H. Irving Hancock.

The High School Boys in Summer Camp online

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"You other boys get back!" commanded Dr. Bentley, but Dick's chums
came closer.

"Hoo-hoo! hoo-hoo!" sounded a masculine voice from the direction
of Dick & Co.'s camp.

"Hoo-hoo!" Dick answered, in his loudest tone. "Who are you?"

"Hibbert," came the reply. "I understand you are bull chasing!"

"Yes."

"Want any help?"

"Yes; if you're an expert in handling wild bulls," Dick shouted
back, between his hands.

"I guess that will hold him, for a little while," chuckled Dave.
"The idea of Hibbert handling wild bulls with those dainty little
white hands of his!"

Soon the sound of running steps was heard. Then on the scene
came Hibbert, carrying a second rope that he had found.

"A queer hitch-up you've got there," murmured the dapper little
man, as he halted near the group.

"Yes; and the bull is going to get away pretty soon, according
to all predictions," replied Tom Reade. "Though, perhaps, Mr.
Hibbert, you may have an idea that hasn't occurred to our addled
brains."

"That's hardly likely," murmured the young man, as he began to
tie a running noose in one end of the rope with an air of
preoccupation. "I don't know very much about cattle."

"I suppose not," Tom nodded.

"The very little that I know about the beasts," Hibbert went on
quietly, "was what I picked up during my college vacations, when
my good old Dad sent me west to rough it on a ranch. I'm not
a cowboy at all, you know. All I know about them I discovered
merely by sitting in saddle and watching the cowboys."

Now Hibbert slipped around to the rear of the bull, which, for
the moment, was behaving very quietly.

"Look out!" yelled Prescott suddenly, for Hibbert, slipping in
closer, had begun to tease the beast's left quarter. Mr. Bull,
as though resenting such familiarity with all his force, reared,
plunged, snorted. The rope hitched about the tree seemed likely
to snap at any moment.

Just as the bull came down on its hind legs, its forefeet raised
in the air, Hibbert made a swishing throw.

"Hurrah!" broke swiftly from the onlookers, for the dapper young
man had made a throw that had roped the animal's forelegs together.
Hibbert made a sudden haul-in on the rope, with the result that
the bulky beast crashed sideways, falling.

Then, all in a twinkling Hibbert leaped in, hobbling the thrown
beast effectively. Having done this he made a few knots in the
rope with workmanlike indifference.

"Now, the beast won't run about very fast, if he get's up," remarked
Mr. Hibbert, rising from his task. "For that matter, I hardly
believe he'll get up."

Hibbert next busied himself with gathering in the rope that Dick
had used. Cutting this off beyond the point where some of the
strands had become frayed, Hibbert made a new cast about the bull's
head, then tied that animal effectively to the tree.

"Fixed the way he now is," remarked Mr. Hibbert pensively, "I
believe Mr. Bull, unless he has human aid in freeing himself,
will still be here when the meat inspector gets around."

"For a man who knows nothing about cattle," said Tom Reade, breaking
the silence of the on-lookers, "it seems to me that you've done
a most workmanlike job with that bull."

"To an amateur like you or me," admitted Hibbert modestly, "it
looks like a very fair little tie-up. But I'm afraid my former
friends on the Three-Bar-X would feel decidedly ashamed of me.
Shall we now go back to camp, or were you intending to go further
into the woods?"

"I believe we'd better go back to camp," said Dr. Bentley. "You
didn't come alone, did you, Mr. Hibbert?"

"Oh, no, indeed," replied the dapper little man. "Mr. Page and
Colquitt are waiting back at the camp."

As the party came in sight of the camp the women were plainly
still agitated.

"We've treed the bull!" shouted Dr. Bentley. "At least, I mean,
he's safe."

"He's been safe all along," cabled back Mrs. Bentley. "But are
we safe, too?"

"The bull is roped so that he will do no harm," Dr. Bentley answered.
"None of you need feel the least uneasiness now. The work that
young Prescott started so well Mr. Hibbert has finished satisfactorily.
The bull cannot get loose and do you any harm. He will stay
just where he is until some of the local cattlemen come along
to take care of him."

Just before dark, it may be added, two of the tenders employed
by the owners of the cattle were stopped in passing. They led
the bull away, the animal's legs being partly hobbled.

"You haven't seen my boy," remarked Mr. Page wistfully, as Dick
and his chums reached the space before the tent.

"I am afraid we hardly expected to see him again, sir," Prescott
answered. "As you've doubtless heard, sir, your son has been
back this way, and visited Dr. Bentley's camp. From there, I
take it, he meant to make his escape out of these woods for good
and all. I have an idea, Mr. Page, that a further hunt will lead
far away from here."

"My son ought not to be able to get far away," went on the father,
holding out a handbill. "I have felt obliged to proclaim a reward
of a thousand dollars for the boy's discovery within a week, with
a further thousand if it happens within three days, and still
another thousand for his being brought to me within twenty-four
hours."

"Then you can expect results, sir!" Dick went on, brightening.
"Money talks, I've heard."

"And talks in every language," added Reade. "Mr. Page, a lot
of men who are not police or peace officers will be out hunting
for young Mr. Page. 'Tag Mosher' will be more eagerly sought
for than ever before in his life.

"I don't see how Tag has a ghost of a show to get away," observed
Dave Darrin.

"Whew, but I'm thirsty," remarked Dr. Bentley, going over to the
spot where the drinking dipper hung. "And it looks as though
it were my turn to go after water."

"Is there no water there?" Prescott inquired.

"Not a drop."

"Then I'll get some water, doctor," offered Dick, coming forward
and taking up a pail.

He went briskly away to the spring where the boys obtained their
water supply. The spring was some distance from camp. Dick reached
the little glade where the spring lay, and turned down into it.
As he did so he saw a movement of the bushes, as though some
animal had crawled into shelter.

"Anyway, it wasn't anything as large as a bull," laughed Dick,
as he bent over the spring, bucket in hand. He filled the bucket,
then set it down on the ground.

"I wonder what is under those bushes?" he muttered, boyish curiosity
coming to the surface.

Prying the bushes apart, stepping forward, he suddenly halted,
a cry of astonishment coming to his lips.

"You, Tag?" he questioned, in astonishment, gazing down at the
sullen face of the larger boy who lay on his back in the thicket.

"Yes; it's Tag, and I'm It," mocked the other.

"What are you doing here?"

"Waiting for you to call your friends, the officers. There's
a reward offered for me, I suppose."

"Yes; there is," answered Dick, wondering why Tag didn't leap
up and scurry away. "And guess who offers the reward?"

"Who?"

"Your father!"

"Bill Mosher?" laughed Tag, despite his sulky air. "What does
Bill offer? The next dozen of eggs?"

"Tag, Bill Mosher isn't your father, and he has admitted it.
You were a strange child that came into his care, and he kept
you, at first, hoping for a reward. Your real name is Page, and
your real father is now over at camp. I'll call him."

"You may as well," agreed Tag sullenly. "But Page is a new name.
Is that what they call the sheriff now?"

"Tag, aren't you ever going to be serious?" demanded Dick, flushing
with eagerness.

"Not while you go on springing the same old line of fairy tales
on me," retorted the other lad. "Is my father, as you call him,
as rich as he was yesterday and the day before? Has he still
barrels of money that he's waiting to hand me? Money? Humph!
If it hadn't been for money I wouldn't be in the fix I am now.
Prescott, I'll tell you something. I've kept the cupboard full
by stealing. I'll admit that. But I never stole money before
to-day. I went through those dog-houses - -what do you call them?"

"Do you mean the portable houses of the Bentley party?" asked Dick.

"I guess that's the right name. Anyway, I went through those
houses to gather in some food, for I was going to leave these
woods for good and all."

"So I guessed," nodded Dick.

"And I came across two twenty dollar bills. Prescott, I've always
helped myself to food, because, some way, it always seemed to
me that food belongs to the fellow who needs it most. But I had
never taken any money, before, from anyone. That's honest - -flat!
But the twenties looked fine to me. They would carry me a long
way on the railroad, and I haven't had any notion to stay here
and go to jail for something I didn't do anyway. So I took the
money, the grub, too, and stepped off fast through the woods.
But, Prescott, you may believe me or not, that money got heavier
with every step. Remember, I've never had any practice in stealing
money. By the time I'd gone three or four miles that money in
my pocket got so heavy that I couldn't drag my feet another step.
I took the money out and threw it away. But that didn't help
me any, either, so I went back, found the money, and started back
this way to put that money back where I got it. I never knew
that anything I helped myself to would grow so heavy, but back
I had to come with that money. I can't understand what made me
feel that way about a little money. Maybe it was"

"Conscience," suggested Dick promptly.

"Conscience?" repeated Tag wonderingly. "What's that? I know
I've heard that word somewhere - -some time."

Dick was wondering how to make sure of Tag this time. If he shouted
to his friends in camp Prescott felt positive that Tag would leap
up, knock him down and glide away. Give him a start of a hundred
yards in these forests, and Tag Mosher, otherwise young Page,
was quite certain to distance and elude all pursuit.




CHAPTER XXIV

CONCLUSION


As a last resort the high school boy decided to make one more
effort to use persuasion.

"Tag" he urged, "be a real fellow. Show some grit, and purpose.
No matter what you've done, or what you haven't done, show that
you've sand enough to get up and walk back into camp with me - -to
meet your father. Come, get up and come along, like a real fellow
with real grit, won't you?"

"Get up?" echoed Tag bitterly. "If I could, do you suppose I'd
be lying here talking to you now?"

"Are you hurt?" cried Dick.

"If I hadn't been, do you suppose I'd have stayed with you as
long as I have?" mocked the other indignantly. "It all came of
that money, too, and what you call 'conscience.' If I hadn't come
back with the money I wouldn't have had that nasty tumble over
the root, and my ankle would be as sound as ever."

"Do you mean that you can't walk?" Dick demanded.

"I can crawl, and that's all," Tag declared. "I was at the spring,
getting a drink, when I heard you coming. Then I crawled back
in here, but not fast enough to keep you from seeing something
moving here. It was right over yonder that I fell and wrenched
my ankle. I crawled over here so as to be near water until my
foot got so that I could use it again."

"Hoo-hoo!" bellowed Prescott, through his hands. "Hoo-hoo the
camp! Hoo-hoo!"

"That's right," jeered Tag. "Go in after the reward, when I can't
help myself. Serves me right for taking money when I should have
contented myself with my old game of stealing victuals only!"

"Hoo-hoo the camp!" repeated Prescott. "Hoo-hoo!"

"That you, Dick?" came in Darrin's voice.

"Yes; come here on the jump, Dave. And bring the others."

"Where?"

"At the spring."

"Say," remarked Tag shrewdly, "you oughtn't to call a whole crowd
that way. There will be more to get a share in the reward, and
you won't get as much for yourself."

"Oh, bother the reward!" spoke Prescott impatiently. "All I'm
thinking of, Tag, is the bother you've given us, first and last."

"I suppose I always have been a trouble to folks," Tag assented
glumly. "But I'll be game - -now that I'm caught."

All the chums save Hazelton came on a run.

"Here's Tag, fellows," Dick hailed them. "He has hurt his ankle
and I guess we'll have to carry him to camp."

"That'll be easy enough," declared broad shouldered Tom Reade.
"I believe I can pick, him up alone."

Tom tried. The feat would have been possible, but it would not
make for the comfort of the injured boy.

"You and I will make a queen's chair," suggested Dick. Then Dave,
Greg and Dan lifted Tag to the seat thus formed.

"You'll find me heavy before you get me far," Tag informed them.

"Pshaw!" retorted Tom.

Greg, running ahead, informed the others in camp who was coming.
The bearers were met by Mr. Page, Hibbert and Colquitt, running
in the order named.

"Here's the boy you want, Mr. Page," called Dick Prescott. "But
look out for his injured ankle, sir."

This last caution was necessary, for the older man, in his eagerness
to embrace the lad whom he believed to be his son, almost crashed
into him.

"So you're my son - -my boy, Egbert!" cried the father.

"That's the fairy tale that has been shied at me a good many times
lately," replied Tag gruffly.

Mr. Page fell back, in some astonishment, at this ungracious reception.
Then, understanding, and remembering Tag's unhappy past, he
patted the boy's shoulder.

"That's all right - -all right, Egbert," declared the father.
"Perhaps the news has come upon you too suddenly. But you and
I will talk it over. It won't take us long to know each other,
my boy."

As the party came into camp it was noted that Mrs. Bentley and
the girls had withdrawn, returning, through delicacy, to their
own camp. Hazelton, thus released from guard duty at the other
camp, soon came running over.

But Dr. Bentley had slipped into the tent, quickly arranging one
of the cots with the skill of the hospital worker.

"Bring the young man in here," called the physician, appearing
in the doorway of the tent. "We'll soon find out how bad the
injury is."

Tag was lowered down upon the blanket.

"Which foot is it?" asked Dr. Bentley.

"Left," replied Tag.

Dr. Bentley deftly removed the shoe, causing hardly more than
a trace of pain. Tag insisted on raising himself on his elbow
to look on. It was the first time he had ever been under a doctor's
care.

Dick took one look at the wistful eyes of the father, as Mr. Page
stood by the head of the cot, resting one hand on his supposed
son's shoulder.

"Come outside, fellows," called Dick. "Doctor, we'll be outside
if you want anything."

The onlookers in the tent started to go outside, except the father
and the physician.

"Come back, Hibbert," called Mr. Page softly. "You've been at
least a son to me during the last year. Now, remain and help
me to get acquainted with my own son."

Tag was silent. He could take punishment, and Dr. Bentley was
now hurting him quite a bit in his effort to get at the exact
nature of the injury.

"Reade," called the physician, "start a fire in a hurry. Heat
half a kettle of water for me as fast as you can. Prescott, run
over to my camp and ask Mrs. Bentley for my emergency case, the
two-quart bottle of bicarbonate of soda and a roll of four-inch
gauze."

Dick sped toward the Bentley camp as though on wings. While Mrs.
Bentley was gathering the things for him the girls crowded about,
asking eager questions about Tag, or Egbert Page, as he might
prove to be. But Dick delayed to talk only until Mrs. Bentley
had placed the desired things in his hands. Then he sped back,
in time to hear the physician saying:

"Only a sprain. A painful one, to be sure. But this young man
may be moved in an automobile in an hour or two. By to-morrow
morning he ought to be able to get about with the aid of a crutch."

"In jail is where I'll do my moving about," grunted Tag.

"No matter where it be, my boy," protested Mr. Page, "if they
lock you up they'll have to take me, too. Besides, I have money,
and bail is possible."

"Bail?" repeated Tag. "Would you go my bail, and trust me not
to jump it?"

"The Page honor would never permit you to jump bail," replied
the old man, with simple but positive belief in his tone.

Hardly had Dr. Bentley finished dressing and bandaging the ankle
than a new arrival appeared. Deputy Valden had dropped in, alone,
to discover whether there was any news.

"You may wait, deputy, and go with us," declared Mr. Page, as
though the sheriff's officer were some subordinate of his. "We
will go to the jail as soon as my son is rested and is comfortable
enough to be moved."

"Humph! I like that!" jeered the deputy. "This boy is my prisoner,
and I'll take him when I please. See here, Tag, I don't want
you faking any injuries as a slick way to - - -"

"You get outside, my man!" broke in Detective Colquitt quietly,
but he took hold of the deputy so forcibly that Valden was quickly
on the outside of the tent.

"Now, you come along with me, my man," Colquitt continued, "and
I'll tell you who's who. First of all, this boy is Mr. Page's
son. Mr. Page can produce all kinds of money merely by signing
a check. He is indignant with you, already, for maltreating his
son when you had him under arrest at another time. Mr. Page may
employ lawyers and bring proceedings to have you ousted from
your job by the sheriff. You - - -"

Here their voices died out in the distance, but Valden went along
willingly enough. When the pair returned the deputy seemed to
have lost his swagger.

"Doc, you've been good to me," said Tag at last, "and now I'll
tell you how I came to hurt my ankle. You know, of course, that
I visited one of your shacks and helped myself to some of your
kitchen stuff. While I was there I came across a queer little
black bag. I opened it, and found a whole lot of queer little
bottles. Medicines, I guess, though I don't know, for I never
had any. Then I came across one little bottle that I couldn't
see inside of. I took out the cork, and inside I found some paper
rolled up and tucked away. Two twenties were what I found. Money
was just what I needed, to buy a railway ticket with, so I slipped
the money into a pocket. Then I started off, but, Doe, that money
got so heavy - -so awfully heavy - - -"

From there on Tag repeated the story he had told young Prescott.
During the recital Dick had stepped into the tent.

"I knew you had my money, my boy," smiled Dr. Bentley, "but I
didn't say anything about it."

"You didn't start off to put the officers on my track?" demanded
Tag incredulously.

"Not I," laughed Dr. Bentley. "I had a different idea. I suspected
you'd buy a railway ticket. This evening I had intended to drive,
to a telegraph station and telegraph about until I found where
and to what station a chap answering your description had bought
a ticket. Then I would telegraph to the sheriff just where you
were to be picked up as you left the train. I'll admit that I
wasn't very anxious to turn you over to the law. What I wanted
was to get on your trail, and then see you turned over to your
father."

"You told me that Tag took a drug from one of your vials," Dick
murmured, smiling.

"So he did," nodded the doctor. "Money is a drug in the market - -in
some places."

"What kind of places, sir?" Prescott inquired.

"Such places as the United States Treasury, for instance," laughed
Dr. Bentley. "Or the National City Bank of New York."

Then turning to Mr. Page, the physician completed his explanation.

"Money is a strange thing perhaps, Mr. Page, to carry in a vial
in a doctor's drug case. But sometimes, when I've been on the
road, and a long way from home on the day's work, I've found that
I needed money just when I least expected to want it. So, for
some years, I've always had two twenty dollar bills tucked away
in an opaque vial, where it would not be seen and invite theft.
I never told anyone what I carried in that vial."

What Dr. Bentley did not explain, however, was that, generally,
when he wanted extra money, it was for some charitable work the
need of which became apparent when he was visiting the sick and
needy. The generous physician had many "free patients."

Some two hours later, Tag, his father, Hibbert, Colquitt and Valden
started for the county jail in the big Page car. On the way they
stopped at the home of Farmer Leigh, to which Dr. Bentley had
gone ahead of them.

"Mr. Leigh is conscious and able to be seen," the physician reported
to Detective Colquitt. "Bring your prisoner inside at once."

Then there came a dramatic surprise. Farmer Leigh, when confronted
by Tag, positively denied that Tag was the one who had assaulted
him. Mr. Leigh, it will be remembered, was a newcomer in the
neighborhood. He had never known Tag, but, after his injury,
and before brain fever came on, the farmer had described his assailant,
and that description had seemed to fit Tag Mosher to a dot. The
real criminal, however, a young tramp some years older than Tag,
was found later on, and punished according to law.

Dick Prescott was the only one of the high school boys on hand
to see the clearing of Tag of the accusation against him. Dick
had come along in Dr. Bentley's car.

"Prescott," whispered the physician, "slip downstairs. You'll
find my car all ready. All you need to do is to press the starting
button. Drive over to Porterville and get Mr. James, the district
attorney. Never mind if you have to drag him out of bed and thrash
him into submission - -bring him here as quickly as possible.
Don't fail, you understand."

With heart beating rapidly, but feeling wholly happy, young Prescott
slipped downstairs and out of the house. A few moments later
he was speeding over the lonely country road. At one o'clock
in the morning he came back with District Attorney James, who
heard Farmer Leigh's statement, reduced it to writing and had
it signed under oath before many witnesses.

"Officer Valden," said the district attorney, "I authorize you
to take your prisoner to Porterville, not to the jail, but to
the Granite Hotel. As soon as court opens in the morning I will
secure the formal discharge of your prisoner."

This was done. Dick, who returned to camp with Dr. Bentley just
before daylight, did not see Tag released, but heard of it.

Proof came in rapidly after that to satisfy Mr. Page that "Tag
Mosher" was his son Egbert. Best of all, even young Egbert himself
was convinced.

Young Page underwent a speedy and complete reformation. Later
he went to school to prepare for college. In time Egbert promises
to be a strong man in his community and a force for good. Old
Bill Mosher died soon after leaving jail.

Mr. Page tried hard to make Dick & Co. accept the offered reward
of three thousand dollars, but neither the boys nor their parents
would listen to any such transaction. Dick & Co. had done their
duty in manly fashion, and that was reward enough.

Dr. Bentley's party broke camp a few days later. Dick & Co.,
however, remained for several weeks, training hard, putting on
tan and muscle and fitting themselves to compete for places on
the famous Gridley High School eleven in the coming fall.

Just what happened to our boys in the school year that followed
will be found fully and thrillingly explained in the third volume
of the "_High School Boys Series_," which is published under the
title, "_The High School Left End; Or, Dick & Co. Grilling on
the Football Gridiron_."

The further vacation doings of these splendid American boys will
be found in the next volume of this "High School Boys' Vacation
Series." The book is published under the title, "_The High School
Boys' Fishing Trip; Or, Dick & Co. in the Wilderness_." Our readers
will find it a story full of rousing incident, persistent adventure,
delightful humor and absorbing human interest.



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Online LibraryH. Irving HancockThe High School Boys in Summer Camp → online text (page 11 of 11)