear.

"I won't pay any attention to them," thought Dick, with an amused
smile.  "I can easily understand what they're sore about.  I'd
feel angry myself if I had been left off the team."

"Why do fellows like that need an education?" demanded Dodge,
in a slightly louder tone, as the pair came closer.

Still Dick Prescott paid no heed.  He started up the steps, fumbling
for his latch key as he went.

"You faker!  You mucker!" hissed Bayliss, now speaking directly
to the young left end.

This was so palpable that Dick could not well ignore it.  Dropping
the key back into his  pocket, he turned to stare at the two
"sorehead" chums.

"Eh?" he asked, with a quiet laugh.

"Yes; I meant you!" hissed Bayliss.

"Oh, well," grinned Dick, "your opinions have never counted for
much in the community, have they?"

"Shut up, you ignorant hound!" warned Bayliss belligerently.

"Too bad," retorted Dick tantalizingly.  "Of course, I understand
what ails you.  You were left off the High School team, and I
was not.  But that is your own fault, Bayliss.  You could have
made the team if you hadn't been foolish."

"Don't insult me with your opinions fellow!" cried Bayliss, growing
angrier every instant.  At least, he appeared to be working him
self up into a rage.

"Oh, I don't care anything about your opinions, and I have no
anxiety to spring mine on you," retorted Dick, in an indifferent
voice.  Once more he fumbled for his latch key.

"You haven't any business talking with gentlemen, anyway," sneered
Bert Dodge.

Dick flushed slightly, though he replied, coolly:

"As it happens, just at present I am not!"

"What do you mean by that?" flared Bert.

"Oh, you know, you don't care anything about my opinions," laughed
Dick.  "Let us drop the whole subject.  I don't care particularly,
anyway, about being seen talking with you two."

"Oh, you don't?" cried Bayliss, in a voice hoarse with rage.

In almost the same breath Bert Dodge hurled an insult so pointed
and so offensive that Dick's ruddy cheek went white for an instant.

Back into his pocket he dropped the latch key, then stepped swiftly
down before his tormentor.

"Dodge," he cried warningly, "take back the remark you just made.
Then, after that, you can take your offensive presence out of my
sight!"

"I'll take nothing back!" sneered the other boy.

"Then you'll take this!" retorted Dick, very quietly, in a cold,
low voice.

Prescott's fist flew out.  It was not a hard blow, but it landed
on the tip of Bert Dodge's nose.

"You cur!" cried Dodge chokingly.  "Wait until I get my coat off."

"No; keep it on; I'm going to keep mine on," retorted Prescott.
"Guard yourself, man!"

"Jump in, Bayliss!  We'll thump his head off!" gasped Dodge, with
almost a sob in his voice, to was so angry.

Bayliss would have been nothing loath to "jump in."  But, just
as Dick Prescott, after calling "guard," aimed his second blow
at Bert, Fred Ripley, Purcell and "Hen" Wadleigh all hurried up
to the scene.

For Bayliss to be caught fighting two-to-one would have resulted
in a quick thrashing for him.  So Bayliss stood back.

"Bad blood, is there?" asked Wadleigh, as the new arrivals hurried
up.

"Prescott, after insulting Bert, flew at him," retorted Bayliss,
panting some with the effort at lying.

Dodge was now standing well back.  He had parried three of Dick's
blows, but had not yet taken the offensive.  As Dodge was a heavier
man, and not badly schooled in fistics, Dick had the good sense
to go at this fight coolly, taking time to exercise his judgment.

"What's it all about?" demanded Wadleigh.

Just for an instant Bayliss felt himself stumped.  Then, all of a
sudden, an inspiration in lying came to him.

"Prescott got ugly because the Dodges never paid that thousand-dollar
reward," declared Bayliss.

Dick heard, and with his eye still on Dodge, shouted out: "That's
not true, Bayliss.  You know you are not telling the truth!"

Bayliss doubled his fists, and would have struck Prescott down
from behind, but Wadleigh, who was a big and powerful fellow,
caught Bayliss by his left arm, jerking him back.

"Now, just wait a bit, Bayliss," advised "Hen," moderately.  "From
what I know of Prescott I'm not afraid but that he'll give you
satisfaction presently---if you want it."

"You bet he'll have to!" hissed Bayliss.

"If Prescott loses the argument he has on now," added Purcell,
significantly, "I fancy he has friends who will take his place
with you, Bayliss."

Then all turned to watch the fight, which was now passing the
stage of preliminary caution.

Several boys and men had run down from Main Street.  Now, more
than a score of spectators were crowding about.

"Hurrah!" piped up one boy from the Central Grammar School."
The mucker bantam against the 'sorehead' lightweight!"

There was a laugh, but Bert Dodge didn't join in it, for, after
receiving two glancing, blows on the chest, he now had his right
eye closed by Dick's hard left.

The next instant the bewildered Dodge received a blow that sent
him down to the sidewalk.

"I think I've paid you back, now," Prescott remarked quietly.

At this moment Mr. Prescott, hearing the noise from the back of
his bookstore, came to the door.

"What is the trouble, Richard?" inquired his parent.

Dick stepped over to his father, repeating, in a low voice, the
insult that Dodge had hurled at him.

"You couldn't have done anything else, then!" declared the elder
Prescott, fervently; and this was a good deal for Dick's father,
quiet, scholarly and peace-loving, to say.

Bert and Bayliss walked sullenly away amid the jeers of the onlookers.
Once out of their sight, Bert, fairly grinding his teeth, said:

"Bayliss, I'll have my revenge yet on that mucker Prescott---"
and then, as if struck by a sudden thought, he added savagely:

"The Tottenville game's tomorrow---you know?"

"Yes?" said Bayliss inquiringly.

"Well, wait till tomorrow afternoon, and I'll take the conceit
out of the miserable cur---just you wait."




CHAPTER XIV

THE "STRATEGY" OF A SCHOOL TRAITOR


"Rah! rah!  _Gri-i-idley_!"

Again and again the whole of the rousing, inspiring High School
yell smote the air.

It was but a little after noon on Saturday.

It seemed as though two thirds of the school, including most of
the girls, had come down to the railway station to see the High
School eleven off on its way to Tottenville.  That city was some
thirty miles away from Gridley, but there was a noon express train
that went through in forty minutes.

Coach Morton and Captain Wadleigh had rounded up the whole of
the school team.  All of the subs were there.  The coach and members
of the team were at no expense in the matter, since their expenses
were to be paid out of the gate receipts of the home eleven.

To many of the boys and girls of Gridley High School, however,
the affair bore a different look.  The round trip by rail would
cost each of these more than a dollar, with another fifty cents
to pay for a seat on the grand stand at Tottenville.

Hence, despite the fine representation of High School young folks
at the railway station, not all of them were so fortunate as to
look forward to going to the game.

In addition to those of the young people who could go, there were
more than three hundred  grown-ups who had bought tickets.  The
railroad company, having been notified by the local agent, had
added a second section to the noon express.

And now they waited, enthusiasm finding vent in volleys of cheers
and the school war-whoop.

Dick Prescott and his chums stood at one end of the platform.  Nor
were they alone.  Many admirers had gathered about them.  Laura
Bentley and Belle Meade, who were going with the rest to Tottenville,
were chatting with Dick and Dave.  Each of the girls carried the
Gridley High School colors to wave during the expected triumphs of
the afternoon.

"I'm glad you're playing today," Laura almost whispered to young
Prescott.

"Why?" smiled Dick

"Why, I believe you're one of those fortunate people who always
carry their mascot with them," rejoined Miss Bentley earnestly.
"With you there, Dick, I feel absolutely certain that even Tottenville
must go down in the dust.  Gridley will bring back the score---and
not a tied score, either."

"I certainly hope I am as big a mascot, or possess as big a mascot
as you seem to believe," laughed young Prescott.

"You and Dave are each other's mascots," declared Belle Meade,
with a laugh.  "I remember that last year when you were both on
the baseball nine Gridley never lost a game in which you and Dave
both played."

"Nor did the nine lose any other game," returned Dick, "though
there were some games when Dave and I weren't on the batting list.
The nine didn't lose a game last season, Miss Belle, and had
only one tied score."

"Anyway," declared Laura, with great conviction, "it all comes
back to this---that Gridley can't lose today because both Prescott
and Darrin are to play."

"And I believe, young ladies, that you're both much nearer to
the truth than you have any idea of.  In today's game a great
deal does depend on Prescott and Darrin."

It was Captain "Hen" Wadleigh, who, passing to the rear of the
group, had overheard Laura's remark, and had made this addition
to her prophecies.

"Here comes the train!" yelled one youth, who was fortunate enough
to have a ticket for the day.

Soon after the sound of the whistle had been heard the express
rolled in.  But this was the first section of the regular train.
By some effort the football crowd was kept off the train.  Soon
after the second section of the train was sighted as it rolled
toward the station.

"Team assemble!" roared Captain Wadleigh.

There was a rush of husky, mop-headed youths in his direction.

Just then a hand rested on Dick's arm.

"Let me speak with you, just a moment Prescott."

As Dick turned he found himself looking into the face of Hemingway,
plan clothes man to Chief Coy of the Police department.

"I'm awful sorry, lad, but-----" began Hemingway slowly, in a
tone of the most genuine regret.

Dick's face blanched.  He scented bad news instantly, though he
could not imagine what it was.

"Anyone sick---any accident at home?" asked the young left end.

"Team aboard, first day coach behind the smoker!" roared Captain
Wadleigh, and the fellows made a rush.

"The truth is," confessed Hemingway, "I've a war-----"

Dick saw light in an instant.

"Oh, that wretched Dodge?  He has-----"

"Sworn out a warrant for your arrest," nodded Hemingway.

Laura and Belle did not hear or see this.  They were hurrying
rearward along the train.

Few of the football fellows saw the trouble, for they were busy
boarding the car named by Captain Wadleigh.

Dave Darrin was the only one to pay urgent heed.

"See here, Hemingway," began Dave, "Dick will come back---you
know that.  He's desperately needed today.  Won't it do just as
well-----"

"No," broke in the plain-clothes man, reluctantly.  "I'd have
done that if possible, but Dodge's father put the warrant in my
hand and insisted."

"He?" echoed Darrin, bitterly.  "The very man that Dick and I
rescued when he was out of his head and in the clutches of scoundrels
He?  Oh, this is infamous---or crazy!"

"I know it is," nodded Officer Hemingway sympathetically.  "But
what am I to do when-----"

"Hustle aboard, there, you Prescott and Darrin!" roared Captain
Wadleigh's voice from an open window.

"You hear, Hemingway?" urged Dave.

"Yes; but I can't help it," sighed the policeman.

"We're not going---can't-----" fluttered Darrin.  His voice was
low, but it reached the captain of the eleven.

"What's that?" roared Wadleigh, making a dash for the door of
the car.  "Keep your seats, you other fellows.  I-----"

"You go, Dave---you must!" commanded Dick.  "Hurry!  The train
is starting.  Hustle!  Play for both of us."

Dick gave his chum a push that was compelling.  Dave yielded,
boarding the step as the end of the car went by him.

"What-----" began Wadleigh, breathlessly.

"I'll explain," panted Darrin angrily.

The train was now in full motion.

"Hey, dere!  Stop dot train, quick!  Me!  I am not off board, yet!"

It was Herr Schimmelpodt, hot, perspiring and gasping, who now
raced upon the platform.  For one of his weight, combined with
his lack of nimbleness, it was hazardous to attempt to board the
moving train.

Yet Herr Schimmelpodt made a wild dash for the train.  He would
have been mangled or killed, had not Officer Hemingway caught
the anxious German and pulled him back.

"Hey, you!  Vot for you do dot?" screamed Herr Schimmelpodt.
"Hey?  Answer me dot vun, dumm-gesicht!" (Foolish-faced one.)

"I did it to save you from going under the wheels," retorted Officer
Hemingway dryly.

"Und now I don't go me by dot game today!" groaned Herr Schimmelpodt.
"Me!  I dream apout dot game all der veek, und now I don't see
me by it."

"But, man-----"

"Hal's maul." (Literally' "Shut your mouth!")

"Me!  Und I Couldn't lose dot game for ein dollar!" glared the
prosperous German.

He stared after the departed second section, from the open windows
of which fluttered or wildly waved many a banner; for few of the
Gridley crowd had yet discovered that one of the most prized members
of the team had been left behind.

Herr Schimmelpodt it was, who, a wealthy retired contractor, had
found his second youth in his enthusiasm over the High School
baseball nine the season before.

Though thrifty enough in most matters, the German had become a
liberal contributor to the High School athletic fund, to the great
dismay of his good wife, who feared that his new outdoor fads
would yet land them both in the poorhouse.

"Vot you doing here, Bresgott?" demanded Herr Schimmelpodt, turning
upon the young prisoner.  "Vy you ain't by dot elefen?  How dey going
to vin bis you are behint left?"

"You have company in your misery, sir," said Officer Hemingway.
"I'm awfully sorry to say that Dick Prescott can't see today's
game, either.  It's a whopping shame, but sometimes the law is
powerless to do right."

"What foolishness are you talking mit, vonce alretty?" demanded
Herr Schimmelpodt, looking bewildered.

"I've just been arrested, on a false charge of assault," Dick
stated quietly.

"You?  Und you don't blay by der game yet' By der beard of Charlemagne,"
howled Herr Schimmelpodt excitedly, "ve see apoud dot!"

Digging down into a trouser's pocket this enthusiastic old High
School "rooter" brought up a roll of bills almost as large around
as a loaf of bread.




CHAPTER XV

A "FACER" FOR THE PLOTTER


"What are you going to do with all that wallpaper, Mr.Schimmelpodt?"
laughed Officer Hemingway.

"Me?  I gif bail, don't I?" demanded the German.

"Well, you can't do it here.  That's a matter to be fixed in court."

"Und dot train going by a mile a minute, I bet you!" gasped the
German ruefully.

"Come along, lad," urged Hemingway gently.  "On Saturdays court
opens at one o'clock.  We'll get right up there and see this matter
through."

"I bet you've see dis matter through---right through someone,
ain't it?" exploded Herr Schimmelpodt, ranging himself on the
other side of the young prisoner.

As they went along the German, using all his native and acquired
shrewdness, quickly got at the bottom of the matter.

In the meantime indignant Dave Darrin was telling all he knew
about the business to an indignant lot of High School youngsters
in the day coach.

"You keep your upper eyebrow stiff, Bresgott," urged the warm-hearted
German.  "I see you through by dis business.  Don't you worry."

"Thank you, but it isn't the arrest that is really bothering me,"
Prescott answered.  "It's the feet that I'm fooled out of playing
this afternoon.  And Darrin and I had been trained for so many
special tricks for today's game that I'm almost afraid my absence
will make a difference in the score.  But, Herr Schimmelpodt,
if you want to help me, do you really mind dropping in at the
store and telling my father, so that he can come down to the court
room?  Yet please be careful not to scare Dad.  He has a horror
of courts and criminal law."

"I bet you I do der chob---slick," promised the German, and hurried
away.

"There goes a man that's all right, from his feet up to the top
of his head," declared Officer Hemingway.

On the streets Dick's appearance with Hemingway attracted little
notice.  Folks were used to seeing the High School reporter of
"The Blade" walking with this policeman-detective.  The few who
really did notice merely wondered why Dick Prescott was not on
his way to the Tottenville gridiron today.

When Hemingway and his prisoner reached the court room there were
only two or three loungers there, for it was still some minutes
before the time for the assembling of the court.

Presently Bert Dodge and his friend, Bayliss, dropped in.  They
glanced at the young left end with no attempt to conceal their
feelings of triumph.  Bert looked much the worse for wear.

Dick returned their looks coolly, but without defiance.  He was
angry only that he should have been cheated of his right to play
in that big game.

Then in came the elder Dodge, only just back from a sanitarium.
Beside him walked Lawyer Ripley, who immediately came over to
Dick, just before Herr Schimelpodt and Dick's father entered the
room hastily.

"Prescott," began the old lawyer, sitting down beside the young
player, and speaking in a low tone, "I've just been called into
this matter, as I'm the Dodge family lawyer.  Had my advice been
asked I would have demanded much more investigation.  From what
knowledge I have of you, I don't regard you as one who is likely
to commit an unprovoked assault.  Have you any objection to stating
your side of the case bearing in mind, of course, the fact that
I'm the Dodge lawyer."

"Not the least in the world," Dick replied promptly.

It was just at this moment that Herr Schimmelpodt and the elder
Prescott came hastening into the room.

Bert Dodge and Bayliss looked over uneasily, several times, to
where Lawyer Ripley and the young prisoner sat.  Dick's father
stood by in silence.  He already knew his son's version of the
affair of the day before.  Herr Schimmelpodt didn't say anything,
but sat down, breathing heavily.

Then the clerk of the court and two court officers came in.  Justice
Vesey entered soon after and took his seat on the bench.

"The case of Dodge versus Prescott---I mean, the people against
Prescott, your honor, is the only thing on the docket this afternoon,"
explained the clerk.

"Is the case ready" inquired the justice mildly.

"I will ask just a moment's delay, your, Honor," announced Lawyer
Ripley, rising.  "I wish a moment's conference with my principals."

The court nodding, Mr. Ripley crossed the room, engaging in earnest
whispered conversation with the Dodges, father and son.

While this was going on a telegraph messenger boy entered.  Espying
Dick, he went over and handed him a yellow envelope.  Dick tore
it open.  It was a telegram sent by Dave Darrin, on the way to
Tottenville, and read:

"Fred Ripley said he heard insult offered you by Dodge yesterday.
Get case adjourned to Monday and Ripley will testify in your
behalf."

Smiling, Dick passed the message to his father.  Mr. Prescott,
after scanning the telegram, rose gravely, crossed the room and
handed the slip of paper to Lawyer Ripley.

"If the court please, we are now ready with this case," announced
Lawyer Ripley.

"Proceed, counselor.  Mr. Clerk, you will swear such witnesses
as are to be called."

"If the court please," hastily interjected Mr. Ripley.  "I don't
believe it is going to be necessary to call any witnesses.  With
the court's permission I will first make a few explanations."

"This case, your Honor, is one in which Albert Dodge, a minor,
with the consent of his father, has preferred a charge of aggravated
assault against Richard Prescott, a minor.

"That there was a fight, and that said Prescott did vigorously
assault young Dodge, there is no doubt.  Prescott himself does
not deny it.  But I am satisfied, if it please the court, that
the case is one in which, on the evidence, young Prescott is bound
to be discharged.  I am satisfied that young Prescott had abundant
provocation for the assault he committed.  Further, we have received
apparently satisfactory assurance by wire that a witness is prepared
to testify to conduct and speech, on the part of young Dodge,
that would justify an assault, or, as the boys call it, 'a fight.'
Now, your Honor, if the prisoner, Prescott, through his father,
will agree to hold the elder Dodge blameless in the matter of
civil damages on account of this arrest, I shall move to have
the case dismissed."

"Will you so agree, Mr. Prescott," inquired the court, glancing
at Dick's father.

"Yes," agreed the elder Prescott, "though I must offer my opinion
that this arrest has been a shameful outrage."

"My client, the elder Dodge-----" began Lawyer Ripley, in a low
voice.

"Case dismissed," broke in Justice Vesey briskly, and Mr. Ripley
did not finish his remark.

Bowing to the court, Dick rose, picked up his hat and started
out with his father.

But once outside Herr Schimmelpodt caught them both by the arm.

"Vait!" he commanded.  "I much vant to hear me vot Lawyer Ripley
haf to say to dot young scallavag."

"Are you talking about me?" demanded Bert Dodge, flushingly hotly,
for, just at that moment, he turned out of the court room into
the corridor.

"Maybe," assented Herr Schimmelpodt.

"Then stuff a sausage in your Dutch mouth, and be quiet," retorted
Bert impudently.

"Young man, if your father hat not enough gontrol of er you, den
I vill offer him dot I teach you manners by a goot spanking,"
replied Herr Schimmelpodt stiffly.

"Bert, you will be silent before your elders," ordered Mr Dodge.
"You have come close enough to getting me into trouble today.
Had I understood the whole story of the fight, as I do now, I
never would have backed your application for a warrant."

If you meet with any rebuke from young Prescott's friends, take
it in meekness, for you richly deserve censure."

"As you are only a boy, Bert, and I am your father's lawyer,"
broke in Mr. Ripley, even more sternly, "I have used whatever
powers of persuasion I may have to have this case ended mildly.
The Prescotts might have sued your father for a round sum in
damages for false arrest.  And, if you and Bayliss had sworn falsely
as to the nature and causes of the fight, you might both have
been sent away to the reformatory on charges of perjury.  Remember
that the law against false swearing applies to boys as much as
it does to men.  And now, good day, Mr. Dodge.  I trust you will
be able to convince your son of his wrongdoing."

However, the elder Dodge, despite his momentary sternness, was
not a parent who exercised much influence over his son.  Half
an hour later Bert had out the family runabout, making fast time
toward Tottenville.

"Bert," said Bayliss, rather soberly, "I'm inclined to think that
Lawyer Ripley was good enough to get us out of a fearful scrape."

"That's what he's paid for," sniffed Bert "He's my father's lawyer."

"Then I'm glad your father has a good lawyer.  Whew!  It makes
me sick when I stop to think that we might have been trapped into
giving---er---prejudiced testimony, and that then we might have
been shipped off to the reformatory until we're of age!"

"Ain't Fred Ripley the sneak, though!" ejaculated Bert angrily.
"The idea of him standing ready to 'queer' a case against his
father's clients!  I thought Fred had more class  and caste than
to go against his own crowd for the sake of a mere mucker!"

"Well, the thing turned out all right, anyway," muttered Bayliss.
"We're off in time to see the game."

"And that's more than Dick Prescott will do today," laughed Bert
sullenly.  "He can't catch a train to Tottenville, now, in time
for the game."

"If Gridley loses the game today," hinted Bayliss, "I suppose
the fellows will all feel that it was because Prescott didn't
go along.  Then they'll all feel like roasting us."

"Oh, bother what the High School ninnies think---or say," grunted
Bert.

Fifteen minutes later there was a loud popping sound.  Then a
tire flattened out, so that it became necessary for the young
men to get out and busy themselves with putting on another tire.
At this task they did not succeed very well until, finally, another
automobilist came along and gave the boys effective help.

So it was that, by the time the pair reached Tottenville, housed
the car at a garage, and reached Tottenville's High School athletic
field, the game was well on.

As the two young men reached the grand stand the Gridley contingent
were on their feet, breathless.

Gridley had the ball down to the ten-yard line from Tottenville's
goal.  Captain Wadleigh's signals were ringing out, crisp and
clear.  A whistle sounded.

Then the ball was put swiftly into play.  Tottenville put up a
sturdy resistance against Gridley's left end.

Dave Darrin had the ball, and appeared to be trying to break through
the Tottenville line, well backed by Gridley's interference.

Of a sudden there was a subtle, swift pass, and Gridley's left
end darted along, almost parallel with the ten-yard line, then
made a dashing cut around and past Tottenville.

Two of the home team tackled that left end, but he shook them
off.  In another instant-----

"Touchdown!" yelled the frantic Gridley boosters.

"Touchdown!  Oh, you Darrin!  Oh, you Prescott!"

Bert Dodge rubbed his eyes.

"Prescott?" he muttered.

"Blazes, but that is Prescott!" faltered Bayliss, with a sickly
grin.

"How did he ever get over here in time to play?" demanded Bert
Dodge.

Herr Schimmelpodt could have told.  The stout, sport-loving old
contractor had parted with some of his greenbacks to a chauffeur
who had put Dick and himself over the long road to Tottenville.
And the young left end was playing, today, in his finest form!




CHAPTER XVI

"THE CATTLE CAR FOR YOURS"


It was Dave Darrin who kicked the goal.  This ran the score up
to six to nothing in Gridley's favor.

It was the first scoring in a game that had begun by looking all
bad for Gridley.

The Tottenville High School boys were bigger than the visitors
and fully as speedy.

In fact, even now, to impartial observers, it looked as though
these six points on the score had been won by what was little
better than a fluke.

"Gridley can't keep this up," remarked the Tottenville boosters
confidently.  "They'll lose their wind and nerve against our fine
line before the game is much older."

The first half went out with score unchanged.  But Captain Wadleigh
did heave a sigh of relief when the time keeper cut in on that
first half.

"Fellows, look out for the fine points," he warned his fellows,
after they had trotted into quarters.  "It'll be craft, not strong
rush, that wins for us today, if anything does."

"Prescott's here.  He and Darrin can put anything over in the
line of craft," laughed Fred Ripley.

Ripley was in togs, but was not playing.  He was on the sub line,
today, awaiting a call in case any player of his team became disabled.

"Darrin and Prescott are all right," nodded Wadleigh gruffly.
"But they have endurance limits, like other human beings.  Don't
rely too much upon any two or three men, fellows.  Now, in the
second half"---here Wadleigh lowered his voice---"I'm going to
spare Prescott and Darrin all I can.  So you other fellows look
out for hard work."

Dick's eyes were still flashing.  This was not from the fever
of the game, but from the recollection of how narrowly he had
escaped being tricked out of this chance to play today.

On his arrival, and while dressing before the game, Prescott had
related to the team the mean trick that had been played upon him.
He had also told how the case came out in court.

"Dodge and Bayliss are traitors to the school!" cried Purcell
indignantly.  "We'll have to give 'em the silence!"

"Hear!  Hear!" cried several of the fellows.

This, in other words, meant that Dodge and Bayliss would be "sent to
Coventry"---shut out from all social contact with the school body
during the remainder of the school year.

"I think I'm with you, fellows," nodded Captain Wadleigh.  "However,
remember that the football team can't settle all school questions.
We'll take this up when we get back to Gridley."

In the second half it was not long before Gridley did go stale
and tired.  But so, too, to the disgust of home boosters, did
the Tottenville High School boys.

The game became a sheer test of endurance.  Gridley, under Wadleigh,
played with a doggedness that made Tottenville put forth all its
strength.

"Brace up, you lobsters," growled Captain Grant of the home team,
after the whistle had sounded on Tottenville's "down" with the
ball.  "Buck the simple Gridley youths.  Wade through their line
as if you fellows were going to dinner half an hour late.  Don't
let them wind you, or stop you!"

Tottenville threw all its force into the following plays.  Surely,
doggedly, the home boys forced the ball down the gridiron.  At
last Gridley was forced to make a safety, thus scoring two points
for their opponents.

"Don't let that happen again, fellows," urged Wadleigh anxiously.
"Fight for time, but don't throw any two-spots away."

"Rally, men!  Brace!  Crush 'em!" ordered Captain Grant.  "Seven
minutes left!  We've got to score."

These muttered orders caused a grim smile among the Tottenville
High School boys, for the only way to tie the score would be to
force Gridley to make two more safeties---a hard thing to do against
a crack eleven in seven minutes!

Dick and Dave Darrin were called into play as soon as the visitors
had the ball in their own hands once more.

The "trick" signal sounded from quarter-back's lips.

"One---three---seven---eleven!"

There was instant, seemingly sly activity on the part of Gridley's
right wing.  Those from Gridley who stood on the grand stand thought
that the coming play looked bad in advance.

"Why don't they use Prescott again?" asked some one anxiously.
"He has been having a vacation."

Then followed the snap-back.  Quarter-back started with the ball,
and it looked as though he would dash for the right.

The quarter took one step, then wheeled like lightning, and rushed
after Darrin, who already was in swift motion.

Gridley's whole line switched for the left.

Tottenville found out the trick after the heaviest fellows in
its line had started for Gridley's right.

"Oh, Darrin---sprint!  Oh, you Prescott!"

Truly the boosters were howling themselves hoarse.

There was frenzy on in an instant.

To the knowing among the watchers there was no chance for Gridley
to rush down on the enemy's goal line, but every yard---every
foot, now---carried the pigskin just so much further from Gridley's
goal line.

Gridley's interference rushed in solidly about Dave Darrin, as
though to boost him through.

Dick seemed bent on beating down some of the formation surging
against the visitors.

Just as the bunch "clumped" Dave Darrin went down.  There was
a surge over him, and then Dick Prescott was seen racing as though
for life.

There was no opposition left---only Tottenville's quarter-back
and the fullback.

Tottenville's quarter got after fleeting Dick too late, for the
whole movement had been one of startling trickery.

One Tottenville halfback was too far away to make an obstructing
dash in time.

In dodging the other halfback Dick dashed on as though not seeing
the fellow.  This, however, was all trick.  Just in the nick of
time Prescott, still holding the ball, ducked and dodged far to
the left, getting around his man.

Tottenville's fullback was now the sole hope of the home team.

Prescott, however, dodged that heavy fellow, also.

From the Gridley boosters on the grand stand went up a medley
of yells that dinned in the young left end's ears.  Panting, all
but fainting, Dick was over the enemy's goal line and he had the
ball down.

When Dave had emerged from that fruitless clumping he had a broad
grin on his face.  He saw that while Dick was not yet over the
goal line, only the fullback was in the way and the  fullback
was no match for Dick in the matter of speed.

Then the yells told the rest.  Back came the ball.  Captain Wadleigh
nodded to Dave to kick the goal.

Captain Grant looked utterly wild.  He had assured everyone in
Tottenville who had asked him that the Gridley "come ons" would
be eaten alive.  And here-----!

Dave made the kick.  After going down in that bunch Darrin was
not at his best.  Body and nerves were tired.  He failed to kick
the goal.

Hardly, however, had the two teams been started in a new line-up
when the time keeper did his trick.  The game was over.

That last kick had failed, but who cared?  The score was eleven
to two!

Ere the players could escape from the field the Gridley boosters
were over on the gridiron.

Dick and Dave were bodily carried to dressing quarters.  Wadleigh,
who had shown fine generalship in this stiff game was cheered
until the boosters went hoarse.

"Gentlemen," cried Coach Morton, raising his voice to its fullest
carrying power as the dressing quarters filled, "it's probably
too early to brag, but I feel that we've got an old-fashioned
Gridley eleven this year."

"Ask Grant!"

"Ask anybody in Tottenville!"

The first yell was sent up by Ripley, the second by another substitute.

All the Gridley members of the team were excited at the close
of this game.  Not even their weariness kept down their spirits.

Herr Schimmelpodt didn't attempt to enter quarters.  He was now
too much of a "sport" to attempt that.  But he stood just outside
the door, vigorously mopping his shining, wet face.

There were two extra places in the German's hired car.  Dave,
of course, was asked to fill one of these, and Captain Wadleigh
was invited to take the fifth seat.

More dejected than ever were Bert Dodge and his chum, Bayliss,
as they slouched away from the grounds.  They did not attempt
to invade the gridiron and join in the triumphal procession to
quarters.

"You can't seem to down that fellow Prescott," muttered Bayliss,
in disgust.  "Just as you think you've got him by the throat you
find out that he's sitting on your chest and pulling your hair."

"Oh, I don't know," growled Dodge sulkily.  "He may have his weak
spot, and it may be a very weak spot at that."

The pair moped along until they reached the garage in which they
had left the runabout.

Bayliss was standing near the doorway, while Bert inspected the
machinery of the car.

"Pest!  Look out there," muttered Bayliss, stepping back from
the open doorway.

"What is it?" demanded Bert.  "Oh, I see!  Old Schimmelpodt brought
the beggar Prescott over here in an auto.  That's how the fellow
managed to get into the game, after all.  Well, what of it all,
anyway?"

"That car is running along slowly, and it has a full-sized crowd
in it," muttered Bayliss, going closer to his crony.  "Wadleigh,
Prescott and Darrin---and maybe the chauffeur is a thick friend
of theirs."

"What on earth are you driving at?" demanded Dodge, glancing up.

"Bert, I don't believe I'm wholly stuck on the scheme of us driving
back to Gridley.  There are too many lonely spots along the road.

"Do you think they'd assassinate us?" jeered Bert.

"I---I think Wadleigh may have formed the notion of stopping us
and giving us a thrashing," responded Bayliss.

"Bosh!" snapped Dodge quickly.

Yet, none the less, he paused and looked thoughtful.

"There's more than one road to Gridley, old fellow," muttered
Bert uneasily.  "You see Schimmelpodt and that mocker didn't pass
us on the way here."

"But I think they're likely to have guessed our road," persisted
Bayliss.  "There was an ugly look on Wadleigh's face, too, as
that car drove past here."

"But old Schimmelpodt wouldn't stand for anything disorderly
and---unlawful," urged Bert.

"I don't know about that," retorted Bayliss significantly.  "That
old German has gone crazy over High School sports.  He might stand
in for 'most anything.  You know, he offered your Dad to give you
a spanking this afternoon."

The thought of Herr Schimmelpodt's big and capable-looking hands
caused Bert to shiver a bit uneasily.  Yet he didn't want to
admit that he was scared.  He glanced at his watch.

"We've time to catch the regular train back, I suppose, Bayliss."

"Let's do it, then," begged the other.

"Will you pay a chauffeur to take this car home, then?"

"I'll pay half," volunteered Bayliss eagerly.

"All right, then; if you're pretty near broke, we'll divide the
cost," agreed Dodge.

An arrangement was easily made with the owner of the garage.
Then, the charges paid, this pair of cronies, who considered themselves
much better than the usual run of High School boys, hurried over
to the railway station.

The train was waiting by the time that the pair arrived.  Bert
and Bayliss hastily purchased  tickets, then boarded the handiest
car.  The train proved to contain few people except the Gridley
student body and boosters from that town.

"Here, what are you fellows doing in here?" angrily demanded Purcell,
as the cronies entered one of the cars.

"We're going to ride to Gridley, if you've no objections," replied
Bert, with sulky defiance.

"No, sir; not in this car!" declared Purcell promptly.  "Too many
decent people here.  The cattle car for yours!"

"Oh, shut up!" retorted Dodge, trying to shove into a vacant seat.

But Purcell gripped him and pushed him back.

"No, siree! Not in here!  The cattle car is your number."

"You-----"

"We'll pitch you off the train if you have the cheek to try to
ride in this ear," insisted Purcell.

High School boys, when off on a junket of this kind, are likely to
be as wild as college boys.  A score of the Gridley youths now
jumped up.  It looked as though there were going to be a riot.

"Oh, come on," snarled Bayliss, plucking his crony's sleeve.
"We don't want to ride with this truck, anyway."

Into the next car stamped the two young men, their faces red with
anger and shame.

"Sneaks!" piped up some one.




CHAPTER XVII

FACING THE "SCHOOL CUT"


At the instant of their entrance into the car the air had been
full of merry chatter.

There were many High School girls in this car, and not many vacant
seats.

As the word "sneaks" sounded through the car everyone turned around.

Bert and Bayliss found themselves uncomfortably conspicuous.

At once all the talk and laughter ceased.  Stony silence followed.

One of the girls was sitting alone in a seat.

Bayliss, unable to endure the situation any longer, glided forward,
dropping into the vacant place.

"That seat is engaged," the girl coolly informed him.

So Bayliss, redder than ever, hurriedly rose.

Bert had already started for the next car.  Bayliss slunk along
after him.

"Sneaks!" cried some one, as they showed their faces in still
the next car forward.

Here, too, all the chatter stormed at once.

Bert, pulling his hat down over his eyes, went hurriedly past
the boys and girls of Gridley, and into the next car.

Bayliss followed with the fidelity and closeness of a little dog.

Now, the next car ahead proved to be the smoking car.  Here, at
any rate, the despised pair could find safe harborage.

But one of the men of Gridley, who had followed the football team
this day, and who had got an inkling of the story of the arrest,
removed a cigar from between his lips and pointed an accusing
finger at the boys.

"See here, you fellows!" he shouted.  "This car is exclusively
for men.  Can you take a hint?"

"But we've got to sit somewhere," flashed Bert defiantly.

"I don't know as that's necessary, either," retorted the Gridley
man.  "At least, I don't care if it is.  After your dirty little
trick, today, we don't want you in here among men.  Do we, neighbors?"

There were many mutterings, some cat-calls and at least a score
of men rose.

"You let me alone, you fellows!" yelled Bert Dodge, as he made
a break for the front end of the car.  "Don't any of you dare
to get fresh with me!"

By the time he had reached the front end of the car Bert was almost
sobbing with anger and shame.

Bayliss had followed, white and silent.

In the baggage car, to their relief, the sole railway employee
there did not object to their presence.

Bert and his crony found seats on two trunks side by side.

"Dodge," whispered Bayliss unsteadily, after the train had pulled
out from Tottenville, "I'm afraid we're in bad with the school
push."

"Afraid?" sneered Bert.  "Man, don't you know it?"

"Well, it's all your fault---this whole confounded row!"

"Oh, you're going to play welsher, are you?" sneered Bert.  "Humph!
By morning you'll be a full-fledged mucker!"

"Don't you worry about that," argued Bayliss, though rather stiffly.
"I know my family---and my caste."

"I should hope so," rejoined Dodge, with just a shade more cordiality.

Rather than alight at Gridley, and face the whole High School
crowd---for scores who had not been able to meet the expense of
the trip to Tottenville would be sure to be at the station to
meet the victorious team---Bert and Bayliss rode on to the next
station, then got off and walked two miles back to town.

By Monday morning the punishment of the pair was made complete.

Bert and Bayliss walked to school together.  As they drew near
the grounds both young men felt their hearts beating faster.

"I wonder if there's anything in for us?" whispered Dodge.

"Sure to be," responded Bayliss.

"Well, the fellows had better not try anything too frisky.  If
they do, they'll give us a chance to make trouble for 'em!"

It seemed as though the full count of the student body, boys and
girls, had assembled in the yard this morning.

All was gay noise until the pair of cronies appeared at the gate.

Then, swiftly, all the noise died out.

One could hardly hear even a breath being drawn.

The silence was complete as Bert and Bayliss, now very white,
stepped into the yard.

Though not a voice sounded, every eye was turned on the white-faced
pair.

Bert Dodge's lips moved.  He tried to summon us control enough
of his tongue to utter some indifferent remark to his companion.

But the sound simply wouldn't come.

After a walk that was only a few yards in distance, yet seemed
only less than a mile in length, the humiliated pair rushed up
the steps, opened the great door and let themselves in.

At recess neither Bayliss nor Dodge had the courage to appear
outside.  As they left school that afternoon they were treated
to the same dose of "silence."

Tuesday morning neither Dodge nor Bayliss showed up at all at
school.

On Thursday morning High School readers of "The Blade" were greatly
interested in the following personal paragraph:

_"Bayliss and Dodge, both of the senior class, High School, have
severed their connection with that institution.  It is understood
that the young men are going elsewhere in search of better educational
facilities."_

That was all, but it told the boys and girls at Gridley High School
all that they needed to know.

"That is the very last gasp of the 'sorehead' movement," grinned
Tom Reade, in talking it over with Dan Dalzell.

"Well, they did the whole trick for themselves," rejoined Dan.
"No one else touched them, or pushed them.  They took all the
rope they wanted---and hanged themselves.  Now, that pair will
probably feel cheap every  time they have to come back to Gridley
and walk the streets."

"All they had to do was to be decent fellows," mused Tom.  "But
the strain of decency proved to be too severe for them."

In the High School yard that Thursday morning there was one unending
strain of rejoicing.

Some of the other late "soreheads," who had escaped the full meed
of humiliation---Davis, Cassleigh, Fremont, Porter and others---actually
sighed with relief when they found what they had escaped in the
way of ridicule and contempt.

"The whole thing teaches us one principle," muttered Fremont to Porter.

"What is that?"

"Never tackle the popular idol in any mob.  If you can't get along
with him, avoid him---but don't try to buck him!"

"Humph!" retorted Porter.  "If you mean Prescott and his gang---Dick
& Co., as the fellows call them---I can follow one part of your
advice by avoiding them.  I never did and never could like that
mucker Prescott!"

The fact of interest to Dick would have been that he appeared
to enjoy the respect of at least ninety-five per cent. of the
student body of the High School.

Surely that percentage of popularity is enough for anyone.  The
fellow can get along without the approbation of a few "soreheads"!




CHAPTER XVIII

"PRIN." GETS IN THE PRACTICE


If Dodge and Bayliss devoted any time to farewells among their
late fellow-students before quitting Gridley the fact did not
seem to leak out.

Yet despite the absence of two young men who considered themselves
of such great importance the Gridley High School appeared to go
on about the same as ever.

It was the season of football, and nearly of the school's interest
and enthusiasm seemed to spend itself in that direction.  Coach
Morton did all in his power to push the team on to perfection;
the other teachers worked harder than ever to keep the interest
of the students sufficiently on their studies.  The girls, as
well as the boys, suffered from the infection of the gridiron
microbe.

Five more games with other High School teams were fought out,
and now Gridley had an unbroken record of victories so far for
the season.

Such a history can often be built up in the athletics of a High
School, but it has to be a school attended by the cream of young
manhood and having an abundance of public interest and enthusiasm
behind it all.

Not at any time in the season did Coach Morton allow the training
work to slacken.  Regularly the entire squad turned out for field
work.  If the afternoon proved to be stormy, then four blasts
on the city fire alarm, at either two o'clock or two-thirty, notified
the young  men that they were to report at the gym. instead.
There, the work, though different, was just as severe.  The result
was that every youngster in the squad "reeked" with good condition
all through the season.

It is in just this respect that many a High School eleven fails
to "make really good."  In a team where discipline is lax some
of the fellows are sure to rebel at spending "all their time training."
Where the coach exercises too limited authority, or when he is
too "easy," the team's record is sure to suffer in consequence.
Many a High School eleven comes out a tail-ender just because
the coach is not strict enough, or cannot be.  Many a team composed
of naturally husky and ambitious boys fails on account of a light-weight
coach.  On the other hand, the best coach in the country can't
make a winning eleven out of fellows who won't work or be disciplined.

Coach Morton's authority was unbounded.  After the team had been
organized for the season it took action by the Athletics Committee
of the Alumni Association to drop a man from the team.  But coach
and captain could drop the offender back to the "sub" seats and
keep him there.  Moreover, it was well known that Mr. Morton's
recommendation that a certain young man be dropped was all the
hint that the Athletics Committee needed.

Under failing health, or when duties prevented full attention
to football training, a member of the team was allowed to resign.
But an offending member couldn't resign.  He was dropped, and
in the eyes of the whole student body being dropped signified
deep disgrace.

In five out of the won games Dick Prescott had played left end,
and without accident.  Yet, as it was wholly possible that he
might be laid up at any instant, the coach was assiduously training
Dan Dalzell and Tom Reade to play at either end of the line.
Other subs were rigorously trained for other positions, but Dan
and Tom were regarded as the very cream of the sub players in
the light-weight positions.

Dan had played left end in one of the lesser gables, and had shown
himself a swift, brilliant gridironist, though he was not quite
as crafty as Prescott.

Tom Reade had less of strategy than Dan but relied more upon great
bursts of speed and in the sheer ability to run away from impending
tackle.

Now the boys were training for the team's eighth game, the one
to be played against the Hepburn Falls High School, a strong
organization.

"Remember that a tie saves the record, but that it doesn't look
as well as a winning," Coach Morton coaxed the squad dryly, as
they started in for afternoon practice.

"We miss the mascot that the earlier High School teams used to
have," remarked Hudson.

"Yes?  What was it?" inquired coach.

"Why, bully old Dr. Thornton used to drop in for a few minutes,
'most every practice afternoon?" replied Hudson.  "I can remember
just how his full, kindly old face, with the twinkling eyes, used
to encourage the fellows up  to the prettiest work that was in
then.  Oh, he was a mascot---Dr. Thornton was!"

Coach Morton was of the same mind, but he didn't say so, as it
would sound like a rejection on the present unpopular principal,
Abner Cantwell.

This afternoon there was no real team practice Mr. Morton wanted
certain individual play features brought out more strongly.  One
of these was the kicking of the ball.

After several had worked with the pigskin Morton called out:

"Now, Prescott, you take the ball, and drop back to the twenty-five-yard
line.  When you get there name your shot---that is, tell us where
you intend to put the ball.  Where doesn't matter as long as it
is a long kick and a true one.  After you name your shot, then
run swiftly to the center of the field.  From there, without a
long pause, kick and see how straight you can drive for the point
you have named."

"All right, sir," nodded Dick.  Tucking the pigskin under his
arm, he jogged back to the twenty-five-yard line.

"Right over there!" called Dick, pointing.  "I'll try to drop
the ball in the front row of seats, second section past the entrance."

"Very good, Prescott!"

No one was sitting in the section named by Prescott, but a few
onlookers who had been squatting in a section near by hastily
moved.

"The duffers!  They needn't think I am going to hit them with
the ball," muttered Dick.  Then he started on a hard run.

Just at center he stopped abruptly, swung back his right foot
and dropped the ball.

It was a hard, fast drive.  The ball arched upward, somewhat,
though it did not travel high.

But to Dick, standing still to watch the effect of his kick there
came a sudden jolt.  A man had just appeared, walking through
the entrance passage.  His head, well up above the sloping sides
of the passage at this point, was not right in line with the ball.

And that man was Principal Cantwell!

Several members of the squad saw what might happen, but every
one of them was too eagerly expectant to make a sound to prevent
the threatened catastrophe.

Dick saw and half shivered.  Yet in his desire to say something
in the fewest words of warning, all he could think of was:

"Low bridge!"

Nor did Coach Morton succeed in thinking of anything more helpful,
for he shouted only:

"Mr. Cantwell!"

"Eh?" asked the principal, turning toward the coach and therefore
not seeing the ball that was now nearly upon him.

Mr. Cantwell, on this afternoon, having a few calls in mind, had
arrayed himself in his best.  He wore a long black frock coat
which, he imagined, made him look at least as distinguished as
a diplomat.  In the matter of silk hats, being decidedly economical,
Mr. Cantwell allowed himself a new one only once in two years.
But new one had been due; he had just bought one, and now wore
this glossy thing in the latest style.

There was no time for more warning.

The descending ball was in straight line with that elegant hat.

Bump!  The pigskin struck the hat full and fair, carrying it from
the principal's head.

On sailed hat and football for some three feet, the hat managing
to run upside down.

R-r-r-rip!  The force with which the football was traveling impaled
the hat on a picket at the side of the stand.  Then, as if satisfied
with fits work, the football struck and bounded back, landing
at the principal's feet.

For one moment Mr. Cantwell was dumb with amazement.

Then he saw his impaled hat and realized the extent and tragedy
of his loss.  The angered man went white with wrath.

"What ruffian did that!" he roared.

But the boys, unable to hold in any longer, had let out a concerted
though half-suppressed "whoop!" and now came running to the spot.

"Who kicked my hat off?" demanded the principal, pointing tragically
to the piece of headgear, through the crown and past the rim of
which the picket now stood up as though in triumph.

"You---you got in the way of---the ball, sir," explained Drayne,
trying hard to keep from roaring out with laughter.

"But some one kicked the ball my way," insisted the principal,
with utter sternness.  "Don't tell me that no one did!  That football
could not By through the air without some one propelling it.
Now, young gentlemen, who kicked that ball?"

"I did, Mr. Cantwell," admitted Dick, pushing his way through
the throng.  "And I'm very sorry that anything like this has happened,
sir."

"On, you did it, oh?" demanded the principal, eyeing the young
man witheringly.  "And you actually expect an apology to restore
my new and expensive hat to its former pristine condition of splendor?"

"I didn't know you were there, sir," Dick explained.  "You didn't
appear until just after I had kicked the ball."

"Prescott is quite right, Mr. Cantwell," put in Coach Morton.
"None of us knew you were here in the passage until the ball
had been kicked---not, in fact, until the ball was almost upon
you."

"Then, when you saw me, why didn't you call out to warn me?" demanded
the principal, still  fearfully angry, though trying to keep back
unparliamentary language.

"I did call out, sir," replied Dick.  "There was mighty little
time to think, but I called out the two quickest words I could
think of."

"What did you call?" demanded the principal.

"I yelled 'low bridge!'"

"A most idiotic expression," snorted the principal.  "What on
earth does it mean, anyway?"

"It means to duck, sir," Prescott answered.

"Duck?" retorted Mr. Cantwell, glaring suspiciously at the sober-faced
young left end.  "Now, what on earth does 'duck' mean, unless
you refer to a web-footed species of poultry?"

"Prescott was rattled, beyond a doubt, Mr. Cantwell," interposed
Coach Morton.  "So was I---the time was so short.  All I could
think of as to call out to you by name."

"With the result that I looked your way--- and lost my row hat,"
snapped the principal.  He now turmoil to take the spoiled article
off the paling.  He looked at it almost in anguish, for he had
been very proud of that glossy article.

"It's a shame," muttered Drayne, with mock sympathy.

"That's what it is," agreed Dave Darrin innocently.  "But---Mr.
Morton---I think the matter can be fixed satisfactorily.  If
you call this to the attention of the Athletics Committee  won't
they vote to appropriate the price of a new hat out of the High
School athletics fund?  You know, the fund is almost overburdened
with money this year."

"That might not be a bad idea," broke in the principal eagerly.
"Will you call this to the attention of the Committee, Mr. Morton,
For it was in coming here to watch the young men that I lost my
fine, new hat."

"Now, I'm heartily sorry," replied Mr. Morton, "but I am certain
the members of the committee will feel that money contributed
by the citizens of the town can hardly be expended in purchasing
hats for anyone."

"But-----" Mr. Cantwell began to expostulate.  Then he stopped,
very suddenly.  Just as plainly as anyone else present the principal
now saw the absurdity of expecting a new hat out of the athletics
fund.  Mr. Cantwell shot a very savage look at innocent-appearing
Dave Darrin.

"My afternoon is spoiled, as well as my hat," remarked the principal,
turning to leave with as much dignity as could be expected from
man who bore such a battered hat in his hands.

"The hatter might be able to block your hat out and repair it,"
suggested Hudson, though without any real intention of offering
aid.  "Our coachman had that sort of trick done to played-out
old silk hat that Dad gave him."

"Mr. Hudson," returned the principal, turning and glaring at this
latest polite tormentor, "will you be good enough to remember
that I am not extremely interested in your family history.

"Back to your practice, men!" called the coach sharply, after
the last had been seen of the back of the principal's black coat.

"It was too bad!" muttered Dick, in a tone of genuine regret.

"Say that again, and I'll make an effort to thrash you, Prescott!"
challenged Hudson, with a grin.

"Well, I am sorry it happened," Dick insisted.  "And mighty sorry,
too."

"You couldn't help it."

"I know it, but that hardly lessens my regret.  I don't enjoy
the thought of having destroyed anyone else's property, even if
I couldn't help it and can't be blamed.

"Prescott said he didn't know I was there!" exclaimed Mr. Cantwell
angrily to himself.  "Bosh!  That boy has been a thorn in my side
ever since I became principal of the school.  Of course he saw
me---and he kicked wonderfully straight!  Oh, how I wish I could
make him wear this hat every day during the balance of the school
year!  Such a handsome hat---eight dollars!"

"It's a shame to tell you," confided Dave Darrin, as he and Dick
headed the sextette of chums on the homeward tramp, "but you're
certainly looking in great condition, old fellow."

"I feel simply perfect, physically," Dick replied.  "I have, in
fact, ever since I first began to train in the baseball squad
last season.  It's wonderful what training does for a fellow!
I  know there's a heap of bad condition in the world, but I often
wonder why there is.  Why, Dave, I ought to knock wood, of course,
but I feel so fine that it seems as though nothing could put me
out of form."

At that moment young Prescott had no idea how easily a few minutes
could bring one from the best possible condition to the brink
of physical despair.




CHAPTER XIX

LAURA AND BELLE HAVE A SECRET


"Only a team of fools would hope to stop Gridley High School this
year."

Thus stated the Elliston "Tribune" after Gridley had walked through
Elliston High School, one of the strongest school teams of the
state, by a score of eight to nothing.

That copy of "The Tribune" found its way over to Gridley, and
fell into the hands of some of the High School boys.

"Be careful, young men," warned Mr. Morton.  "Don't get it too
seriously into your heads that you can't be beaten, or your downfall
will date from that hour.  The true idea is not that on can't
be beaten, but that you won't.  Stick to the latter idea as well
as you do to your training, and it will be a good eleven, indeed,
that can get a game away from you."

"Only two more to play this year, anyway," replied Hudson.  "We
can't lose much."

"The team might lose two, and that would a worse record than any
Gridley eleven has made in five years," retorted Mr. Morton dryly.

"We won't lose 'em, though," rejoined Tom Reade.  "Every fellow
in the squad is in a conspiracy to pull the eleven through the
next two games---by its hair, if necessary."

"That line of thought is better than conceit," smiled the coach.

The game with Paunceboro High School came off, one of the most
stubbornly fought battles that Gridley had ever entered.  It seemed
impossible to score against this enemy.

Again and again Dick broke around the left end in a spirited dash,
or Dan Dalzell made one of his swift sorties at right end.  Then,
by the time that Paunceboro had grown used to end dashes, Gridley
would make a smashing charge at center.

All these styles of attack, however, Paunceboro met smilingly.
In the first half there was no score.

Yet Paunceboro did not succeed any better in getting through or
around Gridley's line of flexible human steel.  Until within ten
minutes before the close of the second half, it looked like a
tie between giants of the school gridiron.

Then, by a series of feints in which Prescott, Darrin, Drayne
and Hudson bore off the most brilliant honors, although all under
Wadleigh's planning, Paunceboro was sorely pressed down against
its own goal line.

Just in the nick of time Paunceboro made a safety, and thus sent
the ball back up the field.  But it cost Paunceboro two
reluctantly-given points, and that was the score---two to nothing.

Gridley was still victor in every game so far played in the season.
November was now far along, and there remained only the great
Thanksgiving Day game.  This contest, against Filmore High School,
was to be fought out on the Gridley field.

"Your football season will soon be over, Dick," remarked Laura
Bentley, one afternoon when Prescott and Darrin, on their way
back from coach's gridiron grilling, met Laura and Belle on Main
Street.

"This season will soon be over," replied Dick "but I hope for
another next year."

"And then, perhaps, at college?" hinted Belle.

"If we go to college," replied Dick slowly.

"Why?  Don't you expect to?" asked Laura, in some surprise.

"We are not sure," murmured Dick, "that we want to go to college."

"Why, I thought both of you were ambitious for higher education,"
cried Belle.

"So we are," nodded Dave.

"Oh!  Then, if not to college, you are going to some scientific
school?" guessed Laura.

"I wonder if you two could keep a secret?" laughed Dick teasingly.

"Try us!" challenged Belle Meade.

Dick glanced at Dave, who gave a barely perceptible nod.

"No; we won't try you," retorted Dick "We'll trust you, without
any promise on your part."

"Good!" cried Laura, in a gratified tone.

"Well?" inquired Belle, as neither boy spoke.

"It's just here, then," Prescott went on, in a low tone, after
glancing around to make sure that no one else was within hearing.
"The Congressman from this district, in a year or so more, will
have the filling of a vacancy at West Point.  That means a cadetship
from this district.  Now, a Congressman can appoint a cadet as a
matter of favoritism, or to pay a political debt to some relative of
the boy he so appoints.  But the custom, in this district, has
always been for the Congressman to appoint the boy who comes out
best in a competitive examination.  The examination is thrown
open to all boys, of proper age, who can first pass a good physical
examination."

"So you're both going to try for it?" asked Belle quickly.

"No," retorted Dave very quickly.  "That would make us rivals.
Dick and I don't want to be rivals."

"Then where do you come in?" asked Belle, glancing curiously at
Darrin.

"Whisper!" replied Dave, looking mischievously mysterious.  After
a pause he continued, almost in a whisper:

"At just about the same time there will be a vacancy at Annapolis.
So while Dick is trying to get a job carrying the banner for
the Army, it will be little David trying for a chance to be a
second Farragut in the Navy."

Dick winced at his chum's rather slighting allusion to an Army
career, but on this one point  of preference in the way of the
service, the two chums were willing to disagree.  Darrin wouldn't
have gone to West Point if he could.  Dick admitted the greatness
of the American Navy, but all his heart was set on the Army.

"Both of you boys, then, are planning to give up your lives to
the Flag?" exclaimed Laura.

"Yes," nodded Dick; "do you think it's foolish?"

"I think it's glorious!" breathed Laura.

"So do I," agreed Belle heartily; "though, like Dave, I should
think the Navy would be the more attractive."

"Oh, the Navy is all right," gibed Dick.  "It would never suit
me, though.  You see, a fellow in the Navy has nothing to do but
ride into a fight on board a first-class ship.  It's too much
like being a Cook's tourist war time.  Now, any Army officer,
or a private soldier, for that matter, has to depend upon his
own physical exertions to get him into the fight."

"And an Army fellow," twitted Dave, "if he finds the fight too
hard for him, can always dig a hole and hide in it.  But where
can a naval officer hide?"

"Oh, he has it easy enough, anyway, hiding behind armor plate,"
scoffed Dick.

"Of one thing I feel certain, anyway," said Laura thoughtfully.
"You are both of you cut out for the military life.  Under the
most fearful conditions I don't believe either one of you would
ever show the white feather."

"I don't know," replied Dick gravely.  "Neither one of us has
ever been tested sufficiently.  But I hope you're right, Laura.
I'd sooner be dead, at this instant, than to feel that my cowardice
would ever throw the slightest stain on the grand old Flag.  I
try to be generous in my opinions of others.  I think I can stand
almost any man except---the coward!"

"I'm not a bit afraid of either one of you, on that score," broke
in Belle warmly.

"That's very kind of you," nodded Dave.  "But of course you don't
know any more about our bravery than we do ourselves.  It has
never been proven."

"How many young men have been killed in football this year?" asked
Laura quietly.

"I think the paper stated, the other day, that it was something
more than forty," replied Dick.

"Well, don't you two play football," demanded Laura.  "Don't you
both jump into the crush as fearlessly as anyone, Doesn't it take
about as much nerve to play fast and furious football as it does
to fight on the battlefields Isn't football, in its hardest form,
a great training for the soldiers"

"Oh, perhaps," laughed Dick.  "For that matter, Laura, I believe
you could soon talk me into believing that I'm braver than good
old Phil Sheridan!"

"Hullo," muttered Dave suddenly.  "What-----"

"Where's the crowd rushing!" demanded Belle, in the same breath.

"There's some trouble down the street!" cried Darrin.  "And smoke,
too."

"It's a fire!" cried Dick, wheeling about.  "Come along---all!"

As the girls started to scurry down the street Dick caught Laura's
nearer arm to aid her.  Dave did as much for Belle.

These four young people were among the first hundred and fifty
to gather on the sidewalk before a store and office building that
was on fire.

It was a five story building.  Fire had started in back on the
second floor.  Originating in offices empty at the time, the blaze
had gained good headway ere it was discovered.  It had eaten up
to the third and fourth floors, and was now sweeping frontward.
On the third floor the heat had cracked the window glass, and
the air, rushing in, had fanned up a brisk blaze.  Flames were
beginning to shoot out their fiery tongues through these third
story windows.

"Is everyone out of that building?" demanded the policeman on
the beat, rushing up.  He had just learned that a citizen had
gone to ring in the fire alarm, so now the policeman's next thought
was directed toward life saving.

There was a quick count of those who had been in the offices on
the upper floors.

On the fourth floor one suite of offices had been occupied as
a china painting school.  Miss  Trent, the teacher, who had reached
the sidewalk safely, now looked about her anxiously.

"I had only one pupil up there, Miss Grace Dodge," replied Miss
Trent, hurriedly.  "I called to her and then ran.  Miss Dodge
started after me, then rushed back to get her purse, palette and
color case."

"Has anyone seen Miss Dodge?" demanded the policeman.

No one had.

"Then I'll get up there, if I can," muttered the officer.

Dropping belt and club to the sidewalk, and pulling his helmet
down tight on his head, the policeman darted into the building
and up the stairs.

At that moment, above the smoke and flames pouring out of the
third story windows, Grace Dodge appeared at one of the windows
on the fourth floor.  She was hatless, and a streak of blood appeared
over her left temple.

"Don't jump!" shouted several men loudly.  "A policeman has just
started up to get you."

Miss Dodge appeared somewhat dazed; it was a question whether
she understood.  But her face disappeared from the window way.
To many of the horrified ones below, it appeared as though the
imperiled girl had swayed dizzily away from the window, as though
overcome by the heat and fumes from the windows below her.

"Where is the fire department?  Is it never coming?" wailed one
woman in the throng, wringing her hands.

No one here knew that the citizen who had rushed to send in the
alarm had found the first box out of order.  He was now rushing
to another alarm box.

Out of the hallway came the policeman, white-faced and tottering
weakly.

"I---I couldn't get up much above the second floor," he gasped,
in a voice out of which the strength was gone.  "I---I guess
the---heat and smoke got me!  But---some one---must try!"

Where was that fire department?

Dick, staring over the crowd, found that all of his chums had
arrived.

"Come on, fellows!" he yelled.  "We've got to do something.  Follow
me!"

Prescott, after one swift glance at the buildings, made a dash
for the door of the one just to the right of the blazing pile.
Into the stairway entrance he dashed, followed by Dave Darrin,
by Tom Reade, Greg Holmes, Dan Dalzell and Harry Hazelton.

"Hurrah!" yelled some one, in infectious enthusiasm.  "Dick &
Co. to the rescue!"




CHAPTER XX

IN THE LINE OF DARING


That became instantly the cry:

"Dick & Co. to the rescue!"

Yet none of the sextette heard it.

They were all inside, at the first step of their projected deed of
bravery.

"All of you but Dave run through the offices!" yelled Dick.  "Some
of the tenants must have fire-rope coils.  Grab the first rope
you can find and bring it to me on the roof.  Hustle!  Dave, you
follow me!"

Even to boys daily grilled on the football gridiron it was no
mere matter of sport to dart up five flights of stairs at fast
speed.

Dick Prescott was panting as he reached the roof and threw open
the skylight door.

But he got out on the roof, hurrying across it, doing his best,
at the same time, to gulp in chestfuls of fresh air.

Then he came to the edge of the roof next to the burning building.

The roof of that other building was about fifteen feet below the
Roof on which Dick Prescott stood.

After an instant of swift calculation young Prescott jumped.

He landed, below, on the balls of his feet, though the next instant
the momentum of the fall carried him forward onto his hands.

In another twinkling Prescott was up, running toward the front
edge of the building.

He stopped at the skylight door, but discovered that the flames
and smoke below shut off hope there.  So he continued to the front
of the roof.

Here Dick glanced back, for a second, to make sure that Dave
had followed safely.

Darrin was on his feet, and waved his hand reassuringly.

Then Dick Prescott leaned out, peering down at the front of the
burning building.

"There's Prescott!" shouted some of the most enthusiastic watchers.

"Hurrah.  Old Gridley High School!"

But Dick paid no heed to the crowd.  He was trying to locate the
window at which Grace Dodge had appeared, and was trying to contrive
how he would use a rope when one came.

In the meantime Darrin, having jumped to the lower roof, remained
where he had dropped, awaiting the arrival of the other fellows
with a rope.

After a few moments they came.  Reade had a coil of inch rope,
which he waved enthusiastically.

"Wait until we get the rope uncoiled," called Greg.  "Then we'll
lower some of us down to join you"

"Lower---nothing!  Jump!" yelled Dave, in a stentorian quarter-deck
voice.

Greg obeyed, instanter.  Tom flung the coil of rope below, then
followed it.  Hazelton and Dalzell, an instant later, were with
their comrades.

"Come on, now," ordered Darrin, who had snatched up the coil of
rope and was darting over the roof.  "Dick's waiting for us."

Prescott, still looking below, heard the swish of ropes on the
roof as Dave uncoiled and threw the lengths out.

"Good!" yelled Dick, looking back.  "Tom, you take a turn or two
of the rope around that chimney, for anchor.  Dave, you stand
here at the roof edge to pay out the rope.  Greg, you and Dan
get in behind Dave to help on the hoist.  See, Dave!  That third
window from the end--- there's where the rope wants to go."

"You going down the rope?" queried Darrin dryly.

"Yes."

"Wait, then, and I'll tie some knots in it."

"No time for that," vetoed Dick sharply.

"I'll have to take my chances.  Miss Dodge may be smothering,
or burning.  Pay it out---fast!"

Dick watched until he saw that the rope had gone low enough, and
that it hung before the right window.

"Now, brace yourselves, fellows!" he called, between his hands,
for the roar of the flames and the crackling of timbers made some
sort of trumpet necessary, even at short range.

On his knees, his back to the street, at the edge of the roof,
Dick Prescott seized the rope.

Then, with a fervent inward prayer, he started over the edge, and
hung in the air, eighty feet from the ground.

Down below, the ever-increasing crowd let out a cyclonic, roaring
cheer.  It was a foolish thing to do, for it might have rattled
the young football player.  But Prescott paid no attention to
the racket, and kept on lowering himself, coolly.

Here was where his gym. training and all his football practice came in
splendidly.  Every muscle was strong, every nerve true to its
duty!

Not once did Prescott fear that he would lose his grip and fall to
the street below.

Up above, at the roof's edge, stood Darrin, directing as though
from quarter-deck or military-top.  Dave had to lean rather far
out, at that great height, but it did not make him dizzy.

"There!  The grand old chap has landed on the window-sill!
He has gone inside!" cried Dave, turning to his comrades.  "Now
we can wait until we feel a signal-pull on the rope."

As he turned away from the smoke that was coming up through the
air Darrin realized how much smoke he had inhaled.  He thumped
his chest lightly, taking deep breaths.

Dick was in the studio now.

Close to the window, where the draught was strongest, Prescott
found the smoke so thick that he had to grope his way through
it; but bending low, he quickly came to where Grace Dodge lay
unconscious on the floor.

She looked lifeless, as she lay there.

"Whew!  I'm afraid she's a goner, already!" thought Dick, with
a great surge of compassion.

However, seizing the unconscious girl by the shoulders he dragged
her swiftly over the floor to the window through which he had come.

The rope still dangled there.

Seizing it, Dick gave it a gentle pull---not too hard, for fear
the jerk might catch good old Dave of his guard and yank him over
the roof's edge.

In another instant Darrin was "back on the job," peering down.

Dick made a signal that Dave understood perfectly.

Prescott's next care was to knot his end of the rope swiftly around
Grace's body, above the waist, adjusting the coils so that considerable
of the strain would come under the shoulders, where it could best
be borne.

Once more Dick leaned out of the window, making motions.  Dave
Darrin nodded.  The fascinated crowd in the street looked up,
breathless.  Few now even thought to wonder why the fire department
did not appear.

At Dave's command the others on the roof with him began to hoist.
Slowly, Dick aided Grace's body through the window.  Then the
girl, motionless, so far as she herself was concerned, swung in
the air, slowly ascending.

Now groans of horror went up from the street.  It seemed to the
onlookers below as though a dead body were being hoisted.

Dick had made a loose hitch of the end of the rope so that it
bound the girl's skirt about her ankles.

As he watched, he saw the swinging body steady at the roof edge.
Then Grace disappeared from his sight as Dave and the others
hauled her to momentary safety.

"Ugh!" gasped young Prescott.  The smoke and the hot air, filling
his lungs, drove him back from the open window to a spot where
the draught was less intense.

After a few moments he heard something clattering against the
window frame.

"What is it?" wondered Dick, dreamily, for his senses were leaving
him.

Rousing himself, by a supreme effort of the will, the young football
player staggered toward the window.  It was the rope, which Dave
had  lowered for him.  And thoughtful Darrin had swiftly knotted
a strong slip-noose at the end.

Dick had just strength and consciousness enough left to slip this
noose over his head and down under his armpits, drawing the noose
tight.  Then---so fast was the hot air and smoke overcoming him
that he had to fight for it!---Dick forced his way to the sill
and gave a hard tug at the rope.  Then he reeled, falling back
senseless upon the floor.

In that same instant, not far behind him, the flames burst through
the flooring.

There must be some quick work, now, or Dick Prescott would meet
a hero's death at seventeen!




CHAPTER XXI

THE PRICE OF BRAVERY


Dave Darrin did not falter in his duty for an instant.

He had been waiting for that tug on the rope.

Now he leaned out, and as far over as was possible without pitching
himself headlong into the street below.

"Dick!  Oh, Dick!" he roared.

There was, of course, no answer, for young Prescott day senseless
on the floor, smoke and hot air filling his lungs, the creeping
flames threatening to pounce upon and devour him.

Wondering, Dave gave a slight signal tug himself at the rope.

From below there was no answer.

"Something uncanny has happened, down there!" muttered Darrin.

"What's wrong?" called Reade.

"I wish I knew," muttered Dave.  "There is no further signaling."

"Then-----"

That was as far as Tom got with his hint at an explanation.

"Cut it," retorted Darrin briskly.  "Keep the rope steady.  I'm
going down there."

"Can you-----"

"Yes!" blazed Dave recklessly.  "Watch me.  Here goes nothing!"

As the last three words left his lips Darrin swung free over the
roof edge.

He was going down the straining, smooth rope now, hand under hand.

The dense crowd in the street below was quick to realize that
something new and tragic was on the cards.

A gasp of suspense went up as Dave slowly went down.

Many in the street uttered a silent prayer---for heroes are ever
dear to the multitude.

Dave's task now was more dangerous than Dick's original undertaking
had been.

The smoke was rolling up with ever increasing density.

"I'll close one eye, and save that to see Dick with," Darrin muttered
grimly to himself.

So, with one eye closed tightly, Dave yet knew when the instant
came to swing in and stand on the sill.

Opening the closed eye, Darrin sought to peer into the studio.

Such a gust of smoke came out at him that Darrin very nearly lost
his balance from dizziness.

"I can't see a blessed thing in there," Dave muttered.  So he
sprang inside.

Now, quickly enough Dave stumbled over the prostrate figure of
his unconscious comrade.

Fairly pouncing upon Prescott, Dave half raised that body, then
dragged it to the window.

"Pull!" Darrin yelled up to Tom Reade, peering over the roof's edge.

Over the roar of the fire Dave's voice did not carry well, but
his gesture was seen.

Reade gave the command, and the hoisting commenced, while Dave,
standing at his post, though choking, and his brain reeling, swung
Dick's feet clear of the sill.

Then the body began to go up quickly, while the crowd watched
in greater awe than ever.

Dave Darrin leaped out upon the sill, holding a handkerchief over
his mouth and nostrils in order to protect his lungs as much as
possible.

With the other hand Dave clutched at the window frame, for he
had a fearful dread, now that he would lose his hold, his footing
and plunge headlong into the street.

Dick's body disappeared over the roof edge.

After what seemed like a short age, but what was only a few moments,
Reade again showed his face, dangling the noose in his hand.

Then he let it fall until it hung close to Darrin.

Reade and the crowd alike watched breathlessly, while Dave Darrin,
fumbling, almost blindly, tried to slip the noose over his head
and adjust it under his shoulders.

Once he let go of the rope, half swaying out into the street.

A cry of terror went up from the spectators below.

Tom Reade carefully swung the rope back again.  Dave caught it.
After it had seemed as though he must fail Dave at last adjusted
the noose under his armpits.

"All right!" bellowed Tom Reade, making a trumpet of his hands.

Darrin answered only by a tug on the rope.  Then he hung in mid
air as the hoisting began.

At that moment a new sound cane on the air.  The fire department,
with a short circuit somewhere in its wires, had at last been
notified by telephone, and the box number was pealing out on two
church bells.

Barely were Dave's feet clear of the top of the window casing
when a draught drove the flames out.

His shoes were almost licked by the red tongues.

"Hurry, you hoisters!" bellowed a man in the street.

His voice did not carry, but Tom Reade and his wearied helpers
were doing all that could be done by strong, willing hands.

Another and longer tongue of flame leaped out through the shattered
window, and again Dave's swinging feet were all but bathed in
fire.

"Thank heaven we've got you up here, old fellow!" panted Tom Reade
fervently, as Dave was hauled over the roof's edge, helping himself
a little.

Dave, as soon as the noose had been slipped over his head, got
up on his feet, though he staggered a bit dizzily.

"We must all get back up to that roof," ordered Dave, pointing
to the roof down from which they had leaped a while before.

"We can't," retorted Reade.  "We'll have to wait for the firemen
and their ladders."

"Ladders---nothing!" retorted Dave, though his voice was weak
and husky.  "We'll make our own ladders.  You, Holmes, get over
against that wall.  Hazelton, you beside hind Reade you climb
up onto their shoulders.  Now, Dan you climb up on Reade's shoulders,
and you'll reach that roof up there!"

Darrin's orders were quickly carried out.  This trick of wall
scaling was really not difficult for football men in daily practice.
Dan's head was quickly above the gutter of the next roof.  He
pulled himself over the edge.

"Stand by to catch the rope, Dan," shouted Dave.  "Throw it to
him, Tom."

Whizz-zz!  whirr-rr!  That rope was over the edge and in Dan's
hands.  Dalzell raced to a chimney, taking two or three turns
around and making fast.

"Come on!" he called down.

Harry Hazelton ascended the rope hand over hand, Reade following.
Then Greg Holmes went up.

Dave, in the meantime, was preparing the apparently lifeless Grace
Dodge for the ascent.  As he gave the signal those on the roof
above hauled away.

Grace was soon in a position of safety.

Then Dick, who had not, as yet, revived, was hoisted.

"Now, we'll haul you up," called down Reade.

"Forget it," mocked Darrin.  "Toss down the rope and I'll use
my own muscles."

So Dave joined them and stood beside them on the roof.

"Now, we'd better make the street as soon as we can," Darrin advised.
"The one who's strongest pick up Miss Dodge, and another stand
by for relief.  Two of you will have to tote Dick.  I wish I could
help, but I'm afraid my strength is 'most all out."

Dave, however, led the way.  By the time that the little party
had descended two flights they  were met by firemen rushing up.
After that the task of reaching the street was easy.

As the rescuers and rescued came out upon the street the crowd,
now driven back beyond police lines, started to cheer.

But Dave's hand, held up, acted as a silencer.  Dick and Miss
Dodge were carried to a neighboring drug store for attention.

Now the firemen tried to run up ladders to the studio floor, with
a view to fighting the flames by turning the stream on through
the windows.  Flames drove them back.  The on-lookers were quick
to grasp the fact that had no one acted before the arrival of
the firemen, Grace Dodge would have been lost indeed.  As it was,
the fire fighters were obliged to fight the fire from the roof
of the next building.

The office building in which the flames had started was almost
gutted before the blaze was subdued.

An hour later Grace Dodge was placed in an automobile and carried
to her home, a physician accompanying her.

She had revived for a brief period, but had again sunk into
unconsciousness.  Whether her life could be saved was a matter
of the gravest doubt.

And Dick?

Young Prescott was revived soon enough, after expert assistance
had been secured.

Yet he had swallowed more of the overheated air than had the girl.

In the minds of the medical men there was a grave doubt as to
whether his lungs could be fully restored---or whether he would
be doomed to a spell of severe lung trouble, ending, most likely,
in death at a later day!

Scores of people turned back from that fire with tears in their
eyes.

They had seen this day something that they would remember all
their lives.

"Dick and Dave were wondering whether they had courage enough
for the military service," sobbed Laura Bentley, in the privacy
of Belles room.  "They have courage enough for anything!"

Dick was up and about the next day, though he did not go to school.

Moreover, later reports placed him out of serious danger.  The
football squad was gloomy enough, however.  Their star left end
man would not be in shape for the big Thanksgiving Day game.




CHAPTER XXII

THE THANKSGIVING DAY GAME


Say, you're a great one, Prescott, to throw us down in this way,"
chaffed Drayne, as Dick strolled into dressing quarters.

"Oh, come, now!" broke in Darrin impatiently.  "It's bad enough,
Drayne, to have to play side partner to you in the biggest game
in the year, without having to listen to your fat-headed criticism
of better men."

Drayne flushed, and might have retorted, had not Wadleigh broken
in, in measured tones, yet with much significance in his voice:

"Yes, Drayne; cut out all remarks until you've made good.  Of
course you are going to make good, but talk will sound better
after deeds."

Most of the fellows who were togging were uneasy.

They wanted, with all their hearts, to win this day's game.  First
of all, the game was needed in order to preserve their record
for unbroken victories.  Then again, Filmore High School was a
team worth beating at any time and Filmore boosters had been making
free remarks about a Gridley Waterloo.

So there was a feeling of general depression in dressing quarters.

Dick Prescott, with his dashing, crafty, splendid, score-making
work at left end, had become a necessity to the Gridley eleven.

"It's the toughest luck that ever happened," grumbled Hazelton,
right guard, to Holmes, right tackle.  "And I don't believe Drayne
is in anything like condition, either."

"Now, see here, you two," broke in Captain Wadleigh behind them,
as he gripped an arm of either boy, "no croaking.  We can't afford
it."

"We can't afford anything," grinned Hazelton uneasily.

"Oh, of course, we're going to win today---Gridley simply has
to win," added Holmes hastily.

"Yes; you two look as though you had the winning streak on," growled
Wadleigh, in a low voice.  "For goodness' sake come out of your
daze!"

"Do you think yourself that Drayne is fit?" demanded Hazelton.

"He's the fittest man we have that can play left end," retorted
Wadleigh.

"Knocking, are you?" demanded Drayne, coming up behind them.
"Nice fellows you are!"

"Oh, now, see here, Drayne, no bad blood," urged Wadleigh.  He
spoke authoritatively, yet coaxingly, too.  "Remember, we've got
to keep all our energies for one thing today."

"Well, I'm mighty glad you two don't play on my end of the line,"
sneered Drayne, looking at Hazelton and Holmes with undisguised
hostility.

"Cut it, Drayne.  And don't you two talk back, either," warned
Wadleigh sternly.

"Oh, acknowledge the corn, Drayne," broke in Hudson, with what
he meant for good humor.  "Just say you're no good and let it
go at that."

There was a dead silence, for an instant, broken by one unidentified
fellow, muttering in a voice that sounded like a roar in the silence:

"Drayne?  Humph!"

"There you go!  That's what all of you are saying to yourselves!"
cried Drayne angrily.  "For some reason you idiots seem to think
I'm in no shape today.  Hang it, I'm sorry I agreed to play.
For two cents I wouldn't play."

"Drayne can be bought off cheaply, can't he?" remarked one of
the fellows.

The last speaker did not intend that his voice should reach Drayne,
but it did.

"Say, you fellows all have a grouch on, just because I'm playing
today!" quivered the victim of the remarks.  "Oh, well, never
mind I'll cure your grouch, then!"

Seating himself on a locker box, Drayne began to unfasten the
lacings of his shoes.

"Here, man!  What are you doing?" demanded Captain Wadleigh, bounding
forward angrily.

"Curing the grouch of this bunch," retorted Drayne sulkily.

"Man alive, there's no time to fool with your shoes now!" warned
the team captain.

"I'm not going to need this pair," Drayne rejoined.  "Street shoes
will do for me today."

"Not on the gridiron!"

"I'm not going on the field.  I've heard enough knocking," grumbled
Drayne.

A dozen of the fellows crowded about, consternation written in
their faces.

Prescott was known not to be fit to play.  Only the day before
Dr. Bentley had refused to pass him for the game.  Hence Drayne,
even if a trifle out of condition, was still the best available
man for left end.

"Quit your fooling, Drayne!" cried two or three at once.

"Quit your talking," retorted Drayne, kicking off his other field
shoe.  "I've done all my talking."

Truth to tell, Drayne still intended to play, but he wanted to
teach these fellows a lesson.  He intended to make them beg, from
Wadleigh down, before he would go on to the finish of his togging.
Drayne knew when he had the advantage of them.

"Don't be a fool, Drayne," broke in Hudson hotly.

"Or a traitor to your school," added another.

"Be a man!"

In Drayne's present frame of mind all these appeals served to
fan his inward fury.

"Shut up, all of you!" he snapped.  "I've listened to all the
roasting I intend to stand.  I'm out of the game!"

Several looked blankly at "Hen" Wadleigh.

"Whom have you to put in his place?" Grayson demanded hoarsely.

Drayne heard and it was balm to his soul.  He started to pull
off his football trousers.

Outside, the band started upon a lively gallop.  The crowd began
to cheer.  It started in as a Gridley cheer.  Then, above everything
else, rang the Filmore yell of defiance.

Just at this moment Coach Morton strode into the room.  Almost
in a twinkling he learned of the new complication that had arisen.

"Captain Wadleigh, who is to play in Drayne's stead" demanded
the coach rather briskly.

"Under certain conditions," broke in Wayne, "I'll agree to play."

"We wouldn't have you under all the conditions in the world!"
retorted Mr. Morton.  "A football eleven must be an organization
of the finest discipline!"

Drayne reddened, then went deathly white.  He hadn't intended
to let the matter go this far.

"Who is your best man for left end, captain?" insisted Mr. Morton.
"You've got to decide like a flash.  Your men ought to be out
in the air now."

There was a blank pause, while "Hen" Wadleigh looked around over
his subs.

"Will you let me play?"

There was a start.  Every fellow in the room turned around to
stare at the speaker.

It was Dick Prescott, who started eagerly forward, his face aglow
with eagerness.

"You, Prescott?" cried Mr. Morton.  "But only yesterday Dr. Bentley
reported that your lungs had not sufficiently recovered."

"I know, sir," Dick laughed coolly; "but that was yesterday.

"It would be foolhardy, my boy.  If you went out on the field,
and any exceptional strain came up, you might do an injury to
your lungs."

"Mr. Morton," replied the team's left end, very quietly, "I'm
willing to go out on the field---and do all that's in me, for
old Gridley---if it's the last act of my life."

"Your hand, Prescott!" cried Mr. Morton, gripping the boy's palm.
"That's the right spirit of grit and loyalty.  But it wouldn't
be right to let you do it.  It isn't necessary, or human, to pay
a life for a game."

"Will you let me go on the field if Dr. Bentley passes me _today_?"
queried Prescott.

"But he won't."

"Try him."

Mr. Morton nodded, and some one ran out and passed the word for
Dr. Bentley, who acted as medical director in the School's athletics.

Within two minutes the physician entered dressing quarters.

Coach Morton stated Prescott's request.

"Absurd," declared Dr. Bentley.

"Will you examine me, sirs" insisted Prescott.

With a sigh the old physician opened his satchel, taking out a
stethoscope and some other instruments.

"Strip to the waist," he ordered tersely.

Many eager hands stretched out to aid Dick in his task.

In a few moments the young athlete, the upper half of his body
bared, stood before the medical examiner.  For his height, weight
and age Prescott was surely a fine picture of physical strength.

But Dr. Bentley, with the air and the preformed bias of a professional
skeptic, went all over the boy's torso, starting with a prolonged
examination of the heart action and its sounds.

"You find the arterial pressure steady and sound, don't you,"
asked Dick Prescott?

"Hm!" muttered Dr. Bentley.  "Now, take a full breath and hold it."

Thump!  thump!  thump!  went the doctor's forefinger against the
back of his other hand, as he explored all the regions of Dick's
chest.

A dozen more tests followed.

"What do you think, Doctor?" asked Mr. Morton.

"Hm!  The young man recovers with great rapidity.  If he goes
into a mild game he'll stand it all right.  If it turns out to
be a rough game-----"

"Then I'll fare as badly as the rest, won't I, Doctor?" laughed
Dick.  "Thank you for passing me, sir.  I'll get into my togs
at once."

"But I haven't said that I passed you."

Dick, however, feigned not to hear this.  He was rushing to his
locker, from which he began to haul the various parts of his rig.

"Is it a crime to let young Prescott go on the field?" asked Coach
Morton anxiously.

"No," replied Dr. Bentley hesitatingly.  "It might be a greater
crime to keep him off the gridiron today.  Men have been known
to die of grief."

Probably a football player never had more assistance in togging
up for a game.  Those who couldn't get in close enough to help
Dick dress growled at the others for keeping them out.

"You seem uneasy, Coach," murmured Captain Wadleigh, aside.

"I am."

"I can't believe, sir, that a careful man like Dr. Bentley would
let Prescott go on at left end today, if there was good reason
why Prescott shouldn't.  As we know, from the past, Dick Prescott
has wonderful powers of recuperation."

"If Prescott should go to pieces, Captain, whom will you put forward
in his places"

"Dalzell, sir.  He's speedy, even if not as clever as Prescott
or Drayne."

"I'm glad you've been looking ahead, Captain.  Out I hope Prescott
will hold out, and suffer no injury whatever from this day's work."

Was Dick anxious?  Not the least in the world.  He was care
free---jubilant.  The Gridley spirit possessed him.  He was going
to hold out, and the eleven was going to win its game.  That was
all there was to it, or all there could be.

In the first two or three days after his injury at the fire Dick
had traveled briefly in the dark valley of physical despair.

To be crippled or ill, to be physically useless---the thought
filled him with horror.

Then young Prescott had taken a good grip on himself.  Out of
despair proceeded determination not to allow his lungs to go down
before the assault of smoke and furnace-like air.

Grace Dodge was not, as yet, well on the way to recovery, but
Dick Prescott, with his strong will power, and the grit that came
of Gridley athletics, was now togging hastily to play in the great
game---though he had not, as yet, returned to school after his
disaster.

Out near the grandstand the band crashed forth for the tenth time.
Gridley High School bannerets waved by the hundreds.  Yet Filmore,
too, had her hosts of boosters here today, and their yells all
but drowned out the spirited music.

"Here come our boys!  Gridley!  Gridley!  Gridley!  Wow-ow-ow!"

"Hurrah!"

Then the home boosters, who had read Drayne's name on the score
card took another look at their cards---next rubbed their eyes.

"Prescott at left end!" yelled one frenzied booster.  "Whoop!"

Then the Gridley bannerets waved like a surging sea of color.
The band, finishing its strain, started in again, not waiting
for breath.

"Prescott, after all, on left end!"

Home boosters were still cheering wildly by the time that Captain
Pike, of Filmore High School, had won the toss and the teams were
lining, up.

Silence did not fall until just the instant before the ball was
put in play.

Drayne, with his headgear pulled down over his eyes, and skulking
out beside the grand stand, soon began to feel a savage satisfaction.

Something must be ailing the left end man after all, for Dick
did not seem able to get through the Filmore line with his usual
brilliant tactics.

Instead, after ten minutes of furious play, Filmore forced Gridley
to make a safety.  Then again the ball was forced down toward
Gridley's goal line, and at last pushed over.

Gridley hearts, over on the grand stand and bleacher seats, were
beating with painful rapidity.  What ailed the home boys?  Or
were the Filmore youths, as they themselves fondly imagined, the
gridiron stars of the school world!  Filmore, like Gridley, had
a record of no defeats so far this season.

It was a hard pill for Captain Wadleigh and his men to swallow.

In the interval between the halves the local band played, but
the former dash was now noticeably absent from its music.

The Gridley colors drooped.




CHAPTER XXIII

SULKER AND REAL MAN


Dave Darrin glanced covertly, though anxiously, at his chum.

Was Dick really unfit to play?  Dave wondered.

It was not that Prescott had actually failed in any quick bit
of individual or team play that he had been signaled to perform.
But Darrin wondered if Dick could really be anything like up
to the mark.

During the interval Captain Wadleigh went quietly among his men,
murmuring a word of counsel here and there.

Nothing in Wadleigh's face or tone betrayed worry; intense earnestness
alone was stamped on his bearing.

"Now, remember, fellows, don't get a spirit of defense grafted
on you," were Wadleigh's last words before the second half began.
"Remember, its to be a general assault all the time.  If you
get on the defensive nothing can save us from losing."

No sooner was the ball in motion than Gridley's line bore down
upon the enemy.  So determined was the assault that Filmore found
itself obliged to give ground, stubbornly, for a while.  Yet Captain
Pike's men were not made of stuff that is easily whipped.  After
the first five minutes Pike's men got the ball and began to drive
it a few yards, and then a few yards more, over into Gridley's
territory.

As the minutes slipped by the ball went nearer and nearer to Gridley's
goal line.  Another touchdown must soon result.

Twice Pike tried to throw the ball around the left end.  Wadleigh,
Hudson, Darrin and Prescott, backed by quarter and left half,
presented such a stubborn block that the ball did not get another
yard clown the field in two plays.  But Pike, who was a hammerer,
made a third attempt around that left end.  This time he gained
but two feet, and the ball passed to Gridley.

Of course, after having had its left wing so badly haltered Gridley
was bound to try to work the ball through Filmore's right.  As
Wadleigh's signals crisped out, the Gridley players threw themselves
out for a play to right.

Quarter received the ball, starting fiercely to the right.  Left
half dashed past quarter, receiving the ball and carrying it straight
to Dick Prescott.  For a moment this blind succeeded so admirably,
that even those on the grand stand did not see the ball given
to Prescott, but believed that quarter was rushing the ball over
to the right.

Then, like a flash, the trick dawned.

Dick Prescott had the oval, and was running with it like a whirlwind,
with Darrin and Hudson as his interference, and with quarter dashing
close behind them.

Dick sprinted around the first Filmore man, leaving his interference
to sweep the fellows over.

At Filmore's second attempt to tackle, Dick ducked low and escaped.
In the next instant the would-be tackler was bowled over by Darrin
and Hudson, and Dick swept on with the ball.

By this time all the home boosters were on their feet, yelling
like so many Comanches.

Filmore's half and full contrived a trap that caught young Prescott,
and carried him down with the ball---but this happened at Filmore's
forty-five-yard line!

In the next play, Dave had the ball, on a short pass, but with
Dick dashing along close to his side, and Hudson on the other
flank.  Before Darrin went down on the ball it had been carried
to Filmore's thirty-yard line.  Then it went beyond the twenty-five-yard
line, and Gridley still carried the pigskin.

"Dick's coming up, all right," proudly muttered Darrin to Hudson,
while the next snapback was forming.

"It's putting nerve into all of us," rejoined Hudson.

The pigskin was only fourteen yards from the Filmore goal line
when Captain Wadleigh's men had to see the ball go to Filmore.
Pike's men, however, failed to make good on downs, so the oval
came back into Wadleigh's possession.

Now, the play was swift and brilliant.  Dick got the ball around
the left end once, and afterwards assisted Dave to put it through
the hostile line.  With the third play Dick carried the pigskin
barely across Filmore's goal line and  scored a touchdown.  Darrin
immediately after made a kick for goal.

The score now stood eight to six for Filmore but only ten minutes
of playing time remained.

"Our fellows have saved a whitewash, and that's all," reflected
Drayne.  "They'd have done better with me, and I guess Wadleigh
knows it by this time."

"Slug's the word," Pike passed around, swiftly.  "No fouling,
but use your weight, dash and speed.  Slam these Gridley rubes.
Hammer em!"

"Come on, now Gridley!" rang the imploring request from the home
boosters, who were now too restless to keep to their seats.

"Remember your record so far this season!"

"Forceful playing, but keep cool.  Use your Judgment to the last,
and put a lot of speed and doggedness behind your science," was
Wadleigh's adjuration.

Those who followed form most close, now had their eyes on young
Prescott.

If he went to pieces that would leave Gridley weak at what had
usually been its strongest point, especially in attack.

And Gridley had the ball again.  But what ailed Captain Wadleigh,
the boosters wondered?  For he was now sending the ball to the
right wing, as if admitting that Prescott must not be worked too
hard.

"Use Prescott!" shouted one man hoarsely.

"Prescott!  Prescott!"

"Yah!  Dot's all right.  Vot you t'ink Wadleigh has ein head for'
Leafe him und Bresgott alone, and dey hand you der game a minute
in!" bawled the deep bass voice of Herr Schimmelpodt who, nearly
alone of the Gridley boosters, believed that the home team needed
no grand stand coaching.

"But they've only eight minutes left," grumbled the man sitting
to the left of Herr Schimmelpodt.

"Yah!  Dot's all right, too," retorted the German.  "Battles haf
been won in less than eight minutes.  Read history!"

In two plays Captain Wadleigh had succeeded in advancing the pigskin
less than two yards down the Filmore territory.

But now hats were thrown up in the air, and frantic yells resounded
when it was discovered that Dick had the ball again, and that
Darrin, Hudson, Wadleigh, quarter and left half were fighting
valiantly to push him through the stubborn, panting line of Filmore
High School.

It was a splendid fight, but a losing one.  Filmore was massing all
its weight, wind and brawn, and Gridley lost the ball on downs.

An involuntary groan went up from the Gridley spectators.

Five and a half minutes left, and the ball in the enemy's hands!
That settled the game.

The musicians looked at their leader, before taking the music
from their instrument racks.

"Keep your music on," called the leader.  "We of Gridley are sportsmen
enough to play the victors off the field."

The play was quicker and snappier than ever.  All the young men
on both sides were using their last reserves of strength and wind.
Pike was making a ferocious effort to get the ball back and over
Gridley's goal line.

But Pike lost, after three plays, and Wadleigh's men again grabbed
the pigskin.

"Barely two minutes!" groaned the Gridley spectators, watches
in hand.

Dick was seen glancing at Wadleigh and shaking his head almost
imperceptibly.  But a hundred people on the grand stand saw that
tiny shake, and, most of all, Pike took it in.

Wadleigh, before bending low over the ball held up thumb and forefinger
of his right hand, formed in a circle, for a brief instant.  That
sign meant:

"Emergency signal code!"

Then he bent over to snap the ball back, and the figures that
shot from quarter-back's chest carried different values from those
that any enemy could guess.

"Eight---eleven---four---ten!"

Then the ball went back to quarter, who started from a crouch
without straightening up.

Gridley's whole attack seemed to swing to the right.  Wadleigh,
himself, from half-facing to right, took a long step toward right
wing; then wheeled like a flash, and went plowing, onward, to the
left.

Quarter, after the start, and ere Filmore could break through,
had passed the ball to half, who, on a wild sprint, had passed
it to Dick Prescott.

And now Dick was racing out around Filmore's right end, backed by
a crushing interference of which Wadleigh was the center.  Darrin,
with head high, was watching for every chance at legitimate
interference.  Behind them all, quarter and left half pounded and
pushed.

An instant and Dick was free and around Filmore's end.  Now, he
dashed into the race of his life!

Wadleigh sent a man sprawling.  Dave's elbow did something to
Filmore's right tackle.  Just what it was none of the spectators
could see.  But none of the field officials interfered so it must
have been legitimate.

After a fight and a short, brilliant run, Dick was tackled by
Filmore's fullback.

One quivering instant---then Wadleigh and Hudson bumped that fullback
so hard that he went down, Dick wriggling safely away and bounding
toward Filmore's goal.

With fire in their eyes, Gridley's center and left wing swept on.

Dick Prescott was over the goal line, bending and holding the
ball down!  Then, indeed, the crowd broke loose all except the
few hundreds from Filmore.

Was it a touchdown?  That was the question that all asked themselves.
It was so close to the line that many onlookers were in doubt,
and stood staring with all their eyes.

But the ball went back for the kick, and that settled all doubts.

Dave made the kick, and lost it---but who cared?

A moment later and the whistle blew---the second half was over---the
game finished.

Filmore had bitten the dust to the song of eleven to eight.

Dick's tiny head shake had been a piece of strategy prearranged
with Wadleigh.  It was a legitimate ruse, as honest as any other
piece of football strategy intended to throw the enemy "off".

Now the band was indeed thundering out, playing in its best strain.

All restraint thrown aside, the spectators surged over the lines
and out on the gridiron, making a rush for the heated but happy
home players.

The record had been kept---a season without a game lost.  Filmore
swallowed its chagrin and went home.

Dick?  He had helped nobly to save the game and the record, but
now he was exhausted.

Over in dressing quarters two of the subs were rubbing him down,
while Dr. Bentley and Coach Morton stood anxiously by.




CHAPTER XXIV

CONCLUSION


After a few days Prescott was back at school.  It was noted, however,
that he did not take any part in gym. work, and that he spoke
even more quietly than usual, but he kept up in his recitations.

Youth is the period of quick recovery.  That the Thanksgiving
Day game had strained the young left end there was no doubt.
Within a fortnight, however, Prescott was himself again, taking
his gym. work, and a cross-country run three times a week.

"We ought to give Drayne the school cut," hinted Grayson.  "He
behaved in an abominable way right at the beginning of the critical
game.  He's a traitor."

"Give Drayne the cut?" repeated Wadleigh, slowly, before a group
of the fellows.  "Perhaps, in one way, he deserved it, but-----"

"Well, what can you find to say for a fellow who acted like that?"
demanded Hudson, impatiently.

"Drayne helped to win the game for us," replied Wadleigh moderately.
"Had he played Filmore would have downed us---of that I'm sure,
as I look back.  Drayne's conduct put Prescott on the gridiron,
didn't it?  That was what saved the score for us."

At the time of Grace Dodge's great peril, her banker father had
been away on a business trip.  It was two days later when word
was finally  gotten to the startled parent.  Then, by wire, Theodore
Dodge learned that Grace's condition was all right, needing only
care and time.  So he did not hasten back on that account.

When he did return to Gridley, Mr. Dodge hunted up Lawyer Ripley.

"I must reward those boys, and handsomely," he explained to the
lawyer.  "Their splendid conduct demands it."

"I am sorry, Dodge, that you have been so long in coming to such
a conclusion," replied the lawyer, almost coldly.

"What do you mean?"

"Why, you still owe Prescott and Darrin that thousand dollars
offered by your family as a reward for finding you when your
misfortune happened."

"But my son, Bert------"

"Is the bitter enemy of young Prescott, who is one of the manliest
young fellows ever reared in Gridley."

"But my wife has also opposed my paying the reward," argued Mr.
Dodge.  "She declares that the two boys were out on a jaunt and
just stumbled upon me."

"Your wife, like all good mothers, is much inclined to take the
part of her own son," rejoined Lawyer Ripley.  "However, at the
time Prescott and Darrin found you, they were not out on a jaunt.
They were serving 'The Blade,' and I happen to know that the
young men did  some remarkably good detective work in trailing
and rescuing you.  They started fair and even with the police,
but they beat the police at the latter's own game.  Dodge, by
every consideration of right and justice, you owe that reward
to Prescott and Darrin!  If they had not found and rescued you,
you might not be here today.  There is no telling what might have
happened to you had you been left helpless less in the custody
of the pair of scoundrels who had you in that shack.  I repeat
that you owe that thousand dollars as fairly as you ever owed
a penny in your life"

"Well, then, I'll pay it," assented Theodore
Dodge reluctantly, after some hesitation.  "I am afraid my wife
will oppose it, however."

"You can tell Mrs. Dodge just what I've said, or I'll tell her,
if you prefer."

"Will you attend, Ripley, to rewarding all the boys for their
gallant conduct in rescuing my daughter."

"Yes; if you'll leave the matter wholly in my hands, and agree
not to interfere"

Theodore Dodge agreed to this, and Lawyer Ripley went ahead.
The legal gentleman, however had a more difficult time than he
had expected.  It took a lot of argument, and more than one meeting,
to make Dick & Co. agree to accept anything whatever.

It was at last settled, however, Mr. Ripley urging upon the young
men that they had no right to slight their own future prospects
or education by refusing to "lay by" money to which they were
honestly entitled, when it cane in the form of an earned reward
from a citizen amply able to pay the reward.

So Dick and Dave received that thousand dollars, which, of course,
they divided evenly.

In addition, each member of Dick & Co. received one hundred dollars
for his prompt and gallant work in rescuing Grace Dodge from death.

Of course Bert, away at private school with Bayliss, heard all
about the rescue.  It is not a matter of record, however, that
Bert ever wrote a letter thanking any member of Dick & Co. for
saving his sister.




CHAPTER XXV

POSTSCRIPT


When the next commencement swung around Fred Ripley, who had managed
to "go straight" all through his senior year, was among those
graduated.  What became of him will yet be learned by our readers
in another volume.

There are a host of other Gridley fellows also to be accounted
for.

Their part in the subsequent history of Gridley, and of the world
in general, will also yet be told, all in the proper place.

"Prin.," too, may yet come in for some attention.

Dick & Co. did not take part in basket ball nor any of the organized
winter athletics though they kept constantly in training.  But
these young men realized that the High School is, first of all,
a place for academic training; so, after the football season had
ended so gloriously, they went back to their books with renewed
vigor.

Laura and Belle, as they neared the end of their junior year,
went almost from girlhood into womanhood, as is the way with girls.

Yet neither Miss Meade nor Miss Bentley found Dick or Dave "too
young" for their frank, girlish admiration.

"You see, Dick, that we were quite right about you and Dave having
all the grit that goes with the highest needs of the military
profession," Laura remarked.  "Your conduct at  the fire shows
the stuff that would be displayed by Dick & Co. in leading a charge
in battle, if need be."

"I guess a reasonable amount of courage, under stress, is the
possession of nearly all members of the human race," laughed young
Prescott.

Here we shall leave our Gridley friends for a short time.  We
shall meet them all again, however, in the forthcoming and final
volume of this series, which will be published under the title:

"_The High School Captain of the Team; Or, Dick & Co. Leading
the Athletic Vanguard_."

In this new volume we shall see more of the boys' qualities in
leadership.

Before we meet our popular boys in high school again the reader
will find the long succession of wonderful events of their summer
vacation following their junior year in the last two volumes of
the "_High School Boys' Vacation Series_", which are published
under the titles, "_The High School Boys' Fishing Trip; Or, Dick
& Co. in the Wilderness_," and "_The High School Boys Training
Hike; Or, Making Themselves 'Hard as Nails.'_"

These two narratives of a real vacation of real American boys
are bound to please the many friends of Dick & Co.  Be sure to
read them.

THE END





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