The bright October sun was half-way down the western sky one Saturday afternoon. Two-thirds of the Fall month had already gone, and the air was becoming fairly crisp in the early mornings.
All around the forest trees were painted various shades of bright scarlet, burnt umber brown and vivid gold by the practiced fingers of that master artist, the Frost-King. Flocks of robins and blackbirds were gathering rather late this year, preparatory to taking their annual pilgrimage to the warm Southland. They flew overhead at times in vast numbers, making a tremendous chatter.
A noisy bunch of crows cawed unceasingly amidst the treetops as a large, lumbering old automobile passed along the country road, the same filled with lively boys, and also a number of sacks stuffed to their utmost capacity with what appeared to be black walnuts, shell-bark hickories, butternuts, and even splendid large chestnuts. Apparently, the strange and deadly blight that was attacking the chestnut groves all through the East had not yet appeared in the highly favored region around the town of Scranton, in which place the boys in question lived, and attended the famous high school where Dr. Carmack, also supervisor of the entire county schools, held forth.
The five tired lads who formed this nutting party we have met before in the pages of previous stories in this series; so that to those who have been fortunate enough to possess such books they need no lengthy introduction.
First, there was Hugh Morgan, looking as genial and determined as ever, and just as frequently consulted by his comrades, because his opinion always carried considerable weight. Then came his most intimate chum, Thad Stevens, who had played the position of backstop so successfully during the summer just passed, and helped to win the pennant for Scranton against the other two high schools of the country, situated in the towns of Allendale and Belleville.
Besides these two, there was included in the party a tall chap who seemed to be acting as chauffeur, from which it might be judged that he had supplied the means for taking this nutting trip far afield; his name was Kenneth Kinkaid, but among his friends he answered to the shorter appellation of “K.K.” Then came a fourth boy of shorter build, and more sturdy physique, Julius Hobson by name; and last, but far from least, Horatio Juggins, a rather comical fellow who often assumed a dramatic attitude, and quoted excerpts from some school declamation, his favorite, of course, being “Horatio at the Bridge.”
It was “K.K.” who got up the annual foraging expedition on this particular year, and promised that they should go in style in the antiquated seven-passenger car belonging to his father, who was a commercial traveler, which car “K.K.” often used, when he could raise the cash to provide sufficient gasolene at twenty-five cents per gallon. But on this momentous occasion each fellow had chipped in his share pro rata; so that the generous provider of the big, open car was not compelled to beg or borrow in order to properly equip the expedition.