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THE CHUMS OF SCRANTON HIGH

Or

Hugh Morgan's Uphill Fight

by

DONALD FERGUSON







[Frontispiece: "Are you through?" demanded, Hugh sternly.]




The Goldsmith Publishing Co.
Cleveland
Made in U. S. A.
Copyright, 1919




CONTENTS


CHAPTER

I. A FENCE WITH A HISTORY
II. THE BOYS OF OLD SCRANTON
III. HUGH SHOULDERS A HEAVY TASK
IV. IN FOR A FROLIC
V. THE TRAGIC AFFAIR ON THE ROAD
VI. MAKING A GOOD JOB OF IT
VII. CALLED OUT FOR PRACTICE
VIII. THAD MAKES A DISCOVERY
IX. JUST BETWEEN CHUMS
X. A VISITOR FROM BELLEVILLE HIGH
XI. HUGH'S PETS IN DANGER
XII. THE TRAP
XIII. A COLD RECEPTION
XIV. NICK AS A GAP-STOPPER
XV. PRETTY POLLY UNDER SUSPICION
XVI. THE RESCUE AT HOBSON'S MILL-POND
XVII. LITTLE BRUTUS AND HIS "COLLECTION"
XVIII. A STRAIGHT DRIVE FOR THE TRUTH
XIX. HUGH REACHES HIS GOAL
XX. LOOKING FORWARD - CONCLUSION




THE CHUMS OF SCRANTON HIGH


CHAPTER I

A FENCE WITH A HISTORY

"The best day so far this spring, fellows!"

"It feels mighty much like baseball weather, for a fact, Otto!"

"True for you, K. K., though there's still just a little tang to this
April air."

"What of that, Eli? The big leagues have opened shop all over the
land, and the city papers are already full of baseball scores, and
diamond lore. We ought to be getting busy ourselves in little old
Scranton."

"Allandale High is practicing. Sandy Dowd and I saw a bunch of the
boys out on their field after school yesterday, didn't we, Sandy?"

"That's right, we did. And I understand Belleville expects to put an
extra hard-hitting nine in the game this season. They're still sore
over the terrible drubbing Allandale gave them last summer."

"Since Scranton has now become a member of the Three-Town League,
taking the place of Lawrence when that nine dropped out, seems to me we
ought to lose no time if we expect to commence practicing. That same
Allandale team swept the circuit, you remember, like a hurricane."

"We've plenty of good material, fellows, believe me, right here in
Scranton High. And somehow I've got a hunch that we're going to make
even mighty Allandale take a tumble before the season gets old."

"Don't boast too soon, Eli Griffin. That's a wee Yankee trick you must
have inherited from your forebears."

"Easy for you to say that, Andy McGuffey. Why, you're a regular old
pessimist, like all your canny Scotch ancestors were. You love to look
at the world through smoked glasses. On my part, I prefer to use
rose-colored ones, and expect the best sort of things to happen, even
if I do get fooled lots of times."

A number of well-grown lads were perched in all sorts of grotesque
attitudes along the top rail of the campus fence. That same fence of
Scranton High was almost as famous, in its modest way, as the one at
Yale known throughout the length and breadth of the whole land.

It had stood there, repaired at stated and frequent intervals, for at
least two score of years. Hundreds upon hundreds of Scranton lads,
long since grown to manhood, and many of them gone forth to take their
appointed places in the busy marts of the world, kept a warm corner in
their hearts for sacred memories of that dear old fence. Many a
glorious campaign of sport or mischief had been talked over by a line
of students perched along the flat rail at the summit of that same
fence. More than one contemplated school mutiny had been hatched in
excited whispers amidst those never-to-be-forgotten historic
surroundings.

Why, when a few years back the unthinking and officious School
Directors voted to have that fence demolished, simply because it seemed
to be out of keeping with the grand new building that had been erected,
a storm of angry protest arose from students and parents; while letters
arrived from a score and more of eminent men who were proud to call
Scranton their birthplace. So overwhelming was the flood, that a hurry
call for an extra meeting of the Board went out, at which their former
ill-advised decision was rescinded.

And so there that fence remained, beloved of every boy in Scranton, the
younger fry only longing for the day to come when passing for the high
school they, too, might have the proud privilege of "roosting" on its
well-worn rails. Possibly it will still be in existence when some of
their sons also reach the dignity of wearing the freshman class colors,
and of battling on gridiron and diamond for the honor of Old Scranton.

As to the identity of the boys in question, from whom those remarks
proceeded, they might just as well be briefly introduced here as later,
as all of them are destined to take part in the lively doings that will
be recorded in this and in other volumes of this series.

Otto was Otto Brand; Eli Griffin came of New England parentage, and had
some of the traits that distinguish Yankees the world over, though a
pretty fine fellow, all told; Andy McGuffey, as his name would
indicate, could look back to a Scotch ancestry, and occasionally a
touch of the brogue might be detected in his speech; Sandy Dowd had red
hair, blue eyes and a host of very noticeable freckles; but could be
good-natured in spite of any drawbacks; while the lad called "K. K."
was in reality Kenneth Kinkaid; but since boys generally have little
use for a name that makes a mouthful, he was known far and wide under
that singularly abbreviated cognomen.

The Committee on Sports connected with Scranton High was a body of
seniors appointed by the students themselves, and given authority to
handle all questions connected with athletics. As a rule, they carried
out their duties in a broad-minded fashion, and not only merited the
confidence of the entire school but also the respect of the faculty as
well.

There was considerable anxiety abroad just at present, because it was
well known that the committee had been discussing the possible make-up
of the baseball team to which would be given the proud privilege of
representing the school that season in the Three-Town League. No one
knew absolutely just who would be selected among the numerous
candidates, though, of course, it was only natural that many
entertained wild hopes, which were only doomed to disappointment.

Two more boys came sauntering along, and found places on the "roost."
One of these was a burly fellow with a pugnacious face and a bold eye.
He seemed to be no favorite among the boys, though they treated him
with a certain amount of respect. Well, there is never a town or a
village but has its particular bully; and for several years now Nick
Lang had ably filled that role in Scranton.

He was a born "scrapper," and never so happy as when annoying others.
A fight appeared to be the acme of pleasure with him, and it was seldom
that he could be seen without some trace of a mix-up on his face in the
shape of scratches, or a suspicious hue about one of his eyes.

The other boy was Leon Disney, the "under-study" of Nick. While just
as tough as the other, Leon never displayed the same amount of
boldness. He would rather attain his revenge through some petty means,
being a born sneak. The boys only tolerated Leon because Nick chose to
stand up for him; and every one disliked to anger the Lang fellow, on
account of his way of making things unpleasant for others.

The general talk continued, with Nick taking part in it, for he at
least was known to be a smart hand at athletics, and had often led in
such things as hammer-throwing and wrestling.

During the course of the conversation, which had become general, Eli
chanced to mention the name of Owen Dugdale.

"Why, they say that even he aspires to get a place on the substitute
list, just to think of his nerve. Perhaps a few other fellows might
feel they'd been slighted if the committee turned them down for Owen
Dugdale."

"Hold up there a bit, Eli," said K. K., reprovingly. "If I were you
I'd go a little slow about running a fellow down, just because he
happens to be called Owen Dugdale, and live with a queer old gentleman
he calls his grandfather, but who chooses to keep aloof from Scranton
folks as if he were a hermit. I happen to know that two of our most
respected chums, Hugh Morgan and Thad Stevens, seem to have taken a
great liking for that dark-faced chap. I've seen Owen in their company
considerably of late."

Eli gave a snort of disdain. He was one of those impulsive boys who
often say disagreeable things on the spur of the moment, and then
perhaps afterwards feel sorry for having done so. Evidently, he had
taken a notion to dislike the said Owen, and did not care who knew it.

"That fellow had been a mystery ever since he and his ancient
granddaddy came to Scranton, and started to live in that old house
called The Rookery, and which used to be thought a haunted place. I've
always had a hunch they must be some relation to the notorious Luther
Dugdale who has had a bad reputation as a dishonest operator down in
the Wall Street district in New York. Why, lately I even asked my
cousin in a letter about that man, and he wrote me the old chap had
strangely disappeared some years ago, carrying off a big bunch of
boodle dishonestly gained. Well, I'm not saying it's the same old
rascal who's living in our midst right now, but, fellows, you can draw
your own conclusions, for they came here just two years ago this
summer!"

"Wow! that's something new you're telling us, Eli!"

"It takes _you_ to pick up clues, and you'll miss your vocation if you
don't look for a job with the Government Secret Service, believe me,
Eli!"

"So Hugh Morgan has taken up with that gloomy looking chap Owen, has
he?" remarked Nick Lang, with a suggestive wink at his crony, Leon.
"Mebbe, now, I might badger him into having a friendly little bout with
fists through that kid. As the rest of you happen to know I've tried
about every other way to make the coward fight, and he only gives me
one of his smiles, and says he's opposed to scrapping. That wise
mother of his has tied little Hughy to her apron strings, seems like;
but I'll get him yet, see if I don't."

The other fellows exchanged significant looks and nods. Hugh Morgan
had apparently always been more or less of an enigma to them. They
knew he was no coward, for only the last winter he had leaped boldly
into the river at the risk of his own life, and saved little Tommy
Crabbe just when the unfortunate child was about to be drawn by the
fierce current under the ice. Still, no one had even known Hugh to be
engaged in a fight. There was some deep object back of his reluctance
so to demean himself, most of the fellows believed, and as he was so
well liked, they respected his motives.

Just then keen-eyed Andy McGuffey was heard to cry out:

"Speak of an angel and you'll hear the rustle of his wings, and there
comes our Hugh right now. See, he's waving his hand to us, and is
hurrying along at almost a run. Say, it may be he's fetching some news
from the committee, because he told me he had an idea they'd reach an
understanding this afternoon. Yes, he's looking mighty wise, so I
reckon we're going to hear something drop."




CHAPTER II

THE BOYS OF OLD SCRANTON

The boy advancing toward the comrades perched on the campus fence was
bright of face, and with laughing eyes that made him hosts of friends.
Few had ever seen Hugh Morgan angry, though there was a report that on
a certain occasion he had stopped to give old Garry Owen the truckman a
piece of his mind, and threaten to have him arrested if he was ever
seen beating his poor horse when the animal was stalled with a load too
heavy for his strength. Yes, and although Garry was known to have a
fiery Irish tongue, he had been subdued by the arguments which Hugh
hurled at him, and meekly promised to go easy with his stinging whip
after that.

Hugh seemed to be a trimly built lad, who evidently believed in keeping
not only his mind but his body also well trained, since so much
depended on good health. He lived with his mother and smaller sister.
His father had been dead some years now, but apparently the widow had
plenty of means to afford them a good living. They resided in a nice
house and kept one servant.

Most of the boys of Scranton High thought Hugh a fine fellow, and
envied Thad Stevens the privilege of being his closest chum. A few,
however, had no use for Hugh, and among them were such fellows as Nick
Lang and Leon Disney. They pretended to dislike him because he had no
"nerve," which was only another method of saying that he absolutely
declined to be egged into a dispute, and had a wonderful way of cooling
off all would-be fighters who dared him to a fist test.

Those who knew Hugh best felt certain there must be some good and valid
reason for his action in this respect. He had taken none of them into
his confidence, however, and they could only surmise what it might be.
The general consensus of opinion was that possibly at some time in his
younger years, Hugh may have shown signs of an ungovernable temper, and
his wise mother had made him solemnly promise never to allow himself to
be drawn into a fight unless it was to protect some one weaker than
himself who was being rudely treated by a bully.

He nodded his head as he drew near the group, for by now the eager boys
had left their lofty perch, and gathered in an excited bunch to learn
what was in the wind.

"News, fellows!" exclaimed the latest addition to the group, "great
news for the Scranton lovers of baseball!"

"Then the committee have finished making out their programme, and mebbe
even decided on the lucky candidates who'll have a chance to show what
they've got in them to put the school on the map this year?"

"A pretty good guess for you, Eli, so go up head," laughed Hugh; "for
I've just been told that is what has come about. Their deliberations
have closed, and presently there will be a general call issued for a
full meeting, at which their report is to be read. Then everybody will
know whether or not they have been deemed worthy of making a try for
honors in the diamond this season."

"We'll all be mighty glad when it's over, and those of us who are
unfortunate enough to get left high and dry can know the worst," said
K. K.

"Huh! you needn't lose any sleep over that, K. K.!" exclaimed Sandy
Dowd. "Everybody knows you're a jim-dandy at the bat, and a clever
fielder in the bargain. Wish I had as much chance as you and Hugh here
of making the nine. But then we must put faith in our committee, and
believe they'll select the ones they firmly believe are best fitted for
the job of holding down those heavy sluggers of Allandale. The rest of
us can root for the glory of old Scranton, and even that counts."

"But the committee, it seems, have gone even further," continued Hugh,
looking around at the eager faces of his chums, and also some who could
hardly be classed under that head.

"Go on and tell us the news, Hugh! Don't ye see we're just dying to
know?" pleaded Andy McGuffey.

"Have they been in touch with Allandale and Belleville?" asked the
sagacious Eli.

"It seems that last night they went over to Allandale to meet the
committee of that place, as well as the one representing Belleville,"
continued Hugh. "Matters of every kind were taken up and discussed.
The meeting ended with a programme being laid out that is to be rigidly
adhered to. Two weeks from tomorrow, Saturday, we will find ourselves
up against Belleville; and on the following Saturday it's to be
Allandale. Those two clubs have found a way of having their meetings
come off on Wednesday afternoons at three, a special favor granted by
the directors of the respective schools on account of there being but
three clubs in the league."

"Two weeks, and as yet we don't even know who's going to be on our
team!" burst out Eli. "Seems to me that's an awful short time to get
settled down into our best stride. Allandale will have a terrible
bulge on us, Hugh, because I hear they've kept almost the same team
that carried off the honors last year."

"If anything it's said to be some stronger," added Sandy Dowd,
ponderously, for he had a habit of looking solemn at times, in spite of
his blue eyes, red hair and mottled face. "An Allandale fellow told me
they expected to wipe up the earth with both Belleville and Scranton
this term."

"Huh! better spell able first," grunted Eli. "I hope there's no more
delay than is necessary about notifying the candidates who've been
selected to appear on the athletic field after school every day, and
keep hustling till supper time. We've just _got_ to make the sand fly,
if we expect to catch up with those older teams."

"Well," Hugh assured him, "you'll know all about it by tomorrow night,
because the last knot will have been untied by then, and everybody
notified to come out to the meeting. Then beginning on next Monday
afternoon, hard practice for the lucky ones, to be continued every
decent day during the week, with a game against a picked nine on
Saturday."

"Will Mr. Leonard coach the team as he promised, Hugh?" asked K. K.

Mr. Leonard was the assistant of the head of the Scranton schools, a
pretty fine sort of a young man, who had gained quite some fame as an
athlete while at Princeton, and was well fitted for the task of
athletic instructor, which post he filled in addition to other duties.

"He told me he would take the greatest pleasure in trying to build up a
winning team for Scranton," Hugh informed them.

"Good for Mr. Leonard, he's a dandy!" exclaimed Eli; and that seemed to
be the consensus of opinion; though Nick was seen to allow his upper
lip to curl a bit at mention of the athletic instructor's name.

There was a reason back of that, as the other boys well knew, for they
remembered the time when Nick had been handled pretty briskly by Mr.
Leonard, and made to apologize for some rude remark he had thrown out
heedlessly in his rough way. It could hardly be expected that Nick
would ever have a very good opinion of the young man who had humbled
his swollen pride in the presence of the same fellows whom he had so
long ridden rough-shod over.

"Well, the afternoon is getting on, and supper-time will be around
before long; so, for one, I'm going to head for home," observed K. K.

There was a general exodus, and the famous fence was soon abandoned by
the entire group of boys. They started off by twos and threes, with
the general drift of conversation circling around the one great
subject - the meeting to be called for Saturday night in the school, at
which the report of the committee would be made, together with an
announcement as to their choice as to candidates to be tried out for
the various positions on the season's team.

Hugh and K. K. walked along in company. Hugh always fancied the
Kinkaid boy, for there was something dependable about him that won the
confidence of almost all his mates. K. K. was one of the most
remarkable chaps, who, while engaging in the customary rough and tumble
sports of boys with red blood in their veins, still seemed able to keep
himself always tidy and neat. No one ever knew how he did it, and a
few were wont to call him a "sissy," but K. K. was far from that. Only
one boy attending Scranton High could really come under such a name,
and he was Reggie Van Alstyne, who had always been a veritable dude.

"Oh! I had nearly forgotten an errand my mother commissioned me to do
for her," Hugh suddenly exclaimed. "I'll have to leave you here, K.
K., and turn back."

The other laughed.

"Too much baseball on the brain, I reckon, Hugh," he went on to say;
"but then, with your fetching us that good news, it wasn't to be
wondered that you let such a little thing as an errand for your mother
slip out of your mind. If I can help any, tell me, Hugh."

"Oh! no, I've just got to step in at Madame Pangborn's and ask her
something. My mother is interested in Red Cross work, you know, and
the old Madame has a connection with the French branch of that service.
Most of the material the ladies of Scranton have been getting ready is
sent abroad through the queer old lady, who, they say, once used to
queen it at the court of Louis Napoleon. She's over eighty years of
age now, but quite rich, I've been told. And if you've never been in
her house you'd be interested in seeing how she lives. That wonderful
green parrot of hers can rattle off a whole string of songs and
sayings. It almost gives you the creeps to hear Jocko performing, for
it strikes you as what Andy McGuffey would call uncanny. Well, so
long, K. K. I hope you make the team, all right."

"Same to you, Hugh; but nobody doubts that, for we all think you're
away above all the rest of the Scranton boys as an all-round athlete,
barring none. Some may be able to outdo you in their specialty, but
they're weak in other stunts."

So they parted, K. K. continuing on his way home, while Hugh turned
into a side street, and went whistling along after the manner of a boy
whose mind knew no care. Presently he came to a large house. It was
rather dingy on the outside, but Hugh, who had often been indoors, knew
there was some elegant old mahogany furniture, as well as other
mementoes of the former life of the Madame when she filled a high niche
at the French court, before the republic was inaugurated.

His knock at the door - for instead of an electric bell the lady
insisted on using one of those enormous old silver-plated knockers,
that used to be the fashion fifty or sixty years back - was answered by
a colored woman, who seemed to know the boy, for she smiled pleasantly.

"Yassir, de missus is in," she told him in answer to his question.
"Jes' yo' walk on back to de library, honey, an' dar you'll find her,
sewin' like she always does dese amazin' times. You knows de way, I
reckons, sah."

"I certainly do, Sarah," he assured her as he started along the wide
hall.

When he knocked gently at the library door, he was told to enter, which
Hugh proceeded to do. A very wrinkled and old woman sat in a big
chair. The table was covered with material for all sorts of bandages,
and such things as are urgently needed wherever hideous war is raging.
Hugh noticed that at sight of him Madame Pangborn seemed pleased. He
wondered why, but was not long in learning.

"Oh! I am glad you've dropped in to see me, Hugh," she told him;
"because something very strange has happened, and perhaps you might be
able to advise me. In fact, Hugh, I fear I am being systematically
robbed!"




CHAPTER III

HUGH SHOULDERS A HEAVY TASK

Hugh hardly knew how to take that astonishing declaration on the part
of the old lady. He remembered that she was very peculiar in some
ways, and the very first thought that flashed into the boy's mind was
to the effect that Madame Pangborn might be getting what some fellows
would, impolitely of course, have called "daffy."

Still her black eyes flashed with all their old-time vigor, and she
appeared to be very much in earnest. More to humor her than anything
else Hugh remarked in a sympathetic voice:

"I'm sorry to hear that, ma'am. Of course if I can do anything for you
I'll be only too glad of the chance. Would you mind telling me about
it?"

"Thank you for your kindness, my son," she went on, eagerly. "You see,
a woman of my age, who has studied human nature for a long time, comes
to know the weaknesses of boys, even while believing in them to the
utmost. At times the temptation may be more than their powers of
resistance can stand, and they are irresistibly impelled to take
something that excites their cupidity. I am prone to believe most of
them find it possible to resist such an inclination. Still, alas! I
have known of occasions where the temptation carried the day. This
seems to be one of them. My heart is feeling very sore over it, too.
I thought at first to speak to Chief Wambold, but somehow I hesitated.
And then it happened precisely as before."

"Do you mean to say you have missed something on two separate
occasions, ma'am?" Hugh hastened to ask, beginning to realize now that
"where there was smoke there must be a fire," and that after all there
was something more in this affair than a mere specter brought into


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