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   Chapter 4 CAPTION OF THE HOUNDS

The High School Freshmen; or, Dick & Co.'s First Year Pranks and Sports By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 13541

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


"Is that mucker going to run today?"

The questioner was Fred Ripley, and his voice was full of disgust. He glared at Dick Prescott, who was seated unconcernedly on a stone wall, awaiting the arrival of Tom Reade and Dan Dalzell, the only other members of Dick & Co. who were to figure in today's event.

"Is who going to run?" asked Ben Badger.

"That little mucker, Prescott?" insisted Fred.

"Yes," returned Badger, shortly.

"Gridley H.S. is getting worse and worse," growled Ripley. "Athletics ought to be confined to the best sort of fellows in the school. These little muckers, these nobodies, ought to be kept out of everything in which the real fellows take part."

"Don't be a cad, Ripley," retorted Badger, half angrily.

"Oh, I'm no great stickler for caste, and that sort of thing," Fred grumbled on. "I'm democratic enough, when it comes to that, and I associate with a good many fellows whose fathers don't stand as high in the community as mine does."

"That's really kind of you," mimicked Ben Badger, with another look of disgust at the rich lawyer's son. "Of course, you feel just as though anything that your father may have accomplished puts you in a rather more elect lot."

"Of course, it does," retorted Fred, drawing himself up stiffly. "Still, you know as well as anyone does, Badger, that I'm not stuck up just on account of family or position. I'm ready to give the friend's hand to any of the right sort of fellows. But what is that little mucker, Prescott? His parents peddle books and newspapers."

"They run a book and periodical shop, if that is what you mean," rejoined Ben, disgustedly, as he looked the young snob over for the third time. "Some mighty big people have done that in times past. As to position, Prescott's father isn't a rich man, nor a very successful one, but I wish I could look forward, some day, to being half as well educated as Dick's father is."

"A dreamer, a fool, a man who couldn't and didn't succeed," sneered Fred. "And his son will be a bigger mistake in life. I don't have anything to do with that kind of people and their friends."

"I'll wish you good-day, then," broke in Badger, crisply, and moved away. "I want to be reckoned as one of Dick Prescott's friends. He's one of the most promising young fellows in Gridley H.S."

Ripley let loose an astounded gasp. He stood still where Badger had left him, boiling over with rage. Had Ripley been wise, he would have chosen another time for anger. Any trainer or physician could have told this young snob that just before going off on a long race is the worst possible time for letting anger get the best of one. Anger excites the action of the heart to a degree that makes subsequent running performance a thing of difficulty.

Gridley H.S. was out for the October paper chase. This was an annual event, in which the sophomores, or third classmen, acted as the hares, while the freshmen played the part of the hounds. The course was six miles across country. Three courses, of equal length, were laid down, each with a different terminal. It was known, in advance, only to the hares, which course would be run over. But, which ever course was taken, it must be followed to the end. Five minutes' start was allowed to the hares. Then the hounds were sent after them in full yelp. By starting time for the hounds the hares were sure to be out of sight. An official of the first class, who followed the hares at the outset, gave the call when the five minutes were up. Beginning with that call the hares were obliged to scatter bits of paper, as they ran, all the way to the finish of the run.

All three of the courses were somewhat parallel during the first five minutes of the run, but, as the hounds had no means of knowing which course was the right one, the hounds had to divide their forces until the first of the paper trails was struck. Then the "baying" of the hounds who found the trail brought the other two parties of freshmen to them. Usually, four or five upper classmen ran with the hounds to decide upon "captures" in case of dispute. A hound overhauling a hare had to throw his arms around the prize, stopping him fairly for at least fifteen seconds. Then the hare was sent back, out of the race. Each hound was credited with the hare he captured.

Twelve hares ran, also twelve hounds. If the hounds captured seven or more of the hares ere the race was finished, then the hounds won. If they captured less than six, the hares won. If six hares were captured, then the race was a "tie." But, as will be seen, with the five minutes' start, and the hares averaging a year more of age, the sophomore class usually won this chase.

These rules had originated at Gridley, where the High School boys considered their form of the game superior to the rules usually followed.

This year, as in previous years, the sophomores felt confident of winning. The freshmen hounds averaged rather small in size, though little was known as to the freshmen running powers or wind. The sophomores were all good runners.

The contestants for positions on both teams had been tried out three days before, by a committee of men from the first class. The sophomores had not been allowed to see the freshmen run at these trials.

The start was to be made at three o'clock on this Monday afternoon. All the runners were now here, Reade and Dalzell having been among the last of the freshmen to come up. It was ten minutes before three.

"Half of the freshmen are a pretty mucky looking lot, aren't they?" asked Ripley, as he and Purcell, of the hares, strolled by.

"I hadn't noticed it," replied Purcell pleasantly. "I thought them a clean and able looking lot of young fellows."

"Humph! A pretty cheap lot! I call 'em," rejoined Ripley.

Dick Prescott heard and flushed slightly. He understood the allusion, coming from the source that it did. But Dick was bent on making a good run this afternoon, and kept his temper.

"Hares on the line!" shouted Frank Thompson, finally. He was to fire the shots that started the two teams, then was to run with the hounds to act as one of the judges of possible captures.

Purcell, who was captain of the hares, led his men forward to the line laid across the grass. Just before they formed, the captain gave some whispered instructions. Ben Badger was already at the line. He was to run with the hares during the first five minutes, then give the final signal for beginning to scatter the paper trail.

"On the line there, quick!" called Thompson, watch in his left hand, pistol in his right. "Ready!"

The hares, each with a bag of torn paper hanging over one hip, bent forward.

Crack! At the report of the pistol the hares bounded forward.

In barely more tha

n a minute afterwards they were out of sight.

Then followed some minutes of tedious waiting for the Gridley freshmen.

"Hounds to the line!"

Dick, who had been elected captain of the freshmen team, led his men forward on all easy lope. Dick took his place at the extreme left of the pursuing line, with Tom Reade next to him; then Dan Dalzell.

"Ready!" A pause of a few seconds. Crack!

The pistol sent the hounds away. They did not attempt to run fast. Captain Dick Prescott's orders were against that. The hounds moved away at an easy lope, for there were miles yet to be covered. Six miles, in fact, is more than average High School boys of the lower classes can make at a cross-country jog. A go-as-you-please gait was therefore allowed. Either hare or hound might walk when he preferred.

But for the first five minutes the hounds, who divided into three squads almost immediately, moved along at an easy jog. Every eye was alert for the first sign of a paper trail. There were six upper classmen running with the hounds. Ben Badger was somewhere ahead, hiding in order not to betray the trail. But, when he had been passed, Badger would jump up and run with the hounds, making the seventh judge.

"I wonder if we've a ghost of a show to win," muttered Tom Reade.

"Every show in the world--until we're beaten!" replied Dick, doggedly. "It isn't in the Gridley blood to wonder if we can win--we've got to win!"

After that Dick closed his lips firmly. He must save his wind for the long cross-country.

On the left the runners were now in a field. The center was moving along the highway, the right wing being in a field over beyond.

"Wow-oo! wow-oo! wow-oo!" sounded a deep, far-away chorus.

"There's the trail, away over to the right!" shouted Captain Dick.

"Come on, fellows!"

On an oblique line he led them, toward the road. They took a low stone wall on the leap, vaulting the fence at the other side of the road. The center squad had already overtaken the discoverers of the trail.

"Run easily. Don't try to cover it all in a minute. Save your wind!" admonished Dick to his own squad.

The upper classmen judges ran well behind the hounds. It was needful only that they be near enough to see and decide any disputed point of capture.

It was all of twenty-five minutes over a course that led across fields and through woods, ere the hounds caught the first glimpse of their quarry. Yet, all along, the paper trail was in evidence. One of the hares was required to strew the small bits of paper. When his bag was empty another hare must begin dropping the white bits.

"I'll bet Ripley dropped along here--the trail is so mean and difficult," grunted Reade, disgustedly.

"There are the hares ahead--I see two of them!" bellowed Dan

Dalzell, lustily.

A chorus from the hounds responded an instant later. Yes; they had come in sight of the chase. But the rearmost hares were still a good half mile away. Then the hares disappeared into a forest, leaving only the paper trail as evidence of their presence.

"Brook ahead!" sang out Captain Dick. "Go easily and save some of your wind for jumping."

In a minute more they came to it. Most of the hounds knew when to start on the faster run that must precede the running jump.

Splash! splash.

Splash! spla-a-ash!

Four of the freshmen floundered in the knee-deep water. Well doused, they must none the less dash out of the cold water and continue on the chase.

"Keep a-moving, and you'll soon be dry and warm," Dick called backward over his shoulder. The four who had been badly wet ran heavily now, yet afraid of ridicule if they fell out. They were having their first taste of High School sports, which made no allowance for quitters.

Twenty minutes later a low hurrah went up from the freshmen hounds. Dawson, of the hares, found the pace too swift for him. With a slight pain in his side he lagged so that one of the hounds put on an extra spurt, then wound his arms around the sophomore.

"Fair capture!" bawled one of the judges, and Dawson, dropping out, sat down until he could get his wind back.

Within the next twenty minutes four more of the hares fell into the maws of the hounds.

Five captures! That was fine. Only two more needed, and less than two miles to cover.

The hares were, at this time, again out of sight in the woods ahead. But Captain Dick, having saved his wind well, now put on a slightly better spurt and jogged ahead, full of the purpose of capturing his second hare. One of the "catches" was already recorded to his credit.

"There's one of the hares," Dick flashed to himself, as he caught an indistinct glimpse of a sweater and a moving pair of legs ahead. "He seems to be losing his wind, too--that fellow."

In a minute more Dick gave another gasp of discovery.

"It's Fred Ripley. I suppose it will be bitter medicine for him, if I make the catch," thought the young captain of the hounds.

Though he was too manly, too good a sportsman to allow malice to creep in, Prescott certainly did do his best to overtake the lagging Fred.

Gradually, the young captain left the hares behind. But Badger, who was an easy runner, forged ahead so as to keep the leading hound in full sight.

Hearing some one running behind him, Fred Ripley glanced backward over his shoulder.

"The mucker!" gritted the lawyer's son. "He mustn't catch me--he shan't!"

Yet vainly did Ripley try to put on more speed. He kept it up for a few yards, then knew that he was failing. That ill-advised anger before the start was surely telling on him now. Dick still kept forward, gaining a yard or so every few minutes.

"Keep back! Don't you dare touch me, you mucker!" hissed Fred sharply over his shoulder.

"Mucker?" retorted Prescott. "I'll pay you for that!"

At a bound he covered the distance, throwing first one arm, then the other, fairly around Ripley. Fred fought furiously to break the clasp, but was so winded that he couldn't.

"Let go of me! Your touch soils!" he cried, hoarsely.

But Dick still kept his hold, counting: "--twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen!"

"Fair capture!" rumbled Ben Badger.

The other hounds, or their leaders, were stripping by now. Dick, at the judge's words, loosed his hold on Fred.

"You cur!" snarled Fred. Then, summoning all his remaining strength, Ripley hauled off and struck astounded Dick on the face, sending the captain of the hounds to the ground.

"Take that, mucker!" shouted the assailant.

Those of the hounds who had not shot by, halted in sheer amazement.

Like a flash Dick was on his feet, his eyes flashing, cheeks flushing crimson.

"Go on, hounds, go on!" he shouted. "I can take care of this one disgrace to Gridley H.S.!"

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