E-text prepared by Jim Ludwig
The High School Boys' Canoe Club or Dick & Co.'s Rivals on Lake Pleasant
By H. Irving Hancock
CHAPTERS I. The "Splendid" War Canoe II. "RIP" Tries Out His Bargain III. Buying Fuel for a Bonfire? IV. Hiram Pries a Secret Loose V. Birch Bark Merchants VI. Meeting the Fate of Greenhorns VII. "Danny Grin" is Silent VIII. What an Expert Can Do IX. Dick Trembles at His Nerve X. Putting Up a Big Scheme XI. All Ready to Race, But——- XII. Susie Discomfits a Boor XIII. The Ripley Heir Tries Coaxing XIV. The Liar has a Lie Ready XV. At the Greatest of Feasts XVI. A Scalp-Hunting Disappointment XVII. The Good Word by Wire XVIII. "Won't Win Against a Mudscow" XIX. What Ailed Gridley? XX. "Dinky-Rat Hot Sail!" XXI. Nature Has a Dismal Streak XXII. Fred is Grateful—-One Second! XXIII. Trentville, The Awesome XIV. Conclusion
THE "SPLENDID" WAR CANOE
"It's the wreck of one of the grandest enterprises ever conceived by the human mind!" complained Colonel W.P. Grundy, in a voice broken with emotion.
A group of small boys grinned, though they offered no audible comment.
"Such defeats often—-usually, in fact—-come to those who try to educate the masses and bring popular intelligence to a higher level," was the colonel's declaration, as he wiped away a real or imaginary tear.
On a nearby lot stood a large show tent, so grayed and frayed, so altogether dingy as to suggest that it had seen some summers of service ere it became briefly the property of Colonel Grundy.
Near the entrance to the tent a temporary platform had been built of the board seats taken from the interior of the tent.
Near the platform stood a grim-visaged deputy sheriff, conversing with an auctioneer on whose face the grin had become chronic.
Some distance from the tent stood a group of perhaps forty men of the town of Gridley.
"The whole outfit of junk won't bring five hundred dollars," predicted one of these men. "How much did you say the judgments total?"
"Seventeen thousand four hundred dollars," replied another. "But the man who attached the show has a claim for only six hundred and forty dollars, so he may get most of his money."
Here the auctioneer stopped talking with the deputy sheriff long enough to go over to the platform, pick up a bell and ring it vigorously. A few more stragglers came up, most of them boys without any money in their pockets.
Off at one side of the lot six boys stood by themselves, talking in low tones, casting frequent, earnest glances toward the platform.
These youngsters were Dick Prescott, Dave Darrin, Greg Holmes, Tom Reade, Dan Dalzell and Harry Hazelton. Collectively they were known in the boydom of Gridley as Dick & Co.
Our readers are already familiar with every one of these lads, having first been introduced to them in the "Grammar School Boys Series," with its four volumes, "The Grammar School Boys of Gridley," "The Grammar School Boys Snowbound," "The Grammar School Boys in the Woods" and "The Grammar School Boys in Summer Athletics." The varied and stirring exploits of Dick & Co., as told in these books, stamped the six chums as American boys of the best sort.
Then, in "The High School Freshmen," the first volume of the "High School Boys Series," our readers went further into the history of Dick & Co., and saw how even freshmen may impress their personalities on the life and sports of a high school. The pranks, the fights, the victories and achievements of that first year in high school had done much to shape the characters and mould the minds of all six of our boys.
The present narrative deals with all that happened in the vacation after Dick Prescott and his friends had finished their freshman year. The summer now lay before them for whatever might come to them in the way of work and pleasure. Though none of the six yet knew it, the summer was destined to bring to them the fullest measure of wonder and excitement.
And now let us get back to Dick & Co., that we may see just what befell them.
"Pshaw! There comes Fred Ripley," exclaimed Harry Hazelton.
"And he probably has a few ten dollar bills in his pockets," remarked Greg Holmes, rather enviously. "He will buy something."
Fred Ripley, as readers of "The High School Freshmen" remember, was the son of a wealthy local lawyer, and a bitter enemy to Dick Prescott and his friends.
"Fred just came here to buy something and then look at us with his superior smile," grunted Hazelton. "What do you say if we all walk away before the bidding begins?"
"Then Rip would grin," returned Tom Reade. "He'd know just why we went away. I came here to see what's going to happen, and I won't be chased away from here by Fred Ripley."
"Let's see if Fred can have any real fun with us," proposed Dick, with a quiet smile.
"He can have fun enough with us, if he guesses why we are really here," Dave Darrin uttered resentfully. "Ripley seems to think that money is made and supplied to him just in order that he may rub gall and wormwood into those whom he doesn't like!"
Fred kept well away from Dick & Co., though the six boys saw that he occasionally sent a covert look in their direction.
"Time to begin," said the deputy sheriff, after glancing at his watch.
Up to the platform jumped the auctioneer, bell in hand. Holding it with both hands he again rang vigorously for a full minute. The net result was to bring one shabby-looking man, two grammar school boys without a cent of money, and three children of not over four years of age into the lot.
"Ladies and gentlemen," began the auctioneer, in his glib tones, "we are presenting to-day a most unusual opportunity. Prizes will be distributed to many enterprising people of Gridley, though these prizes are all so valuable that I trust none of them will go for the traditional 'song.' It is seldom, indeed, in any community, however favored it may be in general, that such a diversified lot of excellent things is put under the hammer for purchase by discriminating buyers! As you all know, Colonel W.P. Grundy's Great & Colossal Indian Exposition & Aboriginal Life Delineations has met with one of the too-common disasters of the road. This great show enterprise must now be sold out in its entirety."
After an impressive pause, the silence was broken by a sob. Those in the crowd who were curious enough to turn, beheld the colonel with a handkerchief to his eyes, his shoulders heaving. Somehow the colonel's noisy grief failed to excite the sympathy of those assembled. It was suspected that the wrecked showman was playing for sympathy.
"Such a wealth of treasures is here offered," continued the auctioneer, "that for the first time in my career I confess myself unable to decide which article or lot to lay before you first."
"You said that last week at Templeton," laughed a man in the crowd. "Go on!"
Whereupon the auctioneer once more addressed his hearers in a burst of vocal fireworks.
"I wonder what Prescott and his mucker friends are here to bid on?" Fred Ripley was asking himself. "Whatever it is, if it's nothing that I want for myself I'll bid it up as high against them as I can. For, of course, they've pooled their funds for whatever they want to get. They can't put in more than a quarter apiece, so a dollar and a half is all I have to beat. I'll wager they already suspect that I'm here just to make things come higher for them. I hope they do suspect!"
It was just after the Fourth of July. The summer sun shone fiercely down upon the assemblage.
"Perhaps, first of all," announced the auctioneer, after pausing to take breath, "it will be the proper thing to do to offer the tent itself. At this point, however, I will say that the foreclosing creditor of the show himself bids two hundred dollars on the tent. No bid, unless it be more than two hundred dollars, can be accepted. Come, now, friends, here is a fine opportunity for a shrewd business man. One need not be a showman, or have any personal need of a tent, in order to become a bidder. Whoever buys this tent to-day will be able to realize handsomely on his investment by selling this big-top tent in turn to some showman in need of a tent. Who will start the bidding at three hundred dollars?"
No one started it. After the auctioneer had talked for five minutes without getting a "rise" out of any Gridley citizen, he mournfully declared the tent to be outside of the sale.
"Has anyone here any choice as to what he wants me to offer next?" questioned the salesman of the afternoon.
There was no response.
"Come, come, gentlemen!" rebuked the auctioneer. "Don't let the July sun bake your intellects, or the first cool day that comes along will find you all filled with unavailing regrets. Hasn't some one a choice as to what should be offered next?"
Still receiving no reply, he heaved a sigh, then added:
"I see that we shall have to start action in some way. Therefore we'll bring out something that is action personified, with grace mingled. Bring out the ponies. Gentlemen, I am now going to offer you your choice of eight of the handsomest ponies you ever——-"
"But there are forty ponies and thirty-two good wagon horses," piped up a business man in the audience.
"There were," corrected the auctioneer, mournfully. "But most of the live stock was rented. Colonel Grundy had hoped to buy the stock gradually out of the receipts of the show. All that he owned in the way of live stock consisted of eight ponies. And here they come! Beauties, aren't they?"
Despite the heat of the day it was as though a frost had settled down over the scene. Many of the men present were butchers, grocers or others who had hoped to pick up cheap horses to be used in their business.
"Ponies are no good in this town," cried one man. "Lead 'em away. Come on, neighbors."
"Wait, wait!" urged the auctioneer. "There are some bargains yet to come that will interest you all. Since we have the ponies on the spot let us begin to run them off. It will teach you all how to bid quickly when you see wonderful bargains bought up under your noses!"
The bidding, however, was lax at first. A stable boy mounted one of the little animals, riding about at reckless pace.
"Now, start the bidding!"
After five minutes talking an opening bid of five dollars for the pony had been made and this had been advanced to seven.
With all the zeal at his command the auctioneer drove the bidding along. It reached fourteen dollars, and there stopped. At last the pony was knocked down to a man who thought he could use the animal in a very light delivery wagon.
"Now, gentlemen, wake up!" begged the auctioneer. "Let us have some bidding worthy of the fair name of Gridley for good judgment in business matters. Lead the roan pony forth."
Undoubtedly the first pony had been a fair bargain at fourteen dollars. The bidding on the second animal began at ten dollars, going quickly to eighteen. From that point the offers traveled slowly until twenty-six dollars had been named. At this price the pony was sold.
From that time on the ponies were "knocked down" rather briskly, though the highest-priced one of the first seven brought only thirty-one dollars.
Now came the eighth.
"You see what this animal is for yourselves, gentlemen," declared the auctioneer. "We don't need to have this sleek little animal's paces shown. We are in a hurry to get through. Who opens with twenty dollars?"
"He is a handsome little animal, isn't he?" exclaimed Dick Prescott, crowding forward and gazing at the pony with glistening eyes.
"I wish I had the money to buy him," whispered Dave Darrin.
"Maybe I couldn't use that kind of a cut-down horse!" glowed Tom Reade, while Harry and Dan looked on longingly.
"That's what the muckers are here after!" thought Fred Ripley, who had been watching them closely. "Now, no matter how much money they may think they have, I'll show them how easy it is for a fellow of my financial standing to step in and get the chestnut pony away from them!"
"Who starts the bidding with twenty dollars?" demanded the auctioneer.
"Ten," finally responded a man in the crowd.
"Thank you. But, gentlemen, ten dollars is a shame for a beautiful animal like this. Who makes it twenty? Start it right up now!"
Presently the bidding had reached sixteen dollars. Dick and his chums had crowded still closer to the pony, looking on with lively interest.
"Here's where I sting Prescott and his crew!" muttered Fred Ripley under his breath. Then, aloud, he called:
"Thank you," smiled the auctioneer, nodding in Ripley's direction. "Here is a young man of sound judgment and a good idea of money values, as his manner and his whole appearance testify."
"Someone hold Rip, or he'll burst," laughed Greg Holmes in Dick's ear.
But Fred thought the chums were conferring as to how far they could go with what means the six of them might have at hand.
"They will get going soon," thought Fred gleefully.
Just then Dick Prescott piped up:
"Twenty-two? Thank you," bowed the auctioneer. "Another young gentleman of the finest judgment. Who says twenty-five?"
"Twenty-three," offered Fred.
"Twenty-five," called Prescott promptly.
An instant after Dick had made this bid he felt heartily ashamed of himself. He hadn't intended to buy the pony, and didn't have the money. He had obeyed a sudden instinct to tease Fred Ripley, but now Dick wished he hadn't done it.
"Twenty-six!" called young Ripley.
The auctioneer looked at Prescott, but the latter, already abashed at his own conduct, made no further offer.
"Twenty-eight!" called a man in the crowd, who knew that the wealthy lawyer's son usually got whatever he wanted very badly. This new bidder thought he saw a chance to get the pony, then later to force Fred to pay a still higher price for the animal.
"Thirty!" called Ripley, with a sidelong glance at Dick & Co.
"Did I hear you offer thirty-five?" queried the auctioneer, singling out Dick Prescott.
But Dick remained mute. However, in the next instant Greg Holmes, ere Prescott could stop him, blurted out with:
"Thirty-four!" called Ripley briskly.
Greg opened his mouth, but Dick nudged him. "Don't bid, Greg. You'd feel cheap if you had to take the pony and couldn't produce the money," Dick admonished him.
"Thirty-five!" called the man who had raised the bidding before.
"Thirty-six," from Ripley.
"Thirty-eight!" called the man.
"Thirty-nine!" offered Fred, though he was beginning to perspire freely.
"Forty!" promptly offered the man.
"Forty-one!" said Fred.
And there it hung. After three minutes more of hard work on the auctioneer's part the pony went to Ripley at forty-one dollars.
"I don't know what my father will say to me for this," groaned the lawyer's son. "But, anyway, Prescott and his crew didn't get the chestnut pony, and this is the last piece of live stock, so there's none left for them."
He cast a triumphant look in the direction of those whom he termed "the mucker boys."
"Rip was bidding to keep us from getting a look-in!" whispered Tom Reade gleefully.
"That was what I thought," nodded Dick Prescott. "That was why I threw in a couple of bids—-just to make him pay for his meanness. But I'm sorry I did it."
"Step up and pay your money!" ordered the auctioneer. "Don't keep us waiting all day."
"Won't a deposit do?" demanded Fred, coming forward.
"Yes; we'll take fifteen dollars, and hold your purchase until one hour after the sale closes," replied the auctioneer. "Then, if you don't come along fast with the remainder, your deposit will be forfeited."
"I'll raise the money all right," drawled Ripley, with an important air, as he passed up three five dollar bills. "Give me a receipt for this, please."
"You've money enough there to pay it all," said the auctioneer.
"Yes; but I may bid on something else," Fred replied.
"Good luck to you," laughed the auctioneer.
Presently along came a miscellaneous lot of the weapons that had been used by cowboys and Indians connected with the show. The auctioneer tried to close these out in one lot, but there were no bids.
Several of the younger men did brisk, but not high bidding for the rifles. These were disposed of.
Then tomahawks were offered for sale, singly. The first ones offered went at an average of twenty-five cents each. At last Dan Dalzell secured one for a nickel, paid his money and proudly tucked his purchase under his arm.
"Bring out the grand war canoe!" called the auctioneer at last.
Now every drop of blood in Dick Prescott's body tingled. His chums, too, were equally aroused. It was this that they had hope of securing—-if it went off at a price next to nothing!
So intensely interested were the six young high school athletes in the proceedings now that each one steeled himself to prevent betraying the fact. All were aware that Fred Ripley's malicious eyes were watching them. If he suspected that they wanted the canoe he could put the bidding up to a figure that would make their wishes impossible of fulfillment.
Dick yawned. He looked intensely bored.
"Come along," proposed Dave in an audible voice. "There's nothing here we can get."
"Yes; it's getting tedious," hinted Tom Reade.
Dalzell and Hazelton also appeared to lose all interest in the auction.
"I was in hopes they'd want that canoe," muttered Fred Ripley, feeling as though he had been cheated out of a great pleasure. "As it happens I know all about that canoe. Wow! Wouldn't they groan if they put up all their money for the canoe—-and then found out!"
Just then the canoe was brought out. It was bolstered up on a long truck, drawn by a pair of horses. Twenty-eight feet long, slender and of graceful lines, this canoe, with its oiled birch bark glistening in the sun, was a thing of beauty. It was one of the genuine articles that the show had carried—-of real Indian model and workmanship.
"Gaze upon it, gentlemen!" cried the auctioneer enthusiastically. "Did you ever see the like of this grand war canoe? History in every line of it! Picture to yourselves the bygone days in which such a canoe, filled with painted braves, stole along in the shadows fringing the bank of some noble stream. Portray to your own minds such a marauding band stealing down stream upon some settlement, there to fall upon our hardy pioneers and put them to the death!"
"I'm glad I'm living now, instead of in those days," called a man from the crowd, raising a laugh.
"Gentlemen, before you are through," suggested the auctioneer, "one of you will be the proud and happy possessor of this magnificent war canoe. It is a priceless gem, especially when considered in the light of good old American history. Now, who will start the bidding? Who will say, clearly and distinctly, thirty dollars?"
"We're not brave enough in these days!" called a voice from the crowd.
"That's right, friends—-have fun with me," retorted the perspiring auctioneer. "But don't let this valuable, beautiful trophy get away from you."
Yet, though the auctioneer labored for a full five minutes he couldn't raise a bid.
"Take it away! Take it back!" ordered the auctioneer wearily. "I was in hopes it would appeal to the artistic sense of this town, but it doesn't! Take it away."
"If no one else wants it," drawled Dick Prescott, "I'll offer two dollars."
"Thank you for good intentions, anyway," replied the salesman on the platform. "Two dollars I'm bid. Who says ten? Now, do wake up, friends!"
But the bidding lagged.
"This beautiful war canoe!" cried the auctioneer desperately. "It was the pride of the show. A real Indian canoe, equipped with gunwale seats and six Indian paddles. And only two dollars offered. Gentlemen, do I hear three? No! Last call! It's pitiful—-two dollars!"
Dick Prescott and all his friends were now in the seventh heaven of prospective delight. It seemed unreal, that they could get this treasure for any such sum.
"If I must do it, I must," groaned the auctioneer. "Two I'm offered. Does anyone say more. Make it four! No? Make it three! No? Last call! Going, going——-"
In another instant the big war canoe would have been knocked down to young Prescott at two dollars. Dick was "all on edge," though he strove to conceal the fact.
"At two dollars, then!" groaned the auctioneer. "Two dollars! All right, then. Going, going——-"
Just then the word "gone" would have been uttered, and the canoe gone to Dick & Co.
"Three dollars!" called Fred Ripley.
There was a pause, while the auctioneer exhorted the crowd to wake up.
"Four," said young Prescott, at last, but he spoke with pretended indifference.
"Five," chimed in a man who now seemed to take an interest. The bidding now went up slowly, a dollar at a time, with these three bidders, until twelve dollars was reached. Then the man dropped out. Dick was outwardly calm, though his chums shivered, for they knew that their combined capital did not reach the amount now being offered.
"I'm afraid that canoe is going to Dick's head," whispered Harry Hazelton anxiously to Tom Reade.
"Let him alone," retorted Tom in a low voice. "It's one of Dick Prescott's good points that he generally knows what he's doing."
"But we have only——-"
"Never mind if we're worth a million, or only a single dollar," interrupted Reade impatiently. "Watch the battle between our leader and Rip, the Mean!"
Now the bidding became slower, fifty cents at a time being offered, bids coming only when the auctioneer threatened to "knock down."
"I don't want to get this confounded canoe fastened onto me," grumbled Fred Ripley to himself. "I want to stick Prescott and his crowd for all I can, but I must look out that I don't get stung. I know better than to want that canoe, no matter how good it looks!"
"Sixteen," said Dick at last, feeling more desperate inwardly than his face showed.
"Sixteen-fifty," from Ripley.
"Seventeen," offered Dick, after a pause.
"Seventeen-fifty," announced Fred, after another long bait.
"Eighteen!" followed up young Prescott. He was in a cold perspiration now, lest the fight be forced too far.
To his astonishment, Fred Ripley, an ugly sneer on his face, turned his back on the bidding.
"Are you through, gentlemen?" demanded the auctioneer, after a keen look in the direction of the lawyer's son.
"I am," Ripley growled over his shoulder.
"I am offered eighteen! Eighteen! Eighteen! Who says nineteen? Make it eighteen-fifty! Who says eighteen-fifty? Eighteen and a quarter! Are you through, gentlemen? Then going, going—-gone! Sold to Master Prescott at eighteen dollars. Young man, I congratulate you. Walk right up and pay your money! All, or a deposit?"
Dick, who had been collecting loose change from his chums, now came forward.
"I'll pay a deposit of seven dollars," he announced.
"Hand it here, then. Seven dollars; thank you. Here's your receipt. Now, remember, Prescott, you have until the end of one hour after the sale closes. Then, if you're not here with the other eleven dollars, you must expect to forfeit this deposit."
"I know," Dick nodded.
Then he hurried off to his chums.
"Come along," he said, with desperate energy, as he led them away from the field. On the sidewalk he halted.
"We've got it, fellows!" he exulted. "We've got it! Hooray!"
"Yes; we've got it, if we've got eleven dollars more—-which we haven't," Greg remarked.
"We've eleven dollars more to raise," Prescott went on hurriedly. "Roughly, that's two dollars apiece. We must hustle, too."
"No hustle for mine," yawned Dan Dalzell. "I'll just step down to my bank and get the money. Will two dollars be enough, Dick?"
"Stop that talk," ordered Dave Darrin, getting a grip on Dan's shirt collar. "If you don't, I'll thrash you! Dick has a scheme. Out with it, old chap!"
"The scheme is simple enough," said Prescott hurriedly. "We must each get two dollars, and get it like lightning. That will come to a dollar over the amount we need, but we shall need the extra dollar, anyway. So hustle! Borrow the money from anyone who'll let you have it. Offer to work the money out at any time—-any old kind of work. The only point is to come running back with the money. Get it in any honest way that you can, and don't one of you dare to fail, or we'll lose our deposit money and our canoe. Start!"
Nor did Prescott lose any time himself, but raced down the street, turned into Main Street and ran on until he came to the little cross street on which stood the bookstore conducted by his father and mother.
"Mercy, Dick! What makes you run so?" asked Mrs. Prescott. Dick was rejoicing to discover that there was, at this moment, no customer in the store.
"Mother," replied her son, "I want to borrow three dollars this minute. I'll be responsible for it—-I'll pay it back. Please let me have it—-in a hurry!"
Then, briefly, he poured out the story. Mrs. Prescott's hand had already traveled toward the cash register.
"We're very short of money just now, my boy. Try to earn this and pay it back quickly. You know, trade is slow in the summer time, and we have several bills to meet."
"Yes, I'll pay it back, mother, at the first chance—-and I'll make the chance—-somehow," promised young Prescott. "Thank you."
The money in his hand, Dick raced back to the lot where the show tent still stood.
He was back before any of the others and waited impatiently. Dave Darrin came up ten minutes later.
"Did you get it?" asked Dick anxiously.
"Yes," replied Dave laconically, pushing two one dollar bills into Dick's hand.
One by one the other boys arrived. Each had managed to round up his part of the assessment.
With thirteen dollars in his hand, Dick went up to the auctioneer's clerk.
"I am ready to pay the other eleven dollars on the canoe," Prescott announced, speaking as calmly as possible.
"All right," agreed the clerk. "But you'll have to find some man you can trust to take the bill of sale. We can't pass title to a minor."
"Why didn't you tell me that before?" Dick demanded.
"That's all right. It wasn't necessary before, but it is now. Just find some man who will treat you all right and give you the canoe. Then we'll take the money and make out the bill of sale to him."
Fred Ripley now sauntered up, offering his money. He was given the same directions for finding a man to whom title could pass.
Dick looked about him. Then across the lot, and over on the further side of the street he saw his father.
Dick returned quickly to the lot with Mr. Prescott, explaining the situation. The bookseller listened gravely, but offered no objections. He stepped over, paid the money for Dick, then said:
"I must be going. Turn the canoe over to my son."
"Yes, sir," replied the auctioneer's clerk. "Men, haul out the truck that has the canoe on."
Mr. Prescott had already walked away. Dick and his chums greeted the coming of truck and canoe with a wild whoop. Then they piled up on the truck to inspect their treasure.
Fred Ripley, returning with Mr. Dodge, a local banker, saw the six youngsters climbing up to look at their purchase. A broad, malicious grin appeared on Ripley's face.
"Sold! sold!" gasped Dave Darrin. Then his face flushed with anger. For the canoe, which looked well enough on exhibition, proved to have three bad holes in her hull, which had been carefully concealed by the manner in which the craft had been propped up on the truck.
The great war canoe looked worthless—-certain to sink in less than sixty seconds if launched!
"RIP" TRIES OUT HIS BARGAIN
Had a meaner trick ever been played on boys with whom it was so hard to raise money?
"Ha, ha, ha!" chuckled Fred Ripley, so loudly that the dismayed, angry boys could not fail to hear him.
"You sneak! You knew it all the time!" flared Dave Darrin, gazing down in disgust at the lawyer's son.
"Maybe I did know," Fred admitted, yet speaking to Mr. Dodge. "You see, one of my father's clerks served the papers which attached the show."
There was no help for Dick & Co. They had parted with their money and their "property" had been turned over to them.
It is an ancient principle of law that the buyer must beware. The auctioneer had been most careful not to represent the canoe as being fit for service. He had offered it as an historical curiosity!
Dick & Co. looked at the canoe anxiously.
"What shall we do with it?" asked Dave Darrin moodily.
"Make a bonfire of it?" asked Danny Grin.
"Might as well," Greg nodded.
"No, sir!" Dick interrupted. "Tom, what do you say? You're one of the really handy boys. Can't this canoe be patched up, mended and put in commission?"
"It might be done," Tom answered slowly.
The other five stood regarding him with eager interest.
"But we'd have to get an Indian here to show us how to do it."
"Where are the Indians that were here with the show?" asked Harry Hazelton.
"They went away as soon as the show was attached," Dick answered. "Probably they're hundreds of miles from here now. They were only hired out to the show by their white manager, and they've gone to another job. Besides, they were only show Indians, and probably they've forgotten all they ever knew about canoe-building—-if they ever did know anything."
"Then I don't see but that we're just as badly off as ever," sighed Greg. "We're out eighteen dollars and the fine canoe that we expected would provide us with so much fun."
"The paddles look all right, anyway," spoke up Harry Hazelton, lifting one out of the canoe and looking it over critically.
"Oh, yes, the paddles are all right, and the river is close at hand," spoke Dave Darrin vengefully. "All we need is a canoe that will float."
"If it were a cedar canoe we might patch it easily enough," Prescott declared. "But I've heard that there is so much 'science' to making or mending a birch bark canoe that an amateur always makes the job worse."
"Haw, haw, haw!" came boisterously from Fred Ripley. He and Mr. Dodge were now standing before the table of the auctioneer's clerk. Fred was paying down the remaining twenty-six dollars on the price he had bid for the handsome chestnut pony.
"Yes, you're laughing at us, you contemptible Rip!" scowled Dave, though he spoke under his breath. "You can afford to lose money, for you always know where to get more. You knew this canoe was worthless, and you deliberately bid it up on us—-you scoundrel!"
"Shall we make Colonel Grundy a present of this canoe?" suggested Danny Grin dolefully.
"The poor old man hasn't money enough to get the canoe away from here, even if he wanted to," replied Dick, in a voice of sympathy.
"But how did the show folks manage to use this canoe?" asked Tom Reade.
"They didn't, except on a truck in a street parade, I imagine," Dick replied. "And that must be how the holes came to be in the bottom. The sun got in its work on the bark and oil, and blistered the body of the canoe so that it broke or wore away in spots. Oh, dear!"
The sale was over, but a few odds and ends remained. Fred Ripley, having now paid the whole of his forty-one dollars through Mr. Dodge, ordered his handsome new purchase led out.
A man came out, holding the pony's halter. He walked slowly, the pony moving contentedly after him.
"A fine little animal!" glowed Fred, stroking the glossy coat.
"He—-er—-looks rather old, doesn't he?" ventured Mr. Dodge.
"Not so very old," Fred answered airily. "There is a lot of life and vim left in this little fellow. And he can show speed, too, or I'm all wrong."
Then Fred's eye roved toward the pile of stuff on which no one had bid.
"There's a good saddle," suggested Ripley. "The real western kind," nodded the auctioneer.
It looked the part.
"I'll give you two dollars for the saddle," Fred offered.
"You'll pay ten if you get that saddle," replied the red-faced auctioneer.
"Put it up and let us see how the bids will run," proposed Ripley.
"The sale is closed. Anything that is sold now will go at private sale," retorted the auctioneer.
"Oh, come now!" protested Ripley. "I'd like to trade with you."
"You can, if you produce the price. At least, your friend can. I can't deal with you, for you're a minor."
Fred tried vainly to persuade the auctioneer to lower the price of the saddle, but finally concluded to pay ten dollars for it and two dollars for a bridle. A worn saddle cloth was "thrown in" for good measure. Ripley handed the money to the auctioneer's clerk.
"Saddle up," directed Fred, tossing a quarter to the man who held the pony's bridle.
Though flushed with his bargain, Fred was also feeling rather solemn. He had parted with nearly all of the sixty dollars his father had handed him that morning as his summer's spending money. He was beginning to wonder if his pony would really take the place of all the fun he had planned for his summer vacation.
"Here is your mount, sir," called the man who had done the saddling. "Now, let's see what kind of a horseman you are."
"As good as you'll find around Gridley," declared Fred complacently.
Putting a foot into the left stirrup, he vaulted lightly to the animal's back.
"He has a treasure, and we're stung," muttered Dave Darrin in a low voice. "Those that have plenty of money and can afford to lose don't often lose!"
Before starting off Fred, glancing over at Dick & Co. standing dolefully on the truck, brayed insolently:
"Haw, haw, haw!"
Dave clenched his fists, but knew that he could do nothing without making himself ridiculous.
"Get up, Prince!" ordered young Ripley, bringing one hand smartly against the animal's flank.
"He's going to call his pony 'Prince,'" whispered Danny Grin.
"It looks like an appropriate name," nodded Dick wistfully.
For some reason the pony didn't seem inclined to start. Fred dug his heels against the animal's side and moved away at a walk.
"A-a-a-ah!" murmured a crowd of small boys enviously.
"Now, show a little speed, Prince," ordered Fred, digging his heels in hard.
The pony broke into a trot. Someone passed Ripley a switch, with which he dealt his animal a stinging blow. Away went pony and rider at a slow canter.
"Fine gait this little fellow has," exulted Fred, while cheers went up from the small boys.
Suddenly the animal slowed down to a walk. Fred applied two sharp cuts with the switch, again starting his mount. Fred turned and came cantering back toward the group, feeling mightily proud of himself.
Suddenly the pony stopped, trembling in every limb.
"Get off, young man!" called someone. "Your pony is going to fall!"
Fred got off, feeling rather peculiar. He wished that the six fellow high school boys over on the truck would move off.
Mr. Dodge hurried over to the young man, looking very much concerned.
"Fred," murmured the banker, "for all his fine looks I'm afraid there is something wrong with your pony."
"What is it?" asked Fred, looking, as he felt, vastly troubled.
At that moment an automobile stopped out in the road.
"Beg your pardon, Mr. Dodge," called the chauffeur, "but are you going to want me soon?"
"I want you at once," called back the banker, adding in a lower voice to Fred:
"Flannery, my new chauffeur, was a coachman for many years. He's a fine judge of horseflesh."
Flannery came up, an inquiring look on his face.
"I want you to look this pony over and tell me just what you think of him," directed the banker.
Flannery went over the pony's "lines" with the air of an expert, as, indeed, he was.
"Fine-looking little beast," said Flannery. "He has been well fed and groomed."
Then he looked into the pony's mouth, examining the teeth with great care.
"Used to be a nice animal once," decided Flannery, "but he was that a long time ago. He's about twenty-five or twenty-six years old."
"What!" exploded young Ripley, growing very red in the face.
"Thinking of buying him, sir?" asked the chauffeur respectfully."
"I've already bought him," confessed Fred ruefully.
Flannery whistled softly. Then he took the pony by the bridle, dragging him along over the ground at a trot, the crowd making way for him.
"Wind-broken," announced the ex-coachman, leading the trembling animal back. "Bad case, too."
"A veterinary can cure that," Fred declared, speaking more airily than his feelings warranted.
"Hm!" replied Flannery dryly. "You find the veterinary, Master Fred, and I'll show the gentleman how to make his fortune if he can cure wind-broken horses."
"Then what good is the pony?" demanded Fred in exasperation.
"Well, the hide ought to fetch three dollars, and there are a good many pounds of soap fat in him," replied Flannery slowly.
"And is that all the good there is in this pony?" cried Ripley. He felt like screaming.
"It's all the good I can see in him, sir," replied Flannery.
"Then I won't take this pony," young Ripley declared, flushing hotly. "It's a downright swindle. Here, my man, hand my money back and take your old soap box."
"Not to-day," declared the auctioneer briefly. He and his clerk were now preparing to depart.
"You'd better!" warned Fred.
"Then I'll have you arrested."
"Run and get a policeman," Fred ordered, turning to a crowd of small boys.
"All right," smiled the auctioneer. "If you'll be quick about it I'll wait for your policeman."
But Mr. Dodge, who had shaken his head toward three boys who had shown signs of being willing to run for a policeman, now led young Ripley to one side.
"No use making any fuss about it, I'm afraid, Fred. You saw the pony when it was offered for sale, didn't you?"
"And you didn't ask to have him run? You didn't demand the privilege of trying him yourself?"
"What representations did the auctioneer make about the pony?" pressed Mr. Dodge.
"Why, he said the pony was a fine-looking animal——-"
"And that's no lie," responded Mr. Dodge gravely. "What else?"
"That's the only representation that I did make," broke in the auctioneer, who had strolled slowly over to them. "I also said that the pony showed all of his good points."
"I'm afraid you'll have to swallow your loss, Fred," suggested the banker. "I'm sorry that I had even an innocent part in this trade."
"Trade?" screamed Fred, now losing all control of himself. "It wasn't a trade at all! It's piracy! It's highway robbery! It was a barefaced swindle, and this swindler"
Fred glared at the auctioneer.
"Go slowly, young man," advised the salesman of the afternoon.
"You're a swindler, and a mean one, taking downright advantage of other folks," stormed young Ripley. "But you won't get away with this swindle. My father is a lawyer—-the best lawyer in the place—-and he'll give you good reason to shiver!"
"All right, young man. Send your father after me—-if he'll take the case. But I'm going down to see him, anyway, for I must give him an accounting of the money taken in this afternoon. Come along, Edson," to his clerk.
Very red in the face, Fred Ripley stood with his fists clenched, trying to avoid the eyes of the many grinning men and boys gathered around him.
Dick & Co. had gotten down from the truck. They did not join in the fun-making at the enemy's expense, though naturally they did not feel very sorry for young Ripley.
"Will you ride your pony home, sir?" asked the man who had done the saddling.
"No," said Fred shortly. He felt tempted to tell the man to lead the worthless animal away and shoot it. Then he changed his mind.
"Take this half dollar," he said, "and take the pony down and leave it in our stable."
For another thought had just occurred to Fred Ripley. If he kept a close mouth, and watched his chance, he hoped that he might yet be able to make some sort of "trade" with the pony as an asset.
BUYING FUEL FOR A BONFIRE?
"Well, what are we going to do with our magnificent war canoe?" asked Greg Holmes dolefully. "Does the bonfire idea go?"
"It doesn't," Dick retorted. "Although we don't know anything about such a job, and though it is supposed to need a sure enough expert to do it, we're at least going to try the thing out and see if we can't make this canoe float, and carry us safely, at that!"
"We'd better decide how to get it away from here, anyway," proposed Tom Reade. "We haven't any lease of this lot."
Over near the road a group of men and boys were laughing heartily. It was at the lawyer's son that their mirth was directed. As for Dick & Co., the Gridley crowd felt only sympathy. The proceedings of the afternoon had but emphasized the old idea that at an auction sale one must either use great judgment or take his chances.
"Say," called Dick, "there goes the very man we ought to ask for advice. Harry, will you run over and ask Hiram Driggs to come here?"
Hazelton, nodding, hurried away at full speed. "Hiram Driggs is an awfully high-priced man," sighed Tom Reade.
"Perhaps his mere advice won't come high," young Prescott answered. "If it does, we'll begin right by telling him that we have no money—-that we've nothing in fact but a birchbark white elephant on our hands."
Driggs came over promptly, his keen, shrewd eyes twinkling.
"So you boys have been buying away from my shop, and have been 'stung,' eh!" queried Driggs, a short, rather stout man, of about forty.
"Robbed, I'd call it," replied Dave Darrin.
"Same thing, at a horse trade or an auction sale," hinted Hiram dryly as he got up on the truck. "Let's have a look at your steam yacht."
For a few moments Driggs looked the canoe over in grim silence.
"Whew!" was time final comment.
"Pretty bad, isn't it?" Dick inquired.
"Well, for my part, I'd sooner buy a real wreck," Driggs announced. "This may be an auctioneer's idea of honor. What was his name?"
"The auctioneer's name? Caswell," Dick answered.
"I'll make a note of that name," said Driggs, drawing out notebook and pencil, "and keep away from any auction that has a man named Caswell on the quarter-deck. Now, boys, what do you want to know about this canoe that your eyes don't tell you?"
"About how much would it cost us to fix her?" asked Prescott.
"Thirty dollars—-maybe thirty-two," said Driggs, after another casual look at the canoe.
"Let's announce the bonfire for to-night," urged Greg.
"We haven't any such sum of money, Mr. Driggs," Dick went on.
"Too bad, boys, for you'd probably have a lot of fun in this craft. If you want to sell it, maybe I could allow you four dollars for the craft as she stands."
"We'd hate to part with the canoe," Dick continued.
"I know, I know," remarked Driggs sympathetically. "It was wanting a boat badly when I was a boy that drove me into the boat business. But I didn't have to handle birch bark then, or my first craft would have sunk me. Say, boys, great joke how young Ripley got stung so badly, wasn't it?"
"I know about how he feels," remarked Dick.
"Yes, of course," smiled Driggs. "But you boys are entitled to some honest sympathy. I don't imagine young Ripley will get much sympathy, will he?"
"Not a heap," Greg Holmes answered.
"Well," resumed Driggs, "I ain't a mite sorry for the boy and his make-believe pony. But I wish I could help you with your boat, for I know you haven't any loose money to throw around like young Rip."
Driggs dug his hands deep into his pockets and wrinkled his brow in thought.
At last he looked up hopefully.
"I'll tell you what I've been thinking about, boys. The town will be laughing at young Ripley to-morrow. But Rip, he'll be passing the laugh around on you young fellers, too. Now, I don't mind Rip's troubles; but it's different with you boys, and I know how it stings to part with all the money you could scrape together. Now, let's look this job over. I could say about thirty dollars for this job. It will cost twenty, and the other ten dollars would be profit, interest on my investment in my shop and so forth. Now, I'll let this job go at just the cost—-twenty dollars, and throw off the profit and trimmings. Yes—-to you young fellows—-I'll call the job twenty dollars."
"That's kind of you," said Dick, with a grateful sigh. "But we want to be honest with you, Mr. Drigg—-Twenty dollars, or five, or a hundred—-it would be all the same to us. We haven't the money."
"Not so fast," returned Driggs, his eyes twinkling. "I'll give you credit, and treat the debt as a matter of honor between us."
"But I don't know how we'd pay you back," Dick went on. "As it is, we've borrowed a good bit of money that we've got to pay back."
"Exactly," agreed Driggs, "and you want to pay the other money back before you pay me. Yes; I'll take the job at cost—-twenty dollars, and I'll throw in the use of one of my teams and trucks to come up here and get the canoe."
"But I'm afraid, sir, that we'd be a very long time paying you."
"No, you won't," Driggs disputed. "I don't allow long time bills, but I'll show you a way to pay me back fairly early, if you boys have the energy—-and I believe you have. Now, you see, first off, boys, we'll need a lot of birch bark. I haven't any in stock, and the kind that is sound and good for canoe building is scarce these days. Now, first off, you'll have to range the woods for bark. Do you know where to find it?"
"Yes," Dick nodded. "Over on that place they call Katson's Hill."
"But that's about eleven miles from here," objected Driggs.
"I know it is," Prescott answered. "But the point is that Katson's Hill is wild land. No tax assessor knows who is the owner of that land, and it wouldn't bring enough money to make it worth while to sell it at a sheriff's sale. So a number of farmers turn their cattle in there and use it for free grazing ground. As no owner can be found for the land we won't have to pay for the birch bark that we cut there."
"That's so," Driggs acknowledged. "But it's an awful distance, and over some mighty rough bits of road. You'll be about dead after you've packed a load of birch bark in from Katson's Hill."
"That wouldn't be anything, compared with having to do without our canoe," Dick returned.
"Maybe not," Driggs conceded. "Now, boys, is there much of that birch bark on Katson's Hill?"
"There must be several shiploads," Dave Darrin replied.
"Good enough. Then, see here. I'll take this job at twenty dollars, if you boys will get the birch bark. After you've brought in enough to patch the canoe then you can bring in enough more to amount to twenty dollars. Is that a go?"
"It's wonderfully kind of you," Dick answered gratefully.
"Not much it isn't," Driggs grinned, "and it will make that young Ripley cub feel mighty sore and cheap when he finds that he was the only one who got 'skinned' at this auction. But before you get through cutting and hauling birch bark you may think I'm a pretty hard taskmaster. I'll call it a go, if you boys will."
"We'll pay our full debt, Mr. Driggs, and pay you a load of thanks besides."
"All right," nodded Driggs, jumping down off the truck, in haste to get away from the embarrassment of being thanked. "Some of you just hang around here until my man, Jim Snowden, gets up here with the truck. After Jim starts away with your war canoe then you can leave the rest to me, except cutting and hauling several loads of birch bark to square up matters."
Driggs beat a hasty retreat now. When he had gone the members of Dick & Co. exchanged glances. Then Holmes began to dance his best idea of a jig.
"We'll have that bonfire at eight o'clock tonight, Greg," Dick reminded him with a smile.
"Will you?" demanded Greg, scowling fiercely. "If any of you fellows have any matches, then just keep away from that canoe, or I'll fight. We can't afford to take any risks. Whoop!"
"Whoop!" answered Harry Hazelton, standing on his head.
"Whoop!" echoed Dave Darrin, giving Danny Grin a playful punch that sent Dalzell sprawling.
They were as happy a lot of boys as one could wish to see. They were to have their canoe and all the sport that that meant. It was to be a safe craft—-as good as new! For Hiram Driggs was a dependable and skilful boat builder.
"Hey, too bad you fellows got stung so fearfully," cried a grammar school boy in passing. "I'm mighty sorry."
"Thank you," Dick answered. "But we're going to have the canoe repaired. We'll be having lots of fun in the war canoe after a few days."
"How you going to get her fixed?" asked the other boy.
"Hiram Driggs has taken the job, and you know what he can do with boats."
"Whee! I'm glad on you're going to have the canoe fixed all right," nodded the other boy, and passed on.
Forty-five minutes after Driggs' departure Jim Snowden came up with the truck. With the help of the boys he loaded the canoe from the other truck, then started away.
By this time the news had spread to other boys that Dick & Co. would soon have their war canoe afloat in fine order—-that Hiram Driggs stood sponsor for the prediction.
That evening Fred Ripley had a somewhat unpleasant talk with his father.
"You've no business with pocket money," said Squire Ripley sternly. "You have no idea of the value of it."
"I thought I had made a good bargain," said Fred sullenly.
"So does every fool who parts with his money as easily as you do," returned the lawyer. "Well, enjoy yourself, my boy. If you'd rather have that paralyzed pony than the money I gave you to enjoy the summer with, I suppose you're entitled to your choice, though I don't like your judgment."
"Of course," suggested Fred, "since I've met with misfortune you won't be too hard on me. You'll let me have a little more money, so I won't have to go through the summer like a mucker."
"I'll give you no more spending money this summer," retorted the lawyer, adding, grimly: "If I did, you'd probably go and buy a cart to match your horse."
In fact Fred felt so uncomfortable at home that, just after dark, he started up Main Street.
"Where's your horse, Fred?" called Bert Dodge. "Why are you walking when you own one of the best steeds that ever came out of Arabia?"
"Shut up, won't you?" demanded Fred sulkily.
Bert chuckled for a while before he went on:
"Of course, I'm sorry for you, Fred, but it's all so funny that I can't help laughing."
"Oh, yes, it must be awfully funny," replied young Ripley testily.
"But you can afford it," said Bert. "You can get more money from your father."
"I suppose so," Ripley assented, not caring to repeat his interview with his father. "Anyway, I'm glad that Dick Prescott and the rest of his crowd got fooled as badly as I did. And they can't get any more money this summer."
"I guess they must have gotten some already," Bert rejoined. "Didn't you hear the news about that canoe?"
"What news?" asked Fred quickly.
"Why, they've engaged Hiram Driggs to put the canoe in good order."
"Where did they get the money?" asked Fred, his brow darkening.
"I don't know," was Bert's rejoinder. "But they must be able to raise money all right, for Driggs has the canoe down at his yard, and he has promised it to them in a few days."
This news came like a slap in the face to the lawyer's son. He remained with Bert for another hour, but all the time Fred brooded over the fact that Dick & Co. were to have their canoe after all.
"At that, I don't know that they will have their canoe," Fred remarked darkly to himself as he started homeward.
Shortly after midnight Fred Ripley sneaked away from his home, turning his face in the direction of Hiram Driggs' boatyard.
HIRAM PRIES A SECRET LOOSE
When he left home Fred Ripley had no clearly defined idea as to what he meant to do.
However, he had in one pocket a keen-bladed pocket knife. Well wrapped in paper a short but sharp-edged chisel rested in one of the side pockets of his coat.
At the outset his only purpose was to do irreparable mischief to the war canoe. The means of accomplishing that purpose he must decide upon when he reached the boatyard.
How dark it was, and how hot! Late as the hour was the baking heat of the day did not seem to have left the ground. Fred walked along rapidly, fanning his perspiring face with his straw hat.
"They'll have their war canoe in the water in a few days, will they?" the lawyer's son muttered. "Humph!"
Through the side streets he went, keeping a sharp lookout. Conscious of the fact that he was bent on an unworthy errand, Fred did not care to be recognized abroad at this unusual hour.
In a few minutes he had reached the boatyard. This was surrounded by a high board fence, and the gate was locked.
"It won't do to get over the fence," young Ripley decided. "I might be seen and watched. But I know a way."
At one corner of the yard the fence ran almost, though not quite to the bank of the river.
Keeping well within the shadow of the fence, young Ripley hastened toward this point.
Here the amount of space was not sufficient for him to step around the end of the fence. However, by grasping it on both sides Fred could swing himself around it and into the boatyard. He did so with ease, then halted, peering cautiously about the yard.
"No one here," the lawyer's son decided at last. "Whew! I wouldn't dare even to stumble over a tramp taking a nap here. This is ticklish business, or it would be if I were caught here. Now, where is the canoe?"
Early in the evening the moon had shone, but now the stars gave all the light there was to be had. It was so close in the yard that Fred soon pulled off his jacket, carrying it or his arm.
Nowhere in the open yard was the canoe to be seen. There were three semi-open sheds. Into each of these in turn Ripley peered. The canoe was nowhere to be found.
"I'm a fool to lose my sleep and take all the risk for this!" grunted the boy, halting and staring moodily about him in his great disappointment. He now glared angrily at a large building, two-thirds boathouse and one-third boat-building shop.
"Hiram Driggs had the canoe taken in there!" muttered the boy. "Just my luck. I couldn't get into that building unless I broke a window—-and I don't dare do that."
Still determined to get at the canoe, if possible, Fred stole down to the inclined platform from which boats were carried to the water. But the water-front entrance to the boathouse also proved to be locked.
"There's no show for me here," grunted the young prowler. "I wonder if any of the windows have been left unlocked."
His good sense told him that it would be a serious matter indeed to raise a window and enter the building—-if he were caught.
But Fred, after a few moments of strained listening, decided to take the chance. At any hazard that he dared take he must get to the war canoe and put it out of commission for all time.
He tried three of the windows. All of them proved to be locked.
"I'm going to have some more of my usual luck," groaned young Ripley. "I wonder why it is that I always have such poor luck when I have my heart most set on doing a thing?"
He was slipping along to the fourth window when he heard a sound that almost caused his heart to stop beating.
Merely the sound of footsteps pausing by the gate to the boatyard—-that was all, for a moment. But Fred cowered in acute dread.
"Who's in there?" called a steady voice, that filled Fred Ripley with consternation, He knew that voice! It belonged to a member of the Gridley police force.
"Talk about your tough luck!" shivered Fred. "This is the limit! Now, I'm in for it."
For a few moments he crouched close to the boathouse nearly paralyzed with fright. His consternation increased when a sound over by the fence indicated that the policeman was trying to mount that barrier.
Now, Fred's courage returned, or enough of it to enable him to try to escape. Bending low, he turned and ran swiftly, almost noiselessly. His speed astonished even himself. He gained the corner of the fence by which he had entered the yard. Taking a firm hold, he swung himself around the fence and out of sight just as the policeman's head showed over the top of it.
Fortunately for the fugitive, the policeman, in climbing the fence, had made noise enough to drown the slight sounds produced by Ripley's frenzied flight.
His first thought being of burglars, the policeman drew his revolver as soon as his feet touched the ground inside the yard. With his left hand he held an electric pocket flash lamp, whose rays he flashed into the dark places.
Fred did not stop until he found himself safely within the grounds of his home. There he halted, fanning himself with his hat and taking long breaths. If discovered by anyone he could easily claim that he had found the night too hot to sleep inside and had come outdoors for air.
The next morning, about ten o'clock, Hiram Driggs, who had already been visited by Dick & Co., on their way to Katson's Hill, was called upon by Policeman Curtis of the Gridley force. Curtis, being off duty, was in citizen's clothes.
"Did you miss anything out of the plant this morning, Mr. Driggs?" inquired the guardian of life and property.
"Nothing that I know of," Driggs answered. "Why?"
"I thought I heard burglars about here last night, while on duty," the policeman explained. "I came up over the fence, and looked about the place, but couldn't find anything. Yes, I did, too, though. I'll talk about that in a moment. You see, I went off duty at one o'clock this morning, so I didn't spend much time here. I'm on house reserve duty to-day. Now, for what I found here. I didn't find a living soul in the yard, but on the ground, near one of the open sheds, I came upon a chisel wrapped in a newspaper. I hid it, then, but I'll show it to you now. Maybe it belongs to the shop, and if so I've no business with it. But, if you don't recognize the chisel as yours, then I'll take it up to the station house and turn it over to the chief."
"After all that stretch o' talk," smiled Driggs, "you ought to show me a whole case full of chisels."
"I hid it over here," Curtis explained, going over to one of the open sheds. "I tucked it in under this packing case. Here it is, now, just where I left it. Do you recognize it as yours?"
From the newspaper wrapping Driggs took the small but keen-edged implement. He regarded it curiously. Then he turned the paper over slowly.
"Do you recognize it?" persisted the policeman.
"Mebbe," said Driggs. "I guess you can leave it here. But, in case any question should come up about it in the future, suppose you write your autograph on the handle of the chisel."
Driggs passed over his fountain pen, the policeman obligingly obeying the request for his signature on the wood.
"Now, just for good measure, write your name across the top of the newspaper, too," Driggs proposed. Curtis did so.
"You seem to attach a good deal of importance to this find," hinted the policeman.
"Mebbe," assented Driggs indifferently. "Mebbe not. But you and I will both know this paper and the chisel again, if we see it, won't we?"
"We ought to," nodded the policeman. "But you don't consider the matter as important enough, then, to interest the police?"
"I wouldn't think o' bothering the police force about a trifling little matter like this," returned Driggs carelessly.
Just as soon, however, as the policeman had gone, Driggs darted into his private office. There he took up the telephone receiver and asked for Lawyer Ripley's residence number.
"Is Master Fred at home!" he inquired, when a servant of the Ripley household answered the telephone. Fred was at home, the servant replied, and then summoned Fred to the telephone.
"Well, who is it, and what is it?" asked Fred crossly.
"Hiram Driggs," responded the boat builder dryly. "That's 'who is it.' As to 'what is it,' if you'll take a quick run over to my office at the boatyard I'll tell you the rest of it."
"What on earth can you want to see me about?" Fred demanded.
Even over the wire, the note of dismay in Ripley's voice was plainly evident to Driggs, who chuckled.
"I can't tell you, over the wire, all that I want to see you about," Driggs replied. "You'd better come over here at once. I can promise you that it's something interesting."
"I—-I don't believe I can come over to-day," Fred answered hesitatingly. "The weather is too hot."
"Mebbe the weather will get hotter, if you don't come," Hiram Driggs responded calmly.
"That's a joke, eh?" queried Fred. "Ha, ha, ha!"
"Depends upon the feller's sense of humor," Driggs declared. "Well, you're coming over, aren't you?"
"Ye-es, I'll come," Fred assented falteringly, for his guilty conscience made a coward of him. "You're a fine fellow, Mr. Driggs, and I'm glad to oblige anyone like you. I'll be right over."
"Thanks, ever so much, for the compliment," drawled Driggs in his most genial tone. "Such a compliment is especially appreciated when it comes from a young gentleman of your stripe. Good-bye."
That word "stripe" caused Fred Ripley to have a disagreeable chill. He remembered that "stripes" are an important part of the design on a convict's suit of state-furnished clothes.
"But he needn't think he can prove anything against me," Fred muttered to himself, as he started down the street. "Of course, I know I lost that chisel last night, and Driggs may have found it in his boatyard. But he can't prove that the chisel belongs to me, or to our house. There are lots more chisels just like that one. If Driggs tries to bluff me he'll find that I'm altogether too cool for him!"
Nevertheless, it was an anxious young man who walked into the boat builder's office a few minutes later. Hiram Driggs, smiling broadly, held out his hand, which Fred took.
"Sorry I wasn't here when you called last night," said Driggs affably.
"I don't know what you mean," Fred rejoined promptly. "I didn't call at your house last night."
"Oh, no," Driggs replied. "I meant when you called here."
"I didn't call here, either."
"Ever see this before?" asked Driggs, holding up the chisel.
"Never," lied Fred.
"That's curious," said Driggs musingly. "Officer Curtis, the man on this beat, found the chisel here, and it was wrapped up in part of this newspaper."
Driggs brought forth from one of the drawers of his desk the newspaper in question.
"What has that scrap of paper to do with it?" asked Fred, speaking as coolly as he could.
"Why," explained Driggs, turning the paper over, "here's the mail sticker on this side, with your father's printed name and address pasted on it just as it came through the post-office."
Fred gasped audibly this time. Driggs surveyed his face with a keen, tantalizing gaze.
"Mebbe 'twas your father, then, who was in the yard last night, and who refused to answer the policeman's hail," suggested the boat builder. "I'd better go up to his office and show him these things and ask him, I guess."
"But I don't believe my father will know anything about it," spoke young Ripley huskily.
"Then your father will want to know something about it," Driggs went on. "He's a man of an inquiring turn of mind. Let's run up to his office together and ask him."
"No, no, no!" urged Fred, his face growing paler.
"Then why were you here last night?"
"I wasn't here," protested the boy.
"Perhaps I can tell you why you were here," Driggs went on, never losing his affable smile. "You don't like Dick Prescott, and you don't like his boy friends. Prescott has been too many for you on more than one occasion. But that is no reason why you should enter my yard after midnight. That is no reason why you should want to do harm to a war canoe or to any other property that happens to be in my yard. I really don't know whether you're to be blamed for being a glib liar, Ripley. You've never given yourself much practice at telling the truth, you know. But I have this to say: If anything happens to that canoe, or to anything else here, I shall make it my business to get hold of Officer Curtis, and he and I will drop in and show your father this chisel, and this piece of paper that it was wrapped in. As you will see, Curtis has written his signature on the paper and on the handle of the chisel, so that he may identify them again at any time. Now, Ripley, I won't look for you to pay this yard any more visits except in a proper way and during regular business hours. Good morning!"
Hiram Driggs held out his hand as smilingly as ever, and Fred took it in a flabby grasp, feeling as though he were going to faint. Then without a word Ripley slunk out of the office, while Driggs gazed after him still smiling.
"The mean scoundrel!" panted Fred, as he hurried away, his knees trembling under him. "There isn't a meaner fellow in town than Hiram Driggs, and some day he'll go and tell my father just for spite. I know he will! Now, I've got to find some good way to account for that paper and chisel I'll put in the day thinking up my story."
BIRCH BARK MERCHANTS
Away over on Katson's Hill six high school boys, stripped to their undershirts and trousers, were toiling hard, drenched in perspiration and with hands considerably the worse for their hard work.
"What we're finding out is that it's one thing to strip bark for fun, and quite another thing to take it off in pieces large enough for a boat-builder," Dick Prescott declared.
"It isn't as fast work as I thought it would be, either," Dave Darrin declared, running his knife slowly down the trunk of a young birch.
"What we need is to bring a grindstone along with us," Tom Reade grunted, as he examined the edge of the largest blade in his jackknife. "I simply can't cut with this knife any more."
"I couldn't cut with a fine razor," declared Greg Holmes. "Look at the blisters on my hands from the cutting I've already done."
"Never mind your aches and pains," comforted Dave Darrin. "We're doing this to pay charges on our canoe, and Hiram Driggs has been mighty kind about the whole business. Think of the fun we're going to have when that canoe is launched; Now, fellows, Hiram Driggs has been mighty good to us, so I want to propose a plan for your approval. Whenever Driggs tells us that we've cut and hauled enough birch bark to pay him, then we must come out here and get still a few more loads, to pay him in good measure and show that we appreciate his kindness. Never mind how much our backs ache or our hands smart. Do you agree?"
"I'll fight any fellow in the crowd who doesn't agree," announced Tom Reade.
"You can't get up a fight with me on that score," retorted Greg. The others also quickly assented to Dave's plan.
By and by the youngsters halted for half an hour to eat the luncheons they had brought with them. Then they went at their work again.
At half-past three o'clock in the afternoon they tied up in bundles as much of the bark as each boy could carry, then started homeward.
"We ought to get home in time for supper," Dick declared hopefully.
It was about eight o'clock in the evening when they reached Greg's gate. The return was harder than they had expected. The road seemed to be twice as rough as it had been in the morning; they were utterly fagged, and discovered that even a load of birch bark can weigh a good deal under certain circumstances.
"Pile it up in the back of the yard," Greg suggested, "and we'll take it around to Mr. Driggs in the morning."
"Then we can hardly get back to Katson's Hill to-morrow, if we wait until the boatyard opens at eight o'clock," said Dave. "We ought to start for the hill before six, as we did this morning."
"We'll none of us feel like going to Katson's Hill early to-morrow morning," smiled Dick wearily. "Fellows, I guess we'll have to put in twice as much time, and go every other day. I'm afraid it's going to be a little too much for us to do everyday."
So this was agreed upon, though rather reluctantly, for Dick & Co. were anxious to repay Driggs at the earliest date.
Not one of the six boys appeared on Main Street that evening. Each of them, after eating supper, crept away to bed to ease the aching of his muscles in slumber.
The next morning they met at Greg's gate shortly after seven o'clock.
"The loads will seem lighter to-day," laughed Dick.
"But to-morrow—-oh, me, oh, my!" groaned Reade, making a comical face.
"It's the 'White Man's Burden,' you know," Dick laughed.
"What is?" Dave inquired.
"Debt—-and its consequences."
"My father has a horror of debt," Tom announced.
"Well, I guess the black side of debt shows only when one doesn't intend to make an effort to pay it," Dick suggested. "The whole business world, so we were taught at high school, rests on a foundation of debt. The man who doesn't contract debts bigger than he can pay, won't find much horror in owing money. We owe Hiram Driggs twenty dollars, or rather we're going to owe it. But the bark we're going to take in to him to-day is going to pay a part of that debt. A few days more of tramping, blistered hands and aching backs, and we'll be well out of debt and have the rest of the summer for that great old canoe!"
"Let's make an early start with the bark," proposed Tom. "I want to see if the stuff feels as heavy as it did late yesterday afternoon."
"Humph! My load doesn't seem to weigh more than seven ounces," Darrin declared, as he shouldered one of the piles of bark.
"Lighter than air this morning," quoth Tom, "and only a short haul at that."
When Hiram Driggs reached his boatyard at eight o'clock he found Dick & Co. waiting for him.
"Well, well, well, boys!" Mr. Driggs called cheerily. "So you didn't back out."
"Did you think we would, sir?" Dick inquired.
"No; I knew you boys wouldn't back out. And I don't believe you threw away any bark on the way home, just to lighten your loads."
Hiram went about the yard starting the day's work for his men, then came back to the boys.
"Now, just bring the bark over to the platform and we'll look it over and sort it," suggested the boat builder.
Dick & Co. carried their loads over to the platform, where they cut the lashings.
"We'll make three heaps of the stuff," Driggs proposed. "One heap will be the worthless stuff that has to be thrown away. Another heap will be for the pieces that are good but small; they'll do for patches. The third heap will be the whole, sound strips. Mebbe I'd better do all the sorting myself."
So the boys stood by, watching Driggs as he sorted the bundles of bark with the speed of a man who knows just what he wants. A quantity of the bark went on to the "worthless" heap, yet there was a goodly amount in each of the other piles by the time that the boat builder was through sorting it.
"You've done first rate, boys," he announced at last. "Is there much more of that bark on Katson's Hill?"
"We ought to be able to bring in fifty times as much bark as we've brought already," Dick answered.
"I wish you would," Driggs retorted.
"And give up the whole of our summer vacation?" Danny Grin asked anxiously.
"Well, there is that side to it, after all," Driggs admitted quickly. "It must be a tough job on your backs, too. But, boys, I wouldn't mind having a lot of this stuff, for birch bark canoes are coming into favor again. The only trouble is that birch bark is hard to get, these days, and costs a lot to boot. So it makes birchbark canoes come pretty high. At the same time, there are plenty of wealthy folks who would pay me well for a birch-bark canoe. Now, I know that you boys, owning a canoe that will soon be in the water, won't be anxious to give up your whole summer to doing jobs for me. But couldn't you bring in a lot more bark if you had a team of horses and a good-sized wagon?"
"Of course we could," Dick nodded. "But we haven't any horses or a wagon."
"I was thinking," Driggs went on slowly. "I can spare my gray team and the big green wagon. Any of you boys know how to drive?"
"All of us do," Dick answered, "though I guess Tom could handle a team better than any of the rest of us."
"Then suppose you take my team out at six o'clock to-morrow morning?" Driggs suggested. "I'll have to charge you four dollars a day for it, but I'll take it in bark as payment. With the wagon you'll be able to bring in a lot more bark than you could without a wagon."
"It's a fine idea, sir," glowed Dick, "and you're mighty kind to us."
"Not especially kind," smiled the boat builder. "I can use a lot of this bark in my business, and I'm glad to get it on as reasonable a basis as you boys can bring it to me. You see, it's lucky that Katson's Hill is wild and distant land. If we had a land owner to deal with he'd make us pay high for the privilege of stripping the bark."
"But why couldn't you send your own workmen out to cut the bark?" Dick asked. "They've as much right on Katson's Hill as we have."
"Oh, yes; I could do that," Driggs assented. "And I could make a little more money that way, mebbe. But would it be square business, after you young men have trusted me with your business secret as to where bark can be had for nothing?"
That was a ruggedly honest way of putting it that impressed Dick & Co.
"I'll tell you what you—-might do, Mr. Driggs," hinted Tom Reade. "You might lend us a grindstone, if you have one to spare. Then we can sharpen our knives right on the spot and cut bark faster."
"You can have the grindstone," Driggs assented. "And I'll do better than that. I can spare half a dozen knives from the shop that are better than anything you carry in your pockets. Oh, we'll rush this business along fast."
Six utterly happy high school boys reported at Hiram Driggs' stable at six o'clock the next morning. They harnessed the horses, put the grindstone in the wagon and all climbed aboard. Two seats held them all, and there was room for a load of bark, besides, several times as large as Dick & Co. could carry on their backs.
Work went lightly that day! The shop knives cut far better than pocket knives could do, and the stone was at hand for sharpening. Six laughing and not very tired boys piled aboard the wagon that afternoon, with what looked like a "mountain" of prime birch bark roped on.
For seven more working days Dick & Co. toiled faithfully, at the end of which time they discovered that they had about "cleaned" Katson's Hill of all the really desirable bark.
"Your canoe will be dry enough to launch in the morning," said Driggs, as he received the last load at his stable. "Come down any time after eight o'clock and we'll put it in the water."
Were Dick & Co. on hand the next morning?
Dan Dalzell was the last of the six boys to reach post outside the locked gate of the yard, and he was there no later than twenty-one minutes past seven.
MEETING THE FATE OF GREENHORNS
At five minutes before eight Hiram Driggs arrived, keys in hand.
"I see you're on time," he smiled, unlocking the gate and throwing it open. "Now come in and we'll run your canoe out on the river float."
Even in the dim light of the boathouse Dick & Co. could see the sides of the canoe glisten with their coating of pitch and oil that lay outside the bark. The war canoe looked like a bran-new craft!
"Do you like her?" queried Driggs, with a smile of pride in the work of his yard.
"Like her?" echoed Dick, a choking feeling in his throat. "Mr. Driggs, we can't talk—-yet!"
"Get hold," ordered the boat builder. "Carry her gently."
Gently? Dick & Co. lifted their beloved treasure as though the canoe carried a cargo of eggs.
Out into the morning sun they carried her, letting her down with the stern right at the water's edge.
"O-o-o-oh!" It would be hard to say which one of Dick & Co. started that murmur of intense admiration.
"Now, if you can take your eyes off that canoe long enough," proposed Driggs, after all hands, the builder included, had feasted their eyes for a few minutes upon the canoe, "come into the office and we'll attend to a little business."
Not quite comprehending, the high school boys followed Driggs, who seated himself at his desk, picking up a sheet of paper.
"Prescott, I take it you're the business manager of this crowd," the boat builder went on. "Now, look over these figures with me, and see if everything is straight. Here are the different loads of bark you've brought in. I figure them up at $122.60. See if you make it the same?"
"Of course I do," nodded Dick, not even looking at the figures.
"Careless of you, not to watch another man's figuring," remarked Hiram Driggs. "Now, then, the bark you've brought in comes to just what I've stated. Against that is a charge for the team and wagon, eight days at four dollars a day—-thirty-two dollars. Twenty dollars for fixing your canoe. Total charges, fifty-two dollars. Balance due you for bark, seventy dollars and sixty cents. That's straight, isn't it?"
"I—-I don't understand," faltered Dick Prescott.
"Then see if this will help you to understand," proposed Driggs, drawing a roll of bills from his pocket and laying down the money. Here you are, seventy dollars and sixty cents."
"But we didn't propose to sell you any bark," Dick protested. "All we expected to do was to bring you in good measure to pay you for all your kindness to us."
"Kindness to you boys?" demanded Driggs, his shrewd eyes twinkling. "I hope I may go through life being as profitably kind to others. Boys, the bark you've sold me will enable me to make up several canoes at a fine, fat profit. Take your pay for the goods you've delivered!"
Dick glanced at his chums, who looked rather dumbfounded. Then he picked up the bills with an uneasy feeling.
"Thank you, then," young Prescott continued. "But there is one little point overlooked, Mr. Driggs. You did the canoe for us at cost, though your price to any other customer would have been thirty dollars."
"Oh, we'll let it go at that," Driggs suggested readily. "I'm coming out finely on the deal."
"We won't let it go at that, if you please, sir," Dick Prescott retorted firmly.
Dick placed a ten dollar bill on the desk, adding:
"That makes the full thirty dollars for the repairing of the canoe."
"I don't want to take it," said Driggs gruffly.
"Then we won't take any of this money for the bark," insisted Dick, putting the rest of the money back on the table.
"If you corner me like that," muttered Driggs, "I'll have to take your ten dollars. Now put the rest of the money back in your pocket, and divide it among your crowd whenever you're ready. Wait a minute until I make out a receipt for repairing the canoe. I'll put the receipt in your name, Prescott."
Driggs wrote rapidly, then reached for another paper.
"And now," he laughed, "since you're so mighty particular about being exact in business, you may as well sign a receipt for the money paid you for the bark."
Signatures were quickly given.
"Now, I reckon you boys want to get out to your canoe," the builder hinted.
"Yes, but we can't take Dick with us," Tom declared. "Not with all that money belonging to the company in his pocket. Dick, before you step into the canoe you'd better leave the money with Mr. Driggs, if he'll oblige us by taking care of it."
Driggs dropped the money in an envelope, putting the latter in his safe.
"Call and get it when you're going away," he said.
"Some day, when we recover, Mr. Driggs," said Dick earnestly, "we're going to come in and try to thank you as we should."
"If you do," retorted the boat builder gruffly, "I'll throw you all out. Our present business deal is completed, and the papers all signed. Git!"
Driggs followed them out to show them how to launch the canoe with the least trouble.
"Have any of you boys ever handled a paddle before?" inquired Hiram Driggs.
"Oh, yes; in small cedar canoes," Dave answered.
"All of you?"
"Then you ought to get along all right in this craft. But be careful at first, and don't try any frolicking when you're aboard. Remember, a canoe isn't a craft that can be handled with roughness. Don't anyone try to 'rock the boat,' either. In a canoe everyone has to sit steadily and attend strictly to business."
"A war canoe! Isn't it great?" chuckled Dan, as he started to help himself to a seat.
But Tom grabbed him by the coat collar, pulling him back.
"First of all, Danny Grin, shed that coat. Then ask Dick which seat you're going to have. He's the big chief of our tribe of Indians."
"Better all of you leave your coats here," suggested Driggs. "You can get 'em when you come back. And you can keep the canoe here without charge, so you'll have a safe place for it. Some fellows, you know, might envy you so that they might try to destroy the canoe if you left it in a place that isn't locked up at night."
When the boys were ready, in their shirt sleeves, Dick assigned Dave Darrin to the bow seat. The others were placed, while Prescott himself took the stern seat, from which the steering paddle must be wielded.
"All ready, everyone," Dick called. "Dave, you set the stroke, and give us a slow, easy one. We mustn't do any swift paddling until we've had a good deal of practice. Shove off, Dave."
Darrin pushed his paddle against the float, Dick doing likewise at the stern. Large as it was, the canoe glided smoothly across the water.
"Now, give us the slow stroke, Dave!" Dick called.
Soon the others caught the trick of paddling in unison. Each had his own side of the craft on which to paddle. Dick, alone, as steersman, paddled on either side at will, according as he wished to guide the boat.
"You're doing finely," called Hiram Driggs.
"Let's hit up the speed a bit," urged Dan Dalzell.
"We won't be in too big a hurry about that," Dick counseled. "Let us get the knack of this thing by degrees."
"Whee! When we do get to going fast I'll wager there is a lot of fine old speed in this birch-bark tub!" chuckled Tom Reade.
Dick now headed the canoe up the river. For half a mile or more they glided along on a nearly straight course.
To say that these Gridley high school boys were happy would be putting it rather mildly. There was exhilaration in every move of this noble sport. Nor was it at all like work. The canoe seemed to require but very little power to send her skimming over the water.
At last Dick guided the canoe in an easy, graceful turn, heading down the river once more.
"Now, you can try just a little faster stroke, Dave," Dick suggested. "And make it just a bit heavier on the stroke, fellows, but don't imagine that we're going to try any racing speed."
It was great sport! Just the small increase in the stroke sent the handsome big war canoe fairly spinning down the river.
"I never dreamed it would be like this!" cried Dave Darrin, in ecstasy. "Fellows, I don't believe there is any fun in the world equal to canoeing in a real canoe."
"It beats all the little cedar contraptions that some folks call canoes!" Tom Reade declared.
"I am almost beginning to think," announced Danny Grin, "that I'd rather go on canoeing than go home for my dinner."
"That idea would last until about half-past twelve," chuckled Reade. "This is glorious fun, all right, but dinner has its place, too. As for me, I want to get my dinner strictly on time."
"Glutton!" taunted Greg Holmes.
"Don't you believe it," Reade retorted. "I want my dinner right on time so that I can get back for a longer afternoon in the canoe."
"Fellows," announced Dave Darrin solemnly, "we've got to form a canoe club."
"Humph!" retorted Greg Holmes. "We don't want to belong to any club where the other fellows have only the fourteen or sixteen foot cedar canoes."
"We don't have to," Dave explained. "We'll limit the membership to those who own war canoes like this one. In other words, we'll be the whole club."
"What's the need of our forming a club?" asked Greg Holmes. "We're as good as being a club already. We're always together in everything, aren't we?"
"Still, it won't do any harm to have a regular club name for the summer," Dick Prescott suggested.
"What would we call the club?" asked Hazelton.
"Why not call it the Gridley High School Canoe Club?" Dick demanded.
"Best name possible," Tom agreed.
"Some of the other high school fellows might get sore at us, though," Tom hinted. "They might say we had no right to take the high school name."
"We won't take it for ourselves only," Dick smiled. "We'll keep the club membership open to any set of six fellows who will own and run a war canoe. We'll keep the membership as open as possible to the high school fellows."
"Humph! And then Fred Ripley, Bert Dodge and a few others with plenty of cash would get a canoe and insist on coming in and spoiling the club."
"They might," Dick assented, "but I don't believe they would. Fred Ripley, Bert Dodge and a few others of their kind in the Gridley High School wouldn't spend five cents to join anything we're in."
Toot! toot! sounded a whistle shrilly behind them.
Dick turned carefully to glance at the bend above them.
"Steam launch, with an excursion party," he informed the others. "I think I see Laura Bentley and Belle Meade in the bow waving handkerchiefs at us."
Dan Dalzell turned abruptly around. Harry Hazelton did the same.
"Look out!" cried Greg, as he shifted swiftly to steady the craft.
Just then Tom Reade turned, too. His added weight sent the canoe careening. There was a quick scramble to right the craft.
Flop! The canoe's port rail was under water. She filled and sank, carrying a lot of excited high school boys down at the same time.
"DANNY GRIN" IS SILENT
Dick Prescott sank into the water not more than two or three feet. Then his head showed above the surface of the river. He struck out vigorously, looking about him.
"The canoe is done for!" he gasped.
Too-oot! too-oot! too-oot! The steam launch was now speeding to the scene, its whistle screeching at a rate calculated to inform everyone in Gridley of another river disaster.
Up came Greg, then Dave. Tom Reade's head appeared down stream. Harry Hazelton bobbed up not six feet from Dick. Hazelton blew out a mouthful of water, then called:
"Everyone up, Dick?"
"All but Dan."
"I guess he's all right. Danny Grin is a good swimmer, you know."
Half a dozen river craft were now heading their way, but the launch was the only power boat in sight.
Five members of Dick & Co. now got close together.
"We've got to go down after Danny Grin," Reade declared. "You fellows watch, and I'll get as close to bottom as I can."
Tom sank. To the anxious boys he seemed to be gone for an age. He came up alone.
"Did you see Dan?" Dick faltered. "Not a glimpse of him," returned Tom despairingly.
"See the canoe?"
"Then you couldn't have gone down in the right place," Dick argued.
"I'll try it, fellows!" exclaimed Darrin. Down went Dave. He soon came up, treading water. As soon as he had blown out a mouthful of water he exclaimed:
"I found Dan, but I couldn't stay under long enough. He went down with the canoe. He's lying in it now."
"Look out, there! We'll pick you up," called a voice from the launch, which now darted toward the boys. A bell for half speed, then another for "stop" sounded, and the hull of the launch divided the frightened swimmers.
"Let me get aboard!" cried Dick, taking a few lusty over-hand strokes.
Willing hands hauled him into the launch at the bow, while girls' cries and anxious questions filled the air.
"What's the matter?"
But Dick waited to answer no one. Standing in the bow of the launch, he pointed his hands, then dived into the river.
While he was below the surface of the water the other canoeists swam alongside, helping themselves aboard.
"Oh, Dave!" cried Laura Bentley. "What's wrong?"
"Dan Dalzell hasn't come up," Darrin choked. "Here, clear the way. I'm going down after Dick."
He was gone like a flash. Seconds ticked by while a score of pale faces watched over the side of the launch.
Then, at last, up shot Dave. He was followed almost instantly by Dick, his arms wrapped around the motionless form of Dan Dalzell.
"Get close and we'll haul you in!" called Tom Reade, a boat-hook in his hand.
"Is Dan drowned!" demanded a dozen voices.
"Don't ask questions now!" cried Tom Reade impatiently, without looking about him. "Keep quiet! It's a time for work."
Abashed, the questioners became silent. Tom caught the boat-hook through the collar of Dan's flannel shirt. With the aid of the launch's helmsman Reade drew Dan in and got him aboard. Young Dalzell's eyes were closed, nor did he speak.
Then Dick and Dave were pulled aboard the launch.
"Dan didn't seem to be able to free himself," Darrin explained breathlessly. "His foot was wedged under a cleat in the canoe."
"Carry Dan aft," ordered Dick, while he was still clambering over the rail. "Lay him face down."
Then, drenched as he was, Dick hastened aft, where he directed others how to pat Dan on the back and to work his arms.
"We've got to get that water off his lungs," Dick explained. "Don't stop working for a moment. I wish we had a barrel to roll him on!"
"We will have soon," replied the launch's helmsman, rushing back to his post and ringing the bell. Thus recalled to his post, the engineer turned on the speed.
The craft made swiftly for Hiram Driggs' float. A few moments later it ran alongside.
Warned by the whistle, Driggs and two of his workmen came running out to the float.
"Get a barrel as quickly as you can!" shouted young Prescott.
By the time Dalzell had been hustled ashore the barrel was in readiness. Dan received an energetic rolling. Three or four little gushes of water issued from his mouth.
"Keep up the good work," ordered Dick feverishly. "We'll bring him around soon."
When they saw that no more water was coming from Dalzell's mouth the workers placed him in a sitting position, then began to pump-handle his arms vigorously.
A tremor ran through the body of Danny Grin.
"Hurrah!" cried Dick. "He's going to open his eyes!"
This Dan did a few moments later. "Keep on working his arms," commanded Prescott.
"Quit!" begged Dalzell in a faint whisper. "You're hurting me."
"Good enough!" chuckled Dick. "Keep on at his arms until he can talk a whole lot more."
"But isn't it cruel?" asked a girl.
"No," rejoined Tom Reade, turning to her. "Did you ever bring a drowning man to?"
"Never, of course."
"Then let our Dick have his way. He generally knows what he's about. No rudeness intended you understand," Reade added, smiling.
"This lad's all right, now," declared Hiram Driggs. "Help him to his feet and walk him about a bit until he gets the whole trick of breathing again. Dalzell, didn't you know any better than to try to swallow the whole river and ruin my business?"
A faint grin parted Dan's lips.
"Oh, I'm so thankful," sighed Laura Bentley. "Dick, I was afraid there would be but five of you left when I saw Dan being hoisted aboard!"
Soon Dalzell was able to laugh nervously. Then a scowl darkened his face.
"I'm the prize idiot of Gridley!" he muttered faintly.
"What's the matter now?" Dave Darrin demanded.
"The canoe is lost, and it's all my fault," moaned Dalzell. "Oh, dear! Oh, dear!"
"Bother the canoe!" cried Dick impatiently. "We're lucky enough that no lives have been lost."
"But I—-I turned and upset the craft," wailed Dan.
"There were others of us," said Greg sheepishly. "If we had had the sense of babies none of us would have turned, and there wouldn't have been any accident."
"This is no time to talk about canoe etiquette," Prescott declared. "Let us be thankful that we're all here. We'll wait until Dan is himself again before we do any talking."
"I'm all right," protested Dan Dalzell.
"Yes; I believe you are," Driggs nodded.
"'T' any rate, you won't die now of that dose of river water."
"Party ready to come back aboard the launch?" called the helmsman.
"Oh, don't hurry us, just now!" appealed Laura Bentley, going over to him quietly. "We're all so interested and concerned in what is going on over here."
So the helmsman waited, grumbling quietly to himself.
Some twenty of the high school girls had chartered the launch for a morning ride up the river. Dainty enough the girls looked in their cool summer finery. They formed a bright picture as they stood grouped about Dick & Co. and the other male members of the party.
"You fellows can say all you want to," mumbled Dan, "but the canoe is gone for good and all! We won't have any more fun in it this summer."
"Was that what ailed you, Dan?" teased Darrin. "You felt so badly over the loss of the canoe that you tried to stay on the bottom of the river with it?"
"My foot was caught, and I couldn't get it loose," Dan explained. "I was trying to free myself, like mad, you may be sure, when all at once I didn't know anything more. You fellows must have had a job prying my foot loose."
"It was something of a job," Dick smiled, "especially as our time was so limited down there at the bottom with you. The river must be twenty feet deep at that point."
"All of that," affirmed Hiram Driggs.
By this time the high school girls had divided into little groups, each group with a member of Dick & Co. all to itself. The girls were engaging in that rather senseless though altogether charming hero worship so dear to the heart of the average schoolboy.
"What caused the accident?" inquired one girl.
"Gallantry," smiled Greg. "We were all so anxious to see you girls that we all turned at the same time. We made the canoe heel, and then it filled and went down. But you can't blame us, can you?"
"But you've lost your fine big canoe," cried Laura Bentley, looking as though her pretty eyes were about to fill with tears.
"Yes," Dick admitted, "and, of course, it's too bad. But a lot of other worse things might have happened, and I guess we'll get over our loss some way."
"But that canoe meant so much for your summer fun," Laura went on. "Oh, it's too bad!"
"Maybe the canoe isn't lost," suggested Hiram Driggs.
"What do you mean, Mr. Driggs?" cried Laura, turning to him quickly.
"Is there any way of bringing the canoe up again?" asked Belle Meade eagerly.
"There may be," Driggs replied quietly. "I'm going to have a try at it anyway."
"All aboard that are going back to the dock," called the helmsman of the launch, who was also her owner.
Laura turned upon him with flashing eyes.
"I don't believe there is anyone going," she said. "We wouldn't leave here anyway, while there's a chance that the high school boys can get their canoe back to the surface of the water. You needn't wait, Mr. Morton. When we're ready we can walk the rest of the way."
WHAT AN EXPERT CAN DO
"I don't say that I can surely raise the canoe," Mr. Driggs made haste to state, "or that it will be worth the trouble if we do raise it. That canoe may have sunk on river-bottom rocks, and she may be badly staved by this time. But I've sent one of my men to fire the scow engine, and I'm going out to see what can be done in the matter."