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   Chapter 3 NOT SO MUCH OF A FRESHMAN

The High School Freshmen; or, Dick & Co.'s First Year Pranks and Sports By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 14906

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The next morning's "Blade" contained a column and a half, written

in Reporter Spencer's most picturesque vein. The headlines ran:

"School Board Hoaxed. Gentle Jokers Convey a Needed Hint. Football

Not to Be Barred in High School. 'Blade' Reporter a First-off

Victim in the Service of Public Spirit."

It was a fine article, from a High School boy's point of view. It was an article, too, which, in a city ruled by a lively public spirit, was likely to tie the hands of a Board of Education that did not care to fly in the face of public opinion.

Dick Prescott, before he went in to breakfast, read the article in secret, with many a chuckle.

"You seem much interested in the newspaper, Richard," said his father, when the young freshman came to table, still holding 'The Blade.'"

"Yes, sir. You know I have set my heart on making the H.S. eleven just as soon as I strike a higher class. I was afraid the School Board would abolish the game from our school. Now, I know they won't."

"Hm! Let me see 'The Blade.'"

Mr. Prescott glanced through the article, a faint twinkle showing in his eyes.

"The School Board may stop High School football," commented Mr. Prescott, laying aside the paper. "They may, but it would take a good deal of courage, for that article will start Gridley on a furor of enthusiasm for the game. I wonder who got up that hoax."

"Why, Dad, 'The Blade,' hints at some one down at the Business

Men's Club."

"Hm! I wonder who wrote the article."

"Perhaps Len Spencer," replied Dick. "You know, Dad, he's a great fan for all our H.S. sports."

"I can just see Jason Stone reading that article at his breakfast table this morning," smiled Mr. Prescott. "Stone is a great sail-trimmer, always afraid of the man who casts a vote."

"What's the matter?" asked Mrs. Prescott, coming in breezily from the kitchen.

Dick explained the news to his mother.

"Abolish football at the High School!" echoed Mrs. Prescott, indignantly. "And I've been sharing your great wish Dick, to make the team when you're old enough. They shan't do it, anyway, Dick, until you've had your chance on the eleven!"

"No, mother," replied the boy, very quietly; "I don't believe they will."

With a sudden rush of recollection of other pranks in which she had known her son to be engaged in the grammar school days, Mrs. Prescott shot a sudden, wondering glance at him. But Dick, looking utterly innocent, was chewing his food.

Frank Thompson, Ben Badger and Ted Butler, all seniors, and stars on the H.S. football team, had risen early that morning, every one of them feeling glum over the dread that the great sport might be "killed" for them. They were the only members of the eleven who happened to see "The Blade" early. In consequence, these three husky young Americans were on the street early. Just as naturally they ran into each other.

"Whoop!" yelled Thompson, when he came in sight of his pals.

"Wow!" observed Ben.

"And some more!" glowed Butler.

"Will they stop football now?" demanded Thompson.

"Not while anyone is looking," averred Butler.

"But say, it was great of the Business Men's Club to make such a stroke for us," went on Badger, enthusiastically.

"Yes," admitted Frank Thompson, "if that was where it came from.

I guess it was, all right."

Arm in arm the three went off down the street, feeling as though the world had turned right side up once more.

Dick met his partners on the way to the High School. All were grinning quietly.

"You're the genius, Dick," admitted Dan Dalzell, cordially. "My undertaker scheme would have been ghastly. It would have taken all the edge off the joke--would have spoiled it, and the joke would have been a club that would have hit us over the head. But, say! I wonder if the Grannies' Club will dare to touch our sacred football now!"

"Don't waste any time wondering," chuckled Tom Reade. "They wont."

It was a happy day in the famous old Gridley High School. Actually, the recitations went off better than they had done on any day since term opening.

Dick Prescott was out on the street rather early that afternoon. He wanted to run across Len Spencer, and chose Main Street as the most likely thoroughfare for the purpose. He met the reporter at the head of a little alleyway.

"Well, Dick, how did you like it?" was the reporter's greeting.

"Say, it was great!" Dick bubbled over.

"What do they think down at H.S.?"

"Think?" repeated young Prescott. "Why, everybody is in ecstasies. The gloom of yesterday has vanished like the mist from a cheap cigar. You're suspected of writing the article, too, Len. If the High School students can find any proof that you did you'll get a rouser in the way of handsome treatment."

The two had stepped down just off the street into the alleyway.

"Does everyone seem to believe that the job was put up at the

Business Men's Club?" Dick asked.

"Sure thing," nodded Len Spencer. "And no member of the Club will deny it, either, for the thing has struck the popular side of the town. Why, by tonight, there'll be at least a dozen of the members, each confidentially telling his friends that he conceived the whole trick."

"That'll make it all the stronger," nodded Dick. "Good thing."

"Glee!" chuckled Len. "Wouldn't the whole town--including the Board members--wake up, if they only knew that the whole thing was planned out by a fourteen-year-old freshie, by name Dick Prescott!"

"You won't let it out, Len, that I had any hand in it?" asked

Dick, quickly.

"Oh, not I," promised Len, quickly. "I gave you my word on that, son, didn't I?"

"Now, see here," Dick went on, "why can't you push this thing along one day further? Why don't you interview a lot of the prominent business men on the absolute necessity of football for keeping up the H.S. spirit and traditions?"

"Good idea as far as it goes," assented Len, dubiously. "But a lot of the business men might prove to be fossilized, and be against the grand old game."

"Leave that sort out," hinted Dick, sagely, "and go after the right kind."

"How'll I know the right kind?" asked reporter Spencer, thoughtfully.

"Why, use your head a bit. There's Beck. He's a millionaire, and one of the big men of the town, isn't he?"

"Yes; but he may not believe in football."

"Shucks! Of course Beck believes in football," retorted Dick. "Doesn't his lumber yard furnish all the wooden goods that are needed for fences, seats, and all that sort of thing up at the athletic grounds? Doesn't Beck know that, if he said a word against football, he never get another order for lumber from the H.S. Alumni association. Then there's Carleson. He's one of the directors of the railroad, therefore a big enough man to interview."

"Where does Carleson come in on hot interest in football?"

"Use your head," jibed Dick. "Doesn't his railroad have lots of jobs transporting the football teams to other games, and bringing other teams here? Don't mobs of fans follow the teams and pay fare? Why, H.S. football is a dividend-payer to Carleson. Your own editor, Pollock, will come out for us. Besides the news football makes for 'The Blade,' just think of the profit from doing all the poster and ticket printing for us. Then there's Henley, who sells the team uniforms and other athletic goods and he's one of the aldermen! Why, man alive, there are a score of big men in tow

n who can't afford to see H.S. football stopped. Here are some of their names---"

Dick rattled it along, giving a long list to Len Spencer, who jotted down the names.

"Thank you; old man," said the reporter, cordially. "I'll get these interviews, and it'll make a corking good second-day story. Pollock says I can push this as far as I like, for it has struck a popular vein. But Pollock says he wouldn't have thought of it, Dick, if you hadn't set the ball rolling."

"Then he knows the big part that my chums and I took in the game?" asked Dick, his face showing his concern.

"Yes; but don't worry. Old Pollock is as mum as the grave about such things. Now, so long, Dick, old fellow. I've got to run down to the end of this alley to call on a sick friend. Then I'll hustle out and get a barrelful of interviews that will cinch and rivet football on Gridley H.S. for a century to come!"

As Len Spencer vanished through one of the doorways Dick Prescott turned toward the street. As he did so, he jumped back.

"We want you, freshie!" declared Frank Thompson, grimly. "And we want you badly."

Badger and Butler, who were just behind the speaker, closed in firmly around the freshman.

"We heard, and we didn't feel ashamed to listen," declared Thompson. "So you're the genius that has been doing giant's work for football? You are under arrest, freshie--and I hope you'll come along without making any row."

Despite the severity of the looks in the faces of these three seniors, Dick Prescott did not feel very uneasy. He submitted to walking between Thompson and Butler, while Ben Badger brought up the rear. The unafraid prisoner was marched along and into another street, to where the football eleven had its "club room." This was an unoccupied store, the agent of which allowed the boys the use of the place, rent free, as long as it remained idle.

When near this headquarters Ben Badger darted ahead, throwing open the door, while Frank and Ted marched in with their prisoner.

"Attention!" roared Ben.

Nearly all the members and substitutes of the eleven were present.

They were sorting over various bits of football paraphernalia.

Several of them stopped work to look up as Ben Badger slammed

the door shut again.

"Well, what are you making so much noise about?" demanded one of the second classmen. "You come in with a roar, and all you bring with you is--just a poor, insignificant little freshie."

"Oh, but what a freshman!" thundered Frank Thompson. "Listen, fellows, what do you suppose this freshman has done?"

"Lynch him for it, anyway, whatever it is," retorted another.

"Wait!" commanded Thompson. "And listen."

There upon Frank detailed what he and his two comrades had overheard at the head of the alleyway. Instantly the complexion of things changed. There were cheers and hoarse yells, as the football men rushed forward, crowding about Dick Prescott.

"Now I've told all that I heard," wound up Thompson. "We'll have to ask Mr. Prescott to favor us with the further details, which I trust he will be inclined to do."

"Mr. Prescott!" That, instead of "cub," "kid" or "freshie." Had the enthusiasm been less intense Dick would have been sure that they were having fun with him.

"Go on," ordered Ben Badger briefly. "Talk up!"

To have refused plain orders from a first classman might have been serious. Dick knew better. Clearing his throat he related all he could recall of how the plot came to be hatched. Nor was Dick glory-hunter enough to give himself any more credit than he did his partners. In his brief account the freshman spread all the credit for the invention equally over the six members of Dick & Co.

"'Twas a great thought, and carried out like a campaign," declared

Ben Badger. There was more cheering. Then Frank Thompson dragged

Dick forward once more before the lined-up team.

"Fellows," proposed Thompson, "we owe this freshie---"

"Stop that!" roared one of the fellows. "Prescott may be young--painfully young--but he's no freshie."

"Then," amended Thompson, with grave dignity, "we owe a handsome reward to this--upper classman. May I tell him what the reward is to be?"

"Go ahead, Thomp!" came an answering roar.

"Then, listen, Prescott. For the great deed you have done for Gridley H.S. football every member of Dick & Co. deserves undying fame. As I can't be sure of our ability to confer that, we'll do the next best thing. In years and class you're all six of you freshmen. Now, what is expected of a freshman?"

"Why," laughed Dick, "as I understand it, a freshman is a fellow who doesn't dare to be fresh."

"Hear! hear!" yelled a dozen voices.

"In that respect," proclaimed Thompson, solemnly, "Dick & Co. shall no longer be freshman at Gridley H.S.! If the spirit seizes any of you, then go ahead and be fresh--of course, not too fresh! Mix in with the upper classmen, all of you, if you want to. Have your opinions, and don't be afraid to let 'em out--if you can't hold in any longer. To the upper class dances this winter Dick & Co. shall have a bid--if you'll all learn how to walk and glide across a waxed floor. Remember, when you're among the fellows, you don't have to keep in the back freshmen row--but see to it that you don't encourage general mutiny in your class against the superior upper classes. Finally, you can get sassy with all upper classman whenever any of you six want to--all you'll have to do, further, will be to fight."

Another round of cheers confirmed Thompson's declaration.

"Now, fellows, get a move on!" bawled Sam Edgeworth, captain of the football eleven. "We've barely time to get to the field and meet Coach Morton punctually."

"Will you let me make one request?" shouted Dick, over the hubbub.

"Yes. Go ahead! Get it out quick!"

"Then please don't let out a word," begged young Prescott, "about Dick & Co., as we fellows are called, being at the bottom of the plot against the Board of Education."

"Not a word!" promised Captain Edgeworth, gravely.

Then Dick was hustled good-naturedly to the door, Ben Badger once more springing forward to hold it open. As Dick hurried out onto the sidewalk a hurricane of cheers followed him. Then, as the door was closing, came a fierce burst of the High School yell.

Just as it happened, this parting salute couldn't have been worse timed. Within four doors Dr. Thornton, the principal, was sauntering slowly along. He heard tine hubbub, of course, and looked up, to see Dick Prescott coming out alone, a pleased look on his flushed face.

Across the street, just coming out of a store, was Chairman Jason

Stone of the Gridley Board of Education.

"Young Prescott! Bless my soul!" murmured Dr. Thornton. "Why are the football team making such a row over that young freshman?"

In another instant the principal's question all but answered itself.

"Why, I wonder," muttered the good doctor, "if the enthusiasm in any way relates to the hoax on the Board. Was Prescott at the bottom of it? I'll keep it in mind and try to find out!"

"If the football crew are making all that row over a mere freshman," thought Chairman Stone, "then young Prescott must be the inventor of the yarn that has made Gridley wonder whether we of the Board are so many 'dead ones.' Hm! hm! I'll find out if that's the case. Such a trick is clearly one that would call for expelling the young man from the High School!"

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