FUN AT THE CIRCUS

“The Monkey he’s a friend of mine,
In fact, I’ve heard it stated
That me and he and he and me
Is distantly related.
I guess it’s true, for I can do
Most all the tricks that he cuts,
And me and he and he and me
Is awful fond of peanuts!”

Thus sang Alf as, arm in arm with Tom, he swaggered across the bridge
on the way to Greenburg and the circus. Behind walked Dan and Gerald
and Paul Rand. Still further behind came more of Yardley, and further
ahead were others. Yardley was turning out _en masse_ for the circus.
Cuts had been granted in all afternoon recitations and here was a
half-holiday with nothing to do but have a good time! And every fellow
was determined to have it.

“Next verse!” shouted Dan.

“No, chorus first! All together now!”

“I’d like to be a Monkey monk
And live up in a tree;
I’d like to be a big Baboon,
An Ape or Chimpanzee!
I’d wear a monkey-jacket and
Eat cocoanuts and candy;
I’d wave the Stars and Stripes and be
A Monkey Doodle Dandy!”

“Next verse!” commanded Dan again.

“Oh, behave,” ordered Tom. “Cut out the comedy.”

“He’s jealous of my beautiful voice,” said Alf. “Oh, look at the pretty
pictures. I shan’t go another step until I’ve seen all the pretty
pictures.”

So they stopped in front of a board fence which was gaudily adorned
with circus posters while Alf feasted his eyes.

“It’s a good idea, you know,” he explained philosophically, “to enjoy
the pictures, because they’re fifty times better than the circus.
Now, Gerald, there, in his innocence, doubtless expects to see seven
elephants doing a cake-walk and balancing themselves on red and
blue seesaws, like that. But the fact is that there’ll be just two
elephants, one old, old elephant, moth-eaten and decrepit, and one
extremely young and frolicsome elephant about the size of a Shetland
pony. And the old elephant won’t do much because he’s too aged, and the
young elephant will just look on because he’s too young and tender for
work. Lies, lies, beautiful lies!”

“Oh, come on,” laughed Dan. “We won’t get any seats if we don’t hustle.”

“Wait, wait until I see the boa-constrictor and the be-oot-shus
lady. She thinks he’s a new set of furs. See the way she’s wrapping
him around her neck? Someone ought to tell her; it’s a shame. I’ll
undeceive her when I arrive, all right, all right. And, oh, the cunning
little zebras! Wouldn’t you love to have a cunning little zebra to ride
on, Dan? My, oh my! I’d ride to Chapel on it every morning and hitch it
to the statue of Apollo outside Room D. And, fellows, fellows! Observe,
pray, the marvelous–”

But he was dragged resisting away.

“Say, didn’t you ever just _cry_ to be in a circus, Tom?” he inquired
as they took up their journey again. “I have. Why, I used to think that
if I could wear pink tights and hang from a trapeze by my toes at the
top of a circus tent I’d be happy for life! If I ever get very, very
wealthy I shall have a circus of my own, Tom. And I’ll let Dan and
Gerald come in free, but you will have to pay, Tom, because you’re so
hard-hearted and wouldn’t let me see the pictures; you’ll have to pay
all of seventeen nice bright pins!”

“Oh, shut up,” growled Tom. “Folks’ll think you’re dippy.”

“Great scheme!” Alf exclaimed radiantly. “When we get to the tent I’ll
put my cap on inside out and make faces and jibber and be a Wild Man
from Wissining! And you chaps can collect dimes from the audience and
we’ll go up to Parker’s afterwards and buy ice-cream sodas. Marvelous!
_Marvelous!_”

The circus occupied a waste lot on the farther side of the town, and it
was a good half-hour’s walk from Yardley. But they reached it in plenty
of time to view the animals in the outer tent before it was time to
repair to the circus proper. And Alf had a glorious time and kept the
others in a continual howl of laughter. Several other Yardley fellows
joined their party and listened convulsed while Alf addressed the
rhinoceros.

“Beautiful Beast!” declaimed Alf. “Child of the trackless jungle!
Denizen of the African waste, we salute you! (Salute, you idiots!)
Thou art indeed handsome! Thou art verily the Tom Dyer of the Animal
Kingdom. Thou art even more so and then some, for Tom has no horn
on his nose. Even thy beautiful feet resemble his and thou hastest
the same simple grandeur of contour, whatever that is. And thou
also hastest a noble grouchiness of expression which remindest us
of our dear Tom. Hast a name, Little One? No? Sayest thou so? Alack
and well-a-day! Thou shalt be named and right nobly, O Timorous
Nightingale of the Dark Continent! Hereafter thou shalt be known as
Tom. Arise, Tom, and chortle thy glee and dance flitsomely! See him
dance flitsomely, fellows?”

The rhinoceros neither altered attitude nor expression, however, and
Alf was dragged away to see the Royal Bengal Tiger, whom he addressed
as “Kitty.”

“Say, Tom,” said Dan presently, when they had completed the circuit of
the tent, “I’ll bet all Broadwood is here. I’ve seen dozens of fellows
already.”

“Really?” asked Tom, with a grin. “Say, we’ll have some fun, then.” He
acquainted the others with Dan’s news and a howl of glee arose.

“We’ll get our crowd all together,” said Alf, “and have a little
cheering to waken things up a bit. Come on.”

So they made their way into the tent, which was already half filled,
and chose seats in an unoccupied section. Then:

“Yardley, this way!” was the cry. “Yardley, this way!”

Yardley responded quickly and in two minutes that section of the stand
was filled with some two hundred youths.

“Now, fellows,” announced Alf, who had constituted himself Master of
Ceremonies, “let’s give a cheer for the elephant!”

They gave it; and followed up with one for the tiger; and followed that
up with one for the monkeys.

“And now, fellows,” Alf cried gleefully, “let’s have one for Broadwood!”

So they cheered Broadwood–after the monkeys–amidst much laughter from
their own section and the adjoining ones. No laughter, however, came
from the stand across the tent where Broadwood was concentrating her
forces. A minute afterwards Broadwood accepted the challenge and began
cheering, following the cheers with football songs. And in the midst of
that there was a blare of music from the red-coated band and the grand
procession appeared. Yardley applauded mightily and cheered everything
and everybody that passed. And then comparative quiet returned and the
exhibitions in the rings began.

It wasn’t a very large circus, but it was a good one, and the fellows
enjoyed it all hugely. When the trick donkey appeared with the leading
clown seated on his back belaboring him with a bladder on the end of a
stick Paul Rand made the hit of the afternoon by bawling loudly;

“_Whoa, Broadwood!_”

Even Broadwood thought that rather funny and laughed. But they tried
for revenge later by dubbing the trick elephant “Yardley.” And when he
finally managed to get all four feet onto a big red and yellow ball of
wood they demanded; “Touchdown, Yardley, touchdown!”

And so the performance drew triumphantly to its close while attendants
passed around selling tickets for the “Grand Concert and Minstrel
Entertainment to begin immediately after the show.”

Gerald, who had had a wonderful time all afternoon, leaned forward and
begged Dan to remain and see the minstrel show. But Alf, who overheard,
said;

“It isn’t worth the price, Gerald. You stay with the crowd and you’ll
have lots more fun.”

“Why?” Gerald asked curiously. But Alf only shook his head and looked
mysterious. Then the performance came to an end and the audience surged
toward the single exit. This was not the way they had entered; instead
of leading back to the smaller tent it deposited the throng out in
the open air in front of the side-shows. This exit was a good twelve
feet wide and was formed by an opening in the big tent and a canvas
passageway some fifteen feet in length. The passageway was a smaller
tent open at each end and supported by half a dozen light poles and as
many guy-ropes. The inner walls were covered with cordial and gaudy
invitations to the side-shows, and a “barker,” armed with a small cane
and a resonant voice, stood under the alluring placards and recited the
attractions of “Fatima, the Turkish Fortune Teller” and “Mademoiselle
Marcelle, the Most Marvelous Snake Charmer of the Century.”

“Hurry up,” whispered Alf as he seized Gerald’s arm and dragged him
through the throng. The exit was close to the seats occupied by the
Yardley contingent and so they were soon outside. There the Yardley
fellows lined up about the entrance and began cheering. Gerald, craning
his head over Alf’s shoulder, watched the exit in excited expectation.
He didn’t know what was going to happen but he was certain something
would. Broadwood, hearing the Yardley cheers, came to a similar
conclusion and kept her forces well together as she made for the exit.
For a minute or two the emerging stream was composed of townsfolk, and
the Yardley cheers continued. Gerald looked about for Dan, but couldn’t
see him. Alf, when questioned, replied enigmatically that Dan had been
assigned to duty. Gerald’s further inquiries were interrupted.

“Here they come!” someone announced in a stage-whisper, and Gerald
saw the fore-rank of Broadwood emerging from the big tent into the
passageway. Instantly Alf was leading a mighty cheer for “Broadwood!
Broadwood! Broadwood!” Some of the oncoming army grinned approval at
the compliment, but there were more who scowled suspiciously, pulled
their caps firmer on their heads, and buttoned their jackets.

“Oh, oh!” murmured Alf delightedly. “Like sheep to the slaughter! Good
old Broadwood! A-ay, Broadwood! Broadwood!”

And then, just as the first of the Broadwood fellows had reached the
outer end of the passageway, a voice shouted “_Let her go!_” Gerald
found himself being pressed back. There were cries of delight all about
him. The canvas passageway swayed, the roof and walls settled inward
and the tent descended calmly, inexorably upon the struggling crowd
beneath. There was a wild and prolonged howl of joy from Yardley, a
smothered babel of alarm and consternation from under the heaving
canvas, and then Gerald, with Alf dragging him along, found himself
flying wildly from the scene, tripping over ropes, colliding with
persons, and shouting triumphantly as he went.

A quarter of a mile away the flying hordes of Yardley drew pace
and breath, cheered approvingly for themselves and tauntingly for
Broadwood, and then, forming into lines eight abreast, marched in
triumph back to school singing their songs. When, breathless and
exultant, Tom, Alf, Dan, and Gerald found themselves in Number 7
Dudley, Gerald alone expressed a regret.

“Why didn’t you let me help cut the ropes?” he asked Alf.

“Cut the ropes?” asked Alf. “Why, child, how you do talk! Nobody didn’t
cut no ropes!”

“Then how did they get the tent down?” persisted Gerald, looking from
Alf to Dan and from Dan to Tom.

“Well,” said Alf, settling himself comfortably on the window-seat,
“that’s what you might term a coincidence. Of course we don’t know
anything for certain, but it does look as though the guy-ropes all got
loosened at the same moment. Then the natural thing happened; the tent
came down. It certainly was a surprise to me! Why, I no more looked for
anything like that to happen than–than–”

“Well,” laughed Tom, “it means that there won’t be any circus for
Yardley next Spring.”

“Which is a very good thing,” responded Alf virtuously. “I am convinced
that circuses are bad for us; they take our thoughts away from our
studies, and–and lead us into temptation. No circus, no tent; no tent,
no guy-ropes; no guy-ropes, no–ahem–coincidences!”

“Besides,” said Tom, “you and I will be too busy trying to pass final
exams to have any time for circuses.”

“That’s all right for you fellows,” said Gerald mournfully, “but I like
circuses, and I want to go next year.”

“Away with vain regrets,” cried Alf gayly. “Comfort yourself with the
knowledge that you have witnessed the glorification of Yardley and the
discomfiture of Broadwood. Recall, I pray, the lines of the poet:

“‘Something accomplished, something done
To earn a night’s repose!’”

Of course the Faculty didn’t remain long in ignorance of the incident
and the next morning Mr. Collins read the School a short but eloquent
lecture on the subject of Behavior in Public. But the matter ended
there. A Second Class boy named Farnham, seeking Mr. Collins’ room
the evening before by appointment, had found the host and Mr. Austin,
another of the instructors, laughing loudly, and although they had
sobered down instantly when they had heard his knock on the partly
opened door, Farnham had overheard enough to convince him that the
subject of their mirth had been the tent episode. When this had
percolated through School, as it very shortly did, all fear of
punishment faded. Mr. Collins wasn’t formidable when he laughed.

A few days later Mr. Pennimore’s retinue of servants came down from the
city and opened Sound View for the summer. Gerald spent an hour at the
station that morning between recitations watching the stablemen unload
the horses and traps and hobnobbing with Higgins, the chauffeur, who,
having driven his car down by road, was taking a hand in the unloading.
In the afternoon Gerald went over home and patronized the housekeeper
until the good soul was quite in awe of him. The house was all ready
for Mr. Pennimore’s arrival, and that gentleman was expected in two or
three days. Gerald spent a half hour in his own rooms going through
his belongings. Strange to say, many things which had been precious to
him not much more than six months before to-day held no attractions.
Very soon he had a pile of toys and playthings in the middle of the
floor and was directing their removal and destruction. He got his stamp
albums down and looked through them listlessly, replacing them with a
frown.

“Any fellow can collect stamps,” he muttered. “I’m going to give those
away to someone. Maybe Harry would like them.”

Then he climbed the stairs to the gymnasium which his father had had
arranged for him three years before and looked about it superciliously.
It wasn’t much like the gymnasium at school, he thought. He did the
giant swing on the rings, pulled once or twice at the chest-weights and
turned his back on the room.

“Good enough for a kid,” he muttered as he went downstairs, “but I
won’t use it much, I guess.” He looked at his watch, found he had still
time to reach the field before baseball practice ended, and took his
departure.

Two days later, just at noon, as he was crossing from Oxford to Clarke
the boom of a gun reached him. Hurrying to the edge of The Prospect, he
looked seaward. There, circling in toward Sound View, a little cloud of
smoke still wreathing at her bow, was a great white steam yacht. It was
the Princess! With beating heart Gerald watched. The big boat slowed
down, an anchor splashed into the sea, and the jar and jangle of the
chain running through the hawse-hole came to him. Amidship a boom swung
outward, a little launch was lowered from deck to water, white-clad
figures moved here and there, and then a form in dark clothes went down
the steps, and–

But now Gerald was racing down the terrace, across the bridge and along
the wood path to meet his father.

Dan learned of Mr. Pennimore’s arrival after school.

“I told him you couldn’t come over this afternoon,” said Gerald, “on
account of practice. So he said I must bring you to dinner at seven.”

“Gee! I’d like to go,” answered Dan wistfully, “but there wouldn’t be
anything I could eat, I guess. It isn’t exactly a training table you
folks set, Gerald. Besides, even if you had cold roast beef or poached
eggs and such things, I’d want to eat the whole menu. I wish I wasn’t
in training.”

“You don’t either,” said Gerald indignantly. “You’re mighty proud of
it, and you know it! My! I wish I was in your place! Harry Merrow says
you’re certain to get into the Broadwood game, Dan.”

Dan shook his head sadly.

“Merrow is a good little chap,” he said, “but I’ll never get into the
Broadwood game unless they let me in for a minute at the end to give
me my Y. And as I’ve got two more years that isn’t likely. Of course I
don’t want anything to happen to Condit, but–” Followed an eloquent
silence.

“You can play just as well as he can,” said Gerald stoutly.

“No, I can’t. That is, I know the game as well, maybe, but he’s been on
the team a year already and he knows what to do and how to do it. He’s
had more experience. Oh, I don’t care–much. Maybe I’ll make it next
year. The trouble is, though, that Condit will be here then, too.”

“Danforth won’t, though,” replied Gerald. “He’s a First Class man. You
might make second next year, Dan.”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” said Dan more cheerfully. “I’d rather make
second, too. Why don’t you bring your father up to-morrow to see the
game, Gerald? Wouldn’t he care for it?”

“I will. It’s Pell School, isn’t it?”

“Yes, and the last game before Broadwood. We’re going to get licked,
they say. Now, about this evening, Gerald. I can’t come to dinner but I
want to see your father awfully. Suppose I come over afterwards?”

“Of course! And we’ll come home together. Father can’t understand why
I don’t want to go over there to live. But he says I can stay on here
until school closes if I’ll take luncheon and dinner with him. I must
see Mr. Collins about it.”

“And I must dig out for practice. I guess, though, there won’t be much
work this afternoon. Hello, did someone knock?”

It was Harry Merrow. He wanted Gerald to go canoeing with him, but
Gerald explained that his father had returned and that he was going
over there for the afternoon. So Harry decided to go down to the field
with Dan and watch practice. They parted in front of Oxford, Gerald
running in to the Office to get permission from Mr. Collins to spend
all the time he wanted at Sound View and the other two continuing
around to the gymnasium. Dan found himself on third base when practice
began, for, although the regulars were to have an easy time of it in
view of the hard contest set for the morrow, the substitutes were put
through a strenuous afternoon.

Supper over, Dan set out for Sound View and found a hearty welcome
awaiting him. Mr. Pennimore had to have a full account from Dan of
everything that had transpired since his departure abroad. Dan tried
to hurry over that part of his narrative which concerned Gerald’s
unannounced departure from school, but Mr. Pennimore wanted full
details. He shook his head when Dan had finished.

“I didn’t think you were of the run-away kind, Gerald,” he said
regretfully. Gerald looked rather ashamed.

“Well, sir, it was a silly thing to do,” said Dan, “but Gerald had a
lot of troubles about that time, Mr. Pennimore.”

“Running away doesn’t help,” replied Gerald’s father dryly. “The
troubles can always run faster than you can. Next time, son, you hold
your ground and fight it out.”

“Yes, sir, I will next time,” answered Gerald. “I–I know better now.”

“Well, that’s something. I don’t see but what you’ve been learning a
good many things–beside algebra.”

“Yes, sir,” said Gerald meekly. Dan smiled as he caught the twinkle in
Mr. Pennimore’s eye.

“I suppose you’re doing pretty good work in algebra now, son?”

“I expect to get C plus, sir,” said Gerald eagerly.

“C; hm; that’s the highest mark, is it?”

“N-no, sir, you can get a B–sometimes.”

“How about an A?”

Gerald shook his head decidedly. “Not from Kilts, sir. They say he
never gave anyone an A but once and then it was a mistake.”

“That’s true, sir,” laughed Dan. “B plus is about the best you can
expect from Kilts.”

“Well, if that is so you’re doing pretty well, aren’t you, Gerald?”

“Yes, sir; Kilts says so himself.”

“And how about other studies?”

“Oh, I don’t mind them,” replied Gerald carelessly. “Maybe I will get
an A in English. Say, though, you just ought to have been here and seen
the Class Games! Weren’t they great, Dan?”

And thereupon the conversation switched from the dangerous topic of
studies to the enthralling one of baseball. Dan’s suggestion that
perhaps Mr. Pennimore would like to see the morrow’s game with Pell
School was well received and Mr. Pennimore promised to accompany Gerald
to that event.

“I had already promised myself a vacation until Monday,” he said, “so
I could see something of this good-for-nothing boy of mine. I find,
however, that my appearance on the scene is of much less interest to
him than the next ball game. I’m afraid you’ve pretty effectually
weaned him away from me, Dan?”

“We’re all rather excited about baseball just now, sir,” replied Dan
apologetically.

“And you’ve got to go over to Broadwood, sir, and see the big game!”
exclaimed Gerald eagerly. “You will, won’t you? We could go over in
the car and have a dandy time. You could ride over with us, couldn’t
you, Dan?”

“Afraid I’ll have to go in the barge with the team,” answered Dan. “I
wish you could see that game, though, Mr. Pennimore. It will be a fine
one.”

“Well, we will see. Perhaps I can. Saturday, you say? I’ll think it
over.”

Mr. Pennimore watched the contest the next afternoon from a seat in
the grand stand, Gerald beside him. Mr. Pennimore didn’t know when he
had last seen a baseball game and he had to have a good many things
explained to him. But he had a competent and willing tutor, and long
before the game was at an end he had become imbued with some of
Gerald’s enthusiasm, and, if he didn’t jump out of his seat every two
minutes and yell himself hoarse after the manner of his companion, he
became much interested and shared Gerald’s sorrow and disappointment at
the outcome of the match.

For Yardley went down in ignominious defeat that day. Ignominious is
not too strong a term, either. Yardley played, to quote Payson, the
coach, “like a lot of babies.” Just what the trouble was no one seemed
to know, although one heard all sorts of explanations offered after
the game was over and Pell School had departed, cheering and happy,
with one more victory added to their long list for the season. Yardley
had played mighty poor ball; that was the long and short of it. They
seemed to have forgotten everything they had ever known about batting,
fielding, base-running, and team work. Even the redoubtable Colton,
who had been sent into the box in the sixth inning to save the game,
had failed to pitch his wonted game, and had been unmercifully slammed
around the lot. The final score was 8 to 1, and an unbiased critic, had
there been one on hand, would have told you that the score didn’t begin
to show the relative merits of the two teams as they played that day.
Pell School simply overwhelmed her opponent, taking quick advantage of
every misplay, batting like National Leaguers, and running the bases
like mice.

Payson was discouraged. There had been no slump all season, and now it
had come at the eleventh hour, and he very greatly doubted whether in
the four days of practice which remained before the final game the team
could be brought together again in condition. It was one of the worst
slumps he had ever had to contend with, and the situation looked pretty
desperate to him.

The team and substitutes trotted back to the gymnasium after the game
with no pleasant anticipations. That they would receive a frightful
wigging from Payson was a foregone conclusion; that some of them might
lose their places was not improbable. But Payson, after looking over
the tired, anxious faces before him for a moment, closed his lips
tightly, swung on his heel and left them. He might, he told himself,
have said a great many things, but they were in no condition to hear
them. Fault-finding wasn’t going to help at this crisis. If the
fellows were to be brought back to their game, they must be rested and
encouraged, and encouragement was something Payson couldn’t give them
that afternoon.

His unexpected departure left the team dazed, and for a moment no one
made a sound. Then little Durfee, the shortstop, who was only a Third
Class boy and might be forgiven a show of emotion, put one bare arm
over his eyes and began to sob. That broke the tension.

“Well,” said Millener grimly, “what he had to say must have been pretty
bad if he couldn’t say it. Now, look here, you fellows!”

Every one turned toward him, and even the rubber stopped his
administrations.

“Payson couldn’t talk, but I can. And I say we–mind you, I say _we_,
for I was as rotten as any of you–I say, we ought to be whipped, every
one of us, for the fool exhibition we made of ourselves to-day. You
know it, too. There wasn’t a man on the team played his real game. We
were a poor lot. That’s all for that. There’s another week before the
Broadwood game. It’s enough, too. Let’s get down to work on Monday
and put our hearts into it. I don’t say let’s forget to-day’s game; I
say let’s remember it. Let’s remember it a week from to-day, and show
Broadwood that we aren’t the lot of rotters Pell School made us look to
be. Let’s show the School that we can play ball, after all, and that
they aren’t mistaken in putting faith in us. Let’s work–and fight–and
play the game as we _can_ play it! What do you say?”

What they said was a lot. And it was very loud and very earnest, and
after they had said it every fellow felt a whole lot better, even
little Durfee drying his eyes shame-facedly, and summoning a brave
smile to his face.

Dan felt the enthusiasm as well as the rest, and only wished that he
might have the chance that the others would have of proving himself.
He had sat on the bench all the afternoon, watching and waiting and
hoping. But, irony of ironies, where all the team had played poor ball,
there was one who had done a little better than the rest; and that one
was Condit! Dan was disheartened. Even Danforth, the crack second
baseman, had been outplayed by Condit; in fact, Danforth had managed
to make about as poor an exhibition of himself as possible, letting
hit after hit go through his position, and missing more than one throw
to second. But Danforth’s demoralization brought Dan no comfort, for
Danforth, he knew, was a fellow who would make good the next time;
Danforth had proved himself time and again. No, try as he would, Dan
couldn’t see himself in the Broadwood game, and he took his way back
to Clarke, the one silent member of the little throng of players and
substitutes, feeling rather out of it.

But by Monday he had reached a more philosophical frame of mind. Up
until Saturday he had hoped. Now he had stopped hoping and found that
he could be quite cheerful. He might possibly get into the game for
an inning or a half an inning, and, anyway, there was another year
coming. Besides, life was pretty busy nowadays, and there wasn’t much
time for thought, happy or regretful. In a little more than a week
Graduation Day would come, bringing the end of the school year and the
commencement of the Summer holidays. Meanwhile, the First Class fellows
went about with worried countenances and absent-minded glances, being
in the middle of final examinations. All the other fellows were doing
finals, too, but it isn’t so serious when you’re not graduating and
when a diploma doesn’t depend on your ability to present in a few hours
what it has taken you a whole school year to store up.

The Weather Man had evidently determined to do all he could to make
the final week of school memorably pleasant. Monday started in with
a clear sky, and the hottest of June suns. Tuesday the sky was even
bluer and clearer, and the sun hotter. And so it went, day after day,
with the thermometer up in the eighties. What breezes there were, were
tiny, timid, ineffectual little breaths that scarcely stirred the
limp leaves. On Thursday a great bank of white clouds rolled up from
the horizon and at three o’clock a mighty thunder storm was splitting
open the heavens and deluging the earth. It lasted only an hour or
so, however, and then went off muttering and rumbling into the east,
and the sun came out again as jovially ardent as ever. Friday brought
unclouded skies, and Saturday dawned hot and clear, and the School,
final examinations over with for good or bad, and only the Broadwood
baseball game to think about, rejoiced and was glad.

But I am far ahead of my story, for many things happened before
Saturday’s sun came blazing up out of the east.

Contrary to expectation, Monday’s baseball practice was easy and short.
Payson was affable, smiling, unhurried. Apparently he hadn’t a care
in the world to-day. There was a brief session at the batting net,
followed by fielding practice for infielders and outfielders. And then,
when the fellows looked for a game with the Second team, Payson waved
his hand in dismissal.

The players were distinctly disappointed. They had nerved themselves
up for a hard afternoon, determined to work as they had never worked
before, and they hadn’t been given a chance to distinguish themselves!
They felt cheated and cast somber looks at the coach as they trotted
off. They had been fully prepared, even anxious, to suffer martyrdom,
and instead had been treated like so many little kids. It wasn’t
fair! They wanted to be raged at, scolded, driven; and here they
were trotting up the hill to the gymnasium after the easiest sort
of practice, as fresh and untired as you please! What sort of a way
was this to prepare for the Broadwood game? Didn’t Payson realize
that there remained only three days for practice? They talked it over
amongst themselves disgustedly and the consensus of opinion was that
Payson believed them to be stale and was afraid to work them.

“Stale!” exclaimed Alf. “Poppycock! Why, if I felt any better I’d go to
work!”

“Well, he will take it out of us to-morrow,” said Danforth hopefully,
and every one brightened up. But Danforth was mistaken, for Tuesday’s
practice was much like Monday’s. They were kept out a quarter of an
hour longer, but Payson still wore the same look of untroubled ease he
had worn the day before, and not once did he find fault. Corrections
were suggested pleasantly now and then, but no harsh, compelling
demands to “Ginger up, now!” or “Get into it! Get into it!” passed the
coach’s lips. When he wasn’t batting up, Payson stood, for the most
part, in tranquil conversation with Andy Ryan, the trainer.

The result was that Captain Millener and the players themselves took
affairs into their own hands, and as soon as it became evident that
Payson didn’t care whether they worked hard or not, they began to
make things hum. While it lasted it was the snappiest practice of the
year. When, all too soon, Payson called a halt, the fellows went off
secretly exultant; they had done their work well in spite of Payson!

“I guess we showed him!” whispered little Durfee to Reid, casting a
triumphant glance at Payson. “We’ll win that game Saturday whether he
wants us to or not!”

After the fellows had left the field, Payson and Ryan fell into step
and followed them up the path to the gymnasium. There was admiration in
the trainer’s tone as he turned to the coach with:

“Well, sir, it worked like you said it would! I’d never have believed
it!” Payson nodded.

“Yes,” he replied, “they think they’re getting the best of me, and
they’re tickled to death.” He smiled. “I’ll have to give them a little
stiffer practice to-morrow, or they’ll mob me!”

But there was one player who, even though he was only a substitute,
wasn’t fooled. That was Dan. He and Alf talked it over in the latter’s
room that evening, while Tom and Gerald played chess.

“Don’t you fool yourself,” said Dan. “Payson knows what he’s doing,
Alf. This afternoon when Millener was ragging Smith for not running in
with the ball after catching a fly, I saw Payson grinning away like
anything. He thought no one was looking. But I was. He just made up
his mind that if he let you fellows alone for a few days you’d get mad
and play the game just to spite him! And you’re doing it, too!”

“‘Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings,’” murmured Alf. “Well,
maybe you’re right, O Solomon the Great. I believe you are. For it
isn’t like Payson to get cold feet; he isn’t a quitter, not by a long
shot! Anyhow, it worked. We had the worst case of slump I ever did
see last Saturday, and now every fellow’s on his toes again, and just
aching for work. If we keep it up we’ll give Broadwood the biggest
surprise of their lives on Saturday. I wouldn’t be surprised if that
licking that Pell School gave us turned out to be a very fortunate
thing. We’re all hot under the collar about it. We want to get
back at some one, and Broadwood’s the only victim in sight. Yes, I
believe there’ll be a whole lot doing Saturday! Say, that was a dandy
two-bagger of yours to-day. Just a nice, clean hit that came when it
was needed. Why don’t you do that sort of thing oftener? You’d make the
team in a minute, if you did.”

“Oh, I guess it was an accident,” replied Dan. “I’ve about concluded
that it’s always an accident when I connect with the ball. I can’t
judge ’em for a cent.”

“Well, keep at it. We’ll have you on second next year, all right. How
did you get along with exams to-day?”

“Fair, I guess. How about you?” Alf made a face.

“Bad. I couldn’t remember a thing they’d ever taught me in math this
morning. Still, I answered five out of nine, and that’s something. Oh,
I’ll pass all right, I guess.”

“I did better than that,” laughed Dan, “but I don’t know how many
answers were correct. By the way, Gerald, I sat next to your friend
Thompson at exams this morning. I think he wanted to ask after your
health, only Old Tige kept too close a watch on us.”

Gerald paused in his battle and looked across with a smile.

“If he ever does ask after my health,” he responded, “you just tell him
that I’m feeling strong and willing.”

“Good boy!” laughed Alf. “It’s remarkable, though, isn’t it, the way
Gerald’s bloodthirstiness has waned? A couple of months or so ago
he couldn’t wait to engage Thompson in mortal combat. And now that
I’ve taught him how to fight he just sits around and plays chess with
questionable characters.”

“You do love a scrap, Alf, don’t you?” asked Dan with a smile. Alf
nodded.

“Pretty well, thanks. My trouble is that I can’t find any one to scrap
with I can’t lick with both eyes shut.” He looked slyly at Tom. Tom
grunted without raising his eyes from the chess board.

“Both eyes shut before or after the scrap?” asked Gerald innocently.

“That’ll be about all from you, young Mr. Pennimore,” replied Alf. “I’m
disappointed in you. I thought you were going to square yourself with
Thompson as soon as you could use your hands a bit. What’s the trouble?
Have you two kissed and made up?”

“I just don’t take any notice of him any more,” replied Gerald calmly.
“If I quarreled with him now, he’d think it was because he kept me out
of Cambridge.”

“I suppose he did do it?” inquired Tom.

“Of course,” Alf answered. “Who else was there? But you’re right,
Gerald; you can’t quarrel with him for that.”

“It isn’t absolutely necessary for Gerald to quarrel with Thompson
about anything, is it?” asked Dan idly.

“N-no, I suppose not,” Alf laughed. “Only it seems such a waste of–of
ability! Here’s Gerald a perfectly good boxer and nothing doing.”

“I’ve got the punching-bag,” said Gerald. “I’ve been giving that some
awful jolts, Alf.”

“Serves it right. Say, Tom, do you remember the mean trick the fellows
put up on Tubby Jones last year? Did Tubby ever tell you about that,
Dan? I guess he wouldn’t, though; Tubby never relished jokes on himself
much.”

“I don’t remember,” said Tom. “Tubby had so many jokes played on him.
What was this one, Alf?”

“I was thinking of the time Warren and Hadlock and Dyer and two or
three other fellows tied the punching-bag back, and–”

“I remember,” chuckled Tom. “It almost killed Tubby, though.”

“He was more scared than hurt,” said Alf.

“What was it?” Dan asked. “What did they do?”

“Took a piece of stout cord and tied one end to the punching-bag;
hitched the other end of the cord to one of the ladders, and pulled
the bag back until it was leaning over about like that, at an angle of
forty-five degrees. Then Warren told Tubby he’d give him half a dollar
if he’d stand still and watch the minute hand of the clock for five
minutes. You see, Warren told him he couldn’t stay awake that long.”

“That wasn’t it,” interrupted Tom. “Tubby was always leaning against
something when he wasn’t sitting down or lying down, and Warren bet
him he couldn’t stand up straight for five minutes. Tubby thought he
could, and needed the money.”

“Was that it? Well, anyhow, Tubby took the bet, and Warren and Hadlock
and some others went out on the floor and put Tubby in front of the
punching-bag, opposite the clock.”

“Gee!” murmured Gerald.

“So Tubby plants himself with his back to the bag, and Hadlock says
‘Go!’ and Tubby watches the clock. ‘One minute,’ says Hadlock. ‘Two
minutes.’ And then, ‘Three minutes!’ Poor Tubby’s eyes were watering
from watching the minute hand so hard, and he was grinning like
a catfish at the thought of winning the fifty cents. Then, ‘Four
minutes!’ announces Hadlock, and the crowd, which had grown pretty big
by this time, begins to cheer. ‘Four and a half!’ says Hadlock, and
then Dyer comes down on the cord with his knife–_zip!_–and Mister
Bag shoots out–_biff!_–and Tubby does a grand tumble. The bag hit
him square on the back of the head and he went about five feet through
the air before he landed. Luckily they’d spread a couple of mattresses
in front of him. If they hadn’t, he might have broken his nose, for he
came down plumb on his face. It was the biggest surprise Tubby ever
had, I guess, and he was so scared when they picked him up that he
couldn’t speak. After a bit he found his tongue, though, and then the
things he said were a plenty. Hadlock tried to soothe him down; told
him it was a shame he’d lost by half a minute, and if he liked they’d
try it again. But Tubby wasn’t enthusiastic.”

“Was he hurt?” asked Gerald anxiously.

“No, not a bit; except that he had a bad headache the rest of the day,
I believe. That did Tubby good, though, Tom. He was never nearly so
fresh after that.”

“He needed it,” Tom grunted. “He wasn’t so bad when he roomed with you
last Fall, Dan, but the year before he was an awful little fat beast.
Your move, Gerald.”

The next afternoon, Wednesday, baseball practice started off with a
dash that secretly delighted Payson’s heart. Outwardly, however, he
was as calm and untroubled as ever. Alf had confided Dan’s theory to
Millener, but the captain had let it go no further, and the team still
labored under the delusion that they were spiting the coach. At the
batting net, fellows who were scarcely known to hit the ball safely,
worked in a perfect frenzy of ambition and pounded the leather all
around the field. This put Reid, the substitute pitcher, on his mettle,
and a regular duel ensued between him and the eager batters.

Gerald and Harry Merrow, on their way to the boathouse, paused a while
behind the net and watched proceedings. One by one the players faced
Reid until he had made some sort of a hit; Millener, Colton, Loring,
Condit, Danforth, Durfee, Richards, and so on down the list of first
team men and substitutes. When Alf cracked out a long, low drive
that would have been good for three bases in a game, Gerald howled
with glee, and again, when Dan managed to send a hard, low one just
over Reid’s head, Gerald shouted “Good for you, Dan!” and didn’t at
all mind the amusement he created. When the players left the net and
trotted over to the diamond, Gerald and Harry continued on their way to
the river, discussing the nine and the chances of victory. Harry was
pessimistic.

“Broadwood’s got a crackajack of a team this year,” he said. “Look
at the way they licked Porter! And that fellow Herring, their best
pitcher, is a wonder. I saw him pitch last year.”

“Is he better than Colton?” asked Gerald. Harry frowned and hesitated.

“Well, he’s as good. But he isn’t the all-round player that Colton is.
Colton can bat, you know; he’s the best batter we’ve got.”

“Alf Loring’s good, too,” said Gerald jealously.

“You bet he is! He and Colton are both dandies! Oh, it’s going to be a
ripping game, all right. I wouldn’t miss it for anything. But, just the
same, I look to see Broadwood win, say about five to four, or something
like that.”

“I don’t believe she will,” answered Gerald.

“Want to bet?” asked Harry eagerly.

“I don’t bet, but–say, I’ll tell you what I will do, Harry. I’ve got
a dandy stamp collection; three big books; some of them cost a lot of
money. I’ve got almost all the real rare ones, too. Do you collect?”

“Yes, I used to. But I haven’t had any new ones lately. Why?”

“Well, if Broadwood wins I’ll give you my collection.”

“The–the whole thing?” asked Harry incredulously. Gerald nodded. Harry
thought a moment, and then asked suspiciously;

“And if we win, what do I give you?”

“Nothing. If you did it would be just the same as betting, and father
won’t let me bet. Is it a go?”

“Sure!” answered Harry. “Only–only it’s pretty one-sided, isn’t it? It
doesn’t seem just right to take the stamps, Gerald.”

“That’s all right. Besides, I don’t believe you’ll have a chance. We’re
going to win.”

“You wait and see,” said Harry. “How many stamps have you got?”

“I haven’t counted them lately,” replied Gerald carelessly. “Over two
thousand, though.” Harry whistled. “I guess it’s only fair, though, to
tell you that I–I’m tired of them. If you win I shan’t care much about
the stamps, I mean.”

“I shall,” laughed Harry. “I don’t really want Broadwood to win,
but–but, gee, I’d like to have those books!”

They lifted their canoe out, set it in the water and climbed into it.

“Where’ll we go?” asked Harry.

“Let’s go up to Flat Island, and then into Marsh Lake on the way back,”
answered Gerald. “There’s Dyer and Burgess up there in that blue canoe.
See ’em? Ready?”

They dug their paddles and headed upstream. There were a good many
canoes out and Gerald and Harry had one or two brisk encounters on the
way up. At Flat Island several canoes were pulled up onto the shore and
a number of fellows were lolling about in the shade of the willows.
They went on by the island for a quarter of a mile to where the river
narrows, and then turned and floated back with the tide. Harry had got
over his nervousness and no longer insisted on being close to shore.

“This is something like,” he said, settling comfortably down in the
stern, where, with just a touch of his paddle now and then he could
keep the canoe’s nose pointed right. And Gerald, laying his paddle
across his knees, agreed. It was a beautiful afternoon, and the river
never looked lovelier. It was pretty warm, but now and then a little
breeze crept across the marshland, waving the tall, lush grasses, and
brought relief. The river reflected the intense blue of the sky, the
willows and alders along the bank were vividly green, and to Gerald
came the fanciful thought that Nature was divided in its allegiance,
displaying equally the colors of Yardley and Broadwood.

“Just the same,” he muttered half aloud, with a glance at the sky, “the
blue’s on top!”

“Eh?” asked Harry sleepily.

To the left, over on the links, seven couples dotted the turf. Golf
enthusiasts these, so intent on following the little white spheres that
they had no thought for the temperature. Further along was the field,
sprinkled with the blue-and-gray-uniformed ball players. Occasionally,
when the breeze died away, the sharp crack of ball against bat reached
the occupants of the canoe. Presently the mouth of the tiny stream
which wound inward to Marsh Lake was reached, and the lads took up
their paddles again to battle with the sluggish current. The canoe was
headed in between the tall rushes, which in places almost met across
the little passage, and all their ingenuity was required to keep their
shallow craft from running aground on the bars and flats. It was very
hot in here, and swarms of blood-thirsty mosquitoes were lying in wait
for the adventurers.

“Who suggested coming in here?” asked Gerald, pausing in his paddling
to defend himself from the hungry horde.

“You did,” responded Harry. “Don’t you wish you hadn’t? I’m just a mass
of bites already.”

“Well, let’s get out of it,” said Gerald.

“Let’s keep on; it’s only a little ways more.”

Another turn of the winding stream and the bushes gave way and the
canoe floated on Marsh Lake, a good-sized sheet of water, set in a
wide, green sea of marsh grass and rushes, which extended for a good
half-mile to the westward, and perhaps half that distance north and
south. Now and then a clump of low bushes or a group of small willows
stood up above the surrounding flatness. Blackbirds and bobolinks and
sparrows held high carnival amidst the swaying reeds, frogs splashed
and challenged gruffly, and the hum of thousands of insects filled the
air. Into and out of the lake dozens of little streams made their way,
all so much alike that it was the custom to thrust a paddle into the
bank as one entered, so as to distinguish the outlet toward the river
from the other streams which meandered in meaningless fashion across
the marsh, twisting and doubling, and, in many cases, leading nowhere
at all. So Harry stuck his paddle down into the mud at the bottom of
the lake, near the margin, and left Gerald to propel the craft across
the unruffled water.

They went very quietly, for sometimes there were adventures awaiting
the visitor to Marsh Lake. It was a favorite place for ducks and
loons and snipe, and more than one heron had been surprised there.
But to-day they discovered nothing more remarkable than two big mud
turtles, which slipped into the water from the log upon which they had
been sunning themselves. A pair of kingfishers came winging across the
marsh, looking for supper, but the first glimpse of the canoe sent them
wheeling northward, scolding discordantly. Gerald paddled slowly around
the lake, fighting off the mosquitoes, which, if less troublesome here
than in the stream, were still annoying.

“Let’s go back,” he said finally. “There’s nothing here to-day.
Sometime I’m coming up here to catch a turtle.”

“A dip-net’s the thing for them,” said Harry knowingly. “I’ve got one
at home, and I’ll bring it along in the Fall.”

“I’ve heard you could catch them with a hook and a piece of raw meat,”
Gerald replied. “I’d like to try it some time. Where’s that paddle,
Harry?” Harry looked around.

“It ought to be over there,” he said finally, “but I don’t see it.”

“Neither do I. I thought, though, that–There it is; see? Gee, it’s
lucky we put it there! I’d never have gone out that way.”

“I would,” answered Harry. “The river’s toward the east, you know,
and–”

“And there are at least five outlets in that direction,” finished
Gerald sarcastically, as he sent the canoe across the pond to where the
paddle stuck out of the water.

“Stop paddling,” said Harry. “I can get it.”

He reached out and took hold of the paddle and gave it a tug.

“Come out of that,” he grunted.

“Wait till I push up nearer,” advised Gerald.

“Never mind; I can get it,” was the reply. Harry stood up gingerly in
the canoe, and gave a mighty tug at the paddle. It came up so quickly
that he lost his balance, the paddle flew over his head, and the canoe
rocked dangerously. Making a frantic effort to recover his balance,
Harry fell with one knee against the opposite edge of the craft, and in
the next moment both boys were in the water.

Gerald came up sputtering and laughing. “You’re a nice one!” he cried.
He had kept hold of his own paddle, but the one which had caused the
catastrophe was floating a good ten feet away, while the canoe, which
had promptly righted itself, was rocking sluggishly, half full of
water, just beyond reach. Gerald thought he could touch bottom, but
when he tried it, he found that in spite of the fact that he was hardly
a dozen feet from shore, he was still over his depth. Then he looked
for Harry. That youth was nowhere to be seen, and Gerald, with one hand
on the canoe, stared about him in perplexity and a growing uneasiness.

“Harry!” he called.

There was no answer. The surface of the pond was still and untroubled.
For an instant he thought that perhaps his companion had waded
ashore, and was hiding in the bushes and reeds. But there hadn’t
been time for that. With growing horror, Gerald realized that Harry
had not come to the surface after he had sunk; that he was down
there–somewhere–caught, perhaps, in the mud–drowning!

A wild desire for flight almost overpowered him. For a moment longer
he clung desperately to the canoe, white of face and with staring eyes
fixed in terror on the calm surface of the treacherous pond. Then, with
an inarticulate cry and an awful fear clutching at his heart, he tore
himself loose from the canoe and dove.

* * * * *

Baseball practice had been longer to-day, and a five-inning game with
the Second Nine had brought it to a close at a few minutes before
five. Up in the gymnasium there was a merry babel of voices, mingled
with the rushing of water in the shower baths. Dan had played at
third for a part of the time, and now, glowing from his work and the
subsequent shower, he was dressing himself leisurely and happily in the
locker-room, listening to the talk about him, and now and then throwing
in a word. The windows were open and the steam was writhing out into
the sunlight. Payson had taken his departure and the discussion of
the day’s work was free and untrammelled. To be sure, Andy Ryan was
still present, but every one knew that Andy never carried tales. And
so Lawrence, who played rightfield, and was in the First Class, wasn’t
mincing matters in his loud criticism of Payson. Millener was trying
to “call him down,” but every one was talking at once, and his efforts
were not very successful. The discussion was waxing vehement when the
swinging door at the foot of the stair was thrown open and an excited
youth stumbled in.

“Have you fellows heard the news?” he cried.

[Illustration: “‘Have you fellows heard the news?’ he cried.”]

The confusion ceased and all faces turned toward him.

“Young Pennimore and another fellow, Merrill, or something like that,
were drowned just now over in Marsh Lake!”