H. Irving Hancock.

The High School Freshmen Dick & Co.'s First Year Pranks and Sports online

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"You don't know how to talk to gentlemen," retorted Fred, harshly.

"Be silent, both of you," ordered Thompson, sternly. "You can
do your talking in another way.

"Can't begin too soon for me," uttered Ripley.

"One minute rounds for you, gentlemen," continued Thompson, then
turned to another upper classman, requesting him to hold the watch.
"Now are you ready?"

Ripley grunted, Dick nodded.

"Ready, then! Shake hands!"

"I won't," replied Dick, sturdily, ere Fred could speak. The
latter, though he, too, would have refused, went white with rage.

"Take your places, then," directed Thompson, briskly. "Ready!
Time!"

Fred Ripley put up a really splendid guard as he advanced warily
upon the freshman. Dick's guard, at the outset, was not as good.
They feinted for two or three passes, then Ripley let out a short-arm
jab that caught Dick Prescott on the end of the nose. Blood began
to drip.

Ripley's eyes danced. "I'll black both eyes, too, before I put
you out," he threatened, in a low tone, as he fought in for another
opening.

"Brag's a good dog," retorted Dick, quietly. The blow, though
it had stung, had served to make him only the more cool. He was
watching, cat-like, for Ripley's style of attack. That style
was a good one, from the "scientific" view-point, if Ripley could
maintain it without excitement and all the while keep his wind.

But would he? The freshman, though not much of a lover of fighting,
had made some study of the art. Moreover, Dick had a dogged coolness
that went far in the arena.

Suddenly, Dick let go such a seemingly careless shoulder blow
with his left, straight for Ripley's face, that Fred almost lazily
threw up his right arm to stop it. But to have that right out
of the way was just what Prescott was playing for. Quick as thought
Dick's right flew out, colliding with Ripley's mid-wind with a
force that brought a groan from the taller fighter. Dick might
have followed it up, but he chivalrously sprang back, waiting
for Fred to make the first sign of renewal of combat.

"Time!" came from the boy with the watch.

"Kid, you're going to be all right; you've got your horse-sense
with you," glowed Ben Badger, as he hurried Dick back under a
tree. "Let me see what I can do to stop your nose running quite
so red."

Soon the summons came that took the combatants back to the imaginary
ring. Again they went at it, both sides cautious, for Ripley
was puzzled and a bit afraid. He had not expected this little
freshman to last for a second round. Before the second call of
"time" came Ripley had managed to land two stinging ones on Dick's
left cheek, but the freshman did not go down, nor even wilt under
this treatment. He was proving the fact that he could "take punishment."
Yet Dick did not land anything that hurt his opponent.

"You didn't half try this time," whispered Ben, as he attended
his man in the "corner" under the tree.

"Come on, mucker!" yelled Ripley, derisively, when the two were
summoned for the third round.

"Speak for yourself, fellow," Dick answered, coolly.

"I'm a gentleman, and a gentleman's son," proclaimed Fred, haughtily.
"You're a mucker, and the son of a mucker!"

"Time!"

Dick could stand an ordinary insult with a fair amount of good
nature, when he despised the source of the insult. But now there
was a quiet flash in his eyes that Badger was glad to see.

Ripley started in to rush things. In quick succession he delivered
half a dozen stout blows. Only one of then landed, and that glancingly.
Ripley was puzzled, but he had no time to guess. For Dick was
not exactly rushing, now. He was merely fighting in close, remembering
that he had two striking hands, and that feinting was sometimes
useful.

"A-a-a-h!" The murmur went up, eagerly, as the onlookers saw Prescott
land his right fist in solid impact against Ripley's right eye.
Bump! Before Ripley could get back out of such grueling quarters
Dick had landed a second blow over the other eye. Ripley staggered.
A body blow sent him to his knees. Dick backed off but a few
inches.

"One, two, three, four, five, six - - -" droned off the timekeeper.

Fred Ripley tried to leap up, but, as he did so, Dick's waiting
left caught him a staggering one on the nose that toppled him
over backwards to the ground.

"One, two, three - - -" began the timekeeper, but suddenly broke
off, to call time.

"Prescott, you're a bird!" declared Ben Badger, exultantly, as
he led his man away.

"I wouldn't have gone for him so hard," muttered Dick. "But the
fellow started to get nasty with his mouth. Then it was time
to let him have it."

Frank Thompson went over to Ripley, to see whether the latter
wanted to continue the fight.

"That mucker took an unfair advantage of me, hitting me when I was
getting up," grumbled Fred, who now looked a good deal battered.

"Prescott was right within the rules," declared Thompson. "You
would have done the same thing if you had had the chance."

Fred growled something under his breath.

"Are you coming back to the ring?" demanded the referee.

Ripley hesitated. The yellow streak was strong in him, but he
dreaded letting the others see it.

"I'd rather finish this up some other day," he proposed.

"You know you can't do that," retorted Thompson, disgustedly.
"You either have to come up to the scratch, or admit yourself
beaten."

"Admit myself beaten - -by that mucker?" gasped Ripley, turning
livid.

"Then come up at the call of time," directed Thompson, and strode
back to the battle ground.

The timekeeper called. Dick Prescott returned to his ground.
Ripley stood back, leaning against a tree. He tried hard to
look dignified, but one glance at his nose and eyes was enough
to spoil the effect.

"Coming, Ripley?" demanded Thompson.

"Brace up, man, unless you want to admit your thrashing," urged
Ted Butler.

"I'll attend to that mucker when I feel like it," growled Fred
Ripley.

The form of the remark was unfortunate for the one who made it,
for it caused one of the freshman class to call out exultantly:

"He sure doesn't feel like it just now. Look at him!"

"Come, if you don't hurry in you've get to admit the beating,"
muttered Ted Butler.

Ripley's reply being only a snort, Butler suddenly drew forth
his handkerchief, rolling it rapidly into a ball.

"In default of a sponge," called Butler, "I throw this up for
my man - -I mean principal."

"Ripley being unable to come to the scratch, the fight is awarded
to Prescott," announced Frank Thompson.

"Whoop! Hoo-oo-ray!" The freshmen clustered about were wild with
excitement.

"You'll have a fine time squaring this with the sophomore class,"
uttered Ted Butler, disgustedly. "Your class, Ripley, will be
sore enough, anyway, over losing the paper chase for the first
time that any of us can remember. Now, for a soph to be thrashed,
in three rounds, by a little freshman - - -"

Butler didn't finish, but, turning on his heel, walked over to
join the rest.

There were two sophomores there who had come over at the end of
the paper chase, but neither went to the assistance of his defeated
classman. Ripley, alone, got his sweater back over his head.
The crowd was around Dick Prescott, who felt almost ashamed of
the fight, unavoidable as he knew it to have been.

When he had finished getting his clothes on, Ripley stalked moodily
past the main group.

"You mucker," he hissed, "I suppose you feel swelled up over having
had a chance to fight gentleman. You - - -"

"Oh, Ripley, dry up - -do!" interjected Ted Butler. "You call
yourself a gentleman, but you talk and act more like well, more
like a pup with the mange!"

"A pup with the mange! Great!" came the gleeful chorus from a
half score of freshmen.

"I'm not through with you, yet, Prescott!" Fred Ripley called
back over his shoulder. "I'll settle my score with you at my
convenience!"

Then, as he put more distance between himself and the other Gridley
High School boys, Ripley added to himself:

"That settlement shall stop at nothing to put Dick Prescott in
the dust - -where he belongs."

"Oh, freshie, but you've coolness and judgment," cried Thompson,
approvingly. "And you've broken one cad's heart today."

"I'm sorry if I have," declared Dick, frankly, generously. "I
wouldn't have had any heart in the fight if he hadn't started
in to humiliate me. I wouldn't have cared so much for that, either.
But he started to say something nasty about my parents, and I
have as good parents as ever a boy had. Then I felt I simply
_had_ to fit a plug between Ripley's teeth."

Fred Ripley had pain in his eyes to help keep him awake that
night. Yet he would have been awake, anyway, for his wicked
brain was seething with plans for the way to "get even" with
Dick Prescott.




CHAPTER VI

FRED OFFERS TO SOLVE THE LOCKER MYSTERY


For a week Gridley High School managed to get along without the
presence of Fred Ripley. That haughty young man was at home,
nursing a pair of black eyes and his wrath.

Yet, in a whole week, a mean fellow who is rather clever can hatch
a whole lot of mischief. This Dick & Co., and some others, were
presently to discover.

All outer wraps were left in the basement in locker rooms on which
barred iron doors were locked. In the boys' basement were lockers
A and B. Each locker was in charge of a monitor who carried the
key to his own particular locker room.

As it happened Dick Prescott was at present monitor of Locker A.

If during school hours, one of the boys wanted to get his hat
out of a locker the monitor of that locker went to the basement
with him, unlocking the door, and locking it again after the desired
article of apparel had been obtained.

Thus, in a general way, each monitor was responsible for the safety
of hats, coats, umbrellas, overshoes, etc., that might have been
left in the locker that was in his charge.

Wednesday, just after one o'clock one of the sophomore boys went
hurriedly up the stairs, a worried look on his face. He went
straight to the principal's office, and was fortunate enough to
find that gentleman still at his desk.

"What is it, Edwards?" asked the principal, looking up.

"Dr. Thornton, I've had something strange happen to me, or to
my overcoat, if you prefer to put it that way," replied Edwards.

"What has gone wrong?"

"Why, sir, relying on the safety of the looker, I left, at recess
in one of my overcoat pockets, a package containing a jeweled
pin that had been repaired for my mother. Now, sir, on going
down to my coat, I found the pin missing from the pocket."

"Did you look thoroughly on the floor, Edwards?"

"Yes, sir; hunted thoroughly."

"Wait; I'll go down with you," proposed the principal.

Both principal and student searched thoroughly in the locker.
Dick, as in duty bound, was still there, on guard at the door.

"Mr. Prescott," asked puzzled Dr. Thornton, did any student have
admittance to the locker after recess today?"

"None, sir," answered Dick promptly.

"Hm! And you're absolutely sure, Mr. Edwards, that you left the
little package in your overcoat pocket?"

"Positive of it, Dr. Thornton."

"It's so strange that it startles me," admitted the good principal.

"It startles me a good deal," confessed Edwards, grimly, "to think
what explanation I am to offer my mother."

"Oh, well, it _must_ turn up," replied Dr. Thornton, though vaguely.
"Anyway, Edwards, there has been no theft. The door is locked,
and the only two keys to it are the one carried by the monitor
and a duplicate which is kept locked in my own desk. You'll probably
find it in one of your pockets."

"I have been through every pocket in my clothes at least seven
times, sir," insisted the dismayed Edwards. "And that is a rather
valuable pin," he added; "worth, I believe, something, like fifty
dollars."

"Rest assured that we'll have some good explanation of the mystery
before long," replied the principal as soothingly as he could.

Edwards went away, sore and disheartened, but there was nothing
more to be said or done.

Thursday morning Dr. Thornton carried the investigation further,
but absolutely no light could be shed on the missing pin.

But at recess it was Frank Thompson who came upstairs breathless.

"Dr. Thornton," he cried, excitedly, "it's my own fault, of course,
but I'm afraid I've seen the last of my watch. It's one that
father carried for a good many years, and at last gave me. The
works are not very expensive, but the case was a gold one."

"How did you lose it?" inquired the principal, looking up over
the gold rims of his spectacles.

"Why, I had to hurry to make school this morning, sir, and, as
you know, it's a rather long walk. So I carried my watch in the
little change pocket in my reefer in order to be able to look
at it frequently. I reached the locker just in time not to be
late, and forgot and left my watch in the reefer. When I went
down just now I found the watch gone."

"Oh, but this is serious!" gasped Dr. Thornton, in dismay. "It
begins to look like an assured fact that there is some thief at
work. Yet Prescott alone has a key to that locker."

"Prescott is all right. He's no thief," put in Thompson, quickly.

"I agree with you, Mr. Thompson. I consider Mr. Prescott too
manly a fellow to be mixed up in anything dishonest. Yet something
is wrong - -very wrong. For the safety and good name of us all
we must go to the bottom of this mystery."

That, of course, was all the satisfaction Thompson could expect
at the moment. He went out to the remainder of his recess, feeling
decidedly blue. Nor was Dr. Thornton any less disturbed.

When recess was over, the entire body of students was questioned
in the general assembly room, but no light was forthcoming.

"Of course, in view of what has happened," counseled Dr. Thornton,
"the young gentlemen will do well to leave nothing of value in
their coats in the locker rooms. And while nothing distressing,
has yet happened in the young ladies basement, I trust they will
govern themselves by what has happened on the young men's side."

Dick Prescott felt much concerned over it all, though he did not
imagine that anyone suspected _him_ of any share in the disappearance
of articles of value.

Friday there were no mishaps, for the very simple reason that
no one left anything of value in the locker rooms.

On Monday Fred Ripley was back again. With the aid of a little
help from the druggist the haughty young man presented two eyes
that did not show any signs of having been damaged. Fred himself
offered no comment on his absence. He seemed anxious to be on
especially good terms with all of the upper classmen with whom
he usually associated.

During the first period of the morning Ripley had no recitation
on. He sat at his desk studying. Presently as permitted under
the rules, he whispered softly with the boy seated behind him.

Then, suddenly, Ripley rose and tip-toed down the aisle to the
desk. The principal himself sat there in charge.

"Dr. Thornton," began Ripley, in a low voice, "I was away last
week, and so didn't hear all the school news. I have just learned
about the locker room thefts, and so I'm uneasy. Just as the
bell rang I was having trouble with the pearl and diamond scarf-pin
that I often wear. There wasn't time to adjust it, so I dropped
it in my overcoat pocket. I would like to go down to my coat,
now, and get it."

"Prescott is reciting in IV. Physics," replied Dr. Thornton, rising.
"However, in view of all that has happened, I think we shall
do well to go down and call him out of class. I don't want any
more valuable articles to be missing."

Principal and student went quietly to the floor below. Dr. Thornton
thrust his head into the physics laboratory and quietly called
Dick out, explaining what was wanted.

"You'll come, too, won't you, doctor?" asked Ripley.

The principal nodded without speaking. As the three reached the
barred door, Dick inserted the key, then threw open the door.
Fred marched over to his coat, thrusting his hand into a pocket.

"By thunder, it's gone!" gasped Fred.

In an instant Dr. Thornton bounded into the locker room. He himself
explored every pocket in the boy's coat.

"Strange! strange!" muttered the bewildered principal.

"All the other thefts happened in this locker, didn't they?" inquired
Ripley, suspiciously.

"Yes - -if thefts they were," admitted Dr. Thornton.

"Nothing missing from the other locker room?"

"Nothing."

"Doctor," went on Ripley, as though loath to utter the words,
I hate to suggest anything of the sort. But - -er - -but - -has the
monitor of this locker been searched after any of
the - -er - -disappearances?"

"Ripley, you forget yourself!" cried the principal.

"What do you mean!" flared Dick, in the same breath, turning crimson,
next going very white.

"Doctor, I'm sorry," spoke Ripley, with great seeming reluctance,
"but that pin is a costly one. I ask that the monitor be searched!"




CHAPTER VII

DICK'S TURN TO GET A JOLT


"Ripley, you don't realize what you are saying!" cried Dr. Thornton,
gazing at the sophomore in very evident distress.

"I only know that I'm all broken up, sir, over losing my costly
pin," persisted Fred. "And I know my father will be angry, and
will raise a row at the School Board's meeting."

Dick Prescott, standing by, had turned from scarlet to white,
and back again.

"But Ripley," explained the principal, almost pleadingly, "the
act would be illegal. No one has a lawful right to search the
person of anyone except a properly qualified police officer.
And even the police officer can do so only after he has arrested
a suspected person."

"Oh, then I suppose, sir, there's no show for me to get any real
justice done in this matter," muttered Fred, with an air of feigned
resignation.

But by now Dick Prescott felt that he must speak - -or explode.

"Dr. Thornton," he cried, chokingly, "the charge made against
me, or, at least, implied, is an outrageous one. But, as a matter
of justice to me, now that the hint has been cast, I ask that
_you_, sir, search me right here and now."

"Then you've had time to hide the pin!" muttered Fred, in a very
low voice.

Dick Prescott heard, but he paid no heed to the fellow.

"Dr. Thornton, will you search me - -_now_?" insisted the young
freshman.

"But I don't want to, Prescott," appealed the principal. "I haven't
the remotest suspicion of you, anyway, my dear boy."

"I ask the search, sir, just as a matter of justice," Dick insisted.
"If it were not too strong a word, then I would say that I _demand_
to be searched here and now."

Suiting the action to the word, Dick Prescott, standing proudly
erect, raised both arms over his head.

"Now, please, doctor, just as a matter of simple justice," begged
the young freshman.

"Oh, very well, then, Mr. Prescott," sighed the principal. "But
I never had a more distasteful task."

Into one of the side pockets Dr. Thornton projected a shaking
hand. He drew out only some scraps of paper, which he promptly
thrust back. Then he inserted a hand in the jacket pocket on
the other side.

"Ouch!" suddenly exclaimed the principal, in very real pain.

He drew the hand out, quickly. A drop of blood oozed up at the
tip of his forefinger.

"Mr. Prescott," demanded Dr. Thornton, "what is that pointed object
in your pocket?"

"_What_?" demanded Fred Ripley, tensely.

Dick himself thrust a hand into that pocket, and drew forth - -Fred
Ripley's missing pin.

"What - -why - -who - - -" gasped the freshman, suffocatingly.

"Oh, yes, of course," jeered Fred Ripley. "Astonished, aren't
you - -you mucker?"

The last two words Ripley uttered in so low a tone that the principal,
gazing in horrified fascination at the pin that he now held in
his own hands, did not hear.

"You coward!" cried Dick, hotly, and clenched his fist, intent
on driving it against the sophomore's face.

But Dr. Thornton knew enough about High School boys' fights, to
galvanize himself into action. Like a flash he bounded between
the two boys.

"Here, here, Prescott, none of that!" he admonished.

"I - -I beg _your_ pardon, sir," gasped Dick, in a tone which made
it very plain that he did not include his enemy in that apology.

"May I trouble you for my pin, sir, now that it has been recovered?"
asked Fred, coolly.

"Why - -um! - -that depends," replied Dr. Thornton, slowly, speaking
with a painful effort. "If you, or your father, have or would
have any idea of a criminal prosecution, Ripley, then it would
be improper to return your pin. It would have to be turned over
to the police as an exhibit in evidence. _But_ do you intend
anything of that sort, Mr. Ripley?"

"Why, that's as _you_ say, doctor," replied the sophomore, quickly.
"It's a matter of school discipline, and belongs to your province.
Personally, I know that I would rather not have this matter go
any further."

"I - -I don't know what to do," confessed Dr. Thornton, in anxious
perplexity. "In any event, before doing anything, I think I had
better consult the superintendent and the Board of Education.
Mr. Prescott, I will say, freely, that I am most loath to believe
anything of this sort against you can be possible. There must
be - -must be - -some - -er explanation. I - -I - -don't want you
to feel that I believe your guilt as yet assured. I - -I - - -"

Here Dr. Thornton broke down, dabbing at his eyes with his
handkerchief. Almost unconsciously he passed the pin, which he
was yet holding, to Fred Ripley.

"Lock the locker door, Mr. Prescott - -and give me the key,"
requested the principal.

Dick passed over the key, then spoke, with more composure than
might have been expected under the circumstances:

"Dr. Thornton, I am as innocent of any thieving as you yourself
can be. Sooner or later the right of this will come out. Then
you will realize that I didn't steal anything. I'll prove myself
innocent yet, sir."

"I hope so, my boy, I - -I - -hope so," replied the principal.

As they ascended, Fred Ripley stepped aside to let the other two
go first. He was afraid to have Dick Prescott behind him just
then.

No sooner had the trio entered the general assembly room than
it quickly dawned on all the students of both sexes that something
was unusually wrong.

Dick's face was red as fire. Had he been guilty of the thefts,
he might have been cooler about it all. Conscious innocence often
puts on the appearance of guilt.

Somehow, Dick got to his seat. He picked up a book, mechanically,
and pretended to be deeply absorbed in study.

"What's up?" whispered the fellow seated behind Fred.

Ripley turned enough to raise his eyebrows significantly and let
his questioner see him do it. Instantly all seated near the lawyer's
son became intensely curious.

Wondering glances strayed from over book-tops, even from the far
corners of the big assembly room.

Then the curious glanced at Dr. Thornton so often that the much
disturbed principal soon called another teacher to the desk and
left the room.

At recess, Purcell, of the sophomore class, was found in charge
at the door of Dick's old locker room. Ripley held his tongue
until he was out in the school yard. Then he broke loose before
those who would listen to him - -and the number was large.

Dick & Co. had gathered by themselves in another corner of the
yard. Here, however, they were soon joined by a small mob of
the fellows, especially of the freshman class. Dick had his say.
He didn't want to say much, but he related, in a straightforward
way, what had happened.

"It's one of Fred Ripley's mean tricks," declared one of the freshmen.
"Fred Ripley can't fool anyone. He put that pin in Dick's pocket
himself."

"But two thefts - -two things were missed last week, when Ripley
wasn't at school at all," spoke one boy, in an undertone.

"Yes; that's the queer part of it," agreed another boy. "Ripley
couldn't have had anything to do with those other cases."

This latter was the view that was occurring to Mr. Thornton, as
he sat in the principal's room, poring and pondering over the
whole distressing matter.

Thompson and the other football leaders came trooping over to
Dick & Co. as soon as they heard the noise. Prescott was a hero
with the football crowd. There was no use in telling them anything
against their little freshie hero.

"Prescott, it would look foolish to talk much," declared Thompson,
in a voice that was husky from real emotion. "Just give me your


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