Part 2 out of 3
The cellar Crows, when they had released each other's bonds, and
groped around the jagged walls, and stumbled foolishly over each other
and all the other tripping things in their dungeons, had succeeded in
forcing apart the wooden doors between their three cells and joining
forces--or joining weaknesses, rather, because, when they finally
found the cellar stairs, they also found that, for all the strength
they could throw into their backs and shoulders, they could not lift
the door, with all the heavy weights put on it by the Dozen. There
were a few matches in the crowd, and they sufficed to reveal the
little cellar windows. These they reached by forming a human ladder,
as the Gauls scaled the walls of Rome (only to find that a flock
of silly geese had foiled their plans). But there were no geese to
disturb the Crows, and the first of their number managed to worm
through to the outer air and help up his fellows in misery.
It seemed for a time, though, as if even this escape were to be cut
off; for a very fat Crow got himself stuck in a little window, and the
Crows outside could not pull him through, tug as they would. Then the
Crows inside began to pull at his feet and to hang their whole weight
on his legs.
But still he stuck.
Then they all grew excited, and both the outsiders and the insiders
pulled at once, until the luckless fat boy thought they were trying to
make twins of him, and howled for mercy.
He might have been there to this day had he not managed, by some
mysterious and painful wriggle, to crawl through unaided.
Before long, then, the whole crowd of cellar Crows was standing out in
the cold air and asking the cupola Crows why they didn't come down.
One of the Crows (Irish by descent) suddenly started off on the run;
the others called him back and asked what he was going for.
"For a clothes-line," he said.
"What are you going to do with it?" they asked.
And he answered:
"Going to throw 'em a rope and pull 'em down."
Then he wondered why they all groaned.
The word "rope," however, suggested an idea to the cupola prisoners,
and after much groping they found the bell-rope, and one of them cut
off a good length of it. They fastened it securely then, and slid down
to the next floor, whence they made their way without much difficulty
down the stairs to the ground. There they found the outer door firmly
locked. Then they felt sadder than over.
But by this time the hubbub they had raised had brought on the scene
several of the instructors, one of whom had a duplicate key of the
gymnasium. And they suffered the terrible humiliation of being
released by one of the Faculty!
On being questioned as to the cause of such a breach of the peace
of the Academy, all the seventeen Crows attempted to explain the
high-handed and inexcusable conduct of the wicked Dozen which had
picked on eighteen defenseless men and made them prisoners. The
instructor had been a boy himself once, and he could not entirely
conceal a little smile at the thought of the cruelty of the Lakerim
Twelve. Just then MacManus came by, and with one accord the Crows
"Where did they tie you up?"
"Down at Moore's restaurant," said MacManus, sheepishly.
"Well, what has happened to the banquet?" they exclaimed.
"It's all eaten!" groaned MacManus.
"Who ate it?" cawed the Crows.
"The Dozen!" moaned MacManus.
And that was the last straw that broke the Crows' backs.
They threatened all sorts of revenge, and some of the smaller-minded
of them went to the Faculty and suggested that the best thing that
could be done was to expel the Lakerim men in a body. But, by a little
questioning, the Faculty learned of the attempted hazing that had been
at the bottom of the whole matter, and decided that the best thing to
do was to reprimand and warn both the Crows and the Dozen, and make
them solemnly promise to bury the hatchet.
Which they did.
And thus ended one of the bitterest feuds of modern times.
Now, Heady, who had set the whole kidnapping scheme on foot as soon
as he joined the Dozen at Kingston, had brought to the Academy no
particular love for study; but he had brought a great enthusiasm for
And this enthusiasm was catching, and he soon had many of the
Kingstonians working hard in the gymnasium, and organizing scrub teams
to play this most bewilderingly rapid of games.
Most of the Lakerimmers went in for pure love of excitement; but when
Heady said that it was especially good as an indoor winter exercise to
keep men in trim for football and baseball, Tug and Punk immediately
went at it with great enthusiasm.
But Tug was so mixed up in the slight differences between this game
and his beloved football, and so insisted upon running (which is
against the rules of basket-ball), and upon tackling (which is against
the rules), and upon kicking (which is against the rules), that
he finally gave up in despair, and said that if he became a good
basket-ball player he would be a poor football-player. And football
was his earlier love.
Sleepy, however, who was the great baseball sharp, made this
complaint, in his drawling fashion:
"The rules say you can only hold the ball five seconds, and it takes
me at least ten seconds to decide what to do with it; so I guess the
blamed game isn't for me."
Out of the many candidates for the team the following regular five
were chosen: For center, Sawed-Off, who was tall enough to do the
"face-off" in excellent style, and who could, by spreading out his
great arms, present in front of an ambitious enemy a surface as big
as a windmill--almost. The right-forward was Heady, and of course the
left-forward had to be his other half, Reddy. Pretty managed by his
skill in lawn-tennis to make the position of right-guard, and the
left-guard was the chief of the Crows, MacManus. The Dozen treated
him, if not as an equal, at least as one who had a right to be alive
and move about upon the same earth with them.
The Kingston basket-ball team played many games, and grew in speed and
team-play till they were looked upon as a terror by the rest of the
Finally, indeed, they landed the championship of the various
basket-ball teams of the academies. But just before they played their
last triumphant game in the League, and when they were feeling their
oats and acting as rambunctious and as bumptious as a crowd of almost
undefeated boys sometimes chooses to be, they received a challenge
that caused them to laugh long and loud. At first it looked like a
huge joke for the high-and-mighty Kingston basket-ball team to be
challenged by a team from the Palatine Deaf-and-Dumb Institute; then
it began to look like an insult, and they were angry at such treatment
of such great men as they admitted themselves to be.
It occurred to Sawed-Off, however, that before they sent back an
indignant refusal to play, they might as well look up the record of
the deaf-and-dumb basket-ball men. After a little investigation, to
their surprise, they found that these men were astoundingly clever
players, and had won game after game from the best teams. So they
accepted the challenge in lordly manner, and in due time the
Palatiners appeared upon the floor of the Kingston gymnasium. A
large audience had gathered and was seated in the gallery where the
Among the spectators was that girl to whom both Reddy and Heady were
devoted, the girl who could not decide between them, she liked both
of them so immensely, especially as she herself was the champion
basket-ball player among the girls at her seminary. Each of the Twins
resolved that he would not only outdo all the rest of the players upon
the gymnasium floor, but also his bitter rival, his brother.
There was something uncanny, at first, in the playing of the
Palatines, all of whom were deaf-mutes, except the captain, who was
neither deaf nor dumb, but understood and talked the sign language.
The game opened with the usual face-off. The referee called the two
centers to the middle of the floor, and then tossed the ball high
in the air between them. They leaped as far as they could; but
Sawed-Off's enormous height carried him far beyond the other man, and,
giving the ball a smart slap, he sent it directly into the clutch of
Reddy, who had run on and was waiting to receive it half over his
shoulder. Finding himself "covered" by the opposing forward, he passed
the ball quickly under the other man's arm across to Heady, who had
run down the other side of the floor. Heady received the ball without
obstruction, and by a quick overhead fling landed it in the high
basket, and scored the first point, while applause and wonderment were
loud in the gallery.
The Kingstonians played like one man--if you can imagine one man with
twenty arms and legs. Sawed-Off made such high leaps, and covered so
well, and sent the ball so well through the forwards, and supported
them so well; the twin forwards dodged and ran and passed and
dribbled the ball with such dash; and the guards were so alert in the
protection of their goal and in obstructing the throwing of the other
forwards, that three goals and the score of six were rolled up in an
amazingly short time.
Sawed-Off was in so many places at once, and kept all four limbs going
so violently, that the spectators began to cheer him on as "Granddaddy
Longlegs." A loud laugh was raised on one occasion, when the Palatine
captain got the ball, and, holding it high in the air to make a
try for goal from the field, found himself covered by the towering
Sawed-Off; he curved the ball downward, where one of the Twins leaped
for it in front; then he wriggled and writhed with it till it was
between his legs. But there the other Twin was, and with a quick,
wringing clutch that nearly tied the opposing captain into a bow-knot,
he had the ball away from him.
At the end of the three goals the Kingstonians began to whisper to
themselves that they had what they were pleased to call a "cinch";
they alluded to the Palatines as "easy fruit," and began to make a
number of fresh and grand-stand plays. The inevitable and proper
result of this funny business was that they began to grow careless.
The deaf-mutes, unusually alert in other ways on account of the loss
of hearing and speech, were quick to see the opportunity, and to play
with unexpected carefulness and dash.
The swelled heads of the Kingstonians were reduced to normal size when
the Palatines quickly scored two goals. It began to look as if they
would add a third score when the desperate Reddy, seeing one of the
Palatine forwards about to make a try for goal, made a leaping tackle
that destroyed the man's aim and almost upset him.
Reddy was just secretly congratulating himself upon his breach of
etiquette when the shrill whistle of the referee brought dismay to his
heart. His act was declared a foul, and the Palatines were given a
"free throw." Their left-forward was allowed to take his stand fifteen
feet from the basket and have an unobstructed try at it. The throw was
successful, and the score now stood 6 to 5 in favor of Kingston.
The game went rapidly on, and at one stage the ball was declared
"held" by the referee, and it was faced off well toward the Palatine
goal. Sawed-Off made a particularly high leap in the air and an
unusually fierce whack at the ball.
To his chagrin, it went up into the gallery and struck the girl to
whom the Twins were so devoted, smack upon her pretty snub nose.
Though the blow was hard enough to bring tears to her bright eyes, she
smiled, and with a laugh and a blush picked up the ball and dropped it
over the rail.
The Twins both made a dash to receive this gift from her pretty hands,
and in consequence bumped into each other and fell apart.
The ball which they had robbed each other of fell into the clutch of
Pretty, who made the girl a graceful bow that quite won her heart.
Pretty was, by the way, always cutting the other fellows out. This was
the only grudge they ever had against him.
The Twins were now more rattled than ever; and Heady determined to
do or die. He saw one of the Palatines running forward and looking
backward to receive the ball on a long pass, and he gave him a vicious
body-check. He knew it was a foul at the time, but he thought the
referee was not looking. His punishment was fittingly double, for not
only did the referee see and declare the foul, but the big Palatine
came with such impetus that he knocked Heady galley-west. Heady went
scraping along a row of single sticks and wooden dumb-bells, making a
noise like the rattle of a board along a picket fence.
Then he tumbled in a heap, with the Palatine man on top of him. As
the Palatine man got up, he dislodged a number of Indian clubs, which
fairly pelted the prostrate Heady. This foul gave the Palatines
another free throw, and made the score a tie.
The Twins were now so angry and ashamed of themselves that they played
worse than ever.
Everything seemed to go wrong with them. Their passes were blocked;
their tries for goal failed; the Palatines would not even help them
out with a foul. In their general disorder of plan, they could do
nothing to prevent the Palatines from making goal after goal till,
when the referee's whistle announced that the first twenty-minute half
was over, the score stood 12 to 6 against Kingston.
The Twins were feeling sore enough as it was, but when they went to
the dressing-room dripping with sweat and gasping for breath from
their hard exertions, Tug appeared to rub salt into their wounds by a
little lecture upon their shortcomings and fargoings.
"Heady," he said, "I guess you have been away from us a little too
long. The Lakerim Athletic Club never approved of foul playing on the
part of itself or any one else, and you got just what you deserved for
forgetting your dignity. I suppose Reddy got the disease from you. But
I want to say right here that you have got to play like Lakerim men or
there is going to be trouble."
The Twins realized the depths of their disgrace before Tug spoke, and
they were too much humiliated in their own hearts to resent his lofty
tone. They determined to wipe the disgrace out in the only way it
could be effaced: by brilliant, clean playing in the second half of
When the intermission was over, they went in with such vim that they
broke up all the plans of the Palatines for gaining goal, and put them
to a very fierce defensive game. Heady soon scored a goal by passing
the ball back to Reddy and then running forward well into Palatine
territory, and receiving it on a long pass, and tossing it into the
basket before he could be obstructed.
But this ray of hope was immediately dimmed by the curious action of
MacManus, who, forgetting that he was not on the football field, and
receiving the ball unexpectedly, made a brilliant run down the field
with it, carrying it firmly against his body. He was brought back with
a hang-dog expression and the realization that he had unconsciously
played foul and given the Palatines another free throw, which made
their score 13 to 8.
A little later Reddy, finding himself with his back to the Palatine
goal, and all chance of passing the ball to his brother foiled by the
large overshadowing form of the Palatine captain, determined to make a
long shot at luck, and threw the ball backward over his head.
A loud yell and a burst of applause announced that fortune had favored
him: he had landed the ball exactly in the basket.
But Heady went him one better, for he made a similarly marvelous goal
with a smaller element of luck. Finding himself in a good position for
a try, he was about to send the ball with the overhead throw that is
usual, when he was confronted by a Palatine guard, who completely
covered all the space in front of the diminutive Heady. Like a flash
Heady dropped to the floor in a frog-like attitude, and gave the ball
a quick upward throw between the man's outspread legs and up into the
And now the audience went wild indeed at seeing two such plays as have
been seen only once or twice in the history of the game.
With the score of 13 to 12 in their favor, the Palatines made a strong
rally, and prevented the Kingstonians from scoring. They were tired,
and evidently thought that their safety lay in sparring for time. And
the referee seemed willing to aid them, for his watch was in his hand,
and the game had only the life of a few seconds to live, when the ball
fell into the hands of Heady. The desperate boy realized that now
he had the final chance to retrieve the day and wrest victory from
defeat. He was far, far from the basket, but he did not dare to risk
the precious moment in dribbling or passing the ball. The only hope
lay in one perfect throw. He held the ball in his hands high over his
head, and bent far back. He straightened himself like a bow when the
arrow of the Indian leaves its side. He gave a spring into the air,
and launched the ball at the little basket. It soared on an arc as
beautiful as a rainbow's. It landed full in the basket.
But the force of the blow was so great that the ball choggled about
and bounded out upon the rim. There it halted tantalizingly, rolled
around the edge of the basket, trembled as if hesitating whether to
give victory to the Palatines or the Kingstons.
After what seemed an age of this dallying, it slowly dropped--
To the floor.
A deep, deep sigh came from the lips of all, even the Palatines. And
down into the hearts of the Twins there went a solemn pain. They had
lost the game--that was bad enough; but they knew that they deserved
to lose it, that their own misplays had brought their own punishment.
But they bore their ordeal pluckily, and when, the next week, they met
another team, they played a clean, swift game that won them stainless
Snow-time set Quiz to wondering what he could do to occupy his spare
moments; for the drifts were too deep for him to continue his beloved
pastime of bicycling, and he had to put his wheel out of commission.
So he went nosing about, trying a little of everything, and being
satisfied with nothing.
The Academy hockey team, of which Jumbo was the leader, was working
out a fine game and making its prowess felt among the rival teams of
the Tri-State Interscholastic League. But hockey did not interest
Quiz; for though he could almost sleep on a bicycle without falling
over, when he put on a pair of skates you might have thought that he
was trying to turn somersaults or describe interrogation-points in the
It was a little cold for rowing,--though Quiz pulled a very decent
oar,--and the shell would hardly go through the ice at an interesting
speed. Indoor work in the gymnasium was also too slow for Quiz, and he
was asking every one what pastime there was to interest a young man
who required speed in anything that was to hold his attention.
At length he bethought him of a sport he had seen practised during
a visit he paid once to some relatives in Minnesota, where the many
Norwegian immigrants practised the art of running upon the skies. At
first sight this statement looks as if it might have come out of the
adventures of that trustworthy historian, Baron Muenchhaeusen. But the
skies you are thinking of are not the skies I mean.
The Scandinavian skies are not blue, and they are not overhead, but
underfoot. Of course you know all about the Norwegian ski, but perhaps
your younger brother does not, so I will say for his benefit that the
ski is a sort of Norwegian snow-shoe, only it is almost as swift as
the seven-league boots. When you put it on you look as if you had a
toboggan on each foot; for it is a strip of ash half an inch thick,
half a dozen inches wide, and some ten feet long; the front end of it
pointed and turned up like that of a toboggan.
When you first get the things on, or, rather, get on them, you learn
that, however pleasant they may grow to be as servants, they are
certainly pretty bad masters; and you will find that the groove which
is run in the bottom of the skies to prevent their spreading is of
very little assistance, for they seem to have a will of their own, and
also a bitter grudge against each other: they step on each other one
moment, and make a wild bolt in opposite directions the next, and
behave generally like a pair of unbroken colts.
Quiz had once learned to walk on snow-shoes. He grew to be quite
an adept, indeed, and could take a two-foot hurdle with little
difficulty. But he soon found that so far from being a help, his
familiarity with the snow-shoe was a great hindrance.
The mode of walking on a Canadian snow-shoe, which he had learned with
such difficulty, had to be completely unlearned before he could begin
to make progress with the Scandinavian footgear. For in snow-shoe
walking the feet must be lifted straight up and then carried forward
before they are planted, and any attempt to slide them forward makes a
woeful tangle; to try to lift the ski off the ground, however, is to
invite ridiculous distress, and the whole art of scooting on the ski
is in the long, sliding motion. It is a sort of skating on incredibly
long skates that must not be lifted from the snow.
Quiz had the skies made by a Kingston carpenter; and he was so proud
of them that, when a crowd gathered to see what he was going to do
with the mysterious slats, he proceeded to make his first attempt in
an open space in the Academy campus. He put the skies down on the
snow, slipped his toes into the straps, and, sweeping a proud glance
around among the wondering Kingstonians, dashed forward in his old
It took the Kingstonians some seconds to decide which was Quiz and
which was ski. For the skittish skies skewed and skedaddled and
skulked and skipped and scrubbed and screwed and screamed and scrawled
and scooped and scrabbled and scrambled and scambled and scumbled
and scraped and scrunched and scudded and scuttled and scuffled
and skimped and scattered in such scandalous scampishness that the
scornful scholars scoffed.
The poor boy was so laughed at for days by the whole Academy that his
spunk was finally aroused. He got out again the skies he had hidden
away in disgust, and practised upon them in the fields, at a distance
from the campus, until he had finally broken the broncos and made a
swift and delightful team of them. He soon grew strong enough to glide
for hours at a high rate of speed without weariness, and the ski
became a serious rival to the bicycle in his affections.
He learned to shoot the hills at a breathless rate, climbing up
swiftly to the top; then, with feet apart, but even, zipping like an
express-train down the steep incline and far along the level below.
He even risked his bones by attempting the rash deeds of old
ski-runners. Reaching an embankment, he would retire a little
distance, and then rush forward to the brink and leap over into the
air, lighting on the ground below far out, steadying himself quickly,
and shooting on at terrific pace.
But this rashness brought its own punishment--as fool-hardiness
[Illustration: "QUIZ LEARNED TO SHOOT THE HILLS AT A BREATHLESS
At dinner, one Saturday, Quiz had broken out in exclamations of
delight over his pet skies, and had begun to complain about the time
when spring should drive away the blessed winter.
"I can't get enough of the snow," he exclaimed.
"Oh, can't you?" said Jumbo, ominously.
Quiz could hardly finish his dinner, so impatient was he to be up and
off again, over the hills and far away. When he had gone, Jumbo asked
the other Lakerimmers if they had not noticed how exclusive Quiz was
becoming, and how little they saw of him. He said, also, that he did
not approve of Quiz' rushing all over the country alone and taking
foolish risks for the sake of a little solitary fun.
The Lakerimmers agreed that something should be done; and Jumbo
reminded them of Quiz' remark that he could not get enough snow, and
suggested a plan that, he thought, might work as a good medicine on
That afternoon Quiz seemed to have quite lost his head over his
ski-running. He felt that there were signs of a thaw in the air, and
he proposed that this snow should not fade away before he had indulged
in one grand, farewell voyage. He struck off into the country by a
new road, and at such a speed that he was soon among unfamiliar
As the day began to droop toward twilight he decided that it was high
time to be turning back toward Kingston. He looked about for one last
embankment to shoot before he retraced his course.
Far in the distance he thought he saw a fine, high bluff, and he
hurried toward it with delicious expectation. When he had reached the
brink he looked down and saw that the bluff ended in a little body of
water hardly big enough to be called a lake. After measuring the drop
with his eye, and deciding that while it was higher than anything he
had ever shot before, it was just risky enough to be exciting, he went
back several steps, came forward with a good impetus, and launched
himself fearlessly into the air like the aeronaughty Darius Green.
He launched himself fearlessly enough, but he was no sooner in mid-air
than he began to regret his rashness. It was rather late now, though,
to be thinking of that, and he realized that nothing could save him
from having a sudden meeting with the bottom of the hill.
He lost his nerve in his excitement, and crossed his skies, so that
when he struck, instead of sailing forward like the wind, he stuck and
went headforemost. Fortunately, one of his skies broke--instead of
most of his bones; and a very kind-hearted snow-bank appeared like a
feather-bed, and somewhat checked the force of his fall. But, for all
that, he was soon rolling over and over down the hill, and he landed
finally on a thin spot in the ice of the lake, and crashed through
into the water up to his waist.
Now he was so panic-stricken that he scrambled frantically out. He
cast one sorry glance up the hill, and saw there the pieces into which
his ski had cracked, as well as the pathway he himself had cleared in
the snow as he came tumbling down. Then he looked for the other ski,
and realised that it was far away under the ice.
He was now so cold, that, dripping as he was, he would not have waded
into the lake again to grope around for the other ski if that ski had
been solid gold studded with diamonds.
Plainly, the only thing to do was to make for home, and that right
quickly, before night came on and he lost his way, and the pneumonia
It was a very different story, trudging back through the snow-drifts
in the twilight, from flitting like a butterfly on the ski. He
realized now that his legs were tired from the long run he had enjoyed
so much. He lost his way, too, time and again; and when he came to a
cross-roads and had to guess for himself which path to take, somehow
or other he seemed always to take the wrong one, and to plod along it
until he met some farmer to put him on the right path to Kingston. But
though he met many a farmer, he seemed to find never a wagon going his
way, or even a hospitable-looking farm-house.
He was still miles away from Kingston when lamp-lighting time came. A
little gleam came cheerfully toward him out of the dark. He hurried
to it, thinking of the fine supper the kind-hearted farmers would
doubtless give him, when, just as he reached the gate of the
door-yard, there was a most blood-curdling uproar, and two or three
furious dogs came bounding shadowily toward him.
He lost no time in deciding that supper, after all, was a rather
useless invention, and Kingston much preferable.
Previously to this, Quiz had always understood that the dog was the
most kind-hearted of animals, but it was months after that night
before he could hear the mere name of a canine without shuddering.
Well, a boy can cover any distance imaginable,--even the path to the
moon,--if he only has the strength and the time. So Quiz finally
reached the outskirts of Kingston.
His long walk had dried and warmed him somewhat; but he was miserably
tired, and he felt that his stomach was as empty as the Desert of
Sahara. At last, though, he reached the campus, and dragged heavily
along the path to his dormitory.
He stopped at Tug's to see if Tug had any remains left of the latest
box of good things from home; but no answer came to his knock, and he
went sadly up to the next Lakerim room. But that was empty too, and
all of the others of the Dozen were away.
For they had become alarmed at Quiz' absence, and started out in
search of him, as they had once before set forth on the trail of Tug
[Illustration: "Jumbo saw a pair of flashing eyes glaring at him over
By the time Quiz reached his room he was too tired to be very hungry,
and he decided that his bed would be Paradise enough. So, all cold and
weary as he was, he hastily peeled off his clothes, and blew out the
light. He shivered at the very thought of the coldness of the sheets,
but he fairly flung himself between them.
Just one-tenth of a second he spent in his downy couch, and then
leaped out on the floor with a howl. He remembered suddenly the look
Jumbo had given him at dinner when he had said he could not get snow
Jumbo and the other fiends from Lakerim had filled the lower half of
his bed with it!
* * * * *
Late that night, when the eleven Lakerimmers came back, weary from
their long search, and frightened at not finding Quiz, Jumbo went
to his room with a sad heart. When he lighted his lamp and looked
longingly toward his downy bed, he saw a pair of flashing eyes glaring
at him over the coverlet. They were the eyes of Quiz; and within easy
reach lay a baseball bat and several large lumps of coal. But all Quiz
"Excuse me for getting into your bed, Jumbo. You are perfectly welcome
But, speaking of cold, you ought to hear about the great fire company
that was organized at the Academy.
The town of Kingston was not large enough or rich enough to support a
full-fledged fire department with paid firemen and trained horses.
It had nothing but an old-fashioned engine, a hose-cart, and a
ladder-truck, all of which had to be drawn by two-footed steeds, the
volunteer firemen of the village.
The Lakerimmers had not been in Kingston many weeks before they heard
the fire-bell lift its voice. It was not more than twenty minutes
before the Kingston fire department appeared galloping along the rough
road in front of the campus at a fearsome speed of about six miles an
Several of the horses wore long white beards, and others of them were
so fat that they added more weight than power to the team.
Such of the academicians as had no classes at that hour followed these
champing chargers to the scene of the fire.
It turned out to be a woodshed, which was as black and useless as a
burnt biscuit by the time the fire department arrived.
But the Volunteers had the pleasure of dropping a hose down the well
of the owner of the late lamented woodshed, and pumping the well dry.
The Volunteers thus bravely extinguished three fence-posts that had
caught fire from the woodshed, and then turned for home, proud in the
consciousness of duty performed. They felt sure that they had saved
the village from a second Chicago fire.
Jumbo said that the department ought not to be called the Volunteers,
but the Crawfishes. B.J., who had a scientific turn of mind, said that
he had an idea for a great invention.
"The world revolves from west to east at the rate of a thousand miles
an hour," he said.
"I've heard so," broke in Jumbo, "but you can't believe everything you
see in print."
B.J. brushed him aside, and went on:
"Now, all you've got to do is to invent a scheme for raising your
fire-engine and your firemen up in the air a few feet, and holding
them still while the earth revolves under them. Then you turn a kind
of a wheel, or something, when the place you want to get to comes
around, and there you are in a jiffy. It would beat the Empire State
Express all hollow. Why, it would be faster even than an ice-boat!"
he exclaimed enthusiastically. "I guess I'll have to get that idea
"But say, B.J.," said Bobbles, in a puzzled manner, "suppose your fire
was in the other direction? You'd have to go clear around the world to
get to the place."
"I didn't think of that," said B.J., dejectedly.
And thus one of the greatest inventions of the age was left
* * * * *
But Tug had also been set to thinking by the snail-like Kingston
"What this place really needs," he said, "is some firemen that can
run. They want more speed and less rheumatism. Now, if we fellows
could only join the department we'd show 'em a few things."
"Why can't we?" said Punk, always ready to carry out another's
"George Washington was a volunteer fireman," was History's
ever-present reminder from the books.
The scheme took like wild-fire with the Dozen, and after a conference
in which the twelve heads got as close together as twenty-four large
feet would permit, it was decided to ask permission of the Academy
Faculty and of the town trustees.
The Kingston Faculty was of the general opinion that it is
ordinarily--though by no means always--the best plan to allow restless
boys to carry out their own schemes. If the scheme is a bad one they
will be more likely to be convinced of it by putting it into practice
than by being told that it is bad, and forbidden to attempt it. So,
after long deliberation, they consented to permit half a dozen of the
larger Lakerim fellows to join the volunteer department.
Fires were not frequent, and most of the buildings of the village were
so small that little risk was to be feared.
The trustees of the village saw little harm in allowing the
academicians to drag their heavy trucks for them, and promised that
they would not permit the boys to rush into any dangerous places.
In a short while, then, the half-dozen were full-fledged firemen, with
red flannel shirts, rubber boots, and regulation hats. The Lakerimmers
were so proud of their new honor that they wanted to wear their
gorgeous uniforms in the class-rooms. But the heartless Faculty put
its foot down hard on this.
The very minute the six--Tug, Punk, Sleepy, B.J., and the Twins--were
safely installed as Volunteers, it seemed that the whole town had
suddenly become fire-proof.
The boys could neither study their lessons nor recite them with more
than half a mind, for they had always one ear raised for the sound of
the delightful fire-bell. They always hoped that when the fire would
come it would be in the midst of a recitation; and Sleepy constantly
failed to prepare himself at all, in the hope that at the critical
moment he would be rescued from flunking by a call to higher
duties. But fate was ironical, and after two or three weeks of this
nerve-wearing existence the Volunteers began to lose hope.
One Saturday afternoon, when the roads were frozen into ruts as hard
and sharp as iron, and when the Dozen had just started forth to take a
number of pretty girls to see a promising hockey game, the villainous
old fire-bell began to call for help.
The half-dozen regretted for a moment that they had ever volunteered
to be Volunteers; but they would not shirk their duty, and instantly
dashed toward the shed where the fire department was stored. They
were there long before any of the older Volunteers, and had a long,
impatient wait. Then there were all manner of delays; breakages had to
be repaired and axles greased before a start could be properly made.
But at last they were off, tearing down the rough roads at a speed
that made the older firemen plead for mercy.
The alarm had come from a man who had been painting a church steeple,
and had seen a cloud of smoke in the direction of the "Mitchell
place," a large farm-house some little distance out of the village
There was a fine exhilaration about the run until they reached the
edge of the town, and began to drag the bouncing, jouncing cart over
the miserable country road. Still they tugged on, going slower and
slower, and the older Volunteers letting go of the rope and falling by
the wayside like the wounded at the hill of San Juan.
Finally even the half-dozen had to slacken speed, too, and walk, for
fear of losing the whole fire department--the chief had already given
out in exhaustion, and insisted upon climbing on one of the trucks
and riding the rest of the way. But at length, somehow or other, the
Kingston Volunteers reached the farm-house at a slow walk, their
tongues almost hanging out of their mouths, and their breath coming in
Strange to say, there were no signs of excitement at the Mitchell
place, though a great cloud of black smoke poured from a huge hollow
sycamore-tree that had been cut off about ten feet from the ground,
and was used as a primitive smoke-house.
The Volunteers looked at this tree, and then at one another, without a
word. Then Mr. Mitchell came slowly toward his gate, and asked why he
had been honored with such a visit.
The only one that had breath enough to say a word was the fire chief,
who had ridden the latter part of the way. He explained the alarm, and
asked the cause of the smoke.
Mr. Mitchell drawled: "Wawl, I'm jest a-curin' some hams."
As they all pegged dismally homeward, the half-dozen thought that
Mr. Mitchell had also just about cured six Volunteers. And when the
half-dozen took off their red flannel shirts that day, they no longer
looked upon them as red badges of courage, but rather as a sort of
The fire department of Kingston had such another long snooze that the
half-dozen began now to rejoice in the hope that there would not be
another fire before vacation-time. They had almost forgotten that they
were Volunteers, and went about their studies and pastimes with the
fine care-freedom of glorious boyhood.
* * * * *
Then came a cold wave suddenly out of the West--a tidal wave of bitter
winds and blizzardy snow-storms, that sent the mercury down into the
shoes of the thermometer.
Things froze up with a snap that you could almost hear.
It seemed that it would be impossible even to put a nose out of the
warm rooms without hearing a sudden crackle, and seeing it drop to the
ground, and the ears after it. The very stoves had to be coaxed and
coddled to keep warm.
Jumbo said: "Why, I have to button my overcoat around my stove, and
feed it with coal in a teaspoon, to keep it from freezing to death!"
The academicians went to and from their classes on the dead run, and
even the staid professors scampered along the slippery paths with more
thought of speed than of dignity.
That night was the coldest that the oldest inhabitant of Kingston
could remember. The very winds seemed to be tearing madly about,
trying to keep warm, and screaming with pain, they were so cold! Ugh!
my ears tingle to think of it. The Lakerimmers piled the coal high in
their stoves, and piled their overcoats, and even the rugs from the
floor, over their beds.
Sleepy, whose blood was so slow that he was never warm enough in
winter and never very warm in summer, even spread all the newspapers
he could find inside his bed, and crawled in between them, having
heard that paper is one of the warmest of coverings. The journals
crackled like, popcorn every time he moved; but he moved very little
and it would have been a loud noise indeed that could have kept him
At a very early hour, then, the Volunteers and the rest of the Dozen
were as snug as bugs in rugs.
And then,--oh, merciless fate!--at the coldest and dismalest hour of
the whole twenty-four, when the night is about over and the day is not
begun, at about 3 A.M., what, oh, what! should sound, even above the
howls of the wind and the rattlings of the windows and doors, but that
fiend of a fire-bell!
It clanged and banged and clamored and boomed and pounded its way even
through the harveyized armor-plate of the Lakerim ship of sleep.
Tug was the first to wake, and his heart almost stopped with horror of
the time the old bell had chosen for making itself heard. Tug was a
brave boy, and he had a high sense of responsibility; but he had also
a high sense of the comfort of a good warm bed on a bitter cold night,
and he lay there, his heart torn up like a battle-field, where the two
angels of duty and evil fought bitterly. And he was perfectly willing
to give them plenty of time to fight it out to a finish.
* * * * *
In another room of the dormitory there was another struggle going on,
though it would be rather flattering to say that they were angels who
were struggling. The Twins had wakened at the same moment, and each
had pretended to be asleep at first. Then each had remembered that
misery loves company, and each had jabbed the other in the ribs, at
the same time.
"What bell is that?" Reddy had asked Heady, and Heady had asked Reddy,
at the same instant.
"It's that all-fired fire-bell!" both exclaimed, each answering the
other's question and his own.
"Jee-minetly! but this is a pretty time for that old thing to break
out!" wailed Reddy.
"It ought to be ashamed of itself," moaned Heady.
"It's too bad," said Reddy; "but a fireman mustn't mind the wind or
"That's so," sighed Heady, "but I'm sorry for you."
"What!" cried Reddy, "you're sorry for _me_! What's the matter with
"Why, I couldn't possibly think of going out such a night as this,"
explained Heady; "you know I haven't been at all well for the last few
"Oh, haven't you!" complained Reddy. "Well, you're twice as well as I
am, and you ought to be ashamed of yourself to shirk your duty this
"Duty! Humph! There's nothing the matter with you! It would be
criminal for me, though, to go out a night like this, feeling as I do.
Mother would never forgive me. But you had better hurry, or you'll be
late," urged Heady.
"Hurry nothing!" said Reddy. "I'm surprised, though, to see you trying
to pretend that you're sick, and trying to send me out on a terrible
night like this when you _know_ I'm really sick."
Then the quarrel waxed fiercer and fiercer, until they quit using
words and began to apply hands and feet. It was not many minutes
before each had kicked the other out of bed, and each had carried half
of the bedclothing with him.
Neither of them remained any longer than was necessary on the cold
floor, but each grabbed up his half of the bedding, and rolled himself
up in it, and lay down with great dignity as far away from the other
as he could get, even though he hung far over the edge.
But the covers had been none too warm all together, and now, divided
into half, the Twins were soon shivering in misery. They stood it
as long as they could, and then, as if by a silent agreement, they
decided to declare a peace, and each remarked:
"I guess we're both too sick to go out such a night as this." And they
were soon asleep again.
* * * * *
When Punk heard the fire-bell, his heart grew bitter at the thought of
the still bitterer night. He did not think it proper for one of
his conservative nature to violate all the rules of health and
self-respect by going out in such rowdy weather.
He peeked over the edge of his coverlet, and saw that his stove was
still glowing, and that his own room was not on fire.
Then he reached out one quick arm and pulled his slippers into bed
with him, and when they were warm enough put them on his feet, wrapped
himself up well, and, running to the window, raised it quickly, thrust
his head out, and looked up and down the campus. This quick glance
satisfied him of two things: first, that none of the beloved Academy
buildings were on fire; and second, that he was never much interested
in the old village, anyway.
So he toddled back to his cozy bed.
B.J. was sleeping so soundly that the fire-bell could not wake him; it
simply rang in his ears and mingled with his dreams. In the land of
dreams he went to all sorts of fires, and saved thirty or forty lives,
mainly of beautiful maidens in top stories of blazing palaces. His
dreamland rescues were as heroic as any one could desire, but that was
as near as he came to answering the call of the Kingston alarm.
* * * * *
As for Sleepy, it is doubtful if the bell would have awakened him if
it had been suspended from his bed-post; but from where it was it
never reached even to his dreams, if, indeed, even dreams could have
wormed their way into his solid slumbers.
* * * * *
Tug's conscience, however, was giving him a sharper pain than he
suffered at the thought of the night outside. At length he could stand
the thought of being found wanting in his duty, no longer.
He flung himself out of bed and into his clothes, his teeth beating a
tattoo, his knees fighting a boxing-match, and his hands all thumbs
with the cold. Then he put on two pairs of trousers, three coats, and
an overcoat, two caps, several mufflers, and a pair of heavy mittens
over a pair of gloves, and flew down the stairs and dived out into the
storm like a Russian taking a plunge-bath in an icy stream. Fairly
plowing through the freezing winds, along the cinder paths he hurried,
and down the clattering board walks of the village to the building of
the fire department.
He met never a soul upon the arctic streets, and he found never a soul
at the meeting-place of the all-faithful Volunteers. What amazed him
most was that he found not even a man there to ring the bell. The
rope, however, was flouncing about in the wind, and the bell itself
was still thundering alarums over the town.
Tug's first thought at this discovery was--spooks! As is usual with
people who do not believe in ghosts, they were the first things he
thought of as an explanation of a mysterious performance.
His second thought was the right one. The hurricane had ripped off the
boarding about the bell, and the wind itself was the bell-ringer.
With a sigh of the utmost tragedy, Tug turned back toward his room. He
was colder now than ever, and by the time he reached the dormitory he
was too nearly frozen to stop and upbraid Punk and the other derelicts
who had proved false at a crisis that also proved false.
The next morning, however, he gathered them all in his room and read
them a severe lecture. They had been a disgrace to the Lakerim ideal,
he insisted, and they had only luck, and not themselves, to credit for
the fact that they were not made the laughing-stock of the town and
And that day the half-dozen sent in its resignation from the volunteer
fire department of the village of Kingston.
It was not long after this that the Christmas vacation hove in sight,
and the Dozen forgot the blot upon its escutcheon in the thought of
the delight that awaited it in renewing acquaintance with its mothers
and other best girls at Lakerim, not to mention the cronies in the
club-house. Each had his plans for making fourteen red-letter days out
of the two weeks they were to spend at home. Peaceful thoughts filled
the hearts of most of them, but B.J. dreamed chiefly of the furious
conflicts that awaited him on the lake, which had been the scene of
many an adventure in his mettlesome ice-boat.
The last days crawled painfully by for all of them, and the Dozen grew
more and more meek as they became more and more homesick for their
mothers. They were boys indeed now, and until they reached the old
town; but there there was such a cordial reception for them from
the whole village--fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, best girls,
cronies, and even dogs--that by the time they had reached the
club-house which had been built by their own efforts, and in which
they were recorded on a beautiful panel as the charter members, they
felt that they were aged, white-haired veterans returning to some
battle-field where they were indeed famous.
A reception was given in their honor at the club-house, and Tug made
a speech, and the others gave various more or less ridiculous and
impressive exhibitions of their grandeur.
After a day or two of this glory, however, they became fellow-citizens
with the rest of the villagers, and were content to sit around the
club-room and tell stories of the grand old days when the Lakerim
Athletic Club had no club-house to cover its head--the days when they
fought so hard for admission to the Tri-State Interscholastic League
of Academies. They were, to tell the truth, though, just a little
disappointed, in the inside of their hearts, that the successors left
behind to carry on the club were doing prosperously, winning athletic
victories, and paying off the debt in fine style--quite as well as if
they themselves had been there.
The most popular of the story-tellers was B.J., whose favorite and
most successful yarn was the account of the great ice-boat adventure,
when the hockey team was wrecked upon Buzzard's Rock, and spent the
night in the snow-drifts, with the blizzard howling outside. The
memory of that terrible escape made the blood run cold in the veins of
the other members of the club; but it aroused in B.J. only a new and
irresistible desire to be off again upon the same adventure-hunt.
Now, B.J.'s father was an enthusiastic sailor--fortunately, not so
rash a sailor as his son, but quite as great a lover of a "flowing
sail." Wind-lover as he was, he could not spend a winter idly, and
turned his attention to ice-boating.
He owned a beautiful modern vessel made of basswood, butternut, and
pine, with rigging all of steel, and a runner-plank as springy as an
umbrella frame. She carried no more than four hundred square feet of
sail; but when he gave her the whip, and let her take to her heels,
she outran the fleetest wind that ever swept the lake.
And she skipped and sported along near the railroad track, where the
express-train raced in vain with her; for she could make her sixty
miles an hour or more without gasping for breath.
She was named _Greased Lightning_.
Now, B.J.'s father had ample cause to be suspicious of that young
man's discretion, and he never permitted him to take the boat out
alone, good sailor as he knew his son to be; so B.J. had to content
himself with parties of boys and girls hilarious with the cold and
speed, and wrapped up tamely in great blankets, under the charge of
his father, who was a more than cautious sailor, being as wise as he
was old, and seeing the foolishness of those pleasures which depend
only on risking bone and body.
But B.J. was wretched, and chafed under the restraint of such
respectable amusement--with girls, too!
And when, in the midst of the holidays, his father was called out
of town, B.J. went to bed, and could hardly fall asleep under the
conspiracies he began to form for eloping on one last escapade with
He woke soon after daybreak, the next morning, and hurried to his
window. There he found a gale of wind blowing and lashing the earth
with a furious rain. The wind he received with welcoming heart, but
the rain sent terror there; for it told him that the ice would soon
disappear, and he would be sent back to Kingston Academy, with never a
chance to let loose the _Greased Lightning_.
"It is now or never!" mumbled B.J., clenching his teeth after the
manner of all well-regulated desperados.
He sneaked into his clothes, and descended the cold, creaking
staircase in his stocking-feet. Then he put on his rubber boots, and
stole out of the house like a burglar.
The wind would have wrecked any umbrella alive; but he cared naught
for the rain, and hurried down the street where the Twins were
sleeping the sleep of the righteous. He threw pebbles at their windows
till they were awakened; and after a proper amount of deliberation in
which each requested the other to go to the window, both went hand in
hand on their shivering toes.
When they had leaned out and learned what B.J. invited them to, they
reminded him that he was either crazy or walking in his sleep.
But B.J. answered back that they were either talking in their sleep or
were "cowardy calves."
The worst of all fools is the one that is afraid to take a dare; and
the Twins were--well, let us say they were not yet wide enough awake
to know what they were doing. At any rate, they could not stand the
banter of B.J., and had soon joined him in the soaking storm outside.
When the lake was reached the Twins were more than ever convinced that
B.J. was more than ever out of his head; for, instead of the smooth
mirror they had been accustomed to gliding over in the boat, they
found that the ice was covered with an inch of slush and water.
The sky above was not promising and blue, nor did the wind have a
merry whizz; but it laughed like a maniac, and shrieked and threatened
them, warning them to go back home or take most dreadful consequences.
B.J., however, would not listen to the advice they tendered him, but
went busily about getting the sails up and preparing the boat for the
The Twins were still pleading with B.J. to have some regard for the
dictates of common sense, when he began to haul in the sheet-rope and
put the helm down; and they had barely time to leap aboard before the
boat was away.
They felt, indeed, that they were sailing in a regular sloop, and
that, too, going "with lee rail awash"; for instead of the soft
crooning sound the runners made usually, there was a slash and a
swish of ripples cloven apart; and instead of the little fountains of
ice-dust which rise from the heels of the sharp shoes when the boat is
skimming the frozen surface, there rose long spurting sprays of water.
The Twins reproached each other bitterly for coming on such a wild
venture. But they did not know how really sorry they were till they
got well out on the lake, where the wind caught them with full force
and proved to be a very gale of fury. The mast writhed and squealed,
and the sails groaned and wrenched, as if they would fairly rip the
The world seemed one vast vortex of hurricane; and yet, for all the
wind that was frightening them to death, the Twins seemed to find it
impossible to get enough to breathe. It was bitter, bitter cold, too,
and Reddy's hands and feet reminded him only of the bags of cracked
ice they put on his forehead once when he had a severe fever.
B.J., however, was as happy as the Twins were miserable, and he yelled
and shouted in ecstatic glee. Now he was a gang of cow-boys at a
round-up; now he was a band of Apache Indians circling fiendishly
around a crew of those inland sailors who used to steer their
prairie-schooners across the West.
Before the Twins could imagine it, the boat had reached the opposite
side of the lake, and it was necessary to come about. Suddenly the
skipper had thrown her head into, the wind, the jib and mainsail were
clattering thunderously, and the boom went slashing over like a club
in the hands of a giant. Before the Twins had dared to lift their
heads again, there was a silence, and the sails began to fill and the
boat to resume her speed quickly in a new direction. In a moment the
_Greased Lightning_ was well under way along a new leg, and sailing as
close as B.J. could hold her.
And now, as the Twins glared with icy eyeballs into the mist ahead,
suddenly they both made out a thin black line drawn as if by a great
pencil across the lake in front of them.
"Watch out, B.J.," they cried; "we are coming to an enormous crack."
"Hooray for the crack!" was all the answer they got from the intrepid
And now, instead of their rushing toward the crack, it seemed to be
flying at them, widening like the jaws of a terrible dragon. But the
ice-boat was as fearless and as gaily jaunty as Siegfried. Straight at
the black maw with bits of floating ice like the crunching white teeth
of a monster, the boat held its way.
Neatly as the boy Pretty ever skimmed a hurdle in a hurdle-race,
the boat skimmed the gulf of water. The ice bent and cracked
treacherously, and the water flew up in little jets where it broke;
but _Greased Lightning_ was off and away before there was ever a
chance to engulf her. And then the heart of the Twins could beat
The boat was just well over the crack when she struck a patch of rough
ice and yawed suddenly. There was a severe wrench. B.J. and Reddy were
prepared for it; but Heady, before he knew what was the matter, had
slid off the boat on to the ice and on a long tangent into the crack
they had just passed.
He let out a yell, I can tell you, and clung to the edge of the
brittle ice with desperate hands.
He thought he had been cold before; but as he clung there now in the
bitter water, and watched B.J. trying to bring the obstinate boat
about and come alongside, he thought that the passengers on the
ice-boat were warm as in any Turkish bath.
After what seemed to him at least a century of foolish zigzagging,
B.J. finally got the boat somewhere near the miserable Heady, brought
the _Greased Lightning_ to a standstill, and threw the dripping Twin
the sheet-rope. Then he hauled him out upon the strong ice.
B.J. begged Heady to get aboard and resume the journey, or at least
ride back home; but Heady vowed he would never even look at an
ice-boat again, and could not be dissuaded from starting off at a
dog-trot across the lake toward home.
Reddy wanted to get out and follow him; but B.J. insisted that he
could not sail the boat without some ballast, and before Reddy could
step out upon the ice B.J. had flung the sail into the wind again, and
was off with his kidnapped prisoner. Reddy looked disconsolately after
the wretched Heady plowing through the slush homeward until his twin
brother disappeared in the distance. Then he began to implore B.J. to
put back to Lakerim.
Finally he began to threaten him with physical force if he did not.
B.J. fairly giggled at the thought of at last seeing one of those
mutinies he had read so much about. But he contented himself with
having a great deal to say about tacking on this leg and on that, and
about how many points he could sail into the wind, and a lot of other
gibberish that kept Reddy guessing, until the boat had gone far up the
At last, to Reddy's infinite delight, B.J. announced that he was going
to turn round and tack home. As they came about they gave the wind
full sweep. The sail filled with a roar, and the boat leaped away like
an athlete at a pistol-shot.
And now their speed was so bird-like that Reddy would have been
reminded of the boy Ganymede, whom Jupiter's eagle stole and flew off
to heaven with; but he had never heard of that unfortunate youth. He
had the sense of flight plainly enough, though, and it terrified him
beyond all the previous terrors of the morning.
As I have said before, different persons have their different
specialties in courage, as in everything else; and while Reddy and
Heady were brave as lads could well be in some ways, their courage
lay in other lines than in running dead before the wind in a madcap
ice-boat on uncertain ice.
The wind had increased, too, since they first started out, and now it
was a young and hilarious gale. It began to wrench the windward runner
clear of the ice and bang it down again with a stomach-turning thud.
In fact, the wind began to batter the boat about so much that B.J.
decided he must have some weight upon the windward runner, or it would
be unmanageable. He told Reddy that he must make his way out to the
end of the see-saw.
Reddy gave B.J. one suspicious look, and then yelled at the top of his
"No, thank you!"
The calm and joyful B.J. now proceeded to grow very much excited,
and to insist. He told Reddy that he must go out upon the end of
the runner, or the boat would be wrecked, and both of them possibly
killed. After many blood-curdling warnings of this sort, the disgusted
Reddy set forth upon his most unpleasant voyage.
He crept tremblingly along the narrow backbone until he reached the
crossing-point of the runner; there he grasped a hand-rope, and made
his way, step by step, along the jouncing plank to the end, where he
wrapped his legs around the wire stay, and held on for dear life.
Reddy's weight gave the runner steadiness enough to reassure B.J.,
though poor Reddy thought it was the most unstable platform he had
stood upon, as it flung and bucked and shook him hither and yon with
a violence that knew no rest or regularity. But, uncomfortable as he
was, and much as he felt like a seasick balloonist, he did not know in
what a lucky position he was, nor how happy he should have been that
it was not even riskier.
There is some comfort, or there ought to be, in the fact that a
situation is never so bad that it might not be worse.
B.J. was now so well satisfied with his live ballast that he began
once more to sing and make a mad hullabaloo of pure enjoyment. He
finally grew careless, and forgot himself and the eternal alertness
that is necessary for a good skipper. Just one moment he let his mind
wander, and that moment was enough. The boat, without warning to
either B.J. or Reddy, jibed!
Reddy, now more than ever astounded, suddenly found himself pitching
forward in the air and slamming on the ice. He slid along it for a
hundred feet or more on his stomach, like a rocket with a wake of
spray and slush for a tail. Reddy was soaked as completely as if
he had fallen into a bath-tub, and his face and hands were cut and
bruised in the bargain.
But his feelings, his mental feelings, were hurt even worse than his
As for the reckless B.J., though he was not so badly bruised as his
unfortunate and unwilling guest, he was to suffer a still greater
torment. He, too, was thrown from the boat into the slush; and by the
time he had recovered himself the yacht was well away from the hope
of capture. But that wilful boat, the _Greased Lightning_, seemed
unwilling to let off her tormentor so easily.
For the astounded B.J., glaring at her as she ran on riderless, saw
her come upon some rough ice, and jolt and ditch her runner, and veer
until she had actually made a half-circle, and was heading straight
All this remarkable change took place in a very short space of time;
but a large part of that small time was spent by B.J. in absolute
amazement at the curious and vicious action of his boat. Then, as the
yacht began to bear down on him with increasing speed, he made a dash
to get out of its path; but his feet slipped on the wet ice, and he
could make no headway.
B.J. saw immediately that one of two things was very sure to happen;
and he could not see how either of them would result in anything but
terrible disaster to him.
For if he should stand still the runner-plank would strike him below
the knee and break both his legs like straws; besides, when he was
knocked over he was likely to be struck by the tiller-runner, which
would finish him completely.
If, on the other hand, he tried to jump into the air and escape the
runner, he stood a fine chance of being hit on the head by the boom,
which would deal a blow like the guard of an express-engine. Before
these two sickening probabilities the boy paused motionless, helpless.
It was the choice of frying-pan or fire.
B.J. decided to take the chances of a battered skull rather than let
both the windward runner and the tiller-runner have a slash at him.
He gathered himself for a dive into the air.
But, just as he was about to leap, a sudden gust of wind lifted the
windward runner off the ice at least two feet.
Like lightning B.J. dropped face down on the ice, and the boat passed
harmlessly over him, the runner just grazing his coat-sleeve.
Having inflicted what seemed to it to be punishment enough, the
_Greased Lightning_ sailed coquettishly on down the lake, and finally
banged into a dock at home, and stopped. B.J. and Reddy made off after
it as fast as they could on the slippery ice with the help of the wind
at their backs; but they never overtook it, and the run served them
only the good turn of warming them somewhat, and thus saving them from
all the dire consequences they deserved for their foolhardiness.
When Reddy reached home, he found that Heady had preceded him. Both
were put to bed and dosed with such bitter medicine that they almost
forgot the miseries they had had upon the lake. But it was many a day
before they would consent to speak to B.J.
When they saw him coming they crossed the street with great dignity,
and if he spoke to them they seemed stricken with a sudden deafness.
B.J.'s troubles did not end with his return home; for, somehow or
other, the escapade with the ice-boat reached his father's ears. And
it is reported that B.J.'s father forgot for a few minutes the fact
that his son was now a dignified academician. At any rate, B.J. took
his meals standing for a day or two, and he could not explain this
strange whim to the satisfaction of his friends.
* * * * *
Every member of the Dozen realized the necessity of keeping the body
clean if he would be a successful athlete, and of keeping his linen
and clothes comely if he would be a successful gentleman. Taken
altogether, the Twelve were exactly what could be called "neat but not
gaudy." But presentable as all of them were, there was none that took
so much pains and pride in the elegances of dress as the boy Pretty,
who won his title from his fondness for being what the others
sometimes called a dude. But he was such a whole-hearted, vigorous,
athletic young fellow, with so little foolishness about his make-up,
that the name did not carry with it the insult it usually conveys.
The chief offense Pretty gave to the less careful of the Dozen was his
fondness for carrying a cane, a practice which the rest of the boys,
being boys, did not affect. But Pretty was not to be dissuaded from
this, nor from any of his other foibles, by ridicule, and the others
finally gave him up in despair.
When he went to Kingston there was a new audience for his devotion to
matters of dress. But at the Academy it was considered a breach of
respect to the upper-classmen for the lower-classmen to carry canes.
Pretty, however, simply sniffed at the tradition, and said it didn't
interest him at all.
Finally a large Senior vowed he would crack the cane in pieces over
Pretty's head, if necessary.
Pretty heard these threats, and was prepared for the man. When the
fatal moment of their meeting arrived, though the Senior was much
bigger than Pretty, the Lakerim youth did not run--at least, he ran
no farther than was necessary to clear a good space for the use of a
little single-stick exercise.
Pretty was no boxer, but he was a firm believer in the value of a good
stout cane. Imagine his humiliation, then, when he found, in the first
place, that the crook of his stick had caught in his coat-pocket and
spoiled one good blow, and, in the second place, that the fine strong
slash he meant to deliver overhead like a broad-sword stroke merely
landed upon the upraised arm of the Senior, and had its whole force
broken. Pretty then had the bitter misery of seeing his good sword
wrenched from his hand and broken across the knee of the Senior, who
very magnificently told him that he must never appear on the campus
again with a walking-stick.
Pretty was overcome with embarrassment at the outcome of his innocent
foppery, and of his short, vain battle, and he was the laughing-stock
of the Seniors for a whole day. But, being of Lakerim mettle and
metal, he did not mean to let one defeat mean a final overthrow. He
told the rest of the Lakerimmers that he would carry a cane anyway,
and carry it anywhere he pleased, and that the next man who attempted
to take it from him would be likely to get "mussed up."
About this time he found a magazine article that told the proper sort
of cane to carry, and the proper way to use it in case of attack; and
he proceeded to read and profit.
Now, inasmuch as Sawed-Off was working his way through the Academy,
and paying his own expenses, without assistance except from what small
earnings he could make himself, it was only natural that he should
always be the one who always had a little money to lend to the other
fellows, though they had their funds from home. It was now Pretty who
came to him for the advance of cash enough to buy a walking-stick of
the following superb description: a thoroughly even, straight-grained
bit of hickory-wood, tapered like a billiard-cue, an inch and a half
thick at the butt and three fourths of an inch thick at the point, the
butt carrying a knob of silver, and the point heavily ferruled.
Pretty had managed to find such a stick in the small stores of
Lakerim. He bought it with Sawed-Off's money, and he practised his
exercises with it so vigorously and so secretly that when he next
appeared upon the campus and carried it, the Senior who had attacked
him before, let him go by without any hindrance. He was fairly
stupefied at the impudence of this Lakerimmer whom he thought he had
thrashed so soundly. He did not know that the main characteristic of
the Lakerimmer is this: he does not know when he is whipped, or, if he
does know it, he will not stay whipped.
But once he had recovered his senses, the haughty Senior did not lose
much time in making another onslaught on Pretty.
When some of his friends were pouring cold water on this Senior's
bruised head a few minutes later, he poured cold water on their scheme
to attempt to carry out what he had failed in, for he said:
"Don't you ever go up against that Lakerim fellow; his cane works like
a Gatling gun."
So Pretty was permitted to carry his cane; and though he swaggered a
little, perhaps, no further attempt was made by the Seniors to take
the stick away from him. They had to content themselves with trying to
throw water on him from upper windows; but their aim was bad.
Pretty had not been home long on his Christmas vacation before he
called at the home of the beautiful girl Enid, who had helped him win
so many tennis games, and who was the best of all the best girls he
devoted himself to, either in Kingston, Lakerim, or any other of the
towns he blessed with his smiling presence.
Enid and Pretty, being great lovers of fresh air, took many a long
walk on the country roads about Lakerim.
One day, when the air was as exhilarating and as electric as the
bubbles in a glass of ice-cream soda, they took a much longer stroll
Then they made a sudden decision to turn homeward; for, rounding
a sharp bend in the road, they saw coming toward them three burly
At the sight of these Three Graces both Pretty and Enid stopped short
in some little uneasiness. The tramps also stopped short, and seemed
to engage in a conversation about the two young people ahead of them
on the road.
Pretty, on account of the extreme neatness of his costume, often got
credit for being a much richer lad than he was. And Enid also was as
careful and as successful in her costumery as Pretty. So the three
tramps probably thought they had before them two children of wealth,
who would be amply provided with pocket-money. But if they had only
known how little the two really had in their possession, the adventure
you are about to hear would never have happened.
But while Pretty was flicking the dirt at the end of his toe with his
walking-stick, and wondering if he really cared to go any farther, the
tramps moved toward him quickly.
Enid, being a girl, was frightened, and did not try to conceal it, but
"Oh, Pretty, let's go home at once!"
Pretty, being a boy, thought he must make a display of courage, even
if he didn't feel it; so, while his heart clattered away in his
breast, and he could hardly find breath to speak, he said with some
show of composure:
"Yes, Enid; I think we have walked far enough for to-day."
Then they whirled about and started for home at a good gait. They had
not gone far when Enid, glancing back over her shoulder, noticed that
the tramps were coming up at a still more rapid walk.
One of them, indeed, called out in a suspiciously friendly tone:
"Hey, young feller, hold up a minute and tell us what time it is, will
"Let's run, Pretty; come on."
But Pretty answered with much dignity:
"Run? What for?" And he turned and called back to the tramp: "I don't
know what time it is."
Then the tramps insisted again that Pretty wait for them to come up.
But when he continued to walk without answering them, they began to
hurl oaths and rocks, and to run toward him. Now Pretty thought that
discretion was the better half of valor, and he seized Enid's wrist
and started off on a run, an act in which she was willing enough to
follow his lead. But he had to explain, just to preserve his dignity:
"They're three to one, you know."
But while Enid understood well enough the necessity for speed, she had
no breath to expend expressing her appreciation of Pretty's delicate
position. She was too frightened to run even as well as she knew
how, and she was going at a gait that was neither very fast nor very
economical of muscle and breath. Pretty, however, ran scientifically:
on the balls of his feet, with his head erect, his chest out, and his
lips tightly locked.
But before long he was doing all the work for two, and laboring like
a ship that drags its anchor in a storm. They came to a hill now, and
here Enid leaned her whole weight upon him. He barely managed, with
the most tremendous determination and exertion, to get her to the top
of this long incline. As they labored up he decided in his own mind,
and told her, that she must leave him and run on for help.
Just one tenth of a second his terrified mind had been occupied with
the thought that he might run on alone and leave her. The tempting
idea of self-preservation had whispered to him that if he stayed
behind, it would only result in disaster to two, while if he ran on
alone, at least one would be saved.
But this cowardly selfishness he put away after the tenth of a second
of thought, and now he was insisting, even against Enid's gasping
objection, that she must run on alone and leave him to take care of
the footpads. He did not know how he was going to do this, but he felt
that upon him devolved the duty of being the zealous rear-guard to
cover the retreat of a vanquished army.
Enid, however, was stubborn, and proposed to stay and fight with him,
even drawing out a very sharp and very dangerous hat-pin to emphasize
her courage. But Pretty, while he blessed her for her bravery and
her full-heartedness, still commanded her to run on and bring help,
promising her that he would keep out of harm's way till help could
come. With this assurance, the poor girl staggered on, gaining
strength from the necessity of speed to save her beloved Pretty.
At the brow of the hill Pretty found himself alone, and turned and
looked at the on-coming trio with defiant sternness. After a moment,
which gave him some much-needed rest and a chance to gain new breath,
he realized that one half a battle is with the warrior that is wise
enough to make the first onslaught. So, after a tremor of very natural
hesitation, the boy dashed full at the three hulkish tramps.
The overgrown brutes were so much taken aback at the change of front
on the part of the young fellow whom they had hoped to run down like a
scared rabbit, that they stopped short in sheer surprise.
But this was only for a moment. Then the leader of the three rushed
forward, with a large club. He carried it high in the air in the same
indiscreet manner in which Pretty had once attacked the Senior.
Just before the tramp and the boy came to close quarters Pretty made
a diving sidelong dodge, and as the tramp's club whisked idly through
the air past him, he dealt the fellow a furious blow across the left
shin. Now, as any one who was ever struck there knows, a man's shin is
as tender as a bear's nose; and the surprised tramp was soon dancing
about in the air, hugging his bruised leg and yowling like a wildcat.
But Pretty had run on past, leaving him to his misery.
Now he came up to the other two, who moved in single file toward
him. The first man Pretty received right upon the point of his cane,
driving the hard metal ferrule straight at the man's solar plexus. The
combination of the man's rush and Pretty's powerful thrust was enough
to lay the wretch upon the ground, writhing and almost unconscious.
For the last thug Pretty had prepared a beautiful back-handed slash
across the face; but the villain, seeing what was in store for him,
dropped down, and rushed at the boy low enough to evade the stick.
Pretty, however, had a check for this move also, and a quick step to
one side saved him from the man's clutch.
Now he recovered himself quickly enough to deliver a vicious whack
straight at the back of the man's head--a blow that would have settled
the tramp's mind for some time to come, but the fellow was running so
fast that Pretty missed his aim, and his stout weapon only dealt a
stinging blow upon the man's left shoulder.
The thug ran on far enough to gain a good vantage-ground, and then,
whirling, came at Pretty again. Now his uplifted hand held an ugly
The look of this was not pleasant to Pretty's eyes; but the excitement
of the situation was much increased when a glance out of the side of
his eye showed him that the first thug had regained enough nerve to
come limping forward in the endeavor to throttle him.
The men were not coming at him in such a way that he could use the
"point-and-butt thrust" that he had learned for such occasions, so he
decided instantly to repeat upon the first thug the shin-shattering
blow that had been so successful before.
As the man came on, then, Pretty gave a terrific backward slash that
caught the tramp's uninjured shin. It was a beauteous shot, and sent
the fellow to his hunkers, actually boohooing with agony.
And now, with another fine long sweep, this time upward, Pretty sent
a smashing blow at the third tramp's upraised arm. The force of the
stroke was alone strong enough to send the knife flying; but, by the
addition of a bit of good luck, Pretty caught the wretch on his crazy
bone, and set him to such a caterwauling as cats sing of midnights on
a back-yard fence.
Leaving the battered Three Graces to their different dances, Pretty
picked up the knife he had knocked from the hand of the third, and
sauntered homeward, adjusting his somewhat ruffled collar and tie as
he went, with magnificent self-possession.
On his way he met the party of rescuers sent to him by Enid, who had
managed to reach town in rapid time. Pretty calmly sent them back to
pick up the three tramps he had left; and these gentlemen were stowed
away in the Lakerim jail, where they cracked rock and thought of their
cracked bones till long after Pretty's Christmas vacation was over.
As for Enid, I will leave you to guess whether or no she thought
Pretty the greatest hero of his age,--or any age,--and whether or no
she gossiped his bravery all around Lakerim long after the Dozen were
away again in Kingston.
The night before the Lakerim contingent went back to the Kingston
Academy, another grand reception was given in their honor at the
club-house; and the Dozen made more speeches and assumed an air of
greater magnificence than ever.
But, nevertheless, they were just a trifle sorry that they had to
leave their old happy hunting-ground. But there was some consolation
in the thought that the life at the Academy would not be one
glittering revel of studies and classes. For the Dozen believed, as
it believed nothing else, that all play and no work makes Jack a dull
The general average of the Dozen in the matter of studies was
satisfactory enough; for, while Sleepy was always at the bottom of his
classes, and probably the laziest and stupidest of all the students
at Kingston, History was certainly at the head of his classes, and
probably the most brilliant of all the students at Kingston.
With these two at the opposite poles, the rest of the Dozen worked
more or less hard and faithfully, and kept a very decent pace.
But the average attainment of the Dozen in the field of athletics was
far more than satisfactory.
It was brilliant.
For, while there was one man (History) who was not quite the all-round
athlete of the universe, and was not good at anything more muscular
than chess and golf, the eleven others had each his specialty and his
They believed, athletically, in knowing everything about something,
and something about everything.
* * * * *
The winter went blustering along, piling up snows and melting them
again, only to pile up more again. And the wind raved in very
uncertain humors. But, snow or thaw, the Dozen was never at a loss to
know what to do.
Finally January was gone, and February, that sawed-off month, was
dawdling along its way toward that great occasion which gives it its
chief excuse for being on the calendar--Washington's Birthday.
From time immemorial it had been the custom at Kingston to celebrate
the natal anniversary of the Father of his Country with all sorts of
disgraceful rioting and un-Washingtonian cavorting. The Lakerim Twelve
were not the ones to throw the weight of their influence against any
traditions that might add dignity to the excitements of school-book
Of the part they took in raising the flag on the tower of the chapel,
and in defending that flag, and in tearing down a dummy raised in
their colors by the Crows in the public square of the village--of this
and many other delightfully improper pranks there is no room to tell
here; and you must rest content with hearing of the important athletic
affair--the affair which more truly and fittingly celebrated the
anniversary of the birth of this great man, who was himself one of the
finest specimens of manhood and one of the best athletes our country
has ever known.
The athletic association from a neighboring school, known as the
Brownsville School for Boys, had sent the Kingstonians an offer to
bring along a team of cross-country runners to scour the regions
around Kingston in competition with any team Kingston would put forth.
The challenge was cordially accepted at once, and the Brownsville
people sent over John Orton, the best of their cross-country runners,
to look over a course two days in advance, and decide upon the path
along which he should lead his team. It was agreed that the course
should be between six and eight miles long. The runners should start
from the Kingston gymnasium, and report successively at the Macomb
farm-house, which was some distance out of Kingston, and was cut off
by numerous ditches and gullies; then at the railway junction two
miles out of Kingston; then at a certain little red school-house, and
then at the finish in front of the campus. It was agreed that the two
teams should start in different directions and touch at these points
in the reverse order. Each captain was allowed to choose his own
course, and take such short cuts as he would, the three points being
especially chosen with a view to keeping the men off the road
and giving them plenty of fence-jumping, ditch-taking, and
obstacle-leaping of all sorts.
The race was to have been run off in the afternoon; but the train was
late, and the Brownsvillers did not arrive until just before supper.
It was decided, after a solemn conference, that the race should be run
in spite of the delay, and as soon as the supper had had a ghost of
a chance to digest. The rising of a full and resplendent moon was a
promise that the runners should not be entirely in the dark.
Tug and the Brownsville chief, Orton, had made careful surveys of
the course they were to run over. It was as new to Tug as to the
Brownsville man. Each of the two had planned his own short cuts, and
even if they had been running over the course in the same direction
they would have separated almost immediately. But when the signal-shot
that sent them off in different directions rang out, they were
standing back to back, and did not know anything of each other's
whereabouts until they met again, face to face, at the end of the
The teams consisted of five men each. The only Lakerim men on the
Kingston team were Tug, the chief, who had been a great runner of
440-yard races, and Sawed-Off, who had won the half-mile event on
various field-days. The other three were Stage, Bloss, and MacManus.
All of them were stocky runners and inured to hardship.
They had come out of the gymnasium in their bathrobes; and when the
signal to start was given, the spectators in their warm overcoats felt
chills scampering up and down their ribs as they noticed that all the
men of both teams, when they had thrown off their bath-robes, stood
clad only in running-shoes, short gymnasium-trunks, and jerseys.
But their heat was to come from within, and once they were started,
cold was the least of their trials.
The two teams broke away from each other at the gymnasium, and bolted
at a wide angle straight across the campus. They all took the first
fence in perfect form, as if they were thoroughbred hunters racing
after a fox.
Quiz and one or two other of the bicycle enthusiasts attempted to
follow one or the other of the two packs; but they avoided the road so
completely that the bicyclists soon lost them from sight, and returned
to watch the finish.
The method of awarding the victory was this: the different runners
were to be checked off as they passed the different stages of the
course, and crossed off as they came across the finish-line. Each man
was thus given the number of his place in the finish, and the total of
the numbers earned by each team decided the match, the team having the
smaller number winning. Thus the first man in added the number 1 to
the total score of his side, while the last man in added 10 to his.
Tug had explained to his runners, before they started out, that
team-work was what would count--that he wished his men to keep
together, and that they were to take their orders all from him.
After the first enthusiasm of a good brisk start to get steam and
interest up, Tug slowed his pace down to such a gait as he thought
could be comfortably maintained through the course.
The Brownsville leader, Orton, however, being a brilliant
cross-country runner himself, set his men too fierce a pace, and soon
had upon his hands a pack of breathless stragglers.
Tug vigorously silenced any attempt at conversation among his men, and
advised them to save their breath for a time soon to come when they
would need it badly.
His path led into a heavy woods, very gloomy under the dim moonlight;
and he had many an occasion to yell with pain and surprise as a low
branch stung him across the head. But all he permitted himself to
exclaim was a warning cry to the others:
The grove was so blind (save for the little clearing at Roden's Knoll,
which Tug and Sawed-Off recognized with a groan of pride) that the
men's shins were barked and their ankles turned at almost every other
step, it seemed. But Tug would not permit any of them the luxury of
In time they were out of the wood and into the open. But here it
seemed that their troubles only increased; for, where the main
difficulty in the forest was to avoid obstacles, the chief trouble in
the plain was to conquer them. There were many barbed-wire fences
to crawl through, the points clutching the bare skin and tearing it
painfully at various spots. The huge Sawed-Off suffered most from
these barbs, but he only gasped:
There were long, steep hills to scramble up and to jolt down. There
were little gullies to leap over, and brooks to cross on watery
stepping-stones that frequently betrayed the feet into icy water.
After vaulting gaily over one rail fence, and scooting jauntily along
across a wide pasture, the Kingstonians were surprised to hear the
sound of other footsteps than theirs, and they turned and found a
large and enthusiastic bull endeavoring to join their select circle.
Perhaps this bovine gentleman was, after all, their very best friend,
for nowhere along the whole course did they attain such a burst of
speed as then. Indeed, none of the five could remember a time in his
life when he made such a spurt.
They reached and scaled a stone wall, however, in time to shake off
the company of this inhospitable host. In the next field there were
two or three skittish colts, which they scared into all manner of
hysterical behavior as they sped across.
Down a country lane they turned for a short distance; and a farmer and
his wife, returning home from a church sociable, on seeing these five
white figures flit past in a minimum of clothing, thereafter always
vowed that they had seen ghosts.
As the runners trailed past a farm-house with never a light to show
upon its front, there was a ferocious hullabaloo, something between
the angry snorting of a buffalo and the puffing of a railroad engine
going up a steep grade. It was the wolfish welcome of three canine
brigands, the bloodthirsty watch-dogs that surrounded and guarded this
lonely and poverty-stricken little farm-house from the approach of any
one evil- or well-intentioned.
Those dogs must have been very sorry they spoke; for when they came
rushing forward cordially to take a few souvenir bites out of the
Lakerim team, Tug and the others stopped short and turned toward them.
"Load!" cried Tug.
And every mother's son of the five picked up three or four large rocks
from the road.
"Aim!" cried Tug.
And every father's son of the five drew back a strong and willing arm.
"Fire!" cried Tug.
And every grandfather's and grandmother's grandson of the five let fly
with a will the rocks his hands had found upon the road.
Those dogs must have felt that they were caught out in the heaviest
hail-storm of their whole experience. Their blustering mood
disappeared in an instant, and they turned for home, yelping like
frightened puppies; nor did they forget, like Bo-peep's sheep, to take
their tails with them, neatly tucked between their legs.
Past as the cross-country dogs ran in one direction, the cross-country
humans ran in the opposite.
Now that they were on a good pike road, some of them were disposed to
sprint, particularly the fleet-footed Stage, who could far outrun Tug
or any of the team.
But Tug thought that wisdom lay in keeping his team well in hand, and
he did not approve of running on in advance any more than he approved
of straggling. Thus the enthusiastic Stage, rejoicing in his airy
heels, suddenly found himself deserted, Tug having seen fit to leave
the road for a short cut across the fields; and Stage had to run back
fifty yards or more and spend most of his surplus energy in catching
up with the team.
It was a merry chase Tug led his weary crew: through one rough ravine
where the hillside flowed out from under their feet and followed them
down, and where they must climb the other side on slippery earth,
grasping at a rock here and a root there; then through one little
strip of forest that offered him an advantageous-short cut. Here again
he silenced the protests of his men at the thick underbrush and the
frequent brambles they encountered. Just at the edge of this little
grove Tug put on an extra burst of speed, and was running like the
wind. The others, following to the best of their ability, saw him
about to pass between two harmless posts.
Suddenly they also saw him throw up his hands and fall over backward.
When they reached him they saw that he had run into a barbed-wire
fence in the dark.
They were doubly dismayed now, because they not only had lost their
leader, but were themselves lost in some part of the country where
they knew neither the landmarks nor the points of the compass. They
helped Tug cautiously to his feet, and, for lack of a better medicine,
rubbed snow upon the ugly slashes in his breast and legs.
"This ends the race, as far as we are concerned," moaned Bloss.
But Tug had recovered enough from his dizziness to shake his head and
mane lion-like, and cry:
"Not much! Come on, boys!"
And before the restraining hand of Sawed-Off could stop him, Tug had
somehow wormed himself through the barbed-wire fence and was off
across the open; and they were sore put to it to catch up with him
Suddenly, as the devoted four followed their leader, the first
station, the farm-house at which they were to report, loomed
unexpectedly upon the horizon, approached in some unknown way by Tug,
who was threading his way through the wilderness with more regard for
straight lines than for progress. They were named off, as they flew
past, by a watcher stationed there, and without pause they made
off toward the railroad junction. Once they thought they saw a few
fleeting forms in the distance, and they guessed that they must be
Orton and his Brownsville team; but they could not feel sure, and no
closer sight of their rivals was vouchsafed to them.
When the last station, the little red school-house, had been passed,
they began to feel that there was some hope of their reaching home.
They began also to feel the effect of their long, hard journey. Their
sides hurt them sorely, their legs ached, and their breath came faster
than they wished.
MacManus now showed more serious signs of weakening than any of the
rest. He straggled along the way with feet that seemed to get into
each other's path, and with a head that wabbled uncertainly on his
Tug fell back and ran alongside him, trying to console and encourage
him to better speed. MacManus responded to this plea with a spurt, and
suddenly broke away from the four and ran wildly ahead with the speed
He came upon a little brook frozen across with a thin sheet of
ice. Here he found a log that seemed to have been placed, either
providentially or by some human being, to serve as a foot-bridge.
MacManus leaped gaily on it to cross the stream ahead of the rest.
To his breathless dismay, the log turned under his foot; and wildly as
he tried to get a good grip on the atmosphere, nothing could save him,
and he went ker-smash and ker-splash through the thin ice into the