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 climbing.
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.