The Grammar School Boys of Gridley
Dick & Co. Start Things Moving
H. IRVING HANCOCK
Author of The Grammar School Boys Snowbound, The Grammar School Boys in the Woods, The High School Boys' Series, The West Point Series, The Annapolis Series, The Young Engineers' Series, The Boys of the Army Series, The Motor Boat Club Series, Etc., Etc.
HENRY ALTEMUS COMPANY
Copyright, 1911, by Howard E. Altemus
I. "Old Dut" Tells a Story—Dick Another 7
II. A Brush on the Street 20
III. Football—Without Rules 39
IV. Ab. Dexter's Temper is Squally 53
V. Football Uniforms in Sight 63
VI. On the Trail of the Cab 73
VII. Dick Leads a Spirited Rush 80
VIII. Two Accidents—Or Traps? 90
IX. An Awesome River Discovery 104
X. A Problem in Footprints 115
XI. Dan Sees Bears—In His Mind 124
XII. The Boy With the Oakum Taste 130
XIII. A Great Football Pow-Pow 142
XIV. Dick Steps Into a Death-Trap 154
XV. What Grammar School Boys Can Do 161
XVI. Out for Hallowe'en Fun 170
XVII. The Newest Trick of All 180
XVIII. Carrying Fun To the Danger Limit 187
XIX. Ben Wants To Know Who "Blabbed" 198
XX. Dick's Accuser Gets Two Answers 208
XXI. Ab. Dexter Makes a New Move 218
XXII. Tricked Into Bad Company 226
XXIII. Dick Makes His Stand for Honor 235
XXIV. Conclusion 247
The Grammar School Boys of Gridley
"OLD DUT" TELLS A STORY—DICK ANOTHER
"Master Prescott, what are you doing?"
The voice of Mr. E. Dutton Jones rasped out rather sharply, jarring on the generally studious air of the eighth-grade room of the Central Grammar School.
"What were you doing, Master Prescott?" repeated the stern voice of the principal.
Dick Prescott had glanced up, somewhat startled and confused. By this time every boy's and girl's eyes had turned away from text-books toward Dick Prescott.
"I was whispering, sir," confessed Dick.
"Oh, was that all?" demanded the somewhat ironical voice of Mr. E. Dutton Jones, more commonly known as "Old Dut."
"To whom were you whispering?"
"To Master Hazelton."
"If I am intruding on no confidences, what were you whispering about?" continued Old Dut.
"I——" began Dick, and then his face turned still more red under the curious gaze of some fifty boys and girls. "I was telling Master Hazelton a funny story."
"Do you think it was very funny?" inquired Old Dut.
"The story? Yes, sir."
The broad grin that promptly spread over Harry Hazelton's face seemed to confirm Dick's claim as to the humorous quality of the story.
"Master Prescott," adjudged the principal, "you may rise in your seat and tell the story to the whole class, myself included. On this dull, rainy day I feel certain that we all need a good laugh."
A smile that grew to a titter in some quarters of the room greeted Dick as he struggled half-shamefacedly to his feet.
"Go on with the story," encouraged Old Dut. "Or, rather, begin at the beginning. That's the right way to serve up a story."
"I—I'd rather not tell the story, sir," protested young Prescott.
"Why not?" demanded the principal sharply.
"Well, because, sir—I'd rather not. That's all."
Principal Jones frequently employed that grilling way of questioning one of his pupils, and his implied sarcasm had a very effective way of making young offenders squirm before the class.
Whispering, in itself, is not a criminal offense, yet it often has a sad effect on the discipline of a schoolroom, and of late Old Dut had been much annoyed by whisperers.
"So you won't tell us all that choice story, eh, Master Prescott?" insisted the principal, half coaxingly.
"On account of its being such a very personal one I'd rather not, sir," Dick answered, still standing by his desk. "I might hurt some one's feelings."
"Too bad!" murmured Old Dut. "And just after we had all been enlivened by the hope of hearing something really funny! I know your rare quality of humor, Master Prescott, and I had promised myself a treat. My own disappointment in the matter may be cured, but what about the boys and girls of this class? I know that they are all still eager to hear a really funny story."
Old Dut paused, glancing impressively about the room. Dick, shifting first to one foot and then to the other, had not yet succeeded in parting with much of the fiery color that had flamed up to his cheeks, temples and forehead.
"Master Prescott," announced the principal, "the class shall not be deprived of its expected treat. I will tell a story, and I think you will find some of the elements of humor in it. Will you kindly step this way?"
Dick went forward, head up and chest thrown out, a look almost of defiance in his clear, blue eyes as a titter ran around the room.
"Stand right here beside me," coaxed Old Dut. "Now, let me see if I can remember the story. Yes; I believe I can. It runs something like this."
Then Old Dut began his story. It was a very ordinary one that had to do with a boy's disobedience of his father's commands. But it had a "woodshed" end to it.
"So," continued Old Dut, "Johnson took his boy out to the shed. There, with a sigh as though his heart were breaking, the old man seated himself on the chopping block. He gathered his son across his knee—about like this."
Here Principal Jones suddenly caught Dick Prescott and brought that lad across his own knee. The expectant class now tittered loudly.
"I can't tell this story unless I have quiet," announced Old Dut, glancing up and around the room with a reproachful look.
Then, after clearing his throat, the principal resumed:
"'Johnny,' said the old man huskily, 'I know what my duty in the matter really is. I ought to give you a good spanking, like this (whack!). But I haven't the heart to give you such a blow as you deserve. (Whack!) But the next time (whack!), I'm going to give you (whack!) just such a good one (whack! whack!) as you deserve. (Whack! whack!) So, remember, Johnny (whack!), and don't let me catch you (whack!) disobeying me again. (Whack! whack!)."
Each "whack" Old Dut emphasized by bringing down his own broad right hand on Dick's unprotected body.
A few flashing eyes there were in the young audience, and a few sympathetic glances from the girls, but, for the most part, the class was now in a loud roar of laughter.
"That's the story," announced Old Dut, gently restoring Dick Prescott to his feet. "I think you all see the point to it. Perhaps there's a moral to it, also. I really don't know."
Pallor due to a sense of outraged dignity now struggled for a place in the red that covered Dick Prescott's face.
"You may go to your seat, Master Prescott."
Dick marched there, without a glance backward.
"Now, that we've had our little indulgence in humor," announced Old Dut dryly, "we will all return to our studies."
There was silence again in the room, during which the rain outside began to come down in a flood.
"I'll get the fellows to-night—for that—and we'll carry Old Dut's front gate off and throw it in the river!" ran vengefully through Dave Darrin's mind.
"Old Dut needn't look for his late posies to bloom until the frost comes this year," reflected Greg Holmes, while he pored, apparently, over the many-colored map of Asia. "I'll get some of the fellows out to-night, and we'll make a wreck scene in Old Dut's flower beds."
Dick said nothing, even to himself, as he picked up his much-thumbed book on physiology and turned the pages. He was smarting not only from the indignity to which he had been treated, but quite as much from the masterful way in which Old Dut had punctuated that "funny story" with his broad right hand.
Once in a while Old Dut cast a sly glance in Dick's direction.
"That young man will bear watching," mused the principal, as he caught a sudden flash in Prescott's eye, as the latter glanced up.
The recitation in arithmetic soon came along. This was one of Dick's favorite studies, and, wholly forgetting his late experience, so it seemed, he covered himself with glory in his blackboard demonstration of an intricate problem in interest and discount.
Then the class settled down to twenty minutes' more study.
"Master Prescott," broke in Old Dut's voice, at last, "did you think my story a funny one?"
"Pretty fair, sir," answered Dick, looking up and straight into the eyes of the principal.
"Only 'pretty fair,' eh? Could you tell me a funnier story?"
"I'm pretty sure I could, yes, sir," answered Dick, with great promptness. "Only—I don't believe I'm big enough yet!"
There was a moment's hush. Then the class caught the spirit of the answer. A few titters sounded, cautiously—to be followed instantly by an explosion of laughter. Even Old Dut had to join in the laugh.
"That young man will bear watching," thought the principal grimly. "He's my best pupil, and one of the most mischievous. I'd rather have any youngster mischievous than stupid."
Glancing at the clock, Principal Jones swung around, running a finger down a line of push buttons in the wall back of his seat. In this fashion did he announce to the schoolrooms of the seven lower grades that morning recess time had come. Then he swung back.
"Attention, class!" he called. Tap! sounded a bell. The eighth-grade boys and girls rose, standing by their seats.
Tap! At the second bell the lines filed out in orderly fashion to the coatrooms, at the sides of the schoolroom.
But many of the young people soon came back. It was raining heavily outdoors on this September morning. True, the boys' and girls' basements served as playrooms in bad weather, but the basements were always crowded at such times, and many of the young people preferred to pass the recess time in the schoolroom.
"Old Dut's getting rather too fresh these days," growled Greg Holmes to his chum. Then whispered in Dick's ear:
"We'll get hunk with him to-night. Some of us will go around and play the wreck scene in his flower gardens."
"Nothing doing," retorted Dick briefly.
"I know a good one," whispered Dave Darrin, his dark eyes flashing with anticipated mischief. "We'll switch Old Dut's new gate off and play Moses in the bulrushes at the river bank."
"Say," demanded Dick, gazing curiously at his tempters, "since when have you thought I don't know enough to pay back my own grudges!"
"Have you got a scheme?" demanded Tom Reade eagerly, while Harry Hazelton and Dan Dalzell, sure that Dick had a "corker" of a scheme, grinned as happily as though they had already seen it put through with a rush.
"Have you got a scheme?" insisted Dave.
"Maybe," replied Dick evasively.
"Any of you fellows going down to the basement?" asked Hazelton after a moment.
"What's the use?" questioned Dick. "Tramp down three flights of stairs, and then climb the flights again in ten minutes."
With that Dick sauntered into the schoolroom. Old Dut was seated at his desk, a half dozen of the girls standing about, eating apples or candy, and talking with the principal.
"Only girls over there by Prin's desk," thought Dick with some dissatisfaction. He wandered about for a few minutes, but at last went up to Old Dut's desk as though being reluctantly drawn there by some magnet.
"Get next," nudged Dave Darrin, poking Hazelton in the side. As Dave sauntered over to the desk Harry followed. Tom Reade seemed interested in the scene. Greg Holmes and Dan Dalzell strolled over, arm in arm.
Seeing such an invasion of boys, the girls gave back for a few feet, though they did not quit the scene.
"Funny the Detroits didn't win the championship this year, isn't it?" Dick asked innocently.
"The Detroits haven't any show," returned Darrin half disgustedly. "They've got nearly a month to play yet, but the Detroits are no good this year."
"If all the Detroits were in a class with Pendleton, their new pitcher, this year," Dick contended, "the Detroits would show class enough."
Old Dut looked up with interest. A thoroughly skilled and capable teacher, he had always believed in encouraging sports and athletics.
"That Pendleton fellow is more than a wonder with a ball," Dick went on warmly. "I saw him pitch a game against the New Yorks this summer, and I dreamed about it for a week after."
"What's Pendleton's strong point?" followed up Dave Darrin.
"Everything in the pitching line," Dick answered.
"But what is his best point of all, Prescott?" broke in Old Dut.
Even that experienced school principal had tumbled into the trap that Dick Prescott had so ingeniously laid for him.
"Well, sir," replied Dick, wheeling around to the principal, every trace of resentment gone from his young face, "I should say that Pendleton's most noticeable trick is the way he twists and handles the ball when he's getting ready to drive in his curve. I watched Pendleton's work that day, and I think I stole the principle on which he uses his right wrist."
"Show me," unsuspiciously invited Old Dut.
Dick started to curve an imaginary ball in his right hand, then glanced over the principal's desk. A small, but thick, heavy book lay there.
"Well, I should say," Prescott resumed, "that Pendleton handles the ball about like this."
Picking up the book, Dick used both hands in trying to give it the right preliminary curve.
"But his delivery is, of course, the great feature," the lad went on. "When Pendleton has the ball curved just right, he raises his right and lets it go like this!"
Dick was facing the bevy of girls. They were so certain he was going to hurl the book in their direction that they scattered with little cries of alarm.
So forcefully had young Prescott prepared for the throw that the book did leave his hand, though the boy made a frantic effort—apparently—to recover the missile.
Not toward the retreating girls, however, did the book fly. It spun nearly at right angles, and——
Smack! it went, full into the face of Principal E. Dutton Jones.
"Oh, I beg your pardon, sir!" cried Dick in a voice ringing with remorse. "That must hurt you very much, sir."
"It is nothing," replied Old Dut gamely, though the unexpected shock had nearly taken his breath. Then he put one hand up to his injured face. "Why, I believe my nose is bleeding," he added, making a quick dive for his handkerchief.
In truth the nose was bleeding. Old Dut made a specialty of low-cut vests and white, immaculate shirt-fronts. Before the handkerchief was in place, three bright, crimson drops had fallen, rendering the shirt-front a gruesome sight to look at.
"Oh, sir, I hope you will excuse me," followed up Dick.
"Oh, yes; certainly," dryly returned the principal, as he rose and made for his private room. There was a handbowl in there, with hot and cold water, and the principal of the Central Grammar School of Gridley was soon busy repairing his personal appearance.
No sooner had he vanished behind the open door than Dave Darrin, Tom Reade, Dan Dalzell, Greg Holmes, Harry Hazelton and several other boys grinned broadly in their huge delight. Dick Prescott, however, admirable actor that he was, still wore a look of concern on his rather fine young face.
"One thing I've learned to-day, which I ought to have known before," grimly mused Old Dut, as he sopped a wet towel to his injured nose. "Dick Prescott doesn't need any guardian. He can look out for himself!"
"Wasn't it awful?" repeated a girl's voice out in the schoolroom.
"No," replied her companion. "I don't think it was. After what he did it served him just right!"
"I'm getting the usual sympathy that is awarded to the vanquished," smiled Old Dut to himself. "That's Laura Bentley's voice. She didn't laugh when I was having my innings with Dick. She flushed up and looked indignant."
Before Old Dut felt that he was in shape to present himself, all of the eight grades had received seven minutes' additional recess.
At last studies were resumed. Old Dut, however, noted that whenever one of the boys or girls looked up and caught sight of his expansive, crimsoned shirt-front, a smile always followed.
A BRUSH ON THE STREET
By the time that the noon dismissal bell rang the rain had ceased, and the sun was struggling out.
Out in the coatroom Dick snatched his hat from the nail as though he were in haste to get away.
"I'll race you home, as far as we go together," proposed Dave Darrin.
"Go you!" hovered on the tip of Prescott's tongue, but just then another thought popped into Dick's mind. It was a manly idea, and he had learned to act promptly on such impulses.
"Wait a moment," he answered Darrin. "I've got something to do."
With that Dick marched back into the schoolroom. Old Dut, looking up from the books that he was placing in a tidy pile on the platform desk, smiled.
"I came back to ask, sir, if your nose pains?"
Old Dut shot a keen glance at young Prescott, for long experience had taught the school-teacher that malice sometimes lurks behind the most innocent question from a boy. Then he answered:
"I'm glad to be able to report, Master Prescott, that my nose is causing me no trouble whatever."
"I'm very glad of that, sir. I've been a bit uncomfortable, since recess, thinking that perhaps my—that my act had broken your nose, and that you were just too game to let any one know. I'm glad no real harm was done, sir."
Then Dick turned, anxious to get out into the open as quickly as possible.
"One moment, Master Prescott!"
Dick wheeled about again.
"Are you sure that the book-throwing was an accident?"
"I—I am afraid it wasn't, sir," Dick confessed, reddening.
"Then, if you threw the book into my face on purpose, why did you do it!"
"I was a good deal provoked, Mr. Jones."
"Oh! Provoked over the funny story that I told you this forenoon?"
"Not over the story, sir; but your manner of telling it."
Old Dut had hard work to keep back the smile that struggled for an appearance on his face.
"Revenge, was it, Master Prescott?"
"Well, I felt that it was due me, Mr. Jones, to get even for the show that you made of me before the class."
"Master Prescott, we won't go into the details of whether I was justified in illustrating my story this morning in the manner that I did, or whether you were right in coming back at me after the fashion that you did. But I am going to offer one thought for your consideration. It is this—that the man who devotes too much thought to 'getting even' with other folks is likely to let slip a lot of good, solid chances for getting ahead in the world. I don't blame any fellow for protecting his own rights and dignity, but just think over what I said, won't you, about the chap who spends too much of his time thinking up ways to get even with others?"
"There's a good idea in that, sir," Dick assented.
"Of course you've heard, Master Prescott, that 'revenge is sweet?'"
"Yes; I have."
"And I believe, Master Prescott, that the saying is often true. But did it ever strike you, in this connection, that sweet things often make one sick at his stomach? I believe this is just as true of revenge as it is of other sweets. And now run along, or you won't have time to do justice to the pudding that your mother has undoubtedly been baking for you this morning."
As Dick hastened from the room he found Dave Darrin waiting for him. Out in the corridor beyond these two encountered Holmes, Dalzell, Hazelton and Reade, for these six boys of the "top grade" generally stuck together in all things concerning school life.
"Was Old Dut blowing you up for showing him how to pitch a book?" inquired Greg.
"No; Old Dut doesn't seem to hold that in for me very hard," smiled Prescott. "But he was giving me something to think over."
"Huh!" muttered Greg, as the boys walked down the outer steps. "I'd like to give him something to think about. Why did you get so crusty when I sprang the idea of doing the wreck scene in his flower beds to-night?"
"Because the idea was too kiddish," returned Dick. "Besides, Old Dut was talking to me a good deal along such lines."
"Did you go and tell him what I wanted to do?" flared Greg.
"I didn't. But Old Dut pinned me down and asked me whether that book throwing were really an accident, and I had to admit that it wasn't. Now, listen!"
Dick thereupon repeated his conversation with Principal Jones.
"He's a wise man, all right," nodded Harry Hazelton.
"I guess so," nodded Dave Darrin. "After all, it would look rather kiddish in us to go slipping up to his front yard in the dark night, lifting off his front gate and carrying it down to the river."
"It would be stealing, or wasting, property, also," agreed Tom Reade.
"So, fellows," resumed Dick, "I guess——"
"Hullo! What's going on down there?" broke in Darrin hastily, as all six of the Grammar School boys looked ahead.
A woman's scream had caught their ear.
"It's Mrs. Dexter," muttered Hazelton.
"And that rascally husband of hers," added Greg Holmes.
"Some new row, of course," broke in Dan Dalzell.
"It's a shame!" burst from Dick.
"That Dexter fellow ought to be hung," growled Tom Reade. "He's always bothering that woman, and she's one of the nicest ever. But now he won't let her alone, just because her grandfather had to die and leave Mrs. Dexter a lot of money."
The little city of Gridley was quite familiar with the domestic troubles of the Dexters. The woman was young and pretty, and good-hearted. Abner Dexter, on the other hand, was good-looking and shiftless. He had married Jennie Bolton because he believed her family to be wealthy, and Dexter considered himself too choice for work. But the Bolton money had all belonged to the grandfather, who, a keen judge of human nature, had guessed rightly the nature of Abner Dexter and had refused to let him have any money.
Dexter had left his wife and little daughter some two years before the opening of this story. Three months before old man Bolton had died, leaving several hundred thousand dollars to Mrs. Dexter. Then Dexter had promptly reappeared. But Mrs. Dexter no longer wanted this shiftless, extravagant man about, and had told him so plainly. Dexter had threatened to make trouble, and the wife had thereupon gone to court and had herself appointed sole guardian of her little daughter. At the same time she had turned some money over to her husband—common report said ten thousand dollars—on his promise to go away and not bother her again.
Plainly he had not kept his word. As Dick and his chums glanced down the quiet side street they saw husband and wife standing facing each other. The man was scowling, the woman half-tearful, half-defiant. Behind her, in her left hand, Mrs. Dexter held a small handbag.
"I'd like to be big enough to be able to enjoy the pleasure of thrashing a fellow like that Dexter!" growled Dave Darrin, his eyes flashing.
"There's a man standing a little way below the pair," announced Dick. "I wonder what he's doing, for he seems to be watching the couple intently. I hope he's on Mrs. Dexter's side."
Unconsciously Dick and his friends had halted to watch the proceedings ahead of them.
"No, I won't," replied Mrs. Dexter sharply, to something that her husband had said.
Abner Dexter talked rapidly, a black scowl on his face meanwhile.
"No, you won't! You don't dare!" replied the woman, her voice sounding as though she had summoned all her courage by an effort.
Dexter suddenly sprang closer to the woman. The next instant both were struggling for possession of the little black bag that she carried.
"Stop!" cried Mrs. Dexter desperately. "Help! He-lp!"
"Fellows, I don't know that we're bound to stand for that," muttered Dick Prescott quickly. "She's calling for help. Come along."
Dick was off down the street like a streak, the others following, though Dave was closest to his chum.
"Here, what are you doing, mister?" demanded Dick, as he darted up to where the pair were struggling.
Dexter would have had the bag in his own possession by this time, had he not turned to see what the onrush of boys meant.
"None of your business what I'm doing," he replied savagely. "You schoolboys run along out of this."
"Don't go! Help me," pleaded the woman. "He's trying to rob me!"
"You boys clear out, or it will be worse for you!" growled Dexter.
"The lady wins!" Dick announced coolly, though he was shaking somewhat from excitement. "You let go of her and her property."
But Dexter, his face black with scowls, still clutched tightly with his right hand at the little handbag, to which Mrs. Dexter was clinging with both her hands.
"You let go of that bag," challenged Dick, "or six of us will sail into you. I think we can handle you. We'll try, anyway."
"Yes; make him let go," begged Mrs. Dexter. "I have money and jewels here, and he is trying to take them away from me."
"Going to do as the lady wishes?" inquired Dick, stepping closer.
Abner Dexter shot another angry glare at the sextette of Grammar School boys. They were closing in around him, and it looked as though they meant business.
"Gus!" called Dexter sharply.
The man who had been standing a short distance away now ran up to the spot.
"Hullo, what do you want!" asked Dick coolly. "Are you the understudy in this game of robbery?"
"I'm an officer," retorted the fellow sharply.
"Secretary to some Chinese laundry company, eh?" jeered Dick.
"I'm a police officer," retorted the man sharply, at the same time displaying a shield.
That put a different look on matters with some of young Prescott's friends. Dick, however, was a boy not easily daunted.
"If you're an officer," he inquired, "why don't you get busy and do your duty? Here's a man trying to rob his wife, just because she happens to have more money than he has."
"A man can't legally steal from his wife, nor a woman from her husband," retorted the policeman bullyingly. "There is no crime being committed here. But if you boys try to interfere you'll be disturbing the peace, and I'll run you all in."
Mrs. Dexter looked bewildered and frightened. She even let go of the handbag with one hand. Dick saw this, and quickly broke in:
"Mrs. Dexter, don't you let Mr. Dexter have that handbag unless you want to do it. We'll stand by you."
"Oh, will you?" glared the policeman. "You boys run along, or I'll gather you all in."
"Where are you a policeman?" inquired Dick Prescott, eyeing the fellow with interest. "You're not a Gridley officer, for I know every one of them."
"Never you mind where I'm from," jeered the man harshly. "I'm a policeman. That'll have to be enough for you youngsters. If you don't trot fast down the street I'll gather you in."
Some of Dick's chums were now inclined to feel that they had broken in at the wrong place, but not so their young leader.
"You haven't any right to make arrests in Gridley," retorted Dick defiantly. "And, even if you had, you couldn't stop us from defending a woman. Tom, you and Greg stand by me. Dave, you lead the rest. We'll make Dexter let go of his wife's property and let her alone. If this man who says he's an officer interferes, Greg, Tom and I will devote our attention to him!"
"Great!" snarled Dexter jeeringly. "You're all young jailbirds!"
"Are you going to let go of Mrs. Dexter's property?" challenged Dick.
"Come on, fellows—let's sail into him."
Dick was an able general, having his small force under good discipline. There was a sudden rush of boys. True, they averaged only thirteen years of age, but there were six of them, and they were determined.
Dexter let go of the handbag in a hurry. He had to do so, in order to defend himself.
At the same moment the man named as "Gus" jumped into the fray.
"Three to each man!" yelled Dick, and thus the force was divided.
The self-styled policeman reached out with the flat of his hand, knocking Greg Holmes off his feet. But, as he did so, Dick dropped down in front of the man, wrapping both arms around the fellow's knees. Then Dick rose. It required the exertion of all his strength, but he succeeded in toppling Gus over onto his back.
At the same time Abner Dexter was having all he could do, for three very determined schoolboys were assailing him. At last Dexter turned to retreat, but Dan Dalzell thrust a foot before him and tripped him.
"All down!" yelled Dan. "Set 'em up in the other alley!"
Though downed for the moment, the two men were disposed to make a livelier fight of it than ever. It was a brisk, picturesque, rough-and-tumble fight that followed, in which the young boys got a deal of rough handling.
Frightened, yet fascinated, Mrs. Dexter tottered against the fence and stood looking on.
Things might yet have fared badly with Dick and his friends had not a newcomer arrived on the scene. He came running, and proved to be Policeman Whalen in uniform.
"Here! What's on?" demanded the Gridley officer. "Let up on kicking them boys! I want you!"
With that Whalen, who was a big and powerful man, grabbed Abner Dexter by the coat collar and pulled him to his feet. With this prisoner in tow, he moved up and seized Gus in similar fashion.
"Now, what's the row?" demanded Officer Whalen.
"Arrest these boys for assault!" quivered Dexter in a passion.
"Yes, arrest them!" insisted Gus. "I'm an officer, too, and I was trying to take them in."
"You didn't seem to be having very good luck at it," grinned Whalen. "But I know these boys, and they're all good lads."
"Arrest them, just the same! They were assaulting me," insisted Dexter angrily.
"And what were you doing?" insisted Whalen wonderingly.
"He was trying to steal jewels and money from his wife," interposed Dick Prescott.
"Bah!" growled Dexter. "A man can't steal from his wife."
"But he can assault her," returned Policeman Whalen. "And a man can disturb the peace with his wife, just as handily as he can anywhere else. Mrs. Dexter, are these lads telling the truth?"
"Oh, yes, officer! My husband was trying to take this satchel away from me, and he knew that it contains my jewels and thirty-five hundred dollars in cash."
"Do you want him arrested?"
"Yes; I—I'm afraid I shall have to have him arrested, or he'll go right on annoying me."
"Will you appear against him, Mrs. Dexter?"
"Then I'll take him along. And what about this fellow?"
"Me?" demanded Gus with offended dignity. "I'm a police officer."
"What's your name?"
"Where are you a policeman?"
"Why were you lads fighting Officer Driggs?" inquired Whalen blandly.
Dick supplied some of the details, Dave others. Mrs. Dexter confirmed the statements that they made.
"I guess I'll take you along, too, Driggs," announced Policeman Whalen.
"But I'm a police officer!" protested Driggs aghast.
"Police officers can be arrested like anyone else, when they break the law," announced Policeman Whalen dryly. "Come along, the two of you! Mrs. Dexter, you wouldn't like to be seen walking along with us, but I'll ask you to be at the station house inside of five minutes."
"I'll be there, officer," promised the woman.
"Do you want us, too?" inquired Dick. He and all of his friends were eager to see the affair through to the finish.
"No; I know where to find you lads, if you're wanted," grinned Policeman Whalen. "I don't want a big crowd following. Mrs. Dexter, ma'am, I'll be looking for you to be on hand sharp."
With that the broad-backed policeman started off with two savage prisoners in tow.
"Say, if we're to have any dinner and get back to school on time, we'll have to be moving fast," declared Dan Dalzell.
"I thought we were surely going to get into a lot of trouble," muttered Hazelton, as the youngsters moved along rapidly. "But Whalen knew his business."
"I hope the judge can send that Dexter fellow up for a good, long time," muttered Dick. "He's been annoying that poor woman all the time lately."
"Just because she has her grandfather's money at last," grumbled Dave Darrin.
Soon the youngsters came to a point where they had to separate. But all hands were back at school on time. The work of the afternoon was duly progressing when the telephone bell at the principal's desk rang.
Old Dut held what proved to be a mysterious conversation for a few moments. Then he wound up with:
"All right. I'll send them right over."
Ringing off, Old Dut glanced at Dick.
"Master Prescott, it appears that you, Darrin, Reade, Holmes, Dalzell and Hazelton saw some trouble on the street this noon."
"All six of you are wanted, at once, down at court, to give evidence. You are excused. If you get through at court early enough, come back to finish your afternoon's work."
Six Grammar School boys rose and filed out quietly. How enviously the other boys in the room stared after them! How curiously the girls glanced at the young heroes who were now wanted on the government's business!
"Say," ventured Dan as soon as they got outside, "I hope the judge orders Dexter hanged."
"He'll hardly do that," retorted Dave. "A street row is hardly a hanging offense. If it were, there'd be a lot of fellows missing from the Central Grammar School."
"So we're called in to help decide the case?" asked Greg, puffing up.
"Oh, get busy with some brains!" scoffed Dick airily. "We haven't anything to do with deciding the case. That's what the judge is paid for. But we're wanted just to tell what we know. Say, you fellows, be careful you don't get so rattled that you try to tell a lot of things that you don't know."
In due time they reached the court building. Grown suddenly very quiet and almost scared, these six thirteen-year-old boys filed upstairs. A policeman stood before the door of the courtroom.
"May we go in?" whispered Dick.
"Of course," nodded the policeman. "Take your hats off."
The officer conducted the sextette of young witnesses inside, past a group or two of loungers who made up the usual police-court audience, and thence on before the bench.
At one side, at this end of the room, sat Dexter and Driggs. Right in front of the clerk of the court were seated Mrs. Dexter and a lawyer. Officer Whalen lounged near the two prisoners.
"These are the lads, your honor," nodded Policeman Whalen, after giving Dick & Co. a keen looking over.
"Swear them, Mr. Clerk," said the Justice.
Solemnly the six youngsters held up their right hands and took the oath. Then Justice Lee began to question them. From Dick, first, he drew out the story of the dispute in the street. Then the others told the same story.
"Why did you boys interfere?" asked the justice of Prescott.
"Because, sir," Dick answered, "we didn't want to see a woman ill-treated on the street."
"A very good reason," nodded Justice Lee approvingly. "But weren't you afraid of Driggs, here, who is really a police officer?"
"No, sir; I didn't believe that a police officer had any more right than any one else to break the law."
"You boys have acted very sensibly," nodded Justice Lee. "Dexter, do you wish to question any of these young witnesses?"
Dexter shook his head, scowling.
"Do you, Driggs?"
"No, your honor. 'Twouldn't be any use."
"You're right about that, I imagine," nodded the justice. "Boys, the court wishes to express its pleasure over your good sense, and to praise you for your chivalry and courage. You did just right—as the court hopes you will always do under similar circumstances. Dexter, stand up. Driggs, also."
The two prisoners arose, sullen enough in their appearance.
"Dexter, you have been guilty of disturbing the peace. I do not believe a mere fine sufficient in your case. I therefore sentence you to serve thirty days in jail. Driggs, your primary offense was about as great as Dexter's, but your offense is worse, for you are a police officer, and you tried to throw the strength of your position around the acts of the prisoner. The court therefore sentences you to sixty days in jail."
"We both wish to appeal, your honor," cried Dexter, his face aflame.
"Dexter's bail will then be fixed at two hundred dollars; Driggs's at four hundred dollars. Are you prepared to furnish bail?"
"I will furnish the cash for both of us," announced Abner Dexter, drawing a roll of banknotes from a pocket.
Mrs. Dexter and her lawyer filed out while this matter was being arranged with the clerk of the court. Dick and his friends, at a sign from the court, left the room as soon as they had received their fees as witnesses.
"So he pays the money, Dexter does, and walks out?" grunted Dan Dalzell.
"Oh, no," Dick answered. "Dexter and his friend have to be tried over again in a higher court. That money is just their forfeit in case they don't show up for trial."
"They won't," predicted Greg.
"I don't know," murmured Dick. "Six hundred dollars would be a lot of money to lose."
By hastening, the Grammar School boys were back in school for the last hour of the session.
School was out for the day. Three quarters of the boys belonging to the four upper grades made a bee line for a field about a block away. The magnet was a football that Dave Darrin proudly carried tucked under his left arm.
"I wanter play!"
"Let me try just one good kick with it, Dave!"
"Take a stroll," advised Darrin laconically. "How can I blow up the ball and talk to you fellows, too?"
"Hurry up, then. We want to give the ball a fierce old kick."
"No kids in this," announced Dave, rather loftily. "Only fellows in the eighth and seventh grades. Fellows in the grades below the seventh are only kids and would get hurt."
"That isn't fair!"
The protests were many and vigorous from sixth and fifth-grade boys, but Darrin, ignoring them all, went placidly on inflating the pigskin. At last the task was completed.
"Hurrah! Now, Dave, give it a boost and let us all have some fun!" cried the boys. But Darrin coolly tucked the ball under one arm.
"Dick Prescott has a few remarks to make first," Dave announced.
"Dick going to make a speech?"
"Cut it, and start the ball moving!"
"Won't you fellows interrupt your music lessons long enough to listen to an idea that some of us have been talking over?" called Dick. "Now, fellows, you know this is the time when the crack Gridley High School football team is hard at work. We're all proud of the Gridley High School eleven. A lot of you fellows expect to go to High School, and I know you'd all like a chance to play on Gridley High's eleven."
"Set the ball moving!"
"Wait a minute," Dick insisted. "Now, fellows, no Grammar School in Gridley has ever had an eleven."
"How could we," came a discontented wail, "if we have to stand here and see Dave just do nothing but hold the ball?"
"Fellows," Dick went on impressively, "it's time to have Grammar School football teams here in Gridley. Central Grammar ought to have one, North Grammar one and South Grammar one. Then our three Grammar Schools could play a championship series among themselves."
"Hooray! Give the ball a throw, Dave!"
"So, fellows," Dick continued, "a lot of us think we ought to organize a football team at once. Then we can challenge North Grammar and South Grammar. We can practise the rest of this month, and next month we can play off our games. What do you say?"
"We'll have two teams," called Dave. "We'll call one team the Rangers and the other the Rustlers. Now, let's make Dick captain of the Rangers."
"And Tom Craig captain of the Rustlers."
"All right, then," nodded Dave. "Dick, you pick out the Rangers; Craig, you go ahead with the Rustlers. After we've practised a few times we'll pick the best men from both elevens, and make up the Central Grammar eleven. Get busy, captains!"
Forthwith the choosing began. Dick chose all his chums for his own eleven. And no boy lower than seventh grade was allowed on either team.
"Now, who'll be referee?" demanded Dick. "Captain Craig, have you any choice?"
"Have we got any fellows, not on either team, who really know the rules?" asked Tom Craig dubiously.
There was a hush, for this was surely a stumbling block. It seemed clear that a referee ought to know the rules of the game.
"What's up, kids?" called a friendly voice.
The speaker was Len Spencer, a young man who had been graduated from the High School the June before, and who was now serving his apprenticeship as reporter on one of the two local daily papers, the morning "Blade."
"Oh, see here, Len!" called Dick joyously. "You're just the right fellow for us. You know the football rules?"
"I have a speaking acquaintance with 'em," laughed Len.
Dick rapidly outlined what was being planned, adding:
"You can put that in the 'Blade' to-morrow morning, Len, and state our challenge to North and South Grammars. Won't you?"
"But we want to practise this afternoon," Dick continued earnestly, "and we haven't any referee. Len, can't you spare us a little time? Won't you boss the first practice for us?"
"All right," agreed Len, after a little thought. "I'll tackle it for a while. Have you got your teams picked?"
"Teams all picked, and the ball ready. We'll have to place stones for goal posts, though."
"Hustle and do it, then," commanded Len. "I can't stay here forever."
Five minutes later the field was as ready as it could be made.
"Captains will now attend the toss-up," ordered Len Spencer, producing a coin from one of his pockets. "Heads for Craig, tails for Prescott."
It fell head up, and Craig chose his goal, and also the first kick-off.
Dick had been busily engaged in making up his line and backfield. There was some delay while Tom Craig accomplished this same thing.
"Now, one thing that all you youngsters want to remember," declared Len, "is that no player can play off-side. All ready?"
Both young football captains called out that they were. Len had provided himself with a pocket whistle loaned by one of the fifth-grade boys.
Trill-ll! Tom Craig kicked the ball himself, but it was a poor kick. The pigskin soon struck the ground.
"I'll try that over again," announced Tom.
But Dick and his own fighting line had already started. Dick, at center, with Dave on his right hand and Greg Holmes on his left, snatched up the ball and started with it for the Rustlers' goal.
A bunch of Rustlers opposed and tackled Prescott. Dick succeeded, by the help of Dave and Greg, in breaking through the line, but the Rustlers turned and were after him. Down went Dick, but he had the pigskin under him.
"Take it away from him, fellows!" panted Craig. But Len blew his whistle, following up the signal by some sharp commands that brought the struggle to a close.
"Prescott's side have the ball," declared Len, "and will now play off a snap-back. And, boys, one thing I must emphasize. I've told you that under the rules no man may play off-side. So, hereafter, if I find any of you off-side, I'm going to penalize that eleven."
Dick was whispering to some of his players, for, without any code of signals, he must thus instruct his fellows in the play that was to be made with the ball.
Then the whistle sounded. The Rangers put the ball through the Rustlers' line, and onward for some fifteen yards before the ball was once more down.
"Good work, Prescott," nodded Len Spencer. "Now, pass your orders for the next play, then hustle into line and snap-back."
Len placed the whistle between his lips and was about to blow it when Dave Darrin darted forward, holding up one hand.
"What's the trouble?" asked Len.
"Mr. Referee, count the men on the other team."
"Fifteen players," summed up Len. "That's too many. Captain Craig, you'll have to shed four men."
"Oh, let him have 'em all," begged Dick serenely. "Craig'll need 'em all to keep us from breaking through with the ball."
At blast of the whistle the pigskin was promptly in play again, both teams starting in with Indian yells. There was plenty of enthusiasm, but little or no skill. The thing became so mixed up that Len ran closer.
A human heap formed. Greg Holmes was somewhere down near the bottom of that mix-up, holding on to the ball for all he was worth. Over him sprawled struggling Rangers and fighting Rustlers. Other players, from both teams, darted forward, hurling themselves onto the heap with immense enthusiasm.
"The ball is down," remarked one eager young spectator disgustedly. "Len oughter blow his whistle."
"Yes, where's the whistle?" demanded other close-by spectators.
From somewhere away down toward the bottom of the heap came Len Spencer's muffled remark:
"I'll blow the whistle all right, if half a hundred of you Indians will get off my face for a minute!"
"Come out of that tangle, all of you," ordered Tom Craig, after pulling himself out of the squirming heap of boys. "It's against the rules to smother the referee to death. He has to be killed painlessly."
When the tangle had been straightened out Greg Holmes was found to be still doubled up, holding doggedly to the pigskin that had been his to guard.
"Get ready for the next snap-back," ordered Captain Dick.
"Don't do anything of the sort," countermanded Len. "I can see that what you youngsters need more than play, just at present, is a working knowledge of the rules. So listen, and I'll introduce you to a few principles of the game."
After ten minutes of earnest talk Len Spencer allowed the ball to be put once more in play.
At one time it was discovered that Craig, reinforced by enthusiastic onlookers from the sidelines, had seventeen men in his team. Dick, on the other hand, kept an alert eye to see that no more than eleven ranged up with his team.
"Now, that's enough for the first day," called out Len at last. "Neither side won, but the Rangers had by far the better of it. Now, before you fellows play to-morrow I advise you all to do some earnest studying of the rules of the game."
"Don't make too much fun of us in the 'Blade,' will you, Mr. Spencer?" begged Dick. "We really want to get a good Central Grammar eleven at work. We want to play the other Grammar Schools in town."
"Oh, no one but a fool could find it in his heart to make fun of boys who display as much earnestness as you youngsters showed to-day," Spencer replied soothingly.
"It's the first time we ever tried real play, you know," Dick went on.
"Yes; and you'll have to do a lot more practising before you can convince any one that you are doing any real playing," Len nodded. "Go after the rules. Memorize 'em. And watch the High School crowd play football. That will teach you a lot."
"I know we need it," Dick sighed. "But then, you see, Grammar School football is a brand-new thing."
"Why, now I come to think of it, I don't believe I ever did hear before of a Grammar School eleven," Len Spencer admitted.
At least twenty other boys followed Dick and his chums from the field on the way home.
"Say, Dick," called Tom Craig, "is the Central Grammar team going to have a uniform?"
"Why, I suppose we must have one," Dick answered.
"Where are we going to get the money?"
Dick looked blank at that. A football uniform costs at least a few dollars, and who ever heard of an average Grammar School boy having a few dollars, all his own to spend?
"I hadn't thought of that," muttered Prescott. "Oh, well, we'll have to find some way of getting uniforms. We've got to have 'em. That's all there is to it."
"'Where there's a will there's a way,'" quoted Tom Reade blithely.
But most of the fellows shook their heads.
"We can't get uniforms," declared several of the older eighth-grade boys.
"Then, if we can't we'll have to play without uniforms," Dick maintained. "We've got to play somehow. I hope you fellows won't go and lose your enthusiasm. Let's all hang together for football."
One by one the other boys dropped off, until only Dick and his five chums were left at a corner on Main Street.
"I'm afraid a lot of the fellows will go and let their enthusiasm cool over night," declared Harry Hazelton.
"Remember, fellows, we've got to have our football eleven, and we've got to keep at it until we can really play a good game," insisted Dick.
"But what if most all the fellows drop out?" demanded Dan Dalzell. "You know, that's the trouble with Grammar School fellows. They don't stick."
"There are six of us, and we'll all stick," proclaimed Dick. "That means that we've got to get only five other fellows to stick. Surely we can do that, if we've got hustle enough in us to play football at all."
"Oh, we'll have our eleven somehow," insisted Dave positively.
"How about our uniforms?" Tom Reade wanted to know.
"We'll have them, too," asserted Dick. "I don't know just how we'll do it, but we'll manage."
Dick Prescott and his chums were in much better spirits after that brief consultation. Then they separated, each going to his home for supper.
Dick's father and mother were proprietors of the most popular bookstore in Gridley. It stood on one of the side streets, just a little way down from Main Street. Over the store were the living rooms of the family. Dick was an only child.
After stowing away such an evening meal as only a healthy boy knows how to take care of, Dick reached for his cap.
"I'm going out to meet the fellows, mother, if you don't mind," said young Prescott.
"I'm sorry to say that there's just one matter that will delay you for perhaps twenty minutes," replied Mrs. Prescott. "Mrs. Davis was in and ordered some books this afternoon. She wants them delivered this evening, so I said I'd send you around with them. That won't bother you much, will it?"
"Not so much but that I'll get over it," laughed the boy. "Maybe I'll pick up one or two of the fellows, anyway."
"Richard, I'd rather you'd deliver the books before you meet any of your friends," urged Mrs. Prescott. "The books are worth about ten dollars, and if you have some of your friends along you may begin skylarking, and some of the books may get damaged."
"All right, mother. I'll go alone."
Off Dick started with the bundle, whistling blithely. All his thoughts were centered on the forming of the Central Grammar eleven, and that plan now looked like a winner.
"We won't let the High School fellows have all the fun," young Prescott mused as he hurried along.
He reached the rather large and handsome Davis house, rang the bell, delivered his books and then started back. His evening, up to nine o'clock, was now his own to do with as he pleased.
Suddenly the thought of the happenings at noon came back to his mind.
"What a mean fellow that Dexter is!" muttered the Grammar School boy. "I've heard folks say that Dexter is mean enough, and scoundrel enough, to kill his wife one of these days. Whew! I should think it would hurt to be so all-fired mean, and to have everyone despising you, as folks seem to despise Dexter. I hope the upper court will give him six months in jail, instead of one."
Prescott was moving along a dark street now. It bordered a broad field, back of which stood a deep grove. At the street end of the field was a neat, solid, stone wall.
Had Dick been looking ahead all the time he would have seen a man, coming down the street, start, take a swift look at the boy, and then dart behind a tree. But Prescott did not see until he reached the tree. Then the man stepped out.
"Prescott!" uttered Abner Dexter hoarsely, "I've been wanting to see you again!"
"That's more than I can say about you," retorted Dick, trying to edge away.
"No! You don't get away from me like that!" hissed Ab. Dexter sharply, twisting a hand on Dick's collar. Lifting the boy from his feet, Dexter hurled him over the wall into the field.
"Now, I'm going to settle with you, young meddler!" announced Dexter, vaulting the wall and throwing himself upon Dick. "When I get through with you you'll never feel like meddling with any one again!"
AB. DEXTER'S TEMPER IS SQUALLY
"You're taking a lot upon yourself!" ventured Dick Prescott angrily.
"That's all right," laughed Dexter savagely. "Come along with me and I'll show you something really funny."
With that the man caught young Prescott up, starting across the field with him. Dick fought and struggled, but a grown man was too powerful for one thirteen-year-old boy.
"Don't make any noise," warned Dexter, as he ran with his "catch," "or I'll make you wish you hadn't opened your mouth!"
If he feared that Dick would call for help, this high-handed one was reckoning without a knowledge of the kind of boy he had to deal with. For Dick, though he was just a little more than slightly alarmed, would have been ashamed to call out for help.
"You think you're having a lot of fun," sputtered young Prescott angrily, "but you'll be sorry for this before you are through!"
"Through with whom?" demanded Dexter blandly, now.
"Before you're through with me. You'll find that you can't act like this around Gridley. Justice Lee will get hold of you again, first thing you know."
"Huh! I'll talk to you about that in a few minutes!"
"See here, where are you taking me?"
"Wherever I please."
"Then I don't know about that, either, Dexter. I've about made up my mind that I won't go any further with you."
"Oh, you won't, eh, boy! Well, just help yourself, if you can."
By this time Dexter had crossed the field and had run well inside of the grove.
Dick wriggled, getting one hand free—and then he struck Dexter a stinging blow in the face.
"Confound you!" growled the other. "I see that I've got to tame you, you young hornet!"
"You put me down, or I'll sting worse than a hornet," threatened Dick angrily. "I'm not a doormat that you can wipe your feet on."
"We'll see about that!" muttered Dexter, halting suddenly and throwing Dick savagely to the ground. He followed this up by sitting on the Grammar School boy.
Whack! Whack! Dexter struck him so savagely, both blows in the face, that Prescott gasped.
"I've got a few hundred more of those in reserve if you want 'em—or need 'em," Dick's captor advised him grimly. He still sat on the boy, looking down at him in the darkness with evil satisfaction.
"It doesn't take one long to find your number, Dexter," observed the boy undauntedly. "Your specialty is frightening women and pounding boys who offend you."
"Well, a lot of you boys hammered me this noon, didn't you!"
"Yes; and I wish I had a couple of the fellows here now," retorted Dick with spirit. "We'd soon make a coward like you seem small. You'd be on your knees, begging, if I had a couple of my chums here to help me."
"Well, you haven't got 'em, and I'll do all the talking that amounts to anything. Dick Prescott, you're the worst and freshest boy in Gridley!"
"Such a statement, coming from a fellow like you, amounts to high praise, Dexter," Dick retorted doughtily.
"None of your impudence, now, Dick Prescott! I've stood all the insolence from you that I'm going to allow."
"My! How big the man talks to the small boy!" taunted Dick. "And he had to drag the boy away off here, so that there wouldn't be a chance of another boy coming along. A man of your caliber, Dexter, may be brave enough to face one boy, when he's angry enough, but you wouldn't dare say 'boo' if one of my boy friends were here to back me up."
"I'll stop that sort of impudence right now," growled Dexter, stung more deeply by the taunts than he would have been willing to let the boy guess. "I'm pretty savage in my mind against you, at any rate, and I may as well let some of it out!"
Whack! smack! thump! Dexter began savagely to vent all of his bottled-up spite against young Prescott, striking him repeatedly, and with such force that the lad was soon aching all over.
Dick fought back as best he could, but, pinned down as he was, and in the grip of one three times as strong as himself, Dick could get in an effective blow only now and then. Such blows as he did land only served to fan Dexter's wrath to greater fury—and the boy suffered accordingly.
It would have been a brutal beating, under any circumstances, that Dick received. In his helpless condition it was doubly brutal.
"Now, do you think you've got enough to hold you for a while?" Ab. Dexter demanded, as he paused, panting.
"I'm just thinking about the time when you'll get it all back with interest!" snapped young Prescott.
"Oh, then you haven't had enough—yet?"
"I had enough before you began."
"But you haven't learned to keep a civil tongue in your head?"
"Dexter," retorted the lad, speaking more earnestly than he was aware, "I try to keep not only a civil tongue, but a pleasant manner for every human being who tries to act decently. With you it's different. Before to-day I didn't know much about you. What little I did know wasn't to your credit. But now I know you to belong to nothing better than the scum of the earth. No human being with any self-respect could be decent with you!"
"You're getting worse than ever, are you?" sneered Dexter. "I see that my work is only half started."
With that Ab. Dexter threw himself upon the boy again, giving him an even more lively beating than before.
Dick Prescott, panting with his struggles, disdained to cry out, but saved all his strength to fight back.
At last, all but exhausted, Ab. Dexter paused.
"You got a little better lesson that time," boasted the wretch.
"And I got a small lunch while you were taking your dinner," retorted Prescott, no more daunted than before. "Your nose is bleeding and your lip is cut!"
"Yes, I know it! I'm going to take that out of you presently."
"Are you enjoying yourself, Dexter?" asked the boy tauntingly.
"Yes. And before I get through with you, I'm going to make sure that you'll never interfere in my affairs again."
"Do you mean that you expect I'll stand off the next time that I see you trying to frighten your wife into supporting a lazy loafer in style?" Dick asked dryly.
"Hang you! You haven't learned your lesson yet, have you?"
"If you're trying to make me 'respect' you, Dexter, you've acted the wrong way all through to-day. You're entitled to no more respect than an Indian would show a rattlesnake."
Ab. Dexter's face was ablaze with wrath. He had expected to make this Grammar School boy beg for mercy before things had gone half as far as they had. Dick Prescott's undaunted pluck bewildered the mean bully.
"I'll make you shut up, boy, before I'm through with you!" he warned the lad.
"There's just one way to do that, Dexter!"
"You'll have to knock me out."
"I'll do that, then!"
It would be wrong to seek to give the reader an impression that young Prescott was not afraid, and did not mind his two thrashings. He was afraid that Dexter would go to great lengths, yet Dick would not give the bully satisfaction by admitting any fear.
"What you've got to do, before I get through with you," Dexter announced, "is to beg my pardon and to promise that you'll never again interfere with me."
"You'll wait a long while, then," jeered Dick, "and you'll get strong man's cramp in both arms!"
"And you've got to do more than promise that much," continued the bully. "You've got to promise, solemnly, to help me in some plans that I have for the future."
"Oh? Plans against your wife, I suppose."
"Very likely," half admitted Dexter. "Whatever the plans are, you're going to help me in them."
"You're going about in a fine way, Dexter, to get my cheerful help."
"Never mind about the cheerful part of it," snarled the man. "You're going to help me, and I'm going to tame you."
"Gracious! What a fine, large tail our cat is growing," laughed Dick, though his voice did not ring very mirthfully.
Dexter, still astride his young captive, raised his fist. Prescott did not flinch, and it suddenly struck the fellow that he was going about his business in the wrong way. Dexter had never looked for a young Grammar School boy to be so firm and undaunted.
"Now, don't be a fool, Prescott," he began, trying a new tack.
"You ought to be a fine teacher in the subject of good sense," suggested Dick mockingly.
"I think I can be."
"Fire away, then."
"Prescott, you don't have much spending money, do you?"
"Not enough to worry the bank with."
"You'd like more?"
"I'm going to find it for you."
"You are—or do you mean that your wife is?"
Ab. Dexter winked. He had not looked for the youngster to be so keen.
"Prescott, take it from an older man. It doesn't make so much difference, in this world, where the money comes from, if a fellow only has it."
"I guess, from your actions, that's about the way you feel about it, Dexter," rejoined the boy.
"Don't you feel the same way?"
"No; I'd like to be worth a million dollars, Dexter, but I don't believe I ever shall be."
"Because the opportunities for getting a million honestly are not very plentiful, and I wouldn't have a dollar—or a million—with a stain on it!"
"You simpleton!" sneered Dexter.
"There are a few of us left in the world," Dick retorted complacently. "But you, Dexter, you wouldn't care whether it was money or slime, as long as you could spend it!"
"You're talking nonsense, boy," argued Dexter, restraining himself as best he could. "Now, see here, I'm sorry I thumped you. I've got a lot of use for a boy with as much sand and grit as you've shown. I can use you, and I can show you how to make a nice little lot of money by helping me in something that I have on hand. So come on. Get up and walk along with me while we talk it over."
Dexter rose, and Dick got to his feet as nimbly as he could. He ached, though, fortunately, he was not badly crippled by the pummeling that he had received.
"Come on, now, and let's take a little walk," urged the man persuasively.
But Dick Prescott glared back at the bully with all the contempt in the world in his look.
"Nothing doing in the way of walking together, Dexter," announced the boy.
"Folks might see me with you."
"Suppose they did!"
"Then they'd imagine that I knew you. Dexter, a boy who hopes to grow up and become a useful citizen can't be too careful about the company he keeps."
"You confounded little imp! You're not tamed yet."
Dexter's foot struck against a stick lying on the ground. Snatching this weapon up and uttering a cry of rage, he sprang forward to fell the boy with the club.
FOOTBALL UNIFORMS IN SIGHT
Had Dick turned to run Ab. Dexter would have darted after him. The bully possessed much longer legs and prided himself on his speed.
To Dexter's amazement, however, Dick did not flinch or turn.
Perhaps there was not time enough. Again, perhaps young Prescott saw two other figures moving in the darkness.
At all events, the man suddenly felt the stick fly from his hand. Then, before he could regain his self-possession, two boyish figures crouched swiftly one on each side of him.
Dexter felt his knees gripped. In the same instant two boys rose suddenly, holding on, and the bully toppled over backward.
"Never hit a man when he's down," quoth the dry voice of Greg Holmes. "But, if he isn't even any sort of a man, it doesn't matter!"
Thump! Greg brought his not very big fist down on Dexter's nose. It was an ugly blow, delivered before the bully could recover from his own amazement.
Dave Darrin, the other boy, did not even wait to speak. He began to rain down blows on the prostrate enemy.
"Here, stop that, Davey!" urged Dick, darting forward. "Don't hit the cur any more."
"But he was going to club you," argued Dave, hitting two more blows.
"Stop this, boys! Let up! I'll clear out," begged Ab. Dexter.
Dick, finding that neither of his chums was much inclined to stop the merited punishment, darted in and forcibly dragged Darrin off Dexter's prostrate form.
"Let me have him, for a minute or two yet," coaxed Greg Holmes. "You know, Dick, he was going to club you."
"I know it," rejoined young Prescott doggedly. "He did thrash me twice, and it hurt. I don't believe in soiling our hands on anything like this fellow, when it can be helped. Besides, we're too many."
Though Dave and Greg had now both been pulled off their prey, they hovered over Dexter, who seemed afraid to rise for fear it would lead to a renewed onslaught.
"Stand back, fellows," coaxed Dick, pushing them gently. "Dexter, I told you you'd be a booby in any fight where you couldn't have it all your own way. I was right about it. Get up, now—and make your fly-away while I'm still able to hold these two bulldogs in leash. Hustle now!"
Dick emphasized his advice with a kick, but it was not a vicious one. Ab. Dexter looked up in wonder. Then he rose, crouchingly, next made a sprinter's start and bolted.
"Humph! We can never get him now," uttered Dave Darrin disgustedly. "Whew! I wish I could run as fast as that."
"You can learn," replied Dick.
"Yes; in about ten years!"
"Dave, you could learn to run a heap faster than you do, and in a mighty short time."
"Just start in to train. Get someone who knows something about it to give you pointers on running. Pshaw! I believe our whole crowd ought to start in to learn to run. To run, really, I mean. If I had been a faster runner to-night I might have gotten away from that bully. I might have saved myself from a good many aches that I've got just now."
"You aching?" questioned Darrin. "What makes you ache?"
"Dexter gave me two hard thrashings before you fellows got along."
"He did?" sputtered Dave vengefully. "O Dick, why did you ever let him get away from us?"
"I'm glad I did something to the sneak while I had the chance," declared Greg Holmes.
"First of all, tell me how you fellows came to find me," suggested Dick Prescott.
"Oh, that's easy enough to account for," Dave replied. "Greg and I were on Main Street looking for you. Then we went down to the store. Your mother told us that you'd gone to Mrs. Davis's with a package of books, so we set out to meet you on your return. And right over there, on the street, we came across a little girl, white, scared and half crying. She said she had seen a man grab you up, throw you over the wall——"
"Yes, that happened," nodded Prescott.
"And the little kiddie said she saw the man jump over the wall, grab you up and start for the woods. She was sure the wicked man was going to kill you."
"Dexter was mad enough, but he lacked the sand for going that far, I guess," remarked Prescott.
"He might not be without the sand," argued Dave. "I've got a notion that Dexter, while a coward, perhaps, about some things, would go about as far as his anger drove him. I'm glad we came along, anyway."
"So am I. You fellows sneaked in so quietly in the dark, that I didn't see you until just before you tackled Dexter. Well, there's no great harm done, thanks to you, Dave, and to you, Greg. Let's get back to Main Street."
As the youngsters crossed the field and strolled up the street, Dick gave an accurate account of what had befallen him.
"So the sneak wanted to pay you to help him in some dirty sort of work?" demanded Dave, his dark eyes ablaze with disgust.
"I imagine it must have been dirty work, since Dexter had planned it out," Dick admitted, smiling.
"The hound! But then, see here, Dick; if Dexter wanted you to help him in anything of that sort, it means that he's going to try to bother that poor wife of his again."
"It looks that way, Dave."
"Then we ought to warn Mrs. Dexter, so that she can be on her guard against the worthless rascal."
"I've been thinking of that, Dave. Yes; I'm sure we must go and give Mrs. Dexter a hint. It wouldn't be right not to tell her of what may be ahead of her."
"We might go around to her house to-morrow afternoon after school, eh?" proposed Greg.
"Football practice to-morrow afternoon," retorted Dave Darrin dryly.
"Besides, to-morrow afternoon might be too late," urged Dick. "Fellows, when we have a message like this, which may be of great importance to some other human being, there's no time for doing the errand like—now!"
"That's right, too," approved Dave. "It won't take us more than five minutes to reach Mrs. Dexter's house. Let's head for there at the next corner?"
That being agreed to, the three chums set out at a brisk walk. A few minutes later Dick was pulling the doorbell of Mrs. Dexter's new home, while Dave and Greg stood just a little below him on the steps.
It was a pretty little house, of ten rooms; not as large a house as Mrs. Dexter might have been able to afford, but one that was a happy contrast to the three-room flat in which Mrs. Dexter had lived when obliged to support herself at dressmaking. As yet there were but two servants on the place—a woman who did the house-work and a hired man, who slept in a room over the little barn at the rear of the house.
"Will you ask Mrs. Dexter if she can see us, please?" asked Dick, lifting his cap, when the woman-of-all-work opened the door. "Kindly tell her that we have news for her which we think may be very important."
"Come in, boys," replied the housekeeper, doubtless pleased by Dick's deference in raising his cap, an example in which he had been promptly followed by Dave and Greg.
The woman showed them into a little parlor. Mrs. Dexter soon came down and greeted them.
"I'm very glad you boys have called on me," she said. "You and your other friends did me a service to-day that I can't forget. I was on the way to the bank to leave the jewels and the money when you helped me so handsomely."
"We've come, Mrs. Dexter," said Dick, "to tell you what happened to-night. It may be the means of saving you from further trouble with Mr. Dexter."
Then Dick told the story of his adventure that evening. Dave and Greg added a few words at the end.
"So we think," summed up Dick, "that Mr. Dexter may not yet be through with his schemes against you. Excuse us, Mrs. Dexter, but don't you think it would be well to have a man sleep in the house—one that you can depend on if Dexter comes here to make trouble?"
"Yes, indeed. My hired man is a straight-forward fellow. I'll have him stay around here more, and I'll have a room fitted up in the house for him. Mr. Dexter isn't usually extremely brave. I imagine that the hired man can take care of him if he puts in an appearance. At all events, I shall feel safer for having a man in the house."
Their errand being done, the three Grammar School boys would have risen to go, but Mrs. Dexter detained them, asking many questions about their school life.
Then, somehow, the story came out of the newly organized Central Grammar football squad.
"Oh, but that is going to be fine!" cried Mrs. Dexter. "Manly sports always make boys stronger, and give them a better sense of fair play when such a sense is needed. You'll have uniforms, of course. What will your uniforms be like?"
"That's one of the points we haven't decided on yet," smiled Dick. "The uniforms will have to come, in good time."
"Your football organization has a treasurer, of course?"
"He's a luxury we don't need yet," laughed Dave.
"Because there isn't any treasury."
"Yet there will be, of course—that is, if——"
Suddenly Mrs. Dexter looked mightily pleased and clapped her hands.
"I've stumbled on to one of your secrets, boys," she cried. "You haven't any treasury, and you're still wondering where the money can come from to pay for uniforms. Well, you needn't wonder any longer. All of you boys who helped me to-day are interested in the football plan. You did me a very great service to-day, and you've done me another one to-night. Now I'm going to buy the football uniforms. How much will they cost—ten dollars apiece?"
"Five or six ought to buy as good uniforms as we'll need," replied Dick Prescott, reddening. "But, Mrs. Dexter, we don't want——"
"Let me have my own way, won't you?" she pleaded plaintively. "It's such a very new thing for me to be able to have my own way. I'm going to write the check, to-night, to pay for the uniforms. Don't stop me, please don't."
Mrs. Dexter rose and went over to a little desk, where she sat fingering her checkbook.
"Now please give me some idea of what such uniforms cost. I want to do it nicely for you boys. Excuse me just a moment, though."
Mrs. Dexter touched a bell on her desk and the housekeeper entered.
"Jane, when I put Myra to bed this evening, she showed signs of a cough. I don't want the child to get croupy and not know anything about it. Just run up and watch Myra, won't you, without waking her? Then come down and let me know, after a few minutes."
The housekeeper started upstairs. Mrs. Dexter returned to the subject of football uniforms, while the three boys, red-faced and reluctant, answered her questions. They appreciated her kindness, but they did not want her to pay for the uniforms. To Dick and his chums it looked too much like begging.
A shriek sounded upstairs. Then Jane came rushing down.
"Oh, ma'am!" she cried in dismay. "Myra's gone—her bed's empty, and the clothes that she wore have been taken from the chair!"
While Mrs. Dexter turned deathly pale and tottered, Dick Prescott leaped up, exclaiming:
"It's the work of Dexter. That's the scheme he had!"
ON THE TRAIL OF THE CAB
"The wretch has stolen Myra! I didn't I think he would dare do that," cried the woman.
Mrs. Dexter had never made any effort to secure a divorce from her worthless husband. After he had abandoned her she had appeared in court and had had herself appointed sole guardian and custodian of little Myra. Under the law, therefore, Dexter, if he stole Myra away from the mother, could be arrested and punished for abduction.
At this frantic moment, however, Mrs. Dexter was not thinking of punishments. All she wanted was to get her child back in her own keeping.
"Isn't it possible there's a mistake?" demanded Greg of the dismayed housekeeper. "The little one may have gotten up out of bed. She may be in some other part of the house."
"Not much!" interjected the housekeeper. "The child's jacket and coat are gone from a hook near by."
After the first moment of fright Mrs. Dexter had raced upstairs; now she came down again.
"Myra's really gone," she cried, sobbing. "And no one but Dexter would think of stealing her from me. He has done it for spite—or as the means of extorting more money from me."
"A man could hardly go through the streets carrying a child that didn't want to be carried. The child could cry out and attract attention," guessed Dick.
"Myra wouldn't cry out. She would be cowed by her father's threats. She always was afraid of him," wailed Mrs. Dexter.
"Are you going to appeal to the police?" Dick asked.
"Then you're losing time, Mrs. Dexter—and there's your telephone. We boys will go out into the streets and see if we can find any trace—pick up any word. When we came along there was a cab standing in front of the Grahams. But I suppose that cab belonged to some of their visitors."
"The Grahams have been out of town for the last few days," broke in Mrs. Dexter. "There has been no one at their house, except one old man who acts as care-taker."
"Then Dexter may have had that cab waiting for him," flashed young Prescott. "Come along, fellows! Let's see what we can find out."
Dave and Greg were at the street door ahead of their young leader. None of the boys paused longer, for Mrs. Dexter was already at her telephone.
Out in the street the three Grammar School lads raced along the sidewalk until they reached the house of the Graham family. The cab was gone.
"We can find that cab anywhere," declared Dick. "Any one else would recognize it. It had one brown, or dark horse, and one gray horse."
"I didn't notice the driver," stated Darrin.
"He was sitting inside the cab," spoke up Greg. "I didn't get a good look at him, either."
"Going to race on into Main Street?" asked Dave, as the three came to a street corner.
"Dexter would hardly drive right into the clutches of the police, would he?" pondered Prescott. "No; I think it'll turn out that he went the opposite way, out of town."
Saying this, Dick headed for the outskirts of Gridley, still keeping along at a dog-trot. Dave and Greg didn't talk now; they were husbanding their store of "wind."
After a short time all three boys had to slow down to a walk. That "pain in the side," which seizes all boys who try to run far without training and practice, had caught them. Still, they moved along as fast as they could go.
"Excuse me, mister," hailed Dick, halting the first man they met, who came strolling toward them, smoking a pipe, "have you seen a cab go by?"
"Oldish cab?" broke in Dave.
"One gray horse and one dark or brown?" breathed Greg.
"How long ago?" asked all three.
"'Bout two minutes ago. Why?"
"Which way did it go?" breathed Dick anxiously.
"Why, the driver stopped me," explained the man, taking out his pipe, "and asked if there was a drug store ahead in this part of the town. I told him he'd find one on the next block, around the next corner to the left. So——"
"Thank you!" came politely from three breathless boys, and off they started again on a trot.
"Any one sick?" called the man after them. "Huh! Curious how excited those boys are!"
"Two minutes! I'm afraid horses will leave us far behind with that start," groaned Dick.
Then they turned around the corner. Ahead of them, in front of the little drug store, or rather, just past the entrance, stood the cab that occupied all their thoughts at the present time.
"There it is!" breathed Dick excitedly, as though forgetful of the fact that his chums had eyes also. "Come along—over on the other side of the street—in the dark."
In a twinkling all three lads had crossed stealthily to the further side of the little street.
"Oh, for a policeman!" appealed Dick. "Or any full-grown man, who would listen to us and have the grit to give us a strong hand."
"If Dexter has the little girl, and that's his cab, what has he taken her into a drug store for?" whispered Dave.
"We don't know that he has taken her into the store. We don't know anything until we see it," was Dick's answer. "Dexter didn't stop for a trifle. He isn't buying Myra a glass of soda, or anything like that."
The three boys were stealing down the street, on the further side, keeping close in the shadow of the buildings. They did not wish to risk being seen until they had had a chance for a good look at the cab and its possible contents.
Dick's reason for crossing the street had been that he had first caught sight of the driver standing on the sidewalk beside the cab. If he could get down close to the cab, and have that vehicle between himself and the driver, Dick hoped that he would have a chance to steal across the street and look inside the rig.
By good luck, combined with stealth, Dick, Dave and Greg succeeded in gaining a point on the street opposite the cab.
"Careful, now," whispered Dick, "one bad move might spoil everything."
On tip-toe they crossed. At a point midway in the street they halted a brief instant. From this point they could make out the unmistakable form of Ab. Dexter at the back of the drug store, walking to and fro as if waiting for something.
No word was spoken. Still on tip-toe the boys went on until they stood by one of the doors of the cab.
Dave and Greg made way for Dick to get up close and peer into the vehicle.
Young Prescott gave a start of exultation as he made out a little, wrapped-up human bundle huddled on the back seat. It was little four-year-old Myra. She had collapsed into a heap and was very softly sobbing to herself, wholly unaware of what might be passing outside.
On the further side of the cab, standing on the sidewalk, Dick caught sight of the man whom he presumed to be the driver. The fellow was standing staring fixedly ahead.
"If he had been looking the other way he would have caught us coming down the street," flashed through Prescott's mind.
Then he turned, nodding swiftly, silently, at his companions.
They had found Myra, these Grammar School lads, but in a desperate fight, Dexter and the driver would prove overwhelming odds. The pair of rascals could knock these youngsters senseless and whip up the horses for a dash.
What was to be done?
In sheer nervousness Dave Darrin began to try the handle of the cab door. Then, understanding coming to him, Dave tried in earnest to see whether he could unfasten the door with out making the least noise.
All three of the lads realized that it was a ticklish moment. Even Myra, if startled, might give the scream that would betray and defeat them.
Steadily Dave worked at his problem. Dick and Greg, quivering, stood alertly on guard on either side of him.
Squeak! That cab-door handle needed oiling sadly. Even under Darrin's cautious handling it gave forth a noise that sounded startling in the stillness.
"What's that?" they heard the driver mutter, as he started. Then came the sound of footsteps, as the driver wheeled and ran around behind the cab.
He was bearing down straight upon them!
DICK LEADS A SPIRITED RUSH
"Hustle, Dave—into the cab!" shouted Dick Prescott lustily.
Darrin obeyed like a flash, pulling the door shut.
"What are you young monkeys doing here?" yelled the driver hoarsely. Then, as he caught better sight of them, he snarled:
"Oh, I know you boys! You belong to the Butt-insky family!"
The driver's next remark was "ouch!" as Greg darted in and struck him fairly at the belt line. In the same instant young Prescott managed to trip the fellow.
"Boss!" bawled the driver, as he struck the pavement.
"Into the cab with you, Greg!" shouted Dick.
Dave swung the door open, and in the same instant Greg bolted inside, while Dick Prescott made a single bound at the front wheel, from which he mounted to the driver's seat.
"None of that!" yelled the driver, getting upon his feet and moving forward. At the same moment another man came to the door of the drug store.
That man was—must have been—Abner Dexter. He wore the same clothes that Dick remembered, but over his head and face were drawn a wig and beard that made him look some one else.
Whish! Dick's left hand clutched at the reins, but his right hand grasped the whip. That useful implement described an arc downward and caught the driver roundly, judging by the yell that the fellow let out.
"Gid-dap!" yelled young Prescott, completing the swing of the whip by bringing it down across the horses' backs.
The startled animals leaped forward, the lurch almost throwing Dick from the box; in fact, it nearly overturned the cab.
But the vehicle soon righted itself, and Dick, somewhat scared, yet steady, pulled the horses down to a steady trot and reined them in closer together.
The disguised man who had come out of the drug store succeeded in resting one hand for an instant on the body of the cab. But the springing horses carried it away from him. For a few rods the man pursued, the smarting driver bringing up the rear.
Then both pursuers halted, panting, cursing, at the same time, as only foul-mouthed ruffians can.
Inside, Myra was shrieking with fright.
"We're your mother's friends, Myra, and are taking you back to her," explained Dave, holding the small child on his knee and trying to quiet her.
Greg Holmes, in the meantime, was more concerned with looking out of the window.
"Why, say," muttered Greg. "Dick ain't driving to Mrs. Dexter's, not by a long shot. He seems to be heading straight into the business part of the town."
"You leave Dick Prescott alone to know what he's doing," advised Dave Darrin calmly.
"Yes; I guess that's right," assented Greg.
"Dick is the longest-headed fellow in our school."
"Except me," grinned Greg modestly.
"You? Huh! I'm glad you're not outside on the box."
"I reckon it's the first time Dick ever drove cab horses."
"He'll do it right, anyway."
"But I wonder why he isn't going to the Dexter house," pursued young Holmes.
Then Myra took fright again.
"Take me home!" she cried. "I want to see my mamma!"
From that she passed into wild sobbing, taxing all Dave Darrin's powers to ease her mind.
"You're going home, Myra," he wound up. "You're going to see your mother."
"My papa is a bad man!"
"Well, he's not here now," smiled Dave. "Did you ever hear of Dick Prescott?"
"Yes; he's a nice boy."
"You're right he is," added Dave with enthusiasm. "Well, Dick is up outside, driving the horses, and he'll take us home by the way that it's best to go."
"Here we are in Main Street," announced Greg wonderingly.
Dave thought he began to understand Prescott's plan, but he said nothing. A few moments later the cab turned down one of the side streets, then halted before a cluster of lights.
"The police station!" exploded Greg.
"Of course," nodded Dave.
"Why 'of course'?"
"Because it's part of Dick's plan."
"Come out, fellows," called Dick. "We're at the end of our trip, thank goodness."
Greg opened the door, Dave stepping out with Myra in his arms.
"My mamma doesn't live here," cried the child uneasily.
"No, but it's all right," Dave urged soothingly. "You come right along and see if it isn't."
Dick led the way up the police-station steps. In the office three uniformed members of the force were talking excitedly. One of them was the night lieutenant, Janeway.
"I tell you, Lieutenant, the thing was done so slickly that the child ain't going to be found to-night," one of the patrolmen was saying.
"If you're talking about Myra Dexter, guess again," laughed young Prescott. "Here she is now."
Three astounded policemen turned to regard the happy-faced Grammar School boys.
"Then she wasn't stolen at all?" demanded one of the patrolmen. "Just strolled away and got lost, eh?"
"Oh, no!" Dick retorted. "Myra was stolen, all right; but we stole her back again."
"We took her away from her father and a cab-driver," chuckled Greg Holmes.
"Stop telling us any nonsense like that," interposed the lieutenant sternly. "Tell us where you found the child."
Dick related the story briefly. The policemen were at first inclined to doubt the story, but one of them glanced outside and saw the cab.
"If you'll let me offer a suggestion," went on Dick, "there's a mother at home who is nearly crazy with grief. Hadn't you better call Mrs. Dexter on the telephone and tell her that Myra is safe with you?"
The lieutenant quickly wheeled to his 'phone, calling for Mrs. Dexter's number. One of the policemen, in the meantime, received Myra in his arms.
"Mrs. Dexter?" called the lieutenant into the transmitter. "This is the police station. We have your little girl here, all safe and sound. How was she found? Three schoolboys, Dick Prescott, Dave Dar—— Oh, you know the names? Well, they trailed the cab to where it had stopped outside of a drug store. They knocked the driver down and got away with the cab. How did three boys manage to do such a deed? Wait! I'll let Master Prescott himself tell you over the 'phone."
The lieutenant wheeled about.
"Where in the name of mischief are those boys?" he demanded. The two policemen turned in equal confusion. Certain it was that the Grammar School boys had bolted.
So the lieutenant sent out to find a driver, and one of his policemen got inside with Myra, to take her home. The policeman was also instructed to remain on guard outside through the night, in case Dexter and his confederate should feel inclined to make another attempt to abduct the little one.
Dick and his chums, after leaving the station house silently, had run until they found themselves around the corner on Main Street.
"We don't want to be thanked any more by Mrs. Dexter to-night," Dick ventured to his friends.
"We certainly don't," agreed Dave.
"What'll we do now?" asked Greg.
"We'll go home," suggested young Prescott. "Our folks will be wondering where we are."
"Whee! But we'll have a lot to tell the folks!" chuckled Greg. "When my mother hears what we've been through to-night the chances are ten to one that she'll make me stay in nights."
"Not if she pauses to think what you did to help another mother out," hinted Dave.
"Well, good night, fellows," called Dick as he reached his corner. "We've had a bully time, but that won't get us up early in the morning."
The bookstore was due to close at nine o'clock, but it was twenty-five minutes after that hour when Dick swung in through the front door.
"Mother, here's the boy," called Mr. Prescott, being the first to espy the returning son. "Young man, you'll have to give your mother a good account of yourself. She's been worrying about you."
"Oh, I knew Dick was in no great danger," laughed Mrs. Prescott, coming forward to kiss her son, now that her worry had ended pleasantly. "But, Richard, you're still a bit young to stay out so late."