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"I could see him as plain as anything, Hugh. He'd listen a bit, and
then just as like as not hear something that tickled him a heap, for
he'd double up and seem to just shake with silent laughter. Oh! I
was just burning like fun, and boiling over, I was so mad to see how
he carried on; because I just knew Matilda was holding the fort
against all the batteries the three ladies could bring to bear, and
telling them that it was her sacred duty to take care of her poor,
poor brother in his last sickness, because the rough world had used
him so harshly.

"Well, in the end he crawled away in a big hurry, so I knew the three
ladies must be coming out. Sure enough they came in sight, and both
Mrs. Lund and Miss Carpenter were looking as though they felt highly
indignant because Matilda she chose to stick by her good-for-nothing
brother, even when they told her they could hardly be expected to go
to the trouble to furnish sewing just to help feed such a lazy-looking
man, and keep him in smoking tobacco. Ma, she seemed dreadfully hurt,
and I guess she hardly knew what to do, for she thinks a heap of
Matilda and Mr. Hosmer.

"They went away, and Matilda, she stood there and looked after them
sort of sad like. She knew she had offended three of her best friends,
and it cut her to the quick. Still, I could see from her face that
she didn't mean to turn on Brother Lu, and tell him he'd have to
clear out; for she gave her head a stubborn little flirt as she turned
and went indoors again.

"Hugh, this thing is really getting serious, seems to me. If those
ladies think it their duty to quit giving Matilda work the poor
things will starve, because all they've got to depend on now is what
she earns by her needle. Something ought to be done to rid her of
that wart that's fastened on her bounty; if she won't give him up of
her own will, then some of us ought to see to it that he's chased out
of the neighborhood."

"Hold on, Thad, go slow," warned the more cautious Hugh. "I feel
pretty much the same as you do about it, but we mustn't think of
trying any White Cap business around such a respectable town as
Scranton. There's still lots of time to investigate; and if the
worst comes we can appeal to the mayor to help. Perhaps the police
could look up the man's record, and make him clear out on the plea
that he's got a bad reputation. That would answer our purpose, and
at the same time keep within the law."

Thad looked wonderfully pleased.

"I didn't tell you something more I saw, Hugh," he now went on to say.
"When the three ladies came out, Brother Lu he managed to be there in
plain sight. He tried to be polite like, and was of course seized
with one of those fake fits of coughing right before them. Matilda
ran to his side, and put her arm around him looking defiantly at Ma
as if to say: 'There, don't you see how far gone he is, and how can
you ask me to be so inhuman and unsisterly as to tell him he must go
out again into the cold, cruel world that has treated him so badly?'

"The ladies looked after Brother Lu as he staggered away, as if
they hardly knew what to think. But it happened, Hugh, that I could
watch the man from where I was snuggled down, and would you believe
me, he had no sooner got behind the little building they use for a
woodshed than he started to dance a regular old hoe-down, snapping
his fingers, and looking particularly merry. I tell you I could
hardly hold in, I was so downright mad; I wanted to rush out and
denounce him for an old fraud of the first water. But on considering
how useless that would be, besides giving it away that I suspected.
him, and was spying on his actions, I managed to get a grip on
myself again.

"After things had sizzled out, Hugh, I came away, and ran nearly all
the distance between the Hosmer cottage and your house, I was that
eager to tell you how the land lay. And now, once for all, what can
we do to bounce that fraud, and free poor Matilda from the
three-big-meals-a-day brother who's fastened on her like a leech?"

Hugh nodded his head as though he had been thinking while his chum
continued to tell of his experiences. From his manner Thad jumped to
the conclusion that Hugh might have something interesting to say,
and in this he proved to be right.




CHAPTER VIII

A BAD OUTLOOK FOR BROTHER LU


"Now that you've told me such an interesting thing about this queer
tramp we ran across the other day, and who turns out to be Mrs. Hosmer's
only brother," Hugh was saying, "I want to return the compliment, and
explain that I've been doing a little missionary work or scouting on
my own hook."

Thad showed signs of intense interest.

"I sort of thought you'd be wanting to cultivate his acquaintance so
as to study the chap at closer range, Hugh," he hastened to say. "Well,
did he entertain you with some accounts of his adventures in different
parts of the world, as he promised he'd do if we'd drop around at his
new home and see him?"

"He certainly can talk a blue streak, once he gets started," admitted
Hugh, with a little whistle. "Why, that man would have made a splendid
lawyer, if he'd ever had the ambition to try; and as a promoter for
land schemes he'd take the cake. But he says he was born with the
wanderlust in his veins that would not let him rest anywhere for a
decent length of time. No sooner would he get settled nicely, and
perhaps own some big piece of land, down in Brazil once, or it may
have been out in our own West, than along would come that awful
yearning to be on the move again; and so, unable to resist, he would
sacrifice his property, and get on the jump again."

"If you could only rely on all he says, Hugh," admitted the deeply
interested Thad, "he'd be a mighty interesting character; but for one,
I firmly believe it's a great big lie; he's never been anywhere but
around this country, and that traveling on freight-car beams, and
walking the ties."

"Well," Hugh went on, "he certainly has a mighty intimate acquaintance
with all sorts of countries, for he can describe things in the most
minute way you ever heard. He kept me fairly chained while he was
talking of Borneo, Sumatra, Hong Kong, China, Japan, the Philippines,
and all those far-away countries in the South Seas. If he's only read
about them, the man has the most astonishing memory I ever
ran across."

"Oh! he's no doubt a character," admitted the skeptical Thad, as
though he begrudged acknowledging even this much; "but I still believe
him to be a fake. Keep right on telling me what you did, Hugh."

"For that matter, I didn't do much of anything except listen to his
stories, for he kept up a steady stream of talk for a whole hour or
more, and covered a wide territory in that time."

"I sort of think Brother Lu has conceived a liking for me which is
hardly returned in the same ratio; though I confess there's something
almost fascinating about the fellow."

Thad acted as though alarmed.

"Be careful, and keep on your guard, Hugh, or else he'll be hypnotizing
you just like he seems to have done with poor Matilda and her husband.
That slick tongue of his can do all sorts of stunts. Why if you don't
look out we'll have you going around taking up a subscription to fit
Brother Lu out with a brand new suit of togs; and perhaps buying the
poor chap a bully meerschaum pipe; for it must be dreadful that he
is now compelled to use one of Mr. Hosmer's old corncob affairs."

His sarcasm was lost upon his chum, for Hugh laughed merrily at the
gruesome picture Thad drew of his complete subjugation to the wiles
of the schemer.

"Of course," he continued, calmly, "I didn't forget what I was there
for principally, and all the while he was talking so fluently and
holding my interest, I kept watching him and trying to study his real
character. Thad, I own up to failure. Once I thought I was a pretty
clever hand at that sort of thing, but now I'm mixer-up, and have
lost considerable confidence.

"I kept changing my mind again and again. When he'd tell some of
the most astonishing stories of the strange lands he'd roved through,
I'd begin to say to myself that he must surely be just lying. Then
the fellow'd mention some little happening that he'd describe so
vividly, would you believe it, I felt the tears in my eyes, for
it would be sort of pathetic. So during that whole hour I sat there
and changed my mind every ten minutes, now blowing hot, and again
cold. I came away in as muddled a state as I went there. His actions
seem to stamp him a rogue if ever there was one; and yet, Thad, I
seemed to see something different in the depths of his twinkling
blue eyes."

"Oh! thunder! however are we going to get rid of such a sticker?"
groaned Thad, as though at a loss to know what next to do.

"Listen," resumed Hugh. "Among other things he mentioned was an
account of his adventures down in Texas in the big oil field there,
where he said men make fortunes one day and lose them the next in
speculation. He went into some details to tell me of a strange thing
he had witnessed there, and among other names mentioned, he chanced
to speak of a Marshal Hastings, who, it seems, is much feared by the
bad men of that community. Somehow, I thought I could detect a little
quaver in Brother Lu's voice whenever he spoke of this party; and,
Thad, do you know, the idea flashed through my brain that perhaps he'd
had an unpleasant half hour with that same Marshal Hastings himself."

"I take it that you mean the officer may have warned Lu to shake the
dust of that region off his brogans, and make himself scarce, if he
didn't want to pull hemp; is that your idea, Hugh?"

"Something along that order," came the steady reply. "At least he
could not think of Marshal Hastings without some memory that was
unpleasant, making him shiver."

Thad's eagerness increased by jumps, and showed itself on his face,
which was now lighted up with anticipation.

"I'm beginning to sense something coming, Hugh," he hastened to say.
"What you saw gave you a sort of idea, didn't it? You reckon right
now that there may be a way to frighten this lazy loafer, so that of
his own free will he'll cut stick and clear out. Well, perhaps
after all something like that would be the best way to get rid of
him. I don't believe the people in this civilized section of country
would stand for any night-riding business like they did in the
Kentucky tobacco district; or such a thing as that tar and feather
picnic. So go on and tell me your scheme."

"Well," Hugh continued, "you could hardly call it by such a name as
yet, because the idea is hardly more than half hatched. But when
he told me about the way the bad men used to shake at mention of
that brave marshal's very name, and I saw him doing something along
the same order, why, I began to figure out that if only Brother Lu
could be made to believe Marshal Hastings was here from Texas,
looking for _somebody_ he meant to take back with him, why, he might
get such a bad scare he'd skip by the light of the moon between days,
and never, never come back again."

Thad gave his chum a vigorous pound on the back that made the other
wince; but then he was accustomed to taking things of this nature
from expressive Thad.

"Oh! that sounds good to me, Hugh!" he burst out with. "I honestly
believe you are getting close to a bully scheme that may pan out
firstclass. Argument and all kinds of pleading wouldn't influence
that man a bit, because he's selfish, I know he must be, or else he
wouldn't burden his poor sister, and see her working for his
miserable comfort every day, and all day long. But, Hugh, he could
be moved by fear. If so be he has ever done anything down there
in Texas that he could be arrested for, why, just the mere knowledge
that this marshal, who always gets those he goes after, has come
north, and is looking for some one, ought to start Brother Lu on a
gallop for another distant section of country."

"It might," said Hugh, reflectively, as though the exuberance of his
comrade was having an effect on his mind.

"It surely would," repeated Thad, pounding a fist into his other palm
to express his convictions. "And, believe me, he wouldn't dare show
his smiling face in these parts in a hurry again, because he'd feel
pretty sure the marshal would have arranged it with the local police
to notify him in case Brother Lu ever turned up. Why, Hugh, we've
got the scheme right now; and it ought to work to beat the band. I
can see that hobo trailing along over the ties again at a hot pace;
and while poor Matilda may grieve for her brother, she'll heave a sigh
of relief to know it's all over, and the ladies are her friends again."

"Let's go a step further, then," insinuated Hugh, "and if we decide
to try out this little plan, which you're good enough to call a
scheme, how can we fix it so that the reformed hobo will take the
alarm?"

"That's where the hitch may come in," agreed the other boy, as he
allowed three separate lines of wrinkles to gather across his forehead,
which was always reckoned a sure sign that Thad Stevens was concentrating
his brain power upon the solution of a knotty problem. "One thing sure,
we can't very well up and inform him of the fact ourselves, or he'd
understand the motive right away."

"And even if a letter could be sent," continued Hugh, "how would we
be able to get the right post-mark on the envelope, unless we asked
the postmaster down in a town of Texas close to the oil fields to
mail it for us?"

Suddenly Thad started to smile. The said smile rapidly broadened
into a positive grin that spread all over his face, while his eyes
fairly sparkled with delight.

"Hugh, I've just grabbed a bright idea!" he said, explosively.

"Let's hear about it before the same gets away from you, then," his
chum advised.

"Listen. Perhaps you may know that I used to go some with little
Jim Pettigrew more or less before you and I became such chums. Jim
is considerably older than me, but his stature always made folks
think he was a kid. Well, of course you also know Jim he's graduated
into a regular cub reporter, as he's so fond of calling it, because
that word _cub_ is used so often in the movies, when they show up
a big newspaper office in New York or Chicago, and the latest greenhorn
on the staff is given an assignment that allows him to make the
greatest news scoop ever heard of. Jim, to tell the truth, works
on our local weekly here, the _Scranton Courier_. He rakes the
entire country for news, writes things up that have never occurred,
so as to fill space, and draw his weekly pay, attends weddings,
funerals, and all sorts of events, not forgetting baseball games
and such things.

"Well, Jim is still a good friend of mine, although he now feels
himself so mighty important that even the mayor sends for him to
communicate something he wants to appear in the next issue of the
paper. The idea that flashed into my brain, you must know, Hugh, is
to tell Jim of our great trouble with this pesky hobo, and enlist his
aid in scaring Brother Lu off."

"Suppose now, in the issue of the _Courier_ that is due tomorrow
morning there appeared an interesting write-up about a certain Marshal
Hastings who was visiting Scranton, having come all the way from Texas
to find and take back a certain party who was badly wanted there for
some serious offense; the story could give little hints that would
point to Brother Lu as the man, without actually saying so. Hugh,
tell me, what do you think of that for a scheme; and might it do the
work, would you say?"




CHAPTER IX

SETTING THE MAN TRAP


Hugh jumped up from his chair and clapped a cap on his head.

"It's now about four o'clock of a Friday afternoon," he remarked,
"and if we could only run across Jim Pettigrew, and he got interested
in our story, why it might not be too late to get the little write-up
arranged before they went to press tonight."

Thad was all animation.

"Fine! Let's rush around to the _Courier_ office and see Jim!" he
hastened to say. "I've an idea he's a sort of Jack-of-all-trades
there, writing up news, setting type in an emergency, and even helping
turn off the limited edition of about five hundred copies of the
paper that are run every week. So, as Friday night is the climax to
their week's work, we're likely to find Jim there with his coat off,
and on the job."

They soon arrived at the small building on a side street where the
local paper had its offices, and, indeed, every other thing connected
with it, for that matter.

"There's Jim sitting in the editor's chair," observed Thad, looking
through a dusty window.

"Must be Mr. Adoiphus Hanks, who owns and edits the _Courier_, is
out of town just at present. Say, that would just suit us to a
fraction, wouldn't it, Hugh?"

"It might make things easier for us," admitted the other; and then
they burst in on the important if diminutive Jim, who received them
with all the airs of a metropolitan editor.

"Glad to see you, boys," he told them; "just take seats, will you,
and excuse me for three minutes. I'm winding up the main editorial
for this week's issue. Hanks is out of town, and has left me in full
charge; but then that happens frequently nowadays; and, say, some
foolish people have gone so far as to say they can tell when he's
absent because, well, the paper shows it; but I tell them they are
only saying that to flatter me. Three minutes, boys, and I'll be at
your service."

Whatever it was Jim was doing on the typewriter, he continued to
pound laboriously away for about that length of time. Then finishing
he drew the sheet out, glanced over it, made some corrections, smiled
as though highly pleased, and called out to a boy who was working
a hand press to come and take it to the lone compositor, standing
at his case in a distant corner of the den.

"That'll make folks sit up and take notice I kind of think," said
Jim, swelling out his chest with an air of great importance. "Don't
ask me what it is all about, for I want it to be a surprise to the
community. Read it in tomorrow's issue of the _Weekly Courier_.
Now, what can I do for you, Thad, old scout? Anything connected
with the Scranton High baseball team you want written up for next
week? I'm always ready to favor the boys, because I used to play
ball myself away back."

Hugh would have liked to laugh, but he refrained, not wishing to
offend Jim, who was evidently suffering from an overweening sense
of his own importance, since he had graduated into a temporary occupancy
of the editorial chair. Jim was considerably short of twenty at that,
so it could not have been more than a year or two since he used to
play ball, and train with the other boys of Scranton High.

Thad got busy, and began to tell how they had first ran across the
strange hobo in his camp, cooking a meal. He continued the story with
a description of how the long wandering Brother Lu had been so warmly
welcomed by Matilda and her sick husband, and thereupon deliberately
settled down to enjoying himself at their expense.

Thad was a pretty good hand at narrating a yarn, and he worked the
interest up by degrees until he had Jim's eyes as round as saucers,
while he hung upon every word that was spoken. Hugh only broke in
once in a while to add a few sentences to something his chum said.

Finally the climax was reached when Thad explained the scheme he
and Hugh had concocted between them, and how much they would appreciate
the assistance of Jim in this dilemma.

The temporary editor pursed up his lips and looked serious. He was
thinking, and gradually a grin began to creep across his thin little
face.

"Why, I guess it could be worked out, fellows," he finally remarked,
greatly to the satisfaction of the eager Thad. "Course I can do the
writeup part as easy as falling off a fence, because it comes natural
for me to be able to put any old thing down on paper and hash it up
in a most interesting way. I'll have a story that will make folks
sit up and take notice all right."

"I hope, though, Jim," said Thad, "you won't overdo the thing, because
you see we haven't a peg to hang it on, since we don't know what sort
of a crime the man might have done away down there in Texas to make
Marshal Hastings come so far after him. You'll draw it a bit mild,
won't you, Jim? Just strong enough to strike terror to the heart of
that rascal, Brother Lu?"

"That's all right, Thad, you leave it to me," asserted Jim, with a
confidence born of experience, as well as reliance on his powers
of description and invention. "Yes, I can do the thing to the king's
taste. Why, in such a case it's my habit to make myself actually
believe in my work. Right now I can actually see the ferocious and
not-to-be-denied Marshal Hastings. I could even describe how he
looks so that you recognize the picture. And say, I'll give such
broad hints, without actually saying it's Brother Lu he wants, that
the poor old wretch will bump himself getting out of town on the
first freight that pulls in here. It's a scream of a joke; and
I'm obliged to you boys for putting me up to it. I need all sorts
of practice, you understand, to fit myself for a prominent post
down in New York City, where I expect to land a job as a star
reporter on one of the big dailies."

Of course Thad and Hugh were pleased with matters so far as they had
gone.

"I'm in with you, boys," continued Jim, as they arose to leave the
_Courier_ office, "to the limit; but there's one favor I want to
ask of you in return."

"Name it, Jim!" cried Thad, grasping the cold hand of the reporter,
for just at that moment he felt as though willing to do almost anything
in return for this real kindness on the part of his old-time associate.

"Listen, then," said the other, briskly, for he at least had a rapid
mind, and was in many other ways well qualified for the position
which he meant to assume in the world of newspaperdom, besides,
an abundance of nerve, or as Thad liked to call it, "cheek," - -"I
don't believe Mrs. Hosmer ever sees our sterling paper, because
the name isn't on our mailing list, or the carrier's either. But
tomorrow morning I'll have Jenkins, our boy here, go around particularly
to Matilda's cottage and leave a paper, telling her we are sending
out a large number of free complimentary copies, hoping to induce
more people to subscribe. Get that, boys?"

"Yes, and it sounds good to me, Jim; you know how to work the mill,
all right," said the judicious Thad, well aware of the power flattery
possesses to grease the wheels of human machinery.

"Well, the three of us will be in hiding close by, just as Thad
was today when his mother and those other good ladies paid their
unprofitable visit to the Hosmer home. If we're lucky we may see
Brother Lu come dashing out of the place, and strike a blue streak
for the railroad, distant half a mile or so. Should that happen,
we can make up our minds it's all serene, and that Scranton, as
well as his poor sister, will have seen the last of him. But you
must promise to come around here and wait for me, as I may have a
little business on my hands. Holding down all the positions on even
a local sheet is no easy job, you must know; and I'm the PooBah of
this joint right now."

Willingly Thad gave the desired promise. He would have done anything
else which the autocrat of the enterprise chose to demand just then,
since they looked upon Jim as their main reliance. Fortunately the
other did not see fit to bind them to any further promises, and when
they had left the newspaper office, it was with a sense of elation
such as comes after a successful venture.

Thad was fairly bubbling over with delight.

"Why, Hugh, I think we ought to shake hands, with ourselves over
getting up such a smart little scheme as that," he broke out with,
as they walked along the main street of Scranton, meeting many persons
whom they knew, and most of them ready with a cheery nod or a word of
recognition, for both lads were well liked by the best people of the
community, and particularly those who knew boy nature best, so that
they could appreciate what manly fellows the chums were.

"You're a sanguine sort of chap, Thad," laughed Hugh. "Right now
you believe we've as good as got Brother Lu on the run for the tall
timber. Don't be too sure, or you may be disappointed. There's many
a slip, remember, between cup and lip. But Jim took to the game like
a terrier does to a rat, didn't he?"

"It was right in Jim's favorite line of business," explained the


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Online LibraryDonald FergusonThe Chums of Scranton High out for the Pennant → online text (page 4 of 10)