Part 2 out of 3
try and stick it out here, and be landed in a Texas jail."
"It'll seem an awful long time till tomorrow comes," sighed the
impatient Thad. "We told him we'd be around by nine in the morning,
didn't we? Well, let's call it eight-and-a-half, then. He may
be able to get off earlier than he expects, and that would cut Brother
Lu out of another meal at the expense of Matilda, whose supplies must
be running low by now, I should judge, and her money ditto in the
"Have it your own way, Thad, and drop in for me," said Hugh. "In the
midst of all this fuss and feathers over that miserable hobo, we
mustn't forget we promised to be on hand in the afternoon to play
on the team against Mechanicsville; for you know there has been a
switch, and the programme changed. That team is considered a
strong aggregation from the mills over there, and, we may get our
fingers burned unless we are careful. After knocking Belleville
down last Saturday, it would look bad for Scranton to be snowed
under by an outside nine without any reputation, as they have hardly
played together this season so far."
"Oh! I haven't forgotten my promise to Mr. Saunders and you, Hugh,"
protested the reliable backstop of the high-school team "I'm too fond
of baseball to neglect any chance for playing. But we'll try and put
this other affair over in the A.M., and that'll leave us free to
play ball after lunch. I wonder how far away our friend, Brother
Lu, will be this time tomorrow?"
"Perhaps many miles," suggested Hugh, "and then again he may be taking
things as easy as ever over there at Sister Matilda's cottage. It's
going to be a toss-up whether our game works as we hope, or falls
flat to the ground."
HOW JIM PETTIGREW FIXED IT
When Saturday morning came, the two chums of Scranton High met as per
arrangement, and as Thad expressed it, made a "bee-line" downtown.
They were fairly wild to get bold of the first copy of the _Weekly
Courier_ that was placed on sale.
As a rule, it was delivered to the several newsstands, and at the
railroad station, around eight o'clock. Then the "printer's devil,"
who was also the carrier, delivering copies to most of the town
folks who subscribed in that fashion, would start out with a first
bundle in his bag, taking his time about leaving the same at different
doors. Perhaps nowadays, however, when there was likely to be a
baseball game in the afternoon to enliven things, the said boy might
quicken his pace a bit, so as to get through, and have a chance to
witness the struggle.
They were just in time to see a package delivered at the main news
store, where sporting goods could also be purchased. Paul Kramer's
was a place most beloved among the boys of Scranton, for the small
store held almost everything that was apt to appeal to the heart of
the average youth. Besides, all baseball, and in due season, football
paraphernalia, as well as hockey sticks, and shin guards, the old
storekeeper always carried a well-chosen stock of juvenile fiction
in cloth; and those fellows who were fond of spending their spare
hours in reading the works of old favorites like Optic and Alger,
as well as numerous more recent additions to the ranks of authors,
were to be found poring over the contents of numerous book shelves
and racks, deciding which volume they would squander their latest
Then at Kramer's "Emporium" there was always a huge stock of the
latest music in cheap form; and the girls had also contracted a
habit of dropping in to look this over, with an eye to adding to
their lists. So that from early morning until nine in the evening,
on ordinary occasions, if a boy could not be found anywhere else
it was "dollars to doughnuts," as Thad always said, that he was
rummaging at Paul Kramer's, and lost to all the world for the time
Eagerly, then, did Thad throw down a nickel, and snatch up the first
copy of that week's issue sold that morning. It was virtually "fresh
from the press"; indeed, the odor of printers' ink could easily be
detected in the sheet.
There was no difficulty about finding the article they were most deeply
interested in. It occupied a leading place on the front page. Jim
Pettigrew had certainly seen to it that the head was next door to
what is known as a "scare" head; for the type was black and bold
enough to attract attention the first thing any one unfolded their
copy of the _Courier_.
What Mr. Adoiphus Hanks would say was a question, when later on he
came to look over the latest issue of the family paper, and discovered
such liberties on the part of the "cub" reporter, raised for one
day to the responsible position of editor. But then Jim was
smooth-tongued enough to settle all that with his boss, for Jim
could talk almost anyone into believing that black was white.
Possibly he would think it the best policy to confide the whole
story to Mr. Hanks, and explain just how it had been done in the
public policy. Adoiphus was not such a bad sort of fellow, and
really believed that he took a leading part in the upbuilding of the
morals of Scranton; so he might forgive Jim's breaking away from the
long-established policy of the family paper, which allowed of but
Well, it was a great story! Jim had allowed his imagination full swing,
that was certain. He spoke of actually running across the stern
official from Texas, and making his acquaintance under rather
dramatic conditions connected with a broken-down car on the road.
Then he launched forth into a vivid description of how the minion
of justice confided to him the reason for his being there so far
distant from the field of his customary useful and perilous operations.
Sly little hints were conveyed in his mention of the rascal whom
he had vowed to find, and take back with him to Texas, there to pay
the penalty for breaking the laws. Why, surely the guilty conscience
of Brother Lu must discover a description of himself in every word
that the imaginary marshal uttered.
The two boys finished at about the same time. Their eyes met in a
stare, and Thad gave utterance to a whistle.
"Whew! Jim is sure a dandy when it comes to write-ups, isn't he,
though, Hugh?" he breathed softly, for the proprietor of the "Emporium"
happened to be bustling about the place, and was evidently a bit
curious to know just what there could be in that week's edition of
the _Courier_ to so plainly interest Hugh and his chum.
"He certainly is," admitted Hugh. "Why, you can almost see that
Marshal Hastings walking before you, and looking as if he had his
eagle eye fixed on you for keeps. Jim's described him so smartly
that it would apply to almost any Western sheriff or marshal we've
ever seen in the movies."
"But just think how the cold creeps will chase up and down the spinal
column of that miserable sneak of a hobo when he glimpses this article,"
chuckled Thad. "I can imagine him starting, and his eyes nearly
popping out of his head as he gets busy devouring the whole thing. And,
then, Hugh, what d'ye reckon his next move will be?" Hugh shrugged
his shoulders as he slowly replied:
"Honestly now, Thad, I give it up. If he's really guilty, as we
believe, why, of course, he'll not wait on the order of his going,
but skip out like a prairie fire, and we'll be shut of him. But
there's always the doubt. In fact, we never can be sure we've struck
the right nail on the head until we see Lu hitting the high places,
and never even looking back."
"I must read that wonderful article again," quoth the admiring Thad.
"It's simply great the way Jim's written it up, and I'm sure that chap
is bound to occupy an exalted place in newspaperdom down in New York
one of these days when luck comes to him, and he emigrates that way."
They scanned it line by line until they could almost repeat the
whole story by heart, it made such a great impression on them. Thad
seemed more than amused over the idea that the good folks from
Scranton would swallow it whole, and believe there was really a
Texan marshal in their midst, looking right and left for a desperate
character who had dropped down in that quiet and respectable
neighborhood, thinking he would be safe from molestation there.
"Why, Hugh," he went on to say, exuberantly, "all today I warrant
you hundreds of people here, women as well as boys and men, will
be scanning every party who happens to be wearing a felt bat anything
like the one Marshal Hastings is said to possess; and wondering if
the stranger from Mechanicsville, or Allandale, or any other old
place can be the wonderful Texan official, who according to Jim's
graphic account has notches cut on the stocks of both his big
revolvers to indicate just how many bad men he has been compelled
to lay low during the course of his long and thrilling public career.
Oh! I feel just as if I wanted to drop down and laugh till my sides
ached, it's such a rich joke. That Jim will kill me yet with his
Hugh was apparently also highly amused, but he did not lose sight of
the main facts in the case, as his next remark proved.
"Remember we settled it that we'd be around to look Jim up about
half-past eight, instead of nine o'clock this morning. Thad, it's
getting near that time now, so perhaps we'd better be moving. Jim
might feel like starting a bit early, so as to give him more time
later on for his regular duties. You see, being left in sole charge
of the office while Mr. Hanks is away makes him responsible for even
the job printing."
Thad was only too glad for an excuse for an earlier start.
"If we have to do any loafing," he went on to say, philosophically,
"we can put in the time at the _Courier_ office, just as well as
anywhere else. I always did want to mosey around that place, and
while Mr. Hanks is away, perhaps I'll have a chance to handle a few
type, and watch the regular comp work like lightning. The smell of
printers' ink seems to draw me, Hugh, to tell you the honest truth."
Although Thad possibly did not know it at the time, that fascination
has been responsible for many a noted editor's career, as the lure
of printers' ink, when it gets a firm hold on any one, can seldom
be shaken off in after years. Once a newspaper man and it becomes
a lifetime pursuit. But then, of course, Thad might be only imagining
such things, and the dim future hold out other possibilities for a
career that would be far removed from an editor's chair.
They found Jim on deck, and buried up to his ears in work. He seemed
to enjoy it to the limit, too, for it made him appear so responsible
and tickled his vanity. He grinned at seeing his two young friends.
"I suppose now you've read my latest effusion, boys?" Jim remarked,
with an assumption of extreme modesty, which, however, hardly suited
his usual bold demeanor.
Jim had all a reporter's "nerve," and could coolly face a raging
subscriber who had dropped in to ask to have his subscription closed
because of a certain offensive article in the last issue--yes, and
likely as not Jim could soothe the ruffled feathers of the enraged
man, show him how he had really been paid a compliment, and finally
bow him out of the office with another year's subscription left in
the shape of a dollar and a half in good money.
"We've fairly _devoured_ it, Jim," frankly admitted Thad. "Why, I
can repeat it off-hand right now, I've read it so often. And Jim,
I want to say that it's as clever a piece of work as I ever got
hold of. That terrible Texan stands out as clear as print. Everybody
in Scranton will be rubbering all today, thinking they can see
Marshal Hastings in each stranger in town. I congratulate you,
Jim; you're a peach at your trade, believe me."
Of course that sort of "gush" just tickled Jim immensely. He tried
not to show it, but his eyes were twinkling with gratified vanity.
It was fine to hear other people complimenting him so warmly, even
though they were but boys from Scranton High. Praise is acceptable
even from the lowly; and Jim made queer motions with his lips as
though he might be rolling the sweet morsel over his tongue.
"Glad you like it, fellows," he said, in as unconcerned a voice as
he could muster to the fore. "Course there was some hurry, because
I'm rushed for time, and I could have done a heap better if I really
tried to lay myself out. But I guess that ought to fill the bill,
and give Brother Lu a little scare, eh, Thad, old scout?"
"I'm expecting he'll shake himself out of his shoes, or rather
Brother-in-law Andrew's footwear," exclaimed the eager Thad. "But
say, Jim, how about your going out with us, and watching him skip!"
Jim looked serious.
"H'm! got an awful bunch of work to do, fellows, this morning, as
well as hold the editorial desk down for Mr. Hanks; but perhaps the
sooner we get that little job over with the better. Yes, I'll call
Philip, our boy here, who's rubbing the ink off his face and hands,
and we'll all start out to finish Brother Lu's career in Scranton."
SOMETHING GOES WRONG
It was in this confident mood that they made their start. Philip had
the copy of the _Courier_, which Jim had deftly folded so that the
headlines of his startling article would be seen immediately any one
picked the paper up. He was also instructed to simply say that the
management of the weekly, wishing to give more citizens of Scranton
an opportunity to get acquainted with the feast of good things
served up every Saturday, was sending out a supply of sample copies,
and that a subscription would be much appreciated. As Philip was a
shrewd little fellow he "caught on" to the idea, and would without
fail carry it through all right.
It was not intended that any occupant of the Hosmer home should suspect
the presence of the three who meant to see what happened. Thad
knew just how they could advance fairly close without being seen,
since he had been "playing spy" before on his own account, and was,
therefore, acquainted with every bush capable of affording shelter.
Accordingly, when they found themselves drawing near their intended
destination, Thad was given charge of the expedition, and he seemed
pleased to serve in the exalted capacity of pilot or guide. He led
the way, and the other two followed as close to his heels as possible.
In this manner they finally found themselves as close to the cottage
as circumstances and a scarcity of sheltering bushes would allow.
"Here's where I hide," whispered Thad, coming to a sudden pause,
and remaining in a crouching position. "We can see everything that
goes on outside the house and, if the door should be left open on
such a fine warm morning, perhaps hear something that might be said
Both Hugh and Jim seemed quite satisfied with the prospect, if their
nods could be taken for assurance.
"If everything is ready, and the trap set," remarked Jim, softly, "I'll
give Philip the signal we agreed on."
"Go ahead, then," said Thad, eagerly, his eyes fairly dancing with
expectancy; for somehow his heart seemed more than ever set on relieving
poor Matilda Hosmer from the fresh load she had taken so generously on
her already tired shoulders.
Accordingly Jim, without raising his head above the level of the bush
that concealed his body, waved his handkerchief three times. He knew
that Philip would be waiting and watching for such a sign, because
before they left the boy Thad had taken pains to point out to him
where they expected to hide.
Sure enough, hardly had Jim made the third and concluding wave than
the carrier was seen to come in sight, bearing quite a load of
papers; which in reality be expected to deliver on his first round
to regular customers; for none of them saving that particular one
were to be given away free as sample copies; and that had, as Thad
expressed it, "a string tied to it."
Whistling in the most unconcerned manner possible Philip walked
straight up to the cottage door and knocked. The boy was playing his
part to perfection, all of them saw, and Jim in particular seemed much
It was Matilda herself who answered the summons. They could see that
Philip was getting off the lines which he had committed to memory.
Matilda asked him several questions, but she held on to the paper
all the same, and seemed quite pleased at being picked out as a
possible new subscriber; although times were just then too hard to
admit of her indulging in such a luxury.
But perhaps she thought it would be such a pleasure for "poor Brother
Lu" to forget all his troubles in looking over the town paper. Thad
felt sure this must be in the mind of Matilda, for she was one of
those persons whose first thought is always of some one beside
Philip having exhausted his schedule hastened to betake himself off
before he said too much; because he was a wise boy for his years, Jim
allowed. And Matilda went back into the house, glancing at the paper
as she vanished from view.
"Now let's hope that hammock there will tempt Brother Lu to saunter
forth and take things easy while he looks over the paper," said
Jim, with just a touch of eagerness discernible in his well-controlled
voice; for he prided himself on always "keeping cool" under the most
They did not have long to wait. Why, it seemed to Thad that the
wonderful Jim must have some peculiar power, as of suggestion, with
which he could influence other minds; for as they peeped through
openings in the bushes, lo! and behold, out of the cottage door
came the object of Thad's especial aversion. Yes, it was the hobo
whom they had first met when he was cooking his meal in regular
tramp fashion by using discarded tomato cans for receptacles to
hold coffee and stew. But Brother Lu was a transformed tramp.
He wore the Sunday clothes of Brother-in-law Andrew, and his face
was actually as smooth as a razor could make it. In fact, he looked
just too sleek and well-fed for anything; and Thad, as usual, gritted
his teeth with savage emphasis to think how the fellow was imposing
on the good nature of that simple and big-hearted couple.
Then, too, he had the paper in his hand, which evidently Matilda had
given over to him immediately she entered. He made straight for that
hammock, as though he had actually heard Jim suggest such a charming
"Now we're in great luck," Thad breathed, gripping Hugh by the knee,
as they crouched in company behind their screen of bushes. "We can
watch, and see just what effect that bombshell has on the skunk!"
"Keep quiet, Thad," warned Hugh; "or he might hear you."
The reformed tramp seemed to be very particular about his comfort
nowadays. Time was when he could throw himself down carelessly
on the hardest kind of ground and rest easy; but since he had taken
to living under a roof things were different. They saw him fix
the pillow in the hammock very carefully before he allowed himself
to recline there. Then he raised the paper, and seemed to take
a careless glance at it.
Hardly had he done this than the watchers saw him start upright again.
He was undoubtedly devouring the thrilling news item on the front
page with "avidity"---at least, that was what Jim Pettigrew would
have called it, had he been at his favorite job of "writing up"
the doings of Scranton society for the past week.
"Now he has got a body blow!" hissed the delighted Thad, unable to
keep still any great length of time when his pulses were throbbing
like mad, and his eyes round with eagerness.
Brother Lu read the article through. Then he lowered the paper
and seemed to be meditating, to judge from his attitude. Hugh thought
he could detect something akin to a wide grin on the other's face,
but then he may have been mistaken. Thad, on his part, was positive
that he knew what must be passing through the mind of the man after
reading that suggestive news concerning the Texan marshal who never
yet allowed an intended victim to elude his clutches, and who meant
to get the guilty party so badly wanted "down below."
"Say, he's figuring on whether he'd best streak it as he is, or go
in and gather a few things together that he may need," continued the
Even as he spoke they saw the other scramble hastily out of the
comfortable hammock, and start post-haste for the open door of the
cottage. Thad was as certain of what was about to happen as that
he knew his own name. Hugh suspended judgment, believing that it
would be unwise to jump too hastily to a decision. Besides, there
were a few little suspicious things connected with the actions of
Brother Lu that he did not wholly like.
A minute passed, two of them, which doubtless seemed like so many
hours to the confident Thad. Then they again saw the late hobo
coming out. Thad stared harder than ever, and his heart felt like
What did it mean? he asked himself. Brother Lu did not have his hat
on, nor was he carrying any sort of hastily thrown together bundle.
In fact, he showed not the first sign of the dreadful alarm Thad
He still carried the weekly paper in his hand as though he meant to
look over that wonderful article of Jim's again. And what he had
really darted into the house after was evident; for in the other
hand he carried Mr. Hosmer's only good pipe, as well as his tobacco
bag, now getting woefully depleted of its prized contents.
Then, as if totally unaware of the fact that three pairs of eyes
were glued upon his every slightest move, Brother Lu calmly filled
the pipe, struck a match on the sole of Brother-in-law Andrew's
shoe, applied the flame to the contents of the pipe bowl, and puffed
out a cloud of blue smoke with all the assurance in the world.
Thad nearly took a fit trying to hold in; the fact was Hugh felt
constrained to lay a warning hand on his chum's arm to keep him from
bursting out in such a manner as to betray them to the smug hobo.
Brother Lu read the article again from beginning to end. Then he
smote his knee with his open palm several times, and they could
actually hear him chuckle, as if he might be highly amused. All
this rather puzzled Jim, who had fully anticipated seeing the intruder
making a bee-line for the railroad. Perhaps he even began to wonder
whether, after all, he might not have "laid it on a little thicker"
when writing up that story about the grim Texan marshal.
Presently Matilda was heard calling to Brother Lu, who, leaving his
hammock, sauntered into the house with all the airs of one who had
arranged to take life easy from that time on.
"Hey! let's beat it," mumbled the keenly disappointed Jim Pettigrew.
"I've got heaps to do at the office; and I seem to tumble to the fact
that, after all, our big game didn't pan out just as was expected."
Thad did not have a single word to say just then. He was, in fact,
too dazed to collect his thoughts. But Hugh's active mind was grappling
with the matter, and he apparently seemed able to figure things out.
They retreated in a strategic fashion, so that possibly no one was
the wiser for their having been behind the bushes, unless Brother Lu
chanced to take a notion to peep from behind some fluttering white
"Well, what does it all mean, do you know, Hugh?" finally burst out
Thad, after they had gone far enough away to make it safe to talk
in ordinary tones.
"I think I have guessed why he seemed so tickled after reading the
article which we figured would give him such a bad scare," said
Hugh, with a grim smile. "The fact of the matter is he hoodwinked
me when he told such whopping yarns about the terrible sheriff of
the oil regions. There may be such a chap, all right, but his name
isn't Hastings by a long shot. He just invented that name, you see;
and when he read Jim's article about his being up here, he tumbled
to the game."
"Oh! it's rotten luck!" groaned Thad; "after all that beautiful
strategy we've fallen down flat. No use talking, Hugh. Jim, that
fellow is a sticker, and it begins to look as if he couldn't be
budged or pried loose with a crowbar. But I'm not the one to give
a thing up because I've failed once or twice; just wait till I get
my third wind, and I'll settle Brother Lu's hash for him!"
So they wandered back to town, sadder but wiser from their new
SCRANTON FANS HAVE A PAINFUL SHOCK
The nine from Mechanicsburg showed up that afternoon on time. They
were a husky-looking lot of young chaps, accustomed to hard toil
in the mills, and with muscles that far outclassed the high-school
boys. But, as every one knows, it requires something more than mere
brawn to win baseball games; often a club that seems to be weak
develops an astonishing amount of skill with bat and ball, and easily
walks off with the victory.
Mechanicsburg was "out for blood" from the very start. They depended
a great deal on their slugging abilities, and declared that no pitcher
the Scranton players might offer could resist their terrific onslaught.
When the first inning was over at last it began to look as if their
boast might be made good, for the score stood five to one. Frazer
was in the box for Scranton, Hugh not wishing to use his star pitcher
unless it was absolutely necessary. He was a bit afraid that something
might happen to Tyree that would put him on the bench and thus they
would be terribly handicapped in their first game with Allandale
on the following Saturday.
Now, Frazer was a pretty dependable sort of a slab artist, and if the
Scranton boys had not had Alan Tyree they might have believed him a
Number One. But while Frazer had a number of good curves and drops,
and a pretty fair amount of speed, he seemed only able to deceive
those huskies from Mechanicsburg in spurts.
Between times they got at him for successive drives that netted two
and three bases each. Indeed, in that very first inning the fielders
of the home team were kept on the jump at a lively rate chasing
smashing blows. To tell the truth, all three outs were made on
enormous flies that seemed to go up almost to the very clouds, and
gave "K.K." out in the middle garden, and "Just" Smith, who had charge
of left field, a big run each time before they could get their hands
on and hold the ball.
In the second time at bat the visitors did not do as much. Perhaps
Frazer managed to tighten up, and pitch better ball. He was very
erratic, and could never be depended on to do consecutive good work.
In every other inning the heavies could not seem to gauge his work
at all, and he mowed them down. Then they would come at him again
like furies, and knock his offerings to every part of the field as
though he might be an amateur in the box.
Hugh watched the fluctuations of the game with more or less solicitude.
They could hardly afford to be beaten by a team like Mechanicsburg, he
figured, as he saw Frazer "fall down" for the third time, and a
It was the sixth inning.
Scranton had done more or less scoring on her side, so that the
figures were mounting rapidly, and it promised to be an old-fashioned
batting bee. It now stood nine to twelve in favor of the visitors;
and as they had started another of their rallies no one could say what
the result might be by the time Scranton once more came to bat.
There was a small but noisy delegation from the other town present,
and they kept things pretty lively most of the time, cheering their
fellows, and hooting the slightest opportunity when Scranton failed
to connect, or one of the high-school boys did not make a gilt-edged
Nor were the Mechanicsburg rooters alone in this jeering. As usually
happens, there were a number of fellows in Scranton who entertained
feelings of jealousy toward the local nine, based on an idea that
they had been purposely overlooked when the choice of players was made.
Chief among these malcontents was the town bully, Nick Lang, whose
acquaintance the reader has already made in a previous volume, and
under exciting conditions. Nick at one time had a good chance of
making the nine, for he was a hustler when it came to playing ball,
and indeed, in nearly every sport; but as might be expected, he
managed to display his nasty temper in practice, and Coach Saunders,
who heartily disliked and distrusted the big fellow, speedily turned
Nick, as usual, had his two faithful henchmen along with him, Leon
Disney and Tip Slavin; and the trio led the hooting whenever a chance
came to rub it into Scranton. Some of the visitors hardly liked
this; it smacked too much of rank treachery to please them. It was
all very well for visitors to deride the home team in order to
"rattle" the pitcher; but for fellows living in Scranton to indulge
in this sort of thing did not seem right.
Hugh believed he had had quite enough of this see-saw business. If
Frazer was going to "jump" in that miserable fashion the game was
as good as gone. He disliked doing it the worst kind, but he saw
the appealing look Frazer shot in his direction on third when the
visitors once more started their bombardment. It meant Frazer had
lost all confidence in his ability to stop the threatened rally;
and that he was making signs for help.
So Hugh took him out.
It was Alan Tyree who stepped into the box, and began to toss a few
balls to the backstop, in order to limber up his arm; while the
visiting batsman waited the signal from the umpire to toe the home
plate, and get ready to strike.
Just three times did Alan send in one of his terrific shoots that
fairly sizzled as they shot past; three times the heavy batter cut
the thin air with his club, and then walked over to where his companions
sat in a clump, watching curiously to see how the change was going
Up came the next visitor on the list, who also made light with the
offering of poor Frazer. Did he start a batting bee all over again?
Well, not that any one could notice it. The best he could do was
to fan the air on two successive occasions, and then send up a twisting
foul that Thad Stevens managed to hold, after a pretty erratic chase
back and forth.
Now it was the loyal home fans who began to root long and hard. They
scented victory, and it seemed good after so much bitter humiliation
at the hands of this newly organized team, most of them strange to
their positions, and capable of many fielding errors, but able to
remedy this by their ability to bat.
The third out followed in quick succession. Scranton sighed with
relief, and the fielders had had a rest. They were really getting
tired of chasing wildly after all those terrific smashes, and of
seeing the big fellows running the bases at will.
Hugh led off in the next inning, and the renewed confidence put in
the whole team by the change of pitchers showed itself. When that
inning was over the locals had reduced the lead of Mechanicsburg
to one run; and they fully anticipated wiping that slight advantage
out in the next round.
Tyree still held them close. They knocked several fouls, and one
man actually went out through Juggins in far right, managing to
sprint fast enough to grapple with a soaring fly that came his way
across the foul line. The rest struck out, being almost like babies
in the hands of the wizard Tyree.
Well, the locals not only wiped that lead out but went two better,
so that it now began to look as though they had the game "sewed up,"
with Tyree pitching championship brand of ball, and every fellow
keyed up to playing his best. Wonderful infield work saved Alan
from having the first hit marked up against him in the eighth frame,
for several of the hard hitters were up again, and they managed to
swat the ball with a vim; but only to have Owen, or it might be
Morgan on third, intercept the speeding horsehide, and whip it over
to waiting Old Reliable Joe Danvers on first for an out.
The game really ended with that inning, for Scranton made five runs,
having a nice little batting bee of their own for a change. In the
ninth the visitors got a man on first through a juggle on the part
of Hobson on second, though Julius was really excusable, for the
ball came down to him with terrific speed, and though he knocked it
down he could not recover in time to get it across the infield so
as to cut off the speedy runner.
But when the visitor started to make for second Thad Stevens had him
caught by two yards, his throw down being as accurate as a bullet
fired from a new Government army rifle.
After all, the boys were satisfied to come out of the scrimmage as
well as they did, for those big Mechanicsburg chaps were terrors with
their bats; and equal to making a home run at any stage of the game.
It had been good practice for Scranton, every one admitted, though
some confessed that their blood had actually run cold when Frazer
gave such palpable signs of distress.
Hugh was worried more or less. He wondered what would happen if
Tyree could not play in the big game with Allandale. Frazer might
redeem himself, it is true, for the pitcher that goes to the well,
and is dented on one day, often comes back later on and does wonderful
work. Still, as the following week passed day by day, and Saturday
came closer, the field captain of the Scranton High team seemed to
feel a strange premonition that there was trouble in store for
And his fears did not prove groundless, after all, as it turned out;
for there was trouble a-plenty waiting for the local team, spelled
with a capital T in the bargain.
The day came, and everything seemed all right as far as the weather
went. It was hot enough to make the players feel at their best
without causing them to wilt under the burning rays of the sun.
Clouds at times also promised relief, and the immense throng that
gathered on the open field where Scranton played, for there was no
high fence around it, believed they were due to witness a sterling
game, with the two teams well balanced.
Of course Allandale had beaten unlucky Belleville easily on the
preceding Saturday, while Scranton was "toying" with that aggregation
of sluggers from Mechanicsburg, and almost getting their fingers
burned while doing so. The "Champs," as the visitors delighted
to call themselves, seemed to have an air of confidence that impressed
many an anxious Scranton rooter, and made him wonder how Tyree would
stand up against that mighty slab artist, Big Ed Patterson. This
Allandale pitcher seemed capable of outwitting the smartest batter
by giving just what he wanted least of all, as if he knew every
fellow's weaknesses, and could take advantage of them at will.
Then the blow fell.
It cast gloom over the whole Scranton camp, as the horrible news was
quickly circulated through the various groups. Boys turned to look
at one another aghast, and the grins on their faces assumed a sickly
Word had been brought to the anxious Hugh that Alan Tyree would be
utterly unable to be on the field that day, not to speak of pitching.
An unlucky accident after lunch had injured his left leg, and the
doctor absolutely forbade his getting into uniform, or even leaving
the house, under severe penalty for disobedience.
It was in the nature of a dreadful calamity, after the way Frazer
had been actually knocked out of the box by those crude players
from Mechanicsburg. Still the game must be played, or forfeited
to Allandale; and Scranton fellows are not in the habit of giving
anything up without the hardest kind of a struggle. So with a sigh,
and trying to appear calm, Hugh turned to his second-string pitcher.
HUGH TRIES HIS "FADE-AWAY" BALL
"Are you game, Frazer, for a desperate fight?" asked Hugh, smiling in
a way he hoped would inspire the other with confidence.
Frazer was a bit white, but he had his jaws set, and there was a
promising flash in his eyes that Hugh liked to see. His Scotch
blood was aroused, and he would do his level best to hold the Allandale
last-year champions down to few hits. That humiliation which Frazer
had suffered in asking to be taken out of the box on the preceding
Saturday had burned in his soul ever since; and he was in a fit frame
of mind to "pitch his head off" in order to redeem himself.
Hugh talked with him a short time. He told him all he knew about the
various players on the opposing team, and in this way Frazer might
be able to deceive some of the heavy batters when they came up.
Unfortunately Frazer could not vary his speed and drops and curves
with an occasional deceptive Matthewson "balloon ball," so called
because it seems to look as large as a toy hot-air balloon to the
batter, but is advanced so slowly that he strikes before it gets
Hugh on his part had always practiced that sort of a ball, and indeed
he had nothing else beside fair speed and this "floater." But in
practice, when Hugh went into the box, he had been able to fool
many of his mates, and have them almost breaking their backs trying
to hit a ball that was still coming. As a last resort Hugh meant to
relieve Frazer, but only after the game was irrevocably lost; for
he wanted to give the other every chance possible to redeem his
There was not any great amount of genuine enthusiasm shown by the
crowd of local rooters when Frazer walked out to take his place,
though many did give him a cheer, hoping to thus hearten the poor
fellow, and put some confidence in his soul.
If he had not been able to hold those boys from Mechanicsburg, who
were reckoned only "half-baked" players, as some of the Scranton fans
called it, what sort of a chance would Frazer have against the
Champs, who had toyed with Belleville just a week back, and looked
tremendously dangerous as they practiced now upon the local field,
so as to become a little accustomed to its peculiarities?
Ground rules were again in vogue, owing to the great crowd. This
gave Scranton a little advantage, since they were used to playing on
the home grounds, and would know just where to send the ball---providing
they were able to come in contact with it, a matter in which one Big
Ed Patterson meant to have considerable to say, judging from his
confident manner, and the good-natured smile on his sun-burned face.
Scranton fought gamely, every one was agreed to that. They started
off well, for Frazer actually got through the first without a hit
being made, though twice the visitors met one of his offerings with
a vicious smack that sent the ball far out in center, where the
watchful and fleet-footed "K.K." managed to capture each fly after
a great run.
And in their half Scranton did a little hitting, though it was mostly
through good luck that they got one run---a Texas leaguer that fell
among three players who got their signals crossed; then a poor throw
down to second allowing "Just" Smith to land there in safety; a bunt
that turned into a sacrifice on the part of Joe Danvers, followed
by a high fly that let the runner on third come trooping home, did
Owen struck out, and Hugh sent up a mighty foul over in right that
was caught in a dazzling fashion by the guardian of that patch.
As the two clubs faced each other they ranged after this fashion,
and it may be noticed that there was no change in Scranton's line-up
except in the pitcher's box. The batting order was not the same,
so it must be given as it came on either side:
"Just" Smith Left Field
Joe Danvers First Base
Horatio Juggins Right Field
Owen Dugdale Short Stop
Hugh Morgan (capt.) Third Base
"K.K." (Ken Kinkaid) Center Field
Julius Hobson Second Base
Thad Stevens Catcher
Allandale High Player
Farmer Left Field
Gould First Base
Wright Right Field
Waterman Short Stop
Norris Third Base
Whipple Center Field
Brown Second Base
As the game progressed it became evident that Frazer was "pitching
his arm off" in the endeavor to stem the tide of defeat that inning
after inning seemed bound to overtake the Scranton nine, despite
their most gallant uphill fight. Allandale proved to be all their
reputation had boasted, and they seemed able to work a man around
the circuit nearly every inning. Splendid fielding on the part of
Hugh and his mates kept the score down, but nevertheless it continued
to mount, in spite of all their efforts.
Frazer was beginning to show signs of exhaustion. He had tried
every trick he had in his list on the batters who faced him. They
had begun to solve his delivery more and more the oftener they came
up. And there was a very demoralizing way about their confident
attitude that no doubt added much to poor Frazer's distress. He
began to believe they were just playing with him, and at a given
time would fall upon his delivery, to knock the ball at will to
every part of the field.
Hugh knew it was coming, and he hardly felt able to go into the
box himself to stem the rising tide; but anything was better than
to have Frazer submerged under an avalanche of hits. "Big Ed" seemed
to be getting better the longer he pitched, and just the reverse
could be said of Frazer, who was on the verge of a total collapse.
"Better take me out before I go to the wall, Hugh," begged the other,
after the sixth frame showed the score to be six to two, with more
runs looming up in the "lucky seventh" in prospect. "I'm ashamed
to say I've lost my nerve. Those fellows mean to get at me in the
seventh and it will be a Waterloo. I just feel it in my bones they've
been waiting to lambast my offerings then, for I've seen them talking
together, and laughing, as though they had a game laid out. You go
in and feed them those teasers of yours. The boys will take a brace
in batting, if you can hold Allandale; and in the end it may not be
such a terrible calamity after all."
Hugh knew it must be. Frazer had gone to the wall, and would pitch
poorly if allowed to go in the box in the next inning.
"I hate to do it, Frazer," he told the other, feeling sorry for him;
"but any port in a storm; and it may be possible these sluggers will
trip up on that balloon ball of mine, though I haven't much else to
That inning the locals did a little batting on their own account, with
the result that the score looked a shade better, for it was three
to six when once more Scranton went into the field.
When it was seen that Hugh walked to the box some of the local rooters
cheered lustily, for Hugh was a great favorite. Cat-calls also
greeted his appearance, coming principally from Nick Lang and his
followers; though they were frowned upon by a crowd of Scranton boys,
who threatened to hustle them off the grounds unless they mended
As Hugh left third one of the substitutes, named Hastings, was placed
on that sack. Thad gave Hugh a queer look on discovering this, and
followed it with a peculiarly suggestive grin; so that Hugh understood
how his chum was thinking of another Hastings with whose name they
had taken undue liberties.
Allandale seemed pleased to know that there was to be a change of slab
"All pitchers look alike to us when we've got our batting clothes on!"
one of them sang out blithely, as he swung a couple of bats around,
being the next man up, and desirous of making himself feel that he
held a willow wand in his hands when throwing one aside and wielding
He was mistaken.
Hugh started in without delay feeding them some of what the boys were
pleased to denominate his "teasers." He soon had them hitting at
thin air with might and main, and looking surprised because they
failed to connect.
One man, then two, went out on strikes, and neither had touched the
elusive "fade-away" ball made famous by Christy Matthewson in his prime.
The crowd sat up and began to take notice. What did it mean? If Hugh
could only keep up his good work by varying his offerings, so as to
keep those slugging Allandale fellows guessing, and Scranton began
to knock the ball around a little on their own account, why, there
might be something like a good game yet.
The third man got a hit which should really have been an out, for
"K.K.," reliable "K.K.," out in deep center, misjudged the blow,
and started to run back, when he should have shot forward instantly.
He could have scooped it up three feet from the ground had he done
so; and while he did manage to keep the ball from getting past,
the batter gained first.
However, he died there, for Hugh deceived the next fellow as he
had done two previous batters, and the side was out. When the eighth
inning ended the score was four to six, not so very bad. The local
rooters got busy, and gave Hugh a round of hearty cheers when he toed
the mark in the box again.
Allandale did get a run in this frame, but still Hugh struck two men
out. And in their half of the eighth Scranton also tallied, making
the score read four to seven. Then came the last inning. Hugh
exerted himself to the utmost. One batter failed to connect, but
the next got in a blow that netted him two bases.
Hugh kept cool and managed to deceive the next one. Then came a
mighty heave and when Juggins in far right was seen running like mad
it looked as if Allandale had clinched another brace of runs then
and there. But Horatio proved himself to be a hero, for he gobbled
that drive, and the side was extinguished with no damage done.
Scranton tried with might and main to do something wonderful in their
last half of the final inning. Indeed, with two out and three on
bases it looked as if there might be a fair chance, since a wallop
would mean three runs to tie the score, and if Joe Danvers could
only get in one of his occasional "homers" it would break up the
game in favor of the local team.
Joe did connect and drove out a great hit, but alas! for the
eccentricities of baseball, Whipple over in right had seen fit to
play far back, and after quite a gallop he managed to clutch the
ball and hold it.
Of course that gave Allandale the game. The Scranton boys seemed
pretty "sore" over their first defeat, but considering the hard luck
that had been their portion, they felt that they had not done so
badly after all.
"Just wait!" they told the laughing Allandale fellows, "there's
another day coming when you'll have to face Alan Tyree; and the
chances are two to one you'll not find that boy such easy picking.
You're in great luck today, Allandale; so make the most of it. He
laughs longest who laughs last; and Scranton is wagering dollars to
doughnuts that it'll be our turn next!"
FARMER BERNARD COLLECTS HIS BILL
"Come and go along with me, Hugh," Thad Stevens was saying, some days
after the defeat suffered by Scranton High at the hands of the Champs,
as he bounced into his chum's den about four in the afternoon.
"Where to?" demanded the other, looking up with a smile; and then
noting the eager expression on Thad's face he hurriedly added: "But
I guess I can get pretty close to the mark without your telling me.
You're meaning to continue your campaign against our friend, Brother
Lu---how about that for a guess, Thad?"
"Just what I'm up to, for a fact," asserted Thad, with his jaws
shutting in an energetic fashion. "You ought to know that I never
give over, once I'm worked up like that business got me. Day and
night I've been trying to plan a way of ridding poor deluded Matilda
and her sick husband from that sleek rascal who's fastened on them
"Well, what's new in the game, Thad?" continued Hugh, picking up his
cap, and in this way proclaiming his intention of joining his chum.
"Several things have happened," admitted Thad, "though honest to
goodness I can't say that they have advanced the cause a whit.
First of all Mom has capitulated, which word means she couldn't stand
the strain any longer, worrying so about Matilda going hungry for
lack of sewing to do to earn food for the three of them. So she and
some of the other ladies sent out a bundle, and I've got another
down at the door right now, to carry over to the Hosmer cottage."
"I must say I honor your mother, Thad, for being so tender-hearted,"
said Hugh, warmly.
"Of course you do, Hugh," sighed the other boy, "but it's too bad
they had to give in before that big eater was starved out, and took
to the road again, where he could always make sure of begging a full
meal at back doors. Now he'll just decide to squat down and stick
through the summer, yes and winter in the bargain, acting as if he
might be almost dying every little while, and then recovering his
appetite _wonderfully_ soon again. Oh! it makes me furious, that's
what it does."
"Well, as you've asked me to go along, Thad, I'll accommodate you;
but have you any little scheme on foot today?" continued Hugh, leading
the way toward the back door, since he under stood that his chum had
left his bundle there before hunting him out.
"I wish I did, Hugh," replied the other, eagerly, "but try as I may,
it seems to me I just can't think up anything worth while. After
that grand scheme of ours fell so flat it took all the wind out of
my sails. I'm trusting mostly to luck to have something come up
that we can grab hold of, so as to give him a boost."
They were soon on their way. Thad talked almost incessantly, and
begged his companion to try his hardest to conceive some promising
plan that might turn out a shade better than the one connected with
that imaginary marshal from Texas.
So they presently arrived at the Hosmer cottage. Thad did the knocking.
He had decided to go in at the slightest invitation, in hopes of
meeting Brother Lu again, and ascertaining what the prospects were for
his departing to the other world.
To the surprise of both boys, when they were admitted by Matilda they
discovered the object of their thoughts seated in a chair, with a
thick shawl across his shoulders. He looked as though he might be
a trifle ill, too. At the sight of them one of his accustomed grins
came over his face, now rough again with a three days' growth of
"Hello, boys!" the reformed tramp called out, as though really pleased
to see them again; "you find me under the weather this time for keeps.
Had one of my little bad attacks, and just beginning to feel a shade
better. Perhaps I'll go off in one of these spells some fine day,
sooner or later. Matilda she's been a good nurse to me, and I'm
beginning to believe I did the wisest thing ever when I decided to
hunt my last remaining blood relative up, and stay with her till
the end came."
Matilda looked pained to hear him speak in that way, but Thad was
not in the least impressed. According to his mind the other had
only caught a little summer cold, and which had caused him considerable
distress, with its accompanying sneezing discomforts. He did not
believe it was anything serious.
Determined, however, to stay a short while and study the man, in
hopes of discovering some loophole through which he might be reached
and made to give up his soft berth in the Hosmer home, Thad took a
chair, and settled himself for a visit.
Hugh asked the man a number of questions concerning his illness, and
took note of the fact that every time Brother Lu had occasion to
glance toward his sister a wonderfully tender gleam would come into
his blue eyes. Apparently he had learned what everybody in Scranton
always knew, that Matilda Hosmer was the kindest and softest-hearted
creature alive. Hugh wondered whether this knowledge might not in
time cause the man to feel ashamed of imposing upon her strength and
generosity, so that of his own free will he would take his departure
for other scenes.
"Matilda is going to have a birthday in a few days," he confided
to the boys, at a time his sister chanced to be in the kitchen, "and
me'n Brother-in-law Andrew, we've made up our minds to surprise her
with a little present. 'Course it can't be anything much, because
we haven't a superabundance of ready cash; but Matilda, she's stood
by her poor old wandering brother so handsomely I'd be glad to give
her a whole hundred dollars, if only I possessed that sum."
Thad looked surprised, indeed he may have begun to suspect that after
all the grizzled old hobo might not be quite so heartless as
appearances would indicate. This unexampled spirit of self-sacrifice
shown by Matilda was beginning to have its influence on his hard
nature. As for Hugh, he listened with considerable interest, listened
and sat there, watching the play of emotions across the face of
Brother Lu, and forming certain opinions of his own at the same time.
While they sat there a heavy knock came at the door. Upon Matilda
venturing to open the same a big man pushed his way inside, and
started talking roughly in a loud, almost abusive tone.
Thad recognized him as a certain well-to-do farmer and dairyman who
had an unenviable reputation as a cruel taskmaster with his hired
help. He was also known to be exceedingly harsh in his treatment
of any with whom he had dealings, who chanced to be unable to meet
their obligations to the minute. Because he had been able to accumulate
his "pile," Mr. Abel Bernard seemed to believe everyone should be
capable of doing the same. If they could not afford a thing they
ought to do without it. He never took excuses from anyone. It
was all business with Abel---pay up or quit, was his daily motto.
Hugh, listening, quickly determined that a little more fresh trouble
had dropped down upon the poor head of Matilda. She had been taking
a quart of milk a day from Farmer Bernard, and the bill had run two
months and more now. He shoved an account at her in a most savage
manner, Thad thought, and the boy felt as if he could have kicked
the grim dairyman with rare good pleasure to settle the account.
As for Hugh, if he had chanced to have the money with him just then
he would only too gladly have loaned or given it to Matilda, so
that she might get rid of the abusive farmer, whose very tone was
harsh and rasping.
"It's my rule never to let anybody get away with more than a second
month's milk," the big man was saying in that loud, abusive voice
of his. "You asked me to let the account go on another spell when
I handed you the same before, and now you tell me you haven't got
the five dollars it calls for because some old tramp of a brother
that you haven't seen for twenty years has dropped down on you,
and had to be taken care of. Well, Mrs. Hosmer, I'm not helping
to run a hospital, let me tell you; I've got all I can do to look
after my own folks. You mustn't expect me to deliver you any more
milk till you can pay this; and I hope you'll get the cash soon,
too, because I've some accounts of my own I want to settle."
Matilda was near tears, for such a scene as this frightened her.
Poor old Mr. Hosmer tried to bustle forward and enter into the
conversation; but the husky dairyman just brushed him aside as though
he were no more than a child.
"I'm not talking to you about it, Mr. Hosmer," he went on to say,
almost brutally; "it's your wife I do business with. I'll be looking
to her to settle my account. And if what I hear honest folks a-sayin'
is near true, the sooner she gets rid of her disreputable brother the
better for all concerned."
Matilda's eyes flashed.
"You need not add insult to injury, Mr. Bernard," she flashed, showing
a little touch of spirit that Hugh hardly believed she possessed. "He
is the only living tie to bind me with my long past childhood. We were
once very fond of each other; and now that poor Luther has fallen
sick, and fears he has not long to live, I mean to stand by him, no
matter how people talk."
Brother Lu looked as though this sort of thing gave him something akin
to joy. He even shot a tender glance across at Matilda, and then a
triumphant one toward the two boys, as though to say: "Didn't I tell
you my sister had a tender heart?"
Then he got on his feet. He really seemed a trifle weak, showing that
he had actually been under the weather latterly.
"How much does my sister owe you, man?" he demanded in as stern a
voice as he could command.
"Oh! does that interest you at all, Mister Weary Willie?" sneered
the irate farmer; "well, if you want to know, my account is an even
five dollars. Perhaps, now, you'll put your hand into your jeans
pocket and hand out that amount with pleasure."
"I've got that much tied up in my old bandanna handkerchief, it
happens," said Brother Lu, to the astonishment of Thad. "It's true
me 'nd Brother-in-law Andrew expected to do something different with
my little fortune, but then let that pass. You wait till I get it,
you grasping milk raiser."
He started from the room, followed by the admiring gaze of Matilda,
who evidently saw in this wonderful offer of her brother a full
settlement for all the tender care and affection she had bestowed
upon him during the past weeks.
Presently, after a little delay, the reformed hobo came into the
room. Sure enough, he was holding a brand-new five-dollar bill in
his extended hand, and there was a look of actual pleasure to be
seen on his grizzled face.
"There you are, Mister Man," he said as he thrust the money at the
farmer; "now you sign that bill in a hurry, and never show your face
here again. We'll either find another party to deliver us milk,
or go without."
Hugh saw something that gave him an unexpected thrill. It was a
simple matter, and no doubt escaped Thad's attention entirely, yet
it might mean a great deal. As he looked closely at the fresh and
new bank bill of the denomination of five dollars, Hugh saw that
it had only three distinct creases marked across its face, as though
it might have been taken from some flat receptacle like a bill-book;
certainly when Brother Lu declared that he had such a bill tied up
in his bandanna handkerchief he prevaricated, for it would under such
conditions have been crumpled instead of looking so smooth! Hugh
from that moment began to smell a rat!
THE PUZZLE IS FAR FROM BEING SOLVED
When, a little later on, the two chums came away from the Hosmer home,
Thad seemed unusually quiet, for him. Hugh, noticing this, and
wishing to ascertain whether the other had begun to get on the track
of the truth, presently remarked:
"What makes you so glum, Thad? Coming over you rattled away like a
blue streak, and now you haven't so much as said ten words since we
started back home?"
"Well, to tell you the truth," admitted Thad, shaking his head after
the manner of one who is sadly puzzled, "I just don't know what to
say, after seeing that little affair."
"Do you mean you feel badly because Matilda was so reduced in finances
that she couldn't even meet a small account like her milk bill?" asked
Hugh, fishing for a bite.
"Why, yes, partly that," said Thad, slowly; "but it knocked me all in
a heap to see that old rascal of a Brother Lu walk out with the last
dollar he had in the wide world, and gladly hand it over to liquidate
that same account. Say, if we didn't just know he was a bad one,
I'd call that a really generous act."
"Oh," chuckled Hugh, "not so very generous, after all, when you come
to examine things closer. Don't forget, Thad, that he's been sponging
on that poor couple for a good many weeks already; and then, if our
calculations are correct, he means to fasten on them for keeps."
"That's so," agreed the other, heaving a sigh as though he felt
somewhat relieved in his mind to have his comrade point out a solution
to the problem. "Of course, he's imposing on his relatives something
shameful, and the least he could do was to toe the scratch when an
emergency came along. But he did the thing up brown, I must admit."
"And then again, how do we know that five dollars was every cent he
had in the world?" asked Hugh, insinuatingly.
"He said as much," declared Thad, instantly; and then laughed as he
hastened to add: "though for that matter what would one little white
lie mean to a fellow as case-hardened as an old hobo? There's another
thing I'm thinking about, Hugh."
"I can guess it," the second boy immediately told him. "You're
wondering what it was Brother Lu meant to buy with his little fortune,
"Well, five dollars isn't so _very_ much when you come to think of it,
Hugh, but to a tramp it might seem a pile. But didn't he tell us he
and Brother-in-law Andrew had some sort of a little scheme hatched
up to give Matilda a surprise on her birthday, tomorrow, Saturday?"
"Just what he did," admitted Hugh. "They've been plotting how to
spend five dollars recklessly, so as to get the most for their money.
Such men are apt to find heaps of enjoyment in blowing in their money
a dozen times, and changing off just as often. I wouldn't be
surprised a bit if they even calculated whether they could run
across a nice little home that they could buy and present to Matilda
for a birthday present---faithful, big-hearted Matilda."
"What! for five dollars!" ejaculated Thad, and then he laughed;
"but, of course, you're joking, Hugh. Still, it looks like a big
sum to men who've seldom handled as much at a time; and I guess a
confirmed tramp never does. I hope, though, he didn't steal that
"What makes you say that, Thad?"
"Oh! I don't know, but it looked so nice and fresh and new. Great
Jupiter! Hugh, you don't think for a minute, do you, that it might
have been a counterfeit bill?"
Hugh shook his head.
"Lots of things may turn out to be counterfeit, Thad, men as well as
bank bills, but that one was perfectly good. I could even see the
colored threads of silk fiber that the Government uses in the paper
to protect the currency. So don't let that bother you again."
"I'm glad to hear you say so, because it would be terrible if poor
Matilda should get into more trouble on account of passing bad money.
But is this going to alter our plans any, Hugh?"
"I don't see why it should," came the steady reply.
"We'll continue to do business at the old stand, shall we, then?"
pursued Thad; "and try our level best to find out some way to force
that leech to let go the hold he has secured on his sister?"
"We'll keep on trying to learn something about Luther that will give
us an advantage, so we can make him do just what we want," explained
Hugh; and it might have been noticed that he was now very particular
just what words he used when he spoke of the reformed tramp.
"Huh! there's only one answer to that," grunted Thad; "which is to
influence him to move on his way, and clear out. Scranton will
never miss Brother Lu; and the wide world he loves so well beckons
to him to come on. After all, once a tramp always a tramp, they say;
and as a rule such fellows die in the harness."
"It's really a disease, I've read, like the hookworm down South, that
makes so many of the poor, underfed whites in the mountain districts
seem too lazy for any use. It gets in the blood when they are boys,
and they feel a strong yearning just to loaf, and knock around, and
pick up their meals when and where they can."
"Well, I can believe a part of that, Hugh, but the meal end is too
much for me to swallow. Whoever heard of a tramp who didn't respond
to a dinner-bell on a farm? Eating and sleeping are their long suits,
and they can beat the world at both. When it comes to going in
swimming now, they draw the line every time, for fear of taking cold,
I reckon. But I own up Brother Lu Isn't a bad looker, now that he's
reformed far enough to keep his face and hands clean, and wear
Mr. Hosmer's Sunday-go-to-meeting suit of clothes, which just fits
him by squeezing, and turning up the trouser-legs several inches at
"Yes, he isn't a bad-looking man, and if we didn't know how fierce
he seemed at the time we first ran across him in the patch of woods,
we'd hardly dream he'd ever been down and out. Matilda's cooking
seems to agree with him."
"Shucks! it agrees too well with him, and that's the trouble. Now, I
wonder if there could be any way to make him sicken on his bill of
fare. I'm going to think it over, and see if I can evolve a scheme
along those lines."
"You'll find it hard to do," suggested Hugh, "because he eats just
what Andrew does, I suppose; as for Matilda, I do believe she stints
her appetite so as to be able to give her sick charges their fill."
"She does look thinner than before, that's a fact!" exclaimed the
indignant Thad. "What a burning shame all this is, Hugh! Surely
there must be some remedy for it. I've got a good notion to have
a talk with Dominie Pettigrew, and spin him the whole painful story.
He might find a way to separate Brother Lu from his quarry."
"Take my advice, Thad, and wait a little longer," Hugh told him.
"Tomorrow will be Saturday and we play Belleville again in the
afternoon. Besides, didn't he tell us it was going to be Matilda's
birthday, and that he and Andrew had fixed it to surprise her a
little? Well, don't say anything to the Parson until next week,
and by that time perhaps we'll know a heap more than we do now."
Thad looked keenly at the speaker, but Hugh kept a straight face. If
a glimmering suspicion that Hugh might know of something he was
averse to confiding to even his best chum darted through Thad's mind
just then he allowed it to slip past.
"All right, Hugh, I guess it won't do any harm to hold up a few more
days. Matilda has stood it so long now that it isn't going to hurt
her to endure another week or so of her brother's company, and his
appetite in the bargain. I'll try and forget all about it in
thinking of our game with Belleville. We've just got to clinch that,
as sure as anything, if we hope to have a look-in at that pennant."
"We're going to do it, Thad," said Hugh, with set teeth. "Once
we put Belleville in the soup for keeps we can devote our undivided
attention to Allandale. They have the jump on us, of course, owing
to hard luck. But, thank goodness, Alan Tyree is all right again,
and he told me this morning he felt that his arm was better than ever
before. That means Belleville won't be able to do anything with
his delivery tomorrow afternoon."
"This time we play on our own grounds," suggested Thad, "and the
advantage is all in our favor. Everybody seems to think we should
have an easy snap."
"I rather think everybody stands for Ivy Middletown, Sue Barnes
and Peggy Nolan," jeered Hugh, causing his chum to give a confused
little laugh, as though the shot had gone home. "But what do girls
know about baseball? It's a game of uncertainties all the way through.
Many a time a pitcher, believing himself safe and invincible, because
his club is away ahead, has eased up a trifle, and the other fellows
start a batting bee that nearly puts the fat in the fire, and gives
him the scare of his life. Belleville went down to defeat last
Saturday before Allandale, and the score looks rotten, but you remember
they fought like tigers."
"You're right, Hugh."
"And only for some hard luck they would have started a streak of
hitting that might have pulled them out of the hole. Half a dozen
fierce drives were taken on the run by Allandale fielders, any one
of which, if sent ten feet one way or the other, would have counted
for a three-bagger easily. That's how luck has a hand in defeating
a team, and there's no way of denying it, either."
"Well, we mean to put up our best sort of game, and not count it won
till the last man goes down in the final inning," avowed Thad.
"It's always wise to play safe in baseball," declared the field
captain of the Scranton High team, "and take nothing for granted.
Hit as hard as you can every time you're at bat, and don't allow
yourself to be tempted to ease up out of sympathy for the other
fellows. It's scant sympathy they'll show you, once they get at
your prize pitcher, to knock him out of the box. Instead it'll
be jeers, and taunts, and every sort of thing calculated to sting."
"But after the game's been won?" expostulated Thad.
"Oh, that's a different thing," admitted his chum. "Then we feel
that we can afford to be generous without being put in a possible
hole. Every true player is ready to take off his cap and give a
beaten rival a hearty cheer. It sort of eases up the sting of defeat
a bit, too, as all of us know."
As they parted at the gate in front of Thad's home he once more
returned to the subject that had such a strong hold on his mind.
"If anything crops up that you think would interest me, about that
tramp, of course, I mean, Hugh, please give me the sign, won't you?"
Hugh did not seem disposed to take his chum into his confidence just
then; perhaps he wanted to make more certain that his faint suspicions
were well grounded before committing himself to a disclosure.
"Sure I will, if I learn anything positive, Thad," he merely said;
"and in the meantime we'll keep tabs on Brother Lu's eccentric actions,
hoping to catch him off his guard," and later on Thad realized that
these last words were rather significant.
AN ADVENTURE ON THE ROAD
On Saturday morning Hugh had an errand that took him out of town. Once
again it was to the farm where his mother secured that lovely sweet
butter, without which the hot biscuits would never taste quite so
fine. And as her customary supply had not turned up, with Sunday just
ahead, nothing would do but that Hugh must take a little run out on
his wheel, and fetch several pounds home with him.
It was about half-past eight when he threw himself in the saddle
and started. A more charming summer morning could hardly be experienced.
The sun might be a bit hot later on, but just then the air was
fragrant with the odor of new-mown grass, the neighbors' lawns having
been attended to on the preceding day, but not raked up; the birds
sang blithely in the hedges and among the branches of the trees,
and in Hugh's soul there rested the joy that a tired high-school
scholar finds when the end of the week brings a well-deserved holiday.
As he rode quietly along, not desiring to be in too great a hurry,
Hugh's mind somehow reverted to the last occasion when he had gone
out to this same farm, in Thad's company, as it happened. He could
again in imagination see the old tramp as he got his solitary meal,
with the aid of those useful empty tomato cans, and the little blaze
he had kindled among the trees alongside the road.
Passing the spot revived these memories vividly. To think that weeks
had gone and all that time Brother Lu had stuck to his guns, holding
out at the humble Hosmer cottage, and eating the bread of dependence!
"But something tells me the end is coming pretty soon now," Hugh
muttered, as he continued on his way.
It was not so very far beyond that identical spot he discovered a
large car standing at one side of the road, where the woods grew
quite thickly. The chauffeur sat there, idly waiting, it seemed.
Hugh had more than once known the same thing to happen, when parties
touring from some neighboring town stopped to eat lunch in a spot
they fancied, or, it might be, to gather wild flowers.
He was not much interested as he passed, with a nod to the man, who
looked around at his approach, save to notice that the car was a
pretty fine one, and which he remembered seeing once or twice in
Scranton, always empty save for the driver.
Hugh had just turned a bend lying a little away from the car when he
distinctly saw some one hastily jump aside, and disappear amidst a
screen of bushes growing along the road.
"Now, that was queer," Hugh told himself; "whoever that fellow could
be he didn't want me to see him, it looked like. And by the same token
there was something familiar about him, though I only had a faint
glimpse, he jumped so fast."
As he slowly rode past the bushes he heard no sound. Hugh considered
it good policy not to betray the fact that he had noticed anything
out of the way; he did not as much as turn in the saddle, but continued
to look straight ahead along the dusty white road.
There was another bend a short distance away. No sooner had he
turned this than Hugh was off his wheel like lightning, and running
back to take a look, as though his curiosity might have been aroused.
What he saw caused him to give a low whistle. Out of the bushes came
a form he recognized. It was a rather compact figure upon which he
gazed, and the clothes greatly resembled Brother-in-law Andrew's
Sunday-best. Yes, Hugh no longer had any doubts, for the man was
no other than the reformed hobo.
"I've known that Brother Lu had taken to tramping about the country
latterly," he muttered to himself, as he watched the other going
off, apparently laughing as though greatly amused, "for a number
of people have told me as much. That's all right, but why should he
want to hide from me? I've got a good notion to chase after him,
once he turns that other bend, and see what it all means."
The idea must have appealed more and more strongly to Hugh then, for
two minutes afterwards, when the form of the tramp could no longer
be seen ahead, he went back to his wheel, mounted, and retraced his
course until he arrived at the second abrupt curve.
Again he dismounted and crept forward to see what he might discover.
Strange to say, Hugh, usually steady-going Hugh, now found himself
trembling all over, just as though he anticipated making a startling
Well, he did.
Brother Lu was in plain sight. He was just approaching the stalled
car that stood at the side of the road. Watching, Hugh saw the
chauffeur jump from his seat, and he plainly saluted the other most
respectfully. Hugh paid particular attention to that part of the
affair, because any pedestrian might have stopped to pass a few words
with a car driver, or ask a question; but the pilot would hardly
have made that positive sign unless there was a reason for his action.
Now they seemed to be talking earnestly. Brother Lu made gestures,
and Hugh took notice of the fact that he seemed to be speaking with
authority, because the chauffeur constantly nodded his bead, as if to
say that he understood.
Then the man took something from under the front seat cushion of the
car and handed it to Brother Lu. Hugh could not be positive, but he
rather fancied it was a packet of folded papers.
Plainly, then, there was a conspiracy afloat. Brother Lu was other
than he pretended to be, and he was undoubtedly hatching up some
sort of plot that had connections with the peace of mind of the
two simple Hosmers who had taken him in on the strength of his claim
to blood relationship.
Hugh was quivering more than ever now, and his breath came in gasps
as he continued to keep his eyes glued on the two figures not so far
away. He wished that he were gifted with hearing keen enough to
pick up what they were saying in such low tones, for then he would
know everything; but this was out of the question, and he must await
the subsequent turn of events.
It might have been noticed, however, that the boy's eyes glistened as
with a growing delight, from which it was easy to judge that he did
not see anything so very terrible in these strange actions on the
part of the reformed tramp. Indeed, Hugh acted very much as though
inclined to "shake hands with himself," as Thad was so fond of
saying, when he had cause for self-congratulation.
How long they were carrying on that conversation! Once another car
showed up down the road, and Hugh chuckled to notice how deftly
Brother Lu assumed an humble attitude, just as though he might have
simply halted to ask a question of the lordly chauffeur of the big
and comfortable car.
"He's a dandy, that's all I can say," muttered the amused boy, who
on his part stood there as the other car whirled past, as if he
might be looking for something he had lost; but on the contrary,
the opposite was really the truth, because Hugh had made a great
discovery and a "find" in the bargain.
Now apparently the earnest conversation between chauffeur and Matilda's
roving good-for-nothing brother had come to an end. The man entered
the car again, turned in the road with the cleverness that comes from
long handling of a touring machine, and, with a last respectful salute,
his hand going to his cap military fashion, sped down the road,
heading toward Scranton.
Brother Lu stood there as if lost in meditation. Hugh, still watching
closely, and making up his mind to have it out then and there, because
he could not stand the weighty load of suspense any longer, was sure
the other must be in a merry frame of mind, for he laughed several
times, and even slapped his hand against his thigh in a way he had,
as if to emphasize his thoughts.
"Oh, you sly rascal!" Hugh was saying as he continued to observe all
these significant things. "I'm beginning to size you up for what
you are, all right. But just think how Thad will be stunned when I
tell him all about my adventure! Why, he'll almost believe he's
asleep, and dreaming it. There, I do think he's turning around as
if he meant to come back this way. That suits me O.K., because I
won't have to chase after him."
Hugh thereupon prepared a surprise for the reformed hobo. He secured
his wheel and stood just around the bend, trying to look severe and
knowing, though his heart was beating like a trip-hammer, and he felt
that his eyes must be fairly dancing with all the excitement.
In imagination he could tell just how near the other man was as the
seconds passed. Hugh wondered how Brother Lu would take it upon
learning that his deep-laid schemes had been discovered. Apparently
the boy did not see anything to fear, or else he would have sped away
on his wheel instead of remaining to charge the other with his base
Then the sound of footfalls came to the waiting lad. He caught his
breath, and his eager gaze was glued on the bend around which the man
must speedily appear. As he walked Brother Lu had his head lowered,
and consequently did not at once see that some one waited for him in
the middle of the road. Indeed, he drew very near, and finally Hugh
gave a sudden cough.
At that the other quickly looked up, as though startled. When he
saw who it was he immediately commenced to grin after his usual
custom. Somehow Hugh no longer saw anything to condemn in that
broad smile that covered the face of the ex-hobo; just then, in the
light of the new revelation, it seemed most kindly and benign; for
circumstances alter cases, and a great deal depends upon one's
view-point as to whether an expression can be classed as merry or
Brother Lu did not seem to be bothered a great deal on making the
discovery he did, though he must surely have jumped to the conclusion
that the boy had been spying upon his late movements. He continued
to advance. Hugh could detect the light of humor in those blue orbs
that had always mystified him, even when he believed the other to be
the worst kind of an impostor, or human leech, capable of living
upon the scanty earnings of his sister Matilda.
"Hello, there, Hugh Morgan! so you concluded to turn back, did you?"
the man started to say, as though inviting the other to open his
batteries at once, and accuse him to his face.
"Why, yes," said Hugh, trying to control his trembling voice, "I
saw somebody jump into the bushes as if he didn't want me to glimpse
him, and of course my curiosity was aroused; so I just dismounted
and came back to the other bend. Then, when I recognized you, I
determined to follow a bit. You see, Mr. Corbley, I mean to settle
certain matters that have been worrying both my chum and myself a
heap lately---settle them once and for all."
"Which I suppose now you've done for a fact, Hugh?" remarked the other,
"I believe I have," the boy said, firmly.
"You've got me sized up, all right, I imagine, lad," continued Brother
"I've come to the conclusion, sir, that you are a fraud of the first
water, if that's what you want to know," Hugh told him, boldly.
Strange to say, the ex-tramp, instead of taking umbrage at such
language, bent over almost double, and laughed so hard Hugh almost
feared he was about to have one of his violent fits of coughing;
but he did not.
THE WONDERFUL NEWS
"I reckon sure my cake is dough now, since you've tumbled to my game,
Hugh," the late tramp was saying, presently; "and there's nothing
left for me to do but take you into camp, and give you the whole
story from beginning to end."
"I'd be glad to have you do that, Mr. Corbley," Hugh hastened to
"Then let's walk back a bit. I believe we can find a nice convenient
log close to the road, where we'll take things easy while I spin my
little yarn. To tell you the truth, Hugh Morgan, I've taken a
great liking to you and that chum, Thad. I've been sizing the pair
of you up ever since I first ran across you; and say, it's given me
a heap of joy to see how solicitous you both were about my hanging
out at Sister Matilda's ranch, and eating her hard-earned bread.
You boys have got the right kind of stuff in you, that's certain.
Why, there were times when I was almost afraid that impulsive chum
of yours would be wanting to jump on me, and try by main force
to chase me off the ground."
"We did make one try that way, as of course you know, sir," ventured
"Meaning that article in the _Weekly Courier_ about the terrible
marshal from Texas, Hastings by name," laughed the other. "I've
had lots of fun over that racket, son, I give you my word I have.
Of course there's a sheriff down there capable of doing all those
stunts your friend on the paper wrote up; but his name chances to
be Rawlings and not Hastings. I must have got things a bit mixed
when I told you about how he took bad men into camp, and all that.
But here's the log, and we can take things easy while I confess how
I'm the most tremendous impostor going."
Hugh seemed eager to hear about it, nor was he apparently at all afraid.
In fact he was looking at the reformed tramp as though he felt a
positive affection for him now, in the light of the new revelation.
"First of all, Chum Hugh," said the man, after they had settled
themselves comfortably, "I want you to know that the stories I told
you about my travels in foreign lands were every one of them Gospel
truth. I have been all around the whole globe, and seen some queer
things in my day. But let that pass, for as we are apt to see
considerable of each other after this, there'll be a plenty of time
for me to continue that narrative of adventure.
"In the course of my travels I've really picked up several fortunes,
and then lost them again almost as quickly. It didn't much matter,
because I was one of those happy-go-lucky chaps who believe the world
owes them a living, and which they can get any time they more than
"So the years went on, and all at once I awoke to find that I was
getting old and gray. When a man passes sixty, lad, his thoughts
begin to travel far back into the days of his childhood. So more
and more I got to thinking of those who were everything to me. I
knew that all of them had checked in but a sister, and her I hadn't
seen for twenty years and more; though I believed she was still living.
"It was down in Texas a few months ago that I had a little sick
spell, and while I lay there convalescing strange fancies came into
my head. I made up my mind the time had come for me to quit this
foolish roaming all about the world. I couldn't expect to live a
great many years more, and why not settle down to being decent and
respectable, as well as do some good with my money before I cashed in?
"That idea kept gripping me until I finally made up my mind to sell
all my big holdings in the new oil wells. This I did, and banked the
cash in New York---I won't tell you what it was, lad, but six figures
would be needed to cover it, and maybe seven, if all goes well with
my last sale.
"But somehow an old distrust of human nature began to get a hold on
me. I found myself wondering whether Matilda, if she should still
be living, would welcome her long-missing brother for himself alone,
or because he was close on a millionaire.
"That bothered me a heap, Hugh. Finally a bright idea came to me,
and I determined to fix myself up like the worst old tramp going,
and pretend to be sick, as well as out of funds. The game appealed
to my liking for new adventures, and---well, you know how it succeeded.
You boys became connected with the affair from the start, and I'm
glad of it, for I like you both.
"All through these weeks I've grimly held out, though ready to call
the game more than a few times when it seemed that poor Matilda was
having a bigger load on her shoulders than she could carry. But I
fixed up several little schemes to ease the strain, when I decided
to hold back the grand disclosure till her birthday. For one thing,
I hid a ten-dollar bill in her Bible, and she never could remember
putting the bill there, although she tried her best. Another time
I wrote a letter in a disguised hand that was signed by a fictitious
name, and which said that in a long-ago deal I had got the better
of her, which my conscience wouldn't allow; so to ease my mind I
was enclosing a twenty-dollar bill to her to cover interest.
"Say, that certainly did make her lie awake and wonder, because, of
course, she couldn't remember anything of the sort; nor could Andrew.
I used to listen to them talking it over again and again, and I am
sure got heaps of enjoyment out of it; but I told them it was
perfectly proper for them to use the money, and they did. I ate
part of it up myself, Hugh.
"Now, I'm getting down to hard facts, boy. I want to let you into
the great secret, and your chum ditto. Could you come over to our
house, say about ten this morning, and fetch that sharp-eyed Thad
along with you? There'll be something about to happen then. We've
already fixed it to go on a little picnic excursion and take our
simple lunch along with us, just to celebrate Matilda's birthday,
you see. And I'll ask you to go along, which you must agree to do,
if you want to have the finest surprise of your life. How about
"There's nothing that I can see to prevent us, Mr. Corbley," the
boy assured him, eagerly, "and to tell the truth wild horses couldn't
hold me back, after what I've already learned. I must see the end
of your queer game, sir. But I'm glad that it isn't likely to interfere
with our working in the baseball match, which starts at three this
afternoon on the home grounds."
"Oh! I assure you we'll be all through long before then, and luncheon
eaten in the bargain; though it isn't going to be the simple bill
of fare that Matilda'll be putting in the basket we're going to
carry with us. Well, Hugh, I'm going to keep you in just a little
fever of suspense until then. When you and Thad show up, try to
act toward me as you've been doing right along. Don't call me Mr.
Corbley, remember, for that might excite suspicions. Even poor
simple but good-hearted Andrew, whose best clothes I'm wearing right
now with brazen assurance, doesn't dream that I've got more than
a few dollars in the wide world. He even begged me not to squander
those, saying that we could have a holiday without extra expense;
but say, I told him to shut up, that if I chose to spend two dollars
on my only sister it was nobody's business. I really think Andrew
has come to like me first-rate, though I'm a little afraid he misses
his garments and has to curtail his customary smokes on my account."
He laughed at the conceit until he shook all over, and Hugh, now
alive to the immensity of the great surprise that awaited the gentle
couple, found himself obliged to join in the merriment.
Shortly afterwards Hugh started off to finish his errand. He rode
with speed now because of his eagerness to get back home and look
up Thad, upon whom he meant to let loose a bombshell that must fairly
It was not yet nine o'clock, and ten was the appointed hour when they
were expected to join the picnic party. Hugh believed he had never
in all his life felt one-half so joyous. If a fortune had come his
way he could not have appreciated it as much as he did the knowledge
that Matilda and Andrew were going to reap the reward of their long
life of tender-heartedness in their relations with their fellows. It
was simply grand, and Hugh felt that his mother must know all about
it as soon as the affair had developed to the grand finale and
Matilda's eyes were opened to the fact that she had all this while
been entertaining an angel unawares.
Thad was at home and up to his eyes in rewinding a fishing-rod that
needed attention. When Hugh burst in upon him with such a glow in
his face and a light in his eyes, Thad knew that something bordering
on the wonderful must have occurred.
Singular to say, his first remark was pretty near a bull's-eye, showing
that he must have been thinking about the ex-hobo as he wound the
waxed red silk around the guides of his fishing-rod.
"What's happened, Hugh? Oh! have you found a way we can get rid of
that sticker of a Brother Lu? Something seems to whisper to me
you've struck a scheme. Pitch right in and tell me all about it, Hugh."
"There has a way come up, sure enough," said Hugh, beaming on his
chum, as well might the bearer of such glorious news. "After today
that tramp will never eat another mouthful of food at the expense of
his poor sister and brother-in-law!"
"Then he's going to skip out, is he?" burst from the delighted Thad.
"Bully for that! However did it happen, Hugh; and what sort of a
hand in it did you have?"
"I don't claim the least credit for it," he was firmly told; "and
for that matter Mr.---I mean Brother Lu, isn't going to shake the
dust of Scranton off his feet, yet awhile at least. Something else
has happened to bring about the change. Here, I just can't hold
the wonderful news in any longer, Thad. Listen!"
Accordingly Hugh started to pour out the story. He had Thad sitting
there and almost ceasing to breathe, so deeply interested was he in
everything. When Hugh got to where he discovered the ex-tramp talking
with the chauffeur of the big touring car, and seemingly with
authority, Thad jumped up and began to dance around excitedly.
"Oh, joy unconfined! I'm just beginning to glimpse how it's going to
turn out, that's what I am, Hugh!" he exclaimed, trembling all over
with the violence of his emotions. "Wouldn't that be the limit, though,
if this old hobo proved to be the good fairy coming in disguise to
prove the worth of the ones he meant to assist? Go on and tell me
the rest, like a good fellow, Hugh. Is he very rich; where did he
make all his money; was that his fine big car, and his chauffeur;
was he just testing Matilda and Andrew to prove how they were true
gold? It's the greatest thing that ever happened for Matilda, for
Andrew; ditto for you and me, because we've had a hand in it all,
haven't we, Hugh?"
The rest of the amazing story was soon told. Thad shook hands with his
chum again and again. He fairly bubbled over with enthusiasm.
"I'm so glad, so glad, for Matilda's sake!" he kept saying. "I warrant
you now that fine brother of hers has got some wonderfully big thing
up his sleeve; and so we're invited to go along and see the fairy
story through, are we, Hugh? How long do we have to wait before
making a start for the Hosmer cottage? I wonder if Matilda'll care
if we keep company with them on their picnic? First thing she'll
do will be to run back and add some more to the basket, because she
knows how boys can eat like a house afire. I don't see how I can
stand it waiting nearly a whole hour; but then there are a hundred
other questions I'm burning to ask you."
Time passed while they sat there in Thad's room and talked. Hugh was
compelled to relate every little incident over again, and amidst all
sorts of comments on the part of the other. Finally Hugh said it was
now a quarter to ten, and that they might as well be starting out,
which they proceeded to do most eagerly indeed.
WHEN THE WIZARD WAVED HIS WAND
"Don't forget for a minute," cautioned Hugh, as they started on their
way toward the humble cottage home of Matilda and her husband, "that
Brother Lu asked us to act quite natural when we came along."
"I'm on," responded Thad, though it was only with the greatest difficulty
that he seemed able to repress the glow in his eyes that told of
secret joy. "He means by that, you are to ask Matilda whether she's
ready for another batch of sewing stuff that both of our mothers
have ready, which I happen to know is the case. And then I suppose
Brother Lu will ask us to join them on their little holiday outing,
since he's made himself master of ceremonies for today. Say, will a
hungry fish snap at an angleworm when it's dangled just in front of
its nose? Well, we'll thank Brother Lu for being so kind, and as we
have nothing else to do we'll accept with celerity, eh, Hugh? Is that
So talking and laughing, they walked on. Soon they arrived at the
cottage, where they found the three inmates just getting ready to
start forth. Matilda had a covered basket already packed. She
welcomed the two lads with a happy smile. Birthdays came and went
in her life just as they did with other people, only as a rule there
was scant reason to celebrate them, save as they marked the fact that
Matilda was "getting old."
But somehow the presence of cheery Brother Lu seemed to have started
something. Possibly, although Matilda could not dream of what was
coming, some intuition caused her to feel that this day was to be
different from any other in her past. A sense of something good
impending may have thrilled her poor pulses, though if asked why she
found any particular reason for smiling, and throwing off her yoke
of worry for a brief spell, she could have given no intelligent answer.
Brother Lu bustled up. He seemed very important, indeed.
"Glad to see you, boys," he said, holding out his hand, which Thad
actually seized eagerly; although just a few hours before he had
been telling himself how delighted he would be to form one of a party
of determined fellows who might visit the Hosmer cottage at midnight,
and warn the ex-hobo to clear out of the neighborhood on penalty of
having something decidedly unpleasant happen to him if he refused.
But then that was before Thad had heard the wonderful story which
Hugh unleashed, and fired at him as he sat there gaping and listening
and slyly pinching his thigh so as to learn whether he were awake,
or asleep and dreaming.
"Looks like you folks might be going on a picnic somewhere?" remarked
Hugh, taking his cue from something Brother Lu had said to him before.
"Just what we expect to do, lads," hastily replied the other, with
a wink, when he believed neither of the Hosmers was looking at him.
"You see, this happens to be Tilly's birthday. She hasn't had
a real one for ever so long, and Andrew and me, why, we've fixed
it that she should take a holiday from her drudgery and we'd all
go off for a little lark. Now, perhaps you two would like to keep
us company. How about that, boys? You've been pretty kind to my
sister, and we all feel that you're our good friends. What do you
say about tagging along? In my walks about this section of country,
I've chanced to make a few acquaintances. One of these is managing
a kind of pretty place about two miles away from here; and he suggested
that I fetch my sister and brother-in-law across country today.
He reckoned that they'd kind of enjoy looking over the nest his
employer has bought and fitted up, though he ain't really taken
possession yet. Tilly, tell Hugh and Thad they'll be welcome to
a snack with us at noon. This is a day we all want to remember,
you know. Let tomorrow and dull care look out for themselves.
That's the tramp's motto."
Matilda readily complied, and she meant it from the bottom of her
heart too, for she was becoming very fond of both boys. Doubtless
when she carried the basket back into the house to add to its contents,
she must have swept the pantry clean. But as Brother Lu said, why
bother about the future when they meant to have a whole day free
from carking care. Tomorrow would be time enough to take up the
heavy burdens of life again.
And so they started forth, chatting, and so far as appearances went,
quite happy. Thad was in a fever of suppressed excitement. He felt
certain that that splendid car would come into the little drama
somehow or other; and for once he guessed aright.
"There's a car on the side of the road that has stopped to let the
driver do a little repairing, I guess," remarked Brother Lu, quite
innocently. "And say, I know that man right well. We've talked
several times when I was roving around seeing what the country
surrounding Scranton looked like. He even calls me Lu and I know him
as Jerry. He's a pretty decent sort of fellow in the bargain. Why,
he even said that sometime when he didn't have the boss along with him,
he'd like to give all of us a little joy ride. Tilly here told me
only yesterday she never had been out in a car except once in a
little broken-down flivver; and then she had to walk back home,
nearly three miles. I wonder if Jerry wouldn't pick us up and take
us over to the Hoover place right now. I've a good mind to ask him.
Would you like it, Tilly?"
Would she? Matilda's sparkling eyes proclaimed that it would give
her infinite delight; and so Brother Lu, with the assurance that
every ex-tramp possesses in abundance, stepped up to the man who was
putting his tools away in the chest where they belonged.
Jerry made an involuntary gesture with his right hand. He had been
about to touch his cap respectfully, but caught himself just in time.
"Hello, Jerry!" sang out the breezy one, giving the chauffeur a
hearty slap on the shoulder that must have somewhat astonished him;
"you told me you'd be right glad to give my folks a little joy ride
if the chance ever came along. We're heading right now for the
Hoover place, and would be obliged to you to give us a lift, because
we'll have to walk all the way back; and brother-in-law Andrew here
isn't a well man. How about it, Jerry, old top?"
Jerry grinned as though enjoying the joke.
"Sure I can---Lu," he managed to say, though it evidently came a bit
hard for him to be so familiar with his rich employer's first name.
"Just bundle in, and we'll take a round-about way there. I can give
you half an hour, easy enough, and the old man need never know
the difference in the gas supply."
They all got in, "old man" and all, for the car had supplementary
seats to be used in emergencies, being built for seven passengers.
Thad and Hugh were trying hard to keep from exhibiting broad grins
on their faces; though, for that matter, neither of those simple,
guileless souls would have suspected the least thing had the boys
laughed outright in their happiness.
They had a splendid ride, and must have covered many miles while
that wonderful half-hour was being used up. Matilda looked supremely
happy. Now and then Hugh saw her glance rest admiringly on Brother
Lu. She must have begun to believe that after all the coming of
this poor sick brother of hers, who had appeared so forlorn, and
with such a dreadful and alarming cough, was gradually emerging from
his chrysalis stage, and becoming a full-fledged magician.
Greatly to the amusement of the boys, Brother Lu would every little
while ask Matilda how she liked such a car, and seemed to chuckle