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   Chapter 1 THE HIGH SCHOOL SNEAK

The High School Freshmen; or, Dick & Co.'s First Year Pranks and Sports By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 13332

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


"I say you did!" cried Fred Ripley, hotly. Dick Prescott's cheeks turned a dull red as he replied, quietly, after swallowing a choky feeling in his throat:

"I have already told you that I did not do it."

"Then who did do the contemptible thing?" insisted Ripley, sneeringly.

Fully forty boys, representing all the different classes at the Gridley High School, stood looking on at this altercation in the school grounds. Half a dozen of the girls, too, hovered in the background, interested, or curious, though not venturing too close to what might turn out to be a fight in hot blood.

"If I knew," rejoined Dick, in that same quiet voice, in which one older in the world's ways might have detected the danger-signal, "I wouldn't tell you."

"Bah!" jeered Fred Ripley, hotly.

"Perhaps you mean that you don't believe me?" said Prescott inquiringly.

"I don't!" laughed Ripley, shortly, bitterly.

"Oh!"

A world of meaning surged up in that exclamation. It was as though bright, energetic, honest Dick Prescott had been struck a blow that he could not resent. This, indeed, was the fact.

"See here, Ripley---" burst, indignantly, from Dick Prescott's lips, as his face went white and then glowed a deeper red than before.

"Well, kid?" sneered Ripley.

"If I didn't have a hand--the right hand, at that--that is too crippled, today, I'd pound your words down your mouth."

"Oh, your hand?" retorted Ripley, confidently. "The yarn about that hand is another lie."

Dick's injured right hand came out of the jacket pocket in which it had rested. With his left hand he flung down his cap.

"I'll fight--you--anyway!" Prescott announced, slowly.

There were a few faint cheers, though some of the older High School boys looked serious. Fair play was an honored tradition in Gridley.

Ripley, however, had thrown down his cap at once, hurling his strapped-up school books aside at the same time.

"Wait a moment," commanded Frank Thompson, stepping forward. He was a member of the first class, a member of the school eleven, and a husky young fellow who could enforce his opinions at need.

"Get back, Thomp," retorted Ripley. "The cub wants to fight, and he's got to."

"Not if he has an injured hand," retorted Frank, quickly.

"He hasn't," jeered Ripley. "And he's got so fight, if he has four lame hands."

"He can fight, then, yes," agreed Thompson. "But remember, Fred, it's allowable, when a fellow's crippled, to fight by substitute."

"Substitute?" asked Fred, looking uncomfortable.

"Yes; I'll take his place, if Prescott will let me," volunteered

Frank Thompson, coolly.

"You? I guess not," snorted Ripley. "I won't stand for that. I'm a third classman, and you're a first classman. You're half as big again as I am, and---"

"The odds wouldn't be as bad as you're proposing to take out of this poor little freshman with the crippled hand," insisted Thompson. "So get ready to meet me. I'll allow one of my hands to be tied, if you want."

Yet even this proposition couldn't be made alluring to Fred Ripley.

He knew Thompson's mettle and strength too well for that.

Dan Dalzell, another freshman, had been standing back, keeping quiet as long as he could.

"See here," proposed Dan, stepping forward, "isn't a freshman allowed to say something when his friend is insulted?"

"Go ahead," nodded Thompson, who knew Dan to be one of young Prescott's close friends.

"Dick isn't in shape to fight, and I know it," continued Dan Dalzell, hotly. "But Ripley wants something easy, like a freshman, so he can have me!"

"And me," cried Tom Reade, also leaping forward.

"He can have one with me, too," offered Harry Hazelton.

"Same here," added Greg Holmes and Dave Darrin.

All five of the speakers were freshmen, and close chums of Dick

Prescott's.

"Say, what do you think I want--to fight a whole pack?" demanded

Ripley, hoarsely.

"Oh, you don't have to fight us all at once," retorted Dave Darrin. "But you've insulted our friend, and you've taken a sneaking advantage of him at a time when you knew he couldn't handle anyone as big as you are. So, Ripley, you're answerable to Prescott's friends. I'll tell you what you can do. There are five of us. You can take any one of us that you prefer for the first bout. When you've thrashed him, you can call for the next, and so on. But you've got to go through the five of us in turn. If you don't, I'll call you a coward from now on. You're bigger than any of us."

"See here, Cub Darrin," raged Ripley, starting forward, his face aflame, "I don't allow any freshman to talk that way to me. I won't fight you, but I'll chastise you, and you can protect yourself if you know how."

He made a bound forward, intent on hitting Darrin, who stood his ground unflinchingly. But Thompson seized the third classman by the shoulder and shoved him back.

"Now, stop this, Ripley, and you freshmen, cut it out, too," warned the athletic first classman. "This is descending to a low level. We don't want a lot of bickering or mouth-fighting, and we don't intend to have anything but fair play, either."

"As this is largely my affair," broke in Dick Prescott, who had had time to cool down a bit, "let me have a chance to make an offer."

"Go ahead," nodded Thompson.

"Then," proposed Dick, "since you won't let me fight today, why can't this meeting hold over until my hand is in shape? Then I'll agree to give Ripley all he wants."

"That's the only sensible thing I've heard said in five minutes," declared Frank Thompson, looking about him at other upper classmen. "Is it the general opinion that the fight hold over for a few days, or, say, a fortnight?"

"Yes," came back an eager, approving chorus.

"Then so be it," proclaimed Frank. "And now, remember, Ripley, this fight is not to be pulled off until the school agrees to it. If you pick any trouble with Prescott until you get the word, or if you try to find any excuse for hitting him while his hand's out of shape, then you'll answer to the school for your conduct. You know what that means, don't you?"

"Humph!" snorted Fred Ripley. "All this fuss about the High School sneak!"

Again Dick started forward, but Thompson caught him firmly.

"Hold on, freshie!" advised the older boy. "Save it up. Bottle it. You can have all the more fun out of Ripley when your hand is in shape."

"His hand is in as good shape as it ever was," retorted Ripley, scornfully. "And he lies when he says he didn't do this."

Ripley swung, so as to display the tail of a short topcoat that was one of his treasures. The garment was fashionably made and of the

best material, for Ripley's father was a wealthy lawyer in Gridley, and the young Ripley hopeful had all the most costly things a boy can prize.

Along the tail of the coat some miscreant had daubed a streak of fresh white paint. Ripley had found it there when donning the coat to leave school at one o'clock that day. Fred knew that Dick had been in the coat room after recess, and, as he disliked the freshman, Ripley had accused Dick of the deed.

Having fired his parting shot, Fred turned on his heel, sauntering over to where the fluttering group of girls waited. One of them, Clara Deane, stepped forward to meet him.

"Fred, why do you have anything to do with such a low-down fellow as Prescott?" asked Clara, contemptuously.

"He's the sneak of the school," uttered Fred, harshly; "but I can't let even a sneak streak my coat with paint."

"And he never did such a thing, either!" broke in Laura Bentley, disdainfully. "Fred Ripley, you accused Dick Prescott of playing off a lame hand. I know how his hand became crippled. Dick wanted me to promise not to tell how it happened, but now I'm going to. Wait and you can hear, both of you."

"I don't want to, I'm sure," rejoined Clara, with a toss of her head. "Come along, Fred."

This pair of students walked away together. They always did, after school was out. The Ripleys and the Deanes were neighbors.

The other girls, however, followed Laura, as, with quick, resolute step, she marched over to where the High School boys still lingered.

"Boys," began Laura, "Mr. Prescott has been accused of pretending about a hurt hand. I know how he injured it; and, as he did it---"

"Please don't say any more, Miss Bentley," begged Dick, flushing.

"Yes, I shall," insisted Laura, quietly. "It happened night before last. Dick Prescott didn't want anything said about it, and neither did the police, so---"

"The police?" chipped in several of the High School boys and girls.

"Yes, the police wanted it kept quiet, so they could have a chance to catch the fellow," Laura hastened on. "But they've had time enough, now, to catch the rascal, if they're ever going to. You see, it happened this way: Mother had forty-five dollars on hand that belonged to the church fair fund. So, night before last, she asked me to take it over to Miss Bond, the treasurer. I was going through Clinton Street, in one of the dark spots, when a man jumped out from behind a tree and made a snatch for the purse that I carried in my hand.

"Well, somehow--I don't just know how," Laura continued, "I managed to keep hold of the purse and I screamed, of course. Then some one came running down the street as fast as he could--and Dick Prescott leaped at the rascal. It was a hard fight--a fearful one."

The girl shuddered even then, in the telling, but she continued: "The wretch was twice as big as Dick Prescott. I thought Dick was going to be killed. Twice the fellow broke loose, and started to run, but what do you think Master Dick was up to?"

"What?" chorused the interested audience.

"Master Dick had his mind set on subduing the robber and holding him for the police. So he tried to stop the wretch from getting away. At last, however, the fellow hurled Dick backward, so that he fell. When he got up he was lame. You all may have noticed that Mr. Prescott limped a bit yesterday?"

"Yes; he did," confirmed Frank Thompson.

"And his hand was hurt, too--I know that," insisted Laura. "For he escorted me to Miss Bond's, and then home. When we got there, I asked my father, who is a doctor, to take Dick into the office. Father said, afterwards, that Dick's right wrist was sprained, and his ankle wrenched a bit, too. He said Dick would be doing well to have the full use of his wrist in a week. Then the police came, when my father telephoned for them, and the police didn't want anything said for a while."

"So you, a fourteen-year-old freshie, are going about at night trying to waylay footpads, are you?" demanded Thompson, resting a friendly hand on Dick's shoulder. "But why did you keep so close-mouthed, afterwards?" demanded the first classman.

"Well, for one thing, I guess I was a bit ashamed," confessed

Dick, reddening.

"Ashamed of rushing to beauty's aid?" demanded Frank, laughingly.

"Nothing like it," Dick protested, growing redder still. "I was ashamed over having let the footpad get away."

"What? And he twice your size?" gasped Thompson. "Fellows, what do you think of the modest cheek of this freshie! Ashamed because he couldn't bag a full-sized thug!"

"That kid's the mustard!" broke in another first classman, approvingly.

"That's what he is!" came from others.

"Wow! whoop!"

They began crowding about the confused, blushing freshie, pumping his uninjured left hand. Then some one shouted:

"He's all right, from the ground up. He's a Gridley boy! He's only a freshie in years, but he'll get over that. Now, up with Dick Prescott! On your shoulders! Give him the High School yell!"

Before he could even dodge, this High School freshman found himself going up in the air. With all consideration for his injured hand the upper classmen rushed him out of the school grounds, onto the street, holding him aloft in the post of honor. The other boys followed. Even the few girls followed, waving their handkerchiefs, while a lusty roar went up:

"T-E-R-R-O-R-S! Wa-ar! Fam-ine! Pesti-lence! That's us! That's us! G-R-I-D-L-E-Y--H.S. Rah! rah! rah! rah! Gri-idley!"

"What's all that racket back there?" asked Clara Deane, turning at the head of the street. "Why, they're yelling and carrying that odious little Dick Prescott."

"Must be dragging him off to give him a ducking, as he deserves," muttered Fred Ripley, gratingly.

"No, no! It's the school yell, and the girls are waving their handkerchiefs."

"Then they must be canonizing the school sneak," returned Ripley, frowning hard.

"Well, don't wait to see," urged Clara. "We don't care about mixing up too much with such a common crowd as the Gridley H.S. students are."

"Prescott is nothing but a mucker, but he spoiled my coat, and I'll make him smart for it!" uttered Fred, his face burning with sullen rage.

"You'll only smirch yourself, Fred, by having anything more to do with such a fellow," Clara warned him.

"When I'm even with the fellow, I won't have anything more to do with him," snorted Ripley. "But I'll wait, watch and plan for years, if I have to, to take all the conceit and meanness out of that sneak. I'll never quit until I can look at myself in the glass and tell myself that I've paid back the lowest trick ever played on me!"

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