Hugh let out another burst of speed. He was closing the gap rapidly; and, apparently, Whipple also seemed to be gaining on the almost played-out Nick.
They were now within less than a mile of the finish; the last turn would soon be reached, with the gun booming out the fact of their arrival. Hugh girded his loins for a Garrison finish, and gloried in the conviction that he was in trim to do himself credit.
THE BOY WHO WON—CONCLUSION
“It’s Nick Lang, as sure as anything!” shouted a boy who happened to possess an excellent pair of field-glasses.
“Nick Lang in the lead!” howled another; “well, what do you think of that? Where, oh, where, oh, where is Hugh Morgan about this time; and ‘Just’ Smith in the bargain?”
“But Nick is a Scranton High boy after all, and that’s a heap better than to see an Allandale fellow come in ahead!” cried another near by.
“Look! a second runner has turned the bend; and see how he is coming up on poor wobbly old Nick hand-over-fist!”
“Hello! what’s this mean?” whooped a visitor exultantly. “Surely I know the second fellow’s build. It’s certainly our great Whipple! He’s going to cop the prize, boys! Give Whipple an Allandale yell right now to encourage him!”
Even as a score of boyish throats roared in response to this entreaty a third runner was discovered rounding the bend. He appeared to be tearing along at race-horse speed, as though having a reserve stock of power upon which to call in this closing half-mile of the long race.
The words seemed to run like wildfire through the vast crowd. Everybody repeated them, some with a growing delight, others with a sense of impending disaster to the wild hopes they had been so ardently cherishing; all according to the viewpoint they held. Scranton’s register was rising, while Allandale visitors began to feel something was on the verge of happening to crush the budding paean of victory that was ready to bubble from their lips.
Nick evidently knew that he had shot his bolt. He, doubtless, tried frantically to encourage his legs to move faster, but they refused to hearken to the call. Whipple was now rapidly closing the short gap existing between them. At the same time it could be seen that the Allandale runner veered a trifle, as though to give Nick a fairly wide berth when passing.
Plenty of fellows noticed this fact, nor did they wonder at it. The tricky character of Nick Lang was pretty well known, and they believed he would not hesitate about throwing himself sideways, so as to collide with Whipple when the other was in the act of passing him; although such a vindictive act could, of course, not better the position of the local runner a particle.
When Whipple actually took the lead a great roar arose from thousands of throats. Doubtless many wild-eyed Allandale enthusiasts already counted the victory as won. They could be seen commencing to throw their hats and caps into the air, boy-fashion. Others, wiser, gripped their hands, and held their breath while waiting to see the actual finish of the great race.