That the committee in general charge of the great undertaking cherished some sort of fear that some daring outrage might be attempted by boys who were not connected with the high school was evident from the fact that they had had warning notices printed at the office of the Weekly Courier, notifying all boys who might contemplate playing any sort of practical joke during the holding of the carnival that Chief Adolph Wambold, the head of the local police, would have his entire force on the grounds, and such offenders would be harshly treated, if detected.
The afternoon was well along when Hugh was approached by “Just” Smith, one of the candidates who meant to try for the Marathon prize.
“Several of the boys are meaning to start off on that seven-mile spin, Hugh,” the other announced as he came up; “and they want you to come along. We can start together, and then separate, as we feel disposed;” and, as this suited Hugh, he agreed.
WHEN MUSCLES COUNTED
There were four of them who made the start, Hugh, “Just” Smith, Horatio Juggins, and “K. K.,” the Kinkaid boy. Three of the bunch had been fielders in the baseball nine that carried off the championship pennant of the three-town high-school league the preceding summer; and, having been known as great runners, it was only natural that they had felt impelled to enter for the long-distance race.
An equal number could be expected from both Allandale and Belleville, so that with others who would feel disposed to, at least, be in at the start, though calculating to fall out after a few miles had been run, possibly a full score would toe the string at the time the great Marathon was called.
In an event of this nature a big “field” adds to the excitement of the occasion; and it is often noticed that those who have no intention of finishing usually look the most confident during the preparations for making the grand start. Well, they have no hope of getting any fun out of the race after losing sight of the crowd, and so they mean to take what they can beforehand.
Talking is almost tabooed during such a race, since every breath lost in useless conversation saps so much energy. Even on a trial run Mr. Leonard had advised the boys to separate as soon as possible, and keep some distance apart, mostly to obviate this temptation to exchange views; so that each candidate could conserve every atom of his powers.
So it came about that by the time two miles had been run Hugh found himself absolutely alone. Hugh had left the main thoroughfare, and was passing along a byroad that would take him around through the hilly country, until the Scranton turnpike was again reached.
The other fellows had the option of doing as Hugh did, or they could continue on further, and, perhaps, get a lift back home on some farmer’s wagon, or possibly a car bound for Scranton. Hugh had an idea, however, that one of them was coming along the same road a mile or more behind, and that it would turn out to be “Just” Smith. Some words the other chap had uttered when they were together before starting forth on the run gave Hugh this impression, though he could not be positive about it.