Part 2 out of 3
are always a certain number of persons who delight to circulate such
stories, and, perhaps, add a little to the same with each and every
additional telling, until a trivial happening becomes a colossal thing.
That the committee in general charge of the great undertaking cherished
some sort of fear that some daring outrage might be attempted by boys
who were not connected with the high school was evident from the fact
that they had had warning notices printed at the office of the _Weekly
Courier_, notifying all boys who might contemplate playing any sort of
practical joke during the holding of the carnival that Chief Adolph
Wambold, the head of the local police, would have his entire force on
the grounds, and such offenders would be harshly treated, if detected.
The afternoon was well along when Hugh was approached by "Just" Smith,
one of the candidates who meant to try for the Marathon prize.
"Several of the boys are meaning to start off on that seven-mile spin,
Hugh," the other announced as he came up; "and they want you to come
along. We can start together, and then separate, as we feel
disposed;" and, as this suited Hugh, he agreed.
WHEN MUSCLES COUNTED
There were four of them who made the start, Hugh, "Just" Smith, Horatio
Juggins, and K.K., the Kinkaid boy. Three of the bunch had been
fielders in the baseball nine that carried off the championship
pennant of the three-town-high-school league the preceding summer;
and, having been known as great runners, it was only natural that
they had felt impelled, to enter for the long-distance race.
An equal number could be expected from both Allandale and Belleville,
so that with others who would feel disposed to, at least, be in at
the start, though calculating to fall out after a few miles had been
run, possibly a full score would toe the string at the time the great
Marathon was called.
In an event of this nature a big "field" adds to the excitement of
the occasion; and it is often noticed that those who have no intention
of finishing usually look the most confident during the preparations
for making the grand start. Well, they have no hope of getting any
fun out of the race after losing sight of the crowd, and so they mean
to take what they can beforehand.
Talking is almost tabooed during such a race, since every breath lost
in useless conversation saps so much energy. Even on a trial run Mr.
Leonard had advised the boys to separate as soon as possible, and keep
some distance apart, mostly to obviate this temptation to exchange
views; so that each candidate could conserve every atom of his powers.
So it came about that by the time two miles had been run Hugh found
himself absolutely alone. Hugh had left the main thoroughfare, and
was passing along a byroad that would take him around through the
hilly country, until the Scranton turnpike was again reached.
The other fellows had the option of doing as Hugh did, or they could
continue on further, and, perhaps, get a lift back home on some
farmer's wagon, or possibly a car bound for Scranton. Hugh had an
idea, however, that one of them was coming along the same road a mile
or more behind, and that it would turn out to be "Just" Smith. Some
words the other chap had uttered when they were together before
starting forth on the run gave Hugh this impression, though he could
not be positive about it.
At the time, it gave him little concern; but then he could not look
into the immediate future, and see what it held for him. The coming
of "Just" Smith would yet turn out to be an event of the first magnitude
in Hugh's humble opinion; as the reader will soon learn.
Hugh was jogging along nicely, and had long ago caught his second wind.
He kept "tabs" upon himself, in order to know just how his energy held
out, and if he was likely to be in condition for the gruelling finish
that might become necessary, over the last half mile of the long course,
could a visiting runner threaten to head the list with the goal in sight,
and the thousands of eager spectators bursting out with cheers
calculated to thrill the heart, and give fresh impetus to wearied boys.
On the whole, Hugh felt fairly well satisfied with himself. He knew
he had gone about as fast as ordinary runners would care to travel,
who wished to conserve their strength toward the close of the race;
and that he was holding back a good reserve stock of energy. Yes,
he believed he was at his best, and if he failed to land the prize it
as because some fellow was a better runner than he could ever hope to be.
Just then he heard a sound that gave him a sudden thrill. It was like
a faint human cry for help, uttered in a weak voice, and seemed to come
from his right.
Hugh stopped short.
His first inclination was to instantly dash from the road and endeavor
to discover what caused that cry. Then he had a wave of suspicion
dart over him. Could this be a sly trick on the part of some enemy,
meant to lure him into the brush and rocks, where he could, perhaps,
be overpowered? But Nick, as well as his two satellites, Leon Disney
and Tip Slavin, had been on the grounds at the time Hugh started
his run, for he had taken particular notice of this fact; consequently,
it was hardly likely that they could be concerned in any practical
joke; and certainly no other fellow would be guilty of such a thing.
That decided Hugh. He left the road, and started toward the spot
where he judged that strange sound had welled forth. The country was
exceedingly rough just there, and he fancied that some sort of deep
gully, possibly a precipice, might lie off on his right, judging from
the aspect of the land.
Not hearing the sound again, Hugh uttered a loud hello. Then, as he
continued to press hastily forward, he once more caught the beseeching
cry. It had an agonizing strain to it, and Hugh could plainly make out
"Help! Oh! help! help!"
Someone was evidently in trouble, Hugh decided, accelerating his pace
as well as the conditions of the rough surface of the ground permitted.
He had taken pains to locate the cry this time, and was, therefore,
altering his course just a little.
Again he called, and once more received a reply, more fearful than
"Hurry! Oh! hurry, before it gives way, and I'm lost!"
It sounded more like the voice of a girl than anything else. Hugh was
thrilled at the bare thought of one of the opposite sex being caught
in a trap whereby life itself was imperiled. He had been ascending
all this time. From a single look, which he cast over his shoulder,
he could see the road he had lately come along, trace his course, in
fact, until it was lost at a bend half a mile away.
He noted that a runner had just turned that bend, and was jogging along
in a rhythmic, contented fashion, as though satisfied with the
progress he was making; although "Just" Smith would have to speed
up considerable on the morrow if he wished to be anywhere near the
head of the procession when the race neared its close. Hugh, somehow,
fixed the fact of his comrade's presence on his mind. He even
mentally figured just how long it was likely to take the other to
reach the spot where he himself had left the road; or, perhaps, that
circumstance might loom up large in his calculations.
Then he arrived at the brink of what seemed to e a precipice. The
presence of this told Hugh plainly the nature of the task that awaited
him. Someone had undoubtedly fallen over the brink, and was, even
then, hanging on desperately to some jutting rock or bush that
represented the only hope of safety from a serious fall. He threw
himself down and thrust his head out over the edge. What Hugh saw
was enough to give any boy a thrill of horror. Some ten feet below
the top a human figure sprawled, kicking with his legs in the
endeavor to find a brace for his feet. He was clinging to a bush
that seemed to be growing from the face of the precipice, and which
Hugh could see was slowly but surely giving way, one root after
another losing its grip in the soil and rocky crevices.
Hugh recognized the imperiled boy instantly, though utterly amazed at
his discovery; he could not understand for the life of him how Claude
Jardine, of all fellows in Scranton, could be placed in such a
But Hugh did not waste a single precious second in trying to solve that
puzzle; it could be all made plain after he had managed to save the
"Stop kicking, and keep perfectly still, Claude!" he instantly called.
"But it's going to give way, and let me drop!" wailed the terrified boy.
"It'll do that all the sooner if you keep moving as you are," Hugh told
him sharply, with the tone of authority that one accustomed to command
might use. "I'm coming down after you, so don't be afraid. Can you
hold on just ten seconds more?"
"I'll try to, but, oh! hurry, please!" came the trembling answer.
Already Hugh was passing over the edge. He took care not to make a
false movement, for the precipice was all of forty feet in depth, and
a fall on the rocks below was bound to be a serious matter.
To lower himself to where the imperiled boy clung he had to take
advantage of numerous projecting points of rock that offered him a
foothold, or a place where he could hang on with his hands.
Hugh was as nimble as any boy in Scranton, which fact proved of great
advantage to him just then. Had it been otherwise, he might have
himself fallen, and there would then have been a double tragedy.
Somehow, through Hugh's mind flashed the memory of how Claude's doting
mother had always, on every occasion, condemned all athletic exercises
that were intended to build up the muscles, and give new power to the
body. It seemed the irony of fate that the life of her precious boy
was now going to hang upon the ability of Hugh Morgan to sustain
himself, and the weight of another, there upon the face of that rocky
Perhaps in times to come Mrs. Jardine would discover how false her
ideas were, and experience a radical change of heart. The opportunity
which Hugh had once sighed for had come to him in a most wonderful way.
He succeeded in making his way down in safety, though once he slipped,
and had a thrill of alarm pass over him. Now he found himself alongside
Claude. The boy's face was the color of ashes;
Hugh had never looked upon a corpse in all his life, but he could not
help comparing Claude's pallid countenance to one.
He was glancing around with the eye of a general who lets nothing,
no matter how trivial, escape him. Just a foot below Claude's dangling
toes there was a narrow ledge. If only both of them could find
lodgment upon this, and have some hold above for their hands, they
might maintain their position until Hugh's shouts attracted "Just"
Smith to the spot, and he could do something to aid them.
"Listen, Claude," he said earnestly. "There's a way to save you,
if only you keep your head about you. 'Just' Smith is coming along
the road, and I'll shout out to guide him here so he can help us."
"But---the bush is going to give way right off!" gasped the terrified
"Well, below us there's a ledge where we must plant our feet, and hold
on," continued Hugh, convincingly. "I'm going to drop down to it now.
Then you must try to lower yourself along the bush, inch by inch, until
you feel the ledge under you. Don't be afraid, because I mean to grab
hold of you; but when you feel me touching you, above all things don't
let go above, or you'll throw us both down. Now, be ready, Claude;
and, remember, it's going to be all right. Keep cool!"
Of course, Hugh only said that last to reassure the poor chap. Claude
was already cold with as cold as an icicle, in fact; and quaking with
fear in the bargain.
It was easy enough for Hugh to drop down another foot or so, until
he felt the solid little ledge under him. Indeed, had it been necessary,
such an agile fellow very likely might have continued all the way
down to the base of the precipice.
His next move was to find a firm hold for his left hand, to which he
could continue to cling while he sustained much of the weight of the
other boy, after the weakened roots of the bush gave way entirely.
Claude was trying to do what he had been told, though in rather a
bungling fashion. Inch by inch he allowed the bush to slip through
his hands, looking down as well as he was able at the same time, in
order to ascertain just how near he might be to that same ledge Hugh
had told him of.
THE CRISIS IN CLAUDE'S LIFE
Hugh kept a watchful eye on that bush. He knew it was going to give
way presently, when, unless Claude had managed to secure a fresh grip
on some object with his poor scratched hands, he was likely to be
Fortune was, however, kind in that respect, for there chanced to be a
nice projection of rock, somewhat in the shape of a horn, just in the
right place for Claude to seize upon, and which would help sustain
his weight. Hugh knew very well, though, that most of the burden
would fall upon him; and he, therefore, prepared to accept it.
"Here, reach out with your left hand, Claude, and take hold of this
rock. Your feet are both safely anchored on the ledge. Keep up
your grit, and everything will be all right yet. Do you understand
what I'm telling you, Claude?"
"Yes, I do, Hugh," chattered the other, for his teeth were rattling
together in a way that reminded Hugh of the "Bones" at the end of a
minstrel line; if he had ever seen a Spanish stage performance he
would have said they made a sound like castanets in the hands of
the senorita who gave the national Castilian dance.
Claude really managed to carry out that part of the task with a fair
amount of success. His other hand still gripped the bush, which
continued to gradually give way under the long and severe strain.
Hugh braced himself. He had taken as firm a bold as was possible, and
had his other arm thrown around Claude.
"Steady, now, Claude, it's almost gone. When you feel it give way,
try and make use of your right hand to find some other rocky point
where you can hold on. I think there's one such on the other side
of you. Above all, don't struggle, or you may throw me off my balance,
and then it's good-bye to both of us. Now, be ready!"
Hugh's calculations proved to be correct, for the bush gave way, and
fell with a clatter of small stones and loosened earth, down toward
the bottom of the steep declivity. Claude uttered a cry of dismay
when he felt his support gone; but quickly he gripped the rocky knob
with his left and more convulsively than ever, while Hugh sustained
him to the best of his ability.
"That was well done, Claude," Hugh now told him, his main object being
to put a little more confidence in the other boy, and thus lighten
his own load. "We'll manage to cling here for a bit longer. When
I think 'Just' Smith is getting near by I'll let out a whoop that is
bound to fetch him to our assistance."
One, two, three minutes passed. It was very trying to Hugh, and
already his muscles began to feel the undue strain keenly. But
he gritted his teeth, and waited, as it would be only a waste of
breath and energy to shout before the next runner was close enough
up to locate the sound.
Claude was shivering as though he would shake to pieces. He had
received a dreadful fright, for a fact, and it was having its due
effect upon his never strong frame. What would his doting mamma
think, and say, Hugh told himself, almost with a chuckle of amusement,
could she see her darling then and there, and realize how his very life
depended upon the strong muscles and will to do things that Hugh
Morgan had developed in himself?
How slowly the seconds passed! Hugh was trying to count, so as to
judge when the Marathon runner would be likely to have covered that
half-mile, and be at the spot where he, Hugh, had left the road.
When, finally, the time had expired he again spoke to Claude.
"Don't be startled, Claude, because I'm going to shout out. Hang
With that he sent out a whoop, and coupled it with the name of "Just"
Smith. There was no immediate response, but then Hugh had already
discounted this in his mind, remembering how he also had come to a
sudden stop, and listened as though unable to believe his ears.
Again he shouted, and once more uttered the name of the other boy.
This time there came a speedy reply.
"Hello! that you, Hugh?"
"Yes, and I want help right away!" answered the boy who clung there
with a burden on his hands. "Turn out of the road to the left, and
hurry here. I'm down a precipice, Just. Keep coming, and I'll guide
you all right."
So Hugh continued to utter loud shouts every ten seconds or so. He
could catch the calls of the advancing runner, and knew from their
increasing loudness that he was gradually getting closer.
Then, looking up, he saw a head projected over the brink above. He
could easily understand how "Just" Smith's eyes must have almost
started from their sockets when discovering the dreadful position
of the pair below; and especially after he recognized Claude Jardin
the last fellow in the wide world whom he would have expected to see
in such a fix.
"H-h-how in the wide world did you get down there, Hugh?" gasped the
boy who leaned over the brink.
"I came down after Claude here, who'd fallen over, and was hanging to
a bush that was giving way," explained Hugh. "And now it's up to you
to get us both out of this scrape, Just."
"Oh, if only I had a rope!" cried the other, apparently nonplussed.
"Well, wishes won't make one," said the practical Hugh; "and so we'll
have to do without. But if you look around sharply I think you'll
find a long pole there, for I remember noticing something of the kind."
The boy above vanished for a brief period, which seemed ages to the
anxious Claude; and even Hugh counted the seconds, for the strain was
something serious. Then again that friendly head appeared in view.
"You were right, Hugh!" called the Smith boy; "there was such a
pole handy, and I've got the same right here now. It's plenty long
enough to reach down to you; but I'm wondering however I'll be able
to draw two of you up."
"I don't expect you to, all by yourself, Just," Huge told him. "Poke
the end of it down here, and keep a good stiff grip on the butt.
Then we'll hold on, and find places to set our feet. Inch by inch,
and foot by foot, we'll manage to climb up. You can help a little
by keeping the stick coming, you know."
"I get you, Hugh!" snapped the other eagerly; "and it's sure a right
good scheme. But be mighty careful you don't slip, either of you.
That fall'd break bones, even if it didn't kill you outright."
"Don't worry about us, Just Smith; pay attention to your part of the
contract, and things are bound to work out first-class. Lower away,
and don't poke us off our perch, please. We've only got a risky
hold below here."
So saying, Hugh encouraged the other two to do their part manfully.
Even Claude was shivering less than before, as though a breath of
renewed confidence might have been installed in his heart by this
close contact with such a stalwart chap as Hugh Morgan. It was going
to be the turning point in Claude's career, of that Hugh felt positive.
After this thrilling experience he was bound to awaken to the fact that
he was not like other boys of his age; and demand of his mother that
she permit him to participate in the life-giving outdoor sports that
are a part and parcel of boy nature.
They began to climb. It was slow work, but Hugh would not be hurried.
Better that they waste time in gaining each foot than by an unwise
step ruin all. What matter if that arm of his was almost numb with
pain, and he had to press his teeth firmly together in order to
continue to hold up Claude? If only the other had been a normal boy
he could have helped himself wonderfully; but, as it was, he seemed
as weak and helpless as a kitten that had never opened its eyes as yet.
Well, half of the distance separating them from the top had been safely
navigated, and so far no accident had occurred. Hugh kept encouraging
his charge from time to time; and then speaking words also to the
laboring, anxious boy above, directing him just how to proceed.
Finally they reached the top. Hugh still ordered "Just" Smith to hold
the pole as he had been doing. Then he managed to push Claude up so
that he could crawl over the edge, which the other did in a speedy
manner, bordering on the ludicrous.
Then, to the surprise, as well as delight of Hugh, what did Claude
do but turn and stretch out a helping hand, as though his first
thought was to assist his rescuer to top the rise; indeed, Hugh's one
arm was so utterly gone that he could hardly count on it for a single
thing. Hugh would not be apt to forget this action on the part of
the "sissy"; it proved what he had all along more than half suspected,
that Claude really did have the making of a genuine boy in him, given
half a chance for it to show itself, and the seed to germinate. And
Hugh determined that he would make it his particular business to see
that there came a change in Claude's dreary life. His mother could
hardly refuse anything asked by the one to whom she owed the life of
Soon the trio lay upon the ground, breathing hard, and trying to talk
at the same time. Both Hugh and "Just" Smith were consumed with
curiosity to know how Claude happened to get into such a strange
predicament, and he hastened to explain.
After all, there was nothing so very singular about it. His mother
had stopped in to see an old nurse, who had been in the family many
years but was at the time lying sick at her sister's place.
Something influenced Claude to get out of the big car to take a
little stroll. Perhaps the sight of all those happy lads running
and jumping and throwing weights had made him feel more than ever
his own narrow, confined life, kept out of the society of all the
other boys after school hours, and made to play the part of a
"mollycoddle," as Roosevelt called all such fellows who have never
learned how to take care of themselves when a bully threatens.
Unused to the woods and hills, of course the first thing Claude did
was to lose all sense of direction. He became alarmed, and that
made matters worse than ever. So he had roamed about for almost a
full hour, dreadfully tiring his poor feet and limbs, since he had
never before in all his life walked so far and done such vigorous
Then he had come to that precipice, and, thinking he might glimpse
the cottage where the old nurse lived, somewhere down in the valley,
he had incautiously crept too close to the brink, when his weight
caused a portion of the soil to give way. Finding himself falling,
Claude had clutched desperately around him, and, as it happened, his
fingers gripped a friendly bush, to which he continued to cling even
as he struggled to better his condition and shouted as best he was able.
Hugh finished the story, to the edification of "Just" Smith, who
admitted that if it had not been for the courage and muscular ability
of Hugh the other boy must long ago have fallen to the bottom of the
awful precipice. And Claude, shivering as he afterwards looked up at
the forty feet and more of rocky wall, vowed he would never rest
satisfied until he too had learned how to develop his muscles so that
if ever again caught in a similar scrape he might have a fighting
chance for his life.
The two boys eventually found the cottage, although Mrs. Jardine and
the car had gone down the road hoping to overtake Claude, though they
were expected back again later; so, leaving Claude there, Hugh and
"Just" Smith continued their seven-mile run.
STARTLING NEWS FROM THE JUGGINS BOY
That was the telephone bell ringing.
"Hugh, will you answer it, since the chances are the call is from some
one of your numerous boy chums?" the voice of Mrs. Morgan came from
the dining-room, where she was looking after the silver and china,
after washing up the supper dishes, for they temporarily chanced to
be without a hired-girl.
Hugh guessed as much. He had already been called to the several
times since arriving home after his seven-mile spin. Once it had
been Claude's mother, begging him to be sure and call at her house
early in the morning, because she wanted to have a good, long, earnest
talk with him about Claude's future; and also to let him know how
brimful of gratitude a mother's heart could be toward the brave
boy who, at the risk of his own life, had saved her only child for
Hugh had promised he would see her, although he expected to be very
busy on the morning of the athletic tournament and then expressed the
hope that Claude and herself would honor the tournament with their
presence. This she hastily assured him she meant to do, because
it was now borne in on her heart that she had been making a terrible
mistake in reference to the way she was bringing up her darling
Needless to say, Hugh had chuckled joyously after that little talk.
He guessed he would have little trouble now in removing the scales
Mrs. Jardine had allowed to cover her eyes with regard to the benefits
to be derived by any boy, no matter how weak he might be, through a
judicious system of athletic exercises, the same to be lengthened as
he gradually grew more capable of standing fatigue.
"Hello!" Hugh called.
A voice he immediately recognized as that of Horatio Juggins greeted
him. "That you, Hugh?"
"Just who it is; what's the matter, Horatio? Feeling the effects
of your little jog this afternoon? I hope not, for your sake,
"Oh! come off, Hugh," the other quickly replied. "I'd be a fine
candidate for a fifteen-mile Marathon race, wouldn't I, if seven
miles knocked me out? I'm as fit right now as a fiddle. But Hugh,
can you come right over here now? Something dreadful has happened."
Hugh had a chilly feeling pass over him. It seemed as though some
sort of bad news was coming. Had the great meet been called off,
for some unknown reason or other? Somehow that struck him first as a
dire possibility, since it would grievously disappoint thousands of
eager boys and girls, not to mention many older folks with young hearts.
Now Hugh had intended to take that evening quietly, resting after his
strenuous afternoon, and absolutely refuse to allow Thad, or any
other fellow, to coax him outside the door. But already this resolve
began to weaken. That dim mention of some possible tragedy happening
started him going.
"Of course I can come over, Horatio," he told the boy at the other
end of the wire; "and I'll do so right away on condition that it's
no joke. Tell me what's up first."
"Oh! I meant to do that, Hugh," his friend hastened to say, and Hugh
could detect a tremor to the boyish voice that told of excitement.
"You see, it's K.K."
"What's happened to him?" demanded Hugh, his mind instantly suggesting
all manner of terrible possibilities, from a sudden attack of sickness
to an accident whereby his life might be in danger; for with boys these
things sometimes happen as unexpectedly as a flash of lightning from
a clear sky.
"Why, he never came back again from that run this afternoon, Hugh!"
Horatio was saying, in an awed tone now.
"What's that you're telling me?" exclaimed the astonished Hugh. "I
thought I saw K.K. with some of the other fellows when I was starting
home just before dusk came on, though, of course, I may have been
mistaken about it."
"You were, Hugh, you certainly were," Horatio assured him in a softened
tone. "His own mother ought to know, hadn't she? Well, she's over
here at our house right now, crying her eyes out, and imagining all
sorts of terrible things. You remember the Kinkaids live close by
us; and she knew her boy was going to take the run this afternoon
along with me, so she thought I could tell her if anything had happened
to detain him. Why, she says K.K. never missed his supper before
in all his life. It'd have to be something _fierce_ to keep him away
from his best meal of the whole day."
Hugh was thinking swiftly. He realized that this was no little matter
to be dismissed as unimportant. Something certainly must have
happened to detain K.K. for all this time. Several hours had elapsed
since the other fellows reached the terminus of the long run at the
athletic grounds. Why then had not K.K. shown up?
"Keep the rest till I get there, Horatio!" he told the other.
"Then you're sure coming, are you, Hugh?"
"Right away," Hugh added.
"Well, I'm glad, because you'll know what to do about it. And there's
"I've got something to tell you that, say, I didn't have the heart to
explain to K.K.'s mother, because she's had enough frightened as it
is; but it's looking particularly ugly to me, now that he hasn't
come back. Oh! perhaps there is more'n a grain of truth in all
those terrible stories those hayseeds tell about that place!"
Hugh put up the receiver with a hang, made a dash for his cap, slipped
on his sweater, for he knew the night air was cold, and then shot out
of doors. Somehow those last few words of Horatio, breathing of
mystery as they did, had excited his curiosity until it now reached
As he knew of several short-cuts across lots it took him but a few
minutes to arrive at the Juggins home. Horatio was waiting at the
door, and must have heard him running up the steps, for he instantly
opened it to admit him.
"Gee, but I'm glad you've come, Hugh!" was his greeting. "She's in
there with mother, and taking on awful about it. It's a dreadful
thing to see a woman cry, Hugh. And I'm afraid there may be a good
reason for expecting the worst."
"Tell me what you've got up your sleeve, Horatio," snapped Hugh, "and
quit giving all these dark hints. You know something connected with
K.K. that perhaps no one else does."
"Guess I do, Hugh; for he confided in me, and told me not to say
anything to the rest. Oh, how foolish it was for K.K. to think he
could do that big job two days in succession; but he said he was
feeling equal to nearly anything; and just had to make the try,
since the notion had gripped him. But come on over to my den, Hugh,
and I'll tell you all about it. Then you must decide what's best
to be done; and say, I hope you can soothe Mrs. Kinkaid a bit in
Ten seconds later and the two boys found themselves ensconced in the
room Horatio called his "den," although it was also his sleeping
apartment. But he had fixed it as near like a boy's ideal of a
lounging-place could be, the walls carrying the customary college
pennants and a great variety of other things besides that gave them
a rather crowded appearance. Evidently Horatio believed it added
to the charm, for he never entered that "sanctum" without an involuntary
smile of appreciation.
Horatio closed the door softly after him. Hugh had also noticed how
he did this just as carefully when admitting him to the front hall;
and as though he expected that this must have aroused a certain amount
of curiosity, Horatio hastened to explain.
"You see, the poor woman is so excited, and in such a nervous condition,
that she jumps up at the sound of a door closing, and starts to rush
out into the hall, believing that Justin has got back home and hurried
over to acquaint her with the joyous fact. Each time her
disappointment leaves her worse than before. She will be needing
Doctor Cadmus if this keeps on, as sure as anything."
"Well, what is it you want to tell me, Horatio?" demanded Hugh, not
even taking the trouble to drop down into the chair the owner of the
"den" shoved toward him; for it seemed as though he must soon be on
the jump---there was evidently something hanging over their heads,
which would be needing prompt attention.
"Why, it's just this, Hugh," began the other. "K.K. took a foolish
notion he'd like to say he'd one over the full course just for practice.
And, Hugh, he told me he meant to make use of the short-cut that
crosses the old haunted quarry!" Hugh started, and looked serious.
"Then, if anything has happened to K.K., it just have been while
he was crossing that mile tract between the two main roads," he
went on to say, without hesitation. Horatio nodded his head eagerly.
"I jumped to that same conclusion, Hugh, only I didn't dare mention it
to Mrs. Kinkaid. I thought you ought to know first of all, and decide
on the program. It's terrible just to think of it; and K.K. actually
pretended to make light, too, of all those stories the farmers have
been telling about that awful place."
"Hold your horses, Horatio!" Hugh exclaimed. "When I said that
I wasn't thinking of ghosts, or anything else unnatural. I meant
that in all probability poor K.K. met with some ordinary accident
while on that stretch, and has been unable to continue his run.
He may have tripped on a vine he failed to see, and either broken
his leg, or else sprained his ankle so badly that he can't even
limp along. I've known such a thing to happen---in fact, once I
got myself in the same pickle, and had to crawl two miles to a house,
every foot of the way on hands and knees, because the pain was frightful
whenever I tried to stand up. Well, the chances are K.K. has had
such a thing befall him."
Horatio heaved a tremendous sigh, as though quite a weighty load had
been taken off his chest.
"You make me feel a heap better, Hugh, when you're so positive," he
hastened to admit. "I was afraid it might be something even worse
than a sprain; but never mind what I thought. The question now is,
what ought we do about it?"
"There's only one thing that can be done," Hugh told him in his
customary straight-from-the-shoulder fashion, "which is for some of
his chums to organize a searching party, get the old Kinkaid car out,
and go up there to look over that abandoned road from one end to the
other. We'll find K.K., or know the reason why."
"That sounds good to me, Hugh!" declared Horatio, always ways ready
to follow where a bold leader showed the way; "and perhaps we may
have an opportunity to discover whether there is any truth about
those queer happenings the farmers keep telling of whenever the old
quarry is mentioned in their presence."
"We'll not bother our minds about fairy stories," Hugh assured him.
"What we're meaning to do is to look for a practical explanation of
K.K.'s holding out. And, mark my words, the chances are ten to one
we'll find the poor chap groaning alongside that road somewhere. But
let's get busy now, Horatio!"
TO THE RESCUE OF "K.K."
Hugh would really have been better satisfied if he could have hurried
away without seeing K.K.'s mother. He feared that she might delay
progress more or less, and at such a time every minute counted.
But at the same time he realized that the poor lady was in a dreadful
state of mind. It was necessary then that he try and soothe her
anxiety, for, as Horatio knew very well, Hugh Morgan had a way of
making other people feel the utmost confidence in him.
"Well, let's see K.K.'s mother, Horatio; but we mustn't waste much
time. We'll have to get her permission to run the car. I only hope
there's a decent supply of gas aboard, or in the garage."
Accordingly, Horatio led him into another room, where they found
Mrs. Kinkaid in a dreadfully nervous condition. She jumped to her
feet on discovering that Horatio had another boy with him, and then
upon seeing that it was not the one her heart was yearning after
she uttered a pitiful wail, and fell back into her chair again.
Hugh wasted no time, but commenced telling her something of what he
had heard from Horatio, connected with K.K.'s foolish determination
to take in the entire course as though in the race.
"Of a certainty he's fallen and sprained an ankle somewhere along that
cross-country road, Mrs. Kinkaid," he ended with. "We mean to gather
a few of the fellows, and if you'll give us permission to use your
big car we intend to run up there and look that road over from end
to end. There is no doubt but what we'll find K.K. and take him back
with us. So please try and feel at things will turn out all right.
Make up your mind we won't come back without him, that's all there
is to it."
Somehow the very confidence shown in Hugh's words seemed to pass along
to the almost distracted lady. Her eyes lighted up with renewed
courage, and she even smiled, though wanly, it must be confessed. But
then Hugh was pretty much of a magician in regard to arousing a feeling
of hope in the most depressed mind.
"You are a thousand times welcome to the car," she hurriedly assured
him; "and anything else you might want. It is dreadfully unfortunate
Mr. Kinkaid is away on one of his usual business trips to the west,
or he would insist on coming with you. But I feel certain, Hugh, you
will manage things splendidly, and a mother's prayers will go after
you, that you may not only find my boy, but that he may not have been
"Then we'll not linger any longer, ma'am," said Hugh, eager to be on
Horatio wrapped himself up warmly, and the two of them shot out of
"Now, what first, Hugh?"
Hugh seemed to have mapped out a plan of campaign in his mind, for he
answered without hesitation.
"We must pick up several of the fellows---Thad for one, then Owen
Dugdale would be another good hand at hunting for a lost party; and,
well, Julius Hobson for the third. That will make five in
all,---enough to search the quarry road from end to end. Besides,
we ought to carry several lanterns, because, while there is a moon,
I reckon we'll find it far from light along that overgrown trail."
"You just think of everything, Hugh," remarked Horatio, wonderingly.
"Let's get the car, first of all," Hugh continued shrewdly, "because
it can save us many steps in picking up the other fellows."
By this time they were at the Kinkaid home Horatio was well acquainted
with the premises, as he had played with K.K. since they were small
boys together. Hugh had been told where the key of the garage was
hidden, and quickly discovered it hanging on a concealed nail.
"Wait till I throw the switch, and light up," said Horatio, for they
had electricity at the Kinkaid place, and, of course, a bulb lighted
in the garage was considered much safer than a lantern.
As soon as the illumination came both boys set about examining the
big touring car that occupied the garage.
"Bully!" ejaculated Horatio, after making the rounds with suspended
breath; "all the tires are as hard as anything. How about the supply
of gas, Hugh?" for his companion had occupied himself with making an
examination of the tank.
"Plenty to carry us up and back twice over!" cried the delighted Hugh.
"This is what I call great luck. I was afraid there would be a tire
that needed changing; or else no gasolene at all."
K.K. didn't realize how kind he was to himself when he fitted up the
old car so handsomely, for some purpose."
"Oh!" chuckled Horatio, "mebbe I know why. You see, there's going
to be another barn dance next Tuesday night up at Bailey's, and I
think K.K. asked a girl to go with him and Peggy Noland and Owen
Dugdale. Yes, he even told me there was still room for two more,
if I could coax somebody to keep me company."
Hugh busied himself in starting the car going. He knew considerable
about mechanics, as most boys of the present generation do, since
automobiles have become so very common. Running it out of the garage
Hugh bade Horatio "hop aboard," which that worthy did without a
"Better get Thad first of all, I reckon," suggested Hugh, as though
he might even have figured out how best to save themselves from any
unnecessary delay; "then we can clip around to Julius Hobson's place,
and pick up Owen last on our way out of town."
The program suited Horatio first class. Indeed, he had such perfect
confidence in Hugh that anything the other said carried conviction
along with it. It is a fine thing for any boy to have aroused such
a spirit of trust in the minds of his comrades that they look up to
him as a sort of natural leader, and obey his slightest wish without
hesitation. But Hugh bore his honors with humility, and never
attempted to display the attributes of a czar.
Great was the astonishment of Thad Stevens when he found two excited
fellows demanding that he bundle up and go with them for a night ride
up to the abandoned quarry that had gained such a bad reputation among
the country folks residing roundabout.
The story was partly told in rapid-fire style, enough of it, at least,
to cause Thad to bounce into his heavy coat, and provide himself with
a lantern. He expected to become better informed from time to time
as they pushed along the road.
Next came Julius Hobson. They found him at home also, and, of course,
he was duly worked up on hearing how poor K.K. had never returned home
from his run over the long course of fifteen miles. When he heard
that they needed lanterns Julius produced a new electric flashlight
which had received for a birthday present, and Hugh said it would do
very well as an additional means of illumination.
Last of all they stopped at the home of Owen Dugdale, the dark-faced
lad who lived with his grandfather in a big house, and about whom
there had at one time been quite a little halo of mystery hanging.
Again was the main fact mentioned concerning the necessity for a
searching party starting forth to find poor K.K. Owen did not have
to be urged to join the bunch; indeed, he showed himself eager to
"I can fetch a lantern, if you want me to, Hugh," he observed; "and
say, do you know I'm of a mind to carry my new shotgun that I had
given to me just last month, when Grandfather concluded I was old
enough to want to go hunting. If we have to chase all around through
that place there's so many queer stories told about we might as well
be fixed so as to protect ourselves."
"Huh!" snorted Horatio Juggins, skeptically, "I've always heard that
ghosts don't mind ordinary birdshot any more'n an alligator would.
But then fetch it along, Owen; it'll no doubt make us feel a little
better when we find ourselves up in that terribly lonely tract of
country. And who knows but what there might be a stray wildcat
abroad in those woods. Such things have beer heard of, and I even
saw the skin of a whopper shown in the market."
So Owen carried out his design, and when he got aboard the big car
he took with him not only a lantern, well filled with oil, but also
his brand new twelve-gauge shotgun.
At last they were off. Every fellow felt a peculiar sense of
exhilaration that possibly even bordered on anticipation, take
possession of him; for the future was there before them all unknown.
Who could say what strange adventures might befall them before this
undertaking was finished?
Of course they had the headlights turned on at full force, and Hugh
at the wheel found no difficulty in keeping the middle of the road.
He did not mean to pursue a reckless pace, because, if they met with
an accident it would spoil all their plans. Better to go at an
ordinary rate of speed, and make haste slowly, so to speak.
Meanwhile there was a clatter of tongues aboard the big car. Julius,
Thad and Owen had dozens of pertinent questions ready to fire at
Horatio, who was kept busy making illuminating replies. Thus the trio
learned how K.K. had unwisely determined to cover the entire course
and only whispered his intention to his chum, Horatio, at the same
time binding him to silence, for fear lest Mr. Leonard put a damper
on his plans by vetoing the scheme in the start.
Then suggestions began to flow like water after a storm. All sorts
of possibilities covering such a strange disappearance were advanced.
Owen believed that Horatio was not far amiss when he declared there
might be something in that ghost business, after all; and that poor
K.K. had found it out to his cost; though, beyond this broad statement,
Owen declined to commit himself, because he, of course, could not
imagine what a genuine ghost would look like, in the daytime at that;
or what such an apparition would be likely to do to a boy who had had
the ill-luck to fall into its clutches.
A dozen additional ideas were advanced, some of them bordering on the
absurd and others really plausible. The unlimited resources of a
boy's fertile mind in conjuring up remarkable explanations in a
mysterious case like the one now engaging their attention had not yet
been reached at the time Hugh suddenly announced they were close to
the place where the abandoned quarry road started in from the
thoroughfare they were then following.
"We just passed the twin oaks I remember stood alongside the road on
the left," he explained, at the same time slowing up considerably;
"and they are close to the turning-in place."
"I noticed them in particular, you see, because I didn't want to lose
even three seconds when on the run, in searching for some sign of the
spot; though, of course, I could have looked for the marks of our
tires left there at the time we came back from our nutting excursion,
and went through to the other road. Yes, here we are right now, and
I'm going to turn in, boys."
He negotiated the turn without accident, though the branches of the
trees did scrape against the sides of the car in a way that made some
of the occupants shudder; for already they were beginning to feel a
trace of the uneasiness that their gruesome surroundings were apt to
arouse within their boyish hearts.
THE SEARCHING PARTY
"Hugh, it looks like we mightn't need those lanterns after all,"
remarked Horatio, after they had gotten well started along the dimly
seen quarry road.
Indeed, the brilliant headlights of the big car illuminated a radius
of considerable size ahead of them and around. Every tiny twig was
thrown out into bold relief, as though a powerful sun had found a way
of forcing ingress through the canopy of leafless branches overhead.
"Not just at present, perhaps," replied the driver at the wheel; "but
they may come in handy yet. We'll wait and see."
Owen sat beside Hugh, the other three occupying the tonneau of the
car. There was abundance of room for all, and some to spare. Owen
held his new shotgun in his hands and he kept a close watch upon
the road ahead, just as though that idea connected with a ferocious
wildcat might have taken hold on his mind, and he believed there
was a possibility of such a thing coming to pass. Hugh drove with
exceedingly great care, and made no attempt at speed. Indeed, such
a thing was utterly out of the question, with that rough road to
follow and the necessity of keeping a constant vigilant outlook,
lest they collide with some tree. When the quarry was in full operation
automobiles were an unknown luxury; and certainly no provision had
ever been made for such a contraption passing along that crooked
trail, with its numerous sharp curves intended to avoid natural
obstacles. Three separate times already had Hugh brought the car
to a full stop, and even caused the engine to cease its throbbing.
This was done in order that all of them might strain their hearing,
in hopes of catching some faint sound to tell that the missing boy
whom they sought was close at hand.
But only disappointment succeeded each attempt to pick up information.
They caught the dismal hooting of an owl in some dead tree not far
away, but certainly such a doleful sound did not raise their spirits
materially. Several times while they were moving along Owen had seen
a movement amidst the brush that gave him a little thrill; but the
glimpses he obtained of the disappearing animal convinced him in
one instance that it was a red fox that scurried off in alarm; while
on the second occasion he rather imagined it was only a ring-tailed
raccoon scuttling away and badly frightened by the intense white glow
that bad suddenly penetrated his dark quarters.
If there was a wildcat within twenty miles of the spot they certainly
never knew of it, because no such beast of prey disclosed its presence
to them while they continued on their way.
But then there were plenty of thrills for the boys. Not only did the
weird hooting of that horned owl come to make their flesh creep, but
now and again they detected strange sounds that may have been caused
by limbs of the trees rubbing together in the night breeze, but which
had a wonderful resemblance to human groans.
They had been pursuing their way along for some little time without
much attempt at conversation; but it is pretty hard for a parcel of
boys to remain long silent, no matter what the provocation. And
Horatio, for one, felt urged to free his mind of certain fancies that
had taken lodging there.
"I say, fellows, doesn't this beat everything you ever saw all hollow?"
he went on to say, for there was really no need of their keeping quiet;
since they had not started out to steal a march upon any enemy,---only
to find poor lost K.K.
"Just listen to that awful groaning sound, will you? If I didn't know
it was caused by the limbs of trees sawing across each other in the
wind I'd think somebody was almost dying."
"At another time I guess we wouldn't bother our heads about such
a silly thing," observed Julius Hobson; "but, of course, our minds
are full up with what may have happened to our comrade, and all
that noise makes us shiver a heap; it's so suggestive, so to speak."
"Oh! what did you think you saw then, Owen?" gasped Horatio, as,
chancing to fix his gaze on the other, he noticed him suddenly elevate
his gun as though tempted to shoot the same.
"It was only a frisky rabbit, after all," he announced calmly enough.
"I was just covering him to find out how easy I could nail the rascal,
if only I was out hunting game instead of a lost boy. And we'd have
had rabbit stew at the Dugdale home to-morrow, let me tell you,
Horatio, if I'd cared to let fly, for I had him covered handsomely."
"Well, please don't do it in a hurry again, Owen," asked Horatio,
settling back once more, and hoping his throbbing heart might not
beat so loudly that any of his comrades could hear it pounding against
his ribs. "Remember this is no ordinary patch of woods we're in right
All sorts of stories have been told concerning the country up here;
and in passing through after nightfall we're doing what a big bribe
couldn't tempt any farmer's help to try. But, Hugh, don't you think
we must be getting pretty near that place by this time?"
"Just about two-thirds of the way, Horatio," he was informed. "That
leaning tree we passed is exactly three hundred and thirty-seven
paces from the place we left the road."
"Well, what do you think of that for looking ahead, fellows!" ejaculated
Horatio. "Hugh here took all the trouble to count the steps while
passing through, the day he came up to examine the ground. That's
what I call preparedness, and I guess it counts in a race, just as
much as in getting ready for war."
Hugh laughed as though momentarily amused.
"Well, they're both in the same category, Horatio, if you look at
things from the right point of view; rival armies and rival athletes
contending for the prize which in both cases would mean victory.
Looking ahead is a useful hobby, and it's served me handsomely on many
an occasion. I consider no time wasted that is employed to insure
success; even if you never need the information you've picked up it
adds to your stock of knowledge; and no fellow can have too big a
fund of that."
"Then we ought soon to be getting there, at this rate," continued
Horatio. "Let's hope nothing happens to our old car. We'd have a
jolly walk back to town if we broke down here and couldn't fix things.
I'd prefer making a fire and spending the night in the woods to
taking such a tramp, which would debar us from all hope of making
that big run to-morrow."
"With K.K. out of the game the chances for Scranton High begin to
flicker some," admitted Julius. "He was showing unusual stamina
right now, and secretly I was backing K.K. to bring home the bacon
for our school. Of course, with Hugh and Horatio and 'Just' Smith
still in the ring it isn't hopeless by any means; but they do say
those Allandale chaps have unearthed several wonders at long-distance
running, and they are dying to knock Scranton down this time."
Again Hugh stopped the car and bade the others listen.
"It isn't that I thought I heard anything suspicious, fellows," he went
on to explain, when they manifested a certain amount of excitement;
"but, on general principles, I think we ought to stop oftener, and
find out if there's anything doing."
After testing their combined hearing to the limit, and without any
success, Hugh again started up. It was Thad who spoke next, and
apparently he had been considering something that he would like to
have made clear.
"What if we pass all the way through to the other road, without
learning a single thing, Hugh?" he went on to say; "do you mean to
give it up, and head for home then and there?"
"Well, I should hope not, Thad!" burst out Horatio; "we're none of us
built that way. Because a fellow gets a single knock-down in a fight
ought he to throw up the sponge right away, and own himself beaten?
Why, we started out to find K.K., and sleep isn't going to visit my
eyes this night until we succeed. That's the way I look at it, and
I reckon the rest of you are in the same boat."
"If such a thing should happen, Thad," said Hugh, sturdily, "we'll
simply turn around and come back again; only, under the new conditions,
some of you will have to turn out with the lanterns, and search
alongside the road as we go slowly along."
Horatio gave a gasp that was plainly audible.
"Do you really mean, Hugh," he went on to task, in a voice that
trembled more or less despite Horatio's effort to control the same,
"that you half expect to find K.K.lying alongside the road, either
dead, or else insensible from the pain of his broken leg?"
"Well, I wasn't just thinking things would be as bad as all that,"
Hugh hastened to say. "What I had in mind was the chance of coming
on his footprints, and then trying to follow the same. We could
easily tell them, for K.K. had on his running shoes, you remember.
By tracking him, step by step, don't you see, we could tell just
where he met with his trouble, even find out, perhaps, the nature
of his accident, and continue to follow him up."
"That would suit me first rate," said Julius, promptly; "and my fine
electric hand-torch might come into play with a vengeance. There's
nothing better going for following a trail in the dark, because the
light is focussed, you see, on a small compass. Why, you can pick
up night-walkers like everything when the fishing season's on, by
using a flashlight. I could even find a needle in a haystack, I
believe, with one of these jim-dandy contraptions."
"All right, Julius, we'll appoint you head tracker, then," chuckled
Horatio. "But, after all, perhaps we'll run across our comrade yet,
before we get out of this tangle. We're about to come to the most
critical point of the entire trip, remember, for the old quarry is
just ahead of us."
Horatio chanced to be on the side of the car toward the quarry. He
was not spending nearly so much time now looking ahead, leaving that
task to his chums; even while talking he kept his eyes fixed upon
the dark expanse that represented the surrounding woods, anticipating
catching a glimpse of something, he hardly knew what, at any moment
now. Doubtless all those silly yarns retailed by the ignorant gossiping
farm-hands in the market-place in Scranton, while they tried to
outdo one another in matching fairy stories, must have been circulating
through Horatio's brain just then. The heavy atmosphere of the
deserted stone quarry, and its lonely surroundings, added to the
mysterious disappearance of K.K., combined to make him peculiarly
susceptible to such influences as see ghosts in every white object
that moves in the darkness.
This being the case with the Juggins boy it was not to be wondered
at that there could be traced a vein of actual gratification in his
voice when he suddenly electrified his companions by exclaiming:
"Hugh! fellows, I tell you I saw it right then, just as that Swanson
farmhand vowed to me he did once on a time this last summer---it
was a light, waved up and down, back and forth, and just like they
teach you when you join the Signal Corps, and learn how to wigwag with
a flag or a lantern. It came from right over yonder, where we all
know the old quarry lies! And I'm not fooling, either; cross my heart
if I am!"
PROWLING AROUND THE QUARRY
Everybody was staring hard by the time Horatio finished. Hugh, of
course, had immediately stopped the car on the road, so that they
were now stationary.
It chanced that the spot was one of few where a glimpse of the quarry
could be picked up, as the boys had discovered at the time they
passed along this way, when we overtook them on their nutting trip.
Seconds crept past.
Each boy could measure time by the beating of his wildly accelerated
heart, and as these were throbbing at the rate of something like a
hundred pulsations per minute it can be easily understood that "things
were going some," to quote Horatio, when afterwards telling the story.
Then all of them saw what the first discoverer had attempted to
describe. They stared as though fascinated. Truly Horatio had said
well when he spoke of the odd movements of the mysterious light; for
it moved swiftly up and down, then sideways, and in eccentric circles,
after which it vanished as suddenly as it had come into being.
Some of the boys sighed, as though being wakened from a dream. Horatio,
of course, was full of deepest gratification, since he had detected a
skeptical air in the actions of Thad and Owen, which seemed to place
him in the light of one who saw things where none existed."
"There, didn't I tell you?" he exclaimed, triumphantly. "And, say,
wasn't that---eh, party, whoever he might be, making some sort of
telegraphic signals with his old lantern or torch?"
"Hugh, what do you think?" demanded Thad. "You're up in all that kind
of wigwag signal work, and perhaps now you could tell what it means."
"I lost some of it, I'm sorry to say, fellows," observed Hugh, gravely;
"but all the same I caught enough to tell me that waving of a light
was meant as a signal message, though who sent it, and to whom, is all
"But could you make out enough of the message, Hugh, to give you any
idea what it stood for?" persisted Thad.
"Yes, I believe I did," the other admitted, solemnly, so that each
of his chums bent closer to catch the next words that fell from
his lips. "I'm certain it spelled out the word 'Help,' for one;
and I thought another was 'quick'!"
"Oh! what do you think of that?" gasped Horatio.
"The mystery deepens," added Owen, dramatically, just as he had
probably been accustomed to reading in some story of excitement.
"Of course," continued Hugh, immediately, "we've got to take a look
around that same old quarry, and see what's going on. Somebody's
holding the fort there, even if it is said to be deserted. Who
and what he can be, of course, remains to be seen; but I'm not taking
a bit of stock in those old wives' yarns about a ghost, remember,
"Then we'll have to leave the car on the road, won't we, Hugh, when
we tackle this big job?" questioned Owen.
"Of course; and since I marked the best spot where anyone could make
their way along to the face of the quarry, we must start up again, and
keep moving till we strike that place."
"But, Hugh, do you think the---er---party making those signals with
a light could have noticed our illumination, and that message was
meant for us?" Horatio went on to ask, solicitously.
"I'm not prepared to say," he was told, "though I don't see how
anybody with eyes could miss discovering us coming along. And,
besides, the old car makes plenty of noise in the bargain, to attract
attention. So it looks as if he did know, and was trying to talk
All this only added to the thrill that was forever passing through
each and every member of the night expedition. It would be manifestly
impossible to describe their mixed feelings as they advanced slowly
along the rough road so long abandoned to nature. A dozen times
Horatio believed he heard cries; why, it seemed as though the air
must be filled with uncanny sounds, for his lively imagination was
working at race-horse speed just then.
The car stopped short.
"Wow! what's happened now, Hugh?" whisened Horatio.
"We've arrived at the getting-out place, that's all," came the steady
reply, as the chauffeur caused the engine to cease working and then
proceeded to leave his seat, after his companion had jumped out.
The lanterns were now lighted and the electric torch made ready for
use. If hands trembled considerably during this operation, causing
several matches to be used before the desired results were obtained,
could anyone blame Owen and the other possessor of a lantern? It was
a most remarkable thing that no one evinced the slightest disposition
to stay by the car, and guard it against thieves. It was a case of
"follow the leader," and where Hugh went they were all bound to go
also. To be honest, the chances were that Horatio, for one, could
not have been coaxed to separate himself from the company of his
four chums; because there was a great deal of truth in that old maxim,
"in union there is strength."
Hugh now led the way. He had been given one of the lanterns with which
to light a passage across the heaps of broken stones, earth, and
rubbish, cast there at the time in the remote past when the quarry was
in full blast, with workmen delving into the hillside, blasting away
sections through the use of dynamite or powder, and sending out many
wagon-loads of building-stone each of the six working days of the week.
They did not string out in single file, but kept bunched together.
Indeed, this came through no accident, but there was a method in their
madness; because, you see, no fellow would want to be the hindmost
in the file.
Hugh showed a wonderful amount of knowledge of the place, considering
that he had never before in his life placed a foot upon the ground and
had to depend entirely on his former observations. But he kept on as
straight as could be expected, and presently Owen managed to muster
up courage enough to say in a low and most carefully guarded tone:
"Hugh, did you take note of the exact spot where the light showed up?
I'm asking because you seem to be heading direct for somewhere."
"I believe I know where it was," Hugh told him simply. "You see, I
noted several things about the face of the quarry that day we stopped
to look it over; and when I saw that dancing trail of fire I figured
out that it must be at just such a place, which spot I'm heading for
right now. And just as you spoke I had ample proof that I was right
in my guess."
"Why, what happened, Hugh?" demanded Horatio eagerly.
"I caught a faint glimpse of light up there," Hugh told him. "I
wonder none of the rest of you happened to notice the same. It made
me think that some person might be in one of those holes we saw in
the face of the wall---caves, the natives call them, Horatio says.
As this was somewhat deep only a tiny bit of illumination escaped,
and you could just detect that when at a certain angle. Stop short,
now, and see for yourselves, for there it is again!"
Thrilled to the bone they stood and gaped. Hugh was pointing with
his disengaged hand, half holding the lantern back of him so that its
glow might not further interfere with their view.
"You're right, Hugh; that's surely what it is," greed Thad, almost
immediately; and each of the other three went on record with a
"Then the next thing for us to do is to find some way of climbing up
to that same fissure," the leader explained, showing that he meant to
lose no time in trying to open negotiations with the unknown denizens
of the quarry, whose actions were becoming more and more mysterious
as time passed.
"Which means that we're going to beard the tiger in his den," quoth
Owen, gripping his gun more firmly as he edged a little closer to Hugh;
for since he was the only member of the expedition who could be said
to possess a weapon it was proper that he should be found in the van
at such a crisis.
They walked on, not hastily, and showing no outward sign of the tumult
that must have raged in each boyish heart. Now it was no longer
possible for them to discern that faint glow; but such a little thing
did not daunt them. Hugh had marked well the exact location of their
objective point, and Hugh seldom made mistakes, those other confident
fellows were telling themselves as they cheerfully trudged along.
The foot of the cliff was at hand. Rains and winds and snow avalanches
had, during the years that had passed since the hands of men worked
those diggings, served to cut loose great quantities of debris from
the face of the height, so that here and there at the foot irregular
pyramids of earth and rocks could be seen. Hugh now seemed to have
turned his attention from above and was bending half over, as though
examining the ground. Owen knew what this meant. The other anticipated
finding a track leading directly to the route by means of which that
cavern halfway up the cliff might be easiest attained.
And, as often happens, such reasoning proved to be the wisest thing the
searchers could have undertaken, for hardly had half a minute elapsed
an Hugh was heard to give vent to a low ejaculation of gratification.
No one spoke, but they understood that he had found the trail he was
looking for. Indeed, he at once started to move along, still bending
over, holding his lighted lantern low, so that its not too good
illumination would best serve him.
Now they reached a sort of strange little gully, here the silt had
washed down more heavily ring the period of erosion than at any
other lace. Looking up, the boys could see that it afforded a steep
but accessible avenue by means of which an agile person could ascend
the otherwise impregnable height towering above their heads.
Hugh halted not, but started up. Owen came close behind him, holding
that formidable shotgun so that he could thrust it ahead of his
leader would an occasion arise necessitating action.
But Hugh had already warned him not to be rash, and under no condition
to dream of firing until he himself had given the order.
It was a queer little procession that crept up that steep trail in the
gully formed by Nature during the heavy storms of summer and winter.
The twin lanterns glimmered and flickered as the night wind puffed the
tiny blazes; and ahead of all lay the white glow of the electric
hand-torch, showing them how they were now almost at the end of
Yes, the fissure extended straight into the face of the cliff. Hugh
was taking them directly to the place where undoubtedly the mysterious
unknown had stood on a sort of rocky platform, and indulged in all
those queer telegraphic code motions with a light of some sort.
A FRIENDLY GHOST
Hugh led the way straight into the fissure. As they proceeded they
could see the light ahead growing stronger. Low sounds, as of voices,
also led them onward; and then, upon turning a bend, they came upon
a sight that had them all staring with wonder.
It was indeed a cave, and of considerable dimensions. A wild beast
would have delighted in such a den in which to hide from the rigors
of winter, but to boys accustomed to the luxuries of home life it
would doubtless have few attractions, especially after the novelty of
camping-out had worn off in a week's time.
It was a fire that burned which gave the light at a pile of dry wood,
mostly broken branches of dead trees, showed that the occupant
of the cave had laid in a supply against a rainy day. There, sitting
with his back against the wall, was their missing comrade K.K. His
face looked unusually white, and bore an expression of acute pain,
which, however, he manfully tried from time to time to dismiss by a
ghastly grin, altogether assumed, since he certainly was in no mood
They could see that his left leg was bandaged in some manner, as
though he might have broken the bones, and someone had tried to bind
up the limb. Even with that superficial glance Hugh marked the fact
that this had been done in a fashion indicating considerable previous
experience along such lines.
And then they turned their attention upon the other party, the mysterious
one who doubtless had found poor K.K. helpless on the ground and borne
him to this cavern in the quarry. He was indeed a wild-looking party,
with long, unkempt hair and a sunburnt face in which his glowing eyes
were deep-seated. There was that about him to convince Hugh instantly
he must be deranged, although just then the man bent over poor K.K.
solicitously, and seemed to be tenderly doing something calculated to
ease his pain.
Hugh coughed, meaning to draw attention to the fact of their arrival.
The man immediately stood up and bent a searching look upon the five
lads. Perhaps he had been hearing K.K. tell how some of his chums
would certainly be coming to search for him, and, therefore, even
though he might wish to remain in his hidden retreat undisturbed,
he manifested no hostility toward them, simply folded his arms and,
stepping back, watched their approach.
Hugh made gestures to indicate that they were peacefully disposed.
In doing so he purposely used the signal code and spelled out the
one word, "friend." He saw the wildman's thin face take on a sudden
gleam of awakened interest, and he nodded his head in the affirmative,
as if to reassure Hugh that they were not unwelcome. From this the
boy knew the stranger must at some time have been in the army, and
that even while his brain was resting under a cloud he could till
send and receive messages such as had been one time his daily avocation.
They reached the side of their unfortunate companion. He held out a
hand to welcome Hugh. "Oh! I'm mighty glad you've come, fellows, I
tell you," he told them, with a tremor in his voice. "I've had a
rotten time of it all around, and suffered terribly. You see, I made
a fool of myself, and tripped over a vine, so that I was thrown into
a gully, with my left leg under me. Snapped both bones, he says,
just above the ankle, and a fine time I've got ahead of me this
winter, with no skating, hockey, or anything worth living for. But
then it might have been worse, because my neck is worth more to me
than my ankle. But now I do hope you can get me home. I never wanted
to see home and mother one-half as much as now."
"Yes, we've come in the big car, K.K.," Hugh assured him. "And we'll
fetch you home right away. You ought to be looked after by Doctor
Wambold; broken bones are not things to be trifled with, and while
this party seems to have done the best he could it can only be a
"Don't you believe it, Hugh," said the injured boy warmly; "why, he's
a regular jim-dandy about such jobs. I bet you he used to be an
army surgeon in his younger days, from hints he's let drop. And then
he knows the Signal Corps work right off the handle to boot, even
if---well, I won't say what I meant to. He's been so kind and
considerate to me; my own father couldn't have been more tender.
I've guessed the secret of the old haunted quarry, Hugh!" which last
he almost whispered in the other's ear.
"Yes, I can say the same," muttered Hugh, "because, as soon as I saw
that he was using the regular army code of signals, I remembered
about hearing how a certain family over near Hackensack had an uncle
who used to be in the Signal Corps and was also later on an army
surgeon, but who had suffered a sunstroke, and, well, was said to be
a bit queer."
"Yes," whispered K.K., "this is the same party. His name, I remember,
was Dr. Coursens, and there was some talk last summer about his having
got loose from the house and being drowned, they believed, in the
river, though his body was never found. Just to think of it, he's
been hiding here ever since, picking up his living almost like a wild
animal. Why, right now his clothes are nearly falling off his back,
and if he tries to hang out here much longer he'll be frozen to death.
But, Hugh, we must let his folks know where he is so they can come
after him. I believe his mind is beginning to get a little clear
again, for at times he talks quite reasonably."
This was all mighty interesting to Hugh, and he determined that he
would let no grass grow under his feet until he had seen to it that
the an with the deranged mind was once more re stored to his family.
But the first thing to be done was to get poor K.K. safely back home.
So he turned to the man and spoke to him, telling him that they
wished to get their comrade to the car, and at the same time thanking
him warmly for all he had done. Not a single word in reply did Hugh
receive. The man listened and nodded his head, as though he could
dimly understand what the boy was saying. Evidently he was in
something of a dazed condition, if, as K.K. affirmed, his senses
were beginning to assume a normal condition after years of darkness.
It was a terrible job getting K.K. down from that elevated place.
The man showed them how best to manage. He seemed really solicitous,
and it could be seen that he had taken quite a liking to K.K. during
their brief intercourse, since the latter had been found groaning on
the ground. Eventually the level below the cliff was attained. Poor
K.K. had groaned many times, hard though he fought to repress the
sounds, for it was unavoidable that he should receive many jostlings
while being transferred to the lower level.
Then they made their way across the open space, and finally arrived
at the waiting car, in which the injured youth was deposited and
made as comfortable as the conditions allowed. The deranged man
watched all this with a wistful gleam in his eye. He had fled from
his kind while still gripped in the darkness of madness, but with the
first glimmer of reason being seated once more on its throne he
commenced to yearn after human fellowship again.
Since the boys had all taken such a deep-seated interest in the matter
it may be proper before the "ghost" of the haunted quarry is dropped
altogether from the story to state that the very next morning Hugh
went over to Hackensack and electrified the Coursen family with
certain remarkable news he brought. It ended in their all starting
forth and arriving at the quarry. They found the demented man
awaiting their coming as though he had guessed what Hugh had in his
mind. More than that he greeted them soberly, and called each member
of the family by name, something he had not been able to do since
that dark cloud descended upon his mind years back.
There seemed reason to believe that in due time Doctor Coursen might
regain his full senses again and spend a few years more with his
delighted relatives before the end came.
Hugh, of course, learned all about him and how he had served years in
the army, first as a sergeant in the Signal Corps, and later on
becoming a surgeon of considerable reputation before the accident in
the tropics deprived him of his reason.
Perhaps it had been the utterly helpless condition of poor K.K.,
when he came accidentally upon the injured boy, that had strongly
appealed to the surgical spirit that still lay dormant in the brain
and fingers of the insane man and which had been the main cause of the
light of reason returning---surgery had been his passion, and the
familiar work took him back to other days, apparently.
And that very night, when Doctor Cadmus, hastily summoned to the home
of Mrs. Kinkaid, examined the work of the deranged dweller of the
quarry cave, he had pronounced it simply marvelous the clever way in
which the other had set those bones and put a splint on the leg,
with such clumsy means for working at hand. He declared he meant
to interest himself deeply in the case and see if such a skillful
surgeon might not be restored to the world so much in need of his
kind, I with the terrible war raging on the other side of the Atlantic.
To conclude with this subject, at last accounts Dr. Coursen had so
far recovered as to send in his application for a berth in some
hospital over in France, where his wonderful knowledge of surgery
might prove useful to the countless wounded men at the front. And
doubtless ere this reaches the eye of the reader he may be across
the Atlantic, serving humanity in the great cause.
Long would those five lads remember that strange expedition up to the
haunted quarry, and what a remarkable discovery they made after
arriving on the ground. It may be that Horatio, yes, and Julius
also, would be less apt to clothe anything along a mysterious nature
with ghostly attributes, after learning how common-sense and investigation
will, in nearly all cases, turn suspicion into ridicule. But while
the country folks, of course, also learned how the phantom of the
quarry had turned out to be just a crazy man who had escaped from
his confinement at home and gone back to primeval ways of living, few
of them would ever muster up the courage to visit the deserted quarry
after nightfall. It had too many thrilling associations to please
them; and besides, what was the use of going out of their way just
to feel the "goose-flesh" creep over their bodies when an owl hooted,
or some little forest animal gave a grunt?
K.K., being young and healthy, and attended carefully by good old
Doctor Cadmus, was not confined to the house for many weeks. The
bones did not require resetting, and rapidly knitted, so that after
a while he could walk to and from school with the aid of a crutch;
and later this, in turn, gave way to a cane. When February came he
even threw this aid aside, and by March was seen taking his part in
school rushes, as though he had never been injured at all. But his
skates were never once used all winter, nor could he indulge in any
sledding, both of which were favorite pleasures with K.K.
On the whole, however, he felt that he had much to be thankful for;
and tried not to be too greatly disappointed. But his chums would
miss him when the Marathon race was on; because he had been accounted
one of the best long-distance runners without exception that Scranton
High could boast.
SCRANTON'S "OPEN-HOUSE" DAY
Saturday opened with a promise of fair weather, and thousands of
anxious hearts beat high with satisfaction when this important fact
Before the morning was half over many strangers were noticed in town,
having taken the day off in order to attend the wonderful meet, of
which so much had been said. Every boy in Scranton was wild-eyed,
and on the run most of the time, trying to be here, there, and in
half, a dozen places at once, if such a were possible.
Indeed, there was so much going on it reminded some people of the
famous circus that visited the town two years back, with three separate
rings, and something taking place in each at the same time; so that
the spectators hardly knew how to take it all in and keep from being
Out at the athletic grounds there were crowds gathered. Men were
working at the fence, while another gang, under the orders of Mr.
Leonard, carefully put in place such paraphernalia as would be needed
in carrying out the programme. Even big pole had been well greased
for the climbing match; while the hurdles for the obstacle race where
ready to be placed in position at the proper time; and a thousand and
one other matters engaged the attention of the physical director, who
as probably the most industrious man in seven counties that Saturday A.M.
Nor was that all. Some of the would-be contestants, not wholly
satisfied with their record for proficiency, and wishing to key
themselves up top-notch speed against the now near hour of trial,
were on the ground, and in their working togs. Here a bunch galloped
swiftly around the cinder path, with one of their number holding the
watch on them to ascertain what time they made. Further along several
other fellows were jumping with might and main, and showing either
jubilation or deep chagrin as they found themselves able to do a
shade better than ever before, or else going backward in their scoring.
Indeed, that was going to be a red-letter day in the lives of all
Scranton's young people. They begrudged the passing minutes, because
their period of enjoyment would be shortened just so much with the
loss of every sixty seconds.
When Hugh came on the grounds, after his trip to Hackensack, and seeing
the hermit of the quarry once more safely lodged in the bosom of his
delighted family, he had only one regret. This was the fact that
poor K.K., whose heart had been so set on carrying the colors of
Scranton High to victory in the Marathon race, should be debarred
from participating in the same by a cruel fate.
As for himself Hugh was not quite so certain as before that he could
accomplish such a thing as getting over those fifteen miles ahead of
all competitors. What he had gone through with on the preceding day,
coupled with his night journey, and only partial rest, after getting
in bed at a late hour, had sapped some of his energy.
But Hugh's grit and determination were just as strong as ever, and
he meant to do his level best. If he fell down, why, there were
"Just" Smith, and Horatio Juggins, as well as two other Scranton
fellows, any one of whom might be the winner. So long as the prize
fell to a Scranton High boy, it mattered little who carried off the
honors, Hugh felt.
Noon came at last.
Everything was now ready for the opening of the athletic tournament.
Chief Wambold kept watch and ward over the grounds, assisted by his
entire force of uniformed men. He evidently did not intend that
any boy, with a mind that turned to practical joking, should have
a chance to exercise his evil propensities unchecked. Should such
a thing be attempted the joker would find himself up against a snag
immediately; and, as those posters announced, he was going to be
harshly dealt with up to the "extreme penalty of the law."
There were hundreds of people on the grounds at noon, which was a
pretty good marker for the tense crowds that would soon be heading
that way from every point of the compass. Most of these "early
birds" were, of course, out-of-town folks, farmers' families that
had come in, to market, perhaps, and they stayed over to see the
great show, because everybody living for many miles round Scranton
had heard about the meet, and and what a wonderful sight it would
be, well worth going miles to gaze upon. These thrifty and sensible
folks had, in many cases, brought their lunch along with them.
Perhaps they disliked the idea of eating in small restaurants, such
as Scranton, like most towns, boasted; but, no doubt, the main thing
was economy in these times of scanty cash and inflated war prices.
It was well worth watching when they started to open their packages,
and spread out the contents on the ground or, as might be, on the
benches here they had taken up their positions the better to see
what went on. And really it would have made any boy's mouth water
to note the immense quantities of home-made pies, doughnuts, fried
chicken, and all such good things as were displayed in those farmer's
wives lunch packets. At least there must be no sign of hard times
when the family went on a picnic, or any other sort of pleasure jaunt.
By then the crowds began to assemble in earnest. Town people, fearing
a crush, hastened to leave home with the lunch dishes unwashed, and
look for places to sit during the long afternoon. Along the roads
every type of car, wagon, carriage, and other styles of equipages
began to be seen, all heading toward the center of interest, which
was the town of Scranton.
Hundreds came from Allandale; indeed, it might be safe to even say
thousands, for in every direction could be seen the colors of Allandale
High, just as though each enthusiastic boy and girl had rounded up all
their relatives and friends, and induced them to make it a point to
travel to the neighboring borough, there to shout and shriek, and in
other ways lend encouragement to each Allandale aspirant for athletic
honors wherever they showed up.
Belleville, too, must look very much like the "Deserted Village" on
this particular afternoon; and, if the amount of business done
depended on the few who had remained at home, her merchants would have
to stay up until midnight in order to equal their customary Saturday
At half-past twelve the throng had become so dense that Chief Wambold
and his men were compelled to enlist the services of a number of willing
volunteers who, temporarily decorated with a silver shield, were
vested with the authority of regular officers, in order to keep
avenues open, and prevent the throng from breaking through the ropes
upon the limited field where the athletes expected to compete.
So far as attendance was concerned there was no longer the least doubt
but that the meet would prove an abounding success; the rest remained
to be proven. But the gathering athletes who began appear in little
knots, coming from the dressing rooms of the building, seemed full of
confidence, and answered the loud salutes of a myriad friends in the
crowd with reassuring nods, and gestures calculated to buoy up their
The programme would be varied. First would me several short sprints
between the best runners of hundred-yard distances in the county.
These were sure to key up the spectators by their thrilling intensity,
as is always the case. Following fast upon these there would be
hammer-throw, and the toss of the discus. Then the programme called
for other athletic exhibitions along line that would lend variety, and
enhance the interest, as the different schools struggled for supremacy
in the arena provided, spurred on to do their utmost by ringing cheers,
and the dearly beloved class songs.
Everybody worth mentioning in Scranton would be there, from Dr. Carmack,
the supervising head of the county schools, as well as principal of
Scranton High, down the line to the Directors of the Games, the town
council, the mayors of the three boroughs, and a whole host of
And how the fond eyes of father and mother would follow the movements
of John, or Edward, or Philip, as though he might be the only young
athlete worth watching in all that animated scene. If he won, they
had always known he did not have an equal in his specialty; and should
he be so unlucky as to come in at the heels of the pack, why, it was
easy to be seen that he had not been given a square deal by some of
the rival runners, who persisted in getting in his way, and were
probably leagued together to prevent him from carrying off the prize.
But no matter, he would always be a hero in the eyes of those who
loved him, though he might not decorate the family mantel at home
with the prizes he aspired to win.
Hugh had kept fairly quiet after returning from Hackensack, and seeing
the hermit once more safe in the charge of his folks. He knew that
he must conserve his strength for the great undertaking that
confronted him that afternoon. Those who had entered for the
long-distance race would not be allowed, of course, to participate
in any other event; that had been laid down as law by Mr. Leonard
when they entered their names on the list of candidates. They must
simply stand around and watch what was going on until the time came
for staging the Marathon; when they could take their place in the long
string that would await the pistol shot intended to start them on the
Horatio and "Just" Smith were on deck, looking fit and eager. Then,
too, there was Nick Lang, with a grin on his heavy face every time he
glanced toward the other three fellows. It was getting on, and some
of the earlier events had already been carried through, amidst great
roars of applause as the different prizes went, this one to an
Allandale fellow, another to a boy wearing the Belleville High colors;
and three in succession to local lads.
"I don't exactly like the way that Nick Lang keeps on laughing to
himself every time he looks over in this direction," Horatio was
saying to the other two.
"I've noticed the same thing," spoke up "Just" Smith; "and it makes
me wonder if the tricky fellow hasn't got some slick game up his
sleeve, as usual, looking to giving the rest of us trouble. You
notice, don't you, boys, that, look as you will, you can't see anything
of either that Tip Slavin, or Leon Disney. Now, when fellows who are
as fond of outdoor sports as those two have always been, keep shy
when such a great event as this meet is being pulled off, there must
be a pretty good reason."
"They may be somewhere in the crowd," Hugh went on to say, "because
it'd be impossible for any single yellow to identify all that are in
that solid heaving yelling mass of people. Nick believes he has a
fair chance of leading the pack, and that makes him feel happy. I
heard him say only yesterday that the one fellow he was afraid of in
our whole bunch was K.K.; and now that accident has eliminated him,
why, naturally, Nick feels more confidence. In imagination he's
already receiving the grand Marathon prize, and hearing the crowds
yelling themselves hoarse."
"Well," snorted Horatio, gritting his teeth in a way he had when
aroused, "if that's what pleases Nick he's got another guess coming;
for three of us are also in the game; and he's got to do some mighty
tall sprinting in that last half-mile if he expects to win out.
Then there are a lot of other fellows in the run who may give him
a pain. But, according to the programme, our race comes next after
this pole vaulting contest; so, boys, we'd better be moving around,
and getting our place in line, according to our several numbers."
THE GREAT MARATHON RACE
It was plainly noticeable how that vast crowd began to stir, and show
signs of increased interest when the numerous trim runners entered
for the big Marathon started to gather for the preliminary stage of
Each of the many contestants had a large number fastened upon both
the front and back of his in upper garment. By these they might be
recognized even at a distance; and many persons carried field or
opera glasses of various types just purpose to make out who each
runner was when he came in sight around the bend half a mile away,
open on that last stretch that was likely to see the cruelest work
of all, if the competition chanced to be keen.
The boys, as a rule, looked very much like lithe grayhounds, for your
natural runner is light of body, and can course along like the wind.
Still, this applies more to short-distance sprinters than those whose
specialty is endurance in a fifteen or twenty-mile race.
Several of the fellows wore quite muscular in build, and gave evidence
of a grim determination such as the bulldog possesses. These chaps
might be easily distanced in the start, but they would keep doggedly
on, under the spur of the knowledge contained in that old adage that
"the race is not always to the swift."
Hugh Morgan was, perhaps, the best built of them all, neither too
heavy, nor yet betraying a weakness that would crop out after the
first five miles had been covered, as might be the case with the more
They stood in line, listening to the last words of caution delivered
by Mr. Hitchens, a former Yale man who had umpired the baseball games
the preceding summer in such an impartial manner that everyone had the
utmost reliance on his fairness.
He explained to them the simple conditions of the race,---how there
must be no fouling of any kind; just how often and where the contestants
must register their names in books kept by judges on the course; how
each was supposed to give his word of honor not to accept any sort of
lift for even a dozen feet; and that the great crowd assembled would
be waiting to acclaim the first comer as the victor in the greatest
long-distance race ever attempted by high-school boys, at least in
that particular county.
They were allowed a certain latitude as to their methods of running.
If any of them could cut across lots, and still cover the entire
course, as well as register faithfully wherever required, that was
to be their option.
Having finished his little fatherly talk, the referee stepped to one
side, and gave the word for the runners to make ready.
Every eye was glued on this or that contestant, according to the humor
of the spectator. Each Allandale visitor saw only Allandale in that
long line, swaying back and forth a trifle, like a reed shaken in the
wind. They could not believe it possible that any other fellow had
the slightest chance of coming in ahead of those fleet-footed boys
upon whose ability they pinned their full trust.
So it was with the Belleville rooters; while, of course, the natives
were certain the prize was already as good as won by Hugh Morgan; or,
it might happen to be, Horatio Juggins, "Just" with, or possibly Nick
Lang, the last-named looking ever so confident, as he leaned over
nearly double in his favorite crouch, his fingertips in contact with
the ground, and his knees bent.
Then came the sharp report of the pistol.
"They're off!" involuntarily exclaimed a thousand persons in unison,
as the line of nimble runners was seen to leap into action, and shoot
away with amazing speed.
There were a few little lively brushes in the start, before the runners
settled down to real business. Some were immediately left behind,
but this fact seemed to give them little concern, for they kept
jogging away as though quite happy.
Doubtless, a number had entered with no idea of covering more than a
few miles of the long course. They just enjoyed the excitement, and
the honor of being able to say they had once run in a fifteen-mile
schoolboy Marathon race.
After a bit these novices would drop out, perhaps even hasten back
with various clever excuses for giving up; and having gained the cheers
of their particular coterie of friends they could don a few more
clothes to keep off the chill, and settle back to watch the rest of
the entertainment. Their opinion would naturally be much sought
after, as to the chances of this or that genuine contestant; which
was one of the things they desired.
As it takes considerable time for even fleet-footed runners to go over
a fifteen-mile course, the sensible committee, who knew just about
how long the crowd would have to wait, had provided plenty of
Interspersed with a number of minor events, such as further sprinting
matches for younger entries, and some more pole vaulting, as well as
Indian Club exhibitions of skill, would come the humorous features of
These are always popular with the country people; indeed, nearly
everybody seems to welcome them as a diversion calculated to raise
There was also keen competition even in the potato race; and the crowd
yelled itself hoarse to the antics of those who met with all manner of
mishaps when engaged in the hurdle, and the obstacle affairs.
The boys who had engaged to try for these prizes seemed to "get their
dander up," as some fellow expressed it, and the way they struggled
and vied with one another was "equal to a circus with a brass band."
Although mention may not have been made of he fact up to now, the
Scranton band was giving of its very best from time to time, and the
air robbed with martial music suitable to a country just then at war
with a foreign nation. It was a fair sort of band in the bargain,
and well worth listening to; so that the music really added greatly to
the enjoyment of the occasion.
When the three-legged race was pulled off the spectators howled their
sympathy with this or that pair of contestants as they hopped along,
now rolling on the ground while bound together, and, at times, even
trying to creep in desperation, then it seemed as though a difference
of opinions in the two minds trying to control what was just the
same as one pair of legs, caused confusion, and a lack of progression.
Later on came the climbing of the greased pole. This always comical
enough, and aroused much enthusiasm. Nobody seems to be a favorite,
and each successful attempt to mount is greeted with shrieks of
laughter. So long as a valiant fellow is seen to be steadily making
his way upwards inch by inch, he may be applauded; but let him display
the slightest hint of having "shot his bolt," and begin to slip back
again, howls of derision will greet his ears, so that in confusion he
finally gives it up, and retires in haste.
All sorts of small means are resorted to in order to allow the contestant
to get a surer grip on the slippery pole; for, up to a certain point,
these are allowable. One rubs sand in his hands, and for a brief
time this seems to enable him to do splendid work; but then it soon
wears away, and then his troubles begin; until, unable to make further
progress, he is seen to glance over his shoulder to note how far from
the ground he has risen. This is a sure sign of weakening, and, of
course, the watchful crowd again roars at him to keep right on, that
he's doing nobly, and all that; but John knows better, and so down
he comes with a rush, and passes out, shaking his head in disgust
and bitter disappointment; for possibly he had been within five feet
of the top when his energies failed him.
So the time went on, merrily enough.
Many persons were declaring they had not enjoyed such an afternoon for
years, and felt weak from so much laughter.
Watches were being consulted more and more frequently now.
"It's getting time we saw something of those chaps," could be heard
here and there, showing that numbers had figured things out, or else
received a tip from an authority in the game as to just how long it
was likely to take a fleet runner to cover fifteen miles of good road.
Anxious eyes were being strained unduly, watching the bend half a mile
beyond. It could be seen from almost any part of the field, fortunately,
though once the big board fence was in position, the view would be
partly cut off.
It had been arranged, as is always done, that when a runner was sighted
nearing the bend a gun would be fired by the sentry on duty there,
to attract the attention of the crowd, so that they might have the
first glimpse of the leading contestants, as they rounded that abrupt
curve where the view was shut off.
There was now nothing going on in the arena, the entire programme
having been carried out. Still, few, if any, left their seats,
although they had been there for several hours, it might be. The
deepest interest centered upon the completion of the Marathon race.
In comparison to this exhibition of school-boy endurance and pluck the
other affairs seemed to sink into insignificance; although at the time
they occurred doubtless those who had friends entered were wildly
excited. But then the race that has already been finished is never
as intensely interesting as the one in process of being run; just as
the fish landed never seems quite so wonderful as the fellow who is
still swimming the waters, and eyeing the baited hook as though
tempted to take a hazard.
Seconds seemed fraught with undue importance, and many impatient
fellows, upon consulting their watches, were seen to hold the same
up to their ear, as though to make sure the time-piece had not stopped,
so leaden-footed did the minutes seem to move along.