Chapter XXVI. A Lively Game of Baseball

If ever a boy was mad clear through that boy was the sneak of Putnam Hall. As the laugh ended, Mumps shook his fist at one and another of his tormentors.

"Think you are smart, don't you?" he spluttered in his rage. "I'll fix you all! I'll go and tell Captain Putnam all about this spread, and then maybe you won't catch it!"

"Mumps, keep quiet," said Dick, placing himself between the enraged one and the door. "Make too much noise, and I'll promise you the worst drubbing you ever received."

"If you peach on me, I'll give you a second whipping," added Tom.

"This is a gentlemanly affair," put in Larry.

"The boy who gives us away gets a thrashing from me."

"Ditto myself," said Frank; and several others said the same. All looked so determined that Mumps fell back in alarm.

"You let me go," he whined. "I don't want to stay here any longer."

"You can't go until you promise to keep quiet," said Dick.

"And you'll promise right now," cried Tom, seizing a pitcher of ice water that had been hidden under one of the stands. Leaping on a bed he held the pitcher over Mumps' head.

"Promise, quick, or I'll let her go!" he went on.

"Oh, don't!" yelled Mumps, as a few drops of the water landed on his head and ran down his neck.

"Do you promise to keep silent?" demanded Dick.

"Yes, yes!"

"All right. Now mind, if you break that promise you are in for at least ten good whippings."

"Somebody else may give you away," said Mumps craftily.

"No one will. If Captain Putnam hears about this it will be only through you. So beware, Mumps, if you value your hide!" And then the sneak was allowed to go. Five minutes later the spread came to an end, the muss was cleared away, and every cadet sought his couch, to rest if not to sleep.

It is possible that Captain Putnam and George Strong suspected something, yet as the cadets seemed none the worse for the festivities the next day, nothing was said on the subject. "Boys will be boys," smiled the captain to his head assistant; and there the whole matter dropped.

Several days later, while some of the cadets were down at the cove clearing off a portion of the ice for skating, Mrs. Stanhope's man-of-all-work came over with a note for Dick from Dora. The Rover boys all read the note with deep interest.

"I have good news [so ran the communication]. Mr. Crabtree has gone to Chicago, and the marriage has been postponed until next summer. You do not know how glad I am. Of course there will be trouble when Mr. Crabtree learns how he has been fooled, but mother has promised me to remain single until August or September, and I know she will keep that promise. I thank all of you very much for what you have done. Yesterday I saw Dan Baxter, who seems to be hanging around this neighborhood a good deal. He wanted to speak to me, but I did not give him the chance. I wish he would go away, for he looks to me like a very evil-minded person. It is strange, but Mr. Crabtree thinks a good deal of him, and has told my mother so. He says it is nonsense to put Mr. Baxter down as a criminal."

"Baxter stopping around here..." mused Dick. "What can he be up to?"

He had better clear out," said Sam. The matter was discussed for some time, but nothing came of it.

Skating lasted for nearly a month, and then both the ice and the snow melted away as if by magic. Soon spring was at hand, and the early flowers began to show themselves in Mrs. Green's little garden, which was the housekeeper's one pride.

Dick had seen Dora once in that time. The girl had told him about how Josiah Crabtree had searched in vain for the college mentioned in the bogus letter.

"He said I played the trick," were Dora's words. "He wants mother to send me to some strict boarding school."

"And are you going?" had been Dick's question.

"No, I shall remain with mother. After she is married again I do not know what will become of me," and as Dora's eyes filled with tears Dick caught her hand.

"Don't worry, Dora," had been his words. "I will help you, and it is bound to come up right in the end."

As soon as summer was at hand, the Putnam Hall baseball club received a challenge from the Pornell club to play them a game at either school grounds.

"They want to square accounts for the football defeat," said Fred. "Well, the only thing to do is to accept the challenge," and the acceptance was sent without delay, the game to be played on the Putnam Hall grounds, Captain Putnam having promised the cadets his aid in building a grandstand. The lumber came out of a boathouse that had been torn down to make place for a new structure, and as many of the cadets took to carpentering naturally, the grandstand was quite a creditable affair.

Frank Harrington was captain and catcher for the Putnam Hall team. Tom was pitcher, while Larry played first base, Dick second, and Sam was down in center, to use those nimble legs of his should occasion require. Fred was shortstop, and the balance of the club was made up of the best players the school afforded.

The Saturday chosen for the game was an ideal one, clear and not too warm. The students from Pornell arrived early, and so did the other visitors, and by two o'clock the grounds were crowded.

As before a parade was had. Then the umpire came out and gave each team fifteen minutes for practice.

"We're in luck," said Dick, when Putnam Hall won the toss and took last innings. In a moment more they were in the field, and the Ump called out: "Play!"

As was natural, Pornell had put its heaviest batters at the head of their list, and it is possible Tom was a bit nervous as he twirled the ball and sent it in toward the home plate.

"Ball one!" came the decision, and again the sphere came in. "Ball two!" said the umpire.

"Take it easy, Tom!" called out Dick. "Lots of time, remember."

The next was a strike. Then came a foul, and then a hard drive to left field, and amid a wild, cheering the Pornell batsman gained second base in safety.

"That's the way to do it, Cornwall! Keep it up, Snader!"

The second player now came up, and again the ball came in. Tom was as nervous as before, and another hit was made, and the player covered first, while the man on second went to third.

"Tom, do be careful," whispered Frank, walking down to him. "Don't let that fellow in," and he nodded in the direction of the first runner.

The third player was now at the bat. Two balls and two strikes were counted against him and then came a foul, high up in the air, which Frank caught with ease.

"One out, and two on base! That's not so bad."

Again the ball came in. "One strike!" said the umpire. "I want a high ball!" growled the batter. Again the ball was delivered. "Two strikes!" Then the ball came in again. "Three strikes! Batter out!" And Tom got a rousing cheer for striking out the Pornellite.

But the two men were still on first and third, with one more man to put out.

"Take care!" whispered Larry, and the basemen all moved up closer. One strike, and then came a high fly, far out in center field.

"Run, Sam! Don't miss that!" came in a yell. "Run! run!"

And Sam did run, knowing that if he missed the ball the Pornell team would score two runs, if not three. It was going far down the field, but he was after it, and just as it came down, he made a leap and -- clutched the sphere with his left hand.

"He has it! Hurrah! No runs this innings for Pornell!" And the Putnamites howled themselves hoarse, while their opponents had nothing to say.

But the players from the rival academy had a fine battery, and it was impossible to "get onto" their pitcher's curves during that first innings. The players went out in one, two, three order, leaving the score 0 to 0.

"It's going to be a close game," said an old player from, Cedarville. "I'm not betting on either side."

The second innings passed without any scoring being done. In the third innings the Pornell team made two runs. In the next innings Putnam Hall pulled a single run "out of the fire," as Dick put it, for it was his tally, made on a slide halfway from third base.

After this there were more "goose eggs," until the end of the eighth inning when the score became a tie, 2 to 2.

One more inning for each side, and the excitement became intense.

"We must prevent them from scoring, by a means," said Frank as they took the field, while the first batter of the Pornellites came to the plate; and amid a breathless silence the final innings began.