Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Jim Ludwig
THE SCRANTON HIGH CHUMS ON THE CINDER PATH
The Mystery of the Haunted Quarry
by Donald Ferguson
I. The Five Nut Foragers
II. On the old Quarry Road
III. Talking of Ghosts
IV. In Training for the Great Tournament
V. Treachery in the Air
VI. The Prowler
VII. Caught in the Act
VIII. Leon Promises to Reform
IX. Scranton in Gala Attire
X. When Muscles Counted
XI. The Crisis in Claude's Life
XII. Startling News from the Juggins Boy
XIII. To the Rescue of "K.K."
XIV. The Searching Party
XV. Prowling Around the Quarry
XVI. A Friendly Ghost
XVII. Scranton's "Open-House" Day
XVIII. The Great Marathon Race
XIX. On the Final Mile of the Course
XX. The Boy Who Won---Conclusion
THE FIVE NUT FORAGERS
The bright October sun was half-way down the western sky one Saturday
afternoon. Two-thirds of the Fall month had already gone, and the air
was becoming fairly crisp in the early mornings.
All around the forest trees were painted various shades of bright
scarlet, burnt umber brown and vivid gold by the practiced fingers
of that master artist, the Frost-King. Flocks of robins and blackbirds
were gathering rather late this year, preparatory to taking their
annual pilgrimage to the warm Southland. They flew overhead at times
in vast numbers, making a tremendous chatter.
A noisy bunch of crows cawed unceasingly amidst the treetops as a large,
lumbering old automobile passed along the country road, the same filled
with lively boys, and also a number of sacks stuffed to their utmost
capacity with what appeared to be black walnuts, shell-bark hickories,
butternuts, and even splendid large chestnuts. Apparently, the strange
and deadly blight that was attacking the chestnut groves all through
the East had not yet appeared in the highly favored region around the
town of Scranton, in which place the boys in question lived, and
attended the famous high school where Dr. Carmack, also supervisor of
the entire county schools, held forth.
The five tired lads who formed this nutting party we have met before
in the pages of previous stories in this series; so that to those who
have been fortunate enough to possess such books they need no lengthy
First, there was Hugh Morgan, looking as genial and determined as ever,
and just as frequently consulted by his comrades, because his opinion
always carried considerable weight. Then came his most intimate chum,
Thad Stevens, who had played the position of backstop so successfully
during the summer just passed, and helped to win the pennant for
Scranton against the other two high schools of the country, situated
in the towns of Allendale and Belleville.
Besides these two, there was included in the party a tall chap who
seemed to be acting as chauffeur, from which it might be judged that
he had supplied the means for taking this nutting trip far afield; his
name was Kenneth Kinkaid, but among his friends he answered to the
shorter appellation of "K.K." Then came a fourth boy of shorter
build, and more sturdy physique, Julius Hobson by name; and last,
but far from least, Horatio Juggins, a rather comical fellow who
often assumed a dramatic attitude, and quoted excerpts from some
school declamation, his favorite, of course, being "Horatio at the
It was "K.K." who got up the annual foraging expedition on this
particular year, and promised that they should go in style in the
antiquated seven-passenger car belonging to his father, who was a
commercial traveler, which car "K.K." often used, when he could raise
the cash to provide sufficient gasolene at twenty-five cents per
gallon. But on this momentous occasion each fellow had chipped in
his share pro rata; so that the generous provider of the big, open
car was not compelled to beg or borrow in order to properly equip
For ten days and more previously some of the boys had industriously
interviewed the farmers who stood in the market-place during the early
mornings, selling the products of their acres. Doubtless numerous
good mothers wondered what caused such an early exodus from warm beds
those days, since farmers had a habit of getting rid of their produce
at dawn, and driving off home while most schoolboys were indulging in
their last nap.
But, by various means, they had learned just where the nuts grew most
plentifully that season; and quite a list of available places had
been tabulated: to the Guernsey Woods for blacks; plenty of shagbarks,
and some sheilbarks to be gathered over at the old Morton Place,
where no one had lived these seven years now; and they said the
chestnuts away up in that region miles beyond the mill-pond was
bearing a record crop this season, as if to make amends for lean
Scranton was one of the few places where the boys still yearned
after a goodly supply of freshly gathered nuts to carry them through
a long and severe winter. Somehow they vied with one another in the
gathering of the harvest of the woods, and often these outings yielded
considerable sport, besides being profitable to the nutters. On one
momentous occasion the boys had even discovered the hive of a colony
of wild bees, cut the tree down, fought the enraged denizens by means
of smoke and fire, and eventually carried home a wonderful stock of
dearly earned honey that would make the buckwheat cakes taste all
the sweeter that winter because of the multitude of swellings it
cost the proud possessors.
Hugh had been coaxed to join the party; not that he did not fully
enjoy such enterprises, but he had laid out another programme for that
afternoon. All through the morning these same lads had been hard at
work on the open field where Scranton played her baseball games, and
had such other gatherings as high-school fellows are addicted. Here
a fine new cinder path had been laid around the grounds, forming an
oval that measured just an eighth of a mile, to a fraction.
All through the livelong day on Saturdays, and in the afternoons during
weekdays, boys in strange-looking running costumes of various designs
could be seen diligently practicing at all manner of stunts, from
sprinting, leaping hurdles, engaging in the high jump, with the aid
of poles; throwing the hammer; and, in fact, every conceivable exercise
that would be apt to come under the head of a genuine athletic
For, to tell the secret without any evasion, that was just what
Scranton designed to have inside of another week---a monster affair
that included entries from all other schools in the county, and which
already promised to be one of the greatest and most successful meets
Hugh and his chums were every one of them entered for several events;
indeed, it would have been like looking for a needle in a haystack
to try and find a single Scranton boy above the age of ten, and sound
of wind, who had not taken advantage of the generous invitation to
place his name on the records, and go in for training along a certain
line. Those who could not sprint, leap the bars, throw hammer or
discus, or do any other of the ordinary stunts, might, at least, have
some chance of winning a prize in the climbing of the greased pole,
the catching of the greased pig, the running of the obstacle race,
or testing their ability to hop in the three-legged race, where each
couple of boys would have a right and left leg bound together, and
then attempt to cross a given line ahead of all like competitors.
So even when they started out after lunch the whole five were a bit
tired; and a vast store of nuts, like the one they were fetching home,
cannot be gathered, no matter however plentiful they may be on ground
and trees, without considerable muscular effort on the part of the
Consequently, every fellow was feeling pretty stiff and sore about the
time we overtake them on the way home. Besides, most of them had
zigzag scratches on face and hands by which to remember the
wonderfully successful expedition for several days. Then there was
Julius Hobson with a soiled handkerchief bound around his left thumb,
which he solicitously examined every little while. He had, somehow,
managed to catch a frisky little squirrel, which, wishing to take
home, he had imprisoned in one of his side pockets that had a flap;
but, desirous of fondling the furry little object, he had incautiously
inserted his bare hand once too often; for its long teeth, so useful
for nut cracking, went almost through his thumb, and gave his such
an electric shock that in the confusion the frightened animal managed
to escape once more to its native wilds.
Hugh, as he went along toward home, was really taking mental notes
concerning the lay of the land, and with an object in view. He was
entered for the fifteen-mile Marathon race (an unusually long distance
for boys to run, by the way, and hardly advisable under ordinary
conditions), and one of the registering places where every contestant
had to sign his name to a book kept by a judge so as to prove that he
had actually reached that particular and important corner of the
rectangular course, had been the quaint little old road tavern just
half a mile back of them.
"You're wondering just why I'm so curious about the country up here,
I can see, fellows," Hugh was saying about the time we meet them,
"and, as we all belong to the same school, and our dearest wish is to
see Scranton High win the prize that is offered by the committee in
the Marathon, I don't mind letting you in. I know something about
this country up here, and have traced on a surveyor's chart the
ordinary course a fellow would be apt to take in passing from the
second tally post, that old tavern back of us, along this road to
the canal, and from there across the old logging road to Hobson's
Pond, where there's going to be the last registering place before
the dash for home. Well, I've figured it out that a fellow would
save considerable ground if he left this same road half a mile below,
and cut across by way of the Juniper Swamp trail, striking in again
along about the Halpin Farm"
His remarks created no end of interest, for there were several others
among the bunch who had also entered for that long-distance race; and,
naturally, they began to figure on how they might take advantage of
Hugh's discovery. It was all for the honor and credit of good old
Scranton High; so that it really mattered little just which fellow
crossed the line first, so long as he "saved the bacon."
"It sounds pretty fine to me, Hugh," said Julius, "only I don't like
"What's that, Julius?" demanded the Juggins boy.
"By following that Juniper Swamp trail and the old road Hugh mentions,
we'd have to pass close to that deserted stone quarry; and say, the
farmers all vow it's sure haunted."
ON THE OLD QUARRY ROAD
When Julius made this assertion, the other fellows looked at each other
in what might be said to be a queer way. In fact, they had all heard
certain absurd stories told in connection with the old quarry that had
not been worked for so many years that the road leading to it across
country had grown up in grass and weeds. Some adventurous boys who
went out there once declared it was a most gruesome place, with pools
of water covered with green scum lying around, and all sorts of holes
looking like the cave Robinson Crusoe found on his island home to be
seen where granite building rocks had been excavated from the
It was K.K. who laughed first, actually laughed scornfully, though
Julius took it all so seriously. Thad Stevens followed with a chuckle,
after his peculiar fashion.
"You give me a pain, Julius, you certainly do," ventured K.K.
"To think," added Thad, assuming a lofty air of superior knowledge,
"of a fellow attending Scranton High believing the ridiculous yarns
these uneducated tillers of the soil and their hired help pass around,
about there being some sort of a genuine _ghost_ haunting the old
quarry---why, it's positively silly of you, Julius, and I don't mind
telling you so to your face."
"Oh, hold on there, fellows!" expostulated the other boy; "I didn't
say that I really and truly believed any of those awful stories, did I?
But so many different persons have told me the same thing that, somehow,
I came to think there _might_ be some fire where there was so much
smoke. Of course, it can't be a ghost, but, nevertheless, there are
queer goings-on about that deserted quarry these nights---three
different people, and one of them a steady-going woman in the
bargain, assured me they had glimpsed moving lights there, a sort of
flare that did all sorts of zigzag stunts, like it was cutting signals
in the air."
"Hugh, do you think that could be what they call wild-fire, or some
folks give it the name of will-o'-the-wisp, others say jack-o'-lantern?"
demanded Horatio Juggins, who had been listening intently while all
this talk was going on.
"I'd hardly like to say," replied Hugh thoughtfully. "As a general
thing that odd, moving light is seen in low, damp places. Often it
is noticed in graveyards in the country, and is believed to be induced
by a condition of the atmosphere, causing something like
phosphorescence. You know what a firefly or lightning bug is like,
don't you, Horatio? Yes, and a glow-worm also? Well, they say that
there are black-looking pools of stagnant water lying around the old
quarry; and yes, I think the lights seen might come from just such
"That sounds all very well, Hugh," continued Julius, "but what about
the terrifying cry that sometimes wells up from that same place?"
"A cry, Julius, do you say?" exclaimed Horatio, his eyes growing round
now with increasing wonder and thrilling interest, "do you really and
truly mean that, or are you only joshing?"
"Well," the narrator went on to say soberly, "two fellows told me
they'd heard that same shriek. One was hunting a stray heifer when
he found himself near the quarry, and then got a shock that sent him
on the run all the way home, regardless of trees he banged into, for
it was night-time, with only a quarter-moon up in the western sky.
The other had laughed at all such silly stories, and to prove his
bravery concluded to venture out there one night when the moon was
as round as a cartwheel. He got close to the deserted workings when
he too had a chill as he heard the most outlandish cry agoing, three
times repeated, and---well, he grinned when he confessed that it took
him just about one-fifth the time to get back home that he'd spent in
"Whee! perhaps there may be some sort of wild animal in one of the
caves they tell about up there?" ventured Horatio. "I'm not a believer
ghosts, and I don't consider myself a coward, either; but all the same
it'd have to be something pretty big to induce me to walk out there to
that same lonely quarry after nightfall. Now laugh if you want to, K.K."
"Well," interrupted Hugh, just then, "we're approaching the place right
now where that old quarry road I spoke of starts in. I'd like ever
so much to take a look at that same quarry, by daylight, mind you.
Is there any objection, fellows, to our testing out that road right
now? It used to be a pretty fair proposition I've been told, so far
as a road goes, and I think we could navigate the same in this car.
K.K. how do you stand on that proposition, for one?"
"Count me in on anything that promises an adventure, Hugh," came the
prompt reply. "There is plenty of gas in the tank, and if we do get
a puncture on the sharp stones we've got an extra tube along, with
lots and lots of muscle lying around loose for changing the same.
That's my answer, Hugh."
"Thad, how about you?" continued the shrewd Hugh, well knowing that
by making an individual appeal he would be more apt to receive a
favorable response, because it goes against the average boy's pride
to be accounted a weakling, or one addicted to believing old wives'
fairy stories of goblins, and all such trash.
"Oh, count me in, Hugh," responded the other, with an indifference that
may possibly have been partly assumed; but then Thad Stevens was
always ready to back his enterprising chum, no matter what the other
"Horatio, it's up to you now!" Hugh went on remorselessly, as K.K.
stopped the car at a signal from the other, and faint signs of what
had once been a road were to be distinguished just on the left.
"Majority rules, you know," said the wise Juggins boy, "and already
three have given their assent; so it's no back-out for little Horatio."
"Course I'll agree, Hugh," quickly added Julius, when he saw that the
other had turned toward him. "I'm just as curious as the next fellow
to see that old haunted quarry---in the daytime, of course. Besides,
everybody knows there isn't any such thing as a ghost. All such stories,
when they're sifted down, turn out to be humbugs. Sometimes the moving
spectre is a white donkey browsing alongside the road. Then again I've
heard of how it was a swing that had a white pillow left in it by the
children, and the night wind caused it to advance and retreat in a
_terrible_ way. Hugh, let's investigate this silly old business while
we're on the spot."
And by these wonderfully brave words Julius hoped to dissipate any
notion concerning his alleged timidity that may have lodged in the
brains of his chums.
So K.K. started up again, and by another minute the old car had passed
in among the trees, with the overgrown brush "swiping" against the
sides every foot of the way. It was necessary that they proceed
slowly and cautiously, because none of them had ever been over that
long disused road before, and all sorts of obstacles might confront the
bold invaders of the wilds.
Hugh was using his eyes to good advantage, and at his advice the others
did the same. It was a good thing the car was old, and that it
mattered nothing how those stiff branches scraped against the sides
during their forward progress. K.K. knew how to manage, all right,
and, although the trail was quite rough in places where the heavy
rains had washed the earth away, and left huge stones projecting,
he was able to navigate around these obstacles successfully.
Twice they came to low places where water ran, and there was some
danger of the heavy car becoming mired. At such times several of the
boys would jump out, and after investigating the conditions perhaps
throw a mass of stones and pieces of wood in, to make what Hugh
called a sort of a "corduroy road" across the swampy section of ground.
It was all very interesting in the bargain, and, for the time being,
the boys even forgot the fact that they were exceedingly tired.
Then they seemed to be gradually ascending a grade, where the road
turned out to be somewhat better.
"I imagine we're getting close to the quarry now, fellows," Hugh
informed them; "if what I was told is true. It will lie over here
on the right, and only for the dense growth of trees with their
foliage still hanging on, we might see the cliff forming the background
of the quarry right now."
Julius and Horatio looked around them with increasing interest, and
perhaps a slight flutter of unusual vigor in the region of their hearts.
It was about as gloomy a scene as any of them had ever gazed upon.
Years had elapsed since work in the stone quarry had been abandoned,
and Nature, as usual, had done her best to hide the cruel gashes made
in her breast by man; the trees had grown and spread, while bushes
and weeds extended their sway so as to almost choke everything
around. The distant cawing of the crows sounded more gruesome than
ever amidst such surroundings; but there was no sign of bird-life to
be seen. It was as though the little feathered creatures found this
region too lonely even for their nest building. Not even a red or
gray squirrel frisked around a tree, or boldly defied the intruders
of his wilderness haunt.
"There, I just had a glimpse of the place through an opening!" suddenly
announced Hugh; "I calculate that we'll soon come in plain sight of
the whole business, for this road leads straight across the dumps, I
was told, and then on again in the direction of Hobson's Pond."
The sun was passing behind the first cloud of the whole day just then.
Somehow the added somber conditions had an effect on all the boys; for,
with the temporary vanishing of the king of day, the shadows around
them appeared to grow bolder, and issue forth from their secret
"Ugh! this is certainly a fierce place for a fellow to visit, say
around midnight," K.K. was forced to admit, for he was the essence of
candor at all times.
"Wild horses couldn't drag me up here at such a time as that," said
Horatio, as he looked ahead, and shivered, either with the chill of
the air, or from some other reason, he hardly knew himself.
"Hugh, would you try it if someone dared you to?" demanded Julius
suddenly, taking the bull by the horns, so to speak.
"I don't think I would, on a dare," replied the other calmly, yet
deliberately, as he smiled at the speaker; "but if there was any
good and sufficient reason for my doing the same, I'd agree to come
alone, and spend a whole night in the deserted quarry. However, I'm
not particularly _hankering_ after the experience, so please don't
try to hatch up any wild scheme looking to that end. If you want to
come, Julius, you're welcome to the job."
Julius shuddered, and looked a bit pale at the very thought.
"Oh! I wasn't even dreaming of it, Hugh," he hastened to declare. "I'd
much prefer to being asleep in my own comfy bed at home when midnight
comes around, and the last thing on earth you'd catch me doing would be
out hunting spooks."
It was just as Julius finished saying this that they received a
sudden shock. A loud and thrilling sound, not unlike a human shriek,
came to their ears, filling each and every boy in the car with a
sense of unmitigated horror. It was so exceedingly dreadful that K.K.
involuntarily brought the auto to a full stop, and then turned a face
filled with mingled curiosity and awe upon his comrades.
TALKING OF GHOSTS
"That was no crow cawing, boys, believe me!" ejaculated K.K.
"Crow! Well, I should say not!" added Horatio instantly. "If you asked
me right to my face I'd mention a donkey braying. Gee! but it was
"But what would a donkey be doing away up here at the old quarry,
where there hasn't been a stroke of work done these many years; tell
me that?" demanded Julius defiantly.
"I don't believe it was a donkey," said Hugh, shaking his head, as
though he, too, found himself exceedingly puzzled; "but I'm not in a
position to explain the thing. That was certainly a queer noise, for
"Extraordinary!" assented Thad Stevens.
"Well, I should call it perfectly awful!" Horatio clipped in.
"Horrible would be a better word to describe it," eagerly followed
Julius, who, it must be confessed, was trembling all over; of course,
not with fear, or anything like that, but just because of excitement,
he assured himself.
"And," continued the sensible Hugh, "if that's the sort of noises
these farmer folks have been bearing right along, I don't wonder some
of them have been nearly scared out of their wits. It was bad enough
in broad daylight, with the sun shining; so what must it have seemed
like in the moonlight, or when it was pitch dark?"
"Wow! excuse me from coming up here after dusk," muttered Julius. "I'm
no ghost-hunter, let me tell you. I know my weak points, and seeing
things in the night-time used to be one of the same. They had a great
time breaking me of it, too. Even now I sometimes dream of queer
things when I've got the nightmare, after eating too big a
Thanksgiving dinner; and when I wake up suddenly I'm all in a sweat,
and a poor old moth fluttering at the window will give me a start,
thinking it's the tiger getting in my East Indian bungalow."
"Well, what's the program, Hugh?" asked K. "Shall I start up again,
so we can continue our journey along this tough old road; or do you
want to get out, and take a hunt around the quarry for the thing that
gave those yawps?"
"Get out?" repeated Julius, in a sudden panic; "not for Joseph. Don't
count on _me_ for any such silly business. I came up here to get
walnuts and such; and I'm meaning to stick close to my engagement.
Side issues can't tempt me to change my mind. Guess I know when I'm
"It's been several minutes since we heard that sound," Hugh went on
to remark; "and, so far, it hasn't been repeated."
"Oh! it came three times, you remember, Hugh," suggested K.K.; "and,
like in baseball, I reckon it's three times and out. Whatever it was
let out those screeches it's certainly quieted down. How about going
on now, Hugh?"
"If I was alone," mused the other, "I really believe I'd be half
tempted to take a prowl around, and find out if I could what all the
row meant. I never like to pass anything up, when my curiosity is
"Oh, come back again some other time, Hugh, when you're not booked
for getting home!" sang out Horatio. "If you put it to a vote I
don't believe anybody in this bunch would seem wild to back you up
right now. Fact is, I can hear our supper-bell calling me ever so
loud. Hey! boys, how about that?"
"Let's get a move on!" Julius hastened to reply, so that there could
be no mistaking his sentiments, at least.
Julius was followed by K.K., although the latter shrugged his shoulders
as he added:
"Perhaps it looks timid in us doing what we mean to, but really this
is none of our business, and we might get in some trouble bothering
around here. I read about a house that was said to be haunted,
which story a daring reporter said he'd investigate. He spent a night
there, and actually captured the ghost, who turned out to be just
an ordinary man, living on a place adjoining the haunted estate.
He owned up to being the pallid specter that had been giving the
house such a bad name; and said he wanted to buy the property in for
a song, as it would find no other purchaser if it had such an evil
reputation. Now, maybe somebody wants this quarry for thirty cents,
and this is his way of scaring other would-be purchasers away. We
don't want to butt in on any such game, you see."
Hugh and the others laughed at such a clever explanation.
"Whatever the truth may be," said Hugh, "I hardly believe it'll turn
out anything like that, K.K. But you might as well start on. We're
only losing time here, and it seems as though the thing doesn't mean
to give us another sample of that swan song."
"For which, thanks!" sighed Julius. "I know music when I hear it, and
if that's what they call a song of the dying swan excuse me from ever
listening to another. I can beat that all hollow through a megaphone,
and then not half try."
So the chauffeur started up, and they were soon moving along the rough
road that had once, no doubt, been kept in repair, when the heavy
wagons carried out the building stone quarried from the hillside, but
which was now in a pretty bad shape.
Two minutes afterwards and the road took them directly alongside the
quarry dump, where the excavated earth had been thrown. They could
now see the cliff rising up alongside. It looked strangely bleak,
for, of all things, there can hardly be a more desolate sight than
an abandoned stone quarry, where the weeds and thistles have grown up,
and puddles of water abound.
Of course, the boys all stared, as they slowly wound along the road
in full view of the entire panorama that was being unrolled before
their eyes. They noted how in places there seemed to be deep fissures
along the abrupt face of the high cliff. These looked like caves,
and some of them might be of considerable extent, judging from their
"If this great old place chanced to be nearer town," said K.K.,
managing to get a quick glimpse, although, as a rule, he needed all
his attention riveted on the rough road he was trying to follow, "I
reckon some of the fellows would have high times exploring those
same holes in the hill."
"It's just as well then it's as far distant as happens to be the case,"
Hugh told him; "because the doctors in Scranton would have broken arms
and legs galore to practice on. That same old quarry would make a
That was Julius uttering a startled exclamation. He gripped Horatio
so severely by the arm that he must have pinched the other. At any
rate, Horatio gave a jump, and turned white; just as though his nerves
had all been stretched to a high tension, so that anything startled him.
"Hey! what did you do that for?" snapped Horatio, drawing away. "Think
you're a ghost, Julius, and feel like biting, do you? Well, try
somebody else's arm, if you please"
"But didn't any of the rest of you see it?" gasped the said Julius,
not deigning to quarrel over such a trivial thing as a pinch.
"See what?" asked Steve, still staring hard at the quarry, which
they were by now fairly well past.
"Well, I don't know exactly, what it was," frankly admitted the
disturber of the peace. "But it moved, and beckoned to us to come
on over. You needn't laugh, Steve Mullane, I tell you I saw it
plainly right over yonder where that big clump of Canada thistles
is growing. Course I'm not pretending to say it was a man, or yet a
wolf, but it was something, and it sure did move!"
Hugh was looking with more or less interest. He knew how things
appear to an excited imagination, and that those who believe in
uncanny objects seldom have any trouble about conjuring up specters
to satisfy their own minds.
So all of them, save, perhaps, the driver, kept their eyes focussed
on the spot mentioned by Julius until the first clump of trees shut
out their view of the old stone quarry and its gruesome surroundings.
"I looked as hard as I could," said Horatio, "but never a thing did I
see move. Guess you've got a return of your old malady, Julius, and
you were seeing things by daylight, just as you say you used to in
"The only explanation I can give," spoke up Hugh, and, of course,
every one lent a willing ear, because, as a rule, his opinions carried
much weight with his chums; "is that while Julius may have seen
something move, it was only a long, feathery plume of grass, nodding
and bowing in the wind. I've been fooled by the same sort of object
many a time. But let it pass, boys. We've turned our back on the old
quarry now, and are headed for the road again, two miles above Hobson's
mill-pond. I only hope we find it better going on this end of the
abandoned trail. This jumping is hard on the springs of the car, and
also on our bones."
"For one," said Julius, "I hope never to set eyes on the place again."
"Oh! that's silly talk, Julius," commented K.K. "Here's Hugh, who
means to take a run out this way again as soon as he can, so as to
time himself, and learn just what he can save by cutting across
country in the big race. And I wouldn't be surprised if he put
'Just' Smith up to the dodge, in addition to Horatio here and myself,
all being entered as contestants in the big Marathon race."
"I certainly feel that way, K.K.," admitted Hugh firmly. "It strikes
me this is going to be worth trying. If one of our crowd can save
time by taking this route, while the other fellows go all the way
around by road, that same thing may give Scranton High the clinching
of the prize. It's all fair and square, too, for the conditions
only demand that the runners refuse all sorts of lifts while on the
road, and register at each and every tally place designated. If they
can cut a corner they are at liberty to do so."
"Oh! well," said Julius; "I'm not entered in the Marathon, luckily
enough, so you see there's no need of my prowling around this spooky
place again. I haven't lost any quarry, that I know of; and Scranton
is a good enough place for me to do my athletic exercises in. But,
Hugh, if you should happen to find out about the thing that emitted all
those frightful squawks, I hope you'll promise to let us know the
"I can promise that easily enough, Julius," the other told him; "though,
just at present, my only concern is to gain time by this cut-off, and
so win the big event for our school. Now suppose we drop this subject,
and return to something pleasant."
They continued to bump along the rocky road with its deep ruts. At
times K.K. had to make little detours in order to navigate around
some obstacle which could not be surmounted; for time had not dealt
lightly with the quarry road, and the rains and wintry frosts had
played havoc with its surface.
But, eventually, they sighted light ahead. Steve was the first to
glimpse an opening, and announce that the main highway leading down
to Scranton must be close at hand. His words turned out to be true,
and soon afterwards they issued forth from the covert and found
themselves upon the turnpike, headed for home.
Hugh turned around to mark the spot well in his mind, though he knew
that it was to be the exit, and not the entrance, to the short-cut, in
case he concluded to utilize the quarry road when the great race was on.
IN TRAINING FOR THE GREAT TOURNAMENT
It was an afternoon on the following week, after school hours, and the
athletic field bordering the outskirts of the town of Scranton afforded
a pretty lively spectacle. Indeed, it could be readily seen that the
approaching tournament had taken a great hold upon the young people of
Scores of boys were busily engaged in various exercises, under the
watchful eye of Mr. Leonard, the assistant principal under Dr. Carmack.
This determined-looking young fellow was a college graduate, and had
taken considerable interest in all manner of athletics; indeed, it was
well known that he had played on one or more of the college teams
during his course, and won quite an enviable reputation for good work,
though hardly reckoned a brilliant star.
Many who did not expect to participate in any of the numerous events
had gathered to watch what was going on; and, besides, there were
clusters of pretty high-school girls on the side lines, chattering
like magpies, and venting their opinions regarding the chances certain
favorites among their boy friends appeared to have in the way of winning
Scores were busily engaged in running around the cinder-path, taking
the high jump, trying the hurdles, so as to perfect themselves against
the coming Saturday when the wonderful event was to come off; sprinting
for the short races of fifty, or a hundred yards; throwing the discus
or the hammer, and numerous other lively doings.
Among these participants there were a number whom the reader of
previous volumes in this series will readily recognize, and possibly
gladly meet again. There was Alan Tyree, for instance, whose masterly
pitching had done so much to land the pennant of the Three Town High
School League that season for Scranton; Owen Dugdale, the efficient
shortstop of the local nine; "Just" Smith, whose real name it happened
was Justin, but who seldom heard it outside of school and home. He
was a fleet runner, and had ably filled the position of left fielder
when Scranton carried the school colors to victory over Allandale in
that last heart-breaking game. Besides these, Joe Danvers was on
deck, doing all sorts of wonderful stunts at throwing the hammer and
taking the long jump, for Joe delighted in a variety of specialties
and did not confine himself to any one particular thing; also might
be seen one Claude Hastings, a chap who was a regular monkey in his
way, and who always kept the crowd laughing by his antics, such as
might be expected of a prize clown at the big Barnum and Bailey circus.
Yes, and there was Nick Lang, as big as life, running like the wind
around the cinder-path and looking as though he might have a pretty
fair chance to carry off some sort of prize. Nick had for a long time
been the town bully. He was not a rich man's son; in fact, Nick's
folks were poor, and some people even thought the big, overgrown
boy should be at work helping to keep the wolf from the door, instead
of still attending high school and making himself a nuisance to
decent folks through his delight in practical jokes and his bullying
But even those who detested Nick Lang the most were willing to admit
that he was a pretty fair athlete and could even have excelled along
several lines if only he were able to control that nasty temper of
his and "play fair."
There were two other fellows, who were cronies of Nick's, and who,
apparently, had entered for some of the events, because both Leon
Disney and Tip Slavin were in evidence and hard at work practicing.
Nick secretly hated, even as he also feared, Mr. Leonard, because the
under-teacher had once cowed him and made him "eat humble pie" before
the whole class; but, being a wise as well as pugnacious boy, Nick
managed to keep his feelings under control, and when Mr. Leonard was
around he usually behaved himself.
Later in the afternoon, when most of the boys out for practice had
become more or less tired from their exertions, they gathered here and
there in little bunches to exchange "chaff," and express their
opinions concerning various matters that had a bearing on the coming
So Hugh Morgan found himself in a cluster that contained several of
his chums, as well as a sprinkling of other fellows. A trio of
lively high school girls hovered near, and occasionally joined in
the conversation. They were Sue Barnes, whom Hugh usually counted on
as his partner when any dance was given in the country, or at
singing-school during the winter evenings; Ivy Middleton, Thad's
choice for company, because she was both jolly and genial; and pretty
Peggy Noland, whom Owen Dugdale liked, as had also Nick Lang, though
the latter had of late been badly snubbed by the scornful Peggy
because she could not stand for his rowdy ways.
"Mr. Leonard says he's fully satisfied with the way most of the fellows
are showing up," Joe Danvers was saying, about that time.
"Well, we can't afford to loaf, for a fact," remarked Just Smith,
soberly. "Let me tell you something, fellows. I was down in Paul
Kramer's sporting emporium just last evening, when who should walk in
but Big Ed. Patterson, the Allandale pitcher, who came so near to
downing us last summer. He looks as fine as silk, and told me privately
he calculates on carrying off that prize offered for hammer throwing,
because that is his pet hobby, you see Yes, and more than that, he
said they were all crazy up at his 'burg' over the big meet, boys
being out practicing every sort of stunt, even to road-running by
"That sounds good to me," Hugh observed, not appearing to show any
sign of alarm over the stirring news. "It means we'll have a wonderfully
successful affair. Who carries off the prizes is a matter for the
different schools to take care of, and those of us who believe in
clean, honest sport only hope the best fellows win."
"Huh!" grunted Owen Dugdale, "it goes to show that Allandale is all
worked up over losing the baseball pennant to Scranton, and means to
get even by carrying off the majority of the prizes our committee has
offered for the dozen or more events to be contested for."
"But he also informed me," continued the bearer of news, "that over
in Belleville they were just as much excited as in his town, so that
every fellow who'd entered for any event, even to climbing the greased
pole or the sack race, was diligently practicing his particular stunt.
Oh! it's just going to be the greatest athletic tournament ever held
in this section of the country, believe me."
Some of the more timid among the boys seemed to think that Scranton
would come out second best when the great meet was a thing of the past;
but others only found themselves more determined than ever to win,
after learning how their rivals had entered into the affair with
heart and soul.
Hugh's often-expressed motto that the "best man should win" found an
echo in the majority of their hearts, and they vied with each other in
promising to give every ounce of ability to doing Scranton High credit.
Mr. Leonard came around to have a few words with his boys. He was
a great favorite with the majority of the scholars under his charge,
and to his clever method of coaching they attributed considerable
of their success on the diamond of recent months. If only his rules
were strictly adhered to it was possible that Allandale and Belleville
might be due for another rude surprise when they came over, bent on
carrying off the majority of the high honors.
"It is going to be no easy sledding for anybody,---remember that,
fellows," the athletic instructor went on to say, after he had been
told how both adjoining towns entered in the meet were striving
with might and main to excel in every sort of event. "No matter
who wins he'll only get there by doing his level best. That's all
Scranton High asks of her representatives. Let there be no loafing,
and if some of our good friends from A and B succeed in carrying away
a few of the prizes, why, we'll know they earned the right, and are
welcome to their reward. And now, I'd like to see you runners try
one more ten-minute sprint, every one of you in a bunch, as a sort
of wind-up for the day."
Accordingly they ran off to the starting-point and lined up, each
assuming his particular favorite crouching attitude, which he seemed
to think best fitted for a speedy "get-away" when the signal was
They ran like colts, and some displayed amazing speed, considering that
they had been diligently working out on that same cinder-path for over
two hours, with little intermissions between for resting.
Those who expected to take part in the Marathon did not attempt to
compete with those fleet sprinters, though if they were pressed
doubtless they too could give quite an exhibition of fast running.
But Mr. Leonard had taken great pains to inform them that the successful
long-distance runners always take things moderately easy in the
beginning of a race, preserving as much vigor as possible for the
gruelling finish. The chief idea was to keep just behind the pace-maker,
and be ready to rush to the front when on the home-stretch. The
fellow best able to preserve his full powers for that last half-mile
dash would be the one to carry off the honors.
Nick Lang was there with the rest, watching Hugh out of the tail of
his eye, as if he considered that in the other he would find his chief
competitor; possibly he hoped to be able to pick up valuable points by
keeping watch and ward on Hugh. Hugh had even consulted Mr. Leonard
with regard to making use of his knowledge concerning that "cut-off."
In fact, he wanted to lay any doubt that may have arisen in his own
mind concerning its being perfectly legitimate that he should profit
by such knowledge.
The athletic instructor assured him he was keeping fully within the
conditions of the race in so doing.
"It is any competitor's privilege to go over the route as often as he
pleases," was the way Mr. Leonard put it; "and so long as he conforms
to the rules, such as keeping on his own feet every yard of the way,
accepting no lift from wagon or car, and registering faithfully at
the several stations provided, he has done all that is expected of
him. If by crossing a field he thinks he can cut off fifty feet or
more he is at liberty to make the attempt, although it may cost him
dear, through his meeting with some unexpected obstacle in his
progress, which would not have occurred had he stayed by the road.
Some fellows might believe they could do better than trying to cross
by way of that overgrown quarry road. Yes, you are keeping well
within the letter of the law in choosing your own way of going, Hugh.
Have no fears on that score, my boy."
Mr. Leonard liked Hugh Morgan exceedingly; though that was not to be
wondered at, because Hugh was one of those boys who would never stoop
to do a tricky thing, no matter what allurements it held out; he
always "played square," and even won the high regard of his rivals in
many cases. When the October sun had reached the horizon the multitude
of contestants and spectators commenced to string back to town, for it
would soon be getting near supper time; and no fellow likes to be late
at the table, especially when he feels as hungry as a bear, after
exercising so violently for hours.
Hugh was starting off alone, when Thad Stevens called out that he'd like
the other to "hold up a minute," until he could overtake him; because
it happened he had something to communicate which he thought Hugh ought
TREACHERY IN THE AIR
"Hugh, it looks to me like there's a hen on," was what Thad Stevens
said, as he joined his chum.
"That's a queer remark for you to make, Thad," the other chuckled;
"after seeing what's been happening here on our athletic field this
afternoon, I'd be likely to say there were a good many score of hens
setting, each hoping to hatch out one of our dandy prizes next Saturday."
"Oh! you understand that I mean something crooked going on, Hugh,"
Thad hastened to add.
"That sounds serious enough. What do you know, Thad? The chances are
ten to one if anything in the way of trickery is contemplated I can put
my hand on the fellow who's guilty of the same."
"Sure thing, Hugh, and his name is Nicholas in the bargain. They call
him Young Nick, to distinguish him from his father who's dead and gone;
but sometimes people say he's a regular Old Nick when it comes to
playing mean jokes, and getting into trouble of all kinds."
"What's Nick Lang been up to now, Thad?"
"Oh just spying on you, for one thing!" exclaimed the other angrily
"He's welcome to chase around after me as often as he pleases," said
Hugh; "much good will it do him, I'm thinking. But tell me, why
should he go to all that bother, when my going out and coming-in
don't interfere with his happiness a whit?"
"Hugh, Nick is on to your scheme for making use of that short-cut
across by way of the old deserted quarry!"
"You don't tell me?" Hugh observed. "Well, I came near speaking to
him about it myself, Thad. You see, Nick is entered for the Marathon,
just the same as a number of other Scranton High boys are. If K.K.,
Just Smith, and several other fellows are to have the benefit of that
cutoff, if they choose to avail themselves of it, why shouldn't Nick
be included, I've been asking myself? Yes, and I'd about concluded
it was my duty to let him know; but if, as you say, he's found out
for himself I'll be saved all the bother of telling."
"He followed you across yesterday, Hugh. By a mere accident I heard
him telling Tip Slavin, and he seemed to think it a good joke, because
you never once suspected he was spying on you from behind trees and
bushes. Why, he says he followed you clear across to the road again."
Hugh shrugged his shoulders.
"Then I give Nick full credit for carrying out a clever piece of
business. I never once remember suspecting that anybody was around.
But, Thad, what's worrying you? There isn't anything about that
discovery to excite you."
"Hugh, that boy means to do something mean, and it's got a connection
with the short-cut quarry road in the bargain!"
Hugh turned and looked at the speaker a little gravely.
"I suppose now you've got some good reason for making that accusation,
Thad?" he ventured.
"Yes, I have," came the quick reply. "I heard him say something to
that other sneak which I couldn't just catch, but it started Tip
laughing like everything. He slapped a hand down on his knee, and
went on to say: Fine, Nick, finer than silk! I bet you he'll be as
mad as hops if he finds himself caught in such a trap, and loses the
race. You can depend on me every time. My affair comes off right
in the start, and I can easy get out there on my wheel long before
the first runner heaves in sight. I'll coach Pete Dudley in his part,
just as you were saying. It's the greatest trick you ever hatched
up, Nick, the very greatest! Now, you can judge for yourself, Hugh,
whether it's safe for you to try to cross by that same quarry road
when the big Marathon race is on."
Hugh seemed lost in thought for a brief interval. When he spoke again
there was a settled look of grim determination on his face that Thad
could easily understand, knowing the other as well as he did.
"It isn't my way to show the white feather when the first cold wind
starts to blowing, Thad, and no matter what Nick is planning to do
I'm not going to give him the first chance to profit by my discovery
of that short-cut route from road to road."
"That means you decline to be shoved off the path, does it, Hugh?"
"If I start in that race, as I expect to," Hugh told him, "I intend
to make use of that short-cut, no matter if a dozen Tip Slavins,
and Pete Dudleys are lying in wait to trip me up. But I'm much
obliged to you all the same, Thad, for your warning. I'll be on my
guard from this time on, and they're not going to trap me with my
eyes blinded, I tell you that."
Thad seemed to be lost in thought himself for a minute or so. Possibly
he was trying to figure out how he could best serve his comrade in such
an emergency. The gloomy woods surrounding the old quarry did not
possess any attraction in the eyes of Thad Stevens. Though he had not
shown the same degree of alarm as Horatio and Julius at the time they
heard those remarkable sounds, so like human shrieks, nevertheless,
Thad felt no hankering after another similar experience.
Still he would brave much in order to help the chum whose interests
were so dear to his own heart. He did not say what was in his mind,
only looked a bit wise, as he once more turned to Hugh, as though his
mind had been finally made up.
"Just as you think best, Hugh," he went on to say quietly. "It may
be that one or more of the other fellows will be taking advantage
of that same old road, and there's safety in numbers, you know, they
say. Nick is likely to get his fingers burned if he attempts any of
his silly tricks. What do you suppose now he could plan to have
those chaps do? They wouldn't want to really hurt you, because that
might get them in bad with Captain Wambold, our police head. Can you
think of any fool play he'd be apt to conjure up, such as might make
Tip say it was the best and slickest scheme he'd ever heard about?"
"Nick has so many wild ideas that he's likely to attempt nearly
anything," said Hugh. "If he could find a good place where a runner
would have to keep to the road I even believe he'd try to dig a deep
pit, and cover the same over, just as the wild-animal catchers do in
Africa, when they go out after big game for the menageries and zoos."
"Why, would that work, do you think, Hugh?" cried the startled Thad,
mentally picturing his chum crashing through a false roadbed, and
dropping down into a deep hole from which, alone and unaided, he
could not hope to escape until much time had elapsed, and all hope
of winning the big Marathon was lost.
"It might have done so if I hadn't chanced to possess a wide-awake
chum, who gave me due warning, and caused me to keep a sharp lookout.
As it is, if I glimpse a suspicious spot in my path I'll fight
mighty shy of the same; or by a big leap give it the go-by. Of
course, there might be other ways in which they could hope to detain
me, such as dropping down on my shoulders from a tree, and with their
faces covered so I couldn't recognize them."
Thad looked grave.
"Yes, they could do that, for a fact," he admitted. "Seems to me
you'll have to keep one eye aloft all the while, Hugh, while the
other is watching the ground for treachery. I must say this is a fine
state of affairs. Not only does Scranton High have to go smack up
against all the best runners of Allandale and Belleville, but be on
the lookout for treachery at home besides. I'd give something to be
one of a bunch of indignant fellows to take Nick Lang and his two
pals out to the woods some fine night, and give the same a coat of
tar and feathers, or else ride them on a rail. They're a disgrace
to the community, and Scranton ought to take them in hand right
away. That boy will set the town on fire yet I'm thinking, with his
"He will, unless he soon sees a light, and turns over a new leaf,"
admitted Hugh, who, it seems, had an idea of his own in connection
with the said Nick, which, perhaps, he might find an opportunity
to work out one of these days; but which he did not care to confide
to his chum, because he knew Thad would be apt to consider it impossible,
"There they go now, Hugh," suddenly remarked Thad in an undertone.
"You see, he has both Tip and Leon along with him, and they're
grinning as they look over this way. I warrant you Nick has been
elaborating on that fine scheme of his; and, in anticipation, they
can already see you held up in that lonely place, kicking your toes
at the bottom of a miserable pit, or else tied to a tree."
"Don't scowl so savagely, Thad," warned Hugh. "There's no need of
letting them understand we're on to their game. The advantage always
lies in catching the other fellow off his guard. Let's laugh while we
walk past, as if we'd been figuring out how a certain prize was already
dangling close to our fingertips."
So Thad managed to "take a brace," profiting by the sage advice of his
comrade; and, as they passed Nick and his two cronies, Hugh remarked
as pleasantly as he could:
"I've been watching you run to-day, Nick, and I honestly believe you
are right up with the topnotchers in the game. There may be some
surprises next Saturday for those who think they've got it all figured
out who's going to win the prizes. And Nick, as far as I'm concerned,
I'd like to see you take the long-distance prize, honestly and cleanly,
if I can't get it myself. You're a representative of Scranton High,
Nick, and we're all out to see the old school do herself proud."
Nick seemed taken aback by these hearty words on the part of the
fellow whom he had so long sought an opportunity to injure. He
shot a hasty glance, accompanied by the uplifting of his heavy eyebrows,
toward his companions, who, thereupon, catching a sly wink, perhaps,
both chuckled audibly as though amused.
"Oh! I've already as good as copped that Marathon prize," Nick went
on to say, at the same time thrusting out his chin in his customary
aggressive and boastful fashion. "I calculate to give the folks some
surprise by the ease with which I'll come in away ahead of the next
competitor. There'll be a wheen of those who also ran, bringing up
the tail of the procession. Long-distance is my best suit, and I've
waited a while to show up certain chaps in this town who think they
are just the thing. Don't worry about me, Morgan; Nick Lang generally
gets there when he throws his hat into the ring."
At that the other two laughed uproariously, as though they thought
the joke too good for anything. Possibly they took Nick's reference
to "those who also ran" to mean Hugh Morgan particularly; and in their
minds they could see him desperately trying to break his bonds; or
climb up out of the deep pit into which he had gone crashing when
the covered mattress, formed of slender twigs and dead leaves, had
given way under his weight.
Hugh and Thad walked on, the latter fairly boiling with ill-suppressed
"That fellow always gives me a pain, Hugh," he was saying, as they
increased the distance separating them from the still merry trio in
the rear. "He is really the meanest boy you could find in all the
towns of this country. But fellows like him sometimes catch a Tartar;
so, perhaps, it might happen in this case," and Thad, who evidently
had something on his mind, would not commit himself further, as they
walked on in company.
There had been considerable of a change in connection with the big
open field where the boys of Scranton were allowed by the town council
and mayor to play baseball, and also football, since summer waned.
Somehow the success that attended the work of Scranton High in
the battles of the Three Town League, as narrated in an earlier
volume of this series, seemed to have stirred up many of the leading
citizens. Besides, Mr. Leonard, the efficient under-principal of the
high school, with a genuine love and sympathy for all boys in his heart,
had kept things at boiling pitch.
Consequently there was, first of all, a move made to lease that splendid
field for a long term of years, from the owner, so that the young people
of Scranton might have some central place to gather for all sorts of
outdoor games and sports.
So subscriptions were started looking to collect a fund with which not
only to erect some sort of decent grandstand, but a building that would
contain a number of conveniences such as most athletic grounds and
similar institutions can boast.
This building had now been completed, and the boys were in full
possession. It contained, among other things, a score and more of
lockers, where the one who paid a small fee could keep his "fighting
togs," as Thad Stevens was wont to term his baseball clothes, or it
might be the scanty raiment he wore when exercising on the athletic
field, running, or boxing, or wrestling.
Each boy who hired such a locker, of course, carried the key to the
same; and when engaged in practice work rested easy in the belief that
his street garments were securely taken care of.
There was also a shower-bath and a pool in the building, as well as
several other conveniences that could be used in the summer time during
the hot weather. The boys arranged to take turns in shifts with regard
to keeping the building clean, and thus far the scheme had worked very
well; for the town did not care to go to the extra expense of hiring
Besides this, a high fence was ordered to be built around the entire
grounds, for most other towns had their athletic fields enclosed. It
would keep the rowdy element from disturbing the players when any
game was in progress; and, as a small admission fee might often be
asked, having one or two gates through which admission to the grounds
could be obtained would facilitate matters greatly.
But this was not all. Scranton had awakened to the fact that nature
had been rather unkind to her young people, in that there was no large
lake, or even so much as a small river close by her borders. When the
boys and girls of the town felt inclined to skate after a sharp freeze
along about New Year's Day, they had to walk all the way out to
Hobson's mill-pond, situated between half and two-thirds of a mile away.
This was not so bad for some of the sturdy chaps, but there were others
who disliked taking such long tramps, especially after violent
exercising for hours, it might be, on the ice.
So, after mature deliberation, and receiving valuable suggestions from
Mr. Leonard, as well as others who had seen similar things successfully
carried out in various places, it had been arranged to flood the field
after winter had fully set in. Then, during the time of severe weather,
the young folks would have a splendid sheet of ice right at their doors,
a comfortable retreat into which they could go to warm up, or to put
on and remove their skates.
Here various games were expected to be indulged in, as the weather
permitted; and already a fine hockey Seven had been organized, under
the leadership of Hugh Morgan, with a promise of many exciting games
against rival teams.
The high board fence was being erected, but would hardly be completed
before Spring; still, it gave an air of business to the grounds, and
the boys had already begun to congratulate themselves over the great
stride forward Scranton had taken in the way of catering to her rising
Of course, there were those in the town---you can always find a few in
every community---who seriously objected to so much "good money being
wasted," as they termed it, on such trivial things, when Scranton
really needed an up-to-date library building in place of the poor
apology for one that had to serve.
These people, doubtless from worthy motives, though they were
short-sighted in their opposition, lost no opportunity for running down
the entire enterprise. The person who, perhaps, had more influence
than any of the others, and was more vehement in deriding the "foolish
expenditure of funds along such silly lines, instead of trying to
elevate the standard of reading among Scranton's young people," was
the rich widow, Mrs. Jardine.
She had a son named Claude, whose life was rendered miserable by the
lofty ambition of his mother to make him a genius. She never ceased
talking upon all sorts of elevating subjects; and where other boys
were allowed to lead normal lives, and have lots of innocent if
strenuous fun during vacations, and holidays, poor Claude led a life
He was rather an effeminate-looking boy, tall and slender, with a
face entirely destitute of color such as would indicate abounding
spirits and good health; but it was no wonder, everyone knew how he
was being made such a "sissy" of by his doting "mamma." despite all
this there seemed to be a spark of ordinary boyish spirits concealed
under Claude's superior airs. He sometimes stood and watched the
other fellows engaged in playing prisoner's base, or some such
rough-and-tumble game, with envy. Once upon a time his mother,
chancing to pass along the street in her fine car, was horrified to
discover her darling Claude actually taking part in some "rowdy game,"
in which he scrambled with the rest just as vehemently, and was,
moreover, even worse off than the other boys with regard to soiled
garments and disheveled hair. Evidently the long suppressed spirit
of the lad had broken bounds, and for once he allowed himself to be
The other fellows never tired of telling how she had called to him
almost frantically, as though she believed he had become inoculated
with some deadly germ, and must be contaminated, bundling the boy into
the car, and actually crying with dismay when she found that he
actually had a scratch upon his nose, which had been bleeding. But it
was also noticed that Claude grinned at his late fellow wrestlers as
he was borne triumphantly away, as though to emphasize the fact that
he had, at least, enjoyed one real period of excitement in his life,
to remain as a bright spot for many days.
Hugh had often wondered whether there might not be some way through
which this deluded mother might be shown what a terrible error she
was making in bringing up her boy to be so inane and useless. He
needed physical development more than any other fellow in Scranton
High. Constant feeding upon lofty ideas, and never given a chance
to develop his muscles, was wrecking his health. Mr. Leonard had
even gone to Mrs. Jardine and entreated her to let him undertake a
moderate programme of athletic exercises with Claude; but he might
as well have tried to lift the high-school building as to make her
change her set ideas.
Hugh and Thad had been out on a particular night after supper, visiting
another boy who chanced to live on the outskirts of town. He had
received a wonderful collection of curios from an uncle living out in
India, after whom he had been named; and upon being especially invited
over to view these things, which included a wonderful assortment of
rare postage stamps, the two chums had made it a point to accept, being
greatly interested in all boyish "hobbies."
That was how they happened to be passing along the road close to the
athletic grounds about half-past nine o'clock that same night.
There was a fair moon shining, but objects appeared more or less
misty, as often occurs under such conditions. The boys had about
exhausted their vocabulary of words that express delight, in examining
the many things of interest shown by "Limpy" Wallace, who was a
cripple, and had to use a crutch, he being also a great admirer of
Hugh Morgan, whom he considered in the light of a hero.
Besides this, both boys were unusually tired after the exertions of
the day, and Thad frequently yawned in a most terrific fashion, as he
walked homeward. Probably these were the main reasons for their
unnatural silence, as they stalked along side by side; since it is
seldom that two lads will refrain from exchanging opinions on some
object or other, when in company.
Afterwards, in the light of what happened, they were inclined to
believe that it was exceedingly fortunate they had lapsed into this
queer condition of silence, for, otherwise, they would have missed
something that proved unusually interesting, as well as afforded them
more or less excitement.
It was Thad who discovered it first. Perhaps he chanced to be looking
that way while Hugh was star-gazing. At any rate he gripped his chum
suddenly by the arm.
"Sh! Hugh, what's that yonder, a skulking dog, or a fellow half bent
over?" was what Thad whispered in the ear of his chum.
Both of them had come to a full stop, under the impulse of the moment;
and Thad was pointing a little to the right, which was where the
building erected on the athletic grounds stood, dimly seen in the
So Hugh, staring quickly, made out the object indicated by his companion.
Really, he could hardly blame Thad for asking such a question, because
at first it was next to impossible to determine whether it was a
four-footed creature, or a human being who, for some good reason, was
trying to make himself appear as small as possible.
But as Hugh continued to look he saw the other raise himself to his
full height, as though to take a cautious survey of his surroundings.
Then he knew that it was no canine prowling around to discover scraps
thrown aside by the carpenters working on the board fence, as they ate
their noon lunch.
"It's a human being all right, Thad," Hugh whispered, in such a low
tone that even the sharpest pair of ears going could never have caught
the sound ten feet away.
"Man, or boy, Hugh?" asked Thad, copying the example set by the other,
and even bending his head so that his lips might come closer to Hugh's
"Can't make that out," he was told.
"But what in the wide world is he trying to do?" pursued Thad, his
curiosity now fully aroused, as the unknown again started to move
forward, pursuing the same strange cautious tactics as before.
"That's what we ought to find out," Hugh told him. "I don't like the
way he's sneaking around here. It looks as if he might be up to some
"Oh! perhaps it's a tramp," suggested Thad, as the idea dawned upon his
"He may be meaning to break into the building, to sleep there to-night.
I wouldn't put it past a hobo to steal anything he could find left in
the lockers. Hugh, it's up to us to put a kink in his rope. Let's
chase after him before he disappears."
CAUGHT IN THE ACT
"Hold on, Thad," continued Hugh, as he put a restraining hand on the
shoulder of his more impulsive chum, "we've got to be careful, or else
he'll learn how we're meaning to spy on him. Bend over, and do the
grand sneak act."
"He's headed straight for the building, Hugh!" breathed the other, as
he complied with the directions given by the one whom he was accustomed
to look upon in the light of a leader.
"That's right, and I guess he's meaning to crawl inside, if only he can
find a window that's been left unfastened. Steady now, Thad; he's
stopped under one right now!"
They continued to crouch there and watch what went on, their eyes glued
upon the dimly seen figure of the unknown. Greatly to the surprise of
Thad, the party stepped to one side, and seemed to be dragging back a
heavy plank, not of any vast length, but sufficiently long to reach
the window when placed on a slant.
"Say, did you notice how he seemed to know just where that plank was
lying, Hugh?" asked Thad deliriously. "Seems like he must have been
spying out the land by daylight beforehand"
"You're right there," whispered Hugh; "and he acts as if he felt pretty
certain that particular window would be unfastened, in the bargain."
"Hugh, that settles it," added the other sturdily, as though now fully
"Yes, settles what, Thad?"
"Why, it's a _boy_, don't you see, and he must have left that window
unlatched on purpose this afternoon when some of the fellows were
"Wait and see," advised Hugh, although almost convinced of the same
The test was not long in coming. They could see the other "shinning"
up the sloping plank, as any athletic boy would be apt to do, without
any particular trouble. Now he had reached the window, and Thad held
his breath in suspense. He sighed as he heard a slight squeaking
sound. Evidently the sash which was supposed to be fastened every
night through ordinary prudence, had given way to his hand, when he
exerted some pressure.
"He's going in, Hugh!" Thad observed, again laying a quivering hand
on the arm of his comrade, and then following these words with a low
exclamation of startled wonder: "Oh! look there, what's that queer
Hugh understood readily enough.
"Why, he's got one of those little handy electric torches, you see,
and is using it so as to get his bearings inside the building."
"Guess you're right, Hugh," admitted the other; "and there, he's
crawling over the sill now, as sure as anything. Oh! the skunk,
what can he be up to?"
"We'll try and find out," said Hugh, with his usual promptness. "Now
he's gone further from the window let's be moving along. That plank
ought to make it easy sledding for fellows like us."
Indeed, it would be hard to find a couple of more athletic boys than
Hugh and his chum. Their intense love for every type of outdoor sport
had kept them in splendid physical condition, so that their muscles
were as firm as those of an athlete in training. To make their way
up that sloping board and reaching the open window was likely to
prove a mere bit of child's play with such fellows.
Hugh was the first to ascend. When he had raised himself so that he
could peep over the window ledge and see within the building he
apparently found the coast clear; for Thad, coming along just behind,
received a gentle prod with a toe, twice repeated, which he knew to
be a signal that all was well.
By the time Thad arrived the other was already well within the room,
having slipped across the window-sill without making the slightest
sound. All was dark around them, but further on they could see that
weird shaft of light moving this, way and that, indicating the spot
where the unknown intruder just then happened to be located.
"He's making for the locker room, don't you see, Hugh?" Thad ventured,
with a perceptible quiver to his low voice.
"Sure thing, and he knows where he's going, in the bargain," the other
"Of course, it's no hobo, then," continued Thad. "That scamp knows
every foot of ground under this roof. You can see it by the way he
keeps straight on. Hugh, do you think it might be Nick?"
After all, it was only natural for Thad to jump to this conclusion,
because of the evil reputation enjoyed by the boy he mentioned.
Nick Lang had been the bully and the terror of Scranton for years.
There was seldom a prank played (from stealing fruit from neighboring
farmers, to painting old Dobbin, a stray nag accustomed to feeding
on the open lots, so that the ordinarily white horse resembled the
National flag, and created no end of astonishment as he stalked
around, prancing at a lively rate when the hot sun began to start
the turpentine to burning), but that everybody at once suspected
Nick of being the conspirator.
Possibly he may not have always been the chief offender; but give Dog
Tray a bad name and he gets the blame of everything that happens
calculated to outrage the respectability of the law-abiding community.
"I thought of him at first," replied Hugh, "but it strikes me that chap
isn't of Nick's build. You see his light leaves his figure pretty much
in the dark; for he's using it principally to show him the way, so he
won't stumble over any chair, and make no end of a row."
The two had been stealthily creeping forward all this while, and were,
therefore, gradually diminishing the distance separating them from
the bearer of the electric hand-torch. Thad had evidently been
consulting his memory concerning something, for presently he again
whispered in his chum's ear:
"Then mebbe it might be Leon Disney, Hugh. Seems to me that sneak
would be just the one to try some mean trick like this. And, besides,
I happen to know he bought one of those little vestpocket lights down
at Paul Kramer's store only three nights ago, because I saw him
testing them and heard him say he'd take it."
"Yes, that looks significant, I must say, Thad. But I'm trying to
make out what he's done with his head. Don't you notice he's got it
bundled up with a sort of woollen comforter or something like that?"
"Why, so he has," replied the other; "I tell you what, Hugh, he's
hoping to hide his face, so if he's discovered prowling around in
here no one can say positively that they recognized him. Leon is up
to all those sly tricks. He gets ideas like that out of the stories
he's so fond of soaking in."
"Keep still now, Thad, and we'll creep closer," warned the other.
They really had their hands full endeavoring to advance upon the
prowler without making any sort of sound that would arouse his
suspicions. Hugh realized that if anything of this sort occurred the
other would instantly throw the full glow of his little electric torch
in their direction, and, of course, immediately discover their presence.
If such a thing happened it might interfere with their suddenly
arranged plan of campaign, and prevent the capture they contemplated,
which would be a grievous disappointment to both boys.
The unknown party had come to a standstill. He stood there in front
of the long row of new lockers in which the boys who meant to take
part in the principal events of the great athletic tournament kept
their possessions, without which they would be more or less handicapped
in their practice work.
Thad had made another important discovery; indeed, it struck him as
so significant that he could not forbear dragging Hugh down so that
he could place his lips against the other's ear and whisper:
"It's _your_ locker he's trying to open, Hugh, don't you see?"
Hugh, of course, had already noted this circumstance, and felt duly
thrilled, for really it struck him as something more than an accident,
and along the lines of a deep design. Doubtless, his active brain
started to wrestle with the problem as to why any one should wish to
open his locker, since the only things he kept there consisted of his
running jersey and trunks and shoes.
Could it be possible that this was only some small piece of spite-work
engineered by his old and inveterate enemy, Nick Lang, and ordered
carried out by one of the bully's cronies; while Nick himself made
certain to be in good company, so he could easily prove an alibi if
accused of the mean trick.
It seemed almost too contemptible to be true, since Hugh could easily
purchase other garments down at the sporting-goods store in Scranton.
Still, some mean natures are small enough to love to give "stabs" that
might annoy the recipient; and boys sometimes grow so accustomed to
certain articles of wearing apparel that being compelled to "break
in" a new pair of running shoes might lose Hugh the great race!
He gritted his teeth as a wave of indignation swept over him. Really
it was high time this contemptible spirit of annoying those he chose
to look upon in the light of enemies was crushed in Nick Lang. He
had carried on with a "high horse" too long already, and, for one,
Hugh felt as though combined action should be taken against him by
the respectable fellows of Scranton High.
But it was far from Hugh's intention to stand there and see his locker
robbed by such an unprincipled fellow as Leon Disney, if, indeed, the
skulker proved to be the party they suspected. Possibly Hugh moved
too soon, for it would have been much wiser had he waited until the
sneak thief actually had the locker open, and disclosed his full
Urged on to action by his indignation, Hugh started forward. Thad,
realizing that it was his chum's intention to do something radical,
skipped off a little to the right. He fancied that should the skulker
take the alarm and try to flee, making for the open window in the
rear, he was apt to turn aside and try to pass by; so his move was
intended to block this little game.
It turned out to be needless, for so interested as the fellow with
the flash-light in his work of inserting a key in the lock, and trying
to turn it, that he did not appear to notice anything wrong until
Hugh was close at his elbow. Then, as Thad slipped around to one
side to cover all lines of retreat. Hugh reached out a hand and
caught hold of the fellow by the shoulder. At the same time he
exclaimed in a severe voice:
"Well, what are you doing here, I want to know, trying to break
into my locker?"
The other gave a tremendous start, and a low, bubbling cry, half of
fright, and also of disgust, came from his lips. The woollen muffler
fell from about his face, and, although he snapped off the light just
then by a movement of his thumb, the others had glimpsed his features.
Thad had evidently hit the target in the bull's-eye when he mentioned
his suspicions concerning the probable identity of the skulker.
It was Leon Disney!
LEON PROMISES TO REFORM
The startled boy struggled to get free, but Hugh had taken a firmer
grip upon his person, and saw to it that he could not squirm loose.
"Quit your kicking!" cried Thad, indignantly, when one of the fellow's
shoes came in rough contact with his own shins; "or we'll start
something along the same lines! We know you, Leon Disney, so there's
no use trying to hide your face."
Leaning over, Thad groped around until he managed to find the hand
that held the little electric torch. This latter article he tore
from the grasp of Leon, and immediately pressed the button that
caused the battery to work. The intense darkness around them was
dissipated to some degree. Thad threw the glow directly into the
face of the fellow Hugh was holding.
Leon stopped his desperate struggles. He realized that the game was
up so far as trying to keep his identity a secret; and, being a most
resourceful sort of chap, he now resorted to another little scheme
which he had undoubtedly thought out, to be used in case he was
discovered, and cornered, while on his night mission.
"Oh! is that you, Hugh?" he burst out, in a shaky voice. "Say, you
gave me an awful scare! I thought it must be some old tramp that
grabbed me, sure I did. It's all right now, Hugh, and I'm not
wanting to clear out, since I know who you are. That's Thad, too,
I reckon, holding my little flash-light. How you did startle me,
though. I never dreamed anybody was around here when I started to
come back after my watch."
"What's that you say?" gasped Thad; "your watch? Tell that to the
marines, Leon Disney!"
"But it's so, I tell you. Thad, it sure is," persisted the other
tenaciously, as though he had laid all his plans for just such an
"accident," whereby his attempt to rob Hugh's locker would be held
up. "I believe I must have forgotten to take it out of my locker
this evening when I was dressing, after hard work on the field,
running, and practising throwing the hammer. I never noticed it
till long after supper, and I was afraid of what my dad would say
when he asked me for it in the morning, to take back to the store
where he got it, to exchange for another. So, Hugh, don't you see,
the idea came to me that mebbe I might be able to get in the building
out here if a window happened to be unfastened; which turned out to
be the case, you know."
"Yes, the very _first_ window you tackled in the bargain, Leon;
how fortunate for you!" sneered the unbelieving Thad. "And say,
you ought to know that this isn't your locker, because the numbers
are painted big enough on the door for anybody with only one eye
Even this did not appear to disconcert the other boy. He was a
slippery sort of customer, who always seemed able to find some sort
of ready excuse, or a way to "climb down a tree" when caught in
He turned, and stared at the number 16 plainly on the door. Then
he grinned at Thad as he hurriedly went on to explain further; for
his inventive faculties seemed without end when they were exercised
in order to get him out of any bad scrape:
"Well, that shows my first guess was the right one after all. You
see, Hugh, I knew my number was either 16 or 19, and, for the life
of me, I couldn't tell which. Of course, if the first belongs to you
when my number is 19, I was foolish to change my mind; though, of
course, even if the key opened your locker I'd have known my mistake
right away. No harm done, I hope, Hugh?"
Thad made a low, growling sound, as though he put not the slightest
faith in the story Leon was telling. He knew the other to be utterly
unprincipled, and a willing tool in the hands of Nick Lang; indeed,
there were some things about the sneaky Leon that blunt, honest Thad
hated worse than the bullying propensities of the other boy.
"So you really and truly left your watch in your locker, did you?" he
demanded, with a perceptible sneer in his tones.
"I think I did; in fact, I'm certainly hoping so," Leon hastily
replied; "because if it doesn't happen to be there I don't know
where I could have lost it; and I'll get a fine turning over from
dad in the morning when he asks me for the same to take back, and
exchange for one that keeps decent time."
"Oh!" continued the still skeptical Thad, thinking to corner Leon,
"then, perhaps, you'll prove your words by showing us the inside of
your locker right now? Number 19 it would be, you said; well, here
it is, on a direct line with Hugh's locker. Get busy with your key,
Leon, and open up!"
Possibly Thad was confident that the other would not venture to do
as he demanded. He may have expected him to invent some handy excuse
for not complying; but then the other had already laid the foundation
for a reasonable sense of disappointment in case no watch was
forthcoming when the locker was opened; since he said he hoped he
might have forgotten it when dressing, and not lost it on the way
home that evening at dusk.
Leon started to obey with alacrity, as though he had no fears. His
key immediately opened the door, and this, upon being swung aside,
revealed a bundle of old athletic garments hastily thrown in without
regard to neatness.
These Leon commenced to eagerly take out, one at a time. He was
careful how he handled them, as though fearful lest he might toss
the silver watch out, to land on the floor with disastrous results.
As he picked up such various articles of wearing apparel as used
by an athlete in training, Leon continued to air his grievances, as
though he meant Hugh to understand how utterly impossible it was for
him to have intended any mean thing by breaking open a locker other
than his own:
"It was silly of me getting those numbers mixed in my head, of course;
but then a figure nine is only a six turned upside down, you see. I
was so worked up over missing my clock that I just couldn't think
straight at all. Well, it isn't under that jersey, anyhow; nor
yet covered by those trunks. I remember now I pushed it away back,
so I couldn't drag it out. There's an old sweater I use when I'm
overheated, and afraid of taking cold; mebbe now it's under hat."
Reaching further in, Leon caught hold of the article in question, and
carefully drew it toward him. Then he as cautiously lifted the torn
sweater; and, as Thad turned the glow of the flash-light directly
into the box they all saw the watch reposing in the corner, just as
the boy had left it.
Leon made a clutch for his property. He over did the matter, Hugh
thought, acting in an exuberant fashion.
"Oh! mebbe I'm not joyful over getting my hands on you again, you
poor old time-keeper!" he exclaimed, as he snatched the silver watch
up and shook it, as though any fault could be attached to the article
in question. "A fine chase you've given me to-night; and playing
the part of sneak thief in the bargain; but then, of course, you
believe what I told you, now, Hugh, since you've seen that the watch
was in my locker?"
Hugh did not care to fully commit himself, it seemed, judging from
the way in which he went on to say:
"We've seen you recover your watch all right, Leon; and it was in
your locker just as you said; but whether you forgot it, or left it
there on purpose, is a question I'm not prepared to settle."
Of course there was no further excuse for Hugh keeping that grip on
Leon's shoulder, so he released his hold, and the other gave a sigh
as of relief at this evidence of a change in policy on the part of
"Say, I wish you'd do me a great favor, Hugh," Leon went on to say,
as though he believed in the old maxim that it is wise to "strike
while the iron is hot."
"As to what?" demanded the one addressed in this whining way.
"What's the use of saying anything about this business?" Leon went
on eagerly. "It certainly wouldn't do any good, and I proved to you
that I enter here just to recover my watch, didn't I? But mebbe it
might get to my dad's ears, how I'd gone and been so careless about
looking after my property. You see, he told me that if I lost this
birthday present he'd not get me another watch till I graduated from
high school; and say, I'm beginning to lose all hope of that ever
happening in case. But you will keep mum about it, won't you, Hugh;
just to save me from getting up against it rough with my strict dad?"
It sounded like a reasonable request, Hugh must have thought. Besides,
no matter what the intentions of Leon may have been, there had really
been no harm done, owing to the fact of their being drawn to the spot
by discovering his skulking figure dimly outlined in the moonlight.
Hugh considered before committing himself to making any reply. He
did not believe most of what the other so glibly declared, partly
because he knew very well that Mr. Disney was not a strict parent
at all, but a most indifferent one, or he would never have allowed
his young hopeful to go in the company of Nick Lang, and take part
in many of the other's practical jokes. Some of these had bordered
on a serious nature, like the time the electric current was shut
off abruptly when the graduation exercises were going on at night-time
in the big auditorium in the high school building; and the ensuing
utter darkness almost created a panic among the audience, composed
principally of women and young people, the wires having been severed,
it was later discovered, at a point where they entered the building.
"I'll say this, Leon," he finally told the waiting boy; "I'll keep
quiet about this little thing for three days, and then feel free to
mention it, if the necessity arises. I'll make a further bargain with
you to this effect; you fight shy of the company of Nick Lang after
this, and I'll hold my tongue as long as I understand that you've cut
his acquaintance; otherwise, I'll feel free to speak; and there are
lots of people in this town who'll believe you had some dark motive
back of your breaking into this building to-night. Your reputation
is against you, Leon, you understand. Another fellow might enter
here, and everybody would believe what he said; but you've long ago
lost the confidence of everybody worth while in Scranton. Is it a
Leon replied with alacrity; but then that was no sign that he meant
to keep his word. He had been caught in a downright lie on many
another occasion; so Hugh did not place much reliance on his promise
"Oh! as to that, Hugh," said the crafty Leon, "I've been figuring
on cutting away from Nick for a long time now, and I guess I'll do it.
He's got me in lots of nasty scrapes, you understand, and then just
laughs at me. I'd have given him the shake long since, only he
threatened to whip me black and blue if I ever did. But this would
be a good chance to try it out. Yes, I'll promise you to try and
break away from Nick; and I hope you'll keep mum about my coming here
to-night. If you don't mind, Thad, I'd like to have my flash light
now. And I ought to be going back home in the bargain, because dad
doesn't like me to be out nights unless he knows where I'm at."
Thad chuckled as though he considered this last in the light of a
joke; for Leon roamed the streets until a late hour every night he
chose; as there was no need of their staying longer, they passed out
of the window, and headed toward heir respective homes.
SCRANTON IN GALA ATTIRE
That was, indeed, a busy Friday with the students of Scranton High.
Lessons had been tabooed entirely, for what was the use of trying to
hold the attention of the scholars, upon dry subjects when their
thoughts continually roamed afield, and seemed concerned only with
what great things were scheduled for the next afternoon? Still,
they gathered at school, which was a sort of general headquarters
where the various committees appointed could consult, and go forth
to the work assigned to their particular charge.
The girls were just as enthusiastic as the boys, and demanded equal
representation upon a number of the said committees, especially the
ones designed for the welcome and entertainment of the vast crowds
expected to be present from neighboring towns and villages.
It was going to be an event long to be remembered in Scranton, and
the town dressed in gala attire in honor of the occasion. Flags and
banners were being displayed as though a great wave of patriotism had
overwhelmed the place. If a stranger had suddenly dropped down on
the town just then he must have believed American soldiers were on
the fighting line across in France, and that news had been cabled over
to the effect that they had met the enemy in their first engagement,
and won a decisive victory.
The fairly good town brass band had promised to be on hand, and play
during the best part of the afternoon. Then there would be a host
of refreshment booths at which Scranton's fairest daughters would
preside, accompanied in each instance by a matron of mature years,
to lend dignity to the occasion. Here the good folks from Allandale,
Belleville and other places, who honored the town with their presence
would always be warmly welcomed, and given a cup of delicious tea,
coffee or chocolate, as they preferred, accompanied with sandwiches
galore, and even cake.
Meanwhile it was planned that those who meant to take part in any of
the events on the long programme should have a last "workout" that
Friday afternoon. Saturday morning it was intended they should rest
up, so as to be in the pink of condition when the meet opened at one
That might seem to be an early hour, as some had argued, but the
programme was so extended at there was a possibility of darkness
creeping up on them before the fifteen-mile Marathon, the latest
event of the day, had been fully completed.
During that energetic morning at school, when boys and girls were
hustling to carry out the part of the work entrusted to them, Hugh had
managed to keep an eye on Leon Disney from time to time. He felt
pretty certain that the tricky boy had no intention of fulfilling
the promise he had made under duress, and while a threat of exposure
hung over his head, like the famous sword of Damocles, suspended by
but a single hair.
Leon watched Hugh also, and tried to act in a manner calculated
not to arouse suspicion; but Hugh understood from his actions how
matters probably stood. Leon had, of course, managed to see Nick
Lang before coming to school, and explain to him what a bad fix he
had managed to get himself in when caught in the act of breaking into
Hugh Morgan's locker at the athletic grounds building.
No doubt it had been artfully arranged between the precious pair that
Leon was to seem to keep his distance away from Nick; and if at any
other time the latter joined a group amidst whom Leon chanced to be
standing the other was to immediately move away in an ostentatious
fashion that would cause Hugh to believe he meant to keep his given
But several times Hugh felt certain he detected sly winks exchanged
between Nick and his apparently estranged pal; which could only
mean that Leon was playing a double game. Still Hugh did not bother
telling anyone about the affair of the preceding night. No harm had
really been done, fortunately, and Leon might hold his evil
propensities in check for a while if he had reason to fear disclosure.
The committees were wearing their badges proudly, and each member
seemed desirous of doing everything in his or her power to render the
athletic tournament a wonderful success. Nothing like it had ever
been attempted in the county, and for that reason they were compelled
to look up all manner of accounts in papers and magazines, in order
to do things properly.
Mr. Leonard was a great help, for he, being a Princeton graduate, and
interested in all manner of athletics for years, had kept in touch
with such things. Then from various other unexpected sources
assistance cropped up. Why, even old doctor Cadmus, the leading
physician of Scranton, proved to be a walking encyclopedia of knowledge
concerning the management of such an event; and it turned out that
several times long years before, in another community entirely, he
had had full charge of just such a tournament; also that he had many
articles laid away telling of the modern innovations that had
displaced the older method of doing things.
After lunch the young people began to gather on the field by squads
and battalions, and it was soon quite an animated sight, with the
girls circulating around in gaily dressed bunches, and the various
candidates going through their various stunts under the personal
supervision of Mr. Leonard.
There had been more or less talk concerning the advisability of
allowing school boys to undertake such a long Marathon race. Fifteen
miles, many thought, was far too strenuous an undertaking for lads as
yet in their teens. Full-fledged athletes only run twenty miles in
all the famous long distance races, and even at that numbers of them
do not finish, the task being too much for them.
But Mr. Leonard was of a different opinion, and he had his way. One
thing, however, he did insist on. This was that each and every
candidate entering for the Marathon fetch along with him a paper
from his family physician, stating that he had undergone a rigid
examination to ascertain whether he was in the pink of condition,
and without the slightest heart trouble.
Doctor Cadmus gladly examined all the Scranton fellows free of charge,
and it was given out to the neighboring towns, from whence aspiring
runners hailed, that the lack of such a physician's certificate would
debar any candidate from the race.
Hugh, along with several other fellows, intended to take a run of
from seven to ten miles over the course that Friday afternoon. They
did not wish to follow out the entire course, as that might injure
their prospects for the next day, so Mr. Leonard convinced them.
But half the distance would be apt to keep their muscles in good
Before making a start, however, Hugh wished to hang around, and watch
what the other fellows were doing. He was deeply interested in the
hammer throwing, as well as the sprinting, and, after seeing how well
the boys acquitted themselves, felt more than ever assured that
Scranton High would pull down quite a number of the fine prizes
offered to successful competitors.
It was while things were thus booming that a car rolled past on the
main road leading out of town. Hugh noticed it particularly, for he
chanced to be over at that side of the extensive field.
There was a chauffeur at the wheel, and in the tonneau a lady and a
boy sat, in whom Hugh quickly recognized Claude Jardine and his
mother. She held her face deliberately away from the bright scene,
as though appalled to know that so many parents in Scranton were so
unwise, almost foolish, as to allow their sons to participate in such
antics; and their daughters to attend the same.
But Hugh chuckled when he saw Claude give a quick look up at his
mother, as if to make certain she was not looking; after which he
leaned forward and stared hard and eagerly at the wonderful picture
that athletic field presented. Hugh had good eyesight, and he could
detect the longing expression in the effeminate features of the boy
whose mother seemed bent on making him a weakling and a "sissy."
"Poor Claude, I certainly do pity you," Hugh was telling himself as
the big car rolled on amidst a cloud of dust. "Deep down in your
heart you are yearning to be as other natural boys are, who have
red blood in their veins. If your dad had lived I warrant there'd
be a different story to tell, because they say he liked all kinds
of healthy sport; but, somehow, Mrs. Jardine has taken a dislike to
such things that seems to keep growing stronger all the time, until
it's become a regular mania with her. But unless she changes her
mind there'll be a day coming when she'll bitterly regret it all.
I suppose now, if she had a daughter she'd prevent her from
associating with Sue, and Ivy, and Peggy, as well as all the other
high-school girls whose mothers actually allow them to go to dances
with us boys, and even cheer the Scranton players in a rattling
good baseball game."
There was an air of feverish expectation rampant throughout the whole
town, and wherever young people got together the talk was of nothing
else save the great event on the programme for the next day. Even
many older persons seemed to have become infected with the sporting
virus, because memories of other days were being recalled; and it
was remarkable how many elderly men had once been deeply interested
in just such things, though, of course, along somewhat less modern
Then again there was an undercurrent of talk that carried a thrill
along with it. Stories that could not be confirmed, but were believed
more or less, began to be circulated to the effect that some
irresponsible parties meant to start something during the tournament
that was calculated to bring disrepute upon the town of Scranton. It
as even darkly hinted that the partly built, new, wooden fence had been
set on fire as a lark; and quads of curious boys and girls even
circulated long its entire length, bent upon ascertaining if such a
thing could really be true.
When they failed to find any evidence of a fire, they were still
unconvinced; for, of course, it would be policy on the part of the
management to conceal all traces, so as to save the good name of the
These rumors could not be traced to any particular source, but there