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The Chums of Scranton High at Ice Hockey by Donald Ferguson

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Produced by Al Haines


At Ice Hockey





Copyright, MCMXIX



Printed in the United States of America










Hugh looked at the big thermometer alongside the Juggins' front door
as he came out, and the mercury was still falling steadily.

"It's certainly a whole lot sharper than it was early this morning,
Thad. Feels to me as if the first cold wave of the winter had struck

"The ice on our flooded baseball field, and that out at Hobson's
mill-pond ought to be in great shape after a hard freeze to-night,

"We're in luck this time, chum Thad. Look at that sky, will you?
Never a cloud in sight, and the sun going down yellow. Deacon
Winslow, our reliable old weather prophet blacksmith, who always
keeps a goose-bone hanging up in his smithy, to tell what sort of a
winter we're going to get, says such a sign stands for cold and clear
to-morrow after that kind of a sunset. Red means warmer, you know."

"I only hope it keeps on for forty-eight hours more, that's all I can
say, Hugh. This being Thursday, it would fetch us to Saturday. I
understand they're not meaning to let a single pair of steel runners
on the baseball park, to mark the smooth surface of the new ice,
until Saturday morning."

"Which will be a fine thing for our hockey try-out with the scratch
Seven, eh, Thad?"

"We want to test our team play before going up against the boys of
Keyport High, that's a fact; and Scranton can put up a hard fighting
bunch of irregulars. There are some mighty clever hockey players in
and out of the high school, who are not on our Seven. I guess there
ought to be a pretty lively game on Saturday; and there will be if
several fellows I could mention line up against us."

The two boys who had just left the home of a schoolmate named Horatio
Juggins were great friends. Although Hugh Morgan had seemed to jump
into popular leadership among the boys of Scranton, soon after his
folks came to reside in the town, he and Thad Stevens had become
almost inseparables.

Indeed, some of the fellows often regarded them as "Damon and
Pythias," or on occasions it might be "David and Jonathan." Both
were of an athletic turn, and took prominent parts in all baseball
games, and other strenuous outdoor sports indulged in by the boys of
Scranton High; a record of which will be found in the several
preceding books of this series, to which the new reader is referred,
if he feels any curiosity concerning the earlier doings of this
lively bunch.

Hugh was cool and calm in times when his chum would show visible
signs of great excitement. He had drilled himself to control his
temper under provocation, until he felt master of himself.

It was the 10th of January, and thus far the opportunities for
skating that had come to the young people of that section of country
where Scranton was located, had been almost nil; which would account
for the enthusiasm of the lads when Thad announced how rapidly the
thermometer was giving promise of a severe cold spell.

Scranton had two keen rivals for athletic honors. Allandale and
Belleville High fellows had given them a hard run of it before they
carried off the championship pennant of the county in baseball the
preceding summer.

Then, in the late fall, there had been a wonderfully successful
athletic tournament, inaugurated to celebrate the enclosing of the
grounds outside Scranton with a high board-fence, and the building of
a splendid grandstand, as well as rooms where the athletic
participants in sports might dress in comfort.

With the coming of winter the big field thus enclosed had been
properly flooded, so that it might afford a vast amount of healthy
recreation to all Scranton boys and girls who loved to skate.

Hitherto they had been compelled to trudge all the way out to
Hobson's mill-pond, and back, which was a long enough journey to keep
many from ever thinking of indulging in what is, perhaps, the most
cherished winter sport among youthful Americans.

The two friends had been asked around by the Juggins boy to inspect a
wonderful assortment of treasure trove that an old and peculiar
uncle, with a fad for collecting curios of every description, and who
was at present out in India, had sent to his young nephew and

These consisted of scores of most interesting objects, besides
several thousand rare postage stamps. Taken in all it was the
greatest collection of stamps any of them had ever heard of. And the
other things proved of such absorbing interest that Hugh and Thad had
lingered until the afternoon was done, with supper not so far away
but that they must hurry home.

Thad, apparently, had something on his mind which he wished to get
rid of, judging from the way in which he several times looked queerly
at his chum. Finally, as if determined to speak up, he started, half

"Hugh, excuse me if I'm butting in where I have no business," he
said; "but when I saw you talking so long with that town bully, Nick
Lang, this afternoon, after we got out of school, I didn't know what
to think. Was he threatening you about anything, Hugh? After that
fine dressing-down you gave Nick last summer, when he forced you to
fight him while we were out at that barn dance, I notice he keeps
fairly mum when you're around."

Hugh chuckled, as though the recollection might not be wholly
displeasing; though, truth to tell, that was the only fight he had
been in since coming to Scranton. Even it would not have taken place
only that he could not stand by and see the big bully thrash most
cruelly a weaker boy than himself.

"Oh! no, you're away off in your guess, Thad," he replied
immediately. "Fact is, instead of threats, Nick was asking a favor
of me, for once in his life."

"You don't say!" ejaculated Thad. "Well, now you've got me excited
there's nothing left but to tell me what sort of a favor Nick would
want of you, Hugh."

"It seems that for a long time he's been admiring those old hockey
skates of mine," continued the other. "In fact, they've grown on
Nick so that he even condescended to ask me to _sell_ them to him for
a dollar, which he said he'd earned by doing odd jobs, just in order
to buy my old skates. He chanced to hear me say once that my mother
had promised to get me the best silver-plated hockey skates on the
market, for my next birthday, which is now only a few days off.
That's all there was to it, Thad."

"Well," commented Thad, "we all know that Nick is a boss skater, even
on the old runners he sports, and which mebbe his dad used before
him, they're that ancient. He can hold his own with the next one
whenever there's any ice worth using. And as to hockey, why, if Nick
would only play fair, which he never will, it seems because his
nature must be warped and crooked, he could have a leading place on
our Seven. As it is, the boys refused to stand for him in any game,
and so he had to herd with the scratch players. Even then Mr.
Leonard, our efficient coach and trainer, has to call him down good
and hard for cheating, or playing off-side purposely. It's anything
to win, with Nick."

"You're painting Nick pretty true to life, Thad," agreed Hugh;
"though I'm sorry it's so, I've got a hunch that chap, if he only
could be reconstructed in some way or other, might be a shining mark
in many of our athletic games."

"Oh! that's hopeless, Hugh, I tell you. The leopard can't change its
spots; and Nick Lang was born to be just the tricky bully he's always
shown himself."

Hugh shook his head, as though not quite agreeing with his chum.

"Time alone will tell, Thad. There might come a sudden revolution in
Nick's way of seeing things. I've heard of boys who were said to be
the worst in the town taking a turn, and forging up to the head.
It's improbable, I admit, but not impossible."

"Oh! he's bad all the way through, believe me, Hugh. But did you
sell the skates, as he wanted you to do?"

"No, I told him I didn't care to," Hugh replied. "I was tempted to
agree when he looked so bitterly disappointed; then an ugly scowl
came over his face, and he broke away and left me; so that
opportunity was lost. Besides, it's best not to be too sure I'm
going to get those silver-plated skates after all, though Mom is
looking pretty mysterious these days; and some sort of package came
to her by express from New York the other day. She hurried it away
before I could even see the name printed on the wrapper."

"Perhaps," said Thad a bit wistfully, "you might bequeath me your old
skates in case you do get new ones. Mine are not half as good for
hockey. I don't blame Nick for envying you their possession; but
then it hasn't been so much what you had on your feet that has made
you the swift hockey player you are, but coolness of judgment,
ability to anticipate the moves of the enemy, and a clever stroke
that can send the puck skimming over the ice like fury."

"Here, that'll do for you, Thad. No bouquets needed, thank you, all
the same. According to my notion there are several fellows in
Scranton my equals at hockey, and perhaps my superiors. Nick Lang,
for instance, if only he had skates he could depend on, and which
wouldn't threaten to trip him up in the midst of an exciting

"But, see here, Hugh, you were speaking just now about a chap built
like Nick turning over a new leaf, and making himself respected in
the community in spite of the bad name he's always had. Honestly
now, do you really believe that's possible? Is there such a thing as
the regeneration of a boy who's been born bad, and always taken
delight in doing every sort of mean thing on the calendar? I can't
believe it."

Hugh Morgan turned and gave his chum a serious look.

"I've got a good mind to tell you something that's been on my mind
lately," he said.



On hearing his chum say that, Thad gripped Hugh's arm.

"Then get busy, Hugh," he hastened to remark. "When you start
cogitating over things there's always something interesting on foot.
What is it this time?"

"Oh! just a little speculation I've been indulging in, Thad, and on
the very subject we were talking about--whether a really bad man, or
boy, for that matter, can ever turn right-about-face, and redeem
himself. You say it's impossible; I think otherwise."

"Tell me a single instance, then, Hugh."

"Just what I'm meaning to do," came the ready response, "but it's in
romance, not history; though there are just as strong instances that
can be proven. I've heard my father mention some of them long ago.
But it happens, Thad, that I've been reading over, for the third
time, a book we once enjoyed together immensely. We got a splendid
set of Victor Hugo's works lately at our house, you remember."

"Oh!" exclaimed Thad, "you're referring to his _Les Miserables_, I
guess. And now I remember how you said at the time we read it
together that the scene where that good priest forgave the rascally
Jean Valjean for stealing his silver candlesticks and spoons, after
he had been so kind to him made a great impression on your mind.
But, see here, Hugh, are you comparing that sneak Nick Lang to Jean
Valjean, the ex-convict?"

"Yes, in a way," the other replied. "The man who had been released
from the galleys, after he had served his term for stealing a loaf
of bread was despised by society, which shut the door in his face.
He was like a wild beast, you remember, and hated everyone. Well, by
degrees, Nick is finding himself in just about the same position.
Everybody looks on him as being thoroughly bad; and so he tells
himself that since he's got the name he might as well have the

"I suppose that's about the way it goes," Thad admitted.

"There's no doubt of it," Hugh told him. "Several times I remember
we had an idea Nick meant to reform; but he went back to his old
ways suddenly. I think people must have nagged him, and made him
feel ugly. But I've been wondering, Thad, what if Nick could have a
revelation about like the one that came to Jean Valjean at the time
that splendid old priest, looking straight at the thief when the
officers dragged him back with those silver candlesticks and spoons
hidden under his dirty blouse, told them the men had committed no
wrong, because he, the priest, had given the silver to him; which we
know he _had_ done in his mind, after discovering how he had been

Thad shook his head in a dogged fashion, as though by no means

"I reckon you'd be just the one to try that crazy scheme, Hugh, if
ever the chance came to you; but mark me when I say it'd all be
wasted on Nick."

"But why should you be so sure of that?" asked the other. "The
ex-convict was pictured as the lowest of human animals. Hugo painted
him as hating every living being, because of his own wrongs; and
believing that there was no such thing as honor and justice among
mankind. It was done to make his change of heart seem all the more
remarkable; to prove that a fellow can never sink so low but that
there _may_ be a chance for him to climb up again, if only he makes
up his mind."

Thad laughed then, a little skeptically still, it must be confessed.

"Oh! that sounds all very fine, in a story, Hugh, but it'd never
work out in real life. According to my mind that Nick Lang will go
along to the end of the book as a bad egg. He'll fetch up in the
penitentiary, or reform school, some of these fine days. I've heard
Chief Wambold has declared that the next time he has anything
connected with breaking the law on Nick he expects to take him
before the Squire, and have him railroaded to the Reformatory; and
he means it, too."

"Well, you can hardly blame the Chief," agreed Hugh, "because Nick
and his pals, Leon Disney and Tip Slavin, have certainly made life
hard for the police force of Scranton for years back. Brush fires
have been started maliciously, just to see the fire-laddies run with
the machine and create a little excitement; orchards have been
robbed time and again; and, in fact, dozens of pranks more or less
serious been played night after night, all of which mischief is laid
at the door of Nick Lang, even if much of it can't be actually
traced there."

"Of course, what you say is the exact truth, Hugh."

"Give dog Tray a bad name, and he gets it right and left," chuckled
Hugh. "I've had an idea that once in a while some of the more
respected fellows in town may have broken loose, and gone on night
expeditions. They felt pretty safe in doing it, because every
citizen would believe Nick was the guilty one. But, in spite of your
thinking my idea impossible, I'd be tempted to try it out, if ever I
ran across the chance. It'd settle a thing I've worried over more
than a little."

No more was said on that subject, though afterwards Thad had it
brought to his attention again, and in a peculiar way at that.

The two boys separated a little further on, each heading homeward.

On the following morning it was found that their predictions
concerning the weather had been amply verified. The mercury had
dropped away down in the tube of the thermometer, and every
youngster had a happy look on his or her face at school, as though
the prospect for skating brought almost universal satisfaction.

Thad, with several others, had gone out to Hobson's mill-pond to try
the new ice after high school had dismissed for the week-end. Hugh
wanted to accompany them very much, but he had promised his mother
to spend a couple of hours that afternoon in mending something,
which had gone for a long time. And once his word was given Hugh
never broke it, no matter how alluring the prospect of sport might
be abroad.

It was about half-past three in the afternoon.

Hugh sat in his den amidst his prized possessions. He was working on
his lessons so as to get them out of the way, as there was some sort
of affair scheduled for that evening, which he meant to attend; and
he would be too tired after skating all day on Saturday to study any
that night, as he well knew.

Several times he glanced over to where his carefully polished and
well-sharpened skates, strapped together, lay on a side table. Each
look caused him to shrug his shoulders a bit. He could easily
imagine he heard the delightful clang of steel runners cutting into
that smooth sheet of new ice out at the mill pond; and the figures
of the happy skaters would pass before his eyes. Yes, probably Sue
Barnes would be there, too, with her chums, Ivy Middleton and Peggy
Noland, wondering, it might be, how he, Hugh, could deny himself
such a glorious opportunity for the first real good skate of the

Then Hugh would heave a little sigh, and apply himself harder than
ever to his task. When he had an unpleasant thing to do he never
allowed temptation to swerve him. And, after all, it was pretty snug
and comfortable there in his den, Hugh told himself; besides, that
was a long walk home for a tired fellow to take, even in good

Then he heard his mother speaking to someone who must have rung the

"Go up to the top of the stairs, and turn to the right. You will
find Hugh in his den, I believe. Hugh, are you there? Well, here's a
visitor to see you."

Supposing, of course, that it must be one of his close friends, who
for some reason had not gone off skating, and wished to see him
about some matter of importance, Hugh, after answering his mother,
had gone on skimming the subject on which his mind just then
happened to be set.

He heard the door open, and close softly. Then someone gave a gruff
cough. Hugh looked around and received quite a surprise.

Instead of Thad Stevens, Owen Dugdale, Horatio Juggins, "Just"
Smith, or Julius Hobson he saw--Nick Lang!

"Oh, hello, Nick!" he commenced to say, a little restrained in his
welcome; for, of course, he could give a guess that the other had
come again to try and buy his skates, which Hugh was not much in
favor of selling.

He shoved a chair forward, determined not to be uncivil at any rate.
After that talk with Thad about this fellow it can be understood
that Hugh was still bent on studying Nick, with the idea of deciding
whether he did actually have a grain of decency in his make-up, such
as could be used as a foundation on which to build a new structure.

The outlook was far from promising. Indeed, he could not remember
ever seeing Nick look more antagonistic than just then, even though
he tried to appear friendly.

"But then," Hugh was telling himself, "I reckon now Jean Valjean was
about as fierce looking a human wild beast as that good old priest
had ever seen at the time he invited the ex-convict into his snug
house, and horrified his sister by asking him to sit at table with
them, and spend the night there under his hospitable roof."

"You wanted to see me about something, did you, Nick?" he asked the

Nick had dropped down on the chair. His furtive gaze went around
the room as if it aroused his curiosity, for this was really the
first occasion when he had ever graced Hugh's den with his company.

When his eyes alighted on the coveted skates Nick's face took on an
expressive grin. Then he turned toward Hugh, to say, almost

"Sure thing, Hugh. I thought mebbe I'd coax you to let me have the
skates, if I told you I'd managed to get another half dollar by
selling a pair of my pigeons. Here's a dollar and a half; take it,
and gimme the runners, won't you?"

His manner was intended to be ingratiating, but evidently Nick was
so accustomed to bullying everyone with whom he came in contact that
it was next to impossible for him to change his abusive ways. Hugh
felt less inclined than ever to accommodate him. Under other and
more favorable conditions he might have been tempted to promise Nick
to hand him over the skates, _for nothing_, after he had actually
received the expected new ones.

"I'm sorry to refuse you again, Nick," Hugh said coldly; "but at
present I have no other skates, and, as I expect to take part in a
hockey match with the scratch Seven to-morrow, I'll need my

"But there's nothing to hinder you selling me the same, say next
week, that I can see; unless mebbe you're just holdin' out on
account of an old grudge against me. How about that, Hugh?"

Hugh was still unconvinced.

"Just now I'm not in a humor to sell the skates, Nick," he said.
"If I change my mind, I'll let you know about it. That's final. And
when I dispose of my skates it's my intention to _give_ them away,
not sell them."

He turned to do something at the desk where he was sitting.
Meanwhile, Nick had shuffled away, as though meaning to leave the
room. When Hugh looked up he was half-way through the door, and
turning to say with a sneer:

"I ain't going to forget this on you, Hugh Morgan, believe me. I
thought I'd give you a chanct to smooth over the rough places
between us; but I see you don't want anything to do with a feller
who's got the reputation they give me. All right, keep your old
skates then!"

With that he hurried down the stairs. And a minute afterwards Hugh,
happening to glance over to the table at the side of the room, made
a startling discovery. The skates had disappeared!



"Why, he cribbed them after all!" Hugh exclaimed, as he jumped to his
feet, and hurried over to the table, hardly able to believe his own

Something caught his attention. A dirty dollar bill and a fifty cent
silver piece lay in place of the skates. Then Nick had not exactly
_stolen_ Hugh's property, but imagined that this forced sale might
keep him within the law.

Hugh at first flush felt indignant. He gave the money an angry look,
as though scorning it, despite the hard work Nick may have done and
sacrifices also made in order to build up that small amount.

"Why, the contemptible scamp, I'll have to set Chief Wambold after
him, and recover my skates!" he said, warmly for him. "Serve him
right, too, if this is the last straw on the camel's back, to send
him to the House of Refuge for a spell. He is a born thief, I do
believe, and ought to be treated just like one."

Hugh, aroused by the sense of injustice, and a desire to turn the
tables on the slippery Nick, even stepped forward to snatch up his
cap, with the full intention of hurrying out to see if he could
overtake the thief; and, if not, continuing on until he came to the
office of the police force. Then he stopped short with a gasp.

He had suddenly remembered something. Into his mind rushed the
details of a certain recent conversation in which he had indulged
with his closest chum, Thad Stevens. Again he saw the picture of
that good priest of the story, looking so benignly upon the wretched
Jean Valjean, brought into his presence with the valuable silver
candlesticks and spoons found in his possession, which he kept
insisting his late host had presented him with, however preposterous
the claim seemed.

"Why, this is very nearly like that case, I declare!" ejaculated
Hugh, almost overcome by the wonderful similarity, which seemed the
more amazing because of the resolution he told Thad he had taken.

He dropped back into his seat, with the money still gripped in his
hand. He stared hard at it. In imagination he could see Nick, who
never liked hard work any too well, they said, busying himself like a
beaver, putting in coal for some neighbor, perhaps; or cleaning a
walk off for a dime. He must have done considerable work to earn
that first dollar.

"Then after that," Hugh was saying to himself, "he sold a pair of his
pet pigeons, and I reckon he thinks a heap of them, from all I've
heard said. Yes, Nick must have wanted my old skates worse than he
ever did anything in all his life. And when I refused to sell them
to him he just thought he'd do the trading by himself. It's a queer
way of doing business, and one the law wouldn't recognize; but, after
all, it was an upward step for Nick Lang, when he could have taken
the skates, and kept the cash as well. This certainly beats the
Dutch! What ought I to do about it, I wonder? Of course, if I told
the whole thing to mother, I suppose she'd let me have the new skates
ahead of time; or I could borrow Kenneth Kinkaid's, because, after
breaking his leg that way in the running race he says he isn't to be
allowed to skate a bit this winter. But ought I let the scamp keep
my skates?"

He mused over it for several minutes, as if undecided. Then the
sound of voices outside caught his attention. One seemed to be gruff
and official, another whining.

Hugh jumped up and stepped to a window. He could see down the street
on which the Morgan home stood. Three persons were in sight, and
hurrying along toward the house. One of these he recognized as his
chum, Thad, who must have returned from Hobson's mill-pond earlier
than he had expected. Another was the tall, attenuated Chief
Wambold; and the party whom he was gripping by the arm--yes, it was
none other than Hugh's late visitor, Nick Lang!

"Oh, they've caught him, it seems, just like those awful police did
poor, wicked Jean Valjean," Hugh muttered, thrilled by the sight;
"and right now they're fetching Nick back here, to ask me if he
wasn't lying when he said I'd sold or given him my skates!"

He realized that, undoubtedly, by some strange freak of fortune Thad
must have seen the other gloating over his prize; and recognizing the
skates, for they were well-known to him, he had beckoned to the
policeman who happened to be near by, with the result that Nick was
nabbed before he realized his peril.

Hugh had to decide quickly as to what he should do, for they were
coming in through the gate even now. Once again did the wonderful
story he had been reading flash before his mind.

"I _must_ try it out!" he exclaimed suddenly, gripped by the amazing
coincidence between this case and that so aptly described by Hugo.
"I said I would if ever I had a chance. It worked miracles in the
story; perhaps it may in real life, Anyway, it's going to be worth
while, and give me a heap of enjoyment watching the result. So here
and now I say that I've sold my skates to Nick, and that they really
belong to him at this minute. But I reckon he'll be scared pretty
badly when he faces me again, expecting the worst."

Thad knew how to get in by the side door that opened on the back
stairs; so he did not waste any time in ringing the bell. Now Hugh
could hear heavy footsteps. They were coming, and the great test was
about to be made.

The door opened to admit, first of all, Thad, his face filled with
burning indignation, and his eyes sparkling with excitement. Close
on his heels the others also pushed into the room on the second
floor, transformed into a genuine boy's den by pictures of healthy
sport on the walls, besides college burgees, fishing tackle, a bass
of three pounds that had been beautifully stuffed by Hugh himself to
commemorate a glorious day's sport; and dozens of other things dear
to the heart of a youth who loved the Great Outdoors as much as he

Chief Wambold looked triumphant and grim. Nick fairly writhed in
that iron clutch, and his face had assumed a sickly sallow color;
while his eyes reminded Hugh of those of a hunted wild animal at bay,
fear and defiance struggling for the mastery.

"Stand there, you cub!" snarled the police officer, as he gave Nick a
whirl into the room, closing the door at the same time, and planting
his six-foot-five figure against it, to prevent such a thing as

It was quite a tableau. Hugh believed he would never forget it as
long as he lived. But Thad, it appeared, was the first to speak.

"Hugh, this skunk has gone and beat you after all!" he cried,
pointing a scornful finger at the glowering Nick, who was eyeing Hugh
hungrily, as if trying to decide whether or not the other would tell
Chief Wambold to lock him up as a thief. "I chanced to see him pull
something out that he had been hiding under his coat, and recognized
your nickel-mounted skates. So I beckoned to Chief Wambold, and told
him about it; he made Nick come back here to face you, and confess to
the theft."

Nick growled something half under his breath, that sounded like:

"Didn't steal 'em, I tell you; I bought the skates fair and square
from Hugh here. You're all down on me, and won't listen to a thing I
say; that's the worst of it."

The tall head of the Scranton police force held up something he had
been carrying all the while.

"Here's the skates he had, Hugh," he went on to say. "Thad tells me
they are your property. He even showed me your initials scratched on
each skate. Take a good look at the same, and let me know about it,
will you, before I lug this sneak off to the lock-up. I reckon he's
headed for the Reform School this time, sure!"

At that Nick grew even more sallow than before, if such a thing were
possible; and the fear in his eyes became almost pitiable.

Hugh, meaning to make a straight job of his idea, calmly looked the
skates over. He knew full well how Nick was watching his every
action, trying to hug just a glimmer of hope to his heart that,
perhaps, Hugh might be merciful, and let him off, as the skates were
now once again in his possession. The shadow of the Reformatory
loomed up dreadfully close to Nick Lang just then, darker than he had
ever before imagined it could look. It terrified him, too, and
caused him to shiver as though someone had dashed a bucket of
ice-cold water over him unexpectedly.

"Yes, I recognize these skates very well, Chief," Hugh told the
waiting officer.

"And do they belong to you, Hugh?" continued the officer, with a
stern look at the cringing culprit near by, who weakly leaned against
the table for support after his recent rough handling.

"They _were_ my property until just ten minutes, more or less, ago,
Chief," said Hugh, deliberately fixing Nick with his eye, so as to
impress things on him in a way he could never forget. "Then I had an
offer from Nick here to buy them. At first I was averse to letting
him have them, but I changed my mind. These skates belong to Nick,
Chief. You must set him free, and not hold this against him. He's
going to wipe the slate clean this time and astonish folks here in
Scranton by showing them what a fellow of his varied talents can do,
once he sets out to go straight. And, for one, I wish him the best
of success from the bottom of my heart. I hope you enjoy your
skates, Nick."

He held out his hand, and the astounded Nick mechanically allowed
Hugh to squeeze his digits. But not one word could he say, simply
stared at Hugh as though he had difficulty in understanding such
nobility of soul; then, taking the skates, he went from the room.
They could hear the clatter of his heels as he hurried down the
stairs, as though afraid Hugh might yet repent and send the officer
after him.

Of course, Chief Wambold departed, shrugging his shoulders as though
still more than half convinced there had been something crooked about
Nick's suspicious actions.

Of course Thad had to be told the whole amazing story. He shook his
head at the conclusion, and went on record as being a doubter by

"I wish you success in your wonderful experiment, Hugh, I sure do;
but all the same I don't believe for a minute the leopard is going to
change its spots, or that Nick Lang, the worst boy in Scranton, can
ever reform."

Hugh would say nothing further about it, only, of course, he made
Thad promise to keep everything secret until he gave permission to
speak. If Nick made good this would never happen.

That night Hugh had a jolly time, and it was fairly late when he
crept into bed. As he lay there, instead of going to sleep
immediately, he looked out of the window toward the west, where a
bright star hung above the horizon. It seemed like a magnet to Hugh,
who lay there and watched for its setting, all the while allowing his
thoughts to roam back to the remarkable happening of that afternoon.

"It's a toss-up, just as Thad says, whether anything worth while will
come of my experiment," he told himself; "but, anyhow, I've given
Nick something to think over. And if he makes the first advances
toward me I'm bound to meet him half-way. I only hope it turns out
like the story of Jean Valjean did. But there goes my Star of Hope
down behind the horizon; and now I'd better be getting some sleep
myself. All the same I'm glad I did it!"

And doubtless he slept all the more soundly because of the noble
impulse that had impelled him to save Nick Lang from the Reform



There was a large crowd present to watch the local hockey match that
morning. Not only were Scranton High pupils interested, but many of
the town folks seemed to find it convenient to stroll around to the
field that, during the recent summer, had been the scene of bitterly
contested baseball games.

Even a number of gentlemen were on hand to criticize, and also
applaud, according to what their judgment of the work of the young
athletes proved to be. Some of these men had been college players,
or, at least, interested in athletic sports. They hailed the
awakening of Scranton along these lines most heartily. And most of
them had only too gladly invested various sums in the up-building of
the athletic grounds.

Now that the high board-fence surrounded the large field, and the
carefully planned clubhouse stood at the near end, the grounds had a
business-like air. Those who knew just how to go about it had seen
that the water was just the right depth, and this was now frozen
almost solid. As the enclosure was limited in dimensions, it became
apparent that half of the ice should be given over to the hockey
players. When the game was finished the entire pond could be used by
the general public.

The "rink" had been scientifically measured off, and such lines as
were necessary marked, after the rules of the game. The two goals in
the center of the extreme ends were stationary, the posts having been
rooted to the ice in some ingenious fashion, with the nets between.

Hugh Morgan had been unanimously chosen to serve as leader of the
Scranton Seven. He was admirably fitted for the position, since his
playing was gilt-edged, his judgment sound, and he never allowed
himself to become excited, or "rattled," no matter what the crisis.

The other members of the team consisted of fellows who had done nobly
in the stirring baseball encounters of the previous summer, and were,
moreover, well up in the various angles of skating.

By name they were as follows, and those who have read previous
stories in this High School Series will recognize old friends in the

Julius Hobson, Thad Stevens, Joe Danvers, Owen Dugdale, Horatio
Juggins and Justin Smith, commonly known as "J. J."

The scratch team consisted of some fine players in addition, boys who
were swift on the wing and able with their hockey sticks. When the
two teams were lined up to hear the last instructions from Mr.
Leonard, who, being the physical instructor at Scranton High, had
taken upon himself the duties of umpire and coach and referee all in
one for this occasion, they stood as follows:

_Scranton High_ _Position_ _Scratch Team_
Stevens ......... Goal ........... Anthony McGrew
Hobson .......... Point .......... Frank Marshall
Danvers ......... Cover Point .... Dick Travers
Smith ........... Right End ...... Nick Lang
Dugdale ......... Center ......... Tom Rawlings
Juggins ......... Left End ....... Phil Hasty
Morgan .......... Rover .......... Tug Lawrence

Just before the game began there was a hasty consultation among the
players opposed to the regular team. One of their members had sent
word he could not come up to time, as his mother had refused to let
him play. This necessitated a change of program. A substitute must
be found, and as they knew that Hugh's Seven already greatly
outclassed them it was of considerable moment that they pick up a
player who would strengthen their team, regardless of his identity.

So Nick Lang had been approached and offered the position of Right
End, a very important place for swift action and furious fighting.
Nick had been skating quietly by himself and evidently greatly
enjoying his new skates, which many boys recognized as the pair Hugh
Morgan had once owned.

He had hesitated just a trifle, and then agreed to fill the vacancy.
There were those who shook their heads dismally when they saw Nick
the trouble-maker in the line-up. Previous experiences warned them
that the game was very likely to break up in a big row, for such had
been the fate of many a rivalry when rough-and-ready Nick Lang
entered the lists.

But Hugh, who had secretly been the first to suggest to the captain
of the other Seven that Nick be chosen, somehow believed the one-time
bully of Scranton might surprise his critics for once by playing a
straight, honest game.

Hugh, of course, was mounted on his new silver skates. He had found
little difficulty in persuading his mother to advance his birthday
gift a few days, after telling her the whole circumstances; and it
must be said that Mrs. Morgan approved of his plan from the bottom of
her heart.

Mr. Leonard had often had trouble with Nick in times gone by. When
he sternly told the boys before the game was started that he meant to
be severe in inflicting punishment and penalties for foul or off-side
work he had Nick mostly in mind. Indeed, everyone who heard what he
said concluded that it was meant almost entirely for the Lang chap.

Nick only grinned. Those who knew him best did not find any
encouragement about his apparent good nature. Nick could "smile, and
smile again, and still be a villain," as some of them were fond of

The game began, and was soon in full progress, with the players
surging from one end of the rink to the other, according to which
side had gained possession of the puck, and were endeavoring by every
legitimate means possible to shoot the little rubber disc between the
goal posts, and into the net of their opponents.

It was soon seen that as a whole the Scratch Team was woefully weak.
Hugh's players had things pretty much their own way. Before more
than half of the first twenty-minute period had been exhausted the
score stood five goals for Scranton High, and none to the credit of
their opponents.

Then the tactics of the Scratch Team underwent a change. The captain
put Nick Lang forward to oppose Hugh Morgan when the puck was again
faced for a fresh start. In a fashion truly miraculous Nick managed
to gain possession of the rubber, and the way in which he sent it
flying before him along the ice was well worth seeing. Many started
to cheer, forgetting their former antipathy toward the bully.
Despite the clever work of Hugh, and others, as well as the able
defense of the goal-keeper, Thad Stevens, Nick succeeded in shooting
the puck between the goal posts for a score.

Hugh was ready to shake hands with himself, he felt so pleased. And
not once so far had Mr. Leonard found occasion to reprimand Nick on
account of foul work so flagrant that it could be no accident.

Many rubbed their eyes and asked their neighbors if that could really
be Nick Lang, the terror of Scranton, who played like a fiend, and
yet kept well within his rights?

"But just wait till something happens to upset Nick," they went on to
say, with wise shakes of the head. "We know how he's just bound to
carry on. It's a nice game so far, but the chances are three to one
it'll break up in a row yet; they always do when that fellow has a
hand in the going. He wouldn't be happy without a fuss, and an
attempt to win by some dirty work."

When the first half had passed, and there was a recess of fifteen
minutes called for the warm players to secure a little rest, the
score was five to three. That looked better for a well-contested
game. And so far there had not been any flagrant breaking of rules
to call for condemnation on the part of the referee.

Mr. Leonard himself looked a little surprised. He could not
understand it, but continued to keep an extra sharp eye on the usual
trouble-maker, as though expecting Nick to break loose with more than
ordinary violence because he had kept "bottled up" so long.

Hugh noticed another thing that interested him. During this
intermission Nick skated by himself. His old cronies, Tip Slavin and
Leon Disney, were on the ice, and, of course, indulging in their
customary derogatory remarks concerning the playing of the Regulars,
but Nick did not seem to want to join them, as had always been his
habit hitherto.

Twice Hugh saw the crafty Leon skate up alongside and speak
insinuatingly to the other, as though trying to persuade him to agree
to something; but on each occasion Nick shook his head in the
negative, and broke away. Leon looked after him rather
disconsolately, as though at a loss to understand what could have
happened to take all the fight and "bumptiousness" out of the former

Then play was resumed.

Hugh had taken his comrades to task during the intermission. He told
them several weaknesses had developed in their team play, which
should be corrected if they hoped to down the strong Keyport Seven.
Nor did Hugh spare himself in making these criticisms, for he knew
his own faults. It is a wise boy who does.

Having tested Nick's superb playing and found it good, the captain of
the Scratch Seven was willing to put him forward as their star
player, even if it went against the grain to realize that they had to
depend on a fellow so much in disrepute.

There were several hot scrimmages, as always occur during a strenuous
game of ice hockey. Even the most careful of players will sometimes
err in judgment at such times, and either be reprimanded by the
referee or having their side penalized on account of their too
energetic work. Strange to say, Nick Lang never once caused a
penalty to be inflicted on his side, though Rawlings, Hasty and
Lawrence were unwitting offenders, as were also Dugdale and Hobson on
the part of Scranton High.

Everybody was satisfied when the game finally came to an end with the
score nine to six. It was a pretty good contest, all things
considered. Perhaps the Regulars did not try quite as hard as they
might, since after all this was to be considered only in the light of
practice, and they were more taken up with correcting certain glaring
errors than in making goals.

The talk of the whole game, however, was the playing of Nick Lang,
who had left the ice after it was all over; but not before Hugh had
congratulated him on his fine work.

"How did he ever go through with it all, and never make a nasty break

"This must foe one of Nick's special good days, I reckon!"

"He's sure a hummer, all right, when he chooses to play straight.
What a pity he has that crooked streak in his make-up. Only for that
Nick would be a jim-dandy hand at any old athletic sport. I wonder
if it will last, or is he due to break loose, to-night perhaps, just
because he's held himself in so long."

These and many similar remarks passed between the astonished boys of
Scranton High, but they did not seem able to understand it at all.
Hugh, however, only smiled when they appealed to him, and would say
nothing; but deep down in his heart he was satisfied that the seed he
had sown had fallen on fallow soil and taken root.



"Hugh, have you heard the news this Sunday morning?"

With these abrupt words Thad Stevens burst upon his chum who was
feeding some long-eared, handsome Belgian hares, which of late he had
taken to keeping, as it had become quite a fad among the Scranton

Hugh turned to look at his friend. It was plain to be seen that Thad
was laboring under considerable excitement. His face was flushed as
if with running, while his eyes glowed much more than was their wont
under ordinary conditions.

"Why, no, I haven't heard a thing except the church bells ringing,
and people going past our house early this morning for mass. You
know we live on a street that is largely used by those who have to
get out shortly after daybreak Sunday mornings in winter. What's
happened during the night? There couldn't have been a fire, because
I'd have heard the bell, and been out with the rest of the boys."

"Oh! you couldn't guess it in a dozen trials, Hugh. It was a regular
down-right burglary that was pulled off, even if the stuff taken
consisted of candy, cigarettes, and the like, as well as some
sporting goods and several revolvers."

Hugh looked interested.

"From the way you talk, Thad, I should say it might have been Paul
Kramer's Emporium that had suffered; because he's really the only man
in Scranton who keeps sporting goods."

"A good guess, Hugh, because Paul is the chap. They got in through a
back door, and everybody says it was a pretty slick job, too," Thad
went on to say.

"Let's see what you're telling me," Hugh remarked thoughtfully. "If
they took candy and cigarettes and sporting goods it would look to me
pretty much as if the robbery was the work of unprincipled boys,
rather than men."

Thad stared hard at his companion.

"Well, you are a wonder, Hugh, at seeing through things!" he hastily
declared. "Why, that was what Chief Wambold said right away. And,
Hugh, he followed it with the declaration that he guessed he could
put his finger on the guilty fellows without much trouble. You know
who he had in mind, of course, Hugh?"

"It goes without saying that one of them would be Nick Lang," came
the quick reply, while a small cloud crept over Hugh's face.

"Sure thing," continued Thad, shrugging his shoulders. "When a
fellow has built up a nice reputation for himself along those lines
he can't blame folks for suspecting him of every single tricky piece
of work that is pulled off in town. In the past Nick has been
ring-leader in lots of lawless doings, and the Chief was dead certain
he'd get him with the goods on this time, as he called it."

"Perhaps he may, but I hope that for once Chief Wambold will find
himself mistaken," said Hugh soberly, and then adding: "How did you
happen to hear about it, Thad?"

"Oh! I chanced to be out early this morning on an errand for mother,
taking some things over to that sick colored wash-lady we have do our
weekly work, and passing through the public square on my way back I
saw a crowd around Kramer's place. Of course I stayed on the job,
and heard all sorts of things said. But, Hugh, they've got one of
the thieves, all right."

"Who was he, Leon Disney?" asked the other, quickly, as he suddenly
remembered the actions of the boy in question when he twice
approached Nick Lang on the ice during that intermission for rest in
the hockey match; and when he, Hugh, fancied Leon was entreating his
former pal to do something which Nick refused to entertain.

"Just who it is," said the wondering Thad. "The Chief went to his
house and insisted on making a thorough search. He's a shrewd old
duck, is Chief Wambold, for all his faults. He seemed to guess just
where a boy like Leon would hide the spoils of a raid like this.
Under the floor of the old barn on the Disney place he found about
half the stuff that was taken, candy by the wholesale, cigarettes,
two revolvers, and even a pair of choice hockey skates."

"About _half_ you are saying, Thad; then it looks to me as if there
must have been just two of the thieves, for they had divided things
equally between them."

"What a lawyer you would make, Hugh, or a detective either, for that
matter," the other boy exclaimed.

"What did Leon say when they found the stolen stuff hidden under his
barn?" further questioned Hugh, deigning to smile at his chum's
compliment, however.

"Nary a thing would he say, except to declare himself innocent, and
that he himself had heard a noise out there last night, and guessed
that some enemy of his must have set up a mean game on him, wanting
to get him nabbed. But say, Hugh, the Chief pulled seven packets of
cigarettes out of his coat-pocket, every one stamped with the same
maker's name; and nobody in Scranton handles that brand but Paul

"It looks pretty bad for Leon, I should say," remarked Hugh.

"Oh! he'll get a free pass to the Reform School this time, as sure as
anything!" asserted Thad; "and a good riddance of bad rubbish, most
people in Scranton will be saying. Of course they'll be sorry for
his mother, who is a respectable woman, and has had heaps of trouble
with that good-for-nothing son of hers."

"But about the other thief, Thad?"

"Well, Chief Wambold said there wasn't any doubt in the wide world
but that it must be Nick Lang, and I guess everybody around agreed
with him, Hugh."

"Did he go up and arrest Nick?" asked Hugh, deeply interested.

"Just what he did, and I was along with the crowd," Thad told him.
"Well, sir, you never saw such a cool customer. Nick smiled as
brazenly in the face of the Chief as anything you ever saw. They
searched, and searched, but never a scrap of the stolen goods could
they run across."

"Well, what then, Thad?"

"Why, of course the Chief declared that Nick had only been some
smarter than his pal in hiding the spoils where no one could find the
stuff. He told Nick he would have to arrest him on general suspicion
because Leon and he were such great pals, and Leon was already as
good as convicted."

"Yes, and what did Nick say to that?" asked Hugh.

"Would you believe it, Hugh, he up and told the Chief that he could
prove an alibi. You see, the robbery was done before eleven o'clock
last night, because the clock that was knocked down when the thieves
were rummaging around in the store had been broken, and it stopped at
just a quarter to eleven. Even Chief Wambold agreed on that point."

"Yes, and it was cleverly settled, I must say, Thad. But how about
Nick's alibi; would the Chief accept his mother's word, knowing that
the chances were Nick had slipped out of the house by a window when
she supposed him to be sound asleep in his bed?"

"Oh! Nick had much better proof than that, Hugh. He demanded that
Chief Wambold call up old Deacon Joel Winslow, who, you know, is a
man much respected around Scranton, and keeps the blacksmith shop out
on the road to Allandale where it crosses the one leading to Keyport.
Yes, sir, and when the officer did so from Headquarters the
blacksmith weather prophet plainly told him Nick had been working
alongside himself from seven until a quarter-after-eleven the night

Hugh laughed. It really seemed as though a load had been suddenly
taken off his chest. He had begun to fear lest his experiment might
have already met with its Waterloo.

"I'm pleased to hear you say that, Thad, I certainly am," he
remarked, "And did our wonderful Chief conclude to hold Nick after

"He wanted to, Hugh,--I could see that plain enough; but Nick
demanded that he be set at liberty. Say, you know I'm not much of an
admirer of Nick Lang, but he did bluff the tall Chief of Police good
and hard. He actually told him he'd sue him for damage to his
reputation if he dared to hold him when there wasn't a particle of
evidence connecting him with the robbery, except that once upon a
time he used to go with Leon Disney, as lots of other fellows did,

"Then he was let go free, I take it, from what you say, Thad?"

"Oh! well, the police head said he knew very well Nick was in the
racket, even if he had covered his footsteps so cunningly; and even
fooled Deacon Winslow. He told Nick he'd parole him temporarily, but
that he might still consider himself as under arrest."

"That must be a joke," chuckled Hugh. "It was silly on the part of
Chief Wambold. But then, of course, Nick has made him a whole lot of
trouble in the past. So only one fellow has been taken, and he
refuses to tell on his pal, does he?"

"Absolutely, though the Chief says he means to put Leon through the
third degree, and force a confession from him. What does he mean by
that, Hugh? I've seen it mentioned in the papers lots of times."

"I believe in cities like New York some of the detectives act roughly
with a suspected prisoner, and scare them into saying things. But a
clever head of police once on a time had a smarter way of getting a
confession than by rough-house tactics."

"Yes? Tell me about it then," pleaded Thad.

"When he had reason to believe several members of a gang were
implicated in a robbery, or other crime, he would have the weakest
arrested, and brought into his presence. Then, while the man sat
there nervously waiting for the dreaded ordeal of an interview and
looking out of a window, he would see one of his fellow gangsters
taken past in charge of several plain clothes men. Of course that
would give him a shock, and when the Chief turned and told him the
other fellow had already promised to make a confession in order to
save himself, the prisoner nearly always broke down, and told
everything to get in ahead."

"Well, the last I saw of Chief Wambold," continued Thad, "he was
starting out to interview Deacon Winslow. You see, he believes the
old blacksmith must have meant ten-fifteen instead of eleven. That
would give Nick plenty of time to get back to town, so as to take
part in the robbery of the Emporium."

Hugh rubbed his hands together after the manner of one whose mind was
completely satisfied.

"I fancy he'll have all his trouble for his pains," he went on to say

"Meaning that the deacon will stick to his statement, and so clear
Nick of complicity in the crime--is that it, Hugh?"

"We all know Deacon Winslow to be a reliable man," Hugh told him.
"He is accustomed to dealing in figures, and not inclined to make a
mistake about the time. I'd wager now he has something positive to
settle the matter of Nick's staying there, working at the forge, and
learning how to be a blacksmith, until exactly fifteen minutes after

"Well," said Thad, scratching his head as though still confused,
"things look pretty queer to me, and I hardly know what to believe
about that Nick Lang."



At that Hugh, having finished his work in connection with the care of
his tame pets, turned around and faced his chum.

"On my part, Thad," he was saying, quietly but sincerely, "I'm
getting to be hopeful of Nick. I honestly believe that fellow has
seen a great light. I think he's made up his mind to turn over a new
leaf and redeem his rotten past. And I want to say here and now it's
up to every boy in Scranton High to treat him decently while he's
still fighting his old impulses of evil. I know I shall let him feel
I believe in him, until he does something to forfeit my esteem."

"That's just like you, Hugh; and I guess the rest of us ought to be
ashamed to throw any stumbling block in the way of a chap who is
trying to get out of his old rut. But it passes my comprehension how
he can change, and play fair and square, when all his life he's been
so tricky and low-down mean."

"As for that, lots of men who were once down in the gutter have
reformed, and proved giants in helping others to get up to
respectability again. Take that Jean Valjean we were talking about
the other day, who changed right-about-face, and became just as fine
a man as he was bad before. You don't suppose it all came in a
flash, do you?"

"Why, no, of course not, Hugh. He was the lowest sort of a beast, as
pictured by Hugo, with the vilest ideas concerning human nature.
After he had that revelation, and saw the good priest actually tell a
lie in order to save him, he woke up, and, as you said, began
thinking for himself. Then the change came gradually, and he
determined to work to help those who were down and out like himself."

"All right," said Hugh. "This case of Nick Lang is like this, in a
small way. But, Thad, do you feel like taking a walk this fine crisp
winter morning?"

"Just for the exercise, or have you any scheme in your mind, Hugh?"

"Both, I might say. The mile walk will do us good, and then we may
be able to satisfy ourselves about a few things. It is just half a
mile out to the cross-roads, and Deacon Winslow's house and smithy,
you know."

Thad looked interested at once.

"So, that's the way the wind blows, is it?" he remarked. "You want
to interview the deacon, too, as well as Chief Wambold?"

"But not from the same motive, Thad. On the contrary, while he went
out to try and find a reason for believing Nick guilty, in spite of
his alibi, I mean only to ask a few questions that will clear up a
little point that is a bit muddled."

"Perhaps I could guess what that is," said Thad quickly. "You're
puzzled to understand why Nick should have been out there on just
last night of all times, when any other would have done just as well.
How about that, Hugh?"

"That's one of the things I'd like to have cleared up," Hugh
admitted. "Between us, Thad, I've got a pretty good notion Nick knew
about this contemplated raid on Kramer's store. Perhaps in times
past they may even have plotted such a thing, so as to get all the
cigarettes and candy they wanted for once. I even believe he was
refusing Leon and Tip Slavin, who were urging him to join in with
them, when I saw him shake his head and skate away yesterday."

"Go on, Hugh, you've got me interested again; sure you have."

"While Nick wouldn't think of betraying his former associates, from
whose company he had broken away, at the same time he was smart
enough to see he would be placed under suspicion. And he must have
arranged this alibi so as to prove his positive innocence. If that
turns out so, it shows Nick to be a wise one."

Shortly afterwards the pair were trudging along the road outside the
corporation limits of the town of Scranton. It was some time before
the customary church hour, and they were almost certain to find the
old deacon at home, Hugh believed.

On the way they met a car coming along the road. In it was Chief
Wambold. Scranton had advanced far enough toward the dignity of
cityhood to have an auto for the police force, since the Chief often
had to go to neighboring towns on matters of business, taking a
prisoner, or getting one to fetch back.

He nodded to the boys as he shot past.

"Doesn't look very amiable, does he?" muttered Thad. "So I rather
guess he didn't get much satisfaction from the old deacon. But he's
awful stubborn, is our efficient head of police; and if he can find
any way to put that business on Nick's shoulders he will, take my
word for it."

Hugh only smiled as though he was not worrying about anything Chief
Wambold could accomplish. He had known the other to make several
"bone-plays" since coming to Scranton, and hence Hugh did not have a
very high opinion of the official's merits, though not doubting his
honesty of purpose at all.

After a short time they arrived at the smithy. Deacon Winslow lived
close to his shop. He was a big man, with the proverbial muscles of
the blacksmith; and for many years he had been looked upon as a
pillar in the church he attended.

Besides this he was reckoned a good man, who could always be counted
on to go out of his way to do a favor for anybody. The poor of
Scranton loved him better than they did anyone they knew. His acts
were often "hidden under a bushel," since he did not go around, as
Thad once said, "blowing his own horn, and advertising his goodness
as one would soft soap."

Strange as it might seem, Deacon Winslow had taken quite a fancy to
Nick Lang, and possibly he was the only respectable man in all
Scranton who did. Perhaps he admired Nick's muscular build, and
believed he would make a fine smith, if the husky boy only took a
liking to the vocation of hammer and forge and anvil.

Then again it was likely that the deacon, who was a shrewd old fellow
as well as good-natured and honest, saw deeper into that bad boy's
soul than ordinary people, judging from surface indications. Hugh
himself was inclined to believe this might be the case.

Be that as it may, Nick had been known to go out there to the Winslow
shop occasionally after supper, and work alongside the old man for
hours at a time. Folks considered it only another odd fad on the
part of the deacon. They prophesied that he would sooner or later he
sorry for having anything to do with such a good-for-nothing
scapegrace as Nick Lang, who would not hesitate to play some nasty
practical joke on his benefactor when the notion seized him and he
had grown tired of bothering with blacksmithing.

The deacon himself came to the door. He knew both lads, and asked
them to step in and sit with him before his cheery fire, as he had
half an hour on his hands before starting to church.

Hugh plunged into the matter without waste of time. He told Deacon
Winslow how he had been reading that wonderful story of Jean Valjean;
and then what a strange freak of fate allowed him to play the same
part that the good priest had done.

Step by step he carried it along, and Deacon Winslow appeared to be
deeply interested, if one could judge from the way he rubbed his
hands together, and nodded his head approvingly when he learned of
the motives that had influenced Hugh to act as he did.

Even what had occurred on the ice on the preceding afternoon was
narrated, for, as Hugh explained, he believed it had a great deal to
do with the startling event that had stunned Scranton that same
Sunday morning.

When he had finally ended with a profession of his belief in Nick's
innocence the old man once more nodded his head. His wise eyes shone
with a rare delight as he gazed at Hugh. The boy could not help
thinking that the good priest in the story must have been a whole lot
like old Deacon Winslow; who could believe wrong of no one, boy or
man, but was always finding some excuse for forgiving, even those who
deceived him in business transactions.

"You have done well, my lad," said the old man warmly, patting Hugh
on the arm affectionately. "And rest assured Nick is entirely
innocent of this crime. I have become deeply interested in that boy.
He has had a bad name, it is true; but somehow I seemed to feel that
there were elements of great good in him, if only he could be brought
to book, and made to change his ways of life. He must have a new
viewpoint of human nature, to start with. I thought I might arouse
him through talking, and fatherly advice, but so far I could not see
success following my labors. But you have hit upon an ingenious
device, my boy, that promises wonderful results. We may yet make a
second Jean Valjean of the despised Nick Lang; and that would be an
achievement worthy of anyone."

Hugh felt more than repaid for all he had done when he heard the old
deacon say this with such warmth.

"There was one thing I wanted to learn, sir, if you don't mind
telling me," he went on to say. "It concerns his engagement to come
out here and help you last night. Were you expecting him? Was
Saturday night the one he generally took to come and help you get rid
of some of your extra work that couldn't be done in the daytime, for
all the horse-shoeing you have on your hands?"

The deacon smiled, and Hugh really had his answer before the old man
even opened his lips. All the same he was pleased to hear him say:

"Up to now it has always been on Monday night Nick came out. That
was more convenient for me, as a rule, and he accommodated himself to
my wishes. But yesterday afternoon he dropped in to see me here,
with his skates dangling across his shoulder, as if he had been
skating. He said he would like very much to come for that once on
Saturday night, instead of Monday; and that he had a good reason for
making the change, which meant a whole lot to him."

"I see," remarked Hugh; "and it was clever of Nick. You agreed, of
course, sir, seeing that he was here?"

"It made no particular difference to me," added the blacksmith, "and
I was glad to know the lad cared enough about the work to want to
make the change. So I told him to be along as usual about seven, as
I had a raft of work on hand that would keep us until well on after
eleven. As a fact, it was fifteen minutes after that hour when Nick
started for home."

"You remember that positively then, sir,--the hour, I mean?" asked

"Oh! I could swear to it," came the reply. "In the first place I
heard the town clock strike eleven, and counted the strokes myself,
remarking that we must shut up shop soon as it was getting close to
Sunday morning. Then as he was quitting Nick asked me again just
what time it was, and I consulted my reliable watch. I can see now
that possibly Nick had an object in impressing the time on my mind,
so I could say positively he was there at eleven, and after. I don't
like the idea of his having known about the intended robbery, and
keeping silent, but suppose he considered himself in honor bound to
his former chums."

So their interview with Deacon Winslow proved a very enjoyable one
after all. Hugh felt he should like to know the big amiable
blacksmith better, for he had been drawn to him very much indeed.

"And," he told Thad, as they trudged back along the road to town,
"the way things seem to be working, I'm more than ever encouraged to
keep on with my experiment."



"Do you know," mused Thad, as they continued on their way to town,
"the more I see of that blacksmith the better I like him. In my
opinion, he's a grand old man."

"I was just going to say that myself," Hugh told him. "He makes me
think of the priest in the story. And they say he loves boys--all

"You can't make him believe there's a boy living but who has
_something_ worth while in him," Thad advanced. "Sometimes it's hid
under a whole lot of trash, as Deacon Winslow calls it, and you've
got to search a heap before you strike gold; but if you only persist
you'll be rewarded."

"His actions with regard to Nick prove that he practices what he
preaches, too," said Hugh.

"Well, the old man went through a bitter experience many years ago,"
Thad went on to say; "and he learned his lesson for life, he often

"Why, how's that, Thad? I've heard a great many things about
different people since we came to Scranton; but I don't remember
listening to what happened to the old deacon long ago."

"Is that a fact, Hugh? Well, I'll have to tell you about it, then.
Once upon a time they had a boy, an only child; and, as happens in
some families where the parents are the finest kind of Christian
people, young Joel had a bad streak in his make-up. Oh! they say he
gave his father no end of trouble from time to time. And it wound up
in a row, with the boy doing something disgraceful, and running away
from home, nearly breaking his mother's heart."

"Didn't he ever come bad again?" asked the interested listener.

Thad shook his head in the negative.

"They never looked on his face again, either living or dead," he
said. "Worse than that, they never even heard from him. It was as
if Joel had dropped out of sight that night when he left a line to
his mother saying he was going west to where they raised men, not
sissies. And so the years rolled around, and, they say, the old lady
even now sits looking into the sunset skies, dreaming that her Joel,
just as she remembered him, had sent word he was coming back to visit
them in their old age, and to ask forgiveness for his wrong-doing."

Hugh was greatly moved by the sad tale, which, however, he knew could
be easily matched in every town of any size in the country; for it is
of common occurrence, with a multitude of sore hearts turning toward
that Great West.

"That must have been how long ago, Thad?" he asked presently.

"Let me see, I should think all of forty years; perhaps forty-five
would be closer to the mark, Hugh."

"How sad," mused the other lad, with a shake of his head; "and to
think of that poor old lady, an invalid, you said, and confined to a
wheelchair, watching the sinking sun faithfully each evening as it
sets, still yearning for her boy to come back. It is a dream that
has become a part of her very existence. Why, even if young Joel had
lived he would now be over sixty years of age, but she never thinks
of him that way. The deacon, they say, is eighty-five, though you'd
never believe it to see his brawny muscles and healthy complexion."

"You see," continued Thad, anxious that his chum should know
everything connected with the subject, now he was upon it, "the old
man often takes himself to task because he didn't understand boys as
he might have done, when younger. He believes he could have spared
his wife her great sorrow if he had only been more judicious, and won
the boy's confidence as well as his affection."

"And that accounts for the deep interest he has felt in all boys ever
since," Hugh was saying reflectively; "especially those who seem to
have a streak of badness in them."

"I suppose," Thad remarked, "it is his way of doing penance for what
he considers a fault of his earlier years. Sometimes I think I'd
just like to be able to follow up that chap when he ran away from
home, and learn what really did become of him."

"He may have met with a sad fate out West, Thad; plenty of fellows
have gone out and been swallowed up in the whirlpool."

"If, on the other end, he didn't, and lived for many years,"
continued the other, "he must have been pretty tough not to write to
his poor old mother at least once in a while. I could never forgive
Joel for that. But they say he had an ugly nature, and was very
stubborn. Well, I'm glad the deacon has taken an interest in the
reformation of Nick Lang, even if I have my doubts about his meeting
with any sort of success."

"Well, you may be a whole lot surprised one of these fine days, my
boy," Hugh smilingly told him.

"The age of miracles has passed, Hugh," remarked Thad skeptically.

"Not the miracles that are brought about by a complete change of
heart on the part of someone the world looks down on as a scamp,"
Hugh persisted. "But you're one of those who want to be shown; I
reckon, Thad, your folks must have come from Missouri, didn't they?"

"Wrong again, Hugh, because none of them ever saw the Mississippi,
though my grandfather fought through the Civil War, and was with
Grant when Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House. But I admit I
am a little stubborn, and prejudiced. It runs in the blood, I
suppose. The Stevens were always sort of pig-headed."

"I've also heard considerable about the deacon as a weather seer,
Thad; how about that? Does he manage to hit it off occasionally, so
as to equal our forecaster at Washington, whose predictions come true
every now and then?"

"Oh! the deacon has made that quite a fad," he was told by the
obliging Thad. "He doesn't confine himself to figuring out just what
sort of day we'll have to-morrow, or even for the coming week. He
looks ahead, and finds out from the signs of Nature what sort of
winter or summer we're going to have next,--cold, mild, hot, cool,
dry or rainy. And say, I've heard he hits it nearly every time."

"Well, what did he say about this particular winter?" Hugh asked,
with renewed interest; for such subjects always gripped his
attention, because he believed some of these shrewd countrymen, who
watched the weather and observed what was going on all around them,
could tell better than any scientific gentleman what was liable to
come along during the succeeding seasons.

"He predicted a severe winter," replied Thad promptly. "Some people
laughed at what he said, especially when Christmas came and went, and
so far we'd had precious little of cold. But it's come along at
last, and from all reports some of the most dreadful weather ever
known is happening away out in the Northwest right now."

"And how does the old blacksmith get his ideas--from Nature, you
said, I believe, Thad?"

"He studies the bark on the trees; the way the squirrels store the
nuts away; and how the caterpillars weave their cocoons. Oh! he has
a hundred different signs that he depends on before making up his
mind. I used to laugh when I heard him talking about it, but since
I've grown older I've decided that there may be a whole lot in that
sort of weather prediction."

"I incline that same way," agreed Hugh. "Many of the little animals
of the woods are given a wonderful instinct that enables them to know
what to expect. Even bees that always lay by a certain amount of
honey for winter use, are said to stock up extra heavy on years when
a severe winter comes along. It must be a mighty interesting study,
I should think. Some time I mean to know the old deacon better, so
as to get posted on his vast store of knowledge along those lines."

"His wife is rather feeble now," continued Thad. "She's a fine old
lady though, and as cheery as can be, considering all things."

"But if, as you said, she has to move around in one of those
self-propelling wheel-chairs, how does she ever get her house-work
done, Thad?"

"Oh! they have a girl in during the daytime," came the explanation;
"though Mrs. Winslow still mixes all the cakes and bread. And, say,
she does make the greatest crullers you ever tasted in your born
days. I know, because that couple are always sending things out to
houses where there are growing boys. Their world lies in boys only;
you never hear either of them say a thing about girls."

Hugh could easily understand that. He had been in numerous homes
where there were only boys in the family; and the parents knew next
to nothing about the delight and constant anxiety of girls.

"As I like crullers about the best of any sort of cakes," he
chuckled, "I think I'll have to cultivate the acquaintance of Mrs.
Winslow. Some time I may have the pleasure of tasting her famous
cooking that you rate so highly. But to turn to another subject,
Thad, have you heard any more reports about those Keyport High
fellows we expect to go up against next Saturday?"

"Yes, I have, Hugh. Podge Huggins was over there two days back. He
saw them practicing on some thin ice over a pond, and he told, me
they were an exceptionally husky proposition. He also saw us work
yesterday afternoon in the scratch game, and when I asked him how we
compared with Keyport, why Podge wouldn't give me a straight answer;
but only grinned and turned the subject."

"Evidently then Podge doesn't have the confidence in his school team
that he ought to feel," said Hugh, apparently not at all disturbed.
"Well, we have a whole week still for practice, and ought to keep on
improving. I'm hoping that Keyport may overdo it, which is always

"You mean too much work will cause them to go stale; is that it,

"Physical directors and coaches are always on their guard against
that, Thad. The boat team is always strongest at a certain point.
If the race comes off when they attain that top-notch pinnacle,
they're apt to do their very best; but should it be delayed, by
weather or something else, the coach becomes alarmed, because he
knows there's a great chance of their losing speed from too much
nervous tension and overwork."

From which talk it was evident that Hugh must have imbibed
considerable valuable knowledge from Mr. Leonard, who, as a college
man, ought to understand a thing or two concerning sporting matters.

So the two chums continued to talk all the way back to town. Hugh
had picked up a whole lot of information by making the journey out to
the cross-roads. Somehow he seemed to feel drawn toward the old
blacksmith, who seemed to be such a sterling character.

Hugh had met him in church circles and at sociables, but, not knowing
the tragedy that lay back in the deacon's younger life, he had so far
failed to cultivate his acquaintance. But he was now determined to
see more of Deacon Winslow, for he believed the weather prophet would
be able to tell him a host of interesting things about Nature's
storehouse, from which he had gleaned astonishing facts during many
years' study.



Another week of school had commenced, with winter now in full swing.

The weather seemed to have settled down to show what it could do,
after such a long delay. It was making up for lost time, some of the
boys declared. But then it could hardly be too cold for fellows
warmly dressed, and who had their three hearty meals a day. The poor
might complain, because they suffered, especially when such spells
were prolonged.

Deacon Winslow was seen in town more frequently than usual, he
leaving the work to the charge of his assistant for an hour or so at
a time. He always carried a big basket in his wagon or sleigh; and
those who knew his warm heart could easily understand that his visits
were wholly at homes where there was none too much in the way of
comforts and food.

During the earlier days of the week the talk was pretty much of
winter sports. Ice hockey occupied a prominent place in the
conversations that were carried on wherever three or more Scranton
High fellows clustered, to kick their heels on the pavement, or sun
themselves while perched on the top of the campus fence that would go
down in history as the peer of the famous one at Yale.

During afternoons the hockey players gathered at the park, and each
day saw them engaging in some sort of practice game,--their opponents
being such fellows as could be gathered together to constitute a fair

Hugh seemed satisfied with the progress made, and Mr. Leonard, too,
looked as if he felt well repaid for the trouble he was taking
showing them certain clever moves that might reward them in a
fiercely contested match.

Meanwhile the mystery concerning that robbery at Paul Kramer's
Emporium had not yet been wholly solved. Leon Disney still
languished in the lock-up at Police Headquarters, his folks having
been unable to secure bail for him. They could not raise the amount
themselves, and somehow there seemed to be no person in the whole
community philanthropical enough to take chances with Leon, who was
reckoned an exceedingly slippery individual, who would most likely
run away before his trial came off, leaving his bondsman to "hold the
bag," as the boys called it.

He was just as stubborn as ever in his denial of complicity in the
robbery. Leon doubtless believed that a lie well stuck to was bound
to raise up friends. There are always well disposed people whose
sympathies are apt to be aroused when they hear of a case like this.

But Leon was not being held on circumstantial evidence. He had been
caught "with the goods on him." All that loot hidden under the old
barn on his place was positive proof of his guilt. Still he held
out, and declared himself the victim of some base plot calculated to
ruin his reputation; which was rather a queer thing for Leon to say,
since the only reputation he had in Scranton was for badness.

Another thing was that he still declined to betray his pal, for
everyone felt positive he had had company when foraging through the
cases in Paul Kramer's establishment, taking such things as naturally
appeal to a boy's heart--candy, cigarettes, revolvers and sporting

Chief Wambold suspected one boy from the start, after finding that
the former chief offender in these lines could prove a positive
alibi. This was the third of the bad lot, Tip Slavin.

He had even gone to Tip's humble home and made a thorough search,
high and low, but without the least success. If Tip were guilty he
must have been smarter than his confederate, who had hidden his share
of the plunder under the loose boards of the floor of his folks' barn.

Not having any evidence beyond suspicion the officer did not dare
arrest Tip, who continued to loaf about his customary corners and
look impudently at every fellow who stared meaningly at him when
passing. Hugh himself never once doubted the guilt of Tip Slavin;
though he fancied the authorities might have a hard time catching
him, unless the stubborn Leon at the last, finding himself on the way
to the Reform School, confessed, and implicated his companion.

He and Thad were talking about that very same thing on Thursday
afternoon while on the way home from the park a little earlier than

"Where do you think that sly Tip could have hidden the stuff, Hugh?"
Thad asked, continuing their conversation.

"Oh! there would be plenty of places, and no one likely to ever run
across it, on one condition," replied the other.

"What might that be?" demanded Thad.

"If only Tip could himself keep away from his cache," he was told.
"That may be his undoing, after all. You know, when an ordinary
thief has done something big, and is being looked for, the smart
police always ask whether he has a wife or a sweetheart; because they
know that sooner or later he is bound to communicate with such a
person, and so a clue may be found to his hiding-place. Well, Tip's
heart will be located where his treasure is. He'll soon get a
_yearning_ to indulge in some of the candy and cigarettes he's got
hidden away."

"Then if Chief Wambold knew his duty," snapped Thad vigorously, "he'd
keep tabs of Tip day and night, and shadow him wherever he went."

"That would be his best move," agreed Hugh.

"You ought to post the Chief on that same sort of clever job, Hugh."

"Well, I did think of that," admitted the other boy, "but somehow I
hated to have a hand in railroading Tip to the Reformatory. It's
true he ought to be there, for he's a terror to the whole community;
but he's got a mother, Thad, and I'd hate to see her swollen eyes,
and remember that I'd had a hand in parting her from her boy. It
isn't as if I were paid for doing such things, as Chief Wambold is;
this is hardly any business of mine, you know, and I've concluded to
keep my hands off."

"Well, now, somehow I don't just look at it the way you do, Hugh.
Perhaps I'm not quite so tender-hearted as you are. It may be the
best thing that ever happened to Tip if he is sent to the Reform
School before he plunges any deeper into the mire of crime. Plenty
of boys have become fine men after being sent there, to be taught
what it should have been the duty of their careless or incompetent
parents to put into their heads."

"Do you mean that you might take a notion to drop a hint to the
Chief, Thad?"

"I'll think it over, and decide later," the other told him. "Perhaps
I'll ask advice of Dominie Pettigrew, who's a good friend of mine,
and would tell me what my duty was, not only to Tip, but to the
community at large, which he had so flagrantly abused time and again."

"Suit yourself about that, Thad. Perhaps, after all, you may be
right, and that it would be a good thing all around if Tip could be
sent away with Leon. But it's likely Leon will weaken when his trial
comes off, and betray his pal; though he may give Tip a hint
beforehand so he can clear out in time."

"And about Nick Lang?" continued Thad.

"I haven't changed my mind about him, as yet," Hugh replied sturdily
enough. "So far Nick seems to be minding his own business, and
having as little to do with other boys as possible. I heard Dr.
Carmack say he was astonished at the difference in Nick's work in
classes. He seemed particularly pleased, too, because, with all the
other teachers, he's had a hard time with Nick in the past."

"But in all the days we've practiced our hockey work Nick hasn't once
joined the scrub team we've fought against. That's why we've been
able to lick them so easily, I guess, Hugh. That fellow certainly is
a wizard on runners, and would make a good addition to our Seven, if
by some chance he could be squeezed in. But one of the Regulars
would have to be dropped, and I think there would be some bad blood
shown if anyone had to give way to a fellow who's had such a bad
reputation in the past. Even now lots of people think he's only
shamming reform for some deep purpose."

"Lots of people are due for a surprise, then, let me tell you," said
Hugh. "But, of course, just as you say, I wouldn't dare take any
fellow out as long as he was working his best, and substituting Nick.
It would raise a howl, to be sure. But, Thad, if the time should
ever come when we're up against a hard proposition, with defeat
staring us in the face, and one of our team was injured, I'd grab at
Nick like a drowning man does at a plank floating near."

"One lucky thing happened for us, Hugh, anyhow."

"You're referring to the toss of the coin that gave us the choice of
grounds for the game, and will force Keyport to journey over here on
Saturday, eh, Thad?"

"Yes, that's what I had in mind. Captain Mossman seemed to be a
pretty fine sort of chap, too, I thought, when he dropped in on us
yesterday afternoon to look the place over; because it seems he's
never played before in Scranton."

"Well, Scranton was hardly on the map until this year," Hugh laughed.
"However, some of our neighboring towns have already learned that
Scranton is alive and wide-awake."

"Just what they have, Hugh, and there are other surprises coming for
them, too. I noticed that you cut out all play while the Keyport
chap was with us. Didn't want him to get a line on our methods, I

"It might give them a little advantage, you see, and weaken our play.
Some of the Scranton boys have gone over to Keyport to see what's
doing there. They bring back great reports of the confidence shown
in the team; but Coach Leonard has positively forbidden any member of
our Seven to make the trip. He says it smacks too much of spying to
please him."

"Oh! that's drawing the line pretty tight, Hugh. Lots of players in
the baseball world try their level best to get a line on a pitcher
who is going to oppose them, and consider it legitimate enough."

"Well, they are professionals, to begin with," said the other; "and
business is business with them. But, right or wrong, there's going
to be no spying on our part, so long as Mr. Leonard has charge of the
athletic end of the game at Scranton. You can depend on that every

"There's Owen now; he wasn't at practice this afternoon, I wonder
why?" exclaimed Thad, as they sighted another boy coming toward them.
"He looks as if he might be bursting with some sort of news, Hugh.
Now I wonder what he's run up against."

Owen quickly arrived. His face did have an eager look, and his eyes
were fairly dancing with some sort of emotion.

"Hugh, I've got something to tell you!" he burst out with, at which
Thad shot a knowing glance toward his chum, which said as plain as
could be: "There, what did I say to you?"

"All right, Owen, relieve yourself of the load right away, before you
burst," Hugh went on to advise, in his pleasant fashion.

"It's about a certain chap who's under suspicion right now of having
been implicated in that breaking into the Kramer store and robbing

"Tip Slavin, you mean, Owen?" asked Hugh, looking interested at once.

"Yes, no other, Hugh. Well, I've discovered beyond a shadow of a
doubt that he is the guilty partner of Leon Disney, just as everybody



Thad gave utterance to an ejaculation, and then followed it up by

"Well, now, I like that! After all, Hugh, I may not have to bother
giving the Chief that tip you mentioned, if Owen here has discovered
something big. Tell us about it, Owen, please; since you've got us
excited by your news."

"I couldn't get over to practice this afternoon, Hugh, as of course
you noticed," the other commenced to say. "But it wasn't any fault
of mine, I give you my word. I had to do several things around the
house for mother. One of the pipes had frozen and had to be thawed
out. Then there were other jobs that kept me busy for an hour.
Finally, when I began to hope I might get down a short time before
you closed shop, she remembered an errand that would take me out on
the road leading to Hobson's Mill-Pond. I had to go to Farmer
Brown's for some butter and eggs."

All this was said with such a lugubrious expression that Hugh had to

"It's plain to be seen you started on that walk feeling anything but
pleased, Owen," he went on to remark. "Of course you'd much rather
have been skating with the balance of the crowd over at our new rink.
Well, what happened?"

"Just this, Hugh. I was well out of town, and walking briskly along,
thinking of the game we expect to win on Saturday, when someone
suddenly turned a bend ahead. I saw that it was a boy who was
smoking a cigarette like everything,--yes, Tip Slavin, if you please.
He discovered me at about the same second, and, say, you ought to
have seen how he flipped that coffin-nail thing from his lips, and
came on as bold as anything."

Thad chuckled.

"Huh! guess you got him dead to rights that time, Owen. Did you
accuse him of being a thief?" he asked hurriedly.

"Well, hardly, because, you see, I wasn't begging for a fight; and
there's no doubt in the world that's what would have followed. But I
made out as if I hadn't noticed anything out of the way, and just
nodded careless like to Tip as we passed by."

"I admire your way of grasping the situation," said Hugh
impressively, "because already I can guess you had some sort of
scheme in your mind to make use of your discovery."

"Just what I did," chortled Owen. "I walked on, and turned the bend
he had come around. Then I crept back, and peeked, taking care he
didn't glimpse me. When I saw him stop as if deciding on something I
was disappointed, because I expected he meant to come back after it;
but then he seemed to think it not worth while, and later on passed
out of sight in the distance."

"And then you hunted for the cigarette he had thrown away, I
suppose?" ventured Thad.

"Oh! I'd noted the exact spot where he was at the time, and also on
which side of the road he'd tossed the stub; so I didn't have much
trouble about picking it up; after which I continued on my way.
Hugh, here it is."

"With that Owen took something from his pocket, carefully wrapped in
the folds of his handkerchief. It turned out to be a half-smoked
cigarette. Hugh fastened his eyes instantly on some small printing
in blue ink, giving the name of the manufacturers down in Virginia.

"It's the same make as those found under the Disney barn-floor," he
said impressively; "and that alone would be proof that Tip has a
cache somewhere back along the road to the mill-pond, perhaps in a
hollow tree in the woods. A clever police officer could easily find
it by following back Tip's trail, and learning just where he came out
of the woods. I myself happen to know his left shoe has a triangular
patch across the toe,--that would serve to identify the tracks

"Listen to that, will you, Owen?" gasped the wondering Thad. "If my
chum here doesn't take up the line of an investigator of crime for a
livelihood believe me there'll be a great loss to the world. I

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