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The High School Freshmen; or, Dick & Co.'s First Year Pranks and Sports By H. Irving Hancock Characters: 9940

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

"Ripley, you don't realize what you are saying!" cried Dr. Thornton, gazing at the sophomore in very evident distress.

"I only know that I'm all broken up, sir, over losing my costly pin," persisted Fred. "And I know my father will be angry, and will raise a row at the School Board's meeting."

Dick Prescott, standing by, had turned from scarlet to white, and back again.

"But Ripley," explained the principal, almost pleadingly, "the act would be illegal. No one has a lawful right to search the person of anyone except a properly qualified police officer. And even the police officer can do so only after he has arrested a suspected person."

"Oh, then I suppose, sir, there's no show for me to get any real justice done in this matter," muttered Fred, with an air of feigned resignation.

But by now Dick Prescott felt that he must speak--or explode.

"Dr. Thornton," he cried, chokingly, "the charge made against me, or, at least, implied, is an outrageous one. But, as a matter of justice to me, now that the hint has been cast, I ask that you, sir, search me right here and now."

"Then you've had time to hide the pin!" muttered Fred, in a very low voice.

Dick Prescott heard, but he paid no heed to the fellow.

"Dr. Thornton, will you search me--now?" insisted the young freshman.

"But I don't want to, Prescott," appealed the principal. "I haven't the remotest suspicion of you, anyway, my dear boy."

"I ask the search, sir, just as a matter of justice," Dick insisted. "If it were not too strong a word, then I would say that I demand to be searched here and now."

Suiting the action to the word, Dick Prescott, standing proudly erect, raised both arms over his head.

"Now, please, doctor, just as a matter of simple justice," begged the young freshman.

"Oh, very well, then, Mr. Prescott," sighed the principal. "But

I never had a more distasteful task."

Into one of the side pockets Dr. Thornton projected a shaking hand. He drew out only some scraps of paper, which he promptly thrust back. Then he inserted a hand in the jacket pocket on the other side.

"Ouch!" suddenly exclaimed the principal, in very real pain.

He drew the hand out, quickly. A drop of blood oozed up at the tip of his forefinger.

"Mr. Prescott," demanded Dr. Thornton, "what is that pointed object in your pocket?"

"What?" demanded Fred Ripley, tensely.

Dick himself thrust a hand into that pocket, and drew forth--Fred

Ripley's missing pin.

"What--why--who---" gasped the freshman, suffocatingly.

"Oh, yes, of course," jeered Fred Ripley. "Astonished, aren't you--you mucker?"

The last two words Ripley uttered in so low a tone that the principal, gazing in horrified fascination at the pin that he now held in his own hands, did not hear.

"You coward!" cried Dick, hotly, and clenched his fist, intent on driving it against the sophomore's face.

But Dr. Thornton knew enough about High School boys' fights, to galvanize himself into action. Like a flash he bounded between the two boys.

"Here, here, Prescott, none of that!" he admonished.

"I--I beg your pardon, sir," gasped Dick, in a tone which made it very plain that he did not include his enemy in that apology.

"May I trouble you for my pin, sir, now that it has been recovered?" asked Fred, coolly.

"Why--um!--that depends," replied Dr. Thornton, slowly, speaking with a painful effort. "If you, or your father, have or would have any idea of a criminal prosecution, Ripley, then it would be improper to return your pin. It would have to be turned over to the police as an exhibit in evidence. But do you intend anything of that sort, Mr. Ripley?"

"Why, that's as you say, doctor," replied the sophomore, quickly.

"It's a matter of school discipline, and belongs to your province.

Personally, I know that I would rather not have this matter go

any further."

"I--I don't know what to do," confessed Dr. Thornton, in anxious perplexity. "In any event, before doing anything, I think I had better consult the superintendent and the Board of Education. Mr. Prescott, I will say, freely, that I am most loath to believe anything of this sort against you can be possible. There must be--must be--some--er explanation. I--I--don't want you to feel that I believe your guilt as yet assured. I--I---"

Here Dr. Thornton broke down, dabbing at his eyes with his handkerchief. Almost unconsciously he passed the pin, which he was yet holding, to Fred Ripley.

"Lock the locker door, Mr. Prescott--and give me the key," requested the principal.

Dick passed over the key, then spoke, with more composure than might have been expected under the circumstances:

"Dr. Thornton, I am as innocent of any thieving as you yourself can be. Sooner or later the right of this will come out. Then you will realize that I didn't steal anything. I'll prove myself innocent yet, sir."

"I hope so, my boy, I--I--hope so," replied the pr


As they ascended, Fred Ripley stepped aside to let the other two go first. He was afraid to have Dick Prescott behind him just then.

No sooner had the trio entered the general assembly room than it quickly dawned on all the students of both sexes that something was unusually wrong.

Dick's face was red as fire. Had he been guilty of the thefts, he might have been cooler about it all. Conscious innocence often puts on the appearance of guilt.

Somehow, Dick got to his seat. He picked up a book, mechanically, and pretended to be deeply absorbed in study.

"What's up?" whispered the fellow seated behind Fred.

Ripley turned enough to raise his eyebrows significantly and let his questioner see him do it. Instantly all seated near the lawyer's son became intensely curious.

Wondering glances strayed from over book-tops, even from the far corners of the big assembly room.

Then the curious glanced at Dr. Thornton so often that the much disturbed principal soon called another teacher to the desk and left the room.

At recess, Purcell, of the sophomore class, was found in charge at the door of Dick's old locker room. Ripley held his tongue until he was out in the school yard. Then he broke loose before those who would listen to him--and the number was large.

Dick & Co. had gathered by themselves in another corner of the yard. Here, however, they were soon joined by a small mob of the fellows, especially of the freshman class. Dick had his say. He didn't want to say much, but he related, in a straightforward way, what had happened.

"It's one of Fred Ripley's mean tricks," declared one of the freshmen. "Fred Ripley can't fool anyone. He put that pin in Dick's pocket himself."

"But two thefts--two things were missed last week, when Ripley wasn't at school at all," spoke one boy, in an undertone.

"Yes; that's the queer part of it," agreed another boy. "Ripley couldn't have had anything to do with those other cases."

This latter was the view that was occurring to Mr. Thornton, as he sat in the principal's room, poring and pondering over the whole distressing matter.

Thompson and the other football leaders came trooping over to Dick & Co. as soon as they heard the noise. Prescott was a hero with the football crowd. There was no use in telling them anything against their little freshie hero.

"Prescott, it would look foolish to talk much," declared Thompson, in a voice that was husky from real emotion. "Just give me your hand, old man!"

Dick took the proffered hand, pressing it hard and gratefully. Then the rest of the football squad pressed forward, each insisting on a hearty handshake.

"Nobody except those who want to, will stomach this silly charge against Dick," grunted Tom Reade to Dan Dalzell. "See how it's turning out? Our old pal and leader is holding a regular reception."

"'Scuse me," begged Dan, hastily. "There's Laura Bentley beckoning to me."

He hastened over to the girl's side. There were tiny drops in the corners of Laura's eyes that looked like suppressed tears.

"Dan," she said, coming straight to the point, "we have heard, of course. What a silly charge! See here, you pals of Dick's are going to walk home with him from school this noon?"

"Surest thing that ever happened in the world," declared Dalzell, fervently.

"Just so," nodded Laura. "Well, if you won't think it strange or forward, six of us girls want to walk along with you boys. That will be a hint that the freshman class, if not the whole H.S., passes a vote of confidence in Dick Prescott, the most straightforward fellow in the class or the school."

"Bully for you, Miss Bentley!" glowed Dan. "We shall be looking for you young ladies when school lets out."

When the outside bell rang for reassembling, such a guard of honor had chosen to gather around Dick, and march in with him, that it looked more like a triumphal procession.

"I feel better," sighed the boy, contentedly to himself, as he dropped into his seat. "What a bully thing a little confidence is!"

When school let out, Dick & Co., each partner escorting one of the freshman girls, strolled down the street. A good many more of the students chose to drop in behind them. Dick could say nothing, but his heart swelled with pride.

"The way to get famous and respected, nowadays, is to steal something, and to get found out," sneered Fred Ripley, bitterly, to Clara Deane.

Straight to his own door did some two score in all of the Gridley

H.S. students escort Dick Prescott.

"Three cheers for Dick!" proposed some one.

"And for Dick and Co.!" shouted another voice.

The cheers were given with gusto. So much noise was made, in fact, that Mrs. Prescott came to open the door.

Something in his mother's face--a look of dread and alarm--spoiled the cheering for Dick. As soon as he could he got inside the house.

Little did the young freshman suspect the ordeal that awaited him here.

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