H. Irving Hancock.

The High School Boys in Summer Camp online

. (page 6 of 11)
Online LibraryH. Irving HancockThe High School Boys in Summer Camp → online text (page 6 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


"I wish we could have such visitors every day," cried Darry
enthusiastically.

"Yes," grinned Tom, "but how long would our canned goods hold
out? We'd have to be rich, fellows, to entertain so many people
every day, even if the meat end of the feast did come to us without
cost."

"We want to make the camp shipshape again," Dick remarked, looking
about. "There's a lot of refuse food to be burned. Greg, you
start a fire. Dan you gather up every scrap of food that must
be thrown away and burn it on said fire. Dave, you can set the
tent to rights. I'll take an axe and hustle after some firewood.
Dave, suppose you help me. Tom might put the camp to rights."

With the labor thus divided all hands set briskly to work. By
the time that all the tasks had been performed the boys were glad
to lie down on the grass and rest until it was time to prepare
a light supper. After that meal was over Dave asked:

"We're going to keep regular guard to-night, aren't we?"

"Yes," Dick answered. "We'll turn in at nine o'clock and keep
guard until six in the morning. That will be nine hours - -an
hour and a half of guard duty for each fellow. Suppose we draw
lots to decide the order in which we shall take our tricks of
guard duty."

This was done. To Prescott fell the second tour, from ten-thirty
until midnight. Reade had the first tour.

At a few minutes after nine all was quiet in the camp. Five tired
high school boys were soon sound asleep, with Reade, hidden in
the deep shadows, watching outside.

It seemed to young Prescott that he had no more than dropped off
into slumber when Tom shook him by the shoulder.

"Half-past ten," whispered Reade, as Dick sat up. "Go out to
the wash basin and dash cold water into your eyes. That will
open 'em and freshen you up."

"Have you seen anything of the prowler?" whispered Dick, as he
got upon his feet.

"Not a sign," declared Tom.

"It would be too early for him to prowl about yet," whispered
Dick, as he passed out into the Summer night. "Good night, Tom."

Only a faint stirring of the light breeze in the tree tops, the
droning hum of night insects, and the occasional call of a night
bird - -these were all the sounds that came to the ears of the
young camp guard.

Dick dashed the water into his eyes, then felt wonderfully wide
awake.

"If Mr. Prowler comes, he'll probably go for the canned vegetables
and the biscuit," Prescott decided. "He must already have more
meat than he can handle all day to-morrow - -if it doesn't spoil."

So Dick posted himself where he could easily watch the approach
of any outsider toward the boxes that served as cupboards for
the canned supplies.

The time slipped away, until it was nearly midnight, as Prescott
knew from stepping into the tent and lighting a match briefly
for a swift glimpse at his watch.

As Dick came out of the tent he fancied he heard a distant step,
crackling on a broken twig.

"If there's anyone coming I'd better slip into the shadow of the
canvas," Prescott told himself, acting accordingly.

Presently the stealthy steps sounded nearer to the camp.

"Someone is coming, as sure as fate," Dick said to himself. "Shall
I rouse one or two of the other fellows? But they might alarm
the prowler. I'll handle him myself."




CHAPTER XI

A HARD PROWLER TO CATCH


It was the prowler.

Close to the tent he stopped to listen to the heavy breathing
that came from the sound young sleepers. Dick crouched farther
back into the shadow.

Uttering a low grunt, that was half chuckle, the prowler slipped
along in the darkness, making toward the cupboards.

"My friend, I want a little talk with you," suddenly spoke Dick
Prescott, slipping up behind the uninvited visitor.

The prowler wheeled quickly about.

"You don't want anything to do with me," he corrected, in a harsh
voice. "I could eat two or three like you, and then have plenty
of appetite left."

"Perhaps," smiled Dick Prescott undaunted.

"And I'll do it, too, if you don't stand back."

"But I want to talk with you, my friend," Dick insisted.

"I don't want to talk with you," snapped the prowler.

"You would, if you knew what I want to talk with you about," Prescott
continued.

"Is it about food?" demanded the young stranger grimly.

"Then it's about jail," sneered the other harshly.

"Why about jail?" asked Dick.

"Because that's where you'd like to see me!"

"Why should I want to see you in jail?" Prescott demanded.

"Because I've been visiting your kitchen," leered the other.
"But you can't stop me. Not all of your crowd can stop me!"

"Why do you wish to clean us out of food?" Prescott asked.

"Because I know how to eat," replied the young stranger significantly.

"Is that the only reason you have for trying to clean us all out
of food?"

"Why should I have any other reason? And why isn't being hungry
a good enough reason?" counter-queried the prowler.

"It has struck me," smiled Dick, "that perhaps you don't want
us in these woods, anyway."

"I don't just hanker after your company," admitted the stranger,
with gruff candor.

"Are we bothering you any here?"

"No matter," came the sullen retort.

"To return to the first subject, that matter about which I want
to talk with you - - -"

"Not to-night," growled the young prowler. Turning on his heel,
he started to walk away.

But Dick kept close at his side.

"Shake my trail, you!" ordered the other gruffly. "If you don't
you'll be sorry!"

With that the stranger broke into a loping run. At first glance
this gait didn't seem to be a swift one, but it was the long,
easy, loping stride of the wolf in motion. Young Prescott found
that he had to exert himself in order to keep up with the other.

"Go back to your shack!" ordered the prowler.

"Hold on a minute, so that I can talk with you," urged Prescott.

By this time they were at a considerable distance from the camp.
Suddenly the prowler halted, wheeling about like a flash, glaring
into young Prescott's eyes.

"Now, I'll learn you!" growled the prowler.

"Do you mean that you'll _teach_ me?" queried Prescott. "What?"

"I'll learn you," growled the other, "not to keep on banging around
me when I don't want you!"

"Do you happen to have any idea," Dick persisted coolly, "that
your name is probably Page, and that you undoubtedly have a very
rich father, who is trying to find you?"

"Where did you read that fairy tale?" sneered the prowler.

"Partly on your skin to-day," Dick rejoined, "when I came upon
you as you were dressing near that pool."

"Stop kidding me!" commanded the other sternly. "And now back
to you cosy little bed for you! Fade! Vanish! If you don't
then you'll soon wish you had!"

But Dick held his ground, despite the very evident sincerity of
the other's threat, and gazed unflinchingly back at the prowler.

"Let me tell you," Dick went on. "Of course I cannot be positive,
but there is a missing heir who has, on his chest and one shoulderblade
just such marks as I saw on you to-day when you were sitting by
the pool putting on your shirt?"

"Oh, forget that thrilling stuff!" jeered the other. "Don't you
suppose I know who my father is? Old Bill Mosher hasn't suddenly
grown rich. How could Bill get rich when he is in jail for drunkenness?"

"So you think your name is Mosher?" pursued Prescott.

"I know it is," replied the prowler harshly. "And, around this
neck of the woods a fellow couldn't have a harder, tougher name
than Mosher."

"But if your name were really Page - - -" pressed Dick.

"No use stringing me like that," snapped the other. Even in the
darkness, lit only here and there by starlight, the scowl on his
face was visible. "Tell you what," declared Mosher, an instant
later.

"Well?"

"Beat it!"

"I don't under - - - "

"Yes, you do," retorted the self-styled Mosher. "Vamoose!
Twenty-three in a hurry! Make your get-away!"

"Until I've made you listen to reason," Prescott insisted, "I
won't leave you."

"Oh, yes, you will, and right now, or - - -"

"No!"

"See here!"

Mosher held a hard, horny fist menacing before Dick's face, but
the high school boy failed to wince.

"Git! Now, or crawl later!" warned Mosher.

"I'm going to make you listen to - - -"

"Put up your guard!"

At least Mosher was "square" enough to give warning of his intentions.
He threw himself on guard, then waited for perhaps five seconds.

"Are you going to cool down and listen!" demanded Dick Prescott
firmly.

Out shot the Mosher youth's left fist. Dick dodged. It was a
feint; Dick nearly stopped Mosher's right.

Blows rained in thickly now. Not every one could Prescott dodge,
though he was more agile and better trained than this more powerful
youth.

At last, smarting from a glancing blow on the nose, Dick darted
in and clinched with his adversary. It was bad judgment, but
punishment had stung him into desperate recklessness.

"Stop it!" panted the high school boy.

"Won't!" retorted Mosher, increasing his pressure about the smaller
boy's waist until Prescott felt dizzy. In that extremity the
Gridley boy worked a neat little trip. Down they went, rolling
over and over, fighting like wild cats until Mosher secured the
upper hand and sat heavily on the high school boy.

"I gave you all the chance I could," growled Mosher, planting
blow after blow on Dick's head, face and chest, "and you wouldn't
help yourself anyway. Now, you'll take all your medicine, and
next time you meet me you'll know enough to leave me alone."

Held as he was, without really a show, Dick Prescott fought as
long as he could, and with desperate courage. But at last he
felt forced to yell:

"Fellows! Gridley! Here - -quickly!"

"They're too far away, and, besides, they're asleep," jeered Mosher,
to the accompaniment of three more hard blows. "Now, I reckon
you've had enough to know your own business after this and let
mine alone. If I had any cord I'd tie you here. As it is - - -"

Leaping suddenly to his feet, Mosher turned and ran swiftly through
the woods.

Dick badly hurt, yet as determined as ever, pursued for a few
score of yards. Then realizing that he could hear no sound of
the other's steps to guide him in the right direction, the high
school boy halted.

"I may as well give it up this time," he said to himself grimly.
"Besides, my main job is to guard the camp. If I go roaming
through the woods, Mosher, as he calls himself, will double back
on the camp and clean out our provisions while I'm groping out
here in the dark."

So Dick paused only long enough to make sure of his course back.
Then he plodded along, wincing with the pain of many blows that
he had received.

"I'm lucky, anyway, that I didn't get an eye bunged up," he reflected.
"I smart and I ache, but I can see straight, and I don't believe
I've received any blow that will disfigure me for the next few
days. My, what a steam hammer that fellow is in a fight! I wonder
if he really is the son of that hard character called Bill Mosher?"

As Dick neared the camp he stepped more softly. He wanted to
see whether Mosher really had come back.

But no figure was discernible in the clearing beyond the camp.
Dick walked in more confidently. His first care was to examine
the food supply.

"Nothing gone," Dick murmured. Then he looked about for a stick
large enough to serve as a weapon at need. While doing so his
glance fell upon an axe.

"I wouldn't use that," Prescott told himself. "But there is no
knowing what Mosher would do if he got cornered by more than one
of us. Hereafter we mustn't leave this thing outside."

Dick carried the axe into the tent, hiding it without awaking
any of the other sleepers. Then he went outside, searching until
he found a club that he thought would answer for defense.

Taking this with him he went over to the wash basin, where, wetting
a towel, he bathed his battered face.

"Almost one o'clock," he remarked, after striking a match for
a look at his watch. "I won't call Dave at all, but will stay
up and call Harry at half-past one."




CHAPTER XII

"TAG" IS THE GAME - -TAG MOSHER!


"Now, come in with the sprint!" Dick sang out to Hazelton.

"Greg, Dave and Tom, you block him. Get through, Harry - -some
way! Don't let 'em stop you."

It was three days later, and Dick & Co. were at work at their
main task during this summer camping, which was to train hard
and try to fit themselves for the football squad when high school
should open again.

Hazelton came on, at racing speed. He ducked low, making a gallant
effort. He nearly succeeded in getting through, but Tom's tackle
brought him to ground just at the right moment.

"Now, try that over again," Prescott said.

So the work went on, vigorously, for another hour - -until all
of the boys were tired out, hot and panting.

"That's the most grueling work I ever did in the same space of
time," muttered Reade, mopping his face.

"Yes; it's the kind of work for which football calls," rejoined
Prescott, also mopping his face. "Dan, get up off the ground!"

"I'm hot," muttered Dalzell, "and I'm tired."

"Then rest on a campstool. Don't chill yourself by lying on the
ground when you're so warm."

After a few seconds of contemplated mutiny, Danny Grin rose and
found a seat on a stool.

"As soon as you're cool, three of you go to the water and wash
off," Dick ordered. "The other three of us will stay here until
you get back."

That was the order of the day now. At least two, and usually
three of Dick & Co. always remained near camp. If Mosher planned
to come again he would find a "committee" waiting to receive him.

There were more supplies, too, to guard now than there had been.
On the morning after Dick's encounter, a farmer had driven into
camp. His wagon had been well laden with all manner of canned
food supplies, even to tins of French mushrooms. These had come
from Alonzo Hibbert, with a note of thanks for the entertainment
of himself and friends.

"These provisions are mighty welcome," Prescott had remarked at
the time, "but I'm not sure but that I would rather have Hibbert
himself here - -I've so much to tell him."

"He'll come, in time, when he gets your letter at the Eagle House,"
Reade had answered, for Dick had told all his chums his suspicions
regarding young Mosher.

"What are we to do this afternoon?" asked Dave, seating himself
beside Prescott as three of the chums started for the swimming
pool.

"Gymnastics," Dick replied. "Especially bar work. And some boxing,
of course."

"You ought to be excused from boxing for the present," grinned
Darry. "You look as though you had had enough for a while."

For Dick's left cheek was still decorated with a bruise that young
Mosher had planted there. The boxing of Dick & Co., this summer,
was real work. It was done with bare knuckles, though, of course,
without anger or the desire to do injury. Boxing with bare knuckles
was Prescott's own idea for hardening himself and his chums for
the rough work of the gridiron.

"I'll take my share of the boxing," Dick retorted. "Having a
sore spot on my face will make me all the more careful in my guard."

"Queer we don't hear from Hibbert," mused Greg Holmes.

"Not at all," Dave contended. "Hibbert simply isn't back at the
Eagle House yet, and perhaps the hotel people have had no orders
about forwarding his mail It may be a fortnight before we hear
from him."

"Thanks to the thoughtfulness of Hibbert we can remain in camp
a good deal more than a fortnight longer," observed Prescott,
glancing over the greatly increased food supply. "Perhaps it
was all right for Hibbert to repay our courtesy the other day,
but he has sent us something like twenty or thirty times as much
food as his party ate."

"I guess Hibbert has more money than he knows what to do with,"
mused Greg aloud.

"Even if he has," Prescott smiled seriously, "there is no reason
why he should feel called upon to keep us in food. I'd give four
fifths of that food to know where to reach Hibbert, or any of
that party, in a hurry. Jupiter!"

"What's up?" asked Dave, eyeing his chum in astonishment, for
Dick had suddenly leaped to his feet, and was now dancing about
like an Indian.

"Say, but we must have fried eggs in the place of brains!" cried
young Prescott reproachfully.

"What calls forth that severe remark?" demanded Darry.

"Why, we know well enough where to get hold of Hibbert's party,"
Dick went on.

"Do we?" asked Greg.

"Certainly," cried Dick triumphantly. "Just send a note to Mr.
Colquitt in care of Blinders' Detective Agency. I'm going to
write the note now!"

Dick was half-way to the tent when Darry called after him:

"By the way, in what city is the Blinders' agency located?"

Dick halted short, looking blank.

"I don't know," he admitted. "Do you fellows?"

None of them did. Then they waited until the others came in from
the pool. But none of them knew what city had the honor to shelter
the Blinders' agency.

"I'll write the note, anyway," Dick insisted. "If I can't do
better, I'll put the address as simply the United States, with
a request on the envelope for the post-office people to find the
right city and deliver the letter."

"Go ahead with the letter," urged Tom. "After dinner I'll walk
over to Five Corners and mail the letter. Incidentally, I'll
make inquiries over there and see whether anyone knows the city
in which the Blinders' crowd has its headquarters."

So Dick wrote the letter, while others were preparing the noon
meal. At one o'clock in the afternoon Tom started, on his round-trip
tramp of twenty-two miles.

"A trip like that will take the place of training for one half
day," Reade explained.

Hazelton offered to go with him, but Tom declined on the ground
that he could get over ground faster without Harry.

It was an hour after dark when Reade returned that night, hot,
tired, dusty and hungry. But he had found the correct address
of the agency and the letter had started on its journey.

"Your supper is all ready," Dick announced.

"And I'm ready to meet any supper more than half way," Reade retorted.
"Just a minute, until I wash up."

The other five boys sat and chatted by the table while Tom ate.

"Dan, won't you throw a lot more wood on the fire?" asked Dick,
as the meal came to a close. "We ought to have the camp better
lighted than this."

Greg sprang to help Dalzell. Soon the flames leaped up, throwing
their ruddy, cheerful glow over the camp and making dancing shadows
beyond under the trees.

While they were still chatting over the day's doings, steps were
heard, followed by the arrival in camp of two rough-looking,
stern-faced men. Dave Darrin sprang to pick up a club.

"You boys haven't been doing anything wrong, have you?" questioned
one of the men, with a trace of a smile.

"Of course not," Dick indignantly replied.

"Then you needn't be afraid of us, though I admit that we do look
rough," answered the same man, displaying a badge. "We're officers
of the law."

"What can we do for you, sir?" Prescott inquired more respectfully.

"Do you boys know anything about Tag Mosher?" demanded the same
speaker.

"Son of Bill Mosher?" Dick counter-queried.

"The same. Know anything about him?"

"Nothing, except that he bothered us a good deal when we were
first camped here," Prescott replied.

"Do you know him by sight, then?"

"We all do."

"When was Tag here last?" pressed the officer.

"About three days ago," Dick answered. "He stole quite a bit
of our food supply."

"That's an old trick of that young tough," rejoined the deputy
sheriff. "That's how the boy got the nickname of 'tag.' He won't
work, and lives on other people's work. Anything that he can
say 'tag' to he thinks belongs to him."

"Then, in other words, sir," asked Dave Darrin, "Tag Mosher is
just a plain thief?"

"A good deal that way," replied the deputy. "But with this difference:
Up to date Tag never stole anything except what he needed at the
moment for his own comfort. He never robbed people to enrich
himself, but just to save himself the trouble of working. Now,
however, we've a more serious charge against him."

"What?" asked Dick,

"I don't know whether the courts will call it felonious assault,"
replied the deputy. "But Tag stole two chickens out of the chicken
coop of Henry Leigh, a new farmer in these parts. Leigh trailed
Tag to the woods and found him cooking the chickens. Leigh tried
to grab Tag, but Tag caught up a big stone and just slammed it
against Leigh's head. Leigh is now in bed at home, with a fractured
skull, and likely to die. He described Tag to us, and we're after
him. The county has put a reward of two hundred and fifty dollars
on Tag's head. After we've come up with him I guess it will be
many a year before Tag Mosher will have a chance to do any more
stealing or fighting. But if you haven't seen him here in three
days we may as well be moving on. Thank you. Of course, if you
see Tag, you won't tell him anything about our being here?"

"Certainly not, sir," Dick answered. "By the way, do you want
any help?"

"Meaning some of you boys?" asked the deputy.

"Some of us will help you, if we can," Dick assured him.

"How many?"

"We ought to leave half our number to guard the camp, for Tag
may show up here and wreck things. Three of us can go with you."

"You may run into some ugly fighting, if you go with us," warned
the deputy. "Tag Mosher is no coward!"

"We're not afraid of fighting, when we're in the right," Prescott
replied promptly.

"Besides, we've got a grudge of our own against Tag Mosher, anyway,"
Dave said.

"Not a grudge, I hope," Dick rebuked his chum. "But we'll stand
by to help the law, if we get a chance."

"I reckon maybe we could use three of you," meditated the deputy
aloud. "Boys can beat up woods as well as men. But we may not
be able to get you back here before to-morrow noon.

"That will be all right," Dick assured him. "Dave and Greg, you'll
join me in going with the officers, won't you?"

Darry and Holmes both assented eagerly.

"If you've any extra grub, then, put it up and come along," urged
the deputy. "There's room for five in the automobile we're using."

"How did you men know that we were here?" Reade inquired, while
Dick and Greg made haste to get food together for the trip.

"Saw your campfire," replied the deputy laconically. "We didn't
believe Tag would build such a large fire, but we took a chance
and looked in. If you haven't anything else to do, young Long-legs,
you might pick out three stout clubs for your friends."

Laughing good-naturedly at the nickname, Tom bestirred himself.
Within three minutes all was ready.

Dick, Dave and Greg stepped away after the officers. Not far
away was the road, where the automobile stood with the engine
running.

"Does Tag know how to run a car?" Prescott inquired.

"Don't know," replied the deputy.

"If he does, and had happened to be about, he could have taken
your car in good shape," smiled Dick.

"True," nodded the officer, "but there were only two of us, and
nabbing Tag Mosher is two men's work."

"I ought to know that," laughed Dick. "He gave me a stiff enough
beating."

"Here is where you can even the score," laughed Dave grimly.

"I don't want to even any score," replied Prescott gravely. "I'm
sorry for the fellow, especially when he was so close to a chance
to turn about and make something of himself."

"Do you mean to say that you don't hold even a bit of a grudge
for that severe beating you got?" demanded Darry wonderingly.

"Of course I don't," Dick retorted. "When two fellows fight one
of them must receive a beating - -that's the sporting chance.
All my feelings for Tag are of sympathy."

"Not enough so you'd let him get away, if you met him?" put in
the deputy quickly.

"Of course, not, sir," Dick answered quickly flushing. "That
would be as much as to say that I'm a bad citizen. If I find
Tag I'll do my best to hold him until help comes. You may be
sure of that."

"Then get into the car," ordered the deputy briefly. "The back
part of the car is for you youngsters. That reminds me. We don't
know each other's names. Mine's Simmons."

The other deputy's name proved to be Valden. The boys quickly
introduced themselves.

Away went the car, over the rough roads. To avoid sending warning
too far ahead the lights were turned low. On account of the condition
of this rough forest road the speed was slow.


1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11

Online LibraryH. Irving HancockThe High School Boys in Summer Camp → online text (page 6 of 11)