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“That, Mr. Cantwell, is a matter that seems to rest between the editor and myself.”

“But I have forbidden it,” insisted the principal, in surprise.

“That is a matter, sir, about which you will have to see the editor. Here at school, Mr. Cantwell, I am under your orders. At ‘The Blade’ office I work under Mr. Pollock’s instructions.”

The principal looked as though he were going to grow angry. On the whole, though, he felt that he had had enough of the consequences of his own wrath for one day. So he swallowed hard and replied:

“Very good, then, Mr. Prescott. I shall hold you responsible for anything you publish that I may consider harmful to me.”

Dick did print an account of the trouble at school. He confined himself to a statement of the facts that he had observed with his own eyes. Editorially “The Blade” printed a comment to the effect that such scenes would have been impossible under the much-missed Dr. Thornton.

Mr. Cantwell didn’t have anything disagreeable to say to Dick Prescott the next morning. Purcell took up the burden of his studies again without comment. The principal did apologize effectively to young Bristow before the student body, while the elder Bristow stood grimly by.



All of Dick & Co. had made the High School nine, though not all as star players in their positions.

Holmes had won out for left field, and Hazelton for shortstop. As far as the early outdoor practice showed, the latter was going to be the strongest man of the school in that important position.

Dalzell and Reade became first and second basemen.

During the rest of March practice proceeded briskly. Six days in every week the youngsters worked hard at the field in the afternoons. When it rained they put in their time at the gym.

On the second of April Coach Luce called a meeting of the baseball squad at the gym.

“We’re a week, now, from our first game, gentlemen,” announced the coach. “I want you all to be in flawless condition from now on. I will put a question to you, now, on your honor. Has any man broken training table?”

No one spoke or stirred. Ripley, who had gotten over the worst of his sulks, was present, but he did not admit any of his many breaches of the training table diet that he was pledged to follow at home.

“Has any man used tobacco since training began?” continued the coach.

Again there was silence.

“I am gratified to note that I can’t get a response to either question,” smiled Mr. Luce. “This assures me that every one of you has kept in the strictest training. It will show as soon as you begin to meet Gridley’s opponents in the field.

“Faithful observance of all training rules bespeaks a good state of discipline. In all sports, and in team sports especially, discipline is our very foundation stone. Every man must sacrifice himself and his feelings for the good of the team. Each one of you must forget, in all baseball matters, that he is an individual. He must think of himself only as a spoke in the wheel.

“During the baseball season I want every man of you in bed by nine-thirty. On the night before a game turn in at eight-thirty. Make up your minds that there shall be no variation from this. In the mornings I want every man, when it isn’t raining, to go out and jog along the road, in running shoes and sweaters, for twenty minutes without a break; for thirty minutes, instead, on any morning when you can spare the time.

“Whenever you can do so, practice swift, short sprints. Many a nine, full of otherwise good men, loses a game or a season’s record just because this important matter of speedy base running has been neglected.

“Not only this, but I want every one of you to be careful about the method of sprinting. The man who runs flat-footedly is using up steam and endurance. Run balanced well forward on the balls of your feet. Throw your heels up; travel as though you were trying to kick the backs of your thighs. Breathe through the nose, always, in running, and master to the highest degree the trick of making a great air reservoir of your lungs. We have had considerable practice, both in jogging and in sprinting, but this afternoon I am going to sprint each man in turn, and I’m going to pick all his flaws of style or speed to small pieces. We will now adjourn to the field for that purpose. Remember, that a batsman has two very valuable assets—his hitting judgment and his running steam. Wagons are waiting outside, and we’ll now make quick time to the field.”

Arriving there, Coach Luce led them at once to the dressing rooms.

“Now, then, we want quick work!” he called after the sweaters and ball shoes had been hurriedly donned.

“Now let us go over to the diamond; go to the home plate as I call the names. Darrin Ripley-Prescott-Reade-Purcell—–“

And so on. The young men named made quick time to the plate.

“You’re up, Darrin. Run! Two bases only. Halt at second! Ripley, run! Reade, run! Not on your flat feet, Ripley. Up on your toes, man! Reade, more steam!”

Then others were given the starting word. Coach did not run more men at a time than he could readily watch.

“Prescott, throw your feet up behind better. You’ve been jogging, but that isn’t the gait. Holmes, straighten back more—don’t cramp your chest!”

So the criticisms rang out. Luce was an authority on short sprinting. He had made good in that line in his own college days.

“Jennison, you’re not running with your arms! Forget ’em!”

Jennison promptly let his arms hang motionless at his sides.

“Come in, Jennison!” called coach.

Jennison came in.

“You mustn’t work your arms like fly-wheels, nor like piston rods, either,” explained Mr. Luce. “Keep your elbows in fairly close to your sides; fists loosely closed and forward, a little higher than your elbows. Now, all runners come in.”

Gathering the squad about him, and demanding close attention, Mr. Luce showed the pose of the body at the instant of starting.

“Now, I’m going to run to first and second,” continued the coach. “I want every man of you to watch closely and catch the idea. You note how I hold my body—sloping slightly forward, yet with every effort to avoid cramping the chest. Observe how I run on the forward part of the ball of the foot—not exactly on the toes, but close to it. See just how it is that I throw my feet up behind me. And be very particular to note that I keep my hands and arms in just this position all the way. Now, then, when you strike at a ball, and expect to hit it, have your lungs inflated ready for the first bound of the spurt. Now—watching, all of you?”

After an instant Mr. Luce shouted, “Strike!” and was off like a flash. Many of the boys present had never seen coach really sprint before. As they watched during the amazingly few seconds a yell of delight went up from them. This was sprinting!

“Did you all find time to observe?” smiled coach, as he came loping in from second base.

“We all watched you,” laughed Dick. “But the time was short.”

“You see the true principle of the sprint?”

“Yes; but it would take any of us years to get the sprint down that fine,” protested Darrin.

“Don’t be too sure of that,” retorted coach. “Some of you will have doubled the style and steam of your sprint by the time you’re running in the first game. Now, don’t forget a word of what I’ve said about the importance of true sprinting. I’ve seen many a nine whose members had a fine battery, and all the fielders good men; yet, when they went to the bat and hit the leather, their sprinting was so poor that they lost game after game. From now on, the sprint’s the thing! Yet don’t overdo it by doing it all the time. Take plenty of rest and deep breathing between sprints. Usually, a two-bag sprint is all you need. Now, some more of you get out and try it.”

Rapidly coach called off the names of those he wanted to try out. Some of these young men did better than the starters, for they had learned from the criticisms, and from the showing of Luce’s standard form.

Presently the young men were standing about in various parts of the field, for none came in until called.

“Ripley,” said Mr. Luce, turning to that young man, “you have the build and the lines of a good sprinter.”

“Thank you, sir,” nodded Fred.

“And yet your performance falls off. Your lung capacity ought to be all right from your appearance. What is the trouble? Honestly, have you been smoking any cigarettes?”

“Not one,” Fred declared promptly.

Mr. Luce lifted the boy’s right hand, scanning it.

“If I were going to make such a denial,” remarked coach coolly, “I’d be sure to have a piece of pumice stone, and I’d use it often to take away those yellowish stains.”

The light-brownish stains were faint on Fred’s first and second fingers. Yet, under careful scrutiny, they could be made out.

Ripley colored uncomfortably, jerking his hand away.

“Better cut out the paper pests,” advised coach quietly.

“Only one, once in a while,” murmured the boy. “I won’t have even that many after this.”

“I should hope not,” replied Mr. Luce. “You’re under training pledge, you know.”

All Fred meant by his promise was that he would use pumice stone painstakingly on his finger tips hereafter.

Within the next few days, Dick and Darrin made about the best showing as to sprinting form, though many of the others did remarkably well.

“Ripley isn’t cutting out the cigarettes,” decided Mr. Luce, watching the running of the lawyer’s son. “He proves it by his lack of improvement. His respiration is all to the bad.”

Mr. Luce was shrewd enough to know that, in Fred Ripley, he had a liar to deal with, and that neither repeated warnings nor renewed promises were worth much. So he held his peace.

In a few days more, all the members of the Athletics Committee who could attend went to the field. A practice match between the first and second teams had been ordered. Ripley consented to pitch for second, while Dick pitched for the school nine. The latter nine won by a score of eleven to two, but that had been expected. It was for another purpose that the members of the Athletics Committee were present.

After the game, there was a brief conference between coach and the committee members.

“It is time, now, to announce the appointment of captain,” called coach, when he had again gathered the squad. “Purcell, of the junior class, will be captain of the nine. Prescott, of the sophomore class, will be second, or relief captain.”

Then the announcements were made for the second nine.

And now the first game was close at hand. The opponent was to be Gardiner City High School. Gardiner possessed one of the strongest school nines in the state. Coach Luce would have preferred an easier opponent for the first regular game, but had to take the only match that he could get.

“However, young gentlemen,” he announced to the squad on the field, “the Gridley idea is that all opponents look alike to us. Your city and your school will demand that you win—not merely that you try to win!”

“We’ll win—no other way to do!” came the hearty promise.



Thanks to the methods Dick & Co. had started the year before of raising funds for High School athletics through stirring appeal to the local pride of the wealthy residents of the city, the school nine had an abundant supply of money for all needs.

Through the columns of “The Blade” Prescott warmed up local interest effectively. Tickets sold well ahead of the time for the meeting with Gardiner City High School.

“Prescott, you’ve been picked to pitch for the Gardiner game,” Coach Luce informed the sophomore. “We’re going to have almost the hardest rub of the season with this nine, on account of its being our first game. Gardiner City has played two games already, and her men have their diamond nerve with them. Keep yourself in shape, Mr. Prescott. Don’t take any even slight chance of getting out of condition.”

“You may be sure I won’t,” Dick replied, his eyes glowing. “You know, Mr. Luce, that, though I played some on second football team last fall, this is the first chance I’ve had to play on the regular team.”

“As the game is close at hand,” continued the coach, “I’d even be careful not to train too much. You’re in as fine condition, now, as you can be this season. Sometimes, just in keeping up training, a fellow has something happen to him that lays him up for a few days.”

“It won’t happen to me, sir,” Dick asserted. “I’m going to take care of myself as if I were glass, until the Gardiner game is over.”

“You won’t get too nervous, will you?”

“I may be a bit, before the game,” Dick confessed, candidly.

“But after the game starts?”

“Once the game opens, I shall forget that there’s any such fellow as Prescott, sir. I shall be just a part of Gridley, with nothing individual about me.”

“Good! I like to hear you talk that way,” laughed Mr. Luce. “I hope you’ll be able to keep up to it when you go to the diamond. Once the game opens, don’t let yourself have a single careless moment. Any single point we can get away from Gardiner will have to be done by just watching for it. You saw them play last year?”

“I did,” Prescott nodded. “Gridley won, four to three, and until the last half of the last inning we had only one run. I thought nothing could save us that day.”

“Nothing did,” replied the coach, “except the hard and fast can’t-lose tradition of Gridley.”

“We’re not going to lose this time, either,” Dick declared. “I know that I’m going to strike out a string in every inning. If I go stale, you have Darrin to fall back on, and he’s as baffling a pitcher as I can hope to be. And Ripley is a wonder.”

“He would be,” nodded Mr. Luce, sadly, “if he were a better base runner at the same time.”

It seemed as though nothing else could be talked of in Gridley but the opening game. Just because it was the starter of the season the local military band, reinforced to thirty-five pieces, was to be on hand to give swing and life to the affair.

“Are you going, Laura?” Dick asked, when he met Miss Bentley.

“Am I going?” replied Laura, opening her eyes in amazement. “Why, Dick, do you think anything but pestilence or death could keep me away? Father is going to take Belle and myself. The seats are already bought.”

Prescott’s own parents were to attend. Out of his newspaper money he had bought them grand stand seats, and some one else had been engaged to attend in the store while the game was on.

“You’ll have a great chance, Dick, old fellow, against a nine like Gardiner,” said Dave Darrin. “And, do you know, I’m glad it’s up to you to pitch? I’m afraid I’d be too rattled to pitch against a nine like Gardiner in the very first game of the season. All I have to do is to keep at the side and watch you.”

“See here, Dave Darrin,” expostulated his chum, “you keep yourself in the best trim, and make up your mind that you may _have_ to be called before the game is over. What if my wrist goes lame during the game?”

“Pooh! I don’t believe it will, or _can_,” Dave retorted. “You’re in much too fine shape for that, Dick.”

“Other pitchers have often had to be retired before a game ended,” Prescott rejoined, gravely. “And I don’t believe that I am the greatest or the most enduring ever. Keep yourself up, Dave! Be ready for the call at any second.”

“Oh, I will, but it will be needless,” Dave answered.

Dalzell and Holmes were other members of the school nine squad who had been picked for this first game. Purcell was to catch, making perhaps, the strongest battery pair that Gridley High School had ever put in the field. Half of Dick & Co. were to make up a third of the nine in its first battle.

“I’m getting a bit scared,” muttered Dan, the Friday afternoon before the Saturday game.

“Now, cut all that out,” Dick advised. “If you don’t I’ll report you to the coach and captain.”

This was said with a grin, and Dick went on earnestly:

“Dan, the scared soldier is always a mighty big drag in any battle. It takes two or three other good soldiers to look after him and hold him to duty.”

“I’ll admit, for myself, that I wish the druggist knew of some sort of pill that would give me more confidence for this confounded old first game,” muttered Greg Holmes.

“I can tell you how to get the pill put up,” Prescott hinted.

“I wish you would, then.” But Greg spoke dubiously.

“Tell the druggist to use tragacanth paste to hold the pill together.”

“Yes?—–” followed Greg.

“And tell the druggist to mix into each pill a pound of good old Yankee ginger,” wound up Prescott. “Take four, an hour apart before the game to-morrow.”

“Then I’d never play left field,” grinned Greg.

“Yes, you would. You’d forget your nervousness. Try it, Greg.”

The three were walking up Main Street, when they encountered Laura Bentley and Belle Meade.

“What are you going to do to-morrow?” asked Laura, looking at the trio, keenly. “Are you going to win for the glory and honor of good old Gridley?”

“Dick is,” smiled Greg. “Dan and I are going to sit at the side and use foot-warmers.”

“You two aren’t losing heart, are you?” asked Belle, looking at Dick Prescott’s companions with some scorn.

“N-n-not if you girls are all going to take things as seriously as that,” protested Greg.

“Every Gridley High School girl expects the nine to win to-morrow,” spoke Laura almost sternly.

“Then we’re going to win,” affirmed Dan Dalzell. “On second thought, I’ll sell my footwarmers at half the cost price.”

“That’s the way to talk,” laughed Belle. “Now, remember, boys—though Dick doesn’t need to have his backbone stiffened—if you boys haven’t pride enough in Gridley to carry you through anything, the Gridley High School girls are heart and soul in the game. If you lose the game to-morrow don’t any of you ever show up again at a class dance!”

The girls went away laughing, yet they meant what they said. Gridley girls were baseball fans and football rooters of the most intense sort.

Dave wanted to be abed by half past eight that evening, as Coach Luce had requested; but about a quarter past eight, just as he was about to retire, his mother discovered that she needed coffee for the next morning’s breakfast, so she sent him to the grocer’s on the errand. Dick, while eating supper, thought of an item that he wanted to print in the next day’s “Blade.” Accordingly, he hurried to the newspaper office as soon as the meal was over. It was ten minutes past eight when Dick handed in his copy to the night editor.

“Time enough,” muttered the boy, as he reached the street. “A brisk jog homeward is just the thing before pulling off clothes and dropping in between the sheets.”

As Dick jogged along he remembered having noticed, on the way to the office, Tip Scammon in a new suit of clothes.

“Tip’s stock is coming up in the world,” thought young Prescott. “But I wonder whether Tip earned that suit or stole it, or whether he has just succeeded in threatening more money out of Ripley. How foolish Fred is to stand for blackmail! I wonder if I ought to speak to him about it, or give his father a hint. I hate to be meddlesome. And, by ginger! Now I think of it, Tip looked rather curiously at me. He—oh!—_murder_!”

The last exclamation was wrung from Dick Prescott by a most amazing happening.

He was passing a building in the course of erection. It stood flush with the sidewalk, and the contractor had laid down a board walk over the sidewalk, and had covered it with a roofed staging.

Just as Dick passed under this, still on a lope, a long pole was thrust quickly out from the blackness inside the building. Between Dick’s moving legs went the pole.

Bump! Down came Dick, on both hands and one knee. Then he rolled over sideways.

Away back in the building the young pitcher heard fast-moving feet.

In a flash Dick tried to get up. It took him more time than he had expected. He clutched at one of the upright beams for support.

Half a dozen people had seen the fall. Stopping curiously, they soon turned, hurrying toward Prescott.

Forgotten, in an instant, was the youngster’s pain. His face went white with another throbbing realization.

“The game to-morrow! This knee puts me out!”



“Oh, no! That mustn’t be. I’ve got to pitch in to-morrow’s game!”

Prescott ground out the words between his clenched teeth. The consciousness of pain was again asserting itself.

“What’s the matter, Prescott?” called the first passer-by to reach him.

“Matter enough,” grumbled Dick, pointing to the pole that lay near him. “See that thing?”

“Yes. Trip over it?”

“I did. But some one thrust it between my legs as I was running past here.”

“Sho!” exclaimed another, curiously. “Now, who would want to do that?”

“Anyone who didn’t want me to pitch to-morrow’s game, perhaps,” flashed Dick, with sudden divination.

“What’s this?” demanded a boy, breaking in through the small crowd that was collecting. “Dick—you hurt?”

It didn’t take Dave many seconds to understand the situation.

“I’ll bet I know who did it!” he muttered, vengefully.

“Who?” spoke up one of the men.

But Dick gave a warning nudge. “Oh, well!” muttered Dave Darrin. “We’ll settle this thing all in our own good time.”

“Let me have your arm, Dave,” begged young Prescott. “I want to see how well I can walk.”

The young pitcher had already been experimenting, cautiously, to see how much weight he could bear on his injured left leg.

“Take my arm on the other side,” volunteered a sympathetic man in the crowd.

Dick was about to do so, when the lights of an auto showed as the machine came close to the curb.

“Here’s a doctor,” called some one.

“Which one?” asked Dick.


“Good!” muttered Dave. “Dr. Bentley is medical examiner to the High School athletic teams. Ask Dr. Bentley if he won’t come in here. Stand still, Dick, and put all the weight you can on your sound leg.”

Prescott was already doing this.

Dr. Bentley, a strong looking man of about fifty, rather short though broad-shouldered, took a quick survey of the situation.

“One of you men help me put Prescott in the tonneau of my car,” he directed, “and come along with me to Prescott’s home. The lad must not step on that leg until it has been looked at.”

Dick found himself being lifted and placed in a comfortable seat in the after part of the auto. Dave and the man who had helped the physician got in with him.

Barely a minute later Dr. Bentley stopped his car before the Prescott book store.

“You stay in the car a minute,” directed the physician. “I want to speak to your mother, so she won’t be scared to death.”

Mrs. Prescott, from whom Dick had inherited much of his own pluck, was not the kind of woman to faint. She quickly followed Dr. Bentley from the store.

“I’m hurt only in my feelings, mother,” said Dick cheerfully. “I’m afraid I have a little wrench that will keep me out of the game tomorrow.”

“That’s almost a tragedy, I know,” replied Mrs. Prescott bravely.

The physician directing, the boy was lifted from the car, while Mrs. Prescott went ahead to open the door.

Dave Darrin followed, his eyes flashing. Dave had his own theory to account for this state of affairs.

Into his own room Dick was carried, and laid on the bed. Mrs. Prescott remained outside while Dave helped undress his chum.

“Now, let us see just how bad this is,” mused the physician aloud.

“It isn’t so very bad,” smiled Dick. “I wouldn’t mind at all, if it weren’t for the game to-morrow. I’ll play, anyway.”

“Huh!” muttered Dave, incredulously.

Dr. Bentley was running his fingers over the left knee, which looked rather red.

“Does this hurt? Does this? Or this” inquired the medical man, pressing on different parts of the knee.

“No,” Dick answered, in each case.

“We don’t want grit, my boy. We want the truth.”

“Why, no; it doesn’t hurt,” Dick insisted. “I believe I could rub that knee a little, and then walk on it.”

“I hope that’s right,” Dave muttered, half incredulously.

Dr. Bentley made some further examination before he stated:

“I knew there was nothing broken there, but I feared that the ligaments of the knee had been strained. That might have put you out of the game for the season, Prescott.”

“I’ll be able to sprint in the morning,” declared the young pitcher, with spirit.

“You fell on your hands, as well, didn’t you?” asked the physician.

“Yes, sir.”

“That saved you from worse trouble, then. The ligaments are not torn at all. The worst you’ve met with, Prescott, is a wrench of the knee, and there’s a little swelling. It hurt to stand on your foot when you first tried to do so, didn’t it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“It would probably hurt a little less, now. No—don’t try it,” as Dick started to bolster himself up. “You want that knee in shape at the earliest moment, don’t you?”

“Of course I do, doctor.”

“Then lie very quiet, and do, in everything, just what you are told.”

“I’ve got to pitch to-morrow afternoon, you know, doctor. And I’ve got to run bases.”

Dr. Bentley pursed his lips.

“There’s a chance in a thousand that you’ll be able, Prescott. The slight swelling is the worst thing we have to deal with, I’m glad to say. We’ll have to keep the leg pretty quiet, and put cold compresses on frequently.”

“I’ll stay here and do it,” volunteered Dave, promptly.

“You have to pitch to-morrow, Dave, if anything _should_ make the coach order me off the field,” interposed Dick, anxiously. “And you ought to be home and in bed now.”

“If Mrs. Prescott will put on the bandages up to one o’clock to-night that will be doing well enough,” suggested Dr. Bentley. “I shall be in to look at the young man quite early in the morning. But don’t attempt to get up for anything, do you understand, Prescott? You know—” here Dr. Bentley assumed an air of authority—” I’m more than the mere physician. I’m medical director to your nine. So you’re in duty bound to follow my orders to the letter.”

“I will—if you’ll promise me that I can pitch,” promised the boy fervently.

“I can’t promise, but I’ll do my best.”

“And, Dave,” pressed Dick, “you’ll skip home, now, and get a big night’s rest, won’t you? There’s a bare chance that you _might_ have to throw the ball to-morrow. But I won’t let you, if I can stop it,” Prescott added wistfully.

So Dave departed, for he was accustomed to following the wishes of the head of Dick & Co. in such matters.

Mrs. Prescott had come in as soon as the lad had been placed between the sheets. Dr. Bentley gave some further directions, then left something that would quiet the pain without having the effect of an opiate.

“It all depends on keeping the leg quiet and keeping the cold compresses renewed,” were the medical man’s parting words.

Twenty minutes later Dave telephoned the store below. Darrin was in a state of great excitement.

“Tell Dick, when he’s awake in the morning,” begged Dave of Mr. Prescott, who answered the call, “that Gridley pitchers seem to be in danger to-night. At least, _two_ of ’em are. I was right near home, and running a bit, when I passed the head of the alley near our house. A bag of sand was thrown out right in front of my feet. How I did it I don’t quite know yet, but I jumped over that bag, and came down on my feet beyond it. It was a fearfully close call, though. No; I guess you hadn’t better tell Dick to-night. But you can tell him in the morning.”

Though “The Blade” somehow missed the matter, there were a good many in Gridley who had heard the news by Saturday morning. It traveled especially among the High School boys. More than a dozen of them were at the book store as soon as that place was opened.

“How’s Dick?” asked all the callers.

“Doing finely,” replied the elder Prescott, cheerily.

“Great! Is he going to pitch this afternoon?”

“Um—I can’t say about that.”

“If he can’t, Mr. Prescott, that’ll be one of Gridley’s chances gone over the fence.”

Dave was on hand as early as he could be. Dick had already been told of the attempt on his chum the night before.

“You didn’t see the fellow well enough to make out who he was?” Prescott pressed eagerly.

“No,” admitted Dave, sadly. “After a few seconds I got over my bewilderment enough to try to give chase. But the dastard had sneaked away, cat-foot. I know who it was, though, even if I didn’t see him.”

“Tip Scammon?”

“Surely,” nodded Darrin. “He’s Ripley’s right hand at nasty work, isn’t he?”

“I’d hate to think that Fred had a hand in such mean business,” muttered Dick, flushing.

“Don’t be simple,” muttered Dave. “Who wanted to be crack pitcher for the nine? Who pitches to-day, if neither of us can? That would be a mean hint to throw out, if Ripley’s past conduct didn’t warrant the suspicion.”

Later in the morning there was another phase of the sensation, and Dave came back with it. He was just in time to find Dick walking out into the little parlor of the flat, Dr. Bentley watching.

“Fine!” cheered Dave. “How is he, doctor?”

“Doing nicely,” nodded Dr. Bentley.

“But how about the big problem—can he pitch to-day?”

“That’s what we’re trying to guess,” replied the physician. “Now, see here, Prescott, you’re to sit over there by the window, in the sunlight. During the first hour you will get up once in every five minutes and walk around the room once, then seating yourself again. In the second hour, you’ll walk around twice, every five minutes. After that you may move about as much as you like, but don’t go out of the room. I think you can, by this gentle exercise, work out all the little stiffness that’s left there.”

“And now for my news,” cried Dave, as soon as the medical man had gone. “Fred Ripley ran into trouble, too.”

“Got hurt, you mean?” asked Dick quickly.

“Not quite,” went on Darrin, making a face. “When Fred was going into the house last night he tripped slightly—against a rope that had been stretched across the garden path between two stakes.”

“But Fred wasn’t hurt?”

“No; he says he tripped, but he recovered himself.”

“I’m afraid you don’t believe that, Dave?”

“I ought to, anyway,” retorted Darrin dryly. “Fred is showing the rope.”

“A piece of rope is easy enough to get,” mused Dick.

“Yep; and a lie is easy enough for some fellows to tell. But some of the fellows are inclined to believe Rip, so they’ve started a yarn that Gardiner High School is up to tricks, and that some fellows have been sent over in advance to cripple our box men for to-day.”

“That’s vile!” flushed Prescott indignantly, as he got up to make the circuit of the room. “The Gardiner fellows have always been good, fair sportsmen. They wouldn’t be back of any tricks of that sort.”

“Well, Fred has managed to cover himself, anyway,” returned Dave rather disgustedly. “He called his father and mother out to see the rope before he cut it away from the stakes. Oh, I guess a good many fellows will believe Ripley’s yarn!”

“I’m afraid you don’t, Dave;”

“Oh, yes; I’m easy,” grinned Darrin.

“Can you see two young ladies, Richard?” asked Mrs. Prescott, looking into the room.

“Certainly, mother, if I get a chance. My vision is not impaired in the least,” laughed Dick.

Mrs. Prescott stood aside to admit Laura and Belle, then followed them into the room.

“We came to make sure that Gridley is not to lose its great pitcher to-day,” announced Laura.

“Then your father must have told you that I’d do,” cried Dick, eagerly.

“Father?” pouted Miss Bentley. “You don’t know him then. One can never get a word out of father about any of his patients. But he said we might call.”

The visit of the girls brightened up twenty minutes of the morning.

“Of course,” said Laura, as they rose to go, “you mustn’t attempt to pitch if you really can’t do it, or if it would hurt you for future games.”

“I’m afraid the coach won’t let me pitch, unless your father says I can,” murmured Dick, with a wry face.

Few in Gridley who knew the state of affairs had any idea that Dick Prescott would be able to stand in the box against Gardiner. But the young pitcher boarded a trolley car, accompanied by Dave Darrin, and both reached the Athletic Field before two o’clock. Dr. Bentley was there soon after. In the Gridley dressing room, Dick’s left leg was bared, while Coach Luce drew off his coat and rolled up his shirt sleeves. Under the physician’s direction the coach administered a very thorough massage, following this with an alcohol rubbing.

When it was all over Dick rose to exhibit the motions of that leg before the eyes of the doubtful physician.



“Is Prescott going to toss!”

“They say not.”

“It’s a shame.”

“And there’s a suspicion,” whispered one of the High School speakers, “that the other name of the shame is Fred Ripley.”

“He ought to be lynched!”

“But he claims that an attempt was made against him, also.”

“Ripley never was strong on the truth.”

Though the gossip about Fred Ripley was not general, the anxiety over Pitcher Prescott was heard on all sides.

“It’ll be a sure hoodoo if Prescott can’t pitch the season’s first game,” declared a man who seldom missed a High School game on the home diamond.

Before three o’clock the grand stand was comfortably filled. The cheaper seats beyond held about as many spectators as they were built to hold.

The attendance, that day, was nearly three thousand. Gardiner had sent a delegation of nearly one-tenth of this number.

Before three o’clock the band began to play. Whenever the musicians launched into a popular baseball ditty the crowd joined with the words.

“Prescott is going to pitch!”

“No, he isn’t.”

“The word has just been passed around. Besides, his name’s down on the score card.”

“The score cards were printed yesterday.”

Finally, curiosity could stand it no longer. A committee left the grand stand to go toward the dressing rooms building. But a policeman waved them back.

“None but players and officials allowed in there,” declared the officer.

“We want to find out whether Prescott is going to pitch,” urged the spokesman.

“I heard something about that,” admitted the policeman.

“What was it? Quick!”

“Let me see. Oh! Prescott wants to pitch; the coach is half willing, but the doctor ain’t certain.”

This was the best they could do, so the committee returned to their seats. But nothing was settled.

At three-twenty, just as the band ceased playing, the compact bunch of Gardiner fans sent up the yell:

“Here they come! Our fellows! The only ones!”

Using their privilege as visiting team, the Gardiner players were now filing on to the field for a little warming-up practice.

“Throw him down, McCluskey!” tooted the band, derisively. But the cheers from the wild Gardiner fans nearly drowned out the instrumental racket. Quickly the visitors had a practice ball in motion. Now the home fans waited breathlessly.

At last the band played again. “See the Conquering Hero Comes!”

Gridley High School, natty and clean looking in their gray and black uniforms, with black stockings, caps and belts, came out on the field. Instantly there was craning of necks to see if Prescott were among the players.

“There he is!” yelled one of the High School fans. “There’s our Dick! Wow!”

Cheering went up from every Gridley seat. The bleachers contributed a bedlam of noise. “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow!” blared forth the band. Girls and women stood up, waving fans, handkerchiefs, banners. Another round of cheering started. Dick walked quietly, looking neither to right nor left. Yet the boy was wondering, in astonishment, if kings usually got such a welcome.

By the time the cheering had ceased, Fred Ripley, also in uniform, strolled out and walked toward the sub bench.

A hiss greeted Ripley. It was not loud, nor insistent, and presently died out. But Fred went as white as a sheet, then, with eyes cast downward, he dropped to his seat at the end of the sub bench. His chest heaved, for the greeting had unnerved him.

“I wonder why I usually get that sort of thing, while that fellow Prescott has a band to play him in,” muttered Fred.

The bulk of the audience was now quiet, while the three hundred visiting fans roared out one of their school yells.

Then followed a noisy whooping of the Gridley High School yell.

Coach Luce had walked over to a post behind the sub bench.

Umpire Foley, his mask dangling from his left hand, now summoned Purcell and the Gardiner captain. A coin spun up in the air. Gardiner’s diamond chieftain won the toss, and chose first chance at the bat. Purcell’s men scattered to their fielding posts, while the young captain of the home team fastened on his catcher’s mask.

The umpire took a ball from its package, inspected it, then tossed it to Dick Prescott, who stood in the box awaiting it. There was a moment’s tense expectation, followed by the command that set all the real fans wild:

“_Play ball_!”

Gardiner High School had put up a husky young giant who stood beside the plate, a confident grin on his face as he swung the bat.

Dick moistened his fingers. The batsman saw that, and guessed what was coming. He didn’t guess quite low enough, however, for, though he stooped and swung the stick lower, the ball went under it by three inches.

“Strike one!” called Mr. Foley, judicially.

An imperceptible signal told Purcell what was coming next. Then it came—a jump ball. This time Gardiner’s batsman aimed low enough but it proved to be a jump ball.

“Strike two!”

A howl of glee went up from all quarters, save from the Gardiner visitors.

Again Dick signaled. His third was altogether different—a bewildering out-curve. Gardiner’s batsman didn’t offer, but Purcell caught the leather neatly.

“Strike three, and out! One out!” announced the umpire.

“Whoop!” The joy from the home fans was let loose. With a disgusted look, Gardiner’s man slouched back to the players’ bench.



In that half of the inning it was one, two, three—down and out!

Even Fred Ripley found himself gasping with admiration of Prescott’s wonderfully true pitching.

Yet the joy of the home fans was somewhat curbed when Gridley went to bat and her third man struck out after two of the nine had reached bases.

So the first inning closed without score. Gardiner had found that Gridley was “good,” and the latter realized that even young Prescott’s pitching could not do it all.

The first five innings went off quickly, neither side scoring.

“It’ll be a tie at dark,” sighed some of the fans.

“Oh, well, a tie doesn’t score against Gridley,” others added, consolingly.

In the five innings Dick Prescott had to run twice. The first time he was left at first base. The second time he had reached second, and was cautiously stealing third, when Gridley’s batsman, Captain Purcell, struck his side out on a foul hit.

“How’s your wrist holding up?” asked Purcell, in a low tone, as Dick came in.

“It feels strong.

“Do you think Darrin had better have the rest of the game?”

“Not on account of my wrist.”

“But can you run the bases to the end?”

“If it doesn’t call for any more running than we’ve had,” smiled Dick.

Then he caught the ball, held it an instant, signaled, and let drive. It was the same Gardiner batsman whom Prescott had struck out at the opening of the game. This time the young giant got the range of the ball by sheer good guessing.

Crack! It soared. Right field ran backward after the ball. Now the Gardiner fans were up and yelling like Comanches.

“Leg it, Prendergast!”

The runner touched first bag, then darted on for second. Right field was still after the ball.

“Whoop! He’s pulverized the second bag!”

“Just look at third, old man, and come steaming home over the plate!”

That runner had been well trained. He was close upon third base and going with unabated speed.

He kicked the bag—then a warning cry told him that right field had the ball.

A swift look over his shoulder, and Prendergast fell back upon third just before the ball dropped into the third baseman’s hands.

“Safe on third!” came the umpire’s announcement. The ball arched over to Dick Prescott. Purcell signaled him to let the ball come in over the plate.

Now the air was all a-tingle. The visitors had a run in sight. Dick felt the thrill, but steeled himself against any impulsiveness or loss of nerve. He signaled the drive, then let go. Three strikes and out, the ball all the while so closely under control that Prendergast fidgeted but did not dare steal far from third.

Then came Dowdy to the bat. He was far and away the best batsman from Gardiner. Prendergast began to edge in.

“Strike one!” from the umpire.

Crack! The leather hung low, a little to the left of shortstop, who raced after it. Prendergast was going in at a tremendous clip. As shortstop reached the ball, he swooped down on it, stopped its rolling, and rising quickly, hurled it in across the plate.

Purcell was waiting, and made a good catch. It looked close. Everyone eyed Umpire Foley.

“Runner safe home,” he decided.

There was a gasp of disappointment, but the decision was fair. Prendergast had made good by a fraction of a second—and there was a man on first.

“Oh, Dick! Oh, Prescott!” wailed the home fans. “We look to you.”

Dick’s answer was to strike the next man out, with never a chance for the man on first to steal away from Dalzell and make second. Then a short fly filled first and second. Dick struck out a second man—then a third.

But this was getting on Gridley’s nerves. Despite Prescott’s fine pitching, it began to look as though Gardiner High School was fitted for getting the only one or two runs that the game would witness.

In the eighth, Gardiner got a second run, but that inning closed with Gridley as much “stumped” as ever.

“Why play the ninth?” yelled one of the visitor fans. “Let’s go and drink tea. Gridley boys are nice little fellows, but—–“

“How’s that wrist?” asked Captain Purcell, anxiously, as the players changed places to begin the ninth. Coach Luce had stepped close, too, and looked anxious.

“Just a bit lame, of course,” Dick admitted. “But I’m going to pull through.”

“You’re sure about it?” Purcell asked.

“Sure enough!”

The first Gardiner man to bat went out on the third ball sent past him. Then a second. Now came Prendergast to the bat, blood in his eye. He glared grimly at young Prescott, as though to say:

“Now, I’ll take it out of you for making a comedian of me the first time I held the stick!”

Dick felt, somehow, that Prendergast would make good.

The first ball that Prescott put over the plate was a called strike. At the second serve—

Crack! and Prendergast was running.

Dan Dalzell gauged the flight of that ball better than anyone else on the diamond. He side-stepped like a flash, falling back a couple of paces. Then pulling the leather down out of the air, he leaped back to first. He was holding the ball in his left hand when Prendergast, breathing fast, hopped at the bag.

“Runner out!” called Umpire Foley. Prendergast stamped back, with a look of huge disgust. And now Gridley came in at the bat.

“It’s no use! We’re whipped!” That was the comment everywhere as Gridley came in from the field prepared for a last effort.

Gridley’s first and second men went bad—the first struck out, and the second knocked a foul bit that was caught.

“Greg, you’ve got to go to bat next,” whispered Dick to Holmes, just a moment before. “Oh, _don’t_ you strike out. Hit something drive it somewhere. Remember Gridley can’t and won’t lose! Get the Gridley spirit soaked into you instanter. Chase that leather _somewhere_!”

Gardiner’s pitcher, his face beaming, faced Holmes, whom he did not regard as one of the team’s heavyweights in batting skill. Visiting fans were rising, preparing to leave the stand.

“Strike one!”

“There he goes!”

“Strike two!”

“It’s all over.”

Crack! Greg was off like a colt. Running was in his line. He had swatted the ball somewhere over into left field, and he didn’t care where it landed. Gardiner’s left field was forced to pick up the leather.

Greg didn’t know that anyone had the ball. He didn’t care; he had to make first, anyway.

He kicked the bag, turning for the second lap. Then he saw the sphere coming through the air, and slid back.

“Runner safe on first!”

Gridley, with its nerve always on hand, felt that there was a ray of hope. The good, old, strong and fierce school yell went up. The soprano voices of the girls sounded high on the air.

Now Dan Dalzell came up to the plate, bat in hand. Dan hadn’t hit a thing during the afternoon, but he meant to do so, now. It was either that or the swan-song!

“Strike one!—” a groan came from Gridley, a cheer from Gardiner.

But Dan was not in the least confused. He was ready for the next ball.

_Biff_! It was the pistol shot for Greg, who was off like a two-legged streak, with Dan, ninety feet behind but striving to catch up. The ball came to first only a quarter-second behind Dan’s arrival.

“Both runners safe!”

“Oh, now, _Purcell_!”

The man now hovering over the plate knew he simply _had_ to do something. He was captain of the nine. He had caught like a Pinkerton detective all afternoon, but now something was demanded of his brain and brawn.

“Strike one!” called the umpire, with voice that grated.


“Strike two!” came again the umpire’s rasping tones.

Even now Gridley fans wouldn’t admit cold feet, but the chills were starting that way.


“Whoop!” Then the battle-cry of Gridley rose frantically from all the seats—Purcell had made first base.


“It’s yours!”

“_Don’t_ fall down!”

Schimmelpodt, a wealthy old German contractor, rose from his seat, shouting hoarsely:

“Bresgott I gif fifdy tollars by dot Athletic Committee bis you win der game vor Gridley!”

The offer brought a laugh and a cheer. Schimmelpodt rarely threw away money.

Dick, smiling confidently, stood bat in hand.

Most other boys might have felt nervous with so much depending on them. But Dick was one of the kind who would put off growing nervous until the need of steady nerves was past.

It was always impossible for him to admit defeat.

The game stood two to nothing in favor of the Gardiner nine, but Gridley had bases full.

Dick’s help might not have been needed for all the uneasiness that he displayed.

There was no pallor about his face, nor any flush. His hands grasped the willow easily, confidently.

“Strike one!”

Prescott had missed the ball, but it failed to rattle him.

“Strike two!”

The boy was still undaunted, though he had lost two chances out of the three.

Again he tried for the ball.

Swish! It was a foul hit, out sidewise. Gardiner’s catcher darted nimbly in under the ball.

Home fans groaned.

As for Dick, he didn’t turn his head to look. Catcher had the ball in his fingers, but fumbled it. It slipped.

“Hard luck,” muttered the standing Gardiner fans, waiting to give their final cheer of victory.

Dick’s next sight of the ball was when it sailed lazily over his head, into the hands of the man in the box.

“I hope Dick is bracing,” groaned one of Gridley’s subs.

“He isn’t,” retorted Dave Darrin. “He’s just on the job, steady as iron, cool as a cucumber and confident as an American.”

Gardiner’s pitcher measured his man critically, then signaled the next ball.

It came, just as Dick, closely watching the pitcher, expected it to come, a swift, graceful out-curve.


At least it sounded like a gunshot. Dick Prescott struck the ball with all his might. He struck with greatest force just barely below the center of the sphere.

It was a fearful crack, aimed right and full of steam and speed.


Three base-runners, at the first sound had started running for all they were worth. Dick’s bat flew like a projectile itself, fortunately hitting no one, and Prescott was running like Greek of old on the Olympic field.

One man in!

The ball had gone past the furthest limits of outfield. Before it had touched the ground Dick Prescott touched first and started for second.

Gardiner right and left fields were running a race with center field.

The latter was the one to get it, but his two supporters simply couldn’t stand still.

Prescott kicked the second bag. Almost at the same instant the second man was in.

Score tied!

What about that ball?

It was rolling on the ground, now, many yards ahead of the flying center-field.

Dick was nearing third, the man ahead of him fast nearing the home plate.

Centerfield had the ball in his hands, whirling as if on springs.

Third man safe home—Dick Prescott turning the third bag and into the last leg of the diamond.

Center-field threw with all his might, but the distance was long.

Second base had to stoop for the ball. Even at that, it got past his hands. He wheeled, bolted after the ball, got it and made a throw to the catcher.

Out of the corner of his eyes, young Prescott saw the arching ball descend, a good throw and a true one.

Yet, ere it landed in the catcher’s hand, Dick, by the fraction of a second, had sprinted desperately across the home plate.

“Runner safe home!”

“Whoo-oopee! Wow! wow! wow!” rang the chorus of thousands.

“Four to two!”

“What about Gridley, _now_?”

“What about Dick Prescott?”

Then words were lost in volleys of cheers. The Gardiner fans who had risen to cheer slipped dejectedly down from the stand.

And Dick Prescott?

While running he had given no thought to his knee.

Now, as he dashed across the plate, and heard the umpire’s decision, he tried to stop, but slipped and went down. He tried to rise, but found it would be better to sit where he was.

The game was over. Gridley, having made the winning runs in the last half of the ninth, the rules of the game forbade any further attempts to pile up score.

One of the first of the great crowd to leap over into the field and cross the diamond was Coach Luce. He ran straight to the young pitcher’s side, kneeling close by him.

“You’ve given your knee a fearful twist, Prescott. I could see it,” said Luce sympathetically.

“What do I care?” Dick called back, his face beaming. “The score’s safe, isn’t it?”

Had it not been for the state of his knee Prescott would have been snatched up by a dozen hands and rushed across the field in triumph. But Mr. Luce waved them all back. Dick’s father and mother came hurrying across the field to see what was wrong with their boy.

“Let me lean on you as I get up, Mr. Luce,” begged Dick, and the coach was only too quick to help the boy to his feet. Then, with the aid of Luce’s arm, Dick was able to show his parents that he could walk without too much of a limp.

“You did it for us, Dick, old boy!” greeted Captain Purcell, as soon as he could get close.

“Did I?” snorted the young pitcher. “I thought there were four of us in it, with five others helping a bit.”

“It was the crack you gave that ball that brought us in,” glowed Purcell. “Gracious, I don’t believe that Gardiner pitcher was ever stung as badly as that before!”

The band was playing, now. As the strain stopped, and the young pitcher came across the field, leaning now on Dave Darrin’s arm, the music crashed out again into “Hail to the Chief!”

“You see, Purcell. You’re getting your share of the credit now,” laughed Dick. “The band is playing something about a captain, isn’t it?”

In the dressing room Dick had abundant offers of help. Fred Ripley was the only silent one in the group. He changed his togs for street clothes as quickly as he could and disappeared. Later, Dave Darrin and Greg Holmes helped Dick on to a street car, and saw him safely home. That knee required further treatment by Dr. Bentley, but there was time, now, and no game depending on the result.

“Fred, I can’t say much for your appetite tonight,” remarked his father at the evening meal.

“Neither can I, sir,” Fred answered.

“Are you out of sorts?”

“Never felt any better, sir.”

“Being out in the open air all this April afternoon should have given you an appetite.

“I didn’t do anything this afternoon, except sit around in my ball togs,” Fred grumbled.

“I hope you’ll have a few good games to pitch this season,” his father went on. “You worked hard enough, and I spent money enough on the effort to prepare you.”

“You can’t beat some people’s luck—unless you do it with a club,” grumbled Fred, absently.

“Eh?” asked his father, looking up sharply from his plate. But the boy did not explain.

Late that night, however, breaking training rules for the tenth time, Fred was out on the sly to meet Tip Scammon. The pair of them laid plans that aimed to stop Dick Prescott’s career as High School pitcher.



Mr. Schimmelpodt had offered that fifty dollars in a moment of undue excitement.

For two or three days afterward he wondered if he couldn’t find some way out of “spending” the money that would yet let him keep his self-respect.

Finding, at last, that he could not, he wrote out the check and mailed it. He pinned the check to a half-sheet of paper on which he wrote, “Rah mit Prescott!”

A few days later Mr. Schimmelpodt turned from Main Street into the side street on which Dick’s parents kept their store and their home.

“Ach! Und dere is de door vot that boy lives by,” thought Mr. Schimmelpodt, just before he passed Dick’s door. “Yen der game over was, und I saw dot boy go down—ach!”

For Mr. Schimmelpodt had suited the action to the word. Out from under him his feet shot. But Mr. Schimmelpodt, being short and flabby of leg, with a bulky body above, came down as slowly as big bodies are supposed to move. It was rather a gradual tumble. Having so much fat on all portions of his body Mr. Schimmelpodt came down with more astonishment than jar.

“Ach! Such a slipperyishness!” he grunted. “Hey, Bresgott—! look out!”

The door had opened suddenly at this early hour in the morning. Dick, charged with doing a breakfast errand for his mother at the last moment, sprang down the steps and started to sprint away.

At the first step on the sidewalk, however, Dick’s landing foot shot out from under him.

He tried to bring the other down in time to save himself. That, too, slipped. Dick waved his arms, wind-mill fashion in the quick effort to save himself.

“Bresgott,” observed the seated contractor, solemnly, “I bet you five tollars to den cents dot you—–“

Here Schimmelpodt waited until Dick settled the question of the center of gravity by sprawling on the sidewalk.

“—Dot you fall,” finished the German, gravely. “I—Und I yin!”

“Why, good morning, Mr. Schimmelpodt,” Dick responded, as he started to get up. “What are you doing here.”

“Oh, choost vaiting to see bis you do the same thing,” grunted the contractor. “It was great sport—not?”

“Decidedly ‘not,'” laughed Dick, stepping gingerly over a sidewalk that had been spread thinly with some sticky substance. “Can I help you up, Mr. Schimmelpodt?”

The German, who knew his own weight, glanced at the boy’s slight figure rather doubtfully.

“Bresgott, how many horsepower are you alretty?”

But Dick, standing carefully so that he would not slip again, displayed more strength than the contractor had expected. In another moment the German was on his feet, moving cautiously away, his eyes on the sidewalk. Yet he did not forget to mutter his thanks to the boy.

As Dick now went on his way again, slipping around the corner and into a bakeshop, he noticed that his right wrist felt a bit queer.

“Well, I haven’t broken anything,” he murmured, feeling of the wrist with his left hand. “But what on earth happened to the sidewalk.”

As he paused before his door on the way back, he looked carefully down at the sidewalk. Right before the door several flags in the walk appeared to be thinly coated with some colorless specimen of slime.

“It looks as though it might be soft soap,” pondered Prescott, examining the stuff more closely. “It’ll be dry in a half an hour more, but I think I had better fix it.”

In the basement was a barrel of sand that was used for sanding the icy sidewalk in winter. As soon as Dick had run upstairs with the bread he went below, got a few handfuls of sand and fixed the sidewalk.

At recess Dick noticed just enough about his wrist to make him speak about it to Submaster Luce.

“Let me see it,” demanded coach. “Hm!” he muttered. “Another peculiar accident, and only two days before our game with Chichester! See Dr. Bentley about your wrist at his office this afternoon. I’m beginning to think, Prescott, that it’s a fortunate thing for you that the medical director is paid out of the fund. You’d bankrupt an ordinary citizen if you’re going to keep on having these tumbles.”

Dr. Bentley’s verdict was that, while the wrist was not in a condition that need bother men much in ordinary callings, yet, as a pitcher’s wrist, it would need rest and care.

“I’ve just got the tip that I’m to pitch in the Chichester game,” said Dave, coming to his chum that afternoon.

“Yes; Doe thinks I ought to look after this wrist—that it wouldn’t stand extraordinary strain during the next few days. But, Dave, old fellow, watch out! Keep your eye on the sidewalks near your home. Don’t prowl in lonely places after dark. Act as if you were made of glass until you get on the field at the Chichester game.”

Darrin glanced shrewdly at his friend, then nodded.

“I’m on, Dick! Confound that fellow, Ripley. And he’s as slick and slippery as an eel. I don’t suppose there is any way that we can catch him?”

“If I knew a way I’d use it,” growled Prescott. “I’m sick of having this thing so onesided all the time. Ripley plans, and we pay the piper. The blackguard!”

“Then you’re sure Ripley is at the bottom of these accidents?”

“The accidents are planned,” retorted Dick. “Who else would care to plan them, except that disagreeable fellow?”

“I’d like to get just proof enough to justify me in demanding that he stand up before me for twenty rounds,” gritted Dave Darrin.

Dave did take extraordinary care of himself, and was on hand to pitch at the game with Chichester. This game, like the first, was on the home grounds.

It was a close game, won by Gridley, two to one. In some respects Chichester’s fielding work was better than the home team’s. It was undying grit that won the battle—that and Dave Darrin’s pitching.

As the jubilant home fans left the ball grounds it was the general opinion that Dave Darrin was only the merest shade behind Dick Prescott as a pitcher.

“Either one of them in the box,” said Coach Luce to a friend, “and the game is half won.”

“But how about Ripley?”

“Ripley?” replied the coach. “He made a good showing in the tryouts, but we haven’t had in the field yet. He will be, though, the next game. We play Brayton High School over at Brayton. It’s one of the smaller games, and we’re going to try Ripley there.”

Then the coach added, to himself:

“Ripley is presentable enough, but I believe there’s a big yellow streak in him somewhere. I wouldn’t dare to put Fred into one of the big games requiring all the grit that Prescott or Darrin can show!”



With Ripley in the box Gridley won its third game of the season, beating Brayton High School by a score of five to two.

“It ought to have been a whitewash against a small-fry crowd like Brayton,” Coach Luce confided to Captain Purcell.

“What was our weak spot, Coach?”

“Have you an opinion, Captain?” asked the coach.

“Yes, but I’m afraid I’m wrong.”

“What is your idea?”

“Why, it seemed to me, Mr. Luce, that Ripley went stiff at just the wrong times. Yet I hate to say that, and I am afraid I’m unfair, for Rip surely does throw in some wonderful balls.”

“You’ve struck my idea, anyway,” responded Mr. Luce. “Please don’t say anything about it to the other men. But, between ourselves, Captain, I think we’ll do well to give Ripley few and unimportant chances this season. Most people can’t see where real grit comes in, in baseball”

“Yet you think the lack of grit, or stamina, is just what ails Rip?” asked Captain Purcell keenly.

“You can judge, from what I’ve said,” replied Coach Luce.

“I’m glad then, Coach, for it shows I wasn’t so far off the track in my own private judgment.”

Yet, to hear Fred Ripley tell about the game, it wasn’t such a small affair. He judged his foemen by the fact that they had to contend with _him_.

“Five to two is the safest margin we’ve had yet,” he confided to those who listened to him at the High School. “More than that, we had Brayton tied down so that, at no time in the game, did they have any show to break the score against us. Now, if Luce and Purcell fix it up for me to pitch the real games of the season”

“Oh, cut it out, Rip,” advised one listener, good-naturedly. “Brayton is only a fishball team, anyway. Not a real, sturdy beef-eater in the lot.”

The season moved on briskly now. Dick pitched two games, and Darrin one in between Prescott’s pair. Dick’s first game was won by a score of one to nothing; his second game, the return date against Gardiner, was a tie. The game in which Darrin pitched was won by a score of three to two.

Then came a game with a team not much above Brayton’s standing.

“Prescott and Darrin must be saved for some of the bigger games,” decided Coach Luce. “Purcell, don’t you think it will be safe to trust Ripley to pitch against Cedarville High School?”

“Yes,” nodded the captain of the nine. “I don’t believe Cedarville could harm us, anyway, if we put left field or shortstop in the box.”

Fred Ripley was notified. At once Cedarville became, in his talk, one of the most formidable nines on the state’s High School circuit.

“But we’ll skin ’em, you’ll see,” promised Fred, through the week. “Be at the game, and see what I can do when I’m feeling well. Cedarville has no chance.”

Ripley was in high spirits all through the week. All through that Saturday forenoon he moved about in a trance of exultation. Yet, underneath it all, he was somewhat seedy in a physical sense, for he had been out late the night before to meet Tip and hand over some money.

Late that Saturday forenoon, Lawyer Ripley returned from a business trip. Soon after he returned home, and had seen a man in his library, he went in search of his wife.

“Where’s Fred?” demanded the lawyer.

“He went out up the street, to get a good walk,” replied Mrs. Ripley. “You know, my dear, he is to pitch for Gridley in one of the biggest games of the season this afternoon.”

“Hm!” said the lawyer. “Well, see here. Let Fred have his luncheon. Don’t say a word until then. As soon as he is over with the meal, send him to me in the library. Don’t give him any hint until he has finished eating.”

“Is—is anything wrong?” asked Mrs. Ripley, turning around quickly.

“Just a few little questions I want to talk over with the boy,” replied Mr. Ripley.

It was shortly after one o’clock when Fred stepped into the library. This apartment was really in two rooms, separated by folding doors. In the front room Mr. Ripley had his desk, and did his writing. Most of his books were in the rear room. At the time when Fred entered the folding doors were closed.

“You wished to see me, sir?” Fred asked, as he entered.

“Yes,” said his father, pointing to a chair; “take a seat.”

“I hope it isn’t anything that will take much time,” hinted Fred. “you know, sir, I’ve got to be at the field early this afternoon. I am to pitch in one of the biggest—–“

“I’ll try to be very brief,” replied the lawyer, quietly. “Fred, as you know, whenever I find I have more money about me than I care to carry, I put it in the private safe upstairs. Your mother and I have a place where we hide the key to that old-fashioned safe. But, do you know, I have been missing some money from that safe of late? Of course, it would be sheer impudence in me to suspect your mother.”

“Of course it would,” agreed Fred, with feigned heartiness. He was fighting inwardly to banish the pallor that he knew was creeping into his cheeks.

“Have you any theory, Fred, that would help to account for the missing of these sums of money?” pursued the lawyer, one hand toying with a pencil.

“Do you suspect any of the servants?” asked the boy, quickly.

“We have had all our servants in the family for years,” replied the lawyer, “and it would seem hard to suspect any of them.”

“Then whom can you suspect, sir?”

“Fred, do you know, I have had a quiet little idea. I am well acquainted with the scrapes that young fellows sometimes get into. My experience as a lawyer has brought me much in contact with such cases. Now, it is a peculiar thing that young fellows often get into very bad scrapes indeed in pursuing their peculiar ideals of manliness. Fred, have you been getting into any scrapes? Have you found out where your mother and I hide the key to the safe? Have you been helping yourself to the money on the sly?”

These last three questions Lawyer Ripley shot out with great suddenness, though without raising his voice.

The effect upon young Ripley was electrical. He sprang to his feet, his face dramatically expressive of a mingling of intense astonishment and hurt pride.

“Dad,” he gasped, “how can you ask me such questions?”

“Because I want the answer, and a truthful one,” replied the lawyer, coolly. “Will you oblige me with the answer? Take your time, and think deliberately. If you have made any mistakes I want you to be fair and honorable with me. Now, what do you say, sir?”

Fred’s mind had been working like lightning. He had come to the conclusion that it would be safe to bluff his denial through to the end.

“Father,” he uttered, earnestly, in a voice into which he tried to throw intense earnestness and sincerity, “I give you my word of honor, as a Ripley, that I know nothing more about the missing money than you have just told me.”

“You are sure of that, Fred?”

“Sure of it, sir? Why, I will take any oath that will satisfy—–“

“We don’t want any perjury here,” cut in the lawyer, crisply, and touched a bell.

The folding doors behind them flew open with a bang. As Fred started and whirled about he beheld a stranger advancing toward them, and that stranger was escorting—Tip Scammon.

The stranger halted with his jailbird companion some five or six feet away. The stranger did not appear greatly concerned. Tip, however, looked utterly abashed, and unable to raise his gaze from the floor.

“With this exhibit, young man,” went on the lawyer, in a sorrowful tone, “I don’t suppose it is necessary to go much further with the story. When I first began to miss small sums from the safe I thought I might merely have made a mistake about the sums that I had put away. Finally, I took to counting the money more carefully. Then I puzzled for a while. At last, I sent for this man, who is a detective. He has come and gone so quietly that probably you have not noticed him. This man has had a hiding place from which he could watch the safe. Early last evening you took the key and opened the safe—robbed it! You took four five-dollar bills, but they were marked. This man saw you meet Tip Scammon, saw you pass the money over, and heard a conversation that has filled me with amazement. So my son has been paying blackmail money for months!”

Fred stood staggered, for a few moments. Then he wheeled fiercely on Scammon.

“You scoundrel, you’ve been talking about me—telling lies about me,” young Ripley uttered hoarsely.

“I hain’t told nothing about ye,” retorted Tip stolidly. “But this rich man’s cop (detective) nabbed me the first thing this morning. He took me up inter yer father’s office, an’ asked me whether I’d let _him_ explore my clothes, or whether I’d rather have a policeman called in. He ‘splained that, if he had to call the poor man’s cop, I’d have to be arrested for fair. So I let him go through my clothes. He found four five-spots on me, and told me I’d better wait an’ see yer father. So I’m here, an’ not particular a bit about having to go up to the penitentiary for another stretch.”

“It hasn’t been necessary, Fred, to question Scammon very far,” broke in the elder Ripley. “That’ll do, now, Haight. Since Scammon volunteered to give the money back, and said he didn’t know it had been stolen, you can turn him loose.”

The detective and Tip had no more than gone when Lawyer Ripley, his face flushed with shame, wheeled about on his son.

“So you see, Fred, what your word of honor the word of a Ripley—is sometimes worth. You have been robbing me steadily. How much you have taken I do not know as I have not always counted or recorded money that I put in the safe.”

Fred’s face had now taken on a defiant look. He saw that his father did not intend to be harsh, so the boy determined to brave it out.

“Haven’t you anything to say?” asked the lawyer, after a brief silence.

“No,” retorted Fred, sulkily. “Not after you’ve disgraced me by putting a private detective on my track. It was shameful.”

That brought the hot blood rushing to his father’s face.

“Shameful, was it, you young reprobate? Shameful to you, when you have been stealing for weeks, if not for months? It is you who are dead to the sense of shame. Your life, I fear, young man, cannot go on as it has been going. You are not fitted for a home of wealth and refinement. You have had too much money, too easy a time. I see that, now. Well, it shall all change! You shall have a different kind of home.”

Fred began to quake. He knew that his father, when in a mood like this, was not to be trifled with.

“You—you don’t mean jail?” gasped the boy with a yellow streak in him.

“No; I don’t; at least, not this time,” retorted his father. “But, let me see. You spoke of an engagement to do something this afternoon. What was it?”

“_I was_ to have pitched in the game against Cedarville High School.”

“Go on, then, and do it,” replied his father.

“I—I can’t pitch, now. My nerves are too—–“

“Go on and do what you’re pledged to do!” thundered Lawyer Ripley, in a tone which Fred knew was not to be disregarded. So the boy started for the door.

“And while you are gone,” his father shot after him, “I will think out my plan for changing your life in such a way as to save whatever good may be in you, and to knock a lot of foolish, idle ideas out of your head!”

Fred’s cheeks were ashen, his legs shaking under him as he left the house.

“I’ve never seen the guv’nor so worked up before—at least, not about me,” thought the boy wretchedly. “Now, what does he mean to do? I can’t turn him a hair’s breadth, now, from whatever plan he may make. Why didn’t I have more sense? Why didn’t I own up, and ‘throw myself on the mercy of the court’?”

In his present mood the frightened boy knew he couldn’t sit still in a street car. So he walked all the way to the Athletic Field. He was still shaking, still worried and pale when at length he arrived there.

He walked into the dressing room. The rest of the nine and the subs were already on hand, many of them dressed.

“You’re late, Mr. Ripley,” said Coach Luce, a look of annoyance on his face.

Outside, the first of the fans on the seats were starting the rumpus that goes under the name of enthusiasm.

“I—I know it. But—but—I—I’m sorry, Mr. Luce. I—I believe I’m going to be ill. I—I know I can’t pitch to-day.”

So Coach Luce and Captain Purcell conferred briefly, and decided that Dave Darrin should pitch to-day.

Darrin did pitch. He handled his tricky curves so well that puny Cedarville was beaten by the contemptuous score of seventeen to nothing.

Meanwhile, Fred Ripley was wandering about Gridley, in a state of abject, hopeless cowardice.



“Say, will you look at Rip?”

No wonder Harry Hazelton exploded with wonder as he turned to Dan Dalzell and Greg Holmes.

In this warmer weather, the young men loitered in the school yard until the first bell.

These three members of Dick & Co. were standing near the gateway when Fred Ripley turned the nearest corner and came on nervously, hurriedly, a hang-dog look in his face.

What had caught Harry Hazelton’s eye, and now made his comrades stare, was the new suit that Fred wore. Gone was all that young man’s former elegance of attire. His stern father had just left the boy, after having taken him to a clothing store where Fred was tricked out in a coarse, ready-made suit that had cost just seven dollars and a half. A more manly boy would have made a better appearance in such clothes, but it was past Fred Ripley. And he was miserably conscious of the cheap-looking derby that rested on his head. Even his shoes were new and coarse.

Ripley hurried by the chums, and across the yard, to be met at the door by Purcell, who stared at him in candid astonishment.

“Oh, say, Rip!” demanded Purcell. “What’s the bet?”

“Shut up!” retorted Ripley, passing quickly inside.

“Fine manners,” grinned Purcell to a girl who had also paused,