H. Irving Hancock.

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"If Tag hasn't been to your camp within three nights," said Mr.
Simmons, leaning back while Mr. Valden ran the car, "then it's
because he isn't in this neighborhood. So we'll travel on a few
miles before we stop to do any real searching."

"I don't understand how you can expect to find anyone out here
in the night time," Dick observed.

"I've some plans in my mind," was all the explanation Simmons
offered.

When the road became a little better, Valden put on a bit more
speed.

"Better slow down," advised Simmons presently. "There's a bridge
ahead that isn't any, too strong."

That bridge was closer than the deputy thought. Just then the
automobile top brushed heavily against foliage in making a wooded
turn in the road.

"There's the bridge!" yelled Simmons almost excitedly. "Slow
down - -stop!"

Valden tried to obey, but the bridge was altogether too close
for stopping in time. Out over the planks ran the car.

R-r-rip! Crash!

Some of the boards were already missing from the rude bridge.
Others gave way almost like paper. Down through the structure
fell the car, then landed with a splash, overturning to the accompaniment
of cries of fright and of pain from its occupants.




CHAPTER XIII

IN A FIX!


As the water in the creek was barely three feet deep, Officer
Valden sprang from the car, holding his right hand, which had
been caught in the brake mechanism.

Deputy Simmons appeared to be uninjured.

Greg Holmes went under water, his head striking a stone violently
enough to bring a splash of blood to his forehead.

Dave Darrin's head struck against the side of the car, bringing
a cry of pain from him.

Yet, though he was dizzy from the concussion, Darry displayed
the coolest head of any of them in the first few moments.

"Where's Dick?" he called, when he saw the others accounted for.
Then Dave wrenched off one of the lamps, holding it to aid his
vision.

"There he is!" shouted Darrin, as his foot touched something.
"His head is under water. Up with him, quickly!"

Dave brought the rays of the lantern to bear more directly, while
Simmons sprang to the rescue. Greg, too, joined in.

"He's pinned down by the car!" gasped Deputy Simmons after finding
Prescott's submerged body and giving it a hard tug. "Valden,
help me lift the car on this side! You two boys pull your friend
out when we lift the car. Now!"

Though Deputy Valden was able to employ only his left hand, he
used it with all his strength.

"Here he comes," panted Dave, tugging at Dick's body with all
his might. "Gracious! I hope he isn't drowned!"

Greg, too, exerted all his strength. Though it seemed ages to
the anxious ones it was really but the work of a few seconds.

As Dick's head emerged above the surface of the water he gave
a quick gasp. Then another.

"Oh, the air seems good," he moaned. "I tried to keep from opening
my mouth or breathing, but it nearly burst my lungs!"

"Are you all right now?" asked Darry, holding his chum up.

"If you'll help me to the bank I shall be, I think," answered
Prescott weakly.

"Why, what - - -" began Dave anxiously.

"I was badly bruised by being pinned under the car," Dick admitted,
in a still weaker voice.

"No bones broken, eh?" broke in Greg Holmes.

"I - -I think not," Dick answered.

"Don't keep him talking," ordered Dave sternly. "Put in your
strength and help me lift good old Dick up into the road."

"I guess I can do that job better," interposed Simmons, who had
let go of the car. "Let me have the boy."

Dick was borne up to the road in the deputy's strong arms.

"Can you stand?" asked Simmons.

"Put me on my feet, sir, and let me see," begged Dick.

He took a few steps, wincing, his face white.

"Dick, old fellow," faltered Dave, "I'm afraid you've broken a
leg."

"No; or I couldn't stand on my legs and walk," Prescott replied.
"It hurts up here, where the side of the car rested."

He placed one hand on his right hip.

"Then your hip is broken," groaned Darry.

"I don't believe that, either," argued Dick. "If my hip were
broken I don't believe I could move my leg or step."

He took two or three steps, wincing painfully, to show what he
could do.

"Nothing but a hip bruise, or I'm guessing wrong," smiled the
white-faced sufferer.

"In any case, you're meat for a doctor," put in Deputy Simmons,
with rough sympathy.

"All right," replied Dick. "I'll walk to the doctor's office.
How many miles is it?"

"About fourteen," replied Simmons. "I'll bring the doctor to
you. It's only about six miles to Ross' farm. I'll borrow his
car. Then I can make good time getting the doctor and bringing
him here. But you'd better sit down before I start."

"Aren't you going to do anything with the car in the creek?" inquired
Prescott.

"What can we do?" demanded the deputy laconically. "There isn't
muscle enough in this crowd to hoist the car up the bank. Anyway,
her engine is damaged beyond a doubt. No, no, Prescott, you sit
down, or lie down, and the rest of you had better wait here until
I bring help. I can be back in three hours at the latest. Darrin,
will you place one of the lamps at either end of where the bridge
was? That may save some farmer from driving in on top of the
car."

Dave complied willingly enough. Then Simmons turned to Prescott.

"Now, you sit down, young man," ordered the deputy.

"I'd rather not," Dick replied. "I haven't anything worse than
a bruise. If I keep too quiet the injury will stiffen all the
more. I must move my hip a bit, or I may be in for a worse time."

"That may be true," nodded the deputy thoughtfully. "Well, be
good, all of you. I'll be back again, as soon as possible."

With that he strode down into the creek, wading through and coming
out at the farther side. Then he was lost among the shadows.

Though it hurt to keep on his feet, Dick, after some minutes,
found that he could move about a little more freely, despite the
pain.

"That shows there are no bones broken," he assured his distressed
chums.

"Does it?" asked Darrin. "Hang it, I wish I knew more about injuries
of this sort. Then I might be able to help you."

"Why, I may be all right, and able to sprint in another half hour,"
smiled Dick.

"Yes, you will!" jeered Greg. "Dick, you won't run for a few
days to come, anyway."

"A nice lot we are, to set out to aid the law's officers," remarked
Dave disgustedly. "Dick can take only a half a step per minute.
Mr. Valden can use only one hand. Greg's head looks gory. The
lot of us couldn't scare a baby now!"

"I can still say, boo!" Prescott laughed.

"Is it wise to try to do so much walking?" questioned Darry, as
Greg went back to the creek to wash the blood from the shallow
cut on his forehead.

"Yes; for I don't want to grow stiff until I'm where I can take
care of myself," Dick answered, taking a few more steps. "No;
don't help me. I want to move alone, and I'm strong enough for
that."

So Dave threw himself on the grass to rest until he bethought
himself that, wet as they all were, it might be a good idea to
build a fire for drying purposes.

He busied himself in that way, while Dick started slowly, very
painfully, down the road. Only a step at a time could he go.
Greg, returning, ran after him, but Prescott sent him back, so
Holmes stretched himself on the ground near the fire.

At times Dick found he could move about very easily. Then the
hip would stiffen and he would be obliged to lean against a tree
for a few moments.

For ten minutes or longer he moved thus down the road.

"I'd better be getting back soon, I guess," he mused, "or I may
find it too much of a job."

Looking back, as he turned, he could just make out the glow of
the fire, very dim, indeed, from where he stood.

"I've got a beacon," smiled Dick, as he rested against a tree
trunk just off the road. He was about to take a step when a figure
glided stealthily by.

"By all that's astonishing, it's Tag Mosher!" Prescott gasped.
He clutched at the tree trunk again, watching, for Tag had halted
and appeared to be peering hard through the foliage at the fire
some distance away.

"I wouldn't want him to find me, now!" thought Dick, a cold chill
running over him at the thought of Tag's desperate savagery.

But at that moment Prescott accidentally made a sound, which,
slight though it was, caught young Mosher's ear.

In a twinkling Tag wheeled about, listening, peering. Then, straight
toward Prescott he came.

"Oh, it's you, is it?" demanded young Mosher harshly.

"Yes," Prescott admitted, speaking as steadily as he could, though
his heart sank for the moment. He knew that Tag would have time
to give him a beating that would be doubly severe in his present
condition of weakness and pain. That beating could be given in
a few swift seconds, and the help within reach of Dick's voice
could not arrive until young Mosher had had time to slip away
among the trees of the forest that he knew so well. "What do
you want with me?" demanded Tag, bringing his leering face closer
to Prescott's.




CHAPTER XIV

THRASHING AN AMBULANCE CASE!


"I want you to stand right where you are until some of my friends
come," Dick made answer.

Then he braced himself for the violent assault that, he felt,
was sure to come. To his intense astonishment, however, Tag heaved
a sigh of dejection, then muttered:

"I may as well do it. You owe me a grudge, anyway, and you've
got the upper hand this time."

What on earth could it mean? For a brief instant Dick almost
believed that the exciting incidents of the night had been but
parts of a dream. But he raised his voice to shout:

"Dave! Oh, Dave! Come here! You, too, Greg."

"Coming," came the call, in Darry's voice. The sound of running
feet sounded on the road.

Tag Mosher glanced uneasily about, as if meditating flight. Then
his keen eyes scrutinized Prescott's face.

"What's up?" demanded Dave, as, even in the darkness he caught
sight of another figure.

"Darry," smiled Dick, "I wish to present my friend, Mr. Tag Mosher."

"What?" gasped Darrin. "This Tag Mosher. By Jove, it is, it?
How on earth did you make him wait for us?"

Then, all in a flying heap Dave projected himself against young
Mosher, clinching with him and bearing him down to the ground.
In order to make doubly sure Greg joined in the assault. But
Tag, though he struggled, did not put up much of a fight.

"Quit!" he ordered sullenly. "I'm all in. Can't you fellows
see that? But if I hadn't been sick I'd either have gotten away,
or would have given you fellows a fight that you'd never forget!"

Quick-witted Dave was not long in discovering that Tag really
was weak, as though from a recent illness.

"Say," demanded Darry, "have we been exerting ourselves to thrash
an ambulance case?" His voice rang with self disgust.

"If I'd been a well one," growled Tag, "you never would have put
me down, or held me. But I'm like a kitten to-night - - strength
all gone!"

"What's going on here?" asked Deputy Valden, putting in a more
leisurely appearance.

"Something right in your line," Dick answered. "Dave and Greg
are holding down Tag Mosher."

"You're not fooling, are you?" demanded the deputy. "You're not
making any mistake, either?"

"We know Tag Mosher when we see him," Darry retorted. "We've
good enough reason for knowing him."

With his uninjured left hand Deputy Valden reached for his pair
of handcuffs, passing them to Dave.

"Here you are, Darrin," said the officer. "You know how to put
these things on, don't you?"

"I can figure the job out, sir," Dave made reply.

Tag submitted, wearily, to having the steel bracelets snapped
over his wrists. Then he heaved a sigh that had something of
a sob in it.

"I let you put these on, but I wish you'd take them off again,"
he said, addressing Valden. "I know I'm bad, and I know I'm tough,
but I never had these things on my hands before. Take 'em off,
won't you? Please!"

Such submission was tame, indeed. Deputy Valden, who had never
seen young Mosher before glanced sharply at young Prescott.

"This fellow doesn't seem much like the hardened criminal I've
been told about," remarked the officer.

"Did Prescott tell you I was tough?" demanded the prisoner. "He
ought to know! He had a touch of my style when I was feeling
better than I feel to-night. I suppose I've been nabbed for helping
myself to a sandwich or two from their camp."

"Do you demand to know why you're under arrest?" inquired Deputy
Valden.

Tag nodded.

"Well, then," continued the deputy, "you're wanted for cracking
the skull of a farmer named Leigh. There's a doubt if Leigh will
live and you may be charged with killing him."

"I? Killed a farmer?" demanded Tag, in what appeared to be very
genuine amazement.

"Leigh says you're the chap that did it," Valden answered.

"I never heard of a man of any such name," argued Tag. "Still,
if he says I did it, oh, well, he ought to know, and I suppose
it will be all right."

"It'll have to be all right - -whatever the courts may do to you,
Mosher," Deputy Valden rejoined curtly. "Darrin, will you help
the prisoner to his feet and lead him back to where the bridge
was? Simmons will expect to find us there when he gets back."

So Darry and Greg Holmes assisted young Mosher to his feet. Dave
took hold of Tag's arm, though the latter did not resist, but
walked along like one in a dream.

"Want any help, Dick?" asked Greg.

"I believe I wouldn't object to having a friendly arm to lean
on," Prescott replied. "I've been standing here so long that
my hip is stiff again."

As the leader of Dick & Co. moved down the road, Tag turned in
astonishment.

"What's the matter?" Tag asked, at last.

"We were in an automobile accident, and I was slightly injured,"
Dick confessed.

"And you can hardly walk?"

"I can walk only with effort and considerable pain," said Dick.

Tag Mosher whistled softly.

"My luck is leaving me," declared Mosher ruefully. "Prescott,
when I saw you and looked you over I didn't see that you are a
cripple. I thought you were in as good shape as ever. As for
me, I can't do much to-night, I'm so weak. I thought that, if
I tried to fight, you'd handle me easily enough. If I ran, I
knew I couldn't run far, and you'd jump on my back and bear me
to the ground. So I thought it easier to let you have your own
way with me. Whee! I didn't do a thing but surrender to a cripple
that ought to be on crutches! My luck is gone!"

This last was said with an air of great dejection, as though Tag
never looked to have any further pleasure in life. Presently
he muttered, half aloud:

"And now they say that I've committed a murder! They'll prove
it on me, too. Tag Mosher, you're done for."

"Anyway, you're in a rather bad fix, young man," confirmed Deputy
Valden. "Even with the best luck you'll be locked up for some
years to come."

"That will kill me!" muttered Tag sullenly. "I can't live anywhere
outside of the big forest. In jail - -why, I'd die of lack of
fresh air! My father, old Bill Mosher, can get along in jail
all right - -he's used to it. But me? The first two weeks behind
bars will kill me!"

"You should have thought of that before you cracked Leigh's skull,"
retorted Deputy Valden.

"I tell you that I didn't do it, and that I never before heard
of a man of that name!" cried Tag Mosher fiercely.

"Leigh says you did," the deputy again informed the prisoner.

"Oh, well, then, we'll say that I did," agreed Tag moodily. "I'm
as good as finished, if the charge has been made. No one around
here would think of believing anything that Tag Mosher might say."

Somehow, despite the unsavory reputation of the prisoner, Dick
Prescott found himself feeling more than ordinary sympathy for
this dejected prisoner. Could it be possible that Tag really
was innocent of this last and most serious charge against him?
It didn't seem likely that the officers had gone after the wrong
young man.

"Tag is bad, and yet there's also good in him that is very close
to the surface," Prescott told himself. "It seems really too
bad to think of this young fellow being locked up, away from the
sunshine and the fresh air of the woods. And yet, if he makes
a sport of manslaughter, of course he'll have to be put away where
he can't do any harm. Oh, dear! I wonder why I feel so much
sympathy for a fellow of this kind?"

They were at the broken bridge, now, with the wreck of the automobile
lying in the creek.

"Mosher," said the deputy sternly, "Officer Simmons suspects that
you believed we'd be after you, and that you tore up some of the
planks from this crazy old bridge, so that our car would be wrecked.
Did you do that?"

"Oh, I suppose I must have," replied Tag, with the air of one
who feels it fruitless to deny what peace officers were prepared
to charge against one of his bad reputation.

"Then you admit damaging the bridge?" asked Valden.

"I admit nothing of the kind," Tag retorted.

"Who ripped the boards up?"

"I don't know."

"We'll prove it against you," declared Valden positively.

"Oh, I s'pose you will," grumbled Tag. "It's easy to prove anything
against old Bill Mosher's son. My dad's where he can't help me."

"Are you going to play the baby act?" asked the deputy,
half-sneeringly.

"Wait until I've had a week of good eating and sound sleeping,
and then see if you can find anything babyish about me," snapped
the prisoner.

Dick Prescott watched the pair, feeling a rising resentment against
the deputy. Yet Valden was only resorting to tricks as old as
the police themselves - -the taunting of a prisoner into talking
too much and thereby betraying his guilt.

"Pardon me, Tag," Dick now interposed, "but it's a principle of
law that a prisoner doesn't have to talk unless he wants to.
I don't believe, if I were you, I'd say anything just now."

"I'm not going to say anything more," Tag retorted moodily, yet
with a flash of somewhat sullen gratitude to Prescott.

"Humph! You'd better talk, and get all you know out of your system,"
advised Deputy Valden contemptuously. "And the first thing you'd
better own up to is pulling the missing planks up from this crazy
old bridge."

Tag snorted, yet had no word to say. Instead, as best he could
with his hands in the steel bracelets, he helped himself to a
seat on the ground his back against a tree. Either he was extremely
weary, or he was pretending cleverly.

"Come! I guess you can talk better standing up," admonished Deputy
Valden, seizing Tag by the coat collar and dragging him to his
feet. Mosher accepted the implied order in sullen silence.

"Is it necessary, Mr. Valden, to torment the prisoner?" asked
Dick quietly.

"The way I handle a prisoner is my business," replied Valden rather
crisply.

"You'd rather sit down, wouldn't you,
Tag?" Dick inquired. Young Mosher answered only with a nod.

"It makes you feel weaker to stand, doesn't it?" Prescott continued.

Another nod.

"Mr. Valden," Dick pressed, "I hope you won't think me too forward,
but I believe this prisoner, and I am going to urge you to let
him find comfort by sitting down and resting."

"What have you got to say about it?" demanded Mr. Valden, so brusquely
that Dick flushed.

"I'm not in a position of authority, and I admit it," Prescott
replied. "But I think I have a right to object when I see a human
being tormented needlessly, haven't I?"

"You have no right to interfere in any way with an officer," rejoined
Valden less brusquely.

"Nor do I intend trying to interfere with a peace officer in anything
proper that he does," Dick went on quietly, though with spirit.
"It seems that Tag Mosher has a right to rest himself by sitting
down. If he tries again to sit down, and if you stop him from
so doing, then Tag, if he wishes, may have me summoned to court
to tell how he was tormented. I'll be willing to tell just whatever
I may see here."

Valden snorted, almost inaudibly, then turned away. Tag slid
down to the ground again, resting against the tree trunk, and
preserving absolute silence.

The time passed slowly, but at last Deputy Simmons came in a car,
followed by another car which contained a young man whom he introduced
as Dr. Cutting.

"I'll take you right back to camp," announced Dr. Cutting, after
Simmons had looked over his prisoner and then introduced the physician
to Prescott. "I can examine you better when I have you at your
summer home and handy to your bed. Can you get into the car?"

"I can use my arms to draw myself up," Dick answered.

"Then let me see how well you can do it," urged the young physician,
stepping back to watch Prescott, yet ready to assist him if necessary.

Dick got himself into the tonneau of the car, after some painful
effort.

"Doc, you'll take the boys back to their camp, won't you?" called
Simmons.

"Certainly."

"And remember, Prescott," called Simmons, "you've been aiding
the county to-night, and the county will pay Doctor Cutting's bill."

Valden and Simmons exchanged some words in an undertone, after
which the latter deputy came over to where Prescott sat.

"Valden tells me you have been interfering between him and Tag
Mosher," began the officer. "How was it?"

Dick gave a quick, truthful account of his interference.

"You did right, Prescott," agreed Simmons, gripping the boy's
hand. "Remember that any citizen has a right to interfere when
he sees a prisoner being abused. Valden is a good fellow at bottom,
and he's a brave fighter in time of real trouble. But he's just
like a lot of other policemen who feel that they have to get all
the evidence in a case. All a peace officer has to do is to find
a criminal and make the arrest. It's the district attorney's
business to get the evidence, but there are a good many peace
officers to whom you can't teach that. Prescott, the next time
you see a prisoner being abused you are to do the same as you
did this time. I hope your hip will soon be all right again.
I'll try to look in on you in a day or two at your camp. Thank
you for what you did for law and order to-night. Good night!"




CHAPTER XV

THE INTERRUPTION OF A TRAINING BOUT


"Hazelton, the trouble with you is that you tackle a dummy just
the way you'd catch a sack of potatoes that was being thrown out
of a burning house!" laughed Dick.

"I don't see any other way to tackle a dummy," grunted Harry,
looking puzzled.

"Why, you are supposed to tackle the dummy just as you'd tackle
a running football player coming toward you," Prescott rejoined.
"Greg, stand off there about fifty yards. At the word, run straight
toward Harry. Hazelton, you grab hold of Holmes and don't let
him get by you. Just hang on, and try to put him on the ground
at that. All ready, Greg! Run. Tackle him, Harry!"

This time Hazelton entered into the play with great zest. Just
in the nick of time he leaped at Greg, tackled him and bore him
to the ground.

"That's the way!" cheered Dick. "Now, you look alive, Hazelton."

"That was because I had something to tackle that was alive," Harry
retorted. "It's much easier to tackle a living fellow than a
stuffed dummy. What's the good of using the dummy, anyway, when
we have plenty of live fellows around here?"

"Oh, the dummy has its uses," Dick replied wisely. "A lot of
faults can be better observed with a dummy for a background than
is the case when you tackle a live one. The dummy is better
for showing up the defects in your work. Now, Reade, you make
a few swift assaults on the dummy."

Tom did his work so cleverly as to call forth admiration from
all the onlookers.

A stout pole had been lashed across the space between two trees,
being made secure in the forks of the lower limbs of the trees.
The dummy itself had been made of old sail canvas and excelsior.
It was not a very impressive-looking object, but it made a good
substitute for the football dummies manufactured by sporting goods
houses.

It was a little more than a week since the night when Tag Mosher
had been captured. Dick's hip which had been pronounced by Doctor
Cutting as only bruised and strained, had now mended so far that
nothing wrong could be observed in his gait. In fact, Prescott
had all but ceased to remember the accident.

For the others, the days had been full of football training, with
long tramps and fishing and berrying jaunts thrown in for amusement.
Now that Tag Mosher was safely locked up in the county jail there


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