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“To-day, as we are so close to Christmas, we will arrange only the general details—have a sort of mapping-out, as it were. But immediately after the holidays the entire baseball squad that enrolls will be required to start at once to get in general athletic condition. There will be hard—what some may call grilling—gym. work at the outset, and much of the gym. work will be kept up even after the actual ball practice begins.

“Early in February work in the baseball cage must begin, and it will be made rather severe this year. In fact, I can assure you that the whole training, this coming year, will be something that none but those who mean to train in earnest can get through with successfully.

“Any man who is detected smoking cigarettes or using tobacco in any form, will be dropped from the squad instantly. Every man who enrolls will be required to make a promise to abstain, until the end of the ball season, from tobacco in any form.

“In past years we have often been urged to adopt the training table, in order that no greedy man may eat himself out of physical condition. It is not, of course, feasible to provide such a table here at the gym. I wish it were. But we will have training table to just this extent: Every member of the squad will be handed a list of the things he may eat or drink, and another list of those things that are barred. The only exception, in the way of departure, from the training list, will be the Christmas dinner. Every man who enrolls is in honor bound to stick closely to his list of permissible foods until the end of the training season.

“Remember, this year’s work is to be one of the hardest work and all the necessary self-denial. It must be a disciplined and sustained effort for excellence and victory. Those who cannot accept these principles in full are urged not to enroll in the squad at all.

“Now, I will wait five minutes, during which conversation will be in order. When I call the meeting to order again I will ask all who have decided to enter the squad to occupy the seats here at my right hand, the others to take the seats at my left hand.”

Immediately a buzz of talk ran around that end of the gym. The High School boys left their seats and moved about, talking over the coach’s few but pointed remarks.

“How do you like Mr. Luce’s idea, Dick?” asked Tom Reade.

“It’s good down to the ground, and all the way up again,” Dick retorted, enthusiastically. “His ideas are just the ideas I’m glad to hear put forward. No shirking; every effort bent on excelling, and every man to keep his own body as strong, clean and wholesome as a body can be kept. Why, that alone is worth more than victory. It means a fellow’s victory over all sloth and bad habits!”

“Luce meant all he said, too, and the fellows know he did,” declared Dave Darrin. “I wonder what effect it will have on the size of the squad?”

There was a good deal of curiosity on that score. The five minutes passed quickly. Then Coach Luce called for the division. As the new baseball squad gathered at the right-hand seats there was an eager counting.

“Forty-nine,” announced Greg Holmes, as soon as he had finished counting. “Five whole nines and a few extras left over.”

“I’m glad to see that Gridley High School grit is up to the old standard,” declared Coach Luce, cheerily, after he had brought them to order. “Our squad, this year, contains three more men than appeared last year. It is plain that my threats haven’t scared anyone off the Gridley diamond. Now, I am going to write down the names of the squad. Then I will ask each member, as his name is called, to indicate the position for which he wishes to qualify.”

There was a buzz of conversation again, until the names had all been written down. Then, after Coach Luce had called for silence, he began to read off the names in alphabetical order.

“Dalzell?” asked the coach, when he had gone that far down on the list.

“First base,” answered Dan, loudly and promptly.


“Pitcher,” responded Dave.

There was a little ripple of surprise. When a sophomore goes in for work in the box it is notice that he has a good opinion of his abilities.

A few more names were called off. Then:


“Short stop,” replied Harry, coolly.

“Whew!” An audible gasp of surprise went up and traveled around.

After the battery, the post of short stop is the swiftest thing for which to reach out.


“Left field.”

“It’s plain enough,” sneered Fred Ripley to the fellow beside him, “that Dick & Co., reporters and raga-muffins, expect to be two thirds of the nine. I wonder whom they’ll allow to hold the other three positions?”

Several more names were called off. Then came:


“Pitcher,” Dick answered, quietly.

A thrill of delight went through Fred. This was more luck than he had hoped for. What great delight there was going to be in beating out Dick Prescott!


“Second base.”


“P-p-pitcher!” Fred fairly stuttered in his eagerness to get the word out emphatically. In fact, the word left him so explosively that several of the fellows caught themselves laughing.

“Oh, laugh, then, hang you all!” muttered Fred, in a low voice, glaring all around him. “But you don’t know what you’re laughing at. Maybe I won’t show you something in the way of real pitching!”

“The first Tuesday after the holidays’ vacation the squad will report here for gymnastic work from three-thirty to five,” called the coach. “Now, I’ll talk informally with any who wish to ask questions.”

Fred Ripley’s face was aglow with satisfaction. His eyes fairly glistened with his secret, inward triumph.

“So you think you can pitch, Prescott?” he muttered to himself. “Humph! With the great Everett training me for weeks, I’ll make you look like a pewter monkey, Dick Prescott.”



The next afternoon Fred and his father went over to Duxbridge.

They found the great Everett at home, and not only at home, but willing to take up with their proposal.

The celebrated professional pitcher named a price that caused Lawyer Ripley to hesitate for a few moments. Then catching the appealing look in his son’s face, the elder Ripley agreed to the terms. The training was to be given at Duxbridge, in Everett’s big and almost empty barn.

That night Lawyer Ripley, a man of prompt habit in business, mailed his check for the entire amount.

Fred, in the privacy of his own room, danced several brief but exuberant jigs.

“Now, I’ve got you, Dick Prescott! And I’ve not only got you, but if you come in second to me, I’ll try to keep in such condition that I pitch every important game of the whole season!”

But the next morning the Ripley heir received a sad jolt. In one of his text-books he ran across a piece of cardboard on which was printed, in coarse characters:

“Tuday, same plas, same time. Bring ten. Or don’t, if you dare!”

“That infernal blackmailer, Tip Scammon!” flared Fred indignantly.

In the courage of desperation Fred promptly decided that he would ignore the Scammon rascal. Nor did Fred change his mind. Besides, this afternoon he was due at Duxbridge for his first lesson under the mighty Everett.

So Tip was on hand at the drug store beside the post office, but no Fred came. Tip scowled and hung about in the neighborhood until after four o’clock. Then he went away, a black look indeed on his not handsome face.

Meanwhile, most of the people of Gridley, as elsewhere in the Christian world, were thinking of “Peace on Earth” and all that goes with it. The stores were radiant with decorations and the display of gifts. The candy stores and hot soda places were doing a rushing business.

Dick, who had been scurrying about in search of a few news paragraphs, and had found them, encountered Dave Darrin. Being something of a capitalist in these days, when “The Blade” was paying him two and a half to three dollars a week, Prescott invited his chum in to have a hot soda. While they were still in the place Laura Bentley and Belle Meade entered. The High School boys lifted their hats courteously to the girls and Dick invited them to have their soda with Dave and himself.

“We hear that baseball is going to be a matter of great enthusiasm during the next few months,” said Laura, as they sipped their soda.

“Yes; and the cause of no end of heartburnings and envies,” laughed Prescott. “From just after the holidays to some time in April every fellow will be busy trying to make the school team, and will feel aggrieved if he hits only the second team.”

“Who’s going to pitch for the school nine?” asked Belle.

“Dick Prescott,” declared Dave instantly.

“I’d like to,” nodded Dick, “but I’ve several good men against me. Darrin may take it all away from me. There are eight men down for pitching, altogether, so it isn’t going to be an easy cinch for anyone.”

“The nine always has more than one pitcher. Why can’t _you_ make the position of pitcher, too?” asked Belle, looking at Dave.

“Oh, I may make the job of brevet-pitcher on the second nine,” Dave laughed goodhumoredly. “The only reason I put my name down for pitcher was so as to make the fight look bigger.”

“Who are the other candidates for pitcher?” asked Laura.

“Well, Ripley’s one,” replied Dave.

“Ripley? Oh, _he_!” uttered Miss Bentley, in a tone of scorn.

“I understand he’s no fool of a pitcher,” Dick remarked.

“I congratulate him, then,” smiled Laura.

“On what?”

“Not being a fool in everything,” returned Laura. Then she added, quickly:

“I’m afraid that expresses my real opinion, but I’ve no right to say it.”

“There are two reasons why you shouldn’t say it,” added Dave, gravely.

“What are they?” Laura wanted to know.

“First of all—well, pardon me, but it sounds like talking about another behind his back. The other reason is that Ripley isn’t worth talking about, anyway.”

“Now, what are you doing?” demanded Belle.

“Oh, well,” Dave replied, “Ripley knows my opinion of him pretty well. But what are you doing this afternoon?”

“We’re going shopping,” Laura informed the boys as the quartette left the soda fountain. “Do you care to go around with us and look at the displays in the stores?”

“That’s about all shopping means, isn’t it?” smiled Dick. “Just going around and looking at things?”

“Then if you don’t care to come with us—–” pouted Miss Bentley.

“Stop—please do, I beg of you,” Dick hastily added. “Of course we want to go.”

The two chums put in a very pleasant hour wandering about through the stores with the High School girls. Laura and Belle _did_ make some small purchases of materials out of which they intended to make gifts for the approaching holiday.

As they came out of the last store they moved toward the corner, the girls intending to take a car to pay a little visit to an aunt of Laura’s before the afternoon was over.

Dick saw something in one of the windows at the corner and signed to Dave to come over. The two girls were left, momentarily, standing on the corner.

While they stood thus Fred Ripley came along. His first lesson in pitching had been brief, the great Everett declining to tire the boy’s arm too much at the first drill. So young Ripley, after a twelve-mile trip in the auto through the crisp December air, came swinging down the street at a brisk walk.

Just as this moment he espied the two girls, though he did not see Dick or Dave. Belle happened to turn as Ripley came near her.

“Hullo, Meade!” he called, patronizingly.

It is a trick with some High School boys thus to address a girl student by her last name only, but it is not the act of a gentleman. Belle resented it by stiffening at once, and glancing coldly at Ripley without greeting him.

In another instant Dave Darrin, at a bound, stood before the astonished Fred. Dave’s eyes were flashing in a way they were wont to do when he was thoroughly angry.

“Ripley—you cur! To address a young woman in that familiar fashion!” glared Dave.

“What have you to say about it?” demanded Fred, insolently.

“This!” was Dave Darrin’s only answer in words.

Smack! His fist landed on one side of Fred’s face. The latter staggered, then slipped to the ground.

“There’s the car, Dick,” uttered Dave, in a low tone. “Put the girls aboard.”

Half a dozen passers-by had already turned and were coming back to learn the meaning of this encounter. Dick understood how awkward the situation would be for the girls, so he glided forward, hailed the car, and led Laura and Belle out to it.

“But I’d rather stay,” whispered Belle, in protest. “I want to make sure that Dave doesn’t get into any trouble.”

“He won’t,” Dick promised. “It’ll save him annoyance if he knows you girls are not being stared at by curious rowdies.”

Dick quickly helped the girls aboard the car, then nodded to the conductor to ring the bell. A second later Dick was bounding back to his chum’s side.

Fred Ripley was on his feet, scowling at Dave Darrin. The latter, though his fists were not up, was plainly in an attitude where he could quickly defend himself.

“That was an unprovoked assault, you rowdy!” Fred exclaimed wrathfully.

“I’d trust to any committee of _gentlemen_ to exonerate me,” Dave answered coolly. “You acted the rowdy, Ripley, and you’d show more sense if you admitted it and reformed.”

“What did he do?” demanded one of the curious ones in the crowd.

“He addressed a young lady with offensive familiarity,” Dave replied hotly.

“What did _you_ do?” demanded another in the crowd.

“I knocked him down,” Dave admitted coolly.

“Well, that’s about the proper thing to do,” declared another bystander. “The Ripley kid has no kick coming to him. Move on, young feller!”

Fred started, glaring angrily at the speaker. But half a dozen pressed forward about him. Ripley’s face went white with rage when he found himself being edged off the sidewalk into the gutter.

“Get back, there, you, and leave me alone!” he ordered, hoarsely.

A laugh from the crowd was the first answer. Then some one gave the junior a shove that sent him spinning out into the street.

Ripley darted by the crowd now, his caution and his dread of too much of a scene coming to his aid. Besides, some one had just called out, banteringly:

“Why not take him to the horse trough?”

That decided Fred on quick retreat. Ducked, deservedly, by a crowd on Main Street, Ripley could never regain real standing in the High School, and he knew that.

As soon as they could Dick and Dave walked on to “The Blade” office. Here Darrin took a chair in the corner, occasionally glancing almost enviously at Prescott, as the latter, seated at a reporter’s table, slowly wrote the few little local items that he had picked up during the afternoon. When Dick had finished he handed his “copy” to Mr. Pollock, and the chums left the office.

“Dick, old fellow,” hinted Dave, confidentially, “I’m afraid I ought to give you a tip, even though it does make me feel something like a spy.”

“Under such circumstances,” smiled Prescott, “it might be well to think twice before giving the tip.”

“I’ve thought about it _seventeen_ times already,” Dave asserted, gravely, “and you’re my chum, anyway. So here goes. When we were in the department store, do you remember that the girls were looking over some worsteds, or yarns, or whatever you call the stuff?”

“Yes,” Prescott nodded.

“Well, I couldn’t quite help hearing Laura Bentley say to Belle that the yarn she picked up was just what she wanted for you.”

“What on earth did that mean?” queried Dick, looking almost startled.

“It means that you’re going to get a Christmas present from Laura,” Dave answered.

“But I never had a present from a girl before!”

“Most anything is likely to happen,” laughed Dave, “now that you’re a sophomore—and a reporter, too.”

“Thank goodness I’m earning a little money now,” murmured Dick, breathing a bit rapidly. “But, say, Dave!”


“What on earth does one give a girl at Christmas?”

“Tooth-powder, scented soap, ribbons—oh, hang it! I don’t know,” floundered Dave hopelessly. “Anyway, I don’t have to know. It’s your scrape, Dick Prescott!”

“Yours, too, Dave Darrin!”

“What do you mean?”

“Why, I saw Belle buying some of that yarny stuff, too.”

“Great Scott!” groaned Dave. “Say, what do you suppose they’re planning to put up on us for a Christmas job? Some of those big-as-all-outdoors, wobbly, crocheted slippers?”



The night before Christmas Dick Prescott attended a ball, in his new capacity of reporter.

Being young, also “green” in the ways of newspaper work, he imagined it his duty to remain rather late in order to be sure that he had all the needed data for the brief description that he was to write for “The Blade.”

Christmas morning the boy slept late, for his parents did not call him. When, at last, Dick did appear in the dining room he found some pleasing gifts from his father and mother. When he had sufficiently examined them, Mrs. Prescott smiled as she said:

“Now, step into the parlor, Richard, and you’ll find something that came for you this morning.”

“But, first of all, mother, I’ve something for you and Dad.”

Dick went back into his room, bringing out, with some pride, a silver-plated teapot on a tray of the same material. It wasn’t much, but it was the finest gift he had ever been able to make his parents. He came in for a good deal of thanks and other words of appreciation.

“But you’re forgetting the package in the parlor,” persisted Mrs. Prescott presently.

Dick nodded, and hurried in, thinking to himself:

“The worsted slippers from the girls, I suppose.”

To his surprise the boy found Dave Darrin sitting in the room, while, on a chair near by rested a rather bulky package.

After exchanging “Merry Christmas” greetings with Darrin, Dick turned to look at the package. To it was tied a card, which read:

“From Laura Bentley and Isabelle Meade, with kindest Christmas greetings.”

“That doesn’t look like slippers, Dave,” murmured Dick, as he pulled away the cord that bound the package.

“I’ll bet you’re getting a duplicate of what came to me,” Darrin answered.

“What was that?”

“I’m not going to tell you until I see yours.”

Dick quickly had the wrapper off, unfolding something woolleny.

“That’s it!” cried Dave, jubilantly. “I thought so. Mine was the same, except that Belle’s name was ahead of Laura’s on the card.”

Dick felt almost dazed for an instant. Then a quick rush of color came to his face.

The object that he held was a bulky, substantial, woven “sweater.” Across the front of it had been worked, in cross-stitch, the initials, “G.H.S.”

“Gridley High School! Did you get one just like this, Dave?”


“But we can’t wear ’em,” muttered Dick. “The initials are allowed only to the students who have made some school team, or who have captured some major athletic event. We’ve never done either.”

“That’s just the point of the gift, I reckon,” beamed Darrin.

“Oh, I see,” cried Dick. “These sweaters are our orders to go ahead and make the baseball nine.”

“That’s just it,” declared Dave.

“Well, it’s mighty fine of the girls,” murmured Dick, gratefully. “Are you—going to accept yours, Dave?”

“Accept?” retorted Dave. “Why, it would be rank not to.”

“Of course,” Prescott agreed.. “But you know what acceptance carries with it? Now, we’ve got to make the nine, whether or not. We pledge ourselves to that in accepting these fine gifts.”

“Oh, that’s all right,” nodded Dave, cheerily. “You’re going to make the team.”

“If there’s any power in me to do it,” declared Dick.

“And you’re going to drag me in after you. Dick, old fellow, we’ve absolutely as good as promised that we will make the nine.”

Dick Prescott was now engaged in pulling the sweater over his head. This accomplished, he stood surveying himself in the glass.

“Gracious! But this is fine,” gasped young Prescott. “And now, oh, Dave, but we’ve got to hustle! Think how disgusted the girls will be if we fail.”

“We can’t fail, now,” declared Dave earnestly. “The girls, and the sweaters themselves, are our mascots against failure.”

“Good! That’s the right talk!” cheered Prescott, seizing his chum’s hand. “Yes, sir! We’ll make the nine or bury ourselves under a shipload of self-disgust!”

“Both of the girls must have a hand in each sweater,” Dave went on, examining Dick’s closely. “I can’t see a shade of difference between yours and mine. But I’m afraid the other fellows in Dick & Co. will feel just a bit green with envy over our good luck.”

“It’s a mighty fine gift,” Dick went on, “yet I’m almost inclined to wish the girls hadn’t done it. It must have made a big inroad in their Christmas money.”

“That’s so,” nodded Darrin, thoughtfully. “But say, Dick! I’m thundering glad I got wind of this before it happened. Thank goodness we didn’t have to leave the girls out. Though we would have missed if it hadn’t been for you.”

“I wonder how the girls like their gifts?” mused Dick.

It was sheer good luck that had enabled these youngsters to make a good showing. A new-style device for women, consisting of heater and tongs for curling the hair, was on the market this year. Electric current was required for the heater, but both Laura and Belle had electric light service in their homes. This new-style device was one of the fads of this Christmas season. The retail price was eight dollars per outfit, and a good many had been sold before the holidays. The advertising agent for the manufacturing concern had been in town, and had presented “The Blade” with two of these devices. Despite the eight-dollar price, the devices cost only a small fraction of that amount to manufacture, so the advertising agent had not been extremely generous in leaving the pair.

“What on earth shall we do with them?” grunted Pollock, in Dick’s hearing. “We’re all bachelors here.”

“Sell ’em to me, if you don’t want ’em,” spoke up Dick, quickly. “What’ll you take for ’em? Make it low, to fit a schoolboy’s shallow purse.”

“Hm! I’ll speak to the proprietor about it,” replied Pollock, who presently brought back the word:

“As they’re for you, Dick, the proprietor says you can take the pair for two-fifty. And if you’re short of cash, I’ll take fifty cents a week out of your space bill until the amount is paid.”

“Fine and dandy!” uttered Dick, his eyes glowing.

“One’s for your mother,” hinted Mr. Pollock teasingly. “_But who’s the girl_?”

“Two girls,” Dick corrected him, unabashed. “My mother never uses hair-curlers.”

“_Two girls_?” cried Mr. Pollock, looking aghast. “Dick! Dick! You study history at the High School, don’t you?”

“Yes, sir; of course.”

“Then don’t you know, my boy, how often _two girls_ have altered the fates of whole nations? Tremble and be wise!”

“I haven’t any girl,” Dick retorted, sensibly, “and I think a fellow is weak-minded to talk about having a girl until he can also talk authoritatively on the ability to support a wife. But there’s a good deal of social life going on at the High School, Mr. Pollock, and I’m very, very glad of this chance to cancel my obligations so cheaply and at the same time rather handsomely.”

So Laura and Belle had each received, that Christmas morning, a present that proved a source of delight.

“Yet I didn’t expect the foolish boys to send me anything like this,” Laura told herself, rather regretfully. “I’m sure they’ve pledged their pocket money for weeks on this.”

When Belle called, it developed that she had received an identical gift.

“It’s lovely of the boys,” Belle admitted. “But it’s foolish, too, for they’ve had to use their pocket money away ahead, I’m certain.”

Dick and Dave had sent their gifts, as had the girls, in both names.

Christmas was a day of rejoicing among all of the High School students except the least-favored ones.

Fred Ripley, however, spent his Christmas day in a way differing from the enjoyments of any of the others. A new fever of energy had seized the young man. In his fierce determination to carry away the star pitchership, especially from Dick Prescott, Ripley employed even Christmas afternoon by going over to Duxbridge and taking another lesson in pitching from the great Everett.



“One, two, three, four! One, two, three, four!

“Halt! Rest!”

“Attention! Overhead to front and back. Commence! One, two, three, four!”

Coach Luce’s voice rang out in a solid, carrying tone of military command.

The baseball squad was hard at work in the gymnasium, perspiring even though the gym. was not heated above fifty degrees.

Dumb-bell drill was going off with great snap. It was followed by work with the Indian clubs. Then, after a brief rest, the entire squad took to the track in the gallery. For ten minutes the High School young men jogged around the track. Any fellow in the lot would have been ashamed to drop out, short of breath.

As a matter of fact, no one was out of breath. Mr. Luce was what the boys called a “griller,” and he certainly knew all about whipping a lot of youngsters into fine physical shape.

This training work was now along in the third week of the new winter term.

Three times weekly the squad had been assembled. On other days of the week, the young men were pledged to outside running, when the roads permitted, and to certain indoor work at other times.

Every member of the big squad now began to feel “hard as nails.” Slight defects in breathing had been corrected; lung-power had been developed, and backs that ached at first, from the work, had now grown too well seasoned to ache. Every member of the squad was conscious of a new, growing muscular power. Hard, bumpy muscles were not being cultivated. The long, smooth, lithe and active “Indian” muscle, built more for endurance than for great strength, was the ideal of Coach Luce.

After the jogging came a halt for rest. Luce now addressed them.

“Young gentlemen, I know, well enough, that, while all this work is good for you, you’re all of you anxious to see the production of the regular League ball on this floor. Now, the baseball cage will not be put up for a few days yet. However, this afternoon, for the rest of our tour, I’m going to produce the ball!”

A joyous “hurrah!” went up from the squad. The ball was the real thing in their eyes.

Coach Luce turned away to one of the spacious cupboard lockers, returning with a ball, still in the sealed package, and a bat with well wrapped handle.

“I’ll handle the bat,” announced Mr. Luce, smiling. “It’s just barely possible that I, can drive a good liner straighter than some of you, and put it nearer where I want it. Until the cage is in place, I don’t like to risk smashing any of the gymnasium windows. Now, which one of you pitchers is ambitious to do something?”

Naturally, all of them were. Yet none liked to appear too forward or greedy, so silence followed.

“I’ll try you modest young men out on my own lines, then,” laughed the coach. Calling to one of the juniors to stand behind him as catcher, Luce continued:

“Darrin, as you’re a candidate for pitcher, show us some of the things you can do to fool a batsman.”

Dave took his post, his face a bit red. He handled the ball for a few moments, rather nervously.

“Don’t get rattled, lad,” counseled the coach. “Remember, this is just fun. Bear in mind that you’re aiming to send the ball in to the catcher. Don’t let the ball drive through a window by mistake.”

A laugh went up at this. Dave, instead of losing his nerve, flashed back at the squad, then steadied himself.

“Now, then, let her drive—not too hard,” ordered Mr. Luce.

Dave let go with what he thought was an outcurve. It didn’t fool the coach. He deliberately struck the ball, sending it rolling along the floor as a grounder.

“A little more twist to the wrist, Darrin,” counseled the coach, after a scout from the squad had picked up the ball and sent it to this budding pitcher.

Dave’s next delivery was struck down as easily. Then Darrin began to grow a bit angry and much more determined.

“Don’t feel put out, Darrin,” counseled the coach. “I had the batting record of my college when I was there, and I’m in better trim and nerve than you are yet. Don’t be discouraged.”

Soon Dave was making a rather decent showing.

“I’ll show you later, Darrin, a little more about the way to turn the hand in the wrist twist,” remarked the coach, as he let Dave go. “You’ll soon have the hang of the thing. Now, Prescott, you step into the imaginary box, if you please.”

Dick took to an inshoot. His first serve was as easily clouted as Dave’s had been. After that, by putting on a little more steam, and throwing in a good deal more calculation, Dick got three successive balls by Mr. Luce. At two of these, coach had struck.

“You’re going to do first-rate, Prescott, by the time we get outdoors, I think;” Mr. Luce announced. “I shall pay particular attention to your wrist work.”

“I’m afraid I showed up like a lout,” whispered Dave, as Dick rejoined his chums.

“No, you didn’t,” Dick retorted. “You showed what all of us show—that you need training to get into good shape. That’s what the coach is working with us for.”

“I’m betting on you and Dick for the team,” put in Tom Reade, quickly.

“Dick will make it, and I think you will, too, Dave,” added Harry Hazelton.

“I wish I were as sure for myself,” muttered Greg Holmes, plaintively.

“Oh, well, if I can’t make the team,” grinned Dan Dalzell, “I’m going to stop this work and go in training as a mascot.”

“Look at the fellow who always carries Luck in his pocket!” gibed Hazelton, good-humoredly.

Coach Luce was now calling off several names rapidly. These young men were directed to scatter on the gym. floor. To one of them Mr. Luce tossed the ball.

“Now, then,” shot out Luce’s voice, “this is for quick understanding and judgment. Whoever receives the ball will throw it without delay to anyone I name. So post yourselves on where each other man stands. I want fast work, and I want straight, accurate work. But no amount of speed will avail, unless the accuracy is there. _And vice versa_!”

For five minutes this was kept up, with a steam engine idea of rapidity of motion. Many were the fumbles. A good deal of laughter came from the sides of the gym.

“Myself!” shouted Luce, just as one of the players received the ball. The young man with the ball looked puzzled for an instant. Then, when too late to count, the young man understood and drove the ball for the coach.

“Not quick enough on judgment,” admonished Mr. Luce. “Now, we’ll take another look at the style of an ambitious pitcher or two. Ripley, suppose you try?”

Fred started and colored. Next, he looked pleased with himself as he strode jauntily forward.

“May I ask for my own catcher, sir?” Fred asked.

“Yes; certainly,” nodded the coach.

“Rip must have something big up his sleeve, if any old dub of a catcher won’t do,” jeered some one at the back of the crowd.

“Attention! Rip, the ladylike twirler!” sang out another teasing student.

“Let her rip, Rip!”

A good many were laughing. Fred was not popular. Many tolerated him, and some of the boys treated him with a fair amount of comradeship. Yet the lawyer’s son was no prime favorite.

“Order!” rapped out the coach, sharply. “This is training work. You’ll find the minstrel show, if that’s what you want, at the opera house next Thursday night.”

“How well the coach keeps track of minstrel shows!” called another gibing voice.

“That was you, Parkinson!” called Mr. Luce, with mock severity. “Run over and harden your funny-bone on the punching bag. Run along with you, now!”

Everybody laughed, except Parkinson, who grinned sheepishly.

“Training orders, Parkinson!” insisted the coach. “Trot right over and let the funny-bone of each arm drive at the bag for twenty-five times. Hurry up. We’ll watch you.”

So Mr. Parkinson, of the junior class, seeing that the order was a positive one, had the good sense to obey. He “hardened” the funny-bone of either arm against the punching bag to the tune of jeering laughter from the rest of the squad. That was Coach Luce’s way of dealing with the too-funny amateur humorist.

Fred, meantime, had selected his own catcher, and had whispered some words of instruction to him.

“Now, come on, Ripley,” ordered Mr. Luce, swinging his bat over an imaginary plate. “Let her come in about as you want to.”

“He’s going to try a spit ball,” muttered several, as they saw Fred moisten his fingers.

“That’s a hard one for a greenhorn to put over,” added another.

Fred took his place with a rather confident air; he had been drilling at Duxbridge for some weeks now.

Then, with a turn of his body, Ripley let the ball go off of his finger tips. Straight and rather slowly it went toward the plate. It looked like the easiest ball that had been sent in so far. Coach Luce, with a calculating eye, watched it come, moving his bat ever so little. Then he struck. But the spit ball, having traveled to the hitting point, dropped nearly twenty inches. The bat fanned air, and the catcher, crouching just behind the coach, gathered in the ball.

Luce was anything but mortified. A gleam of exultation lit up his eyes as he swung the bat exultantly over his head. In a swift outburst of old college enthusiasm he forgot most of his dignity as a submaster.

“_Wow_!” yelled the coach. “That was a _bird_! A lulu-cooler and a scalp-taker! Ripley, I reckon you’re the new cop that runs the beat!”

It took the High School onlookers a few seconds to gather the full importance of what they had seen. Then a wild cheer broke loose:

“Ripley? Oh, Ripley’ll pitch for the nine!” surged up on all sides.



“What’s the matter with Ripley?” yelled one senior.

And another answered, hoarsely:

“Nothing! He’s a wonder!”

Fred Ripley was unpopular. He was regarded as a cad and a sneak. But he could pitch ball! He could give great aid in bringing an unbroken line of victories to Gridley. That was enough.

By now Coach Luce was a bit red in the face. He realized that his momentary relapse into the old college enthusiasm had made him look ridiculous, in his other guise of High School submaster.

But when the submaster coach turned and saw Parkinson butting his head against the punching bag he called out:

“What’s the matter, Parkinson?”

“Subbing for you, sir!”

That turned the good-natured laugh of a few on Mr. Luce. Most of those present, however, had not been struck by the unusualness of his speech.

Dick and Dave looked hard at each other. Both boys wanted to make the team as pitchers. Yet now it seemed most certain that Fred Ripley must stand out head and shoulders over any other candidates for the Gridley box.

Dick’s face shone with enthusiasm, none the less. If he couldn’t make the nine this year, he could at least feel that Gridley High School was already well on toward the lead over all competing school nines.

“I wish it were somebody else,” muttered Dave, huskily, in his chum’s ear.

“Gridley is fixed for lead, anyway,” replied Dick, “if Ripley can always keep in such form as that.”

“Can Ripley do it again?” shouted one Gridley senior.

“Try it, and see, Ripley,” urged Mr. Luce, again swinging his bat.

Fred had been holding the returned ball for a minute or two. His face was flushed, his eyes glowing. Never before had he made such a hit among his schoolmates. It was sweet, at last, to taste the pleasures of local fame.

He stood gazing about him, drinking in the evident delight of the High School boys. In fact he did not hear the coach’s order until it came again.

“Try another one, Ripley!”

The young man moistened his fingers, placing the ball carefully. Of a sudden his arm shot out. Again the coach struck for what looked a fair ball, yet once more Mr. Luce fanned air and the catcher straightened up, ball in hand.

Pumph! The lazily thrown ball landed in Ripley’s outstretched left. He moistened his fingers, wet the ball, and let drive almost instantly. For the third time Mr. Luce fanned out.

Then Fred spoke, in a tone of satisfied self-importance:

“Coach, that’s all I’ll do this afternoon, if you don’t mind.”

“Right,” nodded Mr. Luce. “You don’t want to strain your work before you’ve really begun it any other candidates for pitching want to have a try now?”

As the boys of the squad waited for an answer, a low laugh began to ripple around the gym. The very idea of any fellow trying after Ripley had made his wonderful showing was wholly funny!

Coach Luce called out the names of another small squad to scatter over the gym. and to throw the ball to anyone he named. Except for the few who were in this forced work, no attention was paid to the players.

Fred Ripley had walked complacently to one side of the gym. A noisy, gleeful group formed around him.

“Rip, where did you ever learn that great work?”

“Who taught you?”

“Say, how long have you been hiding that thousand-candle-power light under a bushel?”

“Rip, it was the greatest work I ever saw a boy do.”

“Will you show me—after the nine has been made up, of course?”

“How did you ever get it down so slick?”

This was all meat to the boy who had long been unpopular.

“I always was a pretty fair pitcher, wasn’t I?” asked Fred.

“Yes; but never anything like the pitcher you showed us to-day,” glowed eager Parkinson.

“I’ve been doing a good deal of practicing and study since the close of last season,” Fred replied importantly. “I’ve studied out a lot of new things. I shan’t show them all, either, until the real season begins.”

Fred’s glance, in roaming around, took in Dick & Co. For once, these six very popular sophomores had no one else around them.

“Whew! I think I’ve taken some wind out of the sails of Mr. Self-satisfied Prescott,” Fred told himself jubilantly. “We shan’t hear so much about Dick & Co. for a few months!”

“Well, anyway, Dick,” said Tom Reade, “you and Dave needn’t feel too badly. If Ripley turns out to be the nine’s crack pitcher, the nine also carries two relief pitchers. You and Dave have a chance to be the relief pitchers. _That_ will make the nine for you both, anyway. But, then, that spitball may be the only thing Ripley knows.”

“Don’t fool yourself,” returned Prescott, shaking his head. “If Ripley can do that one so much like a veteran, then he knows other styles of tossing, too. I’m glad for Gridley High School—mighty glad. I wouldn’t mind on personal grounds, either, if only—if—–“

“If Fred Ripley were only a half decent fellow,” Harry Hazelton finished for him.

Coach Luce soon dismissed the squad for the day. A few minutes later the boys left the gym. in groups. Of course the pitching they had seen was the sole theme. Ripley didn’t have to walk away alone to-day. Coach Luce and a dozen of the boys stepped along with him in great glee.

“It’s Rip! Old Rip will be the most talked about fellow in any High School league this year,” Parkinson declared, enthusiastically.

Even the fellows who actually despised Fred couldn’t help their jubilation. Gridley was strong in athletics just because of the real old Gridley High School spirit. Gridley’s boys always played to win. They made heroes of the fellows who could lead them to victory after victory.

Fred was far on his way home ere the last boy had left him.

“I’ll get everything in sight now,” Ripley told himself, in ecstasy, as he turned in at the gateway to his home. “Why, even if Prescott does get into the relief box, I can decide when he shall or shall not pitch. I’ll never see him get a _big_ game to pitch in. Oh, but this blow to-day has hurt Dick Prescott worse than a blow over the head with an iron stake could. I’ve wiped him up and put him down again. I’ve made him feel sick and ashamed of his puny little inshoot! Prescott, you’re mine to do as I please with on this year’s nine—if you can make it at all!”

In truth, though young Prescott kept a smiling face, and talked cheerily, he could hardly have been more cast down than he was. Dick always went into any sport to win and lead, and he had set his heart on being Gridley’s best man in the box. But now—–

Dick & Co. all felt that they needed the open air after the grilling and the surprise at the gym. So they strolled, together, on Main Street, for nearly an hour ere they parted and went home to supper.

The next day the talk at school was mostly about Ripley, or “Rip,” as he was now more intimately called.

Even the girls took more notice of him. Formerly Fred hadn’t been widely popular among them. But now, as the coming star of the High School nine, and a new wonder in the school firmament, he had a new interest for them.

Half the girls, or more, were “sincere fans” at the ball games. Baseball was so much of a craze among them that these girls didn’t have to ask about the points of the game. They knew the diamond and most of its rules.

Incense was sweet to the boy to whom it had so long been denied, but of course it turned “Rip’s” head.



Eleven o’clock pealed out from the steeple of the nearest church.

The night was dark. Rain or snow was in the air.

In a shadow across the street hung Tip Scammon. His shabby cap was pulled down over his eyes, his hands thrust deep into the pockets of his ragged reefer. Tip’s eyes were turned toward the Ripley home opposite.

“To think o’ that feller in a fine, warm, soft bed nights, an’ all the swell stuff to eat at table!” muttered Tip, enviously. “And then me, out in the cold, wearing a tramp’s clothes! Never sure whether to-morrer has a meal comin’ with it! But, anyway, I can make that Ripley kid dance when I pull the string! He dances pretty tolerable frequent, too! He’s got to do it to-night, an’ he’d better hurry up some!”

Soon after the sound of the striking clock had died away, Tip’s keen eyes saw a figure steal around one side of the house from the rear.

“Here comes Rip, now. He’s on time,” thought Tip. “Huh! It’s a pity—fer—him that he wouldn’t take a new think an’ chase me. But he’s like most pups that hire other folks to do their tough work—they hain’t ‘t got no nerve o’ their own.”

Fred came stealthily out of the yard, after looking back at the house. He went straight up to young Scammon.

“So here ye are, pal,” laughed Tip. “Glad ye didn’t keep me waitin’. Ye brought the wherewithal?”

“See here, Tip, you scoundrel,” muttered Fred, hoarsely, a worried look showing in his eyes, “I’m getting plumb down to the bottom of anything I can get for you.”

“I told ye to bring twenty,” retorted young Scammon, abruptly. “That will be enough.”

“I couldn’t get it,” muttered Fred.

“Now, see here, pal,” warned Tip, threateningly, “don’t try to pull no roots on me. Ye can get all the money ye want.”

“I couldn’t this time,” Fred contended, stubbornly. “I’ve got eleven dollars, and that’s every bit I could get my hands on.”

“But I’ve _got_ to have twenty,” muttered Tip, fiercely. “Now, ye trot back and look through yer Sunday-best suit. You have money enough; yer father’s rich, an’ he gives ye a lot. Now, ye’ve no business spendin’ any o’ that money until ye’ve paid me what’s proper comin’ to me. So back to the house with ye, and get the rest o’ yer money!”

“It’s no use, Tip. I simply can’t get another dollar. Here’s the eleven, and you’d better be off with it. I can’t get any more, either, inside of a fortnight.”

“See here,” raged young Scammon, “if ye think ye can play—–“

“Take this money and get off,” demanded Fred, impatiently. “I’m going back home and to bed.”

“I guess, boy, it’s about time fer me to see your old man,” blustered Tip. “If I hold off until to-morrer afternoon, will ye have the other nine, an’ an extry dollar fer me trouble?”

“No,” rasped Fred. “It’s no use at all—not for another fortnight, anyway. Good night!”

Turning, Fred sped across the street and back under the shadows at the rear of the lawyer’s great house.

“I wonder if the younker’s gettin’ wise?” murmured Tip. “He ain’t smart enough to know that fer him to go to his old man an’ tell the whole yarn ‘ud be cheapest in the run. The old man ‘ud be mad at Rip, but the old man’s a lawyer, an’ ‘ud know how to lay down the blackmail law to me!”

Feeling certain that he was wholly alone by this time, Tip had spoken the words aloud or sufficiently so for him to be heard a few feet away by any lurker.

Shivering a bit, for he was none too warmly clad, young Scammon turned, making his way up the street.

Fully two minutes after Tip had gone his way Dick Prescott stepped out from behind the place where Tip had been standing.

There was a queer and rather puzzled look on Dick’s face.

“So Fred’s paying Tip money, and Tip knows it’s blackmail?” muttered the sophomore. “That can mean just one thing then. When Tip held his tongue before and at his trial, last year, he was looking ahead to the time when he could extort money by threatening Fred. And now Tip’s doing it. That must be the way he gets his living. Whew, but Ripley must be allowed a heap of spending money if he can stand that sort of drain!”

How Dick came to be on hand at the time can be easily explained. Earlier in the evening he had been at “The Blade” office. Mr. Pollock had asked him to go out on a news story that could be obtained by calling upon a citizen at his home. The story would be longer than Dick usually succeeded in turning in. It looked attractive to a boy who wanted to earn money, so the sophomore eagerly accepted the assignment.

As it happened, Dick had had to wait a long time at the house at which he called before the man he wanted to see returned home. Dick was on his way to “The Blade” office when he caught sight of Tip Scammon. The latter did not see or hear the sophomore approaching.

So Dick halted, darting behind a tree.

“Now, what’s Tip doing down here, near the Ripley place?” wondered Prescott. “He must be waiting to see Fred. Then they must have an appointment. Dave always thought that Tip ambushed me with those brickbats at Fred Ripley’s order. There may be something of that sort in the wind again. I guess I’ve got a right to listen.”

Looking about him, Prescott saw a chance to slip into a yard, get over a fence, and creep up rather close to Scammon, though still being hidden from that scoundrel. At last Prescott found himself well hidden in the yard behind Tip.

So Dick heard the talk. Now, as he hurried back to “The Blade” office the young soph guessed shrewdly at the meaning of what he had heard.

“Now, what had I better do about it?” Dick Prescott asked himself. “What’s the fair and honorable thing to do—keep quiet? It would seem a bit sneaky to go and tell Lawyer Ripley. Shall I tell Fred? I wonder if I could make him understand how foolish and cowardly it is to go on paying for a blackmailer’s silence? Yet it’s ten to one that Fred wouldn’t thank me. Oh, bother it, what had a fellow better do in a case like this?”

A moment later, Dick laughed dryly.

“I know one thing I could do. I could go to Fred, tell him what I know, and scare him so he’d fall down in his effort to become the crack pitcher of the nine! My, but he’d go all to pieces if he thought I knew and could tell on him!”

Dick chuckled, then his face sobered, as he added:

“Fred’s safe from that _trick_, though. I couldn’t stand a glimpse of my own face in the mirror, afterward, if I did such a low piece of business.”

Prescott was still revolving the whole thing in his mind when he reached “The Blade” office. He turned in the news story he bad been sent for. As he did so the news editor looked up to remark:

“We have plenty of room to spare in the paper to-night, Prescott.”

“Yes? Well?”

“Can’t you give us a few paragraphs of real High School news? Something about the state of athletics there?”

“Why, yes, of course,” the young sophomore nodded.

Returning to the desk where he had been sitting, Dick ran off a few paragraphs on the outlook of the coming High School baseball season.

“Did you write that High School baseball stuff in this morning’s paper, Dick?” asked Tom Reade, the next day.


“You said that the indications are that Ripley will be the crack pitcher this season, and that he is plainly going to be far ahead of all the other box candidates.”

“That’s correct, isn’t it?” challenged Dick.

“It looks so, of course,” Tom admitted. “But why did you give Ripley such a boost? He’s no friend of yours, or ours.”

“Newspapers are published for the purpose of giving information,” Dick explained. “If a newspaper’s writers all wrote just to please themselves and their friends, how many people do you suppose would buy the daily papers? Fred Ripley is the most prominent box candidate we have. He towers away over the rest of us. That was why I so stated it in ‘The Blade.'”

“And I guess that’s the only right way to do things when you’re writing for the papers,” agreed Darrin.

“It’s a pity you can’t print some other things about Ripley that you know to be true,” grumbled Hazelton.

“True,” agreed Dick, thoughtfully. “I’m only a green, amateur reporter, but I’ve already learned that a reporter soon knows more than he can print.”

Prescott was thinking of the meeting he had witnessed, the night before, between Fred and Tip.

After sleeping on the question for the night, Dick had decided that he would say nothing of the matter, for the present, either to the elder or the younger Ripley.

“If Fred found out that I knew all about it, he’d be sure that I was biding my time,” was what Dick had concluded. “He’d be sure that I was only waiting for the best chance to expose him. On the other hand, if I cautioned his father, there’d be an awful row at the Ripley home. Either way, Fred Ripley would go to pieces. He’d lose what little nerve he ever had. After that he’d be no good at pitching. He’d go plumb to pieces. That might leave me the chance to be Gridley’s crack pitcher this year. Oh, I’d like to be the leading pitcher of the High School nine! But I don’t want to win the honor in any way that I’m not positive is wholly square and honorable.”

Then, after a few moments more of thought:

“Besides, I’m loyal to good old Gridley High School. I want to see our nine have the best pitcher it can get—no matter who he is!”

By some it might be argued that Dick Prescott was under a moral obligation to go and caution Lawyer Ripley. But Dick hated talebearers. He acted up to the best promptings of his own best conscience, which is all any honorable man can do.



“Oh, you Rip!”

“Good boy, Rip!”

“You’re the winning piece of leather, Rip!”

“Get after him, Dick!”

“Wait till you see Prescott!”

“And don’t you forget Dave Darrin, either!” Late in March, it was the biggest day of Spring out at the High School Athletic Field.

This field, the fruit of the labors of the Alumni Association for many years, was a model one even in the best of High School towns.

The field, some six acres in extent, lay well outside the city proper. It was a walled field, laid out for football, baseball, cricket and field and track sports. In order that even the High School girls might have a strong sense of ownership in it, the field also contained two croquet grounds, well laid out.

Just now, the whole crowd was gathered at the sides of the diamond. Hundreds were perched up on one of the stands for spectators.

Down on the diamond stood the members of the baseball squad. As far as the onlookers could see, every one of the forty-odd young men was in the pink of physical condition. The indoor training had been hard from the outset. Weeks of cage work had been gone through with in the gym. But from this day on, whenever it didn’t rain too hard, the baseball training work was to take place on the field.

Coach Luce now stepped out of the little building in which were the team dressing rooms. As he went across the diamond he was followed by lusty cheers from High School boys up on the spectators’ seats. The girls clapped their hands, or waved handkerchiefs. A few already carried the gold and crimson banners of Gridley. Besides the High School young people, there were a few hundred older people, who had come out to see what the youngsters were doing.

For this was the day on which the pitchers were to be tried out. Ripley was known to be the favorite in all the guessing. In fact, there wasn’t any guessing. Some, however, believed that Dick, and possibly Dave, might be chosen as the relief pitchers.

Dick himself looked mighty solemn, as he stood by, apparently seeing but little of what was going on. Beside him stood Dave. The other four chums were not far off.

Another wild howl went up from the High School contingent when two more men were seen to leave the dressing room building and walk out toward Coach Luce. These were two members of the Athletic Committee, former students at Gridley High School. These two were to aid the coach in choosing the men for the school team. They would also name the members of the school’s second team.

“Now, we’ll try you out on pitching, if you’re ready,” announced Mr. Luce, turning to a member of the junior class. The young fellow grinned half-sheepishly, but was game. He ran over to the box, after nodding to the catcher he had chosen. Luce took the bat and stood by the home plate. To-day the coach did not intend to strike at any of the balls, but he and the two members of the Athletic Committee would judge, and award marks to the candidates.

“Oh, we don’t want the dub! Trot out Rip!” came a roaring chorus.

Coach Luce, however, from this time on, paid no heed to the shouts or demands of spectators.

The candidate for box honors now displayed all he knew about pitching, though some nervousness doubtless marred his performance.

“Now, run out Rip!” came the insistent chorus again, after this candidate had shown his curves and had gone back.

But it was another member of the junior class who came to the box for the next trial.

“Dead ball! Throw wild and cut it short!” came the advice from the seats.

Then a sophomore was tried out. But the crowd was becoming highly impatient.

“We want Rip! We demand Rip. Give us Rip or give us chloroform!” came the insistent clamor. “We’ll come another day to see the dead ones, if you insist.”

Coach Luce looked over at Fred, and nodded. The tumultuous cheering lasted two full minutes, for Gridley was always as strong on fans as it wanted to be on players.

Fred Ripley was flushed but proud. He tried to hold himself jauntily, with an air of indifference, as he stood with the ball clasped in both hands, awaiting the signal.

Ripley felt that he could afford to be satisfied with himself. The advance consciousness of victory thrilled him. He had worked rather hard with Everett; and, though the great pitcher had not succeeded in bringing out all that he had hoped to do with the boy, yet Everett had praised him only yesterday. One reason why Fred had not absolutely suited his trainer was that the boy had broken his training pledge by taking up with coffee. For that reason his nerves were not in the best possible shape. Yet they didn’t need to be in order to beat such awkward, rural pitchers as Prescott or Darrin.

For a while Coach Luce waited for the cheering for Ripley to die down. Then he raised his bat as a signal. Fred sent in his favorite spit-ball. To all who understood the game, it was clear that the ball had not been well delivered. The crowd on the seats stopped cheering to look on in some concern.

“Brace, Ripley! You can beat that,” warned the coach, in a low tone.

Fred did better the second time. The third ball was nearly up to his form; the fourth, wholly so. Now, Fred sent in two more spitballs, then changed to other styles. He was pitching famously, now.

“That’s all, unless you wish more, sir,” announced Fred, finally, when the ball came back to him.

“It’s enough. Magnificently done,” called Coach Luce, after a glance at the two members of the Athletic Committee.

“Oh, you Rip!”

“Good old Rip!”

The cheering commenced again, swelling in volume.

Coach Luce signaled to Dick Prescott, who, coolly, yet with a somewhat pallid face, came forward to the box. He removed the wrapping from a new ball and took his post.

The cheering stopped now. Dick was extremely well liked in Gridley. Most of the spectators felt sorry for this poor young soph, who must make a showing after that phenomenon, Ripley.

“The first two or three don’t need to count, Prescott,” called Luce. “Get yourself warmed up.”

Fred stood at the side, looking on with a sense of amusement which, for policy’s sake, he strove to conceal.

“Great Scott! The nerve of the fellow!” gasped Ripley, inwardly, as he saw Prescott moisten his fingers. “He’s going to try the spit-ball after what I’ve shown!”

The silence grew deeper, for most of the onlookers understood the significance of Dick’s moistened fingers.

Dick drove in, Tom Reade catching. That first spit-ball was not quite as good as some that Ripley had shown. But Fred’s face went white.

“Where did Prescott get that thing? He’s been _stealing_ from the little he has seen me do.”

A shout of jubilation went up from a hundred throats now, for Dick had just spun his second spit-ball across the plate. It was equal to any that Ripley had shown.

“Confound the upstart! He’s getting close to me on that style!” gasped the astonished Ripley.

Now, Dick held the ball for a few moments, rolling it over in his hands. An instant later, he unbent. Then he let drive. The ball went slowly toward the plate, with flat trajectory.

“Wow!” came the sudden explosion. It was a _jump-ball_, going almost to the plate, then rising instead of falling.

Three more of these Dick served, and now the cheering was the biggest of the afternoon. Fred Ripley’s mouth was wide open, his breath coming jerkily.

Three fine inshoots followed. The hundreds on the seats were standing up now. Then, to rest his arm, Dick, who was wholly collected, and as cool as a veteran under fire, served the spectators with a glimpse of an out-curve that was not quite like any that they had ever seen before. This out-curve had a suspicion of the jump-ball about it.

Dick was pitching easily, now. He had gotten his warming and his nerve, and appeared to work without conscious strain.

“Do you want more, sir?” called Dick, at last.

“No,” decided Coach Luce. “You’ve done enough, Prescott. Mr. Darrin!”

Dave ran briskly to the box, opening the wrappings on a new ball as he stepped into the box. After the first two balls Dave’s exhibition was swift, certain, fine. He had almost reached Dick with his performance.

Ripley’s bewildered astonishment was apparent in his face.

“Thunder, I’d no idea they could do anything like that!” gasped Fred to himself. “They’re very nearly as good as I am. How in blazes did they ever get hold of the wrinkles? They can’t afford a man like Everett.”

“Any more candidates?” called Coach Luce. There weren’t. No other fellow was going forward to show himself after the last three who had worked from the box.

There was almost a dead silence, then, while Coach Luce and the two members of the Athletics Committee conferred in whispers. At last the coach stepped forward.

“We have chosen the pitchers!” he shouted. Then, after a pause, Mr. Luce went on:

“The pitchers for the regular school nine will be Prescott, Darrin, Ripley, in the order named.”

“Oh, you Dick!”

“Bang-up Prescott!”

“Reliable old Darrin!”


And now the fierce cheering drowned out all other cries. But Fred Ripley, his face purple with rage, darted forward before the judges.

“I protest!” he cried.

“Protests are useless,” replied Mr. Luce. “The judges give you four points less than Darrin, and seven less than Prescott. You’ve had a fair show, Mr. Ripley.”

“I haven’t. I’m better than either of them!” bawled Fred, hoarsely, for the cheering was still on and he had to make himself heard.

“No use, Ripley,” spoke up a member of the Athletics Committee. “You’re third, and that’s good enough, for we never before had such a pitching triumvirate.”

“Where did these fellows ever learn to pitch to beat me?” jeered Fred, angrily. “They had no such trainer. Until he went south with his own team, I was trained by—–“

Fred paused suddenly. Perhaps he had better not tell too much, after all.

The din from the seats had now died down.

“Well, Ripley, who trained you?” asked a member of the Athletics Committee.

Fred bit his lip, but Dick broke in quietly:

“I can tell. Perhaps a little confession will be good for us all around. Ripley was trained by Everett over at Duxbridge. I found out that much, weeks ago.”

“You spy!” hissed Fred angrily, but Dick, not heeding his enemy, continued:

“The way Ripley started out, the first showing he made, Darrin and I saw that we were left in the stable. Candidly, we were in despair of doing anything real in the box, after Ripley got through. But I suppose all you gentlemen have heard of Pop Gint?”

“Gint! Old Pop?” demanded Coach Luce, a light glowing in his eyes. “Well, I should say so. Why, Pop Gint was the famous old trainer who taught Everett and a half dozen other of our best national pitchers all they first learned about style. Pop Gint is the best trainer of pitchers that ever was.”

“Pop Gint is an uncle of Mr. Pollock, editor of ‘The Blade,'” Dick went on, smilingly. “Pop Gint has retired, and won’t teach for money, any more. But Mr. Pollock coaxed his uncle to train Darrin and myself. Right faithfully the old gentleman did it, too. Why, Pop Gint, today, is as much of a boy—–“

“Oh, shut up!” grated Fred, harshly, turning upon his rival. “Mr. Luce, I throw down the team as far as I’m concerned. I won’t pitch as an inferior to these two boobies. Scratch my name off.”

“I’ll give you a day or two, Mr. Ripley, to think that over,” replied Mr. Luce, quietly. “Remember, Ripley, you must be a good sportsman, and you should also be loyal to your High School. In matters of loyalty one can’t always act on spite or impulse.”

“Humph!” muttered Fred, stalking away.

His keen disappointment was welling up inside. With the vent of speech the suffering of the arrogant boy had become greater. Now, Fred’s whole desire was to get away by himself, where he could nurse his rage in secret. There were no more yells of “Oh, you Rip!” He had done some splendid pitching, and had made the team, for that matter, but he was not to be one of the season’s stars. This latter fact, added to his deserved unpopularity, filled his spirit with gall as he hastened toward the dressing rooms. There he quickly got into his street clothes and as hastily quitted the athletic field.

Therein Fred Ripley made a mistake, as he generally did in other things. In sport all can’t win. It is more of an art to be a cheerful, game loser than to bow to the plaudits of the throng.

“Mr. Prescott,” demanded Coach Luce, “how long have you been working under Pop Gint’s training?”

“Between four and five weeks, sir.”

“And Darrin the same length of time?”

“Yes, sir,” nodded Dave.

“Then, unless you two find something a whole lot better to do in life, you could do worse than to keep in mind the idea of trying for positions on the national teams when you’re older.”

“I think we have something better in view, Mr. Luce,” Dick answered smilingly. “Eh, Dave?”

“Yes,” nodded Darrin and speaking emphatically. “Athletics and sports are good for what they bring to a fellow in the way of health and training. But a fellow ought to use the benefits as a physical foundation in some other kind of life where he can be more useful.”

“I suppose you two, then, have it all mapped out as to what you’re going to do in life?”

“Not quite,” Dick replied. “But I think I know what we’d like to do when we’re through with our studies.”

There were other try-outs that afternoon, but the great interest was over. Gridley fans were satisfied that the High School had a pitching trio that it would be difficult to beat anywhere except on the professional diamond.

“If anything _should_ happen to Prescott and Darrin just before any of _the big games_,” muttered Ripley, darkly, to himself, “then I’d have my chance, after all! Can’t I get my head to working and find a way to _make_ something happen?”



“To your seat, Mr. Bristow! You’re acting like a rowdy!”

Principal Cantwell uttered the order sharply.

Fully half the student body had gathered in the big assembly room at the High School. It was still five minutes before the opening hour, and there had been a buzz of conversation through the room.

The principal’s voice was so loud that it carried through the room. Almost at once the buzz ceased as the students turned to see what was happening. Bristow had been skylarking a bit. Undoubtedly he had been more boisterous with one of the other fellows in the assembly room than good taste sanctioned.

Just as naturally, however, Bristow resented the style of rebuke from authority. The boy wheeled about, glaring at the principal.

“Go to your seat, sir!” thundered the principal, his face turning ghastly white from his suppressed rage.

Bristow wheeled once more, in sullen silence, to go to his seat. Certainly he did not move fast, but he was obeying.

“You mutinous young rascal, that won’t do!” shot out from the principal’s lips. In another instant Mr. Cantwell was crossing the floor rapidly toward the slow-moving offender.

“Get to your seat quickly, or go in pieces!” rasped out the angry principal.

Seizing the boy from behind by both shoulders, Mr. Cantwell gave him a violent push. Bristow tripped, falling across a desk and cutting a gash in his forehead.

In an instant the boy was up and wheeled about, blood dripping from the cut, but something worse flashing in his eyes.

The principal was at once terrified. He was not naturally courageous, but he had a dangerous temper, and he now realized to what it had brought him. Mr. Cantwell was trying to frame a lame apology when an indignant voice cried out:


His face livid, the principal turned.

“Who said that?” he demanded, at white heat.

“_I_ did!” admitted Purcell, promptly. Abner Cantwell sprang at this second “offender.” But Purcell threw himself quickly into an attitude of defence.

“Keep your hands off of me, Mr. Cantwell, or I’ll knock you down!”


“That’s the talk!”

The excited High School boys came crowding about the principal and Purcell. Bristow was swept back by the surging throng. He had his handkerchief out, now, at his forehead.

“Some of you young men seize Purcell and march him to my private office,” commanded the principal, who had lacked the courage to strike at the young fellow who stood waiting for him.

“Will you fight Purcell like a man, if we do?” asked another voice.

“Run Cantwell out! He isn’t fit to be here!” yelled another voice.

Mr. Drake, the only submaster in the room at the time, was pushing his way forward.

“Calmly, boys, calmly,” called Drake. “Don’t do anything you’ll be sorry for afterwards.”

But those who were more hot headed were still pressing forward. It looked as though they were trying to get close enough to lay hands on the now trembling principal.

Under the circumstances, Mr. Cantwell did the very worst thing he could have done. He pushed three or four boys aside and made a break across the assembly room. Once out in the corridor, the principal dove into his private office, turning the key after him. Secure, now, and his anger once more boiling up, Mr. Cantwell rang his telephone bell. Calling for the police station, he called for Chief Coy and reported that mutiny and violence had broken loose in the High School.

“That seems almost incredible,” replied Chief Coy. “But I’ll come on the run with some of my men.”

Several of the fellows made a move to follow the principal out into the corridor. Dick Prescott swung the door shut and threw himself against it. Dave Darrin and Tom Reade rushed to his support. The other chums got to him as quickly as they could.

“Nothing rash, fellows!” urged Dick. “Remember, we don’t make the laws, or execute them. This business will be settled more to our satisfaction if we don’t put ourselves in the wrong.”

“Pull that fellow Prescott away from the door!” called Fred Ripley, anxious to start any kind of trouble against Dick & Co. Submaster Drake, forcing his way through the throng, calming the hottest-headed ones, turned an accusing look on Fred. The latter saw it and slunk back into the crowd.

Bristow, still holding his handkerchief to his head, darted out of the building.

Submaster Morton and Luce, bearing the excitement, came up from class rooms on the ground floor. They entered by the same door through which Bristow had left.

Over on the other side of the room, fearing that a violent riot was about to start, some of the girls began to scream. The women teachers present hurried among the girls, quieting them by reassuring words.

“Now, young gentlemen,” called Mr. Drake, “we’ll consider all this rumpus done with. Discipline reigns and Gridley’s good name must be preserved!”

This brought a cheer from many, for Mr. Drake was genuinely respected by the boys as a good and fair-minded man. Such men as Drake, Morton or Luce could lead these warm-hearted boys anywhere.

Stepping quickly back to the platform, Drake sounded the bell. In an instant there was an orderly movement toward the desks. At the second bell all were seated.

“In the absence of the principal,” began Mr. Drake, “I—–“

A low-voiced laugh started in some quarters of the room.

“Silence!” insisted Mr. Drake, with dignity. “School has opened. I—–“

He was interrupted by a new note. Out in the yard sounded the clanging of a bell, the quick trot of horses’ feet and the roll of wheels. The boys looked at one another in unbelieving astonishment.

Then heavy steps sounded on the stairway. Outside Mr. Cantwell’s voice could be heard:

“I’ll take you inside, chief!”

In came the principal, his face now white from dread of what he had done, instead of showing the white-heat of passion. After him came Chief Coy and three policemen in uniform.

For at least a full half minute Chief Coy stood glancing around the room, where every student was in his seat and all was orderly. The boys returned the chief’s look with wondering eyes. Then Mr. Coy spoke:

“Where’s your riot, principal? Is this what you termed a mutiny?”

Mr. Cantwell, who had gone to his post behind the desk, appeared to find difficulty in answering.

“Humph!” muttered the chief, and, turning, strode from the room. His three policemen followed.

Then there came indeed an awkward silence.

Submaster Drake had abandoned the center of the stage to the principal. Mr. Cantwell found himself at some loss for words. But at last he began:

“Young ladies and young gentlemen, I cannot begin to tell you how much I regret the occurrences of this morning. Discipline is one of my greatest ideals, and this morning’s mutiny—–“

He felt obliged to pause there, for an angry murmur started on the boys’ side, and traveled over to where the girls were seated:

“This morning’s mutiny—–” began the principal again.

The murmur grew louder. Mr. Cantwell looked up, more of fear than of anger in his eyes. Mr. Drake, who stood behind the principal, held up one hand appealingly. It was that gesture which saved the situation at that critical moment. The boys thought that if silence would please Mr. Drake, then he might have it.

“Pardon me, sir,” whispered Drake in Cantwell’s ear. “I wouldn’t harp on the word mutiny, sir. Express your regret for the injury unintentionally done Bristow.”

Mr. Cantwell wheeled abruptly.

“Who is principal here, Mr. Drake?”

“You are, sir.”

“Then be good enough to let me finish my remarks.”

This dialogue was spoken in an undertone, but the students guessed some inkling of its substance.

The submaster subsided, but Mr. Cantwell couldn’t seem to remember, just then, what he wanted to say. So he stood gazing about the room. In doing this he caught sight of the face of Purcell.

“Mr. Purcell!” called the principal.

That young man rose, standing by his seat. “Mr. Purcell, you made some threat to me a few minutes ago?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What was that threat?”

“I told you that, if you laid hands on me, I’d floor you.”

“Would you have done it?”

“At the time, yes, sir. Or I’d have tried to do so.”

“That is all. The locker room monitor will go with you to the basement. You may go for the day. When you come to-morrow morning, I will let you know what I have decided in your case.”

Submaster Drake bit his lips. This was not the way to deal with a situation in which the principal had started the trouble. Mr. Drake wouldn’t have handled the situation in this way, nor would Dr. Thornton, the former principal.

But Purcell, with cheerfulness murmured, “Very good, sir,” and left the room, while many approving glances followed him.

Messrs. Morton and Luce shuffled rather uneasily in their seats. Mr. Cantwell began to gather an idea that he was making his own bad matter worse, so he changed, making an address in which he touched but lightly upon the incidents of the morning. He made an urgent plea for discipline at all times, and tried to impress upon the student body the need for absolute self-control.

In view of his own hasty temper that last part of the speech nearly provoked an uproar of laughter. Only respect for Mr. Drake and the other submasters prevented that. The women teachers, or most of them, too, the boys were sure, sided with them secretly.

The first recitation period of the morning was going by rapidly, but Mr. Cantwell didn’t allow that to interfere with his remarks. At last, however, he called for the belated singing. This was in progress when the door opened. Mr. Eldridge, superintendent of schools, entered, followed by Bristow’s father. That latter gentleman looked angry.

“Mr. Cantwell, can you spare us a few moments in your office?” inquired Mr. Eldridge.

There was no way out of it. The principal left with them. In a few minutes there was a call for Mr. Drake. Then two of the women teachers were sent for. Finally, Dick Prescott and three or four of the other boys were summoned. On the complaint of a very angry parent Superintendent Eldridge was holding a very thorough investigation. Many statements were asked for and listened to.

“I think we have heard enough, haven’t we, Mr. Eldridge?” asked the elder Bristow, at last. “Shall I state my view of the affair now?”

“You may,” nodded the superintendent.

“It is plain enough to me,” snorted Mr. Bristow, “that this principal hasn’t self-control enough to be charged with teaching discipline to a lot of spirited boys. His example is bad for them—continually bad. However, that is for the Board of Education to determine. My son will not come to school to-day, but he will attend to-morrow. As the first step toward righting to-day’s affair I shall expect Mr. Cantwell to address, before the whole student body, an ample and satisfactory apology to my son. I shall be present to hear that apology myself.”

“If it is offered,” broke in Principal Cantwell, sardonically, but Superintendent Eldridge held up a hand to check him.

“If you don’t offer the apology, to-morrow morning, and do it properly,” retorted Mr. Bristow, “I shall go to my lawyer and instruct him to get out a warrant charging you with felonious assault. That is all I have to say, sir. Mr. Eldridge, I thank you, sir, for your very prompt and kind help. Good morning, all!”

“At the close of the session the principal wishes to see Mr. Prescott,” read Mr. Cantwell from the platform just before school was dismissed that afternoon.

Dick waited in some curiosity.

“Mr. Prescott, you write for ‘The Blade,’ don’t you?” asked Mr. Cantwell.

“Sometimes, sir.”

“Then, Mr. Prescott, please understand that I forbid you to write anything for publication concerning this morning’s happenings.”

Dick remained silent.

“You will not, will you?”