Read Chapter XXII - HI HEARS SOMETHING ELEVATING of The Grammar School Boys in Summer Athletics, free online book, by H. Irving Hancock, on ReadCentral.com.

“Do you fellows really want to know what the man on the clubhouse steps said?” Prescott asked, looking about him with a tantalizing smile.

“Do we?” came in a chorus.

“Hurry up and tell us!”

“Quit your kidding,” begged Tom Reade.  “Dick, we’ve waited for months to have the mystery solved.  Now, surely, we ought to know.  Look at these diplomas; they certify that we know everything else.  So trot on the speech of the man on the clubhouse steps.”

“Or look for trouble!” added Harry Hazelton warningly.

Dick appeared to hesitate.  The boys around him, highly curious, thought he was debating within himself whether or not to give the desired information.

“Come, get swift,” desired Spoff Henderson.

“See here, fellows, I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” proposed Dick at last.

“You’ll tell us what the man on the clubhouse steps said,” broke in Toby Ross.

“Yes,” Dick agreed; “but you’ll have to let me do so on my own conditions and in my own way.  You see this diploma?” holding it up.  “I’ve been working hard for eight years to win this document.  Now I’m going to hurry home and put this in a place of safety.  After that I’ll put on my everyday clothes, and then I’ll meet you at the usual corner on Main Street at five o’clock.  If any of you fellows really want to know, then, what the man on the clubhouse steps said, I’ll tell you.”

“You won’t postpone telling us, and you won’t try to crawl out of it?” pressed Dave Darrin.

“On my honor, I won’t,” Dick promised.

“On your honor, you won’t tell us what the man on the clubhouse steps said?” demanded Tom Reade suspiciously.

“On my honor, I won’t try to dodge out of it, or postpone it a minute beyond five o’clock.  On my honor I’ll tell you, at five o’clock, to-day, what the man on the clubhouse steps said.”

“Good!” cried many voices.

“Will many of you be there?” Dick inquired.

“We’ll all be there,” declared Spoff Henderson.  “But, remember, Dick Prescott, you’re in honor bound to tell us at last.”

“You won’t find me dodging or up to any tricks,” Dick agreed solemnly.  “Until five o’clock, then.”

Dick started along.  At first quite a crowd went with him, but by degrees the number decreased until only his own five immediate chums were with him.

“Say,” suggested Reade suddenly, “since you’re going to make a public, show of this, Dick, you ought to let our little crowd in on a private view.”

“What do you mean?” Prescott quizzed.

“You know well enough what I mean,” Tom retorted.  “You ought to tell our own little crowd in advance what the man on the clubhouse steps said.”

“Do you really think so?” Prescott asked.

“I do,” affirmed Tom.

“And so do the rest of us,” asserted Dave Darrin.

“Come, hurry up!” begged Greg.

“It’s no more than fair to us,” insisted Dan.

“On the whole,” Dick continued, “I don’t believe it would be fair to the other fellows.”

“You big tease!” blurted Harry Hazelton indignantly.

“No; I don’t mean to tease you,” Dick rejoined, his eyes twinkling.  “But I believe in playing fair in life.  Don’t you, fellows?”

“What has this to do with being fair?” demanded Tom.

“Why, just this:  I promised to tell you all at five o’clock.  Now, if I were to tell a special few before that time, it would be a bit unfair!”

“Not a bit,” retorted Dave.  “You’ve had us dangling from the string longer than you have the rest of the crowd.  Therefore, we ought to know the answer before the other fellows.”

“It’s a question of conscience with me,” Dick replied soberly.

“Humph!” snorted Tom.  “Well, I suppose we may as well give it up, fellows.  The only way we could worm it out of Dick would be to rub his nose in the dirt.  And he might fight if we did.  This is where I have to leave you.  So long!  I’ll meet the army at five o’clock.”

Smiling broadly, Dick went on his way home.  He put away his diploma, next removing his best suit and laying it carefully away.  Then he donned his more accustomed clothes and ran down to the store.

“It was a very enjoyable exhibition, Dick,” said his father.

“And I suppose our son feels that he’s a man now?” smiled Mrs. Prescott.

“No; I’m not, mother, and I don’t want to be in any hurry, either.  There’s too much fun in being a boy.  And now I’ve an appointment to meet a lot of the fellows.”

“Don’t let that appointment make you forget supper time,” his mother called after him.

Spoff Henderson and Toby Ross were already at the place of appointment.

“Here comes Dick!” called Spoff.  “Now, tell us.”

“Wait until the crowd gets here.” returned Prescott.

“Ain’t you the mean one?” growled Toby.  “And we ran all the way home and back.”

“Too much hurry is said to be one of the greatest American sins,” laughed Dick.

“Well, you’re going to tell us, anyway, aren’t you?” pressed Spoff.

“Yes; but give the crowd a chance to get here.”

Dave and Dan came along, then Tom, Harry and Greg.  Tolman and a few other fellows hurried up.

“You might tell us all about that business, now,” suggested Tolman.

“I see some more fellows coming up the street,” Prescott replied.  “I don’t have to tell more than once.”

Five minutes later there were more than thirty boys at the corner, and still others were in sight, coming from both ways.

“Say, get busy, Prescott!” called some of the newer corners.

“Let the crowd all get here,” Dick insisted.

Presently the crowd numbered more than fifty a lot of their elders, seeing such an unusual crowd of youths on one corner, halted curiously near by.  Then Reporter Len Spencer came along.

“What’s all the excitement?” demanded Len, ever keen for local news.  One of the boys exclaimed to him what was in the wind.

“Then you’d better hurry up with your statement, Dick,” Len advised.  “There’ll be a riot here soon.”

“Five o’clock was the time named,” Prescott rejoined.

Just then the town clock began to strike.

“It’s five o’clock now, Dick,” called Greg.

“Yes,” nodded Dick, “and I’m ready at last to redeem my promise.”

“He’s going to tell us!”

“Hurrah!”

“Shut up!  We want to hear.”

“You are all assembled here,” Prescott continued, “to hear just what it was that the man on the clubhouse steps said.”

“Cut out the end-man explanations.  Give us the kernel!” shouted one boy.

“What the man on the clubhouse steps said,” Dick went ahead, “should be a model to everyone.  It is of especial value to all who are tempted to talk too fast and then to think an hour later.”

“Yes, but what did he say –­the man on the clubhouse steps?” howled Harry Hazelton.

“You will know, in a minute,” Dick assured his hearers.  “Yet, before telling you, I want to impress upon you that, whenever you are tempted to be angry, to be harsh in judgments, or when you can think only ill of your neighbor, then you should always hark back to just what the man on the clubhouse steps said.”

There was a pause and silence, the latter broken by Danny Grin demanding impatiently: 

“Well, what did he say?”

“You see,” Dick explained, “the man was all alone on the clubhouse steps.”

“Yes, yes.”

“And he wasn’t exactly sociable by nature.”

“Go on!”

“Get ahead faster!”

“Well?” breathed the auditors.  “Well?”

“He just naturally said –­nothing!”

“What?”

Dick dodged back, laughing.  There were a few indignant vocal explosions among the assembled youngsters, followed by dangerous calm and quiet.

“Whenever you find yourself under trying circumstances, or when anger is surging within you, fellows, believe me, you’ll always find it wiser to say just what the man on the clubhouse steps said –­which was nothing,” Dick urged.

“And you got us all the way up here, at an appointed time, just to hear that?” demanded Spoff Henderson.

“It’s worth the time it has cost you,” Dick urged.

“Rush him fellows!” bawled Toby Ross.  “Don’t let him escape!”

Indeed, there was no time or chance for getting away.  Dick Prescott was rushed, caught and pinned.

“What’ll we do with him?” rose the chorus.

“To the fountain!  Duck him!”

With a cheer the boys started, carrying Dick along on the shoulders of a few tightly-wedged boys.

Dick’s chums made no effort to rescue him.  Indeed, perhaps they felt that he deserved what was right ahead of him.  But they ran along in the press of boisterous lads.

Len Spencer, grinning hard, rushed along at the head of the juvenile mob.

“Boys, you’d better reconsider!” shouted the young reporter.  “Don’t write yourselves down as louts.  The man on the clubhouse steps, on account of just what he said, proved himself one of the sages of the ages.  Prescott, in telling you just what he said, has performed a public service, if only you fellows were bright enough to comprehend.”

“Get out of our way, Spencer!” ordered Spoff Henderson.  “As sure as guns we’re going to duck Dick Prescott in the public fountain.”

“If you won’t listen to reason, then,” roared Len, using his long legs to put him well in advance of the juvenile mob, “then I’ll use enchantment to spoil your foolish work.  You shall not duck Prescott!  Hi, pi, yi, animus, hocus pocus!  That enchantment will foil you!”

Having reached the fountain, Len drew aside dramatically.

“In with him!” shouted the youngsters.

Then they halted in sheer amazement.  For the first time the boys noted that no water was running in the fountain, and that the basin underneath was wholly dry.

“My enchantment has worked,” chuckled Len.

“How did you do it?” demanded one puzzled youngster.

“Never mind,” Len retorted mysteriously.  “Now, if you don’t instantly put Dick Prescott on his feet and leave him alone, I’ll work an enchantment that will raise hob with every boy who lays as much as a finger on Dick.”

So Prescott was allowed to slide down to his feet.  He was laughing, enjoying every moment of the fun.

“We could have run him down to the next fountain,” suggested one of the schoolboys.

“It would do you no good, and Prescott no harm,” Len retorted dryly.  “At three o’clock this afternoon the fire department turned off all of the public fountains in order to clean ’em.”

Now Dick’s late tormentors began to feel that they had been badly “sold” all around.  After the manner of boys, they grinned sheepishly, then more broadly and finally ended by laughing heartily.  But the crowd did not break up at once.  All waited, with a vague hope that some kind of mischief would happen.

A smaller boy went by, calling the evening newspaper.  Tom Reade bought one and stood at the edge of the crowd, reading.

“Here comes Hi Martin!” called someone.  That youth had just turned a corner, swinging from his left hand a pudgy rubber bag of the kind that is used for holding a wet bathing suit.

“Hello, Prescott,” was Hi’s greeting.  “Are you all ready to be left behind in the spray tomorrow?”

“If you can leave me there,” Dick smiled.  “Been out for a practice swim, have you?”

“Yes,” nodded Hi; “and if you had seen my speed this afternoon you’d have been scared away from the river for to-morrow.”

“Well, I hope one of us wins,” grinned Dick.

“One of us?” sniffed Hi.  “Of course, one of us has to win when there are only us two in that race.  And, after I beat you to-morrow,” Hi added consequentially, “I’ll be off and away for a good time.  Saturday father is going to take our family to New York for three weeks.”

“Going to stop at one of the big hotels there?” Reade inquired, looking up from his newspaper.

“Of course we are,” Hi rejoined, swelling out his chest.  “We shall stop at one of the biggest and finest hotels in the city.”

“Then don’t get a room too high up from the ground,” advised Tom.  “I’ve just been reading in the evening paper that the city authorities in New York have taken all the elevators out of all the biggest hotels.”

“Why?” demanded Hi.

“The paper says it’s because the elevators are considered too dangerous,” Tom replied innocently.

“I don’t believe it,” scoffed Hi.  “Why, how could people get up to their rooms on the fifteenth or eighteenth floor of one of the skyscraper hotels?”

“Oh, well,” Tom replied artlessly, “according to the paper the hotels are all going to be equipped with safety-raisers.”

“Safety-razors?” demanded Hi Martin blankly.  “You idiot, what good would safety-razors be for getting people up twenty floors in a hotel?”

There was a moment’s pause.  Then a few chuckles came, followed by a few more.

“Whoop!” yelled Danny Grin.  Snatching the bathing suit bag from Hi’s hand, Dalzell got a good hold on the tie strings, then swung the bag, bringing it down on the top of Hi’s head.

“Run along home, Martin!” jeered Dan.  “If don’t tumble before bed time, then ask your father how it is that dangerous elevators can be replaced with safety-raisers.  Here’s your bag.  Scoot –­before an idea hits you!”

Red-faced and angry, but still puzzled, Hi snatched at his bathing suit bag and hastily decamped.

“Now he’ll beat you at swimming or die tomorrow,” predicted Dave grimly.