the hand of Hugh vigorously, as though he could easily love such a
"Of course you told your good mother all about it, Hugh, when you got
home?" he went on to say, with a trace of huskiness in his voice.
"I could not have slept a wink, sir, if I had not gone to her room, and
kneeling beside her bed poured out the whole story. She cried a
little, because, I suppose, it brought back some old memories that had
often saddened her; but she told me again and again I had done exactly
as she would have wished me to. Oh! she is the most sensible mother
any fellow ever had, I assure you, sir."
"And I also believe that you are supremely blessed in that respect,
Hugh," said the gentleman, solemnly. "Be very careful that you never
in all your life do anything to bruise the heart of that noble mother.
I thought it best not to mention anything in connection with the
matter. For one thing I could see you had done your work thoroughly,
and that Nick had already received sufficient punishment. That is all,
Hugh, and I thank you for taking me into your confidence."
When afternoon finally came around, and school was over early, there
was a scramble among the boys, and a great hurrying home to get a bite
to eat, after which, of course, every fellow who had any sort of
baseball uniform would don the same, and show up at the grounds to take
part in the practice. The air seemed surcharged with some electrical
influence. All the talk was along the line of baseball slang. Even
many of the girls were drawn to the spot to watch what went on, for
they had become enthusiasts, and were in prime condition to "root" for
Scranton High when the time came for the first contest on the diamond.
The scene was a busy one, with scores of boys doing various
stunts - knocking flies to those in the field, passing balls with the
vigor of veterans, and chattering like a lot of magpies all the while.
Out of this throng, Mr. Leonard, the athletic instructor, once a
Princeton player of some note, was expecting to bring order, and get
some kind of game started.
Baseball is quite unlike football. In the latter instance, every boy
has to receive an education before he is at all fitted to fill the
position assigned to him. There must be long arduous drills in a dozen
particulars, from bucking the line, and carrying the ball, to making a
flying tackle, or punting. Then the intricate system of signals must
be thoroughly learned, so that instinct takes the place of reason in
the carrying out the play.
But every kid plays baseball from the time he can toddle. By degrees
they keep on improving their game, so that when they arrive at the
dignity of high school freshmen honor, it is only a question of
ability, rather than any necessity as to education in the art of
driving home a runner, or snatching a liner hot from the bat.
So Mr. Leonard anticipated having only to inoculate his bunch with the
proper virus and ambition, after which he could let the drilling do the
Among others who were out was Nick Lang. There was nothing really
strange about that fact, because Nick would almost rather play ball
than eat; and any boy about whom this can be said must be pretty fond
of the National sport. Nick had always shown considerable knack in
playing, though he was apt to make himself disagreeable, and want to
run things. Possibly this trait might not show so prominently, now
that his conceit had been so heavily bumped in his encounter with Hugh.
Then again, Mr. Leonard was not the only one to let a boy take
advantage of him. He would make sure, if Nick were to get on the nine
through his superior playing, to have a substitute handy capable of
taking his place; and at the first sign of insubordination, it would be
good-by to Nick and farewell to his hopes of playing on the team.
Hugh was surprised not to see Thad Stevens among those present. Thad
had received a summons along with thirty other boys. Hugh guessed it
must be something pretty serious that could keep his chum from turning
up. Perhaps, when he ran home to change his clothes, his mother had
given him an errand to do. Thad was an obedient boy, and although he
may have begrudged the afternoon lost, still there would be plenty of
time to train for his position, if he had the luck to be selected in
All the time they worked, and afterwards with picked nines played a
short game, Hugh kept on the lookout, but no Thad showed up. This was
so queer that Hugh made up his mind he must drop in at the Stevens
domicile on his way home to supper, and find out what had happened to
keep his chum, who was as enthusiastic as himself over baseball
matters, from coming around for the first test.
More than once that afternoon Hugh received warning words from some of
the other boys concerning Nick Lang.
"He isn't the kind of a fellow to forget and forgive, Hugh, remember,"
K. K. went on to say, with a shake of his head. "I've studied the
beast, and I know how he's made up. Right now he glares at you every
time he happens to come near. And if looks could kill, they'd be
conducting your funeral tomorrow, Hugh. He's a tough one, all right,
and you knocked the conceit out of his head when you gave him that
dandy black eye. Be on your guard, Hugh, and never trust Nick Lang;
for he's not only a brute but a treacherous one in the bargain."
But Hugh only laughed on hearing this warning.
"Thank you for what you say, K. K." he told the other. "You make the
fourth fellow to tell me about the same thing. But really, I don't
believe there's as much danger as you seem to believe. Fellows like
Nick are careful not to get struck by lightning twice. The burnt child
dreads the fire, they say. Nick's bark is worse than his bite; and I
think I've drawn the fangs of the wolf, K. K. Thank you again."
THAD MAKES A DISCOVERY
When Hugh, on his way home, came in sight of the Stevens place, he was
quite surprised to discover his chum Thad seated on one of the low gate
posts, and apparently waiting for him to pass along.
"Why, hello! what does this mean, I'd like to know?" burst out Hugh.
"After being honored with summons to come out and start practice at
baseball, you run home to get on your togs and then forget all about
it. But, joking aside, what really did happen to you, Thad, tell me?"
Thad was looking unusually serious, Hugh thought. Evidently something
quite out of the usual line must have occurred to detain him; and Hugh,
on his part, would not have been a natural boy had he not felt more or
less curiosity concerning its nature.
"Oh! that was only an accident," the other commenced saying. "I
begrudged losing my first chance to get limbered up; but so far as that
goes, there'll be plenty of occasions later on. You see, I had to go
on an important errand for my mother."
"It must have taken you out of town, then," remarked Hugh; "or else
you'd have showed up at the athletic grounds later on."
"The fact of the matter is, I had to run over to Chestnut Hill, which
you know is some ten miles away," explained Thad, as he made room
alongside for his chum. "It was a matter that could not be delayed, so
I didn't even bother running to the field to report to Mr. Leonard. At
that I hoped to breeze along fast enough to fetch me back in time to
have a little turn with the boys; but I counted without considering
that I was dealing with an old car; and sure enough one of the back
tires had to take on a puncture."
"And as you didn't carry an extra tire along, you just had to lay off
and mend the same," chuckled Hugh. "I was afraid that might happen the
other night when on our way to the hop; but we were lucky enough to
escape it. Of course, on the road home, I wouldn't have cared much,
because all the fun was over by then; and the girls would consider it
something of a joke for us to bump along on a flat tire. But I see the
old flivver in by the barn, so you did manage to get it home after all,
"Oh! yes, though I made a beastly mess of my tire-mending, I'm afraid.
I ought to take a few more lessons in that art, because I've always
been weak there. And when I found how late it was after getting here I
concluded not to hustle around to the grounds. I guessed you'd be
cropping up to find out what had become of a certain baseball crank who
had played hookey. So I've been sitting here about ten minutes, I
"Is that all?" asked Hugh.
"Well, no, it isn't," snapped Thad, "though I wonder how your sharp
eyes noticed anything peculiar about my manner. There is a lot more to
tell you, Hugh."
"Suppose you get started then, and let's hear of your adventures," the
other went on to say, with kindling interest. "Did any tramp try to
hold you up on the road; or was it necessary for you to stop and help
put out a fire in some farmhouse; like the time both of us had that
pleasure, and received the biggest dinner we ever got away with as a
Thad shook his head in the negative.
"If you kept on guessing all day long I don't believe you'd hit the
mark, Hugh. Still, in one sense you're right when you call it an
adventure; though a pretty mild one. I'll tell you about it."
"Wish you would, Thad," grumbled Hugh, pretending to look anxious to
hurry along on his way home. "Playing ball for three hours gives a
fellow a ferocious appetite, you know; and we have chicken pot pie at
our house tonight, which is one of my favorite dishes. So please get a
move on you."
"Well, after I managed to mend my tire, being set on accomplishing the
job if it took me till dark, I started along the road, and presently
drew near town. That was about half an hour ago, I should imagine. I
had just stopped to take another look at the tire, which seemed to be
flattening more or less, when I heard some one calling weakly. When I
turned to look I found that by some accident I had stopped exactly in
front of that queer old place which we've always called the Rookery,
because it looks as if spooks might live there."
As Thad paused to catch his breath, Hugh elevated his eyebrows.
Apparently his interest no longer flagged, for he instinctively guessed
that something unusual must come out of Thad's mention of the strange
old place, where, as he well knew, Owen Dugdale and his eccentric
grandfather lived by themselves.
"When I caught the sound of a voice again," continued Thad, "I was
interested, because I had heard the one word 'help' uttered. Some one
must be in trouble, I told myself; and then all of a sudden I
remembered who lived there. So I started my machine and moved off the
road, to leave it clear for other cars to pass by if any came along.
After that I jumped out and hurried over to the stone wall that, as you
know, surrounds the wild-looking grounds of the place.
"The voice still sounded, and I could see somebody lying on the ground
there. I vaulted the low stone wall, and soon found that it was old
Mr. Dugdale. He seemed glad to see me, though really he didn't know me
from Adam, because I had never had a word with him before.
"While out taking exercise in the grounds he had been suddenly seized
with an acute attack of rheumatism or sciatica in one of his legs, and
had been unable to get back to the house alone. Then seeing me stop
and step out to look at my mended tire, he had called as loud as he
could, to attract my attention, hoping that I'd be kind and neighborly
enough to help him to the house; for as he explained to me his grandson
Owen was off playing ball just then."
"Yes," Hugh broke in with, "Owen was on deck, and did splendidly. He
may be able to make the team if he continues to improve. So you, of
course, assisted the old gentleman, as he asked, and got him safely to
"Yes, that's what I did," replied Thad, "and it seemed that his pains
began to leave him once he got to walking. He said it was
characteristic of the disease to come and go suddenly and mysteriously.
When we arrived I had to help him up the steps, for he insisted on my
coming in. Well, to tell you the honest truth, Hugh, I was a little
curious to see what that queer old house did look like inside, and so I
didn't hold back at all. Now, you've likely never been there yourself,
even though you've been getting pretty intimate with Owen lately?"
"Once he asked me to step in, but it happened that I was in a hurry to
get home. I supposed some time or other he would renew the invitation,
but I also remembered that his grandfather was said to be queer, and
averse to meeting strangers; so I've thought nothing about it. Well,
is there anything more coming, or does that end your adventure?"
Thad drew a long breath, and looked sober.
"I only wish it did, that's right, Hugh," he continued, mysteriously.
"Up to then the whole thing hadn't amounted to a row of beans, so far
as giving me a thrill went. But the worst was yet to come."
"Go on, and don't stop so often, Thad," urged Hugh. "I believe you do
it just to tantalize me. What wonderful secret did you discover there?
Is that old house the rendezvous of a nest of counterfeiters, or might
it be where they manufacture moonshine whiskey, like those mountaineers
do down in Georgia?"
"Oh! come, it's nothing like that, Hugh, so don't allow your
imagination to carry you away. I did get something of a shock, though,
and I guess you'll feel the same way when you learn about it. Well,
the old gentleman asked me who I was, and if I knew his grandson Owen,
as well as a lot of other questions. Fact is, Hugh, I rather guess he
must have taken a violent liking for me right on, the spot, for when I
said I must be going two different times, he begged me to stay with him
just a little while longer.
"I knew I would be too late for the ball practice anyhow, and besides I
didn't have on my old suit, because mother had asked me not to wait to
change my clothes. So I sat down again each time, and answered some
more questions. The old gentleman interested me a whole lot in the
bargain, and I soon made up my mind that those silly people who had
been hinting that Old Mr. Dugdale might be that notorious Wall Street
speculator who had such a bad name, and who'd disappeared several years
ago, didn't know what they were talking about. Why, he is a polished
gentleman, and a foreigner at that, I tell you, Hugh.
"He started talking about his grandson. How his wrinkled face lighted
up when I said my chum, Hugh Morgan, had taken a great fancy for Owen,
and that I shared in the same feeling. You could see easily enough
that Mr. Dugdale believes the sun rises and sets in that boy of his.
Nothing would do, finally, but that he should take me to seen the den
Owen had fitted up for himself, because there was plenty of room in the
big house, and every fellow he knew had some kind of a den in which he
could keep his boyish treasures, in the way of foreign postage stamp
albums, photos taken by himself connected with outings he had been on,
college flags and burgees, and well, just such traps as the average boy
liked to see around him when he's out of school, and settling down to
read a favorite book.
"Of course, Hugh, I told him it would be too much for his aching leg,
but he assured me the pain had now all left him; and he wanted to know
if there was anything I could suggest that Owen might have to add to
his comfort while at home studying his lessons or reading. So I went
with him upstairs. Say, it's a real queer house, and must look a whole
lot spooky at night time; because they only burn lamps and candles, for
there's no electricity connection at all, or any gas either, I suppose.
"At the end of a long hall we came to where three steps led down into a
room. It was a bully place, I will say that, with plenty of light from
a lot of small dinky windows that faced on three sides of the room.
Owen had fixed it up in good taste in the bargain. He must have plenty
of spending money, because there were lots of traps around, from a pair
of expensive snow shoes hanging on the wall to a splendid toboggan
tilted up in a corner.
"In fact, Hugh, the place was pretty well filled with boy truck. It
looked cozy to me, and I ought to know something about a boy's den;
haven't I arranged mine seven separate times, until now it's back where
I started? Well, of course, to please the old gentleman, I walked
around, and peeked at things and told him Owen had as fine a loafing
place as any boy in Scranton; which sort of talk seemed to tickle Mr.
Dugdale a heap.
"Then, Hugh, I got my shock, all right. It seemed to grip my heart
just as if an ice-cold hand had been laid on it. You see, in nosing
around I chanced to set eyes on something that lay half hidden among
some papers on a side table. Hugh, you could have knocked me down with
a feather when I saw that it was a souvenir tea spoon, an ornate one at
that, representing some foreign city, I don't know which, for I was too
flustered by my terrible discovery to look close. Now, what do you
think of that?"
JUST BETWEEN CHUMS
"Oh! I'm sorry to hear that, Thad!" exclaimed Hugh. "Are you dead
certain it was a souvenir spoon you glimpsed? Couldn't you have been
The other boy shook his head in the negative.
"I sure wish I could say so, Hugh, and that's a fact," he replied; "but
I've got pretty good eyes, and I ought to know what such things look
like, for hasn't my mother been collecting the same for ten years now.
Of course, ours are all of this country, representative of cities and
places she and dad have visited. But this one was different. I'm as
certain as anything that it must have come from some foreign place,
because the style and marking stamped is of no American workmanship."
Evidently, what he had just heard caused Hugh considerable anxiety. It
seemed as though things were getting darker for Owen Dugdale with every
passing day. Even stout-hearted Hugh felt his doubts rising. He
wondered if, after all, he had made a mistake in his judgment of Owen,
and his belief in the boy's honesty. Hugh remembered some of the
things that were being said around town concerning the old man of the
dismal place called the "Rookery." His aversion to meeting people, as
well as other odd traits about him, had caused no end of talk. Some
even said they were not Americans, but foreigners, English possibly.
Altogether Hugh felt considerably exercised. He shut his teeth hard
together, however, and told himself that no matter how many suspicious
circumstances seemed to surround Owen, he would still continue to have
faith in the boy.
"Whenever I think of Owen's clear eyes," he told Thad, "and the way
they look you fair and square in the face, I feel positive that boy
can't be a sneak and a thief. No one with such honest eyes could do
mean things. Such fellows are patterned on a different model nearly
"Well, I've believed a good deal as you do myself, Hugh," admitted
Thad. "Just take that Leon Disney, for instance. There's a chap who
never could look straight at any one he was talking to."
"You're right, Thad. He keeps on shifting his eyes up and down all the
while. I've often noticed it about Leon, and made up my mind it was an
uneasy conscience that made him act so."
"Then, after all I've told you, Hugh, you still believe in Owen?"
"I'm going to hold firm until the evidence is all in," said the other.
"You're a good friend, I must say," Thad hastened to observe, a gleam
of honest admiration showing in his eyes. "I only hope you'll stand by
me as well, in case I ever get into any trouble, that's all."
"I'd stand by you to the last ditch, and then some," Hugh told him,
with an affectionate smile; "for we're chums, and what's the use of
having a pal unless he '11 go through thick and thin for you. But I'm
a little surprised about one thing, Thad."
"Do you mean about my actions in that house, Hugh?"
"I should have thought you'd been quick to say something about the
spoon, so as to draw the old gentleman out," continued the other.
"Oh! I didn't dare do such a thing as that, Hugh. It would have been
pretty bold in me, you know."
"There might be ways to do it without seeming rude, Thad. For
instance, what was to hinder you from picking it up and expressing your
admiration for such a thing. Then by using your eyes, you could have
told whether Mr. Dugdale was surprised at seeing the spoon there, or
not. His actions more than anything he might say would have given you
a pointer, don't you see?"
"Yes, I can understand that all right, now you've mentioned it, Hugh,"
chuckled the other. "It's so easy to grip a thing after some one has
shown you how. Remember those envious Spanish courtiers who tried to
take Columbus down a peg by saying it was a simple thing to discover
America, since all you had to do was to set sail, and heading into the
west keep going on till you bumped up against the islands that at that
time they thought were the East Indies. Then, you remember, Columbus
asked them to stand an egg on end, which they tried and tried without
success, until he gently cracked one end, and it stood up all right.
Oh! yes, I can see now I might have done a lot of things that didn't
happen to occur to me just then."
"I'm sorry you let such a good chance slip by without nailing it," said
"Well, it might happen," added Thad, as though an idea had come into
his brain like an electric flash, "that another opportunity will come
along, and if it does, I give you my word I'll learn something worth
"How did you like the old gentleman," continued Hugh; "and after
meeting him, do you take any stock in the stories that have been
floating around town about his being the clever rascal who disappeared
from Wall Street two years ago?"
"Why, he seemed very pleasant, so far as I could see," replied Thad,
slowly. "Course I don't pretend to be a smart enough reader of human
nature to say positively that old Mr. Dugdale is all to the good; but
he is well read, and I seemed to see what looked like a twinkle in the
corners of his eyes as though he might have a fair sense of humor in
"He liked you, too, didn't he, Thad?" continued Hugh.
"Well, to be honest with you, I really believe the old gentleman did
act a little that way. Perhaps, it was because he'd heard Owen mention
my name as one of his few friends; and Mr. Dugdale was wanting to show
how pleased he felt to know me. Yes, he acted as if he would like to
see me again; in fact, he asked me to come in some time, and visit Owen
in his den, for the boy often seemed lonely, he told me."
"Poor Owen! let's hope this will all come out right in the end, then,"
Hugh finally said, as though his own mind was made up not to allow the
latest discovery to influence him against the Dugdale boy.
"But we've got to admit," added the other, seriously, "that it adds to
the tangle a heap, and makes it look worse than before. However, I'll
try and learn a thing or two. Give me a little, time to get my slow
wits working, Hugh; and I may have more news for you. All the same, it
wouldn't surprise me if you took a spurt and came in across the line
ahead of me."
"Whatever makes you say that?" demanded Hugh.
"Oh! I know you so well, that's all," laughed his chum, giving him a
nudge in the side with his elbow. "I wager the chances are ten to one
you're beginning to turn over a little scheme in your mind right now.
How about that, Hugh?"
"If I am," retorted the other, "I don't intend telling you the first
thing about it until there's some solid foundation for the theory to
"Same here," chuckled Thad, with a wink that had a deal of significance
about it, Hugh could see. "Mebbe I've got a whiff of an idea myself
that might turn out worth while; but wild horses couldn't drag a hint
of the same from me so early in the game. So we're quits on that
score, you see, Hugh."
The other jumped down off the wide-topped post, as though he thought he
should be continuing on his way home.
"I must be going, Thad," he remarked. "Supper-time, almost, you know;
and besides I have some chores to do. When a fellow will keep pets the
way I do, he's got to expect to spend some little time looking after
them. I wouldn't want to let any of mine suffer for lack of attention."
"And I wager they never do, Hugh!" declared the other, with his
customary stanch faith in his chum. "You have it fixed so that your
homing pigeons can always get feed from a trough that allows only a