There was a moisture in the pitcher

“Well, are you coming?” asked Pete of Bill as he tossed into a corner
of his study one of a pile of books over which he had been doing more
or less “boning” in the last hour.

“Coming where?”

“Over to see Professor Clatter. Cap’s ready.”

“Oh—I don’t know.” Bill spoke listlessly. He had been trying to study
but a curious watery mist came into his eyes, and, try as he did to
brush it away, the film seemed to return. The eye near the injured spot
smarted and burned.

“Come ahead,” urged Cap, entering his brother’s room at that moment.
“Whistle-Breeches wants to go and see the performance.”

“All right, you fellows go, and I’ll stay here. I don’t care much about

Cap winked at Pete. They understood Bill’s despondency, and were
determined to get him out of the slough of it.

“Oh, it’ll be sport—like old times,” urged Cap. “The professor will
do his singing and banjo act, and I’ve a good notion to get up on the
platform and show Whistle-Breeches how we used to earn our board and

“Better not, Bondy might spot us and there’d be a faculty row. He’d be
just mean enough to squeal. But come on, Bill. The professor expects
us. Say, remember the time after he got nabbed, and we tried to take
the spot out of the man’s vest, and it turned green, red, yellow and a
few other colors? Remember that, Cap?”

“I should say I did!” exclaimed John Smith. “I thought sure it was all
up with us,” and he laughed heartily. A smile came over Bill’s gloomy
face. Pete saw it and nudged his brother.

“We’ll see the rain-maker again,” went on Pete. “Better come, Bill.
Don’t worry about your eyes, and pitching and all that. Maybe it will
come out right.”

“Yes, it’s easy enough for you fellows to talk, for you can play ball,
but—Oh well, what’s the use of kicking. I s’pose I’ll get in form
again for next year,” and with rather a bitter laugh Bill prepared to
follow his brothers.

As they had been on their good behavior of late, and as there was such
a competition for places on the ball team, it was decided that they
should get permission to make a trip to the village instead of trying
to run the guard.

“I’m not hankering to have the proctor’s scouts nab me,” explained
Cap, “and I guess we can get a pass all right if we put it up to Nibsy
good and strong,” the aforesaid proctor who rejoiced in the appelation
Alexander McNibb being thus designated.

They obtained permission easily, though the proctor looked at them
rather sharply, and Pete wondered if he recognized in him and his
brothers the lads who had, a few nights previous, wheeled a town
sprinkling cart into the middle of the school inner court and left
it there with an admonition printed on a big placard adorning it,
recommending that certain members of the sporting crowd get aboard the
water vehicle. But if the proctor knew anything he kept it to himself,
and, a little later the three Smith boys, and Whistle-Breeches were
trudging toward town.

They saw the glare of the gasoline torches on the professor’s wagon
before they heard his voice, but it was not long ere they recognized
his resonant tones calling out the merits of his Rapid Robust Resolute
Resolvent and other wares.

There was a large throng about the wagon, and business was good. The
professor, looking over the heads of his audience recognized our
heroes, and nodded to them pleasantly, yet never ceasing his “patter.”
Between the sale of his remedies and soap, he rendered several ballads
accompanying himself on the banjo.

“It sure does remind me of old times!” exclaimed Pete, humming the
chorus of the song the professor was singing.

“Cut it out!” advised Cap hastily.

Bill was not very talkative, but Whistle-Breeches enjoyed the affair
immensely, and was greatly interested in what Professor Clatter called
his “patter.”

“We ought to get him to some of our class rackets,” said Donald. “He’d
be no end of a lark.”

“I guess he doesn’t stay in this part of the country long—nor, in fact
anywhere more than a couple of nights,” replied Pete, and, as he spoke
he looked beyond the gaudily decorated vehicle of the medicine vendor
and caught a glimpse of another wagon drawn alongside the road. It was
one with something like a three inch quick-firing gun projecting from
the covered top, and Pete whispered to his brothers:

“There’s Duodecimo Donaldby’s rig if I’ve got my eyesight left. I
wonder if he’s shooting rain-making bombs for a living now, or curing
sick horses?”

“We’ll soon know,” said Cap. “The professor is nearly through.”

The crowd having exhausted the entertaining features of the medicine
man’s little effort, and the sale of the remedies and soaps being about
at an end, Mr. Clatter announced that he was through for the evening.
The people began to disperse, and soon Cap, with his two brothers and
Whistle-Breeches were seated inside the snug little wagon, enjoying a
cup of tea and some cakes which the professor set before them.

“I’m glad you boys came,” he said, as he looked in the tiny teapot to
see how much of the beverage remained. “I want to have a talk with
you—but hold on, I was almost forgetting an old friend.”

He stepped to the window of his vehicle, poked out his head, and
gave a call which was at once answered. Presently some one was heard
approaching, and, as the door opened the head of the character known to
our friends as the “rain-maker,” was thrust inside.

“Welcome to the Smith boys!” he called.

“Enter!” invited Mr. Clatter.

“Yes, come in and talk over old times, Mr. Donaldby,” added Pete.

“Hush! Not that name!” exclaimed the weather prophet, with a warning
finger laid athwart his lips. “Not that name or by a shattered
cirrus-nimbus cloud you’ll have the authorities about my ears!”

“How about Mirthrandes Hendershot?” asked Cap.

“No—no! Not that! Not that! Spavin, ring bone and blind staggers are
things of the past. I dare not undertake to cure any more horses.”

“Just what _are_ you doing?” asked Pete, as the former weather prophet
entered and took a low stool.

“Ah, now we are coming to it,” was the answer with a smile. “In the
first place my name—how does Tithonus Somnus strike you?”

“An odd combination,” remarked Cap, recalling the one ancient god who
was turned into a grasshopper, and the other who symbolized sleep.

“Odd, and so much the better,” went on Mr. Somnus. “It typifies my

“Which might be—?” asked Bill suggestively.

“Which might be almost anything, and nothing, and which, at times is
neither or both, but which at present is that of astronomer ordinary.
That is my present occupation. I go about the country initiating
the farmers and country folk into the mysteries of the heavens. In
fact I jump about from place to place, hence the name Tithonus. I
jump while others sleep, and show the stars which only come out at
slumber-time—hence the name, Somnus. Is it clear?”

“Perfectly so,” answered Whistle-Breeches, who thought the astronomer a
most delightful character.

“And so you are showing the stars and moon?” asked Pete.

“On all except cloudy nights,” was the reply. “I find it pays well.
Only misfortune seems to follow me. The other night when there was
a most delightful moon, I had trained my telescope on it, and was
admitting the populace to the view at so much per ‘pop’ as it were. I
could not understand the murmurs of indignation that arose from some of
the gazers, nor the expressions of wonder from others, until taking a
look myself, I saw a strange and weird countenance peering at me from
the end of the telescope. I had been describing the mountains of the
moon, but lo! they turned out to be the whiskers and eyes of my pet cat
Scratch, who, perched upon the roof of my wagon, was calmly gazing down
through the object lens.”

“A cat!” cried Cap. “No wonder the people couldn’t understand what they

“And so I was in ill-repute,” continued the astronomer gloomily, “and
had to travel on. Then it was cloudy to-night so I can do no trade. But
enough of this, tell me of yourselves,” which the boys proceeded to do.

The talk worked around to Bill’s misfortune, and as soon as this topic
was reached Professor Clatter, who had hitherto been talking but
little, evidenced a sudden interest.

“Now it is my turn to say something,” he said. “I asked you boys to
come here for a purpose, and the purpose was connected with my friend
Duodecimo—I beg your pardon, Tithonus Somnus. In the first place,
Tithy, which I will call you for short, in the first place, Tithy, have
you forgotten what you used to know about spectacles?”

“Spectacles? No,” was the reply. “But what in the world has that to do
with baseball, and the fact that Bill will have to give up pitching?”

“I’ll get to that in time,” replied the professor. “You used to go
about the country fitting people with glasses, did you not, Tithy?”

“I did, until they passed a law requiring one to maintain a fixed
residence if he would practice as an oculist, and then I became a
weather prophet, a rain-maker, a horse doctor and other professional
men in turn.”

“Exactly,” said the professor. “And am I right in thinking that you
still have your eye-testing apparatus with you, and also some of the
spectacle lens?”

“You are. In fact I have made a small telescope of some of my glasses.
You may not think so,” he went on, turning to the lads, “but I
received a fine medical education, and I specialized in eyes. I was
once considered a good oculist, but love of a roving life precluded me
practicing with success. Still I have not forgotten my knowledge.”

“I thought not!” exclaimed Mr. Clatter with energy. “That’s why I asked
the boys to come here to-night to meet you. I had a plan in mind, and I
hope, with your aid, Tithy, to carry it out.

“Bill, here, wants to pitch on the Varsity nine. He has a good chance,
or, rather he had a good chance, until his unfortunate injury lost him
a certain necessary control of the ball. Am I not right?” he asked,
appealing to the youth in question.

“That’s right,” answered Bill, wondering what was going to happen.

“Very well then. Now it seems that with the proper glasses the
temporary defect in your vision would be corrected as far as reading
was concerned; wouldn’t it?”

“That’s what the doctor said.”

“Correct again. Now then, if you can wear glasses to read with, why
can’t you wear them to play ball with?”

“Play ball in glasses!” cried Bill.

“It has been done,” went on the professor easily. “Of course it would
be rather hard for a catcher or a baseman to wear them, with the
necessity of having to catch balls thrown with great swiftness. But
it’s different with a pitcher. He practically only throws the ball, and
it is returned to him easily. Glasses would not be a hindrance to you.
In fact, in your case, they would be a help.”

“I—I never thought of wearing glasses and pitching,” stammered Bill.

“All the more reason for thinking of it now. Here is my plan.”

The professor motioned for the boys and the astronomer to give close

“We’ll get Tithy here to give you a good examination,” said Mr.
Clatter, “and we’ll have him make you a special pair of glasses. He’ll
put them in a strong frame, so they will set close to your face, and
fasten on securely. They won’t come off no matter how hard you run,
and in fact you may not need them when you’re at the bat. But you do
need them to pitch with, and you’re going to have them. Can you make an
examination to-night, Tithy?”

“Better than in daylight. I have all the instruments, and I think I
could make the glasses.”

“Then it’s all settled!” declared Mr. Clatter, as if that was all there
was to it. “Come along, boys, we’ll go over to the other palace car,
and see what happens. Bill, you’re going to pitch again, and if you
don’t make the Varsity it’s your own fault!”

The medicine man had rattled on at such a rate that the boys had hardly
had a chance to speak. As for Bill his brain was in a whirl. He did
not know whether or not to have any faith in what was proposed.

“Do you really think it can be done?” he asked.

“Of course it can!” declared Mr. Clatter.

“I can make the glasses all right,” answered Mr. Somnus with
professional pride.

“But could I pitch with them on?” asked Bill.

“I don’t see why not,” was Cap’s opinion.

“Wouldn’t the fellows laugh me off the diamond?”

“I’d like to see them do it!” exclaimed Whistle-Breeches fiercely.

“If you can’t play, after you show that you can still pitch as good as
before, Cap and I won’t be on the team,” declared Pete with energy.

“Oh, I’m not going to act that way about it,” spoke Bill, but there was
a more hopeful look on his face.

A little later he was again being put through the eyesight test. Mr.
Somnus, as he preferred to be called, was in his element. He had a very
good set of instruments, and he very soon demonstrated that he knew his

“Ha! Hum!” he exclaimed from time to time, as he made test after test,
and jotted down the results of some calculations on paper. “I find
that you will have to have a very peculiar pair of lens,” he said. “I
haven’t them, but I can get them for you.”

“And will the defect in my eyes be corrected?” asked Bill eagerly.

“You’ll never know you had it,” was the confident answer. “The injury
was a peculiar one, involving, as the other doctor told you, one of the
optic nerves. It may pass away at any time, but while it exists it must
be corrected. Glasses will do it, and inside of a week I predict that
you will pitch as well as before. Shall I make the glasses?”

“Yes!” fairly shouted Bill. “I don’t care what they cost.”

The details were soon arranged. Mr. Somnus knew of an establishment
where lens for glasses were ground, and he undertook to procure them
for Bill. He would return with them in a few days, he said, and adjust
them in a proper frame—a frame that would admit of rough play.

“Then we’ll see what happens,” said Professor Clatter. “I have to
travel on in the morning, but I’m coming back to see the test. I’m
interested in this,” and the honest, if somewhat eccentric character,
clapped Bill heartily on the back.

The pitcher’s spirits had come back to him, and on the way back to the
school that night he laughed and joked with his brothers as before.

It seemed as if the time would never pass. Baseball practice was the
order of the day now, and every afternoon the Westfield diamond was
thronged with prospective members of the Varsity nine. Cap was more
than ever assured of a place as catcher, Pete, as I have said, was
the regular Shortstop, but poor Bill had to wait, and see his rival,
Mersfeld, filling the box.

“But keep up your spunk,” Pete told his brother one afternoon,
following a grueling practice. “They’re not half satisfied with
Mersfeld, and if your glasses are any good at all you’ll have his

“I don’t want to put him out,” said Bill. “If I only get a chance to
play in some of the big games I’ll be satisfied.”

He refrained from pitching during the time he was waiting, and was
excused from some of his studies until he had the reading glasses the
town oculist made for him.

Then, one day, came a note from the rain-maker stating that he and his
wagon were in their former place, and that the “ball-glasses,” as Bill
called them, were ready.

“Now for the test!” cried Mr. Somnus, as Bill, his brothers and
Whistle-Breeches arrived at the improvised camp early one afternoon.
Cap had brought his mask and glove and was to catch for his brother.

“I hope my plan works,” murmured Mr. Clatter.

The special lenses which Mr. Somnus had had made were fitted into a
strong, black rubber frame, and it set close to Bill’s eyes. It gave
him an odd appearance, but it was just the thing for playing a game of
ball. He had demonstrated that he could bat well without any glasses,
so he would only have to be a “four-eyes,” as he dubbed himself, in the
pitching box.

The glasses were put on. Bill took a ball, and walked off a short
distance while Cap donned his mask and mitt.

“Let her go!” he called to his brother, who was “winding up,” in his
usual fashion. A square stone had been laid down as a plate.

There was an anxious moment among the little knot of spectators. Bill
drew back his hand, worked his arm a couple of times, squinted through
the glasses, and then with the speed of a miniature projectile, the
ball left his grip and sped toward Cap.

“Biff!” That was the ball hitting the big mitt.

“Strike!” yelled Cap. “It was over the plate as clean as a whistle, but
it had a curve to it that would fool Hans Wagner himself! Good work,
old man!”

“Try another!” called Bill, trying to keep his voice cool.

Once more the ball went over the plate cleanly.

“Strike!” called Cap again.

“Are they all right?” asked Bill.

“Right as a trivet! Oh, Bill, you’re yourself again!”

There was a moisture in the pitcher’s eyes, but the odd glasses
concealed his tears of gratitude.

“Hurrah!” yelled Professor Clatter leaping about like a boy. “Now
you’ll make the Varsity; eh Tithy?”

“He will! I can read it in the stars!” said the little astronomer,

That Bill was delighted to find his former skill had not deserted him
goes without saying. It was tempered a bit by the fact that he had to
wear glasses, but that could not be helped.

“I wonder how Mr. Windam will take to ’em?” he asked his brothers as
they walked back to school together.

“He won’t care as long as you can pitch the way you did this
afternoon,” declared Cap.

“I wonder what Graydon will say?”

“I don’t see how he can say anything,” came from Whistle-Breeches. “Any
captain wants the best pitcher he can get.”

“And as for J. Evans Green, he’s the kind of a manager who wants to
see games won, and keep possession of the pennant,” declared Pete.
“There won’t be any kicking about the glasses, Bill. He’d let you wear
hoop-skirts if it made you play better.”

But there was objection to Bill when he appeared for practice wearing
the odd goggles, though it did not come from coach, captain or manager.
It was first voiced by Bondy Guilder, and some of his cronies.

“Why don’t you play a lot of men with crutches, and their arms in
bandages?” asked the rich youth with a sneer.

“I would if they could do better than some fellows I know who seem to
think a ball will bat itself and catch itself,” declared the captain
with energy, for there had been a slump in practice that day.

It even extended to Mersfeld the crack pitcher who issued passes to a
number of men and was hit more times than he liked to count.

“What’s the matter with you?” demanded the coach half savagely as the
scrub pulled over three runs in succession, and Mersfeld walked another
man to first. “Are you dreaming that this is a tennis match, or don’t
you want to play?”

“Of course I want to play!” was the reply, “only I can’t be at
top-notch all the while.”

“You’ve got to!” was the curt decision. “If you don’t do better than
this in the final try-out you’ll be a substitute instead of a regular.”

“And I suppose ‘Foureyes’ Smith will have my place?” suggested Mersfeld
with a sneer.

“It’ll go to the man who does the best work—four eyes or eight
eyes—rest assured of that. Now put some ginger into your pitching, if
you can!”

Stung by the words of the coach Mersfeld did a little better, and the
Varsity saved the game by a narrow margin. But there were many whispers
around the school and in the gymnasium that day there were strange
rumors of a shake-up in the team, rumors of the strong nines which the
Tuckerton Sandrim and Haydon schools had ready to put on the diamond to
battle for the pennant in the interscholastic league.

The opening of the season was not far off. Day by day the practice on
the Westfield diamond grew harder and more exacting. Bill had gotten
back all his former skill, and the little rest seemed to have done him
good, for his speed increased, and his curving ability was considered
remarkable by his friends. He had gotten used to the glasses which he
only wore when in the box, and he hardly noticed them at all.

Mersfeld, too, had taken a brace, and was doing good work, whereat
coach and captain were glad.

“I guess he’ll make out,” said Graydon one night when he and Mr. Windam
were talking over matters. “But I’m glad we have Smith to fall back on.”

“So am I. Smith may be first pitcher yet. When have you arranged for
the try-out game?”

“Day after to-morrow. We’ll play Mersfeld four innings on the Varsity
and then give Smith a show. That will be the test.”

There was so much interest in the try-out that almost as big a crowd
assembled on the diamond to witness it as usually was present at a
match game. Bill was a trifle nervous for he realized what he was up
against, and as for Mersfeld, that pitcher went about with a confident
smile on his face.

“Are you going to make it?” his friends asked him.

“Of course I am,” he assured them. “I’ll pitch against Tuckerton all
right Saturday.”

For the first league game was to take place then, and it was
unofficially announced that the players who made the best records in
this, the final try-out would have the honor of representing Westfield
on the diamond at the opening of the season.

“Play ball!” called the umpire, and Bill watched his rival take his
place in the box. How he longed to be there himself! But he knew his
turn would come, and he felt in his pocket to see if his precious
glasses were safe. Without them he would be lost, and he wished now
that he had had two pairs made for emergencies. He decided he would try
to locate the traveling astronomer and get another set.

The game opened up with a snap, and this was maintained right along.
Everyone was doing his best, for it was no small honor that was at
stake. There was no denying that Mersfeld did well for the first three
innings. There was only one hit off him, and in the fourth he struck
out two men in quick succession.

Then, whether it was a slump, whether he went stale, or whether it was
nervousness due to the fact that he was under close observation did not
manifest itself, but the fact remains that, after getting two men out,
he grew wild, passed one of the poorest batters, was hit for a three
bagger by the next, and when another got up, and knocked a home run,
there was pandemonium among the members of the scrub nine.

“What’s got into Mersfeld?” was the general inquiry.

Nobody knew, and when the fifth inning opened, with Bill in the box,
there was intense excitement. Bill adjusted his glasses and got ready
to pitch.

“Now watch Foureyes put ’em over!” sneered Bondy Guilder.

“That’ll do!” called Mr. Windam sharply. “This isn’t a match game, and
there’s no need of rattling one of our own men. Save your sarcasm,
Guilder, for Tuckerton!”

Bondy muttered something under his breath, and walked over to talk to
Mersfeld, who was darkly regarding his rival from the coaching line.

Bill was a bit nervous but as Cap had been sent in to catch the pitcher
grew confident as he saw the friendly face of his brother, and caught
the well-known signal for an out shoot.

Bill nodded in confirmation, drew back his arm, hesitated a moment,
wondered for one wild second whether he was still himself, and could
see to make the curve, and then—he threw.

“Strike one!” howled the umpire, and then Bill knew that he _was_
himself, and a fierce joy welled up in his heart. He caught the ball
Cap tossed back to him, and sent it stinging in again.

“Strike two!” was the reassuring call, and the batter pounded the plate
in desperation, for he had not before moved his stick.

He swung viciously at the next one, and—missed it clean.

“That’s the boy!”

“Go at ’em!”

“Put some more over like that!”

“Give the next one a teaser!”

Thus Bill’s friends encouraged him.

The try-out game went on, growing more fierce as each player struggled
to make a record. Bill was a marvel with the ball. But one hit was
registered off him during the five innings that he pitched. After the
contest there was a consultation among the captain, manager and coach
and it was announced to the anxiously waiting ones that Bill Smith
would pitch the first five innings of the opening game with Tuckerton,
with Mersfeld as second pitcher, while Cap Smith would catch for his
brother, and Dean Denby for Mersfeld.

“I told you that’s how it would be!” cried Whistle-Breeches clapping
Bill on the back with such heartiness that the pitcher’s glasses nearly
flew off.

“Boy, I’m proud of you!” spoke Cap fervently.

Mersfeld said nothing but there was a bitter feeling in his heart.

“An upstart Freshman!” he muttered as he passed by Bondy Guilder.

“That’s what,” agreed the rich youth, “and I’d like to see him taken
down a peg. Do you know how it can be done?”

“No,” replied the rival pitcher.

“Come here and I’ll tell you,” suggested Bondy, and the two walked
across the diamond arm-in-arm, talking earnestly, and the talk boded no
good for Bill Smith.