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   Chapter 6 FRED OFFERS TO SOLVE THE LOCKER MYSTERY

The High School Freshmen; or, Dick & Co.'s First Year Pranks and Sports By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 8171

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


For a week Gridley High School managed to get along without the presence of Fred Ripley. That haughty young man was at home, nursing a pair of black eyes and his wrath.

Yet, in a whole week, a mean fellow who is rather clever can hatch a whole lot of mischief. This Dick & Co., and some others, were presently to discover.

All outer wraps were left in the basement in locker rooms on which barred iron doors were locked. In the boys' basement were lockers A and B. Each locker was in charge of a monitor who carried the key to his own particular locker room.

As it happened Dick Prescott was at present monitor of Locker A.

If during school hours, one of the boys wanted to get his hat out of a locker the monitor of that locker went to the basement with him, unlocking the door, and locking it again after the desired article of apparel had been obtained.

Thus, in a general way, each monitor was responsible for the safety of hats, coats, umbrellas, overshoes, etc., that might have been left in the locker that was in his charge.

Wednesday, just after one o'clock one of the sophomore boys went hurriedly up the stairs, a worried look on his face. He went straight to the principal's office, and was fortunate enough to find that gentleman still at his desk.

"What is it, Edwards?" asked the principal, looking up.

"Dr. Thornton, I've had something strange happen to me, or to my overcoat, if you prefer to put it that way," replied Edwards.

"What has gone wrong?"

"Why, sir, relying on the safety of the looker, I left, at recess in one of my overcoat pockets, a package containing a jeweled pin that had been repaired for my mother. Now, sir, on going down to my coat, I found the pin missing from the pocket."

"Did you look thoroughly on the floor, Edwards?"

"Yes, sir; hunted thoroughly."

"Wait; I'll go down with you," proposed the principal.

Both principal and student searched thoroughly in the locker.

Dick, as in duty bound, was still there, on guard at the door.

"Mr. Prescott," asked puzzled Dr. Thornton, did any student have admittance to the locker after recess today?"

"None, sir," answered Dick promptly.

"Hm! And you're absolutely sure, Mr. Edwards, that you left the little package in your overcoat pocket?"

"Positive of it, Dr. Thornton."

"It's so strange that it startles me," admitted the good principal.

"It startles me a good deal," confessed Edwards, grimly, "to think what explanation I am to offer my mother."

"Oh, well, it must turn up," replied Dr. Thornton, though vaguely. "Anyway, Edwards, there has been no theft. The door is locked, and the only two keys to it are the one carried by the monitor and a duplicate which is kept locked in my own desk. You'll probably find it in one of your pockets."

"I have been through every pocket in my clothes at least seven times, sir," insisted the dismayed Edwards. "And that is a rather valuable pin," he added; "worth, I believe, something, like fifty dollars."

"Rest assured that we'll have some good explanation of the mystery before long," replied the principal as soothingly as he could.

Edwards went away, sore and disheartened, but there was nothing more to be said or done.

Thursday morning Dr. Thornton carried the investigation further, but absolutely no light could be shed on the missing pin.

But at recess it was Frank Thompson who came upstairs breathless.

"Dr. Thornton," he cried, excitedly, "it's my own fault, of course, but I'm afraid I've seen the last of my watch. It's one that father carried for a good many years, and at last gave me. The works are not very expensive, but the case was a gold one."

"How did you lose it?" inquired the principal, looking up over the gold rims of his spectacles.

"Why, I had to hurry to make school this morning, sir, and, as you know, it's a rather long walk. So I carried my watch in the little change pocket in my reefer in order to be able to look at it frequently. I reached the locker just in time not to be late, and forgot and left my watch in the reefer.

When I went down just now I found the watch gone."

"Oh, but this is serious!" gasped Dr. Thornton, in dismay. "It begins to look like an assured fact that there is some thief at work. Yet Prescott alone has a key to that locker."

"Prescott is all right. He's no thief," put in Thompson, quickly.

"I agree with you, Mr. Thompson. I consider Mr. Prescott too manly a fellow to be mixed up in anything dishonest. Yet something is wrong--very wrong. For the safety and good name of us all we must go to the bottom of this mystery."

That, of course, was all the satisfaction Thompson could expect at the moment. He went out to the remainder of his recess, feeling decidedly blue. Nor was Dr. Thornton any less disturbed.

When recess was over, the entire body of students was questioned in the general assembly room, but no light was forthcoming.

"Of course, in view of what has happened," counseled Dr. Thornton, "the young gentlemen will do well to leave nothing of value in their coats in the locker rooms. And while nothing distressing, has yet happened in the young ladies basement, I trust they will govern themselves by what has happened on the young men's side."

Dick Prescott felt much concerned over it all, though he did not imagine that anyone suspected him of any share in the disappearance of articles of value.

Friday there were no mishaps, for the very simple reason that no one left anything of value in the locker rooms.

On Monday Fred Ripley was back again. With the aid of a little help from the druggist the haughty young man presented two eyes that did not show any signs of having been damaged. Fred himself offered no comment on his absence. He seemed anxious to be on especially good terms with all of the upper classmen with whom he usually associated.

During the first period of the morning Ripley had no recitation on. He sat at his desk studying. Presently as permitted under the rules, he whispered softly with the boy seated behind him.

Then, suddenly, Ripley rose and tip-toed down the aisle to the desk. The principal himself sat there in charge.

"Dr. Thornton," began Ripley, in a low voice, "I was away last week, and so didn't hear all the school news. I have just learned about the locker room thefts, and so I'm uneasy. Just as the bell rang I was having trouble with the pearl and diamond scarf-pin that I often wear. There wasn't time to adjust it, so I dropped it in my overcoat pocket. I would like to go down to my coat, now, and get it."

"Prescott is reciting in IV. Physics," replied Dr. Thornton, rising. "However, in view of all that has happened, I think we shall do well to go down and call him out of class. I don't want any more valuable articles to be missing."

Principal and student went quietly to the floor below. Dr. Thornton thrust his head into the physics laboratory and quietly called Dick out, explaining what was wanted.

"You'll come, too, won't you, doctor?" asked Ripley.

The principal nodded without speaking. As the three reached the barred door, Dick inserted the key, then threw open the door. Fred marched over to his coat, thrusting his hand into a pocket.

"By thunder, it's gone!" gasped Fred.

In an instant Dr. Thornton bounded into the locker room. He himself explored every pocket in the boy's coat.

"Strange! strange!" muttered the bewildered principal.

"All the other thefts happened in this locker, didn't they?" inquired

Ripley, suspiciously.

"Yes--if thefts they were," admitted Dr. Thornton.

"Nothing missing from the other locker room?"

"Nothing."

"Doctor," went on Ripley, as though loath to utter the words, I hate to suggest anything of the sort. But--er--but--has the monitor of this locker been searched after any of the--er--disappearances?"

"Ripley, you forget yourself!" cried the principal.

"What do you mean!" flared Dick, in the same breath, turning crimson, next going very white.

"Doctor, I'm sorry," spoke Ripley, with great seeming reluctance, "but that pin is a costly one. I ask that the monitor be searched!"

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