For a moment Bondy did not answer. On his face there was a sickly grin,
and he seemed to turn a sort of greenish white.
“What are you doing with those glasses?” repeated Pete as he took a
“I—er—I just came in to see Bill,” stammered the rich lad. “He was
out, and I—I—er I was looking at them. Queer lenses; aren’t they? One
seems to be loose. I was going to tell Bill he ought to tighten it.”
No wonder it was loose, for the sneak had partly taken out the screw.
The expression on Pete’s face changed. He had had a quick suspicion
that all was not right, but he began to feel now that perhaps he was
“See, here is the loose glass!” went on Bondy eagerly, for he was quick
to notice the altered expression on the other’s countenance. “It ought
to be tightened, or it might drop out during the game, and become
broken. You can tighten it with a knife.”
He dared not offer his own screw driver.
“That’s right; it does need fixing,” admitted Pete. “Much obliged for
noticing it, old man. Bill might not have seen it.”
“Yes, I just came in—er—to ask Bill how his arm was, and I noticed
the glasses,” went on the visitor lamely.
“Why, what’s the matter with his arm?” asked Pete quickly, and in some
“Oh, nothing, I—I just wondered if it would hold out.”
“Oh, I guess it will. There, the glass is tight now,” and Pete, who had
used his knife to set the screw, tapped the rubber frame to listen for
any vibration. There was none.
“Well, I’ll be going,” announced Guilder, with an air of relief. “See
you at the game. It’s most time to start,” and he slipped from the
room, just before Bill returned.
“I wonder what he wanted?” mused Pete, looking after the retreating
figure of the rich lad. “Mighty funny his getting friendly all of a
sudden. I wonder what he wanted?”
Pete looked at his brother’s glasses. He glanced toward Bondy’s room,
and pondered again. Just then Bill came in.
“Say, son, you ought to keep these locked up,” remarked Pete, handing
the glasses to him.
“They might get broken if you leave them around so promiscuous. I just
tightened a screw.”
“Thanks. Crimps! but I’ve got to hustle. I was showing Whistle-Breeches
how to mend a rip in his stocking. He was for tying a string around
it as if it was a bag he was closing up. Well, we’ll soon be
slaughtering—or slaughtered; eh?”
“Yes, how about you?”
“Fit as a fiddle. I wish I had to pitch the whole game.”
“Maybe you won’t after you see the way they knock you out. They’ve got
some hard hitters.”
“I’m not worrying. Is Cap on the job?”
“Yes, we’re all ready. What are you waiting for?”
“Just got to put a few more stitches in this jacket. I’ll be right
over. Go ahead.”
“No, we’ll wait for you,” and Pete took a chair in his brother’s room.
He was thinking of Bondy’s visit but he made up his mind to say nothing
about it at present. After all he might be wrong in his suspicion, but
he resolved to keep a sharp lookout.
Soon Bill had finished his sewing task, and went out with his brother.
Cap joined them, and a little later they were on the diamond, indulging
in some light practice.
Down the road came the sound of songs and cheers, mingled with
indiscriminate yells. Then came the blast of horns.
“The cohorts of Tuckerton!” cried Cap. “Here they come!”
Several big stages swung into view, laden down with students and girls,
for the boys had brought a lot of their young lady friends to see the
The vehicles were gay with colors—flags and banners waved from canes
and long staffs. Horns adorned with the hues of Tuckerton were waved
and blown. Then came more songs, more cheers, more wild yells, and more
rioting of colors, as the banners, flags, ribbons and streamers were
shaken at the crowds of Westfield students who poured out and greeted
As the stage loads of spectators drew up and were emptied, another
carryall swept along the road. It contained the opposing nine, and in
grim silence, like gladiators coming to the battle, they alighted.
“Three cheers for the best nine in the league!” called the leader of
the Tuckerton cohorts, and the yells came in quick response.
“Now three cheers for the second beet nine—the one we’re going to
wallop—Westfield!” called the same youth who was almost hidden behind
a big bow of his school colors.
Westfield was appropriately serenaded, and then they returned the
compliment. The grand stands and bleachers were now beginning to fill,
for a game of baseball between these two schools was worth coming a
long distance to see.
“Gee! what a lot of pretty girls!” exclaimed Pete as he stood with his
brothers near home plate after some sharp warm-up practice.
“You let the girls alone—until after the game,” advised Cap.
“There _is_ a big crowd,” remarked Bill.
“Don’t let it fuss you,” suggested his older brother, for Bill was
likely to get a bit nervous, and he had never played in such a big
and important game before. “Come over here and we’ll try a few balls.
Better wear your glasses to get more used to them.”
“Gee! maybe it’s a good thing I got caught as I did,” mused Bondy as
he saw Bill putting on the goggles before the game had started, as he
was practicing with Cap. “He’d have found it out by now, and the game
would have been all up. But I’ll get him yet! I wonder why Mersfeld
doesn’t come around. He acts afraid.”
The other pitcher was afraid—horribly so. His heart misgave him for
consenting to the trick, and yet he let it be carried out. At least
he supposed it had been, for he took pains to keep out of the way of
Bondy. And when he saw Bill in the goggles pitching a few preliminary
balls to his brother, he wondered what sort of balls they were.
“How long will he last—how long?” he murmured, for he thought the plot
had been carried out.
The crowds increased. The Tuckerton nine and substitutes trotted out
for practice, and good snappy practice it was. Captain Graydon shook
his head as he watched.
“They’ll come pretty near having our numbers,” he remarked.
“Nonsense!” exclaimed the coach. “They play fast and snappy, that’s a
fact, but we can do the same.”
“No, that’s just where our men fall down,” went on Graydon. “They’re
good stickers, and can pull a game out of the fire in the last few
innings, but they don’t wake up quickly enough. That’s what I’m afraid
of. I wish we had decided to let Smith pitch the last half instead of
the first innings.”
“Say, that’s what we’ll do!” suddenly exclaimed the coach. “This is
the first chance I’ve had to get a line on the Tuckerton boys, and
I believe it will be policy to put Mersfeld in at the opening. He’s
feeling sore, and he hasn’t as good lasting qualities as I’d like.
We’ll put him up first, and if he can’t hold ’em down we can change at
any time. I’ll tell Smith.”
Bill felt a sense of disappointment that he was not to open the game,
but he knew better than to dispute with the coach. Cap looked as
though he could not quite understand it, and he wondered if it was a
sample of what would happen in other games.
“We’ve got to save you two for a pinch,” explained Graydon to the
catcher, just before the game was called. “Begin to warm-up again after
the third inning.”
The preliminaries were over, and the Tuckerton men took their places on
the bench, the home team having last chance at the bat. The Westfield
nine walked to the field, and Bill and Cap took their places with the
“I wonder what’s up?” mused Mersfeld as he was told to go to the box.
“He must have the changed glasses and Mindam and Graydon have seen how
punk he is even in practice. Here’s where I get my chance!”
The game began, and the first crack out of the box netted a two-bagger
for the initial hitter of the Tuckerton nine. Mersfeld smiled a sickly
smile as the ball came back to him.
“It’s all right,” called Denby reassuringly from behind the bat. “We’ll
get this fellow.”
Mersfeld did strike him out, after the man had made two foul strikes,
and, feeling a trifle nervous the twirler issued walking papers to the
next hitter, who had a high average for stick work.
“Work for this man,” signalled the catcher to the pitcher, but
Mersfeld, as he was about to throw was aware that the first hitter was
stealing to third. He shot to the baseman quickly—but wildly. It went
over his head, in among a crowd of spectators, and before the ball
could be fielded in the man was home with the first run of the game,
and with only one out.
What a wild burst of songs and cries of gladness came from the stands
where the visitors were! Flags and banners waved, and the shrill voices
of the girls seemed to mock the Westfield players.
“Starting in bad,” murmured Bill to Cap.
“Oh, well, all our fellows are a trifle nervous. I guess we’ll make
Mersfeld redeemed himself a few seconds later by striking out the next
man up, and with two down, the last man knocked a little pop fly. It
looked good but Pete got under it, and had it safely in his hands when
the runner was ten feet from first.
“Well, now to see what we can do,” remarked Graydon as he came in from
first with his men eager to get a chance at the sticks.
They did not do so much, for there was an excellent battery against
them, and one run was all they could tally. But it tied the score, and
gave the home rooters something to shout for.
Whether it was nervousness or whether his conscience troubled him
was not made known, but Mersfeld seemed to get worse as the game
progressed. His throws to the basemen were wild, and he practically
lost control of the ball, while his curves broke too late, and the
opposing team readily got on to them.
“Oh, we’ve got the pitcher’s ‘Angora’ all right!” chanted the visiting
rooters, that being the classical term for “goat” or nerve.
“And I believe they have,” admitted the coach, when the fourth inning
opened with the score eight to one in favor of Tuckerton. They had
garnered two in the second frame, three in the third, and a brace in
their half of the fourth. The one lone tally was all Westfield had when
they came to bat in the ending of the fourth, and though they worked
fiercely not a man got over the rubber.
“Smith and Smith is the new battery for the Westfield team!” announced
the umpire as Graydon’s men went out to the field at the opening of the
fifth. Mersfeld had not said a word when ordered from the box. He knew
he had been doing poor work, but with a bitter feeling in his heart
he watched to see how Bill would make out with, as he supposed, the
“Now watch the celebrated Smith brothers work!” cried a Tuckerton wag,
as Cap and Bill took their places.
“Yes, and they _will_ work, too!” murmured Pete.
“At least if we can’t get any more runs, I hope we can keep the score
down,” thought the coach, to whom the game, thus far was a bitter
disappointment. All his work so far that season seemed to have gone for
Bill was smiling confidently, as he took his place in the box. The
crowd which had not before had a good look at him, caught sight of the
goggles, and instantly there was a chorus of cries.
It was what Cap and Pete had feared would happen. Would it bother their
Bill showed no signs of it. He did not appear to resent the name, but
smiled back at his tormentors in an easy fashion.
“I wear these so I can strike out more men!” he called.
“I guess he’ll do,” murmured the anxious captain on first base, and the
embittered coach took heart.
Cap and Bill exchanged a few preliminaries, and then signalled for the
batter to take his place. The man up was a terrific hitter and Bill
used all his wiles on him. First he purposely gave him a ball, and then
sent in a slow teaser which the man did not strike at, but which the
“Here’s where he fans!” thought Bill, as he tried an up shoot. It
made good, and the bat passed under it cleanly. There was a murmur of
chagrin from the stick-wielder’s fellows and he resolved to knock the
cover off the next ball.
But alas for hopes! Once more he swung wildly—and missed.
“Out!” howled the umpire gleefully, for his sympathy was with
Westfield, as much as he dared show it.
And when the next two men never even touched the ball there was joy
unbounded in the ranks of the home team, for now they saw a chance for
“I don’t see that you did anything,” whispered Mersfeld to Bondy as the
change was made for the ending of the fifth.
“Didn’t get the chance,” whispered back the plotter. “I was nearly
caught. But this isn’t the only game. There’ll be other opportunities.”
Westfield was at the bat, and it must have been the effect of Bill’s
pitching for every man up made a hit, and the bases were soon filled.
But only two runs came in, for the opposing team took a brace at an
opportune time for themselves, and in season to prevent too heavy
scoring by the Westfield lads.
“Now only six runs to beat ’em!” called Captain Graydon cheerfully, as
though that was a mere trifle. “Keep up the good work, Bill, and we’ll
dedicate a chapel window to you.”
Bill did. He surpassed even his own previous pitching records, and did
not allow a hit in that inning, while in their half of it Westfield got
one, making the score four to eight in their opponents’ favor.
“Now for the lucky seventh!” called the coach, when that inning
started. “Don’t let them get a run, Bill, and help our fellows to pull
in about a dozen.”
Bill smiled, and—struck out the first two men. Then one of the heavy
hitters managed to get under a neat little up shoot, and sent it far
out over the left fielder’s head. It was good for two bags, and the
next man brought the runner in, to the anguish of Bill, who feared he
was slumping, as there had been two hits off him in succession. But
with a gritting of his teeth he held his nerves in check, and that
ended the scoring for the first half of the seventh.
“Now, boys, eat ’em up!” pleaded coach and captain as Bill and his
teammates came in. They did, to the extent of three runs, which seemed
wonderful in view of what had previously been done, and there was a
chance for wild yelling and cheering on the part of the home rooters.
With the score seven to nine, when the eighth opened, it looked better
for Westfield’s chances, and when she further sweetened her tallies
with another run, brought in by Pete, there was more joyful rioting.
“They mustn’t get another mark!” stipulated the captain when the final
inning opened. “Not a run, Bill.”
“Not if I can help it!” the pitcher promised. From a corner Mersfeld
watched his successful rival—watched him with envious eyes.
From the grandstand Bondy also watched, and muttered:
“I won’t fail next time. I’ll spoil your record if it’s possible!”
Amid a wild chorus of songs and school cries Bill faced his next
opponent. He proved an easy victim, as did the lad following, but
from the manner in which the third man began hitting fouls it seemed
to argue that he would eventually make a hit. And a hit at this stage
might mean anything. For Westfield needed two runs to beat, and they
were going to be hard enough to secure—every member of the team knew
It was the fourth foul the batter had knocked. The others had been
impossible to get, though Cap had tried for them. Now, as he tossed off
his mask, and stared wildly up into the air to gage the ball he heard
“Can’t get it! Can’t get it!”
“I’m going to!” he thought fiercely. He ran for it, and was aware that
he would have to almost run into the grand stand to reach it. The crowd
made way for him. Into the stand he crashed, with a shock that jarred
him considerably, but—he had the ball in his hands!
“Wow! Wow! Wow!” cheered the crowd, even some of the Tuckertons
themselves. The side had been retired without a run, and they cheered
Cap’s fine catch.
“Now for our last chance!” said Captain Graydon when his men came in.
“We’ve just _got_ to get two runs. No tenth inning—do it in this!”
“Sure!” they all agreed.
Whistle-Breeches came up first, and when he had fanned out he went off
by himself and thought bitter thoughts. For he had narrowed the team’s
“Don’t worry, we may do it yet,” said the coach kindly but he hardly
Graydon made good in a two bagger, and got to third when Paul Armitage
made a magnificent try, but was out at first. And that was the
situation when Cap Smith came up. There were two out, a man on third,
and two runs were needed. Only a home run it seemed could do the trick.
“And a home run it shall be!” declared Cap to himself.
But when he missed the first ball, and when, after two wild throws a
strike was called on him, it looked as if the chances were all gone.
“He’ll walk you!” shouted some sympathizers, but the Tuckerton pitcher
had no such intentions. He was going to strike Cap out, he felt.
“Whizz!” went the ball toward the catcher. Cap drew back his bat, and
by some streak of luck managed to get it under squarely. He put all the
force of his broad shoulders into the blow, and when he saw the ball
sailing far and low, he knew it would go over the centre fielder’s head
and into the deep grass beyond.
“It’s a home run or a broken leg!” murmured Cap, as he dashed away
“Oh you Cap!”
“Keep on going!”
“Come on in, Graydon! Come home! Come home!”
Thus the frantic cries.
Graydon was speeding in from third, and desperate fielders were racing
after the ball. It could not be located in the tall grass, and Cap was
legging it for all he was worth.
“Run! Run! Run!” Thus they besought him. Graydon crossed the rubber
with the tying run, and still the ball was not found. Then, as Cap
passed second, a shout announced that a fielder had it. But he was far
out, and the second baseman knew his teammate could never field it in
from where he was. He ran out to intercept the ball, as Cap was legging
it for home.
“Thud!” The second baseman had the horsehide. He turned to throw it
home, and the catcher spread out his hands for it. But Cap dropped and
slid over the plate in a cloud of dust, and was safe just a second
before the ball arrived.
Westfield had won! And on the last chance!
What rejoicing there was among the members of the nine and the
supporters of the team! How the lads howled, their hoarse voices
mingling with the shrill cries of the girls! Sober men danced around
with their gray-haired seat-mates, and several “old grads” who had
witnessed the contest jumped up and down pounding with their canes on
the grandstand until it seemed as if the structure would collapse.
“Good boy, Cap!” cried Bill, clapping his brother on the back. “Good
“All to the horse radish,” added Pete.
“Oh, you fellows didn’t do so worse yourselves,” remarked John, as he
tried to fight off a crowd that wanted to carry him on their shoulders.
He was unsuccessful, and a moment later was hoisted up, while a
shouting, yelling, cheering procession marched around the grounds,
singing some of the old school songs of triumph. It was a glorious
It was fought all over again in the rooms of the boys that night, and
the team was praised on all sides.
“Still it was a narrow squeak,” declared the coach to the captain,
“and we’ve got to do better if we want to keep the championship.”
“Oh, I guess we’ll do it,” answered Graydon. “Those Smith boys are a
“I should say so! I don’t know what to do about the battery, though. We
can’t let Mersfeld and Denby slide altogether.”
“No, we’ll have to play them occasionally. And Mersfeld isn’t so bad
sometimes. He gets rattled too easily, and Bill Smith doesn’t. Well,
come on out and I’ll blow you to some chocolate soda.”
Meanwhile the Smith boys were having a jollification of their own in
their rooms, whither many of their friends had gone. Bill brought out
some packages of cakes, and bottles of ginger ale and other soft stuff,
on which the visitors were regaled.
“Here’s more power to you!” toasted Billie Bunce, a little fat junior,
who was not above making friends with the freshmen.
Mersfeld did not attend the little gathering in the rooms of our
heroes. And had they seen him, in close conversation with Jonas North,
a little later, and had they heard, what the two were saying, they
would not have wondered at his absence. Mersfeld met North as the
latter was strolling about the campus.
“What’s going on up there?” asked North, as he motioned to where lights
gleamed in the rooms of our friends, for it was not yet locking-up time.
“Oh, Smith Brothers and Company are having some sort of an improvised
blow-out,” replied the temporarily deposed pitcher. “Those fellows
make me tired. Just because they helped pull one game out of the fire
they think they’re the whole cheese. I’d like to get square with
Four-eyes somehow or other.”
“Why don’t you?” proposed North, with a grin. “Seems to me you ought to
be able to ‘do’ him.”
“I am, if it came to a fight, but I wouldn’t dare mix it up with him.”
“Because there’d be a howl, and everyone would say I did it because I
was jealous. I’d have to have some mighty good excuse to warrant wading
“Well, can’t you think of one?”
“No, I can’t. I’d like to get square with him, though.”
“Put him out of business you mean—so he couldn’t pitch for a while?”
asked the bully.
“That would do, yes.”
“You might put up a job to burn his hands with acid in chemistry
class some day. Just a little burn would do. You could say it was an
“No, that’s too risky,” remarked Mersfeld, after thinking it over.
“I’d like to have it come about naturally. Now if he or his brothers
would try some trick, and get caught—suspended by the faculty for a
month—or laid off from athletics, that would do. But the Smith fellows
seem to have given up pranks lately, and have buckled down to lessons.
I guess they’re afraid.”
North did not answer for a few moments. He walked along, apparently
deeply thinking. Suddenly he exclaimed:
“I believe I have it! Get them caught while doing some fool cut-up
thing, such as is always going on around here. That would do it, if we
can get them into something desperate enough so they’ll be suspended.
“Yes, it’s all very well enough to say ‘fine!’ But how are you going to
work it? Haven’t I told you that they’ve cut out jokes?”
“That’s all right. We can get ’em into the game again.”
“Easy enough. All they need is to have some one to make a suggestion.
They’ll fall into line quickly enough, and then—have McNibb catch ’em
in the act, and it’s all off with their baseball. I haven’t any love
for ’em, either, and I’d like to see ’em out of the game. They don’t
belong in our class here.”
“Oh, they’re all right, but they think they’re the whole show,”
complained the pitcher bitterly. “All I ask is for Bill Smith to get
out of the box, and let me in. I can do as good as he!”
“Of course you can,” agreed North, though if Mersfeld could have seen
the covert sneer in the bully’s smile perhaps he would not have been so
friendly with him. “Well, if you’ll help, I’ll work it. We’ll have ’em
caught in the act—say painting the Weston statue red or green—that
ought to fetch ’em.”
“Yes, but how are you going to arrange to have ’em caught?” asked
“Easy enough. Here’s my game,” went on North. “First we’ll propose to
Bill or Cap, or to the other brother, that as things around the school
are a little dull, they ought to be livened up. They’ll bite at the
bait, for they like fun, and when they hear that it would be a good
stunt to decorate the big bronze statue of old man Weston, in front of
the main building with green or red paint, they’ll fall for it.”
“Yes, but they know enough not to get caught, even if they go into the
“They can’t help being caught the way we’ll work it,” was the crafty
“Because the night they select for the joke—and we’ll know when it
is—there’ll be an anonymous letter dropped at Proctor McNibb’s door,
telling him what is going to be pulled off. He’ll get on the job, and
catch the Smith boys at the game. How’s that?”
Mersfeld meditated a moment.
“I guess it will do,” he said slowly—“only,—”
“Well, what’s the matter with my plan?” demanded the bully half angrily.
“If you or I propose such a game to Bill or his brothers they’ll smell
a rat right away.”
“Of course they will, but you don’t s’pose I’m such a ninnie as to
propose it ourselves; do you?”
“Why I’ll have some one who is friendly to them do it. Oh, don’t worry,
they’ll fall for it all right enough. Now come on over to my room,
and we’ll fix it up,” and the two cronies, one a rather unwilling
participator in the plot, walked along the campus, casting back a look
at the gaily lighted windows of the apartments of the Smith boys.
“Hang it all!” mused Mersfeld as he tried to quiet an uneasy
conscience, “I don’t want to get those fellows into trouble, but I
want to be back in my rightful place as pitcher on the Varsity.”
And then he and North went into the details of the plot against our
heroes, against Bill more particularly, for it was he whom Mersfeld
wanted to displace.