H. Irving Hancock.

The High School Boys in Summer Camp online

. (page 2 of 11)
Online LibraryH. Irving HancockThe High School Boys in Summer Camp → online text (page 2 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


lunatic, yet one who has to be watched a bit."

"Then what about Colquitt?" urged Hazelton.

"Colquitt," guessed Darry, "is Hibbert's keeper."

"The mild lunatic idea," Tom observed, "fits in well with a chap
who, in this sweltering July weather, will insist on wearing a
four-quart silk hat, a spite-fence collar and a long, black,
double-breasted coat."

"There's only one part of the whole dream that I'd like to believe,"
sighed young Holmes. "I'd be quite willing to have it proved
to me that I'm a young millionaire!"

"What would you do if you had the million - -right in your hand?"
quizzed Danny Grin.

"I'd transfer it to my pockets," Greg answered.

"What next?" pressed Dan.

"I'd hurry to the bank with the money."

"And - -then?" Dan still insisted.

"Then," supplied practical Tom Reade, "he'd end our suspense by
paying Dick ninety dollars for our war canoe!"

"I would," Greg agreed.




CHAPTER II

DICK AND SOME HIGH FINANCE


"I feel like a fellow without any manners," complained Dave Darrin.

"What have you done now?" asked Greg, coming out of his million-dollar
trance.

"It's what I haven't done," Darry answered. "It's also what none
of us have done. We haven't thanked our very pleasant, even if
slightly erratic, host for his entertainment."

"We can't very well butt in," declared Reade, glancing down the
street. "Hibbert and his kee - -I mean, his friend - -are still
talking earnestly. I wonder if they lock poor Hibbert up part
of the time?"

Colquitt and young Mr. Hibbert had now turned in at the Eagle
Hotel. Dave glanced at his watch, remarking:

"Fellows, it's ten minutes after six. Those of you who want any
supper will do well to hurry home."

"I'm certain that I can't eat a bit of supper," declared Hazelton,
looking almost alarmed. "I've eaten so much of that cream and
cantaloupe that I haven't a cubic inch of space left for anything
else."

Nevertheless the high school boys parted, going their various
directions, after having agreed to meet by seven o'clock. All
wanted to be on hand when Prescott got back to town.

After supper Greg had not been out of the house five minutes when
Mr. Hibbert appeared at the gate of the Holmes cottage, and passed
inside. The caller inquired for Greg's father, met that gentleman,
and the two remained in private conversation for some five minutes.

Ere the first minute was over, however, Greg's father might have
been heard, from the sidewalk, laughing uproariously. Finally
Mrs. Holmes was called into the conference. She came forth again,
looking somewhat amused.

From that meeting Hibbert went back to Main Street, where he fell
in with Tom Colquitt.

"Are you satisfied, now?" demanded the latter.

"I'm puzzled," replied Hibbert, with the air and tone of a man
who hates to give up a delusion.

Colquitt and Hibbert had not gone a block and a half ere they
encountered Dave, Tom and the others, only Dick being absent from
the gathering of the chums. Curiously, too, the meeting took
place before the same ice cream shop.

"Just in time to have some more cream, boys," suggested young
Mr. Hibbert.

"And we'd enjoy it, too, thank you," responded Tom courteously,
"but there is a point, sir, past which it would be imposition
to go. So we are going to content ourselves with enjoying a very
pleasant recollection of the good time we had with you this afternoon."

"Better come inside with us," urged Mr. Colquitt. "I notice a
table, away over in the corner, where we can be by ourselves.
You see, boys, after what Hibbert said to one of your number
this afternoon, we feel that an explanation is due to you. We
can explain inside much better than we could on a street corner."

That crowbar of curiosity wedged the boys away from their fear
that they were accepting too much from strangers. So they followed
their mysterious conductors inside. Young Mr. Hibbert ordered
ices similar to those that had been enjoyed that afternoon. Then
Mr. Colquitt, with a brisk air, began:

"Concerning that suspicion that young Holmes might be the missing
heir to a large sum of money, I'll tell you how Mr. Hibbert got
his idea."

Then, as though fearing that he had made too great a promise,
Mr. Colquitt paused.

"It's this way," he went on, at last. "Many years ago there was
a railway wreck in this part of the state. A good many passengers
were killed. Among them was the wife of a wealthy man. The husband
escaped with his life, but he was so badly hurt that, for a year
or so, his mind suffered. He had to be taken abroad. There were
a few babies among those killed in the wreck, and the infant son
of the couple was supposed to be one of them. The father is now
well and healthy, but a very lonely man. Within the last few
weeks this father has had some reason to believe that his son
didn't perish in the wreck, but that other people, believing both
parents had been killed, took charge of the infant.

"That is all," continued Mr. Colquitt, "except that the missing
infant had a small v-shaped nick on the outer edge of his right
ear. Probably with the boy's growth, if he is still alive, the
nick has become so small as to be barely noticeable, like the
nick in Holmes' right ear. Mr. Hibbert came to Gridley only yesterday,
and it happened that one of the first young men he saw, close
to the hotel, was young Holmes. Rather by chance Hibbert saw
that very small nick, that usually would escape notice. In great
excitement Hibbert telegraphed the anxious father, and the father
wired Blinders' detective agency, which sent me down to Gridley."

"It isn't possible that Greg can be the missing son," breathed
Tom Reade incredulously.

"He isn't," declared Tom Colquitt promptly. "I made sure of that
very soon after I reached town to-day. First of all, I found
out the name of the family physician, Dr. Bentley. I saw that
gentleman, and he assured me he knew that young Holmes was the
son of Mr. and Mrs. Holmes, for Dr. Bentley told me that he signed
young Greg's birth certificate. That was proof enough, but I
also saw Mr. and Mrs. Holmes, a few minutes ago. The missing
son of the wealthy man in question had two other marks on his
body that would identify him."

"What are those marks?" asked Dave Darrin deeply interested.

Tom Colquitt hesitated, glancing at young Mr. Hibbert.

"Tell 'em," nodded the young man of the four-quart hat.

"The young man we are seeking," replied the detective, "will have
a brownish mole over his right shoulder blade and a reddish mark
to the left of his breast bone. The boy was born with those marks.
The nick in his ear resulted from an accident when the nurse
was handling the child."

"We'll find the youngster for you," promised Danny Grin lightly.

"And is Mr. Hibbert a detective, too?" asked Tom Reade.

"No," replied Colquitt, with great promptness, while Mr. Hibbert,
grinning sheepishly, added:

"I haven't brains enough for that, I guess. But, Master Holmes,
please tell me, to satisfy my last doubt. Have you any such marks
as Mr. Colquitt has described?"

"I never noticed such marks on myself," Greg replied.

"He hasn't them," Dave interjected, "or the rest of us would have
noticed the marks when we've been in swimming."

"Then your last idea that Gregory Holmes is the missing young
man must vanish now, my dear Mr. Hibbert," smiled Mr. Colquitt.

"I'm vanquished," confessed Alonzo Hibbert, with a sigh. "I'm
no good at anything. I wouldn't even make a detective."

"I must leave you now," suggested Mr. Colquitt, rising. "I must
wire to - -er - -to my client. Poor man, he will be greatly disappointed."

As the detective rose and passed outside Hazelton leaned over
to murmur to young Holmes:

"Don't you wish it had turned out that you were the million-dollar
kid?"

"Not if I had to give up my father and mother," Greg replied,
with great promptness.

"I seem to be a fool at everything," sighed Alonzo Hibbert in
disgust.

"No; I would say, sir," suggested Tom Reade, "that you made the
mistake of proceeding on one sign, instead of looking for all three."

"Have another ice!" urged Mr. Hibbert, brightening at once. "You
have set me straight. I wasn't a fool, after all - -merely too
swift"

But the boys shook their heads as they murmured their thanks.

So they were about to rise when a voice called cheerily behind
them:

"Stay where you are, fellows. We'll have an ice cream all around."

"Dick!" cried five eager voices at once, as Prescott came smilingly
to join them. Then their eyes all framed the same question, which
their lips refused to utter.

"Did you sell the canoe?"

As Dick glanced inquiringly at young Mr. Hibbert, Dave Darrin
presented him. Dick also learned that Hibbert had been a willing
host to five of the chums.

"Now, you'll turn about and eat an ice cream with us, won't you,
Mr. Hibbert?" urged young Prescott.

This the young man consented to do, though, as soon as the dainty
had been disposed of, he begged to be excused that he might go
and have further talk with Tom Colquitt.

"You sold the canoe, I think, Dick?" said Tom, as soon as their
late host had left them.

"Yes," beamed their leader.

"You might tell us what you got for it," urged Danny Grin.

"Guess," hinted Dick.

"Fifty," said Dave promptly.

"He said he wouldn't take less than ninety," retorted Hazelton.

"Ninety dollars," guessed Tom.

"Fellows," laughed Dick, "at one time on the train I was so
downhearted and glum over the chances of a trade that I believe I
would have jumped at fifty dollars. Then I remembered my promise
not to take less than ninety dollars. With that I soared to a
hundred dollars, then down, by degrees, to seventy. But my promise
pulled me back to ninety."

"It wasn't exactly a promise," Dave broke in. "Anyway, Dick,
it wasn't the kind of promise that had to be kept."

"Half the time I felt that the promise had to be kept, and the
other half of the time I felt that it might better be broken,"
Prescott went on, laughingly. "Just as I reached Porthampton,
however, and saw all the fine summer homes there, my figures began
to rise. I realized, of course, that a birch bark canoe is a
good deal of a rarity in these days; that such a boat hasn't anything
like a hard-and-fast, staple value. A birch bark canoe, in other
words, is worth what it will bring."

"And no more," nodded Dave Darrin. "So you were wise to take
the fifty dollars."

"Who said that I took fifty dollars for the canoe?" Dick smiled
back.

"What did you get?" insisted Harry Hazelton, his impatience increasing
with every minute.

"Do you really want to know what I got?" teased Dick.

"Of course I do," snorted Harry. "We all do!"

"Then I'll tell you," nodded Dick. Instead, however, he began
feeling in his pockets.

"Tell us, then!" ordered Hazelton gruffly.

"I got a check," smiled Dick.

"For how much?" pressed Hazelton.

"Well, let me explain," said Dick, still laughing. "You see,
I didn't have to do any describing or praising of the canoe, for
Mr. Eades, who bought the canoe for his crowd, was here three
days ago, as you know, and looked the canoe over, in water and
out. It was just a question of settling the price of the canoe.
So, when I reached Mr. Eades, we started in to bargain. He asked
me how much I wanted for the canoe. I guess, fellows, my nerve
must have gone to my head, for I told him two hundred dollars."

"You didn't get it?" gasped Hazelton.

"I didn't," Dick answered soberly.

"How much - - -"

"Mr. Eades told me he represented himself and associates, who
wanted the canoe to put on the little lake down at their country
club. I told him it seemed to me that a canoe like ours was an
expensive sort of thing to put in a pond. Then he offered me
seventy-five dollars."

"That's a good, round sum, and will help us out a lot this summer,"
nodded Dave Darrin. "I'm glad you accepted it."

"I didn't," smiled Dick. "Mr. Eades finally offered eighty, and
I told him I regretted that we hadn't done the trading at the
time that he came over to Gridley to see the canoe. Mr. Eades
replied that at the time he came here he wasn't authorized to
speak for his friends, but merely to look at the canoe and report.
After that he made one or two more small increases in his price,
but I seemed to have lost interest in the subject of a trade
and looked at my time table to see when the next train left for
Gridley. Then we talked about other matters, and, fellows, I
was pretty glum, though I didn't allow the fact to show. Finally,
he offered me more money, and then a little more. At last I came
down on my price, and made him my final offer. Mr. Eades didn't
seem to like it, and then, all of a sudden, he took out his check
book and wrote a check for me."

"Close to a hundred dollars?" asked Dave, with deep interest.

For answer Dick threw the check on the table. There was a wild
scramble for it.

"A hundred and fifty dollars!" gasped Tom Reade.

"Let me see that check!" demanded Greg Holmes unbelievingly.

The check went from hand to hand, each of the fellows looking
at it half bewildered. Yet certainly the check said one hundred
and fifty dollars.

"See here, Dick," asked Tom anxiously, "are you sure - -positive,
that is - -that it was honest to charge a hundred and fifty for
that canoe of ours?"

"You may be sure that I thought of that," Prescott answered.
"I don't want to defraud any man. But birch bark suitable for
canoes is getting to be a thing of the past in this country.
Our friend, Hiram Driggs, the boat builder, told me that a birch
bark canoe, nowadays, is simply worth all one can get for it.
But, after Mr. Eades had written the check and handed it to me,
he said: 'Now, the trade is made and closed, Prescott, what do
you really consider the canoe worth?' I answered him a good deal
as I've answered you, and offered to return the check if Mr. Eades
wasn't satisfied. Fellows, for just a moment or two my heart
was in my mouth for fear he'd take me up and ask for the return
of his check. But Mr. Eades merely smiled, and said he was satisfied
if I was."

"I'll bet he'd have gone to a two hundred dollar price," declared
Hazelton. "Dick, weren't you sorry, afterwards, that you didn't
hold out flat for two hundred dollars?"

"Not I," young Prescott answered promptly. "If I had been too
greedy I'd have deserved to lose altogether, and very likely I
would have lost. Fellows, I think we can be well satisfied with
the price we've obtained."

"I am!" declared Dave Darrin promptly. "We've realized a hundred
dollars above my wildest dream."

Incidentally it may be mentioned that Mr. Eades found, from his
friends, that he had a prize, indeed, in the fine old war canoe.
The grounds committee of another country club offered two hundred
and fifty for that same canoe a month later.

"Now, fellows," Dick went on, "suppose we leave here and decide
how we're to lay out this money for our summer camp?"

The vote was carried instantly. With a whoop of glee the chums
started for Dave's house.




CHAPTER III

THE HUMAN MYSTERY OF THE WOODS


"Now, get to work!" shouted Dick Prescott. "Destruction to all
shirkers!"

"Please may I beg off for five minutes?" begged Danny Grin, raising
one hand.

"Why?" queried Prescott sharply.

"I want to take that much time to convince myself that it's all
true," replied Danny.

"You'll know that it's all true when you wake up to-morrow morning,"
laughed Dick. "But it won't look half as real if any fellow shirks
any part of his work now. All ready, fellows?"

"Ready!" came the chorus.

"Tom Reade will make the best foreman, won't he?" appealed Prescott.
"Tom has a knack for just such jobs as this, and it's going to
be a tough one."

The boys stood in the middle of a half acre clearing in the deep
woods, five miles past the town of Porter. Here the woods extended
for miles in every direction. As these young campers glanced
about them it seemed as though they possessed a wealth of camping
material - -far more than they had ever dreamed of owning.

The tent, twelve feet by twenty, and eleven feet high at the ridgepole,
with six-foot walls, was their greatest single treasure. It had
cost thirty-five dollars, and had been bought from the nearest
large city.

"We'll get the tent up first," called Reade.

"Of course," smiled Dave. "That's all you're boss of anyway,
Tom."

"Come on, then, and spread the canvas out," Tom ordered. "Bring
it over this way. We want it under the trees at the edge of the
clearing. Dan, you bring the longest poles."

Under Tom's further direction the canvas was spread just where
he wanted it. Then the ridge-pole was secured in place across
the tops of the highest two standing poles.

"Run it in under the canvas," Tom directed. "We'll get the metal
tips of the poles through the proper roof holes in the canvas.
There, that's right. Dick, you and Greg stand by that long pole;
Dave, you and Dan by the other. Now, then - -raise her!"

Up off the ground went the two uprights and the ridge-pole, the
canvas hanging shapelessly from the ridge-pole.

"Bring that wooden sledge over here, Harry," was Foreman Reade's
next order. "Now, drive in this stake while I hold it. Remember
to hit the stake, not my hands."

The stake being soon driven into place Reade slipped the loop
of a guy-rope around it, partly tightening the rope. Then he
slipped to the next corner, where the process was repeated.

"Hurrah!" burst from Danny Grin, as the fourth corner stake was
driven, and now the tent began to take shape.

"You fellows holding the poles may let go of them now," called
Tom. "Come and help with the other stakes and guy-ropes."

As soon as the ropes along a given side of the tent had been made
fast the side wall poles were stepped into place. At last the
task of tent-raising was completed, save for the final tightening
of all the ropes. Now Dick and Dave, under their foreman's orders,
began to drive the shorter stakes that held the bottoms of the
tent walls in place.

"Hurrah!" went up from several throats, as the boys stood back
to take in the full dimensions of their big, new tent.

"My but she's a whopper!" exclaimed Danny Grin, pushing back the
door flaps and peering inside.

"We won't find the tent any too large for a crowd of our size,"
Dick declared. "You all remember how crowded we were in the tent
that we used last summer. You'll find we can fill this tent up
when we get it furnished."

"Dick," called Tom, "take all of my gang except Harry. He and
I will lay the floor."

Reade and Hazelton thereupon began to carry in two-by-four timbers
and lay them where they wanted them on the ground inside the tent.
Next they nailed boards across. They had bought all of this
timber in Gridley secondhand at a bargain.

"Dave, you and Dan can start the furnace, while Greg and I unpack
supplies," suggested Prescott.

Thereupon Darrin and Danny Grin started in to move a small pile
of bricks. Next a tub of mixed mortar was carried to the level
spot decided upon as the place whereon to erect the "furnace."

It was not much of a stove that Dave and Dan built, yet it was
fitted and destined for the preparing of many a meal in record
time. First of all, Dave marked off the space to be used. Four
parallel lines of bricks, each line five bricks long, were laid
on the ground. Dave, with a two-foot rule, measured a distance
of sixteen inches between each row. Then began some amateur
brick-laying. It was not perfectly done, by any means, yet these
four parallel walls of brick that were presently up afforded three
"stoves" lying side by side. As soon as the mortar was reasonably
dried - -and fire would help - -grates and pieces of sheet iron could
be laid across the tops of the walls over the three fires. It was
one of the simplest and most effective cooking devices that such a
camp could have. There was even a gas-stove oven, an old one,
furnished by Dick's mother.

"It makes me hungry to look at the stove," declared Danny Grin.

"It's four o'clock now, so you'll have two hours more to wait,"
smiled Dick, as he glanced at his watch.

Out of packing cases and some odds and ends of lumber Dick and
Greg had constructed some very fair cupboards, with doors.

"Oh, if we only had ice for use in this hot weather!" sighed Greg.

"But we haven't," returned Dick, "so what's the use of thinking
of it."

In the tent Tom and Harry were putting in some of the last taps
of the hammer. They had made a very creditable job of the flooring.
It was now five o'clock. Dick & Co. had worked so briskly that
they were now somewhat tired.

It had been an exciting day. They had left Gridley in the forenoon,
journeying for an hour and a half on the train. Arriving at Porter
the boys had eaten luncheons brought along with them. Then they
had hunted up a farmer, had bargained with him to haul their stuff
and then had tramped out to their camping place.

But the camp looked as though bound to prove a success. It was
their camp, anyway, and they were happy.

"I'm glad enough of one thing," murmured Dick as he rested, mopping
his brow.

"I'm glad of several things I can think of," rejoined Darry.

"The thing I refer to," chuckled Prescott, "is Fred Ripley."

"It never occurred to me to feel glad about Ripley," muttered
Tom dryly.

"I mean, I'm glad that he has gone to Canada with his father this
summer," Dick continued. "We shan't have a lot of things happening
all the time, as we did last summer. Rip was a hoodoo to us last
summer. This year we know that he's too far away to be troublesome."

"It will seem a bit strange, at first," assented Reade, "to return
to our camp and not discover that, while we were away, Rip had
been along and slashed the tent to ribbons, or committed some
other atrocious act."

"Let's not crow until we're out of the woods," suggested Darrin.
"Rip might come back from Canada, you know."

"He's sure to, if the Canadians find out the kind of a chap that
he is," Danny Grin declared solemnly.

"Come here, you fellows," summoned Dick, "and hold a council of
war over the supplies, to decide what we'll have for supper."

"I thought the steak was to be the main item," Tom rejoined.
"With no ice it won't keep until morning."

"What do you want to eat with the steak?" asked Dick briskly.

The council - -of six - -quickly decided on the items of the meal.
Harry, catching up two buckets, started to the nearest spring
for water. Dave, with the coffee-mill between his knees, started
to grind. Dick, with an old knife, began to cut the steak up
into suitably sized pieces. Greg started a fire in one of the
stove spaces,

Dan bringing more firewood. A task was at hand for each of them.

When the first fire was ready an old grate was placed over it.
On this the pieces of steak were arranged. Dave was boiling
coffee on another grate over the second fire.

"Wood is mighty scarce around here," complained Harry.

Dick glanced about him. No one was immediately busy.

"All scatter!" called Prescott. "Go in different directions.
Each fellow bring back an armful of dry wood. Hustle!"

Dick himself was the first to return, about three minutes later.
He came in fast, for he expected that the steak would be ready
to remove from the grate.

Long before he reached the stoves, however, Dick dropped his wood
and his lower jaw simultaneously.

"Hurry up, fellows!" he called hoarsely. "Hurry and see what
has happened!"

That note of real distress in his voice caused the others to come
running.

"Well, if you haven't an appetite!" gasped Tom. "To go and eat
all the steak yourself!"

"I didn't eat any of it," Dick retorted grimly. "From the looks
of things none of the rest of us will eat any of it, either."

"A dog got it, or some wild animal!" guessed Greg.

"No one animal could carry off four pieces of steak in his mouth
at a time," Prescott answered, thinking fast. "And the tin plate
I left here has gone with the meat. Animals don't lug off tin
plates."

"Dick and I will stay behind to watch and take account of stock,"
Tom called. "The rest of you scatter through the woods and try
to come up with the thief. If any fellow comes upon him, give
a whoop, and the rest of us will hurry along."

The four scouts went off on the run.

"Anything else missing?" asked Reade, as Dick looked among the
supplies.

"Yes," Prescott raged; "one of the bottles of Worcestshire sauce
and two of the tins of corn. Oh, it's a two-legged thief that


2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Online LibraryH. Irving HancockThe High School Boys in Summer Camp → online text (page 2 of 11)