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The High School Captain of the Team; or, Dick & Co. Leading the Athletic Vanguard By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 8112

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The Message from the Unknown

With the Christmas holidays Phin Drayne came home, to stay so far as school was concerned.

After his unhappy experience at the Fordham Military Institute,

Phin had found things almost as unpleasant at Wilburville Academy.

For some reason the boys at Wilburville hadn't taken to him. Phin had come to the conclusion that he wasn't appreciated anywhere save at home, so back he came, disgusted with the idea of carrying his education any further.

As a natural sequence, Drayne took to lounging about the streets. High School boys and girls no longer paid any heed to him, so he did not fear slight or insult.

Two nights in every week Dick and Dave went faithfully to the High School gym. to help Mr. Morton with the new evening classes in training.

One afternoon Prescott and Darrin encountered good old Dr. Thornton, the principal, who asked them how they were coming along.

"We're pretty busy," Dick admitted. "Still, it does seem rather hard to us not to be connected with the High School any more."

"Why, you are with us yet, and of us!" cried the principal. "I carry your names on the rolls, with 'excused' written against your names. If you don't believe that you're still of my High School boys, then drop in any day and take your places, for an hour, or as long as you please, at your old desks. You will find them still reserved for you."

"Now, isn't that mighty decent of old Prin.!" demanded Dave, after the two chums had thanked Dr. Thornton, and had gone on their way. "So we still belong to old Gridley High School?"

"We always shall, I reckon," declared Dick. "Gridley High School has done everything for us, and has given us our start and most of our pleasures in life."

"I'm going to drop in, one of these January days," murmured Dave.

"And so am I. But," added Dick, with a smile, "don't let us be indiscreet and be roped into going into a recitation. We'll find the class has been moving ahead while we've been boning over West Point and Annapolis requirements."

"At all events, none of them ought to be ahead of us when we've gone four years further," contended Dave. "At West Point or Annapolis we have to grind in a way that is never required of mere college men. We ought to be miles ahead of any fellow who has just finished at High School and then has put in four years only at college."

Thus the happy young egotists always talked, nowadays. To them there was really little in life that did not come through the government military academies.

Phin Drayne, lounging about purposely, with the shambling gait, often saw these happy chums, and scowled after them.

"Everything seems to come to them!" growled Phin. "What rot it is to say that this is a square world, and that everyone has the same chance! Why doesn't something good come my way?"

The oftener Phin looked in the direction of the chums, and more particularly of Dick, the blacker did Drayne's thoughts become.

"Prescott has had everything come his way ever since he entered

High School," growled Phin. "And now the mucker is going off

to West Point, and the government is going to stamp him 'gentleman.'

A gentleman? Pooh! I'd like to show him up, as a bumptious upstart.

Phin scowled fiercely for a moment, before he added:

"And, by glory, I will do something to him! I'll take the conceit out of Dick Prescott!"

At first it was only the purpose that formed in Drayne's dark mind. But, by dint of much thinking, he began to feel that he saw the way of working to Prescott's complete disgrace.

Dick, in the meantime, was still writing occasionally for "The

Blade."

"I'm afraid you've slipped away from us, Dick," declared Mr. Pollock, with a wry smile. "If you go to West Point and pass the exams. there, then newspaper work is going to lose one of its bright, promising young men."

"But I always told you that my plans would undoubtedly take me away from 'The Blade' when my High School life was done with," Prescott answered.

"Yes; but why do you want

the life of the uniform? That's what I fail to understand? Why don't you go into something connected with the pulsing everyday life of the country? Here you are, going away to bury yourself in a uniform. You'll work, of course; the Army is no place for loafers. But after all, you're only preparing for war, and you may be an old, white-haired officer before we have another war."

"If that war does come in your life time," returned Dick, "you'll know what we of the uniforms have been working for all along. You'll realize, then, that an Army's biggest work isn't fighting, in time of war, but preparing in time of peace. And you'll thank every one of us when the time comes."

"Oh, yes, I suppose so," smiled the editor. "But it all seems so far away. Now, here is something much more practical right at hand. Take these burglaries that have been annoying the small merchants lately. The police don't seem to be able to catch the fellow. For the last three days I've taken Len Spencer off of all other work and set him to trying to run down the burglar. Now, Len isn't afraid of much, and he's one of the brightest young reporters going. Yet Len admits he's stumped. All the while the merchants are fearing that the burglar will bring about bigger losses. Dick Prescott, if you could catch that burglar, and see him sent off where he belongs, you'd be doing a vastly greater service to the community than you possibly could by helping the country prepare for a war that is thirty or forty years away."

"I wouldn't mind having a crack at the burglar scare, either," laughed Dick. "But the question is, how am I going to go about it to catch the fellow? He has baffled all the police, and even Len Spencer. What show have I for finding the rascal?"

"Just the same, Dick, I believe you would catch him, if you'd set your mind and your energies to it. Will you do it? Will you put in a week trying to run down this burglar and give 'The Blade' the first chance at the story? I'll agree, in advance, to pay you for whatever time you'll put in on it for a week, if even you are not successful in running him down."

"I'll think it over," Dick replied, with a quiet smile. "I'll talk it over with Dave."

"There's another mighty bright young fellow!" cried the editor. "Now, why can't you get Darrin to go into it with you? I'll pay Darrin for his time, too."

Dave, when the project was sprung on him, gave his hearty assent.

"It won't do any harm to have a try at it, anyway, Dick," urged Darrin. "It'll wake us up a bit, too. Not that I've any real and abiding idea that we're going to catch Mr. Burglar."

"If we're in earnest we're going to catch him," declared Prescott. "That's the old Gridley High School way, you know. What well start on we've got to put through."

Night after night, in that cold January week, Dick and Dave slipped out late at night, and prowled about through the business district of Gridley. Very often the chums ran across the police, but both were known well to the police, and were not challenged. Indeed, the police soon learned that Dick and Dave were employed by "The Blade" for the purpose of assisting in the efforts to capture the mysterious burglar or burglars.

In that week two more "breaks" happened, and each time the thief or thieves got away with valuable booty.

"You youngsters don't seem to be having any luck," remarked Editor Pollock. "But keep on the case a little longer. I know you'll land something sooner or later. Keep ahead, just as if you had to score a touchdown before the half was over."

So for two nights Dick and Dave kept out, with equally bad luck.

One night at eleven o'clock Dick answered the home telephone. He listened in amazement, then tried to find out who his informant was, but the latter rang off promptly.

"I believe that is straight," muttered Dick. "At all events, I'll look into this game for all it's worth. What if we are about to catch the thief red-handed?"

Snatching up a heavy walking stick, Dick Prescott hurriedly quitted the house.

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