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Title: For Yardley - A Story of Track and Field
Author: Barbour, Ralph Henry
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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                              FOR YARDLEY



BY RALPH HENRY BARBOUR.

Each Illustrated, 12mo, Cloth, $1.50.


  For Yardley.
  Finkler’s Field. ($1.25.)
  Winning His “Y.”
  The New Boy at Hilltop.
  Double Play.
  Forward Pass!
  The Spirit of the School.
  Four in Camp.
  Four Afoot.
  Four Afloat.
  The Arrival of Jimpson.
  Behind the Line.
  Captain of the Crew.
  For the Honor of the School.
  The Half-Back.
  On Your Mark.
  Weatherby’s Inning.


D. APPLETON & COMPANY, NEW YORK.



[Illustration: “Wheelock cleaned the bases with a long drive over left
fielder’s head.”]



                              FOR YARDLEY

                      A STORY OF TRACK AND FIELD

                                 _By_
                          RALPH HENRY BARBOUR

               AUTHOR OF “FORWARD PASS,” “DOUBLE PLAY,”
                        “WINNING HIS ‘Y’,” ETC.


                            [Illustration]


                              ILLUSTRATED


                          NEW YORK AND LONDON
                        D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
                                 1911



                          Copyright, 1911, by
                        D. APPLETON AND COMPANY


                      _Published September, 1911_


                Printed in the United States of America



CONTENTS


 CHAPTER                                   PAGE
     I.――A RAINY SATURDAY                     1
    II.――THE S. P. M.                        16
   III.――A CALL FOR CANDIDATES               28
    IV.――THE INITIATION                      44
     V.――THE CHALLENGE                       59
    VI.――ALF BECOMES AN EDITOR               66
   VII.――_THE SCHOLIANT_                     76
  VIII.――GERALD LIES LOW                     89
    IX.――A MIDNIGHT ESCAPADE                105
     X.――PURSUIT AND ESCAPE                 119
    XI.――GERALD VISITS THE OFFICE           130
   XII.――GERALD PAYS THE PENALTY            140
  XIII.――THE APRIL FOOLS                    148
   XIV.――MR. COLLINS SMILES                 156
    XV.――BACK IN TRAINING                   170
   XVI.――YARDLEY IS PUZZLED                 184
  XVII.――WHAT HEAD WORK DID                 194
 XVIII.――THE GREAT TEMPTATION               202
   XIX.――A FALLING OUT                      216
    XX.――HARRY GETS REVENGE                 222
   XXI.――THE STAMP ALBUMS ARE PUT AWAY      230
  XXII.――GERALD MAKES THE TEAM              241
 XXIII.――SPORT ON THE RIVER                 256
  XXIV.――A TENTH INNING VICTORY             267
   XXV.――THE DUAL MEET                      277
  XXVI.――FOR YARDLEY!                       288



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                             FACING
                                                              PAGE

 “Wheelock cleaned the bases with a long drive over left
    fielder’s head”                    _Frontispiece_

 “The boy on the stone never moved”                             112

 “‘You’ll wish you hadn’t been so smart,’ he sneered”           220

 “Alf squirmed onto one of the barrels and held the craft”      264



FOR YARDLEY



CHAPTER I

A RAINY SATURDAY


“Wonder why it always rains on Saturdays?” muttered Alf Loring, laying
his book face-down in his lap and staring discontentedly out of the
window beside him.

It was a cheerless outlook. Through the blurred panes his gaze
traversed the Yard, empty and bedraggled, to the back of Merle Hall
and the gymnasium. Everywhere was rotting snow or pools of water,
while from a low, leaden sky the rain fell straight and persistently.
It had been raining just this way all day and half of last night, and
to all appearances it intended to continue raining in the same manner
for another twenty-four hours. Yesterday the Yard had been a foot deep
in nice clean snow, the result of the blizzard that had swept over
Wissining and New England in general two days before, and there had
been more than one jolly battle royal out there. But now――Alf sighed;
and, turning, looked aggrievedly at his roommate.

Tom Dyer was seated at the study table, face in hands, the droplight
shedding its yellow glow on his tousled hair, paying little heed to
aught but the lesson he was striving to master. Alf scowled.

“Who invented rain, anyhow?” he demanded. There was no reply.

“_Tom!_”

“Eh? What?” Tom looked up from his book, blinking.

“I asked who invented rain, you deaf old haddock.”

“Oh! I don’t know,” answered Tom, vaguely. His eyes went back to the
book. Then he added, evidently as an afterthought and with a desire to
escape responsibility, “I didn’t.”

“Well, I’d like to know what it’s good for,” grumbled Alf.

“Makes crops grow,” Tom murmured.

“There aren’t any crops the first of March, you idiot. For the love of
Mike, Tom, shut that book up and talk to a fellow!”

“What do you want to talk about?” asked Tom, without, however, obeying
his chum’s command.

“Anything. I’m sick of studying. I’m sick of everything. I’m sick of
this rotten rain.”

“Pull the curtains and you won’t know it’s raining,” advised Tom.

“Of course I’ll know it,” replied the other, crossly. “I’ve seen it.
This is a mean old time of year, anyhow. There’s nothing to do but
study and read and loaf around; no hockey, no baseball, no golf――――”

“There’s chess.”

“Chess!” exclaimed Alf, derisively. “That’s not a game, that’s――that’s
hard labor!”

“Well, I guess it will stop raining to-night,” said Tom, comfortingly.
“And in a day or two you’ll be playing baseball――or trying to!”

“A day or two!” Alf’s book slipped from his knees and fell to the floor
with an insulted rustling of leaves. With some difficulty he dropped
one foot from the window-seat and kicked it venomously. “A day or two!
Gee, I’ll be a doddering idiot before that.”

“You are now. Shut up and let me study.”

“What’s the good of studying?” growled Alf.

“Well, I understand,” replied the other, calmly, “that before they
allow you to graduate from Yardley Hall, Mr. Loring, they hold what is
known as a final examination. And the examination is due to begin in
just three months. Having survived the recent one by a hair’s breadth,
I thought I’d like to make sure of getting through the next. I’m very
fond of this place, Alf, but I’ll be switched if I want to stay here
another year.”

“I think it would be rather good fun myself,” said Alf, with a faint
show of animation. “Think of the sport you could have. You wouldn’t
have to study much, you see, and life would be just one long loaf.”

“To hear you, any one would think you were the original lazy-bones. Dry
up for another ten minutes and just let me get this silly stuff, will
you?”

“All right.” Alf yawned and turned his attention again to the outer
world. He was a good-looking youth of eighteen, with a jolly, care-free
countenance, upon which his present expression of irritability looked
much out of place. Even hunched as he was into a faint resemblance to a
letter W, it was plain to be seen that he had all the height that his
age warranted. He was well-built, slim, and powerful, with more muscle
than flesh, and the Yardley Hall Football Team under his leadership had
in November last completed a successful season by defeating Broadwood
Academy, Yardley’s hated rival. Alf was the best quarter-back that the
school had known for many years.

His roommate, Tom Dyer, was big, rangy, and sufficiently homely of
face to be attractive. He was ordinarily rather sleepy looking, and
was seldom given to chatter. He had very nice gray eyes, a pleasant,
whole-hearted smile, and was one of the best-liked fellows in school.
In age Tom was nineteen, having recently celebrated a birthday. He had
been basket-ball captain, but his principal athletic honors had been
won with shot and hammer in the dual meets with Broadwood. Both boys
were members of the First Class, and were due to leave Yardley at the
end of the next term.

The room in which they sat, Number 7 Dudley Hall, was shabbily cozy
and comfortable, combining study and bedroom. It was on the first
floor, with two windows looking on to the Yard, as the space loosely
enclosed by the school buildings was known, and so possessed the merit
of being doubly accessible; that is to say, one might enter by the door
or, if faculty was not looking, by the window. The latter mode was
a very popular one, inasmuch as it was strictly prohibited, and the
windows of Number 7 were in full view of some four studies inhabited by
instructors.

Alf looked at his watch, holding it close in the waning light. It
was a quarter past five. He slipped it back into his pocket with a
sigh. There was a good three-quarters of an hour to be lived through
before supper-time. At that moment his glance, wandering to the Yard,
descried a slim figure approaching along the path from Merle, slopping
carelessly through puddles and paying no heed to the rain. Alf looked a
moment and then smiled.

“Guess you’ll have to call it off now, Tom,” he announced. “Here comes
Gerald, and it’s a safe bet he’s headed for our humble domicile.”

Tom groaned. “That kid will be the death of me if Maury doesn’t call
the track candidates pretty soon. Gerald asks me every time I see him
when we’re going to begin work, and whether I think he will make the
squad.”

Alf chuckled. “I thought when he got his Y at hockey last month he
wouldn’t be so keen about making the Track Team. He’s a funny kid.”

“He’s a rather nice one, though,” said Tom. “Here he comes. Bet you he
will ask about track work before he’s been here two minutes.”

Footsteps sounded along the hall, and then there came a modest knock on
the door.

“Come in, Gerald,” called Tom.

The boy who entered was not large for his fifteen years, and seemed
at first glance a bit too slender and delicate to hope to distinguish
himself on the cinders. But his slenderness held a litheness that spoke
well for his muscles, and the apparent delicacy was largely a matter
of coloring, for Gerald Pennimore had the fairest of pink and white
skins, the bluest of blue eyes, and hair that only barely escaped
being yellow. He was a nice-looking youngster, though, with an eager,
expressive face, and an easy grace of carriage that was good to see.
He greeted his hosts, closed the door behind him, and went over to the
grate, where a little coal fire glowed ruddily.

“Yes,” said Alf, “I should think you’d want to dry your shoes, Gerald.
You walked into every puddle in the Yard.”

“They’re not very wet,” responded Gerald, amiably.

“They’re soaking! It’s a mighty good thing for you that Dan isn’t here.”

“I’m not afraid of him,” laughed Gerald.

“You’d better be,” said Tom. “He will tan your hide for you, son, if he
catches you doing stunts like that. Where is he to-day?”

“I don’t know. I expected to find him here.”

“I haven’t seen him since dinner,” said Alf.

“Pull a chair up there, Gerald, and get those shoes dry. Beastly
weather, isn’t it?”

“Ye-es, but I’m rather glad to see the rain, aren’t you? It will take
the snow off. I guess the track will be clean by to-morrow, won’t it,
Tom?”

Tom shot an amused glance at Alf. “I guess so, but it will take some
time to get it dried out and rolled down.”

“Will it? Do you know when Captain Maury is going to call the
candidates, Tom?”

“Yes, I saw him this morning, and he told me he was going to get them
together Monday,” answered Tom, patiently.

“Going to try the mile, Gerald?” inquired Alf, innocently.

“I want to. Do you think I’d stand any show of getting on the team,
Alf?”

“I guess so. What’s your best time for the mile, Gerald?”

“I don’t quite know. Andy said he thought I did it once in about five
minutes in the cross country, but that was on a dirt road, of course. I
guess I could do a lot better than that on the cinders.”

“Rather! Besides, any chap can do better in warm weather. Even if you
shouldn’t make the team this spring, Gerald, you’d get a lot of fun
out of it, and it would do you good besides. It’s a bit unfortunate,
though, that Maury runs the mile himself. It’s awfully hard to crowd
the captain off the team.”

“Oh, I wasn’t expecting to do that,” Gerald replied, with amusing
_naïveté_. “I just thought maybe I could get a place. Has Broadwood got
good mile runners?”

“How about that, Tom?”

“Yes, I think so. Usually she’s better on the distances than anything
else. But we beat her in the cross country, and maybe our men are as
good as hers this year. I suppose Goodyear and Norcross will both enter
for the mile.”

“Are you going to be on the team this year, Alf?” Gerald asked.

“No, I guess not; not unless I’m pretty badly needed. What’s the use?
Both Rand and Bufford can beat me in the sprints.”

“You might crowd a Broadwood man out in the trials, though,” said Tom.
“And you wouldn’t have to train much; your baseball work would keep you
in trim.”

“Wouldn’t it be fine,” asked Gerald, enthusiastically, as he felt of
his damp shoes, “if we won the baseball and the track meet, too,
this year? That would be a clean sweep, wouldn’t it? Football, cross
country, hockey――――”

“We won’t,” said Alf. “We never have in the school’s history. We’re
bound to drop either track or baseball. Personally, I hope it will be
track. Even then, though, we’d be doing ourselves proud, what?”

“We’ll be lucky if Broadwood doesn’t get track _and_ baseball,” said
Tom, piling his books up.

“Why? I thought we were pretty certain of the Duals,” said Alf. Tom
shrugged his shoulders.

“Don’t see why. Just because we ran away with Broadwood last spring
doesn’t mean that we’ve got an easy thing this year. She will work a
whole lot harder, I guess. And we haven’t the men we had then. We’ve
lost Wass in the hurdles, Bird in the quarter, Johnson and Fyles in the
high jump, and two or three second-string fellows who might have made
good this year. I guess we’ve got the sprints cinched without a doubt,
but I’m not very easy in my mind regarding the field events.”

“Well, we know who will get first in the hammer,” laughed Alf.

“Meaning me? Perhaps; but if Broadwood gets enough seconds and thirds
she may fool us.”

Gerald turned, listened, and then retired hurriedly from the grate.

“There’s Dan,” he said. There was a knock and the door swung open,
admitting a disreputable figure in a dripping raincoat and a felt hat,
from the down-turned brim of which drops of water trickled.

“Hello, you chaps! Fine day, isn’t it?”

“Who’s your tramp friend, Tom?” asked Alf. “Isn’t he a sight? Where’s
the dog? Why, if it isn’t our old friend, Mr. Vinton! _Ouch!_”

The final remark was emphatic and spontaneous, for Dan’s wet hat sailed
across the room with beautiful precision, and landed fairly against
Alf’s face with a damp and dismal splash.

The others grinned enjoyably as Alf wiped the rain from his eyes and
looked about for a weapon. Finding nothing save the hat, and doubting
his ability to use that effectually, he had recourse to verbal weapons.

“_Canaille!_” he hissed. “Dog of a Christian! Varlet!”

“Go it!” laughed Dan, shedding his raincoat. “It was a bully shot,
though, wasn’t it? What have you fellows been doing?”

“Leading a quiet, studious, respectable existence until you broke in
with your low, rough-house manners,” responded Alf, severely. “Dan,
you’re a mucker.”

“Alf, you’re a gentleman.”

“That’s a lie,” answered Alf, with dignity, subsiding on the
window-seat again and hugging his knees. “Where have you been, you old
brute?”

“You’d never guess,” replied Dan, with a laugh, as he backed to the
fireplace and held his hands to the warmth.

“Taking tea with Old Toby,” hazarded Alf. (Old Toby was school
vernacular for Dr. Tobias Hewitt, Principal.)

“Not as bad as that, Alf. I’ve been sliding around the river in two
inches of slush on what Roeder calls his ice yacht. Seen it? It looks
like somebody’s front gate with a leg-of-mutton sail stuck up on it.”

“Must have been fun in this weather,” laughed Alf.

“It wasn’t so bad until we went into a hole up near Flat Island and had
to work for half an hour pulling the silly thing out. I wanted to let
it stay there; told him it would float down when the ice thawed; but he
insisted on rescuing it.”

“You’re a crazy chump,” said Alf, viewing him, however, with evident
affection. Dan Vinton was tall and lithe and long-limbed, with a
wide-awake, alert appearance and an almost disconcerting ability to
think quickly and act in the same way. In age he was just over sixteen,
and he was a trifle large for his years. He had steady brown eyes,
brown hair, a short, straight nose, and a pleasant, good-tempered
mouth. Dan was a Second-Class fellow and had been chosen football
captain in the fall.

“I’d give a dollar for a nice cup of hot chocolate,” he announced. “I’m
hungry as a bear. Got anything to eat, you fellows?”

“Not a thing,” replied Alf. “I can’t keep grub here; Tom eats it all
up. Anyhow, eating between meals,” he added, virtuously, “is very bad
for the health.”

“It’s good for the tummy, though,” said Dan, crossing over and seating
himself at the other end of the window-seat. “Well, what’s new?”

“New! Nothing’s new. Nothing has happened in this dead-and-alive hole
since――since the hockey game. I detest this time of year, don’t you?”

“It is a bit dull, but I guess we’ll be outdoors in a few days. Gee,
but I’ll be glad to feel a baseball again!”

“Me too. We’ve been discussing the Track Team’s chances. Now that
Gerald has decided to come out for the mile it looks like a pretty
sure thing for Yardley.”

“Oh, you can make all the fun you want,” said Gerald, cheerfully. “I’ll
bet, though, that I’ll win just as many points as you will, Alf.”

“That’s a good safe wager,” observed Tom, lazily. “Of course, I’m not
saying Alf might not win a third some time if he could keep his feet.
But he always takes a header just before the tape, and tears up the
track. Gets an idea, I suppose, that the quickest way to get there is
to slide. Shows his baseball training.”

“Oh, run away! I never fell but once, you old chump!”

“That’s all Adam fell,” said Dan, “and see what happened to him! By the
way, did I tell you what Tom calls his ice-boat? The _Planked Steak_.”

“Go ahead,” said Alf, “what’s the joke?”

“I asked him why he called it that and he said it was made of planks,
and the mast was the stake. Not bad, what?”

Alf groaned. “It sounds like one of Tom’s jokes. His sense of humor is
decidedly heavy.”

“My sense of hunger is decidedly strong,” said Tom. “And it’s five
minutes of six. Let’s go over. Want to wash up here, you two?”

“Yes,” Dan answered, “though I feel as though I was pretty well washed
already. I’ll bet there isn’t a really dry spot about me. Where’d you
get this villainous soap, Tom?”

“Don’t ask me; that’s some of Alf’s. Doesn’t it smell fierce?”

“Awful! Where’d you find it, Alf?”

“That soap,” responded Alf, haughtily, “is the best made, and extremely
expensive. The delicious perfume which you mention and can’t appreciate
is lilac. That soap costs me two and a half cents a cake, at Wallace’s.”

“Well, then, Wallace has at last got even for the glasses you broke
there once,” laughed Dan. “I’ve noticed an unpleasant atmosphere about
you for some time. Now it’s explained. All ready? Come on, then; let’s
eat!”



CHAPTER II

THE S. P. M.


While our four friends are satisfying four very healthy appetites,
let’s look about us a little. The place is Wissining, Connecticut, and
Wissining, in case you happen not to be acquainted with it, is on the
Sound, about equidistant from New Haven and Newport. Perhaps you can
locate Greenburg better, for Greenburg is quite a city in a small way,
and something of a manufacturing town. Wissining lies just across the
river from Greenburg, and Yardley Hall School is about a half-mile
from the Wissining station. It may be that you have never noticed it,
even if you have traveled that way, for the railroad passes through
the Yardley property by way of a cut, and the school buildings are not
long in sight. But if you look sharp as your train crosses the bridge
over the little Wissining River, you will see them describing a rough
semicircle on the edge of a not distant hill; Clarke, Whitson, Oxford,
Merle, and the Kingdon Gymnasium. Dudley you won’t see for the reason
that it is situated back of the other buildings and across the Yard.
Oxford is a recitation hall; but, besides class-rooms, it holds Dr.
Hewitt’s apartments, the office, the laboratories, the library, the
assembly hall, and the rooms of the two school societies, Oxford and
Cambridge. The dining-room, or commons, is in Whitson.

The school property consists of some forty acres of hill, woodland, and
meadow, and ascends gradually from the shore to the plateau whereon the
buildings are set, and then descends as gently to the curving river at
the back. Here are the tennis courts and the athletic field, the golf
links and the boat house; and here, near the river-bank not long since,
was the ice rink whereon Yardley defeated the Broadwood hockey team
and won the first leg of the Pennimore Cup, the trophy presented by
Gerald’s father.

Yardley usually holds two hundred and seventy students, their ages
ranging from twelve to twenty. There are five classes known as First,
Second, Third, Fourth, and Preparatory, and Yardley’s graduates have
a habit of going on to Yale for the rest of their education, although
there have been occasions when rash youths have preferred Harvard.
Broadwood, which is situated some four miles distant as the crow
flies, is a prominent feeder to Princeton, and so rivalries begun at
these schools are often nourished at college. There have been other
stories written about Yardley Hall, and so if you want a more detailed
description of the school you have only to refer to a book called
“Forward Pass,” though for my part I think you already have heard
enough about it to answer our purpose. It’s a good school, is Yardley
Hall; good in all ways; and, which is more important, it turns out some
fine fellows. If I had space to set down a list of all the eminent
government officials, scientists, writers, jurists, diplomats and the
like who have graduated you would be vastly impressed. But I haven’t,
and you must just take my word for it. I might add that it has turned
out a large number of athletes who, if their renown has been more
fleeting, have won honor and acclaim.

There was a stereoptican lecture that night in Assembly Hall and, after
they had finished supper, Dan was all for hearing it. But Alf refused
to entertain the idea for a moment.

“It’s something about the Irish Lakes,” he said, “and no one cares a
fig for the Irish Lakes. It’s wet enough here to-night without having
to listen to a lot of drool about the Lake of Killarney and――and the
others. If the chap would lecture on Irish bulls I might go. No, my
soul craves excitement, Dan.”

“So does mine,” Dan laughed, “but I don’t know where to find it. We
might go up to Cambridge and watch Chambers and Rand play backgammon.”

“Awful thought! No, you come over to our room, Dan, and Tom and I will
entertain you. Bring little Geraldine along, if you like.”

“He’s gone off with Thompson. I’ll come over for awhile after the
lecture.”

“You won’t. You’ll be drowned in the Irish Lakes. Let the old lecture
go.” But Dan was obdurate. Alf called on Tom for aid.

“Tell him to come, Tom,” he said. “We’ll dance and sing and recite
poetry for him, won’t we?”

“Maybe you will,” was the calm response. “I’m going over to Oxford for
awhile. There’s a debate and a concert.”

Alf groaned.

“Another of your silly vaudevilles! All right, go ahead, both of you.
But you’ll be sorry when you come back and find that I’ve blown up the
building or assaulted a faculty from sheer boredom. You’ll wish then
that you’d been kind to me.”

They parted on the steps of Whitson, Dan and Tom scudding across to
Oxford, and Alf, hands in pockets and head drooping dejectedly, walking
off through the downpour toward Dudley. Dan tried to persuade Tom to
accompany him to the lecture, and Tom strove to induce Dan to accept
the hospitality of Oxford Society. They argued it out at the head of
each flight of stairs and consumed some ten or fifteen minutes, and
finally Tom tried to kidnap Dan by main force in the upper corridor,
and was severely reprimanded by an usher for unseemly noise. The
lecture was mildly interesting and lasted the better part of an hour.
At the back of the hall a group of younger fellows, among whom was
Gerald, found the darkened room much to their liking and spent most
of the time cutting-up. The lecturer, a spare, nervous gentleman with
a prominent Adam’s apple and a very bald head, was visibly annoyed
at times, and when one of the pictures was thrown on the screen
upside-down didn’t discover the fact until the snickers of his audience
appraised him that something was wrong. After the entertainment was
over Dan met Gerald in the corridor and took him off to Alf’s room.
They scuttled over to Dudley through the rain and slush and found Alf
alone in his glory, his feet to the fire and a tablet and pencil in his
hands.

“Where’s Tom?” he asked. “I need him. Hello, Gerald. Fate, Mr.
Pennimore, has decreed that you be one of us. Your appearance, as
welcome as unexpected, decides the matter. I congratulate you.”

“What the dickens are you babbling about?” asked Dan, ruffling Alf’s
hair. “What’s the game?”

“You shall know in due time. I can’t explain it more than once, and so
we will await the arrival of Mr. Dyer, our respected colleague. While
you fellows have been wasting your valuable time in aimless pleasures I
have been working.” He held up a leaf from the tablet scrawled upon on
both sides.

“Is it poetry?” asked Gerald.

“Or an essay for _The Scholiast_?” suggested Dan.

“No, children, it is――But here comes Mr. Dyer. Welcome, Mr. Dyer.
Remove your coat and join our little home circle.”

“Alf’s got one of his silly fits,” said Dan. “Sit down, Tom, and let
him get it off his chest.”

Alf arose, turned his back to the fireplace, thrust one hand between
the buttons of his waistcoat and faced his audience impressively. Dan
and Tom cheered subduedly.

“Gentlemen,” began Alf. “(For the moment we will suppose that you are
gentlemen.) There is an adage which has it that Satan finds some
mischief still for idle hands to do. At this time of year when the
inclemency of the weather and――ah――lack of athletics deprive most of us
of occupation, leaving us little wherewith to interest ourselves save
degrading studies, it is especially desirable that our minds and hands
should be kept busy to the end that Satan shall not get in his work
with us. Let us keep out of mischief at all cost, say I.”

“Hooray!” applauded Dan. Alf bowed profoundly.

“Gentlemen, I thank you. Now, therefore, I have spent a profitable hour
during your absence, and am happy to be able to say to you, gentlemen,
that the problem is solved. In order that we have an interest above the
drudgery of study, I submit to you plans for the forming of a society,
a secret society which――Mr. Pennimore, kindly close the transom and
guard the door. As I was about to say, a secret society, to be known as
the ‘S. P. M.’” He paused dramatically.

“What’s that mean?” asked Tom.

“The Society of Predatory Marauders!”

“Bully name,” commented Dan, with a grin. “Who are we going to maraud,
Alf?”

“Society in general; we will strive not to show favoritism or――or
bias. I suggest that we begin with the faculty.”

Enthusiastic applause from the audience.

“After that we will settle scores with such of our personal friends as
need attention.”

More applause.

“Then we can turn to our ancient and much-loved enemy, Broadwood
Academy. After blowing up the buildings at Broadwood, we will search
for other worlds to conquer.”

“Let’s begin with Broadwood,” suggested Tom, lazily. “I never did like
green as a color.”

“Mr. Dyer is out of order,” said Alf, severely. “I will read to
you a brief outline of――of――a brief outline. Mr. Pennimore, as
Sergeant-at-arms you will kindly plug up the key-hole. Now, then.
‘The Society of Predatory Marauders, incorporated under the laws of
the State of New Jersey.’ (That’s where all the robbers and hold-ups
incorporate, you know.) ‘Object, the betterment of Society and the
uplifting of the Human Race. Motto: Sic semper facultus――――’”

“That’s rotten Latin,” grunted Tom.

“Dry up! ‘_Sic semper facultus et al._ Password, Vengeance.’ (We will
have a grip and a special knock, but I haven’t got to those yet.)
‘Officers: Alfred Loring, Chief Assassin; Thomas Dyer, Executioner;
Daniel Vinton, Torturer; Gerald Pennimore,――er――Incendiary.’ Now,
gentlemen, the resolutions. These have been very thoughtfully and
carefully prepared. ‘Whereas, for years we have been ground under the
merciless heel of the faculty of this institution, have been deprived
of our innocent pleasures and punished without provocation, have
been intimidated and brow-beaten, crammed with useless knowledge and
otherwise maltreated, now, therefore, be it Resolved that we arise
in our might and overthrow the despotic rule of the tyrants; that we
burn, pillage, and destroy; that we show no mercy nor hold our hands
until vengeance is satisfied and the ground is strewn with the lifeless
bodies of our enemies and not one is left to tell the tale. So perish
all tyrants!’”

“Dandy!” cried Gerald.

“Sounds like one of Joe Chambers’s editorials,” commented Tom.

“Now then, the oath!” commanded Alf. “Arise, gentlemen! Raise your
hands and repeat after me. ‘To the S. P. M. I pledge my fealty and
life, forgetting all ties of blood, friendship, and affection, pledging
myself to obey its laws and commands. Failing this, I hope to choke!’
Swear!”

“Darn,” said Tom, calmly.

“We swear,” said Dan in a sepulchral voice.

“Aren’t there going to be any other members?” asked Gerald, eagerly.

“In time we will recruit. For the present the members are all here. Now
then.” Alf seated himself and dropped into conversational tones. “What
awful thing shall we do first, fellows?”

Tom yawned loudly.

“Go to bed,” he said.

“Bed!” exclaimed Alf. “Do you mean to tell me that you have
listened――er――er――listened unmoved to my eloquence, you old
sleepy-headed chump? Bed! Why, doesn’t your soul cry out for vengeance,
for――――”

“Sleep? It does.” Tom started to unlace a shoe.

“Where’s your sporting instinct, Tom,” pleaded Alf. “Please don’t go to
bed yet. Let’s do one desperate deed first, just a tiny desperate deed!
Breathes there a man with soul so dead who even to himself has said
‘It’s time to go to bed?’ _No!_”

But Tom went calmly on with his preparations, and finally Alf gave him
up.

“Traitor!” he hissed. “Ingrate! Sluggard! Here I go to work and get up
the dandiest secret society that ever was, and what’s the result? Do I
get gratitude, support? I do not! I am yawned at! Very well, go to bed;
saturate yourself with sleep. The rest of us will go on with the great
work without you.” Alf seized a golf club from a corner and waved it
above his head. “On to Oxford Hall!” he shouted. “Death to the tyrants!
Down with faculty! _Viva la Commune! A bas le――――_”

There was a soft knock at the door. Alf’s arm and the improvised sword
dropped.

“Come!” called Tom.

The door opened and Mr. McIntyre, or Kilts, as the boys called him,
faced them. Kilts was the mathematics instructor and roomed at the end
of the corridor. He shook his head gently.

“’Tis past ten,” he said, “and I’m thinking ye’d best be quiet,
gentlemen.”

He closed the door again and went off down the hall. Alf looked at the
others in deep disgust.

“That’s always the way,” he grumbled. “Whenever I try to save the
country some one butts in and spoils it!”

“You’re like the Irishman who said that Ireland could be free to-morrow
if it wasn’t for the police,” laughed Dan. Alf viewed him coldly.

“I don’t see the apposition of your story, Mr. Vinton.”

“Why didn’t you start in and slay Kilts?” asked Tom.

“Because,” replied Alf, with dignity, “he was unarmed.”

“Come on, Gerald,” laughed Dan. “Let’s go home. The massacre is
postponed until to-morrow.”

“To-morrow is Sunday,” Gerald objected. “We can’t wipe out the faculty
on Sunday, can we?”

“No.” Alf shook his head thoughtfully. “No, my soul revolts at the
thought of killing any one on Sunday. We will wait until Monday.
Good-night, Brothers in the Cause. _Sic semper facultus et al.!_”

“The same to you,” replied Dan, politely, from the doorway, “and many
of them.”



CHAPTER III

A CALL FOR CANDIDATES


The rain continued most of Sunday, and when it ceased the snow was a
thing of the past. Monday dawned bright, and a brisk easterly breeze
began the task of drying the sopping, spongy world. Winter had lingered
long that year; or, perhaps, it would be better to say that winter
had returned for a supplementary season. But now that appeared to
be over at last and, in spite of the chill wind, the sunshine held
a very springlike warmth in the sheltered places. Gerald Pennimore
watched the weather anxiously, and once, between French and mathematics
recitations, he stole down to the field and set foot tentatively on
the track. The result wasn’t encouraging, for his shoe sank into the
cinders for a depth of two inches. He sighed and shook his head. It did
seem as though fate was determined to discourage in every possible way
his efforts to become a mile runner!

Gerald had been at Yardley only a little over a year, for he had
entered at the beginning of the previous Winter Term. Gerald’s father,
known the country over as the Steamship King, owned a big estate,
Sound View, which adjoined the school grounds on the west. There Mr.
Pennimore and Gerald――there were no others in the family since Gerald’s
mother was dead and he had neither brothers nor sisters――usually spent
nine months of the year, retiring to New York in the early winter and
returning at the first sign of spring. Until last year Gerald had
been in the care of tutors and would, perhaps, have been so still had
not a chance meeting with Dan Vinton ripened into a friendship. Dan
had fostered Gerald’s desire to enter Yardley, and in the end Mr.
Pennimore, to whom Gerald was very dear, had consented, though not
without misgivings. The misgivings, however, had soon departed, for
after the first month or two Gerald had got on famously. It had been
hard going at first, for many of the fellows had suspected Gerald of
being stuck-up because of his father’s wealth, and “Money-bags” was the
least offensive of the nicknames devised for him. But Gerald had been
fortunate in having the friendship of Dan, Alf, and Tom, under whose
guardianship he had eventually settled down into a fairly useful member
of the school community. Gerald had made good on his class baseball
team, had won election to Cambridge Society in the face of some rather
malicious opposition, had run a good race in the Cross Country meet,
and not more than a fortnight since had scored the winning goal and
won his Y when, as a substitute on the Hockey Team, Alf had put him in
in the last minute or two of the Broadwood game. That goal had been
something of a fluke, but Gerald had worked hard with the substitutes,
and no one begrudged him the privilege of wearing the Y, a privilege of
which he proudly availed himself whenever possible. At the present time
Mr. Pennimore was abroad and Sound View was still closed. Gerald roomed
with Dan in 28 Clarke.

But life wasn’t all discouragement for Gerald to-day, for this morning
the long-delayed summons to the track and field candidates had appeared
on the notice board in the corridor of Oxford.

    “There will be a meeting of all candidates for the Track Team
    in the Gymnasium at four-fifteen this afternoon. New men
    are wanted in all events, and any one who has ever done any
    distance running or would like to try it is especially urged to
    come out.

    “ALBERT T. MAURY, _Captain_.”

Gerald gloated over that request for distance men, for he meant to
try for the team as a miler, and the acknowledgment that the squad
as it was composed now was weak in that department meant that he
would be welcomed and given attention by the trainer. There was very
little conceit in Gerald, but he possessed the excellent attribute of
believing in his ability to do a thing until he had conclusively proved
that he couldn’t. Just now Gerald was pretty sure that with proper
training he could run the mile fast enough to secure a place on the
team and get into the Dual Meet with Broadwood the last of May.

Gerald was one of the first to reach the gymnasium after English was
over. So early was he, in fact, that he had to cool his heels a good
half-hour before the meeting began in the Trophy Room. About thirty
fellows appeared in response to the summons, many of them Fourth Class
fellows, showing more ambition than promise. Tom, with whom Gerald sat,
didn’t speak enthusiastically of the new material.

“Still, though,” he added, “it’s usually like this. The real stuff
comes dribbling along after work begins outdoors. Fellows hate to have
to do the gym stunts.”

Bert Maury, the captain, reminded the fellows that Yardley had won two
legs of the present Dual Cup, and that if they were successful this
spring the trophy would become Yardley’s property for good and all. “It
isn’t going to be so easy, though,” he said. “I happen to know that
Broadwood is making a big effort to get a good all-around team together
this year. Their trainer, as you know, is a mighty good man, and while
I guess he can’t hold a candle to our own Andy――――”

“Oh, you Andy Ryan!” shouted some one, and Maury had to wait for the
laughter and applause to stop.

“Anyhow, Broadwood’s going to do her level best, and we’ve got to
buckle down and do better,” he went on. “There are some things I guess
she can’t touch us at this year; the sprints and the high hurdles and
the pole vault and the shot and the hammer; I guess we can be pretty
certain of those events, but we’re weak at the jumps especially and
none too strong in the mile and the quarter. We’ve got to develop two
or three good milers and as many fellows for the four-forty; and some
good jumpers. And we want hurdlers, too. I hoped more fellows would
turn out to-day. We’ve got to have more if we’re going to win. Now you
fellows talk it up and see if you can’t get more candidates, will you?
We are going to have practice in the gym here until the track is in
shape, but I guess we will be able to get out of doors in another week
if this weather holds on. Now I’ll ask Mr. Ryan to say a few words.”

Andy Ryan, the trainer, was a short, red-haired, green-eyed little
Irish gentleman, mightily popular with the fellows, and when he got
on his feet the thirty-odd occupants of the trophy-room cheered for
all they were worth and made noise enough for twice their number. Andy
spoke with a slight brogue that, when he was excited, became almost
unintelligible.

“Much obliged,” he said, smilingly when they let him speak. “If you
fellows could run as well as you can cheer you’d have Broadwood licked
to a frazzle.”

“Quit your blarney!” said some one at the back of the room.

“Sure, ’tis not blarney I’ll be givin’ you if I git hould of you,”
responded Andy, dropping into his thickest brogue amid the laughter of
the boys. Then he became serious. “Boys, what Cap Maury says is true
as true. We’ve got to work pretty hard if we’re to win this year. I
ain’t saying we can’t do it, for I know we can, but I do say that every
one of you must make up your minds to strict training and hard work.
The faculty has been good to us, as you all know, and let us start
work out of doors before the recess, and if the weather is kind to us
it will make a difference of most two weeks, I’m thinking. That will
be a help, you see. But in the meanwhile we’re going to have a little
mild exercise in the gymnasium; just a bit of work with the weights and
the bells, you understand; nothing any of you need be feared of. And
there’ll be some running on the boards and some jumping and the like.
The training table won’t start until after the recess, but aside from
that I don’t see why we can’t be well on the way by the first of April.
Cap has spoken of the Broadwood trainer. Boys, he’s a good one. If he
hasn’t done better since he’s been there ’tis because he hasn’t had the
material to work with. I know him. I know him personally, and I know
what he can do. And I know that this year he’s going to do his best to
make up for the lickings we’ve given him. So keep that in mind, all of
you, and see can we put it on them again this year. Now, Cap, I guess
we’ll take the names if you’re ready.”

“All right, unless you want to say something, Bob.”

Bob Norcross shook his head without getting up.

“No. We’ve got four dollars in the treasury and need more. That’s all
I’ve got to say.”

“Having heard at length from the manager,” said Maury amid laughter,
“we’ll proceed. Give your names to Mr. Ryan, please, and tell him what
you’ve done and what you’d like to try for. As for the treasury, I
guess we can manage to do something for that after recess.”

The boys crowded around the table at which Andy seated himself. He
didn’t take much time with the old members.

“All right, Goodyear; I’ve seen you before. Roeder, you’ll have to do a
foot better this year, my boy. Is it yourself, Dyer? And how’s the lad?
And who’s that you’re hiding behind you?”

That was Gerald.

“Out for the mile, you say?” asked Andy. “Sure and why not? How old are
you?”

“Sixteen, Andy.”

“Never!”

“Yes, I am. You can ask Tom.”

“Well, sure you ought to be growing a bit, my boy. What’s your class?
Third? Have you ever done any track work?”

“No. But I was on the Cross Country Team, you know.”

“Indeed I do know it! Sure ’twas you saved the day to us. Come to me
to-morrow and I’ll give you some work to do. But you’ll have to get Mr.
Bendix to pass you first, you know.”

“He let me run in the Cross Country, Andy,” said Gerald, anxiously.

“It makes no difference,” replied Andy, severely. “Rules is rules. You
can tell him I said we needed you, though. He will pass you, all right.”

And so it proved the next morning. The physical instructor merely
looked Gerald up in his records, frowned a bit, and made a new entry in
his book.

“All right, Pennimore. You can try for the team if you like. But I’m
afraid you’re still a little weak for fast company in the mile run, my
boy. But it will do you a lot of good. Tell Mr. Ryan that――but never
mind; I’ll speak to him myself.” And Mr. Bendix, or Muscles, as the
boys called him, jotted a memorandum on the tablet before him.

That afternoon the track and field candidates assembled in the
gymnasium, and Gerald found himself toiling with the chest weights.
Later Andy set him six laps on the running track, after which he
plunged under a cold shower, to emerge feeling as though he could give
Captain Maury seventy yards and beat him in the mile. The baseball
candidates had begun their work in the cage the day before, and the
locker-room that afternoon was a very noisy and very merry place. There
were Alf and Dan and Captain Durfee and Wheelock and Richards and
several more of the ball players that Gerald knew, and Tom and Arthur
Thompson and Roeder and lots more of the track fellows.

Arthur Thompson, a boy of about Gerald’s age and a member of the Second
Class, was rather a chum of Gerald’s. Arthur had secured second place
in the pole-vault last spring, and was expected this year to get first.
Arthur was rather heavily built for pole work, and his success in the
event had been a surprise to most every one save possibly himself and
Andy. He had very dark hair, a somewhat sallow complexion, and even his
dearest friends would not have called him handsome. Gerald had started
out by detesting him, but, as so often happens in such cases, had ended
by liking him thoroughly. He and Gerald left the gymnasium together and
walked across the Yard to a back entrance of Whitson. Here they climbed
the stairs, and Arthur led the way into Number 20. At a table, bending
absorbedly over a big stamp album, sat a youth of thirteen.

“Look here, Harry,” said Arthur, sternly, “what have I told you about
those silly stamps? Haven’t I given you fair warning?”

“Please, Arthur, I was only pasting a few――――”

“I’ve told you I’d pitch it out of the window if you didn’t let it
alone for a minute. And I will, too. Now shove that out of sight and
speak to our guest.”

Harry Merrow grinned as he closed the book.

“Hello, Gerald,” he said. “Isn’t he a fussy old thing?”

“Fussy!” exclaimed his roommate. “My word, kid, the first thing I see
in the morning is you sitting up in bed with that idiotic book, and the
last thing I see at night is the same. And you’re at it all day! You’ve
got stampitis, that’s what you’ve got, Harry.”

“Don’t you ever go outdoors?” asked Gerald.

“Oh, yes, lots! I was out this afternoon. But I just got eight new
stamps and they’re dandies. One’s a――――”

“Shut up!” commanded Arthur, sternly. “I’ve told you you are not to
talk about them. I’m so blamed sick of cancellations and superimposed
this and that and first issues and second issues and――and―― Honest,
Harry, for two cents I’d pitch the whole fool collection out into the
mud!” Arthur flung his cap across the room with a gesture of despair.

“I know a fellow in Merle,” began Harry, addressing Gerald, “who’s got
the dandiest lot of old revenues you ever saw, and he says if I’ll――――”

But Arthur was upon him, and Harry found himself lifted bodily from his
chair and set on his feet.

“Here,” said Arthur, seizing the boy’s cap from the table and jamming
it onto his head, “out you go! Down to the tennis courts and back three
times for yours, kid. You’ve just got time for a nice constitutional
before supper.”

“But I don’t want to go out, Arthur!” pleaded Harry. “And I was out,
honest I was!”

“And you’re going again,” was the firm reply. “I’m not going to have
you bleach out like a clump of celery right under my eyes. If you
haven’t sense enough to take exercise yourself, why, here am I, little
darling. Run along now!” And Arthur propelled him across the room to
the door, Harry struggling unavailingly in his grasp. “There you are,
Harry. Three times to the courts and back, mind. And I’ll be watching
from the window; so don’t try any funny tricks. You can’t get into the
gym now, because it’s locked by this time, so you needn’t try that on
again.” The door closed behind the rebellious form of the youngster,
and presently they heard his lagging footsteps on the stairs. Arthur
went to the window and watched him started across the Yard. Then he
threw himself into a chair.

“Honest, Gerald, that kid bothers me to death. I’d change my room if
it wasn’t that someone’s got to look after him, and I suppose it might
as well be me. Those stamps―― And, by the way, it was you started him
going when you gave him your collection last year.”

“Oh, he was collecting before that,” said Gerald.

“Yes, I know, but you gave him about a million dollars’ worth of
top-notchers, and now he’s trying to live up to them. Why, that little
chump writes letters to the crowned heads of Europe, I believe, in
the hope that he will get hold of something new in the way of stamps.
And as for catalogues and price-lists and sheets on approval, why,
sometimes I can’t find my books for the trash on top!”

“You certainly are in hard luck,” laughed Gerald. “You’d better join
the S. P. M. and eradicate Harry and his stamps.”

“What’s that?” asked Arthur.

Gerald told about Alf’s secret society, and Arthur chuckled with glee.

“That’s great,” he declared. “I’d like to join. Think they’ll have me?”

“I guess so. I don’t know, though, whether there are any offices left
to be filled. You might have to be just a plain, every-day marauder.”

“You ask Alf if he doesn’t want a high-class poisoner. But say, Gerald,
you don’t want to let faculty get wind of it. Secret societies are
barred, you know.”

“Of course, but this is just a joke.”

“Um, yes; but faculty is deficient in humor, you see. Old Toby never
did have any, and I guess Collins had his worn out years ago. When’s
the next meeting?”

“I don’t know. I think we must have adjourned――what is it?――sine die. I
wouldn’t be surprised if the S. P. M. didn’t meet again.”

And doubtless it wouldn’t have, had the weather behaved itself. But on
Wednesday forenoon it started in to snow, and in the afternoon the snow
changed to rain, and the rain kept up all day Thursday. And fellows
who had been softening up their baseball gloves with neatsfoot oil or
porpoise grease, or polishing their golf clubs, or taking their tennis
rackets from the press, grumbled loudly and said unkind things about
the New England climate. Gerald did no audible grumbling, but was
vastly disappointed and disgusted, and spent much of his time watching
the sky for signs of a break in the weather.

Alf stood Wednesday with equanimity, but on Thursday he grew restive.
Practice in the baseball cage wasn’t a satisfactory substitute for
outdoor exercise. Casting about for something to amuse himself with,
Alf recollected the S. P. M., which, like other of his foolishness, he
had promptly forgotten. The result was that just before supper that
evening there was a peculiar knock at the door of 28 Clarke, three
raps, a pause, and three more. Dan called “Come in!” and the door
opened. But the visitor remained outside in the darkened corridor. He
wore a black domino over the upper part of his face, and held forth two
bulky envelopes.

“Vengeance!” he whispered, hoarsely.

Dan, wondering, took the envelopes, trying to discover the identity
of the bearer. The clothes were not familiar to him, but there was
something about the mysterious visitor that suggested Alf.

“Who the dickens are you?” asked Dan.

But the other made no answer, and was already retreating into the
shadows.

“It’s Alf,” laughed Gerald, looking over his roommate’s shoulder. “Come
on in, Alf.”

But Alf, if it was Alf, turned and scuttled along the corridor and
disappeared down the stairs.

“I don’t believe it was Alf,” said Dan, doubtfully.

“I know it was,” Gerald replied. “I’ve stood up in front of him too
often when we used to box not to know that mouth and chin. What’s in
the envelopes?”

“Let’s find out. Here, one of them’s for you.”

They were addressed in scrawly, printed characters. They tore them open
and drew from each a folded sheet of paper and a round piece of yellow
cardboard about the size of a silver dollar, on which was inscribed “S.
P. M.” in black letters and, above, what was evidently intended for a
skull and crossbones. The communication was brief:

    “BROTHER IN THE CAUSE: There will be a Special Meeting of the
    Society in the Secret Rendezvous at half after seven to-night.
    Wear this insignia, and fail not on peril of disfavor and death!

    “NUMBER ONE.”



CHAPTER IV

THE INITIATION


At supper Gerald asked Alf if he might bring a recruit to the meeting.
“It’s Arthur Thompson, and he wants to join, Alf.”

“Bring him. Where’s your badge, though?” Alf pointed to his own yellow
disk, which he wore conspicuously pinned to his lapel. “Didn’t you get
instructions to wear it?”

“I didn’t know you meant to wear it to supper, Alf.”

“Why not? How do you suppose people are to know that we have a secret
society unless we advertise it?” asked Alf, disgustedly. “Well, bring
Thompson along with you. Joe Chambers is coming, too. As editor of _The
Scholiast_, he may be able to give the society a nice write-up in the
next number.”

When Gerald and Arthur reached 7 Dudley, they were confronted by a
sheet of brown paper pinned to the door. It read:

                     HEADQUARTERS OF THE S. P. M.

                           A SECRET SOCIETY

                         _Ask for a circular!_

Alf, Tom, Dan, and Joe Chambers were already inside as Gerald gave the
password and was admitted. Chambers was a tall First Classman, who wore
glasses and tried his best to look cultured. Joe rather fancied himself
as a molder of public opinion, and really did have a knack of writing
red-hot editorials. When Gerald came in he was sprawled in an easy
chair, visibly amused by the proceedings.

“We are all here,” announced Alf, gravely. “The Sergeant-at-Arms――I
mean the Incendiary――will lock the door. Hold on a minute, though!”
He took a sheet of foolscap from a table drawer, and pinned it on the
outside of the door, under the first sign. The others followed him and
read:

                       INITIATION NOW GOING ON.
                            NO ADMITTANCE.

“There,” said Alf, “I guess that’s some businesslike, what?”

“Look here,” said Joe, uneasily, “you didn’t say anything about
initiation when you beguiled me to this den of iniquity.”

“My dear chap,” expostulated Alf, “you didn’t think, did you, that you
could join a society of this sort without being initiated? Why, that’s
absurd, positively absurd. Isn’t it, Tom?”

“Silly,” grunted Tom.

“Of course.” Alf locked the door. “The initiation will now proceed. The
novitiates will remove their coats and waistcoats, please.”

Arthur obeyed smilingly, but Joe Chambers looked a trifle uneasy, and
hesitated. “What for?” he asked. “What do you think you’re going to do
with me?”

“What!” roared Alf, savagely. “Would you dare question the authority of
the Chief Assassin?”

“I would,” replied Joe, firmly. “What’s your game?”

Alf looked helplessly at Tom and Dan. “Did you ever hear of such
effrontery, such ingratitude, such――such―― Honest, now, did you?”

Dan sadly acknowledged that he never had. Tom grunted.

“Here I invite him to become a member of the finest, most high-toned
little band of cutthroats in the country,” said Alf, “and now he
refuses to allow himself to be initiated. Ha, I have it!” He viewed Joe
darkly. “It was a scheme to penetrate to our meeting-place and learn
our secrets! You are a brave man, Joe Chambers, to put yourself in our
power!”

“Come on, Joe, be a sport,” begged Dan. “What do you care if you get
killed?”

“And think what it would mean to the school, Joe,” added Tom. “We’d be
spared those editorials in _The Scholiast_!”

“Yes, be a good fellow, Joe. Just one tiny little initiation,” said
Alf. “It won’t take five minutes; honest, it won’t. Look at Thompson
there, brave and calm. My word, how brave and calm!”

“Oh, all right,” laughed Joe. “Go ahead with your tomfoolery. What do
you want me to do?”

“Remove your coat and waistcoat,” returned Alf, promptly. “The
Incendiary will give you a check for them. Thank you. Lay them aside,
Gerald. It’s barely possible he will need them again.” Alf crossed
to the window-seat and piled the cushions together in the middle.
“Now, gentlemen, the first ordeal will be that known as the Ordeal by
Water.” He opened the window from the bottom and put his hand out.
It was still raining hard, and Alf seemed to derive much satisfaction
from the fact. “Kindly place yourselves on the cushions, gentlemen. No,
faces up, please, and heads outside the window. That’s it. Thank you
very much.”

“But it’s raining, you idiot!” protested Joe.

“Ah, that is the point,” replied Alf, gravely.

“Well, I’m going to take my collar and tie off,” grumbled Joe. He did
so, and Arthur followed his example. Then, side by side, they stretched
themselves across the cushions, their legs sprawling over the floor,
and their heads and shoulders over the sill.

“Beautiful,” said Alf, approvingly. “Hold it, please.” From somewhere
he whisked into sight two broad-mouthed tin funnels and clapped them
into the mouths of the recumbent boys. At the same instant he closed
the window as far as it would go. Both strove to get their hands
outside to remove the funnels, but they were so closely jammed in
that they couldn’t move their arms. Dan and Tom and Gerald viewed the
proceedings with broad grins.

“How long before they will drown?” asked Tom, untroubledly.

“About two minutes,” replied Alf, darting to the door. It opened and
closed behind him, and they heard him speed down the corridor and then
go racing upstairs. A moment later there were footsteps in the room
overhead. Dan looked inquiringly at Tom.

“Whose room is above?” he asked.

“Steve Lingard’s. What’s Alf up to, do you suppose?”

“Search me, but I guess we’ll find out if we wait.” The two pair of
legs on the floor were beginning to move restively. Evidently the
position was growing wearisome. The three boys inside heard a window
above being softly raised, and they crowded around Joe and Arthur and
watched. Suddenly, there descended a great stream of water straight
onto the faces of the two initiates. Away went Arthur’s funnel, but not
until he had swallowed enough water to almost choke him. Joe’s funnel
had tipped sideways, so that he fared rather better; but when Dan and
Tom raised the window and pulled them into the room, there wasn’t much
to choose between them. Both looked like drowned rats, and were gasping
and choking and sputtering wildly. They were soaking wet halfway to
their waists. Alf came hurrying in, and the quartette sank into chairs
and laughed until their sides ached. Joe was the first one to find his
voice.

“A r-r-rotten joke!” he gasped. “You fellows think you’re plaguey
smart, don’t you? L-l-look at me! I’m wet to the skin!”

“Yes, but you’re a member in good standing of the S. P. M.,” returned
Alf, soothingly. “All that remains is to swear to reveal everything
that you have witnessed at the meeting.”

“Yah!” said Joe, disgustedly, seizing a towel and trying to dry himself
off. “You make me tired!”

Arthur, however, took it quite good-naturedly.

“Gee,” he said, “I thought I was drowned there for a minute. What was
it, Loring, a cloudburst?”

“Yes, from Lingard’s pitcher. It was a peach of a shot, wasn’t it?
Better take your shirts off, fellows, and get dry. Joe, you are elected
to the office of Press Agent Extraordinary and Chief of the Bureau of
Publicity. Thompson, you are First Assistant Assassin. Any little jobs
too menial for me to attend to will become your duty; trifling murders
that you can attend to in the evenings after study. And now, Brothers
in the Cause, we will banquet.”

Alf had provided crackers and pâté and cheese, and six bottles of
ginger ale; and Joe, who had wiped his shoulders dry, and hung his
upper garments over the radiator, became pacified. Alf removed the
initiation notice from the door, and replaced it with one announcing
that a midnight orgy was in progress. They were disturbed several times
by knocks and demands for admission, but no one was allowed in. When
Tom Roeder became too obstreperous, Dan mounted a chair and dropped an
empty ginger-ale bottle through the transom. He had to guess at his
aim, but, from the subsequent sounds, and the fact that Roeder took
himself off precipitately, it is probable that the aim was not so bad.

The meeting broke up late, and none of the six had any study to their
credit that night. But then, as Alf pointed out, that didn’t matter
very much, since in a very short time the faculty would be totally
eradicated. That, he explained, would happen just as soon as he was
able to decide which member to do away with first.

“The trouble is, fellows, that as soon as I decide on one, it occurs to
me that another deserves the honor more. At present Old Toby and Noah
are tied for first place.”

“I wish you’d make it Noah,” sighed Arthur. “I’m having beastly luck
with his old physics lately.”

“Why not begin at home?” asked Joe. “There’s Kilts right down the hall
there.”

“Ssh!” Alf leaned across the remains of the feast. “Just between
ourselves, I have a weakness for Kilts, and I’m hoping we’ll be able to
get him to join us. I’ve always thought that Kilts would make a dandy
assassin. He reminds me so often of one of those old Scotch Boarders――I
mean Borderers. When the time is ripe I shall put it up to him, and I
think――mind you, I only say I _think_――that he will jump at the chance!”

After that evening the S. P. M. met occasionally and informally,
and there was one hilarious evening when another double initiation
took place, Harry Durfee, the baseball captain, and Tom Roeder,
being admitted to the fold. By that time the S. P. M. had become
rather famous throughout school, and there were many applications
for membership. But Alf counseled keeping the society select. Many
guesses were made as to what S. P. M. stood for, the guesses varying
from Socially Prominent Members to Stewed Prune Munchers. Alf managed
to derive a good deal of entertainment from his society; but as
the faculty continued to breathe and have their being, it must be
confessed that the S. P. M. failed of its avowed mission. March settled
down to fair and warm weather before it was half gone; and with the
beginning of outdoor work for baseball and track candidates, the S. P.
M. lost its interest.

The track and field squad had grown to over forty boys, and every
afternoon they were hard at it under Andy Ryan’s direction. Every one
was glad when gymnasium work was over, and they could get out on the
field and feel the sod or cinders under their spiked shoes. Dan and Alf
were busy on the diamond, Dan at second base and Alf in left field. Tom
was swinging the hammer around his head or tossing the shot, getting
himself into form again, and at the same time helping Andy with the
coaching of three other candidates for the weight events. Thompson was
working hard at the high bar, and Gerald――well, Gerald was trying his
best to run his young legs off, and would have succeeded, I fancy,
had not Andy Ryan kept a close watch on him. For Gerald was eager and
willing to a degree; and if he had been left to his own devices, would
undoubtedly have blasted his chances in the very first fortnight by
overexertion.

For Gerald’s idea of training for the mile run was to go out every
day and run that distance at top speed; and he was both surprised and
disappointed when Andy restricted him to jogging around the track one
day, racing a quarter of a mile the next, and, as like as not, laying
him off entirely the third.

“But I’m perfectly able to run to-day, Andy,” he pleaded on one such
occasion. Andy shook his head.

“Easy does it, my boy, easy does it,” he replied. “You’ve got two
months ahead of you yet. We’ll start slow and work up. Mile runners
aren’t made in a day, nor a week, nor yet a year, for that matter.”

And when Gerald complained to Alf that he feared Andy wasn’t going to
take enough interest in him, Alf gave him a little lecture. “Get that
idea out of your head, Gerald,” he said, severely. “Andy knows what
he’s up to. When he tells you to jog, you jog. When he tells you to
sprint, you sprint; and when he says rest, why, rest as hard as you
know how. That’s the way to get on fastest. Distance running, as I’ve
heard, is largely a matter of endurance, and I guess endurance is
something you’ve got to learn slowly.”

“But I’ve run three miles time and again, Alf, and finished strong.”

“Yes, but you weren’t doing the mile around five-five, and that’s what
you’ll have to do if you want to get a place in the Duals, Gerald. Has
Andy given you a trial yet?”

“No, and I wish he would. He says he isn’t going to until after recess,
though.”

Alf nodded wisely. “What he says goes, Gerald. Keep that in mind.
Remember that Andy knows more about training than you ever will know if
you live to be a hundred.”

And Gerald got the same sort of talk from Dan and Tom. Only Arthur
Thompson was at all sympathetic.

“Seems to me,” said Arthur, “he might let you do a good deal more than
he is, Gerald. But then I don’t pretend to know anything about running.
Anyhow, I guess he means to take you on the squad.”

“I guess so, because there are only four of us out for the mile. Maury
has been at it every day this week, except Saturday. I don’t think it’s
fair, Arthur. Of course, I won’t be able to do anything against him if
I don’t get any practice!”

“Well, you don’t expect to beat him, do you?” asked Arthur, with a
smile. “He’s pretty good at it, you know.”

“The best he ever did it was five, three-and-four-fifths,” Gerald
objected.

“Well, isn’t that pretty good?”

“Y-yes, but I’ll bet I could do it pretty near that.”

“Bet you couldn’t!” replied Arthur, laughingly. “Not yet awhile. Why,
Maury’s nineteen, I guess; eighteen, anyhow.”

“Well, I’m sixteen,” answered Gerald, stoutly. “And, besides, age
hasn’t got much to do with it, anyway.”

“Yes it has, Gerald. You’re stronger at eighteen than you are at
sixteen, and strength means endurance; and I guess you’ve got to have a
heap of that to make good in the mile run.”

“I read in a book,” said Gerald, “that all you have to do to become a
good distance runner is to practice. And Andy won’t let me do that. I
guess I’ll try for something else. Think I could learn to pole vault?”

“Maybe. But I’d stick to the mile if I were you, Gerald. You’d have to
begin all over if you went in for the pole.”

“Yes, I suppose I should,” answered Gerald, dispiritedly.

Arthur slapped him on the back.

“Buck up, Mr. Pennimore! Never say die, you know.”

But Gerald’s countenance didn’t clear. “That’s all well enough for
you,” he grumbled, “for Andy treats you right. And Maury makes a fuss
about you, because you’re our crack pole vaulter. But they don’t care
a button whether I get along or not. I guess they’re just laughing at
me behind my back. Guess they think I’m sort of a fresh kid for wanting
to make the team. I’ve seen fellows kind of grin as I went by on the
track.”

“Oh, come, Gerald, that’s nonsense!” said Arthur, heartily. “Nobody’s
laughing at you, I’ll bet. It’s plucky of you to try for the track
squad, and I guess every fellow thinks that way. And don’t get
discouraged about it. Even if you don’t do terribly well this year,
you’ve got two more years here, and college afterward.”

“But I’m going to do well this year,” replied Gerald, determinedly.
Adding, less assuredly, “If they’ll give me a fair show, I mean.”

“And they will. Why shouldn’t they? Don’t you think Andy and Maury want
to win the Duals as much as you do? Not to treat you fair would be
cutting off their nose to spite their face, wouldn’t it?”

“I suppose so,” answered Gerald. Then he laughed. “Andy would have a
hard time cutting off his nose, wouldn’t he? He couldn’t find it, I
guess!”



CHAPTER V

THE CHALLENGE


“Piffle!” said Alf. “Any one could edit a paper like that old sheet of
yours, Joe. It’s most all ads, anyhow.”

It was the last week in March, and Alf, Tom, and Dan and Joe Chambers
were clustered around the fireplace in 7 Dudley. The weather had been
so mild that over in the heating plant the boilers had been allowed to
go out, and to-night, with a northerly March wind rattling the windows,
it was decidedly cold in the room; or had been until Alf had lighted a
fire in the little grate. Joe Chambers stretched his long legs out and
smiled indulgently.

“That’s all right,” he replied, “but I wish you had it to do for
awhile. It may seem simple enough to you chaps, but just let me tell
you that getting out _The Scholiast_ is no joke.”

“No, it’s a very serious proposition,” murmured Tom, who had been on
the verge of slumber several times. “A joke now and then would help it
like anything.”

“Of course,” went on Joe, warming to his subject, “I have three fellows
to help me, but――well, you see how it is: nobody can know as well as
you do just what you want. So, in a way, I have to be pretty nearly the
whole thing down there.”

“That ought to please you,” said Alf, gravely.

“I think _The Scholiast_ is a mighty good paper,” remarked Dan. “It’s a
heap better than any I’ve seen――any school paper, I mean.” Alf sniffed.

“Why say school paper?” he asked. “Why, _The Scholiast_ has the New
York _Sun_ and _Herald_ and everything else beat a mile! It’s the
only gen-oo-ine, all-wool, yard-wide journal in existence! Talk about
your Danas and your James Gordon Bennetts and――and your Hearsts! Why,
they’ll be swallowed in eternal gloom while the name of Joseph Chambers
still――er――flares athwart the――the――――”

“Oh, shut up, Alf! You talk like one of Joe’s editorials,” said Tom,
disgustedly. “After all, it is a pretty good little weekly――――”

“Yes, a little weakly,” murmured Alf.

“But every one knows that it’s Holmes who makes it go. Holmes is the
real thing on _The Scholiast_.” Tom winked at Dan. “Why, it’s Holmes
who gets the advertising, looks after the circulation, pays the bills,
and does the whole big stunt. I know, because he told me so himself.”

Joe smiled pityingly. “Holmes is a mighty smart business editor,” he
said, “but there’s some difference between soliciting advertisements
and writing copy; to say nothing of editing it after it’s written!”

“But think of the glory!” exclaimed Alf, rapturously. “Think what it is
to be a Molder of Public Opinion! And as a molder of Public Opinion,
Joe, you’re just about the moldiest ever!”

“You’re having a pretty nice little time knocking me to-night, aren’t
you?” asked Joe, with a suspicion of heat. “Well, you may make all
the fun you want to, but I’d like to see you hold down my job for ten
minutes, you smart Aleck!”

Alf, having at length succeeded in getting a fall out of Joe, as he
would have expressed it, smiled joyfully.

“Nonsense, Joe! I could get out a better paper than that with my eyes
shut and one hand tied behind me!”

“Yes, you could!” sneered Joe, with an inflection that belied his
words. “That’s what they all say! Every fellow thinks he can edit a
newspaper.”

“I’m not saying anything about newspapers,” retorted Alf, sweetly.
“_The Scholiast_ is not a newspaper, Joseph. It never had any news in
it since it started.”

“Cut it out, Alf,” growled Tom. “Don’t be nasty.”

“It’s a fact,” declared his roommate, warming to his subject the more
as he saw Joe Chambers losing his temper. “For instance, there’s
a new plank walk put down from Merle to the gym steps on Monday.
The following Friday _The Scholiast_ comes out with the startling
information that ‘A new plank walk has been established from Merle Hall
to the Gymnasium, and is meeting with much favor from those who have
occasion to pass that way.’ News! Poppycock!”

“Anything connected with the school,” said Joe with much dignity, “is
of interest to the readers of _The Scholiast_.”

“Then why don’t you put in something that every one doesn’t know? Why
don’t you tell about Old Toby’s new wig? That’s real hot stuff for your
readers. Why, Toby hasn’t had a new wig before in the memory of the
oldest inhabitant!”

“You’re a silly ass,” grunted Joe. “I’m glad I don’t have to edit your
copy.”

“I’m glad I don’t have to write for your paper,” Alf retorted. “If I
did, though, I’ll bet I’d get some more interesting stuff in it.”

“Oh, you make me tired,” said Joe, getting up. “You’re a regular Mister
Fixit. You couldn’t hold down a reporter’s job for ten minutes.”

“Fancy that! Joe, I’ll bet you――I’ll bet you a feed at Farrell’s for
the crowd that I can get out a livelier number of _The Scholiast_ than
you ever have. What do you say?”

“I say you’re a silly idiot,” replied Joe from the doorway.

“Take me up?” Alf insisted.

“What’s the good? You’ll never get the chance to try.”

“All right; then you’re safe? Bet me?”

“Yes, I’ll bet you.” Joe smiled pityingly at the others. “You may know
something about football and hockey, Alf, but you couldn’t write a
two-line paragraph that _The Scholiast_ would publish.”

After which parting fling, Joe nodded to the rest and took his leave.
As the door closed behind him Alf chuckled with wicked glee.

“Got a fall out of him, though, didn’t I? He’s a chesty youth, is Joe.”

“What did you want to rag him so for?” inquired Dan, who, while he
had enjoyed the hostilities, didn’t quite approve. Alf shrugged his
shoulders.

“Oh, I don’t know. Felt like it, I suppose. Joe sort of got on my
nerves to-night. He’s such a know-it-all. I really like him, but it
does him a heap of good to be taken down a few pegs now and then.
Besides, what I said was true. He fills that sheet up with a lot of the
dullest, stalest, messiest old trash I ever read.”

“Well, there isn’t much to publish, I guess,” murmured Tom. “He does
the best he can, most probably.”

Alf made no response. He was gazing fixedly at the flames in the grate.
Dan pulled himself out of his chair and found his cap.

“I’m off,” he announced. “Good night, you chaps.”

“Good night,” said Tom. “See you to-morrow.”

Alf only waved a hand.

The next evening Alf haled Tom over to Cambridge Society. Tom was a
member of Oxford, but occasionally allowed himself to be led astray, as
he termed it. Dan had received summons to be present, and was on hand
with Gerald.

“Come over here in the corner,” said Alf, mysteriously. “I wouldst a
tale unfold. Come on, Gerald; you can keep a secret, I guess.”

He led the way to an uninhabited corner of the big room and pulled four
chairs together. When they were all seated with heads close together,
Alf began with lowered voice:

“Remember Joe Chambers’s wager last night?” he asked. Tom and Dan
nodded. “You don’t, Gerald, because you weren’t there. But Joe bet me
a feed at Farrell’s that I couldn’t get out a livelier number of _The
Scholiast_ than he had ever published.” Alf leaned back and grinned at
the puzzled faces. “Well, I’m going to do it.”

“Do it! How can you?” asked Dan.

“You don’t suppose for a minute, do you, that Joe’s going to let you
get out _The Scholiast_ for him?” inquired Tom.

“No, my slow-witted friend,” replied Alf, engagingly, “but he can’t
prevent me――us, I mean――from getting out a _Scholiast_ of our own, can
he?”



CHAPTER VI

ALF BECOMES AN EDITOR


Tom stared.

“What the dickens are you babbling about?” he demanded, impatiently.
“Out with it, or I’m going home. I’d hate to be seen here, anyway.”

“You never did care for good society,” retorted Alf. “But listen,
now; here’s the game; see what you think of it.” The four heads drew
together again. “What I propose doing is getting out a fake number of
_The Scholiast_, having a whole pile of fun and putting up one nice,
fine, big joke on the immortal Joseph. Are you with me?”

“Sounds all right,” said Dan, eagerly. “But just how――――”

“Easy as pulling teeth! We’ll go over to Greenburg, see a printer
there, and get him to copy _The Scholiast_ exactly; same heading and
type and――and style all through. He can do it all right, I’ll bet. Then
the three of us――no, the four of us, for Gerald’s in on it now――will
write the stuff. We’ll have a whole bunch of fake advertisements, and
a column or so of ‘School Notes,’ and a couple of Joe’s inimitable
editorials, and――and the rest of the guff, you know.”

“Bully!” exclaimed Gerald.

“Say, that’ll be dandy,” cried Dan. Tom nodded approval.

“Only thing is, Alf,” he objected, “it’ll cost a lot of money, I’m
afraid. Got any idea how much?”

“No; I’m going to see the printer to-morrow. I’d have gone to-day, but
I didn’t have a chance to get away. I don’t believe, though, that it
will cost so very much. All we’ll want is about three hundred copies,
Tom.”

“Three hundred will cost about as much as three thousand,” replied Tom.
“I know, because I’ve had some dealings with printer folks. They’re
robbers. It’s the――the composition that costs.”

“Well, I say we do it if we can get the money,” said Dan. “Gee, but it
will be fun to write the stuff, won’t it?”

“_The Scholiast_ is sent out Friday at about noon,” said Alf. “We’ll
have to get ours out two or three hours earlier. I guess the best way
will be to get hold of the fellows who deliver the real paper and have
them take ours around for us. In that way no one will suspect that
he’s not getting the genuine article.”

“But they’ll find out as soon as they begin to read it, won’t they?”
Tom objected.

“Well, maybe; but I don’t care about that. Besides, we’ll write it so
foxily that they won’t quite know for sure, don’t you see, until they
get their real copies.”

“When shall we do it?” asked Gerald, excitedly.

“Next week. This is Thursday. We’ll see the printer to-morrow and make
all the arrangements. Then we’ll have a full week to get it out in.”

“You’ll have to swear him to secrecy, though,” said Dan, “or he will
give the snap away.”

“Sure. But that will be all right. I guess the best place to go will be
the Greenburg _News_. They probably have more type and stuff than the
other shops.”

“Who prints _The Scholiast_?” Tom inquired.

“A fellow named Prince. His place is over Walton’s dry goods store.
It’s just a small shop. I’ve been up there; went up last year when I
was on the program committee for Cambridge. We might ask him to do it.”

Alf looked about questioningly. Tom shook his head.

“Better not risk it. He might get remorse and tell Joe.”

“That’s what I think,” said Dan. “Better go somewhere else.”

“All right. We’ll try the _News_ place first. There are half a dozen
printers in Greenburg, I guess. Meanwhile you fellows get your thinking
caps on and make notes of anything that seems good for the paper. About
Saturday night we’ll meet over at our room and get busy; have a meeting
of the Editorial Council――whatever that is!”

“It’s a perfectly swell idea,” said Dan, admiringly. “How’d you come to
think of it, Alf?” Alf looked becomingly modest.

“Oh, I don’t know. I just wanted some way to get a laugh on Joe
Chambers. He said I couldn’t hold down a reporter’s job for ten
minutes. I don’t know what a reporter has to do, exactly; and I dare
say he’s quite right; but I don’t intend to have him saying so to my
face!”

“Shall we call the paper _The Scholiast_?” asked Dan.

“What do you think?” Alf looked doubtful. “I guess we’ll have to, won’t
we? We don’t want the joke given away too soon.”

“Maybe Joe could have us arrested for forgery or libel or something,”
said Tom. “Couldn’t we change it a little? Call it _The Schollarast_ or
something like that?”

“Sure; just change a letter or two; no one would notice if they weren’t
looking for it.” This from Dan.

“Call it _The Scholiant_,” Gerald suggested.

“Right-o,” agreed Alf. “That’s a good one: _The Scholiant_. We’ll call
it that. No one would notice it, I’ll bet. As the――the instigator
of the scheme, I choose to be Editor-in-Chief, fellows, and as
Editor-in-Chief I am entitled to write the editorials. And just you
watch me! I’m going to out-Chambers Chambers! All I want is a nice
little subject that nobody gives a hang about. What do you think of
doing a column or so on making Yardley a co-educational school?”

“Shucks!” said Dan. “Joe would never hit on a subject half as
interesting.”

“No, he never would,” Tom agreed. “What you want to write about is
something regarding the faculty, I guess. I’ll tell you, Alf! Make the
proposition that the school would be better off without a faculty!”

“Good! That’s a peach! But I must remember to write School and Faculty
and Student Body with capitals; Joe’s great on capitals!”

“He’s a regular capitalist,” murmured Tom.

They talked the project over for a half-hour longer, and then, very
full of it, sought their rooms. Dan informed Gerald the next morning
that he had been writing articles for _The Scholiant_ all night in his
dreams!

Alf and Dan went over to Greenburg the next forenoon and had a talk
with the printer. They displayed a copy of _The Scholiast_ and asked
him what it would cost to have three hundred copies printed. At first
the foreman of the shop thought they were offering him the contract to
print _The Scholiast_ every week, and was extremely affable. Later,
when he found that they only wanted one issue turned out, he was
inclined to pay no more attention to them, and they had to explain that
the thing was a joke in order to reinlist his interest. This proved
a lucky move, for the foreman had a strong sense of humor and was
immediately eager to have a hand in the hoax. But after he had done his
figuring on the job their enthusiasm was somewhat dashed, for forty
dollars and eighty cents seemed a good deal to pay for the joke. Dan
told the man they would have to think it over, and would let him know
right away; and after swearing him to secrecy returned to Yardley.

Tom was for taking more fellows into the scheme in order to raise the
money, but the others demurred on the ground that it would increase the
risk of having the secret leak out. It was Gerald who finally proposed
a solution of the difficulty.

“I’ve got a lot of money I don’t need,” he said, apologetically. “I
could pay fifteen dollars and you could make up the rest. I’d be
awfully glad to.”

“That doesn’t seem fair, though,” said Dan. “We ought all to share
alike. I’m pretty nearly busted though, and that’s a fact.”

“I’ll get my allowance Wednesday or Thursday next,” said Alf. “I guess
I can put in seven or eight of it. I tell you what, fellows. Let Gerald
put in fifteen――or twenty, if he will――and we’ll all pay him a dollar a
week until we’re even. How’s that?”

That suited every one, and so Gerald advanced twenty dollars to the
fund and the others made up the balance; and the next day the printer
was informed that the copy for the first, last, and only issue of _The
Scholiant_ would be in his hands by Wednesday.

That was a busy week, and it would be untruthful to say that studies
didn’t suffer in 7 Dudley and 28 Clarke. Every evening there was a
meeting in one room or the other, and the Editorial Force read their
productions, compared notes, criticised each other’s efforts, planned
new work, and laughed themselves tired. Alf was Editor-in-Chief, Tom
was assistant Editor, Dan was Business Manager, and Gerald was Star
Reporter.

They had had no idea when they started of the amount of labor entailed.
_The Scholiant_ was only a four-page publication, but the pages were of
good size and it was no mean task to fill the columns. Alf was allowed
two columns for his editorials, a column and a half was scheduled for
School Notes, five columns were set aside for advertisements, and the
entire front page was to be devoted, in the manner of _The Scholiast_,
to important news articles. That left four columns to be filled with
miscellany. The advertisements proved a source of much amusement,
and they all took a hand in concocting them. And Tom made a big hit
with his contributions to the School Notes department. But, although
they wrote and wrote and racked their several brains for days, when
Tuesday night came there was still, according to their reckoning, some
three columns to be filled. They viewed each other with dismay and
discouragement.

“I’m just simply written out,” sighed Alf. “I say we fill the rest up
with ads.”

“Ads!” exclaimed Tom. “They’re the hardest of all. We’ve just about
played that game out.”

“I tell you!” said Gerald. “When a paper hasn’t anything to put in it
prints an advertisement of its own, like ‘Subscribe to _The Scholiant_!
One Dollar a Year! Do it Now!’”

“Bully scheme!” cried Dan. “That’ll use up a whole column.”

“One! Pshaw! Let’s make it three columns,” said Alf. “And we’ll make it
a good one, too. Push me some paper, Tom.”

Alf wrote busily for a minute, and then read the result of his
inspiration and labor as follows:

“‘Read The _Scholiast_! The Only Paper Publishing Chambers’s
Editorials! The Only Paper Giving You Yesterday’s News Next Week!
Fearless and Almost Intelligent! Subscribe To-day! Don’t Wait! We Need
the Money!’”

“We’ll print that across three columns,” said Alf, as the applause died
out. “And that ought to be enough. Now let’s go over the whole batch
again. You read, Tom, and don’t chew your words.”

So Tom started in and read all they had written, growling now and
then over some illegible writing or mis-spelled word, and the others
suggested changes or corrections. Finally the sheets were bundled
together and given to Alf to convey to the printer on the morrow; and
with sighs of relief the Editorial Force sought their beds. Dan, in
his capacity of Business Manager of _The Scholiant_, had rounded up
the boys whose work it was to deliver _The Scholiast_, and had found
them very willing to earn a little more money by performing similar
duties. He didn’t tell them what it was they were to deliver, but made
them promise to say nothing about it nevertheless. There were only two
of them, both Third Class fellows, and young enough and sufficiently
in awe of the football captain to keep still tongues. The copy went to
the printing shop Wednesday afternoon, and on Thursday Tom and Alf went
over and read proof, and didn’t leave until the first copy of the paper
had been “pulled” from the press.



CHAPTER VII

_THE SCHOLIANT_


At half-past ten the next forenoon the two carriers toiled up the hill
with the papers under their arms. Their instructions were to deliver
a copy to each _Scholiast_ subscriber, and this they proceeded to do.
Oddly enough, the first copies to reach their destinations were those
for Dr. Hewitt and the library. The Doctor’s was left in the Office,
and the library copy was placed, as usual, on the periodical table. As
the Doctor was engaged with a class at the time, and as the library
was empty, these copies found no readers until much later in the
day. Meanwhile the paper had been delivered at the rooms of the two
societies upstairs, and the two boys left Oxford and began their tours
of the dormitories.

The first discovery of the hoax is credited to a Preparatory Class
youth named Wilkes, who at the time was enjoying a slight attack of
German measles, in his room in Merle Hall. It was Wilkes who, contrary
to the doctor’s instructions, threw up his window and hailed a friend
excitedly some ten minutes after the delivery of _The Scholiant_ had
begun.

“Oh, Billy!” sang out young Mr. Wilkes. “Oh, Billy! Have you seen _The
Scholiast_?”

Billy paused under the window and deliberated.

“Is it a joke?” he asked finally and suspiciously.

“No――yes――――”

“Then I don’t know the answer,” replied Billy, shifting his books to
his other arm and starting on again.

“Hold on! Come up here and see it, will you? Chambers has gone crazy,
and the paper’s full of the funniest things you ever saw!”

“Huh! You want me to catch the measles, I guess!”

“You won’t; I’m all over ’em.”

“It’s against orders, though. Besides, I’ve got a copy of my own in the
room.”

“All right, don’t!” said Wilkes, aggrievedly. “You’re missing something
great, though. Listen to this.” Wilkes stuck _The Scholiant_ through
the window, and proceeded to read from the first column: “‘Yardley Wins
at Last! Notable Victory Scored Over Greenburg Female Academy!!’”

“What?” cried Billy. “Here, I’m going to have a look!”

He tossed his books on to the steps and dashed upstairs, the danger of
infection all forgotten.

A quarter of an hour later Yardley was in an upheaval. Copies of The
_Scholiant_ were at a premium; and the few fellows who, from motives
of economy, didn’t subscribe to the school weekly, regretted the fact
deeply. Between classes the steps of Oxford fluttered with the sheets,
and copies were even handed about surreptitiously during recitations;
and more than one copy was confiscated by authority.

Of course it is out of the question to reproduce that number of _The
Scholiant_ here, but some of its features deserve mention. At first
glance _The Scholiant_ was _The Scholiast_, and nothing else; lots
of fellows refused to believe that it was not the regular issue of
the school paper until, at noon, the grinning carriers appeared with
the latter. And it was almost dinner-time when some smart youth made
the discovery that an N was doing duty for an S in the title. The
first article was an account of a baseball victory for Yardley over
the Greenburg Female Academy, a private day school for girls. This
production was Tom’s, and he had had a lot of fun in writing it, since
it gave him excellent opportunities to score hits on Alf and Dan and
others of the baseball team.

“Two weeks ago to-morrow,” said the account, “Yardley won its first
baseball victory of the season. Greenburg Female Academy was our
opponent, and a hard-fought and closely contested game was the result.
Not until the ninth inning had been played was the outcome apparent.
Then, rallying nobly about its captain, our team refused to be denied.
The final score was 37 to 29, eleven runs being tallied in the last
inning when, with admirable presence of mind, our Coach released six
field mice from a cigar box. During the subsequent confusion our team
scored at will. We understand that the game has been protested by the
Academy, on what score is not apparent to _The Scholiant_.”

Then followed a column and a half giving the game by innings. One
inning will do as a sample: “In the eighth, Matilda Moore opened for
the visitors with a long hit halfway to the pitcher’s box. She was
clearly out, pitcher to first baseman, but as the entire visiting
team gathered about the umpire and called him ‘a mean old thing,’
he reversed his first decision. Jessie Jones, who followed at bat,
insisted on standing on the plate and was hit by the first ball
pitched. After recovering from hysterics she was given her base.
Matilda walked over to third and would have been out had she not
threatened to stick a hat-pin in our third baseman if he touched her
with the ball. Condit, being a gentleman of discretion, promptly
dropped the ball and couldn’t find it until the runner was safe on the
bag. Mary Ann Arbor struck out, but was given her base by the umpire
when she claimed that Reid had pitched the ball so swiftly that she had
been unable to see it.

“With the bases filled, Daisy Doolittle sent up a foul, which was
captured by Hammel. She was called out, but the runners came home and
refused to go back to their bases when instructed to do so by the
umpire. They said they were too tired to walk so far. Gwendolyne Gwynne
made eyes at the pitcher and walked to first, scoring a moment later,
when Alice Smith struck at the first ball, a wild pitch, and ran to
first. Gwendolyne neglected to make a circuit of the bases, explaining
that she didn’t like the second baseman and wasn’t going near him.
Sarah Feathers struck out. Four runs.

“For Yardley, Captain Durfee went to bat first in the last of the
eight. He made a clean hit past shortstop and reached second, but was
called out for having jostled Matilda Moore at first. After Matilda
had stopped crying, the game went on. Condit couldn’t reach the ball,
although he got a lot of exercise going after it, and the umpire gave
him his base. Loring hit to deep center, advancing Condit to third and
taking second. Vinton, naturally of a shy disposition, was so deeply
embarrassed that he was struck out easily. Daisy Doolittle dropped the
ball on the ground while she fixed her hair, and Condit and Loring
scored. Wheelock made a safe hit to right, but got talking to the
catcher and forgot to take his base. The umpire finally called him out
for delaying the game. Two runs.”

Gerald had followed this with an article on “The Track and Field
Outlook,” in which he managed to have some mild fun with the
candidates. (Gerald’s copy had had to be pretty thoroughly edited, for
English composition was not one of the boy’s strong points.) Dan’s
first-page contribution made a great hit with its readers. It was
headed “Broadwood Academy To Be Sold.”

“Broadwood Academy,” declared _The Scholiant_, gravely, “is announced
to be sold under the hammer to the highest bidder, next Tuesday
afternoon, at two o’clock. The sale will take place on the steps of
the Court House, at Greenburg. Broadwood Academy was started a few
years ago as a preparatory school for boys, but failed signally of its
purpose, and for the past two years has been conducted as a Sanitarium
for Weak-Minded Youths. The property consists of a small parcel of
pasture land situated on a hillside about two or three miles from
Greenburg, four or five tumble-down buildings, several keepers, and a
handful of patients. We shall be sorry to see Broadwood Academy go,
for it has been considered one of the unnatural curiosities of the
neighborhood, and picnickers have always found the campus a comfortable
place on which to lunch. A rumor has been current to the effect that
Yardley Hall proposed buying the property and moving it to a corner
of the Athletic Field. _The Scholiant_, however, is able to state
authoritatively that the project has been abandoned.

“Professor Collins, when interviewed on the subject, said: ‘Yes, there
was some talk of purchasing the property and bringing it here to
Yardley, placing it, possibly, on the Athletic Field between the Boat
House and the Tennis Courts. But the plan would be impracticable, since
the buildings are too old to stand the journey.’ The property will
probably be bought in by W. J. Arthur, the popular Wissining grocer,
who contemplates using it as a poultry farm.”

Alf had two editorials, each done in Joe Chambers’s most flamboyant
style. The first announced a change of editorial policy as follows:
“A New _Scholiant_. Journalism in America has entered upon a New Era!
Conservatism is dead! The Watchword of To-day is _Houpla_! It is no
longer sufficient merely to print the News. The Public, the Great
American Reading Public, demands Sensation. Hitherto and heretofore
_The Scholiant_ has followed the Old Methods of Journalism. It has
published the News truthfully and deliberately. It has been Sedate,
Dignified, and Courteous. But the Times compel a Change. _The
Scholiant_ is a Servant of the Public. _The Scholiant_ bows to the
Inevitable. We are done with Conservatism. Hereafter _The Scholiant_
will be at once Up-to-Date, Sensational, Untruthful, and Interesting.
It will be Saucy and Spiteful. Above all it will be Yellow. Ever in the
van among the Journals of the Old School, from now on _The Scholiant_
will be in the fore with the Journals of the New. Beginning with its
next issue _The Scholiant_ will be printed on yellow paper. It will be
copiously illustrated. It will have Special Departments dealing with
Burglary, Homicide, and Kindred Subjects. Always Fearless, it will
hereafter be Reckless, Rampageous, and Reprehensible. Its Editorials,
which have been copied all over the Civilized World, will continue to
be written by the same Gifted and Eloquent Pen, but will be Brighter,
Breezier, and Better than ever. The Old _Scholiant_ is dead. The New
_Scholiant_ salutes you!”

A second editorial advocated the abolishing of the Faculty and the
substitution of a Student Government body. It was the sheerest
nonsense, but it served its purpose, which was to poke fun at
Chambers’s tempest-in-a-teapot eloquence.

The “School Notes” filled almost two columns and, from a school
standpoint, were extremely funny.

“Ferris, 2d, says he is raising a mustache. It looks to us like dirt,
but Hy ought to know.”

“T―――― L――――, 1st, wears his collars so high that every time he looks
over the edge he gets dizzy.”

“Notice anything new about Doctor H――――? One at a time, please!”

“A clean towel has been placed in the Gymnasium wash-room. This makes
the second this year.”

“Rand, 1st, has a new pair of trousers. Congratulations, Paul! (Later.
We were mistaken. It’s the same old pair. Paul has had them pressed.
Apologies, Paul!”)

“There’s going to be a party at Farrell’s before long. Ask Editor
Chambers who is giving it.”

“There’s a case of German measles in Merle. Even our diseases are Made
in Germany nowadays.”

“Captain Vinton says the football prospects are extremely bright. They
always are at this time of year.”

“Hiltz, 2d, took tea on Friday with our popular Matron. So far his
nerve has not been affected.”

The advertisements were perhaps the funniest feature of the issue.
Practically every advertiser in _The Scholiast_ was represented.
The popular drug store across the river was Wallace’s, and Wallace
advertised “Wallace’s Famous Fried Egg Sundae Can’t Be Beat! Try
one at our Soda Fountain! We also have a full stock of Post Cards,
Sarsaparilla, Toothbrushes, and Chewing Gum. Prescriptions filled while
you sleep!”

“Indigestion? Farrell’s Lunch Emporium is the place to get it! Have one
of my India Rubber Sandwiches! They last a Life Time!”

“Hardware of All Kinds at Topham’s. Why wear Woolen? Try a Suit of Our
Chain Armor! Wears Harder and Lasts Longer!”

“Hurd and Gray’s Livery and Boarding Stable solicits the esteemed
patronage of the young gentlemen of Yardley Hall. Good board at
moderate prices. Try us when you are tired of Commons.”

“Proctor’s! Proctor’s! Proctor’s! Stationery in All its Branches. Post
Cards Free to Patrons. Help Yourself when we are Not Looking. Try one
of our Famous Non-Leakable Fountain Pens. A Bottle of Ink Eradicator
Gratis With Every Pen!”

A telegraph item from New Haven announced that hereafter Yale
University would admit Yardley Hall graduates without examination.
Another, dated at Greenburg, stated that owing to the fact that the
Faculty at Broadwood Academy had decided to insist upon a mild course
of study at that institution many of its foremost athletes were
leaving; and in consequence Broadwood would not be represented that
Spring on field or diamond.

_The Scholiant_ was a success, and the printer did a good business for
days after in striking off extra copies at ten cents apiece for boys
who wanted to send them home. “The Fake _Scholiast_,” as it was called,
lived in history, and you will find framed copies of it hanging in
the rooms of Cambridge and Oxford Societies. For days Yardley laughed
itself sore over it, and hazarded all sorts of guesses as to who had
perpetrated the joke. In the end the facts leaked out, and Alf and his
associates reaped praise and renown, not only from their fellows but
from members of the faculty as well. Tradition has it that Mr. Collins,
the Assistant Principal, was discovered doubled over with a copy of
_The Scholiant_ in his hand.

But there was one who failed to appreciate the joke at its full value.
That was Joe Chambers. Joe took it fairly well, but his grins lacked
sincerity. No one was present when he caught his first glimpse of _The
Scholiant_, so, unfortunately, his sensations must be left to the
imagination; but Alf and Dan and Tom ran him down a half-hour later in
his room. He was scowling darkly and, as he confessed days afterward,
was writing a red-hot editorial on “The Vulgarity of Practical Joking.”

A day or two later, however, after the fellows got through teasing him,
he regained his poise and managed to smile wanly when the subject was
mentioned. The party at Farrell’s came off in due time, and, under the
benign and softening influence of frankfurters and chicken sandwiches
and chocolate eclairs and root beer, Joe forgave his tormentors. He
would very willingly have forgotten, too, but that was denied him. I
regret to say that at first Joe tried, in Alf’s picturesque language,
to “squeal.”

“I agreed to give you fellows a feed,” he declared, “if you got out a
livelier issue of _The Scholiast_ than we did. You didn’t. You called
your sheet _The Scholiant_. That lets me out, don’t you see?”

Alf viewed him reproachfully, sorrowfully, and shook his head.

“Joe, that isn’t like you,” he replied. “That’s quibbling. It――it even
savors of dishonesty. No, no, as your friends, we can’t allow you to
take that stand. Truth is truth, Joe, and justice is justice. Be a man,
Joe. Pay up, old sport!”

Joe looked about him for moral support, but the faces of Dan and Tom
and Gerald expressed only disapproval and hunger.

Joe sighed and gave in.



CHAPTER VIII

GERALD LIES LOW


March hurried along toward April, and Spring Recess drew near. This
lasted one week, and Gerald was not looking forward to it with much
pleasure. His father was still absent from home, and Gerald would be
forced to spend the vacation in the big house in Fifth Avenue, with
only the servants for company. To be sure, Tom, who lived in New
Jersey, had asked Gerald to visit him for a couple of days, and that
would help some; but, on the whole, he expected to pass rather a dull
and lonesome time. He had half a mind to remain at Yardley, where there
would be at least a handful of boys whose homes were too far distant
to allow of their making the journey. Dan, who lived out in Ohio, was
to spend the recess with Alf in Philadelphia. Gerald had wanted Dan to
come home with him, but Alf had spoken first. Gerald grew daily more
down-hearted as the first of April approached.

To most of the fellows, however, the nearing vacation brought a
restlessness and excitement that were manifested in a growing
disinclination to study and an increasing inclination toward mischief.
School was to close on Thursday, and the exodus was to commence Friday
morning. By Tuesday even the baseball and track candidates exhibited
a disposition to dawdle and loaf; and Payson, the baseball coach――he
was football coach as well――had a few sarcastic remarks to make when
the last practice was over Wednesday afternoon. His hearers, however,
felt that he was justified, and were too contented with the outlook to
resent the wigging he gave them.

“He might have said a whole lot more,” said little Durfee, captain and
shortstop of the team, as he and Dan left the gymnasium together. “We
certainly have been playing like a lot of chumps lately.”

“Yes, we’re all thinking too much about vacation, I guess,” Dan
assented. “But it will be different after we get back again.”

“I hope so. Gee, but I want to win this year, Dan.” Durfee laughed at
his own earnestness a moment later. “I suppose you always do if you
happen to be captain,” he added.

“Of course. That’s the way I feel about football. I wanted Yardley to
win last year bad enough, but it seems to me that if we get licked
next fall, I’ll just want to throw myself in the river. It does make a
difference, Harry. How is the pitching situation shaping, old man?”

“About the way you see,” answered Durfee, with a shrug of his square
shoulders. “I guess it’ll be Reid for the big games, but he isn’t doing
much. Servis hasn’t a thing but a whole lot of speed, Dan; and if he
gets cornered, he goes up in the air like a skyrocket.”

“That’s funny, too,” said Dan, “for when he isn’t playing ball, Servis
is as cool and collected as a――a cucumber.”

“I know. I’m hoping he will get over it a bit after he’s been through
more. We’ll work him in every game we can, whether we win or lose.
After all, it’s only the Broadwood game I give a rap about. Snow and
Wallace have the making of good pitchers, I think, and we’re going to
do all we can for them; but this thing of making pitchers for next year
and not having a really first-class one now isn’t much fun. I suppose,
though, that next year’s captain will thank me. And may be that will be
you, Dan.”

“Not likely. Especially as I’m football captain.”

“That’s so; I’d forgotten that. Well, here I am. Hope you have a dandy
time, Dan. Keep in training, won’t you? So long.”

Harry Durfee disappeared into the dormitory, and Dan went on to
his room. When he opened the door he found Alf sprawled out on the
window-seat reading. He tossed the paper aside when he saw Dan.

“Hello,” he said. “Where’d you get to? What did you think of Payson’s
few well-chosen words? Not bad for an impromptu speech, eh? He has a
neat little way of saying things, hasn’t he?”

“I agree with Harry Durfee,” answered Dan. “And Durfee says Payson
might have given it to us a lot hotter for the way we’ve been
soldiering on him.”

“Huh! Durfee’s captain; and captains are always on the side of law and
order. Personally, I am an insurgent to-day. I’m agin the gov’ment,
Dan! I want to do something desperately wicked. Let’s revive the S. P.
M. and raise a little Cain.”

“You’d better let the S. P. M. sleep in its grave,” laughed Dan. “Not,
however, that I don’t feel a little coltish myself,” he added, rolling
Alf suddenly off the window-seat and taking his place. There ensued
a minute’s engagement, from which both boys emerged breathless,
disheveled, and laughing.

“Let’s do something, Dan,” said Alf, as he returned his necktie to its
accustomed place under his waistcoat. “Honest, I’ve got to do something
or bust. Let’s pie somebody’s room for him.”

“No fun in that. Besides, everybody’s in their room now.”

“That’s so. Say, Dan, Friday’s April Fool’s Day. I’d like to work a
nice big hoax on some one.”

“You might fool Old Toby by staying at school instead of going home,”
suggested Dan.

“Don’t be an ass! Think of something, can’t you?”

“All I can think of is supper,” replied Dan, with a laugh.

“Your soul’s in your tummy,” said Alf, disgustedly. “Well, leave
it to me. If I can think of something, are you in on it? Something
big――and――er――awe-inspiring?”

“Sure,” answered Dan. “Go ahead and think. I’m off to commons.”

I fear there wasn’t much studying done at Yardley that evening. A
spirit of unrest had seized the fellows, and there was much coming
and going across the Yard and in the dormitory corridors. There were
trunks to be brought from the storerooms, and loaned articles to be
recovered, and, in some cases, debts to be settled. Every one made at
least one call that evening. Some fellows, possessed by an excess of
sociability, seemed determined to visit every friend and acquaintance
in school. As for the morrow, well, it was a well-known fact that
instructors were lenient on the last day of a term, and one could
always manage to “fake” a bit if necessary.

In 7 Dudley a council of conspirators was going on. Callers there
had found a locked portal and no response to their demands. The
conspirators were Tom, Alf, and Dan. Alf was speaking.

“We’ve been ridiculously well-behaved all term,” he was saying, “and
now I think we deserve a little fun. Besides, what’s the good of a
secret society that never does anything?”

“It would be fun, all right,” said Dan, “but it’s a long way to go to
get it.”

“Yes,” drawled Tom, “and if faculty catches us, we’ll be soaked for it
good and hard. Guess you can count me out on it, Alf.”

“Oh, don’t be a pup!” begged Alf. “Faculty isn’t going to catch us.
Even if it did, what’s the odds? It isn’t anything but a perfectly good
joke; absolutely harmless. I’ll bet all the others will be crazy to
go.”

“Crazy to go, yes,” answered Tom, ambiguously. “You’ll have plenty
without me. I don’t want to get in wrong just now and be kept off the
Track Team, thank you.”

“Oh, you make me tired, Tom! Why, look here. I tell you no one can
possibly know. I’ll have everything ready, and all we’ll have to do
is to sneak quietly away to-morrow night, get the things from where I
leave them, go over to Broadwood and do the trick. It won’t take us
five minutes there, and we’ll be home and in bed by one o’clock. And
think of the fun Friday morning, when those fresh-water kids get up and
view the scene!”

“The trouble is, we won’t be there to see it,” objected Dan.

“We’ll hear about it afterward, though,” replied Alf, with a grin. “And
I don’t have to be there to see it; I can see it now. Come on, Tom; be
a sport.”

“Oh, all right, I’ll see you through, but I’ll bet a doughnut we get
into trouble. Still, what’s a little trouble, after all? The world is
full of it. But don’t you think it would be a lot safer if just we
three attended to it?”

“Not so much fun, though,” said Alf. “The more the merrier. We’ll have
to do our packing some time during the day, fellows.”

“Why? We won’t have to leave before about half-past ten,” said Dan. “I
can do mine in a half hour. One thing that’s mighty comforting is, that
if faculty does hear of it, we’ll be out of the way by then.”

“Oh, faculty will hear of it all right,” said Tom. “How about little
Geraldine, Dan?”

“I guess we’d better leave him out of it. He’s a bit tender to be mixed
up in such doings. Besides, he wouldn’t want to go if he knew about it.”

“Wouldn’t he!” exclaimed Alf, with a grin. “You tell him and see what
he says!”

“No, he isn’t to hear anything about it,” replied Dan, firmly. “I don’t
mind being called up myself, but as Gerald’s father holds me kind of
responsible for the kid’s behavior, I prefer to have him stay out of
it.”

“All right,” agreed Alf. “I’ll see the others, though, and I guess
we’ll have a merry little expedition.”

It was all very well, however, for Dan to talk about leaving Gerald
out of the fun, but not so easy to do it. It didn’t take Gerald long
the next day to discover that something was up. Alf appeared in 28
Clarke just before dinner, breathless and mysterious, with his shoes
muddy from the road to Greenburg, and led Dan out into the corridor to
consult with him in whispers. Gerald said nothing then, but it was very
evident to him that something was afoot, and that whatever it was, he
was not to be invited to participate.

In the afternoon Dan was absent from the room; and when, seeking him,
Gerald walked into 7 Dudley, the conversation stopped suddenly, and
an air of constraint was apparent until Gerald invented an excuse for
retiring. Not being in a mood to welcome solitude, he crossed over to
Whitson and ascended to Number 20. He found both Arthur Thompson and
Harry Merrow at home. As usual, the latter was deep in his stamps,
while Arthur, his trunk pulled into the middle of the room, was packing.

“I haven’t started yet,” said Gerald, morosely, seating himself on
Harry’s bed, for the reason that the chairs and the other bed were
strewn with Arthur’s clothes.

“You haven’t?” Arthur observed him in mild surprise. “Aren’t you going
to?”

“To-night’s time enough.”

“Yes, only――” He leaned over Gerald, and dropped his voice. “What time
are we going to start?”

“Start where?”

“Why, you know, S. P. M.”

“Oh!” said Gerald. “I guess we’re going to start late, aren’t we?”

“I suppose so. Loring didn’t say when, but I guess it will have to be
late if we aren’t going to get nabbed.” He chuckled. “Prout’s going to
leave his window unlocked so I can get in that way in case the door’s
locked when we get back.” Suddenly an expression of blank dismay came
into his face. “Jehoshaphat!” he murmured. “Loring said I wasn’t to
mention it to you! I was thinking you knew!”

“Well, that’s all right,” responded Gerald, easily. “I do know now. I
think it was mighty mean of Alf and Dan to try to keep me out of it.”

“Well, he said――” Arthur paused, and looked speculatively at Harry.
That youth was apparently much too absorbed in his stamps to hear
anything, and Arthur went on _sotto voce_. “Loring said Dan didn’t want
you to get mixed up in it in case the faculty learned about it and made
trouble. And I promised I wouldn’t tell you. Gee, I’m an awful ass!”

“No harm done,” said Gerald, soothingly. “I knew something was up, and
I meant to find out what it was, too. You might as well tell me all
about it now, Arthur.” But Arthur shook his head.

“No, I said I wouldn’t.”

“But you have! And I think it’s rotten mean not to, after I went and
got you into the S. P. M.”

“Well, I’ll tell you this much then, Gerald. It’s a joke we’re going to
play on――on some one to-night. That’s all. And if we should get caught
at it, we’d probably be fired――put on probation anyway. And you don’t
want to get put on probation now, do you?”

“I wouldn’t care,” replied Gerald, stoutly. “If you fellows can risk
it, I don’t see why I can’t. Who’s in it?”

“Oh, you know; the S. P. M. I guess they’re all going――except you.”

“Except me, yes,” murmured Gerald. “Oh, all right if you don’t want
to tell, Arthur. That’s all right. Maybe it would be silly to risk
probation just to play a silly old joke on some one. And I was on
probation last year, you know. I guess it’s going to be pretty risky,
too. You’re almost sure to get caught when you come back.”

“Get out! Every one will be asleep before that. If they don’t see us
start out, we’ll be all right, I guess.”

“When are you going to start?” asked Gerald, with a fine show of
indifference.

“I don’t know; I’ve got to ask Loring.” Then Arthur looked at Gerald
suspiciously and grinned. “You’re trying to pump me, aren’t you?”

“The idea!” murmured Gerald, deprecatingly.

“Yes, you are, Mister Smarty. Say, you’re foolish like a fox, aren’t
you? Well, I won’t tell you any more.”

“I don’t care. It doesn’t concern me any. Only I think it’s silly to
get into trouble just for a few minutes’ fun.” Gerald paused. “Then,
besides,” he said, “I wouldn’t want to play a joke on him any way,
because he never did anything to me.”

Arthur grinned. “Go on, you little ferret! See what you find out.”

“Oh, if you think I’m trying to pump you,” said Gerald, with great
dignity, “I’ll get out! And I hope you forget to pack everything you’ll
need at home!”

Gerald left in apparent high dudgeon, deaf to Arthur’s invitations to
remain and superintend the packing; but as he scuttled down the stairs
and across to his own room, he chuckled softly several times and seemed
in very good humor. He began the packing of his own trunk at once;
and when Dan came hurrying in a few minutes before six, the trunk was
locked and strapped, and Gerald was giving attention to his suit case.

“Well, you’re smart,” said Dan, approvingly. “That’s what I’ve got to
get busy and attend to. We got to chinning over there, and I forgot
all about packing. I’ll get at it after supper, and then I guess we’d
better both get to bed pretty early. You’re going up on the nine-seven,
aren’t you, with the rest of us?”

“Yes, I suppose so,” answered Gerald. “Any way, I guess it will be a
pretty good plan to get a lot of sleep to-night. Traveling,” he added,
demurely, “is very tiresome, isn’t it?”

“Very,” agreed Dan.

After supper, Dan set about his packing, and Gerald helped him. The
task was completed about half-past eight, and then Dan announced
carelessly that he guessed he’d run over to Dudley for a few minutes.
“I want to see Alf about something,” he added. “If I were you, Gerald,
I’d get to bed pretty soon. If I come back late, I’ll be quiet so as
not to wake you.”

“All right,” answered Gerald, suppressing a yawn. “But you needn’t be
especially quiet. You know nothing short of an earthquake can wake me
after I’m once asleep, Dan.”

As soon as the door was closed behind his roommate, Gerald hurriedly
removed his outer clothes, pulled pajamas on, found a book, and dashed
into bed. As it proved, his hurry wasn’t necessary, for Dan didn’t
return for over an hour, during which time Gerald, propped up in bed,
read comfortably. When he heard Dan’s footsteps he hid the book under
the pillow, turned his face from the light and feigned sleep. Dan
pottered around quietly for some fifteen or twenty minutes convinced
that Gerald was fast asleep, and then put out the light and crept into
his own bed. Although Gerald didn’t dare turn over to make sure, he
was pretty certain that Dan had, like himself, removed only his shoes,
coat, vest, and trousers.

For the better part of an hour the two boys lay there silently and
pretended to be asleep. I fancy it was harder for Dan than for Gerald,
for the latter was entertained by the thought that he was hoaxing Dan.
At last――it was some time after the clock had struck ten――Gerald
heard his roommate’s bed creak, and then the soft patter of feet on
the floor. Dan was getting into his outer clothes again. Gerald lay
still and waited for a space, but Dan took so long that Gerald couldn’t
resist the impulse to scare the other, so he yawned and stretched and
turned over in his bed. Deep silence settled over the room. Gerald
smiled in the darkness.

Finally, Dan took heart and continued his preparations, and presently
Gerald heard the door open almost noiselessly and close again. At
once he was out of bed and groping for his trousers. He had had the
forethought to leave his clothes near by, and to arrange them so that
he could get into them easily. He didn’t dare take time enough to lace
his shoes. He merely thrust his feet into them, tucked the strings out
of the way, and followed Dan.

Downstairs he crept. The door, locked at ten o’clock every night by Mr.
Collins, the Assistant Principal, was ajar. He opened it cautiously and
looked out. No one was in sight. The night was mild, and a half-moon
sailed in and out of a cloudy sky. Closing the door behind him, Gerald
crept along in the shadows of the buildings until he had reached the
front of Oxford. He knew that the others would meet somewhere, and
believed that from here he was certain to see or hear them.

And, as it proved, he hadn’t long to wait. Presently seven forms crept
around the corner between Oxford and Whitson, and he buried himself
more deeply in the shadow. They went by without suspecting him, and
took the path that led down the hill toward Wissining. Gerald paused
long enough to lace his shoes, and then keeping at a respectful
distance, followed silently.



CHAPTER IX

A MIDNIGHT ESCAPADE


The seven Predatory Marauders went silently and rapidly down the path.
Although only corridor lights showed in the dormitories, there was no
knowing who might be staring out at them from some darkened window.
Once over the crest of The Prospect, as the lawn in front of Oxford is
called, the path fell quickly to the meadow below, and every member
of the little band either expressed relief or experienced it. They
might speak lightly of the risk and make fun of the consequences of
detection, but the fact remained that they were violating two principal
rules of the school, one forbidding students to leave the dormitories
after ten o’clock, the other forbidding absence from the school grounds
after supper-time without permission. To be found guilty of either
offense might well supply cause for probation. But nobody was worrying.
Without the risk, where would have been the fun?

In a few minutes they were climbing the fence into the road near the
Wissining station, Alf and Harry Durfee in advance, Dan and Tom and
Arthur and Chambers and Roeder following. If any one doubts my theory
that the ending of a school term and the beginning of vacation produces
a kind of mental intoxication, let me draw attention to the presence
of Joe Chambers. Tom and Harry Durfee were fellows who might hesitate
long before entering into such a madcap enterprise as that upon which
they were bent, but Joe Chambers, Editor of _The Scholiast_, pink of
Propriety and model of Culture, would no more have undertaken such a
thing while in the full possession of his faculties than he would have
appeared in public without his glasses, printed an advertisement on the
first page of _The Scholiast_, or refused to make a speech! That is how
I know that there is such a thing as End-of-the-Term Insanity, although
that particular form of madness has not yet been recognized by the
medical profession.

Once in the road all fear of discovery was left behind. Alf hummed a
tune, Durfee whistled under his breath, and conversation began. They
grew more quiet as they passed the station, although the platforms
proved to be empty and the agent was doubtless napping in his room. The
village proper lay a block away, and the road and the bridge which
they presently crossed were alike deserted. Beyond the bridge the road
forked, one route leading to Greenburg, and the other curving northward
along the edge of Meeker’s Marsh and eventually leading to Broadwood
Academy. The moon, which had obligingly hidden behind a cloud when they
left the school, now appeared and lighted the road for them.

“It’s a peach of a night,” said Alf, approvingly, “but I hope Mr. Moon
will take a sneak when we get to Broadwood.”

    “Oh, the moon shines bright
     On my old Kentucky home,”

sang Durfee, and the others joined in softly:

    “On my old Kentucky home
     So far away!”

They went on, singing, Alf setting a pace that if adhered to would
cover the three miles to Broadwood in short time. Presently the old
Cider Mill came into sight, a tumble-down two-story affair beyond
whose empty casements the moonlight, entering through holes in the
sagging roof, played strange pranks with the imagination. The old mill
was popularly supposed to be haunted, and it quite lived up to its
reputation so far as appearances were concerned. Weeds choked the
doorways, and even grew from the rotting sills. Behind the mill lay the
marsh, and a little stream that had once turned the stones murmured
eerily as it wandered through the sluice.

“Why didn’t you find a more cheerful place to stow the things?” asked
Dan as they drew up in front of the mill. “I’ll bet I saw a ghost in
there then.”

“Bet you it’s full of them,” said Roeder with a shiver. “I wouldn’t go
in there for a thousand dollars.”

“Don’t be an ass,” muttered Alf, crossly. “Nobody asked you to go in. I
left the things just inside the door, and I’ll get them myself.”

“Well, hurry up, then,” said Tom.

Alf started through the waist-high growth of dead weeds, but paused
before he had gone more than a dozen steps.

“I can’t carry them all,” he grumbled. “One of you fellows come and
help me.”

“Oh, go ahead,” laughed Dan, “don’t be scared.”

“I’m not scared,” replied Alf, indignantly. “But one of you chaps might
help lug the stuff out.”

“Don’t all speak at once,” begged Harry Durfee. Joe Chambers responded
to the call and followed Alf to the door. Presently they came back
with two poles about seven feet long, each sharpened at one end, and a
roll of cotton sheeting. Alf also carried a smaller bundle which, when
opened, revealed two dozen sandwiches.

“Refreshments,” he announced. “Who wants a sandwich?”

Everybody did. Alf opened the package and laid it on a rock by the
roadside, and they stood around and munched the sandwiches. Suddenly
Tom said:

“Look up the road, Dan. Don’t you see something near the fence there?”

Dan looked and so did the others, and there was a moment’s silence.
Then,

“Sure,” said Roeder, “there’s something moving up there. Maybe it’s a
fox.”

“It’s a person,” said Tom, “and I vote we get out of sight until he
gets by. Now you can see him.”

“Right-o,” agreed Alf. “Let’s step inside the mill until the prowling
pedestrian passes.”

“Gee, I don’t want to go in there,” objected Durfee.

“Come on,” Dan laughed. “Seven of us are enough to match any ghost that
ever walked.”

“And seven’s a lucky number, too,” added Chambers, as they made
hurriedly for the doorway. They stumbled over the sill and clustered
in the darkened interior. From there they couldn’t see the intruder,
and so they ate their sandwiches and waited impatiently for him to go
by.

“Did any one bring the grub along?” whispered Dan, presently.

No one had. It was out on the rock in plain sight. Dan groaned. “If he
sees it he will stop and eat it up, or take it along with him!”

“Like fun he will!” said Alf. “If he touches it we’ll scare the life
out of him. Say, let’s do it, anyway, fellows! When he gets up here
we’ll make a noise, say ‘O-ooh!’ and see him run!”

“He ought to be here now,” said Tom. “Sneak over there and look through
a crack, Dan.”

“And break my neck! The floor’s all torn up and you can walk right
through into the water in some places. You do it, Tom. You wouldn’t be
missed the way I would.”

“Shut up!” commanded Roeder. “I hear him.”

They lapsed into silence, but no sound reached them.

“You imagined it,” grunted Alf. “Maybe he wasn’t coming this way at
all.”

“Yes, he was,” said Tom. “I saw him.” They waited several minutes
longer. Then,

“I’ll bet he’s found our sandwiches,” grumbled Durfee. “I say we sneak
out and have a look.”

“You do it,” suggested Alf. “You’re small. Don’t let him hear you,
though.” So Durfee scrambled across the sill and crept to the corner of
the building. In a moment he was back and whispering agitatedly.

“It’s a kid, and he’s eating up the sandwiches, fellows! Let’s scare
him.”

“All together, then,” said Alf. “O-o-oh!”

They all joined in the dismal groan, repeated it, and then listened for
results. But there was no sound of frightened footsteps on the road.

“Has he gone?” whispered Tom.

“I don’t believe so.” Alf put a foot over the sill. “I’m going to see.”

“So’m I,” muttered Dan. They crept to the corner and then Dan waved his
hand to the others, and one by one they followed. What they saw filled
them with amazement. On the rock, his back toward them, sat a small
boy. He had apparently taken the parcel of sandwiches into his lap and
was very busy consuming them.

“The cheek of him!” muttered Alf.

“Let’s howl!” said Dan.

“All right. Now, one――two――three!”

It was a fearsome noise they made, but the boy on the stone never
moved. He kept right on eating sandwiches.

[Illustration: “The boy on the stone never moved.”]

“Gee, he must be deaf!” gasped Roeder. “Or――say, you don’t think he’s a
ghost, do you?”

“Not with a Yardley cap on his head,” replied Tom, dryly. He stepped
out of concealment before they could stop him.

“Help yourself, Gerald,” he said, politely.

“Thanks,” answered that youth, his utterance impeded by the process of
eating, “I will. Walking does make you hungry, doesn’t it?”

“Gerald!” yelled Alf.

“Pennimore!” shouted Roeder.

They leaped to the rescue of the sandwiches and wrested them away. Dan
confronted the culprit sternly.

“What are you doing here?” he demanded.

“I’m going along with you,” replied Gerald, unruffledly. “I’m an S. P.
M. just as much as you are. I’ve been following you all the way.”

“I didn’t want you to come,” said Dan. “If I had, I’d have let you
know. This isn’t any place for you, Gerald.”

“Guess I can’t go back now,” was the cheerful response.

“You can wait here, then, until we return.”

“Oh, don’t be a granny, Dan,” broke in Alf. “Let him come along if he
wants to. What’s the difference, any way?” The sentiment was indorsed
by the others, and Dan found himself in the minority.

“That’s so, Dan,” said Joe Chambers. “The little beggar has fooled you
finely. He deserves to have some of the fun, I think.”

“All right,” said Dan, “but don’t blame me if you get into trouble,
Gerald. Any more sandwiches, fellows?”

There weren’t, but Durfee shared the one he was eating and presently
the journey began again. They took turns at carrying the three pieces
of baggage, and Durfee was called down by Alf for using one of the
stakes for a vaulting pole.

“I was merely giving an imitation of Mr. Thompson, our clever young
athlete,” replied Harry, soberly. “If I can’t do as I want to with this
stick some one else may carry it.”

“How did you happen to wake up?” asked Dan of Gerald. “I thought I was
as quiet as a mouse.”

“So you were. I wasn’t asleep. I went to bed with my underclothes on
and played fox.”

“The dickens you did! How did you know anything was up?”

“Easy! You all acted like a lot of conspirators in a melodrama, Dan.”

“Still, you couldn’t have known we were going anywhere to-night――unless
you were told. Were you?”

But Gerald refused to answer that. He only laughed.

“Huh, you fellows thought you were pretty smart, didn’t you? I was on
to you all the time.”

“I might have suspected as much,” said Dan, thoughtfully, “when I found
you’d packed your trunk. It isn’t like you to do anything of that sort
until the last moment.”

“Where are we going, Dan?” asked Gerald. “Broadwood?”

“Yes.”

“What are we going to do there? What’s in the bundle that Tom’s
carrying?”

“You wait and see,” was the answer. “We’re going to have some fun with
Broadwood――that’s all.”

“Think you might tell me,” said Gerald, aggrievedly. “I’m an S. P. M.,
ain’t I?”

“You’re a butter-in, that’s what you are,” replied Dan, grimly; “and
you’ll just wait and find out, my son.”

“I’ll ask Arthur; he’ll tell me.”

“So it was Arthur who blabbed, was it? I knew some one had.”

“I didn’t say so!”

“You don’t need to.”

“Well, he didn’t mean to tell, Dan; honest he didn’t. He forgot; and
all I found out from him was that you were going somewhere to-night.
He wouldn’t tell me anything else. You won’t say anything to him, will
you?”

“No. I guess it doesn’t matter. Only thing is, Gerald, that if faculty
gets word of this we’ll all get Hail Columbia. That’s why I didn’t want
you to come along.”

“I know. But I’d rather have the fun, Dan. How much farther is it?”

“About a mile and a half, I guess. Getting tired?”

“Tired!” said Gerald, scornfully. “No, I could walk all night!”

“Well, don’t forget that we’ve got to get home again yet,” replied Dan.
“I guess you’ll have all the walking you want, Gerald.”

To Alf’s relief the moon found another cloud to creep under just before
they reached Broadwood. Even then it was much too light for safety.
The grounds of the Academy are not very extensive, but they face the
road for some distance, and an iron picket fence about eight feet high
bounds them there. There is a carriage gate with a smaller gate beside
it halfway along the line of fence, and just inside, nestled under the
trees, stands a tiny gate-keeper’s lodge. The expedition, however,
didn’t approach that. Instead, it halted at the corner of the Academy
grounds and looked over the situation.

“The gates will be locked,” said Alf, “and even if they weren’t, the
gardener might see us. We’d better shin over here, by this post, and
keep along the shrubbery until we reach the buildings. Then we’ll have
to come out in plain sight; but I guess no one will be up at this time
of night.”

“How about getting back?” asked Tom. “Suppose some one gets after us?”

“Scatter and make for the side fence here,” answered Alf, promptly. “If
we aren’t disturbed we’ll retreat in good order. Now then, give me a
leg-up, Dan.”

One by one they crawled up by the stone corner post and dropped into
the shrubbery beyond. Then, keeping as much as possible in the shadows,
they made their way up the hill. The main buildings, five in number,
form three sides of a square at the summit, with Knowles Hall, the
finest of all, in the center. It was toward Knowles that their steps
were bent, but they didn’t make a straight line for it for the reason
that had they done so they would have been in plain sight for several
hundred yards. Instead they kept along the school boundary on the east
until a dormitory building was near. Then they slipped across to its
protecting walls, went cautiously along the end of it, and halted there
in the angle of a stone porch.

“Now then,” whispered Alf, “hand over the sign.” Chambers laid down the
roll of sheeting and Alf whipped out a knife and slashed the strings.
Then he drew a paper of thumbtacks from his pocket, and for the next
minute or two worked hard. The poles were placed on the ground, and
to each of them an end of the strip of sheeting was secured with the
thumbtacks. When all was ready Alf took one pole and Dan the other, and
with the rest of the expedition following, walked brazenly across the
turf until they were in the center of the space between the buildings,
and directly in front of the recitation hall.

“All right,” Alf whispered.

Down went the sharpened ends of the two poles into the soft sod under
the weight of the boys, and Alf backed off to view the result.

“Thunder!” he muttered. “We’ve got it wrong side to. Pull it up
fellows, and change ends. Quick!”

Up came the poles and down they went again. Then the boys gathered in
front of their handiwork, chuckling and whispering. Behind them frowned
the dark windows of Broadwood Academy. At that moment the moon, eager
perhaps to see what was up, emerged from a cloud and shone down on the
scene. Had any of the occupants of the buildings looked out just then
they would have gasped with surprise, and doubtless rubbed their eyes,
thinking themselves still asleep. For out there in the moonlight stood
a group of eight boys exhibiting unmistakable signs of delight; and
in front of them, facing the main entrance of Knowles Hall, stretched
a ten-foot long strip of white sheeting. And on it, in blue letters a
foot high, was printed:

                      “FATHER, IS THIS A SCHOOL?”

                    “NO, MY SON, IT IS BROADWOOD.”

                          O YOU APRIL FOOLS!



CHAPTER X

PURSUIT AND ESCAPE


“Can you beat it?” gurgled Harry Durfee, ecstatically.

“It’s the swellest thing ever!” chuckled Roeder.

“O you April Fools!” murmured Alf.

“Say, but I’d love to be here in the morning,” sighed Arthur.

“You’d get killed if you were,” said Chambers. Tom was looking uneasily
at the buildings. To his imagination the entrance to Knowles expressed
indignation and horror; and the empty windows, amazed and scandalized,
seemed whispering to each other of the vandalism being perpetrated
below.

“Come on, fellows,” he urged. “Let’s get out of this.”

“I hate to leave it,” said Dan. “It’s positively beautiful!”

“Tom’s right,” Alf said. “We’d better sneak before some one sees us.
Come on, fellows.”

So they hurried back across the lawn to the shadow of the dormitory,
and from there to the comparative safety of the shrubbery.

“We’ll get out where we came in,” announced Alf. “That’s good luck,
they say.” They discussed the success of their enterprise in low voices
as they crept along the edge of the bushes.

“I’d give a month’s allowance,” said Tom Roeder, “if I could only be
hidden up there somewhere when they find it out in the morning. Say,
won’t they be hot under the collar?”

“Rip-snorting!” agreed Durfee. “And the beauty of it is that they’ll
know Yardley did it, but won’t be able to prove it.”

“How about the chap where you got the cloth, Alf?” Dan inquired. “Think
he will tell?”

“Never. He’s a friend of mine.”

“How about the poles and the thumbtacks?” asked Chambers.

“I got the poles at the lumber yard. It only took a minute, and they’ll
forget all about it. The thumbtacks I’ve had for a year or so. And the
blue paint――” Alf chuckled.

“What about that?” asked Durfee.

“Found it in Mr. McCarthy’s room and borrowed it.” (Mr. McCarthy was
the janitor, and had a repair shop in the basement of Oxford Hall.)
“We’re safe enough if we can get back to bed without being spotted.”

“Hope so,” answered Chambers. “Wish I were there now. What’s that?” He
stopped, and Durfee, colliding against him, said “Ow!” loudly, and was
told to keep still. They paused and listened.

“Did you hear anything?” whispered Dan.

“Thought I did. I wish that moon would go home.”

“Come on,” muttered Tom, “and keep in close to the bushes.”

They went forward again, refraining from conversation now, and walking
as softly as they could. The corner of the grounds lay only a hundred
feet or so away, when, suddenly, from the shadow of a tall bush
directly in their path, stepped a man.

“Here, what you doin’?” asked a deep and angry voice.

For an instant panic rooted them where they stood. Then Alf whispered
hoarsely “_Scatter!_” and eight forms sprang away in almost as many
directions. Most of the fellows made for the fence, crashing through
the shrubbery at various points, but Alf and Durfee dashed straight
past the gardener, who, having left the comfort of his bed in some
haste, was only partly dressed, and eluded him easily. Of the number
only Gerald made a wrong move, for which inexperience in the matter of
midnight adventures with irate caretakers was to blame.

Gerald, who had been one of the last in the line, turned and ran into
the open, possibly with the idea of escaping by the gate, which, had he
reached it, he would have found to be tightly locked. The gardener made
a grab at Alf as he slipped by, failed to reach him, started toward
the fence, which seemed at the next instant to be fairly swarming with
boys, and then saw Gerald out in the moonlight. Perhaps he preferred
open country to the pitfalls of shrubbery. At all events, he set out
after Gerald; and, being fairly long-legged and decidedly active for
his middle age, soon began to gain on the quarry.

It was Dan, dropping to safety beyond the iron pickets, with only a
rent in his trousers to show for the adventure, who first saw Gerald’s
plight. To get back would be a much more difficult task than getting
out had proved, and he knew that before he could gain the scene the
chase would be over. So he raised his voice, and shouted to Alf, in the
hope that the latter had not yet got out of the grounds.

“Alf! O Alf! He’s after Gerald!”

“All right!” came the reply promptly and cheerfully from toward the
corner; and in a moment Dan saw both Alf and Durfee running out of the
shadows toward where Gerald, terror lending him speed, was now almost
within reach of the trees and shrubbery about the gate lodge, with the
gardener still gaining, but a good ten yards behind.

“Come on,” shouted Dan, and raced along the fence with the rest at his
heels, intending to reach the scene by way of the road. At that moment
Alf called:

“Give him the slip, kid, and make for the corner!”

Gerald heard, in spite of the pounding of his heart, dashed through
a clump of Japanese barberries to the detriment of his attire, and
swung around back of the lodge house. He heard the pursuer floundering
heavily after him as he raced across the avenue in front of the gate.
One glance at the latter was sufficient to tell him that escape by that
way was hopeless.

“Give up!” panted the gardener as he came after. “I seen yer an’ I know
who you are!”

But Gerald had glimpsed Alf and Durfee at the edge of the trees near
the fence, and he sped straight toward them. What happened after that
was always a very confused memory to Gerald. He remembered hearing
Alf say, “Make for the post in the corner and shin over quick,” as he
reached him. Then there was a cry and the sound of some one falling,
and hurrying steps behind him. Breathless and weak, he was trying
vainly to climb up between the stone post and the nearest picket when
help came from behind; and in a second he was up and over, and Alf and
Durfee had seized him between them and were racing across the road into
the darkness of the woods.

Then he was aware that flight had stopped, for which he was enormously
grateful, and that the entire company was reposing on the ground,
regaining breath and listening for sounds from beyond the fence.

“There he is,” whispered Durfee.

There was a rustling amid the shrubbery, and the boys hugged the ground.

“Think he can see us?” asked Dan in Tom’s ear.

“No, he won’t look for us here. He thinks we’ve hit the road, probably.
Listen, he’s going back.”

Finding that his prey had escaped, the gardener was retracing his steps
toward the gate-lodge. Once they heard him mutter something in very
disgusted tones, and Alf chuckled.

“Right you are, old man,” he whispered in the direction of the
retreating gardener. “Them’s my sentiments.”

“I vote we move on a bit,” said Roeder. “He might take it into his head
to come out and find us here.”

“I guess he’s through for the night,” replied Tom, “but I think we
might as well put a little more distance between us and the scene of
the crime.”

They got up and made their way as silently as possible down the road
toward home. It was not until they had put a good half mile between
them and the Broadwood grounds that another halt was called, and they
found seats on a bank where they could lean their backs against a fence
and rest. The moon was well down in the west by then, and was slipping
in and out of a bank of clouds. Chambers looked at his watch and said,
“Phew!”

“What time is it?” asked Alf.

“Twenty minutes to one,” answered Chambers. “I thought it was about
twelve! I’d hate to be seen getting back to the room!”

“Well, I don’t believe it would make much difference,” said Dan. “I
fancy our goose is cooked anyway. That old butter-in saw us as plain as
daylight.”

“I don’t believe he did,” answered Alf. “Not even as plain as
moonlight. It was fairly dark down there in those bushes. The only
fellow he might have had a good look at is Gerald, and even he was
running away all the time. What the dickens did you run out onto the
lawn for, Gerald?”

“I don’t know. I――I just ran anywhere. I think I had an idea of getting
out by the gate.”

“I told you the gate was locked, didn’t I? Well, there’s no use crying
over spilled milk. There’s one hope for us, fellows, and that is that
the old codger may think we were Broadwood fellows out for a lark.”

“Don’t believe Broadwood fellows ever have larks,” responded Roeder,
pessimistically.

“That’s so, though,” said Chambers, hopefully. “I hadn’t thought of
that. Seems to me it would be a natural supposition, eh? That we were
Broadwood chaps, I mean.”

“If we were we wouldn’t have made for the fence,” said Durfee. “We’d
have made for the dormitories.”

“Oh, I don’t know. Think he saw you, Gerald?”

“I don’t believe he saw my face,” was the answer.

“I suppose,” said Alf, disgustedly, “that he will waltz up to the
school and see that sign and yank it down.”

“Bet you he’s in bed and asleep long before this,” replied Arthur. “He
probably thinks we were Broadwood fellows. In the morning he will go up
and report us, and they’ll have a terrible time trying to find out who
we were. Wouldn’t be surprised if they expelled the whole school,” he
ended with a laugh.

“Well, meanwhile,” said Dan, soberly, “it’s up to us to get back to
Yardley. First thing we know we’ll be meeting the milkman!”

“Wish we might,” said Alf, cheerfully. “I’d give a quarter for a glass
of milk.”

“And a doughnut,” added Durfee. “Wish we had those sandwiches now. I’m
beastly hungry.”

“And I’m beastly sleepy.” Tom yawned as he got to his feet and followed
the others along the road. Gerald ranged himself alongside Alf.

“What happened to him?” he asked.

“What happened to who, Gerald?”

“The gardener, when I passed you and Durfee.”

“Oh, nothing much. He came along and didn’t see us, and I happened to
have my foot out, and he very stupidly fell over it. That’s all. Then
Harry and I ran like thunder and boosted you over. You were apparently
going to sleep on the side of the post; and we got over about six yards
ahead of the gardener, I guess. It was a narrow squeak.”

“Do you think we will get in trouble?” asked Gerald, anxiously.

“Wouldn’t be a bit surprised,” answered Alf, cheerfully. “If I fall
asleep, Gerald, and walk into a fence, I wish you’d wake me up, please.”

That trip back to Yardley wasn’t much fun. They were all pretty tired
and rather sleepy, and the four miles seemed like ten. Fortunately,
they met no one on the way until they reached the station at Wissining.
There a freight crew was busying itself about the platform, but it was
quite dark by then, and they slipped past unheard and unseen. Once
on school ground they stopped at the foot of The Prospect and held
council. In view of what Alf termed the extemporaneous incidents of
their visit to Broadwood, it had become more than ever desirable that
they reach their several rooms unseen. To that end it was decided that
they should gain their dormitories by way of the gymnasium, and should
go one at a time. So they skirted the base of the hill until they were
near the tennis courts, and then gained the porch of the gymnasium.
From there, out of sight of any dormitory window, they made their
way, one at a time, toward their rooms. The Yard was dark and, in the
end, the last of the Predatory Marauders gained safety and seclusion
apparently undetected.

In 28 Clarke there was little conversation during the hurried process
of disrobing. It was practically all contained in two sentences, as
follows:

“If anything comes of this, Gerald, please remember that I did my best
to keep you out of it.” (This in a stern and somewhat displeased tone
of voice.)

“Yes, Dan, I will.” (This very, very meekly.)

Then they both went to sleep and, in spite of the uncertainties of the
future, slumbered as soundly as though there was no such thing as a
conscience!



CHAPTER XI

GERALD VISITS THE OFFICE


The next morning the S. P. M. dispersed. Dan, Gerald, Tom, Alf, and
Arthur traveled together on the early train to New York; but as the
train was pretty well filled with other Yardley boys, there wasn’t much
chance to discuss the subject uppermost in their thoughts. It must be
acknowledged, however, that none of them, not even Gerald, appeared
greatly worried or cast down. As Alf put it with fine philosophy, “It’s
by me, fellows. Meanwhile I’m going to have a good time.”

At New York they separated, Gerald waving good-by from the window of
his father’s electric brougham to the others, who were negotiating with
a cabman for a trip across town. Gerald’s vacation passed quietly. He
had a fairly good time, especially when he visited Tom overnight; but
being quite alone save for the servants, wasn’t very exciting. He ran
up a good-sized telephone bill in calling up Dan and Alf every evening
in Philadelphia and having long talks with them by wire. It was from
them that he first learned of the success of their Broadwood joke.

“It was in the evening papers last night,” Alf told him over the
telephone. “Nearly a quarter of a column in the _Bulletin_ here, and
nearly that much in the others. It’s great. There isn’t anything about
our being chased, though.”

“Do they know who did it?” asked Gerald, anxiously.

“Sure! That is, they know Yardley did it. ‘School Plays April Fool Day
Prank on Rival,’ is the way the _Bulletin_ has it. Look in the New York
papers, Gerald, and if you find it clip it out and bring it with you,
will you?”

Gerald did and carried quite a bundle of clippings back to Yardley with
him at the end of a week. The prank had tickled the risibilities of the
editors, and there was scarcely a paper that didn’t make some mention
of the incident. They had a fine time reading the stories aloud the
evening of their return to school.

“Bet you Broadwood will try to get back at us for that,” chuckled Alf.
“Hope they do. It’ll be fun.”

“Here’s a clipping that says that what you printed on the sign wasn’t
original, Alf,” said Gerald, indignantly. Alf shrugged his shoulders.

“Nothing is original in this age. All the good jokes have been joked
and the songs sung,” he answered, lightly.

“What do you mean?” asked Dan. “Had you seen that somewhere?”

“Of course. Hadn’t you? I thought every one had heard that one. You
have, Tom?” Tom nodded.

“I was brought up on it,” he drawled.

“The original form of it,” explained Alf, in response to Dan’s look of
inquiry, “was something like this. ‘Father, may I go to college?’ ‘No,
my son, your mother wants you to go to Yale.’ Not bad, what?”

“I suppose it was a Harvard joke,” grunted Dan, disgustedly.

“Yes; _Lampoon_. Oh, they say something cute now and then over there.
Any one seen Collins since his return to the fold?”

Nobody had. “I think we’re safe,” said Dan. But Tom shook his head.

“Wait until after chapel in the morning,” he said. “Then, if none of us
is requested to appear at the Office, I’ll breathe easy.”

“Gee,” murmured Dan, “if I get by this time I’ll never do it again!”

After that they told vacation experiences until it was bedtime, and Alf
and Tom――the reunion had taken place in Clarke――rattled off downstairs.
There were some anxious moments the next morning when, in chapel, Mr.
Collins, the Assistant Principal, arose to read his announcements. But
no one was summoned to the Office, and eight of the fellows, at least,
experienced relief. That afternoon the baseball candidates and the
track squad went back to work, and Yardley settled down into its Spring
Term. Gerald was sent around the track at a fast jog for two miles,
and, since he had done no running for more than a week, discovered that
he was pretty well tuckered out at the finish. Andy, however, sent
him off to the gymnasium with a word of approval that dispelled his
weariness.

The school at large had learned of the Broadwood joke, and curiosity
was rife. Strangely enough, and perhaps fortunately, too, the credit
for the affair was popularly given to a First Class boy named Hammel,
who was known to possess a veritable genius for practical jokes.
Yardley was vastly elated over it and the question, “Father, is this
a school?” with its appropriate answer, was heard on all sides, and
in course of time became a school classic. Meanwhile the real culprits
were congratulating themselves on a lucky escape. But, sad to relate,
their satisfaction was short-lived, and ended the second day of the
term.

“The following boys will meet me at the office at eight-thirty,”
announced Mr. Collins at chapel: “H. L. Graves, Benton, Hale, and
Pennimore.”

Gerald’s heart sank. When he glanced at Dan, that youth was frowning
heavily at the scarred back of the settee ahead. Outside Dan and Alf
awaited him. They went down the stairs together and out into the warm,
foggy morning world, but no one said anything until they were half
across to Dudley. Then,

“Of course he may want to see you about something else,” said Alf, with
attempted cheeriness. “Think so?”

Gerald shook his head. “No, I don’t believe it can be anything else. I
guess that gardener chap saw me.”

“But it seems funny,” Dan objected, “that he didn’t call you up
yesterday.”

“That’s easily explained,” Alf replied. “Broadwood’s recess began and
ended a day later than ours, and probably faculty over there forgot
that and thought to-day was our first day of school.”

Tom was ahead of them in Number 7 when they arrived, and he looked
quizzically at them and drew a finger suggestively across his throat.
“Shall we pack now, Alf, or wait until after breakfast?” he asked.

“Pack?” said Dan, missing the point. “What for?”

“Because, Mr. Innocent Young Thing, I fancy we may be leaving these
classic shades before long.”

“Oh, rot!” said Dan, uneasily. “They can’t do any more than put us on
pro.”

“Anyhow,” said Gerald, “it doesn’t concern you fellows, Tom. He doesn’t
know you were there or he’d have called you up.”

The other three looked at each other thoughtfully. Then,

“But of course he will find out,” said Alf, questioningly.

“Sure to,” Dan agreed.

“Will he, though?” mused Tom. “Who’s going to tell him?” Alf glanced at
Gerald, and the latter flushed.

“That’s rotten, Alf!” he cried.

“Hold on, kid! I wasn’t thinking that, honest to goodness, I wasn’t!”
declared Alf, earnestly. “You won’t tell, of course, but Collins will
know that there were others――why, hang it, that wild Irish gardener saw
us! He will tell them that there were a dozen or so of us, and Collins
will ask you who we were, Gerald. What can you say?”

“Tell him he will have to find out,” replied Gerald, promptly. Dan
groaned.

“Yes, and get fired like a shot!”

“I don’t believe so,” Tom objected. “Collins is pretty fair and decent
that way. I don’t think he will make it any harder for Gerald if he
refuses to tell on the rest of us.”

“Well, I’m not going to tell, any way,” declared Gerald. “He may do as
he likes.”

“He will,” said Dan, moodily. “Don’t worry.”

There was silence for a moment, and then Alf jumped up.

“Well, let’s go to breakfast. There’s no use sitting here and borrowing
trouble. Maybe it won’t be so bad, after all. I’m sorry I got you
fellows into it, that’s all.”

“Pooh!” said Tom. “We went in with our eyes open, I guess. You didn’t
kidnap any of us. We can take our medicine, eh, Dan?”

“Naturally; only――I wish Gerald had kept out of it!”

“I’m not scared,” answered Gerald, stoutly. “I think, though, I’d
better get breakfast if I’m going to get to Office at half-past. They
say Collins hates you to be late.”

“And say, Gerald,” Alf admonished as they went out, “whatever you do,
don’t let him think you’re trying to be smart or fresh. He hates that,
too. Now come on and eat all you can.”

“Yes,” murmured Tom, “eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow we die.”

“Why to-morrow?” asked Alf, cynically cheerful. “What’s the matter with
to-day?”

When Gerald entered the outer Office at precisely one minute before the
appointed time, he found it occupied by seven persons. First, there
was Mr. Collins, seated at his desk by the window; then Mr. Forisher,
the secretary, settling down for his morning’s work; then three boys,
Benton and Hale and Graves; and last but not least, occupying a
chair in a corner, was a man of middle age with Irish features whom
Gerald instantly guessed to be the Broadwood gardener. He was dressed
immaculately and uncomfortably in his best black suit, and held a derby
hat tightly in his lap. At Gerald’s entrance every occupant of the
room looked toward him, but all removed their gaze after a second save
the man in the corner. Long after Gerald had taken his seat, he was
aware that the gardener was still regarding him triumphantly.

Presently Mr. Collins laid aside the work he had been occupied with and
swung about in his swivel-chair. He glanced from one of the audience to
another, and finally encountered the gaze of the man in the corner.

“Well?” he asked. “Is he here?”

“Yes, sir,” answered the gardener, decisively.

“Quite certain, Mr. Grogan?”

“Yes, sir, certain sure, sir.”

“Ah! And which of the young gentlemen is it, please?”

“It’s him, sir!” Mr. Grogan’s hand shot out at Gerald. Mr. Collins
showed unmistakable surprise.

“What! Why――now, come, Mr. Grogan, isn’t there a chance that you may
be mistaken? Remember that it was at night and, according to your own
words, you didn’t see his face.”

“I seen his hair, Mr. Collins, and I seen the shape of him, sir, and
_that’s him_.”

“Very well. Graves, you may go; you, too, Benton; and you, Hale.
Sorry to have troubled you.” The boys filed out, unmistakable relief
expressed on their features. And as they went Gerald understood for the
first time why they had been summoned. Each of them had light hair, and
each was about his own age and size!



CHAPTER XII

GERALD PAYS THE PENALTY


“Now, Pennimore,” began the Assistant Principal, kindly, “you and I
have been pretty good friends so far, haven’t we?”

“Yes, sir,” replied Gerald.

“Exactly. And I’m going to make this as easy for you as I can. Suppose
you tell me how it happened.”

“Er――what, sir?”

“This――ah――this Broadwood escapade. Mr. Grogan here is quite certain
that he chased you around the Broadwood grounds on the night of――let
me see――the night of March thirty-first. Have you ever seen Mr. Grogan
before, Pennimore?” Gerald hesitated. Finally:

“I think so, sir.”

“On that occasion?”

“Yes, sir.”

“So. Then I won’t detain you any longer, Mr. Grogan. Thanks for your
assistance, and you may rest assured that the culprits will be
appropriately punished. Good morning.”

Mr. Grogan arose and made for the door. But after he had opened it, he
paused and turned to Mr. Collins again. “You understand, sir, I’m not
saying as ’twas this young gentleman as tripped me up?”

“Quite.”

“No, sir, ’twan’t him; ’twas another of them, a bigger fellow entirely.
An’ as for me, sure, ’tis no harm I’m wishing any of them, failin’ him
I’m tellin’ you of. Boys will be boys, sir. I know that. I’ve been with
them for goin’ on seven years now; but the fellow that tripped me up
was no gentleman, Mr. Collins. Take it from me, sir!”

“I will, Mr. Grogan,” replied the Assistant Principal, hiding a smile.
“Good morning.”

“Good morning to you, sir.” Mr. Grogan passed out, and the door closed
softly behind him. Mr. Forisher, busy with his files, seemed quite
oblivious to anything that was going on about him.

“Bring your chair over here, Pennimore,” said Mr. Collins, briskly,
“and let’s talk this over. Now, tell me, what was the――ah――the idea?”

“Just a joke on Broadwood, sir,” answered Gerald, eagerly. “We――I
mean――――”

“Don’t be concerned. I know already that there were several others in
the affair. You say it was merely a joke?”

“Yes, sir. We didn’t want to have any trouble with that man, but he
came along just as we were getting away and tried to stop us. And I ran
and he chased me, and――and――some one tripped him up. It didn’t hurt him
a bit, sir, because he got right up again and ran after us.”

“Possibly it was his dignity that was damaged,” returned Mr. Collins,
dryly. “However, we needn’t concern ourselves with Grogan. I have
received, though, a letter from the Principal of Broadwood, giving the
facts and requesting that I look into the matter. Frankly, Pennimore,
viewed strictly as a practical joke, the thing amuses me. It was well
thought out and cleverly executed. Not your idea, I suppose?”

“N-no, sir.”

“No, it suggests older brains. I dare say your roommate, Vinton, might
do as clever a thing as that?”

Gerald made no reply; only studied the cap he was twisting about in his
hands. Mr. Collins, unseen, smiled and darted a look across at the busy
secretary.

“Not Vinton, eh? Then let me see. Ah, I have it, I’m sure! Loring?”

Continued silence. Mr. Collins sighed.

“You won’t tell, Pennimore?”

“No, sir.”

“Um. Perhaps you don’t realize that you have broken at least two rules?”

“Yes, sir, I know.”

“We’ve expelled students here for less, Pennimore,” continued the
Assistant Principal, suggestively. Gerald said nothing.

“I was thinking, however, that if we knew the other members of
the――ah――band, Pennimore, the punishment could be spread over a larger
surface, and your share would be less. You get my meaning?”

Gerald looked up squarely.

“Yes, sir; I know what you want me to do, but――but I’m not going to
tell!” Mr. Collins sighed again, but somehow the sigh suggested relief
rather than disappointment.

“Well, that’s for you to decide,” he said, gravely. “I don’t propose to
go into the ethics of it with you, or to try further to persuade you.
I gather that you are willing to take the punishment for all. Is that
it?”

“If――if I have to, sir,” replied Gerald, rather weakly.

“I fear you will have to, my boy. You knew, doubtless, that you were
transgressing the rules when you left your room that night?”

“Yes, sir, I guess so.”

“Well, did you, or didn’t you?”

“Yes, sir, I did.”

“That’s better. By the way, what time did you leave?”

“About half-past ten.”

“As early as that? And how did you get away without Vinton knowing it?
For, of course, he didn’t know it. Otherwise he would have prevented
you from going.”

“I――I went to bed with my underclothes on, sir.”

“And you managed to leave the room without awakening Vinton? Is that
it?”

Gerald considered an instant. Then he nodded.

“Yes, sir. Dan didn’t know that I was going.”

“Hum.” Mr. Collins observed him sharply, but Gerald met his eyes
without faltering. “Well, I have talked with Doctor Hewitt, and we have
already determined the punishment appropriate. First, you will compose
a letter to the Principal of Broadwood, apologizing for the act of
trespass you committed. Draw it up and bring it to me.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then you will go on probation until further notice. You know what that
means?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Hum, yes; I’d forgotten for a minute that you had had a trifling
experience in that last year. Keep on school grounds, Pennimore, remain
in your room after supper, stand high in your studies――nothing under a
C plus will satisfy me, Pennimore――and take no part in athletics.”

“Oh, please, sir!” cried Gerald.

“Well?”

“Please, Mr. Collins, I’m trying for the Track Team. Couldn’t I go on
with that, sir? Not if I promised to be awfully good and get A’s and
B’s in everything, sir?”

“I’m afraid not,” replied Mr. Collins, gravely. “You ought to have
thought of that before you went in for practical joking. No, you must
leave out the athletics, Pennimore. And now, what’s that you have in
your hands there?”

“My cap,” answered Gerald, trying hard to keep his voice steady.

“May I see it? Thank you. Ah, I see you have your Y, Pennimore.”

“Y-yes, sir.”

“For hockey, wasn’t it? I thought so. Proud of it, I suppose?”

“Yes, sir,” replied Gerald, uneasily.

“Of course you would be.” Mr. Collins picked up an ink-eraser and bent
over the cap. _Snip_ went a stitch and off came the white letter. He
replaced the knife, dropped the letter into a drawer, and returned the
cap to Gerald.

“You see, my boy,” he said, gently, “we’re proud of that Y, too, and
we don’t like to see it worn where it isn’t deserved. That’s all,
Pennimore.”

Gerald groped for the arm of his chair, and pulled himself up with
averted face, hoping that Mr. Collins couldn’t see the tears that were
leaking down his nose. Mr. Collins arose, too, and walked to the door
ahead of him and opened it. As Gerald went through, the Assistant
Principal laid a hand on his shoulder.

“I’m sorry, Pennimore,” he said, kindly. “Good morning.”

Then the door closed behind him, and Gerald found himself in the
darkened corridor. For a moment he stood there struggling with the
tears that would come, it seemed, in spite of everything. Then,
mechanically, he put his cap on his head, but only to pull it off the
next instant and stuff it into his pocket. He hated it now.



CHAPTER XIII

THE APRIL FOOLS


“Arthur.”

“Huh?”

“May I talk about them for just a minute?”

“No! I told you no!”

“Well ... but ... I’ve got a letter from Broadwood――――”

“Eh? Broadwood?” Arthur Thompson turned from the window out of which he
had been scowling for several minutes, and glanced at Harry Merrow in
sudden suspicion. “What about Broadwood?”

“Why,” answered Harry, eagerly, fluttering the pages of a stamp album
in his excitement, “there’s a fellow there named Cotton, and he’s
written to me asking if I will exchange duplicates with him. How do you
suppose he heard of me?”

“Don’t know, I’m sure. Dare say, though, he saw your name in the
catalogue.”

“But I mean how did he know I was a stamp collector?”

“Oh, crime will out. Maybe he saw you and read your guilt on your
countenance.” Harry chuckled. He had already discovered that laughing
at a person’s jokes was an easy way to ingratiate oneself. In the
present case, however, the rule didn’t work.

“Don’t do that,” said Arthur, sharply, returning to his moody
inspection of the Yard, “you sound like a woodchuck.”

“I’m going to send him a list of my duplicates,” continued Harry,
dodging the rebuff. “Maybe he has something I want.”

“Who? What are you talking about?”

“Cotton.”

“Oh. Well, look out he doesn’t palm off forgeries on you. Cotton may
not be as soft as he sounds. There’s Durfee.” Up went the window and
Arthur thrust his head out into the rain and hailed the boy below. “Oh,
Durfee! Go slow; I want to see you!”

“He can’t cheat me,” said Harry, nodding his head wisely. “I guess I
know the value of stamps pretty well by this time, and if he thinks――――”

“For the love of mud, shut up!” commanded Arthur, crossly, as he seized
his cap. “You’d drive an angel mad with your silly chatter! Pitch that
book down and get out of doors before I come back and tan your hide for
you!”

“I can’t go out in this rain,” objected Harry.

“You’ve got a raincoat, haven’t you?”

“It isn’t here,” said Harry, triumphantly. “I loaned it to a fellow.”

“Then go and get it. If I find you here when I come back――” The rest
was lost as Arthur slammed the door behind him. Harry grinned.

“My, but he’s in a nasty temper,” he murmured. “And he thinks I don’t
know what’s up. I guess if he knew I knew what I know――” He paused a
moment and pondered the construction of that sentence――“he wouldn’t be
so fresh with me!”

Harry Durfee had sought the doorway for protection from the rain, and
Arthur found him there. “I suppose you’ve heard about Gerald?” the
latter asked. Durfee nodded gloomily.

“Yes, and I was going over to Alf’s. Come on over and let’s see if
there’s anything to be done.”

They found Alf, Tom, Dan, and Gerald in Number 7. Only Roeder and
Chambers were missing. For Durfee’s benefit Gerald again went over what
had happened in the Office that morning. When he had finished Durfee
asked:

“What do you think about that spreading the punishment, fellows? Think
if we fessed up he’d be easy with the lot of us, or would we all get
probation?”

“Blessed if I know,” answered Tom. “It sounds all right, but it all
depends on what Collins calls a light punishment. I’m inclined to be
skeptical, Harry.”

“Me, too,” said Alf. “It would mean probation for the lot of us. Mind
you, I’m willing to take my medicine if it will do any good. Only I
look at it this way, fellows. If Tom and Roeder and Thompson are put on
probation, it spells defeat for the Track Team. If Harry and Dan and
I are put on probation it means the same thing in baseball. No one is
sorrier than I am that Gerald is in a fix, but I don’t believe that our
owning up would make it much easier for him. And first of all, there is
the school to think of. Maybe that sounds selfish, but it isn’t.”

“N-no, I guess it’s the sensible way to look at it,” replied Durfee.
“I’m mighty sorry about you, though, Pennimore.”

“Look here,” exclaimed Arthur. “Why not leave it to Gerald? If he
thinks it will do him any good, why, I, for one, will trot over to
Collins this minute.”

“It won’t,” answered Gerald, shaking his head. “And even if it would,
I wouldn’t let you do it. It wasn’t your fault that I butted in and
went along. It was my own. I can stand it, all right. I wish he would
let me keep on with the Track Team, but he won’t. Still, my being out
of it won’t make any difference, I guess, while, as Alf says, if you
and Tom and Roeder were lost we would get beaten as sure as sure! And
without Durfee and Alf and Dan the Baseball Team might as well go out
of training.”

“Well, that’s a mighty decent way to look at it, Gerald,” said Tom,
“but I think it’s the only fair one. I guess we are all of us ready to
take our share of the blame and the punishment if it will do any one
any good.”

“It won’t, though; no one, that is, but Collins,” said Alf, morosely.
“I feel a good deal like a skunk for getting you fellows into such a
mess.”

“Oh, forget it!” said Tom, heartily. “We aren’t kids to be led into
trouble with our eyes shut. We all knew what we were doing, and we
wouldn’t have done it if it hadn’t been for the risk. It strikes me,
though, that Collins may get us without our help. His mention of Dan
and Alf looks as though he were getting warm.”

“I think he just guessed at them,” said Gerald.

“Did he say how long you were to be on?” Durfee asked.

“No. Until further notice.”

“Well, I think it was rotten of him to take away your letter, Gerald,”
Alf said, indignantly. “I never heard of that being done before. And,
by Jove, I don’t believe he has any right to do it!”

“I guess it’s a case of might makes right,” said Tom. “Well, we’re all
agreed, then, are we, that we’re to keep mum? I don’t think I’ve heard
your dulcet voice lately, Dan.”

“I don’t like it,” replied Dan, explosively. “I think it’s cowardly,
Tom. We are all in it, and we all had more to do with it than Gerald.
I’m going to own up and take my punishment.”

There was a silence. Then,

“That means we all will,” said Alf, quietly. “Only――what’s the use,
Dan? What good’s it going to do?”

“It’s the――the manly thing to do,” declared Dan.

“Now, look here,” said little Durfee, earnestly. “Here’s the thing in a
nutshell. We’ve gone and made a lot of fools of ourselves. We all ought
to have known better. We hadn’t any right to risk the success of the
school Track Team and Baseball Nine for the sake of a silly prank. And
Dan and I are worse than the rest of you, for we are both captains,
and our first duty is to the school. I fess up that I was wrong, mighty
wrong, and you can just bet that I’m not going to do any such thing
again while I owe my――my ability and efforts to my school or college.
I’ve learned my lesson just as well as though Collins had sent me home.
I guess we all have.”

He looked around and read affirmation in the faces of the others.

“Now, then, I say that if you’ve learned your lesson it isn’t going
to do you any good to be punished. Maybe it would give faculty
satisfaction to make an example of us, but I don’t propose to get
punished just for that. I’m no blooming philanthropist. The thing’s
over with, and our stunt now is to behave ourselves and work like the
dickens to win from Broadwood on the track and diamond. Isn’t that
about it?”

“Right-o,” agreed Alf.

“That’s what I think,” said Tom. Durfee looked at Dan.

“What do you say, Dan?”

“Persuaded, but not convinced,” answered Dan, with a smile. “I guess
I’d feel a lot more comfortable if I went to Collins and owned up, but
perhaps I owe it to the school and the team to keep mum and――――”

“Seems to me,” interrupted Arthur, “we’re losing sight of the main
question, which is: Will it help Gerald any? If it won’t, that ends
it, to my mind, because the law doesn’t insist that a chap must give
himself away. As long as faculty doesn’t find us out it isn’t up to us
to help them.”

“That’s so,” said Durfee. “And I guess there isn’t any question of
benefiting Pennimore. I’ll tell you what we can do, though, fellows, we
can see that he doesn’t have any trouble with his studies. He will have
to have C’s, or better, you know. I’ll take him on in math, and the
rest of you can help him with other things. How will that do, Gerald?”

“It’s very nice of you,” Gerald replied, “but I guess I can manage all
right alone. If I can’t I’ll ask you to help me.”

“That’s settled, then,” said Alf. “And now, gentlemen, I move you that
the S. P. M. disbands!”

“Wait,” said Tom. “Not before we officially change its motto, Alf.”

“What to?” asked Alf.

“‘O you April Fools!’” answered Tom, softly.



CHAPTER XIV

MR. COLLINS SMILES


Gerald wrote his letter of apology to Broadwood, it was approved by Mr.
Collins, mailed, and in due time elicited a reply from the Principal.
It was at once concise, polite, and admonitive. Gerald still has that
note pasted in his scrap-book; and, between you and me, he is secretly
rather proud of it. And perhaps he has a right to be, for it is the
only one of its kind at Yardley.

It didn’t take long for the news of his probation to spread through
the school, though there were very few fellows who believed that
Gerald had been the sole originator and perpetrator of the Broadwood
joke. I’m afraid that to the younger boys Gerald became something
of a hero, although he felt a very little one himself. The lessons
went well enough, since, confined to his room all the evening, he had
plenty of time to study them. At first the others gathered in Number
28 after supper quite frequently, but 7 Dudley had always been a more
popular meeting-place, and it wasn’t long before Gerald was left to
spend his evenings in solitary grandeur. Dan kept him company as much
as possible, but there were plenty of times when Dan’s presence was
demanded elsewhere.

Gerald, although prohibited from taking part in the track work, had by
no means lost his interest in the team’s success. Dan often tried to
console and encourage him by reminding him that next year he could try
again, and would stand a much better chance of making the squad. Gerald
wasn’t by any means consoled, but there was nevertheless comfort to be
derived from the knowledge that there was another year coming. And,
meanwhile, he went to the field every afternoon and looked on, feeling
rather lonesome and out of it at first, but gradually working into a
more philosophic frame of mind. The worst of it was that he really
missed the exercise and the training. Sometimes his legs fairly ached
to be pounding around the cinders. The training table had been started,
and Gerald viewed its members enviously as he passed it going in or out
of commons. As far as diet went, however, Gerald was unconsciously in
training himself. He had always had pretty healthy notions in regard to
food, and ever since the autumn, when he had trained with the Cross
Country Team, he had stuck pretty closely to the athlete’s diet.

It was one afternoon, a week or so subsequent to the memorable
interview with Mr. Collins, that the Great Idea came to him. He had
been watching Roeder and two other fellows practicing broad-jumping,
at the same time keeping an eye open for Arthur’s aerial flight at the
end of the long pole; and now he strolled over to the start of the
distances where a bunch of quarter-milers, Maury, Goodyear, Norcross,
and several other distance men were being sent off for a two-lap spin.
He wished so much that he were among them, his spikes gripping the
track and the wind in his face. Andy gave the word and the runners
sprang away, stringing out as they neared the corner. Andy dropped his
watch into his pocket, glanced up, and found Gerald looking at him.
Since Gerald had been lost to the squad, Andy had paid scant attention
to him, which, of course, was natural enough. But to-day something in
Gerald’s face prompted the trainer to a kind word.

“Sure, I’m sorry you’re not with ’em, Pennimore,” he said.

“So am I,” murmured Gerald. “I’m just aching for a few laps around the
track, Andy.”

The little Irishman looked at him speculatively a moment.

“How long before they’ll let you come back?” he asked. Gerald shook his
head.

“They didn’t say.”

“Well, anyway, it would do you no harm to keep your muscles hard, my
boy. Get your trunks on and stretch your legs, why don’t you? No one’s
stopping you.”

“Could I, do you think?” asked Gerald, eagerly.

“Why not? Sure, they won’t be wanting you to get sick for lack of
exercise.”

“I guess I’d better ask Mr. Collins,” said Gerald. “If he lets me I
will, you bet!”

“But, mind you, I’ve got nothing to do with it,” warned Andy. “It’s not
with the squad you’re to run.”

“I know,” answered Gerald. “But it would be fine to get to work again.
Do you think he will let me, Andy?” Andy shrugged his shoulders as he
turned to give his attention to the quarter-miler who was tearing down
the track toward the finish.

“He might, an’ then again he mightn’t. I’d ask him.”

“I will,” thought Gerald. “And I’ll ask him right now.”

He found the Assistant Principal in his study in Clarke.

“Mr. Collins,” he began, breathlessly, having run most of the way up
the hill, “when you’re on probation, sir, can you take exercise?”

Mr. Collins looked startled. Then he smiled broadly.

“Why, I should hope so, Pennimore,” he laughed. “And from your
appearance I’d say you’d been taking it.”

“But I mean――I mean _real_ exercise, Mr. Collins,” explained Gerald.

“Ah!” Mr. Collins slipped a paper-knife between the pages of the
magazine he held and leaned comfortably back in his deep leather
chair. This was his hour of leisure, and he might well have displayed
impatience at the interruption. Instead, however, he seemed amused and
inclined toward conversation. “Now what do you call ‘real’ exercise,
Pennimore? Perhaps wood-chopping; that was Mr. Gladstone’s favorite
form of relaxation from brain-work, and I believe Mr. Roosevelt likes
to swing an ax on occasions. That isn’t――ah――an ax you are concealing
behind you, Pennimore?”

“No, sir.” Gerald showed the article to be a gray woolen cap. “What I
meant was exercise like――like running and such things, Mr. Collins.”

“Running?” Mr. Collins looked thoughtful. “Let me see, my boy; you were
running with the track squad, were you not?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, am I to understand that you want permission to go on with that?”

“No, sir, not with the squad, sir. But I’d like to go down to the track
now and then――every day, maybe, and run just by myself. I――I feel the
need of it, sir.”

Mr. Collins smiled again. “Muscles getting creaky, you mean?”

“Yes, sir, sort of.”

“Hm; it’s rather a delicate question to answer offhand, Pennimore.
Certainly faculty doesn’t want any student on probation to become ill
for want of outdoor exercise. The question is whether you are merely
after the exercise _per se_ or want to keep in condition for track work
in the hope that when you are let off probation you will be in good
condition to go back to the squad. See my point?”

“Y――yes, sir.”

“On the other hand,” continued the Assistant Principal, luxuriously
stretching his slippered feet, “am I required to go behind the
evidence? You ask me whether a student on probation may take exercise.
There can be but one reply to that: he may. Possibly it is not required
of me to speculate as to your motives. If you may exercise, I presume
that you may indulge in any form you wish. You want to run. Well, why
not? Running is a common form of exercise. But you tell me that you
want to run on the track. Hm.” Mr. Collins deliberated. Then, “And
again, why not, Pennimore?” he continued. “The rules say that you
must not take part in school athletics, but they say nothing against
your exercising on the track. No, so far as the letter of the law
is concerned you may run on the track or turn summersaults on it or
walk on your hands on it. But the spirit of the law, Pennimore――” Mr.
Collins yawned behind his magazine. “Dear me, I believe I’m sleepy. Let
me see, where were we?”

“At the――the spirit of the law, sir,” replied Gerald.

Mr. Collins looked surprised. “Were we really?” he asked. “Had we
got that far? And what had we decided about the spirit of the law,
Pennimore?”

“We――you hadn’t decided, sir,” answered Gerald, puzzledly.

“Too bad, for I fear I’m much too sleepy to decide now. I will take the
case under advisement, Pennimore, and let you know my decision later.”
He smiled at Gerald’s perplexity. “In the meanwhile, as I have said,
there is nothing to keep you from indulging in any form of exercise you
like on the track――pending the court’s decision.”

“Thank you, sir!” cried Gerald, eagerly. “And I hope you’ll decide that
I may go on with it, Mr. Collins.”

“Tut, tut, you mustn’t try to influence the Court,” said Mr. Collins,
sternly.

“I――I wasn’t, sir, really!” Gerald disclaimed, anxiously. Mr. Collins
laughed.

“All right, my boy. That was all you wanted to see me about?”

“Yes, sir, thank you.”

“Very well. You’re quite welcome, Pennimore. By the bye, I’m glad to
see that you’re getting good marks so far. Don’t let the exercise
interfere with school work, Pennimore. If you do, the Court may have to
decide against you.”

“No, sir; thank you, sir.”

Gerald retreated to the door, bade the Assistant Principal good
afternoon, and scampered away. After the door had closed Mr. Collins
put his hands over his head, yawned, and smiled.

“I wonder,” he murmured, “who really worked that Broadwood prank. That
boy wouldn’t think of a thing like that in a thousand years!”

Gerald hurried over to the gymnasium and found most of the track squad
in the locker-room. Tom Dyer was seated on a bench wrapped in his
bath-gown, lazily flexing the muscles of one big arm and awaiting his
turn at the shower.

“Hello, Gerald,” he said, as that youth took a seat beside him. “What
have you been up to to-day?”

“Nothing much,” answered Gerald. “Just knocking about. Say, Tom, is
there any book that tells you how to train for running?”

“Eh? Book? Why, lots, I guess, but I’ve never read any of them. Why?”

“What’s the best one, Tom?”

“Let me see.” Tom scowled a moment and finally named a work on track
athletics written by a prominent college trainer. “I guess that’s the
most practical of them,” he said. “But books don’t take the place of
work, Gerald.”

“I know. I’m going to work, too. I asked Collins and he said I might
run on the track if I wanted to――just on my own hook, you know. And
I thought that maybe if I had a book to go by I could keep myself in
training, and then――if――if they let me off probation in time, perhaps I
could get back on the squad again.”

“Well, I like your pluck!” answered Tom, admiringly. “And I guess it’s
worth trying. Have you said anything to Maury about it?”

“No, but Andy knows. He says I mustn’t think I’ve got anything to do
with the team, though.”

Tom chuckled.

“He’s a foxy codger, Andy is. You come back to the room with me and
we’ll look that book up and see where it’s published. It isn’t likely
you can find it nearer than New York. We’ll write and send for it,
Gerald. I suppose Andy won’t time you; anyway, he won’t tell you what
your time is, and you’d ought to know what you’re doing. So I’ll let
you take my stopwatch, Gerald. You can run a string in it and sling it
around your neck; or you might just carry it in your hand instead of a
grip.”

“That would be fine,” said Gerald. “I’ll wait for you, Tom.”

“All right. Hey, you Stevenson! That’s my bath! I won’t be long,
Gerald.”

The next afternoon Gerald appeared at the track in running attire.
Captain Maury caught sight of him at once, and hurried up to him.

“Have they let you off, Pennimore?” he asked, eagerly. “That’s fine!”

“No,” Gerald explained, “but Collins said I could exercise here, and so
I thought I’d just keep in training on my own hook. You know they may
let me off in time for the Duals.”

“Oh,” said Maury, disappointedly. “Well, that’s all right. Better keep
out of the way of the fellows, though, Pennimore; stay on the outside
of the track as much as you can. I wouldn’t expect to get back on the
squad, you know, because even if faculty does let you off in time,
you’re bound to be sort of stale.”

“But I’m not going to be,” protested Gerald. “I’m going to run almost
every day, Maury.”

“Y-yes, but it isn’t the same, you know. Well, I must get busy.”

He nodded to Gerald and hurried off. Gerald was a little disappointed
at the track captain’s lack of interest as he followed him over to the
starting line. Andy was hard at work with a bunch of half-milers when
Gerald reached him, and he had to wait some time before the trainer was
ready to give him attention.

“Collins said I could do it, Andy,” announced Gerald.

“Did he? Do what?” Andy demanded.

“Why, run! Don’t you remember you said yesterday――――”

“Sure! All right, Pennimore, but don’t get in the way of the others.
And I guess you’d better not talk much to me. They might think I was
giving you advice, you see. Remember, my lad, you’re doing this on
your lonesome.” He turned away to call, “Sprinters up the track to try
starts! And hurry up, every mother’s son of yez!”

Gerald had meant to ask the trainer whether he should jog to-day or
try some sprints, but Andy had gone and Gerald consoled himself with
the reflection that perhaps it was just as well, since asking advice
from Andy was hardly allowable under the terms of his agreement with
Mr. Collins. No, if he was going to train by himself he must play
fair. So he stepped onto the track, threw aside his robe, and started
around at a jog. On his fifth lap the milers passed him, and Goodyear
ranged alongside long enough to ask him if he were off probation. When
Gerald explained that he was just running for fun――for that seemed the
simpler way in which to explain his presence――Goodyear looked vastly
surprised. Gerald did his two miles that afternoon, and finished
pretty well done up. His idleness told on him. When he reached the
gymnasium he found that his reappearance on the track had awakened
quite a lot of interest, and he was forced to explain many times that
the rumor to the effect that faculty had relented was quite erroneous.
Some of his questioners seemed to think that he was doing a very
plucky thing in keeping up his training, but most of them considered
it a pretty good joke; and Bufford, the hundred-yards man, coined the
phrase “The Pennimore Track Team.” But Gerald didn’t mind. At least the
fellows he liked best, notably Dan and Arthur and Alf and Tom, were
properly sympathetic and interested. And, all that aside, probation had
lost much of its sting, and it was delicious to feel physically tired
and ravenously hungry again. He and Arthur walked back to the latter’s
room after showers, and talked it all over there, Harry Merrow for once
being out of the way.

“It’s going to be rather dreary work, though, I’m afraid,” Arthur said.
“You’re bound to lose heart after a bit, Gerald. Doing anything all by
yourself like that isn’t so much fun. But you try and keep it up.”

“I’m going to,” answered Gerald, stoutly. “And I don’t believe it’s
going to be so hard. I love to run, Arthur, and I’d just like to show
Maury that I’m not a back-number, after all. Next Monday, I’m going to
give myself a time-trial.”

“Well,” Arthur laughed, “don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t do
it well. Got any appetite?”

“Appetite!” cried Gerald, springing up. “I could eat a whale!”

“All right, let’s go over and see if they’ve got any to-night.”



CHAPTER XV

BACK IN TRAINING


Three days later the book came.

Truth compels the statement that for a period of several days
subsequent to its arrival, Gerald sadly neglected studies, although
without unfortunate results to his standing. For two afternoons and
two evenings he devoured all that the writer of the work had to say
regarding training for the track and running the mile distance. At the
end of that time he had practically memorized some four chapters of
the book, laid down for himself strict rules of diet and régime, and
arranged a weekly schedule of track work.

Distance running, said his authority, was something in which endurance
was the prime requirement. It was necessary to lay the foundation
for success by strengthening the heart and lungs. Gerald was pretty
certain that he had the endurance already, and he wasn’t afraid that
heart or lungs would fail him. Gymnasium work for developing the back
and abdominal muscles was recommended, but it was a bit late for that
now; besides, he had had a little of it already. The book harped on
cheerful willingness and perseverance. Gerald made up his mind to let
neither fail him. The most encouraging thing he found in the book was
the assertion that distance running was a thing one did not have to be
born to; that with health and patience and perseverance any youth might
hope to develop into a creditable performer at the mile or two-mile
distances. This was a theory that Gerald had entertained himself, but
he was glad to receive corroboration.

The matter of stride was dealt with at length, and Gerald concluded
that his own would stand improvement. “The runner,” Gerald read,
“should try to develop a long, easy stride. He should not, however,
exhaust himself seeking to attain a length of stride which his build
naturally prohibits. An unnatural stride results in exhaustion. By
careful practice he may add to the length of stride by just that
little within his power, and which may mean a great deal in a contest.
Remember that in distance running every inch added to the stride means
seconds gained at the finish.”

He learned that he should go his full distance not more than three
times a week, and that, contrary to his impression, sprinting should
receive a fair share of attention. In the end, Gerald worked out a
table for his guidance as follows:

Monday, three-quarters of a mile at a fair speed.

Tuesday, a fairly fast half, followed by a few sprints of from fifty to
a hundred yards.

Wednesday, a steady mile and a quarter.

Thursday, a fast half, a rest, and an easy three-quarters.

Friday, sprinting, ranging from a hundred to four hundred and forty
yards.

Saturday, a mile and a half at a jog, finishing the last hundred at a
sprint.

As, said the book, endurance was the thing to work for, by running over
his distance, the miler would strengthen heart, lungs, and muscles,
and also learn to regulate his breathing, and so accumulate sufficient
reserve energy to enable him to increase his speed in the last one or
two hundred yards of his race.

The subject of diet puzzled Gerald a good deal, for his authority
recommended things which Gerald could not obtain at commons away from a
training table. But in the end he established a diet list for himself;
and, for fear he might forget what was on it, carried a copy with him
at all times. For breakfast he allowed himself one chop, four ounces of
steak or two soft-boiled eggs, one baked potato, toast or bread, milk,
apple sauce, or prunes. No cream or sugar.

For dinner, soup, roast beef, lamb, mutton, or fowl, potatoes if not
fried, vegetables, boiled rice, plain pudding or ice-cream, milk, toast
or bread, fruit.

For supper, cold beef, lamb, mutton, or fowl, one baked potato, toast
or fresh graham bread, prunes, apple sauce or a baked apple, milk.

This was not a rigorous diet, and it was mainly just about what he had
been having. He cut himself off from cereals, coffee and tea, sugar and
cream, pastry and candy. The book was emphatic regarding the danger
of overeating, and there were times during the following six weeks
when Gerald got up from the table feeling almost as hungry as when he
sat down, but serene in the knowledge that he had not, in the words
of his authority, “clogged his system with a mass of indigestible and
unnutritive food.” He weighed himself twice a week in the gymnasium,
and found that the first week he lost four pounds, in the second two,
held his own the next week, and after that gained an average of a
pound and a half every seven days. A hard afternoon’s work would take
off a pound or so sometimes after the weather grew warm, but that pound
always found its way back again. He felt better every day――save once,
when, overdoing the running resulted in an attack of indigestion, that
promptly disappeared when he wisely took a two-days’ rest――and went to
every meal with the ability――and desire――to eat like a woodchopper.
That he never transgressed the diet-list reposing in his pocket speaks
well for his perseverance.

That time-trial didn’t come off on the following Monday, because
his book warned him against running trials on time oftener than
once a fortnight. And when it did come off, ten days or so after
the commencement of his self-training, it brought dismay and
disappointment. It was a warm, foggy day, with occasional drizzles of
rain, and Gerald was anxious and a trifle nervous. Arthur held the
watch on him, and Gerald started off at an easy pace, determined to
hold himself well in hand for three-quarters of the distance, and then
try to run the last four-forty at a fast clip. He had always possessed
remarkably good form in running, and had profited by the book’s advice
to the extent of noticeably lengthening his stride. Arthur, watching
him going down the backstretch, nodded approvingly; for although he
knew little about running, it was evident, even to him, that such an
easy, comfortable style was something to admire. At the end of the
first lap――the track was a quarter-mile one――Arthur gave Gerald his
time. It seemed to the latter lamentably slow, and he began to figure
on what the time for the whole distance would be. He decided that he
ought to do the next quarter a little faster. The result was that he
knocked off a matter of seventeen seconds, and so finished the first
half in commendable time. But when the third quarter was over and he
tried to increase his pace, it came very hard; and by the time the
third corner was reached, he was pretty well all-in, and came trailing
down the homestretch with his head back and his breath all gone.

“What was it?” he panted, as he walked back to the finish.

“Five minutes, twenty-one and two-fifths,” answered Arthur.

“What!” Gerald exclaimed. “Rubbish! That watch must be crazy!”

But crazy or not the watch stuck to its story, and Gerald looked at
Arthur in positive dismay.

“Why――why, that’s perfectly punk!” he gasped.

“Maybe you ran the first half too fast,” ventured Arthur.

Gerald considered. At last, with a sigh:

“Gee, I guess I must have,” he said, sadly. “Why, I’ve done better than
that across country!”

That trial put Gerald in the dumps for a day or two, and it was all
he could do to resist the temptation to run another at once. But he
didn’t. Instead he buckled down earnestly to work, and followed his
schedule. Sometimes he doubted the wisdom of that schedule; but, having
adopted it, he determined to stick to it. There was one day, less than
a week after that disappointing time-trial, when he finished the mile
in what――though he had no evidence to support him――he was very certain
was at least a quarter of a minute under that five-twenty-one and two.
If it was, he reflected, there was hope for him, for Maury’s best was
a fraction under five-four, while Goodyear was credited with no better
than ten seconds over the minutes. That brought encouragement.

For awhile the school in general displayed not a little interest
in Gerald’s undertaking, and his appearance on the cinders of an
afternoon resulted in quite an audience to watch him at work. But the
novelty soon wore off, and after a fortnight he ceased to excite
comment. Captain Maury’s attitude remained the same. Maury had no
faith in the results to be attained by self-training, and secretly
thought Gerald rather “fresh” and decidedly silly. Andy Ryan looked on
inscrutably, but on more than one occasion Gerald had reason to believe
that the trainer was holding the watch on him. Only once did Andy
offer criticism or encouragement. Then, as Gerald passed him after a
three-quarters of a mile run, he observed:

“Let your arms swing free, Pennimore; don’t get them in front of you.”

Perhaps Tom was of more assistance than any one else to Gerald at that
time. Arthur took a deal of interest, and offered all the encouragement
he knew how, and Dan and Alf were always sympathetic, but Arthur knew
little of track work, and Dan and Alf were much too busy with baseball
to have much time for any other interest. But Tom, although he had
never done any track work, had seen a lot of it, and had very sensible
ideas on the subject; and he and Gerald had long chats in Number 7
after practice was over in the afternoon.

“It’s only about the first of the month,” he said one day, “and the
Duals don’t come until the twenty-third, Gerald. That gives you a good
three weeks yet, so don’t be discouraged. You’ll come faster the last
ten days or so than you have at any time, I guess. At least, that’s
the way it is with me. Why, I haven’t tossed that hammer a hundred and
thirty yet, and my record’s a hundred and thirty-six and two inches.
But I’m not worrying about it, because I’ve learned by experience
that it takes just about so long to get back into condition again. A
fellow’s muscles get set in the winter, and they’ve got to be coaxed
back into shape before they’ll do what you want them to. I don’t expect
to equal my record at hammer or shot either more than once before the
Duals, and that will probably be only a day or two before. You’ll
find that it will be much the same with you, I think, Gerald. If you
keep on you’re bound to get a little better every day until, by the
twenty-third, you’ll be in top shape. If you can do the mile under
five-six in a trial a week before that, you can count on bettering your
time by several seconds in the race. By the way, I suppose you haven’t
heard Collins say anything about letting you off?”

“No.” Gerald shook his head sadly. “And I don’t like to ask him, Tom.
But wouldn’t you think that a month of probation would be enough?”

“Um, yes; but you can’t tell. Maybe, after all, they’d have been
easier with you if the rest of us had fessed up. Still, it _would_ have
played hob with the Track Team, I guess.”

“I should say so! With you and Arthur and Roeder off it might mean a
loss of fifteen or twenty points!”

Tom nodded.

“Easily, I guess. But I’m sorry you’re tied up, Gerald.”

Then Alf came in and the conversation turned to baseball until Gerald
left for his room.

With the advent of May, warm weather came to Wissining. The track dried
out and regained its springiness, and the turf grew greener every day.
Save for a few unfortunates who, being doubtful of passing their finals
next month, lolled at the open windows of an afternoon, and with books
in hands looked longingly out into the spring world, all Yardley was
on field or river. Canoes dotted the blue water; from the diamond came
the cries of the players and the sound of ball against bat; the tennis
courts were all occupied; on the links figures tramped sturdily to and
fro; around the cinder track white-clad youths jogged or raced; at the
end of the big green oval lithe bodies tore along the paths, and hurled
themselves across yards of newly spaded brown loam, or leaped in
sudden flight over the bars. Mingled with all the other sounds was the
strident chatter of the mower cropping the new grass.

The Baseball Team had played three contests so far and won each, but
in spite of that Durfee was worried. Yardley’s weakness lay in the
pitching department, for she had no one who could begin to fill the
place left vacant with the graduation in June last of Colton. Reid,
last season’s substitute, was doing the best he knew how, but so far
had been hit pretty freely by even the least dangerous of Yardley’s
opponents. Servis, who was running Reid a fairly close race, lacked
experience. Alf was playing his old position in left field, and Dan
was holding down second base. Besides the Varsity team there were four
class nines practicing, and to a stranger it would have seemed that
instead of a preparatory school to fit boys for college, Yardley was in
reality a baseball kindergarten.

Yardley’s fourth game, that with Porter Institute, came on Saturday.
Porter wasn’t usually a very formidable antagonist, but this year
reports had been reaching Yardley to the effect that Porter’s new
pitcher, one Holmes, was a marvel, and that so far none of the teams
that had met Porter had been able to do anything with his delivery.
Holmes had appeared at Porter last autumn, and had entered the Third
Class. Where he had come from no one at Yardley knew, but rumor had
it that he was about eighteen years of age, and had been pitching on
baseball teams for several years.

“I never heard of him in my life,” said Durfee the day of the game,
“and I guess he will prove to be just about like all the other wonders
you hear of――all right on paper but nothing much on the diamond. It
doesn’t make much difference, of course, whether we win from Porter or
lose to her, only――well, when I hear about these marvelous pitchers I
always want to take a fall out of them! I guess we can manage to find
him for a few safe ones before the game is over.”

“If he really is a wonder,” said Alf, “I vote we kidnap him. What we
need most is a good slab artist, and we oughtn’t to let a chance get by
us. If he’s any good, we’ll steal him after the game.”

“Good scheme,” Dan laughed, “but how are you going to do it?”

“Oh, that’s easy. We’ll take him up to the top of Oxford to show him
the view, and then shut him up in Cambridge. We can take his meals up
to him, you know; he needn’t starve. All we want to do is to keep him
for the Broadwood game.”

“Porter might miss him,” said Dan, gravely.

“Let her! Who cares as long as we have the victim safe?”

“I’m willing to wager,” scoffed Durfee, “that Holmes won’t show up a
bit better than Reid.”

“Is Reid going in?” asked Alf. “I thought you’d decided on Servis for
to-day.”

“Oh, Payson thinks we ought to be sure about the game,” replied Durfee.
“As far as I’m concerned, I don’t much care whether we win or lose.
I’d put Servis in if I had my way. Hammel is going to start the game
at catch. Payson thinks he ought to have a good try-out. And Black is
going in at first.”

“That’s a poor scheme,” said Alf. “Black can catch anything in reach,
but he can’t throw across the diamond to save his life. But it’s none
of my business.”

“I suppose Payson hasn’t thought of putting a good man in left field?”
asked Dan, innocently. Durfee grinned.

“He hasn’t said anything about it. I guess we’ll have to get along the
best way we can with Alf.”

Alf grunted. “Left field, my fresh young friends, is the only position
that is being properly covered,” he said. “If we had a decent shortstop
and a fair second baseman, we might get along pretty comfortably.”

After which brilliant persiflage the trio sought commons, where an
early dinner was to be served.



CHAPTER XVI

YARDLEY IS PUZZLED


Of course the school turned out to a boy that afternoon to witness
the contest. There was a good deal of curiosity regarding the now
celebrated Mr. Holmes, but aside from that Yardley believed in
supporting her teams and would have presented quite as big an audience
had that extra attraction been missing. It is no very great task to sit
in a grand stand or on the warm turf on a fine afternoon in spring and
watch two well-trained teams contest a baseball game. On the contrary
it is much more of a task to remain away when the crack of the bat is
heard and the rival cheers float away up the hill. And that is what
Gerald had to do; for at Yardley probation entailed remaining away
from all athletic contests. To be sure, Gerald might have obtained a
long-distance view of the game from the hill or from some window in
Merle, but that would have been unsatisfactory at the best, and so
he got a book from the school library and curled himself up on the
window-seat by the open casement; and after awhile, since the book
happened to be Stevenson’s “The Black Arrow,” forgot all about the ball
game.

Porter went first to bat, and Reid quickly disposed of the first three
men. Yardley applauded approvingly as the teams changed places. The
far-famed Mr. Holmes proved to be a lank, carroty-haired youth with a
freckled face and an extremely self-possessed appearance in the box.
Some of the remarks that were passed about in the Yardley ranks were a
bit unflattering.

“He is indeed lovely, is he not?” asked Alf on the bench. “He is not.”

“Bet he will never see eighteen again,” said Wheelock, who played in
right field. “And look at the length of his arms, will you, fellows? He
ought to be able to pitch, surely.”

“Hit it out, Cap!” advised Alf, as Durfee stepped to the plate and
tapped his bat confidently on the ground. “He hasn’t got anything!”

Holmes viewed the batsman speculatively, glanced around him, wound
himself into a tight knot, unwound and suddenly shot out his right arm.

“Strike one!” said the umpire.

Harry Durfee looked perplexed, tapped his bat again on the place, and
waited. Again the red-haired pitcher turned and twisted and threw, and
again the umpire called “Strike!” Durfee turned on him indignantly.

“Oh, say now, that was away out here!” he expostulated. “Gee, get your
eyes working, won’t you?”

“Cut that out, Durfee,” warned Mr. Payson, the coach, from his seat at
the end of the bench.

The next delivery looked pretty good to the Yardley captain, and he
swung at it viciously. But the ball dropped under the bat and, with the
handful of Porter Institute supporters howling gleefully, Durfee turned
away to toss his bat to the ground and meet the grins of his teammates.

“He can fool you all right,” he muttered, as he squeezed himself in
between Alf and Dan. “That drop of his is a peach. Watch out for it,
Alf.”

Condit, third-baseman, went out on a pop-fly to catcher.

“Loring up,” announced the scorer. “Vinton on deck.”

Alf was a good hitter and not an easy man to deceive, but the Porter
pitcher managed to fool him completely on the first three balls
delivered; and in the end, although Alf managed to connect with
the ball, he was an easy out, shortstop to first. Porter cheered
derisively, and even Yardley was amused.

But if Holmes was effective, so for that matter was Reid. Reid was less
showy than Holmes, but had some curves that were hard to judge. The
first batsman got to first by being grazed on the elbow, but stayed
there while the next three were called out on strikes. And so the
game went for four innings, both sides proving unable to hit the ball
safely. Durfee was getting quite peeved about it. His specialty was
bunting, and once on first, it took a sharp infield to keep him from
stealing around the cushions and reaching home. But twice, so far, he
had been struck out, and he was getting thoroughly exasperated. At the
beginning of the fourth inning the first Porter batsman up hit safely
to short center; and, although the next man fouled out ingloriously, a
bunt down the third-base line advanced the runner and left a man safe
on first. The Porter coachers got busy then, and from behind first
and third bases howled and shouted directions to the runners and made
unkind observations regarding the pitcher.

“Take a lead there on second, old man! Come on, come on! Whoa! That’s
enough! He won’t throw down! I’ll watch the baseman! Take a lead! Whoa!
_Whoa!_ Up again! Get away, get away, get away! Whoa!”

“On your toes! We’ve got him going now! He don’t dare throw it! Look
out for the double! Move along! Take more than that! That’s better!
Stay right there! _Look out!_ Yah! He wouldn’t throw! He’s just
bluffing! He’s up in the air! Look at that! Look at that! Oh, rotten!
He can’t put ’em over!”

Well, Reid did let down for a space; most pitchers do now and then;
and a base-hit over shortstop’s head looked for a moment like a tally.
But there was some misunderstanding between runner and coach at third,
and the former, after starting for home, doubled back on his tracks
and contented himself with one base. But the bags were filled and only
one man was out. Porter cheered and howled and whooped things up nobly
considering the scarcity of her rooters, and Yardley gave a long,
confident cheer to steady her players. Durfee’s sharp voice rang over
the diamond:

“Come on now, fellows, and finish this! One down; play for the plate!”

But Reid was still unsteady and, amid the jeers of the enemy, sent
in four bad ones one after another, and the batter walked to first,
forcing in the first run of the game. Porter’s adherents voiced their
delight, while the Yardley section of the grand stand was very quiet.
Durfee appeared cheerfully undismayed.

“That’s all right, fellows!” he called. “That’s the only way they’ll
score. We gave them that. Now then, let’s get the other two!”

And get them they did.

The next man tried to bunt, was fooled by an in-shoot, and sent the
ball trickling toward third. Reid scooped it up, held the runner at
third and then threw to first. After that Reid settled down and struck
out the last man.

Yardley went to bat, but the best it could do with the delivery of
the redoubtable Holmes was to pop up an infield fly and score two
strike-outs. Durfee went out to his position growling exasperatedly.
There was no more scoring until the sixth inning. Then a Porter man, a
tail-ender on the batting list, managed somehow to connect with a fast
ball and send it far out into the field for three bases. From third,
after two of his mates had died ingloriously at the plate, he reached
home on a hit to first that Black allowed to slip between his feet.
Although Reid raced over and covered the bag, the substitute baseman
gave a remarkable exhibition of juggling with the ball; and by the
time he had finally got it into his hands and tossed it to the pitcher
the Porter batsman was gripping a corner of the first sack with his
fingers, having slid a good ten feet. That was all, however, for the
next man was out, third to first.

Two to nothing didn’t look very encouraging to Yardley, and her
supporters began to demand a hit. Durfee was up and he tried
desperately to oblige, but his efforts came to naught. “Strike! You’re
out!” said the umpire. The right-fielder slammed his bat down angrily
and went back to the bench.

“Look here,” said Alf to Durfee, as Condit stepped to the plate to try
his luck, “can’t we get that chap going somehow? I never saw a pitcher
yet that couldn’t be bothered somehow, Harry.” Durfee looked dubious.
And the umpire announced two strikes on Smith.

“He’s about as worried as a wooden Indian,” replied Durfee. “Don’t
look as though he had any nerves. Besides, I don’t want to set out
deliberately to win a game by rattling the pitcher. It isn’t good
ethics, Alf.”

“Ethics be blowed! Every team tries to rattle its opponent, and you
know it well enough. What does coaching amount to, anyhow, but rattling
the other fellow? When you have the bases full you’re not thinking
half as much about the runners as you are about the pitcher.”

“Well, that’s customary,” replied Durfee. “I don’t intend to set out to
be a reformer, Alf, but I don’t like the idea of just starting out to
rattle the pitcher. Besides, after all, it doesn’t make much difference
whether we win this or not. I guess that chap Holmes is giving us some
pretty fine batting practice, and we need it, too. Smith’s out. You’re
up, Alf. See what you can do, for the love of Mike!”

Alf faced the pitcher without much confidence of being able to do
anything. With two out it wasn’t likely that any effort of his would
bring in a run. He decided to take it easy and study Mr. Holmes.
Perhaps he might discover a weakness that would help him the next time.
The first ball sent in was a high one that might have been called ball
or strike. The umpire, after a second of indecision, announced it a
ball. Holmes tried the same thing again. Alf swung at it and missed it
by inches. That puzzled him until it occurred to him that he had struck
too soon, and that very possibly all his teammates had been doing the
same thing. He watched the next delivery carefully, and didn’t make
any effort to hit it. And he learned something, which was that the
principal effectiveness of Holmes’s delivery lay in the fact that the
ball possessed the rather unique faculty of slowing up some few feet in
front of the plate. He determined to try his luck with the next good
one and see what happened.

Holmes chose to waste two before he again offered the batsman anything
good. But the good one, when it did come, was breast-high and just
inside the outer corner of the plate. Alf resisted the impulse to slam
at it, and waited deliberately for an instant before he struck. It
seemed to him that he was swinging much too late, but bat and ball met
with a cheerful _crack_, and Alf raced for first. He had, however, no
hope of beating out the ball, for his hit had been little more than
a tap, and the ball was a slow grounder that was easy fielding for
shortstop. He was out at first by a wide margin, but, as the two teams
changed places again, Alf consoled himself with the thought that he
had probably learned the secret of Holmes’s delivery; and that if the
others of the Blue team would profit by his knowledge there might be
hope of proving the Porter twirler not invulnerable.

In that inning the visitors filled the bases by an unexpected batting
rally, and things for awhile looked doleful for Yardley. But with one
out and a man at each station, Reid settled down as he so often did
and struck out the next two men without difficulty.

Alf took Durfee aside at the bench and confided his theory regarding
Holmes’s pitching, and Durfee called to Dan, who had chosen his bat and
was walking toward the plate.

“Hold on a minute, Dan. Alf says we’re all swinging too soon at Holmes.
And I believe he’s right. Holmes has probably got a sort of ‘fade-away’
ball that we’re not on to. Hit slow and see what happens, will you?”

Then Durfee and Alf went over to Mr. Payson. The latter, elbows on
knees, was watching events in what appeared to be an absolutely
disinterested condition of mind. He heard what Alf had to say without
a change of countenance, although Alf thought he detected the tiniest
ghost of a smile about the coach’s lips for a moment.



CHAPTER XVII

WHAT HEAD WORK DID


When Alf had finished the Head Coach nodded.

“I was wondering,” he said, dryly, “how long it would take you
fellows to find that out. I might have told you about it after the
first inning, but I thought I’d just wait and see how much baseball
sense you all had. So far, Loring, you appear to be the only one with
enough gumption to study the situation.” Durfee blinked and colored.
Payson turned to him quizzically. “Durfee, couldn’t you have made that
discovery just as well as Loring? Seems to me it would have come better
from you, as captain. But the trouble was that you lost your temper
just as soon as you found you couldn’t hit Holmes, and instead of
looking around to see where the trouble lay you just went up there and
hit out blindly at anything he offered you. Isn’t that about the way of
it?”

“I guess so,” acknowledged the captain, looking not a little chagrined.
At that instant Dan connected with the ball and sent a long fly out
to center fielder, and the discussion ceased until the ball had been
caught and Dan walked dejectedly back to the bench.

“Wheelock at bat!” called the scorer.

“That’s a whole lot better, Vinton,” said Payson, as Dan joined the
group at the end of the bench. “How did you do it?”

“Durfee said I’d been swinging too soon,” answered Dan, “so I waited.
If I’d pushed that a little harder he wouldn’t have got it,” he added,
regretfully.

“Well, don’t let him fool you on those drops,” said Payson. “See what
you can do next time. When an average good batter,” continued Payson,
including Durfee and Alf with a glance, “finds that he can’t hit a
pitcher, the thing for him to do is to keep his eyes open and study the
fellow’s delivery. There’s some perfectly simple reason why he isn’t
finding the ball, and it’s just a case of using his head and finding
out what the reason is. That’s what Loring did. I’ve seen a good many
chaps pitch ball, and it didn’t take me long to see that Holmes there
was pitching a ball that started out fast and then slowed up in front
of the plate. And it didn’t take long to see that that was about all he
did have. If you don’t let him fool you on speed you won’t have much
trouble hitting him.”

Wheelock fouled out to third baseman and Smith took his place, Durfee
giving him whispered advice as he chose his bat.

“But there’s another thing,” continued Payson, when Durfee had
returned, “that no one has discovered yet; something that has a whole
lot to do with Holmes’s effectiveness.”

“What’s that, sir?” asked Durfee. Payson shrugged his shoulders.

“It’s for you――or some one else――to find out, Durfee. Use your eyes.
The game may depend on your finding it out. I sha’n’t tell you. A coach
has no business to run the game; that’s the captain’s work.”

Durfee turned frowningly to observe the Porter pitcher. He had sent in
two balls, and now was winding himself up for his third delivery. When
it reached the plate it was dropping fast, and Smith struck several
inches over it. The Porter sympathizers howled gleefully.

“He isn’t doing what he was told to,” said Payson.

“Slow down, Smith,” called Durfee. “Wait for them, old man. Pick out a
nice one and paste it hard.”

But Smith wasn’t an apt pupil, and a moment or two later Holmes had
another strike-out to his credit.

“That’s three,” called Durfee. “Out on the run, fellows!”

The score remained at two to nothing until the beginning of the eighth
inning. Then Porter put a man on first, got him to second by a neat
sacrifice, and presently, with two out, brought him home on a long fly
to right field. With three runs against them, the Yardley players went
to bat in the last of that inning determined to at least even things
up. Loring’s discovery had gradually accomplished an improvement in
Yardley’s hitting, and there were now several base-hits credited to her
on the score-book. Unfortunately, however, none of the hits had yielded
a tally.

Reid went to bat first. The pitcher, like many other pitchers, was not
a good man with the stick, and the best he could do on this occasion
was to lay down a little bunt in front of the plate that was fielded to
first almost before Reid had started to run. The next batter was Black,
who was substituting Carey at first. Black was a better hitter than he
was a fielder, and had already twice managed to reach the first corner.
Durfee went down back of the base to coach. Squatting there, with a
grass-blade between his teeth, he recalled Payson’s puzzling remark;
and for the twentieth time he watched Holmes in the hope of discovering
the coach’s meaning. Holmes fixed the ball in his lean hand, got the
signal from his catcher, threw his long arms above his head, twisted
one foot around the other leg, turned half around, paused for an
instant, and then quickly unwound himself and stepped forward with a
long stride, launching the ball away breast-high toward the plate.
Durfee leaped to his feet, his eyes flashing. “Mr. Umpire!” he shouted.
“Watch that pitcher! He’s stepping out the box!”

The Porter captain came hurrying in from third, denying, expostulating.
Holmes smiled scornfully. The umpire sauntered down from the plate.
“Play ball!” he commanded.

“Watch his foot, please,” begged Durfee. “He goes away over the line
every time, sir! You can see where he steps.”

Holmes proceeded to show just where he stepped, carefully placing his
toe well back of the boundary of the pitcher’s box.

“Then what’s that hole here?” demanded Durfee. “That’s where you’ve
been stepping; any one can see that!”

The umpire looked rather more impressed now.

“All right,” he said. “Go ahead with the game.”

Holmes slanged Durfee while that youth returned to his place behind
first base, and the others went back to their positions. Holmes was
careful to keep inside the box on the next delivery, and as a result
his second attempt was adjudged a ball. A third ball followed that and
Yardley howled with delight. Holmes frowned; and when he sent the next
delivery in quite forgot about his foot. The ball was a beautiful one,
but Black let it go by and started to walk to first.

“Take your base,” said the umpire. Porter sent up a shout of angry
denunciation, and Holmes hurried toward the plate.

“What kind of a deal is that?” he demanded. “That was a strike, and a
peach, too! What are you giving us?”

“You stepped out of your box,” replied the umpire, coldly. “You want to
watch out for that. Batter up!”

“That’s a raw deal!” cried the Porter captain, running up. “He didn’t
step out! I was watching him! Why don’t you give them the game and be
done with it?”

“I saw it,” said the umpire. “I don’t want your judgment. Play ball.”

When things had calmed down, Black was sitting cozily on first base,
and Durfee was at the plate, Hammel having taken his place in the
coacher’s box. Holmes was angry; and from sheer bravado set to work
digging new holes for his feet as near the back of the box as he could.
Durfee found the first ball that came and sent it skipping away between
third and shortstop. Black took second and Durfee was safe on first.
Condit let Holmes pitch two miserable balls, and then found one to his
liking and sent a Texas Leaguer back of first baseman that scored Black
and put Durfee on third. Yardley cheers rang out loudly.

Not to be outdone, Alf chose a ball that seemed to please him and
slammed it down toward third so hard that the Porter captain couldn’t
handle it in time to get it across to first, and so made an absurd
effort to catch Condit at second. Second baseman was not looking for
the throw, and the ball went by him. Durfee went home, Condit took
third, and Alf made second by the fraction of an inch.

After that it was a slaughter. Wheelock cleaned the bases with a long
drive over left fielder’s head, and when the inning finally came to an
end, Yardley had scored eight runs! And, to use Alf’s language, the
game had been put on ice. All that was necessary now was to hold Porter
in her half of the ninth and that proved an easy task, for the visitors
were angry, discouraged, and much disappointed. Eight to three was the
final score, and Mr. Holmes left the field sadly disgruntled and with
his fame much tattered.

“Well,” said Payson on the way to the gymnasium, “you finally
discovered him, eh, Durfee?”

“Yes, sir, finally,” answered the Yardley captain somewhat sheepishly.

“Yes, he had been stealing six or eight inches on you every delivery,”
said Payson. “I might have told you, but I wanted you to learn to keep
your eyes open and find such things out for yourself. It nearly cost
us the game, I guess, but the lesson would have been worth even that.
Baseball, Durfee, isn’t all physical skill. It’s like almost everything
else; there’s a chance to use your head in it!”



CHAPTER XVIII

THE GREAT TEMPTATION


I have said that all Yardley was out of doors save those who feared the
rigors of the final examinations. I had for the moment forgotten Harry
Merrow. Harry was not bothering his young head much about the finals.
He managed to just scrape through from day to day without getting into
serious difficulties with the Office, and that was about as far as his
ambition went in that direction. All he asked was to be allowed to
study as little as possible, and devote his days to his stamps. And
so, if he wasn’t cramming hard for the final examinations, haunting
the library, or burning the midnight oil, neither was he to be found
on track or diamond, links or river. Harry had some very decided views
on the subject of fellows who wasted life’s golden moments in chasing
baseballs, digging up perfectly good cinder track with spikes, or
hitting a rubber ball, hard or soft, over net or links. A championship
game on the diamond or gridiron always commanded Harry’s presence, but
I fear he appeared at such affairs more from a sense of duty than from
any thought of pleasure to be derived from them. Time had been when he
liked tennis and was a close follower of class baseball affairs, while
his enthusiasm for canoeing had once come very near to resulting in a
tragedy, with Harry in the principal rôle. On that occasion Gerald and
Arthur had fished him out of the pond in Meeker’s Marsh far more dead
than alive. But nowadays all the fresh air he demanded he could get
through the open windows of his room, while as for exercise, turning
the pages of his big stamp albums or mounting new additions to his fast
growing collection was quite sufficient for his requirements. If any
boy was ever obsessed by a mania, that boy was Harry Merrow; and his
mania was stamps.

And so the invitation from Mr. Charles Cotton, of Broadwood, to
exchange duplicates didn’t go unanswered. Harry wrote a letter in
reply, and a correspondence covering a week resulted. Then a meeting
was arranged at Wallace’s drug store, in Greenburg, and one afternoon
Harry tramped off down the hill with his pockets full of little Manilla
envelopes containing his duplicate treasures.

Cotton was awaiting him at one of the little tables, his valuables
beside him, and the end of a straw in his mouth. The straw connected
with a tall glass of lemonade. Harry made himself known, accepted the
Broadwood youth’s proffer of a soda――the weather was decidedly warm for
the time of year――and looked his new acquaintance over.

Cotton was a tall, lank, ungainly, and unhealthy-looking boy of fifteen
or thereabouts. His clothes didn’t fit him, and his vivid red necktie
was riding over the top of his collar at the back. His face was
probably quite clean, but it didn’t look so, and his eyes were very
pale hazel and seemed inflamed. On the whole, Harry was not favorably
impressed, and for a moment he regretted the necessity of being seen
in company with such an unprepossessing chap. But he remembered the
next instant that Cotton was a fellow stamp collector, and that bond of
sympathy was sufficient to make Harry charitable.

The glasses emptied, the two got down to business. Wares were displayed
and bargains struck. Every stamp collector, it seems, has some
specialty. Cotton’s was early American issues. Harry had a leaning
toward rare foreign stamps, but possessed a good many “postmasters”
that Cotton coveted. One by one, or in heaps of a half dozen or so,
their treasures changed owners. Harry discovered, to his chagrin,
that Cotton knew a good deal more about “postmasters” than he did;
and having once made that discovery, he bargained with more caution.
One stamp, which he had held in poor esteem, left his possession in
exchange for three Venezuelans of no especial interest; and after it
was safely in Cotton’s pocket, that youth made the mistake of showing
his gratification. The stamp, he declared, was a rare “error”; he had
only one like it, and his example was not nearly so well preserved.
After that Harry grew very cautious, and I think Cotton subsequently
gave good value for everything he got.

Toward the end of the negotiations the Broadwood youth drew out a
leather wallet, and from some deep recess brought to light a small
triangle that he presented for examination with much the same awe that
a jeweler might exhibit an unusually fine pearl. Harry leaned over
and looked at it. It was a blue Cape of Good Hope in remarkably good
condition. Harry tried his best to seem unimpressed, but something of
his admiration and covetousness had to show. Cotton, watching, saw and
smiled to himself. Harry pushed the stamp away carelessly. “Not bad,”
he said. “I had one of those offered me last year for three dollars.
They’re not very rare, you know.”

“Aren’t, eh?” scoffed the other. “This is only the third one I’ve ever
seen, Merrow. I got this from a dealer in Baltimore; paid seven dollars
for it, too. I’ll let you have it for six, though, because I’ve got one
like it. I bought a fellow’s collection year before last, and it was
among a lot of unmounted ones. Guess he never knew how valuable it was.”

“Pshaw,” replied Harry, “I’d like to have it, but I wouldn’t give that
much. I can get one from Brown, in New York, for a lot less than that.”

“I’ll bet you you can’t! You look it up in the catalogue and see what
it costs! Besides, I don’t believe Brown has one for sale now. Why,
they’re as scarce as hens’ teeth.”

“Well, I wouldn’t give any such price as that,” replied Harry. “I’ll
trade you some revenues for it, if you like. I’ve got some dandies at
home.”

“What are they?” asked Cotton, doubtfully. Harry enumerated them, and
Cotton shook his head.

“Nothing doing. I’ll trade you some foreigns for them, but I’ll have to
have cash for this. Why, a fellow offered me six dollars for it just
the other day!”

“You ought to have let him have it,” replied Harry, nonchalantly, with
a shrug of his shoulders. “I tell you what I’ll do, though. I’ll give
you four dollars for it. What do you say?”

For answer Cotton smiled superciliously and slowly and carefully
returned the stamp to his wallet. Harry watched it go with aching
sight. He wanted it badly; had been looking for that particular stamp
for a long time. But he hid his disappointment under an appearance of
indifference and turned the conversation. It wasn’t long, however,
before they were bargaining again over that same stamp. Cotton produced
it again, and laid it temptingly in the middle of the table. Harry made
concessions and so did Cotton, but their prices remained sufficiently
far apart to prohibit an agreement. In the end, the precious triangle
went back once more into concealment. Secretly chagrined and
disappointed, but not altogether hopeless of ultimate possession of
the stamp, Harry offered to stand treat to soda, and so they were soon
busy again over their straws. As is natural, when two boys from rival
schools get together, they were soon extolling the merits of Broadwood
and Yardley. Cotton surprised Harry with his knowledge of athletics,
a subject in which Harry was unable to compete, although he looked
knowing, and even dared now and then to take issue with the other.
Cotton, though, always proved his contentions to be right. But when the
Broadwood youth began to describe, with sickening details, the awful
fate awaiting the Yardley Baseball Team and Track Team when they tried
conclusions with Broadwood, Harry’s patriotism drove him to protest.
But Cotton’s superior knowledge of the matter won him the honors of the
debate, even if it didn’t convince Harry. The latter somewhat lost his
temper.

“Anyhow,” he said, maliciously, “we sprang a dandy old joke on you
fellows the first of April.”

“Yes, and the fellows who did it are getting a dandy old punishment,”
retorted Cotton. “I guess they wish they hadn’t been so smart.”

“They aren’t either being punished,” Harry denied. “They never got
found out. Only one fellow was put on probation, and he didn’t have
much to do with it.”

“That’s funny. We heard over at school that six or seven of your
fellows had been suspended. Isn’t that so?”

“Of course it isn’t! Suspended! Pshaw, why, Toby wouldn’t suspend a
fellow for a little thing like that! Besides, as I say, the fellows
weren’t ever found out. Only Gerald Pennimore, and he didn’t do much
more than go along and look on.”

“Pennimore? He’s John T.’s son, isn’t he? The fellow who ran in the
cross country last fall?”

“Yes. And it’s too bad they got him, because he’s an awfully nice chap.
He’s a particular friend of mine,” Harry added, ingenuously.

Cotton grinned.

“Well, I’m glad they got one of the lot. That was a silly old trick. We
didn’t mind it at all.”

Harry scoffed openly. “Oh, no, you didn’t mind it! Your old principal
didn’t write over and demand an apology, did he? And he didn’t send the
gardener or somebody over to pick out the fellows who knocked him into
the bushes, did he? A sneaky thing to do, I call it!”

“The gardener gave your fellows a good scare, though,” chuckled Cotton.
“He says they ran like rabbits when he pounced out on them.”

“Did, eh? Then how does it happen he got flat on his back, I wonder.
Looks more as though our fellows ran into him instead of away from him!
Thompson says――” There Harry pulled up.

“Who’s Thompson?” asked Cotton.

“My roommate, Arthur Thompson.”

“Oh, was he one of them?”

“Of course he wasn’t,” answered Harry, with a fine show of indignation.
“But,” he added, prompted by vanity, “I know every one of them.”

“Yes, you do!” replied Cotton, skeptically.

“I do! I could give you the name of every fellow who went to Broadwood
that night.”

“Go ahead and I’ll believe you,” laughed Cotton.

“Well, I guess not! You’d go and tell the fellows over there, and then
your principal would get hold of it and write to Toby about it. You run
away and play!”

“What do you think I am?” asked Cotton, evidently pained and grieved
by Harry’s suspicions. “Of course I wouldn’t tell. I just want to know
myself, that’s all. I’ve had my suspicions all along, and I’d like to
know whether they are right or not.”

“Huh,” grunted Harry. “All right; you tell me who you think did it, and
I’ll tell you whether you’re right or wrong.”

But Cotton shook his head. “No,” he answered, virtuously, “I wouldn’t
want to name any fellow who was really innocent, you see.”

Harry viewed him puzzledly. That was rather beyond him. Finally――――

“Oh, well, I’m not going to tell you,” he said.

“But I’ll promise not to tell a soul!”

“Then what do you want to know for?”

“Just what I said. I’ll bet I’ve got three of them at least.”

“I’ll bet you haven’t!”

“Well, then――――”

“No, I won’t!”

“Oh, all right,” said Cotton, carelessly, “but I’ll tell you what
I’ll do, Merrow. You tell me who the fellows were, and I’ll let you
have that stamp for just half what I asked for it; and I’ll promise,
crossing my heart, not to breathe a word about it to any one.”

“Don’t see why you want to know so much,” grumbled Harry. “And, anyway,
I don’t want the stamp that bad.” But he began to wonder whether it
would do any one any harm if he revealed the names of the practical
jokers. If Cotton kept the knowledge to himself, no one, surely, would
be any the worse off. The trouble, however, was that Cotton didn’t
impress Harry as being a youth who would think twice about breaking his
word.

“You don’t know them in spite of all your blowing,” laughed Cotton,
tantalizingly.

“I do, too,” growled Harry.

“Then――” Cotton hesitated for a moment, and went on with a palpable
effort――“then I’ll _give_ you that stamp if you’ll tell, Merrow! After
all, I’ve got one like it; and if you pay me cash for it, I’ll just
spend it in a twinkle. Guess I’d rather satisfy my curiosity.”

Harry was doing some deep and hard thinking. Cotton pushed the stamp
across the top of the little table, and Harry’s eyes glued themselves
to it. He didn’t know when he’d have another chance to acquire a stamp
of that sort. Certainly, he would never again have one offered him for
nothing! He had a great mind to accept the bargain, only――only why did
Cotton want to know? Supposing he broke his word, and told the names at
Broadwood? The fellows there were still pretty angry about the trick
that had been played on them, and maybe they’d get their revenge by
divulging the names to the Principal.

“What do you say?” urged Cotton.

“Well――” Harry removed his gaze from the stamp long enough to fix it
sternly on Cotton――“promise on your word of honor not to let any one
else know if I tell you?”

“I promise, on my word of honor,” replied Cotton, emphatically, “never
to breathe a word of it to any one as long as I live.”

“Then――then why do you want to know?” exploded Harry, impatiently.
“That’s the funniest thing I ever heard of, Cotton!”

Cotton shook his head and smiled at his own weakness.

“Curiosity, Merrow, just as I told you. I’ve got an awful lot of
curiosity. Once I want to know a thing I just can’t be satisfied
until I do.” He smiled ingenuously across at Harry. Harry stared
speculatively back. Finally――――

“Well, if you promise on your word of honor――” He hesitated.

His gaze went back to the stamp. “Say,” he demanded with sudden
suspicion, poking the stamp with his finger, “you’re sure that isn’t a
forgery?”

“Forgery! Of course not!” replied the other, indignantly. “Why, look at
the water-mark if you don’t believe me!” He held it to the light and
then passed it to Harry. Harry looked and was satisfied.

“Well, then,” he began again, “I’ll tell you. There was Pennimore for
one. They got him.”

“Yes!” said Cotton, eagerly, leaning nearer.

“Then there was――” He stopped again. Something in Cotton’s expression
made him vaguely uneasy. He frowned a moment at the stamp, and then
pushed it quickly away from him across the stained table and arose from
his chair. “I don’t want that,” he declared, roughly. “I’ll buy it
from you some time, maybe, but I’m not going to get those fellows in
trouble.”

“But I told you I wouldn’t tell!” exclaimed Cotton, eagerly.

“I know you did. Well, I’m not going to give you a chance to. I guess
I’ll be going now; it’s pretty late. Glad to have met you.”

“Then you don’t want the stamp?” asked Cotton, petulantly.

Harry shook his head. “Not that bad, I guess. I’ll buy it some time
when I have more cash.”

“No, you won’t,” returned Cotton, sharply, as he picked it up. “I gave
you your chance. You can’t buy it now for a thousand dollars!”

“All right,” replied Harry, cheerfully. “Then I’ll get one somewhere
else. I guess that isn’t the only one in the world! Good-by.”

“Hold on! How about those revenues you have? Want to trade them?”

“Not now. You had your chance, too. You couldn’t have them now for
_fifty_ thousand dollars!” Harry smiled sweetly and walked to the door.
Cotton, replacing the stamp in his wallet, frowned darkly.

On his way home Harry pondered the Broadwood boy’s offer. “Why, I
wonder, was he so anxious to learn who the fellows were. I’ll just
bet if I’d told him he’d have gone straight back and let it all out,
promise or no promise!”

Crossing the bridge, a few minutes later, he stopped stock still. “That
was it!” he cried. “He kept saying he wouldn’t _breathe_ a word, but
he didn’t promise not to _write_! The mean little fox! My, I’m glad
I didn’t do it! I――I’d like to go back and punch his head for him! I
wonder if that stamp was a forgery, after all!”



CHAPTER XIX

A FALLING OUT


Harry made no mention of his meeting with Cotton. There were moments
when he regretted that stamp. Frequently he turned to the space in his
big album where it should be mounted and as often sighed his regret.
Some time he meant to have one of those stamps, only he would get it
without having to play traitor. Meanwhile he delved more furiously than
ever into his albums and his envelopes, wrote letters and received
them, perused catalogues and lists, and became an earnest student of
three different philatelic journals. It seemed to his roommate that the
finer the weather became the closer Harry stuck to his room. Arthur
growled and threatened and begged, but all to slight purpose. Day by
day Arthur, returning from the field, discovered Harry leaning over
his albums in a litter of catalogues and stamps, the air redolent of
library paste.

About the beginning of the second week in May, when the blue sky was
swept clean of clouds and the sunlight just drew you out of doors as
a magnet draws steel filings, Arthur’s patience gave way. Threats,
he told himself grimly, had lost their virtue. Things had gone wrong
all day, and Arthur was in a decidedly bad temper when he got back to
the room. Stevie, or Mr. Austin, to give his real name, had hauled
him over the coals in chemistry class in the morning――to the signal
amusement of his fellows; he had failed miserably at Greek after
dinner, and then, to clap the climax, he had broken his favorite
vaulting pole at practice. All that was enough to spoil the best temper
any one ever had! And now here was that little idiot of a roommate of
his disregarding everything he had been told, wallowing around in a
room that was a veritable pigsty and that smelled to heaven of that
sickening library paste!

Arthur’s patience gave way, and his temper with it. Crossing the room
in three bounds, he lifted Harry from his chair, seized the two big
albums and the smaller one, and, striding to his closet, opened the
door and tossed the books on to the shelf. Then he turned the key in
the lock viciously and placed it in his pocket.

From table to closet stretched a gay, vari-colored path of loose
stamps. Harry, bewildered, open-mouthed, looked from the litter on the
carpet to Arthur. But before he could summon words to express some of
the thoughts within him, Arthur took the floor. He had plenty to say
himself, and proceeded to say it.

“I told you what I’d do if you didn’t quit,” he began, angrily. “I said
I’d pitch those fool books out the window, but if I did you’d sneak
them back again. Well, they’re where you won’t get them for awhile, my
son, and you can just make up your mind to that! No more stamps for a
week, and not then unless you spend a good part of every day outdoors.
You’ve got to play tennis and take walks and get some fresh air into
your little starving lungs and some color into your little white face,
Harry. Now you clear up that mess there and get these stamps off the
floor.”

“I want my albums!” said Harry, hotly.

“You won’t get them.”

“I _will_ get them! You’ve no right to boss me, Arthur Thompson!
You――you’re a big bully, that’s what you are! I want my books!”

“Shut up that noise and do as I tell you. Clear that table off.”

“I won’t! I won’t, and you can’t make me! I want my stamp books!”

Arthur shrugged his shoulders wearily.

“You heard what I said, Harry, and you’d better believe I mean it. I’ve
given you plenty of chances to act right. Now you can do without your
old stamps for awhile.”

“I’ll go to Mr. Collins! I’ll――I’ll break open that door!”

Harry was so angry that his voice broke, and the tears came to his
eyes. He sprang at the closet door and tugged at the handle in frantic
rage. Finding that useless he faced Arthur with white face and glaring
eyes. He wasn’t a pleasant sight to look at, and Arthur turned away in
disgust and began to gather Harry’s rubbish into a pile on the table.

“You let those things alone! They’re not yours!” shrieked Harry. He
seized Arthur’s arm with one hand and aimed a puny blow at him with
the other. Arthur seized him and dumped him ingloriously on his bed,
howling and kicking.

“Look here,” he said, sternly, “we won’t have any of that, Harry. What
you ought to have is a mighty good hiding, and I’ve got more than half
a mind to give it to you. Now stop that noise and behave yourself. Do
you hear? If you don’t, I’ll turn you over and spank you until you’ll
have something to yell for!”

The threat served its purpose. Harry ceased his noise and stopped
struggling, but the looks he gave his roommate were full of hate.

“You――you make me sick,” he muttered. “Just because you helped Gerald
pull me out of the pond last year you think you can do anything you
like. But I’ll show you! It wasn’t you saved my life, anyway; it was
Gerald. You just helped pull me ashore. You give me those books right
away, Arthur Thompson, or it will be the worse for you. You think
I can’t get even, but I can. I know a way, a dandy way!” He smiled
maliciously. “You’d better do what I say or you’ll be sorry for it!”

“You keep quiet,” answered Arthur, calmly, his own anger having worn
itself out. “I don’t care for your threats, my son. The long and short
of it is that you don’t get those books to mess around with until you
get outdoors every day for a week. That’s settled.”

Harry’s manner suddenly became as quiet as Arthur’s. He sat up on the
bed and smoothed his rumpled attire. Then he walked to the table and
picked up his cap.

“All right,” he said, darkly. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I’ll give
you one more chance. Do I get my books?”

“You do not,” replied Arthur, emphatically.

Harry opened the door and turned for a parting shot.

“You’ll wish you hadn’t been so smart,” he sneered, “before I’m through
with you.”

[Illustration: “‘You’ll wish you hadn’t been so smart,’ he sneered.”]

Arthur shrugged his shoulders indifferently and Harry closed the door
quietly behind him.



CHAPTER XX

HARRY GETS REVENGE


An evening in the company of his roommate didn’t appeal to Arthur, and
so after supper that night he went across to Clarke and climbed the
stairs to 28. Gerald was alone, for Alf and Paul Rand had called a few
minutes before and lugged Dan away to Cambridge Society. He didn’t
look to be oppressed by loneliness, however, for Arthur discovered
him sprawled comfortably in an arm-chair with the last issue of _The
Scholiast_ in his hands. He tossed this aside, however, when the guest
appeared.

“Hello,” he said, “what’s the matter with you, Arthur? You look pretty
mad about something.”

Arthur smiled dejectedly as he seated himself on the window-seat and
nursed his knee. “Not mad,” he replied. “Merely disgusted. If it
weren’t for the calendar I’d say this was Friday the thirteenth.” And
Arthur enumerated the buffets dealt him by fate that day, ending up
with an account of his quarrel with Harry.

“Well, you have had a time of it,” said Gerald, sympathetically, when
he had finished. “And I’m sorry about that pole. It was a dandy, wasn’t
it?”

“I’ll never get another one like it,” responded Arthur, gloomily. “It
was one Danforth gave me. He used it two years against Broadwood and
got first each time. He made his record of ten feet ten and a half with
that pole. He gave it to me because he thought it was getting too light
for him. I’m not exactly――what do you call it?――superstitious, but I
don’t like breaking that stick; I believe it means bad luck in the
Duals.”

“Oh, nonsense! Besides, one pole more or less won’t matter,” added
Gerald, with a smile. “Chambers has it all doped out here in _The
Scholiast_ for us to win easily.”

“Yes, Chambers is a wonder at prophecy, I don’t think. He’s never
guessed anything right yet. And then that little chump Harry made me
red hot――――”

“He’s getting to be a regular little beast,” said Gerald.

“You bet he is. Sometimes I almost wish we’d let him stay in the pond
that time!”

“Is he as bad as that?” laughed Gerald. “But what did he mean by
getting even with you?”

“Just bluff,” answered Arthur, indifferently. “I dare say he’d like to
do me something mean, though. Well, I’m sick of thinking about him.
If he doesn’t behave I’ll grab him some day and just about shake the
breath out of him. What’s Chambers say about the meet?”

Arthur picked up _The Scholiast_ again.

“Lots; about two columns. He gives us about everything in the sprints,
the mile, the pole vault, and the weights. According to his figuring,
which, he says, is extremely conservative, Yardley is certain of
seventy-two points.”

“Seventy-two? That leaves sixty for Broadwood. Well, I guess that is
conservative. I’d say we’d get nearer eighty. Still, you never can tell
what is going to happen at a track meet. Some one has cramps, and some
one else turns his ankle, and the chap you expect the most from gets
off his feed and runs himself out in the first lap, and――and there you
are!”

“And where are you? Still, I can’t see how we can fail to win. I’ve
been figuring myself. Chambers gives us only two points in the high
jump, and only three in the half-mile. We can do better than that,
can’t we?”

“I don’t know about the half-mile,” answered Arthur, “but if we get
two in the high jump we’ll be doing well. They’ve got some peaches over
at Broadwood. What about the broad?”

“Yardley 5, Broadwood 6,” replied Arthur, referring to the paper.

“I’d like to know how he figures that,” said Arthur. “Roeder ought to
get first and Whitten second, to my thinking. How does he figure the
pole?”

“Says you’ll get first and Myers and Cowles should get four points
between them. He gives us nine.”

“Eight will be nearer, I guess. How did you get on to-day?”

“All right. Did a mile and a quarter. Don’t know what my time was,
but I’ll bet Andy does, for I saw him look at his watch as I started
and afterward he pulled it out again when I finished the fourth lap.
I think, though, I made pretty good time. I was dying to ask him, but
I knew he’d sit on me if I did. It’s only a couple of weeks to the
twenty-third, Arthur, and it doesn’t look as though I was going to get
let off, does it?”

“Why don’t you make a break at Collins? Ask him how much longer he
intends to keep you on. I would.”

“I guess I’ll have to pretty soon,” mused Gerald. “Did you see this
joke on Durfee?”

“No, what is it?”

Gerald found the “School Notes” column in _The Scholiast_ and read:
“‘Mr. Gaddis (in English II)――“And where does this scene take place?”
Cap――“On page 61, sir.”’”

“I could laugh myself sick over that,” said Arthur, solemnly. “Any more
scintillations there?”

“Um; here’s one on somebody. Who’s ‘Mr. H.’ do you suppose?”

“I don’t know. What’s the yarn?”

“‘Mr. Mellin (in German IV)――“What are the possessive pronouns in
German?” Mr. H. (right off the bat)――“Oh, ich bin, du bist――” (Great
applause.)’”

“Sounds like Jake Hiltz,” laughed Arthur. “Read me some more, please.”

“That’s about all in the humorous line. Here’s some news though. ‘The
shower baths are in excellent shape this year and the new rubber mats
recently put in place are much appreciated by the fellows.’

“‘The handsome photograph of the Colosseum at Rome, recently hung in
the main corridor of Oxford Hall, is the gift of Mrs. R. C. Hadlock,
Mr. Tracy Hadlock’s mother. The gift is greatly appreciated by the
student body.’”

“Gee, we’re an appreciative lot, according to _The Scholiast_,” grunted
Arthur. “Is there anything there about the Wissining River being very
wet this year and much appreciated by canoers?”

“No,” Gerald laughed. “Has somebody gone in?”

“Rather! Lowd and a chap named Peeble. Lowd was showing Peeble a few
fancy racing strokes and over went Mister Canoe. I didn’t see it, but
Norcross was telling about it. He says the canoe capsized square in
the middle of the river and that when the fellows came up, Lowd struck
out for one bank and Peeble for the other, and the canoe floated
downstream. Then they stood on the bank and called each other names for
not rescuing it.”

“Did they get it again?”

“Oh, yes, some one went after it for them. But Lowd had to swim across
from the other side, because no one would fetch him over. Norcross said
he was jumping mad about it. Well, I guess I’ll go home and do a line
or two of studying, if Harry will let me. I suppose, though, he will
want to talk it all over again. See you to-morrow, Gerald.”

To Arthur’s surprise it was an extremely silent roommate that he
found on his return to Whitson. Arthur, who had recovered his temper
long since and could afford to let by-gones be by-gones, greeted Harry
casually on entering. Harry looked up for just an instant from the
book he was reading, muttered a reply, and became at once apparently
absorbed again. When bedtime came his manner rather puzzled Arthur.
He seemed to have forgotten his grievance and yet had nothing to say,
and appeared anxious to avoid even looking at his roommate. Arthur,
however, didn’t trouble about it. He concluded that Harry was ashamed
of the way he had behaved, and had made up his mind to take his
punishment like a man. Once, when the lights were out, and Arthur was
just on the verge of slumber, he thought he heard sobs from across the
room, but when he called over softly to ask what the trouble was, there
was no reply, and he concluded that he had imagined them. Then he went
to sleep and slept like a log until morning, something he would not
have done, I fancy, had he known what the morrow was to bring forth.

For at chapel Mr. Collins announced, among other things, that the
presence of Thompson was requested at the Office after breakfast, and
the erstwhile members of the S. P. M. sought each other out with
apprehensive glances. There was no especial reason for associating
Arthur’s summons with the occurrences of the thirty-first of March,
but conscience makes cowards of us all, and Dan and Alf and the others
waited anxiously until mid-morning to learn what was up. Then Arthur
went over to 7 Dudley, where Dan and Alf were awaiting him, tossed his
Latin book despondently on to the table, and threw himself into a chair.

“Well?” asked Alf after a moment.

“Probation,” replied Arthur.

“Broadwood?”

“Yep.”



CHAPTER XXI

THE STAMP ALBUMS ARE PUT AWAY


There was a moment of silence. Then,

“How did he find out?” Dan asked.

“I don’t know,” sighed Arthur, gloomily. “He had me all right, though.
‘Where were you between ten and midnight on the thirty-first of last
month?’ he asked. ‘In bed,’ I said, stretching a point; I was for
awhile, you know. ‘Were you off the school grounds that night?’ he
asked. ‘I’d rather not answer,’ says I. ‘I’m sorry,’ says he, ‘because
I have every reason to believe that you took part in the Broadwood
escapade. Do you deny it?’ ‘I haven’t anything to say, thank you,’ says
I. ‘Who was with you?’ he asks. ‘That’s no good,’ says I, ‘because I’m
not going to talk.’ ‘Then we will say probation until further notice,’
he says. Then I told him ‘much obliged’ and beat it.”

Alf groaned. “Isn’t it the very dickens?” he said. “And here I am,
the――the ringleader, the prime villain, as you might say, getting off
scot-free. Jove, I’ve a good mind to go over and give myself up!”

“What good would that do?” asked Arthur. “We talked that all over
before. I’m dished, but that’s no reason why you should be.”

“That means you can’t go into the Duals, doesn’t it?” asked Dan. Arthur
nodded.

“Yep. I bust my best pole yesterday and I was pretty sure then that
something was going to happen; but I didn’t think of this. I thought
Collins had forgotten all about that business.”

“But how the dickens did he find out?” wondered Alf. “And why doesn’t
he know about the rest of us? Do you――do you suppose any one gave you
away, Arthur?”

“I don’t believe so. Who would? Nobody knew but just the lot of us.
I’ve been puzzling over it ever since.”

“You don’t suppose,” began Dan. He stopped and glanced at Alf. Alf
frowned.

“Gerald? Of course not! Besides, what would be the use? And why tell on
Arthur and not the rest of us? Besides, he wouldn’t do it.”

“No, of course he wouldn’t,” Dan agreed, with a sigh of relief.

“Oh, it wasn’t Gerald,” said Arthur. “I don’t know who it was. I guess
Collins must have been doing some detective work.”

“That isn’t like him,” Alf objected. “He isn’t――isn’t sneaky you know.
Perhaps, Arthur, he just suspected and took a chance.”

Arthur frowned. “He may have,” he admitted finally. “Well, anyhow, he
got me for fair. And I’m out of the Duals after working like a slave
all spring. That’s what riles me.”

“And that means that Broadwood will get the pole-vault,” Dan mused.
“Say, fellows, I guess it would have been just as well if we hadn’t
gone on that little expedition that night!”

“You’re mighty right,” agreed Alf, grimly. “I guess we were the April
fools, as it has turned out.”

They discussed the affair for some time longer, until Dan and Arthur
had to leave for recitations, but without discovering any silver
lining to Arthur’s cloud. Nor could their speculations bring to light
any plausible explanation of Mr. Collins’s sudden knowledge. The
explanation was simple enough, but it was Gerald who advanced it.

“I’d give a dollar to know how he found out,” said Arthur in Gerald’s
room after dinner.

“Do you mean that you don’t know?” asked Gerald, in surprise.

“No, do you?”

“Why, of course. Don’t you remember the talk we had in your room that
afternoon when you let out to me about the thing?”

“Y-yes, but――” Arthur stopped, a light breaking over him. “The little
rascal!” he exclaimed. “He heard every word we said, didn’t he? I’ll go
over there and――and――――”

“We mentioned Alf and Dan several times,” said Gerald, thoughtfully.
“Evidently he didn’t want to get them into trouble; it was just you he
had it in for. And to think that you saved his life last year!”

“Helped to,” corrected Arthur in a growl. “I won’t take all the blame
for it. Gee, but he’s a low-down little mucker, isn’t he? I didn’t
think he’d do a thing like this, though. I wish he was a couple of
years older so I could thrash him!”

“He deserves it,” said Gerald. “What will you do?”

Arthur considered a moment. Then,

“Nothing,” he sighed. “There’s nothing I can do but take my medicine. I
might spank Harry, but it wouldn’t hurt him much and wouldn’t give me
any especial pleasure. He’s just a little rat, that’s all he is. I wish
I could get him out, but I guess they wouldn’t let him change now,
so near the end of school. Well, it’s only about a month longer. Say,
Gerald, I wonder if this will make any difference to you. Wonder if
Collins will let you off now. He ought to.”

“Perhaps. Just the same, I’d rather have stayed on and not had this
happen to you, Arthur.”

“Oh, well, what’s the difference? I can stand it.”

“It means that we lose five points in the Duals, though.”

“Hope we do. No, I don’t. I didn’t mean that. You’ll have to get
Collins to let you off probation, Gerald, and go in and get those
points yourself.”

But Gerald shook his head.

“I guess I won’t get on the team now, even if I do get off,” he said.
“It’s too late.”

“Too late nothing! It’s almost two weeks to the Duals. Why don’t you
speak to Collins?”

“Well――perhaps――” murmured Gerald. Then, “I’m awfully sorry, Arthur,”
he said. Arthur nodded.

“Thanks. Well, I must be off. See you this evening maybe.”

He didn’t come across Harry Merrow until school was over in the
afternoon. Then, as he didn’t care to go down to the field and have
the fellows commiserate with him, he went over to his room. Harry was
there, sitting at the table with a book in front of him, looking very
miserable and frightened. Arthur paid no attention to him. He tossed
his cap aside, got his writing materials and sat down to compose a
letter home. From time to time Harry stole inquiring glances at him
across the table, but Arthur never once looked up. After a half-hour
the younger boy could stand it no longer.

“Aren’t you――going to say anything?” he faltered.

Arthur looked up and across coldly.

“About what?” he asked.

“About――what I did,” answered Harry.

Arthur shook his head. “What’s the use?” he asked, contemptuously.
“It’s done. And I guess you won, Harry. Oh, by the way.” He arose,
unlocked the closet door and pulled the stamp albums from the shelf. He
tossed them down at Harry’s elbow. “There are your books,” he said.

Harry swept them to the floor and buried his face in his arms, bursting
into a storm of sobs.

“I’m so sorry, Arthur! I wish I was dead! Why don’t you lick me? Won’t
you please――lick me?”

“Oh, don’t be a fool,” growled the other. “No, I won’t lick you; I
don’t want to touch you, you little beast!”

“I didn’t mean to do it,” Harry sobbed, “honest I didn’t! I――I was just
crazy mad with you, and――and before I knew it――――”

“All right. Cut out the weeps,” answered Arthur, wearily. “I dare say
you couldn’t help it. You’re just naturally a sneak, I suppose.”

“I’m not!” cried Harry, raising a tear-blurred face. “I wouldn’t have
done it if I’d realized――――”

“Oh, you realized all right.”

“I didn’t think――you’d have to stop track work,” wailed Harry. “And now
you won’t ever like me any more; you’ll hate me. I――I’m going to get my
mother to take me away from here.”

“Not a bad idea,” replied Arthur, indifferently, although the boy’s
remorse seemed so genuine and his sorrow so great that he could not but
feel a little less resentful than before. Harry began feeling in his
pockets for his handkerchief. It had fallen under the table, and Arthur
rescued it and tossed it to him. Harry dried some of the tears, but
more kept coming. Arthur finished his letter, folded it and put it into
its envelope. Harry eyed the missive with quivering lips.

“I suppose you told them about――what I did,” he said.

“No.” Arthur shook his head. “Your name isn’t mentioned in this
letter.” There was a minute of silence, save for Harry’s subdued
sniffles. Then,

“I suppose you’ll tell every one, though; all the other fellows.”

“Perhaps,” was the answer. A longer silence this time.

“I wish――you wouldn’t,” said Harry at last in a low voice.

Arthur raised his brows as he stuck a stamp on the envelope.

“I――I’d do most anything if you wouldn’t, Arthur.”

“You might have thought of that before,” replied Arthur, dryly. “I’m
not making any bargains with you.” He put on his hat to take the letter
to the box in front of Oxford. “You’d better pick up those books,” he
said as he went out.

After the letter was mailed he considered going down to the field and
looking on at practise or paying a visit to the tennis courts. But he
hardly felt like mingling with his fellows yet, and so in the end he
returned to his room, hoping that Harry would take himself away for
awhile. But that youth was just where he had left him and a glance at
his face showed that he had been crying again. The stamp albums still
lay sprawled upon the floor. Arthur frowned. He was thoroughly angry
with Harry――or he had been――but he wasn’t hard-hearted, and the sight
of the younger boy’s tears was having its effect.

“Look here, Harry,” he said, “you and I have got to keep on together
here for a good month yet, and we’d better make the best of it. Crying
isn’t going to do any good. You did a mighty dirty trick and there’s
no use in my saying that it doesn’t matter. After awhile I’ll get used
to it, I guess, but not quite yet. I know you were pretty mad when
you did it; I’m willing to believe that you wouldn’t have done it if
you’d taken time to think it out; and perhaps it was my fault in a way.
Anyhow, what’s done is done, and now it’s up to us to try and get along
as decently as we can for the rest of the term. We won’t say anything
more about it. And I won’t tell any one. The only fellow who knows is
Gerald Pennimore, and he won’t say anything if I ask him not to. Wash
your face and put those books away.”

“But you hate me,” muttered Harry, “and I don’t blame you.” He looked
across at Arthur miserably with tear-stained face. “You do, don’t you?”
he insisted. Arthur frowned impatiently. At last,

“No, I don’t hate you,” he answered. “Maybe I ought to; I don’t know.
But you’re only a kid, and I guess you’re sorry, Harry.”

“I am!” exclaimed the other eagerly and earnestly. “I’d do anything in
the world if I could――could undo it, Arthur!”

“Then get those plaguey books out of sight, and wash your face.”

Harry picked up the albums with a final sniffle and strode to the open
window with them. Arthur leaped to his feet.

“What are you going to do?” he exclaimed.

“I’m going to pitch them out,” replied Harry. But Arthur pushed him
back.

“Don’t be a silly fool,” he said, more kindly.

“Yes, I am! They――they made all the trouble!”

The attempt to lay the blame on the stamp albums made Arthur smile.

“Well, don’t do that, anyway.”

“I don’t want to see them again,” declared Harry, passionately. “Please
let me throw them out.”

“No. Put them in your trunk if you don’t want to see them. Then wash
your face and we’ll go for a walk. I guess a walk will do us both
good.”



CHAPTER XXII

GERALD MAKES THE TEAM


Arthur’s probation and his loss to the Track Team caused consternation
throughout the school. It made necessary a new figuring of the probable
result of the Duals, and when five points for first place in the pole
vault was deducted from the Yardley column and credited to Broadwood
it left the respective scores dangerously close; 67 for Yardley, and
65 for Broadwood. Andy Ryan was perhaps the most disgusted of any, and
refused to recognize Arthur by so much as a nod for several days. But
the trainer’s anger couldn’t last in the face of Arthur’s behavior,
for that youth presented himself on the field the next afternoon and
went bravely about the coaching of the remaining candidates in the pole
vault.

“Maybe we can get a second and third out of it, after all,” he said,
cheerfully. “Myers has been doing pretty good work lately and I’m going
to make him dig hard.”

The rules prevented Arthur from using a pole himself, even to
illustrate a point in his instruction, which was something of a
drawback, but in spite of that he did grand work for the next ten days,
and Myers and Cowles added many inches to their performances. And when,
three days before the meet, it was voiced around that the former had
done better than ten feet in a trial the school took heart again.

The day succeeding Arthur’s visit to the Office and the beginning of
his probation, Mr. Collins said, as his Latin class prepared to leave
the room: “I’d like to see Pennimore for a moment, please, after
class.” Gerald remained in his seat when the others went out and Mr.
Collins, after gathering his books and papers together, came down from
the platform and took a seat beside him.

“Pennimore,” he said, “it’s a great temptation to keep you on probation
right along, because you do about twenty-five per cent. better than
when you’re off. How do you explain that?”

“I suppose I try harder, sir,” replied Gerald.

“And put more time to it, maybe?” asked the Assistant Principal, with a
smile. Gerald agreed to that, reflecting the smile.

“Well, you’ve been doing very good work. Do you think that if you were
released from probation you could keep it up?”

“Yes, sir,” replied Gerald, eagerly.

“Would you care to go so far as to promise that?”

“Yes, sir.”

“If you did, I’d have to hold you to the promise for the rest of the
term, Pennimore.”

“Yes, sir; I’d be willing.”

“Then that’s a bargain? Hard study and plenty of time to your lessons,
Pennimore? And back on probation if you don’t keep your end up?”

“Yes, Mr. Collins.”

“All right then. Probation ends at noon to-day, Pennimore.” He smiled
at the expression of radiant delight that overspread the boy’s face.
“But remember our bargain, please!”

“I――I won’t forget, sir. And thank you, sir.”

“You must thank the entire faculty, Pennimore. We decided last evening
that you had been diligent and earnest and had done your best to atone
for your fault. Now, just one word for future guidance, my boy. Rules
are rules, Pennimore. They’re made to be observed. Of course I know
that there is a good deal of the experimental in every fellow; to a
certain extent you’ve all got to ‘monkey with the buzz saw’ just to
see if it really hurts. Well, you’ve had your experiment, and you’ve
learned that it does hurt, eh?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Keep that in mind, then. Faculty didn’t treat you very badly this
time, but I wouldn’t reckon on similar lenience on another occasion.
You’d better make up your mind to let the buzz saw alone. That’s all.
Are you late? Tell the instructor I detained you.”

English IV was over at three o’clock. At three-twenty-one Gerald, in
running trunks and shirt and spiked shoes, dashed out of the gymnasium
and tore down the path to the field. Andy Ryan was directing the
spading of the broad-jump pit.

“Andy,” cried Gerald, “I’m off probation!”

Andy turned and observed him, silently and critically.

“You are, eh?” he said. “And how are you feeling to-day?”

“Fine and dandy!”

“Then jog around a bit till you’re warmed up. I’ll give you a trial for
the mile.”

When that trial was over and Gerald, turning back, sought Andy to
learn what time he had made, he was doomed to disappointment. Andy had
already returned the watch to his pocket and his face told nothing.

“How was it?” Gerald asked, eagerly.

“Not so bad,” said the trainer. “Come to training table in the morning.
That’ll do for to-day. Up to the gym now on the trot, and don’t stand
here getting stiff.”

He turned away and Gerald, swallowing his curiosity, obeyed orders.
But even if he wasn’t to know his time there was plenty to atone for
that disappointment. He was on the Track Team at last! To-morrow he
was to join the others at training table! It seemed almost too good
to be true, and Gerald trotted back to the gymnasium with his heart
beating high with pride and elation. He wanted to tell Dan about it,
and Arthur, and Tom, and Alf, but he had had his shower and had dressed
before it was time for any of them to appear, and so he went up to his
room and wrote a hurried, scrawly note to his father, who was away
out West, telling him all about it. And when Dan and Alf came in just
before supper-time, they were almost as pleased as Gerald himself, and
Alf thumped him on the back and called him “a credit to my training, by
gad!”

After supper he went over to tell Tom, but Tom had already heard and
said a lot of nice things to the effect that Gerald deserved what
had come to him. And when Gerald said, “I guess if it hadn’t been for
you, Tom, I wouldn’t have kept up my track work,” Tom disclaimed all
credit in the matter. “You had pluck, Gerald,” he said, “and that’s
what counts every time.” When it came to telling Arthur the good news,
Gerald experienced some embarrassment, for it seemed a good deal to
expect Arthur to sympathize with him on the recovery of the privilege
that the other had just lost. But if Arthur felt any envy he failed
to show the least sign of it. He was really immensely pleased at his
friend’s good fortune, and made Gerald understand it. Harry, a very
subdued and well-behaved Harry nowadays, added his congratulations
to Arthur’s, and the three spent a very pleasant hour in 20 Whitson,
discussing track affairs and the chance of a win over Broadwood.

The next afternoon Gerald joined Maury and Goodyear and Norcross, who
now comprised the mile squad, and had his work-out with them. He was
pleased to find that he could hold his own very well with both Norcross
and Goodyear. Captain Maury told him that he was glad to see him back
again, but he showed no very great enthusiasm, and it didn’t require
the gift of mind-reading to tell that Maury didn’t expect much from the
new recruit. As a matter of fact, although Gerald never learned it,
Maury had opposed adding Gerald to the squad and the training table,
and only Andy’s insistence had secured that result.

The Baseball Team met its first defeat on a Wednesday, ten days before
the Dual Meet, going down before Carrel’s to the tune of 4 to 9. The
players took the beating very much to heart, for Carrel’s was not
considered a very formidable opponent. But the school at large accepted
the defeat good-naturedly, and cheered their dejected players loudly as
they trotted off to the gymnasium. A beating was to be expected now and
then, and, after all, it didn’t much matter what happened so long as in
the end Broadwood was humiliated in the final contest.

Payson made one or two trial changes on the nine the following day, and
put the fellows through two full hours of the hardest sort of practice
in preparation for the next game on the schedule, that with Nordham
Academy, the following Saturday. Nordham usually gave a good account
of herself on diamond or gridiron, and this spring her baseball men
had marched half way through a difficult schedule without a defeat.
As a usual thing Nordham was played fully a fortnight later in the
season, and Durfee rather wished now that he had not agreed when the
manager had advocated giving Nordham an earlier date, for, judging from
the game with Carrel’s, Yardley was scarcely in a condition to break
Nordham’s long list of victories.

Payson’s changes didn’t work out to his satisfaction, and on Friday the
team was back in its old shape. There was no practice game that day,
but there was some sharp fielding and a whole lot of work in front of
the batting nets, and Reid and Servis, the regular pitchers, as well
as Snow and Wallace, second-string twirlers, pitched to the limit of
their capacity. At five o’clock some two dozen very, very tired youths
trooped up to the gymnasium and strove to ease the soreness in their
muscles under the shower baths. Durfee was doubtful of the wisdom of
working the players so hard the day before a game and expressed his
doubts to Alf in the locker-room while they were wearily pulling off
their togs. Alf, however, didn’t agree with his captain.

“You trust Payson, old chap; he knows how much we’ll stand. I believe
a good, hard workout was what we needed. I’m tired, but I know mighty
well I’ll be feeling like a fighting cock in the morning. Just now,
though, I’ll ’fess up that I’d like to be tumbled into a warm bath,
have a good rubbing down and then be put to sleep to the strains of
soft music. Who’s going to pitch to-morrow?”

“Servis is going to start,” replied Durfee. “Reid will relieve him
in the fifth, I suppose, if he lasts that long. If we get a safe
lead――which we aren’t likely to, I guess――Snow or Wallace will have a
try-out in the last inning or two. I hope we’ll have as bully a day as
Wednesday was.”

“So do I,” answered Alf. “I hate to try and play ball in a silly
rainstorm, or with the thermometer flirting with the freezing point.
No danger of that, though; it’s going to be fair and warm to-morrow.
And we’re going to have a dandy old game with those Nordhamites, those
Unbeaten Terrors of the Diamond!”

“Rather!” said Harry Durfee, grimly. “They’re going to give us the game
of our lives!”

“Sure! And that’s what we’re going to give them,” replied Alf,
cheerfully. “I hope to goodness I make a couple of hits to-morrow. I
want to fatten my batting average a bit. It’s pretty lean so far this
season.”

“Nobody’s been hitting decently yet,” returned Harry. “I haven’t done
a thing, either. If it wasn’t for that last part of the Porter game,
after the immortal Holmes went to the bad, we wouldn’t any of us have
much to our credit in the batting line.”

Alf chuckled.

“That was a cinch, wasn’t it?” he asked. “I suppose this pitcher of
Nordham’s is pretty good, isn’t he?”

“Keswick? Of course. You remember him last year, don’t you? He was
first substitute then. They put him in in the last four innings. We
managed to touch him up a bit, but he’s a lot better this year. He had
seven strike-outs in their game with Pell.”

“That so? He’s a left-hander, isn’t he?”

“Yes, and has quite a few good things, they say. Well, here’s hoping we
each get a couple of two-baggers, Alf.”

“Pshaw! Two-baggers? Make it a couple of homers while you’re wishing,
Harry. It doesn’t cost any more. Well, me for the shower!”

Saturday promised to be an eventful day, for not only was the baseball
game with Nordham Academy coming in the afternoon, but Mr. Bendix,
who was a firm believer in the physical benefits to be derived from
swimming and boating, had for a fortnight past been working up
enthusiasm in what he called an Aquatic Carnival to be held on the
river in the forenoon. What “Muscles” set his hand to he always
accomplished, and in the present instance he had managed to get the
school quite excited about his scheme. There were to be canoe races,
swimming races, tub races, barrel races, diving contests, and an
obstacle race for canoes which was a novelty of his own devising, and
which promised to be both exciting and diverting. For a week past
entrants had been practicing for the carnival, and every canoe in the
boathouse had been requisitioned. Tom and Alf had entered in three
events, and Dan and Paul Rand had also formed a partnership for the
purpose of walking away with a few of the prizes. Tom and Alf owned
their own canoe, but Dan and Paul had to hire one of the school fleet,
and their craft proved to be much in need of repairs. Rand, who had
more time on his hands than Dan, had been working over the canoe for
two or three days, and Friday night he announced that “with good luck
the silly thing would hold together for maybe a half-mile!”

“That’s all we want,” said Dan. “We’ve only entered for the half-mile
race.”

“Why don’t you go in for the obstacle?” asked Tom. “That will be very,
very amusing.”

“Why don’t we?” responded Rand. “Because, you silly idiot, that old
tub of ours has all it can do to stay together in the water. If we try
to lug it over obstacles it would just naturally fall to pieces.”

“Besides,” said Dan, “neither Paul nor I can afford to put up another
quarter apiece. I have already squandered seventy-five cents in
entrance fees.”

“What are the prizes going to be?” Alf asked.

“Haven’t you seen them? They’re in the trophy-room. There are some
books――” Alf groaned――“a bunch of pewter mugs and four bully tennis
rackets for the swimming events.”

“Wonder Muscles didn’t put up some dumb-bells and Indian clubs,” said
Alf. “What are you going to try, Dan?”

“Half-mile canoe race, with Paul here, and high dive.”

“Dive! Can you dive?” asked Alf.

“I invented diving,” replied Dan, modestly.

“Well, don’t hit your head against the bottom,” said Alf. “We shall
need your services in the afternoon, Mr. Vinton. What’s the prize for
the obstacle race? Some silly book, I suppose.”

“No, it’s a mug; two of them; one for you and one for Tom,” replied
Dan.

“Really? Tom, we might as well go over and get them to-night.”

“Yes, if you expect to get them at all,” said Rand, unkindly.

“Paul, I fear you have been working too hard,” returned Alf. “Your
disposition is decidedly mean to-night. As for those mugs, why, they’re
ours already. Tom and I have spent our young lives in overcoming
obstacles, and to-morrow’s task will be just pie for us. Won’t it Tom?”

“Correct,” replied Tom, lazily. “We dote on obstacles; eat ’em alive,
we do.”

“Have you seen the obstacles?” asked Rand. They shook their heads.
“Well, Muscles was down there this afternoon getting them ready. One’s
a ladder. He’s going to tie that across the river. Then he’s going to
hitch a lot of barrels together――――”

“I can just see you trying to pull your canoe over a lot of silly,
wobbly barrels!” laughed Dan.

“That’s just what you will see,” replied Alf, with much dignity. “What
else, Paul?”

“I don’t know; that’s all I saw. But I guess he has some other stunts
up his sleeve for your amusement, Alf.”

“The more the merrier,” said Alf. “Can’t have too many for us, can he,
Tom? Obstacles are our long suit. By the way, just how _do_ you get a
canoe over a barrel in the water, Tom?”

“Don’t you know?” Tom seemed surprised. “Why, you――you―― Ask Dan.”

“I suppose,” said Dan, “you have to get out and lift it over, don’t
you? I never tried it.”

“Exactly; you lift it over.” Tom waved his hand carelessly. “That’s all
you have to do; just lift it over, Alf.”

“Thanks. I thought perhaps we had to take it over in our teeth, you
sleepy galoot!”

“You might try that,” replied Tom. “I’ve never seen it done, but it
might work all right. Anyhow, our canoe is good and light, Alf.”

“Best little canoe on the river, Tom. Where are you going?”

“Bed,” replied Tom, suppressing a yawn. “You need plenty of sleep if
you’re going to surmount obstacles. Good-night, every one.”

“That means we’re not wanted, Paul,” said Dan. “See you in the morning,
fellows. First race is at ten-thirty, Alf. Good-night.”

“Oh, don’t run off,” begged Alf. “Tom doesn’t mind sleeping with a
crowd around, do you, Tom? You couldn’t keep him awake if you tried.”

“I know,” laughed Dan, “but what’s the good of staying? Once Tom starts
to snoring you can’t make yourself heard.”

“That,” said Tom, removing his shoes with many grunts, “is a very low
thing to say. I bid you good-night, Mr. Vinton.”

“Good-night, Tom. See you later.”

“And I,” remarked Rand, who roomed almost across the corridor, “will
probably _hear_ you later!”



CHAPTER XXIII

SPORT ON THE RIVER


Alf’s prophecy regarding the weather on Saturday proved correct. It
turned out to be a perfect spring day――warm and bright, with just
enough breeze from the marshes to keep one from feeling lazy. By half
past ten the river bank in the vicinity of the boat-house was alive
with contestants and spectators, all in a very light-hearted mood.
Many of the fellows who were to take part in the races had had to make
up for the lack of bathing suits as best they could, and some of the
improvised costumes appealed strongly to the humor of the throng, and
elicited good-natured comment and criticism.

Mr. Bendix, assisted by two of the instructors and some of the older
boys, had been kept pretty busy, but the first event, a quarter of
a mile canoe race for single paddles, was called only a few minutes
behind the scheduled time. The competitors started near Flat Island
and paddled down river with the current, finishing just below the
boat-house. This race had fourteen entries, and proved one of the most
exciting events of the morning. The boys, kneeling in the sterns of
the light craft, dug their paddles for all that was in them, and for
the first two hundred yards it was a mad scramble for position. The
river was so narrow that not more than four or five canoes could stay
abreast, and there were some exciting moments until the fortunate ones
had proved their right to precedence. There were two upsets, which only
added to the fun and confusion. Most of the audience raced along the
river path, encouraging their respective heroes at the tops of their
voices; and had an outsider wandered on the scene, he would doubtless
have jumped to the conclusion that he had unwittingly stumbled into the
grounds of a lunatic asylum!

A hundred yards from the finish, the race had narrowed down to three
canoes, in one of which Tom Roeder was doing finely. But Tom had luck
against him that day, for near the line he broke his paddle short off
above the blade; and, although he tried desperately to finish out
with what was left him, Graydon, a Second-Class boy, won by two canoe
lengths.

The diving competition followed, while some fifteen or sixteen
adventurous youths were preparing for the barrel race. Dan, in spite
of his having, in his own words, invented diving, was outclassed by
many of his rivals, and failed to win even, as Alf put it, a kind word!
The barrel race proved excruciatingly funny. Most of the entrants were
Preparatory or Fourth-Class youngsters, but one chap, a long, lanky
youth named Prince, was participating for the honor of the First Class.
It was Prince who afforded most of the fun. It is no easy matter to
bestride a barrel, using your feet for paddles to propel yourself, even
when you are short and the center of gravity is near the surface of the
water. When you measure nearly six feet you find that keeping on the
barrel, which displays a most aggravating propensity to roll and tip,
is almost impossible. And once off, to regain your position is a feat
demanding patience and perseverance――especially perseverance. Prince
was in the water most of the time, generally with one long leg pointing
skyward over the top of his craft.

It was a wild scene. The distance to be traversed was less than fifty
feet, but none of the boys could keep their places that long, and so
the water was filled with rolling barrels and struggling youths, while
from the shore came laughter and shouts of encouragement. In the end
a small, stout, pink-and-white Preparatory boy crossed the line, both
legs around the barrel and his head under water, amid the wild acclaim
of the onlookers. After that event the tub race was comparatively tame,
and many of the spectators followed the competitors in the half-mile
canoe race up the river, to the starting point above Flat Island.

There were seven canoes entered, each with its crew of two boys. In
one canoe were Tom and Alf, and in another Dan and Paul Rand. Every
one wore a bathing suit or trunks――or their equivalent!――and all
were prepared for a ducking. And three of the seven crews were not
disappointed. They were sent off side by side, but the stream was too
narrow for them to stay in that position, and so there was a merry
battle for the right of way in which paddles were sometimes used in a
manner not provided for in the rules of the contest. Two canoes were
overturned then and there, while the third upset occurred half way
down the course, when Goodyear and Teller, being all intent on keeping
up with Tom and Alf, ran into a snag at the side of the stream. They
managed to pull the canoe up, empty out the water, and re-embark in
what must have been record time, but the others hadn’t waited for them;
and, though they managed to make up some of the lost distance, they
were never dangerous.

Tom and Alf and Dan and Paul Rand had been among the fortunate ones,
and had started out at the head of the procession, almost side by side.
It was a hard race between them the whole distance, with two other
crews proving dangerous until almost the end. Dan had been fortunate
in his choice of a partner, for Rand was a fine paddler, and from his
place in the stern he kept the canoe headed as straight as a die all
the way. In spite of his pessimistic opinion of the craft’s condition
it showed no symptoms of dissolution, and proved a very good goer. Near
the finish the rival crews were only two lengths distant from each
other, Dan and Rand leading. Along the bank raced the crowd, shouting
and cheering.

“Dig, Rand, dig, you old Indian!”

“Come on, you Dyer! Come on, Loring!”.

“Keep it up, Dan, you’ve got ’em beat!”

Tom and Alf did their best to cut down the lead, but Rand and Dan
pushed their canoe across a good length and a half ahead, receiving
a salvo of applause and, later, a pair of pewter mugs. While the
applause was at its height, Tom and Alf, trying to turn their defeated
canoe around toward the float, collided with a tub occupied by a small
Prep boy, and added a sensational anticlimax to the event by going
heels-over-head into the river!

More swimming races followed, keeping up the interest and excitement
until what Alf called “the piece of resistance” was announced. This
was the obstacle race for canoes manned by two boys. Tom and Alf were
entered, and so were Roeder and Norcross; and there were four other
crews besides. The start was at the boat-house, and the finish was
above the railroad bridge, downstream. Between start and finish were
the obstacles. First of all, there was a thirty-foot ladder placed
across the course, roped at each end to stakes driven in the bank in
such a way that it formed a low fence. A little way below the ladder
Mr. Bendix had gathered the barrels together, end to end, and these,
too, formed a river-wide barrier. At Loon Island, farther downstream,
the contestants were to pull up their canoes on the farther side, carry
them across the narrow strip of land, and re-embark. Beyond the island
poles were lashed together to form the final obstacle. The audience
anticipated a good deal of fun, and was not disappointed.

As the river was wider at the boat-house than farther upstream, there
was no difficulty in lining the six canoes up abreast. From the float
and the banks came a fusillade of advice as the crews awaited the word.

“Whatever happens, Jim, don’t give up the ship!”

“Any last word for your relatives, Tom?”

“Ted’s got a life-preserver under his shirt, fellows! See it?”

“All aboard!”

“Elbows in, Jack! Remember your form!”

“Are you ready?” cried Mr. Bendix. “_Go!_”

Twelve paddles bent together, and the six canoes shot away, side by
side, toward the first barrier. A babel of shouts and shrieks from the
shore. Six canoes dashing wildly downstream, amid showers of spray.
“Hold hard!” Paddles gripping the water and canoes slowing down at the
ladder. Then the fun! One crew drove their craft against the farther
bank, lifted it, and carried it around the end of the barrier, tripping
in their excitement over the rope and nearly wrecking their canoe.
Cries of “Foul! Foul!” “O you babies!” and “Squealers!” greeted this
trick. Meanwhile the other crews were having their troubles. Some
swung their canoes broadside to the ladder and, climbing out onto it,
strove to lift the crafts over. One couple succeeded very well, but
the others had their mishaps. Tom and Alf jumped into the water, and
tried to lift their canoe over bow forward. Any one who has ever trod
water, and attempted to lift the bow of a canoe eighteen inches above
the surface, will have a fairly good conception of the struggle that
ensued. In the end, they got the bow onto the ladder and then, shoving
and floundering, pushed the rest of it over, dived underneath, and
scrambled back into their places. One canoe never passed the ladder at
all, the obstacle proving too much for its crew. The other five went on
at last, the one that had been taken around by the bank far in the lead.

But this one met retribution at the line of barrels. Tom had evolved
the wonderful scheme of leaping nimbly to one of the casks and
there, maintaining his balance in some manner not explained, lifting
the bow of the craft from the water. He made the leap beautifully,
but the barrel acted just as any normal barrel will act under such
circumstances; and the youth went into the river, head foremost, about
ten feet on the other side, leaving his companion in the stern of a
canoe, which, nose in air, proceeded to turn circles. On the bank boys
held their sides, the tears streaming from their eyes, or frankly laid
themselves down and rolled over and over in their glee.

Alf, from the bow of his canoe, squirmed onto one of the barrels and
held the craft, while Tom, laboring manfully, tried to push the nose
of it over. That wasn’t a success, and so Tom dropped his paddle and
dived overboard. Alf seized that moment to slide from his precarious
position, and the canoe started to go its own way. Yet, in spite of
all such misadventures, their canoe was the first over, and they were
in it again and paddling hard before the next crew had surmounted the
obstacle. And they maintained their lead without difficulty to the
island, and disappeared behind it on the farther side while their
adherents on land cheered joyously.

[Illustration: “Alf squirmed onto one of the barrels and held the
craft.”]

Three canoes took up the pursuit, but before the first of the trio had
reached the island, Tom and Alf were seen pushing their way through
the bushes to the little strip of beach on the nearer side. Then
they threw themselves into their canoe, seized paddles, and went on
their way again. They were fifty or sixty yards to the good by this
time, and, barring accidents, were pretty sure to win. Consequently,
interest concerned itself with the remaining three canoes which were
well bunched at Loon Island. Roeder and Norcross re-embarked first, but
Norcross lost his paddle in the excitement, and so one of the other
canoes got away ahead of them. But they were not to be denied; and,
paddling together like mad, they pulled down the canoe ahead and
passed it before the last obstacle was reached.

Tom had advised attempting the poles without getting out of the canoe,
and his plan worked beautifully. As they neared it they sent the canoe
ahead at full tilt, and Alf scrambled back toward the stern, almost
overturning the craft in doing it. The bow of the canoe shot over the
boom, and Tom paddled frantically to keep the current from swinging
it broadside. Meanwhile Alf hurried forward again, and as soon as his
paddle was in the water, Tom crept after him. Relieved of the weight
in the stern, the canoe consented to being pushed over. After that
the race was never in doubt. Tom and Alf had it their own way, and,
paddling slowly, watched their adversaries negotiate the final obstacle.

Roeder and Norcross had decided to try Tom’s method, but they made a
sad mess of it, their craft turning broadside on to the boom. In the
end, they were forced to take to the water, and by that time they had
lost second place. They finished a bad third, with the fourth and last
contestant close at their heels.

When Tom and Alf paddled to shore, they were given a reception worthy
of the victory, and Mr. Bendix, in his best manner, presented each
with a book of English poets! Alf stuffed his hurriedly under his arm,
to the detriment of its binding, since his bathing suit was still
sopping wet, and shot an eloquent glance at Dan that made that youth,
already tired with laughing, chuckle anew.

There was a hearty cheer for Mr. Bendix, and then the boys scurried up
the hill, for it was almost dinner-time. The Aquatic Carnival had been
the biggest sort of a success, no matter which way you looked at it!



CHAPTER XXIV

A TENTH INNING VICTORY


The excitement of that day was by no means all over with the conclusion
of the water sports, for the baseball game with Nordham Academy, which
commenced at half-past two, was replete with sensations. In fact the
Nordham game was the best contest of the season, viewed from the point
of the spectator. To be sure the final game with Broadwood, three
weeks later, was better played, only two errors being scored against
each team, but in that meeting Yardley developed a batting streak that
surprised even her adherents and, after knocking one pitcher out of the
box in the first two innings, touched up the second until a fine total
of twelve hits for fifteen bases placed her the victor by the decisive
score of 11 to 3. Satisfactory as the result was to Yardley, the game
was at no time close enough to prove exciting. On the other hand, the
Nordham contest was nip and tuck from the first inning to the tenth and
last.

The Nordham pitcher, Keswick, proved as good as he was credited with
being, while Servis, who started in the box for Yardley, was hit
freely as long as he was kept in. That he escaped as well as he did
was owing to the excellent support given him by his teammates. Dan
on second, and Durfee at short made some stops that were well-nigh
phenomenal, while Carey, at first, played the game of the season,
more than once picking throws from the ground or knocking them down
from overhead in a way that wrought the Blue’s supporters to a pitch
of wild enthusiasm. Condit, at third, made two wretched errors, one
of which was accountable for a run, but nevertheless at other times
played brilliantly and performed well at bat. The outfield did itself
proud, too, that day, and after the contest was over, the Yardley
Baseball Team could have had pretty much anything in the power of its
schoolmates to give.

Nordham scored first in the second inning, when Servis passed the
second man up and subsequently allowed the enemy to hit him for two
singles. Clever fielding held Nordham to one run. There was no more
scoring until the last of the third, when Smith got to first on a slow
bunt, reached second on Servis’s sacrifice and scored on a long fly to
center field.

At one to one the game ran to the fifth. Twice Nordham filled the
bases, and twice failed to score. Then Nordham’s catcher started the
fun with a two-bagger. An attempted double play failed to work, and
the runner was safe on second. The third man walked, and the bases
were full with no one out. A sacrifice to left field scored the man on
third, but a fine throw-in caught the next runner at the plate. With
two out Yardley breathed easier, but the trouble wasn’t yet over, as
was quickly proved when Servis passed the next batsman. The latter
stole second unmolested, for a Nordham runner on third was waiting
his chance to score. Then it was that Condit made his error that let
in a tally. A slow grounder was batted toward him, and he should have
assisted at an easy out, but in some way the ball got away from him,
caromed off his shin, and rolled over the base line. By the time it was
recovered the man from third was safely home, and there were still two
men on bases. Nordham’s coaches were yelling lustily now, and it looked
for a moment as though demoralization held the Yardley team. But Servis
kept his head and, after getting two strikes on the Nordham captain,
made him fly out to center fielder.

Yardley failed to get a man past first in her half of the inning. At
the beginning of the sixth, Reid, who had been warming up for some
time, took Servis’s place on the mound, and Yardley cheered approval.
Reid, after passing the first man, proved too much of an enigma to the
visitors, and the succeeding batsmen went out in one, two, three order.
Then Yardley scored her second run on a hit through shortstop and a
couple of infield errors, Wheelock crossing the plate. Nordham was
harmless in the eighth. Yardley began badly with an outfield fly that
put Carey down. Durfee beat out a bunt and was safe on first. Condit
attempted a sacrifice, and Durfee was caught at second. With two out,
Alf pushed a hot one past first baseman for two bags. Dan followed that
up with one very much like it that proved too difficult for shortstop,
and Alf scored. The next man struck out.

But the score was now tied at three to three, and the excitement, which
had been increasing with each inning, became intense. Nordham started
the ninth inning with the head of her batting list coming up. Reid
worked a strike-out on the first man, but the next one hit safely into
left field for one bag. Condit again fumbled, and there were runners on
first and second. Then came a hot liner to Durfee, a one-handed catch
that brought cheers from the spectators, and a quick double-play that
again nipped Nordham’s budding hopes.

Yardley went to bat, resolved to finish the contest then and there.
But Keswick steadied down and the Blue’s batters were helpless.
Richards struck out, Smith was hit and got to first, Reid could do
nothing against Keswick’s science, and Carey made an easy third victim,
shortstop to first.

The tenth inning began hopefully for the home team, since Nordham’s
dangerous batters had been disposed of in the ninth. The first man
flied out to Wheelock in right field, the second laid a bunt down in
front of the plate that Richards handled cleanly, and the trouble
seemed over. But Nordham sprung a surprise when her catcher found a
ball to his liking and sent it far into right field along the foul-line
and tore off two bases. That performance, however, went for nothing
in the end; for although Nordham put in a pinch batter in place of
Keswick, that youth’s best was a pop-fly to Dan.

Yardley’s supporters cheered incessantly as the Blue team trotted in
from the field, and Captain Durfee chose his bat.

With the head of the batting list up, something, it was felt, ought
to happen. And something did. Durfee found the first ball pitched,
and sent a clean one-bagger into left. Condit made a neat sacrifice,
placing Durfee on second. Alf went to bat amid wild appeals for a
hit. With two strikes and two balls on him, he got what he wanted,
and slammed a long fly out to center. The yells of delight hushed
as the center fielder ran back a few steps, and as the ball settled
cozily into his hands. Durfee, one foot on the second bag, was poised
for flight, and the instant the ball was caught he started for third.
He was a fast man on the bases, but it seemed impossible for him to
reach home on that hit. In came the ball to shortstop, and that player
turned and launched it straight and hard at the catcher. But Durfee had
already swung around halfway from third, and running wide he slipped
across the plate behind the catcher before the latter, swinging down at
him, could make the put-out. It was a desperate chance, but Durfee made
it go, and the game was won, 4 to 3.

Yardley went back up the hill cheering and laughing, and the Nordham
game was subject for discussion and congratulation for several days.
But by the beginning of the next week the Dual Meet had become the
uppermost subject at Yardley. A victory for the Blue meant the
permanent possession of the Dual Cup, and all eyes were fixed now on
the twenty-third. That Yardley would win, was universally granted, but
that the final score would be heart-breakingly close was as generally
agreed upon.

The hundred-yard and two-hundred-and-twenty-yard dashes were safe
enough in the hands of Bufford and Rand and Teller. The quarter-mile
would probably prove close with the chances favoring Broadwood. The
half-mile was conceded to the Green. High and low hurdles were doubtful
events, but Broadwood was expected to get slightly the better in each.
The mile run was Yardley’s, for Maury was faster than any one Broadwood
could put on the track. Now that Arthur Thompson was out of the pole
vault, the field events would yield the honors to Yardley’s rival, only
the shot-put and the hammer throw being credited to the Blue. With
first place counting 5, second place 3, third place 2, and fourth place
1, much depended on the winning of seconds, thirds, and fourths, and
Yardley fellows had to acknowledge that in many events the capture of
third and fourth places would not be so easy. The fact of the meeting
taking place on Yardley’s own field meant some slight advantage to her,
but figure as they might, the Blue’s most optimistic prophets could
scarcely see anything better than 70 points for Yardley against 62 for
Broadwood, while many fellows figured the meet as a tie at 66 each.

Andy Ryan refused to indulge in prognostications regarding the score.
“It’ll be close,” was the most he’d venture. And as for gaining any
knowledge of his real thoughts from his countenance, why, one might as
well have tried to guess what was in the head of a cigar-store Indian
by studying his face! One thing, however, was certain, and especially
to the members of the squad, and that was that Andy did not intend to
lose a victory so long as hard work could secure it. Until the Thursday
before the meeting he kept the squad, track and field men both, with
their noses to the grindstone. On Wednesday afternoon the milers were
sent away for a three-quarters at just under top speed. Maury had
little difficulty in winning, by ten or twelve yards, and Goodyear,
Norcross, and Pennimore finished in the order named, Gerald very nearly
running even with Norcross at the line, with Goodyear some four yards
ahead. It was a close race and a pretty one, and those who saw it
applauded loudly. What the time was no one knew, for Andy was as chary
as usual with such information. There were two sprints of a hundred
yards after that, and then the quartette was sent off.

On Thursday there was light work for most of the squad, and on Friday
a complete rest. By this time disquieting rumors had reached Yardley,
from where no one seemed to know, to the effect that the Green was
bringing over a team that was fifty per cent. better than any that had
ever represented Broadwood, and that instead of proving easy in the
two sprints Yardley’s rival stood a very good chance of winning the
honors in each. Maury, who for the last week had been causing Andy not
a little uneasiness by losing weight, became more anxious and worried
than ever; and it began to be whispered among the other members of
the team that he was to be sent home in the afternoon to remain until
Saturday noon. As a matter of fact, the captain didn’t go home, but
Andy went to his room with him Friday night and, it was presumed,
ministered to him with baths and rubbings until he went to sleep. As
for the others, there may have been plenty who were secretly a bit
nervous that night, but none of them showed it, and by half-past nine
all were in bed. Gerald laid awake a good while thinking of the morrow,
but his wakefulness didn’t affect his nerves. After all there was no
good cause for worry on his part, since the best that was expected of
him was to nose out some Broadwood runner for fourth place. And, he
thought, if he could do that and put himself among the point-winners
for Yardley he would be quite satisfied. He did hope, though, that he’d
be able to finish ahead of Norcross. And he meant to. Having reached
this conclusion and heard it strike eleven o’clock, he went soundly
asleep, and didn’t so much as turn over until Dan called him for chapel
at a quarter past seven; and he sat up, rubbing his eyes, to find the
spring sunlight streaming in at the window, and a warm breeze from the
sparkling waters of the Sound stirring the curtains.



CHAPTER XXV

THE DUAL MEET


_Bling! Blang! Blare! Ta-ra, ta-ra, ta-ra!_

That was the Wissining Silver Cornet Band playing its famous College
Medley.

“On your mark!... Get set!...”

That was the starter at the head of the straightaway over by the tennis
courts.

_Bang!_

That was the little nickel-plated revolver held, glistening in the
sunlight, over the starter’s head.

“Come on, you Rand! Come on! Come on!”

“Go it, Broadwood! Beat him out, Cheever!”

“A-a-a-ay!”

That was――well, that was about everybody; everybody seated on the
grand stand and everybody gathered along the track. The Dual Track and
Field Meeting between Yardley Hall School and Broadwood Academy had
begun, and they were hustling off the trial heats in the hundred-yards
dash. It was a gala day at Yardley, and the Weather Man had provided
ideal conditions. Overhead a warm blue sky, underfoot a firm and
springy track, and between scarcely enough breeze to ruffle the big
blue banner hanging from the pole at the end of the field. It was
warm――too warm, perhaps, for the comfort of those in the grand stand,
but just right for the contestants on track and turf. From the grand
stand the spectators, shielding themselves from the ardent rays of the
sun behind parasols and programmes, looked down upon a smooth green
oval of turf bordered by the blue-gray ribbon of newly rolled cinders.
Beyond was the little shingled, vine-screened boat-house, and the
river, glinting with pale golden lights, and then the vividly green
expanse of Meeker’s Marsh. To the left, down the straightaway, gleamed
a white tent about which the Broadwood athletes congregated. River and
links, courts and diamonds, were deserted to-day, for all Yardley was
at the field. Important looking youths and busy-looking men, wearing
the blue ribbon badges which proclaimed them officials of the meeting,
hurried or strolled about and on the bench below the stand, a handful
of Yardley contestants sweltered under their dressing-gowns and awaited
their events. Another heat in the hundred yards was run off, and then
the pole-vaulters and shot-putters were called out, and the bench
emptied itself and from the Broadwood dressing tent hurried the Green’s
entrants.

Down near the scene of the field events a number of Yardley and
Broadwood athletes whose services would not be required until later in
the afternoon, had congregated to watch their teammates. In a Yardley
group was Gerald――Gerald very brown of face and attired in a blue and
white wrap. Beside him stood Alf, with a Field Judge’s badge hanging
from his coat lapel.

“Poor old Thompson can’t even see this,” Alf was saying. “I suppose
he’s mooning around in his room. It’s a shame.”

“Yes, it is a shame,” Gerald agreed, “but he isn’t doing any mooning.
He borrowed a pair of field glasses from some fellow and he and young
Merrow are up there on the hill somewhere.”

“Good for him,” laughed Alf. “Say, those Broadwood vaulters look pretty
good, don’t they? There goes Cowles. Oh, hard luck, Cowles! They’re
starting the high jump. I guess I’d better go over and earn my pay. How
are you feeling, Gerald? Going to win that mile?”

“Easy,” laughed Gerald. “I’m feeling fine.”

“That’s more than Bert Maury is, I guess. He looks like a drink of
water. Well, so long, Gerald.”

At the other end of the field the starter’s pistol barked, and Gerald
turned to see four white-clad youths rising and falling as they came
down the track in the first trial heat of the high hurdles. Stevenson,
Yardley’s mainstay in that event, had no trouble in getting placed, a
ripple of applause floated across from the grand stand, and the band
struck up a nimble two-step. Gerald skirted the jumpers and went over
to where four Yardley and five Broadwood fellows were putting the shot.
Tom hadn’t removed his blue sweater yet, and as Gerald approached,
he hopped across the ring and sent the shot arching away for a good
thirty-six feet.

“Say, Dyer, if you’re going to do that with your sweater on,” laughed a
Broadwood opponent, “what are you going to do when you take it off?”

Tom grinned and turned to Gerald. “What’s this I hear about Bert Maury
not running?” he asked _sotto voce_.

“I hadn’t heard anything about it,” replied Gerald. “Why isn’t he going
to?”

Tom shrugged his broad shoulders. “Search me. That’s what Stevenson
said. I don’t know where he heard it. If Maury doesn’t run, this is
going to be a mighty close thing to-day.”

“He seemed to be all right at dinner,” said Gerald. “They’ll get the
mile for sure if he doesn’t start.”

“The meet, too, I guess,” muttered Tom as he picked up his shot again
and stepped into the ring.

The trials in the high hurdles were over, and the Clerk of the Course
was calling the quarter-milers out. Gerald followed the crowd down
to where the race was to finish. As he reached a place near the tape
the pistol spoke from across the field, and seven runners dashed down
the straightaway. Of the seven, three wore Yardley colors, and four
Broadwood. At the first corner they were well strung out, with the
Yardley crack in the lead, and two Broadwood men close behind. At
the next corner the foremost runner had increased his lead slightly,
and the distance between second man and third had lengthened. Cheers
for Yardley and Broadwood arose from the grand stand, and down here
at the finish, eager partisans leaned over the edge of the cinders,
and hoarsely shouted encouragement. The foremost Broadwood man made
desperate efforts to gain the lead in the last fifty yards, but was
forced to accept second place, while behind him came two of his
teammates. Yardley cheered her victor, but the fact remained that in
the first event to be decided, Broadwood had captured three places and
six of the eleven points.

After that, with the band blaring almost incessantly, and hundreds
of voices cheering and imploring, events went with a rush. The
hundred-yards dash brought the grand stand to its feet as the four
boys who had won their way to the final heat, sprinted down the lanes.
It was an easy victory for Rand in 10⅖ seconds, with Bufford second,
Chase third, and the single Broadwood runner, fourth. But in the high
hurdles, Broadwood redeemed herself, winning 8 points to Yardley’s 3.
In the 220-yards dash, Rand again took a first, and Bufford managed to
scrape by in third place. Rand equalled the Dual record, 24⅗, and got
plenty of applause for it. The trials for the 220-yards hurdles were
begun, and from the announcer came the results of the high jump and the
shot-put. In the former Yardley had surprised her adherents by gaining
6 points to her rival’s 5, while in the shot event she had disappointed
them by reversing the score. Tom had had no difficulty in getting first
with a put of 40 feet 11½ inches, but the other Yardley contestants had
failed signally and Broadwood had taken the remaining six points.

“The score at present,” announced the stentorian-voiced gentleman with
the megaphone, “is Yardley 33 points, Broadwood 33 points!”

“Gee,” exclaimed Dan to Durfee, “that’s some close!”

“Yes, and the remaining events are the ones we’re supposed to have
mighty little show in,” answered the baseball captain anxiously. “This
isn’t going to be any cinch like last year, is it?”

“Looks to me like a good drubbing,” answered Dan. “What’s next?”

“It ought to be the half-mile,” replied Durfee, consulting his
programme. “Yes, here they come now. We’re supposed to get about three
points in this, I believe.”

“Phew! And Broadwood has the low hurdles cinched too!”

“How has she?” Durfee protested. “We’ve each qualified two men.”

“That’s so. If Stevenson can get first――――”

“Here they go for the eight-eighty,” interrupted the other. “Say,
there’s a bunch of them, eh? Who’s the tall guy from Broadwood?”

“I don’t know. Fleming, probably; he’s their crack.”

They watched anxiously while the fourteen youths sped away from their
marks and jostled into their places at the turn. All the way to the
beginning of the home-stretch, the runners remained well grouped. Then
the tall Fleming settled down to business, and as he crossed the line
for the start of the last lap, sprang into the lead and swept around
the corner yards ahead. It was a grand race after that, with Fleming
and two teammates running close together, and three Yardley men grouped
some ten yards behind. After them the field strung away for two hundred
yards.

“Gee, that looks like fast running,” muttered Dan.

“You’d better believe it!” agreed Durfee, excitedly. “Come on, Yardley!
Close up on ’em!”

Of course the Yardley runners never heard Durfee’s request, but two of
them at that moment began to sprint. One Broadwood man fell back, and
for the last two hundred yards the four leaders fought desperately.
Fleming was never headed, but Warren, of Yardley, nosed out the next
Broadwood fellow for second place, and a third wearer of the blue added
another point by finishing a bad fourth. The time was 2:5⅗, and it
broke the Dual record, and Broadwood lifted her fleet-footed Fleming on
high, and bore him off to the tent in triumph.

“Result of the Running Broad Jump,” bawled the announcer. “Won by
Hughes, Broadwood; distance, 19 feet, 10½ inches. Second: Roeder,
Yardley; 19 feet, 7 inches. Third: Whittier, Yardley; 18 feet, 11
inches. Fourth: Hagan, Yardley; 18 feet, 4 inches.”

Yardley cheered vociferously.

“Result of the Pole Vault,” went on the announcer. “Won by Perkins,
Broadwood――――”

There was a groan from the grand stand.

“――――Height, 11 feet. Second: Myers, Yardley; 10 feet, 11 inches.
Third: Sawyer, Broadwood; 10 feet, 6 inches. Fourth: Beaton, Broadwood;
10 feet, 1 inch.”

That was disappointing, but there was no time to discuss it, for, far
up the track the hurdlers were crouching on their mark. A tiny puff of
smoke, followed by the sharp _bang_ of the pistol, and the four figures
were racing down. A groan went up from the Yardley sympathizers as
Stevenson, leading at the second hurdle, stumbled. But he recovered
nicely, scraped over the next barrier and almost regained his loss.
Almost, but not quite, for at the tape the Broadwood crack beat him out
by a scant foot. Yardley captured third place, and fourth went to her
rival. Again the Green had nosed out a win.

“Say,” complained little Durfee, chewing hard at the end of his
lead pencil, “this is too blamed close for fun. Let’s figure up the
standing, Dan.”

But the announcer saved them the trouble.

“The score now stands,” he trumpeted: “Broadwood, 60 points, Yardley,
50 points.”

“We’re dished!” sighed Dan.

“No, we’re not; not yet. We’ll get 8 in the hammer, likely, and more
than half the points in the mile run. That will make it――let me see――64
for us and――gosh!”

“Yes, 68 for Broadwood,” supplied Dan, dryly. “What we’ve got to do is
to get sixteen points somewhere. And I guess we can’t do it.”

“I’m afraid not,” Durfee agreed, soberly, studying his figures. “I
wonder if the hammer throw is over. Oh, Mr. Payson!”

The baseball coach, one of the Time-Keepers, hurrying by, heard the
hail and waved his hand to the two boys in the stand.

“Have you heard from the hammer throw yet, sir?” called Durfee. Mr.
Payson stopped, made a trumpet of his hands, and answered:

“It isn’t over yet, but we get 9 points sure!”

“Hooray!” cried Dan, while others who had heard sent up a shout of
approval.

“That gives us 59,” said Durfee, excitedly; “59 to their 60! It all
depends on the mile, Dan. If we can get first and third places――――”

“If we can get first and second, you mean. What’s the good of a tie
score? Maury can get first, I suppose, but have we any one who can
pinch second? Can Goodyear do it?”

“He’s got to! My word, we can’t lose the meet now! Where’s Andy, I
wonder. Some one ought to tell him――――”

“All out for the mile!” called the Clerk of the Course.



CHAPTER XXVI

FOR YARDLEY!


In the west, beyond Meeker’s Marsh, the sun was settling, big and
glowing, toward the tops of the distant hills. The surface of the river
held hues of copper and purple, and the shadows were lengthening. The
pole-vaulters and the jumpers had trailed away, and the standards were
being taken down. Somewhere out of sight behind the grand stand, the
final field event, the hammer throw, was being decided. In front of the
stand, along the edge of the track, competitors and officials whose
duties were over, had congregated for the last and deciding race. In
the stand every one was on his feet, and cheers for Yardley and for
Broadwood were ringing forth.

“Milers, this way!” cried the Clerk.

A little way up the track Andy Ryan was standing with Captain Maury,
Goodyear, Norcross, and Gerald about him. The trainer’s face was as
expressionless as ever, but there was a hard glint in his little green
eyes, and he chewed a grass-blade while he talked.

“It’s pretty close, boys,” he was saying, quietly, “and I guess the
meet hinges on you. Now here’s your plan. Let Broadwood go ahead at the
start, but keep close up. Let her make the pace for the first lap. She
may make it pretty hot, for I guess she’s hoping to wear you out in
the first three-quarters and then send Stewart in to win on a sprint.
But do you keep close, do you see? Then when the second lap begins,
Pennimore, I want you to take the lead and keep it to the end of the
third lap――and after that, if you can. You haven’t the speed to win the
race, but you’ve got endurance, my boy. Run yourself out in the three
laps. After that, if you can get a place, well and good. When the last
lap begins, Cap, move up and get where you can pass Stewart over there
on the back-stretch. After that it’s a case of hitting it up. Save
yourself all you can for the last lap. Norcross, you ought to get a
third or fourth if you use your head. Goodyear, you look after Stewart
for the three laps; keep him back all you can. Next to Stewart, I guess
Webster is their best man. Keep an eye on him, and try to beat him out.
Understand, boys?”

They nodded. Only Gerald questioned.

“You mean for me to start in at the second lap, Andy, and run as hard
as I can?”

“Run as hard as you can to last the three laps, my boy. They want a
fast race, and we’ll give it to them. Keep your heads, all of you, and
don’t lose your form. We’ll land the race if you do your best. Go ahead
now.”

“Milers, this way! Won’t you hurry, please?” implored the Clerk.
“Maury? Next the pole, please. Goodyear? Step in there. Webster?
Webster! Is Webster―― Oh, all right. Next to that man. High? Stewart?
Dunn? Norcross? Pennimore? Pennimore, you start on the second line.
You, too, Norcross. Now, boys, remember there’s to be no jostling. Look
out for your arms at the corners. Be sure you’re two strides ahead
before crossing in front of a competitor. Careful about your start;
you’ll be penalized if you beat the pistol. All right.”

“_Yardley! Yardley! Yardley!_” thundered the stand. The runners threw
aside their wraps and limbered up, running a few steps back and forth
along the track. Gerald was excited, but not nervous. He looked
curiously at Stewart, the Broadwood crack, and compared him with Maury.
Stewart was big and rangy and confident looking. Maury, smaller,
lither, looked as though his nerves were fairly on edge. His face was
pale and he darted anxious glances at his opponents as he came back to
his place in the line.

“On your marks!” called the starter in businesslike voice.

The runners toed the scratch and leaned forward as the command to “Get
set” reached them. Then came the pistol and the eight boys leaped
forward. There was a little scurrying at first for positions, but
at the first corner they had settled down into the unhurried pace
that makes the first part of a mile race look unimpressive. High, of
Broadwood, ran ahead, with Webster stepping in his tracks. Then came
Goodyear, Stewart, Dunn, Norcross, Maury and Gerald in order. The stand
quieted down, and the band struck up. At the second corner High hit up
his pace and down the backstretch he drew the line after him at a good
speed. At the third corner Webster ran around and took the lead. At the
end of the lap they were running in that order, save that Gerald had
passed Maury.

“Stick to them, Yardley!” called the stand as they went by. “Good work,
Maury! Go it, Goodyear!”

Then Gerald dug his spikes and slipped into the lead just before the
turn, gaining a good four yards on Webster. Dunn challenged and closed
in behind Gerald, but Stewart kept his place, running easily.

Gerald’s instructions, to kill himself in three laps and leave the race
to Maury and Goodyear, had been somewhat of a surprise to him, and he
would have much preferred staying in the contest to the end. But he had
no thought of disobeying Andy’s command, and so at the second corner
he let out another peg and made a hot pace along the stretch, so hot
that the field began to trail out then and there. High fell back to the
rear, and between Stewart and Norcross the distance lengthened. Maury
was still well back as Gerald took a brief glimpse over his shoulder at
the next turn. At the finish of the second lap, with the race half run,
Gerald and Dunn were running close together, with Goodyear and Stewart
some six yards back and an open space of about thirty feet between them
and the next group. High had killed himself in the first lap, and was
already out of the running, trailing along far behind.

“That’s a warm pace Gerald is making,” said Dan as the runners swept
by. “I guess this lap will settle him.”

“Yes, but look at Bert Maury,” said Durfee. “He looks all-in, or I’ll
eat my hat. He’s trying to pass that Broadwood fellow and can’t do it.
What sort of a game is this, anyway? Why isn’t he up there in front?
He’ll never cut that distance down.”

“Looks as though Goodyear would have to win this if we’re going to get
it,” muttered Dan, anxiously. “He’s running a dandy race, isn’t he? See
him watch Stewart. Whoa there! He almost got past. I guess Mr. Stewart
is getting anxious.”

The Broadwood runner had tried to crowd past Goodyear at the second
turn, but that youth had been watching, and as they settled into the
stretch, the order remained unchanged. Half way along, Dunn began to
drop behind, and at the third corner it was Gerald, Goodyear, and
Stewart well bunched, with Norcross and Webster fighting for honors
twenty yards back, Dunn steadily losing ground, and Maury, evidently
in some distress, a good forty yards behind the leaders. Into the
home-stretch they came, Gerald still apparently running strong. Near
the finish mark he increased his pace, and left several yards between
him and Goodyear. At the same moment Stewart found his chance, and
crossed into second place. The gong clanged, announcing the beginning
of the last lap, and the shouting from the stand and from the audience
along the edge of the field, was deafening.

“Good work, Pennimore! Keep it up!”

“Go it, Stewart! Go it, Broadwood!”

“Maury! Maury! Come on, Maury! Close up there, Maury!”

“Eat ’em up, Goodyear! Come on, Norcross!”

“Yardley! Yardley! Yardley!”

“Broadwood! Broadwood! Broadwood!”

And through it all the band played doggedly on.

Goodyear had sprung after Stewart, and was hanging to him closely at
the first turn. Between Gerald and Stewart lay some four or five yards
of cinders. Gerald had been told to keep the lead as long as he could,
and he was doing it. As a matter of fact, he still felt strong and was
breathing better than during the first or second laps. He looked around
on the next turn, and a puzzled frown came into his forehead. Why was
Maury away back there? He could never win in the wide world unless he
performed a miracle of sprinting! Well, orders were orders. He would
keep the lead while he could, and then the others must do their best.
He was still running strong and prettily at the beginning of the
backstretch, still holding his four-yard lead against Stewart. Webster
had headed Norcross, while far behind came Maury, fast losing form and
evidently holding on by sheer pluck. Maury was run out!

That was a pretty race, that final lap. Half-way down the stretch
Goodyear slipped past Stewart and the Yardley shouts arose wild,
incoherent, and triumphant. Webster was making the prettiest sort of a
sprint, leaving Norcross at every stride and closing up the distance
between him and Stewart, now third in the race. But Stewart was not
dead yet; far from it. He was hot after Goodyear and Gerald, and at the
turn the three were almost touching elbows. Gerald heard Goodyear’s
panting breath beside him, and before he knew what was happening, his
teammate had crossed in front of him, and on his heels came Stewart.
Around the curve they went, all nearly spent now, but running doggedly;
and twenty yards back came Webster. Scattered far back were Norcross,
Maury, and Dunn. High had given up at the end of the third lap, and
subsided on the turf.

It was at the last corner that the idea of winning suddenly came to
Gerald. So far he had thought of himself only as pacemaker. Now he
wondered why he hadn’t as good a right to the race as Goodyear, if he
could take it! Sprinting wasn’t Gerald’s strong suit, but endurance
was, and he believed that he could pass Goodyear if he tried. As
they straightened out into the homestretch, Stewart, making a gallant
effort, drew even with Gerald. But it was for an instant only, a matter
of two strides. For then, calling on all that was left in him, Gerald
drew ahead, left the pole, and ran even with Goodyear. Goodyear shot a
startled glance at him and threw back his head. Down the stretch they
came, the finish drawing closer at every stride, and the air filled
with the wild cheers of Yardley. For Stewart had shot his bolt and was
dropping back, and whether Goodyear or Gerald finished first, Yardley
was certain of eight points, the meet and the Dual Cup!

Twenty yards from the line Gerald knew that the race was his. He
was already a stride ahead. Goodyear’s agonized sobs were already
acknowledging defeat. Gerald’s heart swelled with triumph, but in the
next instant, the thought came to him that this was Goodyear’s last
race at Yardley, that for four years he had been striving for the
triumph, which Gerald was about to snatch from his grasp!

And then the watchers saw a strange thing happen. Gerald deliberately
turned his head, saw that Stewart was no longer dangerous, and faltered
in his pace for an instant. Goodyear forged ahead with a final effort,
staggered across the line, and reeled into outstretched arms. Gerald, a
yard behind, finished erect, and smiling, thrust aside the eager hands
that would have supported him and picked up his wrap.

But he wasn’t to escape so easily. The band was already forming in the
oval. The laggards were finishing to the imperious cries of “_Track!
Track there!_” Yardley pæans filled the air. Unheard, the announcer was
informing the jostling throng that Yardley had won, 67 points to 65.
And then Gerald, striving to escape to the gymnasium, but hemmed in
by the crowd, was lifted high in air and, with Goodyear, still white
and weak, swaying dizzily beside him, was borne at the head of the
procession off the field and up the path. Ahead went the band playing
“Old Yardley.” Once Gerald and Goodyear were able to shake hands, but
the rest of the time they had all they could do to keep their seats on
the shoulders of their excited bearers. As they neared the gymnasium,
Dan, breaking through the crowd, got within speaking distance of Gerald.

“Bully for you, chum!” he cried. “Have you heard your time?” Gerald
smiled and shook his head.

“Five minutes, one and three-fifths! A fifth behind Goodyear! It’s the
Dual record by over two minutes!”

At the gymnasium steps the runners were released and hurried for the
door. Goodyear got through, but a hand stopped Gerald on the threshold.
He looked up to find Mr. Collins beside him.

“Congratulations, Pennimore,” he said. “Here’s something for you.
You’ve earned a new one to-day, but you may like to have this, too.”

Mr. Collins thrust something into his hand. Then the big oak door
closed behind him. Outside, Chambers was leading the cheering. Gerald
paused in the dim light of the hall, and opened his palm. In it lay
crumpled a little white flannel Y.


THE END



 Transcriber’s Notes:

 ――Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).

 ――Except for the frontispiece, illustrations have been moved to
   follow the text that they illustrate.

 ――Punctuation and spelling inaccuracies were silently corrected.

 ――Archaic and variable spelling has been preserved.

 ――Variations in hyphenation and compound words have been preserved.

 ――The Author’s em-dash style has been retained.





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