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Title: Making the Nine
Author: Dudley, Albertus T.
Language: English
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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.

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Internet Archive)



                            MAKING THE NINE



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                      BOOKS BY ALBERTUS T. DUDLEY

                                -------

                         Phillips Exeter Series
                       Illustrated. 12mo. Cloth.

                          FOLLOWING THE BALL.
                          MAKING THE NINE.
                          IN THE LINE.
                          WITH MASK AND MITT.
                          THE GREAT YEAR.
                          THE YALE CUP.
                          A FULL-BACK AFLOAT.
                          THE PECKS IN CAMP.
                          THE HALF-MILER.

                                -------

                    Stories of the Triangular League

             Illustrated by CHARLES COPELAND. 12mo. Cloth.

                        THE SCHOOL FOUR.
                        AT THE HOME PLATE.
                        THE UNOFFICIAL PREFECT.

                        THE KING’S POWDER.

                                -------

                  LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO., BOSTON.



------------------------------------------------------------------------


[Illustration: Phil did not walk in from the field.–Page 321.]


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                         PHILLIPS EXETER SERIES

              -------------------------------------------

                            MAKING THE NINE



                                   BY

                           ALBERTUS T. DUDLEY
                     AUTHOR OF “FOLLOWING THE BALL”


                    ILLUSTRATED BY CHARLES COPELAND

                    [Illustration: Publisher’s Logo]



                                BOSTON:
                       LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                  COPYRIGHT, 1904, BY LEE AND SHEPARD.

                        Published August, 1904.

                                -------

                          All Rights Reserved.

                                -------

                            MAKING THE NINE.



                           PRINTED IN U.S.A.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                   To

                        GEORGE ALBERT WENTWORTH

                  KNOWN TO THE WORLD AS THE AUTHOR OF
                     A SCORE OF STANDARD TEXT-BOOKS
                            TO THE ALUMNI OF
                      THE PHILLIPS EXETER ACADEMY
                                   AS
                        The Great Master of Boys



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                PREFACE

THE cordial welcome given to FOLLOWING THE BALL by boy readers and
parents—severe critics both, though from very different standpoints—has
led to the writing of this second story, in which baseball has a
sufficiently important part to suggest the title.

The author’s purpose in each case has been to produce a readable story
true to the life of a distinctly American school, true to athletics in
their better spirit and character, and teaching—not preaching—a manly
and reasonable ideal. If he has not succeeded in this, the failure can
certainly not be charged to lack of experience with athletics or school
life or the ways of boys.

Hearty acknowledgments for expert advice on the technicalities of
baseball training and play are due to Dr. Edward H. Nichols of Boston,
who, as player, head coach, and graduate adviser, has probably
contributed more to Harvard victories on the diamond than any other one
man. The play marking the climax of the game described in Chapter XXVI
is a historic one, borrowed from a Yale-Harvard contest. Its hero was
Mr. George W. Foster, of a champion Harvard nine.

               ALBERTUS T. DUDLEY.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                CONTENTS


                 CHAPTER                            PAGE

                      I AN UNWELCOME PROPOSITION.     1

                     II ON THE ICE.                  13

                    III THE BATTLE.                  25

                     IV PHIL’S RESOLUTION.           38

                      V A TOUGH PROBLEM.             45

                     VI A WESTERN SOLUTION.          57

                    VII IN THE BASEBALL CAGE.        71

                   VIII A TRANSACTION IN BOOKS.      82

                     IX BURGLARY.                    90

                      X MR. MOORE’S THEORY.          98

                     XI FLANAHAN STRIKES OUT.       110

                    XII VARRELL EXPLAINS HIMSELF.   122

                   XIII THE SPRING RUNNING.         131

                    XIV UNDER TWO FLAGS.            146

                     XV ABOUT MANY THINGS.          156

                    XVI PHIL MAKES HIS DÉBUT.       168

                   XVII A NOCTURNAL MYSTERY.        181

                  XVIII A SPILLED PITCHER.          191

                    XIX THE COVETED OPPORTUNITY.    200

                     XX AN UNEXPECTED BLOW.         218

                    XXI A GLOOMY PROSPECT.          232

                   XXII THE DECISION OF THE         243
                        COURT.

                  XXIII THE GREAT TRACK MEET.       261

                   XXIV THE HILLBURY GAME.          282

                    XXV ON THE THIRD FLOOR OF       300
                        HALE.

                   XXVI A DOUBLE ASSIST.            314

                  XXVII CONCLUSION.                 325



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             ILLUSTRATIONS


             Phil did not walk in from the     Frontispiece
               field

             The Western contingent were                 26
               established among the pines
               on the right

             A Corner in Sands’s Room                    70

             He heard voices,—at first                  150
               indistinct, then somewhat
               clearer

             The Academy through the Trees              190

             In the Campus Woods                        242

             He suddenly turned and pulled              292
               the ball down

             The Main Street of Seaton                  324



------------------------------------------------------------------------



                            MAKING THE NINE

                                -------



                               CHAPTER I

                        AN UNWELCOME PROPOSITION


“HOW they do yell! Where’s your patriotism, Phil, to be hanging round in
this gloomy crowd when all your friends are howling their heads off
outside? Don’t you know Yale won the game? Why aren’t you out there with
the rest?”

Philip Poole looked up with a smile, but did not reply.

“He’s comforting the afflicted,” said Dick Melvin, who shared with Poole
the ownership of the room. “You don’t want to gloat over us poor
Harvardites, do you, Phil? Thank you much for your sympathy.”

“That isn’t the reason,” said the lad, after a pause, with the sober
look in his big, wide-open eyes that made him seem serious even when his
feelings inclined in the opposite direction. “I just don’t see any cause
for such a racket. A Yale football victory over Harvard is too ordinary
an occurrence to get wild over.”

The chorus of hoots and groans that greeted this explanation brought a
smile of satisfaction to the boy’s face. He was the youngest of the
company, only in his second year at Seaton; the others were mostly
seniors. As Melvin’s room-mate, however, and in a measure still under
the senior’s care, Poole was thrown as much with the older students as
with his own classmates; and the intimacy thus developed had served both
to sharpen his wits and to give him practice in self-defence.

Melvin himself had not been at Seaton much longer than Phil. He had
entered at the beginning of the Middle year, an unknown boy, green,
sanguine, eager to win a scholarship and so relieve his father of some
of the expense of his schooling. Soon, however, fascinated by football
and the glamour of the school athletic world, he had failed to
subordinate his sport to the real objects of school life. How he made
the school eleven and went down with it to defeat; how he lost his
scholarship; how the care of young Phil, suddenly offered him by the
lad’s uncle, sobered and steadied him and enabled him to stay in school;
how he and John Curtis fought the long uphill fight to develop a strong
team, and finally defeated the rival school,—all this has already been
told in another book, and can only be referred to very briefly here. The
great game which marked the climax of the struggle was still a recent
event.

“You didn’t take it so calmly when Seaton won the victory two weeks ago,
and your beloved Dick spent the afternoon kicking the ball over the
Hillbury goal-posts,” said Varrell, a tall, quiet boy, with keen,
restless eyes that followed the conversation from face to face.

“That’s different,” replied Poole. “I’m first for Seaton and afterwards
for Yale. The college can wait until I get there—and that will be a long
time yet,” he added ruefully, “if what I was told in the algebra class
to-day holds true.”

The others laughed patronizingly, as befitted those who had “points” to
their credit on preliminary certificates, and knew Cæsar and algebra
only as outgrown acquaintances—friends they had never been.

“He’s playing off,” said Todd, suspiciously. “I don’t doubt he drew an
‘A’ on his last examination.”

For one member of the group, the conversation was taking an unpleasant
turn. John Curtis talked as unwillingly about examinations or entering
college as the family of a convict on prison discipline. John had been
captain of the football team, a player with a record, already courted by
college committees on the lookout for good material for Varsity elevens.
The glory of victory still rested full and bright upon him, but neither
the adulation of comrades nor his own consciousness of achievement could
make up to him for his failure to be recommended for preliminaries at
the last college examinations, and his present gloomy outlook.

“Let’s see what they’re doing out in the yard,” he said abruptly,
lifting his two hundred pounds from a creaking chair.

Bang, bang, bump, bang! went a heavy object down the stairs. Melvin
jerked the door open in season to hear a scurry of feet at the end of
the corridor, and the slam of two or three doors.

“This thing must stop, do you hear?” he shouted in the direction from
which the sound had come.

The corridor was silent. No one answered; no one appeared. Yet behind
the cracks of doors ajar were uttered low chucklings that the monitor
rather suspected than heard. From a door at the end emerged an innocent
head adorned with a green shade.

“Who are you bawling at, anyway? A fellow can’t study in this place,
however much he tries. First a chump fires a bowling ball downstairs,
and then the monitor curdles your blood with his Apache yells. I’d
rather hear the ball, a good sight. It isn’t so hard on the nerves.”

“You tell those fellows to stop that thing right off, or I’ll report
every one of them.”

“Tell them yourself!” retorted the green shade; “I’m not their
grandmother.”

Inside Number 9 the company roared with laughter. “There’s no more fun
for the poor fellows in this hall since Dick was put over it,” said
Curtis.

“No, he takes his duties seriously,” commented Todd. “What did you do to
them, Mr. Monitor,” he asked, as the official returned, “put ’em on
probation?”

“Warned them,” replied Melvin, with good humor undisturbed.

“Who was that you were laboring with?”

“Tompkins.”

“What!” cried Curtis, “that wild-looking, shaggy-haired man from Butte,
who looks as if he had just escaped from the menagerie?”

“That’s the one,” replied Dick; “though he isn’t as bad as all that.
He’s a bit freakish, I’ll admit.”

“Not so much of a freak as he looks,” said Todd. “You ought to have seen
him open the safe down at Morrison’s. They’d lost the combination, and
the clerks had been guessing, and twisting, and pulling at the knob all
the morning. Then this Tompkins happened in and took a try at it. He had
the door open in two minutes. Just listened at the lock till he heard
the right sound.”

“Couldn’t have been much of a lock,” said Curtis. “Come on; let’s see
what’s doing outside.”

The big fellow went whistling downstairs, followed by Todd and Poole.
Varrell and Dickinson the runner still remained, the latter too much
incapacitated by the sprain he had received in the great game to make
any unnecessary movements, the former apparently uninterested. The
Harvard sympathizers had rallied, and, making up in numbers what they
lacked in righteous cause, were shouting across the yard to the Yale
band, drowning cheers of exultation with more vociferous cheers of
loyalty.

“The fools!” exclaimed the misanthropic Dickinson.

“Who?” cried Varrell, suddenly roused from revery.

“Why, those fellows out there wasting their time and strength on
something that does not concern them at all.”

“Oh!” said Varrell, and sank back again into his chair.

Dickinson and Melvin exchanged a glance of surprise. They knew that at
one time Varrell had had serious trouble with his ears, and was still a
little deaf; but he got on so well, both in the class room and among the
boys, that it seemed hardly possible that he was unable to hear these
boisterous shouts outside.

They sat a few minutes longer in silence, listening to the cheers hurled
back and forth across the yard. Soon throats grew weary, and the mood
changed. The enthusiasts, beginning to be conscious, as they stamped
their feet and dug their hands into their pockets, that the November
night was really cold, bethought themselves of warm rooms and work still
to be done, and scattered to shelter. The scamper of feet was heard on
the stairs; good nights were exchanged in the entries and shouted from
the windows. Then the natural quiet again prevailed.

“Dick,” said Dickinson at last, “you know that Saville has left school.”

“Yes, I have heard so,” replied Melvin. “He was your track manager,
wasn’t he? Who will take his place?”

“You,” answered Dickinson, calmly.

Melvin laughed. “I see myself in that job.”

“I mean what I say,” went on Dickinson. “When I took the captaincy of
the track team, it was only on condition that I should have no trouble
about business matters. So they appointed Saville. Now that he’s gone, I
must have another man just as trustworthy.”

“That’s mere flattery,” replied Dick, still jesting. “I’m too old a fish
to nibble at that kind of a bait.”

Dickinson grew indignant. “I’m not flattering. I know that if you
undertake the thing, it will be well done.”

“But I don’t want it,” pleaded Melvin, serious at last. “There are
twenty fellows who would be delighted to serve, who would do just as
well as I. Besides, I play football, and who ever heard of a football
player acting as manager?”

“I played too, didn’t I, but that doesn’t release me from the captaincy.
I’m sure I’d like to get out of the thing as much as you.”

“A man who can do a quarter in fifty seconds can’t expect to get out of
it.”

“Say forty!” exclaimed Dickinson, angrily. “You may as well.”

Dick laughed. There was nothing so certain to arouse Dickinson’s ire as
the assumption that he was a marvelous runner whose records could be
counted on to move in a sliding scale downward with no particular limit
in sight. This sensitiveness, due partly to the boy’s extreme modesty,
partly to his fear of disappointing such high expectations, his comrades
had played on to their amusement more than once.

“I think I’ll get out altogether,” said the runner, gloomily.

“You can’t,” said Melvin; “the school wouldn’t let you.”

“Then I’ll tell you what I _will_ do,” Dickinson declared, giving the
arm of the chair a blow with his fist. “I’ll insist that you run the
mile again as you did last year.”

“No, sir!” said Melvin, and set his lips.

“You’ll have to if I insist upon it. You don’t play baseball, and you
have nothing at all to do in the spring. I can bring so much pressure to
bear upon you that you simply can’t resist.”

To this Melvin made no immediate reply, but quietly pondered.

“What do you think, Wrenn?” said Dickinson, turning to Varrell, who had
been a silent witness to the conversation. “Isn’t he just the man to
hold the confidence of the school? And he couldn’t be expected to run if
he were manager, could he?”

“Of course not,” replied Varrell, promptly.

“Then will you be my assistant and help me collect the money?” demanded
Melvin, turning to the last speaker.

But Varrell was not easily caught. “You don’t need any assistant,” he
replied, with a grin. “You’re equal to it all yourself. The Athletic
Association wouldn’t elect me, anyway.”

“Don’t be too sure of that,” remarked Dickinson.

The trio parted with the question still unsettled. “That was great
generalship,” said Dickinson to himself, exultantly, as he limped
downstairs. “He’s scared as death of the mile run. I guess I’ll land
him.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER II

                               ON THE ICE


AS Dickinson foresaw, Melvin yielded to the pressure brought to bear
upon him, and resigned himself to the thankless task of managing the
track team. The election was held a week after Thanksgiving, arousing
but a lukewarm interest. With fine ice on the river, and the Christmas
holidays close at hand, few had more than a thought for the distant
spring. Even the problems of the baseball season were as yet but lightly
mentioned. There was a general optimism in the air that year at Seaton
which carried everything before it, like the high tides of confidence
which sometimes sweep over the stock-market. It made little difference
who were captains or managers; this was Seaton’s year; the teams were
bound to win. Only a few of the wiser heads—perhaps not all the captains
and managers themselves—understood fully the danger of such a mood.

If the task of athletic manager proved to Melvin for the time being a
sinecure, another office which was suddenly thrust upon him was quite
the opposite. No one knew exactly how the hockey rivalry started, or who
were the first to fan it into flame. It was just the kind of contest
most likely to arise where boys gather from every part of the country,
each loyal to his home and state, and each ready to boast superiority,
and defend the boast with tongue and muscle. Dick had hardly been twice
on the ice when the hockey players began to pair off into New England
and Western teams. By some natural agreement the Hudson River was made
the boundary line,—a rather unfair division, as it afterwards proved,
for the New Englanders included considerably more than half the skaters.
At first the rivalry was general and unorganized; then teams were more
carefully picked; and finally, as the victory wavered from East to West
in these miscellaneous engagements, and enthusiasm and pugnacious
patriotism spread, the school was sifted for experts, champion teams
were chosen, and a day set for a single decisive contest. It was then
that Dick found to his surprise that he was appointed captain of the
Western team.

Sands, the captain of the school nine, who lived in Chicago, brought him
the news.

“How absurd!” cried Dick, aghast. “Why, I’m no hockey player. There must
be a dozen fellows better than I.”

“They think you’ll be the best leader, anyway,” returned Sands; “and as
there’s no one else eligible whom the fellows will follow, you’ll just
have to take it. When a man handles a football as you did last fall,
he’s supposed to be capable of anything. Don’t try for the nine, please.
You can’t play ball on a reputation, and I should hate to have to fire
you from the squad.”

Sands threw himself on the sofa, and waited for an answer.

“There’s no danger of that,” replied Melvin, unruffled. “I don’t play
ball. As for the hockey business, I’m quite willing to act as leader, if
it’s understood that I make no pretensions to being a crack.”

He pondered a moment and then went on: “What material is there? Curtis
and Toddy don’t live in New England. That gives us four solid men for a
nucleus.”

“You’re out there,” Sands answered gloomily. “Curtis lives in New York
and Todd in Brooklyn, and both are east of the Hudson.”

Melvin looked serious. “Then they’ll be on the other side. I don’t like
that. I’ve stood side by side with John Curtis in so many hard fights
that it seems like treachery to play against him. I really don’t want to
do it.”

Sands laughed. “That’s you all over. You tackle everything big and
little in deadly earnest as if you were fighting the battle of
Gettysburg all by yourself. This isn’t a Hillbury game; it’s a kind of
lark.”

“Oh, yes, I know all about that kind of a lark. When you begin, it’s a
joke; before you’re through, it’s a fight for blood.”

“What do you think of my case?” replied Sands. “I have one brother in
Yale and another in Harvard, and both on the teams.”

“I’ve heard of them,” said Melvin. “How do they contrive to avoid
scrapping?”

“They never discuss college matters at all. When I’m with one, he urges
me to go to Yale; when the other gets hold of me, he talks Harvard; when
we are all together, they cut the subject.”

Dick still meditated. Sands tried another tack.

“The New Englanders are talking big. Curtis says the Greasers will wish
they’d stayed on the plains when his team’s through with them.”

“Did he really say that?” asked Dick, straightening up.

“He did, and Toddy told Marks the Yanks would clean us off the ice so
quickly you’d think they’d used Sapolio.”

“He must consider us either sandless or mighty green,” said Dick.

“And he’s more than half right, too,” replied Sands, “as far as the
greenness is concerned. It’s one thing to play with a mob in the
old-fashioned go-as-you-please way, and quite another to run a regular
team of seven, with complicated rules, and lifts and shoots and body
checks and passes and on-side and off-side play, and all the tricks of
the new game.”

“I don’t believe he’ll find us as simple as we look,” replied Melvin, as
he opened a drawer and took out a sheet of paper. “I’ll take the
captaincy, provisionally at any rate; and we’ll call out candidates this
very afternoon. I’ll post the notice as soon as I can write it. See all
the fellows you can; tell them the Yanks are crowing, and we’ll have a
big push and lots of zeal. Do you know any hockey experts on our side of
the river?”

“The only crack I’ve heard of is a fellow named Bosworth, but he’s on
the other side.”

“I’m glad of it,” said Melvin; “I don’t like him.”

In answer to the captain’s call a score of enthusiasts gathered on the
upper river. Varrell was among them, and Sands, and Burnett, and several
heavy men who seemed promising for forwards, and a little, wiry,
dark-haired fellow from Minneapolis named Durand, whom Dick immediately
picked out as likely to prove a steady player on the second team. The
first task was to find who were well used to the game, and who needed
special instruction; the second, to set the experienced to coach the
inexperienced; the third, to divide the men into squads, set several
games going, and watch the work. Finally, the captain chose a trial
seven, gave the scrub an extra man, and tried a ten-minute half.

Little Durand and Varrell, who had never impressed his classmates as an
athlete, found themselves on the scrub. Varrell took coverpoint and
Durand put himself among the forwards. The puck was faced and started on
its erratic, whimsical journey, darting like a wild thing back and
forth, up and down. Before the game seemed really well begun, the
circular piece of rubber came within Varrell’s sweep, and clung to the
heel of his stick. He whirled to the right to dodge Barnes, passed
across to little Durand when Melvin blocked his way, took the puck again
from Durand as the latter was stopped in his turn, and then, with a
swing and a snap, shot it hard at the posts. The goal-tender brought his
feet together as quickly as he could, but not quite quickly enough; the
puck was already past him, flying knee-high over the ice like a swallow
skimming the ground.

“Centre again!” cried Melvin, surprised and vexed at the ease with which
the thing was done. “Brace up, Sands,” he called encouragingly to the
goal-keeper. “Accidents will happen; they won’t do it again.”

The first forwards did better for a time, driving the puck down by sheer
force through the intimidated second defence. Twice they shot for goal
and missed, and then Varrell got a chance again and with a kind of scoop
with stick directly in front, lifted the puck in a long beautiful arch
twenty feet high to the farther end. Sands sent it back again with
almost as good a lift. A lucky second stopped it, passed it to Varrell
who nursed it along in a strange, wabbling course, and delivered it
safely to Durand. The latter swept ahead in turn, and then while Melvin
was wondering in what direction Durand was going to wheel, Varrell took
the puck again and shot a beautiful goal right under the captain’s own
nose.

Sands and Melvin and Varrell trudged back to recitation together. “Where
did you learn to play?” asked Sands. “You handle a stick like a
professional.”

“I spent last year at a Canadian boarding-school,” answered Varrell.
“There was good ice for months, and hockey was about the only game we
had.”

“You and Durand played the whole game for the second. What a squirmer
the little rascal is! He doesn’t weigh more than a hundred and ten, and
yet you can’t knock him over to save you.”

“He checks low,” said Dick, “and is firm on his feet. But he’s awfully
light. I doubt if he has much staying power.”

“I think you’re wrong,” said Varrell. “I’ve seen that kind before; they
never get tired.”

In the next day’s practice, Varrell and Durand being on the scrub, the
score at the end of the first half was even. In the second half the two
men played with the first team, and the scrub defence was kept so busy
that the game seemed to centre around their goal-posts, and Melvin had
finally to transfer Sands to the other side to give him a share in the
practice. To furnish some test of endurance, the length of the half was
doubled. When time was called, Durand was bobbing and twisting and
checking and shooting as busily as ever, while one of the big forwards
was obviously fagged, and Melvin himself felt that his ankles were
rebelling at the unusual strain.

That settled the question of the team; Varrell and Durand had earned
their places upon it. Two or three days later a meeting of the team was
held to receive Melvin’s resignation.

“I’ve got the team together,” he said, “and with that my duty is done.
The best captain for us now is the man who knows most hockey and can
teach us the most; I’m not that man.”

The players at first expostulated; then finding that Melvin was in
earnest, very sensibly did what they knew he wanted them to do,—elected
Varrell captain.

“I think it’s a mistake,” said Sands to Barnes, as they came down the
dormitory stairs. “Nobody knows Varrell. But there’s no use arguing with
Melvin about a thing of this kind. He’s one of those obstinately honest
fellows who stand up so straight that they fall backwards.”

“You dropped the Greaser captaincy like a hot shot,” quoth John Curtis
on the way out from chapel, as he grabbed Melvin by the coat collar with
the familiarity of an old crony, and grinned in his face. “Knew you were
going to get licked, didn’t you? You’re a foxy one.”

Dick looked up and caught a fleeting troubled look on the face of
Varrell, who stood eying them intently some distance away. “I wasn’t
good enough,” he said aloud, as if Varrell could hear him. “On a team
like ours, I’m content to fight in the ranks.”

As John did not understand this, he merely uttered an incredulous “Oho!”
and, giving his classmate a slap on the shoulder to convey the
impression that he was not to be fooled, went outside to consider the
answer more fully and wonder if the Greasers were really trying to
spring some new trick upon the Yanks. Melvin swung into the Greek room
and opened his Homer with a chuckle of pride. “That would pass for a
Delphic response. He doesn’t know what I meant. And he won’t know until
the game,” he added, with the old determined look coming back into his
face.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER III

                               THE BATTLE


VARRELL took to the management of the team with a quietness and
assurance that put hope into the hearts of the small but determined band
which represented the great West. The few days that were left for
practice were used to the utmost. In the morning the captain found time
to show individual players about shooting and lifting and stopping
shots. In the afternoon he drilled the team in passing and dodging and
checking. There was a little murmuring when a big forward was taken out
of the game because he was uncertain on his skates; and more still when
another was relegated to the list of substitutes for playing his own
game instead of fitting into the scheme for team work. But Varrell’s
answer was conclusive: “Our only chance to win is by team play. We have
no stars, and on their team are two or three men who have played in the
best city rinks. United we win; scattered we lose.” The murmurers said
no more.

That last Saturday before the Christmas holidays was clear and cold. The
course had been chosen on the river where high banks ran nearly parallel
twenty yards apart. The snow, which had been cleared away the day
before, was piled up behind the goal-posts, forming end barriers sixty
yards from each other, and completing, with the river banks, a natural
enclosure of about the regular rink size.


[Illustration: The Western contingent were established among the pines
on the right.—Page 26.]


On the banks gathered the patriotic factions,—the New Englanders in the
open field on the left, swaggering merrily about their fires and hurling
derisive cheers across the ice to the Western contingent, who were
established among the pines on the right. This latter band of
supporters, though weaker in numbers, had, from their position, a
certain advantage which they made the most of. They swarmed into the
trees with impromptu banners; when they were out-cheered, they devised
an unintelligible chant which made up for lack of voices; and, finally,
Tompkins of Montana developed a weird, penetrating yell, something
between a whoop and a scream, which no one on the opposite bank could
imitate or match, and which he uttered at impressive intervals from the
upper branches of the tallest pine.

Yet, with all this show of patriotism, the noisy rivalry seemed quite
free from bitterness. The gibes flew back and forth; there were cheers
and counter cheers and chants, and Montana hoots from the pine tree, but
the mood was of frolic, not of fight. For the spectators it was a lark,
pure and simple; hardly any one really cared at the outset what the
result was to be.

On the ice the spirit was different. Dick looked into John Curtis’s face
and, behind the patronizing grin, read very clearly a poorly masked
defiance. Todd, the Yank forward end, fingered his stick nervously over
the ice as he waited for the call to places, and on his cheeks appeared
the telltale white spots which Dick had seen before in the great
football games when Toddy had set his teeth and fought for ground by the
inch. Bosworth, the Yank coverpoint, leaned scowling on his stick, eying
his opponents with sombre malevolence.

“They are fighters, not players,” said Dick to himself, disapprovingly.
“They seem to think they’re out against Hillbury.”

And it did not occur to him that his own men looked equally fierce and
determined. Sands stood ready at goal, but he had not a word for the boy
who was beside him waiting to take his sweater when the game was called.
Varrell was moving about with the quiet confidence of a master, which is
more impressive to an opponent than noisy display. And as for Melvin
himself, one did not need to be told that his whole heart was in the
contest. The school knew well that what Melvin did, he did with all his
might; a stranger would have read determination in the open face. Little
Durand was about the only one of the fourteen who seemed to share the
mood of the spectators. He flourished and circled about, chattering
gayly up to the very moment of beginning.

The preliminaries were soon arranged. “Ready!” called the captains, and
a moment later, at the first sound of the referee’s whistle, the two
forwards were scraping and twisting to secure the puck on the
“face-off.” Curtis got it, or thought he had; but before he could really
call it his, a Greaser blocked his play, and Durand, dexterously picking
out the puck, swept it across to Rawle, who dribbled it along, passed
back to Durand, received it again, and lost it in the crush at the Yank
goal. In another moment it came flying through the air on a lift, far
down in the Greaser defence field.

Dick succeeded in stopping it and sending it on toward Varrell. The
Greaser captain was off-side; but he allowed his opponent just to touch
the puck, and then with a sudden swing to one side he was off down the
ice, sweeping the puck with him. The first opponent he dodged. Big
Curtis, who was next in order, made him pass; but the exchange gave him
the puck again, and after several quick diagonal passes with Durand that
brought them near the Yank goal, Varrell gave his stick a sudden hard
flourish, and the puck shot like an arrow between the goal-posts,
grazing the goal-tender’s knee as it passed.

It was all done so quickly, so unexpectedly, that for a moment the
Western supporters under the pines and in the pines seemed unaware that
their team had scored. Then as the sticks of the team brandished in air
made the fact clear, a confused mixture of cheers, screeches, whoops,
and catcalls gave proof that the West was both patriotic and
appreciative. On the New England side indifference seemed to prevail.

“One!” said Sands with joy, as the puck came back to the centre.

“The first one, you mean,” returned Dick, in a low tone. “We’re not
through yet.”

The next goal came hard. The Eastern team was heavier and generally
stronger, but the members could not or would not play together; and if
they got the puck down near the Greaser goal, they usually lost it
before the goal was really threatened. Once a hard shot close at hand
struck Sands in the pit of the stomach, and the spectators cheered and
jeered as the gasping lad feebly lifted the puck away from its dangerous
proximity to the goal. He had his breath again in a moment, however,
apparently none the worse for his experience. Soon after, Curtis and
Durand came together as both rushed for the puck at the same time, and
the spectators under the trees cheered wildly as the little fellow
crouched low for the collision, and the big football player sprawled
over him upon the ice. But Varrell was the objective point of the
strongest attack. Though he played coverpoint, he had an arrangement
with Brown, one of the forwards, to exchange places on signal; and the
result was that he appeared now in the defence, now in the attack,
apparently scenting the course the puck was destined to take, and always
equal to the need.

The Yanks grew rougher and more violent. Todd took to body checking
where it was not necessary; Bosworth, when a Greaser got the puck away
from him, followed on at his heels with ill-concealed malice, and banged
away viciously at the unlucky man’s shins, even though it was apparent
that the puck was wholly beyond the pursuer’s reach. Such tactics,
unless checked, are usually the prelude to rougher play; and Dick, for
this reason, was doubly grateful when, from the edge of the mêlée around
the Yank goal-posts, Rawle swiped the puck through a second time. Play
had hardly been resumed when the referee’s whistle announced the end of
the first half.

As was to be expected, the jubilation under the pines was earnest and
loud. In the opposite camp, where the neglected fires were dying away in
smoke, quite different conditions prevailed. A few, with heroic
repression of natural sympathy, still pretended to regard the whole
matter as a joke, in which victory or defeat meant little or nothing.
The great majority, however, unable to rise to this level, were
distinctly conscious of having in some way been cheated. They had come
out to be amused, and part of the amusement was to consist in seeing the
impudent Greasers given a sound beating. And here were their men,
including such big husky athletes as Curtis and Todd, and fellows who
had been glorified as city rink experts, like Bosworth and Richmond,
overthrown by a set of amateurs.

“Rotten!” said Marks, the connoisseur of sports, as he interviewed
Curtis and Todd during the intermission. “Perfectly rotten! Did you get
us up here to fool us?”

“I didn’t ask you to come,” returned Curtis, trying to keep his good
nature. “If you can do much better, come out yourself.”

“Oh, I’m no athlete,” rejoined Marks, hastily, “but I can see what the
fault is better than you do. That Varrell plays most of their game.
You’ve got to use him up. Give them a rougher game. Push ’em hard. When
two of you start for the puck, let the puck go where it pleases; just
smash at the man. When the man’s out of the way, you can take your time
about the puck. You’re heavy and have the advantage.”

“That seems rather mean,” said Curtis.

“Mean!” exclaimed Marks. “Did you ask a Hillbury man to excuse you when
you tackled him on the football field? I guess not.”

Curtis glanced around the group and read the looks of approval. “Well,
then,” he said finally, “make it rough, but let’s have fair play,”—his
eye rested on Bosworth as he said this,—“and no low tricks. Everything
must be straight and aboveboard.”

When the game began again, the new spirit was immediately apparent. The
Yanks got the puck and tried to drive it down by weight, but the
off-side rule checked them. Durand still stole the puck from behind
their sticks and put his shoulder so low that he could not be
overturned; while Varrell still hovered on the edge of the scrimmage and
drew the puck as a magnet draws a scrap of iron. Despite the heavy body
checking, the play lingered about the Yank goal, for the Yank forwards
did not follow the puck back closely on the defence, and Melvin or Sands
soon sent it into Yank territory again. Rawle tried for goal, and
failed. Durand missed in his turn, and then Varrell got the puck thirty
yards away, and while his opponents were watching for a pass, by a long
beautiful shoot made the third score for his side.

And now the Yanks’ patience gave out. Rules or no rules, they were
determined that their opponents should make no more goals.

Again Varrell took the puck, and with his familiar tricky movement of
the wrist started down the ice.

“Look out for Bosworth,” yelled Durand, whom Todd was obstructing at the
side-lines. But Varrell’s dull ears served him ill. Bosworth, who was
close at the Greaser’s heels, thrust his stick suddenly between
Varrell’s rapidly moving legs and threw him with a crash to the ice,
right under the feet of Richmond, who was speeding up from another
direction. Richmond went down, too, tripping hard against the prostrate
form.

The Greasers hissed, the Yankees groaned. John Curtis, be it said to his
credit, ordered Bosworth from the ice before the referee could
interfere; but the advantage of the “accident,” as Bosworth called it,
was on the side of the Yankees. Varrell was helped off the scene, barely
able to lift his leg.

The teams went on with six men each. With Varrell the Greasers had lost
the mainspring of their attack. Superior weight and superior physical
strength began to tell. The puck kept returning to the Greaser defence.
Then came a scrimmage before the goal, a quick shoot from the outskirts
of the crowd, and the Yanks were exulting over their first score.

“Only four minutes more,” pleaded Dick, skating down the Greaser line.
“Hold them that long for Varrell’s sake. We can do it, if we will.”

And the weary six rallied once more. Durand was knocked about like the
puck itself, but he stuck gamily to his work, and zigzagged and circled
and dodged as before. Sands saved one goal with his hands, another with
his feet. Dick met body check with body check, and lifted high and sure.
But never before had he listened so anxiously for the sound of the
referee’s whistle. When it came, and he knew certainly that the game was
won, he flung his stick into the air and led the gathering Greasers in a
long, hearty cheer for Varrell, who, lying on the meadow bank bedded in
Yank blankets, was watching the result with his heart in his mouth.

“Great work you did this afternoon,” said Tompkins two hours later,
popping his head into Melvin’s room. “Any part of you that isn’t black
and blue?”

“I didn’t suffer much,” replied Melvin. “It wasn’t as bad as it looked.”

“I hope not,” said Tompkins. “Do you know what battle in Roman history
the fray reminded me of?”

Dick shook his head. “I don’t know any history. I passed it off last
year.”

“The battle of the Ostrogoths and Visigoths,” replied Tompkins, wisely.
“It’s a case of history repeating itself. The Visigoths won both times.”
And then he added, “I don’t believe the Goths would have been guilty of
some of the things I saw done on the ice this afternoon.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER IV

                           PHIL’S RESOLUTION


THE Christmas holidays were over. Varrell limped no more, and Dickinson,
who had long since discarded his cane, walked with quick, elastic step
as of old, apparently completely recovered. A few new boys had entered
school. One of these, who was somewhat rough in appearance and who
struggled clumsily with the lessons of a lower class, was said to be a
pitcher. He was older than most of the students, in years rather a man
than a boy. This fact was not in itself remarkable, for there is no age
limit at Seaton, and many an honest, earnest fellow who after his
twentieth year has conceived a longing for an education has found
opportunity and encouragement there. But Flanahan seemed not entirely of
this class.

“What about him, Sands?” asked Dick. “He looks suspicious.”

“Suspicious! What do you mean by that?” demanded the captain. “He isn’t
the youngest fellow in school, of course; but he isn’t the oldest,
either. Why shouldn’t he have a chance for an education as well as any
one else?”

“He should if he really wants it,” replied Melvin. “He looks as if he
had knocked around on a good many diamonds before coming here.”

“Do you mean that he’s a professional?”

“Yes, something of that kind,—semi-professional would hit it better, I
think.”

“If he’s a professional, I don’t know it,” said Sands. “I didn’t get him
here. He says he’s an amateur, and he has certainly played on some good
amateur nines. He can pitch, and we need a pitcher. That’s all I know
about it.”

“And all you want to know,” said Melvin, with a smile.

“Yes, all I want to know,” repeated Sands.

Melvin passed to another topic: “Phil would like to try for the nine. Is
there any chance for him?”

“None at all,” replied Sands, promptly.

“That’s a fine way to choose a team!” retorted Melvin. “You haven’t
tried him and yet you say he has no show. We searched high and low for
football material,—fairly scoured the school, and here you are deciding
offhand against a fellow whose playing you’ve never seen. No wonder the
nine gets beaten.”

Sands’s face reddened: “I didn’t say I wouldn’t try him. I’ll try
anything that offers. I only said that he hadn’t any chance.”

“Have you seen him play?”

“Yes; he can throw pretty well and field fairly, but he isn’t old enough
or big enough or strong enough or experienced enough for the school
nine.”

“Well, he’ll grow, won’t he?” persisted Dick. “Just give him a chance to
work up.”

“I’ll give him just the chance I give any one else and no more,” replied
Sands, decisively. “Every man who makes the nine this year has got to
earn his place, and the fact that Phil is your chum and a friend of mine
will simply make me harder on him. When I say he hasn’t a chance, I mean
that he cannot meet the standard. He may try as hard as he wants to.”

They separated at the gymnasium door, each going to his own part of the
locker rooms to dress. A few minutes later, as Dick was running upstairs
to his regular gymnasium work, he caught the sound of Sands’s voice
exhorting the squad in the baseball cage. He paused a moment with a
smile of approval on his lips, as he marked the steady, confident tones,
and recalled the captain’s sturdy resolve to hold to the merit system in
choosing the nine. Then Flanahan’s lanky figure loomed up by the
doorway, and the smile on Melvin’s face died suddenly away. He turned
abruptly and went on his way upstairs.

“Phil,” said Melvin that night, as the junior came in after supper,
“should you really like to try for the nine?”

“Should I!” the boy’s eyes sparkled. “If I had the ghost of a chance of
being kept on the squad till we got outdoors, I’d say ‘yes’ right off.”

“What can you play best?” asked Melvin.

“I’ve always played in the out-field,” Poole replied rather humbly. “I’m
fairly safe on flies, and could always throw a little farther and a
little straighter than the other fellows.”

“An out-fielder must be a good hitter or they won’t keep him. Can you
bat?”

“They used to say I had a good eye,” returned Phil, who was not used to
singing his own praises. “I’m not heavy enough for long hits.”

“If you’re sure on the elements, go in and try,” said Melvin, “but you
must do your level best. The only way for you to accomplish anything is
just to devote your whole thought and attention out of study hours to
baseball and nothing but baseball. Do everything you’re told to do and
more. Study yourself all the time. Get help outside that the others
haven’t. Hang to the squad till they kick you off, and when that
happens, organize a nine of your own and keep up your practice. If they
call you a fool and a crank, just laugh and keep on playing. Are you
willing to do all that?”

The color deepened on Phil’s cheeks as he listened. “I’ll do more than
that,” he cried; “I’ll shack balls, I’ll tend the bats, I’ll carry
water, I’ll do anything they put upon me. I’ll try this year and next
and the year after, but if there’s any baseball in me, I’ll make the
nine before I leave school.”

“Good!” exclaimed the senior, giving the boy’s hand a squeeze that made
the bones crack. “I don’t know much about baseball, but that’s the
spirit that wins. Only don’t talk about what you’re going to do. Think a
lot, but keep your thoughts to yourself. When you play, play with all
your might.”

They settled down to the work of the evening. Occasionally Dick glanced
with interest across the table to see whether the hated Virgil lesson or
the excitement of the new resolution was to possess Phil’s thoughts. For
a time the lad, with face still flushed, gazed vacantly up toward the
picture moulding. Then with a start and a slam he opened his Æneid at
the fourth book, and ground away for two steady, patient hours at the
lovelorn wails of the unhappy Dido, in whose fate he had about as much
sympathetic interest as a horse on a coal wagon feels for the sufferings
of the freezing poor.

“I’ll bet on him in the long run,” thought Dick, as he eyed the
determined plodder.

The next day Philip Poole’s name appeared on the list of candidates for
the nine.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER V

                            A TOUGH PROBLEM


MELVIN and Varrell returned from their Greek recitation together.

“I don’t like the way things are going this year,” Melvin was saying.
“There’s too much confidence. If the track team wins, it will be just as
expected, with no credit to any one; if we lose, woe to captain and
manager.”

“You’re right,” said Varrell, “but forewarned is forearmed. Keep cool
and reasonable and see to it that you don’t lose.”

“If it weren’t for Dickinson,” went on Melvin, “I shouldn’t have taken
the thing at all. You see, I feel a kind of responsibility toward him
because of the way in which I got him to run last year, so I didn’t like
to refuse him.”

“You know I wasn’t here last year,” said Varrell.

“Why, of course! I keep forgetting that you came this fall. It happened
this way. Martin discovered Dickinson,—you’ve heard of Martin, haven’t
you, of last year’s senior class?”

Varrell nodded.

“Martin discovered that Dickinson could run, and Curtis and I got him
out for the sports in the spring and stood sponsors for him until he had
courage enough to stand alone.”

“Won everything last year, didn’t he?” asked Varrell.

“Quarter and two-twenty, hands down,” answered Melvin; “but there’s no
surety that he’ll do it again. Besides, no one can say yet what the
effect of that ankle will be. The doctor thinks it will be as strong as
ever, but I know a sprained ankle is very easy to sprain again. Without
Dickinson we shouldn’t have much to brag of.”

Both boys turned to their work. Melvin, in the quiet business-like way
with which he had learned to attack his lessons, opened his trigonometry
on the desk and in a moment was oblivious to all else but the problem
which was first to be solved. Varrell’s stint was of a different
kind,—forty lines of “Macbeth” to be committed to memory before twelve
o’clock. As this involved much repetition and possible interference with
the trigonometry problem, he retired to the bedroom, where he could
mutter at his ease.

They possessed two very different personalities. Varrell was tall and
slight, his limbs hardly filled out to their proper roundness, with a
clear-cut, intelligent face and striking gray eyes that were remarkable,
not so much for what they showed of the character behind them, as for
the power of sight which they seemed to possess. Ever alert and
observant, even when his face was otherwise at rest, the eyes seemed the
aggressive part of the boy. Their direct glance was like a ray of
concentrated intelligence.

“I like Varrell,” said Tompkins one day, in a burst of confidence,
“except when he looks at me hard, and then his eyes cut right through
me, and I feel as if he were counting the hairs on the back of my head.”

Melvin was more substantially built. As he sat at the table, the cloth
of his coat sleeves drew tight over the splendid deltoid and biceps, and
his square, blunt knees showed hardened muscles rounding out beyond the
knee-cap. If his face lacked the alertness of look so noticeable in
Varrell, it yet had a composure and an air of self-reliance and honesty
that rendered it no less attractive.

The learner of Shakespeare was restless. The first five lines were
mastered in a chair by the window, the next five on Melvin’s bed, the
third on Poole’s bed, and the fourth on a second chair. In the circuit
of the room he had learned twenty lines.

“Another lap and I shall have it,” he said to himself, gleefully, as he
took his place again by the window.

The outside door opened and Poole came rushing into the study. “I want
to tell you something, Dick, and I’ve just three minutes before Latin to
tell it in—Whose hat is that?”

“Varrell’s,” said Dick, who had risen from the desk. “He’s in the
bedroom plugging away at Shakespeare.”

“Hello, Varrell,” said Phil, looking in at the door. “Shakespeare plays
havoc with the beds, doesn’t he?”

“Get out!” cried Varrell, waving him off; “you rattle me.”

Phil joined Dick on the other side of the room. Through the open door
they could see the Shakespearean scholar doggedly muttering over his
book.

“Shan’t we disturb him?” asked Phil, hesitating.

“Speak low and there’ll be no danger,” said Melvin. “His ears aren’t
quick.”

The eleven o’clock bell soon broke in on the conversation, and sent the
younger boy flying to his recitation. Dick sat down at the desk again
and tried to take up his work where he had left it, but he was
apparently in a very unstudious mood. His pencil no longer moved
steadily over the paper; his gaze rested fitfully now here, now there,
on the various objects before him; his flushed sober face showed that
his thoughts were hot within him. Finally, he threw down his pencil in
disgust, and sauntering over to the window, leaned his head against the
sash and gazed moodily out.

“He’s a confounded rascal!” exclaimed Varrell, who had been eying his
agitated comrade over the Shakespeare, “but it’s no fault of yours, and
why do you bother yourself about him?”

“Who?” said Dick, staring at him in amazement.

“Why, Bosworth, of course,” went on Varrell, coolly; “if what Phil says
of him is true, he’s even a bigger rascal than I always thought him.”

Dick was nonplussed. His conversation with Phil had certainly been
carried on in a tone too low to be audible to Varrell in the bedroom.

“What do you mean?” he asked sharply.

“Why, that he has been getting some of those little fellows into his
room to play poker and fleecing them, especially that boy with a short
name with a ‘t’ or a ‘d’ in it.”

“Yes, Eddy,” replied Dick. “He’s in Phil’s class.” And then, looking
curiously at his friend, he added, “Your hearing is growing surprisingly
good, I must say.”

“I’m sorry if I overheard what you meant I should not know,” said
Varrell, flushing. “If that is the case, I shall certainly try to forget
it.”

“Oh, I don’t mind your knowing it,” said Dick, “I only wish you could
tell what we ought to do about it.”

The clanging bell again interposed its peremptory summons.

“Twelve o’clock!” cried Varrell, as he made a dash for his hat, “and
only thirty lines. I’ll bet I’ll be called on for the ten I didn’t
learn.”

When Phil had time for longer explanations, he gave Dick more details of
the happenings in Sibley 15, Bosworth’s room. Eddy, who had given the
information, was in Phil’s class, and of about Phil’s age. Smarting
under a sense of ill-treatment and desperately perplexed as to how he
was to account for the lost money, which had been sent him for purchases
for the winter, he had opened his heart to Phil, who in turn had made
haste to unburden himself to his older and presumably wiser room-mate.
Hardly had he done this, when Eddy repented of his confidences and
tearfully besought his classmate never to speak of it to a living soul.
But the murder was out, and the best Phil could do was to urge Melvin to
guard the secret.

“So, having stolen the fellow’s money, Bosworth has made him promise not
to mention the fact,” said Melvin.

“Eddy said it was a matter of honor. The money had been lost in fair
play, and he had no right to speak of it when it might get them all into
trouble.”

“So Bosworth says, I suppose,” said Melvin.

“Yes, that’s it; Bosworth says it’s just a personal matter between them,
and to tell about it so that it might reach the Faculty would be simply
tale-bearing.”

“What kind of a boy is Eddy?”

“Not very good and not especially bad, but just weak. He is terribly cut
up about the thing, doesn’t study any, and cries a lot in his room. I
can’t help pitying him, though I don’t sympathize with him much.”

Dick smiled: “I suppose you’d do differently in his place.”

Phil grew indignant. “I rather think I should. To begin with, I
shouldn’t be in his place. I wouldn’t touch that Bosworth with a
ten-foot pole. But supposing that I did get into the scrape, I’d take it
as a warning to leave Bosworth and gambling alone, and write home an
honest letter about the whole business.”

“And that’s the very thing Eddy ought to do,” said Melvin, giving Phil’s
shoulder a slap. “Why didn’t you tell him so?”

“I did,” replied Phil, “but he is afraid to, and he wouldn’t listen at
all to my idea of telling Mr. Graham about it without mentioning
Bosworth’s name.”

Dick grinned. Mr. Graham, the principal of Seaton, ruled the school with
a strong hand. His was not a mailed fist in a velvet glove, but a
strong, dexterous hand gloved in velvet with a mail back. The whole
school saw the steel exterior; few really appreciated the gentleness of
the clasp.

“I suppose they’d be fired if it came out,” went on Phil.

“They wouldn’t have time to say good-by, or at least Bosworth wouldn’t.
I’m not so certain about Eddy.”

A knock at the door was followed by the appearance of a head. Seeing
that the visitor was Tompkins, Phil opened his Greek Grammar and plunged
vigorously into study as if he had no other interest in the world.
Tompkins looked from one sober face to the other, then gave a glance
over Phil’s shoulder at the page of the open book.

“Metres of Aristophanes! Is that what they give here to beginners in
Greek? If it is, I’m glad I began out West.”

Phil shut the book with a bang, and replied half petulantly, half amused
that he should have betrayed himself so easily, “No, it isn’t; I was
thinking.”

“Unpleasant thoughts,” said Tompkins, with another glance at Melvin’s
face. “Well, I guess I won’t bother you any more to-day.”

There was no reply to this, and the visitor moved toward the door. As
his hand touched the knob a new thought struck him and he turned
suddenly on the boy.

“You haven’t been losing your money, too, have you, Phil?”

Was it the warm sympathy in the Westerner’s tone, or relief at finding
that others knew the secret, or natural indignation at an unwarranted
suspicion, that suddenly put to flight the boy’s reserve? Philip himself
could not have told.

“What do you take me for?” he demanded. “Not on your life!”

“Glad to hear it. Your classmate, Eddy, got bled pretty deep,” went on
Tompkins.

“We were just talking about him,” said Dick. “It’s a bad case.”

“An easy game for a card sharper,” said Tompkins, coolly, “and a big
piece of folly by a little fool. Neither the sharper nor the fool ought
to be here,—one’s too dangerous and the other’s too weak; but if I
should go to Grim and tell him about the thing, and let him do with the
fellow what he really ought to, I suppose I should never dare to look a
boy in the face again.”

“You probably wouldn’t enjoy life much in school afterwards,” said Dick,
thoughtfully.

“I thought as much,” Tompkins continued in the same tone. “If he stole
or murdered, we could complain to the authorities and have him arrested;
but as he’s only ruining the characters of a few little boys, it
wouldn’t be nice to tell on him. Great thing, this school honor, when
you understand it! Well, so long!”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER VI

                           A WESTERN SOLUTION


“DO you think Bosworth’s still keeping it up?” asked Melvin, as he stood
before the fireplace in Varrell’s room in Hale a day or two later.

“I am sure he is,” said Wrenn. “You can look right across from this room
to his windows in Sibley. His shades were down close all last evening,
and he doesn’t usually lower them, even when he’s dressing.”

“Tompkins’s conduct is beyond me,” said Melvin. “He seemed as indignant
as any of us when the story came out, but I’ve seen him twice in the
last two days hanging around with that gambler, as friendly as if he had
known him for years.”

“I thought Tommy was a pretty decent fellow,” mused Varrell. “There’s no
counting on these wild Westerners.”

“Well, what do you think?” questioned Dick, returning to the matter that
had brought him over to Hale. “Are we bound to sit quietly and see
Bosworth play his faro tricks on these little fellows? The next step
will be to get them all in debt to him, and then he can keep bleeding
them as they have money by promising them a chance to get even again.”

“And that’s not all,” said Varrell; “they’ll have to write lies to their
families in order to get extra money to pay up with; and when they get
used to lying about one thing, they’ll lie about another, and keep on
lying till there’s no truth left in them. A little kid that’s tough is
about the meanest and most pitiable individual you can find. He goes
down hill like a ball rolling down an inclined plane,—friction
disregarded.” The terms of physics occurred naturally to Varrell, who
took especial delight in the study.

“Suppose we talk to the boys,” said Melvin, tentatively.

“It would probably do no good. The little fools don’t know enough to
take advice.”

“Then we must deal directly with Bosworth,” said Melvin, decisively.
“It’s an awfully unpleasant job to tackle,—makes you feel as if you were
interfering in another fellow’s private affairs, and setting yourself up
to be better than any one else; but the thing must be stopped.”

Varrell nodded in grave approval. “There’s nothing else to be done, and
you’re the man for the job.”

“Why not you?” asked Dick, shortly.

“Because,” replied Varrell, with a smile of satisfaction, “you are
Richard Melvin, the President of the senior class and the most famous
full-back that ever shed glory—”

“Cut that out!” interrupted Melvin, authoritatively. “This is a serious
matter, and we can’t afford to have any confounded nonsense mixed up
with it.”

Varrell’s smile faded reluctantly away. “I am serious. You can do the
thing without giving the fellow a chance to face you down or put you in
a ridiculous light with the rest of the school, or advertise your cheek.
You hold too strong a position to run any risk. I’m a newcomer and
practically unknown.”

“Why shouldn’t both of us go?” said Melvin, after an interval of
consideration, still shrinking from an odious task.

Again his friend had a decisive reply. “No, he will take it better and
it will do more good if you go quietly by yourself, as if you alone knew
it.”

Dick looked at his watch. “I think you are right, and if you are, the
sooner the job is over, the better; so here goes!”

With these words he clapped his cap on his head and started for the
door. Before Varrell could raise himself from his armchair and get
across the room, he heard his visitor jumping quickly down the stairs.

“Oh, Dick!”

“Well, what?” came from the landing below.

“Remember that he’s slippery. Give it to him straight. Don’t let him lie
out of it.”

“Never you fear!” called back Melvin, as he plunged on down the stairs.

Bosworth was sitting at his desk with a book open before him. His
thoughts, however, were not on his lesson, as was clearly shown by the
moody, fitful way in which his eyes wandered from mantel to window. His
face wore a gloomy and bitter look, as if he were brooding on some
particularly disagreeable event of recent occurrence that still rankled
deep. His expression brightened as Melvin opened the door in response to
the usual “come in”; for as Varrell had said, the senior was a
well-known man, and Bosworth, who valued popularity far more than the
ordinary virtues, had a moment of gratified vanity in the thought that
Melvin was honoring him with a call. The pleasure was of short duration.

“No, I think I won’t sit down,” said the visitor. “My business is a
rather unpleasant one which I can perhaps better attend to standing.”

Bosworth’s face hardened.

“I understand that you have been gambling with some of the little boys
and getting their money away from them.”

“I’d like to know who says that!” exclaimed Bosworth, indignantly. “It’s
a lie.”

“I’m sorry to hear you deny it,” returned Melvin, calmly. “The
information was pretty direct.”

“It’s a lie, just the same,” answered Bosworth, fiercely, his pale face
becoming in spots still paler. “It’s no affair of yours, anyway.”

“That’s what I expected you to say. In one sense it isn’t; in another it
is not only my affair but that of every fellow here who feels any
responsibility for the moral condition and honor of the school. It’s a
contemptible trick to teach these little fellows to gamble. The result
can’t be anything but bad for them, even if they don’t get into trouble
from it here in school. And you know what would happen if the Faculty
got on to it.”

“I suppose you’re on your way to let them know,” sneered Bosworth.

“No, I’m not!” retorted Melvin, taking a step forward with clenched
fists, and then checking himself a moment to master the indignation that
was boiling up in his throat. “But mind you, I don’t say what I won’t do
if you keep this thing up. It’s not impossible that I may turn
tale-bearer, but first I’ll try an easier method. Quit this thing, and
quit it right off, or I’ll give you the worst thrashing you ever
had,—and I’ll keep on thrashing you till you’re glad to sneak out of
town.”

“Huh!” said Bosworth, contemptuously, but retreating to a safe position
behind the table. “I’m not the only one that gambles,” he added
significantly.

“I won’t discuss that,” retorted Melvin. “You’re the leader, and that’s
enough.”

He turned toward the door. “I hope I’ve made myself clear. If you want
to get hurt—badly hurt—just try another game with the little boys.”

With that, Melvin shut the door and shot downstairs as if to put the
whole scene as quickly as possible behind him. He kept away from
Varrell’s room in order to avoid the necessity of repeating the
conversation, but with all his efforts it insisted on repeating itself
over and over in his own mind, in exaggerated detail, until he was
finally left with the uncomfortable impression that he had been ugly and
had made savage threats and said ill-considered things, and that
Bosworth had merely denied and sneered.

“It’s just as I thought last year,” he said to himself, dismally, “when
Grim was so serious about the responsibility and the opportunity which
the older fellows have. I felt then it was all nonsense; I know it’s so,
now. The fellow who undertakes to make things better in school just
renders himself unhappy and gets himself disliked.”

And then he felt again the impulse of the spirit that had carried him
through so many months of discouragement to the final triumph of the
great game. Unpleasant though it might be, his course was right; and
having started on it, he would abide the consequences without wavering
or shrinking. With this feeling uppermost, he marched off serenely to
his recitation.

If he could have had a glimpse into Bosworth’s room and seen there the
most frightened boy in school, he would not have wasted so much time in
misgivings. His visit had had its effect.

The next morning Phil did not return promptly from his recitation. When
he did come, there was a glint of pleased excitement in his very
expressive eyes that aroused his room-mate’s curiosity.

“What is it, Phil,” asked Dick. “Encouragement from Sands?”

The boy’s countenance fell. “Not much! I’m not likely to get
encouragement from him. My news is about something else. Eddy has got
his money back.”

For an instant Dick enjoyed a sweet vision of a gambler, frightened into
reform by bold threats, making righteous restitution to his victims. But
the vision merely appeared and vanished, like the landscape under a
lightning flash on a dark stormy night, leaving the boy more in the dark
than ever.

“Got his money back! You don’t mean that Bosworth has given it back to
him?”

“I’m not exactly certain about that,” said Phil. “All I know is that
Tompkins came to him, asked him how much Bosworth had got from him, took
out the money, said it came from Bosworth, and then made Eddy promise
not to play again, and gave it to him.”

Dick whistled. “What in the world had Tommy to do with it?”

“Didn’t I tell you that I don’t know!” said Phil, impatiently. “The main
thing is that Eddy’s got his money back and has promised to keep out of
such things in the future.”

“It’s mysterious,” said Dick.

“Mysterious!” echoed the boy. “I don’t care about the mystery. It’s a
low-down business, and Eddy is mighty lucky to get out of the hole. The
worst thing about it is, that it will do him no good. I can’t really
sympathize with the fellow. He hasn’t any moral backbone at all.”

“You ought to try to stiffen him up,” said the wise upper-class man.

“Stiffen him up! stiffen an eel!” returned the disgusted junior. “The
only way you can do that is to kill it.”

If Phil was superior to curiosity, Melvin was not and Varrell was not.
Together they lay in wait for the Westerner as he came whistling
upstairs, and in a trice had him in the room, with the door held tight
closed behind Melvin’s square shoulders, undergoing a cross-examination.

But Tompkins proved a most unwilling witness. He declared that he had no
information to give. When they threatened to choke him, he gave them a
bland smile; when told he would not be let out for dinner, he averred
that he wasn’t hungry; when promised imprisonment for all day, he
announced himself wholly content, as he had a lot of hard problems to do
in which he should be delighted to have Melvin’s assistance. At last
Varrell abandoned the examination and began to talk athletics. Presently
he asked Melvin whether he had found Bosworth in when he visited him the
day before.

“Why, yes,” replied Dick. “Didn’t I—”

A wink from Varrell stopped him.

“Tell us about it.”

As Dick, prompted by Varrell’s shrewd questions, launched out on a
detailed account of yesterday’s interview, Tompkins passed quickly from
assumed indifference to open interest, and from open interest to
self-forgetfulness. With the end of the story he burst into a shout.

“Well, that’s what I call rubbing it in! and the poor chap hadn’t a cent
to his name!”

Varrell rose with solemnity. “Look here, Tommy, that requires
explanation. Whatever he is, the man isn’t a poor chap in any good
sense. He doesn’t deserve any pity unless because of the way in which he
gave back the money, and that you’re bound to tell us. You’ve said too
much now to keep the rest.”

Tompkins was bursting with merriment. The secret he could keep, but not
the joke.

“I’ll tell you two fellows, not because you’ve made me, or because it’s
any of your business, but just because it’s so blamed funny that I can’t
keep it in, and you’re the safest people to trust it to. I made up to
Bosworth and got him to ask me to play with him. I reluctantly
consented, and before we were through I’d cleaned him all out and had
the money to give back to the kids. Then the very next day Dick pounced
upon him and threatened his life, and he hadn’t a dollar of his
ill-gotten gains about him. That’s where the joke comes in. It’s rich!”
and he burst out again in a noisy laugh.

But neither Melvin nor Varrell seemed to appreciate the joke.

“And that’s the way you got the rascal to give back the money?” asked
Melvin, aghast.

“Yes, why not?” said Tompkins. “Tar the devil with his own stick!”

Varrell looked at Melvin, and Melvin looked at Varrell, and neither knew
what to reply.

“How could you do it?” said Melvin, at last. “Don’t you know that it’s
totally against all rules? They’d fire you without a moment’s notice, if
they knew you played.”

“They won’t know it,” said Tompkins, coolly. “Bosworth isn’t going to
tell them, and I’m not and you’re not. Besides, I don’t play. This was
only a special emergency.”

“But how could you do it?” repeated Varrell, who considered the
practical side, as Melvin the moral. “Bosworth must be an old hand at
the game.”

Tompkins was standing by the door which Melvin had long since abandoned.
He turned on the threshold, and holding his head tightly framed between
jamb and door, he answered with a patronizing air: “Oh, Bosworth plays a
pretty good game for a tenderfoot. But poker? Why, they teach it in the
public schools in Butte!”


[Illustration: A Corner in Sands’s Room.]


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER VII

                          IN THE BASEBALL CAGE


THE poker incident caused repeated discussions between the classmates.
Melvin was sure Tommy’s method was wrong, though he could not suggest a
satisfactory substitute except to thrash Bosworth until he made amends;
while Varrell, though disapproving of poker in general, maintained that
in this exceptional case the means were excusable. Neither succeeded in
bringing the other over to his view.

It happened that Tompkins, who was not bothered by scruples as to his
course, was the chief sufferer by it; for additional victims kept
turning up with sad tales to have their losses made good by the generous
restorer, until Tommy had parted not only with his questionable
winnings, but with the surplus of his honestly acquired quarterly
allowance as well. This latter fact he did not confide to his friends.
It seemed to detract somewhat from the excellence of the joke.

Meantime the baseball practice in the cage was taking the usual course.
Besides Flanahan, two or three other fellows were pitching, among them
Tompkins. The latter had been pulled out of obscurity by some enthusiast
who discovered that he had had experience in the box, and so reluctant
Tommy was now forced to take his regular turn in the cage with the rest.
Phil did his work with all the energy he possessed, not because he had
any real hope, but because his heart and ambition were in the contest,
and even the prospect that the battle would go against him did not take
away his joy in the fighting.

Flanahan had good sharp curves and high speed. His best balls were a
jump at the shoulder and a fine abrupt drop. Tompkins had fewer curves
at his command, but he could vary his speed in a most deceptive way, and
he showed an ability to put the ball where he wanted it and where the
batsman did not like to have it come. Another advantage Tompkins
possessed lay in his coolness; gibes from batters or spectators never
hurried or confused him, while Flanahan’s quick temper went to pieces
under slight provocation. Smith, the best class-team pitcher of the last
season, was a third candidate, but ranked unquestionably after Tompkins.

Flanahan’s curves were the delight and admiration of the spectators, who
would cluster around the catcher’s end of the cage when Flanahan was
pitching, and express their appreciation by manifold ejaculations. Such
wonderful rises and drops and shoots, the Hillburyites would certainly
find impossible to hit. And so did the Seatonians, for that matter,
though the result was really due as much to the wildness of the
pitching, and the consequent fear of getting hit on the part of the
batsmen, as to the skill of the pitcher. For the most part Flanahan
preferred to let some one else pitch for the batting, while he practiced
by himself.

The first time Phil came up to bat Flanahan, he had the misfortune to
get hit. Phil was a right-hander who batted left, and Flanahan’s wide
out off the plate caught the boy in the back as he turned to dodge, and
inflicted a painful bruise. The result was to give him a scare that
prevented his facing the pitcher for a fortnight, and confirmed Sands in
the impression that he was too young and green to be of any use on the
school nine. As the cage practice is necessarily limited to pitching,
batting, sliding, and handling grounders, and Phil as a candidate for
the out-field was not given much chance at grounders, he seemed to have
excellent prospect of being dropped from the squad among the first. It
was Wallace who saved him from this ignominy.

Wallace was the head coach for baseball at the great university near
by,—a graduate a year or two out of college, with an enthusiasm as
unprofessional as his knowledge of the game was complete and technical.
He could pitch and field and hit; he was a master of the ritual of that
mysterious coaching book in which are written all possible details of
play under all possible circumstances, and on which the Varsity
candidates are examined for their positions as a candidate for a degree
is quizzed by the specialists who sit in commission over him. Indeed,
Wallace was more of a master than the original authors, for the
supplement was of his own making. Though not a Seatonian himself, his
baseball sympathies were wide, and his college mates from Seaton had
found no difficulty in enlisting his help for the school nine.

He began with grounders which he made the boys take with heels together
and elbows between the knees, bending slightly forward as they settled.
Some did this instinctively as the most natural way, others went down on
one knee or tried to make the hands alone a substitute for a solid wall
of arms and legs. With others, again, Wallace found fault for sinking
for the ball and rising before they got it. “Settle, get the ball, then
rise and throw” was, according to the college expert, the right order of
movements for “gathering in” grounders.

After grounders came starting and sliding. At first he put them through
a series of standing sprint starts, like the old-fashioned erect start
for short races, with first steps short to develop immediate speed; then
the double balancing start that the base-runner uses as he poises off
first base ready to return instantly, or go down hard to second, as the
need may be. In sliding he urged the slide head first as the college
ideal, at the same time adding that professionals generally slide feet
foremost for the sake of greater safety. “Good sliding is fearless
sliding,” he said, “and the man who slides fearlessly is much less
likely to be hurt than the coward.”

When they came to the batting practice, the first thing which the expert
did was to moderate the speed of the pitcher, who was sending in hot
balls to show his ability. “Only slow pitched balls in the cage,” was
his warning; “the light is too poor for swift pitching. Moreover, in a
confined place like this, a batsman is likely to become frightened at a
swift ball as he wouldn’t be out-of-doors.”

Then he made the batters stand firmly, watch the ball closely, step
straight out toward the pitcher, and strike quickly at what they were
sure were good chances. “Don’t worry,” he kept saying. “Don’t watch the
pitcher too much. The ball is the thing you are trying to hit. Don’t
commit yourself too soon; wait till you know what is coming.”

Phil came up for his trial as nervous as a young boy can be under the
eyes of an admired master whom he would give a month’s allowance to
please. “Steady, my boy, steady,” said the kindly voice of the coach,
who probably felt with Sands that he was wasting his time on an
impossible candidate, but who, unlike Sands, was still generous and glad
to help.—“Don’t be frightened. ‘Step straight, hit late, watch the ball
and not the pitcher’ is the thumb rule for good batting.—Less body and
more arms.”

Phil gathered himself together and cracked out a good wrist hit.

“That’s the way. I always like to see that!” exclaimed Wallace,
approvingly. “The wrist hitters are the safest hitters.” With face aglow
with satisfaction Phil stole back among the group of waiting players.
“Step straight, hit late, and watch the ball,” he repeated to himself.
“Why didn’t some one tell me that before? I’ve been going contrary to
every part of that rule.”

It is to be feared that Phil’s lessons on those two days of Wallace’s
stay were somewhat neglected. He certainly haunted the cage at all
vacant hours when Wallace was engaged in instruction, and when the
practice was over he ran back to his room and put down in a note-book
snatches of baseball wisdom caught from the collegian’s lips. Many of
the notes were doubtless futile, merely serving to give the boy the
satisfaction of doing something to help himself on in his great
ambition. Yet many were of great value, not only for immediate drill,
but also for use later on in answering questions that unexpectedly
arose, when the details of Wallace’s instruction were as thoroughly
forgotten by the boys as the teachers’ comments on their first
translations.

Wallace’s view of the pitchers mystified Phil a good deal. With Flanahan
the coach made short work, giving him only a few words of general
advice. Tompkins, on the other hand, absorbed much attention.

“That man has the making of a great pitcher in him,” the collegian
remarked to Sands in Phil’s hearing. “A couple of years of good training
would do wonders for him. He is cool, knows what he is doing, and has
the full arm shoulder swing which not one amateur in twenty ever gets.”

“What about Flanahan?” asked Sands.

“He hasn’t it,” returned Wallace, emphatically. “His is a fairly swift
arm throw with good curves and poor command. He’s used to playing, and
probably knows a good deal about the game, without possessing any great
intelligence. I should put him, at a guess, on the edge of the
semi-professional class. He has reached his limit and is beyond
instruction. Tompkins, on the other hand, is good, improvable material.”

“I guess Flanahan will do for us,” said Sands, with a smug smile of
confidence.

“It seems to me that I’ve met him before,” mused Wallace, with his eyes
fixed on Flanahan, who was still pitching; “but I can’t now recall where
or under what circumstances. He certainly isn’t the kind of man I like
to see on a school nine.”

“Oh, he’s all straight,” insisted Sands. “We often have old fellows here
who are anxious for an education but have begun late.”

“I don’t doubt that,” replied Wallace, “but none the less,
semi-professional ball players don’t belong on school teams.”

Perhaps it was this difference of opinion regarding Flanahan that made
Sands so lukewarm in his praises of the coach. The boys generally spoke
of him with veneration, but boy-like gave more attention to his
appearance and his prowess than to his directions. No one profited more
by these than the owner of the note-book, who learned to stand firmly
and step out fearlessly; and as he really had a quick, accurate eye, he
was soon hitting with the best. Sands was oblivious to all improvement,
but the others noticed it, and Smith went so far as to warn him.

“You’re finding the ball right, Poole, but don’t get a swelled head over
it. Outside, you may not be able to do a thing. There were Baker and
Lydecker last year, who couldn’t hit a balloon in the cage, and yet used
to swipe out two and three baggers ’most every game.”

Then Phil went home and consulted the note-book, rereading the quotation
from Wallace which Dick had said was the best thing his room-mate had
written down: “The good player,—and the rare player,—is the one who can
analyze his own errors, and instead of giving up discouraged when he
fails, can discover and remedy the fundamental fault.”

“I’m willing to be shown my faults,” said Phil to himself, earnestly;
“and if I stick to it long enough and use my brains, I ought to get
ahead.”

And Phil was right. Those who use brains do get ahead, in ball playing
or anything else. But brains unfortunately cannot be furnished on
demand, or ordered in advance, like a supply of coal for the winter.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER VIII

                         A TRANSACTION IN BOOKS


“HELLO, Dick, may I use your French dictionary?”

Without waiting for a reply, Tompkins pounced upon the book. It was the
fourth time in the last ten days that he had demanded the use of this
particular book, while on two other occasions during the same period he
had found it convenient to prepare his English versions at Melvin’s
desk. If this had been all, Melvin would not have thought of objecting.
To some boys ownership in books is but a continued series of lendings
and borrowings, mislayings, losings, and findings. In Tompkins, however,
this borrowing habit was of sudden and violent development. Similar
tales of him had come during the past fortnight from other rooms.

“Haven’t you any books at all?” demanded the senior.

“A few,” replied Tompkins, with his nose in the dictionary.

“Well, haven’t you a French dictionary?”

“If I had, do you suppose I’d want to use yours?”

“You certainly had one once. What’s become of it?”

“Gone,” replied Tompkins, resignedly, turning back to the B’s to find
the meaning of a word which he had looked up only a moment before,—“like
the meaning of that long adjective I just looked up.”

“Can’t you find it?”

“Maybe.”

“When did you use it last?”

“Don’t know.”

“Well, where did you see it last?”

“At the second-hand bookstore.”

Dick stared. “Did some one steal it, or did you lose it?”

“Neither,” replied the laconic Tompkins.

“Then you must have sold it.”

“Yes, I suppose I must have sold it,” sighed Tompkins. “Any more
questions?” he asked after an interval, as Melvin gazed and wondered. “I
really ought to do this reading, you know. I rather flunked on it
yesterday, and I don’t like to repeat the performance to-day.”

There was a half hour of silence in the room. Then Melvin, squinting
furtively out of the corner of his eyes, caught Tompkins gazing out of
the window.

“You ought to have borrowed of me,” said Dick, quietly. “You could have
saved the books, anyway.”

Tompkins shook his head. “I don’t like to borrow, though I may have to
do it yet.”

“What’s become of your term allowance?”

“Gone to those confounded little lambs that Bosworth sheared,” said
Tompkins, angrily, throwing off his pretense of indifference. “Eddy
wasn’t the only fool, by any means. First one would come to me and then
another, and every one of them would put up a mournful whine, and
promise never, never to do such a thing again, and hold out his hand for
his money. They seemed to think that Bosworth was having the games just
to give them experience and teach them profitable lessons, and that I
was his agent to pay them back when they promised not to do it again. I
wasn’t very careful about the money, I suppose, and when I finally shut
down on the thing, a good part of my own was gone. Then Dinsmore took
the rest for a baseball subscription which I’d promised to pay early. He
left me just seventy-five cents. Since then the books have been going,
and it’s a month yet to pay-day. I have been a fool.”

With this last statement Melvin mentally concurred. He had maintained
from the beginning that the only proper way of dealing with Bosworth was
to maul him until he disgorged, and his first impulse was to tell
Tompkins that it served him right for having recourse to questionable
methods. But wholesome respect for the generosity of the boy and
sympathy with him in his present predicament, effectually prevented any
such retort, and turned the whole force of his disapproval against the
original offender.

“For straight meanness, that Bosworth is the limit!” he exclaimed, with
eyes aflame with indignation. “He ought to be fired this very minute!”

“He isn’t much of a fellow, I think myself,” answered Tompkins, more
calmly, “but we can’t do anything about it. The firing isn’t in our
hands, or he’d go, and a good many fellows would stay who now have to
say good-by pretty abruptly. It isn’t Bosworth that I’m thinking of, but
how I’m going to get through the next month.”

“Why don’t you write the whole story home to your father?” said Dick, to
whom the straightforward way always appealed.

Tompkins smiled wisely. “And have him write back hot foot to Grim, and
want to know what kind of a school it is in which such ‘scandalous
performances’ go on under the teachers’ eyes. And Grim would hunt it to
the ground like a setter after a rabbit! No, I thank you,—not that!”

A pause.—Then the inexorable recitation bell broke in upon them. “How
mournful that bell sounds when you haven’t your lesson,” groaned Tommy,
as he picked up his book and started for the French recitation. “It’s
like the thing they ring at funerals. Another flunk for me to-day! I’ll
be dropped by the end of the term, if I don’t get this business off my
nerves.”

“Come in after supper, Tommy,” shouted Dick at the door, “and we’ll talk
it over with Varrell. His head is longer than mine, and he may have
something to suggest.”

That evening the three gathered before the depleted bookshelves in
Tompkins’s room in solemn conclave. All agreed that to write to Mr.
Tompkins would be equivalent to carrying the facts to the Principal.

“Can’t you write to your mother?” suggested Melvin.

“That would be more dangerous still,” answered Tompkins, dolefully.
“She’d be sure I’d gone to the bad.”

“Haven’t you a brother or an uncle or a cousin that you could try?”
asked Wrenn. “I’ve money enough myself. I could furnish you what you
want as easily as can be, but I have to give an account of all I spend,
and of course I can’t lie about it.”

“There’s Uncle George in Chicago,” said Tompkins, brightening. “I’d
thought of him, but he’s a bit risky, too. He’d help me quick enough,
but I don’t know what else he might do.”

“That’s the way out,” said Varrell, authoritatively. “You’ve got to take
some risk. Just tell him the whole story frankly, and explain why you
don’t want to write to your father, and I think he’ll be square with
you; uncles usually are pretty generously disposed. In the meantime
don’t sell any more books. I’ll lend you all you need.”

To this course the council agreed. Tompkins wrote the letter and waited
six miserable days for a reply, which arrived by the last mail of a
certain Saturday early in March. The date was important to Tompkins, for
it was the day which brought relief from anxiety to a very worried and
unhappy boy. There was a check in the letter, drawn for a larger amount
than he had requested; there was also some strong, sensible advice; and
finally there was a pledge to be signed and returned before the check
was cashed, binding Master Tompkins not to play again during the course
of his education. This the boy signed with eagerness, having already of
his own accord made up his mind to this very course. With the pledge
deposited in the post-office, and the check safe in his pocket-book
ready to be cashed on Monday morning, with a feeling of relief warming
his heart as the bright hearth-fire drives the chill from weary bones,
Tommy went to bed that night as nearly serious and grateful as he had
ever been in his life.

For another reason the date was important. On the night of this
Saturday, or somewhere between the hours of six P.M. on Saturday and two
P.M. on Sunday, the registrar’s safe in the basement of Sibley was
broken into and plundered.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER IX

                                BURGLARY


MR. GRAHAM was not in Seaton when the incident occurred. He had just
risen from a rather serious attack of pneumonia and by the doctor’s
order was spending several weeks in the South, in hope of more speedy
convalescence. Meantime, as Professor Anthony was spending his
sabbatical year abroad, Mr. Moore, the teacher of German, an elderly man
of strongly pedagogic stamp, acted by virtue of seniority as chairman of
the Faculty and took the Principal’s office hours.

The safe stood in the registrar’s little office in the basement of
Sibley. It was an old affair which, before the vault had been put into
the school office, had held the more important books and papers
belonging to the school. Latterly it had served as a kind of overflow
strong box for the less valuable papers, or smaller sums of money which
came in after the big safe was closed or the day’s deposit had been made
at the bank. Miss Devon also kept in it her official record books, and
the smaller amounts of money for the payment of wages and other minor
bills which were under her charge.

On Saturday at six Miss Devon had locked up ninety dollars in cash and a
check on a Boston bank for fifty dollars. On Sunday afternoon she went
to the safe for a personal paper which she had enclosed with the school
property. The safe was locked as usual and apparently in the state in
which she had left it the night before, but the money and the check were
missing.

Startled at her carelessness, for she felt that she must have mislaid
the money, Miss Devon searched the compartments and drawers. The money
was not to be found. She locked the safe door and opened it again. The
lock was uninjured, the safe showed no evidence of having been tampered
with. Trembling with anxiety, the girl glanced about the room. There
were two doors leading into the office, one from outside by which she
had entered, the other a rarely used door with an ordinary lock, opening
directly into the passage that led past the store-rooms and the
lavatories to the main entry of the dormitory. Neither door showed
anything unusual in its appearance. She looked at the windows and her
heart set up a violent throbbing. The shades were not in their usual
position, and the fastening on one sash was open. While sure as to the
unwonted height of the shades, she could not recall that she had altered
them before leaving Saturday night, or that she had given any especial
attention to the window fastenings. It was her habit to make everything
secure before she left the office, but the labor involved in this had
long since become mechanical, and she had absolutely no recollection of
anything in connection with closing up on the day before.

Now thoroughly frightened the girl sat down and confusedly wondered what
was to be done. The money was gone, no one except herself knew the
combination of the safe, no one else was responsible for the security of
the office. If she could only recall definitely that she had locked the
window! She must have done it, for it was her regular custom; and yet
she had left rather early the night before to catch a car, and it was
possible, just possible, that she had overlooked it. If this was the
case, she had really been negligent.

Her glance fell on the safe and brought a comforting thought. She rose
and wiped her eyes. “It’s dreadful, but I am not at fault,” she said to
herself, resolutely, “and I won’t worry. A man who could open the safe
so easily would get in anyway, whether the window were locked or not.
I’ll just report the matter to Mr. Moore and let him take the
responsibility.”

Miss Devon let herself out and went in search of Mr. Moore. Half an hour
later both were in the office,—Miss Devon collected and careful of her
words, Mr. Moore looking very solemn and important and asking many
questions. Together they went through the safe again, examined the
windows and the outside door and with the aid of the housekeeper’s key
unlocked the door into the passage, and scrutinized it carefully. It had
shrunk somewhat, leaving a crack at the edge, but the lock was unharmed
and the jamb unscarred. All in all, besides weariness and many useless
questions, the investigation yielded only two tangible results, neither
of which seemed to impress Mr. Moore as of any special value: one, the
discovery of a drop of candle-grease on the floor before the safe, which
Miss Devon pointed out triumphantly as a proof that the robbery had been
committed during the night by the light of a candle; and the other, the
fact that some one had been present on Saturday morning while Miss Devon
was kneeling before the safe struggling with the rebellious combination
lock. As the door finally swung open, the girl had observed one of the
boys standing behind her, apparently taking a deep interest in her work.
It was a junior named Eddy.

At this statement Mr. Moore’s face took on a superior smile. “How
fortunate that it was Eddy, and not some other boy!” he said. “I gave
him permission to leave by the eleven o’clock train on Saturday to spend
Sunday with his cousins in Boston. His alibi is easily proved. Had it
not been for this circumstance, he might have been subjected to a very
unjust suspicion. I should be very loath to believe that any student had
a hand in this.”

“Mightn’t Eddy have seen the combination and told some one else of it?”
suggested Miss Devon, modestly.

“I think not,” replied Mr. Moore, with an air of finality, but yet
condescending to explain himself. “If he saw anything,—and he probably
saw no more than that you were having difficulty in opening the
door,—you may be assured that he forgot it immediately. The prospect of
going to Boston would exclude almost anything else from his mind. He was
in my recitation at ten o’clock, and a more absent-minded pupil I never
had. I will question him, however, on his return, and make sure of the
fact. I should rather be of the opinion that we have here the work of
some clever professional who has found an unusually good opportunity to
ply his trade with safety and profit.”

“We have never had burglars in town,” murmured Miss Devon, not wholly
convinced. “I don’t see why this little safe should attract their
notice. Shall you put the matter in the hands of the police?”

Mr. Moore hesitated. “That will require consideration,” he answered. “We
may consult the police, but I doubt if we should be willing to incur the
notoriety of a public investigation for so small a sum. The thief, I am
afraid, is secure in his plunder. At present we had better say nothing
about the matter.”

They separated at the door and went their respective ways, Mr. Moore
calm in exterior but much worried within, Miss Devon in a condition of
woe closely bordering on hysterics. Under the teacher’s smooth, long
words she had divined an undefined suspicion that she might be making
much of unimportant incidents to cover some carelessness of her own. The
discovery came upon her with a shock. If Mr. Moore could harbor such a
doubt, what might not other people think and say when the story came
out,—the merciless, insatiate gossips of the small town? With all her
heart she longed for Mr. Graham’s speedy return.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER X

                           MR. MOORE’S THEORY


THE story, or a distorted version of it, was soon out. The housekeeper
hinted at strange doings at the office, and straightway rumor flew that
the big vault had been rifled of a thousand dollars. Eddy came home and
was examined by Mr. Moore; and his account of the interview, wormed out
of him by zealous questioners, set a new tale afloat so much worse than
the truth that the school authorities published the facts in sheer
self-defence.

The students seized upon the incident with avidity. Petty thefts from
gymnasium lockers had been known in previous years. Here for once was a
real burglary in their midst, with a mystery to be solved. The boys
attacked the problem tooth and nail, but their method was one of
hypothesis and discussion rather than of investigation. Some pictured a
masked burglar, operating in the dead of night. Others held dark
suspicions of Miss Devon. Still others advocated the view that it was a
sneak student who had in some way got into the room unobserved and
juggled with the knob of the safe until it had opened. For several weeks
after, doors whose bolts had not been shot since the year began, were
very carefully locked when bedtime came.

Among the first arguments introduced into the discussion was the example
of the safe at Morrison’s which Tompkins had opened so easily in the
fall. This suggestion was followed up among Tommy’s friends by a jocose
reminder that Tommy, who had been very short, was suddenly flush again.
Outside the circle of friends, the statement was repeated without the
character of jest. By the time it had made the circuit of the school, it
had acquired the addition that Tompkins was suspected of the robbery,
and that he was to be expelled as soon as Mr. Graham returned.

Sands brought the new version to Melvin with a worried expression on his
face. Tompkins was his second pitcher; he couldn’t afford to lose him.
Melvin carried the matter to Varrell; together they waited on Mr. Moore.

The acting Principal received them with his usual comprehensive smile,—a
smile that was typical of his general disposition. He was a bland,
benevolent, scholarly man, comfortably content in the consciousness of
his superior attainments as compared with those of the pupils under him,
“an easy marker and an easy mark,” and, of course, superficially
popular.

“There’s a story going around the school about Tompkins that we want to
protest against,” said Melvin. “It’s an absurd story, but it might do
him some harm.”

“What is the story?”

“Why, that he is suspected of breaking into the safe. He opened a safe
last fall at Morrison’s when no one else could, and he’s recently had a
present of some money from his uncle. I think that’s all the foundation
there was for the story. We just wanted to say that we saw the check
ourselves, and knew how he came by it, and that he isn’t at all the
fellow to do such a thing.”

“Dear me!” said Mr. Moore, in real surprise. “No, indeed! I never
dreamed of such a thing. I assure you, we haven’t the least suspicion of
Tompkins, or, indeed, of any other boy.”

“They say Eddy knew the combination,” said Varrell, who now spoke for
the first time.

“That is an unwarranted assumption,” replied Mr. Moore, warmly, “and
very unjust to the boy. I have convinced myself by questioning him that
he did not notice the combination; and he went to Boston immediately
afterward. He is a harmless little fellow, quite unequal to any double
dealing.”

“He associates a good deal with Bosworth,” said Melvin, struck with this
view of the harmlessness of Eddy’s occupations.

“Does he, indeed!” exclaimed Mr. Moore, in a pleased tone. “I am very
glad to hear it. It always does a little boy good to come under the
influence of an older boy of the right kind. Bosworth’s mother keeps a
boarding-house for students in Cambridge, and the son is very anxious to
be a credit to her and repay her for her sacrifices. I do not know a
neater, more attractive boy in my classes, nor one who does his work
better.”

Melvin gasped in astonishment. A book knocked off the table by Varrell’s
hand fell heavily to the floor, but it produced no effect upon him. “He
dresses pretty well for a poor boy,” blurted Dick, not knowing what to
say, and yet feeling that he must make some protest.

This answer touched one of Mr. Moore’s pet theories, and stirred up an
immediate reproof.

“You will pardon me, Melvin, if I term that a very unjust judgment.
Neatness and care with regard to one’s attire are habits decidedly worth
cultivating, whether one is rich or poor. It often happens that a poor
boy has friends who give him clothes a great deal better than he could
afford to buy. It is manifestly unfair and unkind to charge him with
extravagance until you know fully the facts in his case.”

“That’s very true, sir,” remarked Varrell, promptly. The tone drew
Melvin’s eyes to the speaker’s face. In reply he got a fierce look that
shut him up like an oyster.

“Was that all?” inquired Mr. Moore, glancing at the clock.

“Yes, sir,” replied Varrell, as the boys rose. “We only wanted to tell
you about Tompkins.”

“You may be reassured on that point. Neither he nor any other boy is
suspected. The thief must have been a professional, but the whole affair
is a mystery which we shall probably never solve. Thank you for coming
to see me.”

Once outside, the conversation between the two boys waxed warm.

“Dick, you certainly are the limit!”

“What now?” asked Melvin.

“What did you want to lug Bosworth into the conversation for? Don’t you
know he’s a particular favorite of Moore’s?”

“No.”

“Well, if you took German, you would. Bosworth’s mother was a German,
and he knows German ’most as well as he does English,—makes rushes all
the time.”

“I can’t be blamed for not knowing that.”

“Perhaps not, but you need not have connected him with the robbery.”

“I didn’t,” protested Dick; “I just connected him with Eddy.”

“Well, Eddy with the safe and Bosworth with Eddy, it’s all the same,”
returned Varrell. “If Grim had been there, you wouldn’t have got out of
it so easily. He’d have turned you inside out in no time.”

“But there wasn’t anything more inside me than out,” said Dick,
perplexed.

“No, I’m afraid not,” rejoined Varrell with a sigh. “I say, Dick, who do
you really think took that money?”

“I don’t know anything about it. Perhaps a professional, as Moore says.”

Varrell laughed aloud. “And he thinks some rich friend probably gave
Bosworth his clothes. I know better. I saw the box in which his last
suit came at the express office, and it was from one of the most
expensive tailors in Boston. It arrived two days after the safe was
broken into, and he paid the bill in cash. What does that suggest to
you?”

“Why, that as a deserving poor student he is a fraud.”

“Anything else?”

“No.”

“Supposing I add that the clothes were ordered three weeks ago, before
Tommy very unexpectedly cleaned him out.”

Dick still looked puzzled.

“And when Tommy was through with him, he had this suit coming, and
probably other bills too, and no money to pay them with, unless he could
get some suddenly.”

Melvin stopped and looked blankly at his companion. “Do you really mean
that you think Bosworth broke into the safe?”

Varrell nodded.

“What an insane idea! How could he do it?”

“Every one seems insane to a lunatic,” answered Varrell, sharply. “If
you aren’t crazy, you are at least too stupid to live with sane people.
Can’t you see how he might have been able to do it? Just think.”

Dick pondered a moment and then lost his patience.

“No, I can’t, nor any one else,” he answered hotly. “Bosworth is a bad
lot and a school fraud and capable of almost any ordinary meanness, but
that doesn’t make him a burglar or a murderer. Perhaps if he’d tripped
me up in the hockey game instead of you, I might have a different
opinion.”

Varrell laughed with the satisfied air of one who knows that he has the
better end of the argument. “You’re wrong there, Dicky old boy,” he
said, clapping his irate friend cordially on the shoulder. “You could
forgive him far more easily for tripping you than for tripping me. I
know you better than you do yourself.”

“All the same, I don’t see any connection between Bosworth and the safe
breaking.”

“Well, listen. Eddy stood behind Miss Devon in the office when she was
working on the lock. He saw the combination and told Bosworth of it when
he was in Bosworth’s room about half-past nine. I know he was there
then, for I saw him there from my window. This suggested to Bosworth an
easy way in which to make good his losses and pay for the clothes,—as he
certainly did pay a few days after. That, I believe, was the course of
events, but I can furnish no evidence, and I don’t see how any can be
furnished, unless Eddy can be made to squeal.”

“What about the check?”

“He probably burned that.”

They stood at the point at which their ways parted. Melvin was thinking
hard and kicking the gravel recklessly with his foot. A squall of dust
and stones struck his companion in the knee.

“Come, let up on that!” said Varrell, brushing off his trousers with a
show of indignation. “Can’t you think without using your feet? There are
disadvantages in this football training of yours.”

“Excuse me,” laughed Melvin. “You remind me of Bosworth in your ‘care
with regard to your attire,’ as Moore put it. That last kick quite
cleared my mind. I don’t doubt that Bosworth is bad enough to take money
from a safe, if he needed it and there were no chance of being found
out. If in this case he was able to do it, and afterward had money to
pay his bills with, the presumption in our minds is against him, and
that’s all. We haven’t any proof and aren’t likely to get any. Tommy
isn’t suspected and we aren’t suspected. So what business is it of ours,
or what could we do if it were our business?”

“First answer me a couple of questions,” said Varrell. “Why did you go
to Bosworth and threaten him as you did?”

“Because he was doing a lot of harm in school, and that was the only way
to stop it.”

“And now you’ve stopped the poker-playing, do you think he’s a fit
fellow to stay here?”

“No, he’s probably bad in other ways and will do more harm before he’s
through, but I don’t know about that, and I did know about the gambling
with the little boys.”

“And I do know about this,” added Varrell, decidedly. “In the first
place, he’s got hold of Eddy again and made him lie to Moore about the
safe combination. I saw him in Bosworth’s room that Saturday morning
talking about it.”

“There you go off the track again!” laughed Dick. “You _saw_ him in
Bosworth’s room; you _guessed_ he was talking about the safe. The only
thing there of any consequence at all is what you really saw.”

A look of annoyance settled on Varrell’s face. “Look here, Dick,” he
began, as if he had something important to say. Then suddenly changing
his tone, he added significantly: “You’re right, the only thing of
consequence is what I saw. Some people see more than others,” and
sheered off abruptly toward his room.

“What a queer chap Wrenn is!” mused Dick, as he lazily climbed the
dormitory stairs. “Sometimes he’s as keen as a razor; at others he gets
an idea fixed in his head, and you can’t knock it out with a club. I
hope he won’t get his mind set on this safe business.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER XI

                          FLANAHAN STRIKES OUT


MR. GRAHAM was at home again, to the relief of both school authorities
and boys. He, of course, heard the tale of the robbery of the safe
immediately after his arrival, and went over the matter exhaustively
with Miss Devon, whose troubled mind was definitely comforted by the
Principal’s emphatic assurance that she was wholly beyond suspicion.
Later he was given Mr. Moore’s version.

“I am sure we are making too much of the matter,” said the teacher in
conclusion. “We have been a little careless, and are paying a moderate
fine for our offence.”

“The loss is to me the most unimportant consideration,” said Mr. Graham.
“I would gladly sacrifice the money to learn how it disappeared. If a
professional burglar took it, we are simply chance sufferers. If a boy
took it, the act was probably due to some desperate distress and sudden
temptation. That would mean, according to my experience, either gambling
or a bad case of extravagance and debt. These are not pleasant
conditions to surmise, but if they exist, I should like to know
definitely about them.”

“Oh dear!” exclaimed Mr. Moore, to whom such a possibility had never
occurred.

“Mind, I don’t say that a boy did it,” Mr. Graham hastened to add. “I am
merely explaining why I want to _know_ that he did not. Eddy seemed to
be very nervous when I questioned him this morning.”

“He was probably frightened at being examined twice,” said Mr. Moore. “I
saw nothing of it when I talked with him. Have you considered the
possibility that Miss Devon—”

“What?” asked the Principal, as the other hesitated.

“May know more than she has told?”

“No, indeed!” replied the Principal. “Miss Devon is as honest as the day
and as methodical as a machine. I have known her for years. It seems to
me an act of injustice even to discuss the question.”

The Principal’s manner was not as sharp as his words, but Mr. Moore,
whose life experiences had developed in him a goodly portion of caution,
if not many other mental possessions of a practical character, felt no
encouragement to continue the argument.

“And to me an act of treachery to suspect the boys,” he said
good-humoredly, “and so we are thrown back again on the hypothesis of
burglary; but I leave the problem with you. It is a relief to drop the
burden of it from my shoulders.”

The Principal watched him as he trudged down the walk to the street, a
stout, square figure marching sturdily and complacently, substantial
behind, benevolent of aspect before. Mr. Graham was also cautious, and
his thoughts, as he stood at the window, he would never have uttered;
but they ran something like this: “Poor gullible old Moore! The years go
by and leave with him more text-book knowledge and more satisfaction in
his attainments, but not an additional jot of practical sense. Burglars
indeed! Miss Devon may not be sure that she locked the window, but I am,
and that to me, at least, is of more consequence. When a person of her
systematic habits has done the same thing daily for the last five years,
it is highly improbable that she forgot it on that particular day.
Therefore the open fastening was a blind to make appearances indicate
that the thief entered through the window. Therefore he did _not_ enter
by the window, but by one of the doors. So far I have fairly
satisfactory reasoning behind me, but here I begin to jump at
conclusions. The thief came in by the passage door, and was a student.

“Why a student? Because it was an enterprise which a desperate student
might very possibly conceive, but the servants never. And if a
student,—then there certainly exists somewhere in the school a
plague-spot which must be discovered and cleansed. What a delightful
prospect for a half-sick, nerve-worn man to come home to!”

Up the path from the street came a youthful figure of medium height,
planting foot after foot with an air of business and determination.

“Sands!” said Mr. Graham to himself. “Another unpleasant task, but this
at least will soon be over.”

“You sent for me, Mr. Graham.”

“Yes, to talk with you about Flanahan. Are you likely to want him on the
nine?”

“Yes, sir,” answered the boy with a wondering face. “He’s our best
pitcher.”

“Then I am glad that I can give you such early notice. He will probably
not be allowed to play.”

“Why not, sir?”

“Because I am convinced from various facts which I have learned that he
is not a proper person to play on our teams.”

“Do you think that we are hiring him, sir?” said Sands, a flush of
indignation burning on his cheeks.

Mr. Graham looked at the student sharply. On the boy’s face was an
expression of bitter disappointment and of indignation, but no sign of
guilt. “No, I do not,” he replied heartily. “We haven’t fallen so low as
that.”

“What is it, then, that you have against him?”

“Simply that he is not considered an amateur above suspicion of taint. I
made some inquiries concerning him before my return, and the results
were, in my opinion, conclusive.”

“Are you _sure_ about it?”

“Sure as to my opinion, which I may also say is the opinion of Mr.
Wallace, who helped me in the investigation. The wisest course for
Flanahan would be to withdraw voluntarily from the baseball practice and
devote himself to the work for which he says he came here.”

“Is this final?” came through Sands’s quivering lips. “Isn’t he to have
a chance to hear the charges and defend himself?”

“Certainly, if he desires it,” replied Mr. Graham, promptly. “You may
come, too, and a few others who are especially interested. I want to be
fair to you all, but my first duty is to the school.”

The news was quickly abroad, discussed in every room and at every
dormitory entrance. The boys naturally favored the unjustly oppressed,
though some of the older fellows of influence, like John Curtis,
Dickinson, and Melvin, who were not baseball players, sided with the
Principal. Sands was disconsolate, Flanahan furious. The latter had
talked with Mr. Graham, and returned greatly excited and able to give
only a most incoherent account of the interview. On the main subject the
pitcher’s explanations were not entirely satisfactory to his supporters.
He asserted wildly, denied sweepingly, and fortified his statements by
expletives which repelled the decent-minded.

Sands himself was somewhat ashamed of his protégé, as he led him into
the Principal’s room for the hearing and sat down at his side, near the
door. Mr. Graham had not yet come in. Melvin and Varrell sat near his
desk at the upper end of the long room, opposite the door; at the side
were Curtis and Arthur Wheelock, the manager, and several others.

The tension of the waiting seemed to be telling on Flanahan’s nerves.
His naturally red face had taken on a deeper hue; his eyes shifted
rapidly from point to point; his fists opened and closed and shook
convulsively; his head nodded in sudden jerks in emphatic support of the
whispered assertions which Sands seemed to be rather combating than
listening to.

“Did you hear that?” said Varrell, with his eyes fixed on the pair.

“Of course I didn’t, nor you either,” said Melvin. “I can’t hear
whispers at that distance. Sands looks like a man trying to hold a
fighting bulldog. I don’t envy him his friend.”

“Sh!” said Varrell, still staring at the two. “The fellow’s wild. He’s
just threatened to smash Mr. Graham’s face. Sands can’t control him.
Quiet! I’ll repeat for you.”

Dick gaped in wonder. He could see Flanahan’s fierce manner, his
clenched fists and lips excitedly moving, but not a single distinct
sound reached him. Varrell, with eyes glued on the gesticulating man,
began to repeat in phrases which matched the pitcher’s agitated nods:—

“I’m no professional. Whoever says so is a liar. If he tells me so
again, I’ll smash his face. Yes, I will; and I don’t care who he is,
whether he’s Principal of this old place or not. He’s no better than me.
I’ll take it out of him if he gives me any lip,—just see if I don’t! I
know what he’s been up to. He’s been sneaking around Brockville. What I
got from Brockville was too small to count,—hardly more than expenses.
Let me alone, I tell you. I can take care of myself. ‘Fired?’ What do I
care about being fired! Just let him say a word and I’ll baste him one
in the jaw that he’ll remember.”—“I’ve omitted the cuss words,” added
Varrell, in another tone.

Mr. Graham entered and walked toward his desk.

“Did he really say that, Wrenn?” whispered Dick. “Are you fooling or
not?”

Varrell gave him an indignant look. “Of course he said it, and he meant
it, too. Do you think I’d fool about a thing like this?”

“How’d you know?”

“Don’t ask that now, you idiot! Just watch the Irishman and see that he
doesn’t do anything reckless.”

At Mr. Graham’s suggestion the boys took seats near his desk. The
Principal then read aloud two or three letters, reported certain facts
which he had himself discovered, repeated the opinion of Mr. Wallace,
and then asked Flanahan what he had to say.

“Most of those things are lies,” said the pitcher, fiercely. “I ain’t a
professional; if they say so, they lie.”

“There’s a difference of opinion as to what constitutes a professional,”
said Mr. Graham, kindly. “We will not argue about the name. The question
for us is, whether you satisfy our standard. If you have ever received
money for playing, whether the sum was large or small, we cannot allow
you to play on our teams.”

“I tell you it’s just an attempt to blacken my reputation as an
amateur,” screamed Flanahan. “I don’t care whether I play on this measly
team or not, but whoever says I’m not an amateur is a liar.”

Mr. Graham rose. “You forget yourself, Flanahan,” he said sternly.

Flanahan choked an instant; then, beside himself with fury, burst forth
in a flood of personal invective and threats, aimed directly at the
Principal. So unexpected and so unparalleled was the outbreak that most
of the audience sat silent and aghast, not knowing what to think or do.
There were three, however, to whom a few expressions were warning
enough. Melvin and Varrell sprang forward, clutched the irate
ball-player by the arms and swung him about, while Sands leaped to their
support from the other side. As Flanahan cursed and struggled, Curtis
and Wheelock came to their senses and lent assistance. Together they
hustled the furious rebel out at the door, like a half-back driven
through a hole in the line on a tandem play. A few seconds later Mr.
Graham was standing in the empty room conscious of a curious mixture of
feelings,—mortification that such a scene should have been possible, but
delight in the unhesitating loyalty of the boys.

                             --------------

Around the corner of Carter, Dick Melvin’s two hands held Varrell’s
shoulders hard pressed against the brick wall. “No, you don’t! It’s of
no use to squirm, because I’m not going to let you off. This thing has
got to be explained, and with it some other mysteries. The more I think
about it, the more there is to explain. You knew what Phil and I were
muttering when you were out of hearing in the next room; you heard what
this blood-thirsty villain was whispering to Sands twenty-five feet
away; you saw little Eddy in Bosworth’s room, talking about the safe,
and you knew what he said. Sometimes you don’t know what is going on
right beside you; sometimes you hear what two fellows are saying to each
other across the street. No juggling, now! Out with the secret, and be
quick about it, or I’ll—”

“You’re a fool, Dick,” retorted the smiling Wrenn, “or you wouldn’t have
to ask me. Let me go, and I’ll come in after supper and tell you. Let me
go, do you hear?”

“Well then, till to-night! If you’re not on hand by seven, I’ll come
after you and squeeze the life out of you,—like this,” he added,
catching poor Wrenn under the arms, and giving him a hug that threatened
to crush in all his ribs at once.

“No more of that!” gasped Varrell. “I’ll come.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XII

                        VARRELL EXPLAINS HIMSELF


“HERE I am,” said Varrell, opening the door of Melvin’s room just as the
clock struck seven. “You don’t deserve to see me, but I’m here. Assault
me like that again, and I’ll swear out a warrant for your arrest.”

“A lot you know about warrants,” sniffed Melvin; “though that may also
be one of your specialties. Whatever a warrant may be, it won’t catch
you as I’ll catch you in five minutes, if you don’t make a clean breast
of the whole thing without any jollying.”

“Wind!” said Varrell, in good-humored contempt. “You remind me of Tommy,
when he talks about Montana.”

“Come, Wrenn, this is a wrong way to begin,” warned Melvin. “Get down to
business! You agreed to explain yourself. Now, out with it.”

“Where shall I begin? If you had any sense, no explanation would be
required.”

“And if I haven’t, it’s my misfortune and not my fault, so don’t throw
it at me. Begin at the beginning.”

Varrell stretched himself out in an easy-chair. “Well, you know that I
am a little deaf.”

“I used to think so,” replied Melvin, “but these things that have
occurred lately don’t seem to indicate it.”

“Three years ago I had the scarlet fever,” went on Varrell, paying no
attention to the comment, “and it left my ears in bad condition. There
is no use in going into the details of the case; it is enough to say
that at one time the outlook was pretty bad and there was a general fear
that I should become worse instead of better. My mother was greatly
worried about me and consulted all sorts of people who are supposed to
know about such cases. Some said that the deafness would increase,
others that it might decrease if my general health improved. As the
chances were apparently against me, they put me through a thorough
course of lip-reading with the idea that if my deafness actually did
increase, it would then be harder for me to learn. Luckily, my hearing
gradually improved as I got better, and an operation put me ahead still
farther, so that now I can hear, if not as well as you, at least
decently well.”

“And you still kept up the lip-reading?”

“I had to. Much that I was not quite clear about, I could make out with
the use of my eyes. I finally got a kind of mixed sense; my eye helped
out my ear, and my whole impression was due to them both. So I’ve used
it right along.”

“But is it a thing you can really count on?” asked Dick. “I’ve always
supposed that lip-reading was a hit-or-miss guessing at what people were
saying.”

“It is guessing as reading print is guessing, only in lip-reading there
is greater chance for mistake, for two very different words are
sometimes expressed with exactly the same appearance of the lips. Still,
I’ve seen some very clever lip-readers. I knew a bank teller who had
suddenly lost his hearing, who was able in three months to do all the
work of his position in two or three languages. That’s where I’m
handicapped. I’m used only to English. That’s why I can’t do anything in
Pearson’s classes when he reads French aloud.”

“And Richardson’s mop of a mustache must be an obstacle.”

“You bet it is. I loathe mustaches.”

At this point Melvin’s questions seemed to have run out, for he lapsed
into a meditative silence which lasted at least a minute. Then he
suddenly jumped up, grabbed his quiet visitor by the shoulder, and
glared threateningly into his eyes. “Come now, stop it and tell me the
truth! You’re just trying to jolly me.”

“It’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” said
Varrell, nodding his head in solemn accentuation of each phrase. “Go and
sit down!”

Melvin dropped back into his chair.

“Do you remember,” continued Varrell, “when we went up to Boston
together last week and I suddenly burst into a laugh? You asked me what
was the matter, and I told you that a funny story had just come to me.
The funny story was told by a drummer facing us three seats ahead. You
certainly can’t have forgotten the time when we serenaded Masters, and
he came out on his front porch and spoke, with the red fire playing on
his face and the fellows yelling and blowing tin horns? Wasn’t I the
only one who knew what he said?”

“That’s right,” said Melvin.

“And didn’t you see how I watched Flanahan this afternoon? I had to, I
can tell you; those little short sentences are hard to get.”

“I suppose I’ll have to believe you,” said Melvin, reluctantly.

“You would have done it long ago, if you weren’t so blessed ignorant.
Hello, Phil!”

Poole nodded cordially and sat down.

“Did you ever hear of lip-reading, Phil?”

“Why, yes. I know some one at home who is pretty good at it. Can you do
it?”

“Why do you ask?”

“I’ve suspected you two or three times, but I thought I’d better not say
anything till you spoke of it yourself.”

Varrell gave Melvin a reproachful glance.

“Dick here doesn’t believe in it. Did you ever see the shadow trick?”

“No,” replied Phil.

Varrell got up. “Give us a big sheet of paper,” he said. “That’s it.
Come here.”

He pinned the white paper to the wall on a level with Phil’s head,
placed Phil near it and adjusted the lamp on the shelf opposite so that
a sharp profile of the boy’s face fell on the paper. Next he stationed
Melvin two or three steps in front of the boy; and then, having bound a
heavy handkerchief around his own ears, took a place just behind Phil.

“Now, Phil, without moving your head and in your ordinary tones, say
something to Dick.”

Phil obeyed. Varrell watched the shadow of the moving lips on the
screen.

“Repeat!” commanded Varrell.

Phil repeated.

“Flanahan has been fired,” said Varrell.

“Right!” cried the boy, delighted. “Try again!”

The experiment was repeated several times, and with one or two
exceptions Varrell read correctly from the screen.[1]

“Why, you’re a regular wizard!” cried Melvin, pulling the bandage from
his friend’s head. “That’s the greatest stunt I ever saw.”

“It’s a pretty severe test. If I had known what you were talking about
so that I could have had something to start with, I shouldn’t have
failed the last time. That’s the funny thing about lip-reading; at one
instant it’s a blank, and the next you get the key, and the whole thing
flashes out clear.”

But even this amazing exhibition could not distract Dick’s mind from the
robbery. “Now tell me, please,” he began, “what you really know by this
method or any method about what Eddy said to Bosworth that Saturday
morning in his room.”

Varrell looked significantly at Phil.

“Oh, you can trust him,” Dick made haste to say. “Phil is a lot safer
than I am.”

“I hope you won’t think, Phil, that I’m in the habit of eavesdropping. A
good many times I deliberately close my eyes to what people are saying,
so as not to understand things they don’t mean me to know. But Bosworth
is thoroughly bad and ought to be shown up, and since he has got hold of
little Eddy again, I’ve kept my eyes peeled. Eddy was walking about in
Bosworth’s room that Saturday morning before he went to Boston. I can
see pretty clearly from my east window any one who comes near Bosworth’s
window, and I was sure that I caught the words _safe_, _door_, and
_combination_. The last I am positive about, for it’s a long word and
easy to catch.”

“Do you suspect Bosworth of breaking into the safe?” asked Phil,
quickly.

“Yes, I do,” answered Varrell; “but until it can be proved I don’t want
the subject mentioned.”

“How could he get into the room?” persisted Phil, now deeply interested.

“By the passage door.”

“Do you think he got the housekeeper’s keys?”

“No, I don’t,” replied Varrell, “though it wouldn’t have been impossible
for any one to get them. There was an easier way: the door opens out and
fits very loosely. He probably pried it open.”

“With what?”

“With the flat ice-chipper that stands in the corner next to the stairs.
It is strong, and has a wide blade that would not leave much of a mark.
But mind, I guess all this; I haven’t any proof whatever.”

“Do you mean to try to get proof?”

“That’s exactly what I mean to do,” said Varrell, smiling. “I say, Dick,
you’d better take lessons of Poole! He’s found out more in three minutes
than you have in a week.”

Varrell’s hand was already on the door-knob, when he checked himself and
turned: “By the way, Phil, if you want to stand well with Sands, be
careful what you say about Flanahan. Sands is awfully cut up about the
whole business, ashamed and mad and disgusted to think that he has been
pushing such a mucker. Just say nothing to him about it, or you’ll get
him down on you.”

“Thank you,” said Phil. “I’ll be careful.”

-----

Footnote 1:

  A duplicate of this interesting experiment will be found recorded in
  an article on lip-reading in the _Century_ for January, 1897.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XIII

                           THE SPRING RUNNING


JOHN CURTIS clapped the book together with a sigh of relief. “That’s the
end. Much obliged to you. Going home for vacation next week?”

“No,” said Dick. “Are you?”

“No, sir,” replied John; “no vacation for me. Now that I’ve got into the
grinding habit, you can bet I’m not going to slacken up. Do you know
what I’ve been doing all winter?”

“Studying, I hope,” answered Melvin. “You’ve not been here very often
except on such errands as this.”

“That’s right; and I’m doing a lot better than I did. I’m getting on to
a lot of things that used to seem all shut up to me. The Dutch phases me
the most; I don’t know why it is, but some way it won’t go down. I
swallow hard at it, too. I’ve dropped the Greek, and am taking Latin
over again. My French and mathematics are pretty fair, and I’m a regular
shark at chemistry.”

Dick hooted; then checked himself suddenly. “They are all sharks in
chemistry, I should judge by the reports the fellows give me.”

Curtis smiled grimly. “I’m as good as any; you ask some of them and see.
It’s the first thing that I’ve really done well since I entered this old
mill. The Dutch is the worst. I don’t think old Moore is just square
about it either. He lays himself out on those fellows who know it all,
and just skims by us poor dopes who are wallowing.”

“He’s good-natured and easy, isn’t he?” asked Dick.

“That depends. He isn’t savage like Richardson, nor satirical like
Wells; but he lets a lot of tomfoolery go on in his class and smiles
blandly at it all, and then suddenly gets wild and drops on some one
like a hodful of bricks from the top of a ladder. As it’s usually the
wrong person, it makes trouble.”

“What fellows are in it?” asked Dick, interested.

“Oh, various ones. Tompkins and Bosworth are the worst. Bosworth isn’t
often suspected, because he is a kind of a favorite of the old man, and
always lies out if he’s caught. Tompkins is smarter, and he won’t lie,—I
like that in him; but he has cheek like a mountain.”

“What does he do?”

“Oh, all sorts of things; I can’t remember them. The other day he came
running in from the Gym without changing his clothes. He’d just slipped
his coat over his sleeveless shirt, and buttoned it up high in the neck.
He unbuttoned it again in the class without thinking, and Moore saw the
low neck underneath. ‘I don’t want any half-dressed boys in my
classroom,’ he said. ‘Tompkins, go and dress yourself properly!’ Tommy
went out and stayed half an hour. When he came back, he had on patent
leather shoes with gaiters, a Prince Albert coat, gloves, a standing
collar, and a silk hat. Where he got the hat, I don’t know. He stopped a
moment in the doorway and all the fellows looked around; then he took
off his hat, and walked calmly up to his seat.”

“What did Moore do?” asked Melvin,—“fire him out?”

“No, he just said, ‘Thank you, Tompkins,’ and went on. It was a great
get-up, but some way it didn’t seem to have the effect intended. By the
way, they say he’ll have to do the pitching this year. Is he any good?”

“Phil thinks so; and Wallace, I believe, spoke well of him.”

“You’d better warn him, then, to be careful. He doesn’t do anything bad,
and he seems a nice fellow at bottom, but these little tricks may get
him into trouble. They’d fire the pitcher on the nine just as quick as
anybody else. You remember they sent off one fellow last year for
putting a bonnet on the head of that plaster Diana that stands in the
hall.”

“That was for example,” returned Dick, vigorously. “Those casts were the
gifts of a lot of the Alumni, and the fooling with them had to be
stopped.”

“They stopped it for that fellow, anyway,” said Curtis, dryly. “Is this
meeting on Saturday going to be any good?”

“I hope so,” said Dick. “There’ll be the usual indoor events and some
short dashes on the wooden track outside. We’ve given good handicaps,
and there ought to be some hard races.”

“Then it’ll have to be better than the Faculty Trophy performance last
month. That was about as keen as a croquet match.”

“We’ll improve on that,” replied the manager, confidently. “The fellows
have been doing better lately.”

There were practical reasons for the existence of the March handicap
meeting. It gave an inviting opportunity for boys of every degree of
ability to appear without disadvantage in a public contest, and so
brought out new material. It was likewise both a formal closing of the
winter’s athletic work, and the first account of stock for the greater
contests of the spring. With Dickinson and Travers in the sprints, Todd
in the hurdles, and Curtis for the hammer and shot, there was still in
school a very substantial remnant of last year’s winning team with which
to start the spring campaign against Hillbury. Yet gaps remained to be
filled, new seconds and thirds had to be provided where firsts seemed
fairly safe, and better men had to be found, if better men there were,
for the most strongly defended events.

In the jumps and the pole vault was an especial dearth of good material.
Melvin had been practicing the high jump in the course of his daily
gymnasium exercise hours, though without any idea of excelling in it.
With legs full of spring and some intelligence to direct his efforts,
the height at which he failed had gradually lifted. A month before, at
the Faculty Trophy meeting, he had astonished himself by doing five feet
four to the school champion’s five feet five. The practice possessed now
for him an additional interest. If he could keep on gaining inches in
the same steady way, the spring contests would find him able to clear a
very considerable height. Varrell, too, had caught the fever, and was
toiling at the pole vault with all the zeal and intelligence which this
peculiar boy possessed.

A considerable crowd gathered that Saturday afternoon about the
eighth-mile wooden track which lies behind the gymnasium. For the
forty-yard dash the contestants came in a flock, four men in a trial,
heat after heat, in quick succession; then the winners in sets of
semi-finals, and three men in the final heat. The baseball candidates
were here almost to a man, for they had been practicing starts and
dashes during the winter for base running, and now had their trying out.
Dick watched with interest to see what Phil would do with his three feet
handicap, and was delighted to see his room-mate get off so sharply and
take his heat so easily. The first semi-final the boy ran against Sands,
and beat him without difficulty; the second he took from Jordan by a
narrower margin. Only in the final heat did he fail, when Jones, a
middler, took first, and Travers second, with Phil a poor third.

“Good work, Poole!” said MacRae, a middler rooming in the same entry,
who was just coming out for the thousand yards. “I only ask to do as
well.”

But MacRae did better. He ran his race with twenty yards handicap, and
finished first, close to the school record. The middlers grew
enthusiastic.

“What a handicap!” said Dickinson reproachfully to Melvin, as he took
his place on the scratch for the three hundred, and looked forward to
the front man standing well around the curve. “I may as well not run.”

“It’s not too much for your best, old man,” replied the manager,
confidently. “You never know what you can do till you try.”

Dickinson did not answer, for he was already on his mark with the tense,
serious expression on his face which Dick liked to see. With the pistol
report he was off, making a splendid start—which the manager, in a
momentary flash of joy, contrasted with the hesitancy of the year
before,—and whipping himself quickly into his stride. He passed Lord on
the back stretch, Sandford on the straightaway at the end of the first
lap, and then pushed for Von Gersdorf, who had made good use of his
twenty yards start, and with his short stout legs flying under him,
easily doubled the hard corners that delayed the pursuer. Von Gersdorf
struck the final curve with Dickinson at his heels. On the curve
short-legs gained. The two plunged into the final stretch with four
yards of interval between them, short-legs panting ahead with quick
staccato strokes, long-legs swinging again into the wide
distance-devouring stride that looked as easy and natural as the piston
motion of a fine engine, and yet was challenging muscle and nerve and
heart to their utmost.

“Go it Gerty, go it!” shouted the middlers. “It’s yours!” Determined to
hold his lead a second longer, Von Gersdorf dug his spikes into the soft
board, made a final frantic spurt, and lifted his arms to meet the
string with his breast—and found no string to meet. Dickinson had
carried it away before him.

“What a race!” exclaimed Tompkins, as he sat with Varrell on the wall.
“That’s what I call sport. I’d go miles to see that again!”

“What’s the time?” asked Curtis over the shoulders of the men who held
the watches. “Beat it by two seconds? You don’t say so! and he pretended
he couldn’t do anything on this track!”

Melvin helped the runner up the bank to the gymnasium, and bothered
himself with neither the record nor the race. “How is the ankle?” was
his first anxious question. “Did you feel it?”

“Not a bit!” stammered Dickinson, between gasps. “But the corners—are
terrible. They stopped me—every time.”

The forty-five yard hurdles and the six hundred yard run came next. Todd
won the hurdles from scratch: the six hundred went to Cary, a middler,
who ran a steady race from a good start, Dickinson this time succumbing
to the corners and the handicap, and finishing third.

The scene now changed to the gymnasium, where the last three events were
to come off. “You fellows want to do something,” said Marks, coming over
to the seat where Melvin, Varrell, and Curtis were sitting, ready for
their events. “The middlers are beginning to crow already.”

“It doesn’t amount to anything,” answered Curtis, with a little sniff of
contempt. “Anybody can beat a scratch man, if you give him enough
handicap.”

“Of course,” rejoined Marks; “but they always were a fool class. Some of
their men have done pretty well, too. It’s a bad thing for middlers to
have a high opinion of themselves.”

“It didn’t hurt us last year,” said Melvin.

The pole vault was started, and Varrell nerved himself for his first
public appearance. He looked at no one, for he could feel that curious
questions were running among the spectators, and he feared to surprise
discouraging comments on tell-tale lips. As he faced the bar in the
familiar position, this fear vanished. He took his run, stuck his pole
firmly into the soft plank, rose with a fine nervous spring, and swung
himself lightly over. Even as he dropped, his courage came again.
Conscious that his form was undeniably good, and aglow with the sense of
reserve force, he now faced the on-lookers squarely, amused as he
caught, on this lip and on that, comments not meant for his hearing:

“Not bad, after all.” “Pretty, wasn’t it?” “Corking good!” “Knows how,
doesn’t he?” “Too slick to last.”

Others followed. The bar went up, nine feet, nine feet three. Varrell,
who had three inches handicap, and Dearborn, scratch man, were now
alone. Both men cleared nine feet six, which was four inches higher than
Wrenn had ever reached. At nine seven he failed, and Dearborn just
touched. The event was Varrell’s on his handicap.

“Fine, Wrenn,” said Melvin, giving his hand a good grip as he sat down.
“Think of the little practice you’ve had compared with Dearborn. Your
form was bully, too, and that’s important for improvement in pole
vaulting. Oh, we two may become great prize winners yet. Here goes for
my exhibition.”

He spoke with a smile on his lips, which made it clear that his last
words were uttered in jest. Varrell looked after him rather enviously,
as he took a few confident steps and went lightly over the bar at its
first position. Melvin did not need to consider what the spectators
might think of his audacity; nor to struggle to make a name for himself
in school. A man with his athletic record and his rank and his general
influence could afford to speak slightingly of a prize in a handicap
meeting. To Varrell, who had hardly yet divested himself of the notion
that he was still a stranger in the school, any prize that gave
distinction would have been welcome. To win an important contest, to
make a place for himself on some school team, to earn and wear a coveted
“S,”—all this was a part of an unconfessed ambition. So he envied Dick,
not for the honors which he had won, but for the ability which had
enabled him to win them.

The jump took its wearisome course. At five feet the contestants began
to drop out. Benson, the scratch man, and Melvin were alone able to
clear five feet three. Both went over at five four; then Melvin failed
and Benson, with a jump two inches higher, won first place.

“Another middler victory!” growled Marks, whose class patriotism was
strident.

“I should have won,” said Dick, contentedly pulling on his sweater, “if
I had taken the three inches they were going to give me. As Dickinson
and I did the handicapping, we didn’t want to be charged with taking any
unfair advantage, and so put ourselves down at scratch.”

“That’s well enough for Dickinson, but simply suicide for you. You’re
just learning and Benson’s been at it ever since he’s been in school.”

“I should have liked to see him do six feet,” said Melvin, calmly. Marks
muttered something unintelligible, and turned to Curtis. “Don’t you fail
us anyway!”

Curtis nodded and grabbed the shot. His first put was close to the
record, his second touched it, his third went ten inches beyond. That
gave him a new record and the event, and put Marks again in good humor.

“John Curtis is the man for my money, as I’ve always said,” he announced
significantly to Melvin. “He never goes back on you.”

“Didn’t Varrell and Dickinson do the same?” asked Melvin, amused for the
instant at the peculiar point of view of this non-athletic sport, who
was always prating athletic nonsense, and swaggering as an expert.

“Ye-es,” answered Marks, unwillingly; “but Dickinson balked in the six
hundred. It’s all due to his folly about the track ends; they wouldn’t
stop him if he wasn’t afraid.”

A look of indignation swept over Melvin’s face. His lips parted to let
out a savage retort, but he suddenly checked himself, gave a sniff of
amused contempt, and replied good humoredly, “Really, Marks, you ought
to write a book on athletics to leave to the school when we graduate.”

And Marks went off, furious and voluble, to inform his listeners that
Melvin’s athletic successes had entirely turned his head; the fellow was
really nothing but a big chump after all.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XIV

                            UNDER TWO FLAGS


FOR an hour or two after the meeting was over the elated middlers made a
good deal of noise with their yells and their cheering, to which no one
objected except those who happened to want to study at this ill-chosen
hour. Later a few leading spirits cast about for some more striking mode
of proving their importance than the threadbare and laborious fashion of
cheers. The class flag which the seniors, following a precedent, had
displayed on the Academy tower very early on Washington’s birthday, had
been seasonably and ignominiously removed by the conscientious boy who
rang the Academy bell. The middlers concluded that the cleverest thing
for them would be to hang their own class flag aloft on the day when the
school was to break up for the spring recess,—the following Wednesday.

Boys are proverbially unskilled in keeping secrets. By Monday night the
seniors knew of the middlers’ plan. By Tuesday night the middlers knew
of the seniors’ plan, which was, of course, to anticipate their friends
on Wednesday morning, and have the senior, not the middler banner, wave
a farewell to the scattering school. The middlers then advanced the
execution of their scheme several hours. Early Tuesday night instead of
Wednesday morning, a daring middler, Tompkins by name, scaled the
Academy roof, mounted the belfry, and fixed to the weather-vane the
banner of his class. Then sliding down the lightning-rod again to the
main roof of the building, he settled himself there for his hour’s
vigil.

Report of this forward movement of the enemy was brought to Sands’s room
early in the evening. He hastily summoned advisers; Melvin, Varrell,
Curtis, Dickinson, Waters, Todd, and others whose names are not known to
this story, gathered to his call.

Waters proposed to storm the watch immediately, change flags, and set a
new guard. Melvin and Varrell objected vigorously to the plan as
dangerous and foolhardy, and apparently were supported by the others.
Dickinson then suggested that the wisest course would be to leave to the
middlers their flag, their night-watch, and their victory.

“And have them gloat over us forever afterward?” said Sands. “Not on
your life!”

“We should never hear the last of it,” said Todd, wondering how a fellow
could be cold-blooded enough to suggest such a course,—but Dickinson
always had been queer.

Marks and Reynolds now joined the company, and heard a report of
proceedings.

“I agree with Dickinson,” said Melvin, renewing the discussion. “These
class rows are dangerous things to start, for you can’t tell what the
end will be. If we take down the middlers’ flag and put ours up, the
middlers will set their hearts on getting back at us, and then the thing
will seesaw back and forth until there’s serious trouble. We had a good
example of that last year when Martin and his gang stopped the car.”

“If we let them get ahead of us in this, they’ll be encouraged to try
something else,” remarked Curtis. “Hit ’em when you can, I say, only be
sure you don’t miss. It’s worse to try and fail than not to try at all.”

“And on the other hand,” put in Varrell, quietly, “if you let them
entirely alone and pay no attention at all to their doings, they will
find no special credit in the thing. The easiest way to beat them is to
let them alone.”

“What a sandless lot!” exclaimed Marks, in disgust. “Why don’t you come
out square and say you’re afraid to do it?”

“Shut up, Marks,” ordered Sands, “or you’ll get into trouble.”

“A valiant man like Marks might do it alone,” said Melvin, stretching
himself as he rose to his feet. “I shouldn’t think of interfering with
his opportunity. Well, good night all; I’m going home to bed.”

Varrell and Dickinson joined him at the door. Curtis started to follow,
but a significant wink from Sands detained him. “Good night,” he called
after them, “I guess I won’t go just yet.”

Tompkins sat on the Academy roof, in coat and gloves, waiting and musing
and shivering. The night was clear and moonless. The day had been warm;
it was freezing again now. At eleven he heard below the welcome call of
Benson, the relieving watch, and scuttled down to the ground as fast as
his cold hands and stiff legs would allow. At twelve o’clock Bosworth
took his turn. He got up with some difficulty, as he was little used to
climbing, and pulled up after him by a string a voluminous ulster
borrowed of a larger classmate, in which he rolled himself snugly, as he
crouched at the base of the belfry where the lightning-rod reached up
its side to the weather-vane above.

For a quarter of an hour complete silence reigned. Then the lone watcher
became conscious of vague noises underneath, now at the side, now in
front. With heart beating in quick heavy thumps, he freed himself from
the ulster and crept around the belfry to the ridgepole that ran toward
the front of the building, and along this to the peak of the gable.
Projecting his head carefully over, he heard voices,—at first
indistinct, then somewhat clearer.


[Illustration: He heard voices,—at first indistinct, then somewhat
clearer.—Page 150.]


Whatever the unknown persons were doing, they were very deliberate in
their movements. Minutes had passed before he made out figures on the
roof of the porch below. They waited here, and spent more time in
muffled conversation, apparently discussing the method of scaling the
wall above, which, as Bosworth said to himself reassuringly again and
again as he clung shivering to the cold slates, was unscalable. At last
the frost penetrated to his bones, making it obviously dangerous to lie
longer in his cramped position. He was just about to grope his way back
to his warm coat, when the figures on the porch began to be active
again. He heard distinctly—it sounded like Curtis’s voice—“I say we
can’t do it. We may as well go home as freeze here.”

A few minutes later the speakers seemed to be on the ground again.
Presently their voices were lost in the sound of feet treading carefully
the board walk that led to the street. Soon these sounds, too, had died
away, and absolute stillness reigned again.

Numb with cold Bosworth crept back to his nook, and wrapped himself once
more in the great coat, which he found in a heap by the foot of the
lightning-rod. He was puzzled at this, for he had a distinct impression
of crawling out of the coat, as a worm out of a cocoon, and leaving it
spread on the roof behind him.

“It’s a vile job, anyway,” he groaned, “and I was a fool to let them
drag me into it. I shall freeze to death here.”

But the hour was nearly over. He was just falling into a risky doze,
when Dearborn’s call came up from below, and presently Dearborn himself
startled him by appearing suddenly at the edge of the roof.

“All right up here?” asked the newcomer.

“I suppose so,” grumbled Bosworth, “if you can call it all right to have
your legs and arms frozen off.”

“Seen anything or heard anything?”

Bosworth hesitated. The instructions of the leaders had been definite,
“Signal at the first suspicious sound!” When the voices aroused him, his
first impulse had been to give the preconcerted signal; but fear of
being made the centre of a scuffle on the roof, or of being compelled to
hold the fort at the foot of the lightning-rod until classmates gathered
to the rescue, had kept his lips sealed.

“Well, what’s the matter with you?” snapped Dearborn. “Didn’t you hear
what I said? You act as if you were asleep.”

“No, not a sound.”

“It seems to take a long time to get it out.”

Bosworth roused himself. “When you’ve been freezing as long as I have,
you won’t be so anxious to talk yourself.”

“Give me the coat then,” replied Dearborn, grabbing it without more ado.
“You can have it in the morning. Now clear out and go to bed. This is
the hour when they come, if they come at all.”

So the watch changed hourly through the still, cold night. The last man
aloft descended at six, just as the sun was peeping above the horizon.
The cooks were already hard at work in the big kitchen of Carter Hall.
Soon the boys who cared for the yard would be at their early tasks, and
with the dormitories gradually waking it was no longer advisable to
maintain the sentinel on the roof. Halfway between the Academy and
Carter, the retiring guard met his two successors, who were to continue
the watch between six and seven from the concealment of the gymnasium
porch. Together the three looked proudly up at the bunch of white that
hung limp between the east and north arms of the Academy weather-vane.

“There she is all right,” said Strout. “With the first puff of wind
she’ll blow out and show herself.”

At seven the watch was over—the last watch. Not a senior had appeared.
The middlers breakfasted early, then hung round the steps of Carter,
waiting for the chapel bell.

“It’s coming!” cried Dearborn, holding up his finger in joyful
anticipation. “And at the right time, too! See the tree-tops bend!”

Just as the dismal clang of the bell sounded out its first summons, when
the boys, slowly sauntering forth from dormitory entries, were lazily
reckoning up the minutes of liberty left to them before the final fatal
stroke should cut off their entrance into chapel, the breeze struck the
weather-vane, filled out the folds of the flag, and set it flapping
vigorously.

“Three long ‘Seatons’ for the middle class!” shouted Strout, leaping out
from the waiting group with cap in hand. “Make it good now, one, two,
three—”

A groan from behind stopped him suddenly. The breeze had strengthened;
the white flag was exposed in its full length and breadth; and it bore
the numerals not of the middle, but of the senior class!

“Some mistake about that flag, isn’t there, Strout?” rang out Curtis’s
voice from the steps. “You must have got a blind man to put that up.”

Strout returned neither look nor word, but he collared every sentinel
before the first recitation and cross-examined him thoroughly. Every
one, including Bosworth, swore that he had watched honestly and intently
at the lightning-rod beside the belfry during his whole hour, and had
heard nothing. Every one, except Bosworth, told the truth.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER XV

                           ABOUT MANY THINGS


“WHO did it, Dick?” asked Phil, later in the day, when the flag had been
taken down, good-bys said, and the dormitories, emptied of those who
were fortunate enough to be within easy distance of home, had ceased to
resemble an anthill in its busy season.

“I don’t know,” replied Dick. “I can guess, and that’s all.”

“The fellows say Curtis and Sands were at the bottom of it. It seems
rather silly business for such big fellows, doesn’t it?”

Dick laughed. Two seasons of rubbing against the varieties of Seaton
life had not shaken Poole’s respect for proprieties or affected his
natural dignity.

“What a venerable person you are! Sometimes you seem the oldest of us
all. How old are you, anyway?”

“I’m fifteen and a half,” replied Poole. “I wish I seemed old to Sands,”
he added mournfully. “Perhaps he’d give me a little better show if I
did. He always acts as if I were a child.”

“Never mind how he acts,” said Melvin. “Make him take you whether he
wants to or not. Study your game, and hang on till the last gun is
fired.”

“I can’t very well hang on after he’s kicked me off,” said Phil, with a
melancholy smile.

“Has he done that?”

“Not yet; it may be coming, though, when practice begins after vacation.
The Coach will be here then.”

The senior leaned back in his desk chair with hands clasped behind his
head, and gazed long and vacantly out of the window at the bare limbs
and solid gray-brown trunks that lined the distant street. “You’ll make
it sometime, I’m sure, Phil, for I think you have it in you; and if you
want it hard enough, you’ll put it through. The only question in my mind
is whether it will come this year or later. You have to get a start, and
the start often depends on luck. I got on the football team the first
year through a lucky chance.”

“You had something better than luck to help you,” rejoined Phil. “You
had ability and brains.”

“Luck and energy were all I had to start with,” returned Dick, modestly.
“The ability came gradually from experience, and I don’t think I used my
brains until I took up kicking.”

Both were silent for a time, each intent on his own thoughts. Then the
older boy began again.

“Look here, Phil, I’ll tell you something that I’m beginning to get hold
of which isn’t to be got from any book, and yet is a fundamental
principle of athletics. In every exercise that requires a skilled motion
or great speed, you’ll find that there’s a peculiar kind of final snap
or twist that gives the motion or the speed; and you’ve got to master
this if you want the highest results. Without it a strong man is
powerless, and with it a weak man often slips to the front. In punting
it’s the final jerk of the knee which I had so much trouble in
learning—don’t worry, I’m not going to begin on that again. In golf it’s
a snap of the wrist; in shot-putting, of the arm and shoulder; in pole
vaulting of the waist and arms,—and so on through the list. In gymnasium
feats the same principle works. Just watch Guy Morgan when he does the
‘giant swing’ on the horizontal bar, and you’ll see that he gives a
sudden jerk with his shoulders when he’s about three-quarters round,
that carries him up to the top of the swing like a hawk rising at the
end of a swoop. Now in baseball, I believe, that snap is hidden
somewhere in every good throw and in every straight swing of the bat.
Discover it and master it, and you won’t need to worry about making the
school nine.”

“I suppose that explains how some of these fine hitters seem to strike
easily and yet make the ball fly,” remarked Phil.

“Can’t you get a lot of batting practice this vacation, and so start in
a little ahead when the others get back? I’ll pitch for you, if you want
me to; it will be good exercise.”

Phil smiled: “I’m afraid you wouldn’t be of much use. I ought to have
some one who really knows how to pitch.”

“That’s a fact,” rejoined Melvin, “and I can’t pitch at all. Couldn’t we
scare up some one?”

“Did you ever hear of a man named Rowley, who used to play professional
ball? He works in one of the factories now. I believe he was something
of a pitcher before he broke down. Why shouldn’t I be able to get him to
pitch for me?”

“Just the man!” cried Dick, briskly. “Let’s hunt him up right off.”

The boys finally succeeded in locating the residence of the Rowley
family, and caught their man smoking his after-supper pipe before the
door. He was a sallow person, with a goodly length of arms and legs
strung to a lanky body by stout muscle-covered joints.

“Are you Mr. Jack Rowley, the ball-player?” asked Phil.

The man removed the pipe from his mouth and looked at the boys with
interest. He admitted that he was Jack Rowley, but denied being a
ball-player. He had been once, but wasn’t any longer.

“You could still pitch a little, couldn’t you?” asked Dick.

“A couple of innings, perhaps,” answered Rowley, “but I’m not up to a
game. I’ve been out of it these three years. What d’ye want of me?”

“I want some practice in batting,” said Phil, “and I thought I might be
able to get you to pitch for me half an hour a day for the next week.”

Rowley shook his head. “I’m in the mill all day from seven till six,
except for the hour’s nooning, which I want to myself and to eat my
dinner in peace and quiet.”

“How about after supper?” questioned Phil.

“It’s dark after supper,” grumbled Rowley, through the pipe-stem.

Phil looked at Dick in discouragement. Suddenly his face lighted up.
“Why not before breakfast?” he said; “say from six to half-past? It’s
only for a week, and I’ll pay you anything that’s reasonable.”

“Will you buy me a new arm to pitch with?” asked Rowley, with a rueful
grin. “Mine is all wrenched to pieces with them cussed drops.”

“Isn’t there enough of it left to give this boy a week’s batting
practice?” asked Melvin, anxious to secure the opportunity. “I’ll shack
the balls.”

“There mightn’t be many to shack,” said Rowley, with a gleam of fun in
his eyes.

He pondered some time, puffing vigorously, and shooting an occasional
side glance at the waiting boy. “Well, I’ll try it once,” he said
finally, “but mind ye, if me arm hurts, I’ll not do it, no,—not for ten
dollars an hour. I was laid up a year with it once, and that’s enough
for me.”

The boys had to turn out early next morning to keep their appointment at
the practice ground, and they more than half expected to find that they
alone kept it. But Rowley was there. He received them as before, with
his pipe between his lips, but after a few throws into the net, he put
the pipe away. As he warmed up, his thoughts returned to old channels,
and with his shoots and drops he interlarded anecdotes of games and bits
of shrewd counsel. He was unquestionably wild that first morning, and
Phil’s practice was rather in waiting and dodging and facing
courageously, than in picking out good balls.

“I’ll steady down in a day or two,” he said, as he pulled on his coat at
the end of the half hour. So the boys knew that he had not thrown up the
job.

The next day the pitching was better and the batting worse. It was not
so easy to watch the ball when it took such sudden unexpected dives!
Still Phil occasionally met them fairly, and each square hit gave him
courage to wait for another. After a time Jack suggested trying bunts.
“It’s a great thing for a left-hander to be able to bunt,” he said. “He
has twice the chance to make first on one that a right-hander has.” And
Phil tried this, too, with questionable success.

Day followed day and Rowley improved more than Phil, so that the
progress of the latter did not show itself. “I’d like to have you for a
month,” said the pitcher, as they settled their account at the end of
the week. “I could teach you to bunt in a few lessons, and it’s a great
thing to be a good bunter.”

Phil laughed. “You’ve said that fifty times. I want to be able to do
something besides bunt. All the same, I’d like to have you pitch for me
once or twice a week, Rowley. Can you do it?”

“Sure,” said Rowley, “but take my advice and learn to bunt.”

The boys came trooping back for the final stretch of the year. The
baseball candidate went to work out-of-doors. As the field was still
soft, the out-fielders had for the first time the chief attention of
coach and captain; and Phil was sent chasing flies and long hits with
the rest. He fared as well as the others perhaps, though his “eye” was
not yet to be trusted, and he was nervous with an intense desire to do
well. They all came up for batting practice later on, and Phil found the
pitcher rather an easy mark after facing Rowley. He cracked out several
easy chances in what seemed to him a thorough sort of way, but, to his
disappointment, neither Sands nor Coach Lyford appeared to notice them.

                             --------------

That same day Melvin and Varrell walked down from their first out-door
practice together.

“How about the safe robbery, Wrenn?” said Melvin, peering laughingly
into his companion’s face. “It seems to me I haven’t heard much about
that of late. Given it up as a bad job, haven’t you?”

“No, I haven’t,” replied Varrell, composedly. “I’m just waiting.”

“It’s easy enough to wait; I could do that myself. I thought you were
going to do something.”

“I have done one thing,” rejoined the imperturbable Wrenn.

“What?”

“I’ve proved that the passage door can be opened by prying with the
ice-chipper.”

“How?”

“By opening the door with it myself. You know that room wasn’t meant for
a permanent office when it was first enclosed. The whole partition is
more or less shaky.”

“I don’t see that that helps you much. You have no evidence against any
particular person.”

“The evidence will come in time. That’s what I’m waiting for.”

“Where from, I’d like to know?”

“Perhaps from Eddy. He must know more than he’s told. He certainly lied
to Grim and Moore.”

“I don’t believe Bosworth would trust anything to a little fool like
him,” said Dick. “Eddy apparently told Bosworth the combination and
then, when the news of the robbery came out, was too scared to
acknowledge it. Having once lied, he would stick to it, because to such
a little morally flabby idiot it would seem the easiest course.”

“And even if he confessed, it wouldn’t help matters,” went on Varrell,
following out the argument, “for Bosworth would deny that he had paid
any attention to what Eddy said, and there would be the end of it. No,
we’ve got to get the information from Bosworth himself.”

“Are you going to tackle him with it outright?” demanded Dick,
perplexed.

Varrell snorted in disgust.

“What a question! Of course I’m not. I’m going to wait, as I said
before. This Bosworth lives in Cambridge. His mother keeps a
boarding-house for students. He’s been thrown with these fellows, some
of them probably fast men with plenty of money, who have patronized him
and unintentionally filled his head with all sorts of wrong ideas. He’s
learned to play poker and like fine clothes and spend money on himself
and feel that to have money is to be happy and to be without it is to be
wretched. Whatever he had left from the plunder of the safe he probably
spent during the vacation. He told Marks of several things he’d done
that must have taken money,—and he’ll soon be in need of more. This is
an expensive term for those of us who have good allowances, with
subscription duns and summer clothes to buy and all sorts of temptations
to spend money. It will be harder for him, as he’ll come back without
much cash, and will want to guzzle soda-water, and smoke, and perhaps
try to worm himself into some society. I know such a fellow like a book.
He’s got to have money, and he’ll get it dishonestly if he can’t
honestly. His success with the safe will encourage him to something
else.”

“To what?” asked Dick.

“How do I know? That’s what I’m waiting to see.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XVI

                          PHIL MAKES HIS DÉBUT


“ONE strike!” called the umpire. Phil gripped the bat and waited. It was
the first practice game, the scrub against the school. Phil had been put
at left-field on the scrub; and he was now at bat nervously conscious
that it was his first real trial, perhaps his only one, and that Sands
was waiting for the pretext to fire him with the first batch of
disappointed candidates. Tompkins was also on trial, and while he rubbed
the damp ball into a state to grip decently for the next pitch, he
considered whether he could afford to give the youngster an easy one to
help him out, without interfering with his own reputation. Then he
caught Sands’s signal as the crouching catcher wagged his hand between
his knees, and answered it with an in-curve. No, there was no place in
the Seaton game for favoritism. The boy must take his chance.

Phil’s bat came almost to the plate, but he stopped it short at the
first veer of the ball. He had learned from Wallace to watch the ball,
but it was Rowley who had taught him to detect the first sign of the
veer.

“One ball!” shouted the umpire.

The next one was an out meant to swing over the plate. It swung too far,
and Phil had to dodge to save himself, but he did it easily, stepping
back just far enough to avoid the ball. There was no sign of fear in the
movement.

“Hang a left-hander!” muttered Tompkins; and sent a straight ball over
the corner of the plate a little below the shoulder.

With the instinct of a real ball-player Phil knew his ball and met it
squarely, dropped the bat and scampered for first. He perceived as he
ran that the second baseman jumped for it and missed it, and a moment
later as he touched first he saw the centre-fielder stoop and then turn
and run. He did not need the coacher’s advice to go down. By the time
the centre-fielder got his hands on the ball, the runner was already
beyond second; he slid to third with a fine dive, the prettiness of
which was not spoiled by the fact that the slide was wholly unnecessary.
At third he waited while the three men who followed him at bat went out
in quick succession, two as victims of strikes, tempted to hit at balls
they didn’t want, and one on a pop fly.

Sands threw down his mask and protector and joined the coach.

“That hit of Poole’s was the second made off Tompkins in five innings,”
said the coach. “A pretty hit and a good slide. Too bad he’s so young,
for he seems about the only man on your scrub team who stands up to the
plate and keeps his head. He’s been up twice: the first time he got his
base on balls; the second he made a hit.”

“He’s doing better than I expected,” said Sands. “Probably it’s his
lucky day; but he’s too light and too green for us. He’ll make good
material for about two years from now. We must have steady men for the
Hillbury game or they’ll go to pieces. The strain’s terrific.”

“He’s had two fielding chances with one error,” said the coach,
consulting his record. “Oh, yes, I remember; the error was on a long hit
close by the foul line, but he got it back well to the in-field.”

In the sixth inning Robinson, second baseman on the first team, led off
with a single over third. Maine, who was being tried at short, followed
with a hot grounder to right-field, which the scrub-fielder let bounce
past him, allowing the batsman to reach second and advancing Robinson to
third; and Sands followed with a liner over the short-stop’s head that
set the runners moving again. By some unaccountable instinct—he
certainly had not seen enough of Sands’s playing to know the general
direction of his hits—Phil had moved up toward the in-field. Suddenly he
heard the crack of the bat, and saw the ball shooting straight toward
him, apparently likely to strike a dozen yards ahead. Impulse drove him
forward to meet it; intelligence, with tardier admonition, held him
back. So he took a step forward, then several back, and just reached the
ball as it skimmed above his head, and pulled it down.

It was a creditable catch, but more creditable still was the
unhesitating, accurate throw to Rhines at third to cut off Robinson, who
had started for home; for it was proof that the boy could think quickly
and take advantage of the chances of the game.

Whatever the merit of quick thought, Rhines evidently lacked it; for he
stupidly held the ball on third, without perceiving that the other
base-runner was thirty feet from second, and might have been caught
equally well. Smith, who was pitching, finally made it clear to him with
expletives and yells, but the opportunity for the triple play had
passed. Vincent went out on a pop fly to the pitcher, and the scrub came
in triumphant.

The coach made another mental note in Phil’s favor. A catch may be by
chance, a double play never. It was no great feat, but the boy could use
his brains; that was worth remembering.

Phil’s side went out readily enough, one hitting to pitcher, one on a
little fly to second, one on strikes. The first followed in similar
fashion, and the scrub in their turn advanced no farther than second. It
was still early in the season, and schoolboys are likely to be poor
batters. The pitchers were the only men who had had any regular practice
for their positions. Then with the return of the first to bat, came a
set of in-field fumbles and wild throws, and general heedless passing of
the ball around the diamond, that set the first to running recklessly,
and drove the scrub to wilder errors. Such practice is as vicious for
base-runners and coachers as for fielders.

“Stop, stop!” cried Lyford, running out into the diamond. The scrub
short-stop had fumbled a grounder, and then after juggling the ball a
second had thrown to first when it was quite impossible to catch the
man; the first baseman had put it frantically across the diamond to
Rhines six feet off the base, in a wild attempt to catch a runner at
third; and Rhines had made haste to contribute his part to the general
demoralization by throwing several feet over the second baseman’s head,
in an equally hopeless effort to intercept the man speeding down to
second.

“Give that ball to the pitcher,” shouted the coach, as the ball finally
came back from the distant out-field, “and don’t do any more of this
reckless tossing round the diamond. Until you can throw the ball
straight, don’t throw it; and never throw unless you know what you’re
trying to do.”

The scrub steadied down and put three men out,—two, including Taylor the
left-fielder, being struck out by Smith, and the other sending an easy
fly to the centre-field. Rhines then made a hit for the scrub, stole
second, and was pushed on to third by an out. Newcomb sent an easy fly
to Taylor, and Phil came up to bat with two men out and Rhines on third.
This time Tompkins had no question as to the youngster. Phil struck
once, had two balls and a strike called on him, and then, just holding
the bat to meet the ball, and drawing it a little back rather than
striking, dropped a pretty bunt near the side-lines, between third and
home, and easily beat the ball to first. With Rhines on third, the boy
stole second without fear; and then as Smith sent a bounder to
right-field, he was off with the sharp start, rounded third at full
speed, and came racing over the plate just before the ball reached the
catcher’s hands. An easy strike out sent the scrub for the last time
into the field.

Phil ran out to his place with a heart throbbing with joyful
exhilaration. He had reached first every time he had come to bat,—once
on balls, once on a genuine hit, once on a successful bunt. His fielding
chances had been at least decently good. He had caught two flies, made
one assist, and there was but one error against him. There was certainly
nothing here to be ashamed of.

The first of the school batters went out on an easy in-field fly; the
second reached first safely through an error by the fumbling short; the
third got his base on balls; and the fourth hit to centre-field, filling
the bases. Phil pulled his cap down tight over his head, blew on his
fingers to keep them warm, and pondered what he should do with the ball
if a fly came into his hands.

Tompkins came up to the plate. “Line it out, Tommy!” cried Sands. “A hit
means two runs, a two bagger, three!”

One ball! One strike! Tompkins set his teeth and smashed at what he
thought to be his chance. He hit hard, but he hit a trifle under, and
the ball went up, up, up, going, it seemed to Phil, as if it never would
stop. The short-stop staggered back with his eyes on the ball, but it
was out of reach behind him.

“I’ll take it!” shouted Phil. He ran hard forward; then looked up and
waited. How it wabbled! How it swung! How it changed its size in the
air! He cleared his eyes with a wink; the next instant the ball was in
his hands.

A moment only he staggered for better footing; then as he saw the runner
cut loose from third and dash for the home, he set himself for a throw.
The catcher stood on the plate and waited dutifully but hopelessly,
ready to leap to either side for the wild throw from the field. To his
surprise he did not need to stir from his tracks. The ball came directly
toward him,—a long straight line throw,—made an easy bound, and landed
in his hands just as the runner came within reach.

“Out!” cried the umpire. “By a mile,” added Tompkins under his breath.
“Bully for the kid! That’s a throw a professional wouldn’t be ashamed
of.”

During the last half of the ninth, Phil sat on the bench enjoying the
compliments of his associates, and cared not a whit whether the scrub
batters reached first or not. As a matter of fact, they went out as
quickly and easily as three timid batters could go; and Phil, his ears
tingling with a commendation from Sands, and a warning from the coach as
to taking care of himself after the game, that was more delightfully
significant than the captain’s good word, trotted gayly down to the
gymnasium for his bath and rub-down and a change of clothes.

Half an hour later he rushed in on Melvin, who had just come in from a
trip up the river in Varrell’s canoe.

“What luck, Phil?”

“Luck indeed! Nothing but luck! I helped in two double plays, caught two
flies, made two hits and only one error. Lyford was cordial, and even
Sands gave me a compliment.”

“That _is_ a record. You remember what I said about my getting a start
by luck; you’ve beaten me in luck, anyway.”

The boy’s face fell. “But you got on the team and I shan’t, that’s the
difference. Sands thinks I’m too young, and it will make no difference
whether I play well or not, he won’t take me on.”

“Has he told you so?”

“No, but I suspect it, and I’m pretty sure I’m right.”

“Nonsense,” said Melvin. “He’ll take you if you’re the best man, or I
don’t know Sands. Only bear in mind that you’ve had a lucky day, and the
first practice game isn’t enough to prove anything. You’ve won the first
heat, but don’t get a swelled head over it, or you’ll win no more.”

                             --------------

At the same time Sands and Coach Lyford were lingering on the gymnasium
steps, in the midst of a conversation on the very same subject.

“The little chap did well,” Sands was saying; “I don’t dispute that.
He’s a clever little player. What we want is a _big_ player, a hard,
experienced, steady man who can swat the ball for two or three bases
when he hits it, and can stand the strain of the season without going up
in the air.”

“I’d rather have a man that can hit often than one who sometimes hits
hard,” replied the coach; “and as for throwing, give me brains and skill
rather than muscle behind a ball any time. There is good baseball in the
boy, and you ought not to discourage him. I don’t ask you to put him on
the team; keep him as substitute if you wish, but watch him and help him
and see what you can make of him.”

So it happened that Phil was retained as substitute when the great
majority of the candidates were dropped. Some said he ought to be on the
team, some that it was gross favoritism not to fire him with the rest;
but Phil himself was content to sit and watch, and do what he was told,
and play when he had a chance with all the earnestness and strength and
skill he had. And twice a week he turned out early for the six o’clock
practice with Rowley.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XVII

                          A NOCTURNAL MYSTERY


FOR weeks Phil sat on the bench, a perpetual substitute, getting plenty
of practice on practice days in all sorts of positions where he was
useful, but always seeing others go into the game. The fielders that
year were a remarkably healthy lot; they played game after game without
accident or illness. Taylor, whose position at left-field Phil coveted,
was playing his second year on the team, and felt his importance as a
veteran who had already been tested under fire in a Hillbury game. He
had the name of being a great hitter, and though his work during the
season so far had not borne out this reputation, he occasionally made
long drives that delighted the great mass of student supporters whose
admiration is as intense as it is fitful. He was a safe catch on flies,
and now and then did spectacular feats that had the same effect on the
spectators as the occasional three-baggers. He had also acquired a
striking way of opening his hands for the ball, which his admirers
called an “awfully graceful catch”; and he took much apparent
satisfaction in his general bearing and clothes. The other fielders,
Vincent at right and Sudbury at centre, were steady, hard-working
fellows, who did their duty at bat and in the field to the best of their
ability, and did not know or care whether any one looked at them or not.

Curtis sat watching the play one Saturday afternoon, with Marks on the
seat beside him emitting deep gulps of cigarette smoke and the usual
unbroken stream of baseball chatter. It was a game with a team from one
of the smaller colleges, which had defeated Hillbury eight to four and
was now threatening to shut Seaton out altogether.

“What a fool that Taylor is!” said Curtis. “He’s just struck out again,
and now pretends the umpire is unfair! That’s to save his face. I wonder
why Sands doesn’t try some other man.”

“Some other man!” cried Marks, for a brief instant speechless with
astonishment. “Why, he made a home run in the Colby game, and he’s about
the prettiest fielder on the team.”

“Oh, yes; he’s pretty enough,” returned Curtis, “and knows it, too, but
I’d have some other quality than prettiness on the field if the team
were mine.”

“Well, he gets the balls,—that’s the main thing,” said Marks. “You’ll
find few errors against his name.”

“Do you know why?” returned Curtis. “He never tries for a ball unless
he’s sure he can get it. It’s easy enough to get a fielding record when
you never take any hard chances.”

“But he does,” insisted Marks. “Don’t you remember the long running
catch he made in the Musgrove School game?”

“Yes, I do,” replied Curtis; “and he held the ball, admiring himself,
for four seconds afterward and let the man on third walk home.”

“You’re down on him,” said Marks, not knowing what else to reply.

Curtis sniffed. “Down on him! Well, perhaps I am. Perhaps it would be
better if he were down on himself. When I see him try hard for balls
that he can’t get, or make some good long throws right when they’re
needed, or slide hard to bases, or make a good sacrifice hit, then I’ll
change my opinion.”

“Tompkins has improved, hasn’t he?” said Marks, suddenly changing to a
fresh subject. John Curtis was not an agreeable person to argue with,
for he held his opinions tenaciously and had unpleasant things to say to
those who held opposing views; and Marks, who argued on athletics in a
very fluent and confident style when he had laymen like himself to deal
with, felt a little shy before a real athlete, even though the sport
under discussion was not that in which the athlete excelled.

“That’s right,” replied Curtis, “no great genius with curves, I judge,
but he has good control and uses his head. The difficulty with him is
that he’s a fool, too.”

Marks looked curiously into the football player’s face.

“Apparently every one’s a fool to-day,—every one, I suppose, but John
Curtis.”

“We’ll except present company,—for the sake of politeness,” responded
Curtis, with a malicious smile hovering about his lips. Marks always
bored him. “Tompkins is a fool, but not of the silly, show-off kind like
Taylor. He’s got the stuff in him to make a good pitcher and a chance to
distinguish himself by winning the Hillbury game; but he doesn’t care a
rap whether he pitches or not, and he doesn’t behave himself as he
ought.”

“I don’t understand that. He seems very regular in his training and
practice. He always works hard out here, I’m sure.”

“Oh, I don’t mean that,” Curtis made haste to reply. “Tommy is straight;
he’ll do what he agrees to,—a good deal better than your friend Taylor.
The trouble with Tommy is that he’s always trying fool tricks, like a
small boy in a grammar school. Some day he’ll go too far, and then
there’ll be an end of Tommy. Sands ought to sit on him.”

“Sands tries to, but it doesn’t do any good,” replied Marks. “He doesn’t
care for Sands.”

“Isn’t there some one he does care for?” asked Curtis.

“The only fellow he seems to think anything of is Melvin, the truly
good,” answered Marks, with a sneer. “No one else has any influence over
him, and I doubt if Melvin can make any impression on him. Tommy is
altogether too nutty.”

That night Curtis and Sands appeared at Melvin’s room with serious
faces. Dick heard their tale in silence.

“I’ll tell you what I should do,” he said at length. “I’d give him a
good warning and then I’d fill his place, pitcher or no pitcher. If he
can’t keep out of scrapes, he’s bound to go sooner or later; and if he’s
surely going, the longer you wait the worse it will be. No fellow who
won’t take responsibility or won’t keep training belongs on a Seaton
team, anyway.”

Sands shook his head dolefully. “That’s all very well in theory, but you
can’t make pitchers to order, and Tommy is our only good one. He works
hard, too, uses his head well and improves right along. If he could only
be kept out of mischief, I couldn’t ask for a better man.”

“And we thought you might have some influence with him,” said Curtis,
coming in his usual fashion directly to the point. “Won’t you tackle
him, and see if you can’t get some sense into his head?”

“I’ll see what I can do,” replied Melvin, “but I don’t think it pays to
plead with people. It gives them the swelled head.”

The two visitors departed and Melvin buried himself in his books. Soon,
however, he was interrupted again, this time by a very faint and timid
knock.

“Hello, Littlefield,” he called to the slender, pale-faced boy, a year
or two younger than Phil, who slipped in and closed the door carefully
behind him. “Anything wrong?”

“They were at it again last night,” said the boy, with a look in which
shame and fear were curiously blended. “They couldn’t get in because I
had fixed the window so it couldn’t be opened enough to let any one in;
but they banged something against the outside that frightened me pretty
badly for a few minutes.”

“Did you go to sleep again?”

“Yes, after a while. I heard the clock strike two and three.”

“That’s better than you did the first time you were disturbed.”

“Oh, yes; the time the fellow stuck his head in at midnight and gave
that unearthly yell, I had a terrible shock. I don’t think I slept a
wink that night.”

“I wish we knew when these visitors were likely to appear again,” said
Dick, thoughtfully. “We might have some fun ourselves.”

“I think they are coming to-night,” said Littlefield.

“What makes you think so?”

“The stick I fixed to lock my window is gone; it held the sashes just
the right distance apart. That’s not much of a reason, I know, but I
have a feeling that they will come to-night.”

“What makes you think it is ‘they’?” asked the senior.

“I don’t. I say ‘they,’ but it may be only one.”

“I’m inclined to think it’s one. Whoever it is, he comes on that
projecting ledge, and there’s barely room on it for one. Don’t you want
to swap rooms with me to-night? You take my bed, and I’ll try yours.”

A look of delight flashed suddenly upon the boy’s face. “And let them
find you instead of me! They won’t like that! What shall you do if they
come?”

“I’ll wait and see,” said Melvin.

“Perhaps you won’t mind it,” said the boy, with the worried expression
coming back into his eyes. “If I were stronger, I suppose I shouldn’t.
But it isn’t pleasant to wake up suddenly and hear some one trying to
open your window, or feel in the darkness that there may be a person in
the room. It spoils your sleep, and makes you so nervous you can’t do
any good work. And yet I know it’s a kind of a joke, and I ought not to
let it worry me.”

“A mighty poor joke!” said Phil, who had come in during the
conversation. “A good ducking in Salt River would be the proper price
for such fun! Why don’t you set a steel trap and catch him like any
other rat?”

“Let’s try my scheme first,” said Melvin. “When you’re ready,
Littlefield, come in and take my bed. I shan’t turn in for an hour yet.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------


[Illustration: The Academy through the trees.]


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XVIII

                           A SPILLED PITCHER


LITTLEFIELD crept into Melvin’s bed that night with a sense of security
that he had not felt for weeks, and was soon in a deep, restful sleep.
Melvin undressed in his own room, and then slipped across the hall in
pajamas to the little Prep’s room, turned on the electric light, and
surveyed the field. His first act was to clear away the lighter
furniture, so as to leave an open space about the window at which the
disturbance was wont to occur. Then he filled two pitchers with water
and placed them in convenient positions, one close to the corner of the
bed, the other against the wall opposite. When this was done, he
adjusted the window-sashes after the usual arrangement, and at the top
of the lower sash, in the corner nearest the bed, fastened a nail. To
this he attached one end of a string, and taking the other end with him
as he jumped into bed, he drew it tight and tied it to his finger.

“Now if I can only keep my hand quiet,” he thought as he lay down, “any
movement of the window ought to rouse me; but I suppose I shall begin to
roll as soon as I am asleep, and get the string loose, or wake myself a
dozen times for nothing. I’ll give it a trial, anyway.”

Healthy and unworried, Dick fell asleep almost as soon as his head
touched the pillow. In his sleep he turned slightly in bed and threw one
arm above his head, so that the pressure of the cord on his finger made
itself felt. The pressure occasioned a dream, and the dream at length
brought him back to consciousness. He seemed to be struggling vainly to
free himself from one of the gymnasium rings, to which he was hanging by
a single finger. He squirmed and twisted and strove to cast it off, but
despite his struggles the ring still clung to the finger, and the finger
still clutched the ring. He awoke with a frightened start, relieved to
discover that he was free from the ugly predicament, yet still under the
spell of the vague terror of the vision. With quickened breath and
straining ears, he listened to make sure there was no other reason for
his waking. Except for the distant, labored puffing of a night freight,
as it worked its way through the edge of the town, the silence was
absolute.

Muttering reproaches to himself for the undefined dread that crept into
his heart as he felt the depressing influence of the darkness and quiet,
and the solitary waiting for an unknown assailant, he turned over and
settled himself once more in a comfortable position for sleeping. The
rumbling of the ponderous train died gradually away in the distance,
leaving a stillness unnatural and oppressive.

“I don’t wonder that the little chap’s nerves are unstrung,” thought
Dick. “I can feel my heart throb all over my body.”

The watcher’s nervous tension gradually slackened, and he was just
falling into a doze, when the scrape of a rubber sole on a stone surface
brought him instantly to attention, as the nodding fisherman starts with
the first tug at his line. The sound came clear in the dead silence,
repeated at close intervals as the mysterious visitor crept along the
ledge, setting foot after foot slowly and carefully in place.

At the first distinct noise Melvin had lifted himself upright in bed and
listened intently and fearfully, with his heart madly thumping. Then as
the steps drew nearer, and he realized that the opportunity which he had
longed for was really to be granted, that the perpetrator of the crazy
night pranks would soon be delivered into his hand, the uncanny spell of
the night was instantly broken. Throwing off the useless noose from his
finger, he slipped out of bed, and took his stand close to the wall
beside the window.

It was a moonless night of flying clouds, and Melvin, peeping round the
window casing, could barely distinguish the vague outline of the man
outside, who, clinging to the window stops, was now trying to raise the
lower sash.

“I’ll bet I know you, you lunatic!” thought Melvin, drawing back as the
sash slowly lifted. “We’ll see who has the fun out of this night’s
adventure.”

The visitor now had the window high enough to admit his head and
shoulders; Melvin could hear the shirt scrape against the bottom of the
sash as the intruder worked himself cautiously in. From this sound, as
well as the noise of breathing, the waiting senior knew that his quarry
was within the room as far as the waist. Was this the time to strike?
Would the fellow come in still farther, or merely yell and withdraw
beyond reach? In a flash Dick considered the question and came to his
decision.

The intruder paused, listening for a sound from the bed. Then Dick heard
the drawing of a long deep breath, and knew what it meant. A groan,
awesome and sepulchral, broke the nocturnal stillness, then suddenly
choked and ended in a gasp. Two strong arms caught the prowler’s waist
like the jaws of a steel trap, and jerked the floundering legs through
the window into the room.

Both went down together to the floor, when with the recollection that
the owner of the room could not really be a very powerful adversary, the
intruder recovered his presence of mind and fighting spirit. Sure of his
prey, Dick let himself be rolled toward the side of the room where one
of the pitchers stood; then with a quick wrestler’s turn he twisted
himself on top, found the pitcher and emptied it on his enemy’s head.

While the prostrate boy gulped and sputtered and coughed, Melvin freed
himself and groped his way to the electric light.

“I thought so,” he said coolly, as the light flashed upon Tompkins’s
dripping head and the pool on the floor. “Come, my wild Western Injun,
Brave-Man-not-afraid-of-the-Dark, who makes a specialty of frightening
little boys! Take that towel and help mop up this water.”

They worked for a few minutes without a word. When the task was
finished, Melvin tossed Tompkins a steamer rug from Littlefield’s sofa,
and pointed to a chair.

“Wrap yourself up and sit down. This thing has got to be straightened
out before we part. What have you to say for yourself?”

“Nothing.” Tompkins spoke for the first time.

“Great sport, isn’t it, to scare a timid little chap into brain fever! I
always thought you were half fool, but I never knew before that you were
such a coward.”

“I’m not a coward!” retorted Tompkins, aroused. “I didn’t mean to hurt
the boy, I was just having a little fun.”

“Why didn’t you try it on me then, or some other fellow of your size?”

“It wouldn’t have been any fun.”

“And for the sake of your amusement you keep Littlefield in fear of his
life for weeks. If that isn’t cowardly, what is it?”

“It’s selfish, I admit,” said Tompkins, soberly, “and mean, but not
cowardly.”

“Call it selfish and mean, then,” continued Melvin, “if you prefer. Here
you are chosen by the school to be pitcher on the nine, a position of
honor and responsibility, and you behave like a monkey, doing all sorts
of fool tricks, any one of which the Faculty would think ample reason
for firing you. What do you call that? It seems to me like a breach of
trust.”

“I don’t know,” answered the culprit.

“It’s just as if some one were to give you a thousand dollars to keep
for him and you agreed to take care of it, and then spent it for your
amusement.”

To this Tompkins said nothing at all. The senior paused a minute for a
reply, and then continued: “And the worst thing about you is that you
have no sense or conscience and never will have any. You aren’t bad;
you’re just childish and selfish. But you have apparently set your heart
on getting expelled, and your best friend can’t stop you. It’s really
foolish in me to stand here talking to you at two o’clock in the
morning. You can’t reform, or if you can, you won’t.”

With disgust stamped on every feature, Melvin turned to look at his
watch. When he raised his eyes again, Tompkins was on his feet.

“Yes, I’m a fool, Dick Melvin, I don’t deny it; but I’m not a hopeless
case. I can’t become a school balance wheel like you, but you won’t
catch me in another scrape this year.”

“Do you mean it?” demanded the senior, with a sharp glance at the
speaker’s face.

“I do. I’ll make it right with Littlefield,—and you see if I get into
trouble again.”

Dick held out his hand, and gave the other a cordial clasp, but all he
said was: “Clear out, then, and let me go to sleep. I’ll believe in the
reform when I see it.”

Next morning Melvin waked to find Littlefield standing at his bedside.

“Come, get up,” said the boy, with a grin, “it’s only ten minutes to
breakfast. What did you do with the water pitchers?”

On his way to chapel half an hour later Melvin suddenly felt Varrell’s
grip on his arm.

“Well, Dick, it has happened!”

“What?”

“The thing that I said would happen. The stealing has begun again. Some
one has taken ten dollars from Durand’s bureau drawer.”

“But Durand’s room is in the other entry.”

“That makes no difference. You can reach all the entries through the
basement.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XIX

                        THE COVETED OPPORTUNITY


“I’LL match you for ice-cream soda, Bosworth,” said Marks.

“All right,” replied Bosworth, cheerfully, as he flipped the coin with a
skill born of experience. “Heads it is. I’ll pay, come on. Two ice-cream
sodas, Sam.”

The clerk filled the glasses to the accompaniment of remarks on the ball
games. Sam knew his business; agreeable conversation was served gratis
at the counter with all soda orders. For fellows like Marks this made no
great demand on the server’s originality.

“Taylor didn’t get his home run on Saturday,” remarked the clerk, gazing
out of the window at the passers-by.

“No, he didn’t,” replied Marks. “I don’t know what’s got into Walt. He
hasn’t made a long drive in two games.”

“Getting stale, perhaps,” said the clerk, who had only a dim idea as to
what “stale” meant, but fancied the word.

“A little too sure,” said Marks. “He’ll take a brace before the Hillbury
game.”

“Tompkins is making quite a pitcher.” The clerk offered the suggestion
indifferently. There were two opinions as to Tompkins among his patrons.

“I don’t know about that,” answered Marks, with a knowing tilt of his
head. “Tompkins isn’t anything great when he’s at his best, and when
he’s poor, he’s no good at all. He’s got a good drop and an underhand
rise, and the usual out and in, but that’s about all.”

“It’s Sands who really does the pitching,” added Bosworth, draining his
glass. “Sands tells him exactly where to put the ball, and all the
pitcher has to do is to follow his directions. There’s no great credit
in that.”

The clerk was about to remark that to put the ball where it was wanted
required some ability, but on second thought concluded that he had given
his customers their money’s worth, and remained silent. Bosworth was
going through his pockets.

“I thought I had a quarter,” he murmured, a little confused.

Marks displayed no interest in the search. He had change in his purse,
but it was late in the season to lend. Besides, he did not want to lend
twenty cents: it was too small a sum to ask back again.

“I shall have to break a bill, then,” said Bosworth, drawing out a
ten-dollar note from his waistcoat pocket.

“You’re lucky!” said Marks, opening his eyes. “I’ve only two dollars
left, and it’s ten days to my next allowance.”

The clerk changed the bill with his usual nonchalant air, and turned his
attention to more interesting customers. The two boys sauntered out.

In front of the store they met Poole. Bosworth gave him a stare, and
Marks a cool nod, which Phil returned as coolly.

“He has cheek, that cub, to try for the nine,” said Marks. “I told Sands
he was a fool not to fire him long ago.”

“He’s Melvin’s room-mate,” returned Bosworth, in a spiteful tone. “These
athletic fellows hang together. I shall be surprised if they don’t work
the little lamb in somewhere.”

“Not Sands,” replied Marks. “Favoritism doesn’t go down with him.
There’s been a lot of talk about it, though. I’ve heard fellows say that
the kid was the best thrower in the out-field, and pretend that Lyford
thought so, too. I heard Lyford say one day that Poole was the only man
playing who knew how to bunt; but that’s nothing. I don’t believe
they’ll be likely to put out big husky fellows like Vincent and Sudbury
and Taylor, who are good for long hits, for a little bantam that can
only bunt.”

Bosworth, less interested in baseball than in cultivating the
acquaintance of a man whom he thought popular, drew out his watch.

“I must be getting home,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of Latin to work out
before twelve o’clock.”

Marks sniffed: “Work out! Still doing that, are you? Come up to my room
and I’ll lend you a trot. I’ve got a whole stableful,—Bohns,
Interlinears, Teachers’ Editions, Hinds and Noble,—whatever you want.
It’s the best collection in town.”

                             --------------

On Wednesday the nine played the Harvard Second. Phil sat on the bench
as usual, waiting for the chance that never came, amusing himself by
guessing from the attitude of the players at the bat where their hits
would be, and planning the position he should take in left-field, if he
were playing, for the various men. Ordinarily, when a visiting nine had
already played Hillbury, he contrived to strike up a conversation with
the pitcher or some of the fielders, and learn if possible where and how
the various Hillbury batters had hit. To-day the players from the
University had seemed so imposing—one of them was a famous Varsity
half-back—that the boy had not yet mustered courage to accost them.

By this process of questioning visiting teams, Phil had gathered a very
considerable fund of information about the peculiarities of the
individuals who made up the Hillbury team. The pitchers contributed most
to this fund, for they were often able to recall clearly just what kind
of balls had deceived the respective Hillbury batsmen, and what had
proved unsuccessful. One was easily caught by a sharp drop, another
could not hit a fast straight ball kept high, still another was
regularly fooled by a change of pace. All these discoveries, with other
facts culled from newspaper accounts, went down in the baseball
note-book which Phil had started early in the winter, but no one except
Dick had yet seen. He meant in time to submit the results to Sands and
Tompkins; at present he was still collecting facts.

The game was already past the fourth inning, without a run scored on
either side. The visitors had twice got a man as far as second base,
once on a fumble by Hayes, the short-stop, and a hit to centre-field;
once on a long drive to left-field close to the line, which Taylor ran
for but did not reach. Tompkins was getting acquainted with the batters.
He had his own way of testing a new man. First he tried to drive him
away from the plate by a ball close in. If the batsman pulled away, he
was sure he was pitching to a timid man, and caught him on an assortment
of swift curves; if, on the other hand, the batsman declined to pull
away, Tompkins knew that he had to do with a cool, determined hitter who
would probably be able to detect the curve on the break, and meet it
squarely. To such dangerous men he gave his best drops and worked high
and low straight balls with a change of pace. So far his method had been
successful with the visitors.

Taylor came in at the beginning of the fifth with a pale face. “I’m
afraid I can’t finish out, Archie,” he said to Sands. “I feel so blamed
sick I can hardly stand.”

“What’s the matter?” demanded Sands, with little show of sympathy.

“My stomach’s out of order, I think,” groaned Taylor. “I haven’t been
well all day.”

“What have you been putting into it?”

“Nothing,—that is, nothing unusual.”

Sands peered at him for an instant questioningly. “Well, then, go home
and lie down. Here, Poole, take Taylor’s place. You’re up next.”

The blood rushed to Phil’s face; his pulse began to leap in excited
throbs. He was to have a chance in a real game,—a hard game, too! He
bent over the pile of bats to choose his favorite, glad of an
opportunity to hide his confusion, and a little afraid of hearing
unfriendly criticism.

“Now’s your chance to show what’s in you, Phil,” said Watson, the third
baseman, who liked the boy. “You can hit him all right.”

“Stand up to the plate,” warned Sands, “and don’t let him frighten you.
Manning isn’t as bad as he looks.”

Sudbury had two strikes called on him, then hit a liner over second.

“Now, Phil,” said Tompkins, quietly, “you know what we expect of you.”

Poole planted his left foot firmly beside the plate, raised his bat, and
waited, wondering whether Manning would try on him the method Tompkins
used for new men. The pitcher wound himself up with the usual absurd
motion, and sent a ball whistling hot, that veered suddenly off the
plate. Phil smiled to himself and gripped the bat more firmly. “No, I’ll
not bite at any such,” he said to himself. “Old Rowley has given me too
many of them.” Next came a drop, but it was low. “Two balls!” Then one
close in, which the batter hesitated on and then let pass. This was also
called a ball. The next was straight and fast.

“I know you,” thought Phil, and swung straight at it, meeting the ball
fairly “on the nose.” As he sped exultantly away to first, he saw the
ball cutting a line well above the first baseman’s head. Knowing that
the hit was good for two bases at least, he rounded first with all his
attention centred on his running, passed second, and then, looking for
the ball for the first time and seeing the right-fielder just about to
throw, he went on easily to third, where Watson caught him by the
shoulders and made him pause. Sudbury was already back upon the bench.

“Splendid!” exclaimed Watson. “I always said you could do it. Bring your
fielding to that level, and you’ll get your ‘S.’”

Sands went out on strikes; Waddington hit a long fly to centre, which
the Harvard fielder got under without much exertion and secured. He
threw it in with all the speed he could, but Phil, who was waiting on
the bag for the ball to touch the fielder’s hands, was off with the
Harvard man’s first motion, and easily beat the ball to the plate.

“Why didn’t he throw to second, and let second throw it home?” inquired
Tompkins of the coach. “Wouldn’t that have been quicker?”

“I think so, at that distance,” said Lyford. “The great out-fielder
makes a single long throw, but with players of average ability two quick
line throws will bring the ball in sooner and more accurately.”

Hayes hit to second base and made the third man out. The Seatonians
trotted contentedly away to their positions; they were sure of two runs,
anyway.

Out at left Phil was abandoned to his own devices. Either because he
wanted to try the player, or because he had no distinct notion as to
where the batter was likely to hit, Sands gave no hint as to the best
position for the fielder to take. As Hawkins, the second baseman, who
led the batting list, stood boldly up to the plate as if he were longing
to pound the first ball pitched, Phil took a position well out, drawing,
he knew not why, somewhat toward the side-lines. Hawkins did pound the
first ball pitched, but he struck a trifle too soon, and a little
underneath. The result was a beautiful high foul over by the benches on
the edge of the field. Instinctively, as the ball rose, the left-fielder
started. It fell easily into his hands ten yards outside the foul line.
The second batter went out on a grounder to Watson. The next man up sent
a fly between centre and left, which Poole, who was nearer, also took.
In five minutes Seaton was at bat again.

In the sixth and seventh neither side scored, though the collegians
repeatedly got men on bases, and Phil captured another fly, this time in
short out-field. In the eighth the visitors, through an error by
Robinson, and hard hitting, succeeded in tying the score.

The schoolboys came in for the last inning a little depressed. Hillbury
had beaten the Harvard Second six to four. If their rivals had made six
runs, in the face of a good pitcher like Manning, while Seaton could
make but two, the inference was obvious. With three balls called,
Robinson went out on strikes. Watson got his base on balls. Sudbury made
his second hit,—a clean drive to centre, advancing Watson to third. Phil
took his bat and started for the plate.

“Bunt the first one and let Watson come home,” said Lyford, as Phil
passed him.

“I can bunt a low ball,” said Phil, “but what shall I do if it comes
high?”

“Hit it out,” said Lyford.

There were calls for the batter, and Phil hurried to his position, took
a firm stand, and waited. The first one was low and a little wide, but
Phil reached over to meet it, and dropped it along the side-lines
halfway between home and third. The same instant he was off, running
with all his might for first. Watson had started at half speed with the
pitch, and on the bunt came on with all his strength, reaching home just
as the pitcher picked up the ball. Meantime Phil, with his left-hander’s
start, was safe at first when the pitcher threw to cut him off, and
Sudbury went on to third.

The schoolboys on the benches cheered loudly at the successful play,
breaking suddenly off to watch the next move. Sands hit at the first
ball pitched and sent a grounder to the third baseman, who fumbled just
long enough to prevent his throw to first. Then came two strikes on
Waddington in quick succession. Sands gave the signal for a double
steal, and on the next pitch started hard for second, and Phil a trifle
later for third. The Harvard catcher hesitated, then threw to third; but
in his haste he threw a little wide and the boy slid safely. Waddington
went out on strikes, and Hayes took his place.

“Two men out, run on anything!” shouted Watson at the side-lines. The
Harvard catcher pretended a passed ball, and ran back a few feet, but
Watson saw the trick and kept Phil on the base. Hayes had two strikes
and three balls called on him. The crowd waited eagerly for the next
pitch.

“Four balls!” Hayes sped away to first, Manning snarled and stamped, the
crowd yelled. Tompkins came up bat in hand, with a determined look on
his face. “One ball!” The catcher threw to third, but Phil, who was
watching the ball as a cat watches the low flight of a bird, flung
himself back in safety. The Harvard third, pretending to throw to first,
let drive at second. Sands scrambled back as best he could, but the ball
reached the base before he did, and only the error of the second
baseman, who seemed as much surprised as Sands, saved the latter from an
out.

Tompkins, who knew he was no batter, was waiting. “Two balls!” “One
strike!” The next one tempted him and he hit at it, but it was a wide
out curve. “Two strikes!” Then came an in curve, sweeping in over the
corner of the plate. Tommy did not want to try it at all, but he knew
that if he did not, he should go out on called strikes; so he smote at
it with all his strength, and was as much surprised as Manning, though
by no means so unpleasantly, to see the ball go flying over the third
baseman’s head.

Phil came trotting in, followed closely by Sands, while Hayes paused at
third. And then Tompkins, having glorified himself and brought in two
runners by a two-base hit, ventured too far off second, and was
ignominiously put out on a quick throw from the pitcher.

In their half of the inning, the Harvard men tried hard to retrieve
themselves. The first man up went out on strikes. Big Gerold then
proceeded to pound the ball to the left-field fence. Phil got it back in
season to hold the man on third, but the next man brought in the run
with a single. Then followed two easy in-field flies, and the game was
over with the score five to three in favor of Seaton.

The students went home elated. Tompkins had held the heavy batters down
to a few hits, the nine had fielded well and had hit the ball when hits
were all-important. The forecast for the Hillbury game seemed at least
fair.

“Well, what do you think now?” said the coach to Sands, as they walked
slowly over to the dressing rooms.

“About the game? Why, it was a good one; the best yet, I think.”

“No, about Poole. Isn’t he a better man than Taylor?”

“I wish I knew,” replied Sands. “He certainly batted well to-day. I
doubt if we should have done as well with Taylor. He caught three flies
too, but two of those came into his hands.”

The coach smiled. “Did you give him any directions as to where he should
stand?”

“Why, no, I let him take his own position.”

“Then, do you know that those three flies, coming in two innings, were
in totally different parts of the field?”

“What of it?” asked Sands, perplexed.

“Why, the boy has a good fielder’s instinct; he guesses well where the
batter is likely to hit.”

“That may be luck,” replied the captain, thoughtfully.

“In my opinion, at least, there is no question as to the men,” said the
coach, rather curtly. “Poole is better at the bat, better as a fielder,
and better in another respect.”

“What’s that?”

“He takes good care of himself.” And with this last opinion Sands had to
agree.

On Thursday and Friday the team practiced as usual, Poole batting with
the squad, and catching flies with the out-field. Taylor was back in his
place.

On Saturday morning Sands hailed Phil as they were coming out of chapel:
“Be out early this afternoon.”

Phil nodded, and went on into the mathematics room. “Another afternoon
on the bench,” he thought dismally. “Taylor’s stomach isn’t likely to
fail him again.”

As he entered his room an hour later, he found Melvin deep in the
semi-weekly Seatonian which had just been delivered.

“See here, Phil,” called his room-mate, with a joyful light dancing in
his eyes; “here’s information for you!”

And Phil, looking over Melvin’s shoulder at the passage in the “Notes
and Brevities” pointed out by the stout forefinger, read, “Poole will
play left-field in the game with the Harvard freshmen this afternoon.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER XX

                           AN UNEXPECTED BLOW


“WELL, Dick, another case of thieving,—or losing. You can’t tell
anything about a careless fellow like Hayes.”

“What is it this time,” asked Dick, “money?”

“Yes,” replied Varrell, “a purse out of his clothes in the gymnasium
locker. He dressed early for ball practice, and tucked his key under the
locker door. When he came back, the money was gone.”

“It’s strange we can’t stop this thing!” exclaimed Melvin.

“There were a dozen fellows in the locker rooms during the afternoon.
Bosworth was one, of course, and he was there early, but no one suspects
him. Hayes thinks it was one of the bowling-alley boys, and Farnum, who
told me about it, charges it to the painter. I know who did it, I’ll
bet; but I have no more proof than in the case of the safe.”

“Given that up at last, haven’t you?” said Melvin, with a broad smile of
amusement on his face. “You’re great on theories and suspicions, and can
read a man’s lips fifty feet away, but all the same, when it comes to
facts, you’re not there.”

“That may be so, and may not be,” said Varrell, with an air of
superiority. “I don’t pretend to be a detective, but I haven’t given up
hope, and shall not give it up till I board the train after the college
exams in June. The fellow is getting reckless, and will sooner or later
expose himself. All we can do is to watch and wait.”

“Watch and wait!” sniffed Melvin. “That’s what we’ve been doing, isn’t
it? and see, what has the result been? Durand has lost money, and Hayes
has lost money, and we’re no nearer getting our hands on the thief than
we were before.”

“Oh, yes, we are,” said Varrell. “To begin with, Eddy has become
intimate again with Bosworth. I have seen him two or three times lately
in Bosworth’s room. Yesterday they had a hot discussion about something,
and some of it was carried on near the window while I was at work behind
my blinds. With the help of my Zeiss opera-glass I caught several
expressions that gave me a clew to the conversation.”

“What did they say?” asked Dick, eagerly.

“Well, Bosworth was the first one who appeared. He came to the window,
wearing that sneering look of his, and looked down to see if there was
any one outside. Before he turned around he looked across to my window,
and as he did so, he said: ‘You can’t help yourself. You’re in it as
deep as I am. You gave me the information and shared the profits. If I
get into trouble, I take you with me.’ Then both remained away for some
minutes. Eddy was the next to show himself, with tears running down his
cheeks, and his chin jerking with sobs, so that it was hard to follow
the motion of his lips. Apparently he said nothing for a minute, but
just leaned his forehead against the frame of the lower sash, which was
raised high. Suddenly he clenched his fist and brought it down on the
window seat, and cried out, ‘I won’t keep the dirty money! I’ll pay you
back the first of next month, and then you will see, you miserable—’ He
turned his head away so that I couldn’t see the next words. Bosworth
appeared immediately and pulled him away from the window.”

“Poor little fool!” said Melvin, sadly. “What a pity we can’t do
something to save him from that rascal! Bosworth has apparently got some
grip on him and is scaring the life out of him.”

“He’s probably lent Eddy money, and by pretending it’s a part of what
was in the safe, has tied the boy’s tongue. It is clear that Eddy holds
the key to the situation. If some one could only induce him to tell what
he knows, it would give us the evidence we need to banish Bosworth, and
might help us to save Eddy. Does Phil know him well?”

“I don’t think they are intimate,” replied Dick, “but they know each
other fairly well.”

“Why can’t Phil draw the little chap out?” said Varrell. “It’s for the
boy’s own good.”

Phil yielded with bad grace to the older boys’ request. To a character
transparently frank and wholly detesting underhand methods, the task
savored of dishonesty. Only when he was assured that Eddy was in the
power of a dangerous person whose grip on the boy it was important to
break at the earliest possible moment, did he consent to make the
attempt.

The next morning he offered to join Eddy in his room for the working out
of the algebra problems. Eddy accepted the offer with alacrity, both
because he welcomed assistance and because he was pleased to have a boy
like Poole in his room. When the lesson was at an end, Phil asked him
flatly what he found attractive in Bosworth. Eddy became red and white
by turns, and said he didn’t know. Then Phil pressed his question, and
Eddy “didn’t know” and “couldn’t tell” until a great storm of tears and
sobs melted the heart of the unwilling inquisitor, and brought the
examination to an abrupt close. Phil had just resolution enough left
before he fled the painful scene, to urge the unfortunate boy to let
Bosworth wholly alone, and if he had anything bad on his conscience to
confide it to Grim or some one else who could help him.

“That settles it for the present,” said Varrell, when he heard the
report. “The scoundrel has the little fool tied hand and foot. We must
play the waiting game a while longer.”

“If Grim knew what we know, he would worm the facts out of Eddy in ten
minutes,” said Phil.

“I’m not so sure of it,” replied Varrell. “That’s the last card, anyway;
I’m not willing to play that yet.”

The season was drawing toward its interesting end. On the following
Saturday was to be held the school track meet, a week later the contest
with Hillbury, and after another week the great baseball game with the
same rivals. Before and after the athletic contests, and sprinkled in
among them, came the Morgan Prize Speaking, the Morgan Composition
Reading, the contests for the English and Mathematical prizes, class
dinners, society elections, preparation for class-day,—opportunities and
pleasures of every variety to goad the conscientious and inspire the
indifferent. Varrell restricted his ambition to his studies and pole
vaulting, and so had strength in reserve for the still hunt after
“Beelzebub,”—a name which after three months of Milton gradually and
naturally replaced “Bosworth” in the private conversations of the two
friends.

Melvin’s occupations were more varied. Besides his regular school work,
which he was anxious to do well to the very end, there were the
troublesome duties of track manager to be performed, the regular jumping
practice to be kept up, and a class-day part to prepare. The “still
hunt” he left to Varrell, who undertook to do the watching while Dick
attended to the waiting.

The cares of management proved considerably greater than Melvin had
anticipated. In addition to the worry of collecting subscriptions, and
the necessity of bothering with the large number of men and numerous
details involved in a dozen events, he found himself bearing burdens
that really belonged to another. Dickinson, the captain, possessed a
very peculiar character. He could run like a deer. In the two-twenty and
the quarter ordinary handicaps seemed of no use against him. This year
he had been experimenting with the hundred yards as well, and in two
trials out of three, he could give Tommy Travers, who had been for two
years the best hundred-yard man in school, three or four yards and beat
him with ease. Yet with this marvelous natural ability, which had lifted
him suddenly the year before from a position of unimportance to one of
great popularity, he had only a slight interest in his sport. He ran
because the school wanted him to run, not because he either loved the
sport or hankered after the glory of winning. Left to himself, he would
sooner or later have abandoned the track altogether and settled back
into solitary moping with his books. As it was, he often appeared moody
and apathetic, and neglected many of the duties which a captain likes
especially to perform. Inspiration and push had to come from the
manager.

The jumping took a course discouragingly uncertain. Almost every day
Dick began his practice with the feeling that he had reached his limit.
Sometimes, as he dropped an inch or two below previous records, he was
convinced of it. Then, on the next day, perhaps, or the day after, when
he had concluded that there was no great jump in him, and that he must
be satisfied with a moderate achievement, he would surprise himself by
going a half inch higher than he had ever attained before. And there
were times, when he had enjoyed a particularly long and restful sleep,
or his physical condition was exactly right, at which he really felt
like jumping. Then his ambition went wild, and he told himself,
exultantly, that the limit was still far away. Such days came rarely.
Should he have one on the twenty-third, or more important still, on the
thirtieth?

On Tuesday evening Dick and Varrell and Phil went together to the chapel
to hear the Prize Speaking. Curtis joined them at the door, and all four
took seats near the front. It was a long performance, but the boys
listened with interest, and amused themselves by guessing on the merits
of the contestants, as speech followed speech in close succession.
Curtis voted for Planter, Melvin for Durand, Varrell for Todd, and Phil
for a boy who delivered an extract from a speech by Henry Clay. When the
judges returned the award of first prize to Planter, second to Von
Gersdorf, and honorable mention for Todd and Durand, each flattered
himself on his critical judgment.

Varrell said good night at the steps of Carter, and went on to his own
dormitory. Curtis, who was in a talkative mood, proposed to “go up for a
minute.” When he had settled himself in an arm-chair, Phil, who
distrusted such “minutes,” gathered up his Greek books and retreated to
a classmate’s room across the hall.

“Do you know, Dick, Planter is the kind of fellow I admire. He ranks
well,—almost as well as you do,—and he’s an editor of the Seatonian and
on the Lit., and is always to the fore on an occasion like this.
Fletcher is a better scholar, I suppose, but he’s nothing else; Planter
can write and speak as well as get marks; he has good manners too, and
is always a gentleman.”

“I didn’t know you admired gentle qualities,” said Dick, amused, “and as
for marks, why, it’s only this year that you’ve been on friendly terms
with any kind of school-books.”

“Better late than never. I’ve had a lot of new ideas this year.”

“Are you going back on athletics?” asked Dick.

“They are all right in their place. I wouldn’t exchange my football
experiences for anything this crank factory ever gave to Daniel Webster
or any other great genius who got his first ‘call down’ on our benches.
But I don’t want to be always John Curtis the football player. I want
something better than that.”

“John Curtis the Harvard freshman?” suggested Dick.

Curtis smiled grimly. “That’s what I’m going to be, if it’s possible for
the possessor of my brains. I’m making headway, too. If I’d only begun
last year, I might have been somewhere now.”

“You can do it yet,” said Dick, encouragingly.

“I’ll make a bluff at it, anyway,” replied the football captain; “but
it’s like trying to rush the ball seventy yards in the last ten minutes
of the game.”

Phil came in, looked significantly at the clock, and took off his coat.

“Yes, I know it’s time for me to go,” said Curtis, struggling to his
feet. “We’re all in training, and ought to be in bed by this time. That
was a good game you put up last Saturday.”

Phil looked at him suspiciously.

“Oh, I mean it,” added Curtis. “And you’ll have the crowd with you, too,
if you can keep it up. Don’t mind what you hear from Marks and that
gang.”

On Thursday Dick came home promptly after supper for a long evening’s
pull at his class-day part. Phil was already there.

“Did you see that letter from Cambridge, Dick?” he asked. “I put it on
the mantelpiece.”

Melvin took it up carelessly. “From Martin,” he said, glancing at the
address. “I wonder what he wants.”

He opened it while Phil stood quietly by, waiting for news of their old
school friend. As Melvin read, a tense, serious look came over his face,
and he lifted his head instinctively, as if to meet an adversary. After
he had finished, he still held the letter in his hand, and sat staring
stupidly at the window.

“What is it?” cried Phil. “Has anything happened to Martin?”

“No, but something has happened to us. Read it and see.”

And Phil read this:—

    “DEAR OLD DICK: Just a word to tell you of some kind of a scheme on
    foot to protest Dickinson. I got it from a junior who rooms in my
    entry, who got it from an old Hillbury man. They say that Dickinson
    ran in a race in Indiana last Fourth of July for a money prize, and
    they have posters to show that he was advertised to take part in the
    race. Is it so? If it is, he has buried himself for school and
    college athletics as deep as China. If it isn’t, you’ll have to
    disprove the charge fair and square, beyond the point where a doubt
    can be imagined, or they’ll shut him out. Bestir yourself!

        “Yours and Seaton’s forever,

        “L. M. M.”

“What are you going to do?” asked Phil, as Dick put on his hat.

“I’m going to have it out with Dickinson first,” replied the senior,
bitterly. “Then we’ll see what’s to be done.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXI

                           A GLOOMY PROSPECT


DICKINSON was in his room. He had just returned, also planning for a
long pull at his books, the usual evening routine for him. Melvin banged
at the door, then jerked it open with little ceremony. Dickinson looked
up in mild wonder.

“Hello! I thought you had consecrated your evening to the Muses. What’s
up? You look as if you were on the war-path.”

“I am,” answered the visitor, fiercely. His face was set in harsh lines,
while his voice, which he vainly strove to control, came forth choked
and strained and trembling. “Do you know what makes a professional?”

“Why, I suppose I do,” replied the wondering Dickinson, who was giving
less attention to the question than to his friend’s unaccountable
agitation.

“Well, what is it?”

“Why, to play for money or your board, or any such compensation.”

“Anything else?”

“Yes, to compete with professionals, or for money prizes, or—”

“Or what?” demanded the questioner.

“Or take part in some kind of an open contest, which the governing
boards for some technical reason or other forbid. I never understood
about it very well,—in fact, never concerned myself with it. It doesn’t
affect us, and it seemed to me quite enough to know the general rules.
The genuine amateur doesn’t need rules, anyway. His own instinct for
what’s right and fair would keep him straight.”

“Oh, it would!” replied the manager with virulent sarcasm.

“Yes, it would!” retorted Dickinson, catching fire himself at the
persistent cross-examination. “What’s got into you, anyway? Why do you
come here in this choking, crazy fashion and ask me wild questions? What
do you mean?”

Dickinson was standing now, facing his visitor with a challenging look,
which warned Melvin that he was beginning wrong. He hesitated a moment,
trying to control his voice, and groping for a simple way back to the
proper path.

“Well, what is it?” demanded Dickinson, in peremptory tones. “Don’t
stand there rolling your eyes. Out with it!”

“It’s about you, Jim,” said Melvin, at last, abandoning any attempt at a
wise leading of the conversation, and speaking, as his anger cooled
somewhat, with less animosity and more sorrow in his voice. “Did you
really run in Indiana last summer with professionals for a money prize?”

For a short minute Dickinson blinked at the questioner in stupefaction.
Then with a quick transformation, as memory presented a picture of a
past occurrence, the blood came rushing to his cheeks and a fierce light
blazed in his eyes.

“Well, what about it?” demanded Dick, again the examiner, but losing his
bitterness before the glare of indignation which Dickinson threw upon
him. “Can’t you speak?”

“There’s no use in speaking,” answered the runner, sullenly. “If you
think I’m that kind of a man, it makes no difference what I say. My word
wouldn’t be good for anything. A man will always lie about the first
money he gets for athletics.”

“It’s a question of knowing, not of thinking,” said Dick.

“Exactly!” returned Dickinson, bitterly. “And this is the way you know
me! If my running hasn’t given any better impression of me than that,
I’ll stop it altogether. I never wanted to run. You drove me into it
against my will. I will slip out with pleasure.”

“Hang it, Jim! answer my question, won’t you?” cried Dick, desperate.
“Did you run last summer in a Fourth of July race with professionals, or
not?”

“Of course I didn’t,” replied Dickinson, sulkily. “You ought to have
more sense than to take stock in such a yarn. I never ran a race in my
life except in this school and at Hillbury last year.”

Melvin drew a long breath. His courage was coming back and his wrath was
cooling, but the mystery was yet to be explained.

“How did this story start, then?”

“What story?” snapped Dickinson.

“Why, that you did take part in some such race in your town last
summer,” returned Dick, patiently, yet feeling that Dickinson’s present
balkiness certainly warranted suspicion of past folly if not of guilt.

“I don’t know anything about any story,” answered Dickinson. “I was
asked to run in the races and declined. Through some misunderstanding my
name was mentioned in the advertisements, but I did not run,—in fact,
was not even present.”

“Was your name down in the handbills?”

“It may have been. I don’t know about that.”

“Who was the manager?”

“I don’t recall his name—one of the sporting men around town. I know the
name of the head of the general committee, and that’s all.”

“Would he be able to give us a certificate proving that you did not
compete?”

“He’s in Europe,” answered Dickinson. “He wouldn’t be of any use if he
were here. He had nothing to do with the sports at all, and he doesn’t
know me from Adam.”

“But there must be some one to whom you can write for evidence,” cried
Melvin, in despair. “Wouldn’t your father look the matter up for you, or
your clergyman or your high school principal?”

Dickinson’s features relaxed into a mournful smile. “My father indeed!
Haven’t I told you of his attitude on the subject? He’d welcome any
pretext that would shut me out. And as for Dr. Monroe, our minister,
he’s a fine old man and one of the best friends I have in the world, but
I shouldn’t wish to send him round the streets looking up evidence
regarding my running. The principal of the high school would do the job
thoroughly if we could give him plenty of time, but he’s a very busy man
and might not get to it immediately.”

“Might not get to it immediately!” echoed Melvin. “Why, Jim, do you know
how much time we have?—just five days. The protest will have to be met
on Wednesday. If we are not prepared then, judgment will go against us.”

“They’ll have to give us reasonable time in which to disprove charges,
won’t they?” retorted Dickinson. “They certainly don’t expect every
fellow to carry round in his pocket certificates of his amateur
standing.”

“The rules say definitely that protests must be decided on the Wednesday
before the games, and Hillbury will take good care that the rules are
followed. Whatever we do must be done before Wednesday. We must write
the letters to-night.”

“Let’s talk it over with Varrell first,” said Dickinson, “he knows more
than all the rest of us put together. It may be that he will think of
some way of getting us out of the hole.”

The meeting was adjourned to Varrell’s room, where the facts were
discussed again. The wisdom of Varrell furnished no other expedient than
that already proposed of writing to several men whose names Dickinson
had mentioned, in the hope that out of the whole number at least one
would answer fully and promptly, with evidence that could not be
gainsaid.

Late in the evening the captain and the manager separated, having
written the letters and made sure of their prompt departure by carrying
them to the office instead of leaving them in the street boxes. Anxious
as the boys were to speed the cause, there was nothing now left to them
but to wait quietly for the returning messages and control their
impatience as best they could. To Dickinson, whose temperament inclined
to moroseness, this waiting was not so difficult. He had always shown an
inconceivable indifference to the athletic ambition which was so
powerful an animus in the lives of the boys about him. The immediate
effect of the unpleasant news was to change his indifference to disgust.
The accusation was groundless and unjust; if he must prove his innocence
against every absurd charge which could be suddenly trumped up against
him, the sooner he was done with athletics the better. The game was not
worth the candle.

Weary of the disagreeable subject, Dickinson went to bed and fell
quickly asleep. Not so the unfortunate manager. To him the fleet runner
was a school possession, intrusted to his keeping as a fine blade to the
care of the armorer, who must produce it at the call of its owner,
glittering, keen, and ready for instant use. He heard the clock strike
twelve and one, as he rolled nervously from one side of the bed to the
other, vainly courting elusive sleep, or brooding over the perplexing
situation. Dickinson might not have suggested the right men to appeal
to; the letters might not reach their destination safely; the people to
whom they were addressed might not answer promptly; the committee might
not give proper weight to the answers received. He recalled with alarm
stories he had read in newspapers of the accidental destruction of mail
cars. The letters would be forwarded together; an accident to a single
pouch would stop them all. He groaned aloud as he pictured himself and
Dickinson and the school waiting hopeful and helpless, day after day,
mail after mail, for letters which, having never been sent, could never
arrive.

Varrell also was awake late. Stretched in his easy-chair, with feet
comfortably cushioned on the window-seat, he gazed out into the peaceful
night and pondered the same problem which was distressing his friend.
When at length he rose to his feet and turned up the light, there was
the shadow of a smile on his face and a gleam of satisfaction in his
eye, which indicated that one at least of the three seniors had cudgeled
his brain to some purpose.

The trio came together next morning on the way to chapel.

“Did you get the letters off?” asked Varrell.

Melvin nodded.

“Did you write to the newspapers?” continued Varrell. “The newspaper men
are usually best posted on local happenings.”

Manager and captain looked at each other in surprise. “We didn’t think
of them,” confessed Dickinson. “There’s the _Times_ and the _Chronicle_.
Some one in those offices ought to know the facts perfectly well.”

“I’ll write to them both immediately after chapel,” said Melvin,
joyfully. “Much obliged, Wrenn; I knew you’d help us.”

While Melvin composed his letters, Varrell was at the telegraph office
sending messages to the same addresses. But he kept his own counsel.

The school sports were held on Saturday, with rather disappointing
results. Dickinson won his races, as was expected, but he made no new
records, and his form was evidently not as good as he had shown in the
same sports a year before. The school was disappointed, but not
hopelessly so, for Marks’s expert opinion that Dickinson had reached his
limit and would now go backward, found no general acceptance outside his
own small set. Melvin won second place in the high jump, barely
succeeding in doing five feet five, though in practice the week before
he had several times got easily over the bar at five feet six. It was
little comfort to him to know, as the others did not, that his slump was
due, not to inability, but to anxiety for Dickinson. Varrell alone of
the three gained glory by the work of the day, winning his event by a
vault only a trifle below the school record.

That night came formal notice of the protest of Dickinson, to be
adjudicated on the following Wednesday. The news flashed through the
school with the usual electrifying force, charging every loyal heart
with dismay and indignation.

------------------------------------------------------------------------


[Illustration: In the Campus Woods.]


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXII

                       THE DECISION OF THE COURT


“WE certainly ought to hear to-night,” said Melvin on Monday, as, with
Phil and Dickinson, he hung round the office, waiting for the mail to be
distributed. “If the letters arrived Saturday, and the people attended
to the matter promptly, the answers might have been mailed Saturday
night.”

“More likely they didn’t arrive until Saturday night or this morning,”
replied Dickinson, who took a less optimistic view. “Then if the people
are like most others when you ask them for a favor, they’ll get round to
the thing on Tuesday or later, and the letters may arrive on Thursday or
any time during the following week—if indeed they are written at all.”

Nothing for Melvin; nothing for Dickinson; two papers for Varrell;
Dick’s heart sank.

“We have all day to-morrow, and the first mail on Wednesday,” he said at
length, as the trio turned gloomily homeward.

A figure passed them on the other side of the lane, hurrying toward the
office.

“Here are a couple of papers for you, Varrell,” called Phil. But Varrell
was already past, unresponsive to the hail.

“Throw them at him!” growled Dickinson. “He never hears anything when
his back is turned.”

Phil hit the mark, and Varrell stooped for the parcels.

“Not a letter, Wrenn, not a blamed letter for any of us; just these
papers for you. I felt like throwing them into the river!”

“I’m glad you didn’t,” replied Varrell, studying the postmark. “I’ll
take half a loaf any time, even if you fellows get no bread. Old
newspapers are sometimes valuable.”

Tuesday was not a day of profitable study for Melvin. He went to his
recitations, but in some he got excused, and in others he blundered most
shabbily. His whole attention was given to waiting on the mails. In the
morning nothing, in the afternoon nothing, at night a single
be-smooched, bescrawled envelope, bearing the postmark “Ralston,
Indiana”!

“The jewel at last,” grinned Varrell, as he read the address over
Melvin’s shoulder. “Open the case!”

“It isn’t a joking matter,” replied Dick, seriously. “A good deal hangs
on this letter.”

“Dirt especially,” said Varrell. “Come, open it up!”

Melvin cut the envelope carefully and brought the following to light:—


    This is to sertify that Jim Dickson did not run in the 4th July
    Sports as advertysed

          Yours resply

          Michael Ryan


“Is that all?” asked Varrell.

Melvin examined again. “Everything.”

“I’m afraid he couldn’t pass English A,” said Varrell.

They walked for some minutes in silence, Melvin too much disgusted with
his companion’s flippancy to speak.

“If you can talk seriously, I’d like to ask you something,” he said at
length; “but I don’t want any more nonsense.”

“I’m serious,” replied Varrell, gravely.

“What do you think of it? Will they take it or not?”

“I’m afraid it’s no good,” said Varrell. “What they want is evidence
complete and certain, that can’t be dodged or questioned or denied. This
is proof only to those who will accept its authority; it isn’t what they
call irrefragable.”

Melvin groaned. “You might at least have spared me a word like that.”

The grin stole back upon Varrell’s face. Melvin turned away indignant
and disheartened.

Varrell clutched the stern-faced youth by the arm. “Dick, don’t go off
mad! I’m not so useless as I seem. Come up to the room and let me show
you something.”

Ten minutes later, the athletic manager came plunging down the stairs
four steps at a time, his face aglow with smiles, his whole being
radiant with the joy that follows a long-borne disappointment, as the
sun comes forth more glorious after slow dark days of northeast storm.

“The old rascal!” he muttered; “the shrewd old foxy rascal! and he’s had
the thing in his pocket all day! I felt like kicking him and hugging him
at the same time. If I could only have a try at the high jump now!
Couldn’t I do six feet!”

Two flights down, across the yard, two flights up! He found Dickinson
with his nose in a dictionary of antiquities, packing away learning by
the cubic inch. The nose came out in a trice; when it went back, a good
half hour afterward, it had lost somewhat the keenness of its scent for
facts, and the two eyes above it gleamed bright and determined. Thence
the manager hied him home to bed, and slept nine solid, refreshing
hours.

The official student representative on the Hillbury-Seaton athletic
committee was the captain of the team. As Dickinson was naturally
excluded from the discussion by the fact that his own name was under
protest, Melvin was to take his place. He was accompanied to the station
by Curtis and Varrell.

“Rub it in if you get the chance,” said Curtis, savagely. “It’s one of
their tricks; don’t spare ’em.”

“I hope you’ll do no such thing,” said the pacific Varrell. “It wouldn’t
be either courteous or safe. I believe they’re quite square about the
thing; and you must assume that they are, anyway, even if you think
differently.”

“I agree with you,” said Dick, thoughtfully. “The advertisement
certainly gives a very strong ground for suspicion, and our case isn’t
so sure that we can afford to stir up any unpleasant feelings.”

“The main thing is to go carefully and arouse as little opposition as
possible,” continued Varrell. “Stick to the plan we laid out if you
can.”

The train came roaring and clanking in.

“Don’t let ’em fool you, anyway,” said Curtis, giving a hard grip to the
manager’s arm. “Come back victorious or we’ll lynch you.”

“And don’t play your trump card first,” added Varrell.

The meeting was held in Boston. The committee was composed of six
members, one from the students, one from the faculty, and one from the
alumni, of each school. Hillbury was represented by Professor Loder, Mr.
Harkins, a shrewd lawyer, and Captain McGee of the Hillbury track team.
For Seaton appeared besides Melvin, Mr. Pope to represent the faculty,
and Dr. Brayton, a young Boston surgeon, who, with all the engagements
and responsibilities of a busy practice, was still willing to undergo
some sacrifice to serve his school. Mr. Pope was made chairman and
Professor Loder secretary.

“Our business is to decide concerning the protest made by the Hillbury
manager against Dickinson,” said the chairman. “I will read the protest
and then ask Mr. Harkins, who is used to presenting cases in court, to
make a statement of the charges.”

“I’m used to appearing as attorney, not as judge,” returned the lawyer,
smiling. “Here we are acting in a judicial capacity.”

Dick studied the lawyer’s face as the protest was read, and came
speedily to the conclusion that he should like Mr. Harkins less as judge
than as attorney. The face was mobile and intelligent, yet something in
its lines suggested unscrupulousness. Dick had but little time in which
to gain this impression, for Mr. Harkins’s words, rather than his face,
now received his whole attention.

“The charge, briefly stated, is that Dickinson has been associated with
professional runners in an open race, contrary to the most fundamental
rule of amateur athletics.”

“When and where?” inquired Dr. Brayton, turning to the Hillbury captain.

“On July fourth of last year, in Ralston, Indiana,” replied McGee,
promptly.

“What is your source of information?”

“The advertisements. Mr. Harkins, will you kindly pass the poster to Dr.
Brayton?”

It was a large-lettered notice, such as one frequently sees displayed in
shop windows, announcing among other attractions a race for a prize of
fifteen dollars, in which Smith, Doyle, Jackson, and “J. W. Dickinson,
who holds many school and college records,” would compete.

The fateful poster passed from hand to hand about the table. Dick
awaited his turn with curiosity, yet with a heavy sinking of the heart.
Was it possible that this miserable sheet of coarse paper should have
power to work so much harm?

“What answer does Dickinson make?” said Dr. Brayton, at length, turning
to Melvin.

“He denies that he has ever run in any race in his life except in the
Seaton and Hillbury contests,” answered Melvin, speaking with a little
tremor in his voice, but yet composedly and coolly. “The advertisement
was made without his consent or knowledge.”

“While it may seem invidious to question the sufficiency of a man’s
word,” said Mr. Harkins, with a bland smile, “I think you gentlemen will
all agree with me that we should be false to our duty if we accepted Mr.
Dickinson’s unsupported denial as a conclusive answer to the protest.”

“Of course,” replied Dr. Brayton, promptly. “The only question is where
the burden of proof lies.”

“On the defendant, I should say very positively,” said Professor Loder.
“We are striving to maintain our contests on such a high plane that not
a breath of suspicion can be cast on the amateur standing of any one who
competes in them. This advertisement has thrown serious doubts on the
eligibility of Dickinson for the school sports. It is for him to clear
himself of suspicion.”

A moment’s silence followed before Mr. Harkins spoke again: “If I may be
allowed another word, I should like to add that the principle to be
followed is not the maxim of the criminal courts,—‘It is better that
nine guilty men escape rather than that one innocent man should
suffer,’—but the famous direction of President Grant, ‘Let no guilty man
escape!’ Less harm is done by barring five unfairly than by allowing one
to compete who has forfeited his privilege.”

“You and I were not so sure about that twenty years ago,” said Dr.
Brayton, with a smile. “If you displace a man unjustly, you interfere
with the equality of the representation, and the contests are again
unfair. What we are after here is the facts in the case. We all agree
that this poster raises a reasonable doubt as to the eligibility of
Dickinson. Is this all we are to know about it?”

“Mr. Melvin has some counter evidence to put in,” said the chairman.

Dick awoke with a start. He had been so much absorbed in following the
argument of the older members of the committee that he had for the
moment forgotten the task devolving on him.

“I think I ought to say,” remarked Melvin, as he drew from his pocket
the illiterate missive of Michael Ryan, “that this protest was entirely
unexpected, and we were allowed a very short time in which to prepare a
defence. If we had not heard of it by chance a day or two before the
notice came, we should have had absolutely nothing to offer.”

“I am sorry to hear that,” said Professor Loder, looking sharply at
McGee. “That seems unfair.”

“We didn’t find it out until late,” said McGee, reddening, “and then we
had to call a meeting.”

“We wrote to Ralston immediately,” continued Melvin, “and have received
this certificate from the manager of the athletic sports referred to in
the poster. If there had been more time, we should probably have more
letters to present.”

He handed the scrawl to the chairman, who gave it a glance and passed it
to Dr. Brayton. The latter smiled over it and handed it to his neighbor.
So it developed smiles as it went the round until all were smiling
except Dick, whose face was purple with confusion, but bitterly stern.

“I’d like to see this put in as evidence in a court of law,” chuckled
Mr. Harkins. “It bears neither date nor attestation, concerns one
Dickson, not Dickinson, and gives no hint as to Michael’s authority.”

“I shouldn’t wonder if Michael could explain himself if he were here,”
said Dr. Brayton, thoughtfully.

“You certainly wouldn’t give weight to an indefinite unauthenticated
certificate like that!” protested Mr. Harkins.

“Yes, if I were convinced that it represented a genuine attempt to give
the information we ask,” replied Dr. Brayton. “I don’t know whether to
take this seriously or not.”

“What evidence should you consider sufficient to disprove the charge?”
asked Mr. Pope, turning to Mr. Harkins. Dick gave the teacher a grateful
look; it was the question he wanted to ask.

“Why—er—” Mr. Harkins was momentarily at a loss; his interest was all on
the negative side. “Why, any trustworthy record of the day’s events
which showed that Dickinson did not take part.”

“There probably was no official report,” Dick ventured to say.

“Well, any definite statement by reliable people who were in a position
to know,” said Professor Loder.

“A newspaper report of the day’s events, perhaps?” suggested Dick,
trying to control his eagerness.

“Yes, if it were definite,” assented the professor.

“Well, here is a paper published in Ralston on the sixth of July, and
while it describes the games and names the contestants, it makes no
mention of Dickinson.”

Dr. Brayton took the paper and examined the passage carefully, then
turned it over to Professor Loder and Mr. Harkins, who put their heads
together over it. At length the lawyer looked up with a gracious smile,
and said in his smoothest judicial tones:—

“I am sorry, Mr. Melvin, but this is by no means conclusive. Certain
names of contestants are given, with their places at the finish, but
there is nothing here to prove that Dickinson did not start and fall so
far behind as not to finish. I am sorry to disappoint you, but I should
hardly feel justified myself in accepting this negative evidence as
confuting the plain statement of the poster.”

“Then the report of the proceedings would prove nothing after all,” said
Dick, bitterly. “Professor Loder has just said that the newspaper report
would be sufficient.”

“It would,” replied Mr. Harkins, with forbearance, “if it had contained
the plain statement that Dickinson did not run.”

“Is that your idea, too?” asked Dick, turning to Professor Loder. The
boy’s heart was fluttering, his hands and knees shook under the table,
but his voice was steady, and for this he felt unspeakably grateful.

“Certainly,” said Professor Loder, with some sharpness in his voice. “We
do not demand the impossible. If the newspaper had stated that Dickinson
did not run, there would be nothing more to say.”

“Then there _is_ nothing more to say,” declared Dick, leaping to his
feet in his eagerness to relieve the nervous tension which had been
growing more and more acute as the discussion went on. “Here is the
_Ralston Chronicle_, which makes that very statement.”

Mr. Harkins seized the paper and studied the black-lined passage with
evident chagrin. He was still studying, not wholly hopeless of a flaw,
when Professor Loder, after looking over the lawyer’s shoulder at the
paragraph, said: “Yes, that seems to settle it; the protest must be
withdrawn. I am sorry, however, that you could not have been more frank
with us.”

Dick flushed deep red. “I hope, sir, you don’t think I’ve taken an
underhand course. I only meant to make sure that the newspaper statement
would be accepted as sufficient evidence. You see, sir, I am positive
that Dickinson is innocent, because I know him and trust him, but I
couldn’t tell how the evidence would appeal to others.”

“And so you committed us first and then put in the evidence,” said Dr.
Brayton. “The fact is, Professor Loder, that the great danger in these
discussions lies, not in any difference in ideals, but in the vagueness
of our notions as to what constitutes proof of guilt or innocence. I am
inclined to think Mr. Melvin’s method has tended to bring us sooner to
an agreement.”

Professor Loder made no reply. The _Chronicle_ passed slowly around the
table. Mr. Harkins conceived some new plan, and returned to the
discussion.

“To tell the truth, I don’t like this kind of evidence,” he began,
solemnly.

Professor Loder gave him a look of disapproval. “I don’t see how you can
honestly object to it. It is of the same kind as that of the poster, but
much more definite and authoritative.”

The words brought a glint of gratitude and respect into the Seaton
manager’s eyes. It was apparent that there were fair and honest men in
the Hillbury Faculty as well as at Seaton.

“Is this the only case cited under the charge?” asked Mr. Harkins,
turning with impatience to McGee.

“The only one I know of,” answered the lad. Mr. Harkins relapsed into
ill-humored silence.

“Am I then to assume that we have reached a definite conclusion?” asked
the chairman.

“I move that the committee report itself satisfied as to the
groundlessness of the charges, and that the Hillbury manager be given
leave to withdraw the protest,” said Professor Loder, promptly.

The motion was put and unanimously carried. The meeting broke up. Mr.
Harkins alleged important business, offered a general farewell, and
hurriedly departed. Dick lingered to thank Professor Loder and Dr.
Brayton for their courtesy and fairness, arranged with McGee a few
details concerning the games, and then hastened to the telegraph office
to send the joyful news ahead.

He was received by the boys that night as a victorious diplomat
returning from an international Congress. The only circumstance to mar
his complete happiness was the reluctance of the school to believe that
Varrell, and Varrell alone, deserved the credit for securing the
evidence and for the successful presentation of it.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XXIII

                          THE GREAT TRACK MEET


TWO days of uneasiness and discussion, and the momentous Saturday was at
hand. The indifference which Melvin felt at the beginning of the season,
when the responsibilities of the management were loaded upon his
shoulders, had long since vanished. He had begun with it as a task, as a
burden to be borne because he could bear it better than any one else; he
had put into it the best of his energy and the best of his thought, he
had worried and sacrificed and labored for the cause. It seemed to him
now almost as if the team were his, struggling for him and for the
school. His anxiety could not have been greater if his own future
happiness and the welfare of the school had really been dependent on the
success of the team.

From the moment the news was received that the protest had been
rejected, Dickinson ceased to be a mere ornament to the team and became
a real captain. There was fire in him now, and determination and genuine
enthusiasm. His whole attitude was one of confidence and of conscious
power, that lifted the weakest man in the squad out of his humiliating
sense of incapacity, and made him feel that he was one of a strong
company led by a strong man, and himself capable of greater things than
he had ever yet accomplished.

In the mass-meeting of the school the night before the games, when the
boys gathered in loyal force to give their team a “send-off” for the
morrow, nothing that was said by student or graduate or friend stirred
such response in the hearts of the school as the short, plain, virile
exhortation of the captain.

And no athletes need personal inspiration as do the members of a track
team. The football player stands shoulder to shoulder with his fellows,
the strong helps the weak and shares with him the glory of victory. The
baseball score may show hits and errors against the same member of a
winning team. The runner, on the other hand, enters the field alone,
fights his brief battle unaided, and either fails his team wholly or
makes an individual contribution to its success; he cannot be pushed on
to victory by the efforts of another.

The wind was easterly on Saturday, bringing in from the sea a heavy
thickness of atmosphere, yet with barely sufficient vitality to move the
leaves. The air chilled like a March fog.

“What do you think of it?” asked Melvin, as he met Dickinson at
breakfast.

“The weather? It’s bad on the nerves, but worse for the Hillburyites,
who aren’t used to it as we are. I don’t mind it myself. All I ask is
that we have no wind to buck against, and no rain.”

“It’s hard on the jumpers. When the air is cold and heavy, you can’t put
any force into your spring.”

“Weather doesn’t influence me as much as other conditions do,” said
Varrell. “I find it a great deal easier to jump when there’s a big,
eager crowd, and the excitement runs high.”

“You’ll have excitement enough, if that’s all you want,” said Dick,
grimly. “This Hillbury team is coming up here to win. I happen to know
that they’re counting on some of the very events that we’ve been
reckoning as surely ours. If we beat Hillbury to-day, we shall have to
make new records to do it.”

“Let’s have the new records, then, by all means,” said Varrell, looking
across the table at the silent captain.

On the way to chapel Tompkins joined them. “Good speech you made last
night, Jimmy,” said the pitcher, “better than anything I heard at the
Prize Speaking.”

Dickinson nodded in acknowledgment of the compliment.

“You can’t fail us after that speech,” continued Tompkins. “I know a
couple of fellows in Hillbury, and they brag of Ropes and Lary like an
agent selling a gold mine. Don’t let them do you up.”

“They won’t unless they’re better men. If they are, we want them to
win.”

“Not exactly,” returned Tompkins. “Let the best team win, of course,
only make sure we don’t lose.”

Melvin snorted in ridicule. “You crazy cowboy! How can we help losing if
the best team is Hillbury, and Hillbury wins? You don’t mean that we’re
to beat them dishonestly?”

“My meaning is too deep for gladiatorial brains like yours,” said Tommy,
edging off. “I’ll explain later.”

The Hillburyites came by a special train in solid phalanx, happy and
hopeful. The year’s records were in their favor by a considerable
margin. Dickinson and Curtis were the only men really feared, for Todd
they considered as good as beaten, and the rest of the Seaton team,
while allowed a certain number of points in accordance with the general
principle of chance, were assessed at a low valuation.

At half-past two the Seaton bleachers, packed to their full capacity,
were bellowing their welcome to the hundred-yards men, who had just
appeared at the head of the stretch. Lary, the Hillbury champion, and
Dickinson were side by side,—the former a short, solid, muscular figure,
quick in every motion, the latter tall and lithe, and deliberate even to
slowness. Melvin watched the preparations with an unexpected fear
creeping into his heart. Was this solid, business-like person with the
knotty legs and confident manner to steal a start on the Seaton captain
and keep ahead to the finish? Crack! sounded the pistol and away went
the men, rising from the crouching position with an instantaneous leap
and throwing themselves forward into their strides.

It was true! Lary was ahead at the start by five yards, his short-legs
flashing over the unscarred surface of the track as the wings of a
buzzing insect beat the air,—behind him Dickinson and Travers, and
behind still farther the second Hillbury runner, who did not count in
the score. For five seconds the three came on with the same apparent
interval, then number two crept away from number three and up toward
number one. Eight seconds, nine, ten, the stop-watches registered. A
fraction more and the short sprinter was at the tape, Dickinson but six
inches behind, and Travers in third place!

How the visitors howled at this, the first augury of the day’s success!
The great Dickinson beaten in the very first race! The announcer’s big
megaphone roared forth the record,—it equalled the best of either
school. The points gained—Hillbury five, Seaton three—were chalked on
the board; and the crowd, like a hungry dog who waits greedily for a
second piece of meat, turned expectant to the next event.

The half-mile was conceded to Willbur of Hillbury. In the Seaton
estimates, however, Maine of Seaton had been counted on to win second
place and Faxon third. Willbur ran a beautiful race that set the
Hillburyites wild with pride, establishing a new dual record; but
unfortunately for Seaton, the second man, who was twenty yards behind,
proved to be, not Maine, but Towle of Hillbury, while Maine made a very
poor third. The score went up—Hillbury twelve, Seaton four—and the
hearts of the Seatonians down. The beginning was bad.

Meantime the shot-put, which had been started with the first run, was
drawing near its end. Here at last was encouragement for the home team,
for every prize fell to the wearer of a red S. Curtis was ahead as
usual, with Farlow, a big two hundred pounder, second, and Trapp third.

“We’ve evened it up now, Toddy,” cried Melvin, joyfully, as the men came
out for the high hurdles. “We want seven points here, you know.”

“I’ll do my best,” said Todd; “that’s all any one can do. That Rawson
may beat me, after all. They say he can do it in seventeen flat.”

“Nonsense!” retorted Melvin. “Go in and beat him.”

The start was in the Hillbury man’s favor. Rawson flew down the stretch,
knocking over half his hurdles in his course, going like a torpedo boat
in a rough sea. Just behind him came Todd, taking three swift strides
between hurdles and rising like a bird swooping up in its flight. They
seemed neck and neck at the last obstacle, but here Rawson struck hard
and lost his stride, and Todd was easily first at the finish. Smith of
Seaton was third, making the score Hillbury fourteen, Seaton eighteen.

“Now’s your chance for revenge,” said Curtis, as Dickinson started forth
for the two-twenty. “Show those fellows what you can do, when you really
have room to get headway. And we shouldn’t object to a new record, you
know.”

The captain smiled grimly. “I shall be satisfied to win.”

Dickinson took his place with Travers and Ropes and Lary, at the
starting line where the curve of the track began. They were a
well-tested quartet. Lary was fresh from his victory in the hundred;
Travers had prizes from contests of previous years; Ropes was a new man,
hailed by the Hillbury coachers as a coming champion. To Dickinson it
seemed the race of his life, so eager was he to atone for the
disappointment he had given his schoolmates in his first race.

The runners got off in pairs, Travers and Lary ahead; Ropes and
Dickinson side by side, gathering headway in the rear. Around the curve
it seemed that Travers was ahead, but as the runners struck the
straightaway, they were seen to tail out into a diagonal line across the
track, Lary leading, then Travers, then Ropes, and Dickinson last. The
Hillburyites, seeing the dreaded champion in the rear, emitted an
incoherent howl of exultation.

“Will you look at that!” cried Curtis, who stood by Melvin, near the
finish line. “Outclassed, as sure as guns!”

“No! No! Watch it out!” cried Dick, in answer. Down the track swept the
line of white-clad, shaking, struggling figures. When it passed the
Seaton benches Dick could see the excited spectators throw up their
arms, could hear the yells, and guess that the long-legs were putting
the ground behind them. A moment more, and he knew that the struggle was
between Ropes and Dickinson for the lead; and then, as the white figures
flashed by, he saw that the racers had tailed out again in the reverse
order, Dickinson, Ropes, Travers, and Lary. And so the judges reported
them in the finish. Score, Seaton twenty-four, Hillbury sixteen.

As the mile runners came out Melvin had word that the captain wished to
see him. He found Dickinson in the dressing rooms, under the hands of
the rubber.

“That was splendid, old man, perfectly splendid!” began the manager.

Dickinson checked him: “I didn’t bring you in here to tell me that
stuff. It’s something serious. Do you know we’re not doing well? I don’t
blame any one, of course. We’ve won certain points, but there are those
field events at the end of the list that we aren’t at all sure of. We
must get down to them with a good margin, or we’ll be beaten.”

Dick nodded silently. The high jump was to be the last event; he did not
need to be told that his chance of winning this was very problematical.

“Now, I’m entered for the broad jump,” said the captain. “I put my name
down because it did no harm to have it there, and occasionally, you
know, I’ve made a good jump. I’m wondering if I hadn’t better go in and
try two or three times, on the chance of adding a point or two to the
score.”

“But the four-forty?” exclaimed Melvin. “That comes right after.”

“That’s the point. Is there any risk? Their best man in the quarter is
Ropes, but I’ve run past him once to-day and can do it again. I don’t
feel exhausted at all, and you know the quarter is my run. I have no
confidence that Brown will do anything at all in the broad jump, and
Hillbury has two good jumpers at least. Shall I take the risk of hurting
myself for the chance of winning a couple of points?”

“Broad jumpers out!” sounded the official warning at the door of the
quarters.

“I think I’ll do it,” decided Dickinson, as Melvin hesitated.

The Hillburyites were cheering when the jumpers came out; the mile had
yielded Hillbury five points and Seaton three.

“Still six ahead!” said Melvin, looking at the board.

Dickinson took one jump—nineteen feet six; then one more—twenty feet two
inches; and went back to the house to have his ankle rubbed again. He
did not learn until he came out for the quarter some time later, that he
had won second prize, while Brown had made nothing at all. Hillbury had
taken first and third.

“Twenty-seven to twenty-nine, old man!” whispered Curtis, as Todd
sallied forth for the low hurdles. “They’re crawling up. Discourage
them, can’t you?”

“I don’t know,” responded Todd, quietly. “I’m not afraid of Rawson, but
Harding is another proposition. I can’t do the impossible.”

The hammer-throwing was started at the same time; and Curtis after his
first throw found himself pitted against such superior men that his
whole attention was concentrated on the new and unpleasant problem of
beating men who were better than himself. He did see the race, for the
hammer men interrupted their contest a minute to watch the hurdlers; but
about all his absorbed mind took in, as the runners flew by, was a
vision of two figures with faces set in a wild, harsh grimace, one
bearing blue and the other red letters on his breast, skimming the
hurdles with identical stride, like horses trotting in span, and behind
again more blue letters and more red. There was a tremendous howling in
both camps, for the race was close to the finish, and each side felt
confidence in its own champion. Soon, however, Hillbury ceased to cheer,
while Seaton broke out afresh, and Curtis knew that Todd had won.

The big football player went back to his post, determined not to fail
his trusting schoolmates. Todd had won five points in the race just
finished, and Hillbury three. The score was now Hillbury thirty, Seaton
thirty-four; but of the three events left, only one, the quarter, could
be counted safely Seaton’s, and the other two might yield a big addition
to the Hillbury score. It was in the present event that the games must
be won. Eager and fearful, he took his fourth and fifth trials. Still
behind! Desperate with disappointment, poor Curtis grasped his hammer
for the last time, swung it wildly round, and, with all the strength of
his body concentrated in one final, convulsive jerk, sent it flying
through the air.

“Too high!” he groaned, as the measurers stretched their tape over the
ground. “I’m done for.” And so it was. His best throw had given him
barely third place. The score now showed a balance for Hillbury of
thirty-seven to thirty-five.

Discouraged as they were, the Seatonian cheerers went wild again as
Dickinson’s tall, familiar form emerged once more upon the track. Not a
soul among them doubted for a moment that he would win the race. The
Hillburyites themselves had always passed over the event in their most
optimistic calculations. Their chances seemed even less now, for Ropes
had already failed them, and Willbur had run one hard race in
record-making time, and could not be in condition to meet the champion.
Dickinson himself gave no attention to his rivals; he started at his own
pace, a little below his maximum, but rapid enough to be discouraging to
the other contestants, and went fast and hard, as if he delighted in the
speed, and could run the more easily the faster the pace. The runners
were close together around the curve; on the back stretch Willbur forged
ahead; at the end of the stretch Dickinson had barely caught him, and
the two swayed into the curve with the Hillbury man on the inside,
flying with a sprinter’s gait, with every muscle strained, and the
strength of every heart-beat thrown recklessly into his speed. In a mass
the spectators, Seaton and Hillbury, rose to their feet, and in a
spontaneous, discordant howl, that defied the control of leaders, hurled
encouragement and applause at the struggling pair. Around the curve the
blue still gained; at the opening of the straightaway, still led by two
yards. Then, as the long strides began to creep up behind him, the
plucky half-miler’s pace suddenly slackened; he staggered and fell his
length upon the track. While kindly arms lifted him and bore him away,
the tall Seatonian swept on to the finish, and four seconds later Ropes
and Watson came trailing in.

There was furious cheering when the figures of the new record appeared
on the board,—cheering, too, that warms the heart as well as deafens the
ears, for Seaton cheered first for their captain and then for Willbur,
whose desperate attempt had driven Dickinson to his best; and Hillbury
cheered Willbur and then Dickinson. Both sides felt the better for this
mutual politeness; but the freshly posted score, Hillbury thirty-nine,
Seaton forty-one, and the advent of the pole-vaulters, soon brought the
eager partisans back to a consciousness of their rivalry.

The bar went up by the slow, tiresome intervals familiar to spectators
of such games,—nine feet three, nine feet eight, nine feet nine. At ten
feet Varrell and Phillippe of Hillbury alone remained in the contest, a
Hillbury man having gained third place. Both men vaulted ten feet two,
but at ten three Varrell failed, and Phillippe managed to wriggle over.
Hillbury had added six points to her score, making forty-five to
Seaton’s forty-three.

And now for the final contest to determine whether Hillbury was to keep
the lead to the end! There was a sober conference at the Seaton quarters
as Dick and Benson came forth. It was short, for there was really
nothing to say. Seaton must gain first place to tie,—first and another
to win. McGee of Hillbury had a record of five feet eight and a half;
Dick had never jumped more than five feet seven. The odds were against
him and against Seaton. If he lost, it would be the critical event which
he was losing, and the splendid work of Todd and Dickinson and others
would go for nothing.

“Keep up your courage, Dicky, my boy,” whispered Curtis. “You’ve beaten
him once about the protest; you can do him up again. He’s afraid of you,
don’t forget that! Keep ahead of him and he’ll go to pieces.”

That this was foolish talk, Dick knew well, but in some way it gave him
heart, and the strong cheering from Seaton benches steadied him. He went
over the lower heights with ease, McGee as successfully, though with
less grace. At five four Dick was the only Seaton man left in the
contest, while there were still two contestants wearing the blue. At
five five he and McGee were alone. The bar now went up half an inch at a
time, and as often as Melvin cleared the new height a shout of relief
would rise from the Seaton benches, echoed again by Hillbury when McGee
duplicated the jump. At five feet seven McGee failed, but succeeded the
second time. At five seven and a half Melvin also failed at first, but
cleared on a second trial, and McGee wriggled over, touching the bar,
but luckily not knocking it off. He fell in a heap in the pit of soft
earth behind the uprights, but was up again in a moment, seemingly
unhurt.

The bar was placed at five feet eight.

“If he fails on that, we’re done for,” said Curtis in Todd’s ear; “and
he can’t do it; it’s beyond him.”

“Stop your croaking!” retorted Todd. “I say he can.”

Melvin paced his distance in absolute silence. The leaders of the
cheering had abandoned their duties, and like the rest of the eager
crowd were intent on the jumper, their hearts in sympathy leaping with
him.

And while the crowd watched his every motion, Melvin himself saw nothing
but the bar ahead of him with the white handkerchief upon it, and the
height and the distance, and the infinite desirability of clearing the
white handkerchief and the bar without moving them from their
resting-place. A short, nervous run, with his eyes fixed on the bar; a
crouch like that of the panther springing for its prey; and up he
floated and over the white square as if five feet eight were an easy
stint, and his legs adjusted themselves automatically to the bar.

That jump settled the contests, for McGee failed three times and was
out; and the score remained a tie. Seatonians and Hillburyites alike
sent forth victorious yells, and then, lapsing into silence, went their
respective ways, wondering whether they were really victors or
vanquished. And only such as had prizes in their hands were sure that
the day had not gone against them.

“Hi, Dick!” yelled Tompkins from the end of the corridor, as Melvin came
upstairs to his room. “You did it, after all!”

“We did and we didn’t,” answered Dick, lingering in his doorway.
“Perhaps we ought to be satisfied, for it seems to me that the Hillbury
team was really the better one.”

“Then I was right.”

“About what?” asked Dick, whose mind was oblivious to all the happenings
of the day except those of the last few hours.

“Why, about what I said this morning. Hillbury was the better team, and
yet you didn’t lose.”

“That’s a fact,” said Dick, his face breaking into a smile.

“The next time don’t call a man crazy just because he comes from
Montana,” pursued Tompkins, with an air of seriousness. “He may have a
prophetic vision.”


                      THE FINAL SCORE OF THE GAMES

                  ════════════════╤═════════╤═════════
                                  │HILLBURY │ SEATON
                  ────────────────┼─────────┼─────────
                  100 Yards Dash  │    5    │    3
                  880 Yards Run   │    7    │    1
                  Putting the Shot│    0    │    8
                  120 Yards Hurdle│    2    │    6
                  220 Yards Dash  │    2    │    6
                  Mile Run        │    5    │    3
                  Broad Jump      │    6    │    2
                  220 Yards Hurdle│    3    │    5
                  Hammer Throw    │    7    │    1
                  440 Yards Run   │    2    │    6
                  Pole Vault      │    6    │    2
                  High Jump       │    3    │    5
                  ────────────────┼─────────┼─────────
                  Total           │   48    │   48
                  ────────────────┴─────────┴─────────

         First place counting 5 points, second 2, and third 1.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXIV

                           THE HILLBURY GAME


ON the following Monday Mr. Moore waited on the Principal in great
agitation.

“I am in despair about little Eddy,” said he. “It seems as though I
could not endure that miserable, white, vacant face in my room another
day. He has done no work worthy of the name in a fortnight, and I see no
way of making him do any.”

“You have talked with him about it, I suppose?” suggested Mr. Graham.

“Repeatedly, and with all the tact I possess. I have tried to win his
confidence by kindness; I have expostulated with him, I have threatened
him, I have ridiculed him; I have given him long tasks to write out:
nothing that I can say or do has the slightest effect on the little
mule. Sometimes I think he is actuated by a feeling of personal malice
toward me, and the thought makes me so nervous that I can hardly conduct
my recitation.”

Mr. Graham smiled: “You have no ground for that feeling, I am sure, for
similar reports have come to me from other teachers.” He paused a
moment, and his expression became sombre as he went on: “The boy has
evidently something very serious on his mind. I will talk with him
myself. Do you know whether he is still intimate with Bosworth? You have
a high opinion of Bosworth, I believe.”

Mr. Moore hesitated, and, passing over the question, replied to the
suggestion: “I used to have; since I caught him writing composition
exercises for Marks, I do not feel so sure about him. Still, he does his
work for me in a way that I cannot complain of.”

“Do you think he could be guilty of the thieving from rooms that is
going on in Carter and Hale?”

“Thieving! I should hope not! Do you suspect him?”

“I do and I don’t,” replied Mr. Graham, wearily. “He spends more money
than any boy ought to spend who is receiving help from the school. On
two occasions at least, when money was taken, I satisfied myself that he
might have done it, but I had no direct evidence against him, not even
enough to warrant calling him up and questioning him about it. Meantime
the thieving still goes on. There was another case in Hale on Saturday.”

Mr. Moore looked solemn. “What a scandal! It ought certainly to be
stopped, even if we have to employ detectives. Could you not introduce a
detective of youthful appearance as a new boy?”

The Principal shook his head. “New boys don’t enter school on the first
of June. Besides, I am opposed on principle to such methods. This is a
crime by a boy against boys. The boys by their carelessness and
negligence are partially responsible for what has occurred. They can and
ought to ferret out the offender themselves.”

“I’m afraid you will accomplish little if you rely on the coöperation of
boys,” said Mr. Moore, as he rose to go. “They always stand by one
another and cover up one another’s sins. At any rate, don’t suspect poor
Bosworth until you have incontrovertible proof. The worst thing I know
against him is his intimacy with that little wretch, Eddy.”

The interview between Eddy and the Principal was very unsatisfactory.
Early in the course of it the boy lapsed into tears, and his answers
were interjected between sobs that shook his own frail body and wrung
the master’s heart. He did his best for Mr. Moore; he was not well and
had not been for weeks. No, he hadn’t anything on his mind. He shouldn’t
be sorry if he were sent home; he didn’t care for the school or the boys
in it, except one.

“Bosworth?” suggested Mr. Graham, gently.

“No, sir,” replied the boy, emphatically, an expression of repugnance
flitting over his face. “I mean Phil Poole. He’s the only one who has
ever been kind to me.”

With this leading to follow, the Principal relaxed the sternness of his
method, and pleaded with the boy to open his heart frankly, with full
confidence that he would be treated kindly and fairly. More tears, more
violent sobs, more convulsive protestations of innocence. Either Eddy
would tell nothing, or he had nothing to tell.

The next morning, in chapel, Mr. Graham expressed the indignation he
felt that sneak thievery in the dormitories should continue, and
reminded the boys that they shared with him the responsibility for the
conduct of the school. The admonition was hardly necessary, for the
students were already thoroughly aroused. They discussed the cases from
every side, and uttered vague and terrible threats as to what would be
done with the malefactor if they once got him in their hands. The
discussion yielded no result except to bring the names of a dozen
innocent lads into temporary disrepute; and threats, as Varrell
disconsolately remarked to Melvin, are of no use when addressed to no
one in particular.

“Hillbury day” came. For the last fortnight the nine had been playing a
steady game, which, if not brilliant, was at least thoroughly good; and
the school, having shaken itself clear of the wavering mood in which
hope and fear seesaw up and down with every fresh rumor from the rival
diamond, had settled finally into a cautiously sanguine frame of mind.
There were still some who spoke with disapproval of the favoritism which
displaced a veteran and put a young boy like Poole into an important
field; but among this small number the generally rampant patriotism
proved too strong for personal prejudice. Even Marks, whose baseball
lingo would have discouraged a sporting editor, and who asserted that
the “kid would queer the gang”—even silly, slangy, sporting Marks only
half believed what he said, and was really quite willing that the
fielder should distinguish himself, if this was necessary to the success
of the team.

The crowd poured into the campus that afternoon as if there were no end
to it. Word had gone forth that the nine had a “show to win,” and the
younger graduates thronged the regular trains. As Dick, clutching
proudly his cheerleader’s baton, walked along the line of seats to the
centre section, where the cheering force was clustered, he caught
glimpses of familiar faces of old boys smiling down at him from among
the rows of straw hats and gay parasols. He recognized Varrell perched
on the topmost bench, and shook his baton at him in a vain effort to
attract his notice. But Varrell’s attention was elsewhere, and Dick got
no return for his demonstration except a scowl from Bosworth, who
occupied a seat halfway up, at the edge of the entrance passage.
Presently the nines appeared, and in the din of yells and the confusion
of waving banners, Dick’s whole attention was devoted to following
Planter’s leadership and keeping his own side of the section in proper
time.

While the Hillbury nine was taking its practice, Melvin slipped over to
the players’ bench for a last word with Tompkins and Poole, and was
delighted to find them both cool and determined.

“How I’m feeling? Bully!” replied Tompkins. “If only I knew how to
pitch, I could do wonders to-day.”

“Give us your best, that’s good enough for us,” returned the senior,
clapping him on the shoulder.

“I’m going to put up my best bluff, anyway,” answered Tommy. “If I fail,
it won’t be because I don’t try.”

“Don’t let ’em rattle you,” urged Melvin.

“You needn’t worry about that,” put in Phil. “This pitcher doesn’t
rattle.”

Just then the umpire called the game, and Melvin hurried back to his
charge. Hillbury took the field. Millan, after leisurely rubbing the new
ball in the grass beside the pitcher’s box, while his friends were
roaring encouraging cheers, put in a hot one over the corner of the
plate. “One strike!” The next was a ball; the third Vincent struck at
and raised a high foul, gathered in by the first baseman. Robinson hit
at the first ball pitched, and dropped an easy fly in the
centre-fielder’s reach; Watson went out ignominiously on strikes; and
the Hillbury team came trotting smilingly in, quite satisfied that they
deserved the three long ringing Hillburys thrown at them by a grateful
constituency.

The red letters scattered to their places. Stevens, who headed the
Hillbury list, went to bat with an appearance of confidence and power.
But his bold air belied his real feelings. Nervous and uncertain, he let
the first ball pass and heard it called a strike, struck foolishly at
the second, which was out of his reach, and then, after a ball had been
called, hit a slow bounder to the pitcher. Hood, who followed, did not
touch the ball, though he struck hard at it thrice; and Franklin dropped
a weak fly into Robinson’s hands. Seaton came in for their second inning
after a short five minutes in the field. “Poole up!” Phil picked out his
favorite bat, fixed his feet firmly on the ground, and boldly facing the
pitcher, tried to forget that this was the Hillbury game, and to see in
the man before him, not the redoubtable Millan, but a practice pitcher
whose balls were easy if closely watched. The first was wide, the second
too low; the third he caught squarely and drove it over the uncovered
second base into the out-field. It was the first hit of the game, and
the Seatonians noised their joy abroad in a splendid “hullabaloo.”

And now, in addition to the senseless exhortations of the fielders:
“Right at ’em now!” “Right in the middle of the big mitt!” “Put it over,
old boy!” were heard the yells of the coacher, whose object usually
seems to be to confuse the pitcher rather than to help the base-runner.
Phil clung to first while Sudbury struck twice and then went out on a
long fly, and Sands hit a pop foul that the third baseman easily caught.
With two men out, Phil started on the first pitch to steal second. That
he was successful was due as much to the catcher’s high throw as to his
own speed, for the second baseman had to jump for the ball, and while he
was in the air Phil slid safely in to the base. A good single now would
bring in the run, and the Seatonians, with a silent eagerness that the
cheer-leaders did not try to interrupt, waited to see if Waddington
would meet their hopes. “One strike! One ball! Two balls! Two strikes!”
and Waddington cracked out a pretty liner over third that brought Poole
home and put the batsman on second. Hayes went out on a grounder to
short-stop.

Hillbury came in determined to hit the ball. Ribot drove a hard bounder
to third, where Watson trapped the ball on the ground and fielded
cleanly to first. Kleindienst went out on strikes, and Haley, after
three balls had been called, hit a long fly to left-field that looked to
be a three-base hit. Phil was off with the hit, racing for the spot
where the ball was to fall, and sure, after his first glance over his
shoulder, that he would be able to reach it. But the crowd was not so
sure, and when at the end of his run he suddenly turned and pulled the
ball down, a howl of applause rose from the Seaton benches that for the
moment made the cheer-leaders seem quite useless ornaments. As Dick
stood waiting for this outburst to pass, he glanced curiously along the
tiers of eager faces, and suddenly became conscious that one spectator
seemed to have no share in the general delight. Untouched by the
excitement raging about him, Bosworth sat darkly glowering out over the
diamond, a melancholy island in a heaving sea of joy.


[Illustration: He suddenly turned and pulled the ball down.–Page 292.]


The third inning passed without changing the score. In the fourth,
Watson and Poole went out on in-field hits, and Sudbury was left at
second when Sands struck out. Hillbury began well when Hood got his base
on balls; if Franklin disappointed his friends by sending a fly to
short-stop, Ribot made up for the failure by driving the second ball
pitched in a straight line over the first baseman’s head. By the time
Vincent got it back, Hood had crossed the plate, and Ribot stood,
exulting, on third base.

The Hillburyites were on their feet, oblivious of cheer-leaders and
programme, howling their pride and hope. The score was tied! A hit, an
error, a long fly, would let Ribot in, and put Hillbury in the lead.
Tompkins was watching Ribot out of the corner of his eye, but his whole
mind was concentrated on the problem of putting the ball just where it
was required. Unworried, but more deliberate than ever, he responded to
Sands’s signals. “One strike! one ball! a foul! two balls! two strikes!”
The eager Seatonians began to breathe more easily. A strike out would
improve the situation vastly.

Sands signaled for a slow high ball over the inside corner. Tompkins
shook his head, but Sands repeated the signal and the pitcher obeyed.
The ball came true, but Kleindienst, fearing a called strike, waited
until it was near him and then slashed recklessly at it. Almost
simultaneously Phil heard the crack of the bat, saw the ball rising high
above the second baseman’s head, and felt his heart sink with a sudden
stab of pain. The fly was so far out that, even if Sudbury caught it, it
would be next to impossible for him to return the ball in time to hold
the runner on third.

And so it proved. Sudbury got the fly after a hard run, turned quickly,
and sent it hot to the second baseman, who lined it home; but Ribot was
across the plate by ten feet when the ball came to rest in Sands’s
grasp.

Wildly as the Hillburyites yelled, Seaton matched them cheer for cheer,
shouting to keep their courage up and show the nine men in the field
that their schoolfellows were not despondent. Haley struck twice, then
lifted the ball over Hayes’s head into short left-field. Phil had a
sharp run to get under the ball, but he took it safely enough, and then,
though the three men were out, he set himself for a throw and sent it in
to the home plate. Sands had to go forward a step to meet it. “A little
longer next time,” thought Phil, as he trotted in. “I can do it if
necessary.”

Seaton’s half of the fifth inning was soon over. Waddington went out on
a high foul, Hayes on a fly to left-field, and Tommy very tamely on
strikes. When Webster stepped up to the plate to lead off for Hillbury,
more than one timid Seatonian felt a mysterious foreboding that this was
to prove a fatal inning. Webster thought so too, for he waited bravely
until two balls had been called, and then drove a beautiful liner over
the second baseman’s head, that only a brilliant stop by Vincent
prevented from being a three-base hit. Webster rested at first. The
Hillburyites brandished their arms and whooped; while the Seaton
in-fielders spat on their gloves and braced themselves for great deeds,
encouraging Tommy meantime to “Be right there with the goods!” and “Put
’em straight over, old man!” Whether Tompkins profited by these
admonitions it would be hard to say; he certainly did his prettiest to
“deliver the goods,” conscious that every pitch was a critical one.

“One strike! three balls!” Cunningham waited, hoping for a chance to
“walk.” “Two strikes!” The batsman gathered himself for his last chance
and smote hard at the ball, but succeeded only in sending a grounder to
the pitcher. Tompkins turned and threw deliberately to second base,
where Webster was forced out, though Robinson was not quick enough to
catch the man at first. Still, one man was out, and the spectators were
encouraged.

Millan came to bat, glaring defiance at the Seaton pitcher. The first
one looked promising, and he swung hard at it. The Seatonians heard the
crack, had a momentary impression of the ball going like a rifle-shot
toward first base, saw Waddington put his hands together, stagger, and
dart for first,—and after an instant understood that the fifth inning
had ended suddenly with a double play.

As Dick turned round to do his part in leading the cheers for “Waddy,”
he caught a glimpse of Bosworth climbing down from his place into the
passage that led to the rear of the seats. In the excitement of the
scene, Melvin would hardly have noticed this departure of a single
member of the disorderly crowd, had not the last look that the fellow
cast along the benches had in it an element of fear and stealth that
drew his attention as the glint of distant water reflecting the sunlight
catches the eye of the mountaineer. An absorbing suspicion, which made
even the game seem of secondary interest, suddenly possessed his mind.
Hastily turning over his baton to one of his fellow-leaders, with an
explanation that did not explain, Melvin pushed his way to the rear of
the crowd that thronged the entrance passage through which Bosworth had
just gone. There was his man thirty yards away, walking toward the
entrance to the grounds!

The senior halted, turned back into the enclosure, and ran his eye along
the benches to Varrell’s seat. “He’s gone!” he muttered in dismay. “Just
my cursed luck! And I can’t stop to hunt him up!” He waited a moment
longer, sweeping the tiers of seats with his eye in vain search for his
missing friend; then he turned back again into the passage, and watched
Bosworth out of the grounds.

At the gate Bosworth stopped and exchanged a few words with the man on
duty. “They are asking him about the score,” thought Dick; “I wonder how
he explains his sudden leaving.” As Bosworth passed out of sight down
the street, Dick set off on a run for the gate.

“Was that Bosworth, Mike?” he panted, as he hailed the gatekeeper.

“I dunno the feller at all. I just axed him how the game was goin’ and
he said two to wan fer Hillbury.”

“Was that all?” asked Dick, disappointed.

“No, sir, I axed him what inning, and he said the ind of the fift’; and
I said how cud ye lave a close game like that right in the middle av it,
and he said the sthrain was too much for his nerves. But they’s a chance
for the byes yit, ain’t they?”

“I think so,” replied Dick, absently. He was contrasting the utter
indifference stamped on Bosworth’s face as he sat among the enthusiasts,
with this tale of nervous agitation. “Whose wheel is that?” he demanded
abruptly, pointing to a bicycle leaning against the fence.

“Mine,” said Mike.

“Will you lend it to me for an hour?” went on Melvin, eagerly. “I’ve a
very important errand to do.”

“Shure!” said Mike. The word was hardly out of his mouth before Melvin
had seized the bicycle and was running it across the street. Mike and
his comrade watched the student whip the machine through the yard
opposite, over a wire fence, and across another lawn to a second street,
where he mounted and sprinted off.

“He’s a divil to hustle, that bye,” remarked Mike. “Ye ought to see him
kick a futball. _He_ don’t hurry then, wan bit. It’s the ball does the
hurryin’.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXV

                       ON THE THIRD FLOOR OF HALE


BY following Lincoln Street and the path through the Seminary yard, Dick
covered two sides of a triangle much more quickly than the pedestrian
could the third side, the direct road from campus to academy. He leaned
the bicycle against the gymnasium wall out of sight, and crept into the
shelter of the high steps of Carter, whence he could command a view of
the dormitories without being seen himself. Never had the old academy
yard worn such an air of silence and desertion. Old Robeson was raking
the driveway on the other side of the gymnasium; the Saturday cleaners
were buried in the depths of the recitation building. Except for the
indescribable roar of distant cheering, which came in bursts from the
direction of the campus, or the noise of an occasional wagon rattling
along the street, the green-turfed yard might have been some silent
meadow afar from the haunts of men.

“Every dormitory window open!” thought Dick, as he glanced around the
yard, “and half the doors too, I’ll bet. Those fellows really deserve to
lose some of their things. But what a cinch for a thief!”

Some minutes passed before Bosworth appeared on the street and turned
leisurely into the yard. When he reached the point where the path
divided, he hesitated an instant before turning away from his own
dormitory toward the middle entry of Hale. At the Hale steps he stopped
again, threw a hurried glance over the yard, and disappeared into the
dormitory entry. A moment later Dick was scuttling along the driveway
toward the corner of Hale.

Hardly had he gained the shelter of the dormitory wall and begun to
creep along beneath the windows toward the middle entry, when a sudden
apparition at the farther corner drew from his lips an exclamation of
wonder which would certainly have betrayed him if Bosworth had been near
enough to hear it. There was Varrell, quietly working his way along the
wall from the other direction, his face flushed red as if from a long
hard run, but showing not the slightest surprise at this meeting with
his confederate. They came together at the entrance, where Varrell,
checking with an unmistakable gesture Melvin’s obvious intention to ask
questions, crept stealthily in and crouched against the wall under the
stairs. His friend followed close after.

“Shoes off!” whispered Varrell, with lips close to Dick’s ear. The order
was obeyed without question. Varrell placed his straw hat beside his
shoes; Dick imitated him.

“Can you hear him?” came in a second whisper.

Dick listened: at first absolute silence; then the sound from the second
floor of a door being carefully shut, followed by the scrape of a sole
upon the marble staircase above; then the click of a door-knob, and
silence again.

“He’s just left a room in the second story and gone up to one in the
third,” whispered Dick.

“Now is our time,” announced Varrell, and led the way up. Their steps
were noiseless on the solid stone. The doors to both suites on the third
floor were closed.

“Which?” whispered Varrell. Never had he envied his classmate’s quick
hearing as at this very instant.

Dick applied his ear to the door on the right. He could dimly hear the
distant cheering, a formless, threatening sound drifting in through the
open windows of the room, like the far-away roar of an angry mob. Within
the room all was silent.

He shook his head and tiptoed to the other door. Here too his ear at
first detected no sound that did not come from without, but presently he
heard footsteps on the other side of the room, and a grating noise as
from the opening of a drawer.

“He’s here,” said Melvin’s lips. His nod and gesture would have told the
story to a fool. Varrell motioned him aside and gently turned the knob.
The door moved slightly on its hinges.

“Ready?” queried Varrell’s eyes. Dick nodded, and Varrell threw wide the
door. There stood the long pursued, before the open drawer of a dressing
table, with a pair of gold cuff-buttons in his hand.

Bosworth gave a start and wheeled round upon the intruders. He uttered
no sound, but his eyes took on a wild, frightened look, while his sallow
face faded to a paler shade and the red line of his lips became a
whitish blue, as he faced the fierce looks of his two pursuers.

“So we’ve caught the thief at last,” said Varrell, sternly, “this time
in the very act.”

Bosworth moistened his lips. “If you think I’m a thief, you’re greatly
mistaken,” he began, rolling his eyes from side to side like a person
searching for ideas under a great strain.

“We don’t think; we know,” answered Varrell. “There’s stolen property
right in your hand.”

For a moment Bosworth hesitated, looking down. When he lifted his eyes
again he was ready with an explanation. “I was just looking at them. I
came in here to get a trot I lent to Morton. I couldn’t stand the strain
of the game, so I decided to come back and work. I thought probably the
door would be unlocked, and I could get the book for myself. I opened
the drawer to see if the book was there,—it isn’t the kind of thing a
fellow would show on his study table,—the buttons caught my eye, and I
took them up out of curiosity.”

“Huh!” snorted Varrell, “and what about that scarf-pin on the table?”

“I know nothing about any scarf-pin,” replied Bosworth, with a show of
resentment. “If there’s a scarf-pin on the table, I suppose Morton left
it there. The fact that it’s there shows I’m not a thief; I should have
taken it if I had been.”

Dick’s conviction began to weaken. It all sounded very natural and
plausible. Had Wrenn’s infatuation put them both into a false position?
He turned to Bosworth. “If what you say is true, we have done you a
great injustice. You say you came here for the book. Did you come
directly here?”

“Certainly.”

“Without going to any other room?”

“Of course not,” replied Bosworth, impatiently. “Didn’t I say I wanted
the trot?”

A glance of intelligence flashed from Dick’s face to Varrell’s.

“He’s lying,” said Varrell, coolly. “We’ll have to wait till more
fellows come, when we’ll search him and search his room.”

A look of apprehension appeared on Bosworth’s face. “You have no right
to search me,” he cried. “I won’t stand it.”

“We’ll see!” was Varrell’s laconic answer.

A leisurely step now made itself heard on the stairs below, and soon the
surprised face of little Eddy appeared on the landing outside.

“How’s the game going?” cried Dick, suddenly bethinking himself that the
great contest was still on.

“I don’t know,” answered the boy, in sullen tones, peering curiously
into the room. “I haven’t been to the game. I’ve been up the river.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I’m going up to my room.”

“Well, go on then,” commanded Varrell. Eddy started on. “Eddy!” called
Bosworth.

With a hasty movement, quite unlike the indolent slouch with which he
had crawled upstairs, Eddy hurried back and stood in the doorway,
expectant, his big eyes full of fear, his whole expression that of a dog
cringing before a cruel master. The sight stirred Dick to the depths of
his heart. If ever he had felt a doubt as to Varrell’s course, or a
lurking suspicion, born of his sense of fair play, that Bosworth might
after all be a comparatively innocent victim of appearances, the doubt
and suspicion vanished in the presence of that abject figure, like
raindrops on the surface of the sea.

“I’d like to speak to him a moment,” said Bosworth, nervously.

“No, you don’t!” cried Dick. “You’ve had your last speech with him.”

“Oh, let them talk,” said Varrell, giving his friend a sharp look. “Only
nothing must pass between you,” he added, turning again to Bosworth. “If
you are willing to back up against the wall there and have the boy stand
at one side so that there’s a clear open space between you, and both
face this way, we’ll go out in the entry out of hearing, and watch you
through the door from a distance. Otherwise there had better be no
conversation until after the search is over.”

Bosworth agreed to the terms; Varrell stationed the two as he wanted
them,—Bosworth in the best light,—and with Dick withdrew to the entry,
where Varrell planted himself and fixed his eyes on the faces of the
whispering pair in a long intense stare. Dick understood well the game
his friend was playing, and his own eyes wandered helplessly from the
observer to the observed, trying to guess from Wrenn’s expression his
success in reading Bosworth’s lips, fearful of failure as the thief
gradually bent his head in Eddy’s direction.

“Face this way!” cried Varrell.

“We’re through now,” replied Bosworth.

“Eddy, go up and stand on the stairs in sight till we call you down,”
ordered Varrell. Then in a low tone to Dick he added: “Keep him there a
jiffy till I can put on my shoes and get ahead of him to Bosworth’s
room. Hang to Bosworth like grim death. Don’t let the fellow get away.”

“You can trust him to me,” answered Dick, eagerly. “What luck?”

“I can’t tell yet,” returned Wrenn.

Two minutes later Eddy was allowed to go, and sauntered leisurely down
the first flight of stairs; the second he took more rapidly. At the
dormitory entrance he broke into a run, which he maintained up the
stairs to Bosworth’s threshold. The door was unlocked,—Bosworth had no
fear of thieves,—and inside sat Varrell!

“Shut the door, can’t you?” was the senior’s sharp greeting to the
amazed lad. “Now, what did you come here for? Out with it and don’t try
to lie, for I shall catch you if you do.”

Eddy gaped helplessly around.

“His—knife,” he stammered, between gasps.

“Don’t lie to me!” said Varrell, sternly. “What did he tell you to get
in the closet?”

“Nothing.”

Varrell jerked open the closet door, ran his hand over the clothing hung
on the hooks, gave the shoes on the floor a kick, and pulled down an
empty pasteboard box from the shelf. Then he turned to Eddy.

“Look here, boy,” he said in a gentler tone, “Bosworth is a thief and a
rascal, as you are perfectly well aware. You’d better tell what you
know, and save your own skin while you can.”

“I haven’t anything to tell.”

Eddy’s lips were trembling, and his eyes promised tears, but his face
still wore the expression of stubborn determination.

“The little fool!” groaned Varrell, turning away. “He’s too thoroughly
terrorized to let anything out. And to think that we are so near the
goal and can’t quite reach it! If only the villain had not moved his
head when he did! Yellow book! I could have sworn he said ‘yellow book
in the closet,’ but there’s no yellow book in the closet or anywhere
else!”

He opened the closet door once more, and stumbled over one of the shoes
he had contemptuously kicked a minute before. In a burst of irritation
he stooped to pick up the shoe and throw it where it would trouble him
no more. As he lifted it into plainer view, its color caught his eye and
his arm paused in mid-air. “What a blunderer!” he ejaculated. “It was
‘boot,’ not ‘book’; how could I have made such an error!”

Eddy stood mute, staring with anxious, fascinated face, as the senior
ran his hand into the shoe, turned it over, shook it, and threw it down.
He stooped for the other, inverted it, and tapped it upon the floor;
then rose and felt carefully inside, while he fixed his eyes on the
trembling boy.

“There seems to be paper here,” he said slowly, “or at any rate
something like it that is fitted close to the lining of the upper.” The
next moment he had dropped the shoe, and was unfolding a small, square
piece of paper. It was the check stolen from the office safe on the
night of March seventh!

Varrell’s first impulse was to let out a yell of triumph that would make
the whole dormitory entry ring; his second, to make sure that his
triumph was real. There was no question of the identity of the check; he
had heard too much about the details of the case to have any doubt on
that score. But would not a skilled liar like Bosworth be able to squirm
out of even a predicament like this?

The senior turned again to Eddy, who was now leaning upon the table, his
head buried in his arms, weeping in great despairing sobs. “I see how it
is,” said Varrell, sternly. “You learned the combination and induced
Bosworth to steal the money; he divided it with you, and when this was
spent you stole from the rooms.”

“It isn’t so!” sobbed the boy. “I never stole a cent in my life.
Bosworth did it all! I told him of the combination,—and that’s all I had
to do with it. I didn’t know he stole it till long after, when he told
me that the money he’d lent me had come from the safe, and I’d be
arrested too if he was caught. But I never stole a thing in my whole
life—and I’ve paid him almost up, too. Oh, I’m so unhappy! What will my
mother do, if I have to go to jail!”

Varrell laid his hand gently on the lad’s quivering shoulder. The
inquisitor’s heart was touched.

“You won’t go to jail at all if you brace up and make a clean breast of
the whole thing,” said the senior. “You haven’t done anything wrong,
except to cover up another’s villainy.”

He waited quietly for the sobs to slacken, with his hand still on Eddy’s
shoulder. And while he waited, there smote upon his ear from the
direction of the campus another roar, tumultuous and long drawn out,
that rose and subsided and rose again, like the howl of the northwest
wind on a winter night.

“Their game is over, too,” mused Varrell. “I wonder if they have had our
luck.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              CHAPTER XXVI

                            A DOUBLE ASSIST


AND now for the finish of the game. When Dick and Varrell made their
hurried exit from the field, the sixth inning was just under way, each
team beginning over again at the head of its batting list. The cheering
that Dick had heard while he was waiting at the steps of Carter was
provoked by the successful retirement of the first three Hillbury
batters. The three men who headed the Seaton list had already gone out
in order. With a balance of one in the score in favor of Hillbury, and
hits few and far between, the visitors’ confidence was growing. Every
additional zero in the Seaton score now meant another nail in the Seaton
coffin.

The seventh began with Poole at the bat. The first ball was a little
wide for him, but he thought he could utilize it, and chopped a little
liner over the short-stop’s head. When Sudbury came up, Ribot had his
pitcher throw two balls in the hope of tempting Phil to try to steal
second. Then came a strike and another ball. With three balls called,
Phil started on the next pitch with the pitcher’s arm on the old chance
of hit and run. Sudbury bunted, and got his base on Ribot’s wild throw
to first, while Phil made second easily. This was a business-like
beginning that stirred anew the sluggish Seaton throats!

Sands came up to the plate. Did ever captain face such an opportunity! A
single would tie the score, a two-base hit would probably win the game.
A grounder in the wrong place might result in a double play and the loss
of the start this made. Sands did his best, but his best was only a slow
grounder toward third, and he sped away to first without much hope of
reaching there. Phil had taken a good lead from second, and dashed past
Kleindienst, the Hillbury third baseman, just before the latter got the
ball and shot it across the diamond to first. Sands was out, but both
Phil and Sudbury had advanced a base.

“Can he do it?” said Tompkins, as Waddington faced the pitcher.

“Do what?” asked Hayes, who was stamping the ground with his foot and
nervously swinging the bat in his hand.

“Anything but strike out or hit to the in-field,” replied Tompkins. “If
he makes a hit, we win the game,—if he doesn’t, we lose. We shan’t get
another chance like this.”

Waddington waited until two strikes and three balls had been called. At
the next one he let drive with all his power.

“It’s a homer, it’s a homer!” shouted Tompkins, jumping up and down in
glee.

“No, a three-bagger,” corrected Hayes, wildly flourishing his bat
dangerously near Tompkins’s head.

But it was neither. Far out in the tennis courts that bounded
centre-field Franklin threw himself at the flying ball, and clung tight
to it, though he fell his length on the ground. He recovered himself and
got the ball back in season to hold Sudbury at third, but Phil had
crossed the plate.

There was babel now on both sides of the diamond, Seaton cheering the
run that tied the score, Hillbury, the brilliant achievement of their
fielder.

Hayes was next in order. “Just a little hit, Haysey,” pleaded Tompkins.
“Over second will do. Make a hit and I will.”

Hayes’s response was to whack the ball over third baseman’s head for two
bases. Sudbury came in with the third run, and Tompkins went out
ingloriously by batting an easy ball to the pitcher. The Seaton half of
the inning was over, with the score now three to two in her favor.

Hillbury got no farther than third in her half. In the eighth the
batsmen on both sides went down like pins before a bowling ball. The
pitchers were on their mettle, every player was alert and keen, chance
itself seemed to bring the hits into the fielders’ hands. Cunningham
sprinted twenty feet to take Robinson’s liner; Watson gathered in a foul
right in the midst of the Hillbury benches; Hayes made a one-handed stop
of what promised to be a three-base hit. The in-field no longer wasted
breath in exhortations; the cheer-leaders no longer tried to lead. The
crowd was left to follow its own excited inclination, and incoherent
yells took the place of cheers and songs.

The ninth began under the same spell of fast play. Poole went out on a
fly to first base, Sudbury struck out, Sands hit to second base, and
Hillbury came in for her last chance. Ribot sent a fly well over in
short left-field, but Watson ran back and caught it. Kleindienst hit
over the second baseman’s head; Haley dropped a fly in short
right-field, and took second while Vincent was trying to catch the
runner at third. With only one man out, and runners at second and third,
the Hillbury cause looked bright. The blue banners waved wildly; but the
Hillbury leaders brought back their companies once more to the old
cheers, and gave Webster a ringing volley as he stepped up to the plate,
bat in hand. Into every heart over the whole field, among players and
audience alike, crept the conviction that the two runs necessary to give
the victory to Hillbury were coming in, and that Webster’s hit was to
bring them.

Phil drew in nearer the diamond. He knew Webster’s batting record like a
book,—the note-book he had kept so long. If Webster made a hit at all,
it would be in short left-field, out of reach of both third and
short-stop.

Crack! went the bat. The Hillburyites rose and sent forth their shout of
victory, as the ball sailed safely over the third baseman’s head. Haley
started immediately from second; Kleindienst, on third, waited a little
longer to make sure that Watson would not repeat his previous play. When
he, too, saw that the ball was out of Watson’s reach, he threw care to
the winds and started home, with Haley rounding the base only a dozen
feet behind him.

Beyond third neither coachers nor runners thought to look. Sands
himself, who had thrown his mask aside and now stood helpless at the
plate, steeling himself to bear the sight of those two winning runs
which were to transform a game almost won into a game certainly
lost,—Sands himself had abandoned hope, and was watching the flight of
the ball with indifference, stunned with the bitterness and humiliation
of defeat.

Then, as he gazed, an abrupt change came over him. His whole figure grew
radiant as with a mighty and unexpected joy. The hit was over the third
baseman’s head, it was true; but the left-fielder, well within his usual
position, had run rapidly forward to meet the ball, taken it on the
bounce, steadied himself for a throw, and, with that splendid shoulder
drive which Sands had so often envied, sent it straight to the waiting
catcher. It came whizzing past the shoulder of the unsuspecting
Kleindienst, and landed safely in Sands’s mitt. Leisurely, as if there
were no chance of error; easily, as if such plays were a matter of
everyday practice; with a smile on his lips at the folly of those who
feared for him and his team,—the Seaton captain stooped and tagged the
first runner as he slid in, then stepped forward to meet the second,
plunging at the heels of the first. The two astonished men were out on
the throw to the plate, and it was still Seaton’s game!

The score:—

              SEATON             AB   R  BH  TB  PO   A   E
            Vincent, r. f.        4   0   1   2   1   0   0
            Robinson, 2b.         4   0   0   0   3   3   0
            Watson, 3b.           4   0   0   0   2   1   1
            Poole, l. f.          4   2   2   2   2   2   0
            Sudbury, c. f.        4   1   1   1   2   0   0
            Sands, c.             4   0   0   0   7   1   0
            Waddington, lb.       3   0   1   2   7   0   0
            Hayes, s. s.          3   0   1   2   2   2   1
            Tompkins, p.          3   0   0   0   1   1   0
            ════════════════════════════════════════════════
            Totals               33   3   6   9  27   9   2


              HILLBURY
            Stevens, l. f.        4   0   0   0   2   0   0
            Hood, s. s.           4   1   0   0   0   3   0
            Franklin, c.f.        4   0   0   0   2   0   0
            Ribot, c.             4   1   1   3   6   1   2
            Kleindienst, 3b.      4   0   1   1   2   3   0
            Haley, r. f.          4   0   1   1   1   0   0
            Webster, lb.          4   0   2   2  11   0   0
            Cunningham, 2b.       3   0   2   3   3   2   1
            Millan, p.            3   0   0   0   0   2   0
            ════════════════════════════════════════════════
            Totals               34   2   7  10  27  11   3


        INNINGS              1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9
          Seaton             0   1   0   0   0   0   2   0   0-3
          Hillbury           0   0   0   2   0   0   0   0   0-2


Phil did not walk in from the field after that throw. How he came in he
could not have told, for the wild horde from the Seaton benches met him
near third, and heaved him into the air, and fought for him, and hustled
him to and fro on the diamond like a hockey puck darting over the ice.
When at length he was released, he sought long for Dick and Varrell,
sadly disappointed that his two best friends should so unaccountably
fail him at the moment of his triumph.

Threatened at last by the waiting players with being seized by force and
crammed into the barge, Phil reluctantly abandoned his search and
climbed in over the knees of his impatient friends. They drove down,
hilarious, through hilarious crowds. No one who has never had the
experience can picture to himself the delicious abandon with which a
team, after long months of training and suspense, gives itself up to the
glorious joy of victory. An exultant fire of explanations, reminders,
and compliments ran from one end of the barge to the other.

“Do you know, Phil,” said Sands, giving the boy a hearty slap on the
knee, “I never expect to feel again quite such a shock of happiness as I
had when I saw the ball light in your claws and start home again with
that old ‘gravity rise.’ When I felt it in my hands, I could have
whooped! And to see that poor Kleindienst come sliding in so sweetly,
with the ball there ahead of him, and Haley at his heels, rushing plumb
at it,—and both thinking they had won the game! It was rich!”

“How did you get there, anyway, Phillie?” asked Vincent. “You belonged a
long way out.”

“I knew where he was likely to hit and lay in for him,” said Phil,
modestly.

“The note-book again!” shouted Tompkins, “the miserable, little, dirty
note-book! Why, I pitched the whole game on that book! We ought to have
it bound in red morocco and hung up in the trophy case with the ball.”

They were just passing the walk that led to the Principal’s house, when
the twentieth howl of appreciation rolled up to them from a loyal group.

“Look there!” cried Watson. “Did you ever see that combination before?
There’s aristocrat Varrell and that queer little Eddy ahead, and Dick
Melvin and Bosworth behind. Something must have happened to bring those
fellows together.”

At the sound of the cheering Dick wheeled quickly and waved his hand to
the victors in the barge, then turned again to his charge. Bosworth did
not raise his eyes from the ground.

Tompkins gave Phil a questioning look, and Phil answered with a smile
and a nod. He guessed now why his friends had failed him at the field.


[Illustration: The Main Street of Seaton.]


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                             CHAPTER XXVII

                               CONCLUSION


DICK sat with his sullen prisoner in the Principal’s outer office, while
Varrell and Eddy were closeted with Mr. Graham in the smaller room
adjoining. The door between was left ajar, and both prisoner and guard
strained their ears for some inkling of the course of events in the
inner room. Although delighted that the end of the long chase had been
reached, Dick was not altogether satisfied with his own position at the
finish. He had submissively stood watch while Varrell had made the
search in Bosworth’s room; he had obeyed as submissively when Varrell
had reappeared and ordered him on with Bosworth to the Principal’s
house. That he must still be kept on guard just out of hearing of the
interesting details which he had a right to know, was exasperating even
if unavoidable. With the feeling that he was doing his duty, Dick
steeled himself to wait in patience.

Through the crack of the door came the murmur of Varrell’s voice, as in
low, steady tones he told his story, occasionally interrupted by short,
distinct questions from the Principal that Dick could all but
understand. Presently Eddy’s testimony was invoked. With tremulous lips
he sobbed out answers to the senior’s questions, like a bashful witness
affirming his attorney’s suggestions. When Mr. Graham took a part in the
questioning, the boy’s voice grew yet more nervous and shrill. Words and
expressions penetrated to the eager ears in the outer room. Bosworth
threw off his pretence of indifference, and sat bolt upright, listening
with all his might.

But he was destined to hear little. Eddy’s whining voice suddenly shot
to a high key, broke, and dwindled abruptly to a gasp and a gurgle. A
chair slipped on the smooth floor, and an inert body struck the hard
surface with a dull thud. In his nervous state Dick could restrain
himself no longer. Throwing police duties to the winds, he rushed into
the inner room, where Mr. Graham and Varrell were bending over Eddy’s
collapsed form, Varrell still holding the boy’s head as he had caught it
close to the floor, and the Principal staring in horror at the twitching
face.

“It’s a fit,” Varrell was saying. “I’ve seen a case like it before;
comes from indigestion. You want to loosen his clothes and keep him from
biting his tongue.”

“Dr. Kenneth at once!” exclaimed Mr. Graham, catching sight of Melvin at
his elbow.

Dick hurried back to the room which he had just left. It was empty. He
stood an instant, staring blankly at the vacant room, then turned to the
others a bewildered face.

“Bosworth’s gone!” he exclaimed excitedly. “Shall I—?”

“Get the doctor at once!” repeated Mr. Graham. “Never mind Bosworth!”

The command was explicit, and yet the boy hesitated. His lips came
together and parted in “But—.” He got no further, however, for Varrell
interrupted him before the word was out.

“Hurry up, can’t you! Don’t stop to talk!”

It was the sharp, stinging tone in which the words were spoken and the
warning look flashed from Varrell’s gray eyes as he uttered them that
sent Dick flying from the house.

In five minutes he was back again, having met the school doctor at the
door of his office. Eddy was already reviving.

“Come, let’s get away,” said Varrell, after they had watched operations
for a few minutes in silence. “They don’t need us any longer.”

The doors had hardly closed behind them when Melvin began fiercely,
“Well?”

“Well, what?” returned Varrell, coolly.

“Why did you make me let that fellow go?”

Varrell laughed. “Because Mr. Graham evidently wanted him to go. He had
his wits about him if you had lost yours.”

“But why?” persisted Dick.

“Put yourself in his place and you’ll see,” retorted Varrell. “Bosworth,
in the eyes of the law, is a felon. Mr. Graham cannot condone a criminal
offence, and he doesn’t want the scandal of a public trial in the
courts. Bosworth has helped us out by running away. He’ll never be seen
again in this town. Now come up to the room, and I’ll tell you all about
it.”

Varrell’s prediction proved true. Bosworth disappeared suddenly and
completely. His mother came a day or two later and spent a few hours in
packing her son’s goods, and a few minutes in a sad interview with the
Principal. The boys who had lost money had it restored to them through
Mr. Graham, and the thieving in the dormitories ceased.

The whereabouts of the wretched Bosworth remained for some time a
mystery even to his mother. A year later, Vincent, who took his meals at
Mrs. Bosworth’s in Cambridge, reported having seen a letter postmarked
“Texas” addressed to his landlady in handwriting which he thought he
recognized. In his last college vacation Marks ran across Bosworth
himself among a set of gamblers offering bets at the professional ball
games in Chicago. It is safe to say that they did not renew their
acquaintance.

Eddy, relieved of the burden of his secret, convalesced rapidly, and was
soon taken home by his father. Fortunately for the repentant lad, Mr.
Eddy, himself an old Seatonian, had a frank talk with Mr. Graham before
seeing his son, which deprived the dreaded meeting of half its terrors.
It was a new idea to Mr. Eddy that a boy might be driven to continue in
an evil way from which he wished to escape, through fear of the
uncompromising harshness with which his confession would be received.
The parting word of the Principal sent the father home somewhat
comforted by the thought that there might yet be a chance for the boy to
retrieve himself in the old school.

For Phil and Dick and Wrenn Varrell the last days of school were
pleasantly uneventful. Dick had a peaceful fortnight in which to prepare
his class-day oration, which he delivered with becoming gravity, as if
it were a serious contribution to the wisdom of the world. Wrenn
returned to the modest tenor of his life; and when Planter, in his class
prophecy, predicted for Varrell a career which should rival that of
Sherlock Holmes, hardly half a dozen fellows in the class understood the
point of the reference. Phil went rejoicing home at the end of the
school term, leaving his older friends to miss his cheerful presence.
His study chair was more than filled by John Curtis, who settled himself
in it as the most favorable place for “grinding,”—a place which he left
only to sleep and eat during the long week which preceded the college
examinations.

John was rather subdued when the final good-bys were said, and the
fellows around him were promising one another a speedy and happy reunion
at Cambridge or New Haven or Hanover or some other of the half-dozen
places to which their choice of college called them. Melvin felt much
concerned at the solemn look on the big fellow’s face, and the artless
subterfuges with which he sought to avoid committing himself as to his
plans for the future.

But Curtis was merely cautious. On the Fourth of July, as Dick was
condescendingly helping his “kid” brother in the serious task of setting
off fireworks, a telegram was brought to him, dated at Mt. Desert, and
bearing this simple legend:—

    “In clear except for Dutch. Meet you Soldiers’ Field, September.

              “JOHN CURTIS.”

Dick’s last half-dollar went for fireworks to celebrate the news.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



 ● Transcriber’s Notes:
    ○ Missing or obscured punctuation was corrected.
    ○ Unbalanced quotation marks were left as the author intended.
    ○ Typographical errors were silently corrected.
    ○ Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation were made consistent only
      when a predominant form was found in this book.
    ○ Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).





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