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Title: Weatherby's Inning - A Story of College Life and Baseball
Author: Barbour, Ralph Henry, 1870-1944
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 "Weatherby's Inning - A Story of College Life and Baseball" ***

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WEATHERBY’S INNING



BY RALPH HENRY BARBOUR.

Each, 12mo, Cloth, Illustrated.


Weatherby’s Inning.

Illustrated in Colors. $1.20 net; postage, 12 cents additional.


Behind the Line.

A Story of School and Football. $1.20 net; postage, 12 cents additional.


Captain of the Crew.

$1.20 net; postage, 12 cents additional.


For the Honor of the School.

A Story of School Life and Interscholastic Sport. $1.50.


The Half-Back.

A Story of School, Football, and Golf. $1.50.


D. APPLETON AND COMPANY, NEW YORK.



[Illustration: Perkins was speeding for second.]



  WEATHERBY’S INNING

  A Story of College
  Life and Baseball

  BY
  RALPH HENRY BARBOUR

  AUTHOR OF BEHIND THE LINE,
  THE HALF-BACK, ETC.


  _Illustrated by C. M. Relyea_


  [Illustration]


  New York
  D. Appleton and Company
  1903



  COPYRIGHT, 1903
  BY D. APPLETON AND COMPANY


_Published September, 1903_



  TO
  ALFRED LOUIS BAURY
  AGED ELEVEN

  YOUNGEST AND MOST LENIENT
  OF CRITICS



CONTENTS


 CHAPTER                                   PAGE
     I.--COWARD!                              1
    II.--AN INTERRUPTION                     11
   III.--MR. TIDBALL INTRODUCES HIMSELF      19
    IV.--CATCHER AND PITCHER                 30
     V.--AN ENCOUNTER IN THE YARD            39
    VI.--IN DISGRACE                         47
   VII.--AT THE BATTING NETS                 57
  VIII.--THE LAST STRAW                      68
    IX.--ANTHONY STUDIES A TIME-TABLE        80
     X.--FLIGHT                              94
    XI.--ANTHONY MAKES A STATEMENT          106
   XII.--A FLY TO LEFT-FIELDER              120
  XIII.--JOE IS PESSIMISTIC                 127
   XIV.--THE MASS-MEETING                   139
    XV.--ANTHONY ON BASEBALL                148
   XVI.--JACK COURTS THE MUSE               156
  XVII.--ERSKINE _vs._ HARVARD              167
 XVIII.--JACK AT SECOND                     176
   XIX.--ANTHONY TELLS A SECRET             184
    XX.--STOLEN PROPERTY                    194
   XXI.--OFF TO COLLEGETOWN                 203
  XXII.--AT THE END OF THE SIXTH            213
 XXIII.--A TRIPLE PLAY                      223
  XXIV.--WEATHERBY’S INNING                 239



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                               FACING
                                                                 PAGE

  Perkins was speeding for second.               _Frontispiece_
  He leaned back, clinging to the planks behind him.                7
  Anthony waved the coffee-pot hospitably.                         47
  “What’s wrong, Weatherby?”                                       99
  Weatherby sprang straight upward, two feet above the turf.      238
  With a gasp for breath he leaped forward.                       246



WEATHERBY’S INNING



CHAPTER I

COWARD!


    UNIVERSITY BASEBALL.--All men who wish to try for the team
    report in the cage on Monday, February 25th, at 3.30 sharp.

    JOS. L. PERKINS, _Capt._

Jack Weatherby, on his way out of the gymnasium, paused before the
bulletin-board in the little drafty hall and read the call.

“That’s next Monday,” he muttered. “All right, I’ll be there.”

Then, putting a shoulder against the big oak door, he pushed his way
out on to the granite steps and stood there a moment in scowling
contemplation of the cheerless scene. Before him the board-walk was
almost afloat in a shallow rivulet of melted snow that filled the
gravel-path from side to side. A few steps away the path ended at the
Washington Street gate in a veritable lake. The crossing was inches
deep in water and the Common was a dismal waste of pools and streams
out of which the soldiers’ monument reared itself as though agonizedly
searching for a dry spot to which to move. There was an incessant and
monotonous dripping and trickling and gurgling as the snow, which
two days before had covered the ground to a depth of over a foot,
disappeared as by magic under the breath of an unseasonable south wind.
The sky was leaden and lowering, and against it the bare branches of
the numberless elm-trees swayed complainingly. The Common and so much
of the college grounds as was in sight were deserted. Altogether it was
a dispiriting prospect that met Jack’s eyes, and one little likely to
aid him in the task of fighting the “blues,” which had oppressed him
all day.

He went listlessly down the steps, heroically striving to whistle a
tune. But the tune had died out ere the sidewalk was reached. He looked
with misgiving from the crossing to his shoes--shoes which even when
new had been scarcely adapted to wet weather--and after a moment of
hesitation gave up the idea of taking the usual short cut across the
Common, and went on down Washington Street. As he began to pick his
way gingerly across the wet pavement at the corner of Elm Street, two
men ran down the steps of a boarding-house. They were talking in high,
excited tones, and Jack could hear them until they had gone some
distance toward the railroad.

“The water’s away up to the road, they say,” one of them declared
loudly, “and it’s still rising. They’re afraid the bridge’ll go.
There’s a lot of ice coming down.”

“Should think it might go,” said the other. “The old thing looks as
though you could push it over if you tried.”

“Yes, don’t it? Let’s get a move on. We had a flood once up home
that----”

Then a heavy gust of wind, sweeping around the corner of the
tumble-down livery-stable, drowned the conversation. Jack paused
and silently weighed the respective attractions of a dark and not
overcomfortable room in the green-shuttered house a few steps away,
and a swollen river which might, if there was any such thing as good
luck--which he had begun to doubt--sweep away the tottering old wooden
bridge. Well, his feet were already wet, and so-- He retraced his steps
to the corner and went on down Washington Street in the wake of the
others. They were a block or so ahead, splashing their thick boots
through all kinds of puddles. They were evidently the best of friends,
for one kept his hand on the other’s shoulder. Once the prankish wind
bore a scrap of merry laughter up the street, and Jack, plodding along
behind, wary of puddles, as befits a fellow who is wearing his only
pair of winter shoes, heard it and felt gloomier and more forlorn than
ever.

He wondered what it was like to have real friends and a chum; to be
well known and liked. He had come to Erskine College in September fully
expecting such things to fall to his share. But he had been there five
months now and during that time his life had been very lonely. At
first he had tried to make friends in a diffident way. Perhaps he had
tried with the wrong men; perhaps his manner had been against him; the
result had been discouraging, and after a while, smarting under what to
his oversensitive feelings seemed rebuffs, he had ceased looking for
friends and had retired into a shell of pessimism and injured pride,
masking his loneliness under simulated indifference. Since then he had
undoubtedly lost many a chance to find the companionship he craved; but
he had learned his lesson, he told himself bitterly, and so he rejected
advances as though they were the deadliest of insults.

He didn’t look the least bit like a misanthrope. He was seventeen years
old, large for his age, lithe, muscular and healthy-looking, as is
proper in a boy who has never been pampered, with a face which even at
the present moment, in spite of the expression of settled bitterness
that marred it, was eminently attractive. His eyes were well apart and
gray in color; his hair was light brown, and his mouth, which of late
had formed the unfortunate habit of wearing a little supercilious sneer
in public, looked generous and honest, and, with the firmly rounded
chin beneath, suggested force and capability. On the whole he was a
clean-cut, manly-looking boy to whom fortune, you would have said, owed
much.

When Jack Weatherby reached the river he found that the report of
its depredations was not exaggerated. To be sure, River Street was
still above water, but the flood was well over the bank in places,
and farther along, in front of the coal-yards, several of the wharves
were awash. The broad stream, usually a quiet, even sluggish body, was
sending up a new sound, a low, threatening roar which, without his
having realized it, had reached Jack’s ears long before he had sighted
the river.

He wormed his way through the crowd of townfolk that lined the
street, and, passing through an empty coal-pocket, found himself on a
spray-drenched string-piece a foot above the water. To his right and
left piers ran some distance into the river. They were untenanted. But
beyond them the open spaces used by the coal company as storage ground
for wagons were black with watchers. A short way off was the bridge,
a low, wooden structure connecting Centerport with the little village
of Kirkplain across the river. Jack was on the up-stream side of the
bridge and could see the havoc that the drifting ice was making with
the worn spiling and hear the crashing and grinding as cake after cake
was hurled and jammed against it. Several of the supports were already
broken, and the entrance to the bridge was barred with a rope and
guarded by a member of Centerport’s small police force.

Jack drew back as far as he could from the edge of the beam and with
his shoulders against the boards of the big bin watched in strange
fascination the black, angry water rushing past. It frightened and
repelled him, and yet he found it difficult to remove his gaze. For as
long as he could remember he had been afraid of water. Once, when he
was only five years old, he had fallen into the brook that crossed his
father’s farm and had almost drowned before his mother, hastening after
the runaway, had dragged him out. His recollection of the escapade was
very hazy, but it had left him with a dread of water that was almost a
mania. All efforts to combat it had proved futile. He had never learned
to swim, and had never in all his life trusted himself in a boat. And
yet, as a boy, he had devoured ravenously all the stories of the sea he
could lay hands on, and had shuddered over shipwrecks and similar
disasters, at once repelled and fascinated.

Suddenly his contemplation of the river was disturbed by shouts of
alarm from up-stream. With an effort he withdrew his gaze from the
water and looked in the direction of the cries. At that instant, around
the corner of the pier to his right, floated something that thrashed
the water wildly and sent up shrill appeals for help. After the first
second of bewilderment Jack saw that it was a boy of thirteen or
fourteen years. The white face, horribly drawn with terror, turned
toward him, and, for an instant, the frightened, staring eyes looked
into his. Jack sickened and groped blindly for support. A trick of the
current shot the struggling body into the little harbor afforded by the
two piers, almost at his feet. In his ears was a meaningless babel of
shouts and in his heart an awful fear. He leaned back with outstretched
hands clinging to the planks behind him and closed his eyes to avoid
the sight of the appealing face below. Then, with a gasp, he sank to
his knees, seized the string-piece with one hand, and with the other
reached downward. But he was too late. The current, sweeping out again,
had already borne the boy beyond reach. There was a final despairing
shriek, then the arms ceased to struggle and the eddies closed over
the body. Jack joined his voice impotently with the others and looked
wildly about for a plank or a rope--anything that he could throw into
the water. But there was nothing. Sick and dizzy he subsided against
the timbers.

[Illustration: He leaned back, clinging to the planks behind him.]

Then, just at the corner of the down-stream wharf, the body came to the
surface again, the eyes sightless, the lips silent. And, almost too
late, came help.

Jack, leaning near the opening in the coal-bin, felt rather than saw
some one push by him. The rescuer, a man several years Jack’s senior,
had discarded his coat and vest, and now, stooping and placing a hand
lightly on the string-piece, he dropped into the water. A half dozen
strokes took him to the end of the pier, and just as the drowning boy
was again sinking he caught him. Turning, he struck out toward Jack,
swimming desperately against the swirling current. For a minute it
was difficult work; then he reached stiller water, and Jack, leaning
over the edge, stretched forth eager hands to help. But ere he could
do so he was pushed aside, narrowly saving himself from pitching head
foremost into the water, and a middle-aged man, whom Jack a moment
later saw to be Professor White, relieved the rescuer of his burden.

By that time the narrow foothold along the edge of the river was
thronged with students and townfolk. Quickly the apparently lifeless
body was borne past them through the yard and into a small office.
Jack, trembling in every limb, followed. But near the door he suddenly
became aware of a hostile atmosphere. The crowd, which had grown every
minute, were observing him curiously, contemptuously, muttering and
whispering. The blood rushed into his face and then receded, leaving it
deathly pale. For a moment he faced them. Then a small boy somewhere on
the edge of the throng sent up a shrill cry:

“That’s him! That’s the feller that didn’t make no try ter save him!
’Fraid of wettin’ his feet, he was!”

Jack looked about him and read in the faces that confronted him only
merciless condemnation. Something in his throat hurt him and refused
to be dislodged. With head up he turned and made his way through the
crowd, the old sneer on his lips. But there was worse in store. He felt
a hand on his shoulder and turned to find Professor White beside him.

“What’s your name?” asked the professor sternly.

“Weatherby, sir,” muttered Jack.

“Are you a student?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What class?”

“Six.”

The professor looked at him searchingly, then dropped the hand from his
shoulder.

“I find that hard to believe,” he said contemptuously. “I didn’t think
we had any cowards here at Erskine!”

He turned away, and Jack, after a moment of hesitation, a moment in
which his first inclination to protest against the injustice of the
verdict was drowned in a sudden dumbing surge of anger, made his way
out of the throng and stumbled back to his room through the gathering
twilight.

[Illustration: PLAN OF ERSKINE COLLEGE AND THE TOWN OF CENTERPORT 1901]



CHAPTER II

AN INTERRUPTION


Erskine College, at Centerport, is not large. Like many another New
England college its importance lies rather in its works than in wealth
or magnificence. Its enrolment in all departments at the time of which
I write was about 600. I am not going to describe the college, it would
take too long; and besides, it has been done very frequently and very
well, and if the reader, after studying the accompanying plan, which
is reproduced with the kind permission of the authorities, feels the
need of further description, I would respectfully refer him to Balcom’s
Handbook of Erskine (photographically illustrated) and May’s History of
Erskine College. And if in connection with these he examines the annual
catalogue he will know about all there is to be known of the subject.

Leaving Washington Street and going west on Elm Street, he will find,
facing the apex of the Common, a small white frame cottage profusely
adorned with blinds of a most vivid green. That is Mrs. Dorlon’s. It
is by far the tiniest of the many boarding- and lodging-houses that
line the outer curve of Elm Street, and, as might be supposed, its
rooms are few and not commodious. Mrs. Dorlon, a small, middle-aged
widow, with a perpetual cold in the head, reserves the lower floor for
her own use and rents the two up-stairs rooms to students. Between
these second-floor apartments there is little to choose. The western
one gets the afternoon sunlight, while the one on the other side of
the hall gets none. To make up for this, however, the eastern room is,
or was, at the time of my story, the proud possessor of a register,
supposed, somewhat erroneously, to conduct warm air into the apartment;
while the western room, to use the language of Mrs. Dorlon, was “het by
gas.”

Aside from these differences, apparent rather than real, the two
chambers were similar. In each there was a strip of narrow territory
in which it was possible to stand upright, flanked on either side
by abruptly sloping ceilings whose flaking expanses were broken by
dormer-windows, admitting a little light and a deal of cold. It was the
eastern room that Jack Weatherby at present called home, a feat which
implied the possession of a great deal of imagination on his part. For
when, having escaped the hostile throng by the river and made his way
up Washington into Elm Street, and so to the house with the painfully
green blinds, the room in which he found himself didn’t look the least
bit in the world like home.

The iron cot-bed, despite its vivid imitation Bagdad covering, failed
to deceive the beholder into mistaking it for a Turkish divan. The
faded and threadbare ingrain carpet, much too small to cover the
floor, was of a chilly, inhospitable shade of blue. The occupant
had made little attempt at decoration, partly because the amount of
wall space adapted to pictures was extremely limited, partly because
from the first the cheerless ugliness of the room discouraged him.
The green-topped study table near the end window was a sorry piece
of furniture. Former users had carved cabalistic designs into the
walnut rim and adorned the imitation leather covering with even
more mysterious figures; there were evidences, too, of overturned
ink-bottles. A yellow-grained wardrobe beside the door leaned wearily
against the supporting angle of the ceiling.

The brightest note in the room was a patent rocker upholstered in vivid
green and yellow Brussels carpet. If we except a walnut book-shelf
hanging beside the end window and a wash-stand jammed under one dormer,
the enumeration of the furnishings is complete. Even on days when the
sun shone against the white gable of the next house, the apartment
could scarcely be called cheerful, and this afternoon with the evening
shadows closing down and the wind whipping the branches of the elms
outside and buffeting the house until it creaked complainingly, the
room was forlorn to a degree.

After slamming the door behind him Jack tossed aside his cap, and
subsiding into the rocker stretched his legs and stared miserably
through the window into a swaying world of gray branches and darkening
sky. The overmastering anger that had sent him striding home as
though pursued dwindled away and left in its place a loneliness and
discouragement that hurt like a physical pain. Things had been bad
before, he thought, but now, branded in public a coward and despised
by his fellows, life would be unbearable! He pictured the glances
of contempt that would meet him on the morrow in hall and yard, or
wherever he went, and groaned. He recalled the professor’s biting
words: “I didn’t think we had any cowards here at Erskine!” and
clenched his hands in sudden overmastering rage. The injustice of it
maddened him. Would Professor White, he asked himself, have gone into
the river after the drowning boy if, like himself, he were unable to
swim a stroke and sickened at the mere thought of contact with the icy
flood?

Presently his thoughts reverted to the morrow and the punishment
he must undergo. His courage faltered, and the alternative, that of
packing his few things there and then and leaving college by an early
train in the morning, seemed the only course possible. Well, he would
do it. It would mean disappointment to his parents and a loss of money
they could ill afford. To him it would mean five months of study
wasted. But better that than staying on there despised and ridiculed,
to be pointed out behind his back as The Coward.

With a gasp he leaped to his feet, his cheeks tingling and his eyes
moist with sudden tears. The room was in darkness. He fumbled over
the desk until he found the match-box. When the gas was lighted he
remembered the condition of his feet, and drawing a chair before the
register he removed his wet shoes and placed them against the warm
grating that they might dry overnight. His battered silver watch showed
the time to be a few minutes before six. He found dry socks, and
drawing them over his chilled feet donned a pair of carpet slippers.
Then he washed for supper, bathing his flushed face over and over,
and got back into his coat just as a weak-voiced bell below summoned
the small household to the evening meal. As he went out he noted with
surprise that the door of the opposite room was ajar, allowing a streak
of light to illumine the upper hall with unaccustomed radiance. The
room had been vacant all the year, but now, evidently, Mrs. Dorlon had
found a tenant. But the fact interested him little, for his mind was
firmly made up, and on the morrow his own room would be for rent.

When he entered the tiny dining-room Mrs. Dorlon and her daughter, a
shy wisp of a girl some twelve or thirteen years of age, were already
seated at the table. Jack muttered greetings and applied himself
silently to the cold meat and graham bread which, with crab-apple jelly
and weak tea, comprised the meal. But his hostess was plainly elated,
and after a few pregnant snuffles the secret was out. The western
chamber was rented!

“And such a nice, pleasant-mannered young man he is,” she declared. “A
Mr. Tidball, a junior. Perhaps you have met him?”

Jack shook his head.

“Well, I’m sure you’ll like him, and it’ll be real pleasant for you to
have another student in the house. I know what it is to be alone”--she
sniffed sadly--“since Mr. Dorlon died, and I guess you feel downright
lonely sometimes up there. If you like I’ll introduce Mr. Tidball after
supper?”

The widow appeared to find a mild excitement at the thought, and her
face fell when Jack begged off. “Not this evening, please,” he said.
“I’m going to be very busy, Mrs. Dorlon.”

“Oh, very well. I only thought--” What she thought he never knew, for
excusing himself he pushed back his chair and returned to his room. As
he closed his door he heard the new lodger whistling cheerfully and
tunelessly across the hallway.

He dragged a steamer trunk from under the bed, threw back the lid and
unceremoniously hustled the contents on to the floor. Then he took
a valise from the wardrobe and proceeded to pack into it what few
belongings would serve him until he could send for his trunk. The
latter he couldn’t take with him. In the first place, there was no way
of getting it to the depot in time for the early train; in the second
place, as he was not now able to pay Mrs. Dorlon the present month’s
rent, he felt that he ought to leave something behind him as security.
The prospect of going home raised his spirits, and he felt happier
than he had for many months. He even hummed an air as he tramped
busily between the wardrobe and the trunk, and the result was that
the first knock on the door passed unheeded. After a moment the knock
was repeated, and this time Jack heard it and paused in the act of
spreading his Sunday trousers in the till and looked the consternation
he felt. Who was it, he wondered. Perhaps Mrs. Dorlon come to hint
about the rent; perhaps--but whoever it might be, Jack didn’t want
his preparations seen. He softly closed the trunk lid and wished that
he had locked the door. He waited silently. Perhaps the caller would
go away. Then, as he began to think with relief that this had already
happened, the knob turned, the door swung open, and a lean, spectacled
face peered through the opening.

“I thought maybe you didn’t hear me knock,” said a queer, drawling
voice. “I’ve taken the room across the way, and as we’re going to be
neighbors I thought I’d just step over and get acquainted.”

The caller came in and closed the door behind him, casting an
interested look about the shabby apartment. Jack, after an instant of
surprise and dismay, muttered a few words of embarrassed greeting. As
he did so he recognized in the odd, lanky figure at the door the hero
of the accident at the river.



CHAPTER III

MR. TIDBALL INTRODUCES HIMSELF


The caller looked to be about twenty-one or two years of age. He was
tall, thin, and angular, and carried himself awkwardly. His shoulders
had the stoop that tells of much poring over books. His hands and
feet were large, the former knotted and ungainly. His face was lean,
the cheeks somewhat sunken; the nose was large and well-shapen and
the mouth, altogether too broad, looked good-natured and humorous. He
wore steel-rimmed spectacles, behind which twinkled a pair of small,
pale-blue eyes, kindly and shrewd. His clothes seemed at first sight to
belong to some one very much larger; the trousers hung in baggy folds
about his legs and his coat went down behind his neck exposing at least
an inch of checkered gingham shirt.

And yet, despite the incongruity of his appearance, he impressed Jack
as being a person of importance, a man who knew things and who was
capable of turning his knowledge to good account. Tidball? Where
had he heard the name of Tidball? As he thought of it now, the name
seemed strangely familiar. Recollecting his duties as host, Jack pushed
forward the patent rocker.

“Won’t you sit down?” he asked.

The visitor sank into the chair, bringing one big foot, loosely encased
in a frayed leather slipper, on to one knee, and clasping it with both
knotted hands quite as though he feared it might walk off when he
wasn’t looking.

“Queer sort of weather we’re having,” he drawled. He talked through
his nose with a twang that proclaimed him a native of the coast. Jack
concurred, sitting uncomfortably on the edge of the cot and wondering
whether Tidball recognized him.

“Mrs. Thingamabob down-stairs said you were from Maine. Maine’s my
State. I come from Jonesboro; ever hear of Jonesboro?”

“No, I don’t believe so.” The visitor chuckled.

“Never met any one who had. Guess I’m about the only resident of that
metropolis who ever strayed out of it. There’s one fellow in our town,
though, who went down to Portland once about forty years back. He’s
looked on as quite a traveler in Jonesboro.”

Jack smiled. “My folks live near Auburn,” he said.

“Nice place, Auburn. By the way, my name’s Tidball--Anthony Z. Z stands
for Zeno; guess I’m a sort of a Stoic myself.” The remark was lost on
Jack, whose acquaintance with the Greek philosophers was still limited.

“My name’s Weatherby,” he returned. “My first name’s Jack; I haven’t
any middle name.”

“You’re lucky,” answered the other. “They might have called you
Xenophanes, you see.” Jack didn’t see, but he smiled doubtfully, and
the visitor went on. “Well, now we know each other. We’re the only
fellows in the hut and we might as well get together, eh? Guess I saw
you this afternoon down at the river, didn’t I?”

Jack flushed and nodded.

“Thought so.” There was a moment’s silence, during which the visitor’s
shrewd eyes studied Jack openly and calmly and during which all the old
misery, forgotten for the moment, came back to the boy. Then--

“Guess you can’t swim, eh?” asked the other.

“No, not a stroke,” muttered Jack.

“Thought so,” reiterated Tidball. There was another silence. Then Jack
said, with an uneasy laugh:

“There’s no doubt but that you can, though.”

“Me? Yes, I can swim like a shark. Down in Jonesboro we learn when
we’re a year old. Comes natural to us coasters.”

“It was lucky you were there this afternoon,” said Jack.

“Oh, some one else would have gone in, I guess!”

“He--he didn’t--he wasn’t drowned, was he?”

“The kid? No, but plaguy near it. He’s all right now, I guess. Teach
him a lesson.”

“Did the bridge go?” asked Jack after a moment, merely to break another
silence.

“No, water was going down when I left. Guess I’m in the way, though,
ain’t I?”

“In the way?”

“Yes; weren’t you doing something when I came in? Packing a trunk or
something?”

“Oh, it--it doesn’t matter; there’s no hurry.”

“Going home over Sunday?”

“Y--yes.”

“You’re lucky; wish I was. But don’t let me interrupt; go ahead and
I’ll just sit here out of the way, if you don’t mind my staying.”

“Not at all; I--I’m glad to have you.” And the odd thing about it, as
Jack realized the next moment, was that he meant what he said. The
visitor drew a little brier pipe from one pocket and a pouch from
another.

“Smoke?” he asked.

“No,” answered Jack.

“Mind if I do?”

“Not a bit.” Tidball stuffed the bowl with tobacco and was soon sending
long clouds of rankly smelling smoke into the air.

“Don’t begin,” he advised. “It’s a mean habit; wastes time and money
and doesn’t do you any good after all. Wish I didn’t.”

“But couldn’t you break yourself of it?” asked Jack.

Tidball chuckled again and blew a great mouthful of gray smoke toward
the gaslight.

“Don’t want to,” he answered.

“Oh!” said Jack, puzzled.

“Going to take your trunk?” asked the other, waving his pipe toward it.

“No, just a bag. I’ll send for the trunk later.” Then, as he realized
his mistake, the blood rushed into his cheeks. He looked up at Tidball
and found that person eying him quizzically. “I--I mean--that----”

“No harm done,” interrupted the visitor. “Thought when I came in you
meant to cut and run. Why?”

“Because--because I can’t stay,” answered Jack defiantly. “You--you
were there and you saw it. Everybody thinks I’m a coward! Professor
White said--said--” He choked and looked down miserably at his twisting
fingers.

“Well, you aren’t, are you?”

Jack glanced up startledly.

“Why--why--no, I’m not a coward!” he cried.

“Didn’t think you were. You don’t look it.”

Jack experienced a grateful warmth at the heart and looked shyly and
thankfully at the queer, lean face across the room.

“But--but they all think I am,” he muttered.

“I wouldn’t prove them right, then, if I were you.”

“Prove-- What do you mean?”

“Mean I wouldn’t run away; mean I’d stay and fight it out. Any one can
run; takes a brave man to stand and fight.”

“Oh!” Jack stared wonderingly at Tidball. “I hadn’t thought of that.”

“’Tisn’t too late.”

“N--no,” answered Jack doubtfully. “You--think I ought to stay?”

“Yes, I honestly do, Weatherby. You’ve got nothing to be ashamed of;
’twouldn’t have done any good if you’d gone into the river; guess you’d
been drowned--’tother chap, too. White jumped at conclusions and
landed wrong. Can’t much blame him, though. You see, the fellows here
at Erskine come from the country, or the coast, or some small town,
and swimming’s as natural as eating, and I guess it didn’t occur to
them that maybe you couldn’t swim. But when they learn the truth of the
matter----”

“But they won’t know,” said Jack.

“Bound to. I’ll see White myself, and I’ll tell all the chaps I know;
’twon’t take long for the facts to get around.”

“I’d rather you didn’t, if you don’t mind,” said Jack. “It’s awfully
kind of you----”

“Didn’t what?”

“See Professor White.”

“Well--of course, I know you’re feeling kind of sore at him, Weatherby,
and I don’t much blame you; still, there’s no use in allowing the
misunderstanding to continue when a word or two will set things right.”

“I don’t care what he thinks,” said Jack, bitterly.

“All right,” replied Tidball calmly. “How about the others?”

Jack studied his hands in silence for a minute. Then he threw back his
shoulders and got up.

“You’re mighty kind,” he said, “to want to take all this trouble on
my account, and I’m awfully much obliged to you, but--if you don’t
mind--I’d rather you didn’t say anything to anybody.”

Tidball frowned.

“Then you mean to run away?” he asked disappointedly.

“No, I’ll stay and--and fight! Let them think me a coward if they like;
only some day I’ll show them I’m not!”

“That’s the stuff,” said the other approvingly. “I guess you’re making
a mistake by not explaining, but--maybe you’ll change your mind. If you
do, let me know.”

“Thanks,” answered Jack, “but I sha’n’t.” He took up his valise and
holding it upside down emptied the contents on to the cot. “I wish
you’d tell me one thing,” he said.

“All right.”

“Did you--I mean-- Well, did you just happen to come in, or--did you
know I was--The Coward?”

“Well,” drawled the other, smiling gently at a cloud of smoke, “Mrs.
Thingamabob told me yesterday when I engaged that room that she had a
very nice young man, a freshman named Weatherby, living with her. The
name isn’t common, I guess, and so when I heard it again down at the
wharf I remembered. And I just thought I’d come in and see what silly
thing you’d decided to do. Kind of cheeky, I guess, but that’s my way.
Hope you’re not offended?”

“No, I’m awfully glad. If you hadn’t come I’d have gone away, sure as
anything.”

“Glad I came. Hope we’ll be friends. You must come over and see me.
You won’t find things very palatial in my place, but there’s an extra
chair, I think. I don’t go in much for luxuries. I was rooming in a
place on Main Street until to-day; very comfortable place it was, too:
folding-bed, lounge, rocking-chair, and a study desk with real drawers
that locked--at least, some of them did. My roommate was a fellow named
Gooch, from up my way. His father died a week or so ago, and yesterday
I got a letter from him saying he’d have to leave college and buckle
down to work. Couldn’t afford to keep the room alone, so I looked round
and found this. Well, I must be going.”

He pulled his long length out of the chair, and, producing from a
chamois pouch a handsome big gold watch, oddly at variance with his
shabby attire, held it nearsightedly to the dim light.

“Don’t be in a hurry,” begged Jack. And then, “That’s a dandy watch you
have,” he added. “May I see it?”

“Yes,” answered Tidball, holding it forth at the length of its chain,
“it’s the only swell thing I own. It’s a present.”

“Oh!” said Jack. “Well, it’s a beauty. And it’s got a split-second
attachment, too, hasn’t it?”

“Yes, and when you press this thing here it strikes the time; hear it?
Guess it cost a heap of money.”

“It must have. Was it a prize?”

“Something like that. A New York fellow gave it to me summer before
last. He came up to Jonesboro in a steam-yacht about a thousand feet
long. Well, I’ve got a lot of studying to do yet.” He moved toward the
door.

“But why did he give it to you?” asked Jack. “But maybe I’m asking
impertinent questions?”

“Oh, no; there’s no secret about it, only-- Well, you see, this
steam-yacht man had his son with him, a kid of about eleven or twelve,
I guess, and one day the kid fell out of the naphtha-launch. There was
a good sea running, and they couldn’t get the launch about very well. I
happened to be near there in a dory, and so I picked the youngster up.
His daddy seemed a good deal tickled about it, and after he got home he
sent this to me. That’s all. Some people seem to have money to burn.
Well, good night. Glad to have met you. Come over and call as soon as
you can.”

And Anthony Z. Tidball nodded, blew a parting cloud of smoke in Jack’s
direction, and went out, closing the door softly behind him.



CHAPTER IV

CATCHER AND PITCHER


“Well, it wasn’t such a bad showing, was it?”

Joe Perkins tossed his purple cap adorned with a white E on to the
table and threw himself among the cushions of the window-seat in the
manner of one who has earned his rest. He was a jovial-looking fellow
of medium height, rather inclined toward stoutness. His hair was
undeniably red, and despite that his features were good, none would
have called him handsome. But his blue eyes were alert and his mouth
firm. He had the quick temper popularly believed to accompany red hair,
but it was well under control, and Joe’s usual appearance was one of
extreme good nature. He was popular, perhaps the most popular fellow
in college, and he knew it, and was not spoiled by the knowledge. His
friends believed in him and he believed in himself. Perhaps it was
the latter fact that made him such a wonderful leader. Ever since his
freshman year he had been among the foremost in all college affairs.
Last spring, after the disastrous 7--0 baseball game with Robinson,
the selection of Joe, whose catching had been a feature of the contest,
as captain, was unanimous and enthusiastic, and the supporters of the
Purple, mourning overwhelming defeat, felt their sorrow lightened by
the knowledge that Joe Perkins, in accepting the office, had pledged
himself to retrieve Erskine’s lost prestige on the diamond. The whole
college firmly believed that what Joe Perkins promised he would perform.

Joe’s companion was Tracy Gilberth. Like Joe, he was a senior
and a member of the nine. Unlike Joe, he did not impress one as
being particularly good-natured; nor did he resemble that youth in
appearance. He had straight dark hair and black eyes. His cheeks were
ruddy and his mouth straight and thin. He was of middle height and
weight, and pitched the best ball of any man in college. In age he
was a year Joe’s senior, being twenty-three. He had none of the other
man’s popularity, although he was not disliked. Acquaintances suspected
him of arrogance; in talking he had a tone that sounded patronizing
to those not used to it. His parents were immensely wealthy; rumor
credited his father with being a millionaire several times over. At all
events, Tracy had the most luxuriously furnished rooms at Erskine, and
spent more money than the rest of his class put together.

At the present moment he was sitting in Joe’s Morris chair with his
hands in his pockets and his golf-stockinged legs sprawled before him.
He replied to Joe’s question with a negligent nod that might have
meant either assent or denial. Joe took it to express the former, and
continued:

“A heap better than last year, anyhow. Thirty candidates at this time
of year means sixty when we get outdoors.”

“Yes, but it isn’t quantity that counts, Joe,” said Tracy. “Look at the
sort of greenies you had to-day. I’ll bet there isn’t a decent player
among them, outside of the few last-year men that were there. If I were
captain I’d rather have fifteen good players than fifty would-bes.”

“You’re an awful croaker, Tracy. For goodness’ sake, let me be
happy while I can. To-morrow I shall be quite ready to believe that
to-day’s bunch is merely a lot of hopeless idiots; but this evening I
am an optimist; I see phenomenal pitchers, star catchers, wonderful
first-basemen, in short, an aggregation of brilliant players destined
to wipe Robinson off the face of the earth. Leave me to my dreams, old
man.”

“All right; only when you wake up you’ll find you’ve fallen out of
bed,” answered Tracy. “Have you heard from Hanson?”

“Yes, he’s coming up Wednesday to look around.”

“I hope he’ll like what he sees,” said Tracy, grimly. “I suppose
you saw that fellow Weatherby there to-day? That chap must have the
sensibilities of a goat. Think of his having the cheek to show up in
the cage as a baseball candidate after what happened Friday! Why, if I
were he I wouldn’t have the courage to show my face outside of my room.
Not a fellow spoke to him to-day, but he didn’t seem to mind a bit.”

“I spoke to him,” said Joe.

“Oh, you had to!”

“And I think you’re mistaken about his not caring. He kept a pretty
stiff upper lip, but I have a hunch that he wasn’t happy.”

“Happy! I should say not. If he expects to be happy as long as he stays
at Erskine he’s going to be awfully fooled. The chap ought to be driven
out of college.”

“It’s an unfortunate affair,” answered Joe dispassionately, “and I
don’t pretend to understand it. But I must confess that I’m a bit sorry
for the chap. It may just be that there was some reason for his not
going in after that boy. Maybe he got rattled; you can’t tell.”

“Oh, poppycock! Maybe he was blind or asleep! Why didn’t he spunk up,
then, and say something? He just walked off with his head in the air,
as proud as you please, without a word. The plain fact of the matter is
that he’s a coward clean through.”

“Well--but if he is, why did he report to-day? Seems to me that took
something a good deal like courage. He knows plaguy well what the
college thinks of him. Great Scott, if I had been in his boots I’d no
more have thought of coming there among all those fellows----!”

“That’s what I say. He’s got just about the same sensibilities as a
billy-goat. I dare say he’s rather proud of himself. But don’t you
worry, Joe, you won’t be troubled with him long; we’ll soon show him
that the baseball team doesn’t want cowards. You leave him to us, old
man.”

“No, you don’t, Tracy; you leave him to me. I’m bossing this outfit,
and I’m quite capable of getting rid of any one I don’t want. The
fellow says he can play ball, and it’s fellows who can play ball that
I’m after, and not life-saving heroes.”

Tracy stared across at his friend in disgust.

“Well, I can tell you one thing, Joe, and that is that you’ll find that
there will be lots of fellows who simply won’t go on to the team if you
keep Weatherby; and one of ’em’s me!”

“Nonsense,” answered the other, quite undisturbed. “Your precious
morals aren’t going to be hurt by playing on the same acre of green
grass as Weatherby. Nor by sitting at the same table with him, for that
matter. At any rate, don’t get excited yet; it’s a fair guess that
Weatherby doesn’t know enough about the game to make the team. But
as long as he’s trying for it I won’t have him bullied.” Joe sat up
suddenly and punched a purple and white cushion viciously. “I tell you
candidly, old man, I’m going to turn out a winning team this spring,
and just as long as a fellow plays good ball and does as he’s told, I
don’t give a continental if he’s ostracized by the whole State! I gave
my solemn word to Tom Higgins last year, after the game, that I’d win
from Robinson, and I’m going to keep that promise!”

“I’ll never forget old Tom that day. The poor duffer was crying like a
baby all the way back to the yard. ‘You’ll be captain, Joe,’ he said,
‘and you’ve got to promise to wipe this out. You’ve got to give me
your word of honor, Joe.’ ‘I’ll do everything that I can, Tom,’ said
I. And we shook hands on it. ‘If you don’t beat them next year, Joe,’
he blubbered, ‘I’ll come back here and I’ll lick you until you can’t
stand. I swear I will!’ And he would, too,” laughed Joe.

“That’s all well enough,” answered Tracy, “but you don’t want to go too
far, Joe; the fellows won’t stand everything even from you.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, there’s lots of ’em now who think you’ve made a mistake in
choosing Hanson for coach; you know that. They say that Hanson lost
everything when he was captain three years ago, and that year before
last, when he coached, we lost again. They think you should have got a
coach who had something to show. And now if you insist on putting it on
to the fellows with this coward, Weatherby, you’ll have to look out for
squalls.”

“Good stuff!” Joe’s blue eyes sparkled, and his mouth set itself
straightly. “I’m open to all the squalls that come my way. I like
squalls. And when they’ve blown over the other chaps may be surprised
to find that they’re a considerable distance from the scene of
operations. Oh, no, my boy, you can’t scare me by talking that way! I
know what the fellows said--some of them, that is--about my selecting
Hanson, and I don’t give a continental. Hanson is all right. When
he was captain here he had the poorest lot of players that any man
ever had to contend with; anybody who was in college will tell you
that. They couldn’t field and they couldn’t bat; the only thing they
could do was kick; they kicked about the schedule, and they kicked
about the amount of work they had to do, and they kicked about the
training-table. Nobody on earth could have won with that team. As for
year before last, Hanson coached and we didn’t win, I know. We didn’t
win last year, for that matter, but nobody lays the blame on the coach.
Hanson is all right. He knows the game all through; he’s a gentleman,
and he gives every minute of his time to the team. The best judge of
whether what I say is true is ‘Baldy’ Simson. You go and ask ‘Baldy,’
and if he doesn’t tell you the same thing I’ll eat my hat. And when you
hear a trainer say that a coach is all right, there’s something in it.”

“Oh, well, I don’t know much about it myself! I’m only saying what the
fellows in general think, Joe.”

“I know; there’s no harm done. Only, if there are any squalls, Tracy,
you take your friends and get into a cellar somewhere until they’ve
blown over,” said Joe suggestively.

“Oh, I’m not scared!” Tracy replied, laughing uneasily. “I’ll stand by
you.”

“All right,” answered Joe gravely. “That’ll be safest.”

There came a knock at the door, and Joe shouted, “Come in!” When
he saw who his caller was he arose from the window-seat and stepped
forward.

“How are you, Weatherby? Want to see me?”

“Yes, if you have a minute to spare.” Jack looked calmly at the
occupant of the Morris chair, and Joe understood.

“Certainly,” he answered. “Sit down.” Then, “I don’t like to put you
out, old man,” he said, turning to Tracy, who had so far made no move
toward withdrawing, “but I guess I’ll have to ask you to excuse me a
moment.”

“That’s all right,” replied Tracy, lazily pulling himself out of his
seat and staring insolently at the newcomer. “I’m a bit particular,
anyway.” He lounged to the door, carefully avoiding contact with Jack.
“See you in the morning,” he added. “So long.”

When the door had closed, Joe glanced at the caller, instinctively
framing an apology for the insult. But Jack’s countenance gave no
indication that he had even heard it. Joe marveled and pointed to a
chair.

“Sit down, won’t you?” he asked politely.

The other shook his head.

“No, thanks. What I’ve got to say will take but a minute,” he answered
calmly.



CHAPTER V

AN ENCOUNTER IN THE YARD


“Oh,” said Joe, vaguely, “all right.” He wondered, rather uncomfortably,
what was coming.

“It’s just this,” Jack continued. “I tried to get a word with you in
the cage, but there was always some one around. I wanted to know if--if
after what happened the other day at the river, you have any objection
to my trying for the nine. You see,” he went on, hurriedly, “I know
what the fellows call me, and I thought maybe you’d rather I didn’t
come out. You just tell me, you know, and it’ll be all right. I won’t
show up again.”

“I see,” said Joe. “No, I haven’t the least objection; in fact, I’m
glad to have you. I don’t pretend to judge that--affair at the river,
Weatherby; it’s none of my business. And the fact is, I want every man
that can play baseball to report for practise. That’s plain, isn’t it?”

“Yes. I’ll keep on then for the present.”

“Of course, Weatherby, I can’t guarantee that you’ll be made welcome
by the other candidates; you can understand that. They may act
unpleasantly, or say ugly things. I’m not able to restrain them. You’ll
have to risk that, you know.”

“I understand,” answered Jack calmly. “They’ve already called me a
coward. I don’t believe they can say anything worse.”

“No, I guess not.” Joe looked curiously at the other. Then, “I say,
Weatherby,” he exclaimed, impulsively, “what was the trouble, anyway,
the other day? I’ve only heard one side of it, and I fancy there’s
another, eh?”

“I’d rather not talk about it, if you please,” answered Jack coldly.

“Oh, all right! I beg pardon.” Joe felt somewhat huffed. His sympathy
for the other was for the moment snuffed out. Jack moved toward the
door.

“By the way,” said Joe, in business-like tones, “I think you told me
you’d played ball some. Where was it?”

“At home, on the high-school team. I played three years.”

“What position?”

“I pitched the last year. Before that I played in the outfield,
generally at right.”

“I see.” Joe’s hopes of the other’s usefulness dwindled. He had seen
a good many cases of ambitious freshmen whose belief in themselves
as pitchers was not justified by subsequent events. Every year there
reported for practise a dozen or so of hopeful youngsters, who firmly
believed themselves capable of filling all such important positions
as pitcher and catcher, merely on the strength of having played such
positions with more or less success on some fourth- or fifth-rate team.
Joe mentally assigned Jack to this class of deluded ones.

“Well,” he said, “of course you may count on having a fair trying-out,
but I wouldn’t hope for too much. You see, a fellow has to be something
of an expert to get in the box here; it’s different from playing on
a high-school team. Besides, we’re rather well fixed for pitchers:
there’s Gilberth and King and Knox, all of whom are first-class men.
Of course, we want new material wherever we can find it, and if you
prove that you can pitch good ball we’ll give you all the chance
you want. But if I were you I’d try for something else this spring,
for some position in the field. We’re long on pitchers and short on
out-fielders. Of course, you could keep your hand in at twirling;
there’d be plenty of opportunity for that at practise.”

“I’ll take whatever I can get,” answered Jack. “I don’t lay any claim
to being a wonder at pitching. I was the best we had in Auburn, but, of
course, that doesn’t mean very much.”

“Auburn, Maine? Do you live there?”

“Two miles outside of town.”

“Is that so? Maybe you know a cousin of mine there, Billy Cromwell? His
father has a big tannery. He graduated from here three years ago this
coming spring.”

“I know him quite well,” replied Jack, smiling for the first time since
he had entered the study. “It was Billy who persuaded me to come here.
He used to tell me about Erskine a good deal. Of course, he’s seven or
eight years older than I am, but he was always very nice to me.”

“Think of that!” said Joe. “The idea of you being a friend of Billy’s!
He’s fine chap, is Billy. What’s he doing now?”

“Why, he’s assistant superintendent. Every one likes him very much, and
he’s awfully smart, I guess. Well, I’ll report again to-morrow. I’m
glad I saw you, and--thank you.”

“Of course you’ll report. And if I can help you at any time, just let
me know.” He opened the door and Jack passed out. “See you to-morrow,
Weatherby.”

“Yes. Good afternoon.”

When Jack reached the head of the stairs he heard Joe’s voice again and
paused.

“I say, Weatherby,” the baseball captain was calling, “come around and
see me sometimes. I want to hear more about Billy.”

“Thank you,” was the non-committal reply.

Joe closed the door, took up a Greek book, and went back to the
window-seat. When he had found his place he looked at it frowningly a
moment. “‘Thank you,’ says he,” he muttered. “As much as to say, ‘I’m
hanged if I do!’ That youngster is a puzzle; worse than this chump,
Pausanias!”

The warm spell of Thursday and Friday had been succeeded by a drop
in temperature that had converted the pools into sheets of ice. The
board-walks and the paths still made treacherous going, and when, after
leaving Sessons Hall, in which Joe Perkins roomed, Jack had several
times narrowly avoided breaking his neck, he left the paths and struck
off across the glistening snow toward the lower end of the yard. It was
almost dusk, and a cold, nipping wind from the north made him turn up
the collar of his jacket and walk briskly. There were but few fellows
in sight, and he was glad of it. To be sure, by this time he should
have been inured to the silently expressed contempt which he met on
every side, to the barely audible whispers that greeted his appearance
at class, to the meaning smiles which he often intercepted as they
passed from one neighbor to another. Yet despite that he was schooling
himself to bear all these things calmly, and with no outward sign of
the sting they inflicted, he was not yet quite master of himself, and
was grateful that the coming darkness and the well-nigh empty yard
promised him present surcease from his trials.

Until he had entered Joe Perkins’s study a quarter of an hour before
he had met with no voicing of the public contempt. He had managed to
accept Tracy Gilberth’s veiled insult with unmoved countenance, yet it
had required the greatest effort of any. He didn’t know who that man
was; he only knew, from observation in the practise-cage, that he was
the foremost candidate for the position of pitcher, and so must be, in
view of Perkins’s remark, either Gilberth or King or Knox. Whoever he
was, Jack vowed, some day he would be made to regret his words. For
although Jack was accepting his fate in silence, he was very human, and
meant, sooner or later, to even all scores.

When he had almost reached College Place and had taken to the
board-walk again, footsteps crunching the frosty planks ahead of him
brought his mind suddenly away from thoughts of revenge. He looked up
and saw that the man who approached and in another moment would pass
him was Professor White. Jack stepped off the boards and went on with
averted eyes. The professor recognized him at that instant, and as they
came abreast spoke.

“Good evening, Weatherby.”

There was no answer, nor did Jack turn his head. The professor frowned
and stopped.

“Weatherby!” he called sharply. Jack paused and faced him.

“Well, sir?” he asked, quietly.

“What does this mean? Are you trying to add boorishness to--to your
other failings?”

“No, sir, I was only trying to spare you the unpleasantness of speaking
to a coward.”

“Very thoughtful of you,” said the other, sarcastically. “But allow
me to tell you, sir, that if you want to remove the--ah--the sorry
impression you have made you will have to adopt a less high-and-mighty
manner.”

“It’s a matter of indifference to me what impression you hold, sir,”
replied Jack simply. “Good night.”

The professor stood motionless and looked after the boy until he had
crossed the street, the anger in his face slowly fading before a
grudging admiration of the other’s clever, if extremely impolite,
retort. Presently he swung his green bag of books under his arm again
and trudged on.

“I wonder if I wasn’t too hasty the other day,” he muttered. “For a
coward he’s got a surprising amount of grit, apparently. He’ll bear
watching.”

Jack sped homeward, feeling rather pleased with himself. His score
with the professor wasn’t by any means even, but the encounter had put
something to his credit, and as he remembered the professor’s look of
amazement and anger he chuckled.

There was a light in Tidball’s room as he crossed the corner of the
Common, and as he looked a grotesque head showed in gigantic silhouette
against the yellow curtain. Jack ran up the stairs and knocked at his
neighbor’s door.

“Come in!” drawled the occupant of the western chamber, and Jack
entered on a scene that caused him to pause just inside the door and
stare in silent surprise.



CHAPTER VI

IN DISGRACE


Anthony Tidball confronted Jack with a pewter spoon in one hand and a
small tin coffee-pot in the other. He was in his shirt-sleeves and a
bath-towel was fastened around his neck, descending in wispy folds to
his knees. On one end of the study table a second towel was laid, and
upon it rested a plate of bread, a jar of preserves, a wedge of cheese,
a can of condensed milk, a bowl of sugar, and cellars containing salt
and pepper. Besides these Jack saw a plate appropriately surrounded by
knife, fork, and spoon, and flanked by a cup and saucer. There was a
perceptible, and not ungrateful, odor of cooking present. Anthony waved
the coffee-pot hospitably, but carefully, toward the rocking-chair.

[Illustration: Anthony waved the coffee-pot hospitably.]

“Hello, Weatherby,” he said. “Sit down.”

“Wha--what are you doing?” gasped Jack.

“Cooking supper. Have some? You’re just in time.” He took the towel
from his neck and, going to the gas-stove, used it to remove a
pie-plate from above a tiny frying-pan.

“Supper?” echoed Jack. “Do you mean that you--cook your own meals?”

“Yes,” responded Anthony, calmly. He approached the table with the pan,
and from it dexterously transferred six small sausages on to the empty
plate. Then he put a spoonful of milk and two spoonsful of sugar into
the bottom of the cup and filled it to the brim with steaming and very
fragrant coffee. “Yes, I’ve been my own chef,” he continued, “ever
since I came here. When Gooch and I were together it was a good deal
simpler. I got breakfast and he got supper; our lunches were just cold
things. You see, Weatherby, we’re poor folks, and I couldn’t stay in
college three months if I had to pay four dollars a week for meals. As
it is, it’s a close haul sometimes.”

“Everything looks very nice,” murmured Jack, taking the chair and
observing the proceedings with frank curiosity.

“Well, if you don’t object, I’ll just begin operations while things are
hot,” said Anthony. He tucked a corner of the bath-towel under his chin
and began his repast. “There’s nothing sinful in poverty, they say,
and of course they’re right; but it’s pretty hard sometimes not to be
ashamed of it. I don’t tell every one that I cook my meals in my room.
It wouldn’t do. But you were certain to find it out sooner or later,
and it might as well be sooner. I say, would you mind turning off the
gas over there? Thanks.”

“Do you mean that you can save money this way?” asked Jack as he sat
down again.

“You better believe it. When Gooch and I kept house together our food
cost us about one dollar and five cents apiece every week. I guess now
it’ll cost me nearer two dollars.”

“But even then you’re saving two dollars by not going to a
boarding-house,” said Jack reassuringly.

“Yes, I know,” replied Anthony, as he started on his second sausage,
“but four dollars a week is my limit. And I’m paying more for this room
than I did for my half of the other one. I guess I’ll have to retrench
a while. Dad pays my tuition and I look after the rest myself. I earn
enough in the summer taking out fishing parties and the like of that to
last me. Last summer was a poor season, though; fish wouldn’t bite and
folks wouldn’t go out with me. However, I got a scholarship, and that
helped some. But I’m sailing a good deal nearer the wind than I did
last year. And next week I’ve got to go over to Robinson, and I guess
that will just about bankrupt me for a while.”

“What are you going there for?” Jack inquired.

“Debate.”

“Of course!” cried the other. “I remember now! I couldn’t think where
I’d heard your name. Why, you’re the president of the Lyceum, aren’t
you? and the crack debater? The fellow who won for Erskine last year
when every one expected to be beaten?”

“Well, something of that sort,” replied the junior. “Anyhow, I’ve got
to go to Robinson next week. If we’re defeated after I’ve gone and paid
five dollars and eighty cents in railroad fares----!”

Words failed him and he finished the last of the sausages with a woful
shake of his head.

“What are our chances?” asked Jack.

“About the same as last year, I guess. We may and we mayn’t. Robinson’s
got a fellow, named Heath, this year that’s a wonder, they say. We’ve
lost Browning and Soule, and that leaves us sort of weak.”

“I’d like to go,” said Jack, “but I don’t believe I could afford it.”

“Wish you could,” Anthony responded heartily. “We need all the support
we can get. If it was a football game, now, I guess the whole college
would go along. As it is, I suppose we’ll have about two dozen beside
the speakers. Did you ever try condensed milk with raspberry jam?”

Jack had to acknowledge that he never had.

“It’s right good,” said Anthony, spreading a generous spoonful of the
mixture on a slice of bread. “If you kind of shut your eyes and don’t
think about it the condensed milk tastes like thick cream.”

Jack watched in silence a moment. Then--

“I took your advice,” he announced.

“Saw Perkins, you mean? What did he say?”

“Said it was all right; said he was glad to have me.”

“That’s good.”

“And I met Professor White in the yard.”

“What happened?” asked Anthony, turning his lean, spectacled face
toward the other in evident interest. Jack recounted the conversation
and Anthony grinned.

“Pretty cheeky, though, weren’t you?”

“I suppose I was,” Jack acknowledged. “But I don’t care; he had no
business saying I was boorish. He--he’s a cad!”

“Easy there! Don’t call names, Weatherby; it’s a mean way to fight.
White’s not as bad as he seems to you. He’s made a mistake and when he
discovers the fact he’ll be the first to acknowledge it. You’ll see.”

Anthony produced his brier pipe and began to smoke.

“Bother you much to-day, did they?” he asked.

“Some. I can stand it, I suppose.”

“They’ll get tired pretty soon and forget it,” said the other kindly.
“Keep your hand on the tiller, take a couple of reefs in your temper,
and watch out. There’s your supper bell.”

“Yes, I must wash up. Are you going to be busy to-night?”

“Not to hurt. Come in and bring your knitting.”

“I will,” said Jack gratefully.

The growing friendship with the new lodger was the one bright feature
in Jack’s existence at this time, and during the next few weeks he
frequently found himself viewing with something that was almost
equanimity the occurrence at the river and its results, since among
the latter was his acquaintance with Anthony Tidball. Anthony had
hosts of acquaintances, but few friends; friends, he declared, were
too expensive. But he adopted Jack during the first week of their
acquaintance, and at once became guardian, mentor, and big brother all
rolled into one. Jack went to him with his troubles--and he had a good
many in those days--and listened to his advice, and generally acted
upon it. It was a new and delightful experience to the younger boy to
have a chum, and he made the most of it, resorting to Anthony’s room
whenever he wanted society, and interrupting the junior’s studying in
a way that would have summoned a remonstrance from any one save the
good-hearted victim. Anthony always laid aside his books and pens,
filled his pipe, took one foot into his lap, and listened or talked
with unfailing good nature. And after Jack had taken himself off,
Anthony would discard his pipe and buckle down to work in a mighty
effort to make up for lost time, not infrequently sitting with the
gas-stove between his knees long after the village clock had struck
twelve, and every one else in the house was fast asleep.

Sometimes they took walks together, for both were fond of being
outdoors, and it became a common thing to see the tall, awkward junior
striding alongside the freshman and leaning down near-sightedly to
catch his words. For a while the college world wondered and exclaimed.
Tidball was a person of vast importance, a queer, quiet, serious sort
of fellow, but a master at study and debate, a man whose counsels were
asked for and hearkened to with deep respect, and in general opinion
a person who would be heard from in no uncertain way in the future.
Hence, when the college saw that Tidball had taken up Weatherby, the
college began to suspect that it had very possibly been overhasty
in its judgment of the latter youth. Indications of this began to be
apparent even to Jack; fellows were less uneasy when lack of other
seats made it necessary for them to sit beside him at Chapel or at
recitations; several times he was greeted by name, rather shamefacedly
to be sure, by members of his own class; and baseball practise became
less of an ordeal for him, since the candidates generally showed a
disposition to recognize his existence and speak him fair. But if
these condescending ones looked for evidences of gratitude from Jack
they were doomed to disappointment. He returned greetings politely but
without cordiality, and made not the least move toward grasping the
hand of fellowship so hesitatingly and doubtingly advanced.

“If I was not good enough to associate with before,” he told himself,
“I’m no better now, merely because one man of prominence walks across
the yard with me.”

He had never accepted Joe Perkins’s invitation to call. He was grateful
to the captain for the friendliness the latter had shown him, and
continued to show him on every occasion. But Perkins believed him a
coward, just as the others did. Joe repeated his invitation twice and
then gave it up. Yet the more he saw of Jack the more he was inclined
to doubt the fairness of the general verdict, and so, in spite of
duties that took up practically every minute of his waking hours,
he found time to write a letter to his cousin, Billy Cromwell, in
Auburn. Eventually he received a reply. There were eight sheets of it
altogether, as was natural, considering that Billy hadn’t written to
Joe previously for something over six months, but only a small portion
of the epistle is of interest here.

“I know Jack Weatherby very well [Billy wrote]. His folks and mine are
old acquaintances. His father has a farm near here, but never has done
very well with it, I believe. You know what some of our farms hereabout
are; the Weatherby place is like them, only more so. Jack’s a smart,
plucky youngster; a good sort all through. If you can help him along
you’ll be doing me a favor. And I think you’ll like him if you know
him better. And if you can get him on to the nine you’ll be doing well
for the nine, I promise you. Jack’s one of those dependable chaps that
you meet about once in a thousand years; if he says he’ll knock out a
two-bagger, he’ll do it. And he isn’t afraid of work or anything else.
That’s about all, I think. You said you wanted to know all I could tell
you about Jack, and I think I’ve told it. Remember me to him when you
see him.”

Joe folded the letter and put it back in the envelope.

“I never knew Billy to get taken in by any one yet,” he said to
himself, “and so I fancy we’ve sized up young Weatherby all wrong. I’ll
have another talk with him. Only--how to get hold of him?”



CHAPTER VII

AT THE BATTING NETS


Meanwhile Erskine had won a victory over Robinson, a victory which did
not, perhaps, occasion as much enthusiasm as would have a triumph on
the gridiron or the diamond, but which, nevertheless, pleased everybody
greatly, and added new laurels to the wreath, encircling the brow of
Anthony Zeno Tidball. Erskine won the debate. The result was never in
doubt after Anthony delivered his argument, and when the last word
had been said the judges did not even leave their seats, but, after a
moment of whispered conference, awarded the victory to the visitors.

The debaters and their small company of supporters did not return to
Centerport until noon the next day, and long before that the morning
papers had arrived and the college at large had proudly read their
account of the contest. That explains why when Anthony, attired in a
long, yellowish plaid ulster of great antiquity, and carrying his
nightgown and toothbrush wrapped in a piece of brown paper, lurched
from the train to the station platform and looked about him, his jaw
dropped in ludicrous dismay, and he made a hurried effort to retreat.
But his companions were crowding down behind him and he was forced
forward into the ungentle hands of the cheering students, who filled
the platform. Somehow, he never knew quite how, he was thrust and
lifted to a baggage truck, from which, since his legs were securely
pinioned by several enthusiastic jailers, he found it impossible
to make his escape. So he hugged his bundle desperately and beamed
good-humoredly about him, recognizing the advisability of making the
best of things. The other debaters were hustled to his side in a wild
medley of cheers, and then, clutching each other madly in an effort
to maintain their balance, they were wheeled up and down the long
platform in the vortex of a swirling throng and cheered to the echo,
individually and collectively. For his part, Anthony was filled with a
great relief when the train with its long line of grinning faces at the
windows drew away, and with a greater relief when one of the occupants
of the truck, losing his hold, tumbled between the framework, and so
brought the triumphal procession to an end.

The prey were allowed to escape, and Anthony drew his long ulster
about his thin shanks and scuttled ungracefully into Town Lane and so
out of the rabble of still cheering students. But he hadn’t escaped
Jack, for that youth, somewhat out of breath, overtook him before he
had reached the corner and showered fragmentary congratulations upon
him.

“I got up--almost before--light,” panted Jack, bravely trying to
keep up with Anthony’s long strides, “and went--down and--got
a--paper--and--read--read-- Oh, don’t go so fast, please!”

Anthony moderated his pace and put an arm affectionately over the
other’s shoulders.

“Did you?” he asked. “Well, now, that was real friendly.”

“And when I--saw--that you’d won--I danced a jig in--the--middle of
Main Street!”

“And haven’t got your breath back yet?” laughed Anthony.

“But--aren’t you glad?” asked Jack.

“I should say so,” answered the other. “So tickled that I don’t mind
the money it cost.”

Another event, important to a large part of the college, took place
a day or two later. March, which had raged in with a big snow-storm,
relented and attempted the rôle of April. The ground dried and became
firm and springy and little warm breezes almost induced one to believe
that he had somehow lost track of the months and had torn one too few
leaves from his calendar. Erskine Field, given over during the winter
to snow and winds, clothed itself in a new green livery and suddenly
became the Mecca for more than half the college. One Thursday morning
the following welcome notice hung in the window of Butler’s bookstore:

    UNIVERSITY BASEBALL.--Outdoor practise on the Field at 4 sharp.
    Candidates must bring their own togs.

Jack went out to the field early and, having got into his baseball
clothes, threw his white sweater over his back, and sat down on
the steps of the locker-house in the sunshine. Many fellows passed
him, going in and out of the building, some according him a word of
greeting, others a mere nod, while still others pretended not to
see him. But Jack was beyond slights to-day. The spring was in his
blood and he would have liked to throw himself down on the grass and
roll over like a colt for mere joy of living. Instead, he only beat
a restless tattoo with his heels and watched the passers. Presently
the varsity squad trotted out; King, who played left field and
was substitute pitcher; Billings, third-baseman; “Wally” Stiles,
second-baseman; Knox, last year’s shortstop and substitute pitcher;
“Teddy” Motter, crack first-baseman; Lowe, center-fielder, and several
more, with Gilberth emerging last of all in talk with Joe Perkins.

Jack watched Gilberth as he went by, much as a cat watches a mouse
beyond its present reach. He had a score to even with Tracy Gilberth,
and he was convinced that in good time the opportunity would come to
him to even it. Meanwhile he waited patiently, observing Gilberth like
a calm, inscrutable Fate. Gilberth had a firm grasp on the pitcher’s
place, while Jack was only one of the second squad, and so, of late,
their paths seldom crossed, and the senior had had no chance to give
expression to his sentiments regarding the freshman. Of this Jack
was glad, since Gilberth’s contemptuous glances roused his hatred as
nothing else could.

The varsity squad took possession of the diamond and began practising.
Presently Bissell, the varsity center-fielder, made his appearance and
took the second squad in charge. Bissell was out of the game for the
while with a sprained ankle, and Hanson, the head coach, had placed
the second squad under his wing. There were sixteen of them in all,
for the most part upper classmen who had failed to make the varsity
the year before, with a sprinkling of sophomores and two freshmen.
The freshmen were Jack and a small, wiry chap, named Clover, who was
trying for shortstop. Bissell led the way to the batting nets and soon
they were hard at work. A third squad, made up of some twenty more or
less hopeless candidates, many of them freshmen who would later form
the nucleus of their class nine, were occupying an improvised diamond
at the farther end of the football field. The scene was animated and
interesting. The sharp crack of bat meeting ball, the shrill cries of
the coachers, and the low thud of flying spheres against padded gloves
filled the air.

Jack had just finished his first turn at bat by sending a hot grounder
across the grass, and had taken his place at the end of the line again
when he heard an authoritative voice addressing Bissell, and looked
around to find the head coach standing by.

“Haven’t you got a man who can pitch better than that, Bissell?” asked
the coach.

Bissell surveyed the candidates doubtfully and the man who was
pitching, quailing under the disapproving eye of the coach, threw his
next ball over the batsman’s head and so completed his disgrace. The
head coach was a small man, small in stature and small of limb and
feature, but possessed of a shrewd and sharp brown eye that was the
terror of shirking candidates. He was unmistakably good-looking, was
Hanson--his full name was Alfred Ward Hanson--and had the faculty
of commanding instant respect, rather a difficult feat for a small
man. He was aided there, however, by a reputation for wonderful
playing; nothing commands the respect and allegiance of the soldier
or the athlete as does past prowess, and an army officer or college
coach whose history contains valorous deeds is seldom troubled with
insubordination or discouraged by half-heartedness in the ranks. Hanson
was liked, respected, admired, and--feared.

“You must have somebody here that’s able to pitch a straight ball,”
continued the coach.

“There ought to be,” replied Bissell. “How about it, you fellows? Can
any of you pitch?”

There was a moment’s silence. Undoubtedly several of them could, but
with Hanson’s dissatisfied gaze upon them they hesitated to make known
their accomplishment. It was Jack who spoke first.

“I can pitch some,” he said, in matter-of-fact tones, stepping out of
the line. “I’ll try, if you like.”

“Go ahead then,” said Hanson. “It isn’t necessary to pitch curves; just
get an occasional ball over the plate.”

The head coach went over to the other net and Jack took the place of
the retired pitcher. He hadn’t tried pitching since the summer and his
first ball went very wide. The line of waiting batsmen grinned; some
even laughed audibly.

“That’s a great deal better,” remarked one of them with fine sarcasm,
and the laugh became general.

“That’ll do, Showell,” exclaimed Bissell. “We don’t need your opinion.”
Showell, a junior, and the fellow whom Jack had ousted, grinned
sheepishly under the amused glances of the others and Jack settled
down to business. After a few poor balls he got his hand in again and
Bissell nodded approvingly. One after another the candidates took their
places in front of the net and stayed there until they had made clean
hits. Jack did not attempt to puzzle them, for at this time of year,
despite the practise in the cage, batting work was still pretty poor.
He delivered straight balls as slow as possible and the line moved
along quickly. When Showell took his place, however, Jack remembered
his sarcastic remark and resolved to make the former pitcher earn his
hit. He attempted no curves or drops, but sent the first ball very
straight over the square of wood that did duty as a plate. But if it
was straight it was also swift, so swift that Showell merely looked at
it go by and then glanced inquiringly at Jack as he tossed it back to
him.

He gripped his bat afresh then, and waited the next ball confidently.
It came, and was, if anything, swifter than the one before. Showell
struck at it hard, but was half a foot too late. The watchers began to
guess what was up and looked on interestedly.

“Shorten your swing, Showell,” directed Bissell. “You were way too late
then.”

Showell’s face took on a deep red and he gritted his teeth as Jack
slowly and calmly threw up his arms for the next delivery. Again the
ball came straight and fast over the plate and this time Showell struck
an instant too soon and the sphere glanced up off his bat, bounded
against the hood of the net, and came down on his head ere he could
duck. He picked it out of the dust and tossed it back with no pleasant
expression. The line was grinning appreciatingly by this time, but
Jack’s face showed neither amusement nor interest. Again Showell struck
and missed miserably.

“What are you pitching, Weatherby?” Bissell asked suspiciously.

“Just straight balls,” answered Jack, simulating surprise.

“Well, now look here, Showell,” said the acting coach, “do try and
remember what you’ve been taught. Give me the bat.” Bissell took the
other’s place. “Don’t stand as though you were going to run away. Face
the plate; if you’re hit you’ve got your base. Now, watch me. All
right, Weatherby.”

Jack sent him a fairly fast ball, and Bissell took it neatly on the end
of his stick and sent it sailing in a short flight toward right field.

“You see, Showell? Swing back easily and don’t try to slug the ball. If
you swing hard you miss your balance nine times out of ten. Bring the
bat around easily on a line with the ball, hold it firmly and you’ve
got your hit. Try it again, please.”

Showell did try it again and struck a palpable foul. Once more he tried
and missed entirely. By this time he was as mad as a hatter.

“I can’t hit them unless he sends them over the plate,” he growled,
eying Jack aggressively.

“You need to learn how to bat,” said a voice behind him. “I guess it
would do you good to have a term with the third squad.”

He looked around into the face of Hanson, who unnoticed, had been
watching his work for several minutes. He subsided and again faced the
pitcher. But Jack had no desire to bring about Showell’s removal to
the third squad, and so sent him a slow ball that he could not help
hitting. When Showell had yielded his bat to the next man and stepped
away Hanson turned to Bissell.

“Who’s that fellow?” he asked.

“Showell, a junior.”

“Junior? No, no; I mean the youngster that’s pitching.”

“Oh, that’s Weatherby, a freshman.”

“Weatherby? Oh, yes.” He watched Jack send in a couple more balls and
then turned to Bissell again. “You’d better let him keep on pitching,”
he said. “Seems to me he’s rather promising. What do you think?”

“I’ve never seen him pitch until to-day,” answered Bissell. “But he
seems to be able to send in good, clean, straight balls. I don’t
suppose he knows much about anything else, though.”

“Well, keep your eye on him,” said Hanson. “Can’t have too many
pitchers, and that chap looks as though he might learn.”



CHAPTER VIII

THE LAST STRAW


Jack marked the first of April a red-letter day in his memory, for on
that day he was taken on to the varsity nine as substitute. The fact
was made known to him after practise when, with the others, he was
dressing himself in the locker-house. The head coach appeared in their
midst with a slip of paper and Jack listened indifferently until he
heard his name spoken. Even then the absurd idea came to him that it
was an April fool.

“Just a moment, please,” said Hanson; and when the hubbub had suddenly
ceased, “the training-table will start in the morning at Pearson’s,”
he announced, “and the following men will report there for breakfast:
King, Knox, Gilberth, Billings, Stiles, Motter, Bissell, Lowe, Northup,
Smith, Griffin, Mears, and Weatherby. Later, about the middle of the
month, more men will be taken on. At present these are all we can
accommodate. Breakfast is at eight prompt, and we want every man to be
there on time. That’s all.”

After he had gone out those of the fellows remaining began an
interested discussion of the announcement. Jack, pulling on his shoes,
listened silently.

“Where were you, Jimmie?” asked King.

“I’m one of the ‘also-rans,’ I guess,” answered Riseman, a substitute
fielder, sadly.

“Beaten by a freshie,” called a fellow across the room. “Fie, fie, for
shame!”

“Who’s the freshie?” called some one else.

“Weatherby,” answered two or three voices. “Weatherby, the brave!”
added another. An admonitory “S--s--s--sh!” arose from Jack’s vicinity,
and King whispered around the corner of the next alley: “Shut up,
you fellows; he’s over here.” And then another voice, one which Jack
instantly recognized as Gilberth’s, drowned King’s warning.

“Do you suppose Hanson expects us to sit at the same table with that
bounder?” he asked loudly.

Jack’s face paled, and he bent his head quickly over the shoe he was
lacing. “He knows I’m here,” he told himself grimly, “and pretends he
doesn’t. If he says ‘Coward,’ I’ll--I’ll--” A lace broke in his hand.
King suddenly began talking very loudly to Riseman about the baseball
news from Robinson, but above that Jack heard Gilberth’s voice again:

“I’d be afraid he’d put poison in my coffee. A fellow that’ll stand
by and see a person drown before his eyes without making a move at
helping him might do anything. For my part-- What? Who is?” There was
an instant’s pause. Then, “Well,” continued the speaker in slightly
lowered tones, “there’s an old proverb about listeners--” The rest
trailed off into silence.

King was still talking volubly and seemingly at random. In spite of
his almost overmastering anger, Jack recognized King’s good-hearted
attempt to spare him pain, and was grateful. His hands trembled so
that he could scarcely tie his broken string, and the tears were very
near the surface; he had to gulp hard once or twice to keep them back.
The temptation to kick off the unlaced shoe, dash recklessly around
the corner, and knock Gilberth down, to fight him until he could no
longer stand, was strong. He kept his head bent and his blazing eyes
on the floor and fought down the impulse. He had promised Anthony to
keep silence; to lose command of himself now would be to waste all
those weeks of self-repression which, he believed, and was right in
believing, had made a favorable impression upon his fellows. He tried
to think of other things, of his luck in being taken on to the varsity,
of how pleased Anthony would be at hearing about it. Presently he
finished lacing his shoes, stood up and calmly donned his coat. Then,
in spite of himself, he hesitated.

The thought of passing through the locker-room under the staring,
antagonistic eyes of a score or so of men, of running the gantlet of
whispers and low laughter, for the moment appalled him. Then, as he
slowly buttoned the last button, he heard a voice at his side.

“Ready, Weatherby? If you don’t mind, I’ll walk back with you.”

He looked around into the pleasant face of King and, after a moment of
surprise, muttered assent. The central aisle was filled with fellows
in various stages of attire and the two had to worm their way through.
Jack went first, doing his level best to look unconcerned and at ease,
and King followed close behind him, talking over his shoulder all
the way. At the door King stepped ahead and threw open the portal,
guiding Jack through with a friendly push on the back. When they had
disappeared, one or two witnesses of the affair exchanged surprised or
amused glances. But only Gilberth commented aloud.

“Very touching!” he laughed. “King to the rescue of Insulted Innocence!”

“Oh, forget it!” growled some one from the depths of a twilit alley.

Outside, on the porch, Jack turned to King with reddened cheeks. “Thank
you,” he said.

“All right,” answered the other carelessly. “Fair play, you know.”

Jack hesitated, waiting for the other to take his departure. King
looked at him quizzically.

“Look here, Weatherby, don’t be so beastly snobbish,” he expostulated
with a touch of impatience. “If you object to my company back to the
Yard, just say so, but don’t look as though I was too low down to
associate with.”

Jack colored and looked distressed.

“I didn’t mean to, honestly!” he protested. “Of course, I don’t object
to your company. I--I only thought----”

“Well, come on, then.” They went down the steps together, just as the
door opened to emit a handful of players. “Don’t get it into your head,
Weatherby, that we’re all cads,” King continued, “just because Gilberth
occasionally acts like one. The fact is, there are plenty of fellows
back there who are quite ready to be decent if you’ll give them half a
chance. The trouble is, though, you look as though you didn’t care a
continental for anybody. Perhaps you don’t; but it isn’t flattering,
you see. I dare say it sounds pretty cheeky for me to talk like this to
you, especially as we’ve never been properly introduced and haven’t
spoken before, but I’ve been here a year longer than you have, and I
know how easy it is to make mistakes. And it seems to me you’re making
one.”

“I don’t think you’re cheeky,” answered Jack quite humbly. “I don’t
mean to have folks think I’m--think I’m indifferent, either.”

“That’s all right, then,” replied King heartily. “They say you’re
coming out as a pitcher,” he went on, changing the subject, to Jack’s
relief. “Bissell was telling me to-day.”

“I’ve been pitching some on the second nine,” answered Jack.

“Where did you play before you came to college?” asked the other. Jack
told him about the high-school nine at Auburn, and the rest of the
way back the talk remained on baseball matters. He parted from his
new acquaintance at the corner of the Yard, and went on alone through
a soft, spring-like twilight to his room. He had gained one more of
the enemy to his side, he reflected, and that alone was a good day’s
work. But besides that he had been taken on to the varsity squad, and
altogether the day was a memorable one. He climbed the stairs happily,
the sting of the incident in the locker-house no longer felt.

Anthony was quite as pleased with his news as Jack had expected him to
be, and the two sat together until late that evening discussing the
unexpected stroke of fortune.

“Wouldn’t be surprised if they let you play in Saturday’s game,” said
Anthony. Jack laughed ruefully.

“I should,” he answered. “But it’s something to sit on the varsity
bench.”

The next morning Jack dressed himself under mild excitement at the
thought of making his appearance at the training-table. He had notified
Mrs. Dorlon the evening before of his departure from her hospitable
board and that lady had sniffed disappointedly at the notion of losing
her only boarder. But Jack had no regrets for the separation. Pearson’s
was only about a block from Mrs. Dorlon’s, but, nevertheless, Jack
reached there several minutes late. The baseball players had been given
the big dining-room on the front of the house in which last fall’s
successful football team, winner of the remarkable 2--0 game with
Robinson, had eaten their way to glory.

When Jack entered, the table at first glance appeared to be filled.
The next moment he saw that there were three empty seats, two at the
farther end of the table and one near at hand, between Gilberth and
Northup. He reflected that it might look cheeky to parade the length
of the room, and so, returning the nods of several of the fellows,
he slipped into the chair beside Gilberth, fervently hoping that the
latter would take no notice of him. Gilberth was busily recounting
an adventure which had befallen him the day before while out in his
automobile--he was the proud possessor of the only motor vehicle in the
town of Centerport--and it is probable that he did not observe Jack’s
entrance.

“It was just at that narrow stretch before you get to the blacksmith’s
shop,” he was saying. “The fellow had a load of bricks. Well, he
stopped, and I stopped, and we looked at each other. Finally, he called
out, ‘Say, you’ll have to back to the corner, I guess. We can’t pass
here.’ ‘Back nothing,’ I said. ‘These things aren’t taught to back.’
‘They ain’t?’ said he. ‘But you don’t expect that I’m going to back
with this load on, do you?’ ‘It’s a good deal to expect,’ I answered,
looking sorry, ‘but if you don’t, we’re likely to stay here until
Christmas.’ You’d ought to have heard him swear! It was as good as a
circus! Well----”

“How are you, Weatherby?” asked Joe Perkins at that moment.

As Jack replied, Gilberth turned and saw him. Stopping short in his
narrative, he silently gathered up his plate, cup, and saucer, and
pushing back his chair, arose and walked around the table to one of the
other empty seats. The talk died out abruptly, and the fellows watched
the proceedings in dead silence. Gilberth’s action had taken Jack
completely by surprise, and for a moment he could only stare amazedly.
Then, as the full force of the insult struck him, the color flooded his
cheeks until they burned like fire. His eyes, avoiding the faces across
the board, fell upon the sympathetic countenance of the captain, and it
was the look of concern he found there that upset him. The tears rushed
into his eyes and the hand on the table trembled. He put it in his
lap, where it clenched its fellow desperately, and stared miserably at
the white cloth. Suddenly upon the uncomfortable silence a voice broke
calmly. Gilberth, having settled himself in his new seat, was going on
with his story, just as though there had been no interruption.

“After he’d called me everything he could think of,” he continued, “he
got down and started to back. It took him ten minutes to get to the
blacksmith shop, and maybe he wasn’t mad! After I got by him, I gave
him a little exhibition, free of charge. I backed the machine all over
the place, and pretty nearly stood it on end. You ought to have seen
his eyes; they almost popped out of his head. And just when he was
beginning to recover his voice, I waved good-by to him, and lit out.
Funniest thing you ever saw!”

One or two of his audience laughed half-heartedly, but the most looked
gravely disgusted.

“You have a wonderfully keen sense of humor,” observed Joe Perkins
dryly. Then the conversation began again, and the waitress brought
Jack’s breakfast. He ate it silently, or as much of it as he could; the
coffee scalded his throat, and the steak very nearly choked him. King,
sitting near-by, spoke to him once, and he answered. But his voice
wasn’t quite steady, and so the other wisely refrained from further
attempts at conversation. One by one the fellows left the room, and as
soon as he dared, Jack followed. He kept his head very high all the way
back to his room; but in each cheek there was a bright disk of crimson
and his eyes stared straight ahead. A tramp slouching along, with hands
in pockets, moved aside to let him pass, but Jack never saw him.

When he had entered the front door, he moved very quietly, mounting the
stairs as though contemplating burglary. Anthony’s door was ajar, and
Jack tiptoed toward it and looked into the bare and shabby room. It was
empty, and the fact seemed to relieve him. Crossing to his own room, he
turned the key in the lock and began feverishly to pack his valise.
The task did not take him long, and when it was completed, and the bag
stood beside the door secured and strapped, he went to the desk and,
seizing a sheet of paper, wrote hurriedly. When the composition was
finished, he read it through.

    “DEAR FRIEND [it ran]: There’s no use trying any more. I
    thought I could stand it, but I just can’t. After what happened
    this morning, there’s only one thing for me to do, and I’m
    going to do it. I’m very sorry to go away from you, because you
    have been awfully kind to me, and you are the first one I ever
    knew who seemed like a chum. But I’m going home, and not coming
    back any more, because I can’t stand every one thinking I’m a
    coward, and Gilberth treating me like mud. I’m sorry I can’t
    keep my promise to you, if it was really a promise, and please
    don’t think I haven’t tried, because I have tried very hard.
    Please don’t remember it against me. I’m very, very sorry.
    Maybe I will meet you again some time.

    “Your sincere friend,

    “JOHN WEATHERBY.

    “P. S. Please keep this charm to remember me by, if you don’t
    mind. You wear it on your watch-chain. Good-by.           J. W.”

He placed the note and the watch-charm in an envelope, sealed and
addressed it, and crossed with it to Anthony’s room. When he returned
a moment later, he held something concealed in his hand. He unstrapped
his valise, and as he did so a noise in the hall outside caused him to
glance nervously at the door. Quickly opening the bag he dropped the
object he held into it, and again secured it. Going into the hall, he
listened. All was still. Returning, he took up bag and overcoat and
cautiously crept down the stairs and out of the house. Fearful of being
seen, he turned to the left and made his way to the station by Murdoch
Street and the railroad.



CHAPTER IX

ANTHONY STUDIES A TIME-TABLE


Anthony returned to his room after the first recitation. He had
discovered while in his class that he had forgotten his watch, and
remembered that he had left it lying on his study table. The first
thing that caught his eyes when he entered his room was an envelope
bearing the inscription in a round, boyish hand, “Anthony Tidball.
Present.” Wondering, he tore it open. Something fell from it and rolled
to the floor. When found it proved to be a brown Florida bean with a
little gold-plated swivel at one end. Anthony stared from the bean to
the envelope; then the thought that the latter probably held a note
came to him and he went back to it.

He read the note very slowly, a frown deepening the while on his face.
He read it the second time and then carefully restored it to the
envelope, thrust his big hands into his trousers pockets and lurched
to the dormer-window. For a minute or two he stood there looking out
across the Common into a tender green mist of quickening branches.
Finally he sighed, shook his head, and turned back to the room.

“Poor kid,” he muttered.

But perhaps, he reflected, it was not too late to intercept him.
When did the trains leave? He pulled out a table drawer and found a
time-card. There was one at 9.22; that had gone. There was another,
an express, at 10.16. If Jack had missed the first it was possible,
thought Anthony, to reach the station in time to bring him back. It was
now----

He felt for his watch, and for the first time since finding the note
recollected the reason of his return. He glanced quickly over the
table. The watch was not in sight. He distinctly remembered placing
it on the blotting-pad while he changed the rather heavy vest he had
been wearing all winter for a lighter one. He pushed aside books and
papers and searched the table from end to end. Then he went through his
drawers and finally, while realizing the uselessness of it, unlocked
and searched his trunk. After he had felt in the pockets of what few
clothes he possessed he accepted the fact that the watch was gone. But
where? Who could have taken it? Who had been in the room--besides Jack?
Jack----!

He sat down in the rocker and stared blankly, frowningly, at the
window. It was the stupidest thing in the world to suspect Jack. And
yet--! With a mutter of disgust at himself for the entertainment of
such a wild suspicion, he jumped up and surveyed the room. But the bed
was still unmade and the momentary hope that Mrs. Dorlon might have
come across the watch and put it away for him had to be relinquished.
He hurried down-stairs and found his hostess in the kitchen. No, she
told him, she hadn’t been up-stairs yet and hadn’t seen the watch. Had
any one been up there? Well, she didn’t know of any one. Still, the
door had been open all the morning and-- Why, yes, come to think of it,
she had thought once that she heard footsteps up-stairs and presumed
that they were Mr. Weatherby’s, though to be sure she hadn’t seen him
come in or go out. Could she help Mr. Tidball look for it?

Anthony politely declined her proffered assistance and returned to
his room. He searched again about the table, striving to convince
himself that he had not left the watch there; that he had worn it to
recitation, that the chain had become detached from his buttonhole
and that the watch had fallen from his pocket. But it wouldn’t do.
He remembered clearly just how the timepiece had looked lying in its
chamois case upon the blotter, with the heavy gold chain curling away
toward the ink-bottle. Perhaps Jack had come in to find out the time
and had unconsciously taken the watch back to his room with him? Of
course, that must be it!

He strode across the hall and into the other chamber. There were
evidences of hurried flight; the little steamer trunk stood in the
middle of the floor and a few odds and ends of rubbish lay about the
bed and table. But the watch was not in sight. The latest explanation
of its disappearance had seemed so plausible that Anthony experienced
keen disappointment. Turning, he retraced his steps toward the door.
Half-way there he stopped and stared as though fascinated at something
lying at his feet. Stooping, he picked it up and looked at it carefully
in the forlorn hope that it would prove to be other than what it was, a
little chamois watch-pouch.

Finally he dropped it into his pocket and went back to his room,
stepping very quietly, as though leaving a chamber of sickness. He
stared aimlessly about for a moment, and then, with a start, took up
his note-books and descended the stairs. Mrs. Dorlon, blacking the
kitchen stove, heard the door open and looked up to see the lean,
spectacled face of her new lodger peering through. He looked rather
pale and sickly that morning, she thought.

“Just wanted to tell you that it’s all right,” he said. “I found my
watch. It was in the--the washstand.”

After he had gone she suddenly paused and sniffed perplexedly. “Now
that’s funny,” she thought. “How could he have found it in the
washstand when the washstand hasn’t any drawer nor nothin’?”

At the luncheon-table Jack was conspicuous by his absence. The story of
Gilberth’s action at breakfast had filtered through college in a dozen
varied forms until by noon it was pretty widely known. The general
opinion was that Gilberth had acted brutally; there were even some
few who flatly called his behavior contemptible; there were others,
fewer still, who thought that he had “given Weatherby just what he
deserved.” There was considerable relief felt by the more charitably
disposed members of the training-table when Jack failed to appear, for
his suffering at the breakfast-table had not been a pleasant thing
to watch. Gilberth, however, was in high feather. He believed Jack’s
absence was a result of his treatment in the morning, and was quite
proud of his abilities as a public prosecutor. But the rest of the
table somehow did not appear to be quite so pleased with him. This
fact was shown by a disposition to avoid entering into conversation
with him. His remarks were received in silence, and after a while he
gave up the attempt to entertain the company and finished his meal in
ruffled dignity.

When luncheon was over “Baldy” Simson, the trainer, who occupied the
seat at the foot of the board, called Joe Perkins’s attention to the
fact of Jack’s absence.

“I know,” Joe answered, looking rather worried. “I’m going to look him
up; you needn’t bother. By the way, Tracy, just wait a minute, will
you? I want to see you.” Gilberth, in the act of leaving the room,
returned and tilting a chair toward him slid into it over the back with
a fine appearance of unconcern.

“Fire away, Joe,” he said. “But I’ve got a two-o’clock, and it’s
getting late.”

Simson went out and left the two together and alone, save for the
waitress who had begun clearing off the table. Joe pushed his plate
away and looked gravely across at his friend.

“Look here, Tracy, this thing has simply got to stop, you know.”

“What thing?” asked the other, raising his eyebrows.

“Why, you know what I mean. I won’t have Weatherby persecuted the way
you’re doing. I can’t turn out a decent team unless you fellows get
together and work in harmony. You know that as well as I do. Whatever
your sentiments toward Weatherby may be, you’ve got to treat him
politely in his position as a member of the varsity nine. I won’t have
any more scenes like the one you brought about this morning. You’re
worrying Weatherby half sick. He may be what you think he is; I’m not
in position to know; but it’s all nonsense for you to take on yourself
the duties of judge, jury, and hangman. You attend to yourself and let
Weatherby attend to himself. That’s what I want you to do.”

Joe’s voice had been getting sharper and sharper as he proceeded and
when he had finished his eyes were sparkling dangerously. As always,
when Joe’s temper threatened to get the better of him, Tracy’s usual
aggressiveness disappeared and gave place to a sullen stubbornness. Now
he traced figures on the stained cloth with a fork and was silent a
minute before he made reply. Then:

“There’s no use in your lecturing me like that,” he muttered. “You can
stick up for Weatherby if you want to, but you needn’t think you can
make me coddle him too. The fellow’s a coward and a cad, and you’ve no
business asking decent fellows to sit at table with him.”

“You’ll sit at table with him or you’ll get out,” cried Joe hotly.

“Then I’ll get out!”

There was silence for a moment, during which Tracy continued to mark up
the cloth and Joe struggled more or less successfully to get command of
his temper. Finally he asked, almost calmly:

“Do you mean that you’ll leave the team, that you’ll throw me over and
threaten the college with defeat for a mere whim?”

“It isn’t a whim,” growled Tracy. “It--it’s a principle.”

Joe smiled in spite of himself and the last of his ill-humor vanished.

“Oh, don’t talk poppycock, Tracy,” he said. “Look here, you must
see how difficult you’re making it for Hanson and me. We can’t do
what we want to do if there are dissensions among you chaps. Like a
good fellow, promise me to leave Weatherby alone. He isn’t going to
interfere with you; you know that. The other fellows aren’t kicking up
a row about having him at table, so why should you? Besides, Tracy,
consider what a thundering hard row the chap has to hoe. Maybe he acted
the coward; I didn’t see it and don’t know; but even if he did it’s
more than likely that he’s a lot worse ashamed of it than you are,
and probably wants to make up for it. Give him a show, can’t you? Be
generous, Tracy!”

“Well, let him keep away from me, then,” Tracy growled.

“How can he when you’re both on the team?” asked Joe impatiently. “We
want him because he’s got the making of a good player; he’s sure,
quick, and--honest.”

“Huh!”

“Yes, honest! We’ve watched him just as we’ve watched all you
fellows--perhaps a bit more, because he’s under suspicion, as it
were--and he’s played us fair every time. He’s done as he’s been told
and done it just as hard as he knew how. And it’s all wrong to call a
man dishonest until he’s done something dishonest.”

“How about that affair at the river?” asked the other sneeringly.

“A man may be a coward at a--a crisis and a brave man all the rest of
his life. Physical cowardice isn’t dishonesty. For that matter, I can
imagine a chap running from bullets and yet standing up like a little
man in front of bayonets. I’m not sure I wouldn’t run away from bullets
myself, and if I were you I wouldn’t be too sure, either.”

“I’m not a coward,” cried Tracy.

“I don’t say you are; I don’t think you are. And yet you’re not brave
enough to let public opinion go hang and give that poor duffer,
Weatherby, a fighting chance!”

Gilberth received this in silence, staring moodily at the table. The
bell in the tower of College Hall began its imperative summons and Joe
pushed back his chair and arose. Tracy followed his example.

“I didn’t mean to keep you so long,” said the former. He overtook the
other at the door and laid a friendly hand on his shoulder. “Don’t mind
my ill-temper, old man. There’s no use in having a friend if you can’t
bully him a little now and then. And--er--think over what I said, will
you?”

“Oh, that’s all right,” answered Tracy grudgingly. “No harm done. See
you later.”

Joe stood on the porch and watched him cross the road and disappear up
the broad gravel-path toward the laboratories. Then Joe passed down the
steps and through the gate with a little smile of satisfaction on his
face.

“Yes, it is all right,” he told himself. “He’ll do as I want him to.
But I wish--I do wish I hadn’t lost my pesky temper!”

He turned to the left toward Washington Street and as he neared the
corner he caught sight of a tall fellow crossing the Common with long
awkward strides. The ill-fitting clothes and the little stoop of the
shoulders were sufficient to reveal the man’s identity at first glance,
and Joe hailed him:

“O _Tid_-ball! O Tid-_ba-a-all_!”

Anthony paused, looked, waved a note-book responsively, and stumbling
over a “Keep off the grass” sign, crossed the turf and clambered over
the fence.

“How are you, Tidball?” asked Joe, shaking hands. For some reason
fellows usually did shake hands with Anthony when they met him, just
as they thumped other acquaintances on the back or punched them in
the ribs or pulled their caps over their eyes. “You’re just the man I
wanted to see,” Joe went on. “As usual, we’re just about stone broke;
the Baseball Association, I mean. We’ve got to have a lot of money for
the nine and we’ve got to raise it by subscription. The schedule has
the team down for five games away from home, and that means a heap of
expense. The Athletic Association has given us all they could afford
to, about one hundred and fifty dollars, but that won’t last us any
time. So we’re going to get up a mass meeting in about a week or so and
try and raise the dust. And we want you to speak for us; whoop things
up a bit, you know. Can you do it?”

“S’pose so,” answered Anthony doubtfully. “But I don’t know a blamed
thing about baseball.”

“You won’t have to. We’ve got plenty of chaps who can talk baseball;
what we want is some one who can open their pockets. We’re depending on
you, Tidball, so say yes, like a good chap. Hanson is going to speak,
and so is Professor Nast, and so am I. And we’re trying to get the dean
to hem and haw a bit for us. But we need you like anything. What do you
say?”

“I’ll do what I can,” said Anthony. “You let me know when it’s to be
and tell me what you want me to say. Don’t believe, though, Perkins,
the fellows will pay much attention to what I’ve got to say about
baseball. ’Tisn’t as though I knew a ball from a--a----”

“From another ball, eh? Don’t let that bother you. I’m awfully much
obliged; it’s very nice of you. And I’ll let you know all about it in a
day or two. By the way, though, where are you living now? Some one said
you’d left the old joint.”

“Yes, I had to when Gooch went home. I’m at Mrs. Dorlon’s, down the row
there.”

“Oh, are you? I was just going there. Doesn’t young Weatherby room
there?”

“Yes.”

“Is he in now, do you know?”

Anthony settled his spectacles more firmly on his nose before he
replied.

“No, he’s not in just now.” He hesitated a moment. Then, “Guess you
might as well know about it,” he said musingly.

“About what?”

“’Bout Weatherby.”

“What’s he done?”

“Gone home.”

“Gone home?”

“Yes, left college.”

“But what for? When did he go?” asked Joe in surprise.

“This morning. He left a note for me. Don’t know whether it’s my place
to tell folks or not. Maybe you’d better keep it quiet. He might change
his mind, you know.”

“I see,” replied Joe thoughtfully. “Do you--do you happen to know why
he left?”

“Yes, and I guess you do, too.”

“You mean----?”

“Yes. He stuck it out as long as he could, but I guess things got too
hot for him. His note made mention of something that happened this
morning at training-table.”

“By Jove!” muttered the other. “It’s a blamed shame! You know,
Tidball, I never quite believed him the--er--coward they say he is.
What do you think?”

“Me? Oh, I don’t know,” answered Anthony uneasily, puckering his lips
together. “Maybe he isn’t.”

Joe looked a little surprised.

“I don’t know just why,” he said, “but I had an idea you’d support
my judgment of him. Well, perhaps it’s just as well that he’s gone.
Although he had the making of----”

“No, no,” cried Anthony in sudden contrition, the blood rushing into
his thin face. “I didn’t mean that! I shouldn’t have said it, Perkins!
I think he’s--I don’t believe he’s a coward!” He pressed the other’s
arm convulsively with his long fingers as though seeking to give added
weight to the emphatic assertion and hurried away. “Come and see me,”
he called back.

Joe stared after him in bewilderment.

“Strange duffer, Tidball,” he reflected. “Wonder if he and Weatherby
had a row? Sounds like it. Poor old Weatherby! I’m sorry he’s gone;
by Jove, I am sorry! And I fancy I might have prevented it if I’d got
after Tracy sooner. Hang him, he ought to be licked!”



CHAPTER X

FLIGHT


When Jack left the house he hesitated a moment at the little gate. Then
he turned to the left and hurried to Murdoch Street and down that to
the railroad track. He was taking the longest route to the station;
but, since his main desire was to avoid meeting any one he knew, it
was also the safest. His battered valise, although by no means full,
soon grew heavy and began to bump against his legs at every stride.
When he reached the track, what with the aggravating behavior of the
valise and the difficulty of walking over the uneven ties, speed was no
longer possible. He had barely reached the Washington Street crossing
when a whistle down the track behind him brought consternation. It was
the 9.22 train, he told himself; and he knew that if he missed that
he would have to wait a whole hour at the station before he could get
another--an hour which might serve to bring Anthony upon him with a
wealth of unanswerable argument in favor of his return.

So, after a quick glance over his shoulder in the direction of the
warning blast, he shifted the valise again and set out over the ties
at a run. Once he stumbled and the bag went hurtling down the bank and
brought up against a board fence. When he had recovered it and had
scrambled back to the track the train was but a few hundred yards away.
But the station was almost gained now. He retired to a hand-car siding
while the engine and its three cars whizzed past him with much grinding
of brakes, and then ran on in the wake of dust.

There was no time to buy a ticket. When he reached the platform and the
last car, the conductor had already swung his hand to the engineer.
Jack pushed his valise on to the car-steps and crawled, breathless,
after it. Then the train moved again, and a minute later Centerport was
lost to sight. Jack, huddled upon the rear platform, saw it disappear
with mingled emotions. Regret was prominent. He wondered at this.
Surely, he thought, he had been miserable enough at Erskine to make the
parting anything but regretful. And yet, even as he thought that, the
idea of leaving the train at the next station and walking back came
to him with strange attractiveness. Anthony would be glad; none else
would know that he had contemplated flight; he would go back to the
training-table, secure a place on the nine, and do great things--things
that would make the college proud of him. And Gilberth might----

But at the recollection of Gilberth the plan lost its attractiveness.
Jack gritted his teeth and shook his fist toward where the tower of
College Hall was still just visible above the tree-tops. Then, having
recovered his breath, he took up his bag and passed into the car. It
proved to be the smoker and was almost deserted. He selected a seat on
the riverside, placed his valise beside him, and gave himself up to
his thoughts. These were not cheerful. He wondered what his father and
mother would say to his return. As for the latter, he could count with
certainty upon her sympathy and support. But his father was different.
He was a man with a stern conscience, and one singularly devoid of
the finer sensibilities. For him the path of duty was always clearly
defined and he trod it unswervingly, no matter what might befall. And,
as Jack well knew, he looked for and demanded the same moral courage
from others that he himself displayed. No, there would be no sympathy
forthcoming from his father. Jack could almost hear him now:

“You had done no wrong, my son. With a clear conscience you had nothing
to fear. The wrong was in running away.”

He might, thought Jack, even insist upon his returning. But that he
would not do. He would find work and, as soon as possible, would
pay back to his father the money wasted upon him at Erskine. He had
intended becoming a teacher. But now that was impossible. Perhaps he
could get employment from Billy Cromwell. But, whatever happened, he
would not, having once reached home, go back to Erskine!

Had Jack been less busy with his thoughts he might, perchance, have
taken notice of a passenger who sat across the car and a little to
the rear. He was a man of about forty years, with small, clearly
cut features, brown eyes, and carefully trimmed mustache and beard.
His attire was notably neat. In his mouth was a cigar, in his hands
a morning paper, and at his feet a handsome suit-case. Ever since
Jack’s advent he had been watching him over the top of his paper with
a puzzled frown. The boy’s face, seen against the white light of the
car window, expressed every passing emotion, and the passenger across
the aisle, who was a good reader of expressions, felt a stirring of
sympathy at the pervading look of despondency he saw.

Presently the conductor entered, and Jack remembered that he must pay
his fare. He felt for the little roll of money that was to take him
home, first in his vest pocket, then in his trousers. Then, while an
expression of bewilderment came over his face, he searched hurriedly
in every pocket he possessed. The conductor came and waited patiently.
Jack seized his valise and began to unstrap it. Then he paused and
glanced uneasily at the conductor.

“I can’t find my money,” he said. “If you’ll just give me a minute or
two--” The other nodded and passed on down the car. Jack opened the
valise and feverishly searched it. But when it was thoroughly upset
he was forced to acknowledge with a sinking heart that the money was
not there. He had taken it out of the trunk; he remembered doing that
perfectly; he had meant to put it into his vest pocket. But it was not
there.

He stared blankly out of the window, still searching his clothes
hopelessly. Well, he was not going home after all. Fate had intervened.
Disappointed and chagrined, he counted the few coins in his trouser’s
pocket and found that while they would pay his way to the next station
they would not serve to take him back to Centerport. He blinked his
eyes to keep back the tears. Tears, he reflected miserably, were always
trying to crawl out nowadays. And then--

“What’s wrong, Weatherby?” asked a voice over his shoulder, and Jack
looked up with startled eyes into the face of Professor White.

[Illustration: “What’s wrong, Weatherby?”]

For a moment his surprise kept him silent. And in that moment he saw
in the professor’s face a kindliness that he had never before noticed.
The professor’s brown eyes were plainly sympathetic and the professor’s
lips held a little reassuring smile at their corners. And Jack,
wondering more, found his tongue.

“Well, that is hard luck,” said the professor when he had heard the
story. “And you’re going home, you say? How much money will it take?”

“About ten dollars,” answered Jack. The other shook his head.

“That’s not much,” he replied, “but I’m sorry to say that it’s more
than I’ve got with me. You see, I’m only going to Hampden, three
stations up the line, and so didn’t bring much. But wouldn’t it do if
you got off at the next station and went back and got your money? Would
the delay matter? How long leave have you got?”

The conductor came back and smiled questioningly at the pair. Jack
shook his head.

“I’ve got to go on,” he muttered.

“Well, here now, I’ll pay your way to Hampden, anyhow. That will give
us time to consider things. Here you are, conductor.”

When the change had been made and the professor was in possession of an
elaborate rebate slip, the conductor went off and the professor removed
Jack’s valise from the seat and sat down at the boy’s side.

“How long are you going to be gone?” he asked pleasantly.

Jack hesitated. Then--

“I’m not coming back,” he answered defiantly.

“What? Leaving college?”

Jack nodded.

“Why, how’s that? What’s the trouble?” questioned the professor kindly.
“Nothing wrong at home, I hope?”

“No, sir.”

“Then what is it?”

Jack was silent, looking scowlingly out of the window at the flying
landscape of freshly green hills and meadows with an occasional glimpse
of the sparkling river. He would accept the other’s help as far as
Hampden, he decided; from there he would work his way home somehow;
perhaps he could steal a ride now and then on the trains.

“You don’t want to tell me, I see,” said Professor White. “And I
dare say that’s natural, Weatherby. You and I have had a couple
of unpleasant conversations, and I suppose the experience doesn’t
recommend me as a confident. But you’re in some sort of trouble and I
think you’d better make a clean breast of it and let me help you if I
can.

“And while we’re speaking of former encounters, Weatherby, I want to
tell you that I made a mistake that day down at the coal wharf. I’ve
got lots of faults, and one of the worst of them is an inclination to
judge hastily. I accused you of cowardice that day, and I’ve regretted
it very often since. I can understand how it might be possible for you
to have hesitated about going into the river and yet not be guilty of
cowardice in the strict sense. You see, I’ve given some thought to the
matter, after it was a bit too late. I’ve been watching you since that
day, and I think I made a mistake; I’m certain I did. And I want you to
forgive me for the injustice I did you and for the hurt I inflicted.
Will you?”

“It doesn’t matter,” answered Jack drearily. “You only said what all
the others thought. I guess it did hurt, but I don’t mind now; you see,
there’s been a lot worse since then.”

“Ah!” said the other comprehendingly. “I understand. Don’t you think
you might tell me something about it, Weatherby?”

And after a doubtful glance at the professor’s face, in which he read
only sympathy, Jack told him. He spoke bitterly, giving free rein to
the pent-up anger and indignation of the past month; and, perhaps,
he may be forgiven if unconsciously he exaggerated the tale of his
troubles. When he had finished Professor White nodded gravely, and
then, after a momentary silence, asked:

“How old are you, Weatherby?”

“Seventeen. I’ll be eighteen in July.”

“Well, I’m not going to tell you that the thing is trivial, nor that
were you older it would appear less tragic. Nothing is trivial that
influences our lives, no matter how small it looks; and it is just the
things that happen to us when we are young and receptive that are most
important. I said I would help you if I could, and I’m going to. But in
order to do it I must first convince you that I am your friend, and I
fear that’s going to be difficult. And,” he added, as the train slowed
down for the second station, “what’s more, I haven’t much time to do
it.”

“Friends,” said Jack sagely, “always advise you to do things you don’t
want to.”

“Yes, I guess that’s so,” answered the professor, smiling. “And I think
what I’m going to advise will prove me your friend.”

Jack watched the coming and going on the station platform for a minute,
then, as the train began to move again, he asked:

“Would you mind telling me--what it is, sir?”

“No; it’s this.” He laid a hand on the boy’s shoulder and spoke
earnestly. “Come back, Weatherby, and have another try. Wait,” he
continued, as the other started to speak, “let me finish first. I’m
not going to belittle your trouble; it’s a big one and it’s hard to
bear. But you’ve borne it for a month and more. You can bear it longer,
if you try. Make up your mind to it and you’ll do it. From what I can
see, Weatherby, you’ve given up the fight just on the verge of victory.
A while back you had the whole college against you; now there is but
one fellow actively opposed to you. From what you have told me I can
see that Tidball believes in you, and Perkins, and King. They are all
men of prominence and their views have weight. Hold on a little while
longer and you’ll find that the college has come around to their way
of thinking. If you give up now you’re losing a year of your life that
you can’t catch up with again if you live to be a hundred. Stick it out
and you’re a year nearer your degree. Besides, there are your parents,
Weatherby; what are they going to think about it? Maybe they’ll say
you’ve done right in leaving, but down in their hearts they are going
to be disappointed over this wasted year.”

Jack stared dumbly at his hands, and presently the other went on.

“Come back, and I’ll do everything I can to help you, my boy. Just what
that will be or what it will amount to, I can’t say at this moment; but
what assistance I can give you may be certain of having. You won’t find
it an empty promise.”

He paused, and Jack looked up.

“I wish I’d--wish I might have talked to you before,” he said.

“So do I, Weatherby; but it isn’t too late now. I have a suspicion that
you’ve come away without signing off. You needn’t tell me whether I’m
right or wrong. But you may rest assured that there’ll be no trouble
about it. To-morrow you and I’ll go back together and try it over.”

“But what--where am I going to go now?” asked Jack dismally.

“Why, you’ll come home with me, of course,” replied the professor. “No
one need ever know but that you and I came off together. We’ll have to
take a pretty early train back in the morning, but I guess you won’t
mind that. My mother and sister will be very glad to see you, and--
Hello, here we are! Grab your bag, Weatherby, and come along.”

“But--” stammered the boy.

“All right; you can tell me about that when you get outside. Besides,”
he laughed, “you’ve got to get off here, anyhow; your fare is only paid
this far. Hurry up, or we’ll both get left!”

A moment later Jack found himself out on a sunny platform, dodging a
baggage-truck and following his hurrying guide through the throng.



CHAPTER XI

ANTHONY MAKES A STATEMENT


The morning after Jack’s departure Anthony turned in through the
little gate at Mrs. Dorlon’s and strode quickly up the short path.
The time was but a quarter before eight. The sun was out, but was
hidden behind a low-lying bank of mist, through which it glowed
wanly. In the elms along the street the sparrows were chattering and
scolding until one would have thought that every family circle was in
the midst of domestic strife, possible because of overlate worms or
underdone beetles. It was a tepid sort of morning; the bricks in the
pavement were wet with the fog and the air was warm. Anthony wore his
coat-collar turned up, not to protect his throat, but to hide the fact
that there was no other collar beneath. In his hand he carried a can
of condensed milk and a little paper bag of coffee. He had been upset
by the events of the preceding day and had neglected to replenish his
provision cupboard; hence a postprandial journey to Main Street.

As he climbed the stairs and caught sight of the half-opened door of
Jack’s room, recollection of that youth returned to him and he sighed
as he crossed the little hall and thrust his own door open. Then
he stopped short and gave vent to an exclamation of surprise. The
condensed milk dropped with a thud and rolled under the cot-bed. Jack,
nodding drowsily in the rocker, opened his eyes and jumped to his feet.
Then he grinned sheepishly.

“I--I’ve come back,” he muttered.

He partly extended his hand, thinking Anthony would take it. But the
latter, after a moment of silent surprise, only said:

“Well! I’m glad to see you.” He crawled awkwardly under the cot and
recovered the milk. “Changed your mind, eh?” he asked, as he emerged.

His voice was hearty enough, and he smiled behind his spectacles as
though pleased, yet Jack felt a chill of disappointment and answered
soberly:

“Yes, I changed my mind. I came back on an early train. You weren’t in
and so I sat down to wait for you; I guess I must have come pretty near
to falling asleep. Well, I must go to breakfast.”

Anthony fought for a moment against the restraint which gripped him.
When he spoke his tones held the old warmth.

“Nonsense, Jack, stay here and have some with me. I haven’t any fatted
calf to kill for you, but I can fry a couple of eggs and give you some
good coffee, and----”

“I can’t drink coffee,” Jack answered, “but if you really want me to
stay, I’ll be glad to. I--I’d rather not go to training-table this
morning.”

“Course I want you to,” answered Anthony. “Why can’t you drink coffee,
though?”

“Training.”

“What? Why, coffee never hurt any one; best thing in the world, coffee;
strengthening, elevating, enlarging; good for body and brain. But tell
me all about your vacation.”

And while Anthony bustled about over his little stove, handling pots
and pans with a deftness remarkable in a person usually so awkward,
Jack recounted his experiences rather shamefacedly.

“Right about the professor, wasn’t I?” interrupted Anthony once.

“Yes, you were. He’s mighty good, Anthony. He treated me as though I
was the President; and so did his mother and sister. I had a bully
little room with an open fireplace in it and blue roses all over the
walls and all sorts of easy chairs made out of rattan stuff; and the
sun just flooded in the window this morning. My, but I wish I lived
there all the time!”

“Sounds fine,” answered Anthony. “All aboard, now; draw up to the table
and wade in. Guess you’ll have to use the rocker, unless you’d rather
have this. Here’s the sugar. How about-- Pshaw, you’re not going to
drink coffee, are you? Have some water in the toothbrush mug? No? All
right. Have an egg; that’s right, just slide it off. These rolls are
good; I sprinkle the tops with water and heat ’em up on the stove.
Sorry I haven’t more to offer you, though. Well, Jack, I’m glad you ran
across White and came back. You’d been sorry--afterward--if you’d gone
home; and so would I. And, by the way, what was it that set you going?
What happened at the table yesterday morning? Your note was lacking in
details.”

Jack told about Gilberth’s behavior and Anthony’s eyes darkened behind
his spectacles.

“Ugly brute!” he muttered. “Ought to be spanked. But-- Look here, don’t
mind him, Jack; I don’t think he’s going to trouble you much after
this. Just keep out of his way.”

“I’ll try to. If--if he was a freshman, or even a soph, I’d fight him;
but I can’t fight a senior!”

“Huh! You won’t have to; he’s going to behave himself after this,” said
Anthony grimly.

“Well, I don’t know; anyhow, I’m going to stick it out now, no matter
what happens,” Jack said stoutly. “That’s my last try at running away.
If it hadn’t been for forgetting my money, I guess I’d have gone. Funny
how it happened, wasn’t it? The worst of it is, I thought I’d left the
money in my trunk, but I’ve looked and it isn’t there; I can’t find it
anywhere. It was about all I had. I guess dad will be madder than a
hatter when I write home for more.”

“That’s too bad,” said Anthony. “If you want a little--a dollar or two,
you know--to go on until you hear from home, I can let you have it as
well as not.”

“You’re awfully good,” answered Jack gratefully. “But it would be a
nice thing for me to borrow from you, wouldn’t it? Don’t you think I
know how hard up you are?”

“Oh, well, you could pay it back, you know. If you’d rather, you could
give me a mortgage on your clothes,” he added, smiling.

“Then, if my money didn’t come, you might for-clothes,” laughed Jack.

“Running away from school seems to sharpen your wits,” said Anthony.
“Have another egg? Won’t take a minute. Good; I like my guests to have
appetites.”

“You’d have one yourself if you’d been hauled out of a nice, soft bed
at half-past six!”

“Guess I would; but I wouldn’t make bad puns.”

Presently, while the egg was sputtering in the pan, Jack asked, with a
trace of embarrassment:

“Did you--get that watch-charm?”

“Yes; much obliged,” was the answer. “Guess I’d better give it back
now. Won’t need it to remember you by if you’re in the same hut with
me, eh?”

“I--I’d rather you did keep it, though, and wear it, if you don’t mind.
Did you put it on your chain?”

The fork fell into the pan, and Anthony fished it out with much
muttering before he answered. Then--

“Why, no, I didn’t, Jack. You see----”

“I know; it isn’t very beautiful; just one I had.”

“That isn’t the reason,” said Anthony without turning around. “Fact is,
I’m not wearing my watch just now.”

“Oh, aren’t you? Why--what----”

“Well, a fellow can’t have money to lend and a gold watch at the same
time. Just at present I’m a moneylender.”

“Oh, I see,” Jack replied. But, nevertheless, he didn’t look satisfied
with the explanation, and when Anthony returned to the breakfast-table
with the egg he had been frying the two finished the meal almost in
silence.

Thanks to the secrecy of the three persons who alone knew of Jack’s
absence from Centerport, his return to the training-table at lunch-time
occasioned no surprise. Joe Perkins looked bewildered for a moment,
but said nothing. King called across the board and asked Jack where
he’d been since the day before, and Jack calmly replied that he’d been
home with Professor White overnight. Several pairs of eyebrows went up
incredulously, but no one voiced his doubts. Gilberth took absolutely
no notice of Jack, and, at least in so far as the latter was concerned,
the meal went off pleasantly. He had expected to be called to account
by the trainer, but Simson had eyes of his own and said nothing as
long as luncheon was in progress. When it was over he questioned the
captain. After a moment of hesitation, Joe told the trainer the facts
of Jack’s absence as he knew them.

“I think,” he said, “that the best thing to do is to take no notice
this time. Weatherby may turn out a good man for us if he can get his
mind on his work. But if this badgering continues he won’t be worth a
continental; he’s all up in the air. Maybe you can give him a good word
now and then, ‘Baldy’; the poor dub needs it all right.”

“Sure, I can,” answered the trainer. “Give the lad a chance; why not? I
doubt he’s varsity material, cap, but he’s a decent spoken lad enough.”

Tracy Gilberth walked back to his room after luncheon feeling very
dissatisfied with life. He had not yet forgiven Joe for the lecture
which the latter had delivered to him the day before. Tracy felt deeply
wronged. He really believed that when he had publicly affronted Jack
Weatherby that he had been performing a service to the college; that
it was his duty to protest against the presence at the university of a
fellow who had shown himself to be a coward. Tracy had a rather good
opinion of himself and of his importance, and had never doubted that,
since others had failed to act in the matter, it was his place to step
to the front. The wigging he had received from Joe had surprised as
well as disgruntled him, and his vanity still smarted.

And what increased his annoyance was the fact that he had been “called
down” by the one fellow of all whom Tracy really held in affection,
and who, or so Tracy argued, should have been the very last to oppose
him. Never before had the two, whose friendship dated back from their
sophomore year, come so near to quarreling as they had yesterday.
Differences of opinion they frequently had, but Tracy always retired
from whatever position he held at the first sign of displeasure on the
part of the other. But yesterday Tracy’s backdown had been incomplete;
to-day he was not decided whether to do as Joe wanted him to and leave
the obnoxious Weatherby strictly alone or to show his resentment by
continuing his righteous persecution of that youth with some more than
usually severe affront. In fact, Tracy hovered on the verge of open
mutiny when, after climbing the first flight of stairs in Grace Hall,
he turned to the left down the broad corridor and kicked open the
unlatched door of his study.

“Hello!” he exclaimed.

“Hello!” was the response from the depths of a big leather armchair,
and Anthony, who had been reclining with widely stretched legs
and reading a magazine, placed the latter back on the mahogany
writing-table and calmly faced his host. The two knew each other well
enough to nod in passing, but never before had Anthony paid Tracy a
visit, and the latter’s evident surprise was natural enough.

“Found your door open,” explained Anthony, “so I came in and waited.
Wanted to see you a minute or two, Gilberth.”

“That’s all right; glad you made yourself comfortable,” answered the
other.

“Nice rooms you’ve got,” continued the visitor.

“Oh, they do well enough,” Tracy replied carelessly.

As a matter of fact they were the handsomest in college, and he knew
it and was proud of it. The study was furnished throughout in mahogany
upholstered in light-green leather, a combination of colors at first
glance a trifle disconcerting, but which, when viewed in connection
with the walls and draperies, was quite harmonious. The walls were
covered to the height of five feet with denim of dark green. Above
this a mahogany plate-rail ran about the apartment and held a few old
pewter platters and tankards, some good pieces of luster-ware and a
half-dozen bowls and pitchers of Japanese glaze. Above the shelf,
buckram of a dull shade of mahogany red continued to the ceiling, where
it gave way to cartridge-paper of a still lighter shade. The draperies
at doors and windows were of the prevailing tones. The effect of the
whole was one of cheerful dignity. The room was not overcrowded with
furniture and the walls held a few pictures, and those of the best.
There was a refreshing absence of small photographs and knickknacks.
Tracy was proud of his taste in the matter of decoration and furnishing
and proud of the result as here shown. Anthony liked the room without
understanding it. Perhaps the little whimsical smile that curved his
lips was summoned by a mental comparison of the present apartment and
his own chamber with its cracked and stained whitewashed walls and
povern fittings.

“You wanted to see me, you said?” prompted Tracy.

“Yes,” answered the visitor. “Maybe it will simplify matters if I start
out by telling you that Jack Weatherby’s a particular friend of mine.”

“Oh,” said Tracy. “Well?”

“Well, don’t you think you’ve bothered him enough, Gilberth?”

“Look here, Tidball, I don’t like your tone,” said Tracy with asperity.

“Can’t help it,” answered Anthony. “I don’t like the way you’ve been
hazing Weatherby. Now we know each other’s grievance.”

“What I’ve done to Weatherby doesn’t concern you,” said Tracy hotly.
“And I’m not to be dictated to. The fellow’s a coward and a bounder.”

“Don’t know what bounder is,” answered the other dryly. “Doesn’t sound
nice, though. Suppose we stop calling names? I might lose my temper
and call you something, and you mightn’t like it, either. But I didn’t
come up here to quarrel with you; don’t like to quarrel with a man in
his room; doesn’t seem polite, does it? What I came to say is this,
Gilberth: leave Weatherby alone or you’ll have me to deal with.”

“Is that a threat?”

“No, I guess not; just a statement of fact.”

“Do you think I’m afraid of you?” demanded Tracy angrily.

“Guess not; keep on tormenting Weatherby and I’ll know you’re not.”

“Now, look here, Tidball, if you want a row, you can have it right off.
You don’t need to wait and see what happens to your precious friend.
I’ll fight you any time you like. Do you want a fight?”

“No, not particularly,” answered Anthony, with his most exasperating
drawl. “Never fought any one in my life. Wouldn’t know how to go about
it, I guess. Even----”

“Well, you’ll know all about it mighty soon if you don’t get out of
here!”

“Don’t think I shall. Haven’t any intention of fighting.”

“Haven’t you, indeed? Well, what, I’d like to know, are you hinting at?”

“Not hinting at all. You leave Weatherby alone or I’ll catch you in the
yard and wallop you with a trunk-strap; but,” he added grimly, “there
won’t be any fighting.”

He drew his long length out of the chair and took up his hat. Tracy,
pale with anger, eyed him silently a moment. Then he leaped forward and
sent him spinning back against the chair with a blow on the shoulder.
The next moment he felt himself lifted bodily from his feet, turned
head over heels, and deposited in that inglorious position on the broad
leather couch. When things stopped revolving he saw Tidball’s calm face
bending over him and felt his wrists held tightly together by fingers
that grasped them like steel bands. He struggled violently until his
opponent placed a bony knee on his chest. Then he subsided.

“Now keep still and listen to me,” said Tidball in quiet, undisturbed
tones. “I’m a peaceable fellow, and don’t fight. But if you don’t
remember what I’ve told you, I’m going to grab you just like this some
day--and it’ll be when there are plenty of men looking on, too--and I’m
going to spank you with a trunk-strap. If you don’t believe me,” he
added with a slight grin, “I’ll show you the strap!”

“I’ll--I’ll kill----”

“No, you won’t do a thing,” the other interrupted sternly. “You’ll stay
just where you are and behave yourself. If you don’t, I’ll lock you up
in your bedroom; and that’s a liberty I don’t want to take.”

He released Tracy and stepped back. Tracy leaped to his feet, but
something in the look of the eyes behind the steel-bowed spectacles
persuaded him to keep his distance. Anthony picked up his hat from the
floor, dusted it tenderly with his elbow, and walked to the door.

“Sorry there was any trouble, Gilberth,” he said soberly. “Maybe I
lost my temper; it’s a mean one sometimes. Think over what I said.” He
closed the door noiselessly behind him, and Tracy, shaking and choking
with wrath, groaned futilely.



CHAPTER XII

A FLY TO LEFT-FIELDER


Jack sat on the players’ bench, chin in hands, elbows on knees, and
watched Centerport High School go down in defeat. It was the first
game of the season for the varsity, and, judged by high standards,
it wasn’t anything to be proud of. At the end of the sixth inning
the score was 9--0 in Erskine’s favor, and not one of the nine runs
had been earned. The error column on the score-sheet was so filled
with little round dots that, from where Jack sat, it looked as though
some one had sprinkled it with pepper. If, so far, there had been any
encouraging features they were undoubtedly Joe Perkins’s catching of
Gilberth’s erratic curves and Knox’s work at shortstop. The outfield
had conscientiously muffed every fly that had come its way, and only
the quick recovery of the ball had, on several occasions, prevented
High School from scoring.

Joe Perkins looked disgusted whenever he walked to the bench, and the
expression on the countenance of Hanson, the head coach, was one of
bewilderment. “It’s simply wonderful!” Jack heard him confide to Joe.
“I don’t see how they do it. I can understand how they can muff every
other ball, say; but the whole-souled manner in which they let every
one slide through their fingers is marvelous!” And Joe had smiled
weakly and turned away.

When the men trotted out for the beginning of the seventh, Jack slid
along the bench to where Patterson, the team’s manager, was scowling
over the score-book. Jack had never spoken to Patterson, and a week ago
he would have hesitated a long while before risking a snub by doing
so. But since his return from his “visit” with Professor White the
treatment he had received from the other members of the team had been
so decent that he was ceasing to look upon himself as a Pariah and
was regaining some degree of assurance. He studied the book over the
manager’s shoulder a moment. Then he asked:

“Pretty poor, isn’t it? Do you think Perkins will put any more subs in?”

Patterson glanced around with a flicker of surprise in his eyes. But
his answer was friendly enough:

“I don’t know what he’ll do. But if the subs can play any better than
the men he’s got in there he’d better give ’em a chance. Where do you
play?”

“Almost anywhere, I guess. They’ve had me at left-field, right-field,
and second base. I guess I’ll be in the outfield if I get in at all.”

“You’d better go out there and help Northup,” said the manager, as he
credited Motter, at first base, with his third error. “I don’t suppose
it matters much whether High School scores or not; only I would like to
see Erskine have a clean record this year. And to get scored on in the
first game looks pretty rotten. Who made that assist?”

“Stiles. Can’t Gilberth pitch better than he’s doing to-day?”

“Of course he can. He’s all right when he tries; he evidently thinks
this game isn’t worth while. But I’ll wager that Hanson will have
something to say to him afterward. Side’s out. Stiles at bat!”

Erskine managed to find High School’s pitcher to good effect in the
last of the seventh and piled up four more runs, two of them fairly
earned. When Erskine trotted into the field again Hanson and Perkins
had materially altered her batting list. King, who had been playing
in left-field, went into the pitcher’s box, and Jack was sent out to
left-field. Griffin succeeded Joe as catcher, Mears took Motter’s place
at first, and Smith went in at shortstop.

Jack watched events from his position over near the rail fence and was
never once disturbed; for King retired the opposing batsmen in one,
two, three order, and the sides again changed places. Jack didn’t have
a chance to show what he could do with the stick, for High School,
following Erskine’s lead, put a new man into the box, and the new man
puzzled the batsmen so that only one reached first, and was left there
when Billings, third-baseman, popped a short fly into the hands of High
School’s shortstop. Jack trotted back to the rail fence very disgusted.

It was the last inning. The sun was getting low and the chill of early
evening caused Jack to swing his arms and prance around to keep the
blood circulating. Over by the bench he could see them packing the bats
away, and a little stream of spectators was filling around behind the
back fence toward the gate. High School had reached the tail-end of
her batting list again, and, to all appearances, the game was as good
as finished. But last innings can’t always be depended upon to behave
as expected. The present one proved this. High School’s first man at
bat heroically tried to smash a long fly into outfield and, all by
good luck, bunted the ball into the dust at his feet. After a moment
of bewilderment, he put out for first and reached it at the same time
as the ball. High School’s noisy supporters took new courage and awoke
the echoes with their fantastic war-whoop. King looked bothered for an
instant, and in that instant struck the next batsman on the elbow. The
latter, rubbing the bruise and grinning joyfully, trotted to first and
the man ahead took second.

“Huh,” muttered Jack, rubbing his chilled hands together, “something
doing, after all.”

But King settled down then, and, after three attempts to catch the High
School runner napping at second base, struck out the next man very
nicely. The succeeding one, finding a straight ball, bunted it toward
first, and, while he was tagged out by King, advanced the runners. High
School’s supporters, gathered into a little bunch on the stand, waved
their flags and ribbons, and shouted frantically. For surely, with men
on third and second and their best batter selecting his stick, a run
was not unlikely. Hanson shouted a command and King, repeating it,
motioned the fielders in. Jack obeyed, doubtingly, for he had watched
the present player and believed him capable of hitting hard. And so,
although he made pretense of shortening field, he remained pretty much
where he had been. And a moment later he was heartily glad of it.

For the High School batsman, a tall, lanky, but very determined-looking
youth, found King’s first delivery and raced for first. Along the
base-lines the coaches were shouting unintelligible things and
flourishing their caps. The runners on third and second were running
home. In the outfield Bissell, center-fielder, was speeding back,
cutting over into Jack’s territory as he went. Jack, too, was going up
the field, yet cautiously, for the shadows were gathering and it was
hard to tell where the little black speck up there against the purple
sky was going to fall. Yet when, with a final glance over his shoulder,
he took up his position, and heard Bissell, panting from his run, cry:
“All yours, Weatherby!” he never doubted that he would catch it. To
Jack a fly was merely a baseball that required catching; and he was
there to catch it. So he took a step or two forward, put up his hands,
and pulled it down. Then he threw it to second-baseman and trotted in.

When he reached the plate the applause had died away and the remainder
of the audience was hurrying off the field. The players were finding
sweaters and, having thrown them over their shoulders, were hurrying
across to the locker-house. Jack, searching for his own, heard Hanson’s
voice behind him:

“Well, Joe, we’ve got one man who can catch a ball, eh?”

Jack knew that he wasn’t supposed to hear that remark, and so he took
his time at pulling his white sweater out of the pile. When he turned,
the head coach and captain were walking away. Jack followed, feeling
very thankful that he had not missed his one chance of the game. As he
entered the door he almost ran against the coach. Hanson smiled into
his face as he stepped aside.

“That was a very fair catch, Weatherby,” he said.

And a moment later, when, wrapped only in a big bath-towel, he was
hurrying to the shower-room, “Baldy” Simson clapped him on the back
with a big hand.

“That’s the lad now,” he cried heartily, adding then his invariable
caution: “Easy with the hot water, and don’t go to sleep!”

At dinner-table Jack thought the other fellows looked at him with
something like respect. And all, he reflected, because he had caught a
ball he couldn’t help catching!



CHAPTER XIII

JOE IS PESSIMISTIC


“Have you seen the editorial in the Purple?” asked King.

Joe Perkins, who had pushed his book away as the other entered his
study, swung around in his chair and shook his head.

“About the mass-meeting?” he asked. “No, I haven’t seen the paper yet.
What does it say?”

Gregory King leaned over the table until the inky-smelling sheets of
the college weekly were under the green glass shade of the student-lamp.

“Listen, then, benighted one! ‘It is to be hoped that every student who
can possibly do so will attend the mass-meeting to be held on Wednesday
evening next in Grace Hall for the purpose of raising money for the
expenses of the University baseball team. A victory over Robinson this
spring decisive enough to obliterate----’”

“Hear! hear!” cried Joe.

“Yes, elegant word, isn’t it?” grinned the other. “‘To obliterate the
stigma of last year’s defeat is what every friend of the college hopes
for and expects. But unless enough money is placed at the disposal
of the management, to meet the expenses of the team, such a victory
can not be secured. The nine has never been self-supporting and every
spring it has started in with a deficit of from fifty to a hundred and
fifty dollars, which has been paid by the Athletic Committee from the
general fund. Heretofore the Committee has, besides making good the
deficit, paid over to the baseball management sufficient money to carry
the team through the first half of the season. This spring, however,
the Committee is unable to do this. The football receipts last fall
were scarcely more than half as large as usual, while the expenses were
much greater. As a result, the sum at the disposal of the baseball
team, the track team, and the crew is extremely small, and the former
has received as its share the sum of one hundred and fifty dollars
only--a sum not nearly sufficient to carry it through the first half of
the season.

“‘It becomes necessary, therefore, to secure funds from some other
source. Subscriptions have been invited from the alumni, but the result
of this step is uncertain. A popular subscription is necessary and will
be asked at the meeting on Wednesday. The amount required to insure
the success of the nine is not large, and it is the duty of the student
body to see that it is raised before the meeting is adjourned. Manager
Patterson will make a statement of the association’s condition, and
there will be addresses by Dean Levatt, Professor Nast, Coach Hanson,
Captain Perkins, A. Z. Tidball, ’04, and others. It is to be hoped that
the meeting will be attended by every member of the university.’”

“Not bad,” commented Joe. “But whether Patterson has made a mistake by
stating frankly that the meeting is called to secure money remains to
be seen.”

“What else could he say? The fellows aren’t going to be gulled into
thinking that they’re invited to a mass-meeting to play ping-pong!”

“I know, but there are lots of fellows who won’t come if they know
they’re to be asked to dive into their pockets.”

“Then let them stay away,” answered King forcibly. “Any chap that isn’t
willing to give a dollar or two to beat Robinson isn’t worth bothering
with!”

“I dare say; but we’ve got to have a lot of money, and if every fellow
of that sort stays away--” He shook his head doubtfully.

“Oh, get out! You’re pessimistic this evening. Cheer up; the tide’s
coming in! We’ll get all the money we need, and lots more besides.
You’ll see.”

“Hope so. Fact is, Greg, I’m a bit down in the mouth over the showing
we made Saturday. If we don’t do better Wednesday I sha’n’t blame the
fellows if they refuse to pony up for us. A nine that plays ball like a
lot of girls doesn’t deserve support.”

“Well, we were pretty rotten Saturday, Joe, and that’s the truth. But
we’ll stand by you better next time. We’ll give a good exhibition of
union-made, hand-sewn baseball on Wednesday that’ll tickle the college
to death. By the way, there’s a long fairy tale from Collegetown here
in the Purple about Robinson’s team. To read it you’d think they
expected to walk all over us and everybody else. They’re talking about
beating Artmouth next week! How’s that for immortal cheek?”

“Oh, they’ve got a good nine, Greg, and they know it. And you and I
know it. We might as well face it, too.”

“Well, what if they have? Great Scott, man, haven’t they had good nines
lots of times before and been beaten out of their boots? What do we
care for their old Voses and Condits and ‘Hard-hitting Hopkinses’?
Maybe we’ve got a good battery ourselves, and a man or two who can slug
the ball!”

“Maybe we have,” answered Joe dryly, “but you couldn’t just name them,
could you?”

“Certainly I can name them! You’re just as good a catcher as that
Condit wonder of theirs. And Gilberth can pitch all around Vose, when
he wants to. And----”

“Yes, when he wants to,” said Joe significantly.

“Well, he will want to when it comes to Robinson,” said King.

“Perhaps. And how about the hard sluggers?”

“Oh, well, there’s Motter, and Billings, and----”

“Yourself; you’re a better batsman than either of them, Greg. But
there’s no use in running down Hopkins; he’s a wonder at the bat; and
we’ve got to get busy and turn out a few fellows like him. Saturday
there wasn’t more than three decent hits made in the whole idiotic
game.”

“My cheerless friend, please forget Saturday,” begged King. “It wasn’t
nice, I know, but it showed up the weak spots, and that’s something to
be thankful for.”

“Not when there’s nothing but spots,” lamented Joe.

“Besides, we kept them from scoring; and for a while it looked as
though we couldn’t.”

“And even that was just a piece of good luck.”

“Good luck? Why, it didn’t seem so to me. I never saw a fielder look
more certain of making a catch than Weatherby did. And the way he
pulled down that ball was mighty pretty, too.”

“I don’t mean that it was luck for him; I mean that it was just by luck
that I put him in your place when you went into the box; I almost sent
Lowe out there. If I had it’s dollars to cents he wouldn’t have judged
that ball so as to have caught it.”

“Well, all’s well that ends well, old chap. Cheer up! By the way, I was
mighty glad Weatherby made that catch and kept our slate clean; for his
sake, I mean. I’ve noticed that yesterday and to-day the fellows at the
table have been very decent to him. I guess he rather made a hit with
them Saturday.”

“I’m glad of that,” Joe responded heartily. “To tell the truth, Greg,
Weatherby’s been bothering me a good deal; Hanson and I picked him
out for a good man, and I think he is, but all this badgering by the
fellows has made him pretty near worthless. I hope to goodness it’s
done with now.”

“It’s been Tracy more than any one else,” said King. “He’s rather
overdone it, I think.”

“I should say so! The trouble with Tracy is that he gets it into his
thick head that he’s a sort of public conscience, and you can’t get it
out. I don’t think he really intends to be mean; I’ve known him to do
several mighty decent things--kind-hearted, you know.”

“Seems as though his sense of proportion was out of gear; and you can’t
faze him, either.”

“Well, I don’t know; sometimes I manage to jar him a bit. I got at him
last week and asked him to go easy on Weatherby, and so far he’s done
it. I put it to him on the score of justice and that sort of thing,
you know. I’ve noticed, by the way, that you’ve been kind of taking
Weatherby’s part lately. Do you like him?”

“I don’t know whether I do or don’t,” answered King slowly. “I think
maybe I could like him very well if he’d give me a chance, but the
trouble is he won’t let you get near him. He’s the most independent,
stand-offish sort of chap ever.”

“I know. It’s rather against him, that kind of thing. But I fancy,
Greg, that that manner of his is sort of defensive; I don’t believe
he’s really so independent as he is--well, shy. He thinks fellows don’t
care to know him and so puts on that let-me-alone air just to hide the
fact that he’s downhearted.”

“Do you? Well, maybe you’re right. It never occurred to me.”

“Yes; and something Professor White said the other day bears me out.
He came up to see me about Weatherby. It seems he’s taken rather a
shine to him, and had him home with him overnight last week. He says
that Weatherby’s frightfully cut up over the way the fellows have been
treating him; thinks no one wants to have anything to do with him on
account of that affair down at the river, you know, and is just about
ready to throw up the sponge and light out. In fact--” Joe stopped,
remembering that Anthony had requested him not to talk of Jack’s
flight. “Anyhow, it seems rather a shame, don’t you think? The chap’s
a nice-looking, gentlemanly sort, and apparently has lots of pluck, in
spite of what happened at the wharf that day.”

“That’s what I think. I believe the truth of that business is that
Weatherby doesn’t know how to swim, Joe.”

“Really? Did he ever say so?”

“Oh, thunder, no! He never’s talked about it to me; I’d be scared to
death to ask him. But that seems a reasonable sort of explanation,
doesn’t it?”

“Yes, it does. And it’s funny that it never occurred to me. Somehow,
you take it for granted here that every fellow knows how to swim; we’re
such a lot of water-rats, you know. I believe you’ve hit it, Greg. But
if that’s the case, why didn’t he out and say so?”

“Well, I don’t know. Maybe we didn’t give him a chance at first, and
then, when he did have a show, maybe he got spunky and wouldn’t. It’s
the sort of thing I could understand his doing.”

“Yes, it is. Well, anyhow, he’s cut up more rumpus and made more worry
than any freshie I ever knew. And I hope to goodness it’s over. I want
him to play ball. Going? Don’t forget to drum up the meeting. Bring a
crowd with you and start the enthusiasm early in the game. And, by the
way, if you ever have a chance, you might just try and find out about
Weatherby; whether he can swim, you know. So long, Greg.”

Jack would have been distinctly surprised had he known that he was the
subject of so much discussion. He was beginning to congratulate himself
that the men with whom he associated seemed to have forgotten the
unpleasant incident, and were, in a manner, making his acquaintance all
over again. There was no denying the fact that since his performance
of Saturday on the diamond the fellows at the training-table had shown
themselves very friendly toward him. Of old he had usually eaten his
meals in silence, save for an occasional word with Joe or King or
the trainer. Nowadays the fellows greeted him as one of themselves,
included him in their conversation, and even asked his opinion
sometimes. And unconsciously he was bidding for their friendship. He
no longer answered all inquiries with monosyllables, but forgot his
rôle of injured innocence and entered into the talk with sprightliness
and interest. Once he had even made a joke. It was a good joke, but its
effect was embarrassing. Every one was so surprised that for a full
quarter of a minute not a sound greeted it. Then the table broke into
laughter. But by that time Jack was all self-consciousness once more,
and for the rest of the meal ate in silence.

But his shyness wore off again, and by the middle of the week his
companions had adopted a way of listening when he spoke as though what
he had to say was worth hearing. The effect of this was like a tonic to
Jack’s vanity. He began to recover his naturally good spirits and the
change in him was noticeable. Anthony saw and was delighted.

The friendship between him and the younger boy had worked back into its
old lines. Sometimes, more and more infrequently as time passed, Jack
thought he could detect a difference in Anthony’s attitude toward him;
fancied that the other was reserved in manner. But the difference, if
difference there was, was slight and did not seriously impair Jack’s
enjoyment of Anthony’s friendship.

Anthony himself in those days was not aware that he showed at times
any of the doubts that assailed him. He did not mean to. He had argued
with himself over the matter of the lost watch and had at length
practically convinced himself that, despite all evidences against his
friend, Jack was not guilty of theft. It is probable that even had
Anthony detected Jack in the act of stealing he would still have kept
much of his liking for the boy, even while detesting his offense.
Anthony was big enough morally to view wrong-doing with pity as well
as disfavor, and his affection for Jack--a big-hearted, generous
affection--would have weighed in the boy’s favor.

But Anthony had made up his mind to believe in the other’s innocence,
and believe he did. Sometimes the doubts would creep back despite him,
and it was at such times that Jack believed he detected a difference
in Anthony’s manner toward him. Meanwhile, Anthony had purchased a
wonderful alarm-clock for the sum of eighty-five cents; wonderful for
the reason that it gained an hour each day as long as it stood on its
feet, and lost twenty minutes each day if laid comfortably on its back.
Anthony corrected it every evening by Jack’s watch, and persevered in
his efforts to lead it back into a life of veracity and usefulness.

“There’s some position,” he declared, “in which that thing will keep
exact time. ’Tisn’t on its feet, and ’tisn’t on its back; it’s
somewhere between. Patience and study will find the solution.”

So he propped it at various angles with his books, and even laid it
on its head, but whether the numerals XII pointed toward the floor,
the ceiling, or the dormer-window the result was always surprising
and never satisfactory. And finally, after he had once awakened and
prepared his breakfast before discovering that the alarm had gone off
at five instead of half-past six, he gave up the struggle, settled the
timepiece firmly on its little legs, and accustomed himself to being
always one hour ahead of the rest of the world.



CHAPTER XIV

THE MASS-MEETING


On the Wednesday for which the mass-meeting was called Jack returned
to the house at quarter after five, and, as was his custom, stopped
in at Anthony’s room to spend half an hour before dinner. Anthony
had improvised a window-seat out of a packing-case, covering it with
an old red table-cloth and installing upon it his one cushion, a not
over-soft and very flamboyant creation in purple and white. When Jack
entered he found Anthony perched thereon before the open casement. The
seat was not very long and so the occupant was obliged to either let
his legs hang over the edge or fold them up beneath him. At present he
had adopted the latter tactics, and a ludicrous figure he presented.
Jack subsided on to the edge of the bed and giggled with delight until
Anthony tossed the book he was studying at his head.

“What are you crying about?” he demanded.

“I’m not cr--crying,” gurgled Jack. “I’m la--laughing at you.”

“What’s the matter with me?”

“You look so--so funny!”

“Do I?” Anthony grinned and unfolded himself. “I was thinking a while
ago that I was like a pair of scissors I saw once. The blades tucked
back against the handles. How’d the game come out?”

“Pretty well; seven to nothing. Millport came pretty near getting a
run in the fourth, but after that she didn’t have a ghost of a show.
I didn’t, either. I didn’t get in for a minute; just sat on that old
bench and looked on and nearly froze to death.”

“Too bad,” sympathized Anthony.

“Wasn’t it? However, I don’t care very much. Hanson sat with me a while
and we had a long talk. He knows a whole lot about baseball; stuff I
never thought of; scientific part of the game, you know.”

“Hanged if I do!” answered Anthony. “I don’t know a baseball from a
longstop.”

“A what?” gasped Jack.

“Longstop; isn’t that it?”

“Shortstop, you mean.”

“Well, knew it was some kind of a stop. Might as well call it one thing
as the other, I guess.”

“Why don’t you come out and see a game some day?”

“Going to some afternoon, when I’ve nothing to do.”

“Huh! I guess you’ll never come, then. You’re always grinding.”

“Oh, I’ll take a vacation some Saturday and go and watch you play.”

“Don’t know whether you will or not,” said Jack dolefully. “King played
in left-field all the game to-day. Pretty nearly every sub except me
went in. I wish they’d give me a place to try for and let me see if
I can’t make it. I hope, though, they don’t put me out in the field.
Perkins told me yesterday that there’s no use in my trying for pitcher
this year, and I guess he’s right. Gilberth played a great game to-day;
struck seven men out and gave only two bases.”

“How are you and he getting on nowadays?” Anthony asked.

“All right. He never has anything to say to me, and I let him alone.”

“Guess he won’t trouble you any more,” said Anthony.

“Perhaps not. Sometimes, though, I think he’s saving up for something
particularly unpleasant. I don’t care, though. He can go hang.”

Anthony closed the window, drew down the stained green shade, and
lighted the gas-stove. Jack lay back on the bed for a time and watched
the dinner preparations in silence.

“What’s the _pièce de résistance_ to-night?” he finally asked, as there
came a sputtering from the pan.

“Hamburger steak with onions,” answered Anthony.

“Ugh!”

“Don’t you like it?” asked his host in surprise.

“Not a bit; and I don’t like the beastly smell, either. So I’m going
home.” He stretched his arms luxuriously and sat up. Then, “Did you
ever wish you were rich, Anthony?” he asked.

Anthony paused a moment with fork outstretched, and looked thoughtfully
across the room. Finally, he shook his head.

“No, I don’t believe I ever did. What’s the use?”

“No use, I suppose. But I have, often. I wish so now. Do you know what
I’d do if I had fifty thousand dollars?”

“No; but something silly, I guess,” answered the other, prodding the
steak till it sizzled.

“Well, I’d throw that foolish, lying clock out of the window and get
your watch back. Then I’d take you to--to--Boston, I guess, and buy
you a ripping good dinner for once in your life. We’d have quail and
asparagus, and-- Do you like chocolate éclairs?”

“Don’t know; never ate any. What are they like?”

“Well, we’d have them, anyway. Wish I had one now. And-- But I’m
getting hungry, myself.”

“Better stay and have some Hamburger and onions,” advised Anthony, with
a smile. But Jack fled toward the door, ostentatiously holding his nose.

At half past seven they set out for the mass-meeting together. When
they had crossed the Common and had entered the yard they found
themselves in one of a number of little eddies of laughing, chattering
fellows that flowed across the campus and merged in front of Grace Hall
into a stream that filled the doorway and staircase from side to side.

“Going to have a full house,” observed Anthony.

At the door of the meeting-room they ran into Joe Perkins. He grabbed
Anthony and sent him, under charge of Patterson, the manager, to a seat
on the platform. Then he put a detaining hand on Jack’s arm.

“Cheer like everything, Weatherby!” he whispered.

Then a six-foot sophomore, leading a flying wedge consisting of a
handful of his classmates, bucked Jack between the shoulders and he
went rushing up the aisle, tossing the crowd to either side, until
he managed to avoid the men behind by slipping into a vacant seat.
The big sophomore banged him on the shoulder as he charged on. “Bully
interference!” he cried. Followed by his companions, he leaped over the
intervening row of occupied seats and subsided in a heap among a little
throng of delighted friends. “Down here!” he yelled. Some one imitated
a referee’s whistle and a falsetto voice called: “Third down and a yard
to gain!”

Jack found himself seated next to a group of second-nine men. The
little freshman Clover was his immediate neighbor, and beyond that
youth sat Showell, the fellow whom Jack had fooled with his pitching on
that first day of outdoor practise. They had met but seldom since then,
but Showell had never missed an opportunity to annoy Jack, if possible,
or, failing that, to show his dislike. His annoyances usually took the
form of allusions to the incident at the river, plain enough, yet so
petty that Jack never regarded them as worth noticing. Clover greeted
Jack with evident pleasure. The latter returned his greeting and then
nodded to the fellows farther along. Only Showell failed to respond.
Turning to the man on the other side of him he asked:

“Been down to the river lately?”

“Oh, cut it out,” growled his neighbor, scowling at him.

“Cut what out?” asked Showell, pretending great bewilderment. “The
river?”

“Let him alone, can’t you?” whispered the other.

“If you can’t, take your old jokes somewhere else,” advised Clover.
Jack had not missed any of it, and for the first time Showell’s
pleasantries aroused his anger.

“What’s the matter with you dubs?” Showell asked, grinning. “Can’t I
talk about the river? All right, then, I’ll talk about the weather.
Nice, dry evening, isn’t it? Any of you fellows get your feet wet?”

Jack touched Clover on the shoulder. “Do you mind changing seats with
me?” he asked. Clover looked doubtful a moment; then he got up and Jack
slipped along into his place. Showell watched the proceedings with
surprise, and when he found Jack beside him turned his gaze uneasily
ahead and for the rest of the evening attempted to look unconscious of
the other’s presence. But, what with the grins and whispering of his
friends, it is doubtful if he enjoyed himself.

The senior president made his little speech and introduced the dean.
The latter, who never was much of an orator, said just what everybody
knew he would say, and was succeeded by Patterson, the manager.
Patterson explained the needs of the Baseball Association, and
Professor Nast, chairman of the Athletic Committee, followed and urged
the students to come to the support of the team. Neither his remarks
nor Patterson’s awakened any enthusiasm, and the cheers which followed
were plainly to order. Some one at the rear of the hall started a
football song and one by one the audience took up the refrain. Perkins,
who had stepped to the front of the platform, paused and glanced
inquiringly at the head coach. The latter shook his head and Joe turned
away again.

“Let them sing,” whispered Hanson. “It’ll warm them up.”

But as soon as it was discovered that there was no opposition the
singing died away. King was on his feet then, calling for cheers for
Captain Perkins. They were given loudly enough, but lacked spontaneity.
Joe’s speech was short, but had the right ring, and several allusions
to past successes of the nine and future victories awakened applause.
But when he had taken his seat again and the cheering, in spite of
the efforts of King and Bissell and others of the team, had ceased,
it was evident that the meeting was bound to be a flat failure unless
something was done to wake it up.

Hanson, who was down as the next speaker, called Joe to him, and for a
minute they whispered together. Then Joe crossed the stage and spoke to
Anthony. At the back of the room there was a perceptible impatience;
several fellows had already tiptoed out, and there was much scraping of
feet. Joe heard it and held up his hand. Then Anthony lifted himself
up out of the ridiculously small chair in which he had been seated and
moved awkwardly to the front of the platform. Instantly there was the
sound of clapping, succeeded by the cry of “A--a--ay, Tidball!” Anthony
settled his spectacles on his nose and thrust his big hands into his
trouser’s pockets.

“Good old Tidball!” cried some one; the remark summoned laughter and
clapping; men on their feet and edging toward the door paused and
turned back; those who had kept their seats settled themselves more
comfortably and looked expectant. The senior class president jumped to
his feet and called for a cheer, and the response was encouragingly
hearty. Joe threw a satisfied glance at Hanson and the latter nodded.
The tumult died down and Anthony, who had been facing the gathering
with calm and serious countenance, began to speak.



CHAPTER XV

ANTHONY ON BASEBALL


“Well,” commenced Anthony, in his even, deliberate drawl, “you had your
chance to get out, and didn’t take it. I guess you’re in for it. I’ve
been requested to speak to you about baseball. I told Captain Perkins
that I didn’t know a baseball from a frozen turnip, but he said that
made it all the better; that if I didn’t know what I was talking about
you would realize that I was absolutely unprejudiced and my words would
carry more weight. I said, ‘How are you going to get the fellows to
listen to me?’ He said, ‘We’ll lock the doors.’ I guess they’re locked.”

Half his audience turned to look, and the rest laughed.

“Anyhow,” Anthony continued, “he kept his part of the agreement, and
so I’ll have to keep mine. I’ve said frankly that I know nothing about
baseball, and I hope that you will all pardon any mistakes I may
make in discussing the subject. I never saw but one game, and after
it was over I knew less about it than I did before. A fellow I knew
played--well, I don’t know just what he did play; most of the time he
danced around a bag of salt or something that some one had left out on
the grass. There were three of those bags, and his was the one on the
southeast corner. When the game was over he asked me how I liked it. I
said, ‘It looks to me like a good game for a lunatic asylum.’ He said
I showed ignorance; that it was the best game in the world, and just
full up and slopping over with science. I didn’t argue with him. But
I’ve always thought that if I had to play baseball I’d choose to be the
fellow that wears a black alpaca coat and does the talking. Seems to me
he’s the only one that remains sane. I asked my friend if he was the
keeper; he said no, he was the umpire.”

By this time the laughter was almost continuous, but Anthony’s
expression of calm gravity remained unbroken. At times he appeared
surprised and disturbed by the bursts of laughter; and a small freshman
in the front row toppled out of his seat and had to be thumped on the
back. Even the dean was chuckling.

“Well, science has always been a weak point with me, and I guess that’s
why I’m not able to understand the science of hitting a ball with a
wagon-spoke and running over salt-bags. But I’m not so narrow-minded
as to affirm that because I can’t see the science it isn’t there.
You’ve all heard about Abraham Lincoln and the book-agent, I guess.
The book-agent wanted him to write a testimonial for his book. Lincoln
wrote it. It ran something like this: ‘Any person who likes this kind
of a book will find this just the kind of a book he likes.’ Well,
that’s about my idea of baseball; anybody who likes that kind of a game
will find baseball just the kind of a game he likes.

“Now, they tell me that down at Robinson they’ve found an old
wagon-wheel, cut the fingers off a pair of kid gloves, bought a wire
bird-cage, and started a baseball club. All right. Let ’em. There are
other wheels and more gloves and another bird-cage, I guess. Captain
Perkins says he has a club, too. I’ve never seen it, but I don’t doubt
his word; any man with Titian hair tells the truth. He says he keeps it
out at the field. From what I’ve seen of baseball clubs I think that’s
a good, safe place. I hope, however, that he locks the gates when he
leaves ’em. But Captain Perkins tells me that he has the finest kind of
a baseball club that ever gibbered, and he offers to bet me a suspender
buckle against a pants button that his club can knock the spots off of
any other club, and especially the Robinson club. I’m not a betting
man, and so I let him boast.

“And after he’d boasted until he’d tired himself out he went on to say
that baseball clubs were like any other aggregation of mortals; that
they have to be clothed and fed, and, moreover, when they go away to
mingle with other clubs they have to have their railway fare paid.
Captain Perkins, as I’ve said once already, is a truthful man, and so
I don’t see but that we’ve got to believe him. He says that his club
hasn’t any money; that if it doesn’t get some money it will grow pale
and thin and emaciated, and won’t be able to run around the salt-bags
as violently as the Robinson club; in which case the keeper--I mean the
umpire--will give the game to Robinson. Well, now, what’s to be done?
Are we to stand idly by with our hands in our pockets and see Robinson
walk off with a game that is really our property? Or are we to take
our hands out of our pockets, with the fingers closed, and jingle some
coins into the collection-box?

“I’m not a baseball enthusiast, as I’ve acknowledged, but I am an
Erskine enthusiast, fellows. Perkins says we ought to beat Robinson at
baseball. I say let’s do it! I say let’s beat Robinson at everything.
If anybody will start a parchesi club I’ll go along and stand by and
yell while they down the Robinson parchesi club. That’s what Providence
made Robinson for--to be beaten. Providence looked over the situation
and said: ‘There’s Erskine, with nothing to beat.’ Then Providence made
Robinson. And we started in and beat her. And we’ve been beating her
ever since--when she hasn’t beaten us.

“I’ve done a whole lot of talking here this evening, and I guess you’re
all tired of it.” (There was loud and continued dissent at this point,
interspersed with cries of “Good old Tidball!”) “But I promised to
talk, and I like to give good measure. But the time for talking is
about up. Mr. Hanson has something to say to you, and as he knows what
he’s going to talk about, whereas I don’t know what I’m talking about,
I guess I’d better stop and give him a show. But before I stop I want
to point out a self-evident fact, fellows. You can’t win from Robinson
without a baseball team, and you can’t have a baseball team unless
you dig down in your pockets and pay up. Manager Patterson says the
Baseball Association needs the sum of six hundred dollars. Well, let’s
give it to ’em. Any fellow here to-night who thinks a victory over
Robinson isn’t worth six hundred dollars is invited to stand up and
walk out; we’ll unlock the door for him. Six hundred dollars means only
about one dollar for each fellow. I am requested to state that after
Mr. Hanson has spoken his piece a few of the best-looking men among us
will pass through the audience with small cards upon which every man
is asked to write his name and the amount he is willing to contribute
to secure a victory over Robinson that will make last year’s score
look like an infinitesimal fraction. If some one will go through the
motions, I’d like to propose three long Erskines, three times three and
three long Erskines for the nine.”

Anthony bowed and sat down. The senior class president sprang to his
feet, and the next moment the hall was thunderous with the mighty
cheers that followed his “One, two, three!” Then came calls of
“Tidball! Tidball!” and again the slogan was taken up. It was fully
five minutes ere the head coach arose. And when he in turn stood at the
platform’s edge the cheers began once more, for enthusiasm reigned at
last.

Hanson realized that further speechmaking was idle and confined his
remarks to an indorsement of what Anthony had said. The distribution
of blank slips of paper had already begun and his audience paid but
little attention to his words, although it applauded good-naturedly.
When he had ended, promising on behalf of the team, and in return for
the support of the college, the best efforts of players and coaches,
confusion reigned supreme. Pencils and fountain pens were passed hither
and thither, jokes were bandied, songs were sung, and the tumult
increased with the pushing aside of chairs and the scraping of feet as
the meeting began to break up. But, though some left as soon as they
had filled out their pledges, the greater number flocked into noisy
groups and awaited the announcement of the result.

At length, Professor Nast accepted the slip of paper handed him by
Patterson and advanced to the edge of the platform. There, he raised
a hand for attention, and at the same time glanced at the figures.
An expression of incredulity overspread his face, and he turned an
inquiring look upon the manager. The latter smiled and nodded, as
though to dispel the professor’s doubts. The hubbub died away, and the
professor faced the meeting again.

“I am asked,” he said, “to announce the result of the--ah--subscription.
Where every one has responded so promptly and so heartily to the appeal
in behalf of the association, it would be, perhaps, unfair to give the
names of any who have been exceptionally generous. But without doing
so it remains a pleasant--ah--privilege to state that among the
subscriptions there is one of fifty dollars----”

Loud applause greeted this announcement, and fellows of notoriously
empty pocket-books were accused by their friends of being the unnamed
benefactor, and invariably acknowledged the impeachment with profuse
expressions of modesty.

“Three of twenty-five dollars,” continued the professor, “six of ten
dollars, seventeen of five dollars, and many of two dollars and over.
The total subscription, strange as it may seem, reaches the sum of five
hundred and ninety-nine dollars, one dollar less than the amount asked
for!”

There was a moment of silent surprise. Then, from somewhere at the left
of the room, a voice cried: “Here you are, then!” and something went
spinning through the air. The head coach leaped forward, caught it
deftly, and held it aloft. It was a shining silver dollar.

“Thank you,” he said.

The incident tickled the throng, and cheers and laughter struggled for
supremacy. Jack pushed his way to the door, and remained there waiting
for Anthony, one hand groping lonesomely in a trouser pocket where a
minute or two before had snuggled his last coin.



CHAPTER XVI

JACK COURTS THE MUSE


April passed into May, and uncertain skies gave way to placid expanses
of blue, whereon soft fluffs of white moved slowly, blown by warm and
gentle winds. Down at the boat-house, bare-legged and bare-headed, men
filed across the floats, bearing the slender, glinting shells, or,
with hands on oars, bent and unbent in unison to the sharp commands of
important and diminutive coxswains; on the newly rolled cinder-track
other men sped or jogged, heads well back and knees high, with white
trunks fluttering in the breeze; in front of the stand the jumpers and
pole-vaulters plumped themselves into the freshly spaded loam; on the
diamond, brilliantly green in its carpet of carefully tended turf, the
players darted hither and thither amid the crack of batted ball and the
cries of coaches.

By the beginning of the second week in May, baseball affairs had
assumed a more encouraging look. The training-table had taken on
six more men--among them Showell and Clover--and the unsuccessful
candidates had gone to the freshmen team or found other branches
of athletics to interest them. Erskine had played eight games, had
won six, tied one, and lost one. What was practically a preliminary
season was well-nigh over and with the middle of the month the serious
contests would begin.

Meanwhile, Jack had found himself. After a vicarious existence as
a general outfield substitute, he had settled down as substitute
second-baseman, a position which he had never attempted hitherto, but
one which he took to in a way that vindicated his right to it. He
showed that he possessed the three essentials of a good second-baseman:
coolness, quickness, and judgment. With the exception of third base,
second is the most difficult of the infield positions; it has been
called the “keystone of the infield,” and that very aptly. So far
as handling the ball is concerned--that is, catching, stopping,
or throwing--second-baseman has no harder work than shortstop or
third-baseman; it is in studying the batsman that he encounters his
difficulties.

Jack started in with a good knowledge of the fundamentals of baseball
and took kindly to coaching. Gradually he acquired the intuitive sense
which enabled him to tell where the ball was going before it had left
the bat, and to govern himself accordingly. He learned that a nine’s
success depends upon team-work and not upon individual brilliancy, and
to control his zeal; to anticipate the shortstop’s movements and to
know, without looking, where that player and the third-baseman were;
to keep always in mind that the best policy is to put out the runner
nearest home; and much more besides.

With a definite position to try for, Jack found it much easier to put
every effort into playing. Even the fact that “Wally” Stiles, the first
choice for second-baseman, would in all likelihood play out the big
games, those with Harvard, Artmouth, and Robinson, did not trouble him.
There would be other games which, if less important, were well worth
winning, and in those he would probably take part.

So Jack put his whole mind into learning his position, studying its
possibilities, developing an eighth sense, which enabled him time and
again to judge almost with exactitude in what direction, and how far,
the ball, scarcely away from the bat, was going, and learning, too,
to “size up” a batsman’s prowess from the way he stood and looked and
swung his stick. I have said that he possessed a good knowledge of
the fundamentals of the game when he started in; but there were still
things to learn which his baseball education had not taught, such
little niceties as stopping grounders with his feet together so that,
in case of a miss, the ball could not go between his legs, and, after
catching or stopping a ball, to start at once toward the point whither
the ball was to be thrown instead of standing still, so that by the
time he had gathered himself for the throw the distance for the ball to
travel had been lessened; little things these, but of the sort that win
or lose a game.

One thing that had a deal to do with Jack’s ability to put his heart
into his work on the diamond was the attitude of the other players
toward him. Had the old scarcely concealed contempt and dislike been
manifested he could never have shown up as varsity material. But that
was past. In the minds of most of the fellows time had dimmed the
memory of the incident at the river, now nearly three months ago, and
Jack’s attitude and behavior of late had aided.

For a while the neutrality observed by Gilberth made him suspicious
that the pitcher was only husbanding his powers of annoyance in order
to indulge in some more than usually brutal expression of contempt.
But, as time went by, Jack was forced to conclude that hostilities from
that source were over. At length, the neutrality was succeeded by a
show of friendliness. It was impossible to practise together day after
day without an occasional word or two, and Jack and Tracy soon found
themselves in the habit of greeting each other when they met, very
ceremoniously, to be sure, and of sometimes exchanging observations
on the bench much after the manner of slight acquaintances who find
themselves thrown together at a party. Jack was very glad. The old
thirst for vengeance on his enemies had wasted perceptibly under the
influence of congenial companionship, and he was ready to cry quits.
Just what Tracy’s sentiments were at this time it is hard to say; it is
doubtful if he knew himself.

He had made up his mind to let Jack alone, and was doing it. Only one
thing troubled him, and that was the fear that Anthony Tidball might
think that his course was the result of the other’s threats. And it is
only fair to state on behalf of Tracy’s physical courage that such was
not the case. Joe Perkins’s remonstrances had borne weight, and when,
shortly after Anthony’s visit, Professor White had added his request,
Tracy had decided that, after all, he had possibly mistaken the
sentiment of the college. Professor White had said to him very much the
same things that Joe had said, but he had put them more convincingly.
He knew Tracy, and did not make the mistake of ruffling his temper; on
the contrary, when he had left, Tracy felt that there was one person at
Erskine who understood him. And for the sake of that person and of Joe
he would do as they asked him.

Professor White’s efforts in Jack’s behalf were not limited to the
talk with Tracy. He saw Joe Perkins and Hanson and King and several
others with whom Jack came in daily contact and asked for the boy fair
treatment. And he encouraged Jack to visit him and, when the latter did
so, used every effort to hearten him. On the whole, it is safe to say
that to the professor belonged a greater part of the credit for the
betterment of the boy’s condition. Such was the state of affairs when,
on a certain Saturday evening, about the middle of the month, Jack and
Anthony sat talking on the edge of Mrs. Dorlon’s porch.

Anthony had washed up his supper dishes and Jack had just strolled
back from dinner at the training-table. The moon, well into its first
quarter, was sailing in a clear sky over the tops of the elms in the
yard. The evening was musical with the hum and whirr of early insects
and the varied sounds from open windows. Somewhere farther up the curve
of Elm Street an uncertain hand was coaxing the strains of Mandalay
from a guitar, and now and then the faint music of a piano floated
across from Walton Hall. Anthony had lighted his pipe and, with its
bowl aglow in the dusk, was leaning against a pillar, one knee tucked
up under his chin. Jack sat a yard away, his hands in his pockets,
staring up at the moon.

“Did you ever write poetry, Anthony?” he asked suddenly.

“No.” Anthony sucked reflectively at the pipe and shook his head
slowly. “No, I’ve had the measles and whooping-cough and scarlatina,
but I’ve never had poetry yet. Of course, I’ve tried my hand at blank
verse in Latin, but it wasn’t poetry; even the instructor acknowledged
that.”

“Oh, I meant just plain every-day poetry, you know,” Jack explained. “I
thought if you had you could tell me something about it.”

“Well, I didn’t say that I didn’t know poetry when I saw it,” answered
Anthony. “I’ve read a good deal of it, you see. What do you want to
know?”

“I want to know whether you have to have all your lines rhyme.”

“Depends, I guess. What are you going to do, anyway, turn into a poet?”

“No, only I thought I’d try my hand at writing some verses for the
fellows to sing at the games, you know. The Purple says we ought to
have some new songs for the Robinson game.”

“Oh. Well, now, from what I’ve seen of such things it doesn’t matter
any whether lines rhyme or don’t rhyme, I should say. As long as the
words fit the music the rhymes just hump along as best they can. Have
you written anything yet?”

“N--no, not exactly,” answered Jack cautiously. “I’ve got an idea, but
I didn’t quite know about rhyming. Of course, all the poetry you read
rhymes all through, like Tennyson, or else it doesn’t rhyme at all,
like Milton. What I was wondering was whether it was all right to just
rhyme now and then, you know, when you could, and not bother about it
when you--you can’t. What do you think?”

“Oh, I’d just do the best I could and not worry,” answered the other
gravely. “The--hum--sentiment seems to be the most important thing
about college songs.”

“Yes, I suppose so. It’s funny how few rhymes there are when you come
to look for them,” said Jack thoughtfully. “Now there’s ‘purple’; I
can’t find anything to rhyme with that.”

“Purple? Now that does sound difficult. Let’s see; I guess ‘turtle’
wouldn’t do, eh?”

“I’m afraid not. I’ve tried everything. I thought maybe it wouldn’t
matter if it didn’t rhyme.”

“Don’t believe it will. Let’s hear what you got.”

“Oh, it isn’t anything much,” answered Jack modestly. “It--it goes to
the tune of ‘Hail, Columbia!’ you know.”

“All right; sing it if you’d rather.”

“I can’t sing; I’ll just say it. It--it begins like this:

    Hail to Erskine, conq’ring band!
    Firm together we will stand!
    While the battle rages high
    We will fight until the last!
    Underneath the purple banner we
    Will live or die for victory!

What--what do you think of it?”

“Well, if you want my honest opinion,” replied Anthony, “I think it’s
too classic, Jack. Seems to me what you want in those kind of songs is
a lot of ‘rah, rah, hullabaloo!’ And I don’t believe ‘Hail, Columbia!’
is a good tune; seems too jerky. Course, I’m not an authority, and
maybe I’m mistaken. But if I were you I’d try again; get more swing
into it. I’ve always thought ‘John Brown’s Body’ was the best tune to
set football songs and such things to. Of course, it’s older than the
hills and has been used by every college from Maine to Mexico, but that
doesn’t matter if you get some good words. I’d forget about the rhymes
at first; just find some lines that’ll swing along, you know; kind of
sing themselves; afterward, you can go back and tuck a rhyme in here
and there. Try it.”

“I guess I will. I wasn’t just satisfied with that ‘Hail, Columbia!’
one, but I didn’t know what ailed it. I thought maybe it was because I
couldn’t find a rhyme for ‘high.’ There was ‘die,’ but I’d used that in
the last line, you see.”

“I see.” Anthony knocked the ashes from his pipe and stretched himself.
“Guess I’ll have to go up and do some studying,” he said.

“Wait a minute,” Jack pleaded. “There’s another thing I wanted to ask
about. Is it hard to learn to swim?”

“Never learned, Jack, and can’t say from experience. But from what I’ve
seen I’d say it was blamed hard.”

“Never learned! But I thought----”

“It was like this with me. When I was about knee high to a grasshopper
I went in wading and saw my daddy out in a dory about fifty feet from
shore. So I went out to him. They say I didn’t have much breath left
when they pulled me in; I don’t remember. I guess I swam, though; if I
didn’t I don’t know how I got there. Anyhow, after that I knew how all
right.”

“Just imagine,” mused Jack. “I know I couldn’t do that, but I do want
to learn. Do you think I could?”

“Course you could, but I guess it would take time. If you want me to
help, I’ll do it.”

“Will you, really?” exclaimed the other. “Glory! that will be fine! I
wanted to ask you, but didn’t quite like to; I’ve been so much of a
bother to you already.”

“Oh, get out. We’ll go down to the river and find a place where it’s
not too deep; I think I know of one. The water’ll be plaguy cold,
though, this early. Want to wait a while longer?”

“No, I want to begin right off--before my courage fails me; you know,
I’m an awful fool about water, Anthony.”

“Because you don’t understand it. Water won’t hurt you if you know what
to do.”

“And you won’t mind if--if I’m a bit scary at first?”

“No, I won’t mind. If you say you want me to teach you to swim, I’ll do
it if I have to throw you in the water and hold you there. Do you?”

Jack took a long breath and looked hard at Anthony’s face in the
moonlight. What he saw evidently reassured him, for after a pause he
said faintly:

“Y--yes!”



CHAPTER XVII

ERSKINE _VS._ HARVARD


The nine took its first long trip when it journeyed to Cambridge
and played Harvard in a warm drizzle of rain that made the ball
slippery and hard to hold, and set the players to steaming like so
many tea-kettles. Erskine met her second defeat of the season that
afternoon. She had an attack of the stage-fright usual to the teams of
lesser colleges when confronting those of the “big four,” and it lasted
until the fifth inning, when, with the score 9 to 0 in her favor,
Harvard’s pitcher slumped and allowed the bases to fill for the first
time during the contest.

Erskine awakened, then, to the fact that her opponents were only human
beings, after all, and not supernatural personages protected by the
gods, a fact which Hanson had been seeking to convince them of all day
long, but without success. With bases full, one man out, and Bissell at
bat, there seemed no reason why the Purple should not place a tally
in her empty column. This was evidently the view that Bissell himself
took, for after having two strikes and two balls called on him, he
found what he wanted and drove it hard and straight between first and
second. Gilberth scored, but Billings was caught out at the plate.
Motter reached third and Bissell went to second. Hanson whispered to
Lowe as he selected his bat. Harvard shortened field.

“Last man!” called the crimson-legged first-baseman.

“Last man!” echoed the shortstop.

Lowe’s first attempt at a bunt missed fire and the umpire called a
strike on him. Then came two balls, each an enticing and deceptive
drop. Lowe was the last man on the batting list, but if he wasn’t much
of a hitter he at least was capable of obeying orders. He watched
the balls go by in a disinterested manner that was beautiful to see.
Then came another strike, and for an instant his round, freckled face
expressed uneasiness. The Harvard pitcher decided to end the half, and
threw straight over base. Lowe shortened his bat a trifle and found the
ball, and the next moment both were going toward first base, the ball
very slowly, Lowe about as rapidly as he ever moved in his life.

It was the pitcher’s ball, and the pitcher ran for it. Motter, at
third, started pell-mell for home, only to stop as suddenly and dive
back to the bag. But the pitcher knew better than to throw there, and
as soon as Motter had turned he sped the ball to first. But he had
delayed an instant too long, and the umpire dropped his hand in the
direction of Lowe, who, with both feet planted firmly on the bag, was
obeying Perkins’s repeated command to “Hold it, Ted!” It was a close
decision, but there was no reason to judge it as unfair, and the game
went on with the bases again filled and Erskine’s heavy batters up.

Joe Perkins stepped to the plate, gripped his bat, and looked over
the field. Shortstop was covering second, and the infield was playing
close. Out toward the corner of the Carey building the right-fielder
was stepping back. Erskine’s captain had already sent two long flies
into his territory, and it wouldn’t do to take risks. Joe looked with
longing eyes upon a stretch of undefended territory behind first base
and out of reach of right-fielder. If he could bring a low fly down
there it was safe for another tally. But the pitcher had himself in
hand again. He was more than usually deliberate and the first delivery
didn’t lend encouragement to Joe’s hopes, for although that youth,
staggering away from the base, sought to impress the umpire with the
fact that the ball had gone well inside of the plate, that astute,
black-capped person called “Strike!”

The three or four hundred students who, with raincoats and umbrellas,
were braving the discomforting drizzle, applauded. Jack, huddled
between Clover and Northup on the bench in the lee of the west stand,
sighed and took his hand from the folds of his sweater to beat them
anxiously on his knees. Clover wiped the rain from his cheek and turned.

“We could use a home run, couldn’t we?”

“You might as well talk about winning the game,” growled Northup, who
had overheard. “That pitcher hasn’t given any one a home run yet this
season, and you can bet he isn’t going to present us with one.”

“Ball!” droned the umpire.

“Well, I’ll be satisfied with a hit,” sighed Jack.

“You’re wise,” Northup answered with a grin. “There it is again,” he
muttered then, as Joe, reaching for an outshoot, swung in the air and
stepped back to tap the plate with his bat and look exasperated.

“Say, doesn’t that make you mad,” asked Clover, “to reach for something
when you know you shouldn’t, and then get fooled? I’ll bet Cap could
bite nails now!”

But Joe got over his annoyance the next instant, and gave his attention
to the ball. When it had passed he sighed with relief and silently
gave thanks to the little red-faced umpire. It was now two strikes and
two balls. Back of first and third King and Gilberth were coaching
frantically:

“Two out, Ted! Play off! Play away off!”

“Run on anything, Teddy! Two gone! Now! _Now!_ NOW!”

“With two Teds on bases,” said Northup, “it seems as though something
might happen.”

“Two? Is Lowe’s name Ted?”

“Yes, Theodore Coveney Lowe, Esquire, is the gentleman’s full-- _Hey!_”
Northup was on his feet, and a second later the bench was empty. Ten
purple-stockinged maniacs danced and shrieked over the sopping turf,
waving sweaters and caps. Motter and Bissell and Lowe were racing home
almost in a bunch. Joe Perkins was speeding for second. He had put the
ball where he wanted it, well over first-baseman’s head, and yards and
yards in front of right-fielder; had placed it there as carefully as
though he had walked across the diamond and dropped it exactly in the
middle of the uncovered territory.

First-baseman started back for it, and the pitcher ran to cover first.
But right-field was racing in, and it was that player who reached
the ball first and fielded it home just too late to catch Lowe at the
plate. Then the sphere flew back to second, but Joe, hearkening to the
coaching, slid across the brown mud and got his fingers on a corner of
the bag in plenty of time.

There followed a pause in the progress of the game while Harvard’s
pitcher and her captain tried to convince the umpire that Lowe had not
touched second base in his journey toward home. In that interim the
little band of Erskine players and substitutes gathered together and
cheered, with the rain falling into their wide-open mouths, until the
Harvard stand applauded vigorously.

“Four to nine!” yelled Knox. “We can beat them yet!”

But King, with desperate purpose written eloquently over his face, went
to bat and ingloriously fouled out to third-baseman, and the half was
over. Erskine never came near to scoring again, although, now that the
ice was broken, every man felt capable of doing wonderful things, and
tried his best to accomplish them. The difficulty was with the Harvard
team, and notably the Harvard pitcher; they objected. But if Erskine
was not able to add further tallies to her score, she, at least, held
her opponents down to two more runs, Gilberth pitching a remarkable
game, and what had looked for a time like an overwhelming defeat
resolved itself into a creditable showing for the Purple.

Jack didn’t get into the game for an instant, nor, in fact, did any of
the substitutes. But, as he had scarcely hoped to do so, he was not
greatly disappointed. After the game was over the team went back to
Boston inside and outside a stage-coach, laughing, joking, cheering now
and then, and, on the whole, very well pleased with themselves. Hanson
didn’t see fit to dampen their enthusiasm by reminding them of the
faults which had been plentifully in evidence, but reserved his cold
water for the next day. They had dinner at a hotel. In the course of
the meal, King called across the table to Joe:

“I say, we’ve got old Tidball to thank for this feed, haven’t we? If it
hadn’t been for that speech of his we’d never have had enough money in
the treasury to buy sandwiches.”

“I guess that’s so,” answered the captain.

“You fellows needn’t think, though,” cautioned Patterson, “that you’re
going to get this sort of thing every trip.”

There was a groan.

“Put him out!” called Gilberth.

“Down with the manager!” cried King.

“I wish,” said Jack to Motter, who sat at his left, “that I could take
some of this dinner back to Tidball. I don’t believe he ever had a real
good dinner in all his life!”

“Guess you’re right,” Motter laughed. “Anyway, he doesn’t look as
though he ever had!”

Patterson distributed tickets to one of the theaters, and the men were
cautioned to be back at the hotel promptly at eleven in order to take
the midnight train for home.

“The management doesn’t pay for these, does it?” Jack asked.

“Thunder, no!” answered Motter. “The theater gives them to us, and
advertises the fact that we’re going to be there; calls it ‘Erskine
night.’ We’re on show, as it were. Some of the Harvard team are going,
too. You needn’t fear that Patterson’s going to buy theater seats for
us; you’re lucky if you get him to pay your car-fare to the station!”

Jack’s experience of theaters was extremely limited, and he enjoyed
himself thoroughly all the evening. The team occupied two big boxes at
the left of the stage, while across the house the corresponding boxes
were filled with members of the Harvard team. There was some cheering
on the part of the Purple’s supporters, but neither Hanson nor Joe
encouraged it.

“Shut that up,” begged the latter, once. “They’ll think we’re a prep.
school!”

At half past eleven they got into a train at North Station and went
promptly to sleep, two in a berth, and knew little of events until they
were roused out in the early morning at Centerport.



CHAPTER XVIII

JACK AT SECOND


Half a mile beyond Warrener’s Grove, the wooded bluff at the end of
Murdoch Street, the river makes in the shore an indentation which is
known as the Cove. It is not an attractive body of water. At some time
in the past there was a brick-yard there, and even yet the remains of
two weather-beaten sheds and a couple of high troughs in which the clay
was mixed may be seen. During a spring freshet the river went over its
banks and flowed into the pits left by the excavations. Later, the
water and the frost connected the stagnant pond with the river; rushes
gained foothold in the clay bottom and the old quarry took on the
appearance of a natural cove. Save in one or two places the depth is
but slight, and, in consequence, the Cove offers warmer bathing in the
spring than does the river. On the side nearest the railroad there is a
stretch of gradually shallowing water that answers all the purposes of
a beach. It was here, then, that Anthony and Jack, during the latter
part of May, came almost every morning, and, exchanging their clothes
for gymnasium trunks, played the parts of teacher and pupil.

The first time that Jack found the cold water lapping his knees he went
pale with terror, and would have fled ignominiously had not Anthony
seized and encouraged him. In the end, he allowed the other to persuade
him to remain where he was and, after gingerly splashing himself with
water, watch his teacher a few yards beyond illustrate the method of
swimming. Anthony realized that he had a task before him that required
a deal of diplomacy, and he carefully avoided saying or doing anything
to increase Jack’s dread of the water.

After four lessons Jack had gone the length of immersing himself and,
held tightly by Anthony, had essayed a few wild strokes with arms and
legs. Anthony strove to teach confidence first of all, and it was not
until Jack could allow him away from his side that Anthony set about
the easier part of his task. As soon as Jack could struggle for a few
strokes through the water Anthony taught him to float. And it was not
until Jack could float in every possible position that the swimming
lessons were resumed. Then progress was rapid. By the middle of June
Jack could swim out to a rush-covered raft which had been anchored
about a hundred feet from shore by enterprising duck-hunters. At first
Anthony kept beside him; later, they had races in which Anthony left
Jack half-way to the goal; in the end, Jack found courage to swim to
the raft and back by himself. But, as I have said, that was not until
June was half over, and before that other things had happened.

It was on the fourth of the month, a Wednesday, that Jack, for the
first time, played a game through as second-baseman. Erskine’s
opponents were the Dexter nine, a hard-hitting aggregation of
preparatory schoolboys, and to meet them Hanson and Perkins put in a
team largely composed of substitutes. This team, in batting order, was
as follows:

    Perkins, catcher.
    King, pitcher.
    Northup, right-field.
    Mears, first base.
    Weatherby, second base.
    Smith, third base.
    Clover, shortstop.
    Lowe, left-field.
    Riseman, center-field.

The last six, with the exception of Lowe, were substitutes, and before
the game was over Lowe, too, had been replaced, Showell going in for
him. Jack’s playing that afternoon raised his stock fully a hundred
per cent. He was in fine fettle--he had never felt better in his life
than he had since he began his morning dips in the cold waters of the
Cove--and covered the second of what Anthony had called the salt-bags
in a manner that opened the eyes of his companions and caused “Wally”
Styles much uneasiness. His batting, too, was as good as his fielding;
he had the honor of making the first hit and the first run for Erskine,
and was the only man on the team that afternoon, with the exception
of Perkins, who knocked out a home run in the sixth, able to hit
the Dexter pitcher for more than one base. In the fifth inning his
three-bagger was clean and timely, bringing in two runs and placing him
where he was able to score a minute after on a passed ball.

Dexter made things extremely interesting for a while in the seventh
inning, getting in two runs and filling the bases again directly
afterward. It was Jack, then, who, in a measure, saved the day. With
the bags all occupied, Dexter’s catcher went to bat and lined out a hot
ball just to the right of King. There was one out. King got one hand
on the ball, but failed to stop it. Jack, who had run forward to back
him up, found the ball in the air and threw quickly and true to the
plate in time to put out the runner. Then Perkins, without more than a
second’s pause, returned it to Jack, who was again covering second, and
Jack found the Dexter catcher two feet off base.

The game ended with the score 5 to 2, and of those five tallies two
were opposite Jack’s name. The other three belonged to Perkins and
Northup. Jack’s record that day included four put-outs and five
assists, and held no errors. Perhaps it was the consciousness of having
done a good afternoon’s work that put him in such a state of elation
that composing verse alone seemed to satisfy him. When half past
seven arrived and he had not appeared in Anthony’s room, Anthony went
in search of him and discovered him curled up in a ball on his bed,
laboring with pencil and pad and flushed cheeks.

“I’ve got it!” cried Jack.

“Got what?” asked Anthony.

“The song! Listen!” Jack squirmed about on the creaking cot until he
had his back against the wall. Then he waved his pad triumphantly over
his head. “It goes to the tune of ‘John Brown’s Body’; you suggested
that, you know; and I didn’t have any trouble at all; and the rhymes
are all right, too, I think! Now, then!” And Jack, beating time with
his pencil, recited sonorously his verses:

    “Robinson is wavering, her pride’s about to fall;
     Robinson is wavering, she can not hit the ball;
     Erskine is the winner, for her team’s the best of all;
           Oh, poor old Robinson!
               Glory, glory to the Purple!
               Glory, glory to the Purple!
               Glory, glory to the Purple!
                   And down with Robinson!

    “Purple is the color of the stalwart and the brave;
     Purple are the banners that the conq’ring heroes wave;
     Purple are the violets above the lonely grave
           Of poor old Robinson!
               Glory, glory to the Purple!
               Glory, glory to the Purple!
               Glory, glory to the Purple!
                   And down with Robinson!”

“Fine!” cried Anthony. “That’s the sort of thing! Let’s see it.” He
took the paper and, turning it to the light, began to hum, then sing
the words to the old marching song, nodding his head in time to the
music. Anthony had about as much melody in his voice as a raven, but
Jack, watching and listening eagerly from the bed, thought he sang
beautifully, and was enormously pleased with the production. When the
final refrain was reached he joined his own voice, rocking back and
forth in ecstasy, and the concert ended in a final triumphant burst of
mel-- Well, no, not melody; let us say sound.

“Do you like it?” Jack asked, as eager for praise of his lines as any
poet.

“Great!” Anthony answered. “And I should think it would do for a
football song, too, wouldn’t it?”

“Would it?” cried Jack. “Yes, I believe it would! That’s fine, isn’t
it? Of course, I don’t want you to think I’m stuck up, Anthony, but I
really think it’s better than any that the Purple has published yet.
What do you say?”

“Well, I haven’t read many of ’em; should think it might be, though.
Better send it in right off, so it’ll be in time for the next issue,
eh?”

“Yes, I’m going to mail it to-night; as soon as I make a good copy.”
Then, after a moment’s hesitation: “I say, Anthony, would you mind
copying it off for me? I write such an awful fist, you know.”

So they adjourned to Anthony’s room, and Jack leaned anxiously over
his friend’s shoulder while the lines were copied in the most careful
of copperplate chirography, folded, sealed, and addressed. Then Jack
bought a one-cent stamp from Anthony and took the letter to the
post-office, marching back through the warm June evening humming “Glory
to the Purple,” and in imagination leading the cheering section at the
Robinson game.

After he had gone to sleep he dreamed that he had been appointed
poet-laureate of Erskine College, and was being driven along Main
Street in Gilberth’s automobile between serried ranks of applauding
students and townfolk, his brow adorned with a golden fillet of
laurel-leaves. The automobile was extremely spacious, since it held
besides himself not only the faculty, but Anthony and Joe Perkins and
the entire baseball team. When he acknowledged the plaudits of the
multitude he had to hold his laurel wreath on with one hand, which
annoyed him a great deal. In the end the president solved the problem
by tying it on with a red silk handkerchief. Then, at the moment of his
greatest triumph, Showell arose from somewhere and shouted in a voice
that drowned the cheers: “He didn’t compose it! The writing was Anthony
Tidball’s! I saw it!” Jack tried to deny the awful slander, but none
would listen to him, and he awoke breathless and despairing, to find
the sunlight streaming in the end window and the robins singing matins
to the early day.



CHAPTER XIX

ANTHONY TELLS A SECRET


“I wish I’d never taken the captaincy,” said Joe Perkins.

“Oh, rot! What’s the good of talking that way?” asked Tracy Gilberth.
“The nine’s coming along all right. What if Artmouth did rub it into
us? We had an off day; every team’s liable to have them. Look at last
year.”

“I know,” answered Joe, “we had plenty of them then, and see what
happened! We lost to Robinson, seven to nothing; we scarcely made
a hit! If I thought--if I thought we were going to lose this year,
I’d--I’d cut and run; honest, Tracy, I would!”

“That’d be a nice thing to do, wouldn’t it?” asked the other
disgustedly. “Fellows would be proud of you, wouldn’t they?”

“It would be better than losing again,” muttered Joe.

“Oh, get out, Joe! Brace up; you’re off your feed, that’s what’s the
matter with you. I heard ‘Baldy’ telling Hanson yesterday that you were
going stale. He didn’t mean me to hear it; but I couldn’t very well
help it. That’s why you’re out here with me in my ‘bubble’ instead of
taking batting practise this morning.”

“Oh, I know all that. A trainer doesn’t send a fellow out for rides
on Saturday mornings unless he’s gone stale or has something else the
matter. I suppose I am out of sorts, Tracy. And I guess I’d rather stay
and take a licking like a little man than run away, but--” He stopped
and scowled ahead of him at the dusty road. Then, “It’s all well enough
to talk about ‘honorable defeat,’ and all that, but it’s mighty hard
to lose your big game when you’re captain and have worked hard and put
your whole heart into it.”

“Of course it is; I know that,” answered Tracy soothingly. “But you’re
not going to lose. You’re going to win. So buck up, old chap!”

“And there’s poor old Tom Higgins,” Joe continued dispiritedly. “What
will he say? I promised him I’d win this year. He’s coming up next
week, if he can, to coach for a few days; I told you, didn’t I? What’ll
he think when he sees how things are going?”

“Oh, Tom Higgins be blowed!” cried Tracy. “He couldn’t win himself,
and I’d like to know what business he has finding fault with you if you
don’t win, either?”

“But I promised him----”

“Well, supposing you did? If you can’t win, you can’t, and that’s all
there is to it. Every fellow on the team is going to work as hard as
he knows how; every fellow is going to stand by you until the last
man’s out. If we lose, it’ll be simply because Robinson’s got a better
baseball nine. Cheer up, now, Joe, or I’ll run this machine into the
ditch there and send you out on your silly old nut.”

The two were speeding comfortably along River Street in Tracy’s
automobile. It was ten o’clock of a fresh morning in the first week of
June. They had left the village a half mile behind and were _chugging_
along over a somewhat dusty country road with green hillsides to the
right and the gleaming river to the left. Occasionally the fragrant air
was sullied with the smell of gasoline, and Joe sniffed disapprovingly
and made uncomplimentary remarks about motor vehicles in general, and
Tracy’s in particular. But Tracy, who had had his orders from Simson
to cheer Joe up and bring him home in good spirits, refused to take
umbrage, and declared that gasoline had a rather pleasant odor.

Joe was certainly suffering from nerves, and had been ever since the
disastrous game with Artmouth, two days before, when Erskine had
gone down ingloriously to the tune of 17 to 1, the 1 being the result
of good fortune rather than good playing. Perhaps, as Tracy put it,
the team had merely had an off day; at all events its performance had
been anything but encouraging to the supporters of the Purple, and
had thrown Joe into the depths of despair. With the final game of the
season, the contest with Robinson, but two weeks distant, he saw only
defeat ahead.

They were in sight of the Cove now, and Tracy suddenly pointed ahead.
“What in thunder’s that, Joe?” he asked. Joe roused himself from
unprofitable thoughts and looked toward the point indicated by his
friend’s finger.

“Must be a duck,” he said finally.

“Duck be blowed! There aren’t any ducks around here at this time of
year. Perhaps-- I tell you what it is, Joe, it’s a man’s head! See?
Some one’s in swimming.”

“Queer place to swim, among all those rushes,” Joe responded. “But I
guess you’re right. We can tell for sure farther on.”

“Yes. Look; there he comes out. There’s a sort of beach there,
remember? He’s walking out, and----”

“If it doesn’t look like Jack Weatherby, I’ll eat my hat!” Joe
interrupted.

“Weatherby!” echoed Tracy. “What’s he doing down here? He’s at
practise.”

“No, only the first squad from ten until eleven; he’s in the second.
That’s who it is, Jack Weatherby.”

“Rot! It doesn’t look the least bit like Weatherby to me. I tell you
what, we’ll go over and see.”

“Can you get there in this tea-kettle?” asked Joe doubtfully.

“Sure; run in where the old bridge used to be; it’s just a nice little
jounce.”

“All right, only remember that I’m not made of india-rubber.”

That is why Jack, when he rejoined Anthony in the shade of the old shed
near-by, reported uneasily that an automobile, with two occupants, was
crossing the clay field from the road, and that it must be Gilberth’s.
Anthony finished dressing and then went to investigate. As he turned
the corner a voice hailed him.

“Hello, Tidball! Was that you, for goodness’ sake?”

“Hello!” answered Anthony. “Was what me?”

“The chap we saw in the water a minute ago. I could have sworn it was
Weatherby,” Joe replied.

“I was in there,” Anthony said. “Water’s nice and warm down here.”

“Well, but how did you get dressed so quickly?” Joe went on,
suspiciously. “Oh, you be blowed! It wasn’t you we saw. It was Jack
Weatherby, wasn’t it?”

“Maybe it was. He’s just dressing himself around the corner there.”
Anthony saw that further attempt at concealing Jack’s identity was
idle. During the conversation Tracy and Anthony had not noticed each
other’s presence save by perfunctory nods.

“Going back?” asked Joe.

“Yes, as soon as Jack gets his clothes on.”

“Well, get in here and go with us, can’t you? There’s lots of room, eh,
Tracy?”

Tracy nodded. He had not told Joe of Anthony’s call, and his friend
was unaware that relations between the two were somewhat strained. Joe
wondered at the lack of hospitality displayed.

“Oh, I guess we’d rather walk,” Anthony answered, smiling a bit behind
his spectacles.

“Nonsense, you’ll get in here, both of you, and Tracy will show you
what he calls ‘squirting through space.’ Hello, Jack!”

Jack came into sight carrying the bathing-suits and towels and somewhat
red of face. He feared that Joe and Gilberth had guessed his secret.

“Hello!” he answered. “Hello, Gilberth!” The latter returned his
salutation affably enough and Joe exclaimed:

“You’re a couple of nice mud-hens, aren’t you? Why don’t you pick out a
decent place when you want to bathe? Come on and get in; we’ll take you
back.”

Jack hesitated and looked inquiringly at Anthony. The latter’s
expression gave no clue to his wishes, and so, in the end, Jack
assented, and the two crowded into the carriage, and Tracy started back
across the field toward the road. Joe seemed to have forgotten his
troubles for the while, and the talk, ranging from baseball to final
examinations, grew lively, even Gilberth finding his tongue at last.
There was no hurry about getting back, he said, and so they crossed
westward to the turnpike, and there, with a hard, safe road underneath,
sped homeward at a rate that took Jack’s breath away and made Anthony
hold tightly to so much of the seat as he could find. They turned
into Main Street at the Observatory just as the clock in the tower
of College Hall, glimpsed over the tree-tops, indicated a quarter of
eleven.

“I guess I’d better get out at William Street,” said Jack, “or I’ll be
late at the field. Will you come along, Anthony?”

“Can’t. I’ve got a recitation and I’ve already cut once this week.”

“Once?” cried Gilberth. “Great Scott, I’ve cut four times!”

“Well, you’d better quit it, Tracy,” Joe remonstrated, “or they’ll be
putting you on probation, and then we’ll be beaten, sure as fate!” He
turned to Jack. “Come to the room with me and then I’ll go out with
you.”

“You’re not allowed out there this morning,” cried Tracy. “Hanson said
I was to keep you away until the game.”

“You can’t,” Joe replied quietly. “Besides, I’m feeling fine now, and
it would give me the horrors to have to mope around the college while
you fellows were enjoying yourselves.”

“Enjoying ourselves!” Tracy grumbled. “You’ve got a queer notion of
enjoyment. If you think I’m happy when Hanson is throwing it into me
because I don’t hold my bat the way they did when he was a boy, you’re
away off, Joe.”

“Well, I’m going out, anyhow,” Joe answered. Suddenly, just as they
reached the corner of the yard, he turned to Anthony. “I say, Tidball,
I wish you’d tell me what you two were doing at the Cove. I--I’ve got a
reason for wanting to know.”

Jack shot an admonitory glance at his friend, but Anthony didn’t
see it; perhaps he didn’t want to. He looked gravely back at Joe and
replied:

“All right, Perkins, I’ll tell you. I was teaching Jack how to swim.”

“Anthony!” cried Jack, the color flooding into his cheeks. “You
promised!”

“No, I didn’t promise, Jack,” he answered calmly. “I know you didn’t
want me to tell, but I think the thing’s been a secret long enough.”

Gilberth was frowning intensely and studying the clear road ahead,
as though he expected a stone wall to rise out of the ground at any
instant and bar his progress. Joe was looking curiously at Jack’s
averted face.

“King was right,” he said softly. Then, “Why in blazes didn’t you
explain, Jack? Why didn’t you tell the fellows you couldn’t swim?”

But Jack only shook his head without turning.

“Pride,” said Anthony. “Jack’s full of it. I wanted to tell what the
trouble was the next day, but he wouldn’t listen to it.” He reached
around and placed one big, ungainly hand on Jack’s shoulder. “He’s an
idiot, Jack is, but he’s _all right_!”

Gilberth swung the machine over to the sidewalk, and stopped it in
front of the north gate.

“You’ll have to get out here,” he said gruffly. “I’ve got to take this
thing down to the stable. You might as well stay in, though, Tidball;
I’m going your way. So long, you fellows.”

The automobile whizzed off again down Main Street, and disappeared
around the corner of College Place. Joe and Jack watched it out of
sight and then turned together and passed through the gate, bending
their steps toward Sessons Hall at the upper end of the quadrangle. For
the first part of the way neither spoke. Then Joe put his hand through
the other’s arm and bent forward smilingly until he could see Jack’s
flushed face.

“You’re an awful fool, Jack,” he said affectionately.



CHAPTER XX

STOLEN PROPERTY


Erskine met with defeat that afternoon.

Arrowden did pretty much as she pleased; base-hits were as plentiful
as errors; the former were to the credit of the visitors, the latter
were the property of the home team. When it was over, and the audience
had clambered soberly down from the stands to shake their heads
disappointedly over the showing of the Purple as they tramped through
the golden evening back to the town and the college, Patterson, the
manager, slipped his pencil back into his pocket and softly closed the
score-book to shut from sight the obnoxious figures, 15--3. It had been
a veritable Waterloo.

In the locker-house little was said. Every one realized that the
team had taken a slump. Hanson stood aside, and “Baldy” Simson
became the man of the hour. His was the task of getting the men back
into condition, a task requiring patience and vigilance and all the
knowledge that many years of experience had brought him. This was
no time for fault-finding; on the contrary, Hanson was silent, and
“Baldy’s” tone was cheerful and soothing.

The news of Erskine’s trouncing brought delight to the hearts of the
Robinson players and coaches. Down there at Collegetown they had been
having troubles of their own of late. The brown-stockinged team was
inferior to its last year’s predecessor, and its coaches believed that
if Erskine came to Collegetown in two weeks with a nine equal to that
of the previous season she would win the dual championship. So it was
that Erskine’s defeat by Arrowden brought encouragement to Robinson;
for Robinson had met Arrowden ten days before and had shut her out to
the tune of 5 to 0. What pleased Robinson worried Erskine. The college
at large, with last year’s overthrow in memory, scented defeat. Hanson
wrote four telegrams on Sunday. The tenor of all was the same; that to
Thomas G. Higgins, captain of the defeated nine of the spring previous,
read as follows:

“Need you badly. Come at once. Wire when.”

Joe Perkins dropped a pound of weight every day until the middle of the
week. Examinations were imminent, and this fact, with his own condition
to think of and the worry caused by the general slump, came very near
to making him quite useless on the diamond or in class-room. There was
no practise on Monday for those who had played against Arrowden. They
were told to stay away from the field and rest. Joe moped in his room
until Tracy called for him and again took him out in the automobile.

Jack went to second base that afternoon, and during the hour and
a half’s practise made a good showing. His throwing to first and
to the plate pleased Hanson vastly. On Tuesday the first nine was
still largely composed of substitutes. Joe and Tracy remained out
and the battery was Knox and Griffin. “Wally” Stiles, the regular
second-baseman, was out, but as he wore his every-day clothes Jack knew
that the second bag was his for the afternoon.

Showell played Bissell’s place at center-field during the fielding
practise, and later, when base-running began, was selected to start the
procession. He played well off of first in obedience to Hanson, and
when Mears cracked a short grounder toward third base he was able to
reach second with time to spare. Jack was standing just in front of the
base-line, arms outstretched toward third-baseman, and Showell saw his
opportunity to get even for the uncomfortable position in which Jack
had placed him on the occasion of the mass-meeting. Lunging out of the
base-line he struck Jack in the back with his left shoulder with all
the force he could summon. Jack pitched forward on to his face, rolled
over, and lay there, feebly kicking the turf with his heels, and
Showell flung himself on to the bag.

The nearest players ran to Jack’s assistance and found him, white of
face, gasping painfully for breath. “Baldy” reached his side almost
with the first, and, kneeling above his head, he took his arms and
“pumped” them until the air was forced back into his lungs. After a
liberal dousing with water, Jack sat up, gasping, and looked about
him. His eyes fell on Showell, who was sitting on the bag watching
proceedings disinterestedly, and a wave of color swept into his face.
“Baldy” lifted him and supported him for a moment while he tried his
feet. Jack was angry clear through and wished that he and Showell were
alone that he might have it out with him. But he said nothing, and only
two or three near-by players knew that the affair was not an accident.

“Are you all right?” asked “Baldy.”

“Yes,” Jack answered. Knox handed him his gray cap and he pulled it
down over his forehead again and went back to the bag. Showell eyed him
sharply, evidently on the lookout for retaliation.

“You want to get out of the way,” he blustered.

“You’d better keep out of my way,” Jack replied grimly.

“Why, what would you do?” growled the other.

But Jack made no answer, save for a glance of contempt that brought an
angry flush into the somewhat sallow face of the other, and the game
went on.

After he had cooled off a little, Jack was heartily glad that he had
not got into a fuss with Showell, for Hanson hated any approach to
disagreement during practise, and was quick to show his displeasure by
putting the offenders on to the bench for long terms of idleness. But
Jack had the satisfaction of twice putting Showell out, once between
first and second, and once between second and third, and of knowing
that when the runner was replaced by another he had not made any too
good a showing. In the locker-house Showell kept his eye on Jack, still
not quite satisfied that the latter did not mean to resort to his
fists to even the score, and saw Jack go out accompanied by Clover and
Northup with feelings of relief.

The next day, Wednesday, Erskine played State University with a team
still largely made up of substitutes. Joe Perkins was back behind
the plate and Gilberth went into left-field, King occupying the box.
But Motter’s place at first was taken by Mears, and Jack again held
down second. Knox was back at shortstop, but the outfield, aside from
Gilberth, was made up of substitutes. The most encouraging feature of
the contest was the improved condition and hard, sharp playing of
Joe. The rest, in spite of the fact that he had fretted continually
under the enforced idleness, had done him lots of good. Erskine won,
5 to 0, and the students strolled back to the college talking more
encouragingly of the nine’s chances.

On Friday “Wally” Stiles got back into the practise and Jack, greatly
to his disgust, retired again to the bench, or, to be more exact, to
the net where Bissell was coaching a squad in bunting. Saturday’s game
was with Erstham, and before it was half over Jack was morally certain
that unless Stiles improved greatly during the next few days the
second-baseman in the Robinson game would be one Jack Weatherby.

Stiles, unlike most of the other players, had not recovered from the
slump, and his playing that afternoon was deplorable. Yet, since
Erskine took the lead in the second inning and held it throughout the
contest, he was not replaced, Hanson hoping that he would find his pace
before the last man was out. But he didn’t, even for a moment. The
team, as a whole, showed up strongly, and Erstham went home with a 10
to 2 score against her.

Jack was sorry for Stiles, really and truly sorry, he told himself; yet
he would have been less than human had he not experienced a feeling of
delight in the thought that, after all, it was not improbable that he
would get into the Robinson game. There was no certainty about it, of
course, he reflected, for Stiles might, in fact probably would, take a
brace on Monday, and, during the five days that would then intervene
before the last contest, win back his title to the position. But there
was ground for hope, and since Jack had hitherto never for a moment
really expected to have a chance in the big game, that slender hope
brought happiness. He went back to Elm Street and the sympathetic and
patient Anthony, whistling merrily or humming “Down with Robinson,”
much out of tune.

His poetical production had duly appeared, among many others, in
the Purple, and for several days he had been highly delighted. Each
contribution had been signed with the author’s name, and Jack had
experienced not a little good-natured teasing by his friends. But there
had been praise also, for his verses were better than the rest, and
even Professor White had congratulated him.

Jack was discovering that he had a good many friends. Not many were
intimate, to be sure, but all were apparently genuine. Joe Perkins had
promptly spread the story of Jack’s swimming lessons, and at last the
true reason for the latter’s failure to distinguish himself in the rôle
of life-saver had become generally known. If the college had been quick
to condemn, it was equally prompt to acknowledge its mistake, and
while few fellows made mention of the matter to Jack, yet many of them
went out of their way to show him courtesy and kindness.

Tracy Gilberth had never mentioned the subject to any one since the
truth had come out, not even to Joe. But Jack was aware that the
varsity pitcher very frequently sought his companionship nowadays and
seemed intent upon making up for the injustice he had done him. Jack
willingly met him half-way, his olden longings for revenge forgotten in
his present content. Nor, as has been said, was Tracy the only one who
sought to ease his conscience by paying little attentions to the fellow
he had formerly despised. From an object of scorn and derision Jack had
changed into something approaching a hero.

On the Sunday succeeding the Erstham game Jack and Anthony were seated
in the latter’s room shortly after noon when Mrs. Dorlon knocked on the
door and announced a caller, presently ushering in with many excited
sniffles Professor White. The professor carried a newspaper in one hand
and his immaculate silk hat in the other. He greeted the two and took
the chair that Anthony promptly pushed forward. But remarks on the
beauty and seasonableness of the weather seemed to interest him but
little, and as soon as politeness would permit he plunged into the
subject which had brought him.

“Do you own a watch, Tidball?” he asked.

Anthony stared, shot a glance at Jack, and after a moment of hesitation
answered: “Yes, that is--well, in a way.”

“You have it now?” the professor went on. Jack scented mystery, and
listened attentively, wondering the while why Anthony looked so
uncomfortable. Surely it was no disgrace to borrow money on one’s own
property! Anthony hesitated again, then answered “No.”

“Was it stolen?” continued the professor.

“Stolen? Well, now-- But, look here, professor, suppose you tell me why
you want to know?”

“Perhaps I had better,” responded the other. “You’re probably thinking
me pretty cheeky and inquisitive. But I was reading the paper a few
minutes ago, and saw that they’d arrested a tramp over in Gerrydale,
and had found a lot of pawn-tickets on him. When they visited the
pawn-shop and recovered the property they found among other jewelry
a watch with the inscription--let me see.” He found the place in the
paper he held and read: “‘Gold watch and chain; former inscribed
Anthony Z. Tidball, from Henry Wright Porter--July, 1902.’ That’s your
name, and I thought perhaps the watch was yours. Is it?”



CHAPTER XXI

OFF TO COLLEGETOWN


Ere Professor White had finished Anthony was on his feet with hands
stretching forth for the paper. The look of delight which he had
flashed across at Jack and which still illumined his face caused that
youth much wonderment.

“Guess it’s mine, all right,” Anthony cried. The professor yielded the
paper, and Anthony read the article through in silence. When he handed
it back his eyes were dancing behind the lenses of his spectacles.
“It’s mine, sir; no doubt about it! The paper says all I need do is
prove my ownership, and I can do that easily enough, for I have the
number of the watch!”

“But, Anthony,” Jack objected, “you said that you’d----”

“I’ll go over to Gerrydale in the morning,” Anthony interrupted
hurriedly, shooting a warning glance at his friend. “I’m much obliged
to you, sir; if you hadn’t seen that and told me I don’t believe I’d
ever have got it back; I don’t read the papers very often myself.”

“Well, I’m glad I saw it, Tidball. When was it stolen?”

“About a month ago,” answered Anthony somewhat vaguely. “I left it in
my room, and when I came back for it it was gone. Of course I never
knew who’d taken it. But--I’m plaguy glad to find it again.”

“Of course, especially since it was presented to you. What is the
story, Tidball?”

So Anthony told the professor about the rescue at Jonesboro, making it
sound very casual and far from thrilling. But neither of his hearers
was deceived, and insistent questioning and cross-examining finally
gave the incident a different aspect.

“Well, yes,” Anthony acknowledged, “there was quite a sea running--
Danger? Nothing to speak of if you knew how to manage a dory-- The kid?
Oh, he came round all right after a while; pretty near thing, though;
another second or two would have finished him, likely. Father of the
boy wanted me to take some money, but I wouldn’t; a fellow doesn’t take
money for saving a life. So after he got home he sent me the watch.
That’s all. Good deal of fuss about it.”

After the professor had taken his departure, insisting, for some
reason, on shaking hands with the tall, ungainly junior, Jack turned
upon Anthony and began his questions.

“I didn’t come right out, Jack, and say I’d pawned the watch,” Anthony
explained, “but I gave you to understand that. The fact is I didn’t
know what had become of it, and there wasn’t any use saying it had been
stolen as long as I wasn’t certain about it. I left it in the room one
morning when I went to recitation. I missed it in class, and came back,
and couldn’t find it. I guess the tramp found the door open and walked
in.”

“When was it?” asked Jack.

“Oh, well, about a month ago.”

Jack looked thoughtful, and Anthony eyed him uneasily. At last Jack
brought one fist into the palm of his other hand and jumped up.

“Anthony! Was it the morning I went off?”

Anthony hesitated; but the boy’s face showed that he had no suspicion
that Anthony had for a while connected him with the missing article.

“Why, yes, it was,” replied Anthony.

“I thought so!” Jack cried. “I remember now that I saw a
trampish-looking fellow on the street when I came from breakfast. I
passed him. I didn’t pay much attention, though, because I was--feeling
sort of knocked out. But once I heard a noise in the entry here while
I was packing. I’ll bet it was the tramp. And I remember seeing your
watch on the table in your room, Anthony, when I took that note in
there, and--why, come to think of it, I put the note under the watch!”

“He followed you in, I guess,” said Anthony.

“That’s just what he did. And when I went out he was in your room, I’ll
bet. And--and he took my money, too, don’t you suppose? I must have
left it out somewhere!”

“That’s about what happened,” Anthony replied, grinning jovially. “I
wish you could get your money back; but I guess that’s too much to hope
for.”

“I suppose so. Oh, I don’t care now. But I am glad you’re going to
recover your watch, Anthony. Wouldn’t it have been funny if I’d gone
back into your room again and found him there?”

“Yes, but you might have got laid out!”

“Laid out nothing! I’ll bet I could have whipped that chap. And I would
have saved your watch, and----”

“Missed your train!”

“Yes, so I would have. I wonder if it would have made any difference? I
fancy it’s best the way it all happened.” He considered the subject for
a moment in silence. Anthony beamed across at him happily. He was glad
he was to get his watch back, but gladder still that the last doubt as
to Jack’s honesty was dispelled; and, oh, so very glad that Jack knew
nothing of his idiotic suspicions!

“There’s something I ought to tell you, Anthony,” said Jack suddenly.
He looked rather ashamed and apologetic and very serious. “I’ve thought
of owning up several times, but--I never did,” he continued.

“Owning up? Well--what is it, Jack? Murder?”

“No, it’s--it’s robbery!” Anthony stared.

“That morning I went away,” he continued, “I--I took something of yours
with me. It wasn’t much, but I shouldn’t have taken it.”

“Why, what was it?” Anthony asked wonderingly. “I haven’t missed
anything.”

“No; but then, I put it back afterward. It was a pencil.”

“A pencil!”

“Yes, the green one with the rubber tip; the one you used to have
on your desk. I--I wanted something to remember you by,” he added
shamefacedly. “And so I took that. I thought you wouldn’t care. I was
going to write and tell you when I got home.”

“Well, I’ll be jiggered!” exclaimed Anthony. “I missed that pencil for
two or three days, and then one morning it turned up again on the desk.
But, hang it, Jack, you were welcome to the old thing, of course! I’m
glad you took it--glad you cared to remember such a silly old codger as
I! Why, that was nothing; not worth mentioning. Besides, you gave me
that charm, and fair exchange is no robbery!”

“I’m glad you don’t mind now that you know,” said Jack simply. And,
after a moment: “When you get your watch back again you can wear that
bean, can’t you?” he asked.

“Well, I should say so!” replied Anthony with much decision. “And
what’s more, Jack, I’ll wear it as long as the chain holds together!”

There was no difficulty the next day in recovering the watch. Anthony
gave a detailed description of it, and explained the circumstances of
the robbery, and his property was handed over to him at once. But it
is needless to say that Jack’s roll of money was not among the objects
recovered from the pawn-shop, nor was it found on the prisoner. Anthony
was told that it might become necessary for him to attend the trial and
give evidence. But he begged off very eloquently, and in the end the
police decided that perhaps there would be evidence enough to convict
the thief without calling upon Anthony. And, as it turned out, the
decision was correct.

Jack never learned that Anthony had for a while suspected him of
the theft of the watch; and it was better so. For while Anthony’s
suspicions were certainly justified by circumstances, yet Jack could
never have seen the matter in the same light, and would have been
greatly hurt had he ever learned of it.

In the second week of June two things began simultaneously, final
examinations and morning baseball practise. Naturally, the first
seriously interfered with the second, and it was only by the most
complicated arrangement on the part of Hanson that the players were
able to report at the nets during the forenoons for batting practise.
Three assistant coaches had put in appearance in response to his
telegrams, among them the captain of the unsuccessful nine of the year
before. Higgins was a good player and turned out to be as good a coach.
His heart was set on witnessing a victory over the Brown and he worked
enthusiastically and tirelessly. Afternoon practise began every day
at three-thirty, and never let up as long as there was a ray of light
left. The slump was a thing of the past, and every man responded well
to the demands of the coaches. Stiles gradually recovered his form,
and in the last game before the final contest--played on Thursday with
Harwich Academy--he superseded Jack at second, and Jack, his hopes
dead, sat on the bench and tried to be philosophic.

That Thursday game attracted the biggest audience of any thus far
played; not because the Academy team was strong enough to promise a
hard-fought battle, but for the reason that it was given out that the
Erskine nine was to play just as it would in the game at Collegetown
the next day but one. The batting list was as follows:

    Perkins, catcher.
    Gilberth, pitcher.
    Motter, first base.
    Bissell, center-field.
    Stiles, second base.
    Knox, shortstop.
    Billings, third base.
    King, left-field.
    Northup, right-field.

Allowing for the fact that every man had been worked hard all the week
up to the very beginning of the game, and that examinations were in
progress, the exhibition of ball-playing made by them was decidedly
encouraging. The cheering was a notable part of the contest. Led by the
senior class president and five assistants, the stands did heroic work,
and cheers and songs thundered forth unceasingly.

Jack, sitting forlornly on the bench, wedged in between other
substitutes quite as forlorn, found balm for his disappointed hopes in
the fact that the song that went the best of any, and the one which was
most often sung, was his. The way in which the throng emphasized the
“Poor old Robinson!” was good to hear.

When the game was at an end--it was almost dark by then--the spectators
marched back down William Street to the college, cheering and singing
all the way. Jack, trotting over to the locker-house in the wake of
the other players, heard from down the street the refrain arising
splendidly to the summer sky:

    “Purple is the color of the stalwart and the brave;
     Purple are the banners that the conq’ring heroes wave;
     Purple are the violets above the lonely grave
           Of poor old Robinson!
               Glory, glory to the Purple!
               Glory, glory to the Purple!
               Glory, glory to the Purple!
                   And down with Robinson!”

The enthusiasm didn’t cease until late at night. After dinner the
fellows thronged the yard in front of Walton and the cheers and songs
were gone through with again and again.

There was little work the following day for the players. Morning
practise was omitted, and in the afternoon a little running and
throwing to bases constituted the program. In the evening there was
a reception to the nine and substitutes in Brown Hall, and again
enthusiasm was rampant. The Glee Club sang, the college band played,
the fellows cheered, the dean and Professor Nast and the coaches and
Captain Joseph Perkins made speeches, and there was a grand hullabaloo
until half past nine.

Jack bade good-by to Anthony that night, for the nine and substitutes
were to go to Collegetown in the morning on a train that left at half
past six. The supporters were to follow on a later train, but Anthony
was not to be among them.

“I wish I were going,” he said, “but I just can’t afford it, Jack. But
I’ll be down on the street in the afternoon, and while you’re knocking
base runs and such things you’ll know that I’m flinging my cap for you
here at home.”

“It’s little chance I’ve got,” said Jack sadly. “But I may get on for a
while, Anthony. Anyhow, I wish you were going along.”

“So do I. Good night, Jack, and good luck to you and the nine and old
Erskine. You’ll play, of course; they can’t win without you, Jack! Good
night!”



CHAPTER XXII

AT THE END OF THE SIXTH


If you are so fortunate as to be occupying a seat in the stand running
parallel with the line to first base, and if you are about midway
between that base and the home plate, you may congratulate yourself
upon being in the best place of all from which to watch the game.
Under ordinary conditions you have a clear view of every player, the
batsman, unless he is left-handed, is facing you, and the run to first
base is made directly in front of you. Make yourself as comfortable as
the narrow board seat and uncompromising back will permit, be grateful
for the clear sky and warm sunlight, which, if it beats a little too
ardently upon your cheek, makes up for it by limbering the joints and
muscles of the players and urging them to their best efforts, and
watch the game, prepared to applaud good work, joyfully if performed
by your side, ungrudgingly if by the other, and to accept victory with
gratitude and defeat with equanimity.

From where you sit you see first the Erskine players on their bench at
the foot of the sloping stand, their purple caps thrust back on their
heads or held in their hands. You can’t see their faces, but their
broad shoulders suggest the best of physical condition. Beyond them
to the right a white deal table is occupied by four men who are busy
writing the history of the contest.

At the feet of the players the field begins, a level expanse of closely
cropped turf, which stretches away for a quarter of a mile like a great
green carpet. Beyond the field is a thicket of trees, elms, chestnuts,
and maples. Beyond that, again, the warmly red roof of the gymnasium
peers forth, the forerunner of many other roofs and turrets and towers
set sparsely at first amid the foliage, but quickly grouping together
about the campus. There lies Robinson College. To the left, where the
white spire pierces the tree-tops and glistens against the blue sky,
the village of Collegetown commences and straggles away to a tiny
river, no wave or ripple of which is from here visible.

But you have wandered far afield. About you the tiers are gay with
purple flags and ribbons, but farther along to your left the purple
gives place grudgingly to brown, and from there on in a long sweep of
color the brown holds sway even beyond third base. Four hundred among
four thousand is as a drop in a bucket. Yet the four hundred is massed
closely together, and every unit of it flaunts a purple banner, and is
tireless in cheering and in song. Across the diamond the Robinson band
plays lustily between the innings; you can see the leader swinging his
little black wand, the cornetist’s cheeks rising and falling like a
pair of red bellows, the player of the base drum thumping away with his
padded stick; but you hear nothing--nothing save an occasional muffled
boom from the big drum; how can you when all about you cheers are
thundering forth for “_Erskine! Erskine! Erskine!_” Your throat is dry
and parched, the perspiration is trickling down your cheek, and your
eyes are dazzled with the sunlight; but you’re as happy as a clam at
high tide, for the sixth inning has begun, neither side has yet scored,
Erskine is at bat, and your heart’s in your mouth!

Five innings without a tally doesn’t sound exciting, and yet, if
we except the second, every one of those five innings had kept the
audience on the edges of the seats. In every inning save the second
Robinson had placed men on bases, and at the end of each the supporters
of the Purple had heaved sighs of heartfelt relief, finding sufficient
satisfaction in the fact that the Brown had not scored. Only once
had Erskine dared hope for a tally. That was in the third. The tally
didn’t come. It had been a pitcher’s battle, and the palm had gone to
Vose, the tall, thin fellow whose spindle-shanks were encased in brown
stockings. Not a single hit had been made off him, while Gilberth had
been struck freely, yet had frequently managed to puzzle the batsman
when a single would have brought in a run, or possibly two. When summed
up it came to this: Erskine had been outplayed, and that Robinson did
not now lead by several tallies was due to her inability to make her
hits at the right time. The players of each college, in batting order,
were as follows:

        ERSKINE
    Perkins, catcher, captain.
    Motter, first base.
    Gilberth, pitcher.
    Bissell, center-field.
    Knox, shortstop.
    King, left-field.
    Northup, right-field.
    Stiles, second base.
    Billings, third base.

        ROBINSON
    Cox, first base.
    Condit, catcher.
    Hopkins, third base.
    Morgan, shortstop.
    Devlin, left-field.
    Wood, center-field, captain.
    Richman, second base.
    Regan, right-field.
    Vose, pitcher.


At the beginning of the sixth inning it was anybody’s game. Billings,
the tag-ender, went to bat. On the Erskine stand the cheering died
away and the purple flags ceased waving and fluttering in the still
afternoon air. Across the diamond the band laid aside its instruments,
and the shadow of the western stand crept along the turf until its
edge touched the line of white that marked the coacher’s box. On the
players’ benches the men leaned forward anxiously and watched Billings
thrust his cap back and grip his bat determinedly.

But it was soon evident to the watchers that Erskine was not to score.
Billings hit a short grounder to first-baseman who scooped it up and
tagged the bag before the batsman was half-way toward it. Joe Perkins
had two strikes called on him ere he found the ball, and sent a high
foul into the hands of left-fielder. He tossed aside the bat with a
look of disgust and paused on his way back to the bench to whisper
into the ear of Motter, the next victim to the deceptive curves of the
merciless Vose. Joe crowded into a space between Billings and Tracy
Gilberth.

“_I_ can’t find him,” he sighed.

“No, hang him,” growled Tracy, “he’s too much for any of us. But I’ll
bet he’ll let down before the game’s over; and then--well, then we want
to be ready, Joe!”

“Do you think he will? It doesn’t look like it.”

Tracy nodded knowingly.

“His arm’s getting stiff. I know the signs. So’s mine, for that matter,
and I’ve pitched perfectly rotten ball, Joe!”

“Nonsense, you’ve done good work. But let me know as soon as you want
to quit, Tracy. How about the next inning?”

“That’s for you to say,” answered Tracy. “But I guess I can hold out
through the seventh, if you don’t mind.”

“All right; I’ll put King in for the eighth. Oh, hang! Come on,
fellows! Out on the run!”

Motter had struck out, and was trotting to his position at first,
drawing on his glove and looking wofully sad. The Robinson band struck
up again, and the Erskine contingent, not to be outdone, started the
cheers once more, while the purple-sleeved players spread out over the
diamond.

Joe thumped his big mitten and Tracy picked up the ball. The umpire,
a rotund little man in a navy-blue blouse shirt, ran nimbly to his
position.

“First man!” cried Joe confidently.

The batsman was the Robinson captain and center-fielder, Wood. Tracy
was not greatly afraid of Wood, and so saved his arm by pitching a
few slow balls, none of which the Robinson captain was able to touch.
When he struck out the Erskine cheers rang across the field. Richman
came next. He was the first of the Brown’s tail-enders on the batting
list, and he followed the way of his captain, while the purple flags
fluttered joyously.

Perhaps Tracy was overconfident, for when Regan, the enemy’s
right-fielder, stepped to the plate, he shook his head at Joe’s signal
for an outshoot, and sent a straight, slow ball over the corner of the
base. And Regan got it on his bat and sent it arching in easy flight
toward second, and raced for the bag.

“Mine!” called Stiles.

“Take it!” shouted little Knox, backing him up.

But Stiles didn’t take it. Instead he let it slip through his fingers,
and so when Knox had recovered and fielded it to Motter the runner was
safe.

“Twenty minutes!” yelled the Robinson coach derisively. Then he began a
desperate effort to rattle Gilberth. “On your toes!” he shrieked. “Go
on, go on! He daren’t throw it! Way off now! I’ll look out for you! Way
off! Now! _Now!_ NOW!”

Tracy was disgusted because he had allowed Regan to hit him, and the
shrieks of the coacher annoyed him. Earlier in the game he would not
have minded twenty coachers, but now his arm was aching and growing
stiff and tired and his temper and nerves were not so well in command.
The next batsman was Vose, the Robinson pitcher. Vose was the poorest
performer with the stick of any of his team, and in the natural order
of things should have been struck out without difficulty. But this
time he found the second ball that came to him and hit it safely into
right-field, and Regan took second. Then came Cox, the head of the
batting list, and swung his ash wickedly while he waited.

There were coaches behind both first and third now, and their shrieks
hurtled back and forth across the diamond. Tracy looked bothered, and
Joe strove to hide his anxiety under a show of confidence.

“Next man, fellows!” he called cheerily. Motter took his cue from him
and added his voice. “He’s a goner, Tracy! Strike him out, old man!”

And for a while it seemed that Tracy would do it. But when the little
fat umpire had called two strikes and two balls on him Cox managed to
find something that suited him, and cracked it out past shortstop.
Regan reached third, and, with two out, the bases were full. Joe and
Tracy had a whispered consultation, while the Robinson stands hooted
derisively, and then took their places again. Condit, the Brown’s
catcher, and one of the best batters, tapped the plate and looked as
though he meant to bring in a run. The coachers kept up their medley of
taunts and warnings, but Tracy had found his head again and paid not
the slightest attention.

The first ball went wide, and Joe’s brilliant stop brought forth a
burst of applause. Tracy hurried up, apologetic, keeping an eye on the
bases. “Sorry, Joe,” he said.

“All right, old man,” answered the captain cheerfully. “Now let’s put
him out.”

Two strikes followed.

“Good eye, Tracy!” “Fine work, old man!” “That’s the pitching!”
encouraged the infielders. Then the batsman elicited laughter and
applause from his supporters by crossing the plate and suddenly
becoming a left-handed batter. Tracy looked surprised, and his next two
efforts were pronounced balls. Joe leaned far to the left and squeezed
his hands between his knees. Tracy nodded. But the batsman was an
old hand, and was not deceived by the inshoot that followed. “Three
balls!” cried the umpire. Everything depended on the next pitch. Tracy
straightened his arms, swung his foot, and hurled a straight ball waist
high for the plate. Condit met it with his bat, but failed to hit it
squarely, and it went high into the air, and the men on bases raced
toward home.

When the sphere came down it was undeniably second-baseman’s ball, and
Stiles stood ready for it. Regan reached home, and the next man, Vose,
swung around third. Suddenly a shout of joy burst from the Robinson
stands and the coachers were screaming like mad. Stiles had muffed!

Vose, with a coacher racing along beside him, sped for home. But Knox
had seized the ball almost before it had touched the ground, and now
he threw it straight and sure toward the plate. Vose hurled himself
forward when fully ten feet distant, and slid for his goal, but the
ball was there before him, and Joe’s right hand swept down and tagged
him. The side was out. The Erskine players hurried in to the bench, and
Gilberth picked out his bat.

It was the beginning of the seventh inning, but the score was no longer
a blank; Robinson led 1 to 0. The band played wildly. Jack Weatherby,
on the bench, felt a hand on his shoulder, and looked up to find Hanson
speaking.

“You cover second, Weatherby,” said the coach.



CHAPTER XXIII

A TRIPLE PLAY


The seventh inning began with Tracy Gilberth at bat. He watched Vose
with interest while that lanky youth settled himself to his task,
hopeful that at last Robinson’s star player was weary enough to allow
the opponents to hit him. But Tracy was doomed to disappointment.
Vose’s arm was tired, beyond a doubt, but he only took more time at
his work, his curves remaining as puzzling as ever. Tracy struck out
ingloriously, just as he had done pretty much all through the game.
Vose was still on his mettle.

Bissell’s fate was the same, while as for Knox, although he managed, by
good judgment, to get three balls to his credit, yet in the end he too
tossed aside his bat in deep disgust; and the nines again changed sides.

Robinson’s first man up was the redoubtable Hopkins; he had gained
the sobriquet of “Hard-hitting Hopkins” last season. So far to-day,
while he had managed to find Tracy rather frequently, his hits had
netted little. But Tracy judged discretion the better part of valor,
and deliberately gave Hopkins his base, while the purple-decked stands
hooted loudly. Having given the other his base, Tracy next tried to
take it away from him, but Hopkins was quick on his feet and time and
again Motter got the ball too late to tag him out. Tracy gave it up
finally, and turned his attention to the next batsman, Morgan.

Morgan popped a foul to the foot of the stand, and Joe, hurling aside
his mask, got it after a brilliant sprint of twenty yards. Devlin
struck out and Hopkins stole second. The Brown’s captain came to the
plate with determination to do great deeds written large on his face.
After getting two strikes on him, Tracy couldn’t put the ball over the
base, and Wood walked to first.

Then, with two on bases, Robinson saw visions of another tally. But
Tracy settled down again and struck out the third man, Richman, and
again the Erskine contingent sighed with relief and cheered gleefully.

Jack, who during the inning had had nothing to do, trotted in and
examined the score-book over Patterson’s shoulder. He found that he
would be the third man at bat, and wondered a bit nervously whether
he would have any better success with the mighty Vose’s curves than
had his predecessor, who was now sitting weary and dispirited on the
bench. King, who during the first half of the previous inning had been
limbering up his arm, was put in for Tracy, and Lowe took his place in
left-field. Tracy sprawled himself down on the grass beside Jack with a
sigh.

“I wish to thunder I’d been able to hit that dub Vose just one!” he
growled.

“What’s he like?” Jack asked.

“Like a Chinese puzzle,” Tracy replied grimly. “When you try him,
Weatherby, look out for his drops; they’re the worst; they come
straight to about four feet from the plate, then they go down so fast
that you can’t see ’em. His inshoots are simple compared with those
drops. Watch for fast balls, and when you see one coming, slug it! Make
him think you can’t bat, Weatherby; it’s your first time up, and maybe
you can fool him.”

“I’ll try,” Jack answered dubiously. “_Good work, King!_”

King was speeding to first, having made a clean hit to the outfield
just over shortstop’s head. The Erskine stand burst into wild and
confused cheering. Northup selected his bat and went to the plate,
and Joe Perkins, after whispering directions into his ear, ran to the
white line back of first base and began coaching King at the top of his
lungs. Vose settled the ball in his hands, tapped the earth with his
brass-toed shoe, and glanced sharply toward the runner.

“Play off, Greg!” shouted Joe. “He won’t throw! He’s too tired! Now,
now, now! This time! _Look out!_”

King scuttled around back of the bag and reached it before the baseman
swung at him with the ball.

“Hold it, he’s got the ball!” cautioned Joe. “All right, now; on your
toes. Down with his arm! He won’t throw again!”

Vose looked as though he intended to, then turned quickly and pitched.
The ball went wide, and had it not struck Northup on the hip would
have given King two bases, since the Robinson catcher would never have
stopped it. As it was, King, who was almost to second, trotted back and
tagged base. The umpire waved his hand to Northup, and the latter went
limping to first. King jogged to second, and the Erskine cheers drowned
every sound for several minutes. Two on bases and none out! It looked
like a tally.

Joe yielded his place to Motter, sent Bissell to coach King from third,
and caught Jack on his way to the plate. He had to put his mouth to
Jack’s ear in order to make himself heard above the shouting.

“We’ve got to advance King, Jack,” he said. “Wait for a good one, and
make a slow bunt toward third; you know the way, old man. Swipe at
the first ball as though you were going to knock it over the fence!
Then wait for what you want. Keep steady, Jack!” He clapped him on the
shoulder encouragingly and sped back to first.

Jack’s hope of rapping out a two-bagger was gone. Joe’s directions were
not to be disregarded, and it was a case of substituting team-play
for ambition. He settled his cap, wiped his perspiring hands on his
trousers, and gripped his bat. When he faced Vose he found that person
eying him intently, appraising his ability as a batsman. Jack smiled
easily--despite that he felt terribly nervous, and that the muscles at
the back of his legs were twitching--and waved his bat forward and back
a couple of times as though to say: “Right there, please, and I’ll show
you how it’s done!”

Vose looked about the bases very deliberately, and then offered Jack
an outshoot. Jack was glad that he had been told to hit at the first
delivery, for the mere act of swinging his stick fiercely through the
air eased his nerves. He struck at least a foot too late, and the
Robinsonians laughed and jeered. Vose thought he knew his man then,
and tried the same ball again, and the umpire shook his head and waved
his left hand. Jack waited; two balls; strike two; then he saw what he
wanted, turned a trifle to the left, brought his bat around quickly
and easily, and, as he ran to first, knew that he had succeeded.

The sphere, a new and very white one it was, went rolling toward third
base just inside the line. King was making for that base, too, and the
baseman indulged in just that instant of hesitation that is fatal. The
ball was his to field, yet he feared that if he left his bag none would
cover it. When he finally got the ball, reaching it a second before
Vose, King was safe on third, Northup was sliding for second, and Jack
had crossed first. He tossed the sphere to the pitcher, and the latter
went back to the box scowling wrathfully. The Erskine stand was a bank
of purple. The senior class president, bareheaded, wilted of collar and
crimson of face, was standing on a seat leading the singing:

    “Robinson is wavering, her pride’s about to fall;
     Robinson is wavering, she can not hit the ball;
     Erskine is the winner, for her team’s the best of all;
           _Oh, poor old Robinson!_”

Billings went to bat. Motter was whispering instructions to Jack on
first. Vose, calm of face, looked about the bases, while his support
called encouragingly to him. Then, before his arm was well back, Jack
had started like an express-train toward second. At the same instant
King made as though to dash home, and Northup played off half-way to
third. The delivery was a poor one, but Condit stopped it, threw off
his mask, and, bewildered, threw to second.

It was a costly mistake, for King was sliding across the plate before
second-baseman had received the ball, and the Erskine fellows were
hugging each other uproariously. Jack had flown back toward first, but
half-way there he paused. Northup was caught on his way to third, and
now was dancing back and forth with the ball crossing and recrossing
above his head, and shortstop and third-baseman closing in on him every
second. Then he stumbled and shortstop was on him like a flash, and he
crawled to his feet to dust the loam from his shirt and trot off the
field. Meanwhile Jack had made a good slide for second, and had beaten
the ball.

The score was tied, there was but one out, and a man on second! Is it
any wonder that Erskine’s supporters went mad with delight and danced
and shouted and threw flags and caps into the air?

When things had settled down once more Billings stepped back into the
box. From behind him came imperative demands for a home run. Billings
tried his best to accommodate his friends the next instant, for there
was a loud _crack_, and the ball went arching high and far toward
right-field. But when it descended the Robinson fielder was under it,
and Billings stopped his journey around the bases and came back. The
left-fielder sped the ball home quickly, but not soon enough to keep
Jack from reaching third.

The Robinson band had started bravely to work once more, but across the
diamond the Erskine leaders had brought order out of chaos, and four
hundred purple-flaunting enthusiasts were again cheering slowly and in
unison:

“_Erskine! Erskine! Erskine! Rah, rah, rah! Rah, rah, rah! Rah, rah,
rah! Erskine! Erskine! Erskine!_”

And the cheers took on new force when it was seen that the Purple’s
captain was the next batsman. Joe had given a message to King, and
now King was imparting it to Jack down at third base, and Jack was
nodding back to Joe. Robinson’s catcher, Condit, was badly rattled,
and Joe knew it and was planning accordingly. The stands settled down
into comparative quietude, and Vose, still calm and confident-looking,
pitching the game of his life, faced his new opponent. The outfield
came in a bit.

Vose’s first delivery was easily a ball, and his second was undeniably
a strike. Then followed an outshoot and a drop, neither of which did
Joe take to. Back went the ball to Vose, and, with King shouting
weirdly at third, he shot his arms overhead and sped it again toward
the plate. Then an odd thing happened.

The ball was a drop. Joe struck at it hard, dropped his bat, and flew
toward base. The catcher, who had stopped the ball on the ground,
stood up, glared bewilderedly, and then, concluding that it had been
the third strike, threw to first-baseman, Vose shouting warnings which
he did not hear. Jack, the moment Joe had struck, had started warily
toward home, and although first-baseman caught the ball and hurled it
back to the plate in the next instant, he was lying above the base in a
cloud of dust ere the catcher tagged him. Again pandemonium broke lose
on the Erskine stand. The Purple was one run ahead.

Joe trotted back to the plate and picked up his bat, and Jack went to
the bench, dusty, panting, and happy, to be hugged and slapped by the
delighted occupants. There followed a pause in the game’s progress
during which Robinson’s captain sought to find a rule that would
put Jack back on third. But Joe’s strategy was within the law, and
presently the Robinson catcher picked up his mask miserably and the
captain, disgruntled, went slowly back to his position in center-field.

The incident appeared to have discouraged both the battery and the
support. Vose took up his work listlessly, and in a moment Joe was
walking to first on four balls. A minute later he had stolen second.
Motter bunted toward first, and beat the ball to base. Joe took third.
Vose was now plainly rattled, and a wild pitch became a passed ball,
and Motter went to second, Joe, however, fearing to attempt to score.
Then Lowe took up the stick.

Lowe bided his time, and had two strikes called on him before he swung
his bat. When he did he found the ball fairly, and drove a terrific
grounder into outfield between first and second bases. Joe jogged home
from third, and Motter, his legs making a purple streak, sped like the
wind to third. Lowe sat down on first and tied his shoe. Bissell went
to bat, and was deceived by a drop that absolutely hit the plate. And
right there the half ended, for Lowe tried to steal second, and was put
out four feet from the bag.

There was joy in the Erskine camp. The score stood now 3 to 1. If her
players could hold Robinson from further scoring the day was won. And,
with King in the pitcher’s box, it seemed that it might be done. Regan
went to bat for Robinson, and stood there idly swinging his stick while
the umpire sang: “Strike one!... Strike two!... Striker’s out!” And
then, to fill Erskine’s cup overflowing with delight, King struck out
Vose and Cox in just the same way; and the cheering broke forth anew,
loudly, triumphantly. And the ninth and last inning began with little
Knox at the bat.

It would be pleasant to relate how Knox knocked a home run and how
Erskine continued the performance inaugurated in the preceding inning.
Unfortunately, that is impossible. Knox was struck out, King was thrown
out at first, Northup made a base hit, but was left there a minute
later when Jack flied out miserably to Vose. The stands were emptying
themselves of their throngs and supporters of the rival colleges
crowded along the base-lines cheering doggedly or ecstatically, as the
case might be. King picked up the ball, Joe donned his mask, Motter
thumped his mit, and Jack, at second, danced about from one foot to
the other out of sheer joy. Near at hand Knox was grinning like a
schoolboy, and calling shrilly to King to “Eat ’em up, Greg!”

“First man, fellows!” cried Joe cheerfully.

Condit stepped to the plate. He was pale, and looked an easy victim.
But luck turned its back upon the Purple, for at his second delivery
King struck the Robinson catcher on the elbow, and the latter took his
base. Robinson’s friends took courage, and their cheers thundered over
the field. Then came Hopkins, the “hard-hitter,” and swung his bat
knowingly. King realized that here was foeman worthy of steel, and was
accordingly careful.

But Hopkins was desperate. He found the second ball, and it went flying
toward center-field. Bissell failed to reach it in time to get his
hands on it before it struck the ground, and Hopkins gained second,
Condit going to third. Morgan followed with a slow grounder toward
King. King fielded it to first too late, after making sure that Condit
was not trying to score, and the bases were full. A home run would win
for Robinson! A two-base hit would tie the score!

The brown banners flaunted and gyrated in the air, throwing strange
dancing silhouettes upon the turf. The shadow of the western stand had
lengthened across the infield. Back of the stand the sky was aglow with
orange, while toward the village a golden haze filled the air.

The throng at large was silent, intense, expectant. Yet here and there
sections of the throng still shouted, and back of the dense wall of
spectators on the Robinson side of the field the band was playing.
A cheer, undismayed yet faint, ran along the ranks of the Erskine
supporters. It is hard to shout when your heart is throbbing away up in
your throat. Devlin went to bat, his determined chin thrust forth and
his sharp eyes sparkling from between half-closed lids as he watched
the pitcher. Joe Perkins half knelt behind him and held a big mitten
invitingly open on his left knee.

“Steady, fellows!” he called cheerfully. “Play for the plate!”

His voice rang true, with never a quiver in it. Yet now and then his
heart raced and thumped for an instant in a way that turned him half
faint. Despite the tiny beads of perspiration that trickled down his
face, he was livid, and the fingers in the hot leathern mit trembled
and twitched. If he could keep those brown-legged players from crossing
the plate the game was won for Erskine and his labors and hopes were
crowned with success. If! He groaned as he thought of all that might
happen ere the third man was put out. For the first time during the
contest he was nervous; for the first time almost in memory he was
frightened through and through. Then his gaze swept over the field and
he saw Motter at first carelessly flipping a pebble across the grass,
Weatherby alert and impatient at second, Northup shading his eyes with
his hand as he stood motionless in right-field, Knox calling blithely
to King as he slapped his hands together, and beyond, Bissell and Lowe,
their figures throwing long, slanting shadows across the turf. Then
King’s left hand wandered carelessly across his forehead, his arms shot
up, and Joe, reaching out, drew in the first delivery.

“Strike,” droned the umpire.

Joe’s fright passed with the settling of the sphere in his hands. The
blood crept back into his cheeks and courage into his heart. Returning
the ball, he eased his mask, thumped his hands together, and called
confidently to King.

“That’s the eye, Greg; once more!”

Erskine applauded grandly. Then followed two balls. The coaches were
shouting like maniacs and the runners were set, like sprinters on the
mark, ready to spring into flight on the instant. Joe signaled a drop.
It came, and Devlin tried and missed.

“Strike two,” droned the little umpire.

Again the supporters of the Purple shouted and waved their colors
against the evening sky. King swept a glance about the bases, unmindful
of the coachers’ taunts, settled himself once more, and pitched.
Devlin’s body moved quickly forward, ball and bat met squarely, Devlin
raced toward first, and the runners on the bases sprang away.

Out by second, Jack, on his toes, alert and ready for anything, heard
the _crack_ of bat against ball, and instinctively ran toward base.
Hopkins, head down, started like a flash toward third. Then Jack’s
eyes found the ball. It was speeding toward him, straight, swift and
well over his head. He stopped in his tracks a foot or two behind the
base-line, threw his hands high into the air, put his weight on to his
toes, and then sprang straight upward until there was a good two feet
between him and the turf. To the excited watchers it seemed that for
an instant he hung there suspended, a lithe, slim figure against the
golden sunset haze. Then the ball stung his hands, the throng broke
into confused shouting, and--

[Illustration: Weatherby sprang straight upward, two feet above the
turf.]

“Back! Back!” shrieked the coaches.

The runners turned in their tracks and scuttled for the bases they had
left like rabbits for their burrows. Jack, the ball securely clutched,
reached second in two strides, and then, with a lightning survey of
the situation, threw straight and sure to Billings at third. Condit,
arrested ten feet from the plate by the coaches’ warnings, had doubled
back, and now was racing desperately for third base and safety. Six
feet from the bag he launched himself forward, arms outstretched. A
trailing cloud of red dust arose into the still air, and the ball
thumped into the baseman’s hands. The little fat umpire swung his hand
circling toward the bases.

“Game!” he said.

The long ranks broke like waves, and the players were engulfed, then
caught and tossed to the surface. Jack, rocking perilously about on the
shoulders of comrades, looked dazedly yet happily down over a sea of
waving purple banners and upraised, excited faces, while against his
ears beat the thunderous refrain of “_Erskine! Erskine! Erskine!_”

 ----------------------------------+----------------------------------
    ERSKINE.        R. H. P. A. E. |   ROBINSON.       R. H. P. A. E.
                                   |
  Perkins, c.       1  1  8  2  0  | Cox, 1b.          0  3  9  0  0
  Motter, 1b.       0  1  8  0  1  | Condit, c.        0  1 13  1  1
  Gilberth, p.      0  0  1  2  1  | Hopkins, 3b.      0  2  0  3  0
  Bissell, cf.      0  0  2  0  1  | Morgan, ss.       0  0  1  3  0
  Knox, ss.         0  1  0  0  0  | Devlin, lf.       0  0  1  0  0
  King, lf., p.     1  2  2  0  1  | Wood, cf.         0  0  0  1  0
  Lowe, lf.         0  1  0  0  0  | Richman, 2b.      0  1  1  2  1
  Northup, rf.      0  1  1  0  0  | Regan, rf.        1  0  1  0  0
  Stiles, 2b.       0  0  2  1  2  | Vose, p.          0  1  1  2  1
  Weatherby, 2b.    1  1  2  1  0  |                  -- -- -- -- --
  Billings, 3b.     0  0  1  1  0  |   Totals          1  8 27 12  3
                   -- -- -- -- --  |
    Totals          3  8 27  7  6  |
 ----------------------------------+----------------------------------
         Erskine               0  0  0  0  0  0  0  3  0  --3
         Robinson              0  0  0  0  0  1  0  0  0  --1

    Two-Base Hits--Wood, Hopkins. Triple Play--Weatherby to
    Billings. Bases on Balls--Off Gilberth, 3; Off Vose, 2; Off
    King, 1. Hit by Pitched Ball--Northup (2), Condit. Struck
    Out--By Gilberth, 8; By King, 3; By Vose, 13. Sacrifice
    Hits--Knox, Richman, Regan. Umpire--Cantrell. Time of
    Game--2.40. Attendance--4,000.



CHAPTER XXIV

WEATHERBY’S INNING


“Good morning, Mr. Tidball!”

Anthony, making his way briskly down Main Street, raised his head
at the greeting, and glanced across the street. Professor White,
immaculate in his Sunday attire of black frock coat, gray trousers,
and silk hat, was picking his way gingerly between the little puddles
left by the night’s shower. Anthony returned the salutation, and waited
for the other to join him. Then they went on together down the quiet
street in the shade of the elms. The village seemed deserted. It was an
hour after noon, and staid, respectable Centerport was dining on all
the indigestible luxuries that comprise the New England Sunday dinner.
As for the college--well, the college was at the depot awaiting the
arrival of the 2.12 train.

“Going down to welcome the victors?” asked the professor gaily.

“Yes,” answered Anthony. “And I guess you are too. Sort of late, aren’t
we?”

He produced his big gold watch, removed it tenderly from its pouch,
and saw that it announced eight minutes after the hour. The professor
nodded, and they mended their pace.

“You didn’t go down, did you?” asked the latter.

“No, I wanted to, but couldn’t afford it. But we got the news at
Butler’s by innings. We had quite a celebration all to ourselves before
the rest of you got home.”

“Didn’t keep you from taking a hand in the bonfire last night, though,
did it?” laughed the professor.

“No, I guess every one went out to the field. It must have been an
interesting game, professor.”

“It was. But it was rather conducive to heart-disease toward the end.
We came pretty near to being outplayed, and a good deal nearer to
being beaten. When Robinson had the bases full in the ninth and their
left-fielder rapped out that liner--well, I shut my eyes and held my
breath! I didn’t see Weatherby make his catch; when I looked he was
throwing to third. Well, it was great, simply great!”

“Yes, but I didn’t quite understand what it was Jack did. If he hadn’t
caught the ball the other chaps would have made three runs, isn’t that
it?”

“Well, two runs anyway, three probably; you see, the bases were full,
and that hit was good for a two-bagger, I think, if Weatherby hadn’t
got his hands on it. It was a hot one, too, and ’way over his head.
As it was, he put out the batsman by catching the ball, tagged second
before the runner from that base could get back, and then threw to
third and put out the man there. You see, a runner is required to hold
his base until a fly has either been caught or has touched the ground.
Well, Robinson thought Devlin’s hit was a safe one; it surely looked
like it; and every one ran. Then when Weatherby caught it they had to
get back to their bases; but they couldn’t. Condit was almost home. It
was very pretty. Triple plays like that have been made before, but they
don’t happen very often. And then the difficulty of Weatherby’s catch
added to the brilliancy of the thing. Well, he’ll be a hero now as long
as yesterday’s game is remembered.”

“I’m mighty glad,” said Anthony quietly. “Jack’s had sort of a hard
time of it, take it all ’round. I’m glad things look better for next
year.”

“Oh, he can have pretty near anything he wants after this,” laughed
the professor. “I’m quite as well pleased as you are, Tidball. There’s
one thing, however--” He hesitated. “We can’t get around the fact that
Weatherby’s been largely to blame for his own unhappiness, Tidball.
We’re both friends of his, and we can afford to recognize the truth. It
was his duty, to himself and more especially to others, to put himself
right. He should have explained why he apparently made no effort to
go to the rescue of that boy in the river. It looked bad; I saw the
whole thing, and to all appearances it was just a case of cowardice.
I was mistaken; and I said what was in my mind, which was a still
greater mistake. But don’t you see, Tidball, he should have spoken up
and said that he couldn’t swim. None would have blamed him then. He
had no right to allow others to misjudge him. Then, too, his attitude
wasn’t of the kind to attract friends to him. From what I can make out
he appears to have taken umbrage because the fellows didn’t seek him
and make his acquaintance when he first came, and subsequently repelled
every advance by his apparent indifference and self-sufficiency. It
was--unfortunate.”

“Yes, I guess you’re right. But I can’t altogether blame Jack, for I
know just how sensitive he is. Sometime he’ll get over it, but it’s
something you can’t change at once. Wasn’t that the whistle?”

“I didn’t hear anything, but if you like we’ll sprint a bit.”

And they did, reaching the station just as the train rolled in, and
the victorious baseball team and attendants descended into the dense
throng of students to an accompaniment of wild cheers. For a moment
the players were swallowed from sight. Then they came into view again
on the shoulders of privileged friends, and were borne to the three
hacks that were to take them in triumph up to the college. Jack caught
a brief glimpse of Anthony’s tall form as he was borne, swaying and
bobbing, across the platform, and waved a hand to him. Then, with the
cheering crowd jostling and shoving about the carriages, the journey
was begun.

Jack found himself in the second of the hacks, sandwiched between
Billings and Knox. Facing them, on the front seat, sat King, Motter,
and Showell. As they turned into the Square, the horses prancing
excitedly because of the crowd and the noise, Jack caught a glimpse
of the carriage ahead and of Joe Perkins leaning out to shake hands
with the nearest of his admirers. There was no attempt at conversation
between Jack and his companions. Even had the tumult allowed it they
were all too sleepy and tired to talk much.

Training had ended for the season with the ending of the game. They had
remained in Collegetown as Robinson’s guests, and had been dined, and,
later, had attended a performance at the little Opera House in company
with their hosts. After that they had returned to the hotel, assembled
in Joe’s room, and chosen a new captain. The honor had fallen to King.
There had been no dissenting voice. King, although only a junior next
year, was already a veteran player, having captained his school team
before coming to Erskine, and having played two years with the varsity.
Jack was pleased. He liked King better than any of the fellows who
would be eligible for the next year’s nine. And King, he believed,
liked him.

Jack forgot the cheers and the singing and the enthusiastic throngs
that filled the sidewalks and almost surrounded the carriage, and
closing his eyes, leaned back and gave himself over to thought. In
three days the term would come to an end, and he would go home for the
summer, a summer which promised to be one of the pleasantest of his
life. Anthony was to visit him in July for a week, and later, if all
went well, he was to spend a few days in Jonesboro, and finish his
natational education with surf bathing. Then, in September, Erskine
once more. But what a difference there would be! He would return to
college to find fellows not merely willing but eager to claim his
acquaintance, to call him friend. The stigma of cowardice would no
longer be placed upon him; rather he would be looked upon as a hero,
as the one who had saved the college from defeat.

Already he had tasted the intoxicating draft of popularity. Ever since
the crowd had poured on to the field the day before he had never for an
instant been allowed to forget that the college looked upon him as one
whom it was a pleasure to honor. The time when he had read “Coward!” in
each averted face seemed very dim and far. And yet the vindication of
which he had dreamed then, a vindication of his physical courage, had
not come. Well, perhaps next year----

He came to earth with a start. King had leaped to his feet, and was
staring excitedly down the street. The tumult had changed from joyous
cheers to cries of alarm. The crowd about the carriage was frantically
struggling toward the sidewalks and above its voice sounded the
pounding of hoofs on the hard road. Jack turned and looked. Behind
them, sweeping down the narrow street between the fleeing throngs,
swayed the third hack, the horses, frightened beyond control, plunging
forward with outstretched heads. On the box the driver tugged vainly
at the lines and shouted warnings to the crowd. A moment or two and a
collision was inevitable.

Their own driver had heard and seen; the hack sprang forward, and King
tumbled into Jack’s arms. At the same instant Showell struggled to his
feet with pale, drawn face, and, with an inarticulate groan of terror,
threw open the carriage door and leaped blindly into the road. Over and
over he rolled in the path of the oncoming team. Jack pushed King from
him, and in a moment was balancing himself on the sill, clinging to
the woodwork beside him. Some one strove to get by him, and he pushed
him back.

“Stay where you are,” he shouted.

Then he jumped.

As he did so he saw dimly the crowd crushing back against the shops,
panic-stricken, struggling for safety. He landed and kept his feet, and
even before the momentum had passed had swung himself about, and was
racing back down the street toward the motionless form of Showell and
the plunging horses. As he ran there was no fear in his heart; rather
an exultant consciousness of power; here was the opportunity to wipe
out forever the stigma of cowardice.

“It’s my inning at last!” he thought gladly.

If it has taken long in the telling, yet in the doing it was the matter
of a moment. He reached the inert body of Showell, and, with desperate
strength, sent it rolling toward the sidewalk. Then the horses were
upon him. With a gasp for breath he leaped forward, arms outstretched,
as it seemed into the path of death.

[Illustration: With a gasp for breath he leaped forward.]

But brief as had been his moment of preparation, he had not misjudged.
His clutching hands caught at rein and mane, and he was swept off his
feet and borne onward. Then his left hand found a place beside the
right, and with all his weight back of the bit and the horse’s hoofs
grazing his legs at every plunge, he clung there desperately with
closed eyes. For an instant there was no diminishment of the pace; then
the horse’s head came down, and Jack’s feet again touched earth. Plunge
after plunge followed; a confusion of cries and cheers filled his ears;
the team veered to the left, and his feet felt the sidewalk beneath
them. There was a crash as the heavy pole splintered against one of
the granite posts of the college fence, and Jack, striking violently
against something that drove the last breath from his body, loosed his
hold and fell backward into darkness.

       *       *       *       *       *

When he opened his eyes again, a minute later, he was lying, weak,
shaken, and gasping, just inside the fence, his swimming head supported
on the knee of Professor White. About him excited yet kindly faces
looked down, while on the sidewalk the trembling horses were being
unharnessed from the carriage. He strove to sit up, but the professor
restrained him.

“Hurt, Weatherby?” he asked.

Jack stretched himself carefully, shook his head, and struggled into a
sitting posture.

“No,” he gasped, “all right; breath--knocked out--that’s all.”

“Well, sit still a minute.” Jack obeyed, and closed his eyes. About
him were low voices and whispers, and his name being repeated over and
over. Then he became aware of a sudden commotion, and opened his eyes
to see Anthony pushing his way through the ring.

“I found him,” he gasped. “He’s coming right over. How is he?” He
dropped to his knees at Jack’s side, sending an anxious glance at the
professor.

“Nothing broken; just out of breath.”

Anthony seized Jack’s hand and held it tightly, his broad mouth working
yet unable to voice his words. Jack grinned up into his face.

“You’re a sight, Anthony,” he said. “You’ve gone and lost your specs.
Help me up.” The professor nodded. Anthony seized him about the
shoulders and lifted him to his feet. Jack tried his legs tentatively,
and found them apparently sound. Then he turned to Anthony.

“Showell?” he asked anxiously.

“He’s all right, Jack; just stunned a bit from the fall.”

“Take him over to his room, Tidball,” said Professor White. “I’ll send
the doctor when he comes.”

The throng made way for them. As they passed through, Anthony
supporting Jack as carefully as though the latter were a basket of
eggs, the crowd found its voice. Jack glanced into some of the faces
and read therein a new respect and liking. He dropped his eyes, the
color flooding into his cheeks, and hurried on. The throng grew
momentarily. In front it broke and parted, and Joe Perkins and Tracy
Gilberth confronted them.

“All right, Jack?” panted Joe.

“Of course I am,” Jack muttered sheepishly.

“All right, then. Up you go, old man!” Before he could resist he found
himself on the shoulders of Anthony and Joe, with Tracy supporting him
behind.

“Let me down, you idiots!” he pleaded.

But they paid no heed. The individual voicing of approval suddenly
merged into a confused cheering that grew and grew in volume until
Jack’s remonstrances were drowned beneath it. He clung to Anthony’s
head, and tried to look as though he didn’t mind, and only succeeded
in looking like a thief on the way to the stocks. Of late, he silently
marveled, he seemed to be continually swaying about on fellows’
shoulders!

Near the museum the chaos of sound took form and substance, and Jack,
still somewhat confused and dizzy, found that he was bobbing along in
time to the loud, deep, and measured refrain of “_Weatherby! Weatherby!
Weatherby!_”


THE END



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 Transcriber’s Notes:

 --Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).

 --Except for the frontispiece, illustrations have been moved to
   follow the text that they illustrate, so the page number of the
   illustration may not match the page number in the List of
   Illustrations.

 --Printer, 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 em-dash and long dash styles have been retained.





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