Read Chapter XVIII - HI’S SWIMMING CHALLENGE of The Grammar School Boys in Summer Athletics, free online book, by H. Irving Hancock, on ReadCentral.com.

The reader may be sure that the members of his baseball squad had reminded him of his promise to tell them what the man on the clubhouse steps said.

“I promised I’d tell you, if you won that game,” Dick admitted.

“Yes, yes!” the other boys pressed.

“But I didn’t say when I’d tell you, did I?”

“You’re not going to try to sneak out of it that way, are you, Dick?” Dave Darrin demanded, as the boys met on Main Street the following morning, Saturday.

“I’m not going to sneak out of it at all, as you fellows ought to know,” Dick replied.  “I’m going to tell you –­when the proper time comes.”

“When will that be?” asked Greg.  “And that’s all we’ll get out of him, no matter how how much we talk!” muttered Tom Reade.

“Here comes Hi Martin,” announced Greg.  “He has Bill Rodgers with him.”

“It can’t be about baseball, anyway,” said Dick.  “I think Hi has his fill of that game.”

“Good morning,” was Martin’s greeting, as he and Rodgers approached.  “I have a message for you from North Grammar.”

“Deliver it, and we’ll sign on the book for it,” retorted Reade.

“We’re not satisfied to rest the claims of the North Grammar on baseball alone,” Hi went on.

“I shouldn’t imagine you would be,” Dick smiled.

“Therefore we are going to challenge you to another form of contest.”

“A talking match?” Tom wanted to know.

“No, sir.  I bear from the North Grammar boys a challenge to Central Grammar to meet us in swimming matches in the river.  The contests must be so arranged as to show which school may hold the championship in swimming.  Are you afraid to meet us in the water?” Hi asked.

“Afraid?  No,” Dick retorted.  “But why didn’t you fellows spring this on us earlier?  Next week Thursday will be graduating day.”

“Well, we can swim the Saturday after,” Hi proposed.

“But we’ll be graduated then.  We won’t be Grammar School boys any more,” protested Dick.

“Is that the way you’re going to get out of the challenge that we’ve issued?” Martin demanded scornfully.

“No; and you certainly know better,” Dick retorted.  “But how can we hold a school contest when we’re no longer enrolled in the school that we’re supposed to represent?” Dick insisted.

“You can if you want to,” Hi sneered.  “But I can see that you fellows don’t care about meeting us in a swimming contest.  All right; then I’ll go back and tell the North Grammar fellows that Central funks.

“There’s a way that we can arrange it, I think,” put in Dave Darrin, who had been listening intently.  “Dick, why can’t we get Old Dut to authorize us to represent Central Grammar within a day or two after graduation?  If he says it’s all right, then surely, even though we have just graduated, we’ll be able to represent our old school.”

“We can talk that over with Mr. Jones,” Dick nodded.

“My idea is that you fellows are afraid to say ‘yes’ to our challenge, sneered Martin.

“You may go on thinking that, if it gives you any pleasure,” said Dick coolly.  “But if you really want our answer, we’ll give it to you on Monday afternoon.”

“The Monday after Christmas?” jeered Hi.

“We’ll give you our answer next Monday afternoon,” Dick rejoined a bit stiffly.

“Is the South Grammar to be in this?” asked Dave.

“No; we don’t want that crowd,” Hi answered quickly before Rodgers could speak.

“Then the contest won’t be for the championship of Gridley, will it?” Dick inquired.

“Yes, it will,” Hi assured him.

“I don’t see how it can be, when it’s only between two out of the three Grammar Schools in the town,” Dick argued.

“The challenge is issued only to Central Grammar,” wound up Hi, turning to leave.  “And if you haven’t accepted before Monday evening, we of the North Grammar will hold that you have backed out and don’t dare meet us.  Oh, by the way, Prescott, you’d better look out for Ripley and Dodge.  They mean to get square with you for what happened last night.”

“Get square with me for it?” laughed Prescott, unafraid.  “All right, but that’s rather rich!  Why, I had nothing to do with it.”

“They blame you a good deal for it,” added Hi, “and they declare that they’re going to get even with you.”

“All right; let them try it,” Dick nodded.

“What do you think of this swimming challenge?” asked Dave quickly.

“Why, I think,” Dick replied, “that it will bear looking into closely.  There may be some trick about it, and we must look out that we are not roped into some funny game.  We’ll see the fellows at school on Monday.”

“Hi Martin is probably the best swimmer among the Grammar School boys of Gridley,” Tom suggested.

“I think that he most likely is,” Dick agreed.  “If he proposes to stand for North Grammar, and wants us to put up one candidate against him, then Hi would probably take the race.  If we take the challenge, either we ought to insist on a team race, or else on a number of separate events by different fellows, each event to count for so many points on the score.  In any match of singles Hi Martin might win.  If we go into this at all, we must look out that it isn’t fixed so that Hi Martin, alone, can carry off the championship for his school.”

“The very fact that Hi proposed it makes me suspicious that he has some trick in reserve,” Tom urged.

“I like the general idea,” spoke up Greg.  “Any swimming contest that is a real match between the schools, instead of between individuals, will be good sport and arouse a lot of school interest.  There are a lot of fairly good swimmers in our school, too.”

“We’ll talk it over with the fellows, and with Old Dut also,” Dick went on.  “Of course we have no right to act for the school unless the other fellows are willing.”

When Dick left his chums at noon it was with an agreement to meet on Main Street again at half past one.

At fifteen minutes past one the telephone bell rang in the little bookstore.

“Have you a copy of Moore’s Ballads?” asked a masculine voice.

“Yes,” replied Mr. Prescott; “in different styles of bindings and at different prices.”

The bookseller then went on to describe the bindings and named the prices.  The customer at the other end of the wire seemed to prefer an expensive volume, which came at four dollars.

“Can you deliver the book immediately, with a bill, to Mrs. Carhart, at the Gideon Wells place?” continued the voice at the other end.

“Yes; I think so,” replied Mr. Prescott.

“The book must be delivered within the hour,” continued the voice, “as Mrs. Carhart is going on a journey and wishes the book to read while on the train.”

“I will deliver the book within fifteen minutes,” Mr. Prescott promised.  “At the Gideon Wells place, did you say?  I didn’t know that it had a tenant.”

“Mrs. Carhart has taken the place for the summer.  I will rely upon you to deliver the book immediately.  Thank you; good-bye.”

“I suppose you have an appointment with the crowd, Dick,” smiled his father, as he hung up the receiver.  “I don’t like to get in the way of your fun, but I shall have to ask you to deliver the book, for the profit on that volume is too large to be overlooked.”

“I don’t mind going,” Dick answered.  “I can get back just a little late.  I’m all ready as soon as you have the book wrapped and the bill made out.”

Three or four minutes later Dick left the store.  At the corner of Main Street he looked to see whether any of his chums were visible, but none were.  So he turned and started, traveling fast.

Had young Prescott answered the ’phone call himself he very likely would have suspected that the voice of the customer was that of Bert Dodge disguised.  However, as it was, the Grammar School boy had no suspicion whatever.  He made part of the distance at a jog trot.  He was soon in the less thickly inhabited part of the town, down in a section of large estates, many of which were used only as summer homes.

“This Mrs. Carhart must be a new-comer in Gridley,” reflected Dick, as he hastened along.  “I hope she’ll buy a lot of books of us at as good prices.”

He came now to the corner of the Wells estate, the grounds of which were some eighty acres in extent.  He passed the corner and ran along toward two great elms that grew just inside the trim wall.

Just as he reached these elms two figures started up from behind the wall beyond.  The same two figures leaped over the wall, confronting the Grammar School boy.

“Howdy, Prescott,” called Bert Dodge, with a mocking grin.

“We were just saying that we’d rather see you than any one else on earth,” leered Fred Ripley, as he stepped in the Grammar School boy’s path.

“I haven’t any time to waste on you two just now,” Prescott answered coldly, trying to step around the pair.

“Then you’ll take the time,” scoffed Bert, reaching out to seize Dick by the shoulder.

Fred Ripley aimed an unexpected blow that sent the lad to earth and the book flying several feet beyond.