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´╗┐Title: Bert Wilson's Fadeaway Ball
Author: Duffield, J. W.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Bert Wilson's Fadeaway Ball" ***

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 --A Table of Contents has been added by the transcriber for the
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CONTENTS


 CHAPTER                         PAGE
      I. TOUCHING SECOND            1
     II. "MAKING THE TEAM"         16
    III. THE "INSIDE" GAME         33
     IV. THE TRIPLE PLAY           53
      V. WINNING HIS SPURS         65
     VI. THE FIRE                  93
    VII. TAKING HIS MEDICINE      107
   VIII. SHOOTING THEM OVER       123
     IX. A GALLANT RESCUE         144
      X. A WILD RIDE              160
     XI. THE NINTH INNING         182



 BERT WILSON'S
 Fadeaway Ball

 BY

 J. W. DUFFIELD

 AUTHOR OF "BERT WILSON AT THE WHEEL,"
 "BERT WILSON, MARATHON WINNER,"
 "BERT WILSON, WIRELESS OPERATOR."



 Copyright, 1913, By
 SULLY AND KLEINTEICH

 _All rights reserved._

 Published and Printed, 1924, by
 Western Printing & Lithographing Company
 Racine, Wisconsin
 Printed in U. S. A.



Bert Wilson's Fadeaway Ball



CHAPTER I

TOUCHING SECOND


Crack!--and the ball soared into center field, while the batter, swift
as a flash, sped down to first. A tremendous roar went up from the
thirty thousand loyal "fans" who packed the grandstands and filled the
bleachers to overflowing. Staid citizens danced up and down like howling
dervishes, hats were tossed into the air or jovially crushed on their
owners' heads, and happy riot reigned everywhere. Pandemonium broke
loose.

The fight for the pennant had been a bitter one all season. First one
team and then another had taken the lead, while the whole country had
been as excited as though the fate of an empire hung in the balance.
The third chief contender, fighting grimly to the last, had fallen
hopelessly behind, and the contest had narrowed down to a life-and-death
struggle between the Giants and the Cubs. The team from the Western city
had hung on doggedly and every battle had been fought "for blood."
Contesting every inch, they had at last drawn up on even terms with the
leaders, and to-day's game was to decide which club should be hailed as
champions of the National League and, later on, do battle with the
leaders of the American League for the proud title of Champions of the
World.

The excitement was intense, and, to a foreigner, would have been
inconceivable. Men stood in line all the night before to make sure of
tickets when the gates should open in the morning. The newspapers
devoted columns of space to the gladiators of the opposing teams.
Delegations poured in on special trains from neighboring cities. The
surface cars and elevated trains, packed to the limit, rolled up to the
grounds and deposited their sweltering throngs. The lines of ticket
buyers extended for blocks, and the speculators did a rushing business.
Long before the hour set for the game to begin, the grounds were crowded
to suffocation, and thousands, unable to get in, were turned away from
the gates.

The scene within was inspiring. A band played popular airs, while those
within hearing joined lustily in the chorus. The great field, gleaming
like green velvet beneath the afternoon sun, had been especially groomed
and rolled for this day of days. The base lines, freshly marked, stood
out in white and dazzling relief. All four sides of the huge enclosure
held their thousands of enthusiasts, and the host of special policemen
had their hands full to keep them from encroaching on the diamond. As
each white-uniformed athlete of the home team came from the club house
for preliminary practice, he was boisterously and affectionately
greeted.

Nor did the gray-clad visitors come short of a cordial reception. The
great crowd hoped that the home team would win, but they were fair, and,
mingled with the good-natured chaffing, was a wholesome respect and
fear of their prowess. Above all they wanted a rattling game and a
hair-raising finish, with the Giants winning "by an eyelash."

The bell rang. The Giants took their places in the field and the umpire
cried "Play ball!" The head of the Cubs' batting order came to the plate
and the game was on. From the start it was a battle "for keeps." Both
teams were "on their toes." It meant not only honor but lucre. The
winners would contest in the World's Series, and this meant thousands of
dollars for every player. Every point was bitterly fought, and plays were
made that under other circumstances would not even have been attempted.
For eight innings, Fortune divided her favors equally, and it looked as
though the game were destined to go into extra innings.

The Cubs were easily disposed of in their half of the ninth, and the
Giants came to the bat. The crowd, which had been alternately on the
heights of hope or in the depths of despair, rose to their feet and
cheered them wildly. The batters were frantically besought to "hit it
on the seam," "give the ball a ride," "show them where you live." The
players responded nobly. By the time that two were out, a Giant was
perched on third and another on first. The shortstop, a sure hitter in a
pinch, strode to the plate. Now, indeed, excitement was at fever heat. A
safe hit into the outfield would bring the man on third to the plate
with the winning run.

The visitors were plainly worried. The "Peerless Leader" came in from
first, ostensibly to advise the pitcher, but really to give him a
moment's rest before the final test. Hoots of derision showed the
spectators' appreciation of the trick. The pitcher glanced at the man
dancing about third, wound up deliberately and let the ball go with all
the force of his brawny arm. The batter caught it squarely "on the
trademark" and shot it like a rifle bullet into center field, while the
man on third tore down the line and came like a racehorse to the plate.
He crossed the rubber with the winning run, and thirty thousand men went
stark, raving mad.

The man on first ran part way toward second, and then, seeing that his
comrade would certainly score, turned and scurried to the club house in
right field. The jubilant crowd began to invade the diamond. Suddenly
the second baseman of the visitors secured the ball, rushed to his base,
and then, surrounded by his teammates, ran toward the umpire, waving his
hands wildly.

The crowd, at first bewildered, then angered, soon became panic-stricken.
Few of them understood the nature of the claim. They only felt that the
hard-won victory was being called in question, and a tidal wave of wrath
and resentment swept over the field.

The point made by the quick-witted second baseman was simple, but
sufficiently important to engage the grave attention of the umpires. His
contention was that the man on first had not touched second base, and,
as he was legally compelled to leave first in order to make room for the
batter and had not touched second before the ball got there, he was
_forced out_, and therefore the run didn't count. The rules on this
point were clear and explicit. If the claim was granted, three men were
out, no run had come in and the score was still a tie at one to one.

The final decision was held in suspense, and the throng passed out, more
like a funeral than a triumphal procession. Disputes were rife among
heated partisans, and in all the vast city that night and, in a lesser
degree, in every city from New York to San Francisco, the game was
fought over and over again. The unfortunate first baseman almost lost
his mind over the blunder. There was more pity than bitterness felt
toward him, however, as it was known that he had merely followed a
general custom that had been taken as a matter of course.

Among the crowd that filed out of the gates were Bert Wilson and his
inseparable friends, Dick Trent and Tom Henderson. With them also was a
Mr. Hollis, a gentleman much older than they in years, but quite as
young in spirit. He had been in charge of the summer camp from which the
boys had recently returned, and the respect and confidence that his
sterling character evoked had become steadily stronger. They were all
very fond of the great national game, and had shared the enthusiasm over
the supposed victory of the home team. Now, from the reaction, their
ardor was correspondingly dampened.

"There's no use talking," broke out Tom hotly, "it was a low down trick.
They couldn't beat us with the bat, so they try to do it on a quibble."

"I don't know," said Dick, "it's about a stand off. We may have been a
little bit better off in brawn, but they had it on us in the matter of
brain. Whatever we may think of their sportsmanship, their wits were not
wool gathering."

"And after all," chimed in Bert, "it is brain that counts to-day in
baseball as well as in everything else. More and more, the big leaguers
are putting a premium on quick thinking. The mere 'sand lot slugger' is
going to the rear, and the college man is coming to the front. It isn't
that the collegian is necessarily any brainier, but he has been taught
how to use his brains. This is simply a case where the husky hit of the
Giants' short-stop was wasted because of the nimble wit of the Cubs'
second baseman. It was hit against wit, and wit won out."

"All the same," maintained Tom, "it was taking advantage of a
technicality. The same thing has been done a hundred times, and there
has never been a kick about it. Whenever a player has been sure that the
winning run has come in, he has considered it all over, and made a break
for the clubhouse. I don't think the question has ever been raised
before."

"Yes it has," said Mr. Hollis. "That same quick thinker made a point of
it the other day in Pittsburgh, and that is all the more reason why the
home team ought to have been wide awake. But there is nothing to be
gained by post mortems, and anyway the thing isn't settled yet. It looks
rather bad for us now, but there will be a full discussion of the matter
and the umpires may find something in the rules that will cover the case
and give us the run. Even if they don't, it leaves it a tie, and the
game will have to be played over. We may win then and get the pennant
after all."

"I hope so," said Tom, "but just at present I know how they felt in
Mudville:

    "'O somewhere birds are singing and somewhere children shout,
    But there's no joy in Mudville--mighty Casey has struck out.'"

A few days later when the point had been decided in favor of the Cubs
and the game played over, only to result in a conclusive victory for the
men from the shore of Lake Michigan, the chums met in Bert's rooms.

"Well," said Dick, "I see that they put it over, all right. They've
copped the pennant and we are only an 'also ran.'"

"Yes," replied Tom, "that hit by Tinker over Seymour's head did the
business. But there's no use crying over spilt milk. We'll stand them on
their heads next year and get even."

"By the way, Bert," asked Dick, changing the subject, "have you heard
from your examinations yet? How did you make out?"

"Fine," answered Bert. "I heard from the Dean this morning and he says
that I passed with something to spare. The chemical and electrical
marks were especially good. He says that the questions along those lines
were unusually severe, but they didn't strike me that way. I suppose
it's because I'm so interested in them that they come easy."

"Good for you, old scout," cried Dick, delightedly. "I'm tickled to
death that the thing is settled. You'll find that we have one of the
finest scientific schools in the country. I've been there a year now,
and it's come to seem like home. I'll show you the ropes and we'll room
together. I only wish Tom here were coming along with us next week."

"So do I," said Tom ruefully, "but Father seems to think I'd better
stick to my engineering course right here in New York. It isn't that he
thinks the course is any better than at your college, if as good. I
suppose the real reason is that he wants me to be where I can live at
home. I'm going to get Mr. Hollis to have a talk with him. Perhaps he
can show him that it would be a good thing for me to get away from home
and be thrown on my own responsibility. Dad's pretty stubborn when he
gets an idea in his head, but he thinks a lot of Mr. Hollis, and what he
says will go a long way with him."

It was a wholesome group of young fellows that thus discussed their
future plans. They were the best type of manly, red-blooded American
youth, full of energy and ambition and alive to their finger tips. Tom
was of medium height, while Bert and Dick were fully six feet tall. All
were strongly built and looked as though they could give a good account
of themselves in any contest, whether of mind or body. A similarity of
tastes and habits had drawn them closely together, and among their
friends they were jokingly referred to as the "Three Guardsmen." They
were rarely apart, and now their plans for the coming school year were
destined to cement their friendship still more firmly. In reality with
them it was "one for all and all for one."

All of them had chosen their life work along practical and scientific
lines. The literary professions did not tempt them strongly. Dick, who
was the elder, was preparing to become a mining engineer, and had
already spent a year at college with that end in view. Tom aimed at
civil engineering while Bert was strongly drawn toward electrical
science and research. This marvelous field had a fascination for him
that he could not resist. His insight was so clear, he leaped so
intuitively from cause to conclusion, that it was felt that it would be
almost a crime if he were not permitted to have every advantage that the
best scientific schools could give him. For a long time past he had been
studying nights, preparing for his entrance examinations, and now that
he had passed them triumphantly, nothing intervened between him and his
cherished ambition.

Absorbed as he was in his studies, however, he spent enough time in
athletic sports to keep himself in superb physical condition. His was
the old Greek ideal of a "sound mind in a sound body." His favorite
sport was baseball, and, like most healthy young Americans, he was
intensely fond of the great game. In public school and high school he
had always "made the team." Although at times he had played every
position in the infield and outfield and behind the bat, he soon
gravitated towards the pitcher's box, and for the last three years had
played that position steadily. He was easily the best "flinger" in the
Inter-Scholastic League, and had received more than one invitation to
join some of the semi-professional teams that abound in the great city.
He elected, however, to remain purely and simply an amateur. Even when a
"big league" scout, who had watched him play, gave him a quiet tip that
his club would take him on the Spring training trip to Texas and pay all
his expenses, with a view to finding out whether he was really "major
league timber," the offer did not tempt him. He had no idea of making a
business of his chosen sport, but simply a pleasant though strenuous
recreation. With him, it was "sport for sport's sake"; the healthy zest
of struggle, the sheer physical delight in winning.

And now, as they talked over the coming year, the athletic feature also
came to the fore.

"I wonder if I'll have the slightest show to make the baseball team,"
said Bert. "I suppose, as a newcomer I'll be a rank outsider."

"Don't you believe that for a minute," replied Dick warmly. "Of course
there'll be lots of competition and a raft of material to pick from. I
suppose when the coach sends out the call for candidates in the Spring,
there'll be dozens of would-be players and a bunch too of have-beens
that will trot out on the diamond to be put through their paces. One
thing is certain, though, and that is that you'll get your chance. There
may be a whole lot of snobbery in college life--though there isn't
half as much as people think--but, out on the ball field, it's a pure
democracy. The only question there is whether you can deliver the goods.
If you can, they don't care whether you're a new man or an old-timer.
All they want is a winner."

"Well," chimed in Tom, "they'll find that they have one in Bert. Just
show them a little of the 'big medicine' you had in that last game with
Newark High when you put out the side on three pitched balls. Gee,
I never saw a more disgusted bunch of ball tossers. Just when they
thought they had the game all sewed up and put away in their bat bag,
too."

"That's all right," said Bert, "but you must remember that those high
school fellows were a different proposition from a bunch of seasoned old
college sluggers. When I come up against them, if I ever do, they'll
probably smash the back fences with the balls I feed to them."

"Some of them certainly can slaughter a pitcher's curves," laughed Dick.
"Old Pendleton, for instance, would have the nerve to start a batting
rally against three-fingered Brown, and Harry Lord wouldn't be hypnotized
even if Matty glared at him."

"I understand you did some fence breaking yourself last Spring on the
scrubs," said Tom. "Steve Thomas told me you were the heaviest batter in
college."

"O, I don't know," returned Dick modestly, "I led them in three-base
hits and my batting average was .319, but Pendleton was ahead of me in
the matter of home runs. I hope to do better next Spring, though, as
Ainslee, the coach, gave me some valuable tips on hitting them out. At
first I swung too much and tried to knock the cover off the ball. The
result was that when I did hit the ball it certainly traveled some. But
many a time I missed them because I took too long a swing. Ainslee
showed me how to chop at the ball with a sharp, quick stroke that
caught it just before the curve began to break. Then all the power of my
arms and shoulders leaned up against the ball at just the right second.
Ainslee says that Home-Run Baker uses that method altogether, and you
know what kind of a hitter he is. I got it down pretty fine before the
season ended, and if I make the team next Spring----"

"If you make it," said Bert incredulously. "As though it wasn't a dead
certainty."

"Not a bit of it," protested Dick, seriously. "You never can tell from
year to year. You can't live on your reputation at college. There may be
a regular Hal Chase among the new recruits, and he may win the first
base position over me without half trying. It's a good thing it is so,
too, because we have to keep hustling all the time or see somebody else
step into our shoes. The result is that when the team is finally licked
into shape by the coaches, it represents the very best the college can
turn out. It's a fighting machine that never knows when it is whipped
and never quits trying until the last man is out in the ninth inning."

"Yes," broke in Tom, "and that's what makes college baseball so much
more pleasing than the regular professional game. The fellows go at it
in such deadly earnest. It is the spirit of Napoleon's Marshal: 'The
Old Guard dies, but never surrenders.' The nine may be beaten, but not
disgraced, and, when the game is over, the winning team always knows
that it has been in a fight."

"Well," said Bert, as the fellows rose to go, "if we do make the team,
it won't be through lack of trying if we fail to land the pennant."

"No," laughed Dick. "Our epitaph at least will be that of the Texas
cowboy,

"'He done his blamedest--angels can no more.'"

A week later, the three friends--for Tom and Mr. Hollis had won his
father over--stood on the deck of a Sound steamer, saying goodby to
those who had come to see them off. Mr. Hollis wrung Bert's hand, just
as the last bell rang and he prepared to go down the gangway.

"Good luck, Bert, and whatever else you do, don't forget to touch
second."

He smiled at Bert's puzzled expression, and added: "I mean, my boy, be
thorough in all you do. End what you begin. Don't be satisfied with any
half-way work. Many a man has made a brilliant start, but a most dismal
finish. In work, in play, in the whole great game of life--touch
second."



CHAPTER II

"MAKING THE TEAM"


The Fall and Winter passed quickly. Bert and Dick roomed together in
one of the dormitories close to the main buildings, while Tom had his
quarters on the floor below. The feeling of strangeness, inevitable at
the start, soon wore off, and they quickly became a part of the swarming
life that made the college a little world of its own.

Here, too, as in the greater world outside, Bert found all sorts and
conditions. There were the rich and the poor, the polished and the
uncouth, the lazy and the energetic, good fellows and bad. But the good
predominated. The great majority were fine, manly fellows, sound to the
core. Dick's wide acquaintanceship with them and his familiarity with
college customs were immensely helpful to Bert from the beginning, and
he was soon a general favorite.

The football season had been a triumphant one, and another gridiron
championship had been added to the many that had preceded it. There had
been a surplus of good material left over from the year before, and the
time was so short that Bert had not tried for the team. At the outset,
too, his studies taxed him so heavily that he did not feel justified
in giving the necessary attention to the great game, that, in his
estimation, almost divided honors with baseball. He had done a little
playing with the scrubs, however, and on his class team, and the
qualities he displayed in "bucking the line" had marked him out to the
coaches, as a factor to be reckoned with in the following seasons.

The Christmas holidays had come and gone almost before he knew it, and
when he returned for his second term, he buckled down to work with all
his might. His chosen field of electricity held constant surprises for
him, as it became more familiar. If he had any specialty, it was
wireless telegraphy. There was an irresistible attraction in the
mysterious force that bound the ends of the earth together by an
electric spark, that leaped over oceans with no conductor but the air,
that summoned help for sinking vessels when all other hope was gone. He
felt that the science was as yet only in its infancy, and that it
held untold possibilities for the future. The splendidly equipped
laboratories gave him every opportunity and encouragement for original
work, and his professors foresaw a brilliant future for the enthusiastic
young student.

Spring came early that year. A soft wind blew up from the south, the sun
shone warmly on the tender grass, the sap stirred blindly in the trees.
It stirred also in the veins of the lusty college youth and called them
to the outdoor life.

Going down the hall, one morning, to his recitation room, Bert came
across an eager group surrounding the bulletin board. He crowded nearer
and saw that it was the call of the coach to baseball candidates to
report on the following day. His heart leaped in response and the morrow
seemed long in coming.

Dressed in the old baseball togs that had done yeoman service on many a
hard-fought field, he with Dick and Tom, who were quite as eager as
himself, reported for the tryout. Perhaps a hundred ambitious youngsters
were on hand, all aflame with desire to make the team and fight for the
glory of Alma Mater. It was apparent at a glance, however, that many had
ambition but nothing else. The qualities that had made them heroes on
some village nine were plainly inadequate, when it came to shaping up
for a college team. The hopes of many faded away when they saw the plays
made by the seasoned veterans, who nonchalantly "ate up" balls and did
stunts in practice that would have called out shouts of applause in a
regular game. But whether marked for acceptance or rejection, all were
as frolicsome as colts turned out to pasture. It was good to be young
and to be alive.

The coach threaded his way through the groups with an eye that apparently
saw nothing, but, in reality, saw everything. He was a famous pitcher,
known from one end of the country to the other. Himself an old-time
graduate, he had the confidence of the faculty and the unbounded respect
and admiration of the students. He had been given full charge and was an
absolute autocrat. Whatever he said "went," and from his decision there
was no appeal. He played no favorites, was not identified with any
clique, and his sole desire was to duplicate the success of the preceding
season and turn out a winner.

To do this, he realized, would be no easy task. While his two chief
rivals had maintained their strong teams almost intact, his own was
"shot to pieces." Three had graduated, and they were among his heaviest
hitters. Good old Pendleton, who had been a tower of strength at first
base, who could take them with equal ease to right or left and "dig them
out of the dirt," and whose hard slugging had many a time turned defeat
into victory, would be hard to replace. His pitching staff was none
too good. Winters lacked control, and Benson's arm was apt to give
out about the seventh inning. Hinsdale was a good backstop, but his
throwing to second was erratic. They had done too much stealing on him
last year. Barry would be sadly missed at third, and it would be mighty
hard to find a capable guardian for the "difficult corner." It was clear
that he faced a tough problem, and the only solution was to be found, if
at all, in the new material.

As he glanced musingly around his eyes fell on Bert. They rested there.
He knew a thoroughbred when he saw one, and this was undeniably a
thoroughbred. The lithe form, supple as a leopard's, the fine play of
shoulder muscles that the uniform could not conceal, the graceful but
powerful swing, the snap with which the ball shot from his fingers as
though released by a spring--all these he noticed in one practised
glance. He sauntered over to where Bert was pitching.

"Done much in the pitching line?" he asked carelessly.

"A little," answered Bert modestly, "only on high school nines though."

"What have you got in stock?" asked the coach.

"Not much besides the old 'roundhouse' curve," replied Bert. "I don't
think so much of my incurve, though I'm trying to make it break a little
more sharply. I can do a little 'moist' flinging, too, though I haven't
practised that much."

"Don't," said the coach. "Cut out the spitball. It's bound to hurt your
arm in the long run. Trot out your curve and let's have a look at it.
Easy now," he said as Bert wound up, "don't put too much speed in it.
You'll have plenty of chances to do that later on."

The ball left Bert's hand with a jerk, and, just before it reached the
center of the plate, swept in a sharp, tremendous curve to the outside,
so that the catcher just touched it with the end of his fingers.

"Not so bad," commented the coach carelessly, though his eyes lighted
up. "Here, Drake," he called to a burly veteran who was looking on with
interest, "take your wagon tongue and straighten out this youngster's
curves."

The good-natured giant, thus addressed, picked up his bat and came to
the plate.

"Get it over the plate now, kid, and I'll kill it," he grinned.

A little flustered by this confidence, Bert sent one in waist high, just
cutting the corner. Drake swung at it and missed it by six inches.

"One strike," laughed the coach, and Drake, looking a little sheepish,
set himself for the next.

"Give him a fast one now, shoulder high," ordered the coach. Again the
ball sped toward the plate and Drake struck at it after it had passed
him and thudded into the catcher's glove.

"Gee, I can't hit them if I can't see them," he protested, and the coach
chuckled.

"No," he said, as Bert poised himself for a third pitch, "no more just
now. I don't want you to throw your arm out at practice. There are other
days coming, and you won't complain of lack of work. Come out again
to-morrow," and he walked away indifferently, while his heart was filled
with exultation. If he had not unearthed a natural-born pitcher, he knew
nothing about ball players.

Drake was more demonstrative. While Bert was putting on his sweater, he
came up and clapped him on the shoulder.

"Say, Freshie," he broke out, "that was a dandy ball you whiffed me
with. You certainly had me guessing. If that swift one you curled around
my neck had hit me, I would have been seeing stars and hearing the
birdies sing. And I nearly broke my back reaching for that curve. You've
surely got something on the ball."

"Oh, you'd have got me all right, if I'd kept on," answered Bert. "That
was probably just a fluke, and I was lucky enough to get away with it."

"Well, you can call it a fluke if you like," rejoined Drake, "but to me
it looked suspiciously like big league pitching. Go to it, my boy, and
I'll root for you to make the team."

Bert flushed with pleasure at this generous meed of praise, doubly
grateful as coming from an upper class man and hero of the college
diamond. Dick coming up just then, they said good-by to Drake and
started toward their dormitory.

"What's this I hear about you, Bert?" asked Dick; "you've certainly made
yourself solid with Ainslee. I accidentally heard him telling one of the
assistant coaches that, while of course he couldn't be sure until he'd
tried you out a little more, he thought he'd made a find."

"One swallow doesn't make a summer," answered Bert. "I had Drake
buffaloed all right, but I only pitched two balls. He might knock me
all over the lot to-morrow."

"Sufficient unto the day are the hits thereof," rejoined Dick; "the fact
is that he _didn't_ hit you, and he has the surest eye in college. If he
had fouled them, even, it would have been different, but Ainslee said he
missed them by a mile. And even at that you weren't at full speed, as he
told you not to cut loose to-day."

"Well," said Bert, "if the lightning strikes my way, all right. But now
I've got to get busy on my 'Sci' work, or I'll surely flunk to-morrow."

The next day Bert was conscious of sundry curious glances when he went
out for practice. News travels fast in a college community and Drake had
passed the word that Ainslee had uncovered a "phenom." But the coach had
other views and was in no mood to satisfy their curiosity. He had turned
the matter over in his mind the night before and resolved to bring Bert
along slowly. To begin with, while delighted at the boy's showing on
the first time out, he realized that this one test was by no means
conclusive. He was naturally cautious. He was "from Missouri" and had to
be "shown." A dozen questions had to be answered, and, until they were,
he couldn't reach any definite decision. Did the boy have stamina enough
to last a full game? Was that wonderful curve of his under full control?
Was his heart in the right place, or, under the tremendous strain of a
critical game, would he go to pieces? Above all, was he teachable,
willing to acknowledge that he did not "know it all," and eager to
profit by the instruction that would be handed out in the course of
the training season? If all these questions could be answered to his
satisfaction, he knew that the most important of all his problems--that
of the pitcher's box--was already solved, and that he could devote his
attention to the remaining positions on the team.

Pursuing this plan of "hastening slowly," he cut out all "circus"
stunts in this second day's practice. Bert was instructed to take it
easy, and confine himself only to moderately fast straight balls, in
order to get the kinks out of his throwing arm. Curves were forbidden
until the newness wore off and his arm was better able to stand the
strain. The coach had seen too many promising young players ruined in
trying to rush the season, and he did not propose to take any such
chances with his new find.

His keen eyes sparkled, as from his position behind the pitcher, he
noted the mastery that Bert had over the ball. He seemed to be able to
put it just where he wished. Whether the coach called for a high or a
low ball, straight over the center of the plate or just cutting the
corners, the ball obeyed almost as though it were a living thing.
Occasionally it swerved a little from the exact "groove" that it was
meant to follow, but in the main, as Ainslee afterward confided to his
assistant, "the ball was so tame that it ate out of his hand."

He was far too cautious to say as much to Bert. Of all the dangers that
came to budding pitchers, the "swelled head" was the one he most hated
and detested.

"Well," he said as he pretended to suppress a yawn, "your control is
fairly good for a beginner. Of course I don't know how it will be on
the curves, but we'll try them out too before long."

"That," he went on warming to his subject, "is the one thing beyond all
others you want to work for. No matter how much speed you've got or how
wide your curve or how sharp your break, it doesn't amount to much,
unless you can put the ball where you want it to go. Of course, you
don't want to put every ball over the plate. You want to make them
'bite' at the wide ones. But when you are 'in the hole,' when there are
two strikes and three balls, the winning pitcher is the one that nine
times out of ten can cut the plate, and do it so surely that the umpire
will have no chance to call it a ball. One of the greatest pitchers I
ever knew was called the 'Curveless Wonder.' He didn't have either an
incurve or an outcurve that was worth mentioning. But he had terrific
speed, and such absolute ability to put the ball just where he wanted
it, that for years he stood right among the headliners in the major
leagues. Take my word for it, Wilson, a pitcher without control is like
the play of Hamlet with Hamlet left out. Don't forget that."

The respect with which Bert listened was deepened by his knowledge that
Ainslee was himself famous, the country over, in this same matter of
control. A few more comments on minor points, and the coach walked away
to watch the practice of his infield candidates.

Now that Pendleton had graduated, the logical successor of the great
first baseman seemed to be Dick Trent, who had held the same position on
the scrubs the year before, and who had pressed Pendleton hard for the
place. The first base tradition demands that it be occupied by a heavy
batter, and there was no doubt that in this particular Dick filled the
bill. His average had been well above the magic .300 figures that all
players covet, and now that he had conquered his propensity to excessive
swinging, he might fairly be expected to better these figures this year.
As a fielder, he was a sure catch on thrown balls either to right or
left, and his height and reach were a safe guarantee that not many wild
ones would get by him. He was lightning quick on double plays, and
always kept his head, even in the most exciting moments of the game. If
he had any weakness, it was, perhaps, that he did not cover quite as
deep a field as Pendleton used to, but that was something that careful
coaching could correct. None of the other candidates seemed at all above
the average, and, while yet keeping an open mind, the coach mentally
slated Dick for the initial bag.

Second and short, as he said to himself with a sigh of relief, were
practically provided for. Sterling at the keystone bag and White at
shortfield were among the brightest stars of the college diamond, and
together with Barry and Pendleton had formed the famous "stonewall"
infield that last year had turned so many sizzling hits to outs.

Barry--ah, there was a player! A perfect terror on hard hit balls, a
fielder of bunts that he had never seen excelled, even among professional
players. He remembered the screeching liner that he had leaped into the
air and pulled down with one hand, shooting it down to first for a double
play in the last game of the season. It had broken up a batting rally and
saved the game when it seemed lost beyond redemption.

Well, there were as good fish in the sea as ever were caught, and no man
was so good but what another just as good could be found to take his
place. But where to find him? There was the rub. That cub trying out now
at third--what was his name?--he consulted the list in his hand--oh,
yes, Henderson--he rather fancied his style. He certainly handled
himself like a ball player. But there--you never could tell. He might
simply be another "false alarm."

At this moment the batter sent a scorching grounder toward third, but a
little to the left of the base. Tom flung himself toward it, knocked
it down with his left hand, picked it up with the right and scarcely
waiting to get "set" shot it like a flash to first. The coach gasped at
the scintillating play, and White called out:

"Classy stuff, kid, classy stuff. That one certainly had whiskers on
it."

"Hey, there, Henderson," yelled the coach, "go easy there. Float them
down. Do you want to kill your arm with that kind of throwing?"

But to himself he said: "By George, what a 'whip' that fellow's got.
That ball didn't rise three inches on the way to first. And it went into
Drake knee high. That youngster will certainly bear watching."

And watch him he did with the eye of a hawk, not only that afternoon,
but for several weeks thereafter until the hope became a certainty that
he had found a worthy successor to the redoubtable Barry, and his
infield would be as much of a "stonewall" that season as the year
before. With Hodge in right, Flynn in center and Drake in left, his
outfield left nothing to be desired, either from a fielding or batting
point of view, and he could now devote himself entirely to the
development of his batteries.

Under his masterly coaching, Bert advanced with great rapidity. He had
never imagined that there was so much in the game. He learned from this
past-master in the art how to keep the batter "hugging first"; the
surest way of handling bunts; the quick return of the ball for the
third strike before the unsuspecting batter can get "set," and a dozen
other features of "inside stuff" that in a close game might easily turn
the scale. Ainslee himself often toed the plate and told Bert to send
in the best he had. His arm had attained its full strength, under
systematic training, and he was allowed to use his curves, his drop, his
rise ball and the swift, straight one that, as Flynn once said, "looked
as big as a balloon when it left his hand, but the size of a pea when it
crossed the plate."

One afternoon, when Ainslee had taken a hand in the batting practice,
Bert fed him an outcurve, and the coach smashed it to the back fence.
A straight high one that followed it met with no better fate. It was
evident that Ainslee had his "batting eye" with him that afternoon, and
could not be easily fooled.

"Send in the next," he taunted, good-naturedly, "I don't think you can
outguess me to-day."

A little nettled at his discomfiture, Bert wound up slowly. For some
time past he had been quietly trying out a new delivery that he had
stumbled upon almost by accident. He called it his "freak" ball. He had
thrown it one day to Dick, when, after the regular practice, they were
lazily tossing the ball to and fro. It had come in way below where
Dick's hands were waiting for it, and the latter was startled. It was a
"lulu," he said emphatically. It could not be classed with any of the
regulation curves. Bert had kept it under cover until he could get
perfect control of it. Now he had got it to the point where he could put
it just where he wanted it, and as he looked at the smiling face of the
coach he resolved to "uncork" it.

He took a long swing and let it go. It came to the plate like a bullet,
hesitated, slowed, then dropped down and in, a foot below the wild lunge
that the coach made for it. His eyes bulged, and he almost dropped the
bat.

"What was that?" he asked. "How did you do it? Put over another one."

A second one proved just as puzzling, and the coach, throwing his bat
aside, came down to the pitcher's box. He was clearly excited.

"Now, what was it?" he asked; "it wasn't an incurve, a drop, or a
straight, but a sort of combination of them all. It was a new one on me.
How do you hold your hand when you throw it?"

"Why," replied Bert, "when I throw it, the palm is held toward the
ground instead of toward the sky, as it is when I pitch an outcurve.
The wrist is turned over and the hand held down with the thumb toward
the body, so that when the ball slips off the thumb with a twisting
motion it curves in toward the batter. I grip it in the same way as an
outcurve. Just as it twists off the thumb I give it a sharp snap of the
wrist. It spins up to the plate, goes dead, then curves sharply down and
in."

"Well," said the coach, "it's certainly a dandy. We must develop it
thoroughly, but we'll do it on the quiet. I rather think we'll have a
surprise for 'our friends the enemy,' when the race begins. It's just as
well to have an ace up our sleeve. That ball is in a class by itself. It
just seems to melt while you are trying to locate it. If I were to give
it a name at all, I'd call it a 'fadeaway.'"

And so Bert's new delivery was christened. As they walked back to the
college both were exultant. They would have been still more so, if at
that moment they had begun to realize the havoc and dismay that would be
spread among their opponents before the season ended by Bert's fadeaway
ball.



CHAPTER III

THE "INSIDE" GAME


"Well, Tom, I see that you lead off in the batting order," said Bert, as
they sat in his rooms at the close of the day's work.

"Yes," said Tom, "Ainslee seems to think that I am a good waiter, as
well as a pretty fair sprinter, and I suppose that is the reason he
selected me."

"'They also serve who only stand and wait,'" recited Dick, who was
always ready with an apt quotation.

"Well," laughed Bert, "I don't suppose the poet ever dreamed of that
application, but, all the same, it is one of the most important things
in the game to lead off with a man who has nerve and sense enough to
wait. In the first place, the pitcher is apt to be a little wild at the
start and finds it hard to locate the plate. I know it's an awful
temptation to swing at a good one, if it is sandwiched in between a
couple of wild ones, and, of course, you always stand the chance of
being called out on strikes. But at that stage of the game he is more
likely to put over four balls than three strikes, and if you do trot
down to first, you've got three chances of reaching home. A sacrifice
will take you down to second, and then with only one man out and two
good batters coming up, a single to the outfield brings you home."

"Then, too, you went around the bases in fifteen seconds flat, the other
day," said Dick, "and that's some running. I noticed Ainslee timing you
with his split-second watch, and when he put it back in his pocket he
was smiling to himself."

"Flynn comes second, I see," said Bert, consulting his list, "and that's
a good thing too. He is one of the best 'place' hitters on the team. He
has the faculty that made Billy Keeler famous, of 'hitting them where
they ain't.' He's a dandy too at laying down a bunt, just along the
third-base line. If any man can advance you to second, Flynn can."

"Yes," said Tom, "with Drake up next, swinging that old wagon tongue of
his, and then Dick coming on as a clean-up hitter, it will have to be
pretty nifty pitching that will keep us from denting the home plate."

"Last year the team had a general batting average of .267," chimed in
Dick. "If we can match that this year, I guess there'll be no complaint.
As a matter of fact, however, I'm a little dubious of doing that,
especially with old Pendleton off the team. But if we come short a
little there, I am counting on Bert holding down the batters on the
other nines enough to make up for it."

"If I get a chance, I'll do my very best," said Bert, "but perhaps I
won't pitch in a regular game all season. You know how it is with a
Freshman. He may have to sit on the bench all the time, while the upper
class pitchers take their turn in the box. They've won their spurs and I
haven't. They've 'stood the gaff' under the strain of exciting games,
and pulled victories out of the fire. I might do it too, but nobody
knows that, and I probably would not be called on to go in the box,
except as a last resort. They may believe that I have the curve, but
they are not at all sure that I have the nerve. Winters and Benson are
going along now like a house afire, and if they are at top speed when
the season begins I'll see the pennant won or lost from my seat on the
bench."

"Neither one of them has anything on you," maintained Tom stoutly. "Of
course they are, in a certain sense, veterans, and then, too, they have
the advantage of having faced before many of the players on the other
teams. That counts for a lot, but you must remember that Hinsdale has
caught for the last two years, and he knows these things as well as the
pitchers. He knows their weak and their strong points, the ones that
simply kill a low outcurve, but are as helpless as babies before a high
fast one. He could quickly put you on to the batters' weakness. But
outside of that you've got them faded. You have more speed than Winters
and more endurance than Benson. Neither one of them has a license to
beat you at any stage of the pitching game."

"Perhaps it's your friendship rather than your judgment that's talking
now, Tom," smiled Bert.

"No," said Dick, "it isn't. Tom's right. You've got everything that they
have, and then some. Winters' rise ball is certainly a peach, but it
hasn't the quick jump yours has just before it gets to the plate. My eye
isn't so bad, but in practice I bat under it every time. Even when I
don't miss it altogether, I hit it on the underside and raise a fly to
the fielders. It's almost impossible to line it out. And your fast high
one is so speedy that a fellow backs away from the plate when he sees it
coming. I don't know that your outcurve is any better than Benson's, but
you certainly have it under better control."

"On the dead quiet," he went on, "I'm rather worried about Winters this
year, anyway. I think he's gone back. He's in with a fast bunch, and I
fear has been going the pace. His fine work in the box last year made
him a star and turned his head. It brought him a lot of popularity, and
I'm afraid he isn't the kind that can stand prosperity. He doesn't go at
his work in the right spirit this year. You all saw how he shirked the
other day when we were training for wind."

They readily recalled the incident to which Dick alluded. The practice
had been strenuous that day, but the coach had been insistent. As a wind
up, he had called for a run around the track to perfect their wind and
endurance, as well as to get off some of the superfluous flesh that
still interfered with their development. The players were tired, but, as
the trainer didn't ask them to do what he was unwilling to do himself,
they lined up without protest and trotted behind him around the track.

At one place, there was a break in the fence which had not yet been
repaired. Twice they made the circuit of the track, and some of them
were blowing hard, when the relentless leader started on the third
round. As they came abreast of the break, Winters, with a wink, slipped
out of the line and got behind the fence. Here he stayed, resting, while
the others jogged along. They made two circuits more, and when they came
to where he was, Winters, fresh as a daisy, and grinning broadly,
slipped into line again, and trotted along as though nothing had
happened. The joke seemed certainly on the coach, who hadn't once
turned his head, but pounded steadily along, in apparent unconsciousness
that one of his sheep had not been following his leader. At the bench,
after the sixth round, he slowed up.

"Good work, boys," he said pleasantly, "that makes six full laps for all
of us except Winters. We'll wait here, while he takes his other two."

The grin faded from Winters' face, to be replaced by a hot flush, as his
eyes fell before the steady look of the coach. There was no help for it,
however. He had been caught "red-handed," and with a sheepish glance at
his laughing comrades, he started on his lonely run around the course
while they stood and watched him. Twice he made the circuit and then
rejoined his companions. The coach said nothing more, as he felt that
the culprit had been punished enough, but the story was too good to
keep, and Winters was "joshed" unmercifully by his mates. The incident
deepened the general respect felt for the coach, and confirmed the
conviction that it was useless to try to fool him, as he had "eyes in
the back of his head."

He certainly needed all his keenness, in order to accomplish the task he
had set himself. The time was wearing away rapidly, and before long he
would have to rejoin his own team for the championship season. There had
been a good deal of rain, and practice in the field had been impossible
for days at a time.

To be sure he had the "cage" for use in rainy weather. This was a large
rectangular enclosure, perhaps twice as long as the distance from the
pitcher's box to home plate. The sides were made of rope that stopped
the batted balls. There was ample room for battery work, and here, in
bad weather, the pitchers and catchers toiled unceasingly, while the
other players cultivated their batting eye, and kept their arms limber
by tossing the ball about. But, at best, it was a makeshift, and did not
compare for a moment with work in the open air on the actual diamond.
And the days that now remained for that were distressingly few.

So he drove them on without mercy. No galley slaves worked harder than
these college boys for their temporary master. He was bound that not an
ounce of superfluous flesh should remain on their bones at the beginning
of the season. Gradually his work began to tell. The soreness and
lameness of the first days disappeared. Arnica and witch hazel were no
longer at a premium. The waistbands went in and the chests stood out.
Their eyes grew bright, their features bronzed, their muscles toughened,
and before long they were like a string of greyhounds tugging at the
leash.

He noted the change with satisfaction. Superb physical condition was the
first essential of a winning team. His problem, however, was far from
solved. It was only changed. He had made them athletes. Now he must make
them ball players.

Individually they were that already, in the purely mechanical features
of the game. They were quick fielders, speedy runners and heavy batters.
But they might be all these, and yet not be a winning team. They needed
team work, the deft fitting in of each part with every other, the quick
thinking that, in a fraction of a second, might change defeat to
victory.

His quick eye noticed, in the practice games, how far they came short of
his ideal. Flynn, the other day, when he caught that fly far out in
center, had hurled it into the plate when he had no earthly chance of
getting the runner. If he had tried for Ames, who was legging it to
third, it would have been an easy out. A moment later Ames counted on a
single.

Then there was that bonehead play, when, with Hinsdale on third and
Hodge on first, he had given the signal for Hodge to make a break for
second, so as to draw a throw from the catcher and thus let Hinsdale get
in from third. Hodge had done his part all right, but Hinsdale had been
so slow in starting that the catcher was waiting for him with the ball,
when he was still twenty feet from the plate.

He hated to think of that awful moment, when, with the bases full, White
had deliberately tried to steal second, where Dick was already roosting.
The crestfallen way in which White had come back to the bench, amid
ironical cheers and boisterous laughter, was sufficient guarantee that
that particular piece of foolishness would never be repeated. Luckily,
it had only been in a practice game. Had it happened in a regular
contest, a universal roar would have gone up from one end of the college
world to the other, and poor White would never have heard the last of
it.

The coach was still sore from this special exhibition of "solid ivory,"
when, after their bath and rubdown, he called the boys together.

"Now, fellows," he said, "I am going to talk to you as though you were
human beings, and I want you to bring your feeble intelligence to bear,
while I try to get inside your brain pans. They say that Providence
watches over drunkards, fools and the Congress of the United States. I
hope it also includes this bunch of alleged ball players. If ever any
aggregation needed special oversight, this crowd of ping-pong players
needs it. Now, you candidates for the old ladies' home, listen to me."

And listen they did, while he raked them fore and aft and rasped and
scorched them, until, when he finally let them go, their faces were
flaming. No one else in college could have talked to them that way and
"gotten away with it." But his word was law, his rule absolute, and,
behind his bitter tongue, they realized his passion for excellence, his
fierce desire of winning. It was sharp medicine, but it acted like a
tonic, and every man left the "dissecting room," as Tom called it,
determined from that time on he would play with his brains as well as
his muscles.

As the three chums went toward their rooms, they were overtaken by
"Reddy," the trainer of the team. With the easy democracy of the ball
field, he fell into step and joined in the conversation.

"Pretty hot stuff the old man gave you, just now," he said, with his
eyes twinkling.

"Right you are," replied Bert, "but I guess we deserved it. I don't
wonder that he was on edge. It certainly was some pretty raw baseball he
saw played to-day."

"Sure," assented Reddy, frankly. "It almost went the limit. And yet," he
went on consolingly, "it might have been worse. He only tried to steal
one base with a man already on it. Suppose he'd tried to steal three."

The boys laughed. Reddy was a privileged character about the college.
The shock of fiery hair, from which he had gained his nickname, covered
a shrewd, if uneducated, mind. He had formerly been a big league star,
but had fractured an ankle in sliding to second. The accident had only
left a slight limp, but it had effectually destroyed his usefulness on
the diamond. As a trainer and rubber, however, he was a wonder, and for
many years he had been connected with the college in that capacity. It
was up to him to keep the men in first-class condition, and he prided
himself on his skill. No "charlie horse" could long withstand his
ministrations, and for strains and sprains of every kind he was famous
in the athletic world. His interest in and loyalty to the college was
almost as great as that of the students themselves. He was in the full
confidence of the coach, and was regarded by the latter as his right
hand. If one was the captain of the college craft, the other was the
first mate, and between them they made a strong combination. He was an
encyclopedia of information on the national game. He knew the batting
and fielding averages of all the stars for many years past, and his
shrewd comments on men and things made him a most interesting companion.
His knowledge of books might be limited, but his knowledge of the
world was immense. He had taken quite a fancy to Bert and shared the
conviction of the coach that he was going to be a tower of strength to
the team. He never missed an opportunity of giving him pointers, and
Bert had profited greatly by his advice and suggestion. Now, as they
walked, he freed his mind along the same lines followed by the coach a
little earlier.

"That was the right dope that Ainslee gave you, even if it was mixed
with a little tabasco," he said. "It's the 'inside stuff' that counts.
I'd rather have a team of quick thinkers than the heaviest sluggers in
the league.

"Why," he went on, warming to his subject, "look at the Phillies when Ed
Delehanty, the greatest natural hitter that ever lived, was in his
prime. Say, I saw that fellow once make four home runs in one game
against Terry of the Brooklyns. I don't suppose that a heavier batting
bunch ever existed than the one they had in the league for three
seasons, handrunning. Besides Ed himself, there was Flick and Lajoie,
and a lot of others of the same kind, every one of them fence-breakers.
You couldn't blame any pitcher for having palpitation of the heart when
he faced that gang. They were no slouches in the field, either. Now,
you'd naturally think that nobody would have a chance against them.
Every year the papers touted them to win the pennant, but every year,
just the same, they came in third or fourth at the end of the season.
Now, why was it they didn't cop the flag? I'll tell you why. It was
because every man was playing for himself. He was looking out for his
record. Every time a man came to the bat, he'd try to lose the ball
over the back fence. They wouldn't bunt, they wouldn't sacrifice, they
wouldn't do anything that might hurt that precious record of theirs. It
was every man for himself and no man for the team, and they didn't have
a manager at the head of them that was wise enough or strong enough to
make them do as they were told.

"Now, on the other hand, look at the White Sox. Dandy fielders, but for
batting--why, if they fell in the river they wouldn't strike the water.
All around the league circuit, they were dubbed the 'Hitless Wonders.'
But they were quick as cats on their feet, and just as quick in knowing
what to do at any stage of the game. What hits they did get counted
double. They didn't get men on the bases as often as the Phillies, but
they got them home oftener, and that's what counts when the score is
added up. That sly old fox, Comiskey, didn't miss a point. It was a bunt
or a sacrifice or a long fly to the outfield or waiting for a base on
balls or anything else he wanted. The men forgot about themselves and
only thought of the team, and those same 'Hitless Wonders' won the
pennant in a walk.

"Now, that's just the difference between dumb and brainy playing and
that's what makes Ainslee so hot when he sees a bonehead stunt like that
one this afternoon."

"I suppose that you saw no end of that inside stuff pulled off while you
were in the big league," said Tom. "What do you think is the brightest
bit of thinking you ever saw on the ball field?"

"Well," said Reddy musingly, "that's hard to tell. I've certainly seen
some stunts on the diamond that would make your hair curl. Some of them
went through, and others were good enough to go through, even if they
didn't. It often depends on the way the umpire looks at it. And very
often it gets by, because the umpire doesn't look at it at all. Many's
the time I've seen Mike Kelly of the old Chicagos--the receiving end of
the ten-thousand-dollar battery--cut the corners at third when the
umpire wasn't looking, and once I saw him come straight across the
diamond from second to the plate without even making a bluff of going to
third. Oh, he was a bird, was Mike.

"I shall never forget one day when the Chicagos were behind until they
came to the plate for their ninth inning. They were a husky bunch of
swatters and never more dangerous than when they were behind. Well,
they made two runs in that inning, tieing the score and then putting
themselves one to the good. The Bostons came in for their last turn at
the bat and by the time two men were out they had the bases full.
One safe hit to the outfield was all they needed, and they sent a
pinch-hitter to the bat to bring in the fellows that were dancing about
on the bases.

"It was a dreary, misty afternoon, and, from the grandstand you could
hardly see the fielders. Mike was playing right that day, and the man at
the bat sent a screaming liner out in his direction. He saw at a glance
that he couldn't possibly get his hands on it, but he turned around and
ran with the ball, and, at the last moment, jumped into the air and
apparently collared it. He waved his hands as a signal that he had it
and made off to the clubhouse. The umpire called the batter out and the
game was over. His own teammates hadn't tumbled to the trick, until Mike
told them that he hadn't come anywhere near the ball, and that at that
very moment it was somewhere out on the playing field. It came out
later, and there was some talk of protesting the game, but nothing ever
came of it. When it came to quick work, Mike was certainly 'all wool and
a yard wide.'"

The boys did not express an opinion as to the moral quality of the
trick, and Reddy went on:

"Perhaps the slickest thing I ever saw was one that Connie Mack put over
on old Cap Anson of the Chicagos, and, believe me, anybody who could
fool him was going some. His playing days are over now, and all you kids
know of him is by reputation, but, take him by and large, a better
player never pulled on a glove. Well, as I was saying, Anson was playing
one day in Pittsburgh and Mack was catching against him. It had been a
game of hammer and tongs right up to the last inning. The Chicagos, as
the visiting team, came to the bat first in the ninth inning. The
Pittsburghs were one ahead and all they needed to win was to hold the
Chicagos scoreless. Two were out and two on bases when old 'Pop' Anson
came to the bat. There wasn't a man in the league at that time that a
pitcher wouldn't rather have seen facing him than the 'Big Swede.'
However, there was no help for it, and the twirler put on extra steam
and managed to get two strikes on him. The old man set himself for the
third, with fierce determination to 'kill' the ball or die in the
attempt. Mack walked up to the pitcher and told him to send in a ball
next time, and then, the instant the ball was returned to him, to put
over a strike. The pitcher did as directed, and sent over a wide one.
Of course, Anson didn't offer to hit it, but Mack caught it.

"'Third strike,' he said, throwing off his mask and shin-guards, as
though the game were over.

"'Third strike nothing,' growled Anson. 'What's the matter with you,
anyway?' and the umpire also motioned Connie back to the plate.

"'Why, wasn't that a strike?' said Mack, coming back to the plate. At the
same instant the pitcher sent a beauty right over the center of the
rubber. Mack caught it, and before Anson knew the ball had been pitched,
the umpire said, 'You're out.'

"Holler? Say, you could have heard him from Pittsburgh to Chicago. It
went, though. You see, Anson, looking at Connie without his mask or
shin-guards, was figuring that he would have to get into all that
harness again, before the game went on. He took too much for granted,
and it doesn't pay to do that in baseball. I don't suppose he ever
forgave Connie for making him look like thirty cents before that holiday
crowd. And I don't suppose that Mack would have taken a thousand dollars
for the satisfaction it gave him to tally one on the old man.

"You fellows wouldn't believe me, I suppose, if I told you I seen a dog
pull some of that inside stuff once? Sure, I ain't fooling, although of
course the pup didn't know he was doing it. It was in Detroit when a
big game was on and the home team was at the bat. They needed three runs
to win and there were two men on bases. The batter lined out a peach
between left and center. There were no automobiles in those days, but a
whole raft of carriages were down back of center field. A big coach dog
saw the ball coming and chased it, got it in his mouth and scooted down
under the bleachers, the left and center fielders yelling to him to drop
it and racing after him like mad. He was a good old rooter for the home
team, all right, though, and, by the time they got it away from him, the
whole bunch had crossed the plate and the game was won. The home team
boys found out whom he belonged to, and clubbed together and got him a
handsome collar.

"Another funny thing I seen one time that makes me laugh whenever I
think of it," continued Reddy, "was when a high fly was hit to left
field with three men on bases. It ought to have been an easy out and
nine times out of ten would have been. But, as luck would have it, the
ball slipped through the fielder's fingers and went into the outside
upper pocket of his baseball shirt. He tried desperately to get it out,
but it was wedged in so tight he couldn't. All this time the men were
legging it around the bases. At last, Mitchell--that was the fellow's
name--ran in toward third and caught the batter, just as he was
rounding the base on his way to home. He grabbed him and hugged him
tight and they fell to the ground together. Say, you'd have died
laughing if you'd seen them two fellows wrestling, Mitchell trying to
force the other man's hand into his pocket so that the ball could touch
him, and the other fighting to keep his hand out. It was a hard thing
for the umpire to settle, but he finally let the run count on the ground
that Mitchell had no right to interfere with him. Poor old Mitchell was
certainly up against it that day, good and plenty."

By this time they had reached the college dormitory, and the boys
reluctantly bade Reddy good-by. They had been immensely amused and
interested by his anecdotes, although they did not altogether agree with
his easy philosophy of life. To Reddy all was fair in love or war or
baseball, provided you could "put it over."

"But it isn't," said Bert, as they went upstairs. "Strategy is one thing
and cheating is another. It's all right to take your opponent unawares
and take advantage of his carelessness or oversight. If he's slow and
you're quick, if he's asleep and you're awake, you've got a perfect
right to profit by it. Now take for instance that case of Mack and
Anson. Whether that was a strike or a ball was a thing to be decided
by the umpire alone, and Anson ought not to have paid any attention
to Mack's bluff. Then, too, because Mack usually put on his mask and
shin-guards before the ball was pitched, Anson had no right to assume
that he would _always_ do so. Mack acted perfectly within his rights,
and Anson was simply caught napping and had no kick coming.

"But when you come to 'cutting the corners' and pretending that the ball
was caught when it wasn't, that isn't straight goods. It's 'slick,' all
right, but it is the slickness of the crooked gambler and the three-card
monte man. It's playing with marked cards and loaded dice, and I don't
care for any of it in mine."

"Right you are, old fellow," said Tom, heartily, clapping him on the
back, "my sentiments to a dot. I want to win and hate to lose, but I'd
rather lose a game any day than lie or cheat about it."

Which he was to prove sooner than he expected.



CHAPTER IV

THE TRIPLE PLAY


The days flew rapidly by and the time drew near for the Spring trip. All
the members of the team were to get a thorough trying out in actual
games with the crack teams of various colleges before the regular
pennant race began. Then the "weeding out" process would have been
completed, and only those remain on the team who had stood the test
satisfactorily. The trip was to take about two weeks, and they were to
"swing around the circle" as far west as Cincinnati and as far south as
Washington.

They did not expect much trouble in coming back with a clean score. As
one of the "Big Three," their team was rarely taken into camp by any of
the smaller colleges. They usually won, occasionally tied, but very
seldom lost. Yet, once in a while, their "well-laid schemes" "went
agley" and they met with a surprise party from some husky team that
faced them unafraid and refused to be cowed by their reputation.

Bert's college was one of the largest and most important in the country.
The "Big Three" formed a triangular league by themselves alone. Each
played three games with each of the other two, and the winner of the
majority was entitled to claim the championship of the "Big Three." And
it was generally, though not officially, admitted, that the team capable
of such a feat was the greatest college baseball team in the whole
country. Their games were followed by the papers with the greatest
interest and fully reported. The "Blues," as Bert's college was usually
referred to on account of the college colors, had won the pennant the
year before from the "Grays" and the "Maroons," their traditional
opponents, after a heart-breaking struggle, and columns of newspaper
space had been devoted to the concluding game. This year, however, the
prediction had been freely made that history would not repeat itself.
Both the Grays and Maroons were composed of tried and tested veterans,
while, as we have seen, Ainslee had been compelled to fill several
important positions with new material. No matter how good this might
prove to be, it takes time and practice to weld it together in one smooth
machine, and it is seldom done in a single season.

Moreover, the time was at hand when Ainslee would have to rejoin his own
team, and his keen eye still noted a number of rough places that needed
planing and polishing. For this reason he was all the more anxious to
secure good results during this trip. After it was over, he would have
to turn over the team to a manager and to Reddy, the assistant coach and
trainer. The manager would confine himself chiefly to the technical and
financial features, but it was arranged that Reddy should have full
charge of the team on the field. Ainslee reposed implicit confidence in
him because of his shrewd judgment, his knowledge of men, and his vast
baseball experience.

West Point was to be their first stop, and it was a jolly crowd, full of
the joy and zest of living, that embarked on the steamer _Hendrik
Hudson_, and sailed up the lordly river, the finest in the world, as
most of the boys agreed, though some, who had traveled, were inclined to
favor the claims of the Rhine to that distinction. They were disposed to
envy the Dutch explorer, who, first among civilized men, had sailed up
the river that bore his name and feasted his eyes upon its incomparable
beauty; a delight that contrasted so strongly with the final scene when
he and his little son had been thrust by a mutinous crew into an open
boat on storm-tossed Arctic waters, and left to perish miserably.
The reward, as Dick cynically insisted, of most of the world's great
benefactors, who have been stoned, burned, or otherwise slain by their
fellows, while posterity, too late, has crowned them with laurels and
honored them with monuments.

The game with Uncle Sam's cadets was a fight "for blood," as was
entirely appropriate for future soldiers. In the seventh, with the
cadets one run behind, one of them attempted to steal from second to
third. Hinsdale got the ball down to Tom like a shot, but, in the
mix-up, it was hard to tell whether the runner had made the base or not.
The umpire at first called it out, but the captain of the cadets kicked
so vigorously that the umpire asked Tom directly whether he had touched
him in time.

For an instant Tom hesitated, but only for an instant. Then he
straightened up and answered frankly:

"No, I didn't; he just beat me to it."

It is only just to Tom's companions to say that, after the first minute
of disappointment, they felt that he could and should have done nothing
else. The standard of college honor is high, and when it came to a
direct issue, few, if any, of the boys would have acted differently.
Even Reddy, with his free and easy views on winning games "by hook or
crook," as long as you win them, felt a heightened respect for Tom,
although he shook his head dubiously when the man from third came home
on a sacrifice, tieing the score.

The tie still persisted in the ninth, and the game went into extra
innings. In the tenth the Blues scored a run and the cadets made a
gallant effort to do the same, or even "go them one better." A man was
on second and another on third, when one of their huskiest batters came
to the plate. He caught the ball squarely "on the seam" and sent it
straight toward third, about two feet over Tom's head. He made a
tremendous jump, reached up his gloved hand and the ball stuck there.
That of course put out the batter. The man on third, thinking it was a
sure hit, was racing to the plate. As Tom came down, he landed right on
the bag, thus putting out the runner, who had turned and was desperately
trying to get back. In the meantime the man on second, who had taken a
big lead, had neared third. As he turned to go back to second, Tom
chased him and touched him just before he reached the bag. Three men
were out, the game was won, and Tom was generously cheered, even by
the enemy, while his comrades went wild. He had made a "triple play
unassisted," the dream of every player and one of the rarest feats ever
"pulled off" on the baseball diamond.

During the trip, Winters and Benson occupied the pitcher's box more
often than Bert, and it was evident that, despite Bert's showing in the
early spring practice, both Ainslee and Reddy were more inclined to pin
their faith this season on their tested stars than on the new recruit.
They really believed that Bert had "more on the ball" than either of the
others, but were inclined to let him have a year on the bench before
putting him in for the "big" games. They knew the tremendous importance
of experience and they also knew how nerve-racking was the strain of
playing before a crowd of perhaps twenty-five thousand frenzied rooters.
Bert _might_ do this, but Winters and Benson had actually _done_ it, and
they could not leave this significant fact out of their calculations. So
they carried him along gradually, never letting up on their instruction
and advice and occasionally putting him in to pitch one or two innings
to relieve the older men after the game was pretty surely won.

Bert was too sensible and sportsmanlike to resent this, and followed
with care and enthusiasm the training of his mentors. A better pair of
teachers could not have been found and Bert made rapid progress.
Something new was constantly coming up, and, as he confided to Dick, he
never dreamed there was such a variety of curves. There was "the hook,"
"the knuckle," "the palm," "the high floater," "the thumb jump," "the
cross fire," and so many others that there seemed to be no end to them.
But though he sought to add them all to his repertory, he followed
Ainslee's earnest urging to perfect his wonderful fadeaway, and gave
more attention to that than to any other.

"And to think," he said to Tom, one day, "it isn't so very long ago that
people didn't believe it was possible to throw a curve ball at all and
learned men wrote articles to show that it couldn't be done."

"Yes," said Tom, "they remind me of the eminent scientist who wrote a
book proving, to his own satisfaction, at least, that a vessel couldn't
cross the Atlantic under steam. But the first copy of the book that
reached America was brought over by a steamer."

"Yes," chimed in Dick, "they were like the farmer who had read the
description of a giraffe and thought it a fairy story. One day a circus
came to town with a giraffe as one of its attractions. The farmer walked
all around it, and then, turning to his friends, said stubbornly, 'There
ain't no such animal.'"

Reddy joined in the laugh that followed and took up the conversation.
"Well," he said, while the others in the Pullman car in which they were
traveling drew around him, for they always liked to see him get started
on his recollections, "the honor of having discovered the curve rests
between Arthur Cummings and Bobby Mathews. It's never been clearly
settled which 'saw it first.' Before their time it used to be straight,
fast ones and a slow teaser that was thrown underhand. But even at that,
don't run away with the idea that those old fellows weren't some
pitchers. Of course, they were handicapped by the fact that at first
they had to keep on pitching until the player hit it. The four-ball
rule, and making a foul count for a hit, and all those modern things
that have been invented to help the pitcher, hadn't been thought of
then. Naturally, that made heavy batting games. Why, I know that the old
Niagara team of Buffalo won a game once by 201 to 11."

"Yes," broke in Ainslee, "and the first college game in 1859 was won by
Amherst over Williams by a score of 66 to 32."

"Gee," said Hinsdale, "the outfielders in those days must have had
something to do, chasing the ball."

"They certainly did," agreed Reddy, "but, of course, that sort of thing
didn't last very long. The pitchers soon got the upper hand, and then,
good-by to the big scores.

"I suppose," he went on, "that the real beginning of baseball, as we
know it to-day, goes back to the old 'Red Stockings' of Cincinnati, in
'69 and '70. There was a team for you. George and Harry Wright and
Barnes and Spalding, and a lot of others just as good, went over the
country like a prairie fire. There wasn't anybody that could stand up
against them. Why, they went all though one season without a single
defeat. It got to be after a while that the other teams felt about
them just as they say boxers used to feel when they stood up against
Sullivan. They were whipped before they put up their hands. The next
year they got their first defeat at the hands of the old Atlantics of
Brooklyn. I was a wee bit of a youngster then, but I saw that game
through a hole in the fence. Talk about excitement! At the end of the
ninth inning the score was tied, and the Atlantics were anxious to stop
right there. It was glory enough to tie the mighty Red Stockings--a
thing that had never been done before--without taking any further
chances. But Harry Wright, the captain, was stubborn--I guess he was
sorry enough for it afterwards--and the game went on, only to have the
Atlantics win in the eleventh by a score of 7 to 6. I've seen many a
game since, but never one to equal that.

"Of course the game has kept on improving all the time. I ain't denying
that. There used to be a good deal of 'rough stuff' in the old days. The
gamblers started in to spoil it, and sometimes as much as $20,000 would
be in the mutual pools that used to be their way of betting. Then, too,
the players didn't use to get much pay and, with so much money up, it
was a big temptation to 'throw' games. It got to be so, after a while,
that you wouldn't know whether the game was on the level or not. The
only salvation of the game was to have some good strong men organize and
put it on a solid footing and weed out the grafters. They did this and
got a gang of them 'dead to rights' in the old Louisville team. They
expelled four of them and barred them from the game forever, and,
although they moved heaven and earth to get back, they never did. And
since that time the game has been as clean as a hound's tooth. As a
matter of fact, it's about the only game in America, except perhaps
football, that you can count on as being absolutely on the square.

"It's a great sport, all right, and I don't wonder it is called the
national game. It's splendid exercise for every muscle of the body and
every faculty of the brain. Rich or poor, great or small, everybody with
a drop of sporting blood in his veins likes it, even if he can't play
it. At the Washington grounds a box seat is reserved for the President,
and I notice that no matter how heavy the 'cares of state,' he's usually
on hand and rooting for the home team. Why, I've heard that when the
committee went to notify Lincoln that he was nominated for President, he
was out at the ball ground, playing 'one old cat,' and the committee had
to wait until he'd had his turn at bat. It may not be true, but it's
good enough to be."

"And not only is it our national game," put in Ainslee, "but other
countries are taking it up as well. They have dandy baseball teams in
Cuba and Japan, that would make our crack nines hustle to beat them,
and, in Canada, it is already more popular than cricket."

"I've heard," said Tom, "that not long ago they made a cable connection
with some island way up in the Arctic Circle. The World's Series was
being played then, and the very first message that came over the cable
from the little bunch of Americans up there was: 'What's the score?'"

"Yes," laughed Ainslee, "it gets in the blood, and with the real 'dyed
in the wool' fan it's the most important thing in the world. You've
heard perhaps of the pitcher who was so dangerously sick that he wasn't
expected to live. The family doctor stood at the bedside and took his
temperature. He shook his head gravely.

"'It's 104,' he said.

"'You're a liar,' said the pitcher, rousing himself, 'my average last
season was .232, and it would have been more if the umpire hadn't robbed
me.'"

The train drew up at Washington just then, and the laughing crowd
hustled to get their traps together. Here they played the last game of
the season with the strong Georgetown University nine, and just "nosed
them out" in an exciting game that went eleven innings. While in the
city they visited the Washington Monument, that matchless shaft of stone
that dwarfs everything else in the National Capital. Of course the boys
wanted to try to catch a ball dropped from the top, but the coach would
not consent.

"Only two or three men in the world have been able to do that," he said,
"and they took big chances. I've had too much trouble getting you
fellows in good condition, to take any needless risks."

So the boys turned homeward, bronzed, trained, exultant over their
string of well-earned victories, and, in the approving phrase of Reddy,
"fit to fight for a man's life." Ainslee left them at New York to join
his team amid a chorus of cheers from the young athletes that he had
done so much to form. From now on, it was "up to them" to justify his
hopes and bring one more pennant to the dear old Alma Mater.



CHAPTER V

WINNING HIS SPURS


"Play ball!" shouted the umpire, and the buzz of conversation in the
grandstand ceased. All eyes were fastened on the two teams about to
enter on the first important game of the season, and people sat up
straight and forgot everything else, so great was their interest in the
forthcoming event.

All the games that the Blues had played up to this time had been with
teams over which they felt reasonably sure of winning a victory, but the
nine they had to face to-day was a very different proposition. Most of
the young fellows composing it were older and had had more experience
than the Blues, and the latter knew that they would have to do their
very utmost to win, if win they did. The thing they most relied on,
however, was the fact that their pitcher was very good, and they
believed that he would probably win the day for them.

Of course, they had a lot of confidence in themselves, too, but the
importance of a steady, efficient pitcher to any team can hardly be
exaggerated. It gives them a solid foundation on which to build up a
fast, winning team, and nobody realized this better than Mr. Ainslee,
their veteran coach.

"Only give me one good pitcher," he was wont to say, "and I'll guarantee
to turn out a team that will win the college championship."

The star on the college team this year, Winters, was, without doubt, an
exceptionally good pitcher. He had considerable speed and control, and
his curves could generally be counted on to elude the opposing batsmen.
He was the only son in a wealthy family, however, and, as a consequence,
had a very exaggerated idea of his own importance. He was inclined to
look down on the fellows who did not travel in what he called "his set,"
and often went out of his way to make himself disagreeable to them.

As Dick put it, "He liked to be the 'main squeeze,'" and he had been
much irritated over the way in which Bert had attracted the coach's
attention, and the consequent talk on the campus regarding the "new
pitcher." He and his friends made it a point to sneer at and discredit
these stories, however, and to disparage Bert on every possible
occasion.

The veteran trainer had not forgotten, however, and moreover he was
worried in secret about Winters. It was, of course, his duty to see
that all the players attended strictly to business, and let no outside
interests interfere with their training. Of late, however, he had heard
from several sources that Winters had been seen in the town resorts at
various times when he was supposed to be in bed, and Reddy knew, none
better, what that meant.

However, he hoped that the pitcher would not force him to an open
rebuke, and so had said nothing as yet. Nevertheless, as has been said,
he kept Bert in mind as a possible alternative, although he hoped that
he would not be forced to use him.

"He's had too little experience yet," he mused. "If I should put him in
a game, he'd go up like a rocket, most likely. Them green pitchers can't
be relied upon, even if he did fool Ainslee," and the veteran, in spite
of his worry, was forced to smile over the memory of how Bert had struck
the great coach out in practice.

Previous to the actual start of the game both teams had been warming up
on the field, and each had won murmurs of applause from the grandstands.
To the wise ones, however, it was apparent that the Blues were a trifle
shaky in fielding work, and many were seen to shake their heads
dubiously.

"The youngsters will have to do some tall hustling if they expect to
win from the visitors," one gray-haired man was heard to say, "but they
say they have a crackerjack pitcher, that's one thing in their favor."

"Yes, of course," agreed his friend, "but it's not only that; the other
fellows have had a whole lot more experience than our boys. And that
counts an awful lot when it comes to a pinch."

"You're right, it does," acquiesced the other; "however, there's no
use crossing the bridge till we come to it. We'll hope for the best,
anyway."

After a little more practice both teams retired to the clubhouse to make
their last preparations. Not many minutes later everything was in
readiness, and the teams trotted into their positions. Of course, the
visitors went to bat first, and then could be heard the umpire's raucous
cry of "Play ball!" that ushered in the game.

A wave of handclapping and a storm of encouraging shouts and yells swept
over the grandstand, and then ensued a breathless silence. The first two
balls Winters pitched were wild, but then he steadied down, and struck
the first batter out. The second man up swung wildly, but after having
two strikes called, popped an easy fly toward first base that Dick
smothered "easier than rolling off a log," as he afterwards said. The
third man met with no better fate, and Winters struck him out with
apparent ease.

As the fielders trotted in, the elderly gentleman who had entertained
such doubts before chuckled, "Well, now if our boys can only get in a
little stick work, and keep on holding them down like this, it looks as
though they might win, after all."

Tom was the first man up at the bat for the Blues. But the pitcher
opposed to him had lots of "stuff" on his delivery, and the best Tom
could do was to lift an easy foul that dropped into the catcher's glove.

The next man up was struck out, as was also the third, and the inning
ended without a run for either team.

From his seat on the substitutes' bench, Bert had watched the game up to
this point with eager eyes, and had felt that he would almost have given
ten years of his life to take part in it. He knew there was practically
no chance of this, however, and so with a sigh of regret settled back to
watch the further progress of the game.

The next two innings also passed without a run scored on either side,
and it became more and more evident as the game went on that this was to
be a pitchers' battle.

The first man up at bat for the visitors at the beginning of the fourth
inning was considered their heaviest hitter, and as he walked up to
the plate he was swinging two bats, one of which he threw aside as he
stepped to the plate. From the way he crouched in readiness for the ball
it could be seen that he meant business, and the coach called Winters
over to him.

"You want to be mighty careful what you feed this man," he whispered,
"and whatever you do, keep them low. He likes high balls, and if you
give him one up as high as his shoulder, he'll swat it, sure."

"Oh, you can bet he won't get a hit off me," replied Winters, carelessly.
"I've got that team eating out of my hand."

"Don't be too sure of that, my lad," warned the coach, but Winters only
smiled in a superior fashion and strolled back to the box.

The first ball he pitched was an incurve, but it looked good to the
batter, and he swung at it viciously. He missed it clean, and the umpire
shouted, "One strike!"

This made Winters a little careless, and the next ball he pitched was
just the one that the coach had warned him against. The batter took a
step forward, swung fiercely at the ball, and there was a sharp crack as
the ball and bat connected. The ball shot back with the speed of a
bullet, and the outfielders started in hopeless chase. Baird, the
batter, tore around the bases, and amid a veritable riot of cheering
from the visiting rooters and a glum silence from the home supporters,
charged across the sack for a home run!

Too late now Winters thought of Reddy's warning, and wished he had given
it more heed. He knew that in so close a contest as this promised to be,
one run would probably be enough to win the game, and this knowledge
made him nervous. The breaks from training that he had been guilty of
lately began to tell, also, and he commenced to lose confidence, a fatal
thing in a pitcher. However, he managed to get through the inning
somehow, and walked to the bench with a crestfallen air.

The coach forbore to reproach him just then, as he knew that it would
probably do more harm than good. However, he kept a sharp eye on him,
and inwardly was very much worried. He knew that Benson was not speedy
enough to stand much chance against as strong a team as they were now
playing, and though a great admirer of Bert, he did not know whether he
had the stamina to go a full game. He resolved to give Winters every
chance to recover himself, and prayed that he would be able to do so.

The first man of the home team to go to bat struck out on the hot curves
served up to him, but Dick connected with the ball for a clean two-base
hit. A great cheer went up at this feat, but it was destined to have
little effect. The second man fouled out and the third raised an easy
fly to the pitcher's box, and so Dick's pretty drive did them no good.

In the fifth inning Winters' pitching became more and more erratic, and
to Reddy's experienced eye it became evident that he would soon "blow
up." So he strolled over to the substitutes' bench and sat down beside
Bert.

"How does your arm feel to-day, Wilson?" he inquired. "Do you feel as
though you could pitch if I happened to need you?"

Bert's heart gave a great leap, but he managed to subdue his joy as he
realized the trainer's meaning, and answered, "Why, yes, I think I could
make out all right. Do you think you will need me?"

"Well, there's just a chance that I may," replied Reddy, "and I want you
to be ready to jump out and warm up the minute I give you the signal."

"I'll be ready, sir, I can promise you that," replied Bert, earnestly,
and the trainer appeared a little more hopeful as he turned away.

"I can at least count on that young chap doing the best that is in him,
at any rate," he thought; "he certainly doesn't look like a quitter to
me."

In their half of the fifth inning the home team was unable to make any
headway against the opposing pitcher's curves, which seemed to get
better and better as the game progressed. Dick felt, in some mysterious
way, that his team was losing heart, and his one hope was that the coach
would give Bert a chance to pitch. The boys, one after another, struck
out or lifted easy flies, and not one man reached first base.

The visitors now came to bat again, and the first ball Winters pitched
was slammed out into left field for a two-base hit. The next batter up
stepped to the plate with a grin on his face, and one of his teammates
called, "Go to it, Bill. Eat 'em alive. We've got their goat now."

The man thus adjured leaned back, and as Winters delivered a slow, easy
ball he swung viciously and sent a smoking grounder straight for the
pitcher's box. The ball passed Winters before he had time to stoop for
it, but White, the shortstop, made a pretty pick-up, and slammed the
ball to Dick at first. The ball arrived a second too late to put the
runner out, however, and in the meantime the first man had reached
third. Now was a crucial moment, and everything depended on the pitcher.
All eyes were fastened on him, but from something in his attitude Reddy
knew that he was on the verge of a breakdown. Nor was he mistaken in
this, for out of the next five balls Winters pitched, only one strike
was called. The rest were balls, and the umpire motioned to the batter
to take first base. Of course this advanced the man on first to second
base, thus leaving all the bases full and none out.

As Winters was winding up preparatory to delivering one of his erstwhile
famous drops, Reddy motioned to Bert, and in a second the latter was up
and had shed his sweater. He trotted over to where Reddy was standing,
and said, "You wanted me, didn't you?"

"Yes," replied Reddy, in a tense voice; "get Armstrong there"--motioning
toward the substitute catcher--"and warm up as quickly as you can. Take
it easy, though!" he commanded; "don't start in too hard! You might
throw your arm out on the first few balls. Just limber up gradually."

"All right, sir," replied Bert, and called to Armstrong.

In the meantime Winters had pitched two wild balls, and the visiting
rooters were yelling like maniacs. The third ball was an easy inshoot,
and the batter, making a nice calculation, landed it fair and square. It
flew over into left field, between the pitcher's box and third base, and
before it could be returned to the waiting catcher two runners had
crossed the plate. This made the score three to none in favor of the
visitors, with two men on base and none out. Matters looked hopeless
indeed for the home team, and one of the spectators groaned, "It's all
over now but the shouting, fellows. Winters is up higher than a kite,
and we've got nobody to put in his place. This game will just be a
slaughter from now on."

"How about young Wilson?" asked his friend. "I heard the other day that
he had showed up pretty well in practice. It looks now as though Reddy
meant to put him in the box. See, he's warming up over there right now."

"Ye gods and little fishes!" lamented the other. "Now we are cooked, for
fair. It was bad enough with Winters pitching, but now when they put
that greenhorn Freshie in, we'll just be a laughing stock, that's all.
Why doesn't the band play the funeral march?"

"Aw, wait and see," said the other. "I don't suppose we've got the ghost
of a show, but Dick Trent was telling me of some pretty good stunts this
boy Wilson has pulled off before this. He was telling me about a race in
which Wilson drove a car across the tape a winner after a dickens of a
grilling race. Any fellow that's got nerve enough to drive a racing auto
ought to be able to hold his own at baseball or anything else. You just
sit tight and don't groan so much, and he may show us something yet."

"Forget it, Bill, forget it," returned the other. "They've got our team
running, and they'll keep it running, take my word for it."

"That's right," agreed another, "we might as well go home now as to
wait for the slaughter. This game is over, right now."

"Hey, look at that!" yelled the first speaker, excitedly. "There goes
Wilson into the box. Three cheers for Wilson, fellows. Now! One! two!
three!"

The cheers were given by the faithful fans, but they had given up hope.
It was indeed, as the rooter had said, however, and Bert was actually
being given an opportunity to pitch in a big game, when he had only been
with the team a few months! Many a pitcher has been a substitute until
his junior year, and never had a chance like this one. And, to tell
the truth, Reddy himself would have been the last one to put what he
considered an inexperienced pitcher into the box, if he had had any
alternative. Now, however, it was a case of having no choice, because he
knew that the game was irretrievably lost if Winters continued to pitch,
so he put Bert in as a forlorn hope, but without any real expectation
that he would win.

As he noticed the confident way in which Bert walked to the box, however,
he plucked up courage a little, but immediately afterward shook his head.
"Pshaw," he thought, "they've got too big a lead on us. If Wilson can
only hold them down so that they don't make monkeys of us, it will be
more than I have a right to hope."

For all Bert's nonchalant air, however, it must not be thought that he
was not excited or nervous. He had had comparatively little baseball
experience in such fast company as this. He had learned, however,
to keep a cool and level head in times of stress, and he knew that
everything depended on this. So he just gritted his teeth, and when he
motioned to the catcher to come up and arrange signals, the latter
hardly suspected what a turmoil was going on under Bert's cool exterior.

"Just take it easy, kid," he advised. "Don't try to put too much stuff
on the ball at first, and pitch as though we were only practising back
of the clubhouse. Don't let those blamed rooters get you nervous,
either. Take your time before each ball, and we'll pull through all
right. Now, just get out there, and show them what you've got."

Bert took his position in the box, and the umpire tossed him a brand new
ball. Remembering the catcher's advice, he wound up very deliberately,
and pitched a swift, straight one square over the middle of the plate.
The batsman had expected the "greenhorn" to try a fancy curve, and so
was not prepared for a ball of this kind. "One str-r-rike!" yelled the
umpire, and the catcher muttered approvingly to himself. The batter,
however, took a fresh grip on his bat, and resolved to "knock the cover
off" the next one. Bert delivered a wide out curve, and the batter swung
hard, but only touched the ball, for a foul, and had another strike
called on him. "Aw, that kid's running in luck," he thought. "But watch
me get to him this time."

The next ball Bert pitched looked like an easy one, and the batter,
measuring its flight carefully with his eye, drew his bat back and swung
with all the weight of his body. Instead of sending the ball over the
fence, however, as he had confidently expected, the momentum of his
swing was spent against empty air, and so great was its force that the
bat flew out of his hand. "Three strikes," called the umpire, and amid a
riot of cheering from the home rooters the batter gazed stupidly about
him.

"By the great horn spoon," he muttered, under his breath, "somebody must
have come along and stolen that ball just as I was going to hit it. I'll
swear that if it was in the air when I swung at it that I would have
landed it."

As he walked to the bench the captain said, "What's the matter with you,
Al? Has the freshie got you buffaloed?"

"Aw, nix on that, cap," replied the disgruntled batter. "Wait until you
get up there. Either that kid's having a streak of luck or else he's got
that ball hypnotized. That last one he pitched just saw my bat coming
and dodged under it. I think he's got 'em trained."

"Why, you poor simp," laughed the captain; "just wait till I get up
there. Why, we all saw that last ball you bit on so nicely. It was a
cinch, wasn't it, boys?"

It sure was, they all agreed, but the unfortunate object of these
pleasantries shook his head in a puzzled way, and stared at Bert.

As it happened, the next batter was the same who had scored the home run
in the first part of the game, and he swaggered confidently to the
plate.

Bert had overheard what the coach had told Winters in regard to this
batter, so he delivered a low ball, which the batter let pass. "One
ball," called the umpire, and the captain of the visitors' team
remarked, "I thought he couldn't last. That was just a streak of
'beginner's luck,' that's all."

The next ball looked good to the batsman, and he lunged hard at the
white sphere. It was a tantalizing upshoot, however, and he raised an
easy fly to Dick at first. The man on second had become so absorbed in
watching Bert, that when Dick wheeled like lightning and snapped the
ball to second, he was almost caught napping, and barely got back in
time.

The home rooters, who up to now had been rather listless in their
cheering, now started in with a rush, and a veritable storm of cheering
and singing shook the grandstand. The coach drew a deep breath, and
began to allow himself the luxury of a little hope.

The third man up was the captain, who had boasted so of what he was
going to do to the "green" pitcher. As he rose to go to the plate he
remarked, "Watch me, now, Al, and I'll show you what it is like to swat
a ball over the fence."

He selected a very heavy bat, and stepped jauntily to the plate. Bert
had been warned to do his best against this man, as he was popularly
known as the "pitcher's hoodoo." He resolved to use his "fadeaway" ball
for all it was worth, and shook his head at all the catcher's signals
until the latter signaled for the fadeaway. He then nodded his head, and
wound up very deliberately. Then he pitched what looked like a straight,
fast ball to the expectant batsman. The latter gripped his bat and put
all his strength into what he fondly hoped would be a "homer." His bat
whistled as it cut the air, but in some mysterious way failed to even
touch the ball, which landed with a loud "plunk!" in the catcher's mitt.
A roar of derisive laughter went up from the rooters, and the captain
looked rather foolish. "That's mighty queer," he thought, "there must
be something the matter with the balance of this bat. I guess I'll try
another." Accordingly, he took a fresh bat, and waited with renewed
confidence for the next ball. This time he swung more carefully, but
with no better result. "Two strikes!" barked the umpire, and the
frenzied rooters stood up on their seats and yelled themselves hoarse.
"Wilson! Wilson! Wilson!" they roared in unison, and Bert felt a great
surge of joy go through him. His arm felt in perfect condition, and he
knew that if called upon he could have pitched the whole game and not
have been overtired. He handled the ball carefully, and fitted it in
just the right position in his hand. He resolved to try the same ball
once more, as he thought the batter would probably think that he would
try something else. This he did, and although the batter felt sure that
he had this ball measured to the fraction of an inch, his vicious swing
encountered nothing more substantial than air.

"Three strikes!" called the umpire, and amid a storm of cheering and
ridicule from the grandstand the discomfited batter slammed his bat down
and walked over to his teammates.

It was now Al's turn to crow, and he did so unmercifully. "What's the
matter, cap?" he inquired, grinning wickedly. "That kid hasn't got your
goat, has he? Where's that homer over the fence that you were alluding
to a few minutes ago?"

"Aw, shut up!" returned the captain, angrily. "That Freshie's got a
delivery that would fool Ty Cobb. There's no luck about that. It's just
dandy pitching."

"I could have told you that," said the other, "but I thought I'd let you
find it out for yourself. That boy's a wonder."

The home team trotted in from the field eagerly, and there was a look in
their eyes that Reddy was glad to see. "They've got some spirit and
confidence in them now," he thought. "I certainly think I've got a
kingpin pitcher at last. But I'd better not count my chickens before
they're hatched. He may go all to pieces in the next inning."

As they came in, Dick and Tom slapped Bert on the back. "We knew you
could do it, old scout!" they exulted. "What will old Winters' pals have
to say after this?"

Reddy said little, but scanned Bert's face carefully, and seemed
satisfied. "I guess you'll do, Wilson," he said. "We'll let you pitch
this game out, and see what you can do."

Sterling was the first man up, and he walked to the plate with a resolve
to do or die written on his face. He planted his feet wide apart, and
connected with the first pitched ball for a hot grounder that got him
safely to first base. The rooters cheered frantically, and the cheering
grew when it was seen that Bert was the next batter. This was more in
recognition, however, of his good work in the box. Heavy hitting is not
expected of a pitcher, and nobody looked to see Bert do much in this
line. While he had been watching the game from the bench, he had studied
the opposing pitcher's delivery carefully, and had learned one or two
facts regarding it. He felt sure that if the pitcher delivered a certain
ball, he would be able to connect with it, but was disappointed at
first. Bert bit at a wide out curve, and fouled the next ball, which was
a fast, straight one. But as the pitcher wound up for the third one
Bert's heart leaped, for he saw that this was going to be the ball that
he had been hoping for. He grasped his bat near the end, for Bert was
what is known as a "free swinger," and crouched expectantly. The ball
came to him like a shot, but he swung his bat savagely and clipped the
ball with terrific force toward third base. Almost before the spectators
realized that the ball had been hit, Bert was racing toward first base,
and the man already on base was tearing up the sod toward second.

The ball scorched right through the hands of the third baseman, and
crashed against the left field fence. The fielders scurried wildly after
it, but before they could return it to the infield, the man on first
base had scored, and Bert was on third.

"We'll win yet! We'll win yet! We'll win yet!" croaked a rooter, too
hoarse to yell any longer. "What's the matter with Wilson?" and in one
vast roar came the answer, "HE'S ALL RIGHT!"

The home team players were all dancing around excitedly, and they
pounded Hinsdale unmercifully on the back, for he was up next. "Bust a
hole through the fence, Hinsdale," they roared; "they're on the run now.
Go in and break a bat over the next ball!"

"Hin" fairly ran to the plate in his eagerness, and, as he afterward
said, he felt as though he "couldn't miss if he tried." The first ball
over the plate he slammed viciously at the pitcher, who stopped the
ball, but fumbled it a few seconds, thus giving him a chance to get to
first. The pitcher then hurled the ball to the home plate, in the hope
of cutting off Bert from scoring, but was a fraction of a second too
late, and Bert raced in with one more run.

The pitcher now tightened up, however, and put his whole soul into
stopping this winning streak, and it looked as though he had succeeded.
The next two batters struck out on six pitched balls, and the visiting
rooters had a chance to exercise their voices, which had had a rest for
some time. Drake was up next, and he knocked out a long fly that looked
good, but was pulled down by a fielder after a pretty run. This ended
the sixth inning, and the visitors were still one run ahead.

As Bert was about to go onto the field, Reddy said, "Don't take it too
hard, Wilson. Don't mind if they do hit a ball sometimes. If you try to
strike each man out without fail, it makes too great a tax on your arm.
Let the fielders work once in a while."

With these instructions in mind, Bert eased up a little in the next
inning, but the visitors had no chance to do any effective slugging.
Twice they got a man on first base, but each time Bert struck out the
following batter or only allowed him to hit the ball for an easy fly
that was smothered without any trouble.

Consequently the visitors failed to score that inning, but they were
still one run ahead, and knew that if they could hold Bert's team down
they would win the game.

The home team failed to "get to" the ball for anything that looked like
a run, and the seventh inning ended with no change in the score.

"Well, Wilson, it's up to you to hold them down," said Reddy, as the
players started for their positions in the beginning of the eighth
inning. "Do you feel as though you could do it?"

"Why, I'll do my best," replied Bert, modestly. "My arm feels stronger
than it did when I started, so I guess I'm good for some time yet, at
any rate."

"All right, go in and win," replied Reddy, with a smile, and Bert needed
no urging.

The first man to bat for the visitors was the one called Al, who had
first had a taste of Bert's "fadeaway." He swung viciously on the first
ball that Bert offered him, which happened to be a fast in-curve. By a
combination of luck and skill he managed to land the sphere for a safe
trip to first. The cover of the ball was found to be torn when it was
thrown back. Consequently, Bert had to pitch with a new ball, and failed
to get his customary control. Much to his disgust he pitched four balls
and two strikes, and the batter walked to first, forcing the man already
on first to second base.

"Yah, yah!" yelled a visiting rooter. "It's all over. He's blowing up!
Pitcher's got a glass arm! Yah! Yah!"

Others joined him in this cry, and Reddy looked worried. "That's enough
to rattle any green pitcher," he thought. "I only hope they don't know
what they're talking about, and I don't think they do. Wilson's a game
boy, or I'm very much mistaken."

"Don't let 'em scare you, Bert," called Dick, from first base. "Let 'em
yell their heads off if they want to. Don't mind 'em."

"No danger of that," returned Bert, confidently. "Just watch my smoke
for a few minutes, that's all."

Bert struck out the next batter in three pitched balls, and the clamor
from the hostile rooters died down. The next batter was the captain, and
he was burning for revenge, but popped a high foul to Hinsdale, the
catcher, and retired, saying things not to be approved. The third man
was struck out after Bert had had two balls called on him, and this
ended the visitors' half of the eighth inning.

The home team could make no better headway against the visitors'
pitching and team work, however, and the inning ended without a tally.
The score stood three to two in the visitors' favor, and things looked
rather dark for the home boys.

At the beginning of the ninth the visitors sent a pinch hitter, named
Burroughs, to the plate to bat in place of Al, who by now had an almost
superstitious fear of Bert's delivery, and declared that "he couldn't
hit anything smaller than a football if that Freshie pitched it."

Burroughs was hampered by no such feelings, however, and, after two
strikes had been called on him, he managed to connect with a fast,
straight ball and sent it soaring into the outfield. It looked like an
easy out, but at the last moment the fielder shifted his position a
little too much, and the ball dropped through his fingers. Before he
could get it in, the runner had reached third base, where he danced
excitedly and emitted whoops of joy.

Bert felt a sinking sensation at his heart, as he realized how much
depended on him. The next man up made a clever bunt, and although he was
put out, Burroughs reached home ahead of the ball, bringing in another
run.

He was rewarded with a storm of applause from the visiting rooters, and
it seemed as though all hope had departed for the home team.

With the next batter Bert made unsparing use of his fadeaway, and struck
him out with little trouble. The third man shared the same fate, but it
seemed as though the game were irretrievably lost. A two-run lead in the
ninth inning seemed insurmountable, and Reddy muttered things under his
breath. When the boys came trooping over to the bench, he said, "What's
the matter with you fellows, anyway? What good does it do for Wilson to
hold the other team down, if you don't do any stick work to back him up?
Get in there now, and see if you can't knock out a few runs. A game is
never finished until the last half of the ninth inning, and you've got
a good chance yet. Go to it."

Every chap on the team resolved to make a run or die in the attempt, and
Reddy could see that his speech had had some effect.

Dick was the first batter up, and he selected a heavy "wagon tongue" and
stepped to the plate. The pitcher may have been a little careless, but
at any rate Dick got a ball just where he wanted it, and swung with
all his strength. The ball fairly whistled as it left the bat and
dashed along the ground just inside the right foul line. Dick sprinted
frantically around the bases, and got to third before he was stopped by
Tom, who had been waiting for him. "No further, old sock," said Tom,
excitedly. "That was a crackerjack hit, but you could never have got
home on it. Gee! if Hodge will only follow this up we've got a chance."

Hodge was a good batter, and he waited stolidly until he got a ball that
suited him. Two strikes were called on him, and still he waited. Then
the pitcher sent him a long out curve, and Hodge connected with the ball
for a safe one-bag hit, while Dick raced home. It looked bright for the
home team now, but the next batter struck out, and although Hodge made a
daring slide to second, a splendid throw cut him off.

Sterling was up next, and on the third pitched ball he managed to plant
a short drive in left field that got him safely to first base. Then it
was Bert's turn at the bat, and a great roar greeted him as he stepped
to the plate.

"Win your own game, Wilson," someone shouted, and Bert resolved to do
so, if possible.

He tried to figure out what the pitcher would be likely to offer him,
and decided that he would probably serve up a swift, straight one at
first. He set himself for this, but the pitcher had different ideas,
and sent over a slow drop that Bert swung at, a fraction of a second
too late. "Strike," called the umpire, and the hostile fans yelled
delightedly. The next one Bert drove out for what looked like a good
hit, but it turned out to be a foul. "Two strikes," barked the umpire,
and some of the people in the grandstand rose as if to leave, evidently
thinking that the game was practically over.

Bert watched every motion of the pitcher as he wound up, and so was
pretty sure what kind of a ball was coming. The pitcher was noted for
his speed, and, almost at the moment the ball left his hand, Bert swung
his bat straight from the shoulder, with every ounce of strength he
possessed in back of it. There was a sharp crack as the bat met the
ball, and the sphere mounted upward and flew like a bullet for the
center field fence.

As if by one impulse, every soul in the grandstand and bleachers rose to
his or her feet, and a perfect pandemonium of yells broke forth. The
fielders sprinted madly after the soaring ball, but they might have
saved themselves the trouble. It cleared the fence by a good ten feet,
and Bert cantered leisurely around the bases, and came across the home
plate with the winning run.

Then a yelling, cheering mob swept down on the field, and enveloped the
players. In a moment Bert and some of the others were hoisted up on
broad shoulders, and carried around the field by a crowd of temporary
maniacs. It was some time before Bert could get away from his
enthusiastic admirers, and join the rest of his teammates.

As he entered the dressing rooms, Reddy grasped his hand, and said,
"Wilson, you have done some great work to-day, and I want to congratulate
you. From now on you are one of the regular team pitchers."

"Thank you, sir," replied Bert, "but I don't deserve any special credit.
We all did the best we could, and that was all anybody could do."

So ended the first important game of the season, and Bert's position in
the college was established beyond all question. Winters' friends made
a few half-hearted efforts to detract from his popularity, but were met
with such a cold reception that they soon gave up the attempt, and Bert
was the undisputed star pitcher of the university team.



CHAPTER VI

THE FIRE


"Gee whiz! I'm glad I don't have to do this every day," said Tom, as he
stood, ruefully regarding his trunk, whose lid refused to close by
several inches.

"I'm jiggered if I see why it should look like that. Even with the
fellows' things, it isn't half as full as it was when I came from home,
and it didn't cut up like that."

The Easter holidays were approaching, and "the three guardsmen" had
received a most cordial invitation from Mr. Hollis to spend them with
him at his home.

Feeling the strain of the baseball season, the fellows were only too
glad of a short breathing spell and had gratefully accepted the
invitation. They were looking forward with eager anticipation to the
visit.

They would not need very much luggage for just a few days' stay, so, as
Tom owned a small steamer trunk, they had decided to make it serve for
all three. The fellows had brought their things in the night before and
left Tom to pack them.

Tom had heard people say that packing a trunk was a work of time, and
had congratulated himself on the quickness and ease with which that
particular trunk was packed; but when he encountered the almost
human obstinacy with which that lid resisted his utmost efforts, he
acknowledged that it wasn't "such a cinch after all."

After one more ineffectual effort to close it, he again eyed it
disgustedly.

"I can't do a blamed thing with it," he growled, and then catching the
sound of voices in Dick's room overhead, he shouted:

"Come on in here, fellows, and help me get this apology for a trunk
shut."

When Dick and Bert reached him, Tom was stretched almost full length on
the trunk and raining disgusted blows in the region of the lock.

He looked so absurdly funny that the fellows executed a war dance of
delight and roared with laughter, and then proceeded to drag Tom bodily
off the trunk.

Landing him with scant ceremony on the floor, they proceeded to show the
discomfited Freshman that a trunk lid with any spirit could not consent
to close over an indiscriminate mixture of underwear, pajamas, suits of
clothes, collar boxes, and shoe and military brushes--most of these
latter standing upright on end.

With the brushes lying flat, boxes stowed away in corners, and
clothing smoothly folded, the balky trunk lid closed, as Tom, grinning
sheepishly, declared, "meeker a hundred times than Moses."

This disposed of, and dressed and ready at last, their thoughts and
conversation turned with one accord to the delightful fact that Mr.
Hollis was to send the old "Red Scout" to take them to his home.

The very mention of the name "Red Scout" was sufficient to set all three
tongues going at once, as, during the half-hour before they could expect
the car, they recalled incidents of that most glorious and exciting
summer at the camp, when the "Red Scout" had been their unending source
of delight.

"Do you remember," said Tom, "the first time we went out in her, when we
were so crazy with the delight of it that we forgot everything else, and
gave her the speed limit, and came near to having a once-for-all
smash-up?"

They certainly did. "And," said Dick, "the day we gave poor old Biddy
Harrigan her first 'artymobile' ride. Didn't she look funny when the
wind spread out that gorgeous red feather?"

They all laughed heartily at this recollection, but their faces grew
grave again as they recalled the time when, the brake failing to work,
they rushed over the bridge with only a few inches between them and
disaster.

"That certainly was a close call," said Bert, "but not so close as the
race we had with the locomotive. I sure did think then that our time had
come."

"But," Tom broke in, "'all's well that ends well,' and say, fellows,
_did_ it end well with us? Will you ever forget that wonderful race with
the 'Gray Ghost'? Great Scott! I can feel my heart thump again as it did
that final lap. And that last minute when the blessed old 'Red Scout'
poked her nose over the line--_ahead_!" and in his excitement Tom began
forging around the room at great speed, but made a rush for the window
at the sound of a familiar "toot, to-oo-t."

"There she is," he announced joyfully, and, taking the stairs three
steps at a time, and crossing the campus in about as many seconds, they
gave three cheers for the old "Red Scout," which bore them away from
college scenes with its old-time lightning speed.

Easter was late that year and spring had come early. There had been a
number of warm days, and already the springing grass had clothed the
earth in its Easter dress of soft, tender green. Tree buds were bursting
into leaf, and in many of the gardens that they passed crocuses were
lifting their little white heads above the ground. Robins flashed their
red and filled the air with music. Spring was everywhere! And, as the
warm, fragrant air swept their faces they thrilled with the very joy of
living, and almost wished the ride might last forever.

At last, "There is Mr. Hollis' house, the large white one just before
us," said the chauffeur, and, so swiftly sped the "Red Scout" that
almost before the last word was spoken, they stopped and were cordially
welcomed by Mr. Hollis.

As they entered the hall they stood still, looked, rubbed their
eyes and looked again. Then Tom said in a dazed way, "Pinch me,
Bert, I'm dreaming." For there in a row on either side of the hall
stood every last one of the fellows who had camped with them that
never-to-be-forgotten summer. Bob and Frank and Jim Dawson, Ben Cooper
and Dave and Charlie Adams, and--yes--peeping mischievously from behind
the door, Shorty, little Shorty! who now broke the spell with:

"Hello, fellows. What's the matter? Hypnotized?"

Then--well it was fortunate for Mr. Hollis that he was used to boys, and
so used also to noise; for such a shouting of greetings and babel of
questions rose, that nobody could hear anybody else speak. Little they
cared. They were all together once more, with days of pure pleasure in
prospect. Nothing else mattered; and Mr. Hollis, himself as much a boy
at heart as any one of them, enjoyed it all immensely.

Glancing at the clock, he suddenly remembered that dinner would soon be
served, and drove the three latest arrivals off to their room to
prepare.

Short as the ride had seemed to the happy automobilists, it had lasted
several hours. Though they had eaten some sandwiches on the way, they
were all in sympathy with Tom who, while they prepared for dinner
confided to his chums that he was a "regular wolf!"

It goes without saying that they all did ample justice to that first
dinner, and that there never was a jollier or more care-free company.
None of the boys ever forgot the wonderful evening with Mr. Hollis.

A man of large wealth and cultivated tastes, his home was filled with
objects of interest. He spared no pains to make his young guests feel at
home and gave them a delightful evening.

The pleasant hours sped so rapidly that all were amazed when the silvery
chimes from the grandfather's clock in the living room rang out eleven
o'clock, and Mr. Hollis bade them all "good-night."

They had not realized that they were tired until they reached their
rooms. Once there, however, they were glad to tumble into their
comfortable beds, and, after a unanimous vote that Mr. Hollis was a
brick, quiet reigned at last.

To Bert in those quiet hours came a very vivid dream. He thought he was
wandering alone across a vast plain in perfect darkness at first, in
which he stumbled blindly forward.

Suddenly there came a great flash of lightning which gleamed for a
moment and was gone. Instantly there came another and another, one so
closely following the other that there was an almost constant blinding
glare, while all the while the dreamer was conscious of a feeling of
apprehension, of impending danger.

So intense did this feeling become and so painful, that at last the
dreamer awoke--to find that it was not all a dream! The room was no
longer dark and he saw a great light flashing outside his window pane.
Springing from bed it needed only one glance to show him that the wing
of the neighboring house only a few hundred feet away was in flames.

Giving the alarm, and at the same time pulling on a few clothes, he
rushed out of the house and over to the burning building. So quick was
his action that he had entered into the burning house and shouted the
alarm of fire before Mr. Hollis and his guests realized what was
happening. Very soon all the inmates of Mr. Hollis' house and of the
neighboring houses rushed to the scene to do what they could, while
awaiting the arrival of the local fire engines.

In the meantime Bert had stopped a screaming, hysterical maid as she was
rushing from the house and compelled her to show him where her mistress
slept. The poor lady's room was in the burning wing and Bert and Mr.
Hollis, who had now joined him, broke open the door. They found her
unconscious from smoke and, lifting her, carried her into the open air.

Nothing could be learned from the maids. One had fainted and the other
was too hysterical from fright to speak coherently. One of the neighbors
told them that the owner was away on business and not expected home for
several days. He asked if the child were safe, and just at that moment
the little white-clad figure of a child about six years old appeared at
one of the upper gable windows.

By this time, though the engines had arrived, and were playing streams
of water on the burning building, the fire had spread to the main house
and both the lower floors were fiercely burning. Entrance or escape by
the stairways was an impossibility, and the longest ladders reached
barely to the second story windows. The local fire company was not
supplied with nets.

It seemed to all that the little child must perish, and, to add to the
horror of the scene, the child's mother had regained consciousness, and,
seeing her little one in such mortal danger, rushed frantically toward
the burning house. She was held back by tender but strong hands. She
could do nothing to help her child, but her entreaties to be allowed to
go to her were heart-breaking.

All but one were filled with despair. Bert, scanning the building for
some means of rescue, saw that a large leader pipe ran down a corner of
the building from roof to ground, and was secured to the walls of the
house by broad, iron brackets. The space between it and the window where
the child stood seemed to be about three feet. If he could climb that
leader by means of those iron supports, he might be able to leap across
the intervening space and reach the window.

All this passed through Bert's mind with lightning-like rapidity. He
knew that if he failed to reach the window--well, he would not consider
that.

Coming to quick decision, he ran forward, dodged the detaining hands
stretched out, and before anyone had an inkling of his purpose, was
climbing the ladder from bracket to bracket. More than one called
frantically to come back, but with the thought of that despairing
mother, and with his eyes fixed on the little child in the window, he
went on steadily up, foot by foot, until, at last, he was on a level
with the window. Now he found that distance had deceived him and that
the window was fully five feet away instead of three.

The crowd, standing breathless now, and still as death, saw him pause
and every heart ached with apprehension, fearing that he would be forced
to return and leave the little one to her awful fate. Eyes smarted with
the intensity with which they stared. Could he with almost nothing to
brace his feet upon, spring across that five feet of wall? He could not
even take a half-minute to think. The flames might at any second burst
through the floor into the room in which the little child had taken
refuge. He dared not look down, but in climbing he had noticed that the
flames, as the wind swayed them, were sweeping across the ladders. He
must decide.

His resolve was taken, and he gathered his muscles together for the
spring.

Now, Bert, you have need to call upon all your resources. Well for you
that your training on the diamond has limbered and strengthened your
muscles, steadied your nerves, quickened your eye, taught you lightning
perception and calculation and decision. You have need of them all now.
Courage, Bert! Ready, now!

The frantic mother saw him gather himself together and spring to what
seemed to be certain death. His fingers grip the window sill, but, as
his weight drags upon them, they slip. Ah! he never can hold that smooth
surface--and many turn away their faces, unable to bear the sight. But
look! he is still there. His fingers desperately tighten their grip upon
the sill, and now he begins to draw himself up, slowly, reaching inside
the window for a firmer hold. He has his knee on the sill--and a great
shout goes up from the crowd as he drops inside the window beside the
child.

But their relief was short-lived, for now the same thought seized
everyone. How was he to get back? He could not return the way he went
up, for, even unhampered by the child, he could not make the leap back
to the pipe. With anxious, despairing eyes, they watched the window from
which great clouds of smoke were pouring now, mingled with tiny tongues
of flame.

It seemed an hour that they had waited, but it was only a few moments
before the brave fellow reappeared at the window, with the child wrapped
in a blanket, strapped firmly to his shoulders. Another moment and a
long woolen blanket dangled from the window sill, and with the agility
of a monkey Bert began to let himself down hand over hand. With beating
hearts into which hope had begun again to creep, the breathless people
watched him.

But surely the flames, sweeping now up and out from the second story
window will shrivel that blanket and burn it through. But they do not,
for though they wrap themselves fiercely about it, they seem unable to
destroy it; and now his feet touch the topmost round of the ladder.
Another moment and his hands are upon it also.

Now at last the crowd bursts into cheer upon cheer. Willing hands reach
up and seize the now almost exhausted young hero, and lift him and his
burden to the ground.

The child, thanks to the blanket in which Bert had wrapped her, was
unhurt and in a moment was sobbing in her mother's arms, that happy
mother who, overcome with joy, could only strain her rescued treasure to
her heart with murmured words of love and thanksgiving.

Bert's friends crowded around him with joyful congratulations, while Mr.
Hollis, filled with rejoicing at his young friend's wonderful escape
from death and with admiration for his fearless bravery, grasped him by
the hand, saying, "I'm proud of you, Bert, I'm proud of you! You're a
hero."

Bert winced at that close grip and Mr. Hollis, looking down, saw that
the hands were badly burned and hurried him from the scene, the admiring
fellows closely following.

The mother with her child had been taken away by kind and sympathetic
friends, but not before she had thanked Bert with full heart for giving
her child back to her.

No king ever held higher court or with more devoted or admiring subjects
than did Bert while they waited at Mr. Hollis' home for the coming of a
doctor to dress his burns. Nothing was talked of but the exciting events
of the day and Bert's share in them. With faces still glowing with
excitement, they lived over again all the events of the early morning,
and Bert had to answer all sorts of questions as to "How he ever came to
think of that leader pipe?" "What he would have done if the blanket had
burned through?" and a dozen others.

"Well," Shorty summed up, "Bert sure is a wonder," to which there was a
hearty assent.

The arrival of the doctor put an end to all this to Bert's great relief,
for he was much too modest to enjoy being praised.

The burns were found to be not very serious, but the pain added to the
great physical exertion and the intense nervous strain had brought poor
Bert almost to the breaking point, and the doctor ordered him to bed.

Very gladly he settled down after so many hours of excitement with Mr.
Hollis' parting words in his ears, "If I had a son like you, Bert, I
should be very proud of him to-day."

He was drifting happily into dreamland when Tom poked his head inside
the door and said, "You've got to answer one more question before you go
to sleep, old man. What charm did you work around that old blanket you
came down on from the window so that it would not burn?"

"Made it soaking wet, bonehead," came the sleepy reply, and Tom
vanished.



CHAPTER VII

TAKING HIS MEDICINE


The team had been tested almost to its limit this season, and the strain
was beginning to show. Each player was worked up to the highest possible
nervous tension, and no man can last long under such conditions. Even
with professional players this condition becomes very apparent in a
hard-fought series, and so was even more plainly seen among these
comparatively inexperienced contestants for the honor of their alma
mater.

Another thing that tended strongly to demoralize them was the fact of
Bert's being unable to play. His burned hands, while rapidly mending,
were still unable to grip the ball. Of course, they knew that this was
merely a temporary calamity, but even to have the pitcher on whom they
had based their strongest hopes out of commission for almost two weeks
meant much to them. Winters and Benson, while undoubtedly good pitchers,
fell considerably short of the standard set by Bert, and all the players
realized this.

Of course, it may be argued that they should not allow themselves to be
affected by anything of this kind, but no one who has not actually been
a ball player can fully realize what it means to a team, when they are
nearing the end of a neck and neck struggle, to be deprived of their
star pitcher. It must also be remembered that Bert, while not by any
means as good a batter as he was a pitcher, was nevertheless a strong
batsman, and had the happy faculty of "swatting them out" at the time
when they would do the most good. On this account, his loss was felt
more keenly than would have ordinarily been the case.

Another thing, but one that was never openly alluded to, was the
knowledge that each boy had, that Winters was not the pitcher he had
been once upon a time. His breaks from training were becoming more and
more frequent, and all that the coach could say in the way of threat or
entreaty seemed to have no effect. Winters had gotten in with a fast
set, and no argument or persuasion could induce him to see the error of
his way.

Reddy did not dare to remove him from the team, however, as that would
have left him only one pitcher of any value, namely, Benson, and nobody
knew better than the wily trainer that Benson could seldom be depended
on to pitch good ball during an entire game.

Again and again Reddy had cursed the fate that deprived him of his star
pitcher at such a crucial time, but of course, as is usually the case,
that did little good. It was too late now to try to develop another
pitcher, even had he known of anyone capable of training for that
important post, which he did not.

So he just set his jaw, and resolved to make the best of what he had. Up
to to-day, which was destined to see one of the season's most important
battles, he had managed, by dint of skillful coaching and substituting
at critical moments, to maintain the lead that the team had gained
largely through Bert's remarkable work in the box.

He felt that if the team won to-day's game, they would have a comfortable
lead until Bert was able to resume his pitching. If, on the other hand,
they lost, he realized that they would have small chance of winning the
championship. No one would have suspected from his outward appearance
what thoughts were going on in his mind, but if they had, they would have
been astonished. To the players, and to everybody else, he presented such
a calm and composed exterior that the boys felt more confident the minute
they saw him. As the time for the game drew near, he gathered the boys
together in the clubhouse, and proceeded to make a little speech and give
them some valuable advice.

They listened attentively, and went out on the diamond with a do-or-die
expression written on their faces. Needless to say, Bert was there, and
nobody felt worse than he over his misfortune.

"Gee!" he exclaimed to Tom, ruefully, "this is certainly what you might
call tough luck. Here I am, with my arm feeling better than it ever did
before, and just on account of a few pesky burns I can't pitch."

"It's tough, all right, and no mistake," sympathized Dick, "but never
mind. If Winters can only do half way decent pitching, we'll come
through all right."

Bert said nothing, not wishing to discourage his friend, but to himself
he admitted that things had a rather bad aspect. The team they were to
play to-day was noted for its heavy batters, and he knew that it would
take a pitcher in the most perfect condition to stand the strain of nine
long innings against such sluggers. His thoughts were not of the
pleasantest, therefore, as he sat on the bench, nibbling a blade of
grass, and watched the practice of the two teams with critical eyes.

Murray, reputed to be the heaviest hitter on the Maroon team, was
knocking out flies to his teammates, and Bert was forced to admire the
confident way in which he lined the ball out, without ever missing a
swing.

His own team was playing with snap and ginger, though, and this fact
comforted Bert somewhat.

"Well," he thought to himself, "the teams seem to be about equally
matched, and if nothing out of the ordinary happens, we ought to have a
good show to win. I only hope that all the rumors I've been hearing
about Winters lately are not true."

As Bert had seen, both teams showed up well in the preliminary practice,
and each made several plays that evoked applause from the grandstands
and bleachers.

Soon the umpire walked out on the field, adjusting his mask and
protecting pads, and the crowds settled down for a couple of hours of
what they realized would be intense excitement.

"Battery for the Maroons, Moore and Hupfel!" shouted the umpire. "For
the Blues, Winters and Hinsdale!"

As they were the visitors to-day, the Blues of course went to the bat
first. They were quickly retired by snappy work and took the field.
Winters seemed in fine form, and struck out the opposing batters in good
shape, only one getting a hit, and he was caught stealing.

This ended the first inning, with no runs scored for either side, and
Reddy began to feel more confident. However, little could be prophesied
regarding the outcome at this early stage of the game, and Reddy walked
over to the bench and sat down beside Bert.

"Well, my boy," he said, "if they don't get any more hits off us than
they did in that inning, we won't be so bad off, after all. Winters
seems to be in fine shape, don't you think?"

"He certainly does," replied Bert, "he's holding them down in fine
style. You couldn't ask for better pitching than he's putting up."

"Ye couldn't, fer a fact," said the trainer, and both settled back to
see what the Blues would accomplish in their turn at bat.

Dick was next on the batting list, and he strode to the plate with his
usual jaunty step. He waited two balls before he got one to suit him,
but then landed out a hot grounder, and just managed to beat it to first
base.

"That's good! that's good!" yelled Reddy, dancing about on one leg. "The
boys are beginning to get their batting caps on now, and it won't be
long before we have a string of runs longer than a Dachshund. Go to it,
Blues, go to it!"

Poor Reddy! His high hopes were doomed to fall quickly. Hodge struck
out, and with lightning-like rapidity the catcher snapped the ball down
to second. For once, Dick was the fraction of a second too slow, and
the ball beat him to the base by a hair's breadth.

"Two out!" yelled the umpire, and Reddy dropped into his seat with a
dismal groan. White, the strong hitting shortstop, was the next batsman,
but after knocking two high flies, he was struck out by a fast inshoot.

However, Winters appeared to be pitching airtight ball, and while a few
feeble flies were garnered from his delivery, the fielders had no
difficulty in catching them.

When the home team came to bat, their first man up, who happened to be
the catcher, cracked out a swift, low fly between Winters and Tom, and
tore around to second base before the ball came in from the field.

To Reddy's keen eyes, studying carefully every phase and mood of game
and man, it was apparent that Winters' confidence was shaken a little by
this occurrence. His pitching to the next batter was wild, and he
finally gave the man a base on balls. Bert leaned forward intently, and
his eyes were fairly glued on the players. Oh, if he could only go
out there and pitch for the rest of the game! But he knew this was
impossible with his hands in the condition they were, and he uttered an
impatient exclamation.

With two men on bases and none out, matters began to look doubtful for
the devoted Blues. The very first ball Winters pitched to the next
batter was hit for a long two-bagger, and the runner on second cantered
leisurely home.

Now even the fans in the bleachers realized that something was amiss
with the pitcher of the Blues, and those opposed to them set up an
uproarious clapping and hooting in the hope of rattling him still
further. This was not wholly without effect, and Bert noted with
ever-growing anxiety that Winters appeared to be unable to stand quietly
in the box during the pauses in the game, but fidgeted around nervously,
at one time biting his nails, and at another, shifting constantly from
one foot to the other. A meaner nature than our hero might have been
glad to note the discomfiture of one whom he had every reason to
dislike, but Bert was not built after such a pattern. His one thought
was that the college would suffer heavily if this game were lost, and he
hardly gave a thought to his private grievances. The college was the
thing that counted.

Winters, by a great effort, tightened up a little after this, and with
the help of snappy support retired the Maroons, but not before the
latter had garnered another precious run.

The visiting team did nothing, however, for although they got a runner
to third at one time, he was put out by a quick throw from pitcher to
first.

Thus ended the second inning, and to the casual observer it seemed as
though the teams were pretty evenly matched. To Reddy's practised eye,
however, it was apparent that the Blues had a little the edge on their
opponents, except in the matter of pitching. Here, indeed, it was hard
to tell who was the better pitcher, the Maroon boxman or Winters. Both
were pitching good ball, and Reddy realized that it would probably
narrow down to a question of which one had the greater staying power.

"If only we had young Wilson pitching," he thought to himself, "I would
breathe a whole lot easier. However, there's no use crossing a bridge
till you come to it, and I may be having all my worriment for nothin'.
Somethin' tells me, though, that we're goin' to have trouble before
this game is over. May all the Saints grant that I'm wrong."

For the next three innings, however, it appeared as though the trainer's
forebodings were without foundation. Both teams played with snap and
dash, and as yet only two runs had been scored.

At the beginning of the sixth inning, Tom was slated as the first man
up, and he walked to the plate filled with a new idea Bert had given
him. "Wait until about the fourth ball that that fellow pitches," Bert
had told him, "and then bounce on it good and plenty. The first two or
three balls he pitches are full of steam, but then, if nobody has even
struck at them, he gets careless, and puts one over that you ought to be
able to land on without any trouble. You just try that and see what
happens."

This Tom proceeded to do, and found that it was indeed as Bert had said.
The first ball pitched seemed good, but Tom let it go by, and had a
strike called on him. The next one was a ball, but the third one was a
hot curve that looked good, and ordinarily Tom would have taken a chance
and swung at it. Now, however, he was resolved to follow Bert's advice to
the letter, and so allowed the ball to pass him. "Gee, that guy's scared
stiff," someone yelled from the bleachers, and the crowd laughed. It
certainly did seem as though Tom had lost his nerve, and his teammates,
who were not in on the secret yet, looked puzzled. Tom paid no attention
to the shouts from the grandstand, and his well-known ability as a
"waiter" stood him in good stead. True to Bert's prediction, the pitcher
eased up a little when winding up for the next ball, and Tom saw that he
shared the general impression that he had lost his nerve. The ball proved
to be a straight, fast one, and Tom slugged it squarely with all the
strength in his body. Amid a hoarse roar from the watching thousands, he
tore around the bases and slid into third before he was stopped by White,
who was waiting for him.

"Gee, Tom!" ejaculated the excited and delighted shortstop. "How in time
did you ever think of such a clever trick. You sure fooled that pitcher
at his own game."

"It wasn't my idea, it was Bert's," said Tom, truthfully.

"Whoever's it was, it was a crackerjack one, at any rate," said White,
jubilantly. "If Flynn can only get a hit now we'll have a run, and it
looks as though we would need all that we can get."

Flynn, in accordance with instructions from Reddy, laid an easy bunt
down toward first base, and, although he was put out, Tom scurried over
the plate about two jumps in front of the ball, and the first run for
the Blues had been scored.

The small band of loyal rooters for the Blues struck up one of the
familiar college songs, and things looked bright for their team. The
opposing pitcher was not to be fooled again, however, and while Drake
was waiting for a ball to suit him he was struck out, much to the
delight of the hostile fans.

Thus at the end of the seventh inning the score stood two to one in
favor of the Maroons, and their pitcher was "as good as new," as he
himself put it.

Now Dick went to bat, and waited, with no sign of the nervousness that
was beginning to be manifested by his teammates, for a ball that was to
his liking. He let the first one go past, but swung hard at the second,
and cracked out a hot liner right at the pitcher. Most pitchers would
have let a smoking fly like that pass them, for fear of injuring their
hands, but evidently this boxman was not lacking in nerve. The ball
cracked into his outstretched mitt with a report like a pistol shot, and
he held on to it.

"Out!" shouted the umpire, and Dick, who had started to sprint to first,
walked to the bench with a disgusted air.

"Hang it all, anyway," he exclaimed disgustedly, "who'd have thought he
would stop that one? I could just see myself resting peacefully at
second base, and then he has to go and do a thing like that. A mean
trick, I call it."

Dick made a pretence of taking the matter in this light manner in order
to keep up the spirits of his teammates, but not by any means because he
felt happy about it. Quite the contrary.

Hodge, the right fielder, came up next, but only succeeded in popping up
a feeble fly that the third baseman caught easily after a short run in.
White waited patiently for one to suit him, but while he was waiting,
three strikes were called on him, and he retired in a crestfallen
manner.

In the meantime, Reddy had been talking to Winters. "How do you feel,
Winters?" he had inquired anxiously, "do you feel strong enough to hold
them down for the rest of this game?"

"Aw, don't worry yourself about me," Winters had replied in a surly
voice. "I'm all right. I never felt better in my life," but something in
his voice belied his words.

"All right," returned the trainer, "but remember this, my lad: if we put
Benson in now, we might be able to hold them down. I'm going to take
your say so, though, and let you pitch the next inning. If they get to
you, however, you'll have to take your medicine. It will be too late
then to put Benson in, and of course Wilson is in no shape to pitch.
Now, it's up to you."

"That's all right," growled Winters. Then he suddenly flared up: "I
suppose if that blamed Freshie were in condition you'd have put him in
to pitch long ago, wouldn't you?"

"That I would, my lad," returned Reddy, in an ominously quiet voice.
"Now, go in there and pitch, and don't give me any more back talk that
you'll be sorry for afterward."

Winters seemed about to make some hot reply to this, but after a
moment's hesitation, thought better of it, and turned sullenly away,
putting on his glove as he walked slowly to his position.

He vented his anger on the first few balls he pitched, and they went
over the plate with speed and to spare. This did not last long, however,
and after he had struck out one man his speed began to slacken. The
second man up landed a high fly into right field that Hodge, although he
made a brave try for it, was unable to get to in time. The runner raced
around to third before he was stopped by the warning cries of his
teammates.

"We've got 'em going! We've got 'em going!" chanted the home rooters in
one mighty chorus, and Winters scowled at them viciously.

The next five balls he pitched were "wild as they make 'em," and only
one strike was registered. In consequence the batter walked leisurely to
first, and as he neared Winters said, "Much obliged, old chap." If looks
could have killed, Winters would surely have been a murderer, but
fortunately it takes more than that to kill a ball player, and so the
game went on without interruption.

The following batter made a clever sacrifice bunt, and the man on third
brought home a run, while the one on first reached second.

"Gee, it's all over now, I'm afraid," groaned Bert to himself. "Winters
is up in the air sky high, and after their argument Reddy probably will
not put Benson in, because he's cold and it would do no good. We'll be
baked brown on both sides before this game is finished."

And Bert was not far wrong. The Maroons landed on Winters "like a ton of
brick," as Tom afterward said, and proceeded to wipe up the field with
him. The game became a massacre, and when the home team was finally
retired the score stood six to one in their favor.

When Winters came in from the field he was white and shaking, and Reddy
felt sorry for him. "Just the same," he reflected, "this will teach him
a lesson, maybe, and it may lead to his sticking more closely to
regulations and the training table. Midnight booze-fighting and good
ball playing don't mix very well." Reddy might have gone further, and
said that "booze fighting" did not mix very well with anything worth
while, and not have been far wrong.

Actuated by these reflections, the trainer resolved to make Winters
pitch out the rest of the game, as it was hopelessly lost anyway, in the
hope of making him reform.

The Blues were thoroughly demoralized by this time, and their
half-hearted attempts to score met with little success. Hinsdale, after
both the batsmen preceding him had been struck out, landed on the ball
for a long high fly into center, and got to second on it. He went no
further, however, as Tom lifted a high foul to the opposing catcher. Of
course this ended the game, as it would have been useless to finish the
ninth inning.

The Maroon rooters rose in a body and rent the air with their songs and
college yells. The loyal Blues present did their best, but could not
make themselves heard amidst the general uproar.

"The Blues haven't got a chance for the pennant now," exulted one rooter
to his friend. "They're on the downward road now, and will stay there
till the end of the season. You watch and see if they don't."

But there was a Freshman pitcher on the bench that knew better.



CHAPTER VIII

SHOOTING THEM OVER


Bert and Dick and some of the other fellows were having a discussion.
They had been talking on various topics, and, as was usually the case,
the talk had drifted around to baseball. They had discussed the game pro
and con, when Dick said:

"I wonder how fast a pitcher really can throw a ball, anyway. Of course,
there's no possibility of such a thing, but it certainly would be
interesting, if we could measure the speed of a pitched ball, and settle
the question once and for all."

"That's easy," laughed Bert. "You just stand up there, Dick, and give me
a baseball and let me hit you with it. If it kills you, we will know it
was going pretty fast, but if it just cripples you, we will be forced to
the conclusion that the ball wasn't traveling so very fast, after all."

"Yes, that certainly is a brilliant idea," snorted Dick, "and there is
only one thing that keeps me from doing it. If, as you say, it should
kill me, you fellows would have settled the question, all right, but
then it would be too late for me to share in the knowledge. Therefore,
I guess we'll leave the question open for the present."

"Aw, gee, Dick," laughed one of the others, "you certainly have a mean
disposition. Here you are in college, and yet you evidently haven't
enough of the college spirit to make a sacrifice of yourself for the
general good. Besides, it doesn't show the scientific desire for
knowledge that we would like to see in you, does it, fellows?" appealing
to the laughing group.

Everybody seemed to think the same thing, judging from the unanimous
chorus of assent to this speech, but, strange to say, Dick proved very
obstinate, and refused to offer his services in the capacity of official
tester.

"But seriously, fellows," said one of the boys, John Bennett by name, "I
don't see why we couldn't do something of the kind. I shouldn't think it
would be so hopeless, after all."

At first they thought he was joking, but when they realized that he was
in earnest, a chorus of ridicule arose. Bennett refused to be hooted
down, however, and finally managed to get a hearing.

"You see, it's this way," he explained: "My father, as you all know,
manufactures guns and rifles of all descriptions. Now, some people with
a little more sense in their noodles than you poor boobs," with a
sarcastic inflection, "have asked what the speed of a rifle bullet was,
and what's more, have managed to find out. Going on the same principle,
I don't see why we couldn't find out the speed of a baseball."

"How do they find that out?" asked one, unbelievingly, "a rifle bullet
has been known to go pretty fast at times, you know."

"You don't mean it, do you?" asked Bennett, sarcastically. "I always
thought bullets crept along the ground something after the manner of
snails, or something equally fast, didn't you fellows?"

"Go on, go on," they laughed, "if you've got an idea in what you call
your brain, for heaven's sake get it out before you forget it. Go on and
tell us how it is that they measure the speed of a bullet."

"Well, it's this way," said Bennett, "they arrange an electric wire in
front of the muzzle of the gun, so that as the bullet comes out it is
bound to break it. Then, the object at which the gun is aimed is also
connected up by electricity. Observe, gentlemen, what happens when the
gun is discharged. The bullet, as it saunters from the gun, cuts the
electric wire, and by so doing registers the exact fraction of a second
that this happens. When it hits the target, a similar process takes
place, and then of course it is a simple matter to subtract the time
the bullet left the gun from the time it hit the target, and thus,
gentlemen, we arrive at the result, namely, the time it took the bullet
to go across the intervening distance. I trust, gentlemen (and others),
that I have made myself perfectly clear."

"Aw," spoke up one of the fellows, popularly known as "Curley," "who
couldn't think of a simple thing like that. The only reason that I
didn't think of it right off was that it was too easy for me even to
consider."

"Oh, sure, we all understand that perfectly," replied Bennett, "but,
seriously, fellows, if you would care to try the experiment, I am sure
that my father would help us all he could. It wouldn't be any trick at
all for him to rig up something on the same principle that would give us
an accurate idea of how fast Bert, for instance, could propel a baseball
through the surrounding atmosphere. Say the word, and I'll write to him
about it to-night. We ought to hear from him by the day after to-morrow,
at the latest."

Bert saw that Bennett was in earnest, and so said:

"It certainly would be very interesting, old man. I've often wondered
just what speed I was capable of, and I don't see why your plan
shouldn't be feasible. What do you think, Dick?"

"I think it would be well worth the try, at all events," replied Dick,
"and say, fellows, while we were about it, Bennett's father might be
willing to show us over the factory and give us an idea of how the guns
are made. Do you think he would, old top?" addressing Bennett.

"Surest thing you know," responded the latter, heartily. "I know he
would be glad to have you come, even if you are a bunch of bums,"
smilingly.

"All right, we'll consider that settled, then," said Bert. "You write to
him right away, and we'll try our little experiment as soon as possible.
Believe me, I'm anxious to try it. I sure would like to know."

Thus the matter was settled, and after a little more talk and speculation
on the same subject, the boys dispersed to their rooms to prepare
recitations for the morrow.

A day or so later, when some of them had forgotten about the proposed
test, Bennett came up to the group assembled in Bert's and Dick's room,
and said:

"See here, fellows! What did I tell you? I just received this letter
from dad, and he says to go as far as we like. He says that he spoke of
the matter to the foreman of the testing department, and he thinks our
plan is feasible."

"Gee, that's fine," exclaimed Tom, who was of the group. "How long did
he think it would be before he would be ready?"

"Oh, pretty near any time that we could get to the factory. Of course,
it will take him a few days to rig up the apparatus, but he says he will
have it ready by next Saturday, and as that is a holiday for most of us,
I think it would be a good time to go. How would that suit you, Bert?"

"First rate," replied Bert, "I'll take it as easy as I can this week in
the line of pitching, so that I will have full strength for the test.
I'll have to establish a record," laughingly.

"I'll tell you what we can do," said Walter Harper, one of the "subs" on
the team, "let's get up a race between Bert's baseball and a bullet. I
think that Bert ought to beat a bullet easily."

"Well," laughed Bert, "maybe I can't exactly beat a bullet, but I'll bet
my ball will have more curve on it than any bullet ever invented."

"That reminds me of a story I heard the other day," spoke up one. "The
father of a friend of mine went out to hunt deer last fall. He had fair
luck, but everybody was talking about a deer that had been fooling all
the hunters for several seasons. It seems that this deer was such an
expert dodger, that when anyone started to shoot at him he would run
around in circles and thus avoid the bullet. Well, my friend's father
thought over the matter for a long time, and finally hit on a plan to
outwit the deer. Can you guess how he did it?"

Many were the schemes offered by the ingenious listeners, but none of
them seemed satisfactory. Finally all gave up the problem, and begged
the story teller to give them the explanation.

"Well," he said, "it's very simple, and I'm surprised and grieved that
none of you fatheads have thought of it. Why, he simply bent the barrel
of the gun around, so that when the bullet came out it chased the deer
around in circles, and killed him without any trouble. Now----" but here
he was interrupted by a storm of indignant hoots and hisses, and rushed
from the room amid a perfect shower of books of all descriptions.

"Gee," said Tom, "I've heard some queer hunting stories, but that one
was the limit. Many a man has died for less."

"Oh, well, he's more to be pitied than scorned," laughed Dick, and they
proceeded to discuss the details of Saturday's trip.

"It will be no end of fun, I can promise you," said Bennett. "It's
really an education in itself to go through that factory and see the way
things are done. You can bet there's no time or effort wasted there.
Everything is figured down to the very last word for efficiency, and if
all the world were run on the same basis it would be a pretty fine place
to live in."

"List to the philosopher, fellows," said Bert. "I'm afraid Bennett's
studies are going to his head, and he's actually beginning to believe
what the profs tell him."

"That is indeed a sign of failing mental powers," laughed Tom. "I'm
afraid that if we don't do something for our poor friend, he will
degenerate until finally he becomes nothing but a 'greasy grind.' After
that, of course, he can sink no lower."

"Aw, you fellows think you're funny, don't you," grunted Bennett,
disgustedly, "you're such boneheads that when somebody with real brains,
like myself, for instance, gets off a little gem of thought you are
absolutely incapable of appreciating it."

"Fellows," said Bert, gravely, "we have made an important discovery.
Bennett has brains. We know this is so, because he himself admits it.
Well, well, who would have suspected it?"

This sally was greeted with laughter, but, seeing that Bennett was
becoming a little angry, Bert changed the subject, and they were soon
deep in details of the forthcoming trip. Dick was delegated to buy the
tickets, and when all had paid in their money it was seen that
twenty-four were going.

"That will just be a good crowd," said Bert. "We'll leave here on the
9:21 train, and that will take us to W---- at a little after ten. We can
look over the factory in the morning, and tell Mr. Bennett how to run
it,"--with a mischievous glance at Bennett, "and in the afternoon,
gentlemen, I will make my world renowned attempt to pitch a baseball
against time. Do you think that will suit your father, John?"

"Sure, that will be all right," answered Bennett, and so the matter was
settled.

The following Saturday turned out to be ideal, and everybody was in high
spirits when they gathered at the station. They had to wait ten or
fifteen minutes for the train, which had been delayed, but they found
plenty to do in the meantime. They sang, played leap frog, and in a
dozen other ways gave vent to their high spirits. Some of the passengers
envied their light hearts, and remembered the days when they, too, had
been full of life and fun, and the world had just been a place to be
merry in.

The waiting passed like a flash, and before they knew it the train came
into sight around a curve. When it drew up they all made a rush to get
on, and before the train was finally started again had almost driven the
conductor frantic.

"Byes will be byes, though," he grinned to himself, later on, "and be
the same token, Oi don't begrudge the youngsters any of their fun, even
if it did hold the thrain back a full three minutes. Have a good time
while yer living, says Oi, for yez'll be a long time dead."

The train fairly flew along, as the engineer was making up for lost
time, and it was not long before the conductor sang out, "W----!" and
they had arrived. They all tumbled off, and Tom, to save time, went
through the car window.

"Be gorry, yez are a wild bunch of youngsters," said the old conductor
to Bert. "But Oi remember when Oi was a lad Oi was the same way, so Oi
fergives yez the delays and worriments yez have caused me this day. Have
a good toime, and luck be wid yez."

"Thanks," laughed Bert; "won't you come along?"

"Thank ye kindly, but Oi guess Oi'll have to deny meself the pleasure,
me bye," grinned the conductor, and the train drew out of the station.

"Gee," said Tom, as he gazed around, "I don't think we'll have much
trouble locating the factory, Bennett. It seems to be a rather
conspicuous part of the landscape."

It was, indeed. The whole town was founded on the factory industry,
and practically every able-bodied man in the place worked there. The
factory was an immense six-story affair, with acres and acres of floor
space. All around it were streets lined with comfortable-looking
cottages, in which the workmen lived. Everything had a prosperous and
neat appearance, and the boys were agreeably surprised. Most of them had
expected to see a grimy manufacturing town, and were quite unprepared
for the clean community they saw spread out before them.

Bennett headed them straight toward the factory, but as they went along
pointed out features of the town.

"You see," he explained, "the whole town is practically part of the
factory. When that was established a few houses were built around it,
and as the factory grew, the town grew along with it, until now it is
what you see it. We have one of the biggest gun manufacturing plants in
the world here," he added, proudly.

"It certainly is some class, John," admitted Bert; "it's bigger and
cleaner than I ever expected it would be."

Soon they had reached the factory itself, and Bennett ushered them into
the office. There they were presented to a gray-haired man whom John
proudly introduced as his father, and they were made perfectly at home.

After a little talk, Mr. Bennett pressed a button, and a capable looking
man appeared.

"Sawkins," said Mr. Bennett, "here are the young men for whom we've been
turning the factory upside down the last few days. Just show them
around, will you, and explain things to them a little."

"Certainly," acquiesced Sawkins, who was the foreman. "Step right this
way, gentlemen."

The following two hours were probably among the most interesting any of
the boys had ever known. The foreman started at the beginning, showing
them the glowing molten metal in immense cauldrons. He was a man of
considerable education, and great mechanical ability. He explained every
process in words as free as possible of technicalities, and the young
fellows felt that they understood everything that he undertook to
explain. He showed them how the metal was cast, how the guns were bored
out, the delicate rifling cut in, and a thousand other details. His
listeners paid close attention to everything he said, and seeing this,
he took extra pains to make everything clear to them. As he said to Mr.
Bennett afterward, "It was a pleasure to talk to a bunch of men that
understood what was told them."

Finally they came to the testing room, and this proved, if possible,
even more interesting than what had gone before. The foreman showed them
the various ranges, and some of the penetrating feats of which the
rifles were capable. It was almost unbelievable.

"See this little toy?" he said, picking out a beautifully made gun from
a rack on the wall. "The projectile discharged from this arm will
penetrate over forty-five planks, each one seven-eighths of an inch
thick. And then, look at this,"--holding up an ax-head with three clean
holes bored through it--"here's what it can do to tempered steel. I
don't think it would be very healthy to stand in its way."

"No, I guess it wouldn't," said Dick. "I'd prefer to be somewhere else
when one of those bullets was wandering around loose."

Mr. Sawkins then showed them some photographs of bullets taken while in
flight. At first sight this seems an impossibility, but nevertheless it
is an accomplished fact. The method used is much the same as John
Bennett has described in the early part of this chapter. As the bullet
leaves the gun it cuts a wire, which in turn snaps the shutter of a
very high-speed camera. The lenses on a camera of this kind are very
expensive, a single lens sometimes costing five hundred dollars.

Then the foreman showed them the apparatus that they had rigged up to
test the speed of Bert's pitching. After examining the ingenious
arrangement the boys were lavish in their praise. Mr. Sawkins made
light of this, but it was easy to see that he was pleased.

"Oh, it's nothing much," he said. "I just fooled around a little bit,
and soon had this planned out. It was easy for me, because when I was a
little younger I used to do a little myself in the pitching line on our
local team, so I knew about what would be required."

While they were discussing this, Mr. Bennett strolled in, and asked the
enthusiastic group what they thought of what they had seen so far.

"Gee," said Tom, impulsively, "it certainly is the greatest ever, Mr.
Bennett. I never had any idea there was such an awful lot to know about
gun-making. On thinking it over," he added, laughing, "I don't think of
a single way that we could improve matters; do you, fellows?"

"You are more modest than my son, then," said Mr. Bennett, and there was
a twinkle in his eye as he spoke. "Every time John comes here he has a
lot of ideas that he is sure will better anything we have here at
present. However, I have just been in this line for the last thirty
years or so, and so, of course, have lots to learn."

"Aw, cut it out, Dad," grumbled the younger Bennett. "As far as I can
find out, you've never tried any of the things I've proposed, and so how
do you know how good or bad they are?"

"Well, the only objection to your plans was that they would generally
have meant building a new factory to carry them out. Otherwise I have no
fault to find with them," returned Mr. Bennett.

After a little further talk, Mr. Bennett insisted that the boys come
home to his house for luncheon. Needless to say, they had no very strong
objections to this, and were easily persuaded.

The proprietor's home was a large, comfortable mansion, and the good
cheer offered within carried out the impression received without. There
was an abundance of good fare, and the young fellows rose from the table
at last with a satisfied air.

Mr. Bennett had quite a long talk with Bert during the progress of the
meal, and seemed very much interested in him. It turned out that Mr.
Bennett was quite a baseball enthusiast himself, so he entered heartily
into Bert's enthusiasm over the game.

"I used to be quite some player myself when I was your age," he told
Bert, "only I used to play a different position. I usually played
catcher, and was on my team at H----. In those days we never bothered
with catcher's mitts, however, and we catchers worked with bare hands.
Once I was catching in this manner, and a ball caught my thumb and half
tore it off. I was so excited at the time, though, that I never noticed
it, until one of my teammates noticed blood on the ball and called my
attention to it. After that, when my thumb healed, you may be sure I
caught with a glove. You can see the scar still," and he showed the boys
the scar of what had evidently been a nasty wound.

"Well, boys," he said, at the conclusion of this narrative, "what do you
say if we go on back to the factory and make that test of young Wilson's
speed. I am very much interested, I assure you."

Of course there were no objections raised to this, and after a pleasant
walk they arrived again at the factory. They proceeded directly to the
testing room, and Bert shed his coat and vest.

"Come ahead, Dick; you catch for me until I warm up, will you?" he said,
and Dick ran to the requisite distance and donned a catcher's mitt that
he had brought along for the purpose. Bert pitched him a few easy balls,
and then began to work up a little speed. As he shot them to Dick with
ever-increasing pace, Mr. Bennett's face lighted up with interest, and
finally he said, "Say, just let me try catching a few, will you, Trent?
It's a long time since I've had a catcher's mitt on, but I'd like to
take a try at it just for the fun of the thing."

"Certainly," responded Dick, promptly, and handed his glove to Mr.
Bennett. The latter donned it quickly, and punched it a few resounding
blows to "put a hole in it." "All right, my boy," he said, when the
glove was prepared to his satisfaction. "Shoot 'em over, and don't be
afraid to put some speed into 'em. You can't send them too fast to suit
me."

Bert sent over a few easy ones at first, just to see how Mr. Bennett
would handle them. The latter caught the offerings in a practised
manner, and said, "Come on, young man, put some whiskers on the ball.
That wasn't the best you could do, was it?"

Bert made no answer to this, but on his next pitch his arm swung around
like a flail, and the ball left his hand as though propelled by a
catapult. The factory owner managed to catch the ball, but he wrung his
hand. "Ouch!" he exclaimed, "that ball stung my hand pretty hard right
through the glove."

Young Bennett laughed in unholy glee, and danced about first on one foot
and then on the other. "That's one on you, dad," he crowed; "but you
ought to feel lucky that you even caught the ball. If Bert wanted to, he
could pitch a ball that you couldn't even touch. Give him a fadeaway,
Bert."

"Fadeaway, you say," grunted his father. "There never was a pitcher yet
that could pitch a ball that I couldn't even touch. Give me a sample of
this wonderful ball, Wilson."

"All right, sir," said Bert, and grinned. He wound up in the old
familiar way that the boys knew so well, and shot over a ball that Mr.
Bennett figured was a "cinch." He held his glove in what he thought was
the proper place, but at the last moment the ball dropped abruptly and
swung under the glove, missing it by several inches.

"Well, I'll be hanged," muttered Mr. Bennett, gazing stupidly at his
glove. He soon recovered himself, however, and handed the glove back to
Dick. "You've certainly got a wonderful ball there, Wilson," he said.
"You fooled me very neatly, and I have no excuse to offer." Which showed
the fellows that Mr. Bennett was a "good sport."

Pretty soon Bert announced himself as ready for the speed test, and Mr.
Bennett led the way over to what looked like an empty hoop, but which,
upon closer inspection, was seen to be crossed and recrossed by a web of
fine, hairlike wires.

"These wires are so connected," explained Mr. Bennett, "that no matter
where the ball goes, provided, of course, that it goes somewhere inside
the hoop, it will break a wire, and the exact second will be recorded.
Then, there is another hoop fifty feet away," pointing to a similar
contrivance nearer the other end of the testing room, "and all you have
to do, Wilson, is to pitch the ball through both hoops. That back hoop
is a good deal bigger than any catcher's glove, so you oughtn't to have
any difficulty doing it. Do you think you can manage that all right?"

"Why, I guess I can do that," replied Bert, and took up his position
about eight or ten feet this side of the front hoop. Dick tossed him the
ball, and Bert fitted it carefully in his hand. Then he drew his arm
back as far as possible, and a second later the ball shot from his
fingers at a terrific pace. It struck almost the exact center of the
first hoop, parting the fragile wires as though they had been so many
cobwebs, and shot through the second hoop about a foot from its edge.

"Good shot!" exclaimed Mr. Bennett, and he and the foreman hurried to
the recording instruments, and started figuring up the time.

"Gee, Bert," said Tom, "I don't think I ever saw you pitch a faster
ball, even when the team has been in a tight place in the ninth inning.
I'd almost swear I saw it smoke as it went through the air."

"Well, fast or slow, it was the best I could do, anyway," said Bert, "so
there's no use worrying about it."

In a short time, Mr. Bennett and the foreman had arrived at a result,
and hurried over to where the boys were discussing the probable outcome
of the test.

"You sent that ball at the rate of 114 feet a second, which is
equivalent to about eighty-three or eighty-four miles an hour!" he
exclaimed. "In other words, you could throw a ball after the Twentieth
Century express traveling at its average speed and overtake it. As you
probably know, any object traveling at a speed of a mile a minute
traverses eighty-eight feet in one second, and it is on this that we
have based our calculations."

"Say, Bert, that certainly was going some," said Dick, proudly, and the
others were not far behind in congratulating our hero on his truly
astonishing performance. It is safe to say that few professional
pitchers could better Bert's record.

After the excitement had died down somewhat, John Bennett proposed that
they have a shooting contest, and his idea met with instant approval.
John had had unlimited facilities for perfecting himself in this art
since a boy, however, and outclassed any of the others both at long and
short-distance shooting.

When they had grown tired of this, it was growing late, and Bert
proposed that they return. Needless to say, nobody wanted to go, but
they had no choice, and so proceeded to take their leave. They all
thanked their host heartily, also the good-natured and obliging foreman.

Mr. Bennett shook Bert's hand last of all, and as he ushered them to the
door, said, "I'm going to take a holiday and see the next big game in
which you pitch, Wilson. I'm quite anxious to see you in action."

"We'll all be glad to see you, I'm sure," returned Bert, "and nothing
would give me greater pleasure than to show you over the college after
the game."

"Much obliged," replied Mr. Bennett, and watched the laughing, singing
group until it was hidden by a turn in the road.

The return journey seemed much longer than it had that morning, but they
arrived at last, and voted it one of the best days they had ever known.
The news of Bert's feat soon spread over the campus, and when it reached
Reddy's ears, he nodded his head sagely.

"Just make believe I don't know a crack pitcher when I see one," he
grinned to himself.



CHAPTER IX

A GALLANT RESCUE


"Say, fellows, what have you got on hand for to-day?" asked Tom, as he
burst into the "sanctum-sanctorum," as Bert and Dick called their room,
and sank into an easy chair.

"Nothing," said Bert, turning from a not too promising survey of the
surrounding country, "absolutely and emphatically nothing! This promises
to be one of the slowest days in my short and brilliant career----"

"Hear, hear!" cried Tom from the depths of his chair. "That's fine for a
starter, old top. Keep it up and perhaps you can actually persuade us
that you amount to something. It's rather a hopeless task, but it
wouldn't do any harm to try."

"You're such a bonehead that you don't recognize real worth when you see
it," Bert retorted, good-naturedly. "There's another one," he added,
pointing to Dick, who was trying to figure out a calculus problem. "He
prefers grinding in calculus to listening to an interesting tale of my
trials and tribulations."

"It isn't a question of preference, it's a case of dire necessity," Dick
sighed, despondently. "If only I hadn't cut class the other day I would
be all right, but as it is I'll have to cram to make up for it. Oh, if I
only had the fellow who invented calculus here, I'd----" and in the
absence of anything better Dick pulled his own mop of tangled hair and
applied himself furiously to the solving of what he called "an
unsolvable problem."

"Poor old chap, never mind," consoled Tom. "When I come back to-night
with old Pete under my arm I'll tell you just how I caught him."

"Do you mean to say that you are going fishing for old Pete to-day?"
Dick asked, forgetting all about calculus in his excitement.

"Sure," Tom replied, placidly. "Didn't we agree that the first clear
Saturday we had off we'd take for our fishing trip?"

"So we did, but that was so long ago that I'd clean forgotten it. Why
didn't you remind us of it sooner, Tom? You would have spared me a lot
of useless worry as to how I was going to spend a baseball-less day."

"I didn't think of it myself until I came into the room," Tom admitted,
"but I suppose Dick can't go with us now. It's too bad he cut the other
day," he added, with a sly glance at the discarded calculus.

"Don't let it worry you," Dick retorted. "Do you suppose that anything
in earth could keep me from hunting Old Pete to-day, now that you have
brought him so forcibly to my mind? Go on down and get your tackle, Tom.
Bert and I will join you in no time."

"But, really, Dick," Tom protested, with mock severity, "don't you
realize that duty----"

"Get out before I put you out," roared Dick, making a dash for Tom, who
promptly disappeared through the door.

"Since you insist," laughed the fugitive through the keyhole, "meet me
on the campus in half an hour."

"We'll be there with bells on," said Bert and Dick with one voice, and
at once began their preparations for the trip.

As Dick put the calculus back on the shelf, he said, half
apologetically, "I'll see you to-night, old fellow."

       *       *       *       *       *

Half an hour later, the trio were swinging rapidly down the road,
carrying their fishing poles and tackle. This was an outing that they
had planned for early in the season, but up to this time they had had no
opportunity to carry it out. Nearly every Saturday they had had extra
baseball practice, or something unexpected had come up, but now at last
they had their chance and were only too anxious to take advantage of
it. Besides them was Pete.

Old Pete was a huge pickerel who was sly and wary beyond the general run
of fishes. Many a confident angler had come to the lake, absolutely
certain of his ability to land the big fellow, only to return, sheepish
and crestfallen, to acknowledge his defeat.

So it was no wonder that our fellows were excited at the prospect of a
game of hide-and-seek with the biggest and most cunning of the pickerel
family.

"Just think," Bert was saying, "what it will mean if we land him. Almost
all the other fellows in college have tried it without success, and if
we could manage to bring back Old Pete we would be popular heroes."

"I know, but there's not much chance of that," Tom sighed. "If old Si
Perkins couldn't catch him napping, I'm afraid we can't."

"Never say die, Tom," Dick said, gaily. "A day like this makes you feel
equal to anything."

"So say I," Bert added, heartily. "Say, do you see that mill in front of
us? Well, that belongs to Herr Hoffmeyer, and it's one of the classiest
little mills I ever saw."

"It sure is working some, but where do they get the power?" Dick asked.

"Why, there's a dam right back of the mill. You can't see it from here,
but when we get a little nearer I'll point it out to you. See," he
added, as they neared the mill, "isn't that a great arrangement.
Alongside the mill there is a narrow, deep sluice. In this is arranged a
large paddle wheel and, as the water rushes through, it acts on the
paddles and turns the wheel. By a system of cogs the power is then
transmitted to the grinding stone."

"That sure is fine," said Tom. "I don't know that I have ever had a
chance to see a working mill at such close range. Just look how the
water rushes through that sluice. I wouldn't like to get in the way."

"Nor I," said Dick. "The current must be very strong the other side of
the dam."

"You bet your life it is. If anybody should get caught in it, I wouldn't
give that," snapping his fingers, "for his chance of life."

At this moment a bald-headed, red-faced man appeared at the door of
the mill. He regarded the boys with a broad smile on his face as he
carefully dusted his hands on his white apron.

"Goot morning, young shentlemens," he said, affably. "Fine morning, fine
morning, fine morning," and after each repetition of this sentiment he
shook his head vigorously and his smile became broader.

"It is, indeed, sir," Bert said. "We stopped for a moment to see your
mill in operation. It's a very fine mill," he added.

"Yah, yah," the big miller assented, cheerfully, "it's a very goot mill.
For over five year now by me it has worked. Von't you step on the
insides for a minute, young shentlemens?"

"Sure thing," said Tom. "Come on, fellows. It isn't often you get a
chance to see a real mill working. Old Pete can wait, I guess," and so,
led by the good-natured Herr Hoffmeyer, the trio entered the mill.

For the better part of an hour they wandered around to their hearts'
content. The miller showed the working of the mill wheels, and led the
way into every nook and cranny, explaining as they went.

At last, when they had seen everything there was to be seen, the boys
thanked their host heartily, and started on their way once more. Before
they rounded a bend in the road, they turned for a last look at the
mill. At the door stood their erstwhile host, honest, round face shining
like the moon, while the rays of the sun glanced off in little golden
darts from the smooth surface of his bald head.

"Well, that was some adventure," Bert exclaimed. "I've always wanted to
see the inside of a mill, and now I've realized my heart's desire."

"I like Herr Hoffmeyer, too," Tom said, "even if I did think he was a
trifle weak in the head at first. Isn't this the pickerel stream?" he
asked, a minute later.

"Yes, but the fellows say that the big pickerel is further down the
stream. Come along." With these words, Bert led them down the bank until
they reached a shady spot, shaded by spreading trees, and carpeted with
green and velvety moss.

"This place looks good to me," said Dick; "let's camp here."

"I guess this ought to be about right," Bert agreed.

In a few minutes the reels were fixed, the hooks were baited, and the
lines were lowered carefully into the clear depths of the stream.

"This is what you might call comfort," said Tom, as he leaned lazily
against a convenient tree.

"Bet your life," Bert agreed.

"Now, if Pete will only consent to come along and get the hook, like any
other respectable, right-minded fish, my contentment would be absolute."

"Huh," Tom grunted sarcastically. "He'd be likely to do that, wouldn't
he, especially if you keep up this gabfest?"

"I guess a little polite conversation won't scare that wary old
reprobate. I imagine he's heard so much conversation that couldn't be
called exactly polite, especially when he calmly detaches the bait from
the hook without stopping to leave his card, that he wouldn't mind our
talk at all."

"Shut up," said Tom, in a low voice, "I've got a bite, and the line's
pulling hard."

Then, amid a breathless silence, Tom gave a quick, experienced pull to
the line, and landed--not the renowned old Pete, but a small-sized
sunfish, that wriggled and twisted desperately in its efforts to get
away.

At this minute Bert happened to glance at Tom's face, and the look he
found there was so eloquent of absolute dismay and chagrin, that he
burst into a shout of uncontrollable laughter, in which Dick joined him.

"That was sure one on you, old man," he said, when he had breath enough.

"Humph," Tom grunted, disgustedly, "it sure was a sell. I thought I had
old Pete cinched that time. However," he added, "I don't see that you
fellows have much to say. You haven't even caught a sunfish."

"Not so you could notice it," Dick agreed cheerfully. "There's plenty of
time yet, though, and all things come to him who waits. I'm right on the
job, when it comes to waiting."

Bert, who had been thinking his own thoughts, suddenly broke into the
conversation with an irrelevant "Say, fellows, did you ever hear the
story of the man who went for a sail on a windy day----"

"And a man coming out of the cabin asked him," Tom broke in, "if the
moon had come up yet, and he answered, 'No, but everything else has'?
Yes, we've heard that old chestnut cracked before."

"Well, it just struck me," Bert mused, "that it fitted your case pretty
well."

"I suppose it does, in a way," Tom admitted, "but you just wait and see
if I don't land that old rascal before night."

"Go in and win, my boy, and take my blessing. It doesn't make much
difference who does the catching so long as he is caught," Dick said,
and once more leaned his broad back against the tree with a sigh of
content.

But into Tom's head had come a scheme, and he determined to carry it out
at the very first opportunity. For a long time the trio sat on the
grassy bank, listening to the myriad indescribable sounds of spring.
They watched the gorgeous butterfly as it winged its lazily graceful way
from blossom to blossom, and heard the buzzing of the bee as it invaded
the heart of flowerland, and stole its nectar. The perfumed air, hot
from the touch of the sun, stole upon their senses, and made them
delightfully lazy.

Suddenly, Bert gave a jerk to his line and landed a fair-sized pickerel.
Their luck had changed, and in a short time they had a very good mess of
fish. But the great pickerel seemed farther from showing himself than
ever.

Tom landed the next fish, but, instead of taking it off the hook, he
threw the line, fish, and all back into the water.

"What's that for?" Dick asked. "We have plenty of bait left, and there's
no use in wasting a perfectly good fish."

"Wait," Tom remarked, laconically.

They had not long to wait, however, for in a few minutes there was
another jerk on Tom's line.

"Catch hold, fellows," Tom cried, "and help me pull. Gee, I can't hold
it, much less pull it in."

Intensely excited, Dick added his strength to Tom's and pulled hard.

"Pull, pull!" Tom cried, almost crazy with excitement. "We can't lose
him now. Come on! Come on!--now!"

And with one concerted effort they pulled the line up, falling over one
another in their attempt to keep their balance. And there, at their
feet, was the largest pickerel they had ever seen--old Pete. Quick as a
flash, Tom landed on the prize, just in time to keep it from slipping
back into the water.

"Look at him, look at him, fellows!" Tom shouted. "Here's old Pete, the
biggest pickerel in the world, the wary old codger that has defied every
fisherman for miles around, and has even eluded the deadly machinations
of Si Perkins. Don't stand there like wooden statues--come here and help
me unhook this old reprobate. Why don't you say something?"

"For the very good reason," Bert answered, drily, "that you haven't
given us a chance. And for the second reason, I am so dazed I can't
realize our good fortune."

"Our good fortune," Tom repeated, scornfully. "You mean my brains and
common sense. Who thought of putting that fish back into the water to
fool old Pete, I'd like to know?"

"You did, and we are perfectly willing to give you all the credit," said
Bert. "The really important thing is that he's caught. I can hardly
believe it yet. Isn't he a beauty?" he added, enthusiastically. "Look at
the length of him, and the thickness---- Say, fellows, I bet we could
feed the whole college on him for a month."

"I shouldn't wonder," Bert laughed. "I, for one, have never seen his
equal, and never expect to again."

"What's that?" Tom demanded, sharply, as a cry of terror rent the air.
"Let's find out."

"It sounded further down the stream, near the mill. Come on, fellows.
Hurry!" and Bert instinctively took command, as he always did in cases
of emergency.

As the boys burst through the bushes further down, the cry came again,
a wild call for help, and they saw a white clad figure struggling
desperately against the force of the current.

With a shout of encouragement Bert plunged into the water, and with long,
powerful strokes was nearing the spot where the girl had disappeared.
Once more the figure rose to the surface, but Bert knew it was for the
last time. The girl was terribly close to the sluice, and as Bert swam he
felt the tug of the current.

Just as the girl was about to go under, Bert caught her dress and pulled
her to the surface. But how, how, could he swim with his burden against
the current to the bank, which seemed to him a hundred miles off!

With resolute courage he mustered his strength and began the struggle
with that merciless current. One stroke, two, three,--surely he was
gaining, and a great wave of joy and hope welled up in his heart. He
_must_ make it, for not only was his life at stake, but the life of the
young girl dependent upon his success. But it became harder and harder
to make headway, and finally he realized that he was barely holding his
own--that he had to exert all his remaining strength to prevent them
both from being drawn through the sluice to a cruel death below.

Desperately he strove to push against that mighty wall of water, that,
like some merciless giant, was forcing him and his helpless burden, inch
by inch, to destruction. In the agony of his soul a great cry of despair
broke from his lips. "It will all be over soon," he muttered. "I
wouldn't care so much for myself, but the girl," and he looked down at
the pale face and dark, tangled hair of the girl he was giving his life
to save. They were very, very close to the entrance of the sluice now,
and nearing it more swiftly every moment. But what was that black object
coming toward them so rapidly?

"Bert, Bert, keep up your courage. I'm coming!" cried Dick's voice.
"I'll be with you in a minute. Just a minute, old fellow."

Oh, could Dick reach them in time. Bert could only pray for strength to
hold on for a few minutes. He was very near them now, and shouting
encouragement at every stroke. Now he was beside them, and had taken the
girl from Bert's nerveless grasp. "Here, take this rope, old fellow," he
cried, "put it over your head, quick. That's the way. Now let the
fellows on shore pull you in."

Bert wondered afterward why he had not felt any great exultation at
his sudden and almost miraculous deliverance. As it was, only a
great feeling of weariness settled down upon him, and he wanted to
sleep--sleep. Then the sky came down to meet the earth, and everything
went black before his eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Bert, dear old Bert, wake up. You're safe. You're safe. Don't you hear
me, old fellow?" a voice at a great distance was saying, and Bert opened
uncomprehending eyes on a strange world.

"Hello, fellows," he said, with the ghost of his old smile. "Came pretty
near to 'shuffling off this mortal coil,' didn't I? Where is----" he
asked, looking around, inquiringly.

"The girl you so bravely rescued?" came a sweet voice behind him. "And
who never, never can repay you for what you have done to-day if she
lives forever?"

With the assistance of his friends Bert got to his feet and faced the
girl who had so nearly gone to her death with him. For the first time in
his life he felt embarrassed.

"Please don't thank me," he said; "I'm repaid a thousandfold when I see
you standing there safe. It might so easily have been the other way,"
and he shuddered at the thought.

Before the girl could answer, another figure strode forth and grasped
our hero's hand in both of his.

"Professor Davis," Bert exclaimed, as he recognized one of the college
professors.

"Yes, it's Mr. Davis, Bert, and he owes you a debt of gratitude he can
never cancel. Bert, it was my daughter you rescued from a hideous death
to-day, and, dear boy, from this day, you can count on me for anything
in the world."

"Thank you, Professor; I don't deserve all this----"

"Yes, you do, my boy--every bit of it and more, and now," he added,
seeing that the strain was telling on Bert, "I think you, Dick, and Tom
had better get Bert home as quickly as you can. This daughter of mine
insisted on staying until you revived, but I guess she will excuse you,
now. I'd ask you to take supper with us to-night, but I know that what
you most need is rest. It is only a pleasure deferred, however."

As they turned to go, the girl held out her hands to Tom and Dick, and
lastly to Bert. "I am very, very grateful," she said, softly.

"And I am very, very grateful that I have been given a chance to serve
you," he answered, and watched her disappear with her father through the
bushes.

Then he turned to Dick and Tom. "You fellows deserve more credit than I,
a thousand times more," he said, in a voice that was a trifle husky.

"Huh," said Tom, "all that I did was to run to the nearest house for a
rope, and all Dick did was to hand you the rope, while Professor Davis
and I hauled you in."

"Yes, that's all," Bert repeated, softly, "that's all."

"Well, come on, Bert, it's time you got back to college. I guess you're
about all in," said Dick, putting his arm through Bert's and starting
off in the direction of the college.

"Say, you forgot something," Tom said, suddenly. "You forgot all about
old Pete."

"So we did," Dick exclaimed; "suppose you go and get the fish and poles,
if they are still there, and join us at the crossing."

And they did meet at the crossing, and jogged along home, their bodies
tired, but their hearts at rest, while their friendship was welded still
more strongly by one other experience, shared in common.



CHAPTER X

A WILD RIDE


It was a rather gloomy morning on which the team started for the college
where they were to play one of the most important games of the series.
If they won, they would eliminate the Grays and have only to contend
with the Maroons; if they lost, all their splendid work of the season
might have gone for nought.

They were a sober bunch, therefore, as they gathered at the railway
station to await their train. There was little of the usual joking
and horse play to be seen, but this may have been partly due to the
depressing state of the weather. As the train came in sight, however,
they chirked up somewhat at the thought of having something to occupy
their minds, and piled aboard their special car in a little more
cheerful mood. A dense, clammy fog hung low over the ground, and it
was impossible to see more than a hundred feet or so into it in any
direction.

The town in which they were to play to-day was almost a hundred miles
distant, and so they had a considerable journey ahead of them. The
train was a little behind time, and was making extra speed in an effort
to catch up with its schedule. They had traversed several miles, and
were relieving the monotony of the journey with jokes and riddles. As
they passed over a particularly high trestle, and looked down into the
dizzy void below, Sterling, the second baseman, said:

"Say, fellows, this trestle reminds me of a story I heard a little while
ago. If somebody would beg me to real hard, I might be induced to tell
it to you."

"Go ahead!" "Shoot!" "Let's hear it!" came a chorus of supplication, and
Sterling said, "Well, if you insist, I suppose I will have to tell it to
you. The scene of this thrilling anecdote is laid in the Far West, when
it was much wilder and woollier than it is at present. It seems that two
horse thieves had been captured by a band of 'vigilantes,' and after a
trial notable for its brevity and lack of hampering formalities, they
were both sentenced to be hanged. It was in a country in which there
were no trees worthy of the name, and the only available place for the
execution within several miles was a high railroad bridge. To this,
accordingly, the 'vigilantes' conducted their prisoners, one of whom was
a Swede and the other of Irish persuasion. The two were forced to draw
lots to see which one should be hanged first, and, as it turned out,
the Swede drew the short straw, and so was pronounced the first victim
of justice.

"The noose of a stout lariat was fastened around his neck, and when
everything was ready he was shoved off the bridge. As the strain of his
weight came on the rope, however, the knot of the noose became untied,
and the Swede fell to the rushing river below. He was not hurt much, and
those on the bridge saw him swim to the bank and scramble ashore. There
was no way of getting at him, so the lynchers had to satisfy themselves
with many and varied oaths. The Irishman, of course, had watched the
proceeding in a fascinated manner, and as the cowboys tied the rope
around his neck, he said, in an imploring voice, 'For Hivin's sake,
byes, tie the rope tight this time, for I can't swim a stroke.'"

Hearty laughter greeted Sterling's narrative, and the boys felt in
better spirits after it.

"That reminds me of a story I heard once," began Hinsdale. "It was when
I was on a visit to my uncle's ranch in Montana, and----"

But he was interrupted by a crash that sounded as though the end of the
world had come, and the car in which they were riding reared up in the
air like a bucking horse. It rose almost to a perpendicular position,
and then crashed over on its side. It scraped along a few rods in this
position, and then came to a grinding halt.

For a few seconds there was silence, and then a pandemonium of muffled
screams and cries broke forth. Bert's voice was the first to be heard in
their car, and it inquired, anxiously, "Where are you, Dick, Tom, and
the rest of you? Are you alive yet? Here, you, get off my neck, will
you, and give me a chance to breathe."

There was a general scramble and struggle among the debris, and soon one
boy after another climbed and crawled through the broken windows until
finally they all stood accounted for. Many had painful scratches and
bruises, but none were hurt at all seriously. Reddy, the trainer, drew a
sigh of relief. "Thank Heaven for its mercies," said he, fervently, and
then, "Well, me lads, get a wiggle on, and we'll see if everybody else
has been as lucky as we have. From the looks of things up forward there,
it's more than I dare hope."

The front part of the train, which had sustained the greatest shock of
the collision, was indeed a terrible spectacle. Running full speed, the
two trains had crashed into each other out of the fog before their
engineers had fairly realized that anything was amiss. The locomotives
were practically demolished, and one huge Mogul lay on its side beside
the roadbed, steam still hissing from its broken pipes. The other engine
still was on the rails, but its entire front had been demolished, and it
was a total wreck. The coaches immediately back of the locomotives had
been driven on by the momentum of the cars back of them, and had been
partly telescoped; that is, the cars in the rear had plowed half way
through before their progress was checked. To add to the horror of the
scene, thin red flames were licking up from the wreckage, probably
started by the coals from the engine. Many of the passengers were unable
to extricate themselves from the wreckage, being pinned down by beams and
other heavy articles. Their cries and supplications to be saved were
pitiful as they saw the hungry flames gathering headway and eating their
way toward them, and Reddy turned fiercely to the horror-stricken boys.
"Here, what are ye standing around for?" he snarled. "Git back to our car
and get out the axes and fire extinguishers there. You can get at them if
you try. Come on; hurry!" and the trainer sprinted back toward the rear
cars, followed in a body by the willing and eager boys. In less time
than it takes to tell it, they returned, some with axes and some with
extinguishers. The latter could make little progress against the flames,
however, which by now had gained considerable headway, so the boys,
assisted by such other of the passengers who were in a position to do
so, proceeded to chop and dig their way to the imprisoned unfortunates.
Person after person they dragged out in this manner, until they had
rescued all but one man.

He was pinned down by a timber that had all the weight of one of the
heavy trucks on it, and it seemed impossible that they could get him out
before the fire got to him. Already they could feel its intense heat as
they chopped and pulled, wrenched and lifted, in a frenzy of haste.
Nearer and nearer crept the all-embracing fire, until eyebrows and hair
began to singe with the deadly heat, and they were forced to work in
relays, relieving each other every minute or so.

"For God's sake, if you can't get me out of here before the fire reaches
me, kill me," pleaded the unfortunate prisoner, "don't let me roast here
by degrees!"

"No danger of that," gasped Bert, as he swung a huge timber aside that
under ordinary circumstances he would have been unable even to move.
"We'll have you out in a jiffy, now."

"Come on boys, we've got to move this truck," yelled Reddy. "Here,
everybody get hold on this side, and when I say pull, _pull_ for your
lives! Now! get hold! Ready?"

"Yes!" they gasped between set teeth.

"Pull!" fairly screamed Reddy, and every man and boy grasping the
obstinate mass of twisted metal put every ounce of strength in his body
into one supreme effort. The mass swayed, gave, and then toppled back
where it had been before!

"Don't give up!" yelled Bert, frantically, as he saw some of the men
release their hold and turn away, evidently despairing of accomplishing
their object. "Try it again! For God's sake remember you're men, and try
again! It's a human life that's at stake!"

Thus adjured, they returned to the task, and at the signal from Reddy,
wrenched and tore frantically at the inert mass that appeared to mock
their puny efforts.

"Keep it up, keep it up!" gritted Reddy. Slowly but surely, every muscle
straining to its utmost and threatening to snap under the terrific
strain, they raised the heavy truck, and with one last mad heave and
pull sent it toppling down the railroad embankment.

With a wild yell they fell upon the few light timbers lying between them
and the imprisoned man, and soon had him stretched out safely beside the
track. On examination it proved that he had an arm wrenched and several
minor injuries, but nothing fatal.

"Nothing I can say will express half the gratitude I feel toward you
young men," he said, smiling weakly up into the faces of the boys
grouped about him, "you have saved me from a horrible death, and I will
never forget it."

While waiting for the arrival of the wrecking crew and a doctor, the
rescued man had considerable further talk with the members of the team,
and they learned, much to their surprise, that he was an alumnus of
their college. Their pleasure at this discovery was very great, and that
of the stranger seemed little less.

"The old college has done me a whole lot of good, all through my life,"
he said, "but never as much as it did to-day, through her baseball team.
You will hear further from me, young men."

"Oh, it was nothing much to do," deprecated Bert, "we did the only thing
there was to be done under the circumstances, and that was all there was
to it!"

"Not a bit of it," insisted the gentleman. "Why, just take a look at
your faces. You are all as red as though you had been boiled, and your
eyebrows are singed. I declare, anybody looking at us would think that
you had had a good deal harder time of it than I had."

And nothing the boys could say would induce him to alter his opinion of
their heroism in the slightest degree.

Soon they heard a whistle far down the track, and shortly afterward the
wrecking train hove in view. It consisted, besides the locomotive and
tender, of a tool car, in which were stored all kinds of instruments,
jacks, etc., that could possibly be required, and a flat car on which a
sturdy swinging crane was mounted. The railroad company had also sent
several physicians, who were soon busily engaged in taking proper care
of the injured.

In the meantime, the crew of the wrecking train, headed by a burly
foreman, got in strenuous action, and the boys marveled at the quick and
workmanlike manner in which they proceeded to clear the line. As is the
case with all wrecking crews, their orders were to clear the road for
traffic in the shortest time regardless of expense. The time lost in
trying to save, for instance, the remains of a locomotive or car for
future use, would have been much more valuable than either.

A gang of Italians were set to work clearing off the lighter portion of
the wreckage, and the wrecking crew proper proceeded to get chains under
the locomotive that remained on the tracks. It was so twisted and bent
that not one of its wheels would even turn, so it was impossible to tow
it away. The only solution of the problem, then, was to lift it off
the track. After the crew had placed and fastened the chains to the
satisfaction of the foreman, who accompanied the process with a string
of weird oaths, the signal was given to the man operating the steam
crane to "hoist away."

The strong engine attached to the massive steel crane began to whirr,
and slowly the great mass of the locomotive rose, inch by inch, into the
air. When the front part was entirely clear of the tracks, the operator
touched another lever, and the crane swung outward, carrying the huge
locomotive with it as a child might play with a toy. It was a revelation
of the unlimited might of that powerful monster, steam.

Further and further swung the crane, until the locomotive was at right
angles to the track, with its nose overhanging the embankment. Then,
with the foreman carefully directing every movement with uplifted
hand and caustic voice, the locomotive was lowered gently down the
embankment, partly sliding and partly supported by the huge chain, every
link of which was almost a foot long.

In speaking of this chain afterward one of the boys said he wished he
had stolen it so that he might wear it as a watch-chain.

The engine finally came to rest at the foot of the incline, and the
chain was slackened and cast off. Then the crane took the next car in
hand, and went through much the same process with it. Car after car was
slid down the embankment, and in an incredibly short time the roadway
was cleared of wreckage. Then it was seen that several rails had been
ripped up, but these were quickly replaced by others from racks built
along the right of way, such as the reader has no doubt often seen.

In a little over an hour from the time the wrecking crew came on the
scene the last bolt on the rail connecting plates had been tightened,
and the track was ready again for traffic.

"Gee," exclaimed Tom, "that was quick work, for fair. Why, if anybody
had asked me, I would have said that no train would have been able to
use this roadway for at least a day. That crew knows its business, and
no mistake."

"They sure do," agreed Dick, "they cleared things up in jig time. But it
only shows what can be done when you go about it in the right way."

"I only wish we had had that crane when we were trying to lift the truck
up," said the trainer, who had sauntered up to the group. "It wouldn't
have been any trick at all with that little pocket instrument."

"No," laughed Bert. "I think that in the future I will carry one around
with me in case of emergencies. You don't know when it might come in
handy."

"Great head, great head," approved Dick, solemnly, and then they both
laughed heartily, and the others joined in. After their recent narrow
escape from death, life seemed a very pleasant and jolly thing.

But suddenly Bert's face sobered. "How the dickens are we going to get
to the game in time?" he inquired. "The service is all tied up, and it
will be hours and hours before we can get there."

This was indeed a problem, and there seemed to be no solution. There was
no other railroad running within twenty miles of this one, and while a
trolley line connecting the towns was building, it had not as yet been
completed. As Tom expressed it, "they were up against it good and
plenty."

While they were discussing the problem, and someone had despairingly
suggested that they walk, Mr. Clarke, the gentleman whom the boys had
rescued from the wreck, strolled up, with his arm neatly done up in a
sling. His face looked pale and drawn, but aside from the wrenched arm
he appeared none the worse for his harrowing experience.

When informed of the problem facing the team, he appeared nonplussed at
first, but then his face lightened up.

"My home isn't more than a mile from here," he said, "and I have
recently bought a large seven-passenger automobile. You could all pack
into that without much trouble, and there is a fine macadam road leading
from within a few blocks of my house to the town for which you are
bound. But there," and his face clouded over, "I forgot. I discharged my
chauffeur the other day, and I have not had time as yet to engage
another. I don't know whom I could get to drive the car. I can't do it
on account of my broken arm."

"Shucks, that's too bad," said Reddy, in a disappointed tone, "that
would be just the thing, if we only had someone to run it. That's what I
call tough luck. I guess there's no game for us to-day, boys, unless we
think of something else."

But here Bert spoke up. "If Mr. Clarke wouldn't be afraid to trust the
car to me," he said, "I know how to drive, and I can promise we will
take the best care of it. I know that car fore and aft, from radiator to
taillight."

"Why, certainly, go as far as you like," said Mr. Clarke, heartily. "If
you are sure you can handle it I will be only too glad to let you have
it. Nothing I can do will repay a thousandth part of what I owe you
boys."

"You're sure you're capable of handling a car, are you, Wilson?"
inquired the trainer, with a searching look. "I don't want to take a
chance on getting mixed up in any more wrecks to-day. The one we've had
already will satisfy me for some time to come."

"Watch me," was all Bert said, but Dick and Tom both chimed in
indignantly, "I guess you don't know whom we have with us," said Tom,
"why, Bert has forgotten more about automobiles than I ever knew, and
I'm no slouch at that game."

"That's right," confirmed Dick. "Bert's some demon chauffeur, Reddy.
Believe me, we'll have to move some, too, if we expect to get to D----
in time for the game. Why!" he exclaimed, glancing at his watch, "it's
after one now, and we're due to be at the grounds at 2:30. How far is
it, Mr. Clarke, from your house to D----?"

Mr. Clarke calculated a moment, and then said, "Why, I guess it must be
from fifty to fifty-five miles. You'll have to burn up the road to get
there in anything like time," he said, and glanced quizzically at Bert.

"That's easy," returned the latter, "a car like yours ought to be
capable of seventy miles an hour in a pinch."

Mr. Clarke nodded his head. "More than that," he said, "but be careful
how you try any stunts like seventy miles an hour. I don't care about
the car, but I don't want the old college to be without a baseball team
owing to an automobile smashup."

"Never fear," said Bert, confidently. "You may be sure I will take no
unnecessary chances. I don't feel as though I wanted to die yet awhile."

"All right," said Mr. Clarke, and proceeded to give them directions on
the shortest way to reach his home. When he had finished, Reddy sang
out, "All right, boys, let's get a move on. Double quick now! We haven't
a minute to lose."

Accordingly the whole team started off at a swinging trot, and it was
not long before Mr. Clarke's handsome residence came into view. Mr.
Clarke had given them a note, which they presented to his wife, who met
them at the door. She was much agitated at the news contained therein,
but, after a few anxious questions, proceeded to show them where the
machine was located, and gave them the key to the garage. They raced
down a long avenue of stately trees, and soon came to the commodious
stone garage. Reddy unlocked the doors, and swung them wide.

"Gee, what a machine," breathed Bert, and stood a moment in mute
admiration. The automobile was of the very latest pattern, and was the
finest product of an eminent maker. The sun sparkled on its polished
enamel and brass work. But Bert had no eyes for these details. He raised
the hood and carefully inspected the engine. Then he peered into the
gasoline and oil tanks, and found both plentifully supplied.

"All right," he announced, after this inspection. "Pile in someway, and
we'll get a move on. What time is it, Tom?"

"Just twenty-five minutes of two," announced Tom, after consulting his
watch. "I hope we don't get arrested for speeding, that's all. This
reminds me of the old 'Red Scout' days, doesn't it you, Dick?"

"It sure does," agreed the latter, with a reminiscent smile. "We'll have
to go mighty fast to break the records we made then, won't we, old
sock?" slapping Bert on the shoulder.

"That's what," agreed Bert, as he cranked the motor.

The big engine coughed once or twice, and then settled down into a
contented purring. Bert threw in the reverse and backed out of the
garage. He handled the big car with practised hands, and Reddy, who
had been watching him carefully, drew a sigh of relief. "I guess he
knows his business, all right," he reflected, and settled back on the
luxurious cushions of the tonneau. The car was packed pretty solidly,
you may be sure, and everyone seated on the cushions proper had somebody
else perched on his lap. This did not matter, however, and everybody was
too excited to feel uncomfortable.

As they passed the porch, they stopped, and Mrs. Clarke, who had been
waiting to see them off, gave Bert directions on how to find the main
road. "Follow the road in front of the house due south for about half or
three-quarters of a mile," she said, "and then turn to your left on the
broad, macadam road that you will see at about this point. That will
take you without a break to D----. Be careful of that car, though," she
said to Bert, "I'm almost afraid of it, it's so very powerful."

"It will need all its power to-day," said Bert, smiling, and they all
said good-bye to Mrs. Clarke. Then Bert slipped in the clutch, and the
big car glided smoothly out on the road in front of the house, and in a
very short time they came to the main road of which Mrs. Clarke had
spoken.

"Now, Bert, let her rip," said Dick, who was in the seat beside our
hero. Bert did.

Little by little he opened the throttle till the great machine was
rushing along the smooth road at terrific speed. Faster and faster they
flew. The wind whistled in their ears, and all who were not holding on
to their caps lost them. There was no time to stop for such a trivial
item, and indeed nobody even thought of such a thing. To get to the
game, that was the main thing. Also, the lust of speed had entered their
hearts, and while they felt horribly afraid at the frightful pace, there
was a certain mad pleasure in it, too. The speedometer needle crept up
and up, till it touched the sixty-mile-an-hour mark. Reddy wanted to
tell Bert to slacken speed, but feared that the boys would think he was
"scared," so said nothing. Bert's heart thrilled, and the blood pounded
madly through his veins. His very soul called for speed, speed! and he
gradually opened the throttle until it would go no further. The great
car responded nobly, and strained madly ahead. The whirring gears hummed
a strident tune, and the explosions from the now open muffler sounded in
an unbroken roar. The passengers in the machine grew dizzy, and some
were forced to close their eyes to protect them from the rushing,
tearing wind. The fields on both sides streaked away in back of them
like a vari-colored ribbon, and the gray road seemed leaping up to meet
them. The speedometer hand pointed to eighty miles an hour, and now
there was a long decline in front of them. The boys thought that then
Bert would surely reduce the power somewhat, but apparently no such
thought entered his mind. Down the long slope they swooped, and
then--What was that in front of them, that they were approaching at such
terrific speed? At a glance Bert saw that it consisted of two farm
wagons traveling along toward them at a snail's pace, their drivers
engaged in talk, and oblivious of the road in front of them. Bert
touched the siren lever, and a wild shriek burst from the tortured
siren. The drivers gave one startled glance at the flying demon
approaching them, and then started to draw up their horses to opposite
sides of the road. They seemed fairly to crawl and Bert felt an awful
contraction of his heart. What if they could not make it? He knew that
it would have been folly to apply the brakes at the terrific speed at
which they were traveling, and his only chance lay in going between the
two wagons.

Slowly--slowly--the wagons drew over to the side of the road, and Bert
calculated the distance with straining eyes. His hands gripped the wheel
until his knuckles stood out white and tense.

Now they were upon the wagons--and through! A vision of rearing horses,
excited, gesticulating drivers--and they were through, with a scant half
foot to spare on either side.

A deep sigh went up from the passengers in the car, and tense muscles
were relaxed. Gradually, little by little, Bert reduced the speed until
they were traveling at a mere forty miles an hour, which seemed quiet,
safe and slow, after their recent hair-raising pace. Reddy pulled out
his handkerchief and mopped his forehead, which was beaded with
perspiration.

"We looked death in the face that time," he declared, gravely. "I never
expected to get out of that corner alive. If we had hit one of those
wagons, it would have been all up with us. For heaven's sake, Wilson,
take it a little easier in the future, will you? I don't want to
decorate a marble slab in the morgue just yet awhile."

Tom pulled out his watch, and found that it was after two o'clock. "We
can't be far from the town now," he declared. "I'll bet that's it, where
you see the steeple over there in the distance."

"That's what it is," chimed in several of the others, who had been to
the town before; "we'll get there with time to spare."

The intervening mile or so was covered in a jiffy, and the car entered
the town. Almost immediately they were recognized by some in the crowd,
and were greeted with cheers. A couple of young fellows whom they knew
jumped up on the running-board as Bert slowed down for them.

"Gee," said one, "there's some class to you fellows, all right, all
right. It isn't every baseball team that can travel around the country
in a giddy buzz wagon like the one you have there. Who belongs to it,
anyway?"

"Oh, it's too long a story to tell now," said the trainer. "We'll tell
you all about it after the game. It's about time we were starting in to
practise a little."

They soon arrived at the grounds, and were greeted by an ovation. The
news of the wreck had just been telegraphed in, and the spectators had
been a sorely disappointed lot until the arrival of the car bearing the
Blues. The news had spread over the field, and some of the spectators
had started to leave, thinking that, of course, there would be no game.

These soon returned, however, and settled down to see the struggle.

It would seem as though the Blues would have little energy left after
such an exciting day as they had passed through, but such is the
wonderful elasticity and recuperative powers of youth, that they played
one of the snappiest games of the season, and after a hotly contested
fight won out by a score of four to two.

As they returned to the clubhouse after the game, they were surprised
beyond measure to see Mr. Clarke waiting for them. He greeted them with
a smile, and shook hands all around with his uninjured arm.

"I caught the first train that went through," he explained, "and got
here in time to see the last inning. You fellows put up a cracker-jack
game, and I think you are an honor to the old college. It was a wonder
you did not lose. After what you have been through to-day I should not
have been a bit surprised or disappointed."

They thanked him for his kind speech, and then nothing would do but that
they must have supper with him at the most expensive hotel in town.
Needless to say, this meal was done ample justice, and when Mr. Clarke
informed them that he had hired rooms for them for the night the
announcement was greeted with a cheer.

"I have telegraphed home, so nobody will be worried about you," he said.
"They know you're in safe hands," and his eyes twinkled.

It was a tired lot of athletes that tumbled up to bed that night,
and soon they were sleeping the deep, dreamless sleep of healthy
exhaustion.



CHAPTER XI

THE NINTH INNING


The morning of the all-important day on which the Blues and Maroons were
to lock horns in order that the pennant question might be finally
settled dawned gloriously. There was not a cloud in the sky and scarcely
a breath of wind stirring. A storm two days before had cooled the air
and settled the dust, and altogether a finer day for the deciding
struggle could not have been imagined.

The game was to be played on the enemy's grounds, and that, of course,
gave them a great advantage. This was further increased by the fact that
it was Commencement Week, and from all parts of the country great
throngs of the old graduates had been pouring for days into the little
town that held so large a place in their memories and affections. They
could be depended on to a man to be present that afternoon, rooting with
all their might and yelling their heads off to encourage the home team.

However, they would not have it all their own way in that matter,
although of course they would be in the majority. The train that
brought Bert and his comrades on the day before was packed with wildly
enthusiastic supporters, and a whole section of the grandstand would be
reserved for them. They had rehearsed their songs and cheers and were
ready to break loose at any time on the smallest provocation and "make
Rome howl." And, as is the way of college rooters, they had little doubt
that when they took the train for home they would carry their enemies'
scalps at their belts. They would have mobbed anybody for the mere
suggestion that their favorites could lose.

They packed the hotel corridors with an exuberant and hilarious crowd
that night that "murdered sleep" for any one within earshot, and it was
in the "wee, sma' hours" when they at last sought their beds, to snatch
a few hours' sleep and dream of the great game on the morrow. Not so the
team themselves, however. They had been carried away to a secluded
suite, where after a good supper and a little quiet chat in which
baseball was not permitted to intrude, they were tucked away in their
beds by their careful trainer and by ten o'clock were sleeping soundly.

At seven the next morning they were astir, and, after a substantial
breakfast, submitted themselves to "Reddy's" rubdown and massage, at the
conclusion of which their bodies were glowing, their eyes bright, and
they felt "fine as silk," in Reddy's phrase, and ready for anything. It
was like getting a string of thoroughbreds thoroughly groomed and
sending them to the post fit to race for a kingdom. To keep them from
dwelling on the game, Reddy took them for a quiet stroll in the country,
returning only in time for a leisurely though not hearty dinner, after
which they piled into their 'bus and started for the ball field.

As they drove into the carriage gate at the lower end of the field they
fairly gasped at the sight that met their eyes. They had never played
before such a tremendous crowd as this. Grandstands and bleachers, the
whole four sides of the field were packed with tier upon tier of noisy
and jubilant rooters. Old "grads," pretty girls and their escorts waving
flags, singing songs, cheering their favorites, shouting their class
cries, made a picture that, once seen, could never be forgotten.

"Some crowd, all right," said Dick to Bert, as they came out on the
field for preliminary practise.

"Yes," said Bert, "and nine out of ten of them expect and hope to see us
lose. We must put a crimp in that expectation, from the stroke of the
gong."

"And we will, too," asserted Tom, confidently, "they never saw the day
when they were a better team than ours, and it's up to our boys to prove
it to them, right off the reel."

"How does your arm feel to-day?" asked Dick. "Can you mow them down in
the good old way, if you go in the box?"

"Never felt better in my life," rejoined Bert. "I feel as though I could
pitch all day if necessary."

"That sounds good," said Dick, throwing his arm over Bert's shoulder.
"If that's the way you feel, we've got the game sewed up already."

"Don't be too sure, old man," laughed Bert. "You'd better 'knock wood.'
We've seen too many good things go wrong to be sure of anything in this
world of chance. By the way," he went on, "who is that fellow up near
our bench? There's something familiar about him. By George, it's
Ainslee," and they made a rush toward the stalwart figure that turned to
meet them with a smile of greeting.

"In the name of all that's lucky," cried Dick, as he grasped his hand
and shook it warmly, "how did you manage to get here? I thought you were
with your team at Pittsburgh. There's no man on earth I'd rather see
here to-day."

"Well," returned the coach, his face flushing with pleasure at the
cordial greeting, "I pitched yesterday, and as it will be two or three
days before my turn in the box comes round again, I made up my mind it
was worth an all-night's journey to come up here and see you whale the
life out of these fellows. Because of course that's what you're going to
do, isn't it? You wouldn't make me spend all that time and money for
nothing, would you?" he grinned.

"You bet we won't," laughed Dick, "just watch our smoke."

The presence of the coach was an inspiration, and they went on for
their fifteen minutes' practise with a vim and snap that sobered up the
over-confident rooters on the other side. Their playing fairly sparkled,
and some of the things put across made the spectators catch their
breath.

Just in front of the grandstand, Bert and Winters tried out their
pitching arms. Commencing slowly, they gradually increased their pace,
until they were shooting them over with railroad speed. The trainer and
manager, reinforced by Mr. Ainslee, carefully watched every ball thrown,
so as to get a line on the comparative speed and control. While they
intended to use Bert, other things being equal, nobody knew better than
they that a baseball pitcher is as variable as a finely strung race
horse. One day he is invincible and has "everything" on the ball; the
next, a village nine might knock him all over the lot.

But to-day seemed certainly Bert's day. He had "speed to burn." His
curves were breaking sharply enough to suit even Ainslee's critical eye,
and while Winters also was in fine fettle, his control was none too
good. Hinsdale was called into the conference.

"How about it, Hin?" asked Ainslee. "How do they feel when they come
into the glove?"

"Simply great," replied the catcher, "they almost knock me over, and his
change of pace is perfect."

"That settles it," said Ainslee, and the others acquiesced.

So that when at last the starting gong rang and a breathless silence
fell over the field, as Tom strode to the plate, Bert thrilled with the
knowledge that he had been selected to carry the "pitching burden," and
that upon him, more than any other member of the team, rested that day's
defeat or victory.

The lanky, left-handed pitcher wound up deliberately and shot one over
the plate. Tom didn't move an eyelash.

"Strike one!" called the umpire, and the home crowd cheered.

The next one was a ball.

"Good eye, old man!" yelled Dick from the bench. "You've got him
guessing."

The next was a strike, and then two balls followed in rapid succession.
The pitcher measured the distance carefully, and sent one right over the
center of the rubber. Tom fouled it and grinned at the pitcher. A little
off his balance, he sent the next one in high, and Tom trotted down to
first, amid the wild yells of his college mates.

Flynn came next with a pretty sacrifice that put Tom on second. Drake
sent a long fly that the center fielder managed to get under. But before
he could get set for the throw in, Tom, who had left second the instant
the catch was made, slid into third in a cloud of dust just before the
ball reached there.

"He's got his speed with him to-day," muttered Ainslee, "now if Trent
can only bring him home."

But Tom had other views. He had noticed that the pitcher took an
unusually long wind-up. Then too, being left-handed, he naturally faced
toward first instead of third, as he started to deliver the ball. Foot
by foot, Tom increased his lead off third, watching the pitcher
meanwhile, with the eye of a hawk. Two balls and one strike had been
called on Dick, when, just as the pitcher began his wind-up, Tom made a
dash for the plate and came down the line like a panic-stricken
jack-rabbit.

Warned by the roar that went up from the excited crowd, the pitcher
stopped his wind-up, and hurriedly threw the ball to the catcher. But
the unexpectedness of the move rattled him and he threw low. There was a
mixup of legs and arms, as Tom threw himself to the ground twenty feet
from the plate and slid over the rubber, beating the ball by a hair. The
visiting crowd went wild, and generous applause came even from the home
rooters over the scintillating play, while his mates fairly smothered
him as he rose and trotted over to the bench.

"He stole home," cried Reddy, whose face was as red as his hair with
excitement. "The nerve of him! He stole home!"

It was one of the almost impossible plays that one may go all through
the baseball season without seeing. Not only did it make sure of one
precious run--and that run was destined to look as big as a mountain as
the game progressed--but it had a tendency to throw the opposing team
off its balance, while it correspondingly inspired and encouraged the
visitors.

However, the pitcher pulled himself together, and although he passed
Dick to first by the four-ball route, he made Hodge send up a high foul
to the catcher and the side was out.

The home crowd settled back with a sigh of relief. After all, only one
run had been scored, and the game was young. Wait till their heavy
artillery got into action and there would be a different story to tell.
They had expected that Winters, the veteran, would probably be the one
on whom the visitors would pin their hopes for the crucial game, and
there was a little rustle of surprise when they saw a newcomer move
toward the box. They took renewed hope when they learned that he was a
Freshman, and that this was his first season as a pitcher. No matter how
good he was, it stood to reason that when their sluggers got after him
they would quickly "have his number."

"Well, Wilson," said Ainslee, as Bert drew on his glove, "the fellows
have given you a run to start with. You can't ask any more of them than
that. Take it easy, don't let them rattle you, and don't use your
fadeaway as long as your curves and fast straight ones are working
right. Save that for the pinches."

"All right," answered Bert, "if the other fellows play the way Tom is
doing, I'll have nothing left to ask for in the matter of support, and
it's up to me to do the rest."

For a moment as he faced the head of the enemy's batting order, and
realized all that depended on him, his head grew dizzy. The immense
throng of faces swam before his eyes and Dick's "Now, Bert, eat them
up," seemed to come from a mile away. The next instant his brain
cleared. He took a grip on himself. The crowd no longer wavered before
his eyes. He was as cold and hard as steel.

"Come, Freshie," taunted Ellis, the big first baseman, as he shook his
bat, "don't cheat me out of my little three bagger. I'll make it a homer
if you don't hurry up."

He jumped back as a swift, high one cut the plate right under his neck.

"Strike," called the umpire.

"Naughty, naughty," said Ellis, but his tone had lost some of its
jauntiness.

The next was a wide outcurve away from the plate, but Ellis did not
"bite," and it went as a ball.

Another teaser tempted him and he lifted a feeble foul to Hinsdale, who
smothered it easily.

Hart, who followed, was an easy victim, raising a pop fly to Sterling at
second. Gunther, the clean-up hitter of the team, sent a grounder to
short that ordinarily would have been a sure out, but, just before
reaching White, it took an ugly bound and went out into right. Sterling,
who was backing up White, retrieved it quickly, but Gunther reached
first in safety. The crowd roared their delight.

"Here's where we score," said one to his neighbor. "I knew it was only a
matter--Thunder! Look at that."

"That" was a lightning snap throw from Bert to Dick that caught Gunther
five feet off first. The move had been so sudden and unexpected that
Dick had put the ball on him before the crowd fairly realized that it
had left the pitcher's hand. It was a capital bit of "inside stuff" that
brought the Blues to their feet in tempestuous cheering, as Bert walked
in to the bench.

"O, I guess our Freshie is bad, all right," shouted one to Ellis, as he
walked to his position.

"We'll get him yet," retorted the burly fielder. "He'll blow up when his
time comes."

But the time was long in coming. In the next three innings, only nine
men faced him, and four of these "fanned." His "whip" was getting better
and better as the game progressed. His heart leaped with the sense of
mastery. There was something uncanny in the way the ball obeyed him. It
twisted, curved, rose and fell like a thing alive. A hush fell on the
crowd. All of them, friend and foe, felt that they were looking at a
game that would make baseball history. Ainslee's heart was beating as
though it would break through his ribs. Could he keep up that demon
pitching? Would the end come with a rush? Was it in human nature for a
mere boy before that tremendous crowd to stand the awful strain? He
looked the unspoken questions to Reddy, who stared back at him.

"He'll do it, Mr. Ainslee, he'll do it. He's got them under his thumb.
They can't get to him. That ball fairly talks. He whispers to it and
tells it what to do."

The other pitcher, too, was on his mettle. Since the first inning, no
one of his opponents had crossed the rubber. Only two hits had been
garnered off his curves and his drop ball was working beautifully. He
was determined to pitch his arm off before he would lower his colors to
this young cub, who threatened to dethrone him as the premier twirler of
the league. It looked like a pitchers' duel, with only one or two runs
deciding the final score.

In the fifth, the "stonewall infield" cracked. Sterling, the "old
reliable," ran in for a bunt and got it easily, but threw the ball "a
mile" over Dick's head. By the time the ball was back in the diamond,
the batter was on third, and the crowd, scenting a chance to score, was
shouting like mad. The cheer leaders started a song that went booming
over the field and drowned the defiant cheer hurled at them in return.
The coachers danced up and down on the first and third base lines, and
tried to rattle Bert by jeers and taunts.

"He's going up now," they yelled, "all aboard for the air ship. Get
after him, boys. It's all over but the shouting."

But Bert had no idea of going up in the air. The sphere whistled as he
struck out Allen on three pitched balls. Halley sent up a sky scraper
that Sterling redeemed himself by getting under in fine style. Ellis
shot a hot liner straight to the box, that Bert knocked down with his
left hand, picked up with his right, and got his man at first. It was a
narrow escape from the tightest of tight places, and Ainslee and Reddy
breathed again, while the disgusted home rooters sat back and groaned.
To get a man on third with nobody out, and yet not be able to get him
home. Couldn't they melt that icicle in the pitcher's box? What license
did he have anyway to make such a show of them?

The sixth inning passed without any sign of the icicle thawing, but
Ainslee detected with satisfaction that the strain was beginning to tell
on the big southpaw. He was getting noticeably wild and finding it
harder and harder to locate the plate. When he did get them over, the
batters stung them hard, and only superb support on the part of his
fielders had saved him from being scored upon.

At the beginning of the seventh, the crowd, as it always does at that
stage, rose to its feet and stretched.

"The lucky seventh," it shouted. "Here's where we win."

They had scarcely settled down in their seats however, when Tom cracked
out a sharp single that went like a rifle shot between second and short.
Flynn sent him to second with an easy roller along the first base line.
The pitcher settled down and "whiffed" Drake, but Dick caught one right
on the end of the bat and sent it screaming out over the left fielder's
head. It was a clean home run, and Dick had followed Tom over the plate
before the ball had been returned to the infield.

Now it was the Blues' turn to howl, and they did so until they were
hoarse, while the home rooters sat back and glowered and the majority
gave up the game as lost. With such pitching to contend against, three
runs seemed a sure winning lead.

In the latter half of the inning, however, things changed as though by
magic. The uncertainty that makes the chief charm of the game asserted
itself. With everything going on merrily with the visitors, the goddess
of chance gave a twist to the kaleidoscope, and the whole scene took on
a different aspect.

Gunther, who was still sore at the way Bert had showed him up at first,
sent up a "Texas leaguer" just back of short. White turned and ran for
it, while big Flynn came rushing in from center. They came together with
terrific force and rolled over and over, while the ball fell between
them.

White rose dizzily to his feet, but Flynn lay there, still and crumpled.
His mates and some of the opposing team ran to him and bore him to the
bench. It was a clean knockout, and several minutes elapsed before he
regained consciousness and was assisted from the field, while Ames, a
substitute outfielder, took his place. Tom had regained the ball in the
meantime and held Gunther at second. The umpire called "play" and the
game went on.

But a subtle something had come over the Blues. An accident at a critical
time like this was sure to be more or less demoralizing. Their nerves,
already stretched to the utmost tension, were not proof against the
sudden shock. Both the infield and outfield seemed to go to pieces all at
once. The enemy were quick to take advantage of the changed conditions.
Gunther took a long lead off second, and, at a signal from his captain,
started for third. Hinsdale made an awful throw that Tom only stopped by
a sideway leap, but not in time to get the runner. Menken sent a grounder
to White that ordinarily he would have "eaten up," but he fumbled it just
long enough to let the batter get to first, while Gunther cantered over
the plate for their first run of the game amid roars of delight from the
frantic rooters. It looked as though the long-expected break was coming
at last.

The next man up struck out and the excitement quieted down somewhat,
only to be renewed with redoubled fervor a moment later, when Halley
caught a low outcurve just below the waist and laced it into center for
a clean double. Smart fielding kept the man on first from getting
further than third, but that seemed good enough. Only one man was out
and two were on bases, and one of their heaviest batters was coming up.
Bert looked him over carefully and then sent him deliberately four wide
balls. He planned to fill the bases and then make the next man hit into
a double play, thus retiring the side.

It was good judgment and Ainslee noted it with approval. Many a time he
had done the same thing himself in a pinch and "gotten away with it."

As Bert wound up, he saw out of the corner of his eye that Halley was
taking a long lead off second. Quick as lightning, he turned and shot
the ball to White, who ran from short to cover the base. The throw was
so true that he could easily have nailed Halley, as he frantically tried
to get back. But although White had pluckily insisted on being allowed
to play, his head was still spinning like a top from the recent
collision, and a groan went up from the "Blue" supporters as the ball
caromed off his glove and rolled out to center. The three men on bases
fairly burned up the base lines as they galloped around the bags, and
when Ames' hurried return of the ball went over Hinsdale's head to the
grand stand, all the bases were cleared, and the score stood four to
three in favor of the home team. It had all occurred so suddenly that
the visitors were in a daze, and the home nine itself could hardly
realize how quickly the tables had been turned.

For a moment rage took possession of Bert. What was the matter with the
fellows anyway? Why were they playing like a bunch of "Rubes"? Did
they expect him to win the game all by himself? Was the victory to be
snatched away just as it was within sight? Were these jubilant, yelling
rooters, dancing about and hugging each other, to send him and his
comrades away, downcast and beaten? Were they to "laugh last" and
therefore "best"? And the fellows hundreds of miles away, gathered at
this moment around the bulletin board of the dear old college----

No! No! A thousand times, no! In a moment he was himself again--the same
old Bert, cool, careful, self-reliant. He stooped down and pretended to
tie his shoe lace, in order to give his comrades a moment to regain
their self-possession. Then he straightened up and shot a beauty right
over the plate. The batter, who had been ordered to wait and take
advantage of Bert's expected case of "rattles," let it go by. Two
perfect strikes followed and the batter was out. The next man up
dribbled a roller to the box and Bert threw him out easily. The inning
was over, and Bert had to take off his cap to the storm of cheers that
came from the "Blue" supporters as he walked to the bench.

Ainslee scanned him carefully for any sign of collapse after this
"baptism of fire." Where were the fellow's nerves? Did he have any? Bert
met his glance with an easy smile, and the coach, reassured, heaved a
sigh of relief. No "yellow streak" there, but clear grit through and
through.

"It's the good old fadeaway from now on, Wilson," he said as he clapped
him on the back, "usually I believe in letting them hit and remembering
that you have eight men behind you to help you out. But just now there's
a little touch of panic among the boys, and while that would soon wear
off, you only have two innings left. This game has got to be won in the
pitcher's box. Hold them down and we will bat out a victory yet."

"All right," answered Bert; "I've only used the fadeaway once or twice
this game, and they've had no chance to size it up. I'll mix it in with
the others and try to keep them guessing."

Drake and Dick made desperate attempts to overcome the one run advantage
in their half of the eighth. Each cracked out a hot single, but the
three that followed were unable to bring them home, despite the frantic
adjurations of their friends to "kill the ball."

Only one more inning now, one last chance to win as a forlorn hope, or
fall fighting in the last ditch.

A concerted effort was made to rattle Bert as he went into the box, but
for all the effect it had upon him, his would-be tormentors might as
well have been in Timbuctoo. He was thoroughly master of himself. The
ball came over the plate as though shot from a gatling gun for the first
batter, whose eye was good for curves, but who, twice before, had proved
easy prey for speedy ones. A high foul to the catcher disposed of him.
Allen, the next man up, set himself for a fast one, and was completely
fooled by the lazy floater that suddenly dropped a foot below his bat,
just as it reached the plate. A second and third attempt sent him
sheepishly back to the bench.

"Gee, that was a new one on me," he muttered. "I never saw such a drop
in my life. It was just two jerks and a wiggle."

His successor was as helpless as a baby before the magical delivery, and
amid a tempest of cheers, the Blues came in for their last turn at bat.
Sterling raised their hopes for a moment by a soaring fly to center. But
the fielder, running with the ball, made a beautiful catch, falling
as he did so, but coming up with the ball in his hand. Some of the
spectators started to leave, but stopped when White shot a scorcher so
hot that the second baseman could not handle it. Ames followed with a
screaming single to left that put White on third, which he reached by a
desperate slide. A moment later Ames was out stealing second, and with
two men out and hope nearly dead, Bert came to the plate. He caught the
first ball pitched on the end of his bat and sent it on a line between
right and center. And then he ran.

How he ran! He rounded first like a frightened deer and tore toward
second. The wind whistled in his ears. His heart beat like a trip hammer.
He saw as in a dream the crowds, standing now, and shouting like fiends.
He heard Dick yelling: "Go it, Bert, go it, go it!" He caught a glimpse
of Tom running toward third base to coach him in. He passed second. The
ground slipped away beneath his feet. He was no longer running, he was
flying. The third baseman tried to block him, but he went into him like a
catapult and rolled him over and over. Now he was on the road to home.
But the ball was coming too. He knew it by the warning cry of Reddy, by
the startled urging of Tom, by the outstretched hands of the catcher.
With one tremendous effort he flung himself to the ground and made a
fallaway slide for the plate, just touching it with his finger tips, as
the ball thudded into the catcher's mitt. Two men in and the score five
to four, while the Blues' stand rocked with thunders of applause.

"By George," cried Ainslee, "such running! It was only a two base hit,
and you stretched it into a homer."

The next batter was out on a foul to left, and the home team came in
to do or die. If now they couldn't beat that wizard of the box, their
gallant fight had gone for nothing. They still had courage, but it was
the courage of despair. They were used to curves and rifle shots. They
might straighten out the one and shoot back the other, but that new
mysterious delivery, that snaky, tantalizing, impish fadeaway, had
robbed them of confidence. Still, "while there was life there was hope,"
so----

Ainslee and Reddy were a little afraid that Bert's sprint might have
tired him and robbed him of his speed. But they might have spared their
fears. His wind was perfect and his splendid condition stood him in
good stead. He was a magnificent picture of young manhood, as for the
last time he faced his foes. His eyes shone, his nerves thrilled, his
muscles strained, his heart sang. His enemies he held in the hollow of
his hand. He toyed with them in that last inning as a cat plays with a
mouse. His fadeaway was working like a charm. No need now to spare
himself. Ellis went out on three pitched balls. Hart lifted a feeble
foul to Hinsdale. Gunther came up, and the excitement broke all bounds.

The vast multitude was on its feet, shouting, urging, begging, pleading.
A hurricane of cheers and counter cheers swept over the field. Reddy was
jumping up and down, shouting encouragement to Bert, while Ainslee sat
perfectly still, pale as death and biting his lips till the blood came.
Bert cut loose savagely, and the ball whistled over the plate. Gunther
lunged at it.

"One strike!" called the umpire.

Gunther had been expecting the fadeaway that had been served to the two
before him, and was not prepared for the swift high one, just below the
shoulder. Bert had outguessed him.

Hinsdale rolled the ball slowly back along the ground to the pitcher's
box. Bert stopped, picked it up leisurely, and then, swift as a flash,
snapped it over the left hand corner of the plate. Before the astonished
batsman knew it was coming, Hinsdale grabbed it for the second strike.

"Fine work, Bert!" yelled Dick from first. "Great head."

Gunther, chagrined and enraged, set himself fiercely for the next. Bert
wound up slowly. The tumult and the shouting died. A silence as of death
fell on the field. The suspense was fearful. Before Bert's eyes came up
the dear old college, the gray buildings and the shaded walks, the crowd
at this moment gathered there about the bulletin---- Then he let go.

For forty feet the ball shot toward the plate in a line. Gunther gauged
it and drew back his bat. Then the ball hesitated, slowed, seemed to
reconsider, again leaped forward, and, eluding Gunther's despairing
swing, curved sharply down and in, and fell like a plummet in Hinsdale's
eager hands.

"You're out," cried the umpire, tearing off his mask. The crowd surged
down over the field, and Bert was swallowed up in the frantic rush of
friends and comrades gone crazy with delight. And again he saw the dear
old college, the gray buildings and the shaded walks, the crowd at this
moment gathered there about the bulletin----.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some days after his fadeaway had won the pennant--after the triumphal
journey back to the college, the uproarious reception, the bonfires,
the processions, the "war dance" on the campus--Bert sat in his
room, admiring the splendid souvenir presented to him by the college
enthusiasts. The identical ball that struck out Gunther had been encased
in a larger one of solid gold, on which was engraved his name, together
with the date and score of the famous game. Bert handled it caressingly.

"Well, old fellow," he said, half aloud, "you stood by me nobly, but it
was a hard fight. I never expect to have a harder one."

He would have been startled, had he known of the harder one just ahead.
That Spring he had fought for glory; before the Summer was over he would
fight for life. How gallant the fight he made, how desperate the chances
he took, and how great the victory he won, will be told in

"BERT WILSON, WIRELESS OPERATOR."


THE END



 Transcriber's Notes:

 --Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).

 --Punctuation and spelling inaccuracies were silently corrected.

 --Archaic and variable spelling has been preserved.

 --Variations in hyphenation and compound words have been preserved.

 --The author's long dash style has been preserved.





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