There was plenty to talk about that night. The rooms of the Smith boys
were thronged with some old and many new admirers, for nothing succeeds
like success, and now that Pete was officially named as Varsity
shortstop, now that Bill had the preference, at least in the opening
game, as pitcher, and when Cap was named to catch for his talented
brother our heroes found themselves very much in the lime-light.
“To think of all three of us making the Varsity in our first year!”
exclaimed Bill, as he received the congratulations of several new
“It’s great!” declared Cap. “I’m afraid our rivals will dub it the
‘Smith Nine,’ instead of Westfield.”
“Let ’em,” declared Captain Graydon, who was present. “I don’t care
what they call the nine if we keep the league pennant. But let me tell
you Smith boys, and all you other baseball fellows who are here, it’s
going to be no easy matter. Tuckerton has a battery that’s hard to
beat, and Haydon has a better team than ever before. We’ve got our work
cut out for us.”
“And we’ll make good!” exclaimed Whistle-Breeches, who was happy
because he had been promised at least part of the opening game, even
though he was in centre field.
But among the visitors to the rooms of our heroes Mersfeld and Bondy
were conspicuous by their absence. The failure of Mersfeld to call
was commented on, and it was openly said that he was jealous. And as
Westfield was an institution where the school spirit was especially
strong this was all the more marked.
“I’m sorry there’s a feeling between the two pitchers,” said Captain
Graydon to Mr. Windam as they walked to their dormitories together
after the informal little visit. “For both Smith and Mersfeld are fine
fellows. We may need them both before the season is over.”
“I expect we will. But we couldn’t pass over Mersfeld’s poor work
to-day. By putting Smith ahead of him it may spur him up a bit.”
“I hope it doesn’t spur him up to any mischief,” murmured the captain
“Well, he has a very ugly temper, and once he gets aroused—well, the
worst he can do is to withdraw from the team, I suppose.”
“I’d be sorry for that,” went on the coach. “But we really have a find
in Smith. He’s better than before his injury, or else those glasses
“I guess it’s the glasses. No one’s vision is perfect the doctors say,
and perhaps we’d all be better for spectacles. I was just thinking what
would happen if they became broken in a critical game. Bill couldn’t
“That’s so. He ought to have a pair in reserve. I’ll speak to him about
Then the coach and captain fell to talking about other baseball
matters, including the coming game on Saturday, and the chances for
Bill and his brothers rejoiced among themselves, and with their
friends, and a letter telling about the honor that had come to the
Smith boys was sent to their father, all three joining in making it a
sort of composite epistle.
“Two days more and we’ll see what we can do on the diamond in a league
game,” said Cap, as he got ready to do some neglected studying. “Now
don’t mention ball again for an hour. I nearly slumped in Latin to-day,
and if any of us fall behind we’ll be hauled up and put out even if we
knock a home run. So buckle down, fellows.”
It was hard work to apply oneself to lessons after the events of the
day, but they did it—somehow.
Meanwhile, strolling along a dark and infrequented road that led back
of the school buildings, were two figures deep in conversation.
“It’s too risky a game to play,” objected Mersfeld, as he strode
“But you don’t want him to knock you out of your place, do you?”
demanded his companion, Bondy Guilder.
“No, of course not. But suppose I’m found out?”
“You won’t be. I can get the glasses easily enough, for his room is
right next to mine. I was going to change, for I don’t fancy the crowd
he and his brothers trail in with—they’re regular clod-hoppers. I’m
glad now I didn’t, for it will give us just the chance we want.”
“What have _you_ got against him?” asked the pitcher.
“Oh, he’s a regular muff, and he thinks he’s as good as I am,” was the
illogical answer. “I’d be glad to see him off the nine. It ought to be
composed of more representative school fellows, anyhow than a lot of
“I haven’t anything against the name, but I have against Bill,” said
Mersfeld. “He shoved himself in, and pushed me out—and I’d like to get
“You can, I tell you. If I get hold of his glasses he can’t pitch in
the game Saturday.”
“Can’t he get another pair?”
“Not the way I’ll work it.”
“Why not? Suppose you do manage to sneak in his room and get his
goggles. He’ll miss them sure as fate, and send for another pair.”
“No he won’t.”
“Because I won’t take them until Saturday morning, or just before the
game, and it will be too late to get another pair. Or, better still, I
can take out the special lenses that are in the frames, and substitute
others. Then he won’t suspect anything, he’ll go to the box, pitch so
rotten that Graydon will have to take him out, and you’ll go in. Bill
won’t know whether it’s the glasses, or whether his eyes have gone back
on him again. How’s that for a trick?”
“It’s all right I guess,” was the hesitating answer. “I rather hate
to be a party to it,” went on the pitcher, who was not a bad chap at
“But he had no right to come here and supplant you,” put in Bondy.
“No, that’s right. Well, can you get the glasses from his room?”
“Sure, and I’ll arrange to have other lenses to slip in them. I’ll
get the size, and they’re easy to change. I was close to him to-day,
and I saw how the rubber frames were made. I guess Bill won’t be such
a wonderful pitcher when I get through with him,” and Bondy chuckled
as he and his fellow conspirator turned around and walked back toward
There was an air of subdued excitement all about Westfield, that
extended even to good old Dr. Burton. He even found it rather difficult
to apply himself to translating some early Assyrian tablets into modern
Hebrew as a preliminary to rendering them into ancient Chinese.
The various members of the faculty found their students paying rather
less than the usual attention to the lectures, and in one quiz, when
Cap Smith was asked concerning the raising of an unknown quantity to
the nth power his answer was:
“He’s out on first!”
“Doubtless true, but unfortunately Westfield has no chair for the
science of applied baseball,” answered the professor as the laugh went
rippling around the room.
But the spirit of the game was in the air, it hung about the school
buildings, lingered in the dormitories, and the very smell of chemicals
in the laboratory seemed replaced by the odor of crushed green grass,
the whiff of leather and the sound of the explosions of the miniature
Prince Rupert’s drops, as the science teacher demonstrated the effect
of a sudden change in the strain of a congealed body seemed to the lads
to be the blows of the bat on a ball.
Over on the diamond, which had been as carefully groomed as a horse
before he is led out to try for the blue ribbon, were any number of
eager enthusiasts practicing. There were talks between the coach and
captain, anxious conferences with the manager, and on every side could
be seen lads in their uniforms carefully looking after balls, bats,
masks or chest protectors. Some were tightening the laces of their
shoes, others mending ripped gloves, while Bill Smith had indulged in
the luxury of a new toe plate.
For the next day would mark the opening of the Interscholastic league,
and the first big game—that with Tuckerton—was to be played.
“And you must wake and call me early,
Call me early, Peetie dear,
For to-morrow is the opening
Of the dear old baseball year.”
Thus Cap misquoted the verse, and joined his brothers and chums in the
laugh that followed.
But if there were many hearts that rejoiced at the near prospect of the
big opening contest, there were two lads whose souls were filled with
bitterness. One was Mersfeld, the partially deposed pitcher, and the
other Bondy Guilder, who, for no particular reason, had come to almost
hate Bill and his brothers.
“Do you think you can get the glasses?” asked Mersfeld of his crony, on
the night before the big game.
“Sure. I’ve been watching Bill—his room’s next to mine you know—and I
know just how he goes and comes. I have some ordinary lenses all ready
to slip in the place of the special ones I’m going to take out.”
“How’d you get the right size?”
“Oh, I made a pretence of wanting to see his glasses and while I had
them I pressed a sheet of paper on them, got an impression of the size,
and got the lenses in town. They are not an unusual size, only they’re
ground differently to bring one eye in focus with the other. Bill won’t
pitch more than one inning in the game to-morrow, and then you can go
“But he’ll know what’s wrong as soon as he has his eyes, and the
glasses tested again.”
“What of it? He won’t suspect us, and all you want is a chance to make
good; isn’t it?”
“Yes, for if I do make good in the opening game I’m sure they’ll have
to let me stay through the season, and Bill won’t be in it. I’m glad
you’re helping me.”
“I’d do more than that to put one over on the Smith boys. I don’t like
them. I wish they’d get out of Westfield.”
Bondy had his plans all laid, and had, after considerable trouble
secured a pair of lenses to replace those in Bill’s pitching glasses.
Now, like some spider watching for his hapless prey, he sat in his room
on the morning of the day of the big game, waiting for a chance to
sneak in and make the substitution. He felt that he could do it, for no
one ever locked his door at Westfield, and Bill had been in the habit
lately of spending a lot of time in the apartment of Whistle-Breeches.
But now Bill was in his room, and Bondy was impatiently waiting for him
to go out. The sneak knew that if he could change the glasses the trick
would not be discovered until after Bill was in the box, for he did not
use the goggles in preliminary practice where there was no home plate
over which to throw.
“Hang it all! Why doesn’t he go?” thought the rich lad as he peered
from the partly-opened door of his study, and saw Bill moving about in
his room. The pitcher was taking a few stitches in his jacket, which
had been ripped. “I haven’t much more time,” mused the conspirator,
“for they’ll soon go out to practice, and he’ll take the goggles with
There was a call from down the corridor. It came from the room of
“I say Bill, where are you?”
“Here. What’s up?”
“Give us a hand, will you? I can’t get this needle threaded and there’s
a hole in my stocking as big as your fist. I wouldn’t mind, only it’s
opening game and we want to look decent. I caught it on a nail.”
“Wait a minute. I’ll be with you,” sung out Bill, and dropping his own
work he darted for the room of his chum.
“Just my chance!” whispered Bondy. “But I haven’t much time!” He had
the substitute lenses ready, and a small screw driver with which to
open the frame and make the change.
Into Bill’s room the sneak darted when he saw the pitcher enter the
study of Whistle-Breeches. A rapid glance around showed him where the
goggles were—in their usual place on top of a shelf of books.
It was the work of a minute to secure them, and begin to loosen the
screws. Bondy worked feverishly, but his very haste and nervousness
were against him. His hands trembled, and he was in a sweat of fear.
One glass was almost loose, when, with a suddenness that was as
startling as a clap of thunder would have been, the door leading from
Bill’s to Pete’s room opened, and the shortstop entered. He did not
notice Bondy at first, as the latter stood in the shadow of the book
shelves, and this fact gave the conspirator time to shove the screw
driver and extra lenses into his pocket.
“Caught!” he murmured under his breath.
The tinkle of glass caught Pete’s ears, and he wheeled around.
“Oh! Hello, Bondy!” he exclaimed, and then catching sight of his
brother’s goggles in the other’s hands he quickly asked:
“What are you doing with those glasses?”