Dick Merriwell’s Heroic Players
A half million enthusiastic followers of the Merriwell brothers will attest the unfailing interest and wholesomeness of these adventures of two lads of high ideals, who play fair with themselves, as well as with the rest of the world.
These stories are rich in fun and thrills in all branches of sports and athletics. They are extremely high in moral tone, and cannot fail to be of immense benefit to every boy who reads them.
They have the splendid quality of firing a boy’s ambition to become a good athlete, in order that he may develop into a strong, vigorous right-thinking man.
Jim Phillips, industriously making himself a master of certain abstruse problems in mathematics, excited the derision of big Bill Brady, chiefly because it was a warm, lazy spring day, and, therefore, as Bill saw it, entirely out of the question for serious work.
“It’s bad enough to have to go out and do baseball practice,” said Jim’s big catcher. The two were sophomores, and had won fame as the great Yale battery that had humbled every college team with any pretensions to the championship except Harvard. “But I suppose that if we’re going to win that series from the boys in the red socks, we’ve got to do a little practicing.”
Phillips himself paid no attention, but Harry Maxwell, his former roommate, who had dropped in for a call, was willing enough to talk.
“You’re not worrying about those Johnnies?” he said. “Why, Bill, they’ll be easy. We’ve whipped Princeton and Michigan—better teams than any Harvard has played, and better than Harvard, too, if you ask me.”
“I don’t know about that,” said Bill. “I’m no prize pessimist, but I’ve been watching this Harvard team pretty closely, and I’ve noticed that they haven’t had to work very hard to win any of their big games yet. For instance, they beat Cornell two games straight, and did it easy. They gave Pennsylvania the same dose—and we had the time of our lives beating both of those teams. They’ve got a pitcher called Briggs up there at Cambridge, and from the records he’s some pitcher. He played once against Cornell and once against Pennsylvania, and he shut them both out. He’s only pitched about five games this year, because their man from last year, Wooley, is plenty good enough to keep most college teams guessing. But they’ll serve Mr. Briggs up for us, with trimmings, believe me, and if we do any free and fancy hitting while he’s in the box I miss my guess.”
“I haven’t heard much about this Briggs,” said Maxwell curiously.
He knew that Bill Brady’s opinion on any baseball matter was a mighty good one, and that Dick Merriwell, Yale’s universal coach, regarded the big catcher as one of his most useful aides in the development of a championship team.
“That’s because you don’t read the Boston papers,” said Bill. “They’ve been keeping him pretty well under cover—and every one knows why that is, too. They’re saving him up for us. You know how they are up there—beat Yale, no matter what else you do or don’t do. If you can beat Yale, all right. But I was up in Cambridge one day last week, when you fellows didn’t know it, and I managed to see their game with Amherst without being recognized. They sent Briggs in to pitch the nine innings, and what he did to those Amherst fellows was a sin and a shame. They didn’t get a hit or a run. Now, Amherst isn’t much this year. We beat them in a walk, with old Winston pitching, and Sam Taylor doing most of the work for him behind the bat, at that.
“But the thing that got me was that Briggs wasn’t really working his head off at all. He just breezed along, and took things easy, and he’s got a catcher who understands every little trick to make a pitcher do his best—chap called Bowen. I know him well. He was a couple of years ahead of me at Andover, and he taught me a whole lot about the game then. Now he’s a senior at Harvard and captain of the team, and this boy Briggs is his specialty. He’s been spending seven days a week and about four hours a day coaching him, since March. And, take it from me, it’s showing up.
“He’s so much better than any of these pitchers we’ve been running up against that we’ll be lucky to get a hit off him. He can’t pitch more’n two of the games, though. That’s one good thing. They’ll use him at Cambridge in the first game, and shoot Wooley in for the second game here. And, if the series is even, they’ll have Briggs come back at us in New York. They’re willing to drop one game. I’ve told Mr. Merriwell all I know about Briggs, and he’s inclined to think we’re in for the toughest series yet.”
Baseball proved more attractive to Jim Phillips than the higher mathematics. He turned around to Bill Brady.
“What’s this chap got that makes you think so much of him, Bill?” he asked.
“Control,” said Brady. “He hasn’t got your curves—or, if he has, he didn’t show them. But he’s got control, and he can put that ball exactly where Bowen calls for it ten times out of ten. And Bowen knows just where it ought to go, too.”
“H’m-m,” said Jim soberly. “We’re not what you’d call prize hitters this year, Bill. Harry Maxwell here makes a long hit once in a while, and so can Sherman and Jackson. But you’re the only clean slugger on the team. How about it? Can you hit him?”
“Not unless he wants me to,” said Bill cheerfully. “He can keep that ball right under my chin if he wants to. He didn’t show a drop on that ball the other day, but if he’s got one he can fan me about four times. If he can’t, I’ll get a base on balls a couple of times. That’s about the limit of my speed against him. I can’t hit a high ball, and Bowen knows it, too.”
“It might be a good idea for you to learn, then,” said Jim pleasantly. He looked at his watch. “Come along! It’s half past one now. We’ll cut that lecture on political science—we’ve got three cuts left in that—pick up Sam Taylor, and go out to the field. Then I’ll show you a few things about high-ball pitching.”
Brady groaned in mock dismay at the prospect of some extra practice.
“Gee!” he said. “You’re a worse slave driver than Dick Merriwell himself. How about Harry here? He hasn’t learned to hit a fast shoot yet—and he always swipes at them. Doesn’t he need to practice, too?”
“He sure does,” said Jim Phillips. “Come on, Harry. You’re elected, too. We’ve got to try to have a warm reception ready for Mr. Briggs if he’s so especially keen about making trouble for us. Good thing you picked up one of his tricks, Bill. It may mean the difference between winning and losing if we can pick up a run right at the start, before he and Bowen get on to the fact that we’ve corrected some of the weaknesses he’s been counting on.”
Jim Phillips, already assured, by his remarkable pitching, of the captaincy of the next year’s nine, although he would then be only a junior, although few Yale captains are chosen from any but the senior class, had qualities of leadership that made his fitness for that important position very marked.
To induce men like Maxwell and Brady, his intimate friends and classmates, to go out on such a day, when the very air invited them to loaf and rejoice in the lassitude of the weather, was no small feat. It was his magnetism and his persuasiveness that accomplished it; and such qualities do much for a man who must lead other men. In college sports, particularly, a captain should be a leader rather than a driver, inducing men to do what he wants in a tactful way, so that they will be willing and eager, instead of feeling that they are being forced to do their work because of the authority vested in the captain.
Taylor, the senior catcher, once an enemy of Jim Phillips, but now his devoted friend, although Bill Brady had displaced him as the regular varsity catcher, as Jim Phillips had displaced Taylor’s roommate and closest friend, Bob Gray, as the first-string pitcher, proved very willing to go out to the field with them and catch for Jim while the other two practiced with their bats in the effort to become familiar with the curves most likely to be employed by the formidable Harvard pitcher.
At the field they found the diamond already well occupied with freshmen, who, while they awaited the arrival of their coach, were enjoying themselves in a scratch game. The upper classmen immediately impressed half a dozen of the youngsters as fielders, and stationing them in position, began their extra practice.
Dick Merriwell, the universal coach, arrived before they had been long at work, and, soon guessing what they were doing, stood apart and watched them.
“Good work!” he said finally, walking over to them. “Putting in a little practice for the benefit of Mr. Briggs?”
Brady explained what they were doing.
“I’m getting on to the way to slam that high ball out,” he said. “I’ve always stepped back from it before. I got hit on the head by one of those balls when I was a youngster, and I’ve been gun-shy ever since. But Jim’s got the right idea. He marked out a place for me to stand, and he’s been pitching so close to my head that, if I had a beard, he would have rubbed my whiskers off. I see now what my trouble was. I’d always draw away, and by the time I tried to hit the ball, I’d be off my balance, and couldn’t knock it out of the infield.”
Jim sent a high ball whizzing in just after that. Brady shortened his bat and drove the ball on a terrific line right over the third baseman’s head. In a game, such a drive would have been good for two bases at least, possibly three.
“You fellows stole a march on me here,” said Merriwell, with a smile. “That’s the sort of spirit that wins baseball games, too. Be ready, no matter how much trouble it is. It isn’t on the field that baseball championships are won. It’s in the heads of the winners—it’s the men who think about the game and know just what they’re going to do when the emergency comes along.”
Jim Phillips flushed slightly with pleasure. Like all other real Yale men, he had the greatest possible respect and liking for the universal coach. Moreover, Merriwell had aided him since he had been in Yale in several affairs that had looked serious, and he thought much of his praise.
JEALOUSY AND ITS RESULT.
Naturally, the Yale student body as a whole didn’t have the inside information about the Harvard team that had been obtained by Bill Brady and Dick Merriwell. Most of the undergraduates thought that Harvard would be beaten easily, for the men who had seen Princeton, Cornell, and Michigan humbled by the blue, had little idea that Harvard could be a more formidable opponent than any of the other nines Yale had defeated. Many of them had read of the feat of Briggs in shutting out Amherst without a hit or a run, but had not taken it very seriously. Yale had not used either of her first-string pitchers against a small college, but had depended upon Winston, a substitute, and even so had won very easily. So it was felt that Briggs, fine as his record against the Amherst team had been, had still to prove that he was worthy to be classed with Jim Phillips, who was already hailed by the newspapers as the best college pitcher of the year, and one, who, should he choose to do it, could make a great deal of money by turning professional and playing with some big-league team.
Gurney, a sophomore, voiced the general sentiment as he sat on the famous sophomore fence on the evening of the extra practice which Jim had planned to foil Briggs.
“They can’t touch old Jim,” he said. “I’m going to bet every cent I can raise on the game. This Briggs is all right, but he’ll have to go get a real reputation before he can scare us. Eh, fellows?”
There was only one dissenting voice in the little group that heard the little sophomore’s boast.
“Remember the story of the pitcher that went too often to the well,” said Woeful Watson, known to all Yale as the class pessimist of the sophomores. Watson, no matter how gay the company in which he found himself, always seemed impelled to cast a blanket of gloom over the occasion. “We’ve been depending too much on Jim Phillips. He has to do all the work. It isn’t fair. He’s only human, and some day he’s going to run up against some one he can’t pitch rings around. The rest of the team ought to do more than it does to back him up.”
“Shucks, Woeful!” said Jack Tempest, the sprinter, one of Jim Phillips’ best friends. “Cheer up. The team’s good enough. It isn’t a very hard-hitting team, I’ll admit, but it doesn’t need to get more than one or two runs. If they do that, Jim can attend to the rest of it by himself.”
“All right,” said Watson gloomily. “You fellows have been playing in fool’s luck all spring. Wait until after this series with Harvard is over before you do any crowing, though. You know the darky’s receipt for cooking a rabbit—first catch your rabbit.”
Although Watson could never understand the reason, it was nevertheless true that no matter how earnest his efforts were to make his classmates take a more serious and sober view of life, the effect was usually simply to make them laugh at him. They did so now, fairly exploding, and half a dozen of them formed a ring and danced around him, singing a mocking song, the words of which they seemed to make up as they went along.
Jim Phillips was an idol, almost, with his classmates. It was seldom, indeed, that any man reflected so much credit in his class as the famous pitcher. He was sure, too, to be a star on the football team in the following fall, and they were proud of him. But some of the class, although these were very much of a minority, and seldom made their opinions public, were far from proud. For one reason or another, but mostly because, having failed to win any such measure of success and popularity for themselves, they were jealous of Jim; not a few men in Yale, unworthy of the college as they thus proved themselves to be, would have secretly rejoiced had some disaster overtaken Phillips. Once or twice they had thought that their secret desire was about to be realized, but each time Jim, with the aid of the astute and resourceful Dick Merriwell, had emerged more popular than before.
“Listen to those silly goats,” said one of these disgruntled ones, Carpenter by name, as the dance about Watson continued. “I don’t see why they raise such a fuss about this chap Phillips. He gets all the praise, and fellows who are just as clever as he don’t get a fair chance. If you want to get along here at Yale, you have to be an athlete. Otherwise you can’t accomplish anything.”
Carpenter wore glasses, that made his staring eyes very prominent. He was thin, and there was certainly nothing athletic about his appearance. He usually had a book with him, and it was his boast that before he was graduated he would earn the title of the best student in his class. And he resented bitterly the fact that, so far, Jim Phillips was the principal stumblingblock in his path toward the honor he coveted.
Jim was as good a student as he was an athlete; but Carpenter, who was more concerned with bare facts and figures than with reasons why things he learned were so, had convinced himself that the reason that Jim consistently outshone him in the classroom and after examinations was that the professors displayed favoritism as a reward for Jim’s successes in athletics.
“I think you’re right, Carpenter,” said the man he had addressed, one of his own type.
In college, such men are known as grinds. For them the college life has no meaning. They devote themselves entirely to their books, doing nothing to improve themselves by association with other students, and taking no part in the athletics that would give them a healthy body—quite as important a part of college training as that of the classroom, did Carpenter and his kind only understand it.
“But I don’t see what you’re going to do about it,” added Carpenter’s friend.
“I’d like to put something over on Phillips,” said Carpenter viciously. “He needs something to take him down a bit. He thinks now he’s the biggest man in Yale. If you ask me, I think he puts on an awful lot. I know he’s a good pitcher, but he poses as a saint, too, that would never do anything wrong. I’d like to try him on that—see if he’s really as good as he’s made out to be.”
“You’re a fine pair,” said a new voice. “Loyal to a classmate—that’s real Yale spirit.”
Startled at being overheard, Carpenter and his companion, Shesgren, looked up. They were amazed and confused to see that the man who was speaking to them was Parker, a junior, and known as a big man in his class. He was an athlete, though not a baseball player, football being his sport. Indeed, there was even a chance that he might be captain of the football team the next fall. Danby, the man elected after the last season, had been forced to leave Yale for family reasons, and the election to pick his successor had not yet been held. Parker was one of three candidates. For him to have heard what they said, Carpenter and Shesgren were convinced, would mean a lot of trouble for them.
But, after looking at them contemptuously a minute, Parker smiled.
“I don’t know that I blame you much, at that,” he said. They plucked up at that, surprised as they were to hear him say it. “I must confess that I get rather tired myself sometimes when I hear them chanting the praises of this fellow Phillips. He’s done pretty well, but he’s got an awful lot to do yet before he’ll be entitled to all the honors every one here seems determined to give him. For instance, there’s this baseball captaincy. Every one says he’s sure to be elected—and that’s a bad precedent, and a dangerous one.
“We’ve done well in athletics here for years, but we’ve had the practice of electing seniors to captaincies, and, when it’s worked as well as it has, I don’t see any reason for changing around now and putting a junior in to run a team as important as the baseball nine. Steve Carter’s the man for captain. If Phillips does as well next year as he has this, there’ll be no one to oppose his election in his senior year—and he ought to wait until then.”
“After all,” said Jack Tempest, who had overheard the last few words of what Parker had said, “that’s a matter for the baseball team to decide, isn’t it, Parker? They elect their own captain, and class feeling won’t enter into it. There are only three sophomores on the team, and Jim himself, I know, will vote for Carter, if he runs. Brady and Maxwell will vote for Jim, I suppose, and so will Carter. Jackson is a junior—I don’t know what he’ll do. Gray and Taylor are seniors—so’s Sherman, and some of the others.”
Parker turned and looked at Tempest in a coldly, insolent way that brought the Virginian’s hot blood to his cheeks in a flush of anger.
“I don’t remember saying anything to you, Tempest,” said Parker. “I was talking to two friends of mine here. When we want the benefit of your advice, we’ll be able to ask you for it, you know.”
Tempest was furious. He raised his hand as if he would strike the junior who had insulted him, but his common sense prevailed. He was not afraid of Parker, although the football man, a guard, weighed fifty pounds more than did the slight young Southerner, and was one of the strongest men in Yale as well. But he knew that a brawl there on the campus would do no good, and might annoy Jim Phillips. So, without another word, he turned on his heel and walked off, although Parker’s sneering laugh, which he heard plainly as he walked away, made it almost impossible for him to resist the temptation to return, and, at any cost, have it out with the bully and coward, who had struck at him through his friend.
“These infernal sophomores are getting to think they own the college,” said Parker angrily, utterly unmindful, it seemed, of the fact that it was to two members of the class he insulted that he was speaking. But he knew his men, and that they would not dare to resent anything he might say. “Are you two fellows in earnest about Phillips? Would you like to see him shown up? If you are, come along with me. I’ve got a plan that may prove what sort of a chap he is at bottom.”
Scarcely believing in their good fortune in securing an ally as powerful as Parker, the two treacherous sophomores gladly accepted his invitation.
A FLATTERING INVITATION.
Jim Phillips, his reputation firmly established as the best college pitcher in the East, and, since his defeat of the Michigan team, in the whole United States, was hardly surprised when, the day after the conference between Parker and the two sophomores, of which, of course, he knew nothing, he was asked by the captain of the team of the New Haven Country Club to pitch for that nine against the Boston Athletic Association nine the next day.
Jim, like many other Yale athletes, had been elected an honorary member of the country club, and so was eligible to play on any of its teams. But he had not taken the time to make use of the club since his election, as he had been busy in practice for Yale teams. His first impulse was to decline outright Captain Hasbrook’s request, and he even started to do so. But Hasbrook pleaded so hard that Jim finally agreed to reconsider and to consult Dick Merriwell on the subject.
“I’m under Mr. Merriwell’s orders, of course,” said Jim, “and I can’t do anything of this sort without his permission. Frankly, I don’t think he will let me play for you. This game with Harvard is pretty important, you know, and we aren’t going to have an easy time with them, by any means.”
“I’ve thought of that, of course,” said Hasbrook. “I’m an old Yale man myself, you know, and I played on the team when Merriwell was captain. So I think I may have some weight with him. I’ll try, anyhow. And I really think it will do you good to run up against that Boston bunch. They’ve got a lot of old Harvard men on their team, and I’ve heard that there will be one or two of this year’s team. They won’t have this man Briggs that they’re counting on so heavily, but they’re better off than we are in pitchers. Holmes, the only man I could count on to do any really good pitching, has hurt his arm, and that’s why I’m so keen about getting you. Winston’s a member of the club and I suppose there’ll be no difficulty about getting him to pitch, if you can’t help us out. But I’d rather have you, naturally, because old Winston, while he’s willing enough, wouldn’t last three innings against that bunch of sluggers that’s coming down from Boston.
“They’ve got to look on this game every year as a sort of alumni game between Yale and Harvard, you know, and, of course, they’ve got a lot more men to draw on than we have—Boston being big enough to swallow New Haven and a couple of other towns our size. So they’ve been beating us for the last three years.”
Jim, as he had told Hasbrook, had little hope of being allowed to play. But he was anxious enough to do so. He remembered Hasbrook well as a member of the good-government party that had helped the Yale students mightily when the city had tried to stop the cheering at Yale Field, and the idea of giving Harvard men a chance to crow, even if they were out of college, was displeasing to him.
Brady, it seemed, had received a similar invitation from Hasbrook. He came, soon after the country club man had left Jim, to tell him about it. He, it seemed, had accepted, making only the provision that Merriwell’s consent would have to be obtained. But Bill was a horse for work, and there was not the same reason for saving him that tended to make it unlikely that Jim would be allowed to play.
They went to see Merriwell together, Jim’s anxiety to play being greatly increased when he found that Bill Brady would be his catcher. The idea of pitching to a strange catcher had been one of the things that had prompted his first refusal.
Hasbrook was an old friend of Dick Merriwell’s, and when the two sophomores found the universal coach they learned that he already knew their errand. He seemed a little doubtful.
“I think the game would do you both lots of good,” he said. “This Boston team is made up altogether of old Harvard varsity men, and they’ve been playing baseball on a system at Cambridge for fifteen years. When you play one Harvard team, you know them all. That’s one reason I was willing to consider this matter. But I’d rather have had the game come at least a week before the big match. I’m only afraid you’ll overdo things, Jim.”
“I won’t let him work himself to death, Mr. Merriwell,” promised Brady. “He’ll do just what I signal him, you know, and I’ll see that he saves his arm. We don’t have to take chances in this game, because it doesn’t really matter whether we win or not. If we can win, without hurting ourselves, why we’d like to do it, of course. But every one will understand that we can’t take chances for the country club when we’ve got to play for Yale against Harvard. Even Hasbrook and the others out at the club wouldn’t like that. They’d rather lose themselves than see Yale licked, if it came to a choice.”
“All right, then,” said Dick. “I’ll give my consent—on one condition. If you feel tired during the game, Jim, and as if you were putting any sort of a strain on your arm, you’ve got to promise to make Hasbrook take you out, no matter what the score is. And I count on you, too, Brady. If you see that Jim is hurting himself, you’ve got to see that he gets out of the game. You may be able to tell better than he can himself. I’d be at the game, but I’ve got some important business to attend to in New York, and it won’t be possible for me to get there. That’s why I’m hesitating so much. Winston can go out to the game with you, and if Jim has to go out, he can take his place. I think he’d do better than Hasbrook expects, too. He’s improved a lot since the beginning of the season, and I’ve seen a lot of college teams that would be glad to have him.”
“I guess that’s right,” said Brady. “But then any man who knows how to curve a ball at all would turn into a good pitcher with you to coach him, Mr. Merriwell.”
The news of Merriwell’s permission to the two sophomore stars to form the battery for the country club against the famous amateur team from Boston, caused great excitement. The country club members were overjoyed. They saw a chance to get revenge for the defeats of the last few years. With quiet confidence, they made up a purse and sent it posthaste to Boston, to be bet on their team, with its powerful reënforcements. The newspapers printed the story. And from Cambridge came rumors that every effort was being made to induce the Harvard coach to allow Briggs to pitch for the Bostonians.
Dick Merriwell shook his head when he heard that.
“I hope he won’t,” he said. “If I’d thought there was any chance that Briggs would pitch for them, I wouldn’t have consented to let Jim go in. It would be too much like letting the Yale-Harvard game be played ahead of time.”
But those rumors were speedily set at rest. There was no chance for Briggs to play, and, moreover, as the Boston men saw it, they needed no undergraduate pitcher to give them the victory. For Hobson, the famous Hobson, who had pitched Harvard to a championship in three successive years while he was still in college, was back in America from a trip abroad, and in the very pink of condition for any sort of a game. And he had been promptly drafted by his old club.
“Now you will have your work cut out for you, Jim,” said Dick Merriwell, with a smile. “I know Hobson well, of old, and if you beat him, you certainly need have no fear of Briggs or any one else that’s in college now. Also, if he beats you, you needn’t feel disgraced. You know his record, of course.”
Out at the country club, Jim Phillips and Brady practiced for the first time with Hasbrook and the other men who made up the team, arranging signals and other details for the game. A new batting order had to be made up, too, and Hasbrook, who knew how formidable a batter Brady was, put him in as fourth man, with Jim Phillips to follow him. A great many members, going out to play golf or tennis, decided to watch the baseball practice instead, and the big porch of the country club was deserted. Almost deserted—not quite, for in a corner, hidden by some plants, sat Parker and his new sophomore friends, Carpenter and Shesgren.
“It’s worked, so far,” said Parker, drawing in luxuriously on a straw that protruded from a long, fizzy glass. “He walked right into it, and even his friend Merriwell couldn’t see the danger. I don’t blame him. He thinks our little friend Phillips is all he should be. He’ll have quite a shock when he wakes up and finds out.”
“What have you got against Merriwell, Parker?” asked Carpenter.
He, like almost every other Yale man, both liked and respected the universal coach, who had certainly done great things for the blue since his Alma Mater had called him back to take general charge of all her athletic teams; supervising all of them, and coaching the more important teams himself. Carpenter was unable to understand why Parker, himself an athlete, and, therefore, better able to understand than most of his fellow students just how much the universal coach had done for Yale, should be so bitter against Merriwell.
Parker was more genial than usual with his sophomore allies, whom, as a matter of fact, he secretly despised. He had been drinking iced drinks all afternoon, and they had had a distinct effect upon him.
“Why, I’ll tell you, Carpenter, my boy,” he said. “I’m likely to be captain of the football team here next fall, see, and I want to be the real captain. Look at old Tom Sherman. What’s he got to say about the baseball team? It’s all up to Merriwell. Same way with Murchison. He was elected captain of the crew. Has he got anything to do with the way the crew is run? Not so you could notice it. It’s Mr. Richard Merriwell who dictates everything.”
“Well, that’s because they let him do it, isn’t it?” asked Shesgren.
“They haven’t any choice,” said Parker. “Every one here thinks he’s just about right on everything. He can’t do anything wrong. If he falls down hard once, and gets shown up in this business, he may have still enough to keep on being universal coach, but he won’t be a dictator, the way he has been. Anyhow, Phillips won’t captain the baseball team, and that will reduce Merriwell’s pull a little.”
He finished his drink and ordered another.
“Now, then,” he said, “are you two friendly with Phillips?”
“Hardly,” said Carpenter. “He simply lets us alone. He started to act as if he wanted to be friendly with me once, but I soon saw that he was doing it just to make it easier for him to beat me out in the work, and I dropped him.”
“Same here,” said Shesgren. “He talks a lot of sickening rot about how all the men in the class ought to stick together and be friendly—and then goes and does mean things behind our backs. That’s the only way he ever gets a good stand in his studies. Why does he try to hog everything, anyhow? We don’t mind how prominent he is in athletics. We came here to get good degrees. My father promised me a thousand dollars if I was one of the first two men in the class—and the way things are going now I won’t be able to get that. Phillips and Brady work together all the time, and just because they are way up in athletics the faculty favors them all the time.”
“Never mind all that,” said Parker. “Have to drop your personal feelings for a while if you want to get square. I want you two fellows to go back to New Haven this evening and call on Phillips. Make any excuse you like. Say you came in to talk over your work or something. Be chummy with him. Make him ask you to come again.”
The two sophomores protested violently. “Why should they?” they asked.
But Parker had returned to his stern and superior manner. He had had enough to drink to make him ugly, and his overbearing manner so frightened the sophomores, since they were weaklings, physically, no matter how bright they might be mentally, that they gave in.
“You go do as I say,” growled Parker. “Then come to my room and tell me how you got along. I’ll tell you then what to do next. Got a little business to attend to here.”
He shooed them away, and then sat down again to wait until a stranger appeared, looking around to see if he were observed.
“Safe enough,” said Parker. “Been waiting for you.”
“Are you sure you are right in this?” asked the other. “It doesn’t seem like Phillips at all to do a thing like that. I must say I was surprised when you told me.”
“Well, you’ve got proof, haven’t you?” asked Parker. “He refused to play at first, didn’t he? Then, after I saw him, he agreed. He’s out here now, practicing with the team. You go back on your agreement and see how long he stays out here.”
“I don’t like it a bit,” said the other. “However—we want to win, and I don’t see any other way to do it. I’ll stick to the agreement. I guess your plan is the safest. I’ve got to have some sort of a receipt, of course, in case there’s any trouble. But that will be the simplest. It won’t attract any attention, and I don’t see how it could get out, anyhow.”
“No,” said Parker. “I don’t see how it can get out unless one of us splits—and I don’t suppose you’re going to do that, are you?”
“I should say not,” exclaimed the other, so fervently that Parker laughed, which made the man who had just handed him a letter start, as he noticed for the first time that Parker, owing to the drinks he had taken, was far from being himself.
A FARCICAL GAME.
The game with the team from Boston was to be played in New Haven on Wednesday, leaving Jim Phillips two full days to rest and get ready for the test against Harvard on Saturday. That game would be played in Cambridge, however, and would involve a railroad journey of nearly four hours for the Yale team. A special car would be provided, and the team, starting early Friday evening from New Haven, would arrive in Boston in time to sleep comfortably in a great hotel, driving to the field on Saturday morning in a flock of taxis.
On the day of the game with the Boston Athletic Association nine, Bill Brady and Jim Phillips drove out together to the country club.
“Wasn’t that Carpenter I saw come downstairs with you?” Brady asked curiously.
“Yes,” said Jim, laughing. “He and Shesgren called on me last night. They’ve been pretty sore at us, Bill, for getting better marks than they’ve had, but they seem to have made up their minds to take it the right way at last. They were very cordial last night, and Carpenter said he had come in to see if I had been able to get up any good outside reading on that course in European history. I gave him the names of a few books he seemed never to have heard of, and he told me some things I’d only guessed at before. So it was an even trade. When we got through, we both knew more about it than we had before.
“I told him that was the way to go to work—that I didn’t care anything about marks, but wanted to learn the subject. He seemed to be surprised at that—guess he’d never thought of it that way before, but he said I seemed to keep on getting good marks, anyhow, and we all laughed. Then he came around this morning to talk about some things he’d forgotten last night, and stayed quite a while. He seemed mighty nervous about something.”
“I don’t like either of them,” said Brady shortly. “I wouldn’t have much to do with them, Jim, if I were you. You tried to do the square, friendly thing by them before, and they acted as if they were afraid you were going to bite. Let them alone now. Be decent to them if they come around, but don’t go out of your way with them. By the way, did you hear from that tailor in New York? I told him to send you some samples.”
“Yes, I guess so,” said Jim, pulling a number of letters from his pocket. “I got quite a bunch of mail this morning. Registered letter from dad—my allowance, I suppose. He always sends the check in a registered letter, though it’s safe enough without it. He’s a crank about it. Another registered letter, too. Don’t know who else can be sending me money. And a lot of other stuff. I’ll open them now, and see what they’re all about.”
He was busy for several minutes.
“That’s certainly funny,” he said. “I must have been seeing double. I was sure there were two registered letters that I signed for. But I must have been mistaken. There’s only one here.”
“Left it behind, perhaps,” said Brady. “Maybe you dropped it on the floor back in your room. It’s safe enough if you did. I guess we won’t have any more robberies around these parts.”
Brady referred to the theft of some class funds from Jim’s room not long before. The money had been stolen at the instigation of a criminal enemy of Jim’s in such a way as to throw suspicion upon the sophomore pitcher, but Dick Merriwell’s cleverness had foiled the plot and uncovered the real culprit.
“I suppose I did,” said Phillips. “However, I might have been mistaken about the whole thing. I was in a great hurry. The postman was late and I was trying to get my bag packed to take out here—and I talked to Carpenter—all at the same time. I might have just dreamed the other registered letter.”
“Well, we’ll forget it now and think about baseball,” said Brady. “Here we are. I guess we’ll have to get dressed right away.”
The scene of the game was very different from that of most games in which Yale players took part. There were no great stands. Around the diamond a few circus seats had been put up for the ladies, who had turned out in great numbers to watch the play, but the men contented themselves with places on the ground.
The crowd itself, gathered by invitation of the members of the club, made a pretty spectacle; the men being dressed mostly in white flannels and other appropriate summer clothing, and the whole scene was one of great color and animation.
There was no organized cheering when the teams appeared for practice, as at the college games, nor did the teams observe all the usual formalities. Most of the players on both sides were old friends, who remembered other contests when they had been in college, and a good many since those happy days.
The two teams practiced together, sharing the diamond, and laughing at the misplays that each side made frequently, as a number of the men had had little chance, owing to their business duties, to do any practicing.
Brady smiled as he waited to warm up with Phillips; for, on the other side, serving as catcher for the famous Hobson, was Bowen, the Harvard captain.
“He didn’t need to come down here at all,” said Bill to Jim, “but he wants a chance to see you in action. We’ll make him work pretty hard to get any valuable information, though. There’s more ways of killing a dog than hanging him, they say, and I guess we can show him that there are several ways of pitching, too. For instance, the sort of balls you’ll pitch to-day and the sort you’ll pitch on Saturday in the same circumstances. I’m glad we’re here, Jim. I think we’ll have some fun before this game is over.”
It was a true prophecy. There was no fault to be found with the work of either battery. Both pitchers were at their best, but they could hardly be expected to strike out every man who faced them, and the fielding of both the amateur nines was wretched. Hobson and Jim, both inclined to be disgusted at first as they saw easy taps rolling between the legs of the fielders, and allowing the batters to turn sure outs into safe hits, soon saw the humor of it, and laughed as heartily as any one. The Bostonians, depending upon the skill of Hobson, had brought down a weak fielding team, and, while the New Haven team was at full strength, it was no better than its Boston rival, even so. In the sixth inning, the score was tied, each team having made six runs, and of these only one run on either side had been earned.
Rather than allow Bowen to see what Jim could do in a real pinch, Brady had called for a straight ball when Bowen was at the bat with a man on third, and the Harvard captain had promptly slammed out a three-bagger, while Bill himself had selected one of Hobson’s choicest curves and unmercifully hammered it to the furthest boundaries of the field for a clean home run.
Then both pitchers put on their mettle by the miserable playing of the teams behind them, had settled down, and the ninth inning came, with New Haven batting last, without another run for either side. Jim, smiling lightly, had decided to cut loose for the first time in the game, and he had struck out the three Bostonians who had faced him in the ninth on nine pitched balls. Bowen, watching his every move, whistled softly as the feat was accomplished.
“By George!” he said to Hobson, “that fellow Phillips has been under wraps. I wondered what old Brady was about—but I guess Bill has learned a thing or two since I knew him at Andover. He’s been keeping this fellow Phillips on a lead all through the game so we wouldn’t find out anything about him.”
“Did you only just find that out?” asked Hobson, with a laugh. “I knew he was a good pitcher as soon as he pitched his first ball. He’s got the style. He’s got control, too. Unless I’m mightily mistaken, he’s been pitching in a freak style all through the game just to keep you guessing. It takes a pretty good pitcher to do that.”
“Well, you’re just as good as he is,” said Bowen. “Finish them off now, and we’ll try to win in the tenth.”
But there wasn’t to be any tenth inning in that game. Hobson wasn’t quite able to duplicate Jim’s feat. He struck out the two men who batted first, but Hasbrook, swinging wildly, drove the first ball pitched to him to right field, and the Boston outfielder, juggling the ball, dropped it, and then threw so wild that Hasbrook scored the winning run for New Haven.
“That was a pretty weird game,” said Jim, shaking hands with Hobson. “I think you’d beat me in a straight game, with good teams behind us, Hobson.”
“Not in a thousand years,” said Hobson. “I’ve been doing my best, and you were under wraps. However, I hope I’ll have another chance with you. It’s been good fun, anyhow, even if we did lose.”
“Good work, Phillips!” said Bowen heartily. “I bet you won’t give me another straight ball on Saturday with men on the bases.”
The two rivals laughed, and Brady, coming up, joined in the laugh.
“You’ll win that bet, Bowen,” he said. “How are you, anyhow? I haven’t seen you since the old Andover days.”
“Well, we’ll make up for lost time now,” said Bowen. “I’ll see both of you at Cambridge on Saturday, I suppose, and then there again the week after. I can’t wish you fellows good luck—but may the best team win.”
“That’s what we all want,” echoed the Yale men.
A PROTEST FROM HARVARD.
Dick Merriwell was satisfied with the result of the game. Poor as the work of the Boston team had been, it had still served to show players as observant as Phillips and Brady certain tricks they would have to be on the lookout for when it came to the meeting with the Harvard varsity nine. The old-timers on the Boston team had known what to do well enough; the trouble was that they had forgotten how to do it. For instance, Bill Brady had noticed a peculiar shifting of the infield whenever two men were on the bases with one out, a shifting that was evidently meant to make a double play easier.
“They learned that trick from Jimmy Collins ten years ago,” laughed Dick Merriwell, when Brady spoke of it. “And they have kept on using it right along. I wondered if those fellows would try it. Did you notice anything else, Bill?”
“Yes,” said Brady, with a grin. “If the ball is hit where nine balls out of ten are hit under those conditions, they make a double play—if it isn’t, it’s a sure safe hit, because there’s a big hole between first and second they don’t cover at all, and another right inside of third.”
“Exactly,” said the universal coach, with a smile. “It pays to keep your eyes open in baseball, just as it does in everything else. You can’t do it all yourself—you’ve got to use the other fellow’s mistakes sometimes to help you out. That’s inside baseball, and I think it’s the way to get along in the law or business, too.”
Altogether, by the time that Dick Merriwell had gone over the game with the Yale team, which had attended in a body, although Phillips, Brady, and Winston had been the only ones in uniform, a lot of things, that might be looked for to make up a part of the Harvard attack, were foreseen and discounted.
“This will all help,” said Merriwell, “but don’t get the idea that you can win the game by just being ready for a few old tricks. They have a great way at Harvard of working out a system and sticking to it, but some time they’re going to fool us. In the past, we’ve beaten them some times by being wide awake. They stick too long at anything that has worked well once up there. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to keep on doing it. They may make a change now. It’s a good time for them to do it. So we’ve got to be ready to shift whenever they do—to follow them, if they lead the way.”
Dick Merriwell had to hasten away from the conference with the baseball team to attend the meeting of the football players, who were that day to elect a new captain. He had no vote, nor, theoretically, any voice in that election. But, as a matter of fact, he had a great deal of influence; and, while he did not want to interfere in the free choice of the players, he was far from anxious to see Parker elected captain of the team. He knew the junior only slightly, and he knew, moreover, that he was a first-class football player: strong, rugged, and, on the field, quick and intelligent. To all appearances, Parker would make a good Yale captain. But Dick distrusted him.
In the football season, Parker stuck admirably to his training. But now, as Dick knew, he took no pains to keep himself in good condition. He drank more than was good for him; he smoked immoderately, and, generally, he set a bad example for athletes, who should, to keep themselves ready always to do their best, be very careful, even when not in the strictest of training. Dick heard of all this, but he did not feel justified in moving against Parker for such a reason. Parker might retort that, so long as he observed training rules in the football season, it was no one’s business what he did at any other time. And there was just enough truth in that, in case Parker had much support among the players, to make it embarrassing for Dick to oppose him on such grounds.
Sherman, captain of the baseball team, who had a vote in the election as an end of the eleven the previous year, although he had played his last game on the gridiron for Yale, walked over to the meeting in Dwight Hall with Dick. At the door of the room they were joined by Sam Taylor, the big senior catcher, who had been a tackle on the football team.
Dick knew that both the seniors were devoted to him, and would do what he asked. So he halted them, just before they went in, and spoke earnestly to them, explaining his feelings.
“I don’t care who else is elected,” he said, in a low voice, “but, until we know more about him, I don’t think Parker is the right stamp of man for a Yale captain. So, if it looks as if he were going to be elected, it would be a good thing, if you could do it, to get the election postponed.”
Sherman and Taylor, whose opinion as to Parker agreed fully, and on even better evidence than his, with that of the universal coach, nodded their heads in agreement. Parker, entering at that moment, flushed angrily as he saw what was going on. He had not heard what was said, but he was no fool, and he was well able to guess.
There was no choice on the first ballot. There were three candidates. They were Parker, Jackson, second baseman of the baseball nine, who, as a quarter back, seemed to many the logical captain for the football team; and a big fellow called Jones, the center, who received only four votes.
The other fifteen votes went, eight to Parker, and seven to Jackson, so that neither had a majority of all the votes. Jones, evidently, would withdraw on the next ballot, and both Sherman and Taylor knew that his four votes would be divided evenly between Parker and Jackson, giving Parker the captaincy by a vote of ten to nine—close, but sufficient.
Suddenly Taylor had an inspiration.
“Back me up in this,” he whispered to Sherman, then got up.
“Fellows,” he said, “Danby isn’t here, but I don’t think we ought to finish this election, close as it is, without giving him a chance to vote. It would look as if we were forgetting him and all he did for Yale, just because he has had to leave college. We elected him captain unanimously after the Harvard game last fall, and I move that we adjourn this election now to give him a chance to come here and vote.”
“Second the motion,” cried Sherman, rising at once, and when Dick Merriwell, who presided, put it, the motion was carried with little show of dissent, though Parker was obviously furious.
Dick Merriwell breathed a sigh of relief. He had no feeling of dislike for Parker, for he knew little of him, but he was almost convinced that he was not the man for captain, and he thanked Taylor as they left the building.
“You’ve won this time,” said Parker, coming up to them, cold hatred in his tone as he stared insolently at the universal coach. “But you’ve only postponed it. I’ll be captain of the Yale football team next fall in spite of you, Mr. Merriwell.”
“I shall be the first to congratulate you when you are elected, Parker,” said Dick Merriwell quietly. “As you know, I have no voice in the election. As you probably know, also, if I had a vote, I should cast it against you, as matters stand. But, if you are elected, I shall do my best to work with you to turn out a winning team.”
“We’ll see about that,” said Parker hotly. “The captain of the team selects the head coach, you know, and, universal coach or no, I’ll decide on who is to be in full charge of the football team. If I want your advice, I shall ask you for it, you may be sure.”
And he walked off angrily, leaving Sherman and Taylor to give vent to their rage. But Dick Merriwell himself only smiled.
“He’s very young,” he said. “I don’t know what he’s got against me—but I imagine a guilty conscience may have something to do with his feelings.”
“Conscience!” exclaimed Sherman satirically, although he was one of the mildest and gentlest men in Yale. “I don’t believe he has one.”
At his rooms, Dick Merriwell learned that a caller had been waiting some time to see him. To his surprise it was Bowen, the Harvard catcher and captain.
“Hello, Bowen!” exclaimed Dick. “I’m glad to see you. But I thought you’d be back in Cambridge, coaching your batters on how to knock Phillips out of the box by this time.”
“I wish I were there,” said Bowen gloomily. “I can’t say I’m glad to see you, Mr. Merriwell. I’m more sorry that I can say to have to be here. I’ve got the most unpleasant duty to perform I ever tackled. Mr. Merriwell—I hardly know how to say it. But I’ve got to file a formal protest against your playing Phillips against Harvard, on the ground that he is a professional, and has accepted money for playing baseball.”
It took a good deal to startle Dick Merriwell, but Bowen’s amazing charge accomplished it.
“What!” he cried. “You can’t be serious, Bowen. It’s too absurd even to merit a denial.”
“I’d have said the same thing myself until I saw the proofs,” said Bowen miserably. “I did, in fact. But they convinced me. I hope there’s some way that the charge can be disproved. But unless it is, I’ll have to stand on the protest.”
“What are the proofs?” asked Dick, in a tense voice.
He was furiously angry, but not at Bowen. The Harvard captain, with such a charge brought in a way that had convinced him of its truth, could act in no other way. And Dick could see that the Harvard man was distressed and disturbed by the affair.
“They’re pretty strong,” said Bowen unhappily. “Mr. Chetwind, a member of the New Haven Country Club, says he sent a registered letter to Phillips, which was received by Phillips on Tuesday morning. Chetwind has the post-office receipt card, signed by Phillips, which was returned to the postman when the letter was delivered. This letter, according to Chetwind, contained a hundred dollars, the price agreed upon between an agent of his and Phillips. I’ve looked Chetwind up, and the worst thing I can find about him is that he consented to pay an amateur to pitch for an amateur team against another amateur team. He seems to stand well here in New Haven, and to be rated as a man of his word. You probably know more about him than I have been able to find out in a brief investigation.”
“Chetwind is all right,” said Dick Merriwell, stunned by what Bowen told him. “The thing’s incredible. But Chetwind, so far as I know, has never done a crooked think or told an untruth in his life. Can you tell me how you found this out?”
“Only in part,” said Bowen. “I got an anonymous letter telling me what had happened. I wouldn’t pay any attention to such a thing as a rule. But, intending to turn the whole thing over to you, I stayed over, and just happened to ask Chetwind about it. To my amazement, he confirmed the story. He seemed to be both angry and alarmed when he found that I had heard about it, and he wouldn’t tell me who his agent was. But he has the receipt for the registered letter, and showed it to me.
“He said he would never have opened his lips on the subject, but that when I asked him point-blank about it, he couldn’t lie. I guess I showed him what I thought about him for consenting to descend to such a step to get a good pitcher for his club, and he seems to be ashamed of his part in it. I’ll leave it to you to investigate, of course, Merriwell. I’m more sorry than I can say to have had to bring you such a story.”
“I don’t see how you could help yourself,” said the Yale coach kindly. “You had no choice in the matter, and it’s certainly not your fault. In spite of what you’ve learned, I’m sure that this can be disproved. There’s no reason in the world for Phillips to do anything of the sort. His parents are not wealthy, but they are well off, and he has as much money as he needs. But I will investigate and let you know what I find out.”
“I hope you can explain it,” said Bowen, and departed, evidently unhappy.
A STRONG CASE.
Dick Merriwell, stunned as he was by the news that Bowen had brought him, did not for a moment believe that Jim Phillips was guilty of the charge made against him. But he recognized that it was a serious matter, and one that must be investigated without delay. Bowen’s protest had been eminently reasonable, and Yale could neither ignore it nor refuse to disqualify Phillips. The evidence presented was all against him, so far, and Dick understood that he must at once proceed to gather some witnesses who could testify in favor of the accused pitcher.
His first step, taken even before informing Jim of the charge, was to find Chetwind, the country club member who had supplied Bowen with confirmation of the anonymous charge against Jim. He knew Chetwind, not very well, but well enough to go to him direct, and he went at once to the office of the principal witness in the case, as he already regarded him. Chetwind was a real-estate broker, and no time was wasted when Dick was ushered into his private room.
“I can guess why you are here, of course, Merriwell,” said Chetwind, raising a distressed face to Dick. “What Bowen has, I suppose, told you is true. I was told that Phillips would not consent to pitch for us unless he received a hundred dollars in cash, and, being anxious to win the game, I put up the money myself, and sent it to him in a registered letter. Here is the receipt.”
“Have you a witness to the fact that there was a hundred dollars in the letter?” asked Dick.
“Yes,” said Chetwind. “The clerk at the post-office saw me put the money—two fifty-dollar bills—in the envelope. I then sealed it and handed it to him.”
Certainly that looked very bad. Dick had seized upon the thought that the letter might not have contained money at all, but Chetwind’s witness banished that hope.
“Who told you that Phillips wanted money to play on the team?” asked the universal coach then.
“That I cannot tell you,” said Chetwind firmly.
“Consider this matter seriously,” said Dick. “I’m not going to say anything about your own dishonorable action in trying to introduce a man you thought was a professional into an amateur game. But here is a man, a student of your own college, accused of a serious offense, that will hurt not only him, but Yale. Have you the right to withhold any facts that may clear up the case?”
“I don’t think I am doing anything of the sort, Merriwell,” said Chetwind. “You need say nothing about my own action. I realize fully how dishonorable it was, and I was sorry the moment I had agreed to do it. But I don’t see how it would help you for me to break my promise of secrecy to the man who conducted the negotiations between Phillips and myself. You have evidence that Phillips received the letter, and evidence, too, to back mine, that it actually contained a hundred dollars.
“If Phillips can explain that away, or can show that there is any reason for me to break my promise, I will do so, rather than permit any injustice to be done. But I don’t think it’s possible for that to happen. It looks like a clear case to me—and, in a way, I’m glad it’s come out. It will ease my mind to know that others know of my own dirty work. I’ll never engage in anything of the sort again, I can assure you.”
“Repentance is a good thing,” said Dick, “but it’s better still to keep straight. Then you won’t have anything to repent of afterward. I think you come out of this pretty badly. This man you are shielding is obviously a shady character, and, as such, not worthy of being shielded. You’ve done a mighty wrong thing. I think you ought to do all you can to set it right, instead of suddenly getting conscientious about your promise to your fellow conspirator.”
“That’s pretty strong language, Merriwell,” said Chetwind, flushing. “It isn’t going to make me any the more likely to do what you want, I can tell you. It’s up to Phillips to prove that there’s been some mistake here. If he can do that, I’ll help him, even to the extent of giving away the man who approached me. Until I see some reason to do so, however, I’ll keep my promise. My word has always been good, and it is good now.”
“You’ve got a curious conscience,” said Dick angrily. “It seems to work just about when and how you want it to. Good day.”
He could not trust himself to stay there any longer. Convinced, as he was, that Jim was innocent, it was hard for him, at first, to realize that others, who did not know the sophomore pitcher as well as he, would be much more likely, on the evidence so far produced, to think him guilty.
From Chetwind’s office, Dick made his way to Jim’s room. To him, first explaining that he was sure that he was innocent, despite the appearance of the case, he told the whole story, beginning with Bowen’s visit.
“I never even heard of this man, Chetwind,” exclaimed Jim angrily. “I certainly received no letter from him, registered or otherwise. The only registered letter—hold on, I’d forgotten.”
Jim had suddenly remembered the curious episode of which he had spoken to Bill Brady, which had never entered his mind since their drive out to the country club the previous day. Breathlessly, he told Dick of the second registered letter he had fancied was there, but which, when he came to look for it, had vanished.
“Of course, I couldn’t be sure,” said the coach, deep concern in his voice now, “but I certainly was obliged to think that that receipt was signed by you. The first explanation that came to me was that there had been no money in the letter, and that Chetwind was lying. The second was that the money had been some he owed you, and that he was still lying. Where is the letter, if you signed for it?”
“I must have dropped it here in the room,” said Jim. “I’ll look.”
But the most thorough search that he and Dick could make brought them no trace of the missing letter, which now loomed so important in the discussion. Jim’s landlady was called up, but she had seen nothing of it when she cleaned his room, and the one servant of the house, who was absolutely trustworthy, professed an equal ignorance.
“Could you have dropped it outside?” asked Dick.
“I don’t see how I could,” said Jim. “I put all the letters I got that morning in my pocket, and didn’t take them out until I was in the carriage with Bill Brady. I told him about thinking I had seen a second letter, and we looked in the wagon. But it wasn’t there.”
“You told Brady about it, eh?” said Dick. “That’s good.”
The next step was to find Brady and see if he could throw any light on the missing letter, which had assumed such great importance in the case.
“You can see how it is, Jim,” said Dick Merriwell. “I don’t say that you were to blame in any way. It may have been pure accident, and something that you couldn’t avoid, that resulted in the disappearance of that letter. But it’s got to be found. If it isn’t, and you simply say you didn’t receive it, how will we look? They’ll produce the receipt that is signed by you—always assuming that you did sign it, which we will soon find out—and say that you are naturally denying the receipt of the money. But your denial wouldn’t be accepted as proof by people who don’t know you, against the positive evidence of that receipt. That’s the thing that makes the whole thing look so bad and so difficult.”
Brady, furious at the idea of such a charge, was slow in becoming calm enough to try to remember what had happened. Then, however, he recalled what Jim had said about the second letter he thought had come to him.
“You didn’t have it while you were with me,” he said positively. “And you didn’t drop it while you were coming out of the house, either. You remember that Carpenter was with you, and I was surprised, because I didn’t think that you and he were friendly. So I was watching you more closely than I would have done as a rule.”
“Carpenter?” said Dick Merriwell, puzzled. “I don’t think I know the name. Who is he?”
Brady, whose dislike for Carpenter was well known to most of his classmates, gave a highly unflattering portrait of the man, whose aspirations to lead the class in scholarship Jim Phillips seemed likely to block.
“Was this Carpenter in the habit of coming to see you?” he asked Jim then. “Was he a friend of yours?”
“No, I wouldn’t say he was a friend of mine,” said Jim, manifestly unwilling to say a bad word of one of his classmates. “I always supposed he hadn’t much use for me. He doesn’t go in for athletics, and goes around saying that they’re a waste of time. I think, too, he got rather sore when he wasn’t at the head of the class in two or three courses he’d worked specially hard in.”
“Oh, go ahead and say it, Jim,” cried Brady impatiently. “He’s had it in for you all year, and he and Shesgren and that crowd of grinds have been telling every one who would listen to them that all the professors here thought more of athletes than of students, and would favor them in examinations every time.”
“Is that so?” asked Dick gravely, of Jim.
“It’s a bit exaggerated, I guess,” said Jim, smiling, “but I have heard something of the sort. I’ve never taken much stock in it, though. Fellows are apt to talk that way when they’re a little excited, but they don’t usually mean more than half they say.”
“Well, there’s no light here, anyway,” said Dick. “We’ll go down and make sure of that registered-letter receipt. Come along, Bill. You know Jim’s handwriting, too. But keep cool, and don’t start any trouble with this fellow Chetwind. He’s a pretty poor specimen, but he’s convinced himself that he’s doing the right thing—and, so far as I can see, I think he’s right.”
The receipt, when Jim and Brady examined it, left no room for doubt. It had certainly been signed by Jim. Brady recognized his writing, and Jim himself, without the slightest hesitation, identified it.
THE STORY IS TOLD.
The action of the football men in postponing the selection of a captain had caused a good deal of surprise. Parker had a big following in his own class, which was anxious to see him chosen as the gridiron leader, and he was enough of a politician to stir up a good deal of comment. Moreover, he spread in all directions the statement that it was Dick Merriwell who had caused the adjournment without action.
“I don’t care for myself,” Parker said, sitting on the junior fence and addressing a number of his admiring classmates. “But it’s a bad principle. We’ve always had self-government in sports here at Yale, and I don’t see why this Merriwell should be allowed to come in and disturb all our traditions and upset our plans. We should have elected a captain to-day, whether it was Jackson or myself.
“I would have been perfectly willing to give way to Jackson if it had seemed as if most of the fellows wanted him, but there was no reason why I should withdraw when I was sure of a majority of the votes on the second ballot. And Taylor was talking to Merriwell and Tom Sherman just before the meeting. He told them what to do—and every one knows how they did it.”
Steve Carter, third basemen on the baseball team, who had once thought the baseball captaincy such a prize that he had been willing to stoop to a dishonorable trick to spoil Jim Phillips’ chance of getting it away from him, spoke up warmly in defense of Dick Merriwell.
“I don’t believe Merriwell influenced any one to vote against you, Parker,” he said. “His interest is to have the best man in college elected to the captaincy of every team. It doesn’t make any difference how good a coach may be, he can’t do anything here or at any other college unless the captain of the team backs him up and supports him loyally all the time. And I know that every man on the football team who voted against you would have done the same thing if Merriwell had made a speech in your favor before the meeting and done his best to have you elected.”
Parker was furious. He stripped off his coat, and moved threateningly toward Carter.
“I’ll make you fight for that,” he said savagely. “No man can talk to me that way without giving me satisfaction.”
But Carter held his ground without flinching, big as Parker was.
“Don’t be a fool, Parker,” he said. “In the first place, I didn’t say anything insulting to you, and you know it. You’re just trying to start trouble to show what a big boss you are. And in the second place, I’m on the baseball team, and I couldn’t fight you until after the training season, no matter what you did.”
“Any port in a storm,” sneered Parker, resuming his coat. “That’s a good way to get out of a licking after you’ve provoked a man to the point of giving it to you.”
But Parker went too far when he said that. His own friends cried out that he was unfair; that Carter, as he said, had said nothing to make a fight necessary, and that, even had he done so, training rules made it necessary for hostilities to be postponed until baseball was at an end for the year.
“Perhaps you won’t feel so good about Merriwell and his gang when you see your baseball captaincy taken away from you by Jim Phillips,” sneered Parker. “That’s their little game, if you haven’t had sense enough to see it for yourself. You think you’re sure to be elected. Don’t be surprised when you find them expecting you to take your orders on the field from Phillips next season.”
“It won’t surprise me at all,” said Carter, with a smile. “I’m not looking for the captaincy. When it comes time for the election, I’m going to nominate Phillips myself and try to have the election made unanimous. If ever a man deserved a captaincy, he’s the one!”
Parker was furious. He had no love for Carter, but the junior was necessary in his plans, and he had never suspected that Carter had given up his own well-known and honorable ambition to lead the Yale baseball team in his senior year. If Carter would not aid his fight, even passively, how could he hope to defeat Merriwell and Phillips, who, as he saw them, were allies, trying to get hold of the chief power in all Yale athletics.
“Well,” he cried, carried away by his anger, and led into a rash move he had not contemplated; “Jim Phillips won’t be captain of any Yale team, I guess. He’s a professional. He’s played ball for money. They’ve caught him with the goods. There’s a receipt for a registered letter in the possession of people who have shown it to the Harvard team, and that letter contained a hundred dollars. That’s what he got for playing for the country club team the other day. How does your little good boy look now?”
If to create a sensation was all that Parker wanted, he certainly succeeded most brilliantly. He was surrounded in a moment by an eager crowd, that demanded details, most of them scoffing at the idea that such a charge could be true, but some, who, for one reason or another, were jealous of the sophomore pitcher, inclined to rejoice mightily in the news that he was in danger of disgrace.
Carter waited only long enough to hear exactly what sort of charges these were that were being made, then hurried off to see Dick Merriwell and tell him what had happened. He was furious, but not by any means dismayed. It never even entered his head that Jim could be guilty of such a thing. The enmity between them was something that had been buried deep, and he was now loyal to Jim in spirit as well as in action, and his first thought was to go to Jim’s most powerful friend, who might, for all he knew, be in ignorance of what Parker had said, that steps for his defense might be promptly taken.
It was important news he brought, as Dick Merriwell at once recognized. The universal coach knew already more of the charge than Carter could tell him. But that Parker, of all men in Yale, shared his knowledge, and was busily engaged in spreading a scandal that, until it was proved to the hilt, most Yale men would have kept strictly to themselves, was a surprising and illuminating fact.
“There can’t be any mistake about this, can there?” asked Dick, when he had heard Carter’s story. “Parker was actually the first man to tell the story? He couldn’t have heard it talked of about the campus and just repeated it as a bit of gossip?”
“He certainly could not,” said Steve Carter. “He knew all about it, and he was so mad at me for saying that I wasn’t going to run against Phillips for the baseball captaincy that he blurted it out without doing much thinking about it. I don’t believe he’d have started it at all if he’d known what he was doing. But his temper got the best of him, and when he once started, he had said so much that he had to keep on.”
The universal coach was very thoughtful for a moment.
“It’s good and it’s bad,” he said slowly. “I’m sorry the news is out, because it will be all over town, and it’s almost sure to get into the papers. The Harvard people were very decent. They simply made their protest and supplied us with the facts they had learned, leaving us to investigate, to report to them, and to do as we liked about making it public. I wonder how Parker heard about it. I certainly haven’t said anything and the only others who know anything about it are Jim himself and Bill Brady, who have given me their promise not to talk about it. I haven’t even told Tom Sherman about it yet.”
“If you ask me,” said Carter hotly, “it looks as if some sort of a conspiracy was on foot against Jim.”
He flushed, but went on bravely:
“We know there have been attempts of that sort before, because I was mixed up in one of them myself. Doesn’t it seem to you, Mr. Merriwell, that some one may be at work again, trying to do Jim up and make him look like a professional just to drive him off the team and keep him out of the captaincy?”
“It looks very much like that to me,” said the universal coach gravely. “And it’s a very hard charge to meet. The time is very short, and the evidence against Jim is very convincing.”
Then, feeling that as Carter knew so much, he had better hear the whole story, he told him of the episode of the missing registered letter, the receipt for which made up the real evidence against Jim.
“Well,” he said, “it ought to be easy to trace that letter. It seems to me it’s a sure thing that some one must have stolen it. And that’s a pretty serious offense. They wouldn’t dare destroy it, it seems to me. They might want to produce the letter later, in such a way as to make it look as if Jim had kept it hidden all the time. I should say that the best thing to do would be to keep a careful watch on Jim’s place, and make sure that no one gets away with any trick of that sort there. When people do a crooked thing like that, they almost always overreach themselves by trying to accomplish too much. That was the trouble when that scoundrel Harding was using me to make trouble for Jim.”
“You’ve certainly helped a lot by hearing that and coming to me,” said Dick heartily. “And you’ve given me an idea, beside, that I ought to have thought of myself. Can I count on you to help me in this business?”
“You certainly can,” said Carter impulsively. “Just tell me what to do, and if it can be done, you can be sure that I’ll do it. I’d give a good deal to see Parker’s goose cooked. And I think he’s at the head of the whole business. Moreover, it isn’t Jim he’s after, especially. He’s hitting at you through him. If he’s elected captain of the football team, he’ll make all the trouble for you that he can.”
“I hadn’t thought of that, either,” said Dick grimly. “That makes me just a little angrier than I was before. The idea that some one may be trying to get at me by hitting at my friends. I’ll remember this, Carter, and I think you can help a lot when the time comes.”
THE WORM TURNS.
When Steve Carter told Dick Merriwell that Parker had been surprised by his own anger into revealing the charge against Jim Phillips to his assembled classmates, he was quite right. But Parker, though he let his temper run away with him at times, was shrewd as well as unscrupulous, and he was not long in seeing that, by a slight change in the plan of his campaign, he could make the general knowledge of the case work to his own advantage, or, at least, to the advancement of his plan. That the discrediting of Jim Phillips, and, consequently, of Dick Merriwell, would certainly advance his own interests, he never doubted at all. Already he was laying his plans for the coming football season, which, if he had his way, was likely to be more for the benefit of Parker than of Yale.
He went to Shesgren’s room after he had finally torn himself away from the curious crowd that wanted to know all he could tell it about the registered letter and the Harvard protest, and there found Carpenter as well as the owner of the room. The news had spread all over the campus by that time, and they, remembering how strictly Parker had ordered them to maintain secrecy about the whole affair, were afraid that he would think that they had told. He soon reassured them, however, when they began, as soon as he entered, to protest their innocence and say that they had no idea of how the story had got out.
“I have,” said he curtly. “I changed my mind, and told it myself. It’s best the way it is, too. We can settle the whole thing now and make sure that there’s no way for Phillips to squirm out of this thing and prove that he is innocent. He is innocent, you know, and that’s why we’ve got to be careful. I read once that if a man hadn’t done a thing he was accused of, there always was some way, no matter how long it took for him to find it, to prove the truth, or to prove, at least, that he couldn’t have had a hand in it. Here’s where we fool the man that wrote that. Still got that letter, Carpenter?”
“Yes,” he said. “You told me to keep it. I wanted to burn it. It isn’t safe to have around. It might turn up some way, and then where would we be?”
“I’ll do all the worrying that’s needed around here,” said Parker harshly. “Just you leave that to me. You do as I tell you and there’ll be no trouble. I want you to go to see Phillips right away, and tell him you don’t believe all this story. Say you were with him that morning, and that you certainly didn’t see any registered letter. See?”
“Yes—but I don’t understand,” said Carpenter feebly.
“Never mind about understanding,” snarled Parker. “Have the letter with you, in your pocket. Then, when he isn’t looking, slip it into some place where it will stay hidden until they make a more thorough search. You can bet they’ve hunted through that place pretty carefully already——”
Suddenly Shesgren, his blue eyes flashing behind his heavy spectacles, cried out.
“What are you talking about?” he cried. “What letter do you mean? Do you mean to tell me that Phillips never really got that letter that they’re making all the fuss about? Why, he signed the receipt!”
“Yes, he signed the receipt,” said Parker mockingly, “but your friend Carpenter here got the letter.”
“But that—that’s stealing,” cried Shesgren, horrified. “There was money in that letter.”
“There still is,” said Parker, with a sneering grin. “And we’ll see that Phillips gets his letter in due time, with the money still in it. Stealing that is not what we’re after.”
Shesgren, confused, and slow, even when he was at his best, to understand complicated things, took some time to grasp the idea.
“Then Phillips isn’t crooked at all!” he exclaimed. “This was just a plan of yours to put the blame on him and make it look as if he’d taken money to play in that game when you knew all the time that he hadn’t.”
“What of it?” asked Parker, sneering again. “You knew what we were going to do—what the whole plan was.”
“I knew you were going to give him a chance to take the money,” said Shesgren, trembling. “I didn’t know that you were going to fake evidence against him. I won’t stand for that. I thought you had proved that Phillips was a hypocrite and a sneak—not that you had set a trap for him.”
Parker glared furiously at Carpenter.
“I thought you were cowardly enough,” he said, with contempt. “I didn’t suppose that you were training with such a white-livered chap as this, though.”
“I’ll tell the whole story,” cried Shesgren angrily. “I’m going to Merriwell right now.”
He sprang for the door, but Parker was after him in the twinkling of an eye, and, being immensely stronger, had no trouble in dragging the angry sophomore back.
“Get me a trunk strap,” he cried to Carpenter, and Carpenter, who was completely under the influence of the junior, obeyed. In a moment Shesgren, struggling pluckily, though there was no hope that he could cope with Parker, was trussed up in a chair.
“This is fine business,” exclaimed Parker angrily, then. “I thought I could count on you two to help me do Jim Phillips up to get him out of your way, while I was disposing of Dick Merriwell at the same time. And now you go back on me just when the thing seems likely to be a success.”
Furiously angry, he sat in sullen silence for a few minutes, trying to work out some way in which he could rescue his plan from the destruction with which Shesgren’s sudden attack of conscience seemed to threaten it. If he released Shesgren, the sophomore would betray the whole conspiracy at once. If he kept him tied up, he could only postpone discovery a short time. The only thing to do was to find some means of stopping Shesgren’s contemplated betrayal—to find some way to seal his lips. He must get him in his power in some fashion.
“I’ve got it,” he cried suddenly. “You’ll be sorry you ever turned on me before I’m done with you, Shesgren. Give me that letter, Carpenter.”
Skillfully, he slit open the edges of the envelope with a sharp knife, and, extracting the two fifty-dollar bills the letter contained, put them in Shesgren’s wallet, which he was able, without difficulty, to take from his captive’s pocket.
“Those bills are marked,” he said. “Chetwind took their numbers from the bills when he mailed them, as an extra precaution, in case of any trouble. Now, my fine fellow, if you start to tell anything, you’ll have difficulty explaining those bills. I’ll see that you have no chance to get rid of them, and if you try to do me any harm, you’ll simply find yourself involved in the case with Phillips without doing me any harm or him any good. You can’t prove anything that you say—and the evidence of those bills in your possession will be taken as worth much more than anything you say. And you want to remember, too, that if it comes to a test, Carpenter and I will stick together and tell the same story, and our word is better than yours. I won’t give you a chance to promise not to split—I wouldn’t take your word now, no matter what sort of an oath you swore.”
“You won’t get the chance,” cried Shesgren. He seemed like a great coward, but like many other weaklings, Shesgren had a certain courage, and, when he made up his mind to do anything, it took more than threats to dissuade him. “I’m going to tell the truth no matter what you do, and you’ll find that the truth can be proved, even if it is difficult. Just as soon as you let me go, I’ll take the whole story to Merriwell, and he’ll believe me, whether any one else does or not. Then, when he knows the truth, he’ll find some way to prove it. You can make your mind up to that, you crook! You’re pretty clever, but there are some people who know just as much as you do, and you’ll find that out and wish you’d kept straight.”
“Quite a bantam cock, isn’t he?” said Parker contemptuously, to Carpenter. “I didn’t think our little friend had so much nerve. I really admire him, honestly I do.”
The junior was much relieved by the plan he had worked out. And he had one or two trump cards, too, of which Shesgren knew nothing, for he had not been fool enough to confide fully in his two rascally and treacherous helpers.
They left him there, Parker walking freely, singing as he went; Carpenter terrified, white and trembling. He wasn’t much of a rogue, really, and it was only Parker’s complete domination of his weak character that had made it possible for him to do as much as he had so far. With them went the registered letter, slit now, and empty, except for a folded sheet of paper. Parker carried it, and seemed afraid to trust it to Carpenter.
“What do you want me to do?” asked Carpenter shakily. “The letter isn’t any good now, is it, with the money gone out of it?”
“Certainly it is,” said Parker, laughing. “You’re a silly sort of a fool, Carpenter. The letter—without the money—turns up in Phillips’ room. At the right time, the money is found in the possession of Shesgren. You explain, very sorrowfully, that you’re afraid Shesgren and Phillips went together on the thing. And then see what Chetwind will say. You needn’t worry. I’ve got everything they can do worked out, and we’ll fool them on every side. You go on up and see Phillips now. And be sure to drop the letter in his wastebasket, or some place like that.”
Carpenter felt that he could only obey. He would have given all he possessed, and all his hopes of graduating at the head of his class, to be well out of the mess, and free from the fear of Parker. But he was afraid to make a move. He had seen the fate of Shesgren, still a prisoner in his own room, and, as Carpenter well knew, likely to find himself, because he had turned honest and had tried to undo the wrong that had been done, involved as deeply as Jim Phillips himself in the toils, with no way at all of clearing himself of the charge.
A STRANGE CLEW.
The letter dropped so carefully by Carpenter—for he had done his work well—was found by Jim Phillips himself on Friday morning. Jim was nervous and upset. The team was to start that evening for Cambridge, and he knew, despite Dick Merriwell’s optimistic way of speaking, that things were still looking very bad, and that he was as far as ever from being cleared of the charge against him. The feeling that he was regarded by many of his friends and fellow students as one who had for money deliberately violated his standing as an amateur and a Yale athlete, and that Yale would suffer the next day because of his absence, had had a bad effect on him, as was only natural.
Bill Brady was with him as he found the letter. Jim, bending over by his desk, saw a little speck of white protruding from the edge of the carpet. He pounced on it, and, with a cry of amazement, held up the envelope.
Eagerly he and Brady examined it. Outwardly, it was exactly as Chetwind had described it. The number stamped on it by the post-office was the same that had appeared on the card receipt which Jim had signed, now in Chetwind’s possession. But inside they found the real surprise. The money was missing. There was only a single sheet of note paper, folded three times, with no writing at all on it. That, too, confirmed Chetwind, in a way. He had said that the two fifty-dollar bills he had sent had been put inside a sheet of folded note paper.
“We must have overlooked this when we searched the room,” said Jim, tremendously excited.
“Not a bit of it,” cried Brady. “I took up the whole carpet myself, and went over the whole floor. I shook out the carpet, too, and I couldn’t possibly have missed this. Look here, Jim! This envelope has been slit open by a knife. Some one has opened it, and taken the money out. And it isn’t here by accident, either. It’s been put here for you to find—or for some one else. Probably they would rather have had some outsider find it than you—but that’s a small matter. A criminal, or you, if you were guilty, might destroy this. But I think it may work the thing out yet. I’m no detective, but Merriwell is. If he doesn’t call this a first-class clew, I’ll eat my hat.”
“Let’s take it to him right away,” cried Jim eagerly, seizing his hat.
“Hold on!” cried Brady, almost as excited as his friend, but because he was less deeply concerned personally, finding it easier to keep his head. “I want him to see this just as we found it, before there’s any chance to have things changed around in the room.”
He went to the window, and looking out into York Street, soon saw a freshmen walking past.
“Hello, there, freshie!” he called. “Beat it up to Mr. Merriwell’s rooms, and ask him if he can’t come down here right away.”
The freshman obeyed—he would have been venturesome, indeed, had he not—and Bill and Jim Phillips waited impatiently for the universal coach to appear. He did not keep them waiting long, for he knew that such a summons must mean an important discovery.
“Well,” he said, “this certainly does look as if we were getting warm. But I must confess that the whole thing is too complicated for me. Why should this thing be allowed to turn up just now? I should think they would have done better to keep the letter altogether.”
Even as he spoke, Jim’s landlady appeared in the door and announced that a man was asking for Phillips.
“He’s a post-office inspector, sir,” she said.
The three Yale men exchanged quick glances.
“Show him in,” said Jim quietly, and in a moment the inspector, a dark, keen-looking man, appeared.
“I was in town on some other business,” said he, “and the postmaster asked me to investigate the matter of a missing registered letter.”
“I don’t see how the post-office department is concerned,” said Dick. “The receipt was duly signed, which shows that the letter carrier did his duty. The responsibility of the department ceases with the safe delivery of the package.”
“Y-e-es,” said the inspector, a little doubtfully. “But I understand that Mr. Phillips says he did not actually receive the letter. The mail carrier says he delivered it personally, and, therefore, the postmaster has been rather annoyed by the implication that some misuse of the mails has been made.”
“I don’t know who has implied that,” said Dick. “However, it makes no difference. The letter has just been found. Good day.”
The inspector looked annoyed.
“It seems to me this whole affair is a tempest in a teapot,” he said, rather hotly. “I’ve been chased up here on a fool’s errand. I’m sorry to have intruded.”
“A strangely timely visit,” said Dick, laughing, when the inspector had gone. “You would almost think that some one who knew that letter was going to be found wanted to make sure that we shouldn’t conceal the discovery, wouldn’t you? Now, Jim, I want to know who could have dropped that envelope in this room? It must have been done while you were here, for I have had the room watched in your absence, and no one has been here. Tell me every one who has been here since dinner time last night. It must have been done since then.”
Jim had no difficulty in supplying the list. He had just three visitors. Harry Maxwell, Bill Brady, and Carpenter made up the list.
“Carpenter again,” said Brady, with a sarcastic laugh. “He’s very careless. He was here when the letter disappeared—he is the only one, eliminating Harry Maxwell and myself, who could have restored it—with the money gone.”
“Exactly,” said Dick Merriwell. “There are a lot of things I should like to have Carpenter explain. But being sure of a man’s guilt and proving it afterward so that other people will be sure also, are two very different things. We’re not in a position yet to accuse Carpenter of anything, or to try to make him answer any questions. In fact, it would be dangerous to try it. We would simply put him on his guard, if he has anything to do with it, and make it harder than ever to straighten things out. And our time is getting so short that we can’t afford to make any sort of a move without being absolutely sure.”
He waited a minute to think over the new facts.
“There’s one thing we can do, though,” he said. “Our friend Chetwind has had time to do some thinking. And I imagine that with what we can tell him now, he may decide that it’s time he told us who served as his agent in those remarkable negotiations of his with Jim by which he agreed to pay for the services of a pitcher in that wretched baseball game.”
“That’s so, too,” said Brady. “Let’s go to it.”
The three of them, accordingly, taking the letter as mute but convincing evidence, took their way to Chetwind’s office. Dick Merriwell, on the way, examined the letter very closely.
“The man who opened this made one bad mistake,” he said. “He should have torn it open with his fingers, as nine men out of ten open a letter. He didn’t. And he may be sorry before we get through that he did not. If he did that with this letter, the chances are that he makes a practice of it—and that practice may give us some very valuable information yet.”
They had to wait some little time to see Chetwind, but when they finally reached him, they found him much more disposed to talk with them than on their previous visit. Briefly, Dick explained to him why they had come, and laid before him all the facts that had developed since the charge had been made against Jim.
“You see, Mr. Chetwind,” said Dick Merriwell, “we’ve gone about as far as we can without your help. You said that, in view of the strong evidence against us, it was up to Phillips to prove his innocence, or, at least, that there was a chance that he was innocent. Now consider the whole affair.
“Phillips makes no attempt to deny signing the receipt for this letter. He does deny having received the letter itself, however, and the fact that he received, at a time when he was in a great hurry, two registered letters in the same mail, a highly unusual occurrence, explains how that might have happened. If he did not receive it, and some one else did, it ought to be possible to prove who the other person was. We haven’t proved that it was Carpenter, but we have done something to show that Carpenter had the chance, and practically the only chance, both to abstract the letter in the first place, and to return it afterward. Now, I think we have the right to demand that you tell us who it was that was concerned with you in the arrangement to pay Phillips for pitching against the Boston team.”
“I guess I’ll have to do that,” said Chetwind. “I don’t like to, but you’ve certainly raised a doubt in my mind as to Phillips’ guilt, which I didn’t think, yesterday, it was possible for you to do. The man who approached me, and through whom I made the arrangement, was a sophomore, named Shesgren.”
“Shesgren!” cried Merriwell and Jim, together, with Bill Brady’s deep bass to echo them.
“Why, I hardly know the fellow,” exclaimed Jim. “I’ve seen him around with this chap Carpenter, but I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to him more than about three times.”
“What does he look like?” asked Dick Merriwell quickly. “Did you see him?”
“Only once,” admitted Chetwind. “I did most of the dealing with him by conversation over the telephone. But I saw him once. He was a big fellow, with rather a deep voice. I couldn’t describe him, except to say that he was big and dark. I suppose that much of a description would fit a hundred Yale men.”
“Yes,” said Brady dryly. “But it doesn’t happen to fit Shesgren.”
“I should say not,” exclaimed Jim. “He’s small, and light, and he wears glasses. His eyes are blue, and he has a thin, reedy sort of a voice, like that of a young boy.”
“Good,” said Dick Merriwell. “Now I’m going to look for the knife that opened this envelope.”
A TIMELY CONFESSION.
Parker had laid his plans well. But he had made two mistakes. He had not allowed for the fact that while it would not be easy for Dick Merriwell, though he might know the truth himself, or, at least, strongly suspect it, to convince others, it would make his task much easier than if he were kept wholly in the dark himself. And, as Dick had said, he had used his knife to slit open the envelope of the registered letter.
Shesgren, after his defiant outburst, Parker had left to reflect upon the folly of his sudden repentance. He had ordered Carpenter to see that his friend did not suffer for lack of food and water, and, indeed, had forced Carpenter to spend the night in Shesgren’s rooms. And he had arranged, also, for Shesgren’s release on Friday morning, in time for him to be found by Dick Merriwell and the others, with the money on him to confirm what he knew they would hear from Chetwind; namely, that it had been Shesgren who had served as a go-between.
Until the time of the game with the Boston team, Parker had had nothing to do with Chetwind, and, when he had approached the real-estate man, he had told him that his name was Shesgren. That was the trump card that he had kept up his sleeve, concealing it from his two associates, so that, in case they went back on him, as Shesgren had actually done, he would have something in reserve.
He knew that Shesgren would immediately go to Merriwell and tell him what had happened. But he did not believe that Merriwell, after what he had heard from Chetwind, would believe such an unlikely story. That chance he had to take. But he thought it was a very slight one, and that he was really safe at least, with success certain to attend his plot.
Shesgren had just been released, when Dick Merriwell and the two sophomores appeared in the doorway of the house where he lived. He was hastening, as fast as his stiffened legs would let him, in search of them when he met them.
“Come on upstairs with me,” he pleaded.
And, back in his room, he told them the whole story, as he knew it. When he was done, he threw the money down on the floor.
“There’s the money,” he said. “I know this sounds like a wild yarn, but, on my honor, it’s true. I’d never have gone into the thing at all, if I’d any idea that Parker was going to try to work such a trick. He said that Phillips wasn’t as good as he tried to make out, and that it would be easy to prove it. I was willing to stand for that, though I see now that even that was dirty business, but I never supposed that Parker would go as far as he did.”
“Will you come with me and repeat this story before Parker?” asked Dick Merriwell. “I believe every word you’ve told us, Shesgren, unlikely as it seems, and I think, what’s more, that I’ll be able to prove enough of it to make Parker confess the rest.”
“I’ll do anything you want,” said Shesgren furiously. “I hate that fellow Parker, and I’d do anything I could to make trouble for him.”
“I don’t blame you much for feeling that way,” said Dick, smiling, “but I guess that Parker will find himself needing sympathy before long.”
“He won’t get it from me,” said Bill Brady spitefully; and they all laughed. The big catcher’s remark relieved the tension.
Dick Merriwell, as he led the way to Parker’s room, realized fully that the hardest part of his fight to clear Jim Phillips was still before him. If Parker refused to confess, and could induce his accomplice, Carpenter, to stand by him, it would be hard, indeed, to prove that Jim was all right. Against the positive statements of both Carpenter and Parker, Shesgren’s unsupported word wouldn’t count for much. But the universal coach was used to fighting against odds, and he felt that he was really more than a match for Parker.
Parker greeted them with a satirical smile, and invited them to sit down.
“I am honored by this visit,” he said, looking at them. “Any friends of yours, Mr. Merriwell, are welcome, of course. Have you come to talk over the football season?”
“No use, Parker,” said Dick quietly, but dangerously. “I know the whole story. And I’m not any the more inclined to be easy on you because you were trying to reach me, and were quite ready to ruin a friend of mine as a means of hurting me. Shesgren has told me everything.”
“Indeed?” said Parker. “I don’t know what he’s told you, of course, but I suppose it must be something very interesting. I’d like to hear it.”
“Repeat what you told us just now, Shesgren,” says Dick. “If Parker wants to brazen it out, I’m willing to take a little extra trouble.”
Parker laughed when Shesgren, trembling with anger, finished.
“You ought to start writing for the magazines, Shesgren,” he said. “I suppose I don’t need to tell you, Mr. Merriwell, that there isn’t a word of truth in all this wild story?”
“You certainly need not tell me that,” said Dick, “because I know that you’re not telling the truth when you do. I have also seen Mr. Chetwind. He has told me who it was that acted for him, or with him, in this matter.”
“Yes?” said Parker. “He didn’t mention my name, by any chance?”
“No,” said Dick. “You were quite clever there. But you forgot one thing. Chetwind named Shesgren—but he described you.”
“Really,” said Parker, “this is getting rather tiresome. I’ve got some work to do. I’ll be glad to see you some other time, but as you haven’t anything really important to say, perhaps you’ll leave me alone now.”
“Then you refuse to admit that these things are so?” asked Dick, pretending to be much cast down.
“I can’t do anything else,” said Parker calmly, though his eyes showed his delight, for he thought he had won.
“Well, in that case,” Dick began, risingly slowly to his feet. “Oh, by the way, can you lend me a knife? I want——”
Unsuspiciously, Parked whipped his knife out of his pocket. In a moment Dick had opened it—it was a single-bladed one—and slit open half a dozen envelopes that he snatched from his pocket.
Parker’s face went white with rage.
“What are you doing with my knife?” he cried furiously, and sprang forward, as if to snatch the knife away. But Bill Brady was in his path, and he was sent sprawling to the floor.
“Look here!” cried Dick triumphantly.
He laid the registered letter by the side of the other envelopes that he had opened with the knife. The cut was clean in each, save for a single break, where, evidently, a piece had been nicked from the sharp steel. And the knife blade, when it was compared with the paper, showed a break that corresponded exactly.
“You see?” cried Dick. “That confirms one, and the most important, part of Shesgren’s story. You thought you were safe—but you overlooked a detail that knocks your whole carefully built house of lies to the ground. Will you confess now, or shall I send for a post-office inspector? You’ve tampered with a registered letter—and you know what that means.”
Parker knew, and the knowledge cowed him, blustery as he had been when he thought he held the upper hand. He was white and shaken as he rose from the floor.
“You win,” he said, snarling, with a look of hate for Shesgren, who eyed him angrily, remembering his sleepless and agonizing night.
“Write out a confession of this whole plot,” ordered Dick Merriwell. “Also, you must withdraw as a candidate for the football captaincy. If you will do those two things, I will undertake to keep this matter quiet.”
It was a bitter dose for Parker, beaten and disgraced just as he thought himself on the threshold of success, to have to swallow. But there was nothing for him to do—no way in which, at the time, at least, he could renew the struggle. He was in Dick Merriwell’s power, and in a moment of utter frankness with himself, he realized that he was fortunate. Some men would not have let him off so easily. He sat down at his desk, and, with the universal coach looking over his shoulder to see that he set down the truth and the whole truth, he wrote out a confession of his plot against Jim Phillips, and of the part he had forced Carpenter to play in it.
He followed this unpleasant task by writing a letter to the manager of the football team, in which he asked that his name be withdrawn from the list of those trying to win the captaincy, and then, snarling, turned on his enemies.
“Get out, now!” he cried, “and leave me alone. You’ve got what you want this time. But some of you may be sorry yet that you’ve got me for an enemy.”
“Be careful!” said Dick warningly. “You’ve got off easily this time. Your confession will be shown to the Harvard authorities, and then it will be kept quiet. But you may find yourself in serious trouble if you attempt any more dirty work.”
Carpenter put up no such resistance as Parker had. When he found that Dick Merriwell knew what he had done, he was only eager to confess and to excuse himself, as best he might. He had repented already of his wrongdoing, but, unlike Shesgren, he had lacked the strength of character to defy Parker and tell the truth of his own free will.
Jim Phillips found it easy to forgive his wretched classmate. After Carpenter had written a hasty line or two, confirming all that Parker had confessed, Jim lingered behind the others.
“I don’t bear any ill will, Carpenter,” he said. “Let’s be friends, after this. Come around when you have the time, and we’ll talk over the work together. It will make it easier for both of us, I’m sure.”
And Carpenter, surprised at such generosity, promised to do as Jim asked.
THE LAST RESORT.
The whole strength of the Yale baseball squad was to go to Cambridge, and a great crowd of students went down to the station to give the team a last cheer and wish it well. The students would start for Boston early in the morning, going direct to the field, but they wanted to give the team a great send-off. Full of confidence in its ability to repeat, at the expense of Harvard, the victories it had won throughout the season, the Yale students were wild with delight at the reinstatement of Jim Phillips, which had been briefly announced.
Dick Merriwell had, immediately after they left Parker’s room, gone to a telephone, and called up Captain Bowen, of Harvard.
“I have a confession that clears Phillips completely and in every detail,” the Yale coach told the Harvard captain. “I will bring this with me and show it to you to-morrow morning. Meanwhile, if you will take my word for it, I’d like to announce that Phillips can play.”
“Go ahead!” cried Bowen joyously. “That’s the best news I’ve heard since I got my ‘H.’ I would have felt rotten about this series if Phillips hadn’t been able to play. You don’t need to show me anything, Merriwell. Your word is all any of us want. We know you and Yale too well not to accept any statement you can make at its face value.”
And, within an hour, Dick received from Bowen a long telegram, formally withdrawing Harvard’s protest against Jim Phillips and expressing the hope that he would be able to play against the crimson in the first game of the series.
“I certainly like to meet sportsmen like that,” said Dick heartily, when he showed the telegram to Phillips and Brady. “We fight them hard on the field, but there’s no hard feeling when the game’s over, and that’s the way it ought to be among all the colleges.”
So there was a tremendous ovation for Jim Phillips as the train pulled out. The Yale special car was at the rear end of the train, and as many of the baseball players as could find room on the observation platform at the back of the car were there to wave their hands to the enthusiastic crowd behind.
“Well,” said Jim Phillips, as the train pulled out, “I’m certainly glad that we’re through with this trouble. All we’ve got to do now is to play baseball, and, as long as we do our best, it doesn’t make much difference whether we win or lose. That’s one thing we can do, anyhow—play baseball.”
There was nothing eventful about the trip to Boston. The train arrived on time, and the squad went immediately to a great hotel in the Back Bay section, whence the drive to Cambridge the next morning would be a comparatively short one, and one easily to be made without any untoward incident.
“It looks like a good day for the game,” said Jim, to Brady, after they had unpacked their bags in the room they were to share for the night. “Not a cloud in the sky—and everything deep blue. If there was a red sunset, I’d be inclined to imitate Woeful Watson and say that that meant a Harvard day to-morrow. But I guess we’re safe. Even the omens are pulling for us to win.”
“I guess we’ll do that, all right,” said Brady. “Let’s take a little walk downtown. It isn’t bedtime yet—not for an hour, and we can sleep as late as we like in the morning.”
Jim agreed. He had never been to Boston before, and the old city, so interesting to every true American as one of the places where independence was first thought of and first fought for, appealed strongly to him. They saw the famous library, the Old South Church, and Faneuil Hall, and, after a good, swinging walk around the shopping district, prepared to go home. But they had wandered further from their hotel than they had thought, and Brady, seeing an errant taxicab, whose chauffeur held his door open invitingly, suggested that they ride back.
“I’ll stand treat,” he said. “And I want to go to a drug store, too. Cabby, drop me for a minute at some good drug store. I forgot to bring a toothbrush, and I’ve got to buy one to-night.”
They drove, very slowly, as it seemed to Jim, until they reached a drug store, and there Brady jumped out and went inside, leaving Jim to wait for him in the cab. But, even as Brady jumped out at one side, Jim saw the door on the other side open, and, at the same time, the cab started away with a burst of speed, and left the drug store far behind.
Jim, amazed and angry, cried out to the chauffeur, but a heavy hand was pushed over his mouth, and a coarse voice commanded him to keep still. He knew at once that there were two men in the cab with him, and, though he struggled for a moment, it was useless. He was overpowered, and he wisely, fearing some injury to his pitching arm, ceased struggling. Then a light was flashed in his face and held steady for a moment.
“Yes!” cried one of his captors triumphantly. “It’s him. I guess he won’t do any pitching for Yale to-morrow.”
Jim, knowing nothing of Boston, could make no guess as to their destination. He only knew that the cab was traveling very fast, and he judged, from the time occupied in the trip, that he was being carried outside of the city. He was almost sure that he had recognized Parker’s voice when the man had cried out that he knew him, but he could not be certain.
At last he was lifted out of the taxicab and allowed to stand on his feet. The roar of surf was in his ears, and he knew that he had been brought to some point on the seashore, probably twenty miles or more from Boston. It was very dark, but as he looked around, he could see the sea, and that he was on a beach. A number of low, squat houses were to be seen in the neighborhood, but lights were visible in only one or two of them. It seemed to be a desolate, bleak place, where there was little chance of finding help.
“If you’re Parker,” said Jim, to one of the men who got out of the cab with him, “you ought to know that you can only get yourself into more trouble by doing this.”
The man he addressed, who wore a black mask over his face, laughed harshly, but made no answer. Evidently he didn’t wish Jim to have another chance of recognizing his voice.
“Never mind who we are or what will happen to us,” said the other man, a complete stranger to Jim. “We can look out for ourselves. You’d better make up your mind to stay here till we let you go. You can’t get away, and if you keep quiet and don’t bother us, you’ll come to no harm. We’ll give you a place to sleep and all you need to eat, but if you try to get away, you’ll be caught and brought back, and we’ll tie you up. That’s a fair warning. See that you don’t make us do anything we and you would both regret.”
Jim gave no answer. His eyes were growing accustomed to the darkness, and a flashing light off in the distance made him think that he might be able to guess where he was. Jim had never been to Boston before, but he knew the Massachusetts coast well, from a number of cruises he had made in those waters, and he thought that the lighthouse would soon give him a clew. Moreover, a wild suspicion was forming in his mind, and with it a plan, daring, but still offering a chance to escape, and reach Cambridge in time to justify Dick Merriwell’s faith in him, and the hopes of his fellow students at Yale.
TWO DESPERATE CHANCES.
Bill Brady, when he emerged from the drug store and saw no sign of the taxicab in which he had left his pitcher, thought at first that Jim had played a joke on him by ordering the driver to take him back at once to the hotel. He had looked around for a few minutes, and had then, with a promise to himself to exact due vengeance, taken another cab, and gone back himself. But when he arrived, he found that Jim had not returned. He waited a little while, and then, beginning to be vaguely alarmed, sought Dick Merriwell, and told him what had happened.
As hour after hour passed without a sign of Jim, the coach and the catcher became deeply worried. All their efforts to trace the missing pitcher were in vain. They consulted the police, but there had been no report of any accident that might account for his disappearance, and a search of all the hospitals failed to reveal the presence as a patient of any one at all like Jim.
Brady, naturally enough, had paid no particular attention of the number of the cab, and there was thus no way of tracing it.
After an almost sleepless night, Dick Merriwell and Brady resumed their search in the morning. They had said nothing to the other players of Jim’s strange absence, for Merriwell saw no need of worrying them, and thus reducing their efficiency for the game when they could not possibly do anything to bring Jim back. But, after breakfast, when Jim was still missing, Dick had to take some of them, at least, into his confidence. If Jim did not return, Bob Gray would have to do the pitching, and Dick, without going into details, told the senior to be prepared, in an emergency, to go into the box.
When it was time to start for Cambridge, Jim was still missing, and by that time the whole team, surprised and disturbed, knew that for some reason he was not along. Dick Merriwell was pestered on all sides with questions.
“I think that Phillips will report at the field in time for the game,” he said, in reply to all the questions that were showered upon him. “In any case, we’re going to play the game, and I want you fellows to go in there determined to win, with him or without him.”
A great crowd had turned out for the game. The city of Boston is loyal to Harvard teams always. But there were a great many old Yale men in business there, who were ready to turn out to cheer for the blue. Moreover, every Yale student who could scrape together the railroad fare, had come on to Boston to see the game. The result was that the biggest crowd the Yale team had seen all season was in the stand when it was time for the two teams to begin their final practice. Jim Phillips was still missing, and Gray and Taylor warmed up as the Yale battery, while Bill Brady, in his uniform, sat dejectedly on the bench beside Dick Merriwell, who blamed himself bitterly for not having taken precautions to prevent such a thing.
“Jim is the victim of some trick,” said Dick. “I’m sure of that. He would never leave us in the lurch this way, without some word of what was keeping him away, of his own free will.”
Suddenly a murmur of excitement ran through the crowd. Far away, over the Charles, winging in from the distant ocean, something in the sky was causing heads to turn and necks to crane toward it.
“By George!” cried Bowen, the Harvard captain, running over to the Yale bench, “that’s a pretty sight! One of the aviators from Squantum, I suppose, coming over to see the game. See him come down!”
The two Yale men, hardly interested in such a sight now, though at any other time they would have been as enthusiastic as Bowen himself, looked up apathetically, and saw a biplane volplaning gracefully to earth from a great height. It held a single figure, in dark clothes, and it was evidently the aviator’s intention to land in the part of the enormous Harvard field set aside for the use of motorists. There was plenty of room there, and it was impossible for the crowd to hamper his descent. Bowen led the way, and Brady and Dick Merriwell followed him, more for something to do than because they were really deeply interested. But in a moment their apathy was turned to joyous excitement.
They could see the aviator plainly now. He wore neither goggles nor cap, and, as he came nearer, they saw, to their intense amazement, that it was Jim Phillips himself, who was speeding toward them through the air.
He brought the machine gracefully to a stop, and, leaping out, was at once beset by questions.
“I was kidnaped,” he cried, seeking to explain in a word. “They thought I couldn’t get away—never dreamed that I knew how to run one of these machines. So they didn’t watch except in the distance. It was easy to jump this machine and get over here. Am I in time for the game?”
There was no time for further explanations. Ten minutes later, with just five minutes to spare for Jim to warm up with Brady, Yale’s sophomore star was in his uniform and on the field, and the Yale team, overjoyed by his opportune appearance, was doubly determined to reward his pluck and skill with such support that the victory was sure to be his.
Yale was first to the bat, as the visiting team, and when Briggs, the famous Harvard pitcher, who was relied upon by all the crimson rooters to check the victorious career of Jim Phillips, wound up to deliver the first ball to Tom Sherman, veteran of three series against Harvard, a mighty cheer from the crowd on the Harvard side of the field rent the air. The first ball was a perfect strike, cutting clean across the plate with a sharp, jumping break, that made Dick Merriwell clap his hands softly.
“He’s a real pitcher,” he said, leaning back in his seat on the bench.
There was no mistake about that. Sherman, Jackson, and Harry Maxwell, who led the Yale batting order, were retired easily in the first inning, and not one of them reached first base. But it was not time yet for the Yale attack to cut loose. Briggs was a pitcher to be studied, and every man on the Yale team, keyed up to a high pitch of enthusiasm and excitement, was studying every motion of the Harvard twirler, to get used to him, and be ready, when the time came, to deliver a crushing blow.
Jim Phillips, if Bowen expected to find that he was pitching as he had done in the amateur game at Cambridge, must have disappointed the Harvard leader mightily. No one could have told that he was the same pitcher. Every ball was the result of careful planning and coöperation between Jim and Bill Brady, and each was pitched with a deliberate purpose. Jim wasted no strength in trying to pitch strikes, but the effect was the same. The Harvard men, knowing themselves to be opposed by a really great pitcher, were canny and cautious, but he was too much for them, and inning after inning saw the crowd working up to new heights of excitement, as the duel between the two pitchers went on, with neither able to gain any advantage for his side.
In the fifth inning, there came the first shift in the simple attack that Harvard had been using. Dick Merriwell had given no specific orders as yet for an attempt to make a run by strategy. He had a plan, but he was holding it in reserve. The Harvard batters, too, had fallen easy victims for Jim. The first two men in each inning had tried to hit the ball out, picking out the first offering that seemed to them hittable; the third, when two were out, had tried to outguess Jim and get a base on balls by waiting.
But, in the fifth inning, there was a change. Bowen batted third for Harvard, and in the fifth inning he was the first man up. Instead of letting the first ball, a cross-fire shot that swung sharply across the plate, go by as a strike, Bowen just chopped it with his bat. The ball trickled along toward Carter, at third, but, as it seemed sure to roll foul, Carter let it alone. But Bowen had been practicing for weeks to make that play, and the ball, instead of rolling over the base line, spun round and round, and stopped finally, halfway between the plate and third base, leaving Bowen safe.
Bowen was a fast runner, and a tricky player as well. As Jim faced the next batter, the Harvard captain darted away from first base. Jim hesitated a moment, then threw to Sherman. As he did so, Bowen broke for second base, and by the time Sherman had swung the ball down to Jackson, Bowen was safe on a pretty delayed steal. Jim was angry at himself, for he had been caught by a trick that he should have guarded against, but many a big-league pitcher has been in the same hole, and Jim really had little to blame himself for.
He had to watch Bowen closely now, and the Harvard captain, quick and alert as a cat, as he danced about second base, made him waste two balls on Reid, the crimson shortstop, who was at the bat. This put Jim in the hole, and when he had to pitch a straight ball to Reid, it was cracked to Jackson, who, while he threw Reid out at first, was unable to keep Bowen from getting to third. It was pretty, inside baseball that Harvard was working, and Jim knew it. But he was not the sort to get rattled or confused, and, with Bowen at third, he was less worried.
Still, he had to be careful. From third, Bowen could score on a long fly, or even on an infield out, if he got a good start. Hazlitt, batting for Harvard, was more or less of an unknown quantity; but Jim thought he could hit a straight ball. He thought, also, however, that he would hit such a ball straight before him, on a line, and he took the chance. He pitched the ball, and then ran backward. Just as he had expected, the ball came straight for him, and, because he had run back almost to second base, he was able to make a flying leap and catch the ball. Bowen had figured on a safe hit, and a quick throw to Steve Carter disposed of the Harvard leader on a snappy double play, that sent the Yale crowd into a wild burst of cheering.
But Harvard had proved its mettle. The attack, designed to bring home a single run, had been well planned and well carried out, and it was not in accord with preconceived notions of how Harvard would play. Dick Merriwell had been right when he had said that there was danger that the crimson would try to spring something new.
At the beginning of the seventh inning, Dick decided that the time had come for action. Carter was the first batter, and he went to the plate, for the first time, with definite orders.
“Hit everything he pitches,” Dick told Carter. “If you can’t make it safe, foul them off. Better to do that than to try for a hit on his first balls. Never mind getting in the hole. I want to worry him.”
And, as a result, Briggs was pained and surprised to see his best curves being wasted. Ten of them in succession were knocked back of him by the determined Carter, and, in despair, Briggs began trying to tempt the Yale man with wide curves that would surely land in a fielder’s glove if Carter tried to hit them. From the bench Dick saw the change in Briggs’ plan, and changed his own. He signaled Carter to let such balls go by, and they swept into Bowen’s big mitt, to be called “Ball” by the umpire.
Briggs was furious, and in a moment Carter had his base on balls. All season, in such a situation, Yale players had at once tried to steal second. Carter dashed from the bag now but stopped short, ten feet from the base, and sped back, while the crowd laughed at Bowen’s futile throw to second. Briggs had thus wasted a ball on Caxton, the Yale center fielder, who followed Carter at the bat, and a big advantage had been gained.
Again Carter started from first with the swing of Briggs’ arm, and this time Bowen snapped the ball to first. But Carter had not stopped, and a mighty roar of laughter from the Yale crowd showed that the Harvard captain had been fooled completely, for Carter was safe at second. Thence, before the startled Harvard men could collect themselves, he dashed for third, and stole that base also without even a throw to head him off.
Caxton struck out, but Dick was satisfied. He felt that he could trust Brady for a long fly, at least, and he was right. The big catcher drove the ball far out to right field, and Carter, waiting for the catch, then sprinted home, and was safe at the plate in a cloud of dust, scoring the first run of the game.
After that, Briggs was invincible again. Dick’s best-laid plans to score another run in the next two innings were of no avail. The Harvard men saw through them and defeated them, and the ninth inning for Yale ended with the score still one to nothing. Harvard had one more chance to win the game, or to tie the score, at least, and it was up to Jim Phillips to hold the advantage his side had gained, slender as it was. If Harvard could not score, that one Yale run was as good as twenty.
Farquar, Harvard’s most dangerous batter, was the first man up. Jim had handled him well so far, and had struck him out twice, but Farquar was a scientific and skillful batter and he had studied Jim so that to deceive him was nearly impossible. He chose his time well, and, shortening his bat, drove Jim’s third ball straight down the right-field foul line and past Sherman, for two bases. It was the only clean hit made off Jim in the whole game, but it was a dangerous one, indeed. Farquar was a fast runner, and if the men who followed him did anything at all, there was a good chance for him to score. His fine play won him salvos of applause from the Harvard crowd, but Jim braced himself, with a smile for Brady, and settled down to work.
Jim was very willing for Renshaw, who followed Farquar, to hit the ball. It would mean a chance to throw Farquar out at third. Renshaw tapped the ball toward short and Morgan ran in to field it. Farquar raced toward third, and the umpire on the bases, trying to get out of the runner’s way without interfering with the fielder, did a thing that seemed fatal to Yale’s chances. By pure accident, he got in the way of the ball, and it struck his foot, bounding away from Morgan. Under the rules it was a safe hit, and Farquar was privileged to go to third.
That was hard luck for Jim Phillips. Through no fault of his own, Yale’s position had become desperate. Renshaw stole second at once, and Brady dared not throw to cut him off, lest Farquar seize the chance to come home.
But Jim held his nerve. He struck out the next batter easily, and then, knowing that Bowen, who followed, was almost sure to hit the ball, even if not safely, went in to consult Brady.
“We can get them, if you’re game to take a big chance,” said Jim, under his breath. “Listen!”
Brady heard him out, grinned, and then said: “All right. It’s a big chance, sure enough, but we’ll try it.”
Jim, before he walked to the box, took off his cap, wiped his forehead, and then threw his cap to a point a few feet behind Brady.
And, on the next ball, he deliberately pitched wild. The crowd yelled, for it seemed to make Harvard’s victory certain. But Brady, to the amazement of every one, had run back as Jim pitched. He dashed to the place where Jim’s cap lay on the ground, and Jim, rushing to the plate, took the catcher’s throw. The ball had stopped right by the cap, for it was a carefully planned wild pitch that Jim had made, and one involving the most perfect control. Farquar, dashing for the plate, was easily tagged out, and Renshaw, thinking it easy to reach third, was put out by Carter. Jim had outguessed the Harvard team by taking a desperate chance, and Yale had won the first game.
Dick now cautioned the Yale players to keep themselves in the best condition for the final game or games, for the universal coach felt that the Harvard men would fight hard to win the second game, thus making necessary a third game.
A DANGEROUS ALLIANCE.
There was a good deal of excitement at Yale over the sudden withdrawal of Wesley Parker, who had seemed likely to be the next football captain, from the list of candidates. Parker gave no explanation of his withdrawal, but simply announced that he would be unable to accept, should he be elected, and, as a result, Jackson, the second baseman of the baseball team, was chosen.
Parker, a junior, had been extremely popular in a certain circle in Yale. Many of his friends, who had expected great things from his captaincy, were bitterly disappointed by his withdrawal. They had looked for free tickets to the game, and one or two of them had expected him to help them to win positions on the team and thus gain the coveted Yale “Y,” which, unaided by some influence, they could not hope for.
It was one of these disappointed ones, a member of Parker’s own class, named Foote, who was the first to venture to speak to the big guard on the subject.
“I say, Wesley,” he said, “why aren’t you going to take the captaincy? You had a cinch to beat Jackson. That delay was only a game of Merriwell’s. They couldn’t have stopped you. Danby might have voted for Jackson, if he could have come on for the election, because he thinks this chap Merriwell is all right, but you would have had votes enough, and the chances are Danby couldn’t get here.”
Parker scowled at his friend.
“I don’t know that I have to explain everything I do to you,” he said savagely. “I changed my mind about taking the captaincy. I’m not sure that I want to play, anyhow. The way things are here, with this Merriwell as universal coach, there’s no special honor about being captain of a Yale team any more.”
Paul Foote, an undersized, ill-favored youth, who was smoking cigarettes at a great rate, lighting one as fast as he finished the one before it, whistled.
“So it’s Merriwell, is it?” he said, with an unpleasant smile, that didn’t make him look at all good-natured. “Funny how he bluffs all you big men out! First Taylor and Gray—now you. And even old Steve Carter. Steve used to be a good fellow. He trained with our crowd, and he was all primed to run for the baseball captaincy. Now he stays home nights and does his lessons, and he acts as if he thought Dick Merriwell was a little tin god on wheels. I thought better of you, though, Wes; honest, I did.”
Parker got up and wandered morosely about the room.
“If you think I’m scared of this fellow, Foote,” he said, “you’re jolly well mistaken. I’m going to take him out some time and give him the worst licking he ever had. But he’s got the whole college with him. What’s the use of fighting him? No matter what I said, he’d have most of the fellows with him, and I’d be powerless against that sort of thing. You know that as well as I do.”
“That’s the trouble with you big, beefy fellows,” said Foote disgustedly. “You haven’t any brains. That’s the reason I haven’t any use for you athletes—or most of you. I wouldn’t go across the street to get a ‘Y’ myself. But my dad thinks it’s a great thing. He rowed on the crew here twenty-five years ago, and he’s promised me a trip to Europe after I graduate and an increase of a thousand in my allowance if I get my ‘Y’ next fall. That’s the only reason I’ve gone in for football.”
“Well,” said Parker, with a little satisfaction in being able to insult this weakling, “you’ve got about as much chance of getting a ‘Y’ here as I have of being president of the Y. M. C. A. So you can make up your mind to go without that extra money and go to work as soon as you graduate.”
“That’s why I want you to do Merriwell up,” said Foote cheerfully. “It can be done, you know. Make him look ridiculous. Get the whole college laughing at him. Hit at him through his pets. Then you’ll draw his teeth. And you can’t lick him in a fight, anyhow. He’s too good for you—unless you wear knuckle dusters or something like that. Strategy—that’s what you need to beat him. And you couldn’t think up a scheme in a thousand years.”
Parker was furious. But he had an idea that Foote was right. He had tried his hand in a battle of wits with the universal coach, and had been pretty badly beaten. Therefore, he was not anxious to repeat the experiment unless he was sure of success.
“You’re talking pretty big, Foote,” he said, but in a softer tone. “Have you got any ideas for doing him up that way? I’d be willing to help you get that ‘Y’ if you could get rid of Merriwell.”
“I haven’t been talking just for exercise,” said Foote, with a sneer. “I knew you’d have to come to me if you wanted to get anywhere. There’s only one way to beat this fellow—that’s to fight him without letting him know that you’re doing it. The thing he’s got nearest to his heart right now is to beat Harvard in this series, and it’s a tough job, even if Yale has won the first game. He’s planning to use Gray and Taylor in the game here on Commencement Day, and then come back with Phillips on the last day, if Yale happens to lose here. I don’t believe Phillips is good for the extra game here, and, if Gray can’t pitch, it will be a sure thing for Harvard. See?”
“Yes, but Gray will pitch,” said Parker. “And if he doesn’t, what difference will it make?”
“Suppose Gray didn’t pitch,” said Foote, grinning evilly. “Suppose it was discovered that he couldn’t graduate? Suppose the discovery was made by Merriwell himself, and he felt that he had to tell the dean what he had found out? Wouldn’t that rather put him and the whole team on the blink?”
“Go ahead,” said Parker. “Talk common sense. I can’t make out what you’re driving at now at all.”
“Well, suppose Merriwell didn’t tell the dean what he knew,” said Foote. “But suppose some one else did—just in time to spoil Gray’s chance of pitching and getting his degree. Then, can’t you see? It would mean Merriwell’s finish. And you can be sure that that’s just what would happen. This Merriwell talks mighty big, but he’s no better than any one else, and if he finds out something that would spoil his plans, he’ll keep mighty quiet about it, just as any one else would.”
“I begin to get you now,” said Parker. “But this is going to take a lot of doing, my boy. I’ve been up against this chap Merriwell, and you’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning to get down to breakfast ahead of him. Have you got this little plan all worked out yet?”
“Not quite,” admitted Foote, “but I’m getting there. Gray and Taylor haven’t got as many admirers as you might expect. They dropped a lot of their old friends early this year, you know, and some of them haven’t liked it. Not so much men in college as some fellows in New Haven they used to run around with. And the faculty isn’t any too sure of them either. I happen to know that they were both on the ragged edge at the last exams. They just got through, and there are some professors who said then that neither of them had more than an outside chance of getting through the final exams.”
“What’s the game?” asked Parker. “Are they going to try to do some cribbing?”
“I don’t say they will, mind you,” said Foote, with a wink. “But I’m going to keep my eyes open. And it may be I’ll see something that I’ll feel it my duty to report in the quarters where it will do the most good, you know. Will you go in on this with me? You’ll have to do what I say, and not ask too many questions, you know. When you don’t know what’s doing, you won’t be lying when you say so, remember.”
“I’m with you,” said Parker, with an oath. “I’d do a good deal to get even with Merriwell. And I’d rather show him up as a hypocrite than anything else I can think of, too.”
“Well, stick to me,” said Foote, “and you may have your wish.”
A DECLARATION OF WAR.
At Yale Field there was a spirit of optimism in the air that delighted Dick Merriwell.
The climax of the great baseball season was really at hand at last. After several years, in which Yale baseball teams had completely failed to uphold the prestige of the university in the national game, although Yale had been doing well in all other branches of sport, Dick Merriwell had, in one short season, brought the nine up to be a contender for the national intercollegiate championship.
The universal coach, after watching the aimless practice of the players for a few minutes, walked over to the stand, where Jim Phillips and big Bill Brady, his classmate, whose fame as a catcher was almost as great as that Jim had won as a pitcher, were practicing a new curve that Jim was trying to perfect.
“Get that ball ready, Jim,” he said. “I hope you won’t have to pitch another game for Yale this year, but it’s as well to be ready for emergencies.”
“That means Gray is to pitch for the team on Commencement Day, I suppose, Mr. Merriwell,” said Brady. “I’m glad to hear it. It will be a fine wind-up to his four years in college to beat Harvard on the same day that he gets his degree.”
“That’s the idea,” said Merriwell, smiling. “We’ll have to wait to see whether he can do it or not. But I certainly hope he can. He’s worked mighty hard, and he’s improved tremendously since the beginning of the season. He and Taylor make a fine battery now, and I guess Taylor’s learned a lot about catching from you, Brady.”
“Not so much as you think, Mr. Merriwell,” said Brady. “He always was a good catcher, and if he’s much better, it’s partly because he’s been taking the game more seriously and looking after himself better.”
“I wanted to speak to you two fellows,” said the coach seriously. “I’ve been thinking a lot about this man Parker. He’s a fine football player, and if he doesn’t play this fall, Yale will miss him badly. I don’t know just where we can look for a guard to take his place. But I won’t have him on the team if he hasn’t been playing fair. You remember that after I proved he was responsible for that absurd charge that Jim Phillips was a professional, he promised to behave himself. Now, what I want to know, Jim, is whether you think he had anything to do with your being kidnaped in Boston the night before the first Harvard game?”
“I can’t say at all positively that he had, Mr. Merriwell,” Phillips answered finally, after going over the whole affair in his mind. “I thought I recognized his voice, but he only spoke once—the man I thought was Parker, I mean—and I never got a look at his face. So I certainly couldn’t make the positive statement that he had anything to do with it.”
“I’m pretty sure he had,” said Brady. “There was no one else who would have had any reason for doing anything of that sort, you know, and Parker could have managed it. He could have pointed us out to the chauffeur of that cab, and they were probably willing to carry me off along with Jim, you know.”
“You’re out of this, Bill,” said Dick, with a smile. “I think as you do, but we need more than thoughts to be sure, you see. I can’t punish Parker unless I’m absolutely certain that he did take part in that affair. I think we’re agreed that his loss of the football captaincy is sufficient punishment for the business of the registered letter. As it happened, that did no serious harm; though, of course, it was no fault of his that we were able to defeat his plans. But you have to consider the effect as well as the intention, and I think we can let that matter drop. However, he was very defiant when we obtained that confession from him.”
“I can’t make any charge against him in that taxicab affair,” Jim decided finally. “I haven’t enough evidence to satisfy myself, much less some unprejudiced person. So, as far as I am concerned, I say, let the thing drop. I’ll be careful hereafter. I’ll see that no one has a chance to do anything of that sort again.”
“There’s Parker now,” said Brady curiously, looking up into the stand, where a score or more of students, who were not themselves players, had assembled to watch the practice.
“Good,” said Dick. “I’ll go up there and read the riot act to him, anyhow. Whether he’s innocent or guilty, that won’t do any harm.”
Parker looked up with unconcealed surprise and hostility when he saw the universal coach making his way toward him through the rows of empty seats.
“What do you want?” he snarled, as Dick dropped into a seat beside him. “You’ve got your way, haven’t you? Your man has been elected as football captain. Can’t you let me alone?”
“I don’t know, Parker,” said Merriwell, laughing. “That depends on you, you know. I didn’t start the trouble between us, and I’m sorry that there had to be any. It was you who tried to spoil Jim Phillips’ record and cause Yale to enter the series with Harvard in a crippled condition. I’ll let you alone as long as you give me no cause to interfere with you. But if you make a move that seems to be unfair or is intended to hurt any of my friends, I will use the confession you signed. That is still in my possession, you know, and it will be enough to cause your expulsion from Yale if I give the word.”
“You forced it out of me,” said Parker. “I don’t think that a confession extracted in that way is any good.”
“Possibly not, if there’s no other evidence,” said Dick cheerfully. “And there’s plenty in this case, you see. Carpenter confessed his part, and Shesgren, as you know, refused to be your tool as soon as he found out what you were doing. Now, there’s another matter. You know something of what happened to Phillips in Boston. Just how much you do know I don’t pretend to say, and I’m not going to ask you, either. But I’m going to warn you to be careful. We are on the lookout; and if you are concerned in anything more of this sort, the evidence of your first plot will go to the dean at once. You know what would happen after that.”
“I’m not admitting anything to you,” said Parker, as insultingly as he could. “But I’m not afraid of you. I’m going to keep my hands out of your affairs altogether. And if you don’t want me to report for football practice in September, all you’ve got to do is to say so.”
“I do want you to play football, of course,” said Dick, “provided that you are willing to behave yourself. I don’t know much about you, Parker, except for the episode of the registered letter. Put yourself in my place. If that was all you knew about another man, you would be likely to distrust him, wouldn’t you, and would want to feel sure that he was powerless to injure you? That’s my only feeling. I don’t bear any ill will. I’m perfectly willing to let the past go, and to consider only the present and the future.
“You’re a man who can do a whole lot for Yale if you will sink your personal ambitions and make up your mind to work for the old college. I would rather have you with me than against me. Why don’t you cut loose from the old ways and try a new deal?”
Parker was surprised at the apparent willingness of Dick Merriwell—whom he regarded as his personal enemy—to be friendly. But he was self-willed and obstinate, and it was very hard for him to get rid of a prejudice once formed in his mind.
“That sounds very fine,” he said, sneering. “But I might as well tell you that I don’t take much stock in it. I’ll look out for myself. If you don’t like the way I do things, you can do the other thing. And if the football team can get along without me, I can certainly get along without the football team.”
He got up abruptly, and took himself off. But he was thinking hard as he went.
“Curse him!” he said, to himself, scowling. “I’ll never be safe as long as he has that confession of mine. I’ll have to tell Foote about that, so that he can work out some scheme for getting it away from him—the sneak! He’d use that now, and ruin me, if anything happened, whether he could prove that I was mixed up in it or not.”
AN UNSEEN WITNESS.
Parker lost no time in telling Foote about the confession that was in Dick Merriwell’s possession. Bold as the football star had been in his talk with the universal coach, he was far from being as easy in his mind as he had been in his speech. He knew that the signed confession, as long as Merriwell had it, was a constant menace to him. There was no way in which he could escape the consequences if Dick chose to use it against him. Carpenter, always a weakling, had been so terrified when he found that Dick knew all he had done, that Parker’s hold upon him had been completely lost, and Shesgren, as it had turned out, had never really understood what was going on, and had deserted him as soon as he got a hint of the real plot against Jim Phillips.
Foote heard the story with disgust.
“Just like you,” he said contemptuously. “That’s what you got for trying to beat a man like Merriwell by yourself. He’s too clever for you, and you ought to have known it before you started in. I wonder that you had sense enough to keep them from recognizing you when you carried Phillips off in Boston. That was a crazy stunt, anyhow. It’s a mighty good thing for you he got away. If you’d kept him there until the game was over, they would never have dropped the business until they had found out who was responsible. It was only because it failed that they were willing to let you off. That was one time when your foolishness was a good thing for you.”
Parker was really frightened, and he stood Foote’s abuse without a word of protest. He had realized that he could, unaided, do nothing against Merriwell, and he was afraid to take a chance of causing Foote to turn against him.
“I’ll have to get hold of that confession, of course,” said Foote. “That’s for my own sake, as much as for yours. I may get more or less mixed up with you, and if they feel like using that against you, it might do me some harm. If I hadn’t made up my mind to work this thing, though, I’d drop it right now. I’m afraid of you, Parker. You’ve made such a mess of the business since you started in, that I don’t feel safe with such a partner.
“I haven’t any idea of running any chances myself, but I can’t tell what you’ll let me in for. You’ve got to promise not to make a move without consulting me hereafter, and you’ve got to tell me everything you’ve done, too. Look at this business of the confession. You didn’t tell me a word about that registered-letter business, though I’d guessed that you had something to do with it. I don’t suppose you’d have peeped about it now if you hadn’t been frightened by this fellow Merriwell.”
Foote walked up and down the room, thinking hard, while Parker, who really wanted to kick him out, waited anxiously.
“What sort of paper did you write that confession on?” he demanded finally.
Parker went to his desk at once, and produced a pad of blue paper. Foote’s face lighted up.
“Good business!” he said. “That’s such unusual paper that our friend isn’t likely to have another piece just like it about his rooms. Now fold a piece of that just the way your confession was folded—see?”
“All right,” said Foote. “You’ll have to make up to Merriwell. That was plain idiocy you showed when you saw him to-day—defying him openly. You can’t do a thing against him in the open. Now, I want you to go to his rooms, to-night. Apologize. Tell him you’re sorry that you acted the way you have. Explain that you’ve thought it all over, and have decided that he’s right. Carry this with you.”
He handed Parker the folded blue sheet.
“And look around. If you can manage to be alone in his room for a minute or two, try to substitute this for the other paper. He won’t be apt to look at your precious confession unless he thinks he’s going to need it, and then he won’t be able to prove who took it.”
“I can’t bluff him into thinking I’m going to reform,” said Parker sourly. “You said yourself he was too clever for me. He’ll see through that in a minute.”
“No, he won’t,” said Foote, with assurance. “He’d see through anything you could think up yourself, but he doesn’t think you’ve got sense enough to think of trying to fool him that way, and he’ll believe you, especially if you don’t slop over too much. You do as I say. But remember, you’ve got to bring that confession back here or I’ll drop the whole business.”
Parker growled, but obeyed. He took the blue paper, slipped it into his pocket, and went off in search of Dick Merriwell. The universal coach was in his rooms, and received him with perfect friendliness. But he seemed a little surprised.
“I’ve come to say that I behaved like a fool to-day, Mr. Merriwell,” Parker began ungraciously. “I was wrong all through, and I want to tell you that I’ve made up my mind to take my medicine and do the best I can to play on the team in the fall.”
The universal coach eyed him keenly. Dick, to tell the the truth, was rather puzzled. He hated to distrust any one, and he had often proved that when a man who had done wrong sincerely repented, he could count upon his friendship and aid to keep straight afterward. Dick wanted to think as well as possible of Parker, and to help him to undo the wrong he had done to himself and to Yale, but it seemed to him that the transition from the defiant, bullying Parker of the afternoon was a little too sudden.
“I’m glad to hear you say that, Parker,” Dick said finally. He had not been able to glean much from his study of the football player’s face and eyes. Parker was sullen in his appearance, but that was natural. He might be sorry and ashamed, but still be embarrassed and sensitive. “There’s room for all of us in Yale, and there’s plenty of work for all of us to do. That’s why I was so sorry when it seemed to me that you were putting your own desires and ambitions above the needs of the whole college.”
“Well, I’m through with that,” said Parker.
His eyes had been wandering about the room, and protruding from a pigeonhole in Dick’s desk, he had seen the edges of the hated blue sheet on which he had written his confession. He could see it, but Dick was seated at the desk himself, and there was no chance for Parker to abstract it without detection. But his mind had a certain cunning, though he was by no means as clever as Foote, and he evolved a plan for getting the coach out of the room.
“I thought, Mr. Merriwell,” he said, “that you might have a copy of the changes in the football rules that were made at that last meeting in New York. I wanted to study them a bit, and I’ve lost my copy.”
“I can help you out there,” said Dick, jumping up hastily. “I’ve got an extra copy, and I’ll be glad to let you have it. Just wait a minute, and I’ll get it for you.”
Dick went quickly into his bedroom. He welcomed this sign of a real interest in the football team, the first which Parker had displayed, and he was glad to be able to grant the junior’s request.
No sooner had Dick left the room, than Parker hastened over to the desk and, quickly snatching out the blue sheet that was exposed, put it in his pocket and substituted the one he had carried.
“That’s a good job,” he said to himself, with much inward satisfaction. “He won’t look at that until to-morrow, and he’ll never be able to tell how that paper was lost. And, gee! but it’s a relief to have that back!”
Parker was intently absorbed in his task—that of a sneak thief, had he stopped to give himself time to think. So absorbed that he had forgotten that the door was open. And he never noticed at all the sound of quiet footsteps that had come up to the door as he made his way to Dick’s desk. But the footsteps had been there. And they had been those of Jack Tempest, the Virginian, who was one of Jim Phillips’ closest friends in Yale.
Jack had seen the whole astounding performance. His first impulse had been to rush in, seize Parker, and call to Dick. But he had been learning caution and diplomacy. He made sure of what was going on, and then, as silently as possible, passed on in the corridor outside the room, until he was safe from observation. There he waited until, a few minutes later, he heard Parker come out and pass down the stairs.
Tempest had not had to wait very long. Parker waited a very short time after the return of Dick Merriwell, with the leaflet the junior had asked him for, and he had gone down the stairs, whistling merrily, to the intense indignation of Tempest. One reason, perhaps, that Tempest was so angry was that Parker had selected as the tune he chose to whistle, “Marching Through Georgia,” a song that still has the power to anger Southern listeners, though it is nearly fifty years since Sherman spread ruin and devastation as he swept with his army from Atlanta to the sea.
Foote was still waiting when Parker returned.
“I got it!” cried Parker, holding up the blue sheet. “Pretty quick work; what?”
“It was all right,” admitted Foote grudgingly. “I didn’t know whether you’d have gumption enough—here, hold on! what are you doing?”
But he sprang toward Parker too late. The junior had torn the sheet into a hundred pieces, delighted at the chance to get rid of the incriminating evidence of his former conspiracy.
“What’s the matter with you?” cried Parker angrily.
“You blamed fool!” yelled Foote. “What did you tear that up for without giving me a chance to look at it? How did you know it was the right one?”
“Oh, shucks!” cried Parker. “Is that all? It’s the right one, right enough. No mistake there. I suppose it would be nice for you to have that. I guess I’d just about as soon let Dick Merriwell keep it as put myself in your power by giving it to you.”
He leered at Foote, and the other had no answer, for it was with some thought of being able to control Parker that he had planned to possess himself of the paper.
A SHOCK FOR THE COACH.
Dick Merriwell had no connection with the faculty of Yale, in an official sense. But his relations with the dean and with most of the professors were cordial in the extreme. They were men who understood fully that the work of teaching was supplemented by the athletics that had grown to be so great a part of Yale life. Men studied and learned the things the faculty had to teach; and, if they did that well, the faculty had no further direct interest. But the professors who really amounted to anything knew perfectly well that the men who went out of Yale really well equipped for their careers, were the ones who, like Dick Merriwell, had taken part in athletics and other activities of college, and had so fitted themselves for their life work.
So it was that Dick really had a good deal to do with the members of the faculty. Many students who shone in athletics were likely, at certain times, to neglect their work. The rules at Yale on this point are very strict. Unless a man keeps up in his college work, he is not allowed to play on the teams. So, when a team man showed signs of falling back in his work, the dean would usually drop a little note to Dick Merriwell, and the universal coach, skillfully and tactfully, would make the lazy one understand that he must keep up in his work or forego the pleasures of athletics.
Dick was especially interested at this time in the seniors, so soon to leave Yale and go out into the world for themselves. He wanted all of them to graduate with credit—Sherman, Taylor, Gray, and the others who had done so much to make the season a great one for Yale on diamond, track, and river. Few of them gave him any concern at all. The period of examination was nearly over, and he had no reason to believe that any of the men in whom he took an interest were likely to fail in their examinations.
And it was a terrible shock to him, therefore, when, on the very eve of commencement, as he sat in the baseball dressing room, Sam, the old rubber, brought him some papers that he had picked up.
“Doan’ know who all these hyah papers b’longs to, Marse Dick,” said Sam, handing him a folded packet. “Ain’t nevah done learned to read.”
“All right, Sam,” said Dick. “Some one dropped them, I suppose. I’ll see who they belong to and give them to their owners. Thanks.”
Idly, he looked at the papers. He had no intention of reading them, or trying to find out their nature, but he had to look to see who should receive them. He was dressing early after a brisk afternoon’s practice, to keep an engagement that evening, and the players had not yet come in. And, as he looked at the papers in his hand, his face went white.
They were complete notes of a course in which the examination had been held that morning, a senior course in history, arranged so that they could be easily and conveniently referred to. He knew the way in which they were arranged—it was a system of cribbing very old, but very seldom used at Yale. And the thing that appalled him was the name at the head of the sheet—for it was that of Sam Taylor. Swiftly he ran through the other papers—they were simply a part of the same crooked device, and one of the other sheets was marked as the property of Bob Gray.
For a few moments Dick was stunned. He didn’t know what to do. He felt that he might be able to excuse himself to himself for saying nothing about his discovery. It had been made by accident. Perhaps he had not even the right to take advantage of it. But Dick was not able, as so many are, to compromise between right and wrong. He knew that the honor system was supposed to prevail at Yale—that any student who discovered, no matter how, that another was cheating, was required to report that fact, and he felt himself to be bound by that.
Suddenly his face cleared.
“They must have just made these up as notes in preparing for the examination,” he said, to himself. “This is no proof at all that they did anything wrong. I am probably making a mountain out of a molehill.”
Just then Sherman, the captain of the team, walked in.
“Hello, Tom,” said Dick, with a cheerful smile. He was very fond of the first baseman, who had made such a fine leader for Yale’s great baseball team on the field. “How about exams? All through now?”
“All through,” said Sherman, with a sigh of relief. “That modern history this morning was the last. Gee! that was a stiff paper. I was worried about Taylor and Gray, too. They had to take a chance on it without any special preparation. But they seemed to go through swimmingly. Finished before any one. Funny thing, too. Give a dog a bad name—you know the rest. Well, about an hour after we got started, Canfield got suspicious, I thought. Anyhow, he sneaked down the room, and got behind Sam Taylor. Sam was looking at something, but when he felt Canfield behind him, he held up a bit of paper to him to look at, and Canfield just grinned and walked away.”
Dick was mightily disturbed by what Sherman told him. It seemed to destroy his hopes that the papers he had found were innocent. Dejectedly, letting his engagement go by default, he waited for the two seniors, who were to be Yale’s battery in the second game against Harvard, to return. And when they did, waiting for Taylor to get dressed, he called him aside.
“Did you lose any papers, Taylor?” he asked him gravely.
“Don’t think so,” said Taylor, with a laugh. “I never carry many.”
But his hand went to his breast pocket, and suddenly his face went white. He stammered, and then colored, in much confusion.
“By Jove,” he said, “I don’t see—yes, I did lose something, Mr. Merriwell. Or, rather, I remember leaving it in my room. Mighty careless of me, too.”
“What was it you lost, Taylor?” asked Dick, more gravely than ever. Everything was working together to confirm the suspicions he had so reluctantly formed.
“I can’t tell you that, Mr. Merriwell,” said Taylor, looking a little surprised, and rather angry. “It was a private affair—that’s why I was rather annoyed at finding I had been so careless.”
Dick suddenly held out the folded papers, still looking just as they had when Sam handed the packet to him.
“Was it this you lost?” he said.
Taylor’s eyes lighted up as they fell on the packet, and he reached a hand to take it. But suddenly he drew it back.
“I thought for a moment—no, it isn’t,” he said. His confusion was evident. Dick, looking at him with concealed sorrow, thought his confusion was that of guilt. It certainly seemed so for the moment.
Dick Merriwell was almost dazed as he left the dressing room, and, catching a street car, made his way back to New Haven. The whole affair puzzled and disgusted him. He had trusted Taylor implicitly of late. The senior had aroused his anger and suspicion early in the year, but he had proved himself sincerely repentant since then, and it cut Dick to the quick to think that Taylor had proved himself, by the meanest of college crimes, unworthy of the forgiveness Dick had given him so freely.
“I’ve got to put this up to the dean,” he decided finally. “I may be wrong, but there’s enough evidence here for me to feel that I would be shirking my duty if I didn’t see to it that the whole business was investigated.”
Parker and Foote had taken their dinner together at an eating house, and, when the meal was over, they lighted cigars and walked toward the campus.
“I don’t see that you’re doing much,” sneered Parker. “You talked mighty big about your plans, and about how you were going to queer Merriwell. What have you done?”
“I’m sorry for Merriwell,” said Foote, without giving a direct reply. “He talks a lot about high standards of morality and all that sort of thing. He’s got a nice little problem on his hands now, and he’s going to decide it the way any other man would. He thinks it’s in his power to spoil the chances of two of his precious team from graduating. And he’s going to keep quiet. You mark my words. He doesn’t know, you see, that I’ve taken steps to see that the dean and others know of the evidence he’s got.
“Every one will know about it by to-morrow morning, and he’ll be sorry that he didn’t practice what he preached. He’ll find that by keeping quiet he’s just got himself into a hole without doing his friends or his team any good. And I guess that will be about the finish for Mr. Dick Merriwell’s pose of being superior to every one in Yale. But, if that isn’t enough, I’ve got another scheme that will settle it in a hurry.”
“You’re blamed mysterious,” said Parker angrily. “Why don’t you tell me what you’re doing? Hello! What’s the row about?”
They had come to the entrance to Dwight Hall, and there they found an excited crowd of students. They heard the news from half a dozen men at once.
An investigation was to be made of the senior examination in modern history, held that morning, and it was rumored that charges of cribbing had been made against Gray and Taylor. In any case, those two men were suspended from the baseball team until further notice. No reason was given for this action in the notice, signed by the dean, which had announced the suspension, but every one seemed to be able to explain it.
Foote’s jaw dropped as he turned to Parker.
“By Jove!” he cried. “He fooled me there—he’s had sense enough to save himself with the faculty. I didn’t think he’d go to the dean. However, I’ll find some way to queer him yet.”
ONE BLOW IS PARRIED.
Foote was fairly well satisfied with the result of his plot so far as it had gone. But, as a matter of fact, Dick Merriwell, by his determination to do what was right, no matter what it cost him, had defeated one, and the most important, of the junior’s objects. He had wanted to be able to prove that Dick, rather than risk the defeat of the baseball nine, had failed to reveal knowledge that he had obtained of cheating in an examination. And Dick had made this impossible. There were other things, too, unknown to Foote, that would have worried him a good deal had he been aware of them.
Dick had not gone to the dean immediately upon his return to New Haven. He had gone to his own room first to think the matter over. And, the more he thought, the more unlikely it seemed to him that his suspicions were correct. He felt that he had not really given Taylor a chance to explain. He had told the senior catcher nothing of his suspicions, and Sam might, as a result, have felt justified in refusing to answer certain questions that he would otherwise have replied to without hesitation. So he had sent for Taylor and told him the whole story.
Taylor took the paper Dick had found, and then, after examining it closely, had laughed.
“This is a fake, Mr. Merriwell,” he said. “And, what’s more, I think my paper will show that I couldn’t have used this. If I’d had this with me, I could have passed a perfect examination, and, as a matter of fact, I’ll be lucky if I get through at all. That’s one thing. Another is that this is not in my writing. Look here.”
He wrote his name hastily a dozen times on a piece of paper, and Dick, comparing the writing with that on the crib, saw that Taylor was right.
“Look here!” cried Taylor suddenly. He was a shrewd, clever fellow, really, and his mind had been hard at work. “There are a whole lot of people here who don’t like me any more. Men I used to go with that I’ve dropped since that business that Harding got me to go into. Don’t you think it’s possible that they’ve planted this evidence against me?”
“It’s certainly possible,” said Dick thoughtfully. “Suppose we go over together and see the dean? He ought to be at his house by this time.”
Taylor agreed, readily enough. But the dean was not at home. They were told that some extra work had compelled him to stay late at his office, to which place they hastened.
The dean heard their curious story with interest. Then, smiling, he picked up a letter.
“Practically these same facts,” he said, “with the additional information that they were known to Mr. Merriwell, came to me in this letter. Ordinarily, I would not have received this letter until the morning. I am not usually here at the time of the postman’s last afternoon delivery. To-day I happened to stay late. There is a distinct intimation in this letter that Mr. Merriwell willfully suppressed the facts.”
They all stared at one another.
“It looks pretty plain to me, gentlemen,” said the dean. “Some one is trying to kill two birds with one stone—hurt Taylor and Gray and make trouble for Mr. Merriwell here. Don’t you see?”
Dick saw, and he was furious. Moreover, he began to put two and two together. He remembered what Tempest had told him after Parker’s visit to his room, and it began to be apparent to him that Parker or some friends of his had renewed the fight; choosing, however, to strike through Taylor and Gray rather than through Jim Phillips, as they had done before.
“I think it will be well to let these people think they have succeeded, Mr. Merriwell,” said the dean, “for the time, at least. If we show that we know what they are doing, they will be on their guard. As it is, however, they have accomplished very little, and you may be sure that they are planning something much more likely to give you concern than this. I will announce that an investigation is to be made of this examination, and see what happens. Then, if they show their hands, you will be in a position to defeat them completely. It is never well merely to scotch a snake—it should be killed.”
Dick agreed with the dean. And, as he and Taylor went off together, he apologized to the senior for having suspected him.
“I don’t see how you could very well help it,” said the catcher. “That doesn’t worry me at all. But I’d like mighty well to know who’s after me, and what the idea is. I know there are men who don’t like me, but I never supposed they’d go as far as this. By the way, the papers I left in my room were letters—from a girl.”
Dick felt that he need no longer keep his promise of secrecy to Parker. Parker had already violated the terms he had agreed to when the promise was made, and so he told Taylor the whole story of the registered letter, and of Parker’s recent visit to his room.
“He came to get that confession, of course,” said Dick. “I was inclined to distrust him, though I hate to seem to be hard on a man who is sincerely sorry for what he has done, no matter how serious his offense may seem to be.”
“I don’t think there’s much danger of your being unjust to any one, Mr. Merriwell,” said Sam. “I’ve got good reason myself to know that. You certainly gave me more than a fair chance to straighten myself out.”
“And I’ve had no reason to regret it,” said Dick, laying his hand on the senior’s shoulder with a friendly gesture. “You had some wrong ideas—all you needed was a chance to see for yourself that you had been mistaken.”
Foote had caused the warning as to the history examination to be sent to the dean, but he had not made the mistake of sending it himself. Instead, he had worked through a new member of the faculty, an instructor named Gordon, an old friend of his, to whom he had gone with much seeming hesitation and told what he said he knew. Gordon, a thoroughly honest and well-meaning young man, had readily promised not to divulge the name of his informant, and had immediately made a written report to the dean. But, even though he felt that his own tracks were well covered, Foote was sorry that he had not waited to give Dick Merriwell a chance to act. The very foundation of his whole plan depended upon Dick’s falling into the trap by keeping silence about the affair.
Dick Merriwell had not done it. Thoroughly selfish himself, Foote could not understand a man like Merriwell, who, if he saw that a thing was right, would do it, no matter how his own wishes and desires might be affected. He had known that Dick was set upon the success of the baseball team; it had not seemed possible to him that he would willingly sacrifice the chance of that success if it could only be attained by doing something that was wrong and dishonorable. So Foote was nervous. He thought that Merriwell must have been warned of his plan in some manner, and have thought of a way to defeat it.
He told this much to Parker, but Parker had more sense, in a way, than Foote. Parker was not at bottom vicious. He was ambitious, and terribly disappointed by his failure to be chosen as captain of the football team. Because he thought Dick Merriwell was responsible for his defeat, he hated the universal coach, and he wanted to be revenged upon him.
“I don’t know about all this, Foote,” he said. “You don’t want to run away with the idea that Merriwell would only have gone to the dean because he got on to your little game. He might have done it because it was the right thing to do. He’s inclined to be that way, you know. He could have shown me up before the whole college if he’d wanted to, and made it impossible for me to stay here; and I don’t see why he didn’t.”
“He had some good reasons, you can depend on that,” scoffed Foote. “You can’t make me believe that Merriwell’s as good as he tries to make out. I know his kind. He’s like all the rest of us—trying to do the best he can for himself. If he took a chance of breaking up his team, he had some mighty good reason for doing it. I’m afraid of him now. We’ve got to work out some new way of beating him. I guess it can be done, too. One thing’s sure: Taylor will be able to disprove that charge. I’ve got to work out some other way of keeping those two, or one of them, anyhow, out of that game.”
That was the night before the game, and the night before commencement, too. Professor Canfield’s examination had been postponed on account of his illness; for all other examinations were over, and the marks posted. The papers were to be corrected hurriedly on the morning of Commencement Day, but Canfield had been the more ready to wait thus until the last minute because he was a professor who paid little attention to examination papers. He judged men by their work during the terms, and he had decided some time before that every man in this particular class had done well enough to pass the course. Therefore, he had privately assured the dean that no man would fail. But Foote didn’t know that.
He turned to Parker finally with a look of determination in his eye. It was very late, and the whole town seemed to be asleep. They were near Dwight Hall.
“I’ve got to get inside there for a while, Parker,” said Foote. “You stick around out here, and if you see any one coming in—which there isn’t one chance in a million you will—give the old whistle. I’ll hear you and make myself scarce.”
“What are you going to do?” asked Parker, suddenly going white.
“Just make sure that we’ll win out on this,” said Foote. “We may not be able to get Merriwell—this time—but we’ll get one of his pet seniors, anyhow. And he won’t be able to find out about this stunt.”
He took a bunch of keys from his pocket, and, to Parker’s surprise, had no difficulty in gaining admittance to Dwight Hall, where the examination in history had been held. Foote believed in being thorough, if nothing else. He was inside for half an hour, and when he came out, seemed to be delighted.
A DEFEAT FOR YALE.
The brief sensation that had been caused the night before by the dean’s announcement as to the history examination and the suspension of Taylor and Gray, was not allowed to last long in the morning. It was announced that Professor Canfield himself was thoroughly satisfied that everything was all right, and the dean immediately revoked the suspensions.
New Haven presented a lovely sight. The June day was perfect as to weather, warm and bright, with just enough wind to make it cool and comfortable. From all over the country the friends and families of the seniors, who occupied the principal place in the day’s program, had gathered to see the impressive ceremonies of the graduation.
The seniors themselves, looking highly dignified and important in their new caps and gowns, were to be seen on all sides, showing pretty girls the sights of the college and the town; pointing out to proud parents and sisters the various landmarks of which they had all heard so much and so often; and, generally, making the most of their great day.
Sometimes in a group there would be some man with white hair and beard who had little need of his son’s guidance, and he would go to some old classroom, and point out to his boy the desk where he had carved his own name years before.
For the great baseball game with Harvard, also, a mighty crowd had come to town. The trains from Boston had poured out hundreds of enthusiastic youngsters from Cambridge, their confidence not shaken a bit by the fact that Yale had already won one victory, sure that this was Harvard’s day.
And all over town, too, were old Yale men, back to celebrate the anniversaries of their own departure from New Haven years before. Every year scores of classes celebrate their reunions. Men, three, five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five years from Yale, had hired houses and floors of hotels, and there all sorts of meetings took place. Men who had not seen each other for years, during which business cares had kept them apart, rushed into each others arms and reminded one another of the old days when they had been boys in Yale, where their own boys were now students. And, after the formal commencement exercises, when the diplomas had been given out with due solemnity, it was time to get ready for the game.
The classes back in New Haven for their reunions vied with one another in improvising strange costumes for the occasion. One class was arrayed in the garb of clowns, with painted white faces, baggy white trousers, and all the paraphernalia of the circus. Another was dressed in roughrider costume—that was the class of ’98, so many of whose members had not stayed to graduate, but had rushed to enlist at the first sign of the coming war with Spain.
Then there were monks, and ballet dancers, and cooks, and men dressed like little boys, in knee breeches and blouses, and all sorts of fantastic costumes. All the classes assembled by the campus, near Dwight Hall, and then, swinging into procession behind a band that blared out Yale tunes all the way, marched gayly out to the field, singing and shouting all the way, swinging back and forth across the street in the famous old Yale march, so that girls who had never been there before squealed with delight, and even the proud and pompous fathers of the graduates had to laugh, to see men as old as themselves behaving like boys again just because they were back at Yale, and wanted to show that they still had the old Yale spirit.
It was a great sight, and even Dick Merriwell, who had seen it many times, and would that day, except for his more important duties as universal coach, have been dancing along with his own class, dressed like a Russian peasant, laughed as if he was seeing it for the first time.
Every one got to the field early, and the graduates took possession of the diamond, with the band in the middle, and danced around, so that every one could see them. And they didn’t seem to care how ridiculous they looked. They were having a good time, and they were back at Yale, to see a Yale team beat one from Harvard, so that was all they cared about. Up in the stands, the pretty girls cheered them madly, and the men from Harvard, who were perfectly willing for Yale to have all the fun beforehand, so long as their team won and gave them a chance to have a procession of their own afterward, cheered them, too.
“Don’t you wish you were going to pitch, Jim?” asked Harry Maxwell, of Jim Phillips, as they sat on the bench, waiting for it to be time for the game to begin.
“Not a bit,” said Jim heartily. “This is old Gray’s big day—it’s his last chance, you know, and I want him to have all the glory there is coming to him. Where is he, I wonder?”
Others were asking that question, too, in sudden wonder. Taylor, the big senior catcher, was there, but he had not seen Gray since the diplomas had been handed out. Dick Merriwell, too, was absent, and Tom Sherman, already nervous as he thought of his responsibilities as captain of the Yale team that all these graduates had turned out to cheer so heartily, grew more and more worried as time for the game approached.
Jim himself was anxious. He was not by any means ready to pitch. He had, under strict orders from Dick Merriwell, been resting his arm in anticipation of the possible need of playing in New York on Saturday, and he was stiff and unprepared for action. Entirely aside, therefore, from his desire to see Gray pitch and establish his reputation, Jim was unwilling to face the idea of filling in, for he was afraid that he would be an easy victim for the Harvard batters, and would be quite unable to rally in time for the game on Saturday, should he lose.
But five minutes before it was time for the game to begin, Dick Merriwell, hot and flushed, suddenly appeared. He called Sherman, Jim Phillips, and Bill Brady, and Winston, the substitute pitcher, to talk to him.
“Gray has been forbidden to play by the faculty,” he said abruptly. “It seems that he turned in a blank examination paper in the history course yesterday morning. Canfield is furious, and won’t listen to Gray’s statement that he did nothing of the sort. The dean is inclined to think that there is something that Gray doesn’t know about, but he says that, if it is true, he will be required to return his diploma. And, anyway, he can’t play to-day. I haven’t time to explain more now. Winston must pitch, and do his best. You’re in no condition, Jim, and we’ll have to take a chance to-day. Run the team, Sherman. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
Winston, confused and nervous at the sudden demand upon him, was still more flurried by the groan of surprised disappointment that went up from the crowded stands when he went into the box instead of Gray or Jim Phillips. Every one had supposed that one of the veteran twirlers would be sent in to pitch this highly important game, and Winston’s improvement under Dick Merriwell’s coaching had not become generally known.
After a little consultation, it had been decided that it would be better for Brady to do the catching. The big sophomore was famous for his ability to steady pitchers who were likely to go up in the air, and he did his best to encourage Winston, who was certainly in need of all that could be done in that way.
The Harvard captain, Bowen, made a quick shift as soon as he found that Winston was to pitch for Yale. It had been felt at Cambridge that a victory in this game was absolutely essential, and, therefore, after some hesitation, they had decided to send Briggs in to pitch, although he had had only a short rest after the terrific game in Cambridge, which Harvard had lost by the closest of scores. But now Wooley was chosen, for it was felt that he was more than a match for Winston, and Briggs could thus be saved for the deciding game.
The effect of the sudden change in Yale’s battery was twofold. It restored the waning confidence of the Harvard men, who were now certain that they could win, and thus prolong the struggle for the championship; and it depressed the Yale players, who had no such confidence in the skill of Winston as both Gray and Jim Phillips had been able to inspire.
Winston made a bad start, too, to help along the work of destroying what little confidence he had in himself. The first man up for Harvard made a lucky single, and when the next batter stood up at the plate, Bill Brady signaled for a swift outcurve, meaning to get a chance for a quick throw to second in case of an attempted steal. He was ready to catch such a curve, but Winston misunderstood him, and pitched to the other side of the plate. The ball got away from Bill, and the Harvard runner, who had started to steal second, easily reached third. Before the inning was over, in spite of Bill’s best efforts to steady him, Winston gave two bases on balls and hit a batsman, and, altogether, three Harvard men scored.
All through the stands, Harvard men were rejoicing; and the Yale rooters, just before so enthusiastic and happy, were cast down in anticipation of a crushing defeat. With such a start, there wasn’t any limit to the score Harvard might well pile up.
“This is Harvard’s day,” sang thousands of loyal Harvard men all around, and it certainly looked as if they were right. But Winston had good stuff in him. He got rid of his stage fright in the first inning, and, after that, obeying the signals from Brady implicitly, he proved himself simply unhittable. He had speed, control, and good judgment, and, try as they would, the Harvard men were unable to get on the bases as the game went on. Moreover, in the third inning, coming up with two out after Bill Brady had smashed out a two-bagger, Winston did much to redeem his poor pitching at the start by driving out a beautiful single that sent Brady home with Yale’s first run.
There was a tremendous cheer for him when he made that hit, and, although he had to come in without scoring himself when Sherman drove a long fly to the left fielder, poor Winston felt much better. There was still a good chance to win, he told himself, if he could keep Harvard from further scoring. Surely the team behind him ought to be able to make up those two runs that formed the Harvard lead. Anyhow, he settled down, and pitched his very best.
Meanwhile, Jim, after a moment’s talk with Sherman, had gone back under the stand with Taylor to limber up his arm. He felt that if there was need for it, he could safely pitch a couple of innings toward the end of the game, if Winston showed signs of tiring; and that might be enough to save the game yet, and win the championship for Yale in spite of the hard luck that had cost her the services of Gray when they were most needed.
The spirit of the Yale crowd soon turned. It saw that Winston, in spite of the handicap, was making good, and pitching well, despite his bad beginning, and it turned in and gave him support and applause just as hearty as would have fallen to Gray or Phillips. The team, too, took new courage, and went after the Harvard pitcher. In the sixth inning, Sherman led off with a hit, and, aided by his own fine base running and a hit by Carter, scored a run that left Yale only one tally behind. But to get that one extra run that would tie the score was the problem, and Wooley, with Briggs always in reserve, seemed able to prevent it.
Harvard was batting first, and in the ninth inning began a determined effort to increase its narrow lead. Bowen was afraid of the margin, and called on his men to try hard for at least another run.
Winston was tired. He had to pitch hard to hold the crimson team down, and Bowen was quick to notice the signs of his distress. In two minutes the game changed again from one of extraordinary closeness to the semblance of a Yale rout. Two hits and a base on balls filled the bases, and not a man was out. Then, suddenly, as Winston, tired out, but game to the end, prepared to pitch to Bowen himself, who was determined to clinch his team’s victory, there was a wild roar from the Yale crowd. Dick Merriwell had suddenly appeared at the bench and waved the battery to him. Thunders of applause drifted up to the skies from the packed stands, for Gray and Taylor, eager and ready to do their best, had appeared, and took their places in the field.
No one asked for an explanation of Gray’s absence or of his sudden reappearance. It was enough that he was there. Foote and Parker, seemingly as enthusiastic as any of their fellow students, were the ones most amazed by the sight of Gray, but they could say nothing without betraying themselves. And Gray, while Foote, trembling, wondered how his plan could have miscarried, proceeded to accomplish a baseball feat that put him almost on a level with Jim Phillips himself. For, without seeming effort, he struck out the next three Harvard batters, and, amid a roar of cheering such as Yale Field had never heard before, left the three runners stranded high and dry on the bases.
But Harvard was still a run ahead, and, try as they would, the Yale players could not tie the score. Gray’s brilliant feat was all in vain, and Harvard’s victory left the series tied, with another game needed to decide the championship.
HOW THE PLOT WAS FOILED.
It was in Dick Merriwell’s rooms that night that Jim and Bill Brady learned the story of what had happened that afternoon. They heard from the universal coach of Canfield’s belated discovery of the blank examination paper marked with Gray’s name. The professor, it was explained, had reported all the men in the course as having passed without having marked a single paper, and Gray had, therefore, received his diploma. But later, when Canfield had gone over the books that contained the answers to his questions, he had discovered the blank pages in Gray’s, and had been furious. He told the dean that he regarded the thing as a personal insult to himself, and had demanded instant action. The dean had had no other course than to yield to the request, and had hastily summoned Gray, at the same time sending word to Dick Merriwell.
Gray had been unable to deny that the writing on the cover of the book was his. But he insisted that he had answered every question, although he could not say how nearly correct his answers had been. The evidence was all against him, however, and it had seemed to be convincing. Certainly the book contained nothing but blank pages now.
It was Dick Merriwell who had made the astonishing, but simple, discovery that had offered a solution. Examining the book closely, he suddenly pointed out to the dean that the cover had been changed. It was a simple exercise book that was used, with blue paper covers, and Dick showed that there were marks on the inside pages of other staples that had been torn out.
“Canfield said that no one could have meddled with the books,” said the universal coach then, as he went on with his explanation, “and suggested that we ought to find the pages that had been torn out. He said that the books had all been put in his room in Dwight Hall, and that the place had been locked up as soon as he left it yesterday afternoon, and not opened again until this morning. But I was able to prove that some one had tampered with the book, because of one thing he had overlooked. He hadn’t washed his hands.”
“Finger prints?” exclaimed Brady and Jim Phillips, together, deeply interested.
“Exactly,” said Dick. “The hands of the man who made the change were dirty, and his finger tips left marks all over the white and blue paper. We got a man from police headquarters who understood the science of those things, and he took an impression of Gray’s fingers. That showed at once that he wasn’t the one who had handled the book, for the marks were entirely different. Then we went at the problem of trying to find other traces, and we found marks on other objects in the room that showed plainly that some outsider had been in there.
“Fortunately, the room had been closely watched, and Canfield could tell us every one who had been in there, or, rather, every one who had had any business to be in there. We got finger-print impressions from all of them, and they didn’t fit the one who had handled the book at all. Both Canfield and the dean accepted that as conclusive evidence that Gray was all right, and the charge against him won’t even have to be made public. He had to miss pitching that game, but he certainly made up for that when he did have a chance.”
“But how about the one who really did it?” exclaimed Brady. “Have you caught him? Do you know who it is?”
“No,” said Dick, more vindictively than any of them had ever heard him speak before. “But he’s left evidence that will convict him as surely as if he had been seen. There’s only one man with fingers that could have made the prints we found—and we’ve got impressions of those that will last forever.”
“All you’ve got to do, then,” said Jim, “is to find the man who fits those prints?”
“Yes,” said Dick, a little dryly, “that’s all. But that’s quite enough, you know. It’s probably some Yale man, but we can’t take the finger prints of every man in Yale. We’ve got to keep our eyes mighty wide open for the next day or two, and trust to the idea that the man, whoever he is, won’t be satisfied to admit himself beaten. If we keep quiet about this, and don’t tell him we’re on the track, he’s likely to give himself away sooner or later. Those people usually do.”
“Well, we’ll have to hope for the best,” said Brady. “But this chap, whoever he is, seems to be cleverer than some of those who have tried to make trouble for us in the past. That’s the reason I’m inclined to leave Parker out of this. He wasn’t clever at all; he left a trail a mile broad behind him when he tried to make trouble. This chap hasn’t been able to accomplish anything, but he hasn’t made it at all easy for us to find him out. It’s one thing to block one of their games, and that’s necessary, of course. But it’s another thing, and certainly quite as important, to make it impossible for them to try something else. This chap’s free to do anything that comes into his head now.”
“That’s perfectly true,” said Dick Merriwell, “but I don’t believe that he’ll be able to do much. We’re all on our guard now, and it ought to be possible to defeat any plans that he evolves. Keep your eyes open, of course, and if you see anything suspicious, let me know about it right away. We go to New York to-morrow night, as usual, to sleep there the night before the game.
“I don’t need to say what an important game this is. It settles the championship, and they’ve got Briggs ready to come back at us and try to beat us. I know that we know more about his pitching than we did last week, but you want to remember that he also knows a good deal more about our batters, and the style they have. That will help him, and so will the seasoning of a really important game. He’d never had that before, but he did surprisingly well, in view of that. In fact, I was surprised when we won that game, after Jim’s rough experience. We want him to be ready to pitch the game of his life on Saturday, with nothing to worry him and disturb him.”
“I’m ready to do my best,” said Jim. “I never felt better in my life than I do right now, and this afternoon, when I let out some steam with Taylor, my curves were breaking better than they have all season. I seemed to be able to put the ball just where I wanted it every time.”
“How about the captaincy next year?” said Brady. “I suppose it’s pretty well settled that Jim here is to get it? Carter isn’t going to run, and Jackson’s got the football job. I can’t think of any one else who’s in line for it.”
“You’re too modest, Bill,” said Jim, with a laugh. “What’s the matter with your being captain yourself? You’d make a better one than I ever would.”
But Brady only laughed.
“Me?” he said. “I’m not gunning for any trouble of that sort. It’s too much like work. I’d rather play under some one else and watch them struggling with all the worries of that job. Look at old Sherman. He worries about the team the whole time. I bet he’s lost ten pounds, and he’s been lying awake nights, planning out ways to make the team better.”
“Sherman’s a good captain,” said Dick Merriwell. “I’ll be well pleased if Phillips is elected, but I don’t take sides in that sort of thing. It’s for the team to choose the captain, and for me, after he’s chosen, to work with him to turn out the best possible team for Yale. That’s what Parker couldn’t seem to understand.”
“There’s a lot of things he hasn’t understood yet,” said Bill Brady grimly. “But I guess he’ll find them out before he’s much older, and I think he’s just about enough of a man to come out and admit that he’s been wrong when it’s brought home to him. He’s got a wrong start, but he isn’t such a bad fellow when you get right down to cases with him. It’s more a case of being foolish than anything else with him.”
“That’s what I thought,” said Dick. “I’m glad to hear you say that. He’s done good work for Yale already, and I hope he’ll do a lot more before he gets through. He’s the sort that ought to turn into a useful citizen, and a credit to the college.”
“We ought to get along without all this trouble between Yale men,” said Jim Phillips. “I hate to see it. It’s bad for the college, and it never does any one any good. I’m not looking for trouble here, and I’m going to do all I can to keep out of it hereafter.”
A NEW CONSPIRACY.
Foote had been so supremely confident of the success of his plan to disgrace Gray, that he had inspired an equal degree of confidence in Parker. When, therefore, they saw the senior go out in the last inning of the game with Harvard and perform his remarkable feat of striking out the whole Harvard side, they had been completely staggered. They were nervous, too, and, as soon as the game was over, made their way back to New Haven.
“You’re a false alarm, Foote,” said Parker bitterly. “You make promises as fast as you can talk, but I notice that you’re not so quick when it comes to making good on them afterward. I thought you said you had it fixed so that Gray couldn’t possibly pitch. You took enough chances, going into Dwight Hall that way last night—that’s one sure thing.”
“You’re a lot of use,” stormed Foote. “You stand around and talk about what I do, but I notice you never start anything yourself—and, when you did, you got caught at it. I’ve got enough on my hands to worry me now, without listening to you. If that plant went wrong, it means that they got onto the fact that Gray hadn’t turned in a blank paper, after all, and that means, too, that they must know that some one switched his book around.”
“For Heaven’s sake!” said Parker, almost admiringly. “You had your nerve with you, all right. Was that what you did?”
“Yes,” growled Foote, “and I’ll be in a nice pickle if they catch me, too, won’t I? I suppose you’ll step up and take your share of the blame—not! I can just see you doing a decent thing like that.”
“I guess I’ll go as far in that direction for you as you would for me,” said Parker angrily. Parker had plenty of courage, of the animal sort. It was morally, not physically, that he was weak. And Foote, who was really terrified at the failure of his scheme, was playing on this weakness of Parker’s.
“I want to get those leaves back,” said Foote. “I didn’t want to have them on me, in case of any accident, so I hid them in Dwight Hall. Now I’m afraid they’ll find them, if they think there’s any reason to look for them, and then the fat would be in the fire for both of us.”
“You were a fool to leave them there,” said Parker, glad of a chance to reproach Foote for something, as Foote had been reproaching him since they had formed their sneaky and treacherous alliance. “How do you expect to get them back?”
“I can’t go after them myself,” said Foote. “It would be too risky. You stand in all right with Merriwell now—he doesn’t know that we’re working together. Why can’t you try to get them? That would be the best of all. I’ll tell you just where they are.”
Parker, loathe at first to do anything of the sort, was finally persuaded, as Foote knew he would be. And, as Foote explained matters, there was little risk. Foote, with a cunning and cleverness worthy of a better cause, had not hidden the leaves he had torn from Gray’s book in any elaborate fashion. He had remembered that when a search is being made the obvious places are the ones most likely to be overlooked, and, seeing on Canfield’s desk an old Yale catalogue, of several years before, not at all likely to be looked at at this time, he had simply put the leaves inside of it, trusting to luck to give him a chance to get them away without suspicion later on.
Parker really saw no risk in it. A call at Dwight Hall was nothing to excite remark, and for him to turn the leaves of an old catalogue, as Foote pointed out, wouldn’t make any one pay any attention to him. So Parker went.
He was not gone long. But when he came back, his face was rather white.
“I got at the catalogue, all right,” he said, “and no one saw me do it, either. But either you’re mistaken about where you put that stuff, Foote, or else there was some one ahead of me, for it wasn’t there.”
For the moment Foote was dismayed. But he braced up when he had thought it over.
“That’s just cursed bad luck,” he said. “It explains how Gray cleared himself, too. Some one must have been inspired to go to that book and open it up, and, of course, found those leaves. That disposed of the case against Gray, but I don’t see that it gives me anything to worry about. If they suspected any one of being concerned in this, it would be you. They’ve got no reason at all to fix on me, although they must know by now, of course, that some one was mixed up in a deal. But, as long as they don’t get onto me, it’s all right. They might suspect you, but they couldn’t prove anything, so that wouldn’t do any harm.”
But lightly as he took it, Foote wondered who had actually got possession of those stolen pages from Gray’s examination book. He would have given a good deal to know, for the knowledge might well have been useful. Foote, as soon as he was relieved from fear for his own safety, was all anxiety again to work out some plan for the undoing of Dick Merriwell. Gray and Taylor were beyond his reach now, and he turned naturally to Jim Phillips as the victim most likely to serve his purpose. He had nothing against Jim, nor, for that matter, against Merriwell, but he needed Parker’s help to attain his own objects, and there was only one way to make that available, as he well knew.
“Is it at all certain that Phillips will be elected captain of the baseball team?” he asked Parker.
“It’s just as certain as that you’re looking at me now,” said Parker. “I tried to put him out of the running twice last week. If he had been found guilty of taking money for playing, he couldn’t have been elected, and when that failed I thought I could manage it by making him miss the game at Cambridge. If he hadn’t turned up to play, every one would have thought his story of how he was kept away pretty fishy, and it might have turned the crowd against him. I thought it was a good chance, anyhow. But now he’s solid, and there isn’t any one to fight it out with him. Jackson and Carter are both out of it, and they are the only ones—juniors, I mean—who are sure of holding their jobs next year. They might take Brady, if Phillips were out of it, but I’d just as soon have Phillips as that big stiff.”
“If Phillips didn’t pitch against Harvard on Saturday, there might be some trouble, I should think,” said Foote slowly, as if he were thinking hard.
“Yes,” said Parker, with a laugh. “But what are you going to do about that? You told me that if I’d managed to keep him away from that Cambridge game they’d never have let up until they found out the truth. Wouldn’t that go just as much for anything you tried?”
“Suppose there wasn’t any way for them to find out?” said Foote.
Foote got up and walked around the room. A new idea had just come to him, one that seemed to promise absolute success, with no risk at all for himself. He was debating with himself as to whether he should tell Parker about it or not. He decided that he would not. It was too dangerous. He was inclined to distrust Parker. Moreover, he did not know how readily Parker would enter into this particular plan that he was evolving. It was a plan so devilish and so filled with danger for its intended victim that he was inclined to think he had better carry it out by himself, which he could easily do, since he needed no help.
“I’ve got the plan we need,” he told Parker finally. “I’m not going to tell you what it is, but it’s a good one—take that from me. Mr. Jim Phillips won’t be able to pitch against Harvard on Saturday, and he’ll never be able to prove, either, that it wasn’t his own fault that he was away. Whether it will hurt Merriwell or not I don’t know. The thing to do now, as far as I can see, is to put Phillips out of the running. We can settle Merriwell’s hash some other time.”
“I want to know what you’re going to do,” said Parker sullenly. “We’re working together here, and you expect to get a lot out of me. I don’t like going into things in this blind fashion.”
“Stay out, then,” snarled Foote. “I’ll tell you this much: Phillips will go to the station to-morrow night to start for New York. But he won’t get there with the rest of the team.”
Parker’s most insistent urgings couldn’t make Foote tell him anything more. But Parker was determined to find out, if it was at all possible, and he treasured the hint as to the station. It was all he could do.
LOCKED IN A FREIGHT CAR.
Fate played into Foote’s hands the next afternoon, when he had planned to resort to his last ruse against Jim Phillips. His plan was one, he was convinced, that would, if he could only work it out, make his victory complete. But the problems involved in actually accomplishing his purpose were numerous and varied. However, Jim himself, with no intention of doing anything of the sort, paved the way for his enemy. He had felt a little sluggish on the day after the commencement game with Harvard, the natural result, as Dick Merriwell told him, of the excitement of the game, and the universal coach had advised him to get out on the water.
“Don’t row yourself,” he had advised. “That might be bad for your arm. Lie in the back of the boat and steer, and just take it easy. There’s no need for you to practice to-day. Be at the station in time for the train.”
So Jim, with Woeful Watson, his classmate, known to the whole of Yale as the sophomore pessimist, had taken a boat and gone up the river after luncheon.
“I’ll do the rowing,” said Watson. “I’m not reckless, like most of our crowd, Jim, and I’ll do my best to get you back safe. I’ve got a hunch that something’s going wrong to-day, and I’ll be on the watch for it.”
It was still early when Watson had looked at his watch? and decided that it was time to turn around and get back to the station.
“What’s the use of going back so soon?” asked Jim, who was enjoying his rest. “We’ll only have to wait an hour or so at the station.”
“Better do that than miss the train,” said Watson relentlessly. “I’m responsible for you to-day, Jim, and I’m not going to let anything happen to you. You’ve got to obey my orders now, you know. I represent Mr. Merriwell.”
So Jim laughed, and gave in, knowing the folly of arguing with Watson when the pessimist had once made up his mind.
It was just as Jim had predicted. They found themselves at the station an hour before train time. It was a hot, lazy summer afternoon. Few people were around. Lessons were over for the year, and most Yale men had scattered. A great many were in New York, waiting for the game with Harvard. Others had gone to New London, to visit the oarsmen, and practically the whole college would assemble there the following week, in preparation for the boat race with Harvard. So the station was pretty well deserted.
“I’m going uptown,” said Jim to Watson. “I don’t want to wait around here.”
“You’re going to stay right here,” said Watson firmly. “I’ve got you here, and here you’ll stay until I deliver you, in good order, to Mr. Merriwell, and get his receipt for you. Then you can do anything you blame please. If you want relaxation and something to look at, I’ll go down to the freight station with you.”
“All right,” said Jim. “Gee! Watson, you’d make a fine coach. You’re a regular tyrant. I’m glad I’m not under you all the time. I’ll ask for an easier keeper the next time.”
Laughing, they wandered away from the station and down the tracks to the freight depot, where the only activity in the neighborhood seemed to be.
But, although they did not know it, they were not the only Yale men around. For every move they had made had been observed by Foote, who, scarcely able to believe in his luck, had seen Jim appear, practically alone, for he took little account of Watson. Now he saw how to work his plan with what little chance of failure and discovery there had been before eliminated. When they had got out of sight, he followed them cautiously, making it impossible for them to know that they were being tracked, and he was not far behind them when they got into the maze of the tracks of the freight yard, where the numerous cars enabled him to stalk them and get close to them without exciting their suspicion in any way.
On one of the tracks a long train of empty freight cars was being made up. The cars had brought freight to New Haven from points all over the United States, and they were now being prepared to start on their long journey back to their starting point. Jim and Watson wandered along this long train. An engine was backing up to one end of it, and, at the back, the brakemen were taking their places in the caboose. The run to New York would mean little work for them. They had tobacco, pipes, and cigarettes, and one of them, standing on the track, held up a pack of cards.
“Big game to-day,” he shouted. “Got a pinochle deck here. Who’s in?”
“Pretty soft for them,” said Watson.
“Sometimes,” answered Jim, with a smile. “But if you’d ever braked on a freight out West in the winter, in the middle of a blizzard, when they’re crossing the divide, you wouldn’t think it was an easy job. Grades that you’d have a fit just to look at, and brakes to set when the temperature’s away below zero. They have it hard about as often as they have it easy, I guess.”
“Hello!” exclaimed Watson. “What’s that?”
From somewhere near by there came the cry of a child—a baby. It seemed to be in distress of some sort. The cry was very faint, but clear and unmistakable. They both stopped to listen.
“Sounds like a hungry kid,” said Jim. “My young sister used to yell just that way when she was a baby. I wasn’t much older, but I can remember that much.”
“It sounds that way to me, too,” said Watson. “Let’s see if we hear it again.”
In a moment the cry came to them again.
“We ought to see if we can find it,” said Jim. “I’ve heard of things like that. Kid might be lost—or some one might have wanted to get rid of it, and dropped it around here somewhere. Gee! It might starve to death if no one found it. This is a pretty lonely place.”
“It’s right up this way,” said Watson, running toward the caboose of the freight train.
“No,” cried Jim. “It’s the other way, Woeful.”
But Watson paid no attention to the pitcher. He was sure he was right, and he darted along, looking into car after car. Jim, on the other hand, ran toward the engine. For several seconds the cry was not repeated. Then he heard it again, and this time it seemed to come from a car immediately in front of him. With a quick jump, he swung himself up and inside the car, leaving the door open behind him. Even with the open door, it was dark in the big freight car. He could see that it had held grain of some sort. The smell, pleasant and summery, although rather dry, was evidence enough, without the grains of wheat that still clung to the floor.
But there was no sign of a child. A minute’s examination served to show that. He turned to the door, to look in the next car. But, even as he did so, the door was slammed shut in his face, and he was locked in the car.
He beat on the door, and shouted. Listening, he could hear nothing outside for a moment. Then, very faintly, and as if he were hearing a voice from a great distance, he heard what sounded like a mocking laugh. For a moment he thought Watson had played a joke on him, though such jokes were not at all in the line of the class pessimist. It would have been more like Brady or Maxwell.
He beat on the door again, and shouted until he was hoarse. It was very dry and hot inside the car when the door was shut, and his voice soon lost its power, so that he stopped shouting. He knew that it was useless.
Then he stood still by the door, expecting every moment that the joker, whoever he was, would release him, and enjoy a good laugh at his expense. He was prepared for that, and willing to submit to it. But the minutes passed, and he was still there. There was no sign of a move to release him. He began to grow anxious, and to fear that he would miss the train for New York.
Suddenly he heard something that made him renew his beating on the door and his useless shouting. There was a creaking, groaning sound that he knew only too well, and in a moment his worst fears were confirmed. The train was beginning to move, and he was still locked in.
Fury succeeded to his amusement at the joke he had supposed to be intended. They were carrying it too far. Then he was almost panic-stricken. He had heard of men, locked in freight cars, who had traveled hundreds of miles before being discovered, with neither food nor water, and even of some who had been dead when found. And this car, as he knew, was being sent back West. Being empty, it would move slowly, and no one was likely to open it until the end of the trip. He realized suddenly the full danger of his position.
THE FINGER PRINTS.
When Dick Merriwell, walking with big Bill Brady, and a little ahead of the rest of the team, arrived at the station, it was to find Watson, with a white face, terrified, and scarcely able to talk. Jim Phillips had suddenly disappeared, he told them, trembling, and he could make no guess at what had happened. He told of the cry they had heard, and of how they had separated in the effort to find out whence it had come. After that, he could tell nothing of any value.
He had failed to find any trace of a crying child, and, turning back to look for Jim, had seen no sign of him. None of the men about the big freight train had seen the pitcher. They could give no help, although, up to the very moment when their train had started, they had helped Watson to search for his friend. But the search had been in vain.
Dick and Brady looked at one another in great concern. It was plain that something very serious had happened to Jim. They wasted half of a precious hour in looking for him, telephoning to his rooms, and to every other place in New Haven where he could possibly have gone, and, when the baseball men had all arrived, Dick told them to go on to the city in charge of Tom Sherman, promising to come down himself later on, with Brady and Phillips. He did not want the players to know that there was any reason for anxiety as to Phillips.
With Watson, the coach and the big catcher searched all around the station. They could find no one who had seen Jim. Suddenly Dick had an inspiration.
“The freight train!” he cried. “He must have got locked in one of the cars.”
He turned and raced for the office of the freight agent. That official could give them only very cold comfort, however. He promised to do all he could, but he said that to look for a man locked in one of the cars of that train would be like looking for a needle in a haystack, since it had been broken up at Bridgeport, and the cars scattered into a dozen different trains made up there for dispatch to points all over the country. But he promised to make the wires burn with messages, and to let them know if he heard anything likely to be of value.
The three of them left his office with darkened faces. They were seriously worried, not only over the game of the next day, but over Jim’s personal safety. Like Jim, Dick and Brady knew of many cases when death or serious illness had been the result of such an adventure, and they had grave fears of Jim’s fate unless he were speedily rescued. They knew that he was alert and resourceful, and that in any ordinary emergency he could be trusted to look after himself, but there was nothing ordinary about this case, and the chances of escape from such a prison, if he were really caught in that way, were pretty slim.
“He never was locked in that car accidentally,” said Brady. “We can be sure of that. Some one who knew exactly what he was about, and had planned the whole thing out ahead is responsible for this outrage. If I get my hands on him, he won’t be in condition to do anything of the sort again in a hurry. I’ll promise him that.”
“You’ve got to catch him first,” said Watson, sadly shaking his head.
Suddenly Brady gave a cry, and, darting behind a coal car, reappeared a moment later dragging a reluctant captive by the scruff of his neck.
“Parker!” cried Dick Merriwell, as he recognized the defeated football man. “What are you doing here?”
“That’s my own business,” said Parker angrily. “I’ve got as much right here as you have, I guess.”
“If you can prove that you had nothing to do with locking Jim Phillips up in a freight car in which he may starve to death before he’s rescued, perhaps that’s so,” said Dick.
Brady kept his hold on Parker’s collar all the while, in spite of the big guard’s frantic efforts to wrench himself free. He was no match for the catcher in strength, although he had supposed that there was no man in Yale who could equal him in any physical encounter.
“What’s that?” cried Parker. “You say Phillips is locked in a freight car?”
He ceased struggling, and stood still, in Brady’s grip. Dick Merriwell, who prided himself on his ability to tell whether or not a man was lying, was sure that Parker was truthful in the expression of his surprise. He had evidently not known of Jim’s fate, no matter what part he might have played in the conspiracy.
“Tell me about this,” he said. There was a note of furious anger in his voice that escaped neither Merriwell nor Brady. Watson, who knew nothing of what had happened, and wondered why they had jumped on Parker in this fashion, stood there with round eyes, gazing at the picture.
“Tell him what you know, Watson,” ordered Dick. And Watson obeyed, telling of the crying child and the manner in which Jim had disappeared from sight.
“The infernal scoundrel!” cried Parker, as if overcome by what he heard.
“You’d better tell us all you know, Parker,” said Dick sternly. “It’s easy to see that you know something of this, though I don’t believe that you did understand what was actually being planned. I still have your confession, though, in trying to steal it from my rooms, you did get away with a private paper of no value to you or any one but myself.”
“You know that?” exclaimed Parker. His jaw dropped, and he stared at Dick in stunned amazement. He remembered he had not looked at that paper before tearing it up.
He waited a moment, reflecting.
“I can make a guess what’s happened,” he said finally. “I wouldn’t split on a friend, as a rule, but, good heavens! that’s a terrible thing, taking a chance of leaving a man in a locked freight car for days and days! Remember, this is only a guess that I can make. But I know a man, who was pretty sore at the way I was treated. And he’s often, just for our amusement, showed me what he could do as a ventriloquist. He could make his voice sound as if it came from different parts of the room, and even from down in the street, when the windows were opened.”
“The child’s cry!” exclaimed Dick. “I never thought of that solution. That would account for Jim’s being trapped in the car. It was a clever scheme—but a murderous one. Who is this man, Parker? Your only chance now is to tell the whole truth and help us to undo the mischief you have made.”
“It’s Foote,” said Parker. “If you want anything else, you’ll have to get it out of him. I won’t tell you anything more.”
He had turned sullen again.
“That’s all we need from you now,” said Dick. “Let him go, Bill. We can get him any time we want him. Now we’ll have to find Foote.”
It took another hour to find Foote, but he had to be found, for without him they could do nothing more. The railroad authorities were doing all they could to trace the cars that had been in the train; but, without knowledge of the exact car in which Jim had been locked, it would be only a lucky chance that would lead to his discovery. And finally Foote was run down. He had not gone back to his own room, or to Parker’s, but was in Moray’s, eating a well-chosen supper with much relish. He paled slightly when Dick Merriwell and Brady appeared, but he assumed an air of bravado.
“Won’t you join me?” he said.
“There’s no use in trying to bluff us,” said the universal coach sternly. “We’ve found out that you had something to do with sending Jim Phillips off in an empty freight car this afternoon. You’d better confess, unless you want to find yourself charged with murder.”
Foote was as resourceful as he was utterly unscrupulous. He was frightened, but he intended, if he could, to brazen it out.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, even,” he said indignantly. “I don’t know anything about Jim Phillips.”
Dick Merriwell was thinking hard. He stared at Foote for a moment without a word. Foote, nervous, picked up a piece of soft bread and pressed it flat between his fingers. Suddenly Dick snatched it from him.
“Go and get Jones,” he commanded, and Brady, understanding, hurried out.
“Then how about the business of the false evidence against Gray and Taylor?” asked Dick. “And the examination book, with the leaves torn out? You thought we wouldn’t find those leaves, but we did. Will you confess to that?”
Only Foote’s eyes showed how terrified he was by this revelation of what Dick Merriwell knew or suspected. If it was only a suspicion, Foote felt that he might still escape. But if Parker, as he began to fear, had confessed the earlier offenses, he was in a serious position.
“I deny your right to ask me insulting questions of this sort,” he said. “You’re universal coach here, Mr. Merriwell, and there’s no question of your authority in athletic matters. But I hadn’t heard that you have been appointed censor of the whole college. I’m going away. I refuse to stay and listen to such nonsense as you have been talking.”
He got up, but Dick Merriwell’s hand, strong as a steel chain, fell on his shoulder.
“Sit down, Foote,” he said. “I know you’re lying—and in a minute I’ll prove it. I’ve got a witness you can’t refute.”
“You mean Parker?” cried Foote furiously. “My word is as good as his.”
“You gave yourself away there, Foote,” said Dick. Had he not been so worried over Jim, he could almost have laughed. “No, it’s not Parker. The only thing he told us was that you were a ventriloquist. You’ll see the witness I mean in a minute. He’s of your own making.”
They had not long to wait until Brady returned with Detective Jones, of the New Haven police department. Jones carried a little bundle of photographs.
Dick Merriwell handed him the bread that Foote had been playing with.
“See if these fit, Jones,” he said, and the detective at once began a close comparison of the photographs he had brought and the bread, which contained the record of Foote’s nervous fingers. He produced a microscope and with it examined the piece of bread.
“These prints on the bread and the prints we found on those papers and on the other articles in Dwight Hall were made by the same person, Mr. Merriwell,” he presently announced.
“There’s my witness, Foote,” said Dick sternly. “There can be no going back of that evidence. It proves that you were concerned in the other plots. And I don’t need to tell you, what you already know, that when that car is found, there will be the same sort of evidence to prove that it was you who locked the door.”
Foote indeed knew that better than Dick Merriwell himself. For he knew, what Dick did not, that the door of the car into which he had enticed Jim had been covered by some sticky substance that must have caught the most perfect possible record of his finger prints. The game was up, and he knew it.
“All right!” he said, giving up all at once. “I’ll confess. You’ve got me. What are you going to do about it? Have me arrested?”
“Not if you’ll help us to rescue Phillips,” said Dick. “Have you the number and line of the car?”
Foote took a bit of paper from his pocket.
“Yes,” he said. “I wasn’t going to let him starve to death. I took the number so that I could see that it was opened some time to-morrow. Here it is—number thirty-four thousand five hundred and seventy-six, of the Big Four Road.”
But, even with that clew, it was many hours before Dick Merriwell was able to trace the car. There had, by some freakish mischance, been a mistake in billing several of the cars, and Dick and a railroad official chased it almost to Philadelphia before they found they were on the wrong track, and, retracing their footsteps, finally located it at Kingston, New York, on the West Shore Railroad.
Jim Phillips, exhausted, but happy in his release, reached New York at four o’clock in the morning, to be greeted with delight by Dick Merriwell. The coach had stayed up himself, but had made Brady go to bed, in order that he might be fit for the game.
“Well,” said Dick, “it’s a good thing, after all, that Gray didn’t pitch on Thursday. As it is, he’ll be able to go in to-day.”
“Why can’t I pitch?” asked Jim. “I’m willing enough to give way to Gray, but I’m also ready to go in and pitch.”
“You can’t be in any condition to do that,” said Dick. “I’m delighted to have you back, but I couldn’t ask you to do anything like that in your present shape. That would be altogether too much.”
But Jim insisted that if he were needed he would be able to do it.
“There’s only one chance,” said Dick. “You’re probably tired out, but you can’t get enough sleep in an ordinary bed to rest you. We’ll go to a Turkish bath, and that may steam you out.”
And when Dick and Jim joined the rest of the team at the hotel just before noon, Jim looked like a new man. Dick’s prescription had worked wonders for him. But the universal coach was very doubtful as to his ability to go through the game. He had decided to let him start, however.
THE CHAMPIONSHIP FOR YALE.
Not for years had the baseball championship of the colleges come down to so narrow an issue. For the first time it was a really national title that was at stake, for the defeat of Michigan, the recognized leader of the West, by Yale, had made it impossible for any team to dispute the honors to be won by the victor of this final battle between Harvard and Yale. It was a fitting test, too, and thousands without an interest in either college rejoiced at the thought that the historic rivals should finally have come to fight it out between themselves. Princeton for years had been the most formidable baseball college in the East. There had been none to dispute successfully the claim of the Tigers to the premier honors for a long time, and the general public was glad to see the Princeton monopoly invaded at last.
That was the reason for the tremendous crowd that filled the famous Polo Grounds. It was a crowd bigger than any that had ever assembled there, except for a professional world’s championship contest. The great arena was a riot of color, and a very bedlam of sound long before the game began. Those who had not been lucky enough, or gifted with sufficient forethought to buy reserved seats, had to come early, in order to get a place, and even out on the bleachers, where the peanut-eating fans sit through the long summer afternoons, pretty girls, glad even of so exposed a place to view the struggle, appeared in swarms.
And in the covered grand stand, where all the seats were reserved, the crowd was just as big, and came just as early. The people there were sure of their seats, but they wanted to see the crowd, to hear the college songs and cheers, and to watch the practice. It was a thrilling and unusual spectacle, certainly, and none of those who had bolted early luncheons, or gone without their mid-day meal altogether, to be at the grounds early, at all regretted their sacrifice when once they had arrived and taken their places.
From one side of the great grand stand, behind third base, and all the way out to left field, the Harvard cheer came constantly—nine long ’rahs, and a long Harvard at the end. That side was a mass of crimson, too. Girls in crimson dresses, crimson hats, with red flags and great red sleeve bands, were to be seen in abundance. And the cheer leaders from Cambridge were busy constantly, urging their fellow students in the stands to renewed efforts, so that the fellows on the field, practicing diligently, might know that the college was with them, rooting as hard as it could for them to win the coveted championship.
Yale was opposite, behind first base and right field. There were just as many Yale men and Yale girls there as Harvard had sent, and it seemed as if they made even more noise. Both teams had had splendid seasons, but the odds favored Yale a trifle. For Harvard, although facing Yale’s weakest pitcher, save for part of one inning, in the great Commencement Day game, had been unable to make any real superiority plain. It had been all that Harvard could do to bat out a victory over Dick Winston, despised as the poorest sort of a match for either Briggs or Wooley before the game began, and the Yale men, who knew that, if only Winston had been able to begin well, he would have won his game, had no idea that Harvard would be able to do anything against the strong right arm of Jim Phillips, and the best efforts of the team that Dick Merriwell had coached so brilliantly through the preliminary season, with its victories over Cornell, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Princeton to prove its class.
Dick Merriwell himself, sitting quietly on the bench while the players of the two teams ran through their final practice, was confident of victory; but he had anxieties, too. He knew, what the cheering crowds above him did not, that Jim Phillips had been through enough in the last two days to make it impossible for any ordinary pitcher to do himself justice. But he knew, also, that Jim was by no means an ordinary pitcher. The rest of the team was all right, and Dick felt that Jim could count upon it for perfect support.
While the fielders chased batted balls, getting used to the playing surface of the field, entirely different from that at New Haven, Dick watched Jim shooting curve balls over a practice plate to big Bill Brady. Look as closely as he would, Dick could see no signs of nervousness or distress in Jim’s face. The sophomore pitcher—really a junior, now, since commencement was over, and the classes had all been promoted—had his usual perfect control, and he smiled and joked with Brady as he pitched. Dick gave a sigh of relief, and went out to give a few last orders to the players.
Harry Maxwell, as the most dependable outfielder on the Yale team, had been shifted to right field for the game, since right field is the hardest of all to play at the Polo Grounds. The new concrete stand makes the trouble. A ground ball, hit to right, bounds off the fence at most peculiar angles, and Dick, taking a bat, drove a dozen balls against it, that Harry might learn to judge the probable direction of all such hits. The knowledge might easily save the game, later on, Dick felt, by keeping a hit that an unwarned fielder would allow to be good for two bases, to a single. It was by just such foresight and preparedness that Dick had enabled Yale to win many games that, under another coach, the team would have lost.
In the press box a bell rang abruptly, and in a moment the great crowd settled back tensely to watch the beginning of the contest. The bell was the signal for play to begin, and the blue-clad umpires appeared punctually to the minute, one from each of the two great major leagues, assigned to arbitrate this most important of college games.
Captain Bowen, of Harvard, already arrayed in his chest protector and wearing his big catcher’s mitt, went to the plate to arrange final details with Captain Sherman, of Yale, playing his last game for the blue, and one of the umpires spun a silver quarter in the air.
Sherman called the turn, and sent Harvard to the bat. Jim walked slowly and confidently to the pitcher’s box, and, with one mighty roar of delight from the crowd, the game was on.
Well as he looked, and strong as he undoubtedly was, Jim was tired. His muscles ached, and his eyes hurt as the glare of the sun struck them. But he was determined to win, and he felt that nothing could keep him from doing it. The honor of Yale was in his keeping, and he intended to make no Yale man regret it.
Behind him, as he faced Reid, the first Harvard batter, he heard a rapid-fire chatter from the infielders. Sherman’s deep bass calling, “Steady, old boy, make them work!” was echoed by Carter’s excited falsetto, cheering him on. And the others, Jackson, and Horton, the shortstop, added their voices. But he paid little attention to them. His eyes were fixed on Brady’s hands, playing aimlessly, as it seemed, first with his mask, then with his glove, but really, to those who knew the Yale code of signals, giving Jim his decision on the sort of ball to be pitched.
Thud! The first ball split the plate before it landed in Brady’s big mitt, and as the umpire’s hand went up and he yelled “Stri-i-i-ke one!” the whole right side of the stands, where the Yale rooters were massed, burst into a sea of waving blue flags, while ten thousand throats were split with a wild Yale yell. It was a good start.
But Reid, smiling, his jaws working mechanically as he chewed the gum that baseball players use to keep their nerves steady, was unconcerned. He was too old a hand to be impressed by a single ball, and he knew that in this game a single run was likely to settle the issue. He had faced Jim before, and knew how fine a pitcher he was, and he was determined to wait for the sort of ball he could hit, even if he struck out three or four times before it came to him. Reid was a fine, scientific batsman, too good to care about his average, as long as he made hits when they would count toward runs; and Jim’s reputation worried him no more than did the enormous crowd. He even forgot the crowd—his whole concern was for the diamond, for the pitcher, and for the fielders in front of him.
Jim followed his first strike with a wide curve, but Reid only smiled as it broke away from the end of his bat, outside of the plate—a ball, and so counted against the pitcher. He would never play into Jim’s hands by striking at such a ball as that.
Then came a teasing, floater of a ball, that seemed sure to cut the plate right at the line of his waist. But again Reid smiled. He had been fooled twice by that ball at Cambridge, and he knew that, if he struck at it, his bat would swing through the empty air. For it was pitched so that at the last moment, just above the plate, it would stop dead and drop. That was just what it did this time, and again the umpire called “Ball!”
The next ball puzzled Reid. It was almost straight, and, as it came, he exulted. It looked like the sort of a ball he could hit, but he wanted to be sure. He was willing to sacrifice a hit now to get information for use later in the game, and he swung awkwardly, missing the ball by six inches or more. But he exulted inwardly, though a strike was called on him, and he knew that he had practically put himself at Jim’s mercy, for he had seen exactly what sort of a ball that was—and the next time he struck at it he wouldn’t miss. The next ball was a curve that fooled him completely, cutting in and across the plate so that he couldn’t hit it, and he struck out, but he was entirely contented. And so, when he went back to the bench and made his report, was Bowen.
Dick Merriwell knew exactly how tired Jim was. Also, he expected Harvard to play a waiting game, and trust to a fierce attack in the closing innings to produce a victory. He wanted to see Yale score and take the lead as early as possible, and he was prepared to take stiff chances for that purpose. If Jim were in the lead, Dick felt, it would be easier for him to stand up under the fierce strain of the game. Harvard, behind, would have to play a different game. And, therefore, when the Yale team, after Harvard had been blanked in the first inning, came in to take its turn at the bat, a plan of campaign, daring and aggressive, had been mapped out.
Sherman, batting first, looked hard at right field. He was known to the Harvard men as a right-field hitter—that is, it was almost certain that if he hit the ball at all, it would travel in that direction. He stood up to the plate, too, and, as Briggs delivered the first ball, swung viciously at it, with a full, free swing, and missed it. The Harvard infielders drew back, and the right fielder swung clear over to the fence, ready to make the catch if the ball went in that direction. But it didn’t. Even as the next ball left Briggs’ hand, the Yale captain shortened his grip on his bat, poked it forward, and bunted beautifully toward third base.
Sherman was a real sprinter, and there was a wild yell from the Yale crowd as he raced down to first. The Harvard third baseman was taken completely by surprise. It was the last thing he had expected Sherman to do. By the time he got his glove on the slow-rolling ball, Sherman was within a yard of first base, and the throw was hopeless, since there was no chance to make a put-out. But he threw, nevertheless, and then there was a sudden outbreak of excited, shrill yelling from all over the field and the stands.
Sherman, instead of stopping at first, had just touched the bag with his foot, and kept right on for second. Bowen ran angrily out in the diamond, shouting to the first baseman, who was also confused. He juggled the ball a moment, and then threw low to second, so that Sherman slid safely in, credited with a two-bagger on a bunt that hadn’t gone forty feet after it left his bat. The play was a masterpiece of planning and brilliant execution, daring in the extreme, and successful just because it was so daring that no one would have looked for it.
When Jackson came to the bat, the Harvard infield played close. It wasn’t going to be caught again by a bunt, and certainly this really looked like the time for a quick sacrifice play. Sherman took a long lead off second, ready to make a swift dash for third if Jackson hit the ball, but he was cautious, and, though Briggs threw twice to second in an effort to catch the Yale captain, Sherman got back safely to the base each time.
And then Jackson, who had tried to bunt at the first two balls pitched to him, but clumsily, and without success, got a ball that was just right, and pushed it right over the third baseman’s head for the prettiest of Texas Leaguers. Had the infielders not been drawn in to field a bunt, that seemed so likely to be the play, the ball would certainly have been caught; but, as it was, there was no chance for it to be reached, and Sherman raced home with the first run of the game, while Jackson got to second base on the left fielder’s hurried throw to the plate in a vain attempt to catch Sherman as he slid home.
Dick Merriwell, quiet and self-contained as he usually was, could not refrain from throwing his hat into the air as he sat on the Yale bench, and the enthusiasm of the Yale crowd may be guessed. Dick had planned the play out; but, unless he had had good, well-trained men on the team to take advantage of his plans, not all the planning in the world could have scored that run. He was proud of his team, and of the spirit with which it obeyed every order he gave, no matter how unlikely those orders seemed to be to produce a winning result.
But he wanted more than one run out of this inning. He could see that the Harvard team showed signs of going up in the air. Briggs, nervous and flurried, came in to consult with Bowen, and, in the infield, the men were quarreling, and trying to show how all the trouble could have been avoided if only some one else had done something in a different way. The confidence that had made the crimson team so dangerous before the game was being dissipated; and, knowing that Bowen, as soon as he had a chance, would be able to pull his team together, Dick wanted to strike while the iron was hot, and make the lead as big as possible.
Harry Maxwell was the next batter, and his orders were simply to tire Briggs out.
“Foul off as many balls as you can,” Dick told him. “I don’t want you to make a hit—at least, I don’t care whether you do or not. Just tire him out.”
Harry obeyed his orders to the letter, and Briggs, furious, and getting more nervous every minute, had to pitch nearly thirty balls before Bowen, by a wonderful sprint, finally managed to get under one of those towering fouls, right in front of the Yale bench, and hold it as it came down. And then, making use even of that chance, Jackson had time, after the catch had been made, to sprint to third base, so that Harry was credited with a sacrifice.
Bill Brady, the next batter, having been moved up, had orders to hit. Briggs, tired out after his struggle with Maxwell, hot and thirsty, lost his control for the moment, and Bill’s smashing drive bounded out from the left-field fence, to the confusion of the Harvard outfielder, who hadn’t, as Dick had made the Yale players do, spent any time in studying the peculiar angles and rebounds of that new concrete wall. Jackson scored easily, and Brady himself reached third, whence it was an easy matter for him to score while Steve Carter was being thrown out at first base. That made three runs, and Dick Merriwell was well satisfied with the harvest. Horton was an easy out, and the inning was over, but it had been a mighty fruitful one, and Dick felt that there was no reason, with such a lead, why Yale should not win.
But, as the players started to take the field, he warned them against being overconfident.
“Briggs will be all right after a five-minute rest,” he told them. “And we won’t catch them asleep that way again. There was a whole lot of luck in the way we got those three runs, and they’ll be watching us like cats for the rest of the game. Anything more we get, we’ll have to earn—be sure of that. But that won’t matter—if they can’t do any scoring. You’ve got enough runs to win this game right now—see that they don’t creep up on us and tie the score.”
There isn’t any record of what Bowen said to his team after that disastrous first inning, but it had the effect he wanted. The Harvard team seemed to have been turned into a machine. Every trick Yale tried was met and defeated, and Briggs, rallying, pitched like the master of the game that he really was. But Jim Phillips, too, was at his best. Tired he might be, and sore, but there was nothing in his pitching to let the Harvard players know it. He wasted none of his remaining strength as the game went on, but there were few men on the Harvard team who studied him as Reid did, and they kept on biting at wide curves that were meant to fool them with a break that came after they had thought it impossible for a ball to desert its straight course.
Reid outguessed him in the fourth inning, and got a base on balls, but there were two out at the time, and it made no difference. And Bowen himself, a batter who could at times hit any sort of a ball, even if a Mathewson had pitched it, got a long two-bagger in the sixth frame, when no one was out. But he was held at second, a brilliant catch by Bill Brady of a twisting foul and hard work by Jim himself disposing of the next three batters.
More and more, as the game went on, the crowd was forced to think that its result had been decided in that one tumultuous first inning, when Yale strategy and Yale pluck—though the Harvard people called it the proverbial Yale luck—had produced three runs. But the Harvard team kept on fighting, never willing to admit itself beaten. And the Yale men on the field, like Dick Merriwell, watching every move from the bench, knew that Yale could not claim the championship until the last Harvard man had been put out. It was a glorious struggle—one worth coming hundreds of miles to see, as many had done.
The ninth inning began, and it was Harvard’s last chance. Bowen, almost ready to admit that his team was beaten, was first at the bat, and, frantic with the determination to save the day, began with a slashing drive to left that put him on second. Jim Phillips smiled at Brady, not a bit concerned, but the next play went wrong. The Harvard batter bunted, and Sherman, running in, saw a chance to catch Bowen at third. He threw to Carter, but the throw was the fifth of a second too late, and both runners were safe. A clean steal put the man on first on second base, and Reid, smiling and cheerful, was the next man up.
Jim knew him for the most dangerous batter on the whole Harvard team. He pitched five balls to him, and at their end the count was three balls and two strikes. Reid had refused to bite on any one of the three curves—he had not struck at either of the strikes, because he had seen what they were too late. The next ball would settle matters. Brady, more disturbed even than Jim, walked out to speak to him. They had to get close together to be able to hear, for the din from the stands was deafening.
“You fooled him on that cross-fire ball in the first inning,” said Brady.
“That’s a dangerous ball,” said Jim, shaking his head. “I think he’s just waiting for me to use it again.”
“Try it,” Bill insisted.
And Jim, against his better judgment, and because he deferred always to Bill’s signals in such an emergency, pitched the ball that Brady wanted.
It was the ball Reid wanted, too. He had anticipated such a chance since the very beginning of the game. He saw it coming, recognized the swing of Jim’s shoulders as he pitched, and he bared his teeth in a happy grin as he saw it approaching. Then, squaring his big shoulders, he put all his power into the drive, and sent the ball hurtling far over the centre fielder’s head.
The Harvard crowd went mad. Round and round the bases the crimson legs twinkled, Reid racing as if he were pursued by demons. Two men scored—if Reid got home the score would be tied. But he had to stop at third. The score was three to two in Yale’s favor—a man was on third, and none was out. Dick Merriwell groaned. It was the tightest hole that Jim had ever been in. Briggs, as fresh as when the game began, looked good for a dozen innings more, while Jim, already very tired—and no wonder!—could hardly last for a tenth.
But Harvard had not tied the score yet. Jim, calmly confident, grinned at Brady, stricken by remorse for his error of judgment, and settled himself down to work.
Bowen had raced back, as soon as he had scored, to the coacher’s box behind third base, where he could take control of his team and see to it that the most was made of the sudden chance to win the game, a rally at the eleventh hour, when all hope seemed to be gone.
Jim was studying the batter with the utmost care. He felt that everything depended upon him. But as he pitched, a thrill of agonizing pain shot through his arm, beginning at the tired shoulder muscles and running down to his wrist. He found his control completely vanished. While the Harvard crowd went mad, the next two batters walked to first, and the bases were filled. Dick Merriwell, seeing what was wrong, had sent Gray to warm up with Taylor, and now Brady came out and begged Jim to give way. But Jim shook his head resolutely.
“I can get them yet,” he said. “My arm’s better now. I’ve just been lobbing them over.”
Suddenly he remembered something—the game he had pitched against Pennsylvania.
“Quit stalling!” yelled the Harvard men, as he called Brady out again. They thought he was playing for delay.
“I’m going to finish with my left arm, Bill,” he said. “They’ll never look for it. I’m going to pitch this fellow a drop—he’ll be so surprised that he can’t do more than chop it.”
Bill saw a dim chance to save the game.
No one on the Harvard team suspected what was coming. They knew nothing of Jim’s ability to pitch with his left hand. And when, with a sudden, deceptive motion, he shifted the ball and pitched it, the Harvard batter, as he had predicted, swung wildly. But he didn’t chop the ball. He hit it full—but on a line. Jim swung up to meet the ball, caught it with his extended left hand—he had discarded his glove—and then raced for third base. Reid was struggling to get back, but Jim’s throw to Carter beat him, and Carter, with a lightning toss, threw to Jackson at second, completing a wonderful triple play that ended the game and gave Yale the championship.
For a moment the crowd was dazed. The play had been so swift, so paralyzingly sudden, that very few had seen it. But as the Harvard players, stunned, ran from the field, the great crowd realized to the full what had happened. And the Yale men gave Jim a demonstration such as few players had ever had. Wild with joy, they carried him on their shoulders to the dressing room, and the Harvard crowd, after it had cheered its own gallant team, was not slow to honor the great Yale pitcher who had saved the day.
Once safely inside the dressing room, and away from the frantic crowd that was still cheering outside, Sherman sprang to a bench.
“Now, fellows,” he shouted, “we’re all here. It’s as good a time as any to elect next year’s captain. What do you say?”
There was a roar of delight. Then Carter sprang to his feet.
“I nominate Jim Phillips,” he cried.
A dozen voices seconded the nomination. There was no other candidate, and in two minutes Jim had been unanimously elected captain of the team.
And when he got outside, where the news had spread, the first man who was waiting to congratulate him was Parker—who had seen, at last, what it meant to be a Yale man.
The next great event in sports in which Yale men were to take part was the Yale-Harvard boat race. And for this important battle on the water, the busy universal coach now hastened to New London to give final instructions to the crew, which had long been at work under his coaching.
THE TROUBLE WITH THE CREW.
Dick reached New London, and was at Gale’s Ferry, the Yale rowing quarters, before the assistant coaches who had been left in charge of the crew had smoked their final pipes for the night. The oarsmen were all in bed, early hours being the strict rule for them. But, on the porch of the cottage in which the coaches lived, Dick found Hargreaves and Benton, his two graduate helpers, deep in talk.
“By Jove, I’m glad to see you, Mr. Merriwell!” cried Benton. “We heard that motor boat puffing up the river, but I hardly thought you’d get here before to-morrow. See any signs of mourning as you passed Red Top?”
They all laughed. Red Top was the name of the little cluster of cottages and boathouses half a mile or so below, where the Harvard oarsmen had for years made their quarters.
“No,” said Dick, with a smile. “I suppose they don’t feel very cheerful. Still, they’ve got a chance to come back at us. If they win here, they’ll be willing to let us have the baseball title to ourselves, I guess, without feeling very bad about it.”
Benton pointed to a smoldering fire not far away.
“We had a little bonfire here ourselves when we heard the news,” he said. “Gee! I’d like to have seen that game. That ninth inning must have been enough to give you heart failure.”
“I haven’t got over it yet,” admitted Dick Merriwell, as he settled comfortably back in his chair. “I suppose you haven’t heard many details.”
“Just the bare score by innings,” said Hargreaves. “I called up a couple of chaps at the club in New York, but they were so hoarse from yelling that they couldn’t make me understand. They tried to describe it to me, but all I could hear was that we won by a triple play in the ninth inning, when the bases were full, with none out.”
“Well, that was the gist of it all,” said Dick. “It could be told in a lot more words—but that’s what’s important.”
However, they would not be satisfied until he had described the whole game for them, telling how Jim Phillips, the newly elected captain of the varsity baseball team, had managed, although worn out and almost exhausted, to save the day for Yale when a Harvard victory seemed absolutely certain.
“Now,” he said, when he had finished, “tell me about the crew. I’m anxious to hear about that. I should have been here last week, but the baseball championship seemed mighty important, and I knew the crew was in good hands as long as you two were on the job.”
The two assistants seemed much pleased by the compliment. They were young graduates, both captains of Yale crews in their time, and thoroughly versed in the Yale stroke and the Yale system of rowing, as Bob Cook and John Kennedy had, in different ways, developed it. Dick Merriwell, himself a fine and powerful oarsman, was also an expert in technical watermanship. He had studied the rigging of a shell for an eight-oared sweep race under the greatest masters: Courtney, of Cornell; Rice, of Columbia, and men of similar stamp; and he had evolved for this year’s Yale crew a stroke rather different from that of any of its predecessors.
He had felt willing to do this because he had tried the stroke out the year before with the freshman crew, with good results, and some of the members of that same freshman crew were on this year’s varsity. Murchison, the stroke, who captained the crew, was a veteran, and so was Flagg at number seven, the seat immediately behind that of the stroke, and the second man in the boat in importance.
In an eight-oared shell, such as the varsity races of to-day are rowed in, each man handles a single oar, and four are on one side of the boat, four on the other. Stroke sets the pace for the men who swing on the same side of the boat directly, and, in a way, for all eight rowers. But the men on the other side must take the beat from number seven, who must, therefore, be able to follow stroke with the utmost exactness, for the speed of a shell depends altogether upon the unison of the oarsmen. They must row in time, or the boat will drag and check badly.
Going at racing speed, a boat should cover its own length, of about sixty feet, in something like four seconds. A single break may make that time five seconds more, so it is easy to see how important it is for every man to row in time.
There was some hesitation, as Dick Merriwell could see, in the answer of Benton and Hargreaves to his question about the condition of the crew. Each seemed to hang back to let the other answer, and Dick was immediately much concerned.
“Is there anything wrong?” he said. “If so, you should have let me know.”
“Nothing exactly wrong,” said Benton finally. “But we’re a little puzzled, and there’s no use denying that. We had a time trial last Wednesday, as you know. We took them downstream, from quarters here to the railroad bridge, using the flags for the course. Four of us caught them in twenty minutes twenty-one seconds, which was remarkable time. The tide was good, of course, but it was very hot. I never saw a Yale crew work better. The best we’ve heard of Harvard, under conditions that, if anything were better, was twenty-one minutes flat for the course—also downstream. Murchison was right up to top form—the whole crew worked like a machine. But here’s the sequel.”
Hargreaves broke in excitedly.
“Yes,” he said, “here’s the sequel! The Harvard people had a day off this afternoon, to get returns on the game. I thought, and Benton agreed with me, that it was better not to let the fellows get their minds on the baseball game too much. So we took the freshmen and the varsity out and gave them a two-mile brush, at full speed, racing start and all racing conditions, to the navy yard—the same course the freshmen will row next week. And—the freshmen finished three lengths ahead.”
“What?” exclaimed the universal coach, in amazement. “What was the time?”
“Ten minutes fifty-nine seconds,” said Benton gloomily. “And the varsity made the two miles in their trial row last Wednesday in ten thirty-three. Now, how are you going to account for that?”
“That time’s all right for the freshmen,” said Dick slowly. “They’ll take a lot of beating if they do as well as that against Harvard. But I don’t understand the varsity. Of course, it’s not a two-mile crew—but they ought to have done as well as in their time trial. How were the water conditions?”
“Not more than twenty seconds slower for the whole course,” said Hargreaves. “I rowed over the course in a pair oar with Murchison later, to see how it was.”
“Anything wrong?” asked Dick. “Any one man off his form?”
“No,” said Benton. “They rowed just as well as they did before. Form all right—stroke absolutely correct. Simply didn’t have the speed and the steam that the freshmen put in. They worked hard. The boat seemed to hang more than it did—that was enough to account for the slower time. What I can’t account for is the check. There was almost no run at all between strokes. It’s got us guessing. That was why we were so glad to see you heave in sight when you did to-night.”
Dick looked at his watch.
“Time to turn in,” he said. “I’m not strong for Sunday rowing, but we’ll have to have them out to-morrow and see what’s wrong. It certainly sounds like a Chinese puzzle, to hear you describe it. But I guess there’ll be some way to explain it when we get right down to cases.”
THE HATCHING OF THE PLOT.
New London is not a great city, but it is a busy and prosperous one, and, especially about boat-race time every year, it presents a scene of great activity and one with a good many elements of the picturesque. It has the finest harbor on the coast between New York and Boston, and is a favorite place for yachtsmen. Before the annual regatta between Yale and Harvard on the historic Thames River, the harbor begins to fill up with yachts of all sorts and sizes, which, on boat-race day, line the course, and provide a splendid vantage ground for those fortunate enough to be invited to witness the race from their decks.
On this Saturday night, with the race still five days distant, the harbor was already well filled with craft. Two revenue cutters, assigned to guard the course and prevent accidents on the day of the races, as well as to give the racing shells a clear path of water for their contest, lay at anchor near the eastern point, and further in the anchor lights of two score small vessels already showed. First come, first served, is the rule in assigning stations along the course for the race, and few owners cared to take chances by a belated arrival.
One of these boats was very different from its neat, trim neighbors. It looked more like a fishing vessel than a yacht, and it flew the burgee of no well-known yacht club. Its decks were slipshod and messy; its spars were in bad order, and dirty sails, untidily stowed away, bore testimony to the carelessness of its crew and the loose ways of its skipper. The boat, named the Marina, and hailing from Gloucester, Massachusetts, was a fairly large one, schooner rigged, but evidently making little use of its sails for getting around. It had a powerful gasolene motor to serve as an auxiliary engine, and was, therefore, independent of its sails if their use was not desired.
This vessel had taken up an anchorage a little way below the railroad bridge, and nearer the heart of the town than most of the other yachts. Many of these were clustered near the New York Yacht Club station, and all had apparently sought to be as near the cottage colonies on the two points as possible, in order that their parties might go ashore quickly to take part in the numerous festivities that had been arranged.
A single look at the group that was gathered about the big table in the main cabin of the Marina would have explained why she had chosen her anchorage where she did. The men seated there were not at all the sort to be invited to parties at the cottages of the New London colony. The saloons in the neighborhood of the station were more likely to be their resorts while on shore, and the cabin, filled with smoke, and suffocatingly close, was not a pleasant sight. A big man, with yellow mustache and blue eyes, was doing most of the talking.
“I don’t know anything about the people that are involved,” he said. “All I know is that the plan is a good one. It’s a plan that will work and that will enable us to make a lot of money. We found that out this afternoon. I’m not afraid of this man Merriwell you speak about. I don’t know anything about him—and I don’t want to. He can’t find out what we’re doing. It’s physically impossible. So why worry about him?”
“That’s all right, Captain Svenson,” said another member of the group. “I’m glad to hear you talk that way. But there’s a lot of money involved, and I don’t like to risk my cash unless I’m sure everything is perfectly safe. Yale is a top-heavy favorite for this race. If we can plunge on Harvard and Harvard wins, we’ll make a big killing. I should say that we ought to clean up about twenty or thirty thousand dollars. These Yale people will bet at odds of five to three, or even two to one, and they’ll go pretty hard, if they’re managed right. But I’m not familiar with all the arrangements, and I feel a little leery about going in without knowing more than I do.”
“We can’t tell you any more than we have, Dennison,” said the third man. “You ought to be satisfied. I’ve put up five thousand dollars, and Svenson has mortgaged this boat to get two thousand to go into the scheme.”
“I suppose that’s pretty good evidence that you think it’s all right,” said Dennison, though still in a doubtful voice. “But the thing that makes me hesitate is that old Bill Harding wouldn’t go into it with you.”
“Harding’s a quitter,” said Barrows, the other man, impatiently. “He said he didn’t have the money, but the truth is that’s he’s afraid of Merriwell. He admitted that much to you. He has tried to put one or two things over on this fellow Merriwell, and he’s either had bad luck or made an awful mess of the job each time. Anyhow, he thinks that Merriwell’s got the Indian sign on him now, and he’s lying back, waiting until he sees Merriwell leaning out of a high building or something of that sort. You ought to be able to stand on your own feet, Dennison. You’re old enough.”
“Well, if you say it’s positively all right, I suppose it is,” said Dennison, still reluctant, as it seemed, to commit himself to the enterprise they had planned. He took a big drink of whisky, and the stimulant seemed to revive his courage somewhat.
“Of course, it’s all right,” said Barrows. “You held a watch on that crew this afternoon, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Dennison.
“Well, that was just a sample,” said Barrows. “That’s a pretty good Yale crew, but there’s no knowing positively, in spite of the odds, that it’s good enough to beat Harvard, even in a straight race. As it stands, with us to pull the ropes for Harvard, Yale hasn’t got a chance. I haven’t got any sentiment in a thing of this sort. I’d just as soon see Yale win as Harvard—but the odds are on Yale, and there’s more profit in throwing the race to Harvard.”
“I don’t think much of those odds,” said Svenson suddenly. “Look here—why can’t we shake them up a little bit? The Harvard crew is going to have its last time row to-morrow. You know the way they’ve been talking. They’re going to row in public, and let any one at all hold a watch on them. Well, let’s give the people something to talk about.”
“Say,” cried Dennison, “that’s a great idea. We ought to be able to jack those odds up to four or five to one. The Harvard men won’t do any betting at all at any odds, and the Yale fellows will be so cocksure that they’ll give any sort of odds we ask for. You’ve got a real head on you, Svenson.”
He got up and left the cabin to get a breath of fresh air on deck. Svenson, an able captain, who had of late found it difficult to get a ship because of certain things he had done that were far from being to his credit, though he had managed, so far, to prevent the loss of his master’s certificate, looked after him contemptuously.
“How about that bird?” he asked Barrows. “I don’t like his looks.”
“Neither do I,” said Barrows. “But we need his money. Harding sent him along.”
Barrows, like Harding, was a professional gambler, but he was a more determined fellow, and, in some ways, less of a villain. His appearance was not unattractive, his eyes being his worst feature. They were set close together, and small; and a student of faces, looking at him, would have distrusted him on their evidence alone.
“This Dennison,” he said, “is one of those crooks who pretends he isn’t crooked. He’s always looking for something for nothing—but the other fellow’s got to do the dirty work. He’s the sort who would go in on a wiretapping game, to steal money from a pool room, and then squeal to the police when they took his own roll away from him. But we can’t get along without him.”
“I suppose not,” said Svenson. “All right—we’ll let him in.”
They shook hands on it, and then went on deck to rejoin Dennison. But he had decided that the yacht was too dirty for his fastidious taste, and had gone ashore to the hotel.
THE HARVARD CREW ALSO SUFFERS.
At Gale’s Ferry, on Sunday morning, the scene was one of great activity. Men who turn into bed at nine o’clock, or ten by the latest, get all the sleep they want by a pretty early hour in the morning, and six o’clock saw the Yale oarsmen tumbling out of bed, and shouting merrily to one another as they got into their bathing suits. Then there was a quick rush down to the float, and, one after another, they leaped overboard and splashed around in the water, enjoying their morning dip hugely.
Dick Merriwell and his two assistants were not far behind them, and for fifteen minutes there was a wild carnival in the river. The water was cold. For the time was June and the water had not had time to warm up thoroughly. But the young athletes didn’t mind that. Their bodies were hardened to water a good deal colder than that by their six months of vigorous training for the race that was now so close at hand. On the coming Thursday, they would know the result of all their labor. Then, in twenty minutes or so, the work they had been doing for so many weary months would be put to the test, and the greatest athletic event of the college year would be decided.
More than a hundred and fifty men had answered the first call for crew candidates the previous October in New Haven, when Dick Merriwell had first called the men out for work. Then they had been divided up into squads of eight and set to work on machines in the tank, pulling at oars that were rigged so as to resemble exactly the arrangement of the oars in a racing shell, though all their pulling didn’t advance them an inch. Dick and the other coaches, working carefully, had hammered into all of them the principles of the Yale stroke, and, then, after the actual rowing practice, had come the long cross-country runs, beginning with a mile or two at first, and ending with ten-mile runs through the surrounding country, to perfect the wind.
Gradually, as time wore on and the effects of the coaching showed, the squad had been reduced. When spring training opened, as soon as the winter broke up, in New Haven harbor, a good many of the less promising men had been dropped, and the final cut had been made just before the crews came to Gale’s Ferry, three weeks before the day of the race. Now there were about thirty-seven oarsmen left in the squad. There was the first varsity crew, eight men, who represented, in the opinion of Dick Merriwell and the other coaches, the very pick of all the oarsmen in Yale, trained now to the very minute, and ready to do battle with eight men of Harvard, who had been selected after a similar ordeal.
To give this crew practice, there was the second varsity, eight men nearly as good. From this second crew, in case of any accident, substitutes would be picked for the first shell; and, under Dick’s coaching, it was almost as good as the varsity, and good enough, as all Yale men felt, to beat almost any other college crew in the country.
Next in importance to the varsity eight was the varsity four, scheduled to race for two miles with four men from Harvard, after the freshman eight had rowed its race against the Harvard youngsters. The Yale “Y” went to the members of both the four and the eight. And the oar he pulls in a race is thereafter the most valued possession of every college oarsman. He longs, as did these Yale men that Sunday, to have a stained and worn shirt to drape over it, trophy of victory, for it is an immemorial custom for the losers to toss their rowing shirts to the victors after the race, when both crews lie on their oars for a minute to rest before pulling away to quarters.
The Yale oarsmen finally emerged from the river and dashed up to the house to dry and get into other clothes. A quick rubdown with a rough towel, that set the blood tingling in their veins, then a hasty dressing, in tennis shoes, flannel trousers, and soft shirts—plenty of costume for such athletes in such a climate. And then came breakfast—a breakfast as big as they had earned. Great pitchers of milk, as many eggs as they could eat, steaks, and everything else of healthy food that they wanted. But no coffee and no tobacco.
The oarsmen themselves shared the wonder of the coaches at the poor performance of the varsity in the previous day’s brush with the freshmen. They knew that they had rowed well, but they knew also that they had not got the proper speed out of the shell in view of the strength of their efforts. And, after breakfast, while Dick Merriwell, whose arrival they had all hailed with joy, went into consultation with Benton and Hargreaves, they gathered around in groups to discuss it.
“Did you have any trouble following my pace?” asked Murchison of Flagg, who had the seat immediately behind him.
“Not a bit,” said Flagg. “I was pulling my arms out, but I could feel the blooming boat drag between the strokes every time. I can’t make it out at all.”
“You were rowing all right,” said little Rogers, the coxswain. “There wasn’t a thing the matter with the rowing anywhere in the boat—and you can bet I was watching pretty closely when I saw how those freshmen were pulling away from us. It was about the weirdest thing I ever saw—and I’ve sat in the coxswain’s seat often enough not to be surprised by most things that I see a racing crew do.”
“Well, Mr. Merriwell’s here,” said Flagg. “We’ll be all right now. If there’s anything wrong he’ll find out what it is. We can leave the worrying to him. Jim Phillips is some pitcher, isn’t he? I hope he gets here soon. I want to see him and shake hands with him. I’m glad he’s captain.”
“So’m I,” said Murchison heartily. “He’ll be a good one, and we ought to land another championship next year.”
Meanwhile, while the oarsmen talked and rested after their breakfast, Dick Merriwell and the other coaches were sitting at the far edge of the float, talking over the whole situation.
“I’ve looked over the shell,” said Dick, “and there’s not a thing wrong. The changes in the rigging that you told me you had made for Harper, at bow, are all right. His legs are longer than those of most men of his height, and it’s much better as you’ve fixed it. I thought for a moment there might have been some sort of funny business by some one who wanted to injure the crew.”
The other two were surprised. So Dick, suppressing details, and making a long story short, told them of the startling incidents of the week preceding the last games with Harvard.
He told them how an attempt had been made to prove that Gray and Taylor, the members of the senior battery, had cheated in an examination, that they might be prevented from playing against the crimson, and of the desperate trick by which Jim Phillips, Yale’s chief reliance in the box, had been lured into an empty freight car and locked in, so that he had been carried off in the car when the train had moved away. They exclaimed in surprise and disgust when he told them of the long chase after Jim, and his rescue just in time to get back and pitch Yale to victory, despite his exhaustion.
“We haven’t seen anything of that sort around here,” said Benton, “but, then, we haven’t been looking for it, either. We’ll have to keep our eyes open. Still, I don’t see how that thing yesterday could have been due to anything of the sort. It’s simply inexplicable, so far as I can see. Will you take the crew out to-day, Mr. Merriwell, and see what you make of it?”
“Yes,” said Dick. “We’ll take them out for a spin about eleven o’clock. Who’s this?”
There was a sudden put-put, and around the bend in the river a motor boat came puffing along.
“That’s the John Harvard,” said Hargreaves. “There’s Neilson in the bow. Coming to make a call, I guess. Nice chap, Neilson. Pity he went to Harvard.”
Neilson, the Harvard coach, hailed them from the bow of the Harvard coaching launch.
“Hello, Merriwell,” he said. “Glad to see you. I see you’ve put it up to us to score over Yale this spring. Good work—though I’m sorry, of course, that Harvard couldn’t have won the game. I came to see if one of you coaches didn’t want to go out and watch our time row this morning. Plenty of room in the launch—and we’re pretty tired, at Red Top, of all this secrecy about practice.”
“Thanks,” said the Yale coaches, in unison.
“Benton,” said Dick, “suppose you go along? I’ve got to get a look at our own crew, Neilson, or I’d accept for myself. I’ll be glad to take one of your fellows out in the Elihu Yale if any of you care to come.”
“All right,” said Neilson, “I’ll send Thompson. Don’t feel you have to reciprocate—but I think this work of trying to conceal times and all that sort of thing is rot. It doesn’t fool any one, anyhow.”
“I’m with you there,” said Dick.
So Benton got into the John Harvard, and Thompson, one of the younger Harvard coaches, jumped ashore, and took his place in the Yale coaching launch half an hour later.
“Varsity and freshmen out!” called Dick, and the sixteen oarsmen, lifting their shells shoulder high, soon had them in the water, and took their places in the frail skiffs that were to carry them in the races.
“They’re a good-looking lot, Merriwell,” said Thompson, as he inspected the two crews critically.
They pulled slowly out from the float into deep water, obeying the orders of the coxswains, and then, at a word from Dick, swung out, with a long, powerful stroke, across the river, to the starting point on the opposite shore, close to the bank.
“Got a watch?” Merriwell asked Thompson, and lent him his own stop watch when he found that the Harvard man was not provided with a split-second timepiece.
“I’m going to give them a brush for a couple of miles,” said Dick, “and I want some sort of a rough idea of their time. If it isn’t too much trouble, I’d like to have you keep tabs on them——”
“Glad of the chance,” said Thompson, grinning. “This isn’t much like old times. I remember when I was a freshman we had the most complicated system of spies for getting times of your rows you ever saw. Used to have men stationed all along the bank, where we thought they couldn’t see us.”
Dick laughed, and then watched the two shells as they lined up.
“Ready, varsity?” he called. “Ready, freshmen? Ready all? Go!”
Sixteen oars met the water all at once, as it seemed, and in a moment the two shells were off. For a mile it was a pretty race. Then weight and experience told. The varsity drew steadily away from the freshman crew, and at the two-mile mark the big crew was a good two lengths in the lead.
“Ten forty-nine,” said Thompson, snapping his watch. “That’s good enough to beat us, Merriwell, and I don’t mind saying so. Murchison didn’t go above thirty-four to the minute at all, except for half a minute at the end.”
“I’m satisfied,” said Dick. “That’s a pretty good crew.”
He wondered more than ever what could have been the matter the day before. There had been no sign of any of the trouble that Benton and Hargreaves had spoken of. Thompson knew nothing of that, of course, and Dick saw no reason for telling him of it. He took the Harvard man down to Red Top in the launch, while the crew paddled back to quarters easily, and at the Harvard boathouse, he picked up Benton, who had been watching the Harvard trial.
“Well, what seems to be the matter?” asked Benton, who was laboring under some suppressed excitement.
“Not a thing,” said Dick. “They rowed like record breakers. I don’t see how the dickens there could have been all that trouble yesterday.”
“Well,” said Benton, “I’ve got another surprise for you. That Harvard crew was up against exactly the same sort of trouble to-day that we were yesterday. They rowed beautifully, but their boat just naturally stood still between the strokes. It was bad in the first two miles. Then, in the third, they got better, but toward the end it was simply rotten. Neilson was half wild. He couldn’t make it out at all. It’s enough to give you the willies. If they had done any bad rowing, I could understand it. But it was just the same as with us. Their rowing was simply perfect.”
The two coaches looked at each other hard, without speaking for a minute. They were both thoroughly experienced oarsmen, but the experiences of the two crews was something that nothing they had ever seen enabled them to account for.
“There’s something funny going on here,” said Dick, a worried frown between his brows. “I can’t see any light now, but I’m going to keep on looking until I do. It’s the strangest thing I ever heard of in my whole experience as an oarsman—and that extends over several years.”
WHAT THE BETTING SHOWED.
The astonishing result of the public time trials of the two crews that were to meet in the great four-mile race on the Thames on Thursday soon had its effect on the supporters of the rival colleges. New London was already tilling up, and, while the students at Yale and Harvard did little betting themselves, a great deal of wagering was recorded by others less directly interested in the outcome.
Trains from New York brought up graduates, who were anxious to back the crew of their own college, but, with all conditions pointing to a Harvard defeat by a crushing margin, even the most loyal Harvard men were chary of betting. They were willing to back their own crew, but to bet after such an exhibition of slow running as the Harvard crew had given, looked like throwing money away. Yale men, on the other hand, were naturally eager to bet, and they offered odds with the utmost liberality, feeling that they were justified in giving any sort of inducements.
On Sunday afternoon a number of visitors appeared both at Red Top and Gale’s Ferry. There was to be no work for the oarsmen, and parties were made up from both camps for sails on the sound; invitations enough to take care of twice as many men as were present, having come from the graduates, whose yachts were at anchor in the harbor.
At Gale’s Ferry, Dick Merriwell, still puzzled by what he and Benton had seen, was delighted at the arrival of Jim Phillips and big Bill Brady. Jim looked as if he had been resting for a month; and Dick, who had feared that the pitcher might suffer some bad effects from the terrible experience he had undergone while he was locked in the freight car, was much relieved.
“I’ve been feeding him up, Mr. Merriwell,” said Brady, with a grin. “His appetite is all right—I can testify to that. We’re gentlemen of leisure now—come up for a loaf, and we want to watch these oarsmen do the work.”
“All through work for the season, Bill?” asked Dick, with a smile. “How about you, Jim?”
“Oh, I’ll take a hand if there’s a good game in sight, any time,” said Jim. “But it’s a relief to have the strain of that championship over. I’ll admit that.”
“How about the weights, Brady?” asked Dick. “Have you ever thrown the hammer?”
“Gee!” said Brady, looking alarmed, “I thought I could make people forget that. Yes, I used to throw the twelve-pound hammer a little when I was in school. But I’ve never tried the sixteen-pound thing.”
“Well,” said Dick, looking a little maliciously at the big catcher, “they’re very anxious for weight throwers on the team for the Olympic games. In fact, the committee’s in rather a hole for men for several events. Some of the big men can’t manage to get away, and some of those who were counted on find that they have gone off a good deal since that last meet in London. So it looks as if a good many of us who hadn’t thought much about it will have a chance to go to Sweden after all.”
“Count me out of that,” said Brady positively. “I’m going up to my dad’s cottage on the Maine coast and just loaf all summer. The responsibility of helping to look after Jim Phillips all spring has worn me to a frazzle. I’m losing weight; I can’t sleep; and, in fact, I’m just being wasted away to a shadow.”
Every one laughed except Woeful Watson, who had appeared, and now stood, looking sadly at Brady.
“What’s the matter with you?” asked Brady, with assumed fierceness, and staring savagely at his classmate.
“You are thinner, and that’s a fact,” said Watson seriously. “You want to look out, Bill. It’s the big, husky chaps like you that find it hardest to recover if they manage to get sick in some fashion. I’m just warning you for your own good.”
“Stung!” cried Jack Tempest, who had come up with them from New Haven. Jack had won the intercollegiate championship in both the sprints, and the ten points he had thus gathered had done much toward making it possible for Yale to round out a great athletic year by winning the meet in which colleges from all over the United States take part. Also, he was picked in advance as a sure selection for the American Olympic team, since no sprinter was in sight who had a chance to beat him in either the hundred-yard or the two-hundred-and-twenty-yard dashes.
“You’re stung, Bill,” said Tempest, again. “Old Watson here has called the turn on you. We’ll have to start feeding you up on cod-liver oil, eh, fellows?”
There is strength in numbers. Bill Brady was a match, and more than a match, for any man in Yale in a single-handed combat, but the combined efforts of a dozen of the men who were gathered around him on the float soon subdued him, and, to the vociferous delight of all present, the big catcher was forced to swallow a great spoonful of the cod-liver oil which some one found in the training quarters. It was a medicine Bill had particularly hated since his childhood, and he emerged, choking and gasping for breath, when his captors finally decided the joke had gone far enough.
“I’ll get even with some of you fellows for that,” he promised, when he had rinsed his mouth out with fresh water and felt a little better. But he could appreciate a joke, even when he was its victim, and he dearly loved to play them on others.
“I met a Harvard man in town,” said Tempest presently, “and we had a little argument about the crews. He seems to think they’ve got a chance, even after that trial this morning, but he wouldn’t bet until I gave him three to one. At that I understand that the professionals were offering as much as that, and, in some large bets, five to one. That was at the Iroquois House. That’s where they’re all gathered. I’ve got a fine room there with Harry Maxwell. Only eight dollars a day—regular rates, too. That’s not so bad, though. If you waited until Wednesday night, you’d be lucky to get a chance to sleep in the billiard room, on top of a pool table.”
“I reserved a room for Brady and myself three weeks ago,” said Jim Phillips, “and there weren’t many left, even then. I think that’s pretty reckless betting, Jack. Three to one, on a boat race, is plain foolishness. There’s too many things that might happen.”
“If you ask me,” said Woeful Watson, “those Harvard fellows were just rowing under a pull this morning, with the idea of sending the odds up a bit. They’ve done better than that, and they’ll do it again in the race. I’ve heard of things like that before. My idea is that we’ll be pretty lucky to beat them at all.”
Dick Merriwell was doing a lot of thinking just then, and had no part in the conversation. But he heard Watson’s prophecy, as well as the howl of derision that greeted it from the others, and he was struck by the possibility that the class pessimist might be right. He found it almost impossible to take the things he had seen with his own eyes seriously, for he knew that eight men, rowing as those Harvard men had done, should have been nearly two minutes faster over the course than they had actually been. It was not possible to deceive Dick, or any other man who knew as much about rowing as he did, about the pace that certain efforts should give.
He wandered off to see Benton, and found that his aid agreed fully with him.
“I don’t see how there can be anything in the idea that they were holding back,” said Benton. “We could see the way they were rowing, and you know as well as I, Mr. Merriwell, or, probably, a good deal better, that they were doing everything in the best possible way. That’s the best Harvard crew I ever saw on the river here. It’s been better coached and has learned more about rowing than any Harvard crew I’ve ever seen. They hardly ever expect to win that race with Cornell that they row on Decoration Day, because they’re never coached for a two-mile race, and their condition for practice don’t touch those that Courtney has up at Ithaca. But I saw the race this year. The Charles was rotten that day—for them, but it might have been made to order for Cornell. And still Harvard won only by about half a length. There’s something funny going on, and I’d like to know what it is.”
“I’d think less of it except for what you told me about our own crew’s work on Saturday,” said Dick. “No one much knows about that, and I’m just as glad. It gives us a chance to investigate quietly, if that seems to be necessary. Neilson invited me to go out with him again to-morrow morning, and see what his fellows do, and I guess I’ll take him up this time. I’ll leave the practice to you. If there’s anything queer afoot, I’ll stake my word on it that Neilson hasn’t anything to do with it, nor any one else officially connected with the Harvard crew. They’re good sportsmen, and I think they’d rather lose the race than sanction anything that wasn’t absolutely square.”
“I agree with you there,” said Benton. “Neilson’s all right, and I happen to know that he doesn’t believe at all in betting on college sports. I think it’s something that ought to be stopped, myself—among the students, at least. Of course, there’s no way of controlling alumni and outsiders. You can ask them not to bet, but if the anti-gambling laws of three States won’t stop them, I guess it would be pretty hard for us to do it.”
“Betting will spoil any sport that it gets a hold on,” said Dick. “It’s ruined horse racing, so that now they have to quit the racing when they can’t bet, and it would have ruined professional baseball if the leagues hadn’t united to make it impossible for the betting to be done in the baseball parks. I’m very much afraid that there’s something crooked afoot here, but I can’t make out yet what they’re driving at. However, we’ll find, I think, that betting’s at the bottom of it, if anything of the sort is going on.”
PICKING UP THE TRAIL.
That night, after the oarsmen had returned, Dick Merriwell made an inspection of the whole course of the race. In the Elihu Yale with him were the two assistants, Benton and Hargreaves, and Jim Phillips and Bill Brady. Dick, after a little debate, had told the two baseball players, now become juniors, of what had happened, and of his suspicions, vague as yet, but well fixed in his mind.
“I don’t know what we’re looking for,” he said, as they started out, “and, frankly, I hardly expect to find it to-night. But sometimes, if you go over ground that is likely to contain a clew, even if you have no notion of what that clew may be, you will hit upon something helpful—get into the spirit of your search, so to speak. That’s why I suggested this trip.”
First the launch ran swiftly down the river to the railroad bridge. There Dick, who was at the wheel, started to spin around to go over the course slowly, but Bill Brady called on them to listen.
“Something doing on one of those yachts,” he said. “Funny sort of a crowd to be here.”
The pop of corks and the sound of voices raised in song came over the water. It was a strange affair for that place and on that night. There were family parties, for the most part, on the yachts, and, even though one of them were made up of men alone, Dick thought it unlikely that any men from either Harvard or Yale were likely to disturb the peace of their neighbors in such a fashion.
“Suppose we run down and see what vessel it is that’s making all the trouble,” he said quietly. “It may seem like eavesdropping, but if they’re all right, there’ll be no harm done, and we can sheer off again.”
There was no protest against this suggestion. A sudden tense feeling had come over all the men in the swift power launch. They felt that they might be in a fair way to stumble thus by accident on some hint that would help to clear up the mystery that was oppressing them all.
Sounds carry far over water, especially at night, when quiet reigns. In New London there are a number of saloons and low drinking places near the waterside, and from some of these there came noises that were a good deal like those that had already attracted the attention of those in the launch. For a moment, indeed, after they shot through the arches of the bridge and hung on the black water—for there was no moon—Dick thought that they might have been mistaken. But then there came again, and unmistakably this time from the water, a burst of revelry, and the motor was started again. It took a few minutes to locate the vessel, which was explained, when, as they stole up to within a cable’s length of her, by the fact that she showed only anchor lights.
It was the Marina from which the noise came. Once they were near her, there could be no mistake about that. But, probably with the idea of making it hard for any one who became interested in the din to locate it, her cabin lights were masked by tightly drawn curtains, and she looked, as she lay there, swinging easily with the tide, as if her whole complement, passengers and crew, had turned in. Which was far from being the case.
On board the Marina there was a sharp division. One party, with Svenson—whose tremendous capacity to punish wine and liquor would have served to explain one reason why so competent a navigator had had to lower himself to mix up with those whose plans were, to say the least of it, shady—at its head, filled the cabin, drinking, singing, laughing, and generally enjoying itself. Prominent, too, in this choice company, was Dennison, whose money was being used for the wagers on which his associates expected to clear such a handsome profit.
But on the deck, entirely sober, and very thoughtful, were two men who had other things to do than befuddle their minds with drink. One was Harding, the notorious gambler who had so often tried to ruin Dick Merriwell and his friends; the other was the one whose brains were responsible for the present enterprise: Barrows, who had lost his chief means of livelihood with the closing of the race tracks around New York, after gambling was forbidden by law.
“I don’t see why you don’t come in on this deal, Bill,” said Barrows, almost pleadingly. “It’s a sure thing. It simply can’t fail. And the pickings are immense. Those Yale men think they’ve got the race won already. They’re just counting the money they’re going to have to spend when the bets are settled, and we got down a thousand this afternoon at the Iroquois at four to one. It’s as safe as a government bond.”
“Keep it all to yourself, old top,” said Harding, with a sneer. “I know the man you’re bucking better than you do. He’s a tough nut, and you need to be almighty slick to put anything over on him. You’re all right yourself. I wouldn’t want a better partner. But that gang you’ve picked up is the other side of the limit. Take Dennison, for instance—a weak-minded, white-livered sneak, who would turn on you and quit the first time there was a sign of danger. Svenson’s all right—if he’s sober. The rest don’t count. They’ll do what they’re told, or you wouldn’t have picked them out for this job. Mind, I’m not criticizing you. You’re doing the best you can, and in nine cases out of every ten, I’d expect your scheme to work out according to your own schedule. But listen to them now—letting the whole harbor know there’s something off color about this boat. That’s where you take your big chance.”
In the launch that was hovering near, protected from ready sight from the Marina’s deck by the shadow of a great steam yacht in which it lay, nothing that was said aboard the schooner could be heard. But the murmur of voices from her deck was plain enough to the trained ear of Dick Merriwell, well used to letting nothing escape his hearing when there was a chance that it might prove well for him to hear it. And the fact that he was almost sure that he recognized the voice—of one of those who were doing the murmuring—as that of Bill Harding, quite dispelled any feeling Dick might have had against listening.
But Dick, at that distance, could not be sure that it was Harding’s voice—much less could he make out the actual words that passed between the two on the schooner. And the mere fact that there were men on her deck was sufficient reason for not venturing any closer.
“That sounds like Harding,” said Jim Phillips, much excited, after they had waited in silence for a few minutes.
“Jove, yes!” said Brady, listening again. “That would sort of justify a few little suspicions, wouldn’t it? It seems to me that whenever Harding comes in sight, it’s a good idea to lie low and keep your eyes and ears open.”
“Some one is going ashore from that boat pretty soon,” said Dick Merriwell. He had made out, bobbing up and down by the gangway of the Marina, a small boat, evidently used by some one who had come out to pay the schooner a visit. “Suppose we just wait here and see who it is.”
They had not long to wait. They heard a shout on the Marina’s deck, and a few minutes later two figures climbed down the gangway, and got into the small boat Dick had seen, which then began put-putting for the landing stage near the station.
“I want to get an eye on that fellow,” said Dick. “But we can’t get ashore at that landing without his seeing us. I’m going to run in on the other side of the pier—I think a man can jump ashore there. Then, Jim, if you’ll do it, you could easily find out about this fellow who’s been out there. Get a good description of him fixed in your mind if you don’t know him. But I’ve got a hunch myself that it’s Harding.”
Jim agreed to this suggestion, and, two minutes later, leaped nimbly ashore, and ran around to where he could get an unobstructed view of the arrival of the launch, and the disembarkation of her passenger. He was to go on to his hotel after that, leaving the rest of the party to carry out the original plan of an inspection of the course, but he and Dick arranged a code of signals between them. Jim was an expert in imitating the calls of birds and animals, and they agreed that the call of an owl was unlikely to arouse suspicion. If it was not Harding, that was to be the signal. If Dick’s guess turned out to be right, Jim was to give an imitation of the cry of a prowling cat. These details arranged, the launch bore out into the stream again, and lay, quietly, waiting for the signal.
It came, after a delay of perhaps five minutes, which seemed endless to those in the launch. Like the wail of a lost soul was the cat’s howl that Jim emitted, and they all laughed.
“I thought so,” said Dick Merriwell, with a sigh. “Well, Harding has tried to put a number of things over lately, and hasn’t succeeded very well. I don’t know just what his game is this time, but there’s one thing: forewarned is forearmed. I’ll have to get time to talk this over with Neilson. It’s morally certain that some sort of an attempt is being made to tamper with the odds on this race, and there’s no telling what may not be done to interfere with the race itself.”
“They can’t do anything there, I guess,” said Benton. “In the first place, the course is well guarded. In the second, unless they got at some man in one shell or the other, I don’t see what they could hope to accomplish, anyhow.”
“They’ve accomplished something already, with both crews,” said Dick gravely. “That’s proof enough that they’ve got something dangerous up their sleeves. And the mere fact that they’ve done their best to make Harvard’s chances look as poor as possible, looks as if they wanted Harvard to win. The longer the odds, the bigger their winning will be if they bet on Harvard to beat us when every one else wants to bet the other way. I think that’s the nigger in the woodpile just now.”
“I’ll admit that those two practices are rather puzzling,” said Benton, “but I’m by no means sure yet that the whole thing wasn’t accidental. There might have been something wrong with both the crews that would cause a poor showing. They may be a little bit stale and overworked—they usually are, in fact, at this stage of the game. But that doesn’t mean they won’t pick up. In fact, our fellows showed they were all right this morning in that trial.”
The launch was picking its way gently up the river now, and, once past the navy yard, Dick began looking attentively about him.
The race, owing to tidal conditions, was that year to be rowed upstream, at six o’clock in the evening. With that arrangement of the course, the shells get over almost directly under the wooded western shore of the Thames after passing the navy yard, and the finish of the race is almost opposite Gale’s Ferry.
Dick, as they passed along, noted carefully every house or cottage on that side of the river. There were not many, but he had them all mapped in his mind before they had gone very far. He could not rid his head of the notion that there was danger of some outside interference on the day of the race, almost impossible though he knew such interference to be, and he plied Benton and Hargreaves with continuous questions when he himself did not at once recognize a house, or had forgotten who owned it or lived in it.
But, beyond the knowledge that Harding was in New London, and a renewal of his old-time familiarity with the course, Dick accomplished little by his trip that was evident to his companions, who were beginning to get sleepy. He himself, however, was well satisfied. He had seen a number of things, and he had drawn deductions from some of them that would have surprised both Barrows and his own friends and associates.
A TWO-SIDED TRAP.
Carefully as the arrangement for discovering who the belated visitor to the Marina was had been carried out, it had not served to prevent Harding from learning that some one was interested in his movements. An honest man would probably have been deceived. Knowing that he had nothing to conceal, he would have thought little of the sudden appearance of a launch just as his own boat approached the landing stage. But Harding, who was so used to treading lightly and avoiding exposure, was disturbed, even though he knew that he had done nothing of late for which the law could lay hands on him.
In fact, Harding seldom ventured on any step that rendered him liable to arrest and trial. If a man is a great enough rascal, and a clever enough one, he can usually find means of cheating his fellows that are within the law. He cannot keep that sort of thing up indefinitely; for, as his misdeeds increase, his reputation leaves him, and honest men come to know him as a cheat and a scoundrel, with whom it is unsafe to have dealings if they do not want to be defrauded.
So the men who begin by preying on others with safety for themselves, find, presently, that they have to break the law to ensnare the victims necessary to give them the money they think they must have. Harding was in this class. But, except in New York, where his enormous political influence made him safe, he had never yet put himself within actual reach of the law.
That was the real reason for his refusal to join Barrows in this enterprise. He was ready to admit that it looked safe, and it was obvious that if it were successful, the profits would be great. But Harding, who had once enjoyed political favors in Connecticut almost as great as those extended to him in New York, no longer had any “pull” in that State. His father, long the boss of New Haven, was dying in an insane asylum, and Harding was afraid to risk an encounter with the New London police, always on the alert at the boat-race time.
Moreover, he knew that the police department in New York had lent the New London department a couple of detectives, expert in the recognition and detention of notorious pickpockets, since a flood of these crooks always went about the country, gathering wherever great crowds and a rich harvest were to be expected. In the city these detectives had to let Harding alone, for they knew that his political power was enough to make them lose their jobs if they angered him; but in New London he would be at their mercy.
He had no idea of who was in the launch that he had seen, but he knew enough of Dick Merriwell to leap instantly to the idea that the universal coach might already have suspected something. In fact, he had lectured Barrows sharply for giving Merriwell reason to be suspicious at all, and had told him plainly that he was likely to regret the greediness that had inspired the effort to make the odds on Yale mount so high.
He was not deceived at all by the cry with which Jim Phillips announced his discovery to those waiting off shore in the launch, but understood the maneuver at once.
“Pretty clever,” he said, to himself. “It’s just as well I’m out of this. But I don’t mind pushing Barrows’ game along for him a bit. I’ll get all the money away from him later, anyhow.”
He walked away from the dock with firm footsteps, as if he had no suspicion at all that he was being watched. But as soon as he turned the first corner, he stopped. He beat time with his feet, so that any one who was trailing his footsteps might think that he was still walking on; and then, after giving his pursuer time to come up to the corner, dashed around it. A cry of triumph burst from his lips, which changed to a snarl of hatred as soon as he recognized Jim Phillips.
“It’s you, is it?” he snarled.
He looked swiftly around. There was no one in sight. It was a good chance to get some sort of revenge for the way in which Jim had beaten him in every past encounter. He sprang at the Yale baseball captain.
Jim was taken by surprise for the moment, and Harding, in his first swift rush, bore his lighter opponent down by sheer weight. But his advantage lasted only for a moment. Harding was strong, but he was self-indulgent, and took no care of his really fine body, smoking and drinking as much as he liked, and it took only a couple of minutes for Jim to reduce him to complete submission.
“I thought you’d have enough, Harding,” said Jim, panting a little, but quite unhurt, and completely master of the situation. “What did you expect to gain by attacking me in that fashion?”
“I wanted to give you the thrashing that’s coming to you,” said Harding viciously. “You’ll get it some day, never fear, even if you’ve escaped now. Let me up. I won’t try to hurt you now.”
“I know you won’t,” said Jim cheerfully, releasing him, and dusting himself off with absolute unconcern. “You know you can’t—that’s the reason. You’d better clear out of town, Harding, now that we know you’re here. You can’t accomplish anything, with the watch we’ve put on you, and I warn you that the next time you get caught in one of your conspiracies, you won’t get off so easily as you have in the past. Mr. Merriwell is a patient man, but you’ve tried him too far.”
“I’m not afraid of Merriwell or you, either,” said Harding, with a coarse laugh. “You’re four-flushers, both of you. But you can’t bluff me out. You haven’t got anything on me, and you never will have, that will do you any good in a court, and you know it as well as I do.”
“Well,” said a new voice, “I don’t know about that. Assault and battery isn’t a hanging offense, of course, but I guess they’d send you to jail for ten days or so, even at that. And you wouldn’t like that, you know.”
Harding’s first instinct was to run away. But he didn’t obey that instinct. The reason was that the hand of big Bill Brady was firmly fixed in his coat collar, and that he couldn’t have got away if he had been even stronger than he was.
“Where did you spring from, Bill?” asked Jim, in great surprise.
Harding was speechless with rage and astonishment. He was fairly trapped.
“Oh, I just thought I’d drop around,” said Brady, who was enjoying himself hugely. “I thought, perhaps, our little friend here might not be alone, and I didn’t want you to get hurt, Jim. I got here just in time to see him rush you. You settled him rather nicely, I thought. Know where the town lock-up is?”
“Oh, I say,” protested Harding, with a whine, “you’re not going to press a charge against me, are you? I’m not doing any harm. I’m just here to look on this time.”
“If you swore you had a broken leg, Harding,” said Bill Brady, amiably enough, “I wouldn’t believe you unless you brought a doctor along to testify to it. We sure do mean to press the charge. The inside of a jail is a darned sight too good for you, but I can’t think of anything that would please me more than to see you there for ten days or so. I’ll come and bring you nice, improving books to read, too, so that, when you come out, you’ll reform and decide to live a sober and virtuous life ever after; just the way the bad men do in the stories.”
Jim Phillips laughed openly. He could not help it. Brady was so obviously enjoying himself, and Harding was so evidently scared by the picture of himself in jail.
Harding was scared, as a matter of fact. Ten days in jail did not appeal to him particularly. If he could have served such a sentence under an assumed name, he wouldn’t have minded it so much. But he knew that if Brady carried out his threat, which he certainly had the power to do, the story would go all over the country, and that his friends and cronies would never be done laughing at the story of his discomfiture by two college boys.
His influence would be gone, for, once a man is laughed at, people are not likely to go on being afraid of him; and Harding knew this. He had a certain crowd of hangers-on, who at present admired him immensely, though the continual defeat of all his plans to undo Dick Merriwell had rather alienated some of his most loyal supporters.
“Oh, drop this,” he said finally. “What do you want me to do? It won’t do you fellows any good to make trouble for me here. I don’t believe you can do it, anyhow. But, even supposing you can, what object have you? There’s nothing in it for you. Tell me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it. That’ll be better for you than trying to get me sent to jail.”
The two Yale men looked at each other. Brady’s look was dubious; he was questioning Jim with his eyes, as he had so often done in a critical moment of a baseball game. And Jim nodded his head, as he used to do from the box when he approved of Brady’s signal for some particular ball.
“If we let you go,” said Brady, “will you promise to leave New London and stay away until the boat race is over? There’s a train down to New York in about half an hour. You’ll have to get off at the Harlem River, and take the elevated down, but I guess that’ll be better than the town jail here. They tell me that isn’t a very comfortable place—no private baths with the cells, and a very poor table for the boarders.”
“Sure I will,” said Harding. “You’ve got me where you want me, and I’d be a fool not to admit it. I’ll get you some time, but this isn’t the time, and I can see as far into a stone wall as the next fellow.”
Secretly, Harding was elated. He was not at all unwilling to quit New London. He had seen Barrows, and there was nothing to cause him to stay. Moreover, he saw that the two Yale men thought that he was at the head of whatever plot they thought was stirring, and he saw a chance to throw them off their guard, and, through them, to remove any suspicions that Dick Merriwell had formed. Altogether, he decided, the luck had turned. So long as he got his revenge, he didn’t care at all whether he got it himself or whether some one else did the work. It was the result, not the method, that interested him.
So they saw him off, and got a mocking laugh as the train went out.
CAPTURED BY THE ENEMY.
“I think we’ve checkmated that lad for once,” said Bill Brady, with much satisfaction. “Good thing I thought to come ashore and see what happened. Not that you needed any help—you’re a pretty handy lad in a scrap, James. But if I hadn’t been on hand, there wouldn’t have been any witness to the assault, and I don’t suppose we could have had him arrested just on your complaint, without some sort of evidence to back you up.”
“I guess not,” said Jim. “I’m certainly glad you came along. I can’t make out what his game is, but I don’t believe he can do much of anything without being here himself. And, if he comes back, we can have him locked up and get rid of him that way. We want to keep our eyes open, though, so that he can’t sneak back without our seeing him.”
In the morning they reported their adventure with Harding to Dick Merriwell. The universal coach was thoughtful, but he was very pleased.
“It seems to me he quit too easily,” he said. “Harding usually puts up a pretty good fight—a better, longer one than that. However, I suppose he thought it would rather spoil his reputation among his friends, who have peculiar standards for judging their associates, if he landed in jail, even on such a charge. The only law those people observe is the one about not being found out. They don’t mind breaking all the Ten Commandments themselves, and they don’t care how often their friends break them, as long as they don’t give any one else a chance to punish them for it. I’m glad he’s gone, anyhow.”
“We ought to be able to tell something after the men get out and row to-day,” said Brady. “I understand, of course, that there won’t be any regular time trials, but the shells could speed up a bit, I suppose, and see how it went.”
That test was eminently satisfactory for both Harvard and Yale. There was a representative from each college in the other’s launch when the crews went out, and the shells swept along at high speed for a while or so of hard rowing, enough to show that whatever had made the trouble before was not any longer in evidence.
“If it is over,” said Dick Merriwell, to Benton, “it’s certainly a good thing. I don’t think it’s worth while, as matters are now, to say anything to Harvard about it. There’s really nothing we can tell them, except a lot of vague suspicions, and, even to explain those, we’d have to go into a lot of ancient history that it’s better not to mention at all.”
Benton was still doubtful. He knew the methods of Harding of old, and, like Dick himself, he was inclined to think that the gambler had surrendered too easily.
“We haven’t accounted for it having happened at all yet,” said Benton nervously. “If it’s happened once, it may happen again. That’s the rub. If we knew exactly what had been done, and how they had managed it, we could guard against anything of the sort in the future. As it is, we are helpless. It’s as plain as daylight. If some one, outside of the boat, and outside of the two training camps, can affect the speed of those shells, so that no matter how well the men row they can’t get the speed out of the boats, that race can be settled just as the man who’s doing the dirty work likes. And the profitable thing for any one of that sort to do would be to make Harvard win. The heavy betting, at long odds, is all on Yale.”
“You’re right there, Benton,” said Dick anxiously. “But I don’t see just what we can do. You see, the trouble is that we haven’t got the slightest sort of a clew to what agency they’re employing to check our speed. I’ve been over every foot of our shell, and, if I thought it would do any good, I’d tell Neilson, and examine the Harvard boat with him.
“But, unless they show their hands a bit more openly than they have done, I’m afraid we’re doomed to trust to luck and the fact that Harding had to leave town. It’s certainly a good thing that Phillips and Brady got rid of him. Even if he still tries to carry out any plot, he’ll have to trust to his assistants to do the work, and they’re not at all likely to be as clever as he is himself.”
But in all that day and the next there was no sign of any further activity. Even the betting in New London fell away. The Harvard men were by no means ready to put up their good cash when, as they were convinced, their boat had no chance of winning, and the activity of the gamblers who had infested the place, seizing at once the chance to cover the bets at long odds, which enthusiastic Yale men offered, was apparently at an end.
On Tuesday night, too, Brady learned something that reassured him mightily. He was in the lobby of the Iroquois when he saw a familiar face, that led him to sit up and take notice. It was Barnes, Harding’s agent and companion in two or three nefarious plots that had come to nothing. But Barnes, though he had a big wad of money, was not trying to bet on Harvard. Instead, he was offering liberal odds on Yale, and finding it hard to get any takers.
“Hedging their bets,” commented Brady, to himself. “They must have made up their minds that they can’t work their scheme, and they’re trying to make sure that they won’t lose, by betting enough on Yale to offset their losses if Yale wins a square race—which we probably would. I bet he’ll find it hard to cover, too, even if he does offer to bet five to one.”
This was, as a matter of fact, the most convincing evidence that had yet been obtained as to the probable course of Harding and any allies he might have, and Dick Merriwell was almost satisfied.
“That certainly looks as if Harding had decided to keep his hands off this time,” he said. “But I would certainly like to find out just what they were up to. And, by the way, Bill, have you noticed that that big schooner, the Marina, that Harding was going ashore from when we spotted him, is still in the harbor? We know that he had friends aboard her. And I must confess that the fact that they are still around New London makes me feel uneasy. Harding is a dangerous customer. I think we ought to make sure that he’s not on board of her now. He might have managed to sneak back in the dark, or even have come in on a small boat of some sort, without being observed.”
Brady saw the possibility of that.
“We might try a little search party,” he said. “If it’s cloudy to-night, as seems likely, we might be able to get hold of some pretty valuable information without their knowing we were anywhere near them. It’s worth trying, it seems to me, anyhow.”
So, late that night, after all the oarsmen at quarters were in bed, and, presumably, asleep, Dick Merriwell, Bill Brady, Benton, and Jim Phillips in the Elihu Yale, slipped quietly away from Gale’s Ferry, and went silently down the river, to where the black bulk of the Marina loomed up ominously at her mooring, below the railway bridge, and in the very heart of a fleet of pretty white yachts that formed a sharp contrast to the dingy, slovenly craft that was such a fitting setting for the dark deeds that were being planned by Barrows, Svenson, and their associates.
Hargreaves had been indignant when he was told that he was not to be one of the party, but Dick had persuaded him to stay behind.
“We’re going to try to clear up this whole mess to-night,” Dick told him, “and there’s no telling what sort of trouble we may run into before we get through with it. The crew has got to row Harvard the day after to-morrow, you know, whatever happens, and some one has got to stay with them and take charge. I’ve picked you for that because you’re older than Benton, and understand what’s needed better than he, not because I think there’s any choice between you if it comes to trouble. So that’s your part of the job.”
Hargreaves was a good coach, in the making, and he saw the wisdom of what his superior said. Before a man can enforce discipline and induce others to obey his orders, he must submit to the orders of those above him, and Hargreaves, though he was bitterly disappointed, stayed behind, and wished them “good luck” with a cheery wave of his hand as the Elihu Yale slipped quietly off through the dark water, on the errand that they all hoped would solve the perplexing mystery that had bothered them so much.
Only the harbor lights showed on the Marina when the launch slowed down abreast of the schooner. Her sails were untidily furled, and there was no sign of a watch on deck. Moreover, this time, as they approached, there was the silence of the grave on board. No sounds of revelry came from the dark cabin, and there was no boat alongside. The whole fleet was wrapped in silence and in darkness, for it was after midnight. The parties on the other vessels had long since come away from whatever festivities they had been attending on shore, and, as they looked over to Point Griswold and Pequot Cove on the other side, there were only a few scattered lights to be seen in the cottages, where tired youngsters, already keyed up to concert pitch in anticipation of the great spectacle of Thursday, were getting ready for bed.
“It’s too quiet,” whispered Merriwell to Brady and Benton. They were in the stern, and Jim Phillips, with sharp eyes peeled, was in the bow. “It’s too quiet,” Dick repeated. “I have a feeling that these people on the Marina aren’t as sound asleep as they want us to think. They may try to spring something on us.”
“I’m going aboard her,” Dick said, when the Elihu Yale finally touched gently the black side of the schooner. “You can come along, Jim. Benton, you and Brady stand by in the launch and be ready to make a quick start if you see us coming. You can tell better what to do, if anything goes wrong, after it’s happened. There’s no use making plans now, because they wouldn’t be a bit likely to fit whatever happened.”
And a moment later, his feet cased in rubber shoes that made no sound, he swung himself lightly up the rope ladder that dangled from the Marina’s side, and, with Jim at his heels, dropped lightly to her deck.
They looked around at the litter that covered the deck, hoping to find some clew, but there was nothing to be seen. The only thing at all out of the ordinary was the sight of three small motor boats, lashed insecurely to the deck, a surprisingly large number of tenders for any yacht, and especially for one of the size of the Marina. There was a big whale boat, too, and Dick, looking into her, saw that she was equipped with an engine. That boat alone would have served amply as a lifeboat in case of any accident to the vessel. She was big enough to carry a dozen men comfortably, and Dick thought it most unlikely that the Marina would have a larger crew. She was an easy vessel to handle, and, knowing what he did of Svenson, Dick thought that the mess on her decks indicated that she was very short-handed.
Jim was peering into the little motor boats, while Dick examined the whaleboat.
“Look here,” he said, holding up a coil of wire that he had found in one of them. “What do you suppose this is?”
Dick looked at it curiously. The wire was very thin, and was wrapped around a core of some solid metal.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Queer-looking thing to have in a boat like that. Looks like a regular coil—but I don’t see what it’s used for.”
They looked in the other motor boats, and each was similarly equipped. Otherwise they were very ordinary boats of their type.
Suddenly, from above, a flash of blue flame attracted their attention, and in the same moment a crashing splutter of sound assailed their ears.
“Wireless!” cried Dick, and Jim, all attention, listened intently to the crashing of the heavy spark. They had not noticed a wireless installation on the vessel before.
“Specially tuned,” said Jim, as he listened. “Marconi and United Stations wouldn’t catch that spark at all—not so they could read it. It would mess up their receiving if they were in the right area, but that’s all. Some one’s calling this tub, too. I can read the call—Ma, Ma, Ma.”
“Look out,” called Dick sharply. “They’re coming up to answer.”
There was a rush of feet from below.
The two Yale men made for the side, where the two they had left in the launch were looking up anxiously.
“Get into the launch and away,” whispered Jim, “I’m going to drop into the water and listen to whatever message they get. I can read that stuff if I can hear it. I’ll swim toward shore when they get through, and you can pick me up. It’ll be better if they don’t know we’re here.”
He dropped silently over the side and into the water as the launch stole away, her engine muffled, so that no one should hear her. And then, supporting himself in the cold water by hanging to a rope, while he kicked off his shoes and rid himself of his coat, Jim stayed under the Marina’s side and listened to the crashing of the wireless spark while a message from Harding to Barrows—a name unknown to Jim—was received.
Shivering in the water, which was far from warm, though not so cold as it would have been had the tide been coming in instead of going out, as he reflected, Jim grasped the sense of the message. Fortunately for him, the senders had relied on the tuning of the wireless apparatus on the Marina for secrecy, and the message was sent in plain English, although, of course, in Morse.
When a wireless message is sent through the air, the pitch may be determined at the sending station. The principle is the same as that of tuning a violin. In an orchestra, all the violins are tuned to the same pitch, or else discord is the result. It is the same with wireless. All regular, legitimate stations are attuned to the same pitch, so that each can receive any message sent by any of the others. For their own evil purposes, the owners of the Marina and those who were sending the message had chosen a different pitch.
“Tell Barrows,” the message ran, as Jim spelled it out, “Barnes betting on Yale to make Merriwell think O. K. Tell him to be careful—think chances for killing good. Can make big bet New York morning of race—will not then arouse suspicion. Know of Yale syndicate offering five thousand at five to two. Ask Barrows if he can cover.”
There was a moment of delay, while, as Jim supposed, the message was being translated to Barrows, whoever he might be. In the sudden silence, he heard sounds of activity on one of the near-by revenue cutters, and also the wash of the water against the Elihu Yale, which was not far away.
Cra-a-sh! The wireless was working again.
“Barrows says O. K. Thanks. Will cover Thursday a.m.”
Deep silence succeeded the roar of the wireless spark. It was broken only by low voices from the deck of the Marina, and the soft wash of the waves as the tide ran lazily out. Jim, making sure of his bearings, let go of his rope and began to swim as quietly as he could for the launch, where, he was sure, Dick and the others were anxiously waiting for him. But suddenly he found himself in the midst of a glare of white light. At the same moment, a cry arose from the deck of the schooner he was leaving behind—then not more than twenty feet behind him.
Jim realized at once that he was detected. An inopportune flash of the searchlight from the cutter, disturbed by the sound of the wireless, which did not make sense to her apparatus, had given him away. Even as the light winked away from him, he struck out vigorously, hoping to get to the launch, but in that instant a rope struck him, and, a noose, settling about his shoulders, he was dragged back through the water to the Marina and pulled up to her deck.
“What are you doing here—spying on us?” asked a man Jim had never seen before. It was Barrows. The gambler was furiously angry, and the glaring countenance of Svenson, who had been drinking, convinced Jim that he was, as Harry Maxwell would have said, “strictly up against it.”
But in the fact that he was unknown to Barrows lay his temporary salvation. Barrows himself would not in any case have sanctioned violence, but Svenson was of a different mold. The skipper, inflamed as he was with drink, might have perpetrated some great villainy had he known who Jim really was and what he had been about to tell Merriwell.
But Jim held his ground. He saw that Barrows was puzzled as well as angry.
“I fell overboard from a launch,” he said, “and I was trying to find a boat with some one on board awake when you picked me up. Would it be troubling you too much to ask you to put me on shore?”
Barrows hesitated a moment. He did not know what Jim might have heard. He knew that he had been incautious in talking to Svenson—but Jim, as a matter of fact, had heard nothing of that. The gambler finally decided to treat Jim pleasantly, for the moment, at least.
“You’d better stay with us till morning,” he said. “I can’t very conveniently put you ashore now—and you’d better turn in, anyhow, after your ducking, with a hot whisky, and get between some blankets. I’ll show you to a cabin.”
There was no fault to be found with the man’s manner. It seemed pleasant and hospitable. Jim thought, too, that he might, if he stayed aboard, get some more valuable information. But he wished there was some way in which he could get word of his safety to his friends. However, there was no help for it. He went below, and found himself in a roomy cabin, practically a prisoner.
He had to laugh, however, as he thought of the expressions that had chased themselves over the face of Barrows as he stood looking at him. He gave little heed to Svenson, estimating, and rightly, that the Scandinavian skipper’s interest in the affair was the use of his boat. Then he went to the window and looked out. And, stealing along, not far away, he saw the Elihu Yale, and Dick Merriwell’s anxious face. They had come to try to rescue him.
“I’m all right,” he called softly. “I’m going to stay here and see if I can’t find out what the game is. They don’t know who I am. Keep away—they may be keeping a watch now. I’ll get away without any trouble whenever I want to. Harding was bluffing—the wireless was from him. He isn’t in this—not directly.”
DISCOVERY—AND AN ESCAPE.
Jim wondered, when he awoke in the morning, if they would really let him go ashore. He thought it unlikely, and yet, he decided, Barrows might well hesitate at showing his hand, which an effort to detain him against his will would surely require. Personally, Jim was not disposed to put up much of a fight against staying on board the Marina, for the present, at least, because he was decidedly anxious to learn everything there was to learn about the plot that menaced the success of Yale in the coming race. This was different from a baseball game, because the direct responsibility was not on his shoulders, and yet Jim felt that, so long as he had the chance, he was quite as much charged with the duty of bringing the victory to Yale as was Murchison or any other man on the crew.
He knew, too, that, even if Barrows had not recognized him, he could not be sure of escaping detection indefinitely. Anything he accomplished would have to be done quickly. If they found he was Jim Phillips, his chance of making a discovery would be gone, and, in addition, he was pretty certain to be detained securely until the race was over.
Harding might come back, though that seemed unlikely. But he knew that Barnes, who, of course, knew his face perfectly, was in New London, and would probably visit the Marina. Moreover, a good many newspapers had printed pictures of the famous Yale pitcher, and Jim, while he took little stock in such fame, realized that there must be some one on board able to recognize him as a result of these pictures, some of which had been excellent likenesses.
Barrows came to his room while it was still early, and brought with him Jim’s clothes, dried now, and ready for use, except for his coat, which was lost, of course, with his shoes. But the gambler offered a jersey as a substitute for the coat, and had found some canvas shoes, which Jim found were a sufficiently good fit, so that he was able to go on deck soon after the sun was up, and look around with genuine pleasure at the lovely sight. Two yachts, glistening white in the rays of the early sun, were steaming slowly in between the points, and the soft haze of the summer morning seemed to transfigure the whole scene.
Svenson, heavy-eyed, with the traces of a debauch the night before still plain on his face, greeted Jim with a surly nod, and the Yale man found that the three of them had the deck to themselves. The three small motor boats had gone from the deck, but one of them was still lying close to the Marina, and Jim, looking at her idly, and with pretended indifference, saw that the great coil he and Dick had seen was still there. But its position had been changed, and it was attached now, by delicate wires, to what looked like a big electric battery.
That gave Jim the shadow of a clew at once. He was no engineer, but he could see that the coil was part of a powerful electromagnet, and wondered why they had not guessed that the night before. That fitted in perfectly, too, with a theory that he and Bill Brady had evolved, which was, actually, though they did not know it, one of those on which Dick Merriwell had been basing his ideas.
“We’re not very shipshape,” said Barrows, “as you can see. But, the fact is, we’re very short-handed, and we weren’t expecting any visitor. So you’ll have to excuse all this mess about the decks. We’re not going to take the Marina up for the race. Svenson and I will go up in a small boat, and take our view that way. We couldn’t make the lane of yachts look any more picturesque, I’m afraid, and we can see just as well from a small boat. Now, we’d better have some breakfast. I’m afraid you’ll have to accept our hospitality until later in the day. But we’ll get a chance to put you ashore then.”
That was no more than Jim had expected. He had passed the first ordeal with flying colors. In the clear morning light, neither Barrows nor Svenson had recognized him, and he breathed a sigh of relief as they went below.
At the table, where they had an excellent breakfast, served by a Japanese steward, who had, it seemed, also cooked the meal, a good deal of constraint was noticeable. Jim was, naturally, somewhat nervous. He wanted to find out all he could, but he was also anxious to get away, and he wondered how he should manage it, if, after he had found out all he could, Barrows tried to keep him there. Svenson was surly and ungracious, eating like an animal, and taking no part in what conversation there was, and Barrows was the only one of the three who was completely at his ease.
“You can put me ashore after breakfast?” suggested Jim finally.
“Surely,” said Barrows. “But I can’t say just how soon. I hope you won’t mind the delay. It’s too bad to hold you up this way, but the fact is, this isn’t exactly a pleasure trip, as you can guess by looking at this craft. We’re doing some advertising work—going to distribute circulars during the race, and, soon afterward, to the yachts and among the crowds. So our boats are all away just now, and I’m not sure of what time they’ll return.”
Jim admired such cleverness. In case he suspected anything was wrong from the presence of the extra supply of tenders, here was a plausible explanation. He was ready to admit that Barrows was clever—he was only afraid that he might be so clever that, in spite of the information already obtained, and the confirmation of their suspicions, he might succeed in causing the defeat of Yale by unfair means and the loss of a great deal of money by Yale men.
Barrows made several excuses to keep Jim below after breakfast, and seemed inclined to stay with him. But Jim was greatly relieved, finally, to hear Svenson’s roaring voice calling his host on deck. And, as soon as he was alone, Jim began to explore the cabin.
The first thing he found was a government chart of the Thames. Red markers showed the buoying of the course for the Harvard-Yale boat race, with the flags marked every half mile, all the way up the river. And, as Jim studied the map, certain blue crosses also attracted his attention. There were three of these—one about a mile from the start, another at the navy yard, where the river bends slightly, and the third almost opposite Red Top, under the western shore of the Thames, and at a point where the Central Vermont Railway and the observation train pass for a few hundred feet out of sight of the racing shells.
Jim puzzled long over this map, trying to make out the significance of the three blue crosses. That they were important he was quite sure, and he lost no time in fixing their locations in his head, so that he could point to the spots marked in case the need for doing so arose. He was afraid to take the map, although he would have had no conscientious scruples against doing so, because he was afraid that he might be searched, and he wanted to maintain his pose of complete innocence and ignorance until he was off the boat.
He stole to the ladder that led to the deck and listened to see if Barrows were returning. But he heard the gambler’s voice lifted in loud conversation with Svenson, and, returning to the cabin, found that he could still hear their voices so plainly that he would have warning, from the cessation of the talk, of any impending return to the cabin.
Then, feeling that he was free, for the moment, to pursue his search, he went on. And in a few minutes he made a discovery that laid the whole secret bare to him. Accidentaly moving a sofa cushion, he found that it concealed the model of a racing shell, and he fell to studying the model closely. It was a beautiful piece of workmanship, apparently made to scale, so that it was a perfect reproduction, in a small compass, of the boats in which Harvard and Yale would test each other’s mettle the next day.
Jim held the model attentively in his hand, admiring its beauty and the clever workmanship. But for the life of him he could not see what its use had been to these men. Suddenly, as he was running his hand again over the slender, delicately made keel, it came away in his hand, and he saw a cunningly contrived groove, filled with iron.
He almost shouted in his surprise and exultation. Here was the key to the mystery, and, with the key, the means of defeating it.
But he had to get away first. And, as he moved toward the ladder again, he heard a new voice, that made him realize that one of his fears had been realized. It was Barnes who was talking.
“That’s just what Harding was afraid of,” Barnes was saying. “He knew you’d mess the thing up. This chap you picked up was, undoubtedly, one of Merriwell’s gang. You did the right thing when you snaked him in, but why did you let him bluff you? You ought to have tied him up and kept him from snooping around. The chances are, if it’s Merriwell himself or Phillips, that he knows the whole game by this time.”
Jim could not hear what Barrows said in reply; but there was a growling curse from Svenson.
“We’ve made Mr. Harding and his crowd respect us, anyhow,” said Jim, to himself, with a grin. “They didn’t take us so seriously at first. However—this isn’t any joke. I think that fellow Svenson would just as soon drop me overboard with a weight tied to my feet as not, if he thought he could get away with it. He’s an ugly customer.”
He debated with himself as to what he should do. To go on deck was to court instant recognition by Barnes, and he knew that, if that happened, he would never be allowed to escape in time to tell Dick Merriwell what he had discovered before the race. Then some knowledge he had picked up in a Gloucester fishing-schooner trip some time before came to his help.
He turned away from the deck, and, two minutes later, he was safely hidden, between the lower deck and the ship’s bottom, highly uncomfortable, but reasonably safe from detection. The trick worked, too, for as he lay there, he could hear the searchers passing right over his head, and their lurid language when they discovered that the bird had flown.
THE ESCAPE FROM THE “MARINA.”
Dick Merriwell was almost frantic when the day of the race dawned without a sign of the return of Jim Phillips. He was convinced that some harm had befallen the baseball captain, and not for a hundred boat races would he have had that happen. He blamed himself bitterly for allowing Jim to undertake the reckless adventure of staying aboard the Marina to get further information as to the plans of the conspirators. Until dark on Wednesday night, he had not been much alarmed, for it had been long after midnight when he had last spoken to Jim. But when the whole day passed with no sign of Jim, Dick was frantic.
Bill Brady tried to reassure him, although he was himself far from easy in his mind.
“They wouldn’t dare do him any harm,” said Bill. “Those fellows know that as long as they just try these crooked gambling games, the worst that can happen to them is a year or two in jail. But murder, or hurting a man seriously, is another matter, and they’re not at all likely to take any such risks as that to put old Jim out of the way. I’m afraid they may have got onto him and tied him up to keep him from getting to us with whatever it is he’s learned. But, even if that’s so, they’ll turn him loose when the race is over, and he’ll be none the worse. As to your blaming yourself, that’s nonsense. It was Jim’s idea to stay in the water, and to stay on board, too, when he could have dropped into the launch.”
But Dick had spent a sleepless night, and the big catcher could do little to make the universal coach feel better, try as he would.
Finally, on Thursday morning, Dick, taking Brady in the launch with him, ran down to Red Top and told Neilson, the Harvard coach, the whole story.
Neilson looked very serious as he heard what the Yale coach knew and what he suspected.
“I’ll admit, of course,” he said, “that we thought the sudden slowing up of the crew mighty peculiar—and we didn’t know then that you’d had the same experience. Of course, there’s one thing settled. If there’s any skulduggery about the race to-day, and it’s discovered, we’ll be perfectly willing to call it no race and row it over, in case Yale lost through one of those mysterious experiences we’ve both had. What are you going to do about Phillips? I suppose that, as a Harvard man, I ought to be glad to hear he’s lost, but I’m going to do my level best to help you rescue him.”
Dick Merriwell gripped his rival’s hand hard.
“Thanks,” he said. “I knew you’d feel that way about it. I’m going down to that cursed Marina and see whether they mean to hold Jim. I think I’ve got evidence enough to justify me in getting official aid, and I know the captain of the revenue cutter Claremont. I think she’s in his jurisdiction, now.”
Neilson went along, and, an hour later, armed with a warrant of search from the United States court, and with a Federal marshal along, the Elihu Yale boarded the Marina.
Svenson, cursing, had to yield to the power of Uncle Sam, which even he dared not refuse to honor. But he and Barrows both swore that they had seen nothing of Jim Phillips, and that he was certainly not then on board. They seemed willing, even eager, for a search to be made, and the search was begun at once, with no ceremony.
But, as it went on, and Barrows and Svenson, with puzzled, but triumphant looks, followed the Yale men and the officers around, it became plain that it was bound to be fruitless. Svenson and Barrows, as a matter of fact, had been over the whole ship, as they thought, for themselves. They had searched everywhere on the Marina that seemed to offer a possible hiding place, and when the party finally came on deck again, the searchers had to apologize to the captain and the offended Barrows, who talked largely of suits for damages, until Brady stepped up to him with a scowling face.
“That’ll be about all from you,” said Bill menacingly. “You may have fooled us this time, but we know that Phillips was aboard this ship, and we’re going to get him. When we do, you’d better look out for yourself. And, if you’ve injured him, or done away with him, the earth won’t be big enough to keep me from seeing that you’re punished, if it takes a million dollars to find you.”
Slowly, angrily, the Yale men and Neilson, with the two deputy marshals, who seemed to think that they had been brought on a fool’s errand, went over the side and into the launch.
“Looks like checkmate,” said Neilson gloomily. “I hope those scoundrels haven’t hurt Phillips. I say, Merriwell, suppose we postpone the race, anyhow? I don’t feel like going through with it while things are in this state.”
“That’s a last resort,” said Dick gravely. “There are an awful lot of people here, Neilson, and some of them have come a long way just for this day. It seems pretty rough on them. Let’s wait a little while, anyhow.”
Suddenly there was a tremendous commotion on the deck of the Marina. A man had run up to Svenson and told him something that sent the big skipper, cursing wildly, in his native Norse tongue, rushing below, and, at the same time, Dick, accustomed as he was to shipping, saw that something was very seriously wrong with the schooner. She was settling by the head.
“She’s sinking!” he cried.
Fascinated, they watched for a moment the scene of wild disorder on her decks. There was no danger for any one on board, for she was going down slowly, and there was plenty of time for all to leave her. But the spectacle was remarkable. The crowded harbor was surely a strange setting for such a wreck.
“They oughtn’t to let her sink out here,” cried Merriwell. “She’ll block navigation.”
“Here’s a tug,” said Neilson, and a minute later two tugs were struggling to pull the Marina to the side of the channel, where, if she sank, she would not obstruct the passage of other vessels. They were just in time. She touched bottom some distance from the eastern shore, and her masts stuck out of the water.
Neilson, Brady, and Merriwell looked at one another with one thought uppermost in all their minds.
“Phillips?” said Neilson, faltering. “You don’t suppose he could be on board her somewhere?”
And the next moment they all three jumped as if a ghost had appeared before them. For, climbing into the launch from the water, safe and unharmed, appeared Jim Phillips himself.
They started to ply him with questions, but Dick interrupted.
“The first thing to do is to get him to a place where he can get into dry clothes,” he said. “We’ll drop these gentlemen”—he nodded to the two marshals—“and then go up the river.”
“And get me some food, for Heaven’s sake!” cried Jim. “I haven’t had anything to eat since yesterday morning!”
They wrapped him in overcoats and sweaters that were in the launch. A five-minute stop served to put the marshals ashore and to provide hot coffee and sandwiches for Jim, and then came the swift run to Red Top, which was nearer than Gale’s Ferry. There Jim was dried and provided with dry clothes, and, sitting in a comfortable chair, he told his story.
“When I got into the hold there,” he said, “I thought I was pretty safe from being discovered. And I counted on getting out when it was dark, and swimming ashore. But they were too foxy for me. They didn’t know where I was, but they figured I must be somewhere on board, and they made it impossible for me to get away as I had planned. I was pretty hungry, but I didn’t want to go out and give myself up. I don’t like to quit when I once start something.
“Finally I realized that there was only one thing to do. I had my knife, and I found an old mallet down there that some ship’s carpenter had lost. So I started in to make a hole in her side. I knew she’d sink, but I thought that I was justified, seeing the game they were up to. Moreover, I knew there would be no danger for any of them, for, even with a big hole in her, a boat of that sort sinks slowly, and I timed it so they would be out of bed and on deck.
“I heard what I thought was your crowd going through her this morning, but I was afraid of taking a chance, for fear that it might be Svenson and his precious crowd again. So I didn’t call out, though, of course I was tempted to do it. But I was pretty nearly ready to drop out of the hole I had made then, though first I had to figure out some way of preventing the suction from dragging me back. That was something fierce, and I don’t believe any one could have swum out without rigging up the sort of a shield I fixed up before I finally got out. But I managed that, after a while, and then I just got away from her and struck out under water, so that I wouldn’t come up too soon. I hung on to the launch for a few minutes after I picked you up, resting and listening to you.”
So far they had been too excited over Jim’s remarkable escape and the pluck and resource he had shown to remember the reason for it all. But Brady brought them back to that. He knew Jim.
“I suppose you got what you were after, Jim,” he said quietly.
“Great Scott!” cried Jim, “I’d forgotten! I should say I did!”
And he told them of the model shell he had found, with the cunningly hidden metal in the groove above the keel.
“It looks to me,” he said, “as if they’d managed to get at those shells. There’s a magnet coil in each of those motor boats they had.”
“Come and look at our shell,” cried Neilson.
Two minutes served to show that Jim’s suspicions had been correct. The metal was there, under the boat, concealed by the keel.
“I don’t know how they expected to affect one shell and not the other,” said Dick Merriwell, “but I suppose they had some means of doing that worked out. I’m off to Gale’s Ferry to look at our shell. What will you do, Neilson? I think we’ve got time to get old shells rigged for the crew. It may mean a slow race, but it ought to be as good for one as for the other.”
“Just exactly as good,” said Neilson. “There’s nothing else to do. We can get them rigged and ready in time, by hard work. And I guess the race will be just as good—and it will be rowed on its merits, too.”
“Could they have reached your shell?” Dick Merriwell asked Neilson.
“Easily,” replied the Harvard coach. “We never have kept any very special watch on the shells. We’ve guarded them against fire, but we never supposed that anything else was necessary.”
“That’s how it was with us,” said Dick. “It could have been done here, or before we left New Haven. And it’s only sheer good fortune that enabled us to find it out.”
“I’m no shark in physics,” said Neilson, “but I suppose that the iron in the two shells may be magnetized in a different degree, so that one current in the magnet would attract one shell and not the other.”
“That seems plausible, anyhow,” said Dick. “They could vary the magnet by regulating the strength of the current.”
At Gale’s Ferry, conditions were the same as those that had been discovered at Red Top. By dint of tremendous work by the riggers and the coaches, the new shells, or, rather, the old ones, were adjusted to the men who were to sit in them, and by two o’clock in the afternoon, without the knowledge of the oarsmen, the change had been effected. The first race, that between the varsity four-oared crews, was to be rowed at three o’clock, upstream. The freshman race was to follow at once, and then, at six o’clock, the great race of the day, between the varsity eights, was scheduled.
Jim Phillips, gradually being restored to his full strength, and fearing no bad effects from his fast and his immersion, stood on the float with Brady, looking at the gay scene that was developing on the river. Scores of small boats were about, and the spirit of carnival was in the air.
“Well, I guess you’ve done your share toward winning this boat race, if we do win it,” said Bill. “The rest of it is up to the crew.”
“They’ll win, all right,” said Jim, with supreme confidence.
THE PLOTTERS REFUSE TO QUIT.
One thing both Harvard and Yale could agree on. There couldn’t have been a better day for the race. The water at the mouth of the Thames never reaches the degree of mirrorlike smoothness that exists nearly always at Poughkeepsie, where the other great college boat race is rowed each year; but the oarsmen get used to the little chop of the water that is never entirely absent, and don’t mind it at all.
The day was warm, but not excessively so, and little fleecy clouds, chasing themselves across the blue sky, showed that the wind was a light one, quartering over the river from the northwest. That gave the crew that won the toss, and elected to row the last mile of the race under the shelter of the bank of the shore by choosing the westerly course, a slight advantage. Harvard won the toss, and took that course for the two eight-oared races, leaving it to Yale for the four, but the advantage was too slight to make it at all likely that it would be a decisive factor in the race itself.
The Thames is comparatively narrow, for an American river, at New London, but there is plenty of room for all the yachts that want to take up positions along the course. Now a double line of vessels, large and small, white and black, all gayly decked out with lines of flags, and bearing, as a rule, a great banner between their masts, to show whether their owners loved best the blue of Yale or the crimson of Harvard, was stretched along the river from the finishing point, near Gale’s Ferry, down to the navy yard, two miles away. There was no room for yachts at the finish itself, except on the outside, or eastern side of the course, but they were packed there in glorious array. The big white steam yacht that carried the judges of the finish was anchored directly opposite the finishing line itself, which was marked by two flags, and on board of her were the men who were to give the word for firing the guns that marked the finish, first for the winners, then for the losers.
Up and down the course, racing excitedly from one point to another, went the referee’s boat, with Billy Meikleham, the veteran Columbia oarsman, who had for years been the arbiter of all possible disputes between Yale and Harvard crews, standing in the bow with his megaphone, and stopping at Gale’s Ferry and Red Top to assure himself that all was well with the two crews, and that they were ready for the great race.
In New London, every train was adding to the crowds that surged through all the streets near the station. Pretty girls in abundance flaunted the crimson or the blue. Bill Brady, surveying them as he looked for his own party, decided that all the prettiest ones wore the blue, as was only proper, in his eyes. Bowen, the Harvard baseball captain, who bore no ill-feeling for the defeat of his team, and had come up to see the race, disagreed with Brady, but Angell, the former Michigan runner, who, after a year at Yale, was going back to finish his course at Michigan, said he was impartial now, and voted for the Yale girls.
The great problem of the early part of the day was getting something to eat. New London, if you visit it at an off season, when there isn’t a boat race on, will entertain you royally. The hotels will strike you as excellent, the food as both cheap and plentiful. But it is different on boat-race day. Then, at the hotels, they establish a line for the dining room early in the morning, and people wait for an hour or two before they can get in at all. However, no one minds minor privations of that sort.
Down by the station, crowded all day, as parties of friends united or came all together by the arriving trains, all eyes turned first to the two great observation trains. One of the things that makes the New London course the finest in the world for a boat race, is the fact that there is a railroad on each side of the river, so that two trains at once can be drawn along to provide moving grand stands for the spectators, who can thus see every stroke that is pulled in the race. There are about forty cars on each train, flat freight cars, with a section of seats, like those in the bleachers of a baseball field, built on each, and a canvas awning over the seats to protect the spectators from sun and rain, if the weather man is unkind enough to let it rain on boat-race day, which, to do him full justice, he very seldom is.
Presently these trains, with an engine at each end of them, would pull out, loaded to their utmost capacity with pretty girls and excited men, a mass of waving color, riotous in the bright sunlight, with cheers rocking them from end to end. But that was to come later. In the morning they simply served as reminders of the great race that was to come.
But it wasn’t all joy in New London. To most of those who had seen or heard of it, the sinking of the Marina was a mysterious incident, to be discussed for a few minutes, and then forgotten. But to Svenson, Barrows, and their companions it was a stunning blow, almost crushing in its effect, and utterly inexplicable. They had no difficulty in making their escape from the sinking vessel, and, safe, but bewildered and furious, had fore-gathered some time later at an obscure and dirty saloon in a low part of the town.
“That’s that devil Phillips,” said Barnes, with a certain gloomy satisfaction. “I told you you were making a fool of yourself, Barrows. He’s been too clever for you.”
Svenson, who had been drinking as fast as his glass could be replenished, was in a furious rage.
“What about my boat?” he cried furiously. “It will cost a thousand dollars to make her seaworthy again. And there’s no insurance.”
“Never mind your boat,” said Barrows. “We’ll clean up enough to fix her up, and we’ll divide the cost equally.”
“Clean up nothing,” said Barnes sarcastically. “You’re skunked, Barrows. Your scheme is knocked into a cocked hat. Don’t you know enough to know when you’re beaten?”
“Beaten?” cried Barrows. “I guess not. We didn’t need the Marina to put that through. We’ll be all right, I tell you. The plan goes through without any change at all. Everything will work all right. There’s no way they can have got on to us. It’s a bad thing that Phillips, if he was the one, got away, and worse that he sank the Marina, if he did. And I suppose he must have. But there’s no reason why we should curl up and quit like a lot of whipped curs.”
“Have it your own way,” said Barnes, with a sneer. “All I know is that old Bill Harding expected something of this very sort to happen. He’s a wise guy, Bill. He’s well out of this, and he saw that early in the game.”
“Do you seriously think there’s a chance to put it through still?” asked the trembling Dennison, who had joined them in the saloon. “I thought it was all up when I heard you had lost the Marina.”
“Why should it be?” asked Barrows, with a curse. “We’ve still got the motor boats, haven’t we? I’ll take one of them, Svenson another, and Bascom, the wireless man, the third. Bascom’s all right. He’s down, watching the boats now. I guess we can make that race come out just about as we want, even now.”
“Who wants to quit?” snarled Svenson. “I’ve got to put this through now, or I’ll never get the money for my boat. I don’t suppose any of you cheap skates are going to make that up to me unless I do it for myself. And you’ve forgotten the other thing, too, Barrows.”
“I haven’t forgotten,” said Barrows. “But I’m the only one who can work that. Barnes, I thought you had some nerve. I didn’t think you had a yellow streak big enough to make you quit at the first sign of trouble. That’s not the way you used to work for Harding.”
“I’m no quitter,” said Barnes, flushing. “You’re up against a cold deal here, but I’ll stand in with you to the finish. What do you want me to do?”
“Take one of the motor boats,” said Barrows. “You know how to work that end of it. That will leave me free in case anything goes wrong with that plan.”
“All right,” said Barnes. “Count me in. Are you going to monkey with the two early races—the freshman and the four, or will you stick to the big race?”
“Just the big race,” said Barrows, looking satisfied.
WON IN THE LAST STROKES.
Jim Phillips, in the light of the surprising discovery of the loaded keels of the two shells, had not forgotten what he had seen on the marked map. As he went down the river before the four-oared race, which was to start at the bridge, he looked eagerly at the points along the course that had been indicated on the map, but he could see nothing to arouse suspicion. However, that did not fully convince him that they had drawn all the teeth of the plotters by changing the shells in which the race was to be rowed. It was unlikely that there would be any attempt to interfere with the minor races—Barrows and his crowd would, undoubtedly, confine themselves to the varsity contest.
The three Yale coaches, with Jim Phillips and Bill Brady as specially invited guests, were in the Elihu Yale to watch the race between the four-oared shells, following behind the referee’s boat, so as not to interfere in any way with the oarsmen. The four, though it had been under the general supervision of Dick Merriwell, like all the other crews, had been the especial charge of Hargreaves, who was very proud of the quartet he had trained, and fully confident of their ability to beat the Harvard crew, although the latter had been a favorite up to the very hour of the race, being the same crew that had established a new record for two miles for four-oared crews the year before.
At the sound of the referee’s pistol, Harvard got away slightly in the lead, rowing fast and at a high stroke. But Hargreaves had coached his men for just such a start. He was not afraid of any lead Harvard got in the first mile, and the Yale four, rowing in perfect form, was content to keep its own pace and let Harvard open up clear water before the first flags were reached. The Harvard enthusiasts in the two trains were wild with delight, for it looked like an easy victory for Harvard. But, at the mile flags, the aspect of the race began to change. The Harvard crew was rowing as well as ever, but Yale began rapidly to overhaul it, and soon the twinkling space of clear water was wiped out. Inch by inch, then, Yale crept up, and a quarter of a mile from the finish there was a tremendous Yale cheer as the prow of the Yale shell showed in front for the first time in the race.
It was hammer and tongs then to the finish, but Yale had the pace of the Harvard boat, and, when the first gun boomed out, it was as Yale crossed the line, winner of a desperate race by a margin of less than two seconds—half a length or less. It wasn’t much, but it was a victory. First blood for Yale, and a good omen for the bigger race later on.
“Good work!” said Merriwell, as the coaching launch swept up alongside the tired oarsmen, who were splashing each other and looking lovingly at the shirts their friendly rivals had tossed them. “That’s the idea—show the varsity how to win.”
But there was little time for talk. The four-oared crews got their breath, then paddled over to the eastern shore and swung up together, to reach the finish of the course and see how the freshmen fared. And the freshmen eight-oared crews, ready for their own two-mile race, were awaiting the referee’s gun. It came, and the race began.
But this wasn’t a race very long. Harvard started well enough, and was always game, but the Yale freshmen were a remarkable crew, and they won as they pleased, with ten lengths of open water behind them and before the Harvard crew at the finish.
Yale’s enthusiasm was unlimited. Here was the best of starts. Now every Yale rooter on the trains was shouting for a clean sweep of the river, for the winning of all three races. It had been done before—why shouldn’t Dick Merriwell’s crews repeat the feat?
Harvard was grimly determined. True, two races were gone beyond recall, but the biggest one of all remained. If the big varsity crew could win, the defeats in the minor races would be forgotten. Yale was welcome to them—if only Harvard’s crimson waved triumphant at the end of the greatest contest of all.
Jim Phillips was very thoughtful as the launch went back to quarters after the freshman race. The varsity oarsmen, who were elated by the result of the first two races, were all ready now for their own test. They were superbly confident of their ability to finish the task the others had begun so well. But Jim himself was consumed by anxiety. He could not believe that that map had had no sinister meaning. And Barrows had impressed him as a man not likely, if care could prevent accident, to leave anything to chance.
Finally he told Dick Merriwell of the map.
“I’ve decided what to do,” he said. “Brady’s people have a hydroplane here that can make thirty-five miles an hour easily, and I know enough about that sort of boat to run it. It’s impossible to tell which of those marked places is the danger spot, but I should say the one nearest the finish. They won’t know until late in the race that their magnet coil won’t work. Now, if I have that hydroplane, I can run right along behind or level with the race, and make sure that there’s no mischief afoot. How does that strike you?”
“It’s a good plan,” said Dick. “But be careful. Don’t take any more wild chances. Remember that I’d rather lose this race and every other that I’m ever going to be interested in, than see anything happen to you.”
“I’m safe enough,” said Jim, with a laugh. “But I’ll be careful, too. You needn’t worry.”
The hydroplane was down the river, near the starting point, and Jim went immediately to get aboard, the Elihu Yale carrying him down. It was five o’clock, and in an hour the race would begin. So Jim felt there was no time to lose. But, to get a last look, he tore up the course in the hydroplane, startling every one by the swift rush of the tiny boat with the huge engine, which skimmed along, half out of the water, and kicking up a tremendous wash.
Coming back, he slowed down, and looked most carefully for any signs of danger at the third point marked on the map, near Red Top. But there was none. Further down he saw the three motor boats that had belonged to the Marina, and recognized Svenson and Barnes with a chuckle. They, at least, were harmless, he reflected, no matter what they might think of their power to affect the outcome of the race. It was just as well they didn’t know, he decided, that their plan had been defeated.
When he returned to the starting point, the two crews were already there, climbing gingerly out of the coaching launches and into the frail shells that were to carry them in the race. Getting aboard a racing shell from a launch is a delicate affair, but these men were all practiced in the art, and when the referee’s boat finally steamed into position behind the stake boats, the two crews were already there, aligned for the start, with a man in each stake boat, holding the stern of the shell before him.
Jim had to forego much of a sight of the start. He had to edge far over to the eastern shore with his noisy, tempestuous little craft, and the yachts were in his way. But, as he hung there, below the railroad bridge, he heard the sharp crack of the pistol, then a mighty roar from the train on the bridge above him, and he knew that they were off.
Swiftly, keeping well ahead of the oarsmen, but going not more than half speed, even so, to reduce the wash, Jim shot his hydroplane to the mile mark, and looked to see if there was any explanation there of the mark on the map. There was none. He would look at the course here, and he edged over as near as he could. He could not suppress a cry of joy at what he saw. The two racing shells were speeding toward him, and Yale led.
Yale was ahead by nearly a quarter of a length—a great margin in such a race. On the other side of the course he could see one of the Marina’s motor boats, but he did not recognize its passenger. All the same, he laughed.
“He’s on the wrong side of the course,” he reflected. “He’s nearer to Harvard.”
The man in the motor boat stood up to get a better view, and then Jim, who was equipped with a powerful glass, saw him bend over and throw a switch. There was not the slightest effect on the progress of either of the shells, and the man in the motor boat, looking astonished and distressed, stood up again. Jim laughed again, but he could not wait. Again he sped up ahead of the shells, and, at the navy yard, Yale still led by about the same margin as at the mile. It was still a race that either crew might win. They had settled down to a steady pace now, rowing about thirty-four strokes to the minute, and Jim knew, as well as the oarsmen themselves, that the crucial phase of the struggle had not yet arrived.
They were waiting for the last mile, in which, when crews that are so evenly matched as were these two, met, the issue is nearly always decided. Yale had the advantage, for she was ahead, and so could wait for Harvard to challenge her lead. All the blue needed for a victory was to hold her own. Now, when the final test came, it was for Yale to meet each added Harvard stroke, to come back with an extra pound of power for every one that Harvard applied, and so maintain her slender lead.
Once they were past the navy yard, and halfway through the race, Jim called sharply to the mechanic who was behind him.
“Take the wheel, now,” he said. “Keep her as I tell you. I don’t know what I may have to do, but I want to be ready for anything that comes along.”
Barrows’ last chance to interfere with the race would soon be at hand, as Jim well knew. Two of the places marked on the map had been passed, but the third remained, and Jim felt that there matters would be decided. He was willing to see Harvard win fairly, though it would disappoint him. But he was not going, if there was any way in which he could prevent it, to allow a crooked scheme to destroy Yale’s chances.
Now the red buildings of Red Top showed close before him, and the yachts were growing more numerous as the finish line approached. He kept his eyes wide open, and at last he saw what he was looking for. In front of him, but nearer the course than he was himself, was a small boat, an ordinary launch, such as can be cheaply hired at any seashore resort. And in the launch, shading his eyes as he stood up and peered eagerly down the course, was Barrows.
“Get as close as you can to that launch,” Jim commanded. And the hydroplane, going very slowly now, crept up. The racing boats were still a quarter of a mile away. Jim could not be sure, but it looked as if Yale still led—as if Harvard had not yet begun her final attempt to cut down that tiny lead.
Jim, studying Barrows closely, saw him looking in surprise and anger at the crews that were approaching. Then the gambler’s face lighted up, and Jim, following his gaze, saw the third of the Marina’s motor boats, containing Svenson, behind him. He had missed her as he came up the river.
Svenson bent down and threw his switch. But, of course, there was no effect on the Yale crew. Barrows threw up his hands with a gesture of anger, then dropped swiftly below the gunwale of his launch. Jim could not see what he was doing, but he stood up in his own frail craft, tense and poised for anything that might be needful.
And then, just as the two shells were abreast of him, Barrows lifted something over the side of the craft and dropped it into the water.
Like a flash, at Jim’s sharp order, the hydroplane shot forward twenty yards, then stopped, as Jim dived over and came upon the thing that Barrows had launched toward the Yale crew. Under the water, he turned its course, and a moment later saw it strike, harmlessly, against the side of the launch whence it had started. It was a miniature torpedo, containing no explosive, and run and steered by clockwork. Jim had seen them before, used in shipyards as models. He knew how to stop the mechanism, and in a moment he had it in the hydroplane, and was tearing up to the finish to see the result of the race.
It was a magnificent drive that Harvard made. But Yale met every attempt to rob her of her hard-won lead, and, in time that was a new record for the course, Yale shot over the line a winner, less than two seconds before the second gun boomed for the Harvard crew, beaten, but game to the end, after one of the greatest races ever rowed.
“Here was Barrows’ last card,” said Jim, after the race, when every one was back at Gale’s Ferry. “This thing is a model torpedo. It’s worked by clockwork, and it would have made an awful mess of our shell. It wouldn’t have damaged it much, but it would have thrown the men off their stroke, and would certainly have cost us the race.”
So the scheme that Barrows had evolved was spoiled. Svenson lost his boat; Dennison and Barrows lost the money they had put up, and they had, moreover, to admit that Harding had been right.
As for Jim, among those who learned of the way in which he had saved Yale from defeat, he was more popular than ever. And one of those most hearty in his congratulations was Neilson, the Harvard coach, who took defeat splendidly, and simply said he hoped for better luck the next time the crews met.
Dick Merriwell, on his return to New Haven with the team, hinted slyly that there would be one more baseball game to conclude the season. The men of the team were curious, and asked who the game was to be played with, but Dick was noncommittal and merely said to them:
BOSTON WANTS ITS REVENGE.
A good many Yale men returned to New Haven after the boat race at New London. The college year was over, it was true, but there was still plenty to do around the old college town, and Yale men are particularly loyal to the campus. They hate to go away, especially in the pleasant warm days of June. Packing for the trip home for the long vacation is made to consume several days, as a rule, and there were odds and ends of various tasks to be completed.
The last weeks of the spring term had been so eventful, and so thoroughly filled with exciting athletic events, that Jim Phillips, the newly elected varsity baseball captain, and a number of his friends, found that they had no choice about returning.
So they were there, in Jim’s rooms in York Street, when the little gathering was thrown into a state of pleasurable surprise by the entrance of Dick Merriwell, the universal coach, under whose tutelage Yale teams had just completed the greatest year of athletic triumphs in the history of the college.
“I see you can’t keep away,” he said, laughing. “It is a hard place to get away from. I’ve found that out a good many times before any of you ever came here to college at all.”
“I thought you were going up to Maine,” said Bill Brady. “That was what we heard after the boat race.”
“So I am,” said Dick. “But that’s later. There’s a whole lot to be done yet before I can get up there. Things that won’t keep. My business up in Maine will do very well when I get back from Stockholm.”
Jim Phillips sat up in sudden interest, and Bill Brady groaned comically.
“Were you serious in what you said at New London, Mr. Merriwell?” asked Jim. “Is there really a chance for some of us to get taken to Sweden on the Olympic team?”
“There’s a good deal more than a chance,” said Dick. “It’s rapidly becoming a matter of sheer patriotism for some of us to go. America has won every Olympic meet that has been held, you know, since the first revival of the old games at Athens in eighteen-ninety-six. That was the first time our athletes ever were taken seriously on the other side. They thought the little team we sent over for that meet was a joke. No one regarded us as serious competitors for the Englishmen. But we beat them there; we beat them in Athens again in nineteen-six, as we did in Paris in nineteen hundred, and you all know how our fellows cleaned up the meet in London in nineteen-eight.”
“Tempest, of course, we all expected to go,” said Harry Maxwell, who was strictly out of Olympic discussions. He was a good baseball player, but not in line for any track or field events.
“I know Tempest is the best sprinter in America,” said Dick, “and I’m inclined to think that he’s the best short-distance runner, up to the quarter mile, in the world. But there are several men here who can do good work. You, Brady, ought to shine in the hammer-throwing event. Jim, I expect you to try for the broad jump, certainly, and perhaps for some other events. And I think I’ll go into training myself.”
Dick Merriwell was no longer eligible to compete for Yale, but that he was out of college did not at all bar him from the Olympic games. Jim and some of the others had forgotten that fact. They were so used to regarding Dick as the master coach that they were likely to forget that this knowledge of all sorts of sports had been gained by active practice of them. He was a practical expert, as well as a master of theory.
“I say,” said Brady, sitting up, “I guess those Swedes are going to learn a few things about American athletics, even this year. What?”
“It’s going to be a mighty close meet,” said Dick. “The Anglo-Saxon race has been at the top of the heap a long time, but some of the other nations are beginning to wake up. They’ve got a fine jumper in Germany; the Swedes have great long-distance runners, and you want to remember that an Italian won the half-mile race at the last meet. Another Italian won the Marathon, but he was disqualified, too. This isn’t going to be a dual meet between England and America by a good deal. It will be a whole lot more.”
The talk continued along these lines for a few minutes. Then Dick Merriwell spoke up again.
“I didn’t come in to talk about the Olympics, though,” he said. “There’s time enough for that. But there’s something a lot nearer home. I was noncommittal about this matter the other day when you asked me about it, but now I am going to tell you all about it. You fellows may remember that we had a game here a while ago between the New Haven Country Club and the Boston Athletic Association, in which Jim Phillips pitched. Well, the Boston people weren’t very keen about taking their licking without trying to come back at us, and they’ve challenged for another game. They’ve got practically the whole Harvard team as members, and Briggs and Bowen will be their battery. They think it would be interesting if another game was arranged, with as many Yale players as possible playing for New Haven. It would really, if their desires were met, be practically another Harvard-Yale game.
“I promised to see what could be done, and the country club people appointed me to act as captain of a team, if it could be picked. I may play myself—I haven’t played a real game of ball for some time. What do you say?”
The suggestion met with an enthusiastic response.
“You fellows never will let well enough alone,” said Woeful Watson, bound to be pessimistic. The idea that his classmates and friends were enthusiastic over any idea was enough to set Watson against it. “You licked them once. Now they’re asking for another chance, when they’ll know what they’re up against, and you’re all ready to give it to them. Foolish, I call it.”
But they were far too accustomed to Watson’s peevish ways to be even disturbed, much less influenced, by his croaking. Instead, all the baseball players there began at once discussing the arrangements for the game.
“I’m delighted to have another chance with Briggs,” said Jim Phillips. “The first game, up at Cambridge, was all right, but there was a lot of luck about the way we won that second one, down in New York. I’d like to run up against Briggs some time when conditions were exactly right.”
“I don’t mind playing baseball,” agreed Brady. “But this talk about throwing the hammer or putting the shot gets on my nerves. I think I’ll fake when it comes to the trials, and then they won’t have me, anyhow.”
“Come off, you old faker!” said Jim affectionately. “You know you’ll work your head off, when it’s a case of doing something for the flag. That’s even bigger than a chance to work for Yale. Only a few of us in this country are Yale men, after all, but we’re all Americans; and in these days, when war’s going out of fashion, games are the only means of keeping up the old international rivalries.”
“That’s true,” said Dick Merriwell, “and it shows that we’re really getting civilized. In the old days, when a nation’s blood got hot, the way it’s bound to, sometimes, the only way of letting off steam was for a lot of people to go out and kill a lot of other people they didn’t have any grudge against at all. Now they send their picked men, and race or jump with the other people, and it’s all settled in a friendly way. I think the peace funds ought to be used in promoting international athletics. The one thing that’s done more than anything else to reduce interest in prize fighting is the spread of all sorts of amateur athletics.”
“You’re not opposed to boxing, are you, Mr. Merriwell?” asked Harry Maxwell, who knew that the universal coach was himself an expert boxer, and had taught Jim Phillips nearly, if not all, that the pitcher knew about the art of self-defense.
“Not to boxing, no,” said Dick, with a smile. “But I’m opposed to a good many phases of modern prize fighting. I think every boy who is to grow up into a manly, healthy man ought to learn to use his fists. But he ought to learn to fight without losing his temper, and to take a licking, when he gets it, in the right way.
“Professional boxing is all right, too, when it is carried on in the right way. But nowadays there is too much thinking about the money and the moving pictures. The game has been brutalized, too, and it ought not to be allowed when it is not properly controled by the State or city government.”
“About this game,” said Jim Phillips. “If you play, Mr. Merriwell, you will pitch, I suppose?”
“No,” said Dick, “I’d rather leave that to you, Jim. My arm may be all right still, but I haven’t had much practice of late, and I think I’d rather see you and Briggs fight it out again. Sherman has sailed for Europe with his family, so there will be a hole to fill at first base. I think I can play that position still, and that will do very well for me.
“You and Brady will be the battery; Carter will play third; Jackson second; Green, of the country club, who was on the team here a few years ago, short; Maxwell, Brayson, and Tuthill, of the country club, in the outfield. That will give us a first-class team, I think, and I doubt if the Boston people can put a better one in the field. I’ll telegraph Bowen to-night that we can play. We ought to have neutral grounds, I think, and the New Haven league team will let us use their park.”
THE GAMBLER’S TRAP.
There were others in New Haven as well as the Yale athletes who had been obliged to return. Foote, the associate of Parker in the attempt to prevent Yale from winning the big series with Harvard, was one of them.
Foote had neglected his work sadly in the last term. And now his father, who would otherwise have shown leniency toward such an offense, had told him that unless, by hard work in the summer, with attendance at the Yale summer school to help him, he conformed to all his conditions, he would have to go to work, and shift for himself in the fall.
“I’ve made a mistake with you, my boy,” his father had said to him. “I supposed you were old enough to be allowed a certain liberty, and I find that you’ve been abusing it. I realize that it’s partly my own fault. You’ve had too much liberty and too much money to spend.
“That’s going to stop. I’ll give you a chance to mend your ways and make good from now on; but there must be no skulking and no more crooked work. You’re young yet, and you can live down the mistakes you’ve made. But you’ve got to settle down and help yourself; for, if you don’t, neither I nor any one else can do it for you.”
Foote took his father’s kindly warning in the wrong spirit, as he had the efforts of Jim Phillips and Dick Merriwell to set him on the right path after his outrageous treatment of them. He felt that he was misunderstood and abused, and his mother, a weak and foolish woman, simply helped to keep him in the wrong path. She thought, as mothers will, that her son was about the best son on earth, and she was sure that if he had made mistakes it was because he had been led astray. Finding her arguments of no avail with her husband, she had made the grave mistake of sympathizing with her boy, and of supplying him, in secret, with the money which no longer flowed like water from his father.
Parker, who had frankly and with a certain degree of manliness, admitted his fault and made such amends for it as he could, thus winning full forgiveness from both Dick and Jim, had tried to reason with his former ally.
“There’s no use, Paul, old chap,” he said. “We were wrong, and I can see that now. I didn’t know what you were doing about that freight car, or I wouldn’t have stood for it, but I didn’t make any effort to get out of it on that score. I admitted that I was just as much to blame as you were, and I straightened myself out with Merriwell and Phillips.
“Why don’t you go to them and start a new deal? You’ll find them willing to forget the past, and they’re better people than the ones we’ve been running with. That’s a rotten crowd—that gambling, drinking set. They don’t stand by you when you’re in trouble.”
“You can quit and be good if you want to,” said Foote, sneering. “As for me, when I start something, I see it through, if there’s any way that it can be done. Those fellows have won the first deal. But there’s more coming, and I guess I’ll land on top before I’m through. Then they’ll be sorry they ever got themselves into my bad books.”
Parker gave him up as hopeless after that.
On the very same night as that on which Dick Merriwell and his friends arranged the details of the team that was to play against Boston, Foote left his rooms and went to a gambling house in New Haven, whose owner had grown rich on the money he had made by plucking foolish Yale men, who had more money than was good for them. Foote had played roulette there more than once, and he had been allowed to win just often enough to encourage him to keep on in the hope of making a big killing some day. There he had spent and thrown away money given to him for the payment of his college bills for clothes and books.
Despite his generous allowance, he was always in debt, and his father, although his eyes had been opened by the story of the exploit with the freight car, had no suspicion of the way his boy had been squandering his money. Now that there had been a partial exposure, Foote lived in constant fear that his creditors, by appealing to his father for payment, would reveal what he had managed thus far to keep hidden; and, having some money that his mother had sent him, he decided to try to double the sum at least, instead of using it to appease the most insistent of his creditors: his tailor and his shoemaker.
It wasn’t much of a place that Foote went to. Many people who have never seen the inside of a gambling house think that they are veritable palaces, but that is not often so. There may have been a few such places, years ago, at Saratoga, at Long Branch, and even in New York. At Monte Carlo, and a few other protected and legalized gambling places in Europe, the fittings are very luxurious. But it is not so in this country, as a rule.
In this house, in the business part of New Haven, cunningly arranged so that any one passing in the street would have been far from suspecting its nature, Foote was ushered—after passing the rigid inspection of the man at the door—into a large room, the air of which was heavy with stale smoke.
At one end were three tables arranged for roulette, with a tired, heavy-eyed man idly twirling the balls around at one of them. The season was practically over, with the ending of the college year, and soon the gamblers would flit to other parts, where new victims were to be found. In another part of the room was a buffet, with a few bottles of whisky, and some unappetizing sandwiches. Some pictures of stage favorites were on the walls, and that represented the whole effort to make the place luxurious and attractive. Only foolish boys like Foote, without the sense to penetrate the sham and pretense of the place, could be deceived by such methods.
A short, dark man, with a bulldog jaw and a pair of watery eyes, stepped forward to greet Foote when he appeared in the gambling room.
“How are you, Mr. Foote?” he said, with little attempt to be pleasant. Foote had been plucked for about all he was worth, and Marsten, the gambler, knew that very well. It was his business to make no mistakes in such matters. And, according to his lights, he was a good business man. “I hear you’ve been getting into trouble,” he continued. “Bucking up against the pride of the Y. M. C. A.—Mr. Merriwell?”
The gamblers who infested New Haven hated Dick Merriwell because they knew that his influence among Yale men was all against their trade. Dick had driven Harding, one of their number, from his profitable pastime of fleecing Yale men at poker, and they knew that, so long as he was in control of Yale athletics and the most popular man about the college, their activities would be limited. They had always managed to come out ahead in their struggles with the Yale faculty, but Dick Merriwell had proved a far more dangerous opponent.
Foote was surprised and alarmed at the knowledge of his affairs the gambler showed. He had supposed his trouble with Merriwell a closely guarded secret.
“How did you hear about that?” he flamed out. “You know too much, it seems to me!”
“There’s precious little you boys do that doesn’t reach me sooner or later,” said Marsten, with an evil grin. “If you’d come to me and got some advice, I might have been able to help you out so that you wouldn’t have got caught. Now, you see, you’re in bad yourself, and you haven’t hurt the man you went after. That’s a poor way to do. You took too many chances.”
“Well, never mind that,” said Foote. “I came here to take some of your money away with me. Start the little ball rolling.”
“Hold on a bit,” said Marsten. “I’ve got a lot of your paper now, my buck, and I’d like to see some of your cash before I go in any deeper.”
“You’ve seen all I’ve had since Easter,” said Foote bitterly. “However, I’ve got two hundred and fifty here to play with to-night. Will that satisfy you?”
“Right-o!” said Marsten. “Hand it over, and you can go up to four hundred to-night on the strength of it. If you use up this little wad, you can sign a note for the rest.”
Foote played cautiously at first, and won a little. Then he lost, and, playing more recklessly, soon struck a losing vein that he could not seem to escape. Had he been as wise as he thought himself, he would have known that he did not have a chance; that a wire was concealed in the table leg, and that the man behind the wheel, by touching various buttons beneath his feet, which were hidden by the carpet, could make the ball fall so that he could not win.
The last of his money and his extended credit was exhausted before midnight. And, plead as he would, Marsten would not let him play any more on credit. He had thought to mend his fortune; he was, instead, deeper in debt than ever.
“See here,” said Marsten brutally, “I can’t wait any longer for my money. Either you pay me up within a week or I go to your father with your notes. You can’t defend against them on the ground that they’re for gambling debts. You fixed that when you signed them.”
Foote was terror-stricken.
“I can’t get the money,” he pleaded. “If you give me time, you’ll be paid. You’ll ruin me if you go to my father. And he’ll fight to the end before he pays them.”
“He’ll pay them, all right,” said Marsten grimly. “He won’t want all this in the papers. And as to its ruining you, you ought to have thought of that before you ran into debt. That’s not my lookout, you know.”
“You said you’d never use them that way,” said Foote. “You told me that signing the papers was only a matter of form.”
“That’s when I thought you were square and meant to pay if you lost,” said the gambler mercilessly. “I’ve given you plenty of time. There aren’t many would have treated you as well. You’d better get ready to pay up, for I shan’t change my mind. You’re a piker—a bum sport. I hate your kind.”
“Here, go easy on the kid, Bunny,” said a new voice, that of a man, who, sitting in a darkened part of the room, had not been noticed before by Foote. “I like his looks. He looks as if he had plenty of nerve. Why not give him a chance?”
Marsten spun around and faced the speaker.
“Go ahead,” he said. “If you think so well of him, talk to him. If you want to guarantee his notes, I’ll hold off a while longer.”
“This is Mr. Barrows,” Marsten said then to Foote, by way of introduction. “You’re in luck if he’s taken a shine to you. He can pull you out, if any one can. You’d better see what he wants.”
Foote was too relieved at the sign of a chance for escape to think of how obviously prearranged the whole scene was.
“Are you game to go in with me on a big deal, kid?” asked Barrows. “If you help me to pull it off, I’ll pay up your notes here and give you five hundred beside. How does that strike you?”
“I’ll do anything,” said Foote. “I can’t let my father hear of this. He’d turn me off without a cent. I know he would. He’s down on me already, and this would be the last straw. I’m game for anything you want me to do.”
SPITE PROVES TOO STRONG.
The appearance of Barrows in New Haven was due to the failure of his great coup at New London, when, instead of winning a great sum as the result of his plan to cause the defeat of Yale in the annual boat race with Harvard, he had been disastrously defeated by Dick Merriwell and Jim Phillips, who had spoiled all his most cherished plans, and dealt him a severe blow.
“What happened to you, Pete?” asked Marsten, after Foote, committed to the service of Barrows, had left the gambling house. “I thought you were all fixed. The way I heard it you had a gold mine in that race. I wanted to get in on it with you, but I didn’t hear about it in time.”
“Good thing you didn’t,” said Barrows. “You’ve got more money now than you would have had if you’d tried to horn in on that game. It was something fierce, Johnny. Harding warned me of Merriwell and his crowd, but I don’t know yet how they got onto us. We’ve lost Stevenson’s boat for him, and he swears he’s going to shoot me the first time he sees me. He’s mad enough to do it, too, specially if he gets drunk.”
“What are you going to do now?” asked Marsten.
“Rustle for a stake,” said Barrows bitterly. “I’m cleaned out, Johnny. That business at New London set me back about six thousand. It was the worst thing I ever bumped into. And the worst of it all is Harding. He warned us before we went into it, and now he’s gone around New York, blowing about it and telling every one how this bunch of kids broke up my game. I’m afraid to show up there broke. They’d laugh at me for a month.”
“Being broke is tough, Pete,” said Marsten. “I’d like to help you out, but I’m on my uppers myself. Lots of paper, but precious little of the ready cash.”
“I don’t want anything from you,” said Barrows. “You’re all right, Johnny. But I’m not borrowing. Never did—unless I was down to hardpan. And I’ve got a couple of hundred in my belt still. That’s enough to work a game I’ve got in mind. What I want is a couple of rooms here for a day or two. I’ve got the cleverest guy working in with me now you ever saw. He’s a chap called Bascom, that used to be a wireless operator on a liner. He never could make his fingers behave around the money drawer. That’s what started him with me. But as an electrical expert, he’s got Tesla and all those people lashed to the mast. He’s the one that doped out the stunt with the electromagnet. He’s wise, all right. Now we’ve got to do a little strong-arm work. Tell me about the banks here. Ain’t there some trusted teller or cashier that’s been bucking your game?”
“Sure there is,” said Marsten. “Riggs, paying teller of the Elm National. I’ve been watching him pretty close. He’s been playing here for a year, pretty easy. But I’ve been getting ready to string him along for a big play. He’s made it now. Not the wheel—he’s too clever for that. The races are his lay. He’s got a thousand of the bank’s money now, and if I say the word he’ll have to jump through a hoop. He knows blame well I’ve got the goods on him.”
“Fine and dandy!” said Barrows. “That is all I need. We can pull this off all right. Safe as a church, Johnny, and if you let us use your place here, you divvy a quarter of the loot with us. Say, if the banks in this country knew as much about Bascom as I do, they’d pay him a hundred thousand a year to go and live in the Sandwich Islands—and they’d be saving money at that.”
“What’s the idea of using this fool kid Foote?” asked Marsten, who hadn’t agreed yet to do what Barrows wanted. The idea of some easy money, no matter how it was obtained, appealed to Marsten, but he wanted all the details.
“I heard you talkin’ to him about a row he had with this Merriwell,” said Barrows. “Johnny, my reputation is at stake. I’ve not only got to get a bank roll—I’ve got to do Merriwell up, good and proper. I haven’t doped out the way to do it yet, but that will come later. And I figure this kid will fit into my plans pretty nicely. You can hold off on him till I get through using him, can’t you? I won’t need him very long, if I use him at all. Then you can do what you like with him, for all I care.”
“Anything to oblige a pal,” said the accommodating Mr. Marsten. “Finish up with him as soon as you can. I think I can bleed his dad for the notes I hold. That’s about three thousand, and it will come in handy. Looks like a long, hot summer, with darned few pickings.”
“You can spend it on a private yacht at the north pole if this game goes through,” boasted Barrows, “on your share of the winnings. The way I figure it, we’re due to cop off a couple of hundred thousand at least. And there won’t be a chance of a come-back, either—not for a long time. We can make a clean get-away.”
“Talk’s cheap,” said Marsten sententiously. “Come across with the goods. I don’t play with my eyes shut. I want to see the whole hand laid out. Then I’ll decide whether I want it or not.”
“All right,” said Barrows. “I don’t mind telling you—but remember, you’re going to forget it as soon as you’ve heard it, see?”
They talked in low tones for a few minutes after that. At first Marsten seemed to be incredulous. Then the doubt that showed in his face cleared away gradually, and he looked as if he were more ready to accept what Barrows was telling him at its full face value.
Finally he jumped up and held out his hand.
“Count me in,” he declared. “It’s the swellest little scheme I ever heard of. You sure struck a gold mine when you picked up this lad Bascom. I should think Harding would be green with jealousy when he hears about it.”
Barrows’ face darkened.
“Harding makes me sick,” he growled. “If he’d stuck to me in that last deal, the trouble would never have hit us, because he’d have recognized Phillips as soon as he saw him. And now he’s trying to queer me with the gang. I’m going after him some day, when I get my roll, and you’ll see the feathers flying then.”
“Look out that they’re not yours,” said Marsten warningly. “Harding’s all sorts of a skunk—I’ll admit that. But he’s got a big pull, and he’s a pretty handy man when any one starts trouble in his neighborhood. And, say, if I were you, I’d let this chap Merriwell alone. You don’t need to drag him into this game, and if you do, you’re likely to spoil your pickings. Why don’t you take what you can get and make your get-away? You can come back after him some other time. There’s no use spoiling a good plan just to get revenge. The money’s the thing.”
“I’ll run this game my own way,” said Barrows. “You’re all right, Johnny, but you don’t know how it feels to be stuck by a gang like that. And it’s up to me to come back at him. The way Harding and his gang are talking, the whole story will be known all over the country in a few days. I couldn’t go on a track or in a saloon, from here to Seattle, without getting the laugh from somebody. I’ve got to make good there, or I’ll lose my pull. Can’t you see how it is?”
“I guess so,” admitted Marsten. “But, just the same, I think I’d wait.”
CORRUPTING THE BANK CLERK.
In smaller cities, like New Haven, banks are not so thoroughly organized as in a city like New York or Chicago. There is less business, and the duties are not divided up with such exactness among the employees. Moreover, every man employed in a bank like the Elm National, of New Haven, is known personally to depositors and bank officials alike. All are trusted, and they have opportunities to do many irregular things, if they are inclined to take advantage of the chances.
Riggs, the paying teller of the Elm National, had stolen a thousand dollars from the bank. He had told himself, as have so many before him, in similar circumstances, that he was only borrowing the money. He intended to bet it all on a certain horse, and he was sure the horse could not lose. Marsten had been the tempter.
“Sure, I’m giving you the right steer,” Marsten had said. “Ain’t I always treated you right? You know me. You don’t make that bet with me. I take your money, and get it down for you in a big room in New York, just as a favor. If you lose, I don’t get the money, see? It goes to the room. Now, I tell you this gee-gee is going to win at three to one. If you win, I expect you to slip me a couple of hundred for the tip, see? And cheap, at that. Now, who do I want to see win—you, or the pool room? If you win, I get two centuries. If you lose, I don’t get nothing. Figure it out for yourself!”
Riggs could do what he liked with figures, but human nature was too much for him. He figured it out as Marsten wanted him to, and “borrowed” the thousand dollars from the bank, intending to replace it a day or two later, before there was any chance of a discovery of his theft. He was safe from discovery in any case for three weeks, as he understood matters, because there would be no inspection of the bank before that time. So he fell into the trap that has yawned so often before men in a position like his own, and his love of gambling turned him into a thief.
The race in which he had wagered this thousand dollars was run, and, to his horror, his horse, that Marsten had told him was sure to win, ran last. He could not know that Marsten had simply pocketed the money. In giving him the tip, Marsten had picked the one horse in the race that had not one chance in a thousand of winning.
Had the horse, by some miracle, won, Marsten would have paid the bet out of his own pocket, knowing that he would get the money back two or three times over as the result of the inspiriting effect of this one victory. But the miracle hadn’t occurred—it very seldom does—and poor Riggs, knowing the truth, and that in a short time he was sure to be branded as a thief in the town where he had spent his whole life, was almost determined to end his troubles by suicide.
Had it not been for the appearance of Barrows with his scheme, Marsten would have let Riggs kill himself, and would not even have been conscience-stricken by the act. Gamblers harden themselves to things that would turn the stomach of the ordinary man if he thought he was responsible for them. But there was a use for Riggs; so Marsten, professing great regret, sent for him and gave him a chance to talk to Barrows.
“By Jove, Riggs!” he said. “I’m sorry about that. A thing of that sort, a perfectly straight inside tip, doesn’t go wrong once in a thousand times. I suppose it was just our bad luck that made us strike the thousandth time. Better luck next time.”
“There’ll be no next time for me,” said Riggs, almost crying. “If I don’t get that thousand back, I’m a ruined man. My heavens, this is awful!”
“You don’t mean to say you took the bank’s money?” exclaimed Marsten, as if the idea were a complete surprise.
“That’s just what I did,” said Riggs. “You said it was a sure thing, Marsten. I thought there was no risk at all. Can’t you help me out?”
“I wish I could,” said Marsten, shaking his head sadly. “I’d do it in a minute, if I had the money. But I lost pretty heavily on that tip myself. I thought it was safe, just as you did. However, there may be some way of working this out. I’ll call a friend of mine here who may be able to suggest something.”
And he came back with Barrows. Barrows heard the story with deep attention.
“You can’t raise this money, I suppose?” he said. “You haven’t anything put away?”
“On my salary?” said Riggs. “I should say not.”
“That’s just the trouble,” said Barrows. “It’s the fault of the bank, for not giving a man a living wage. They’ve only themselves to blame if anything goes wrong like this. That’s what has turned me into a socialist. When we get control, the men who oppress the poor and make men work for starvation wages won’t be allowed to keep their ill-gotten gains. It may be a long time before we can win in a national election. But in the meantime we are at work quietly. There is an organization that makes it its business to adjust the balance of wealth in all the countries of the world. I am at the head of it in this State. The law, made by capitalists, calls what we take stealing, but that won’t last long.
“Perhaps, if you will work with us, we can help you in this matter. We cannot make the directors of your bank give up their unearned profits, but we can take them away from them. The money we get is used for the cause, and no one really suffers. We do not take from the poor. Instead, we give to them. We help strikes and relieve distress.”
“Do you mean you’d rob the bank?” asked Riggs, in horror. He had been too long a banker not to be appalled by such a suggestion.
“Call it that, if you like,” said Barrows, who was enjoying his task of playing socialist to fool Riggs, who was an innocent, weak-minded little man. “That’s what most people would call what I’m suggesting. But you want to remember that it’s just what you’ve done. Stealing is stealing, whether you take a thousand dollars or two hundred thousand. And our way is safe from detection. No one will ever put us in jail—which is what they will do to you as soon as they find out what you have done.”
For the first time Riggs seemed to realize where he stood. He had convinced himself so thoroughly that he was only borrowing, that the idea that he was a thief was difficult for him to grasp.
“What do you want me to do?” he asked, shuddering. “I don’t see what good I can be to you.”
“We won’t ask you to take a cent,” said Barrows, almost pitying the little bank clerk, so abject was his terror. “But we’ll need you in the work of enforcing a division of the spoils of these men you work for, who are the real robbers. We will want you to tell us all about the construction of the bank; to give us the combination of the vault and the safes, if you can, and to help us in other ways. You will be perfectly safe. The thousand you took will appear to have gone with the larger sum that we shall take, and I will see that you get, as your share, another thousand dollars.”
The fear of arrest hung over Riggs. He could not bear the idea of public disgrace. At another time he would have been able to see how ridiculous were the sentiments that Barrows was setting forth. It was not socialism, except in a distorted and absurd form, that Barrows was preaching to him. But Riggs wanted to be convinced. He was like a drowning man, clutching at a straw, and the chance to escape the detection that had seemed inevitable was too much for him.
When he had taken the thousand dollars, he had been able to convince himself that he was not stealing it. He was still, in his own eyes, honest. His theft, as he saw it, was only technical. And now it was the same. Before he could agree to what Barrows might demand, he had to convince himself that his employers had treated him badly, and that in helping these men to rob them, he was taking part in the fight for human rights. A thorough weakling, easily impressed and guided by a stronger will, Riggs did not find it hard to do this. He did not think very long before agreeing to what Barrows wanted.
BARROWS LAYS THE MINE.
Dick Merriwell, at this time, was full of plans. He was interested in a lumbering enterprise in the Maine woods, which he had always loved, and he had talked much to Jim Phillips and Brady, among others, of this business. One of his associates in this business was Chester Arlington, the engineer who had won such a brilliant success in Valdivia, to whose sister, June, Dick was devoted.
“There has been a terrible waste of our woods,” said Dick. “Out West, thousands of square miles of forest land has been completely ruined, long before it was needed for agriculture. One result is that there have been terrible floods in the spring, and the damage done in that way is simply irreparable. Then they have cut the wood so unwisely that fire traps have been made, and millions of dollars and hundreds of lives have been needlessly lost, as a result. There’s one Yale man who has done a lot toward teaching people how to use the forests properly—that’s Gifford Pinchot. And it’s still possible to make money out of the forests without wasting them and ruining them completely.”
“That’s mighty interesting work,” said Jim Phillips. “I’d like to get a closer look at it some time.”
“I’ll give you the chance,” said Dick, with a laugh. “I’m going up there as soon as we get back from Sweden, and I shouldn’t wonder if you’d come in pretty handy. There are some people up there who don’t like me or my system of using forest lands, and they may try to make trouble. So, if you want to come along, I’ll be glad to have you, and Brady, too. You’ll be in fine condition for football after you get through, too, I can promise you. There’ll be lots of work, and just enough play to keep you feeling good.”
“Always talking about work,” said Brady sadly. “Which reminds me, Jim, that you seem to have lost all idea of how to keep that cross fire of yours within reach of any catcher whose arms are less than six feet long. If you’ll get a ball and come out with me, we’ll have a little lesson in that.”
And Bill, who was always calling himself lazy, and bemoaning the necessity of practice before games, wondered at the laugh that went up. As a matter of fact, he never neglected a chance to perfect a play, no matter how much practice it required, and he was the first to help Dick Merriwell in keeping every man on a team up to the mark.
“You practice better than you preach, Bill,” said Dick Merriwell, much amused. “I guess you’ll find that Jim will be all right on that ball when he has to use it in the game. His arm is just a little bit stiff, that’s all. I wouldn’t do any more work to-day. Just take it easy, and pitch a little each day until the game. All you fellows are in good condition, and you just want to stay that way. No use getting stale and overtrained.
“That Boston team is coming down here primed to give us the licking of our lives, and we went to be all ready for them. They’ve been going around ever since the first game, I understand, telling every one in Boston and Cambridge that would listen to them that it was just an accident. Bowen told me that. He didn’t have any part in it, and he tried to make all his friends understand that it was a fair, stand-up game, and that the best team won. But he’s had trouble doing it, from what he tells me. So if they lose this time, too, they can’t make any excuses; while, if they win, it will look as if they had been right about the first game.”
“By the way,” said Brady, “who do you suppose I saw in town to-day? That chap Barrows, that faced us down so on the Marina until I called his bluff and told him what would happen if Jim had been hurt. He pretended that he didn’t see me, but he did all right. In fact, I had an idea that he had been looking at me pretty closely, and trying to figure out what I was doing.”
“I wonder what he’s doing here,” said Dick, with a frown. “I should think he wouldn’t be anxious to show up around New Haven very much after that trouble he ran into at New London. That must have cost those fellows a pretty penny.
“I understand they haven’t got enough money to repair the Marina, and they must have lost a great deal if they bet at all heavily on Harvard to win the race, even at the odds they got. I understood that our boys and the alumni won about forty thousand dollars altogether on the race, and I don’t believe the Harvard men themselves bet very heavily. It looked as if they were hopelessly beaten after that time trial. But they put up a wonderful fight. I never saw a closer, better race.”
“I was in the Elm National,” said Brady. “It’s a secret so far, but my father has just bought practically all the stock of that bank. He’s interested in a number of Connecticut enterprises, and he needed a very close banking connection up here. So he has picked up all the stock pretty quietly, and I guess he’ll soon reorganize it and go to work to make a big bank of it.”
“That’s where I keep my account,” said Dick. “I’m glad to hear your father is interested in it, Brady. He’s the sort of a man to inspire confidence in those who deposit in any institution that he controls.”
“I don’t believe any one has ever lost a penny through any enterprise the governor was connected with,” said Brady, with pardonable pride. “He’s never believed in taking chances with the money that other people have intrusted to him, like some of these high financiers, and I guess he’d rather lose some money than do it. Anyhow, it was while I was in there that I saw Barrows. He was hanging around on the other side of the street, and he seemed to be rather interested in my movements. I went in there to cash a check—they don’t know, in the bank, except for some of the high officials, that my father’s connected with it at all.”
“Maybe he’s planning to rob the bank,” said Watson.
“Hardly,” said Brady, with a smile. “They’ve got a really modern system of vaults and safeguards in there. It’s only been installed for about two years, and the biggest house in the country put them in. It’s practically impossible for any burglar to break in there. The detective company that protects the bank says it’s the best and safest institution, physically speaking, outside of New York and Chicago, in the whole country. And that’s a pretty high compliment from them.”
“I guess that bank is reasonably safe from that sort of danger,” said Dick Merriwell. “In fact, I’ve heard that some of the other banks here, when they have unusually large sums of money on hand, use its vaults for greater safety.”
“I don’t think Barrows is the type of the bank robber, anyhow,” said Jim Phillips. “He might try forgery, or something of that sort, but the regular work of going into a building at night and blowing a safe, or something of that sort, requires a sort of a courage he hasn’t got—or, at least, didn’t show when I saw him on the Marina.
“He was pretty sure, for instance, that I had overheard something that endangered his plans that night. Yet he was afraid, when I bluffed him, to tie me up. Svenson wanted to drop me overboard, I think, and fix me so that I wouldn’t come up again very easily, but Barrows wouldn’t stand for it. He just made excuses to keep me on board, and he was mighty anxious to avoid anything that would even look like a fight. I think he’s a coward. He’s a dangerous man, and he’s certainly a clever one, but he hasn’t got the animal courage of Harding. Another thing I’ve noticed about these gamblers, since they’ve been bothering us, is that they are very anxious, especially when they get outside of the big city, to keep on the safe side of the law. Harding was really terrified in New London when he thought that Brady and I were going to have him sent to jail for assault. I rather believe that it injures their prestige among their companions to be sent to prison.”
“I think that’s just it,” said Dick Merriwell. “It isn’t that they mind the disgrace, but it makes them look as if they couldn’t take care of themselves. None of these fellows work alone. They have to have a lot of lesser criminals that will do what they tell them, and those fellows depend upon their employer to keep them out of trouble. It’s like that poor little rat of a burglar that Harding sent here to rob Jim’s rooms. He seemed to be perfectly willing to tell all he knew until Harding showed his power with the politicians by getting himself released at once. Then he lost his nerve at once, and the police down there couldn’t get a thing out of him that would incriminate Harding.”
“Still,” said Brady, “there’s no telling what he would do under the present conditions. I guess he’s pretty nearly broke—and that must be almost as humiliating for those fellows as going to jail.”
Jim Phillips chuckled suddenly.
“Of course,” he said, “I don’t want to see the bank robbed, but I was just thinking of what our friend, Detective Jones, of the New Haven Police Department, would do if he had a bank robbery to handle. He’s always complaining of the absence of a chance to distinguish himself here in New Haven, because they don’t have any sensational and important crimes. I think he’d be tickled to death at the chance to show his real powers. He’s firmly convinced that he could give the United States Secret Service and the New York Detective Bureau all sorts of hints on the proper way to solve any sort of a mystery, from an Italian kidnaping to a big smuggling case.”
“He’s a well-meaning little chap,” said Dick Merriwell, “and not at all a bad detective, really. I think he’d do pretty well with a little more experience.”
Dick got up then, after looking at his watch.
“Nearly three o’clock,” he said. “I’ve got to go over to that bank and deposit some money. I intended to go up to Maine, but this game with Boston has made that impossible. So I’m going to deposit this five thousand dollars I’ve got with me, and get a bank draft to send up there. It’s a safer way to send money, anyhow.”
He counted out the money, in shining, new hundred-dollar bills, glistening with their yellow backs, and Harry Maxwell sighed enviously.
“Gee!” he said, “I’d have knocked you on the head myself, I think, if I’d known that you had that much with you.”
“I’ll appoint you all a bodyguard to go with me while I deposit this,” said Dick, laughing. “Brady, you’d better keep a sharp eye on Maxwell.”
Laughing, they all went out together to make the trip to the bank. It was a hot day, and they walked slowly. Moreover, they were all talking among themselves, and they did not happen to notice that their progress attracted the close attention of Barrows himself, who walked along, a large Panama hat shading his face, on the other side of the street, and waited in the doorway opposite the bank until they had completed their business and emerged. They all went down to the water, intending to take a little trip to cool off with a swim at a near-by beach later on. But Barrows did not follow them. Instead, as soon as they had passed out of sight, he entered the bank, and signaled to Riggs, who was making a bundle of the yellow bills that Dick had deposited.
“Did Merriwell make a deposit?” asked Barrows peremptorily. He had caught Riggs in his landing net now, and there was no longer any need to be polite and diplomatic with him.
“Yes,” said Riggs. “Fifty hundred-dollar bills.”
“You are required to make a note of the numbers of such bills, are you not?” asked Barrows, who seemed to know a good deal about the banking business.
“Yes,” said Riggs. “I’ve got the note here.”
“Give it to me!” commanded Barrows. “And enter up series numbers for those bills well ahead, do you see? So that no one can trace the real ones properly. Keep a note of the false numbers that you enter up, and give that to me to-night. And, when you come to-night, bring all the other information I asked for. At half past ten, remember, at Marston’s place.”
“All right,” said Riggs, trembling. He was nervous, though there seemed a chance for him to escape.
THE COMBINATIONS AT THE BANK.
For the pursuit of ways that are dark and tricks that are vain, which Bret Harte once attributed to his famous “Heathen Chinee,” Barrows couldn’t have selected a better place than those back rooms in Marsten’s house. Marsten’s place cost him a hundred dollars a month in rent, which was about twice what a house in that locality in New Haven is worth to the ordinary, law-abiding citizen. But Marsten never felt that he was paying too much. It was a house that was very hard to get into, for one thing.
From the street it looked like an ordinary place. True, the windows were nearly always dark, but that was the owner’s own business. The front door looked very innocent. If you wanted to get in, you found an ordinary wooden door, which was open. Behind that was a panel of shaded glass, through which nothing of what went on inside was visible, although a strong electric light shone down on any visitor who rang the bell. That bell was a work of art in itself. It established an electric current which resulted, by a complicated and most ingenious system of mirrors, in revealing, to an observer carefully stationed for the purpose within the house, the appearance of whoever rang it. If the guard was made suspicious, the door was not opened, no matter how hard the bell might be rung.
A few favored visitors, for greater convenience, were intrusted with a code way of ringing that bell, which secured immediate admittance, at any hour of the day or night, for Marsten had friends who were likely, at almost any time, to require a quick and readily available hiding place. For Marsten was in the habit, when gambling profits were a trifle slow, of doing some extra business in the way of receiving stolen goods. He was very careful about this, and Detective Jones and the other shining lights of the New Haven police had not even suspected this phase of his activities as yet.
This secret signal for gaining quick admittance to the house was changed every few days, by way of precaution, lest, in some manner, some person hostile to Mr. Marsten and his way of making a living should discover it. Riggs, Foote, Barrows, Bascom, and a few others knew of it, and at half past ten promptly on the night of the day on which Dick Merriwell made his deposit of five thousand dollars in the Elm National Bank, Riggs pressed the button twice in long rings, and then three times in very rapid succession. It was the right code signal, and he was admitted at once, to be greeted with a smile by Marsten.
“You’re very lucky, Mr. Riggs,” said Marsten. “There are times when I am afraid that my friend Barrows is misguided, but he has been greatly moved by the wrongs and sufferings of men in your position. As long as his motives are good, I know of no reason why I should take it on myself to criticize the means he uses to reform bad conditions. Follow me. I will take you to him.”
Riggs, when he was taken upstairs, had to wait a few minutes for Barrows. He found himself in what looked like a miniature machine shop. There were several peculiar instruments around. One resembled a vacuum cleaner. Then there were a number of delicate tools, all attached to lengths of insulated wire, with plugs at the other end, evidently adapted to use with an ordinary electric-light circuit. In one corner of the room, a young man bent over a desk, industriously plying a very fine camel’s-hair brush. He had half a dozen of these brushes, of incredible delicacy, each resting on a little dish of paint, of different colors. This young man, who might have been recognized as Bascom, the wireless operator of the Marina, had Jim Phillips been there, paid no attention at all to Riggs. He seemed to have plenty to keep him busy without displaying any idle curiosity, and he worked as if he were fascinated by his task, and took an artistic pride in doing it as well as it could be done.
Then Barrows entered, brisk, confident, looking more like the man who had been so sure of success before the defeat of his plans for making a killing on the boat race at New London.
“All right, Riggs,” he said. “I think it looks pretty well. Now we want to get right down to business. There’s no use wasting time here. They might make an inspection of your books before you expected them, you know, and the sooner things are straightened out so that you have nothing to fear, the better you will feel. Have you got those numbers?”
“Yes,” said Riggs, taking a notebook from his pocket. “Here is a record of every bank note above ten dollars in value that was in the vaults to-night. And here are the numbers that I substituted in the official record. I passed up all that are likely to be used in the course of business to-morrow, and worked simply with the reserve cash, that would not be touched except in an emergency. All our customers make it a point to give us a few days’ notice, when possible, before making a large withdrawal, so that we can be ready for them without any trouble. But there is nothing of that sort in sight for several days.”
“Good,” said Barrows. “Now we shall be able to arrange that part of it all right. Bascom, I want you to listen with me now, to the questions I shall ask Riggs and to his answers. This is your part—and it is the hardest part of the whole business, in a way.”
“All right,” said Bascom, looking up for the first time. “You needn’t worry about my part of the game. I’ll be there with bells on. I’m tired of needing money. This will set me up for life.”
“Now, in the first place,” said Barrows, “is there a watchman in the bank?”
“No,” said Riggs, “they trust so much to their new safety and burglar-proof devices that they’ve changed that. There’s a man who patrols the whole block that the bank is in. He passes up and down in front every fifteen minutes. He goes around behind, too, and can look right in through the barred windows at the room that leads into the vault. There’s always a light in that room.”
“That’s bad,” said Barrows. “I suppose he passes there every fifteen minutes, too. That wouldn’t give you time enough, Bascom. We’ll have to get rid of him for an hour or two.”
“Leave that to me,” said Bascom coolly. “We won’t let a detail like that interfere with our plans. Not if I know myself.”
“How about the combinations?” asked Barrows, next. “And the key to the front door? Could you get those?”
“I’ve got an impression of the front-door key,” said Riggs. “I couldn’t get one of the keys, though. I was afraid I’d make them suspicious if I asked for one, and I didn’t dare take a chance. As for the combinations, I’ve got some, but not all of them. Here is the combination for the gate of the vaultroom. I’ve got it for the outer door of the vault, too. The inner door of the vault I couldn’t get. And, once you’re inside the big vault, there’s an old-fashioned safe; that’s about the only one of the old things they kept. That’s used to lock up currency. The packet of hundred-dollar bills that Merriwell deposited to-day is in that.”
Barrows turned to Bascom.
“Can you manage on that?” he asked.
“What’s the type of that vault?” asked the wireless expert tersely.
Riggs told him.
“All right,” nodded Bascom. “I probably couldn’t open it if I didn’t have the outer combination. But those people make their inner and outer doors on the same principle, and I can find out what the inside combination is in ten minutes, if I’ve already opened the outer gate. As for the safe inside, there isn’t a safe made before nineteen hundred that would fool me for ten minutes on the combination. I can get that by listening to the tumblers. Those old soft-iron safes were hard to break, but easy to open if you had good ears and understood the principles of combination locks.”
“Then it’s going to be a regular burglary?” asked Riggs.
“Of course it is,” snapped Barrows. “How else did you suppose we were going to work it? It’s going to be a regular burglary—but a darned sight different from the ordinary ones you read about. You can go down to the bank the morning after it’s been pulled off, and you won’t hear a word about it. Thanks to you, we’ve been able to take precautions that will delay detection for several days.”
Riggs, fascinated, seemed to want to hang around. But Barrows had sucked him dry, and had no further use for him. So Riggs had to go, still in the dark as to when the burglary was to be attempted.
“That deposit of Merriwell’s is a bit of luck,” said Barrows, turning with a smile to Bascom when they were alone. “Makes it a lot easier for us to queer his game. I know what it’s for, too. He’s made some friends of mine pretty sore by the way he’s threatened their lumber interests up in Maine. We’ll be killing two birds with one stone if we land him.”
“Oh, let up on Merriwell,” said Bascom angrily. “You’ll queer this game yet if you insist on dragging in your personal quarrels, Barrows. You ought to be content to work the plant and let it go at that. You’ll have money enough after this business to do Merriwell up without half trying. Hire some one to do it for you and keep out of it yourself. No use taking unnecessary risks.”
“I’m not going to,” said Barrows. “That’s what I roped this lad Foote in for. He’s going to pull my chestnuts out of this fire for me, though he doesn’t know it, and if he gets burned doing it, it will be his lookout, not mine.”
“I forgot about Foote,” conceded Bascom. “Still I wish you’d stick to one thing at a time. This business is delicate enough, without mixing up a lot of other things with it that don’t belong at all. You may see that when it’s too late, and be sorry you were so rash.”
“You’re as bad as Harding,” said Barrows angrily. “I’m just holding Foote in reserve if anything goes wrong with the plan. This looks like a first-class game, and a safe one. But that business at New London taught me not to leave anything to chance. That watchman worries me. If we fall down at all, it’s going to be on account of him. But I guess we can guard against that. I’ll see Foote to-night, and we’ll put it over to-morrow night. That give you time enough?”
“Sure,” said Bascom. And so it was agreed.
THE SILENT SHOT.
Barrows had talked about chance, and the way in which it might affect the most carefully laid plans. It usually does, as a matter of fact. The plan that is so carefully worked out that it depends upon the favorable combination of a great number of circumstances, is the one least likely to succeed. The best plan is the one that will not suffer if it has to be changed at the last moment; for so many things may happen to require a change that the man who makes a plan in an important matter should really expect and look for accidents. He is sure to encounter them.
On the night following the visit of Riggs to the gambling house that had ruined him, Jim Phillips, after going to bed early, had been called out again. A friend of his, in whom he had always taken a deep interest, had had an attack of typhoid fever just before the examinations began, and, after a severe illness, was beginning to recover slowly. He had found himself, this night, unable to sleep, and had asked Jim to go to see him, which Jim had done readily enough. He had stayed with his friend until one o’clock, and then, making his way home through the deserted streets of the quiet college town, quieter than ever now that most of the Yale men had gone home, had stumbled upon a surprising affair.
He was in the block above the Elm National Bank when he was attracted by the sound of the night watchman’s footsteps. He himself was wearing a dark rain coat, and his feet were clad in rubber-soled shoes, so that he was hard to see in the darkness, and almost impossible to hear, also.
He looked at the watchman, and was amazed to see him suddenly throw up his hands and fall to the ground. It looked as if the man had been shot, but there had been no report, and Jim was amazed at the whole circumstance. Without a moment of hesitation, he ran toward the fallen man, and, as he neared him, still moving silently, he almost cried out at the sight of a stealthy pair of figures that emerged from the door of the bank building and dragged the victim in with them.
The door was shut when he reached the bank. On the sidewalk where the watchman had lain was a spot of blood. Inside there was deep silence. The whole thing was mysterious and terrifying. Jim could make no sense of what he had seen. The spot of blood, still wet, showed him that he had made no mistake; that he had actually seen a man shot. Except for that, he would have been inclined to think that he had imagined the whole extraordinary affair. But that left no room for doubt.
Jim tried the door, but without success. It seemed to be locked. But behind it, he well knew, some dark thing was going on. He had seen what might prove to be murder; it was likely that robbers had done it, and that they were even now engaged in completing their task by robbing the bank. He remembered the discussion they had had on that very subject, and then the need for action struck him.
He must find a policeman and get help. But that was easier said than done. The very presence of the private watchman in that block had decreased the vigilance of the regular police. They had been inclined to leave the duty of protecting property in that neighborhood to him.
Jim raced around the block, and came, as he ran, to the rear of the bank building. He could see the entrance to the great vault, in the light that burned in the room, and a man working at its lock.
He shouted for help then, but no one seemed to hear him. And, determined to do what he could for himself, and by himself, he returned to the front of the bank building, and tried the door again. This time he found it yielded. He was inside the bank in another moment, and stumbled at once over the body of the watchman. Jim was no surgeon, but he saw at once that the man was not badly hurt. Moreover, he had been looked after. He was gagged, and his wild eyes stared up at Jim, but his wound was only in the fleshy part of the leg, and a tourniquet had been roughly applied to relieve him of his only serious danger, that of bleeding to death.
Jim slipped the gag out of his mouth; then dashed for the rear of the bank building. A shout told him that he had alarmed the robbers, but he didn’t hesitate a moment. It was a reckless, foolish thing to do, for he should have stopped to think that they would be able, in a fight, to overpower him. But Jim was thoroughly aroused, and he had no thought for his own danger.
Suddenly a man rose in his path. Jim gasped as they clinched. They struggled all over the floor of the room that led into the great vault, and, though the robber fought hard, Jim was getting the best of him. The thief was no match for the Yale athlete, and, wasting his breath as he did in vain curses, he was succumbing fast to Jim’s superior strength. But help came for him. Bascom, who had been inside, heard the struggle, and in a moment, Jim was felled by a heavy blow that descended on his head from behind. He lay unconscious on the floor while Barrows struggled to his feet.
In his hand Bascom held a bundle of yellow-backed bills. His face was livid with rage as he heard the outcry that the watchman, freed from his gag, was making in the front room. He kicked savagely at Jim’s unconscious form, lying on the floor before him.
“This game’s up,” said Barrows, as he got his breath back. “We’ll have to make a quick get-away. Slug that infernal watchman as you go by, and make him stay quiet for a while. I think he’s still roped up. No time to take him away as we planned. We’ll have to go some to get away ourselves.”
“I’ve still got this,” exclaimed Bascom, waving his bundle of bills. “Better than nothing. Gee, what tough luck! Just when everything looked so good, too.”
“No use thinking of that,” growled Barrows. “Hang on to that and come along. Listen to that watchman. If he’s loose, we’ll never get out of this. Hurry!”
They had to pass the watchman to get out of the bank. He cursed them volubly as they approached on the run, but a terrific blow from Bascom’s slingshot, the same weapon with which he had felled Jim, silenced him effectually. Suddenly Barrows turned and ran back to the room where the vault was.
“Where are you going?” cried Bascom. “Come on—are you crazy?”
“I’ll be back in a minute,” cried Barrows. “See that the coast is clear. We’re safe enough yet.”
What Barrows had to do in the vaultroom did not take him more than two minutes. When he returned, Bascom was still looking in fright up and down the street. But not a soul was in sight. The peace that reigned all over the town was complete. There was no one to interfere with them. Barrows breathed a great sigh of relief.
“We can still make some trouble,” he said. “Here—give me a hand. We’ve got to get this hulk down to the cellar. It’s summer, and they’re not using the heating plant. We may still be able to stall them a while. They won’t find him down there right away.”
Bascom grumbled, but he could see the wisdom of the idea. The longer their start, the greater their chance of escape would be. And, with the collapse of their scheme, Bascom had become completely subservient to Barrows. He was a genius in certain ways, but without Barrows to direct him, he was worthless. Even now he did not fathom the new plan that Barrows had conceived on the spur of the moment.
They threw the watchman, still unconscious, into a dark part of the cellar, and, regardless of the suffering they were imposing on him, gagged him again. Then, convinced that they had done all they could, after another careful scrutiny of the street, they emerged into the soft summer night, and made their way slowly to the station.
Down in the freight yards there was some sign of human activity—the first they had seen since they left the bank.
“I’m glad this isn’t New York,” said Barrows, with a shiver. “Up here folks go to bed early, and stay there till the alarm clock starts ringing in the morning. Good thing for us. Not even a cop in sight.”
A freight train was pulling out as they slipped, unobserved, through the tangle of box cars. There would be no passenger train for hours, as they knew, and this freight was a Heaven-sent opportunity that they were not slow to seize. They swung aboard, and soon they were traveling fast, on tracks cleared of passenger traffic, bound for New York and freedom.
Barrows and his fellow villain, dirty, unshaven, needing clean clothes and a bath, dropped off their freight train in the Harlem River yards soon after seven o’clock. The big city was astir, and going about its business. No one had a word or a serious thought for the two tramps, as they appeared to be. A railroad detective looked at them as they neared the street, but decided that they were game too small for his notice.
Barrows had a flat far downtown that served as a nest for him. Thither he took Bascom. The wireless man slept, but Barrows still had work to do—work that took him to the long-distance telephone.
“Well,” said Barrows, in the evening, when both were fresh and clean, “we’ve got something out of this. Twenty-five hundred apiece. Marsten can whistle for his share now. Let’s go look up our friend Harding.”
They reached Harding’s flashy hotel in due time, and went quietly into the barroom. Harding was there. He was telling a group of his particular friends, with great relish, of the way in which Barrows had been beaten in New London.
“He wouldn’t take my advice,” he ended, “and now he’s up in the tall timber somewhere, broke and looking for a stake. He’ll find it, too, I don’t think.”
“Hello, boys,” said Barrows, breaking in at that moment. “Have one on me. Open up as many bottles of wine as the crowd can drink, barkeep. I guess this will settle the bill.”
And, taking out a roll of bright new yellow bills, he threw down a hundred-dollar bill on the bar. Then he glanced triumphantly at Harding, who was both astonished and crestfallen.
THE DISCOVERY IN THE VAULT.
Dick Merriwell got up early in the morning that Barrows and his precious friend, Bascom, arrived in New York. He had an engagement with Jim Phillips for an early breakfast at his rooms, to be followed by a swim. When eight o’clock arrived, with still no sign of Jim, Dick was tremendously surprised. Jim was usually the most punctual of men, and the universal coach was inclined to think that something very serious indeed had happened to make Jim break his engagement without sending any word.
When he inquired at Jim’s rooms, he was at first relieved. He learned there of the call Jim had received from his sick friend, and decided that the pitcher, probably finding his friend worse than he expected, had stayed the night with him, and, possibly, overslept, as a result of having been so long awake. But when he went to the other man’s rooms he learned that Jim had left there at one o’clock to go home. There was no accident reported that might have accounted for Jim’s mysterious absence. And Dick, very much perturbed, visited every place in New Haven where Jim, by any imaginable vagary, might have gone. Bill Brady was one of the first of those he looked up, and Bill, quite as anxious as himself, joined the search at once.
But the morning passed without a sign of the missing baseball captain. Harry Maxwell, Watson, Carter, and others had helped to look for him, but none of them had found a trace of his movements after he had left his friend’s rooms to go home.
“He’s the last man in the world to disappear this way,” said Brady, puzzled and disturbed. “I can’t account for it at all. I know there was nothing to bother him. He hasn’t had any telegram or call from home—some sickness in the family was the first thing I thought of. Anyhow, if it was anything ordinary, he’d have found some way to let us know that he was going. He wouldn’t leave us to worry about him if he had had any way of preventing it.”
They were all in Merriwell’s rooms at that time, having given up the search as fruitless, and every one there, except Dick himself, was advancing some theory to solve the mystery. Suddenly there was an excited voice to be heard downstairs, asking for Dick, and a moment later Detective Jones burst into the room.
“I’ve just come from the Elm National Bank,” he cried. “They’ve found a Yale man, Phillips, the baseball captain, I’m told, in the big vault, and they sent for an officer to hold him while they searched the place to see if there has been a robbery. I thought you would want to know about it, Mr. Merriwell.”
“Come on, Brady,” shouted Dick Merriwell. “The rest of you stay behind. We’ll let you know as soon as anything is discovered.”
At the bank they found that the detective’s astounding statement was true. Jim, pale and shaken, and indignant at the presence of a policeman, obviously sent there to guard him, sat in a chair, and in a few words told his friends the story of the robbery he had interrupted, which the president and cashier of the bank had already heard. Riggs, tremendously excited, and in a state of panic, hovered about, trying to hear everything that was said, and the whole place was in an uproar.
“You can’t blame us for thinking that this a very queer story, Mr. Merriwell,” said the president, Joseph Bromlow, an old and respected citizen of New Haven. “We have not been able to find any trace of the watchman. He is not at his home, and he has not been taken to any of the city hospitals, as would certainly be the case had he been injured, as Mr. Phillips says. Moreover, the statement that Mr. Phillips saw the man fall, as if shot, and afterward found a bullet wound in his leg, although he had heard no report, is curious, to say the least.”
“Did you never hear of a Maxim gun silencer?” asked Dick, rather abruptly. He was much upset, and almost as indignant as Jim himself at the suspicion with which the bank officers had received the pitcher’s story.
Bill Brady took Mr. Bromlow aside.
“Look here, Mr. Bromlow,” he said, “you know, of course, that my father practically owns this bank. Now, I can tell you that any idea that there was anything wrong about the presence of Phillips in that vault is absurd. I don’t care what he says about it, or how improbable his story may seem to be, you’ll only waste time unless you take his word absolutely. You’ll find out, sooner or later, that he is telling the truth, and if any criminals escape because of neglect to follow up any clew that Phillips gives you, my father is not likely to overlook it.”
“I am fully accountable to your father, Mr. Brady,” said the president, with some heat, “but I am not aware that he has delegated his authority to you. I am competent, I think, to look after the interests of this bank. I have done so for a number of years. And I must ask you not to interfere.”
Brady shrugged his shoulders. He knew that Bromlow was in the right, technically, and that he had no power to act, but he decided to remedy that as soon as might be, and went out to send a long telegram to his father. He smiled as he sent it, for he knew that his father trusted him, and that neither Mr. Bromlow nor any one else would be able to say that he lacked authority when he found another occasion to intervene.
In the bank the scene was one of great confusion. Jim was not under arrest, for there was, as yet, no evidence that a crime had been committed. Experts had been sent for to go over the books and count the money, and all through the force of employees there was a tense and strained attitude. Riggs was almost crazy with fear and suspense, and Brady, who had been attracted by his nervous manner, watched the little teller closely. It seemed to him that Riggs, if he could only be induced to tell all he knew, might reveal a great deal.
Jim Phillips, angry and confused, watched the progress of the search. He felt that he was being very badly used. He had risked a good deal to prevent a robbery of the bank; had been locked all night in the vault, after suffering injuries more or less serious. By way of thanks for his pains, he was suspected of stealing money from the bank, and of being concerned in the plot he had foiled.
He expressed himself thus to Dick Merriwell, who, while he was himself indignant, could still see that the bank officials were not altogether to blame in the matter.
“They’ve got to protect the bank, Jim,” he said. “You have to remember that. I know that what you’re saying is true; so do all your friends. But these men don’t know you, and they’re acting as trustees for the money of a great many other people. So don’t be too hard on them. They’re only doing what they think is their duty.”
Jim saw the justice of the universal coach’s appeal, and laughed.
“I haven’t been quite myself,” he said. “That rap on the head hasn’t done me any serious harm, but it left me pretty well confused. I can see now that these people are all right. I’m sorry I let myself show that I was annoyed.”
“It was natural enough,” said Dick Merriwell. “I knew you’d look at it the right way as soon as I explained it to you.”
“I don’t think they’ll find that anything at all has been taken,” said Jim. “Of course, they’ve got to make sure. But I was in here very soon after they got in themselves, and I’m pretty sure that they didn’t have time to accomplish anything. What I should investigate, if I were the bank officers, is how the thieves got through those doors as quickly as they did. They didn’t do any dynamiting, and they would, if I hadn’t butted in, have left no traces at all behind them. That’s what would worry me if I were Mr. Bromlow, it seems to me.”
Dick Merriwell and Brady, who heard this, looked very thoughtful.
“It certainly looks like an inside job,” said Brady. “That’s the police term, I believe, when some one inside helps the robbers. It looks as if those fellows were pretty familiar with details of bank management that ought not to be known outside of the working force. But they’re pig-headed. They’re not taking any stock in Jim’s story—I can see that. We’re going to have a lot of trouble here before we get through, I’m afraid.”
Jim got up, and, though his head was still spinning, went over to speak to Mr. Bromlow.
“Mr. Bromlow,” he said, “you don’t seem to think that I have told you the truth about my experiences here. But I wish you would go so far, no matter what you believe, as to investigate along the lines that you would follow if you were convinced that what I told you was the truth. That could surely do no harm. You will not find that any money is missing here. There was no time for the thieves to get away with anything. You will find that out sooner or later. But, in the meantime, some effort should be made to trace those men. The sooner they are arrested and brought back here, the sooner this mystery will be cleared up.”
Mr. Bromlow was ordinarily a courteous and kindly man. But his nerves were raw. He was greatly upset by the fact that anything had happened at his bank to call for any action by the authorities, and he answered Jim brusquely.
“I am doing what I think right to safeguard the interests of the bank, Mr. Phillips,” he said. “If you care to follow my advice, you will wait until questions are asked before you try to answer them, and you will not make the effort then without a lawyer to advise you. Your bitterness against these robbers seems strange to me. I will remind you of an adage that may or may not apply to the present case. It is: ‘When thieves fall out, then honest men may get their rights.’ Now, if you will excuse me, I am busy.”
Jim was furiously angry, but he had seen that Bromlow was in no condition to be held accountable for all he said, and he managed to refrain from making any retort to this uncalled for and insulting reply to his honest attempt to give aid.
In a few minutes the investigation was complete. Riggs, terror-stricken, realized suddenly what seemed bound to happen. The cash in the vaults was reported to be all right—but there was a shortage of a thousand dollars, and only Riggs could be held accountable for that.
They turned around to look for him, but he had disappeared.
“He can’t be gone very far,” said the cashier, to Bromlow. “There are special officers outside, guarding the doors. I instructed them not to allow any employee of the bank to leave the building without my personal authority. We’re still supposed to be doing business, you know. I saw no reason for taking the whole city of New Haven into our confidence in the matter. That would mean that the whole story would get into the newspapers—and we’re not ready for that yet.”
“Certainly not,” said Bromlow. “You were quite right, Hastings. I will find Riggs myself. I have no doubt that he can explain this matter in the most satisfactory way. He is a man I trust implicitly. He entered this bank when he was fifteen years old, and he is above suspicion—quite above suspicion.”
Brady, who heard this talk, did not share this opinion. The scared, worried face of Riggs had been haunting him for an hour. And he followed the president into the banking room just in time to see Paul Foote end an earnest conversation with Riggs and pass out of the the gate, closely scrutinized by the two special officers in plain clothes who stood there, although they made no move to stop him.
Bill Brady whistled as he saw this.
“I’m beginning to see daylight,” he muttered, to himself. “I guess Mr. Merriwell and I may be able to do a lot of explaining before this thing is cleared up.”
He looked at his watch, and put it back in his pocket with an impatient gesture.
“It’s time I heard from the governor,” he said. “He isn’t usually so slow about answering an important telegram. However, it may have been delayed in reaching him.”
Then he turned to Riggs and Bromlow.
“Riggs, my boy,” said the president, laying his hand on the clerk’s shoulder with a paternal gesture. “We’ve got to ask you to explain an item in your books that isn’t quite clear. There seems to be a shortage of a thousand dollars. I’m quite sure that it is all right, and that you will be able to make the whole matter clear, eh?”
“It’s a shame he doesn’t act that way with Jim Phillips,” said Brady, under his breath, and with some indignation. “He’s trying his best to make a man who is surely innocent appear guilty, and to clear a man who seems to be guilty. I’m afraid he’s about outlived his usefulness as a bank president.”
“I have not had time to get my books properly up to date,” said Riggs. “Usually, at this time of the year, I put in quite a lot of time working at night to catch up, but I have been delayed by illness. But I’m sure, sir, that there can be nothing wrong that a little work will not straighten out.”
“You can have all the time you want, Riggs,” said Bromlow. “I have every confidence in you. If there is an error, it is probably only technical. Go back to your work now. We will straighten out the matter of the thousand dollars later.”
Brady noticed that the worried look that Riggs had worn had given way to one of elation, as if he had been relieved of any fear he might have entertained. If that was the case, it must be Foote who had worked the change in him, Brady was sure. Bromlow had been kind, but if Riggs were really guilty, the president’s words had contained only a respite. Brady knew enough about banking to understand that.
In the room near the vault there was now a feeling of redoubled surprise. The bank officials, to their amazement, had found that Jim Phillips was right, and that whatever else had happened in the night, there had certainly been no robbery. The cash in the reserve vault was intact.
“I suppose that we need no longer feel that Mr. Phillips is under detention,” asked Dick Merriwell, rather coldly.
“No,” said old Bromlow, sadly puzzled. “I must apologize to him for intimating that his word was not to be accepted at once. But you will admit that the whole affair is very extraordinary, and that it is hard to credit his story of how he was found in our vault.”
“The truth is often the hardest thing in the world to believe, and sometimes to prove,” said Dick Merriwell. “Had he been dishonest in his motives, I think he could easily have invented a more plausible story than the one he told you.”
“No doubt,” said Bromlow, “no doubt. Now, if Mr. Phillips will come into my office, and dictate his story, in the form of an affidavit, to which he can swear before a notary public, that will be all that we shall require of him. I need not say that if his story, surprising as it is, turns out to be the true one, this bank is greatly indebted to him.”
“That is quite obvious,” said Brady dryly. “But it seems to me that the bank has been rather a long time in realizing that fact.”
They all filed into the room where Mr. Bromlow transacted his private business, and there Jim Phillips dictated his story of the night’s happenings, giving every detail that seemed to him to possess any bearing on the case. It did not take long, and, when he had signed the document, he prepared to leave. But there was a sudden interruption. Hastings, the cashier, rushed in, his face white, and spoke to President Bromlow, but aloud, so that all could hear.
“Riggs has explained his shortage,” he said. “And the bank appears to have lost five thousand dollars. A deposit of five thousand dollars was made yesterday. Riggs handled the money. Later, in making up his accounts and going over his cash, he was amazed to discover that ten hundred-dollar bills were counterfeit. He withdrew them at once, substituted good bills, and held these counterfeit notes out to make an investigation and secure good ones in their place if possible.
“Now we discover that there were not ten, but fifty counterfeits. Consequently this bank now holds five thousand dollars in worthless money. And a sight draft was given in exchange for this money, so that we have no recourse—that draft, presumably, being already in the hands of some one who can enforce its payment, as an innocent holder. Riggs expected to be able to adjust the matter without difficulty, having reason to think that the depositor was honorable and likely to remedy the matter. But the whole affair now assumes a very serious aspect. The man who deposited this money was Mr. Merriwell—and his relation with Mr. Phillips are well known.”
Dick Merriwell, his face darkening, sprang to his feet. But he restrained himself by a mighty effort, and waited for something more to be said.
President Bromlow, so confused by the rapid rush of events, which had caused more of a break in his peaceful routine than had befallen him before in twenty years, looked in a dazed fashion at Hastings, the cashier.
“Explain yourself, Hastings,” he said. “What do you mean?”
“It looks plain enough to me,” said Hastings bitterly. “Mr. Merriwell, whom we trusted implicitly, has deposited this counterfeit money, as is absolutely proved. Then his friend and associate, Phillips, attempts to take it away, so that the loss will be charged to robbery.”
“Not a word, Jim!” cautioned Dick hastily; as Jim Phillips sprang to his feet to refute the charge. “There’s plenty of time to disprove this—as whoever put this game up ought to have sense enough to know, it will be an easy matter to do so. I know where I got that money, and it will be simple to prove that it was all right. But this makes it more certain than ever that Brady was right—that this was an inside job.”
“I shall have to ask for the arrest of both of you,” said Bromlow to Dick Merriwell.
“You need not,” said Brady, who had just received a telegram. “The bank will investigate this matter further before taking any steps. And I will myself be responsible for the appearance of Mr. Merriwell and Mr. Phillips whenever they are required.”
“By what authority are you doing this?” inquired Hastings angrily.
But he was silenced as soon as he saw the telegram that Brady held out to him. It was from the big catcher’s father, and it gave him authority to act for his father in all matters pertaining to the bank.
“You will receive confirmation of this,” said Brady, to the old president. “In the meantime I shall engage detectives to investigate the whole matter, and to see that whoever is guilty does not escape.”
There was no further opposition when the three Yale men undertook to leave the bank building. Dick Merriwell gripped Brady’s hand to thank him for his timely interference.
“The whole thing’s rot, of course,” said Brady. “But it’s so infernally clever and so well managed that I’m not sure that you can blame Bromlow and Hastings very much for being deceived.”
“I’m sure you cannot,” said Dick. “I don’t need to tell you that I can prove myself to be all right without trouble. But that won’t settle it, by a good deal. There’s some queer influence back of this whole thing.”
“Well, Foote’s part of the influence,” said Brady. “He was in there, talking to Riggs, that little clerk they scared almost to death, and I’m willing to bet that he could tell a whole lot if we could only make him do it.”
“I’m about ready to use force to clear this thing up,” said Jim Phillips. “It’s certainly a mighty queer business.”
“What you need is a good sleep,” said Brady. “And I’ll see you get it, too.”
THE ROBBERS’ FALSE STEP.
It was at the last moment, truly, that Barrows had found a use for Foote. He had changed his mind about abandoning Riggs to his fate, not because he had developed any sudden sympathy for the poor little bank clerk who had done wrong, but because he had seen a chance, although defeated in his main object, that of possessing himself of a large sum by the cleverly planned robbery of the Elm National, to do great harm to Dick Merriwell and Jim Phillips. Foote kept him in touch, by long-distance telephone, with the developments of the morning at the bank, which he was able to learn of through his friendship for a bookkeeper there, and Barrows had managed, by the slenderest of margins, to get a thousand dollars in good money back to Riggs, which had been substituted for ten of the counterfeit hundred-dollar bills.
Dick Merriwell’s deposit had been taken by Bascom, but to delay detection of the theft, clever counterfeits, their numbers corresponding to the false numbers that Riggs had entered up in the books, had been put in their place in the safe. That had been the essence of the remarkable plan that Bascom and Barrows had arranged. They knew that close inspection of the reserve notes would not be made very often, and they trusted to the fact that a hasty glance at the piled notes would not reveal their true character. Thus they could hope to get the stolen money into circulation before efforts to trace it were made, and, owing to Riggs’ manipulation of the record of the numbers of the genuine notes, tracing would, even when the record of the substitution was discovered, have been almost impossible.
Barrows felt that he was, moreover, killing two birds with one stone, as he had told Marsten he would do. There are certain high financiers who do not hesitate very much to associate with men of Barrows’ stamp when they can use them to their own profit, and it happened that one of these gentry, a man called Phelps, was one of the bitterest opponents of Dick Merriwell and Chester Arlington in their Maine lumber partnership.
Barrows, when he had learned of the deposit made by Dick, and the sight draft that he had purchased against it, had not been slow in putting two and two together. He had, therefore, when he arrived in New York, communicated with Phelps, and told him something of what was afoot.
“You can’t trap Merriwell in any such way as that,” said Phelps. “That’s the weak spot in your plan, Barrows. Merriwell will have the numbers of those notes, or be able to get them, and that will dish you at once. I don’t think you’re running much risk personally, as it is, but I’d let Merriwell alone.”
“He’s not a business man,” said Barrows scornfully. “He won’t have those numbers at all. Take that from me. What’s it worth to me to put him out of business on this deal? I should think you’d be glad to have him out of the way.”
“I would be,” said Phelps. “I’d be glad to the extent of about five thousand dollars, I think. How does that strike you?”
“Well enough,” said Barrows. “You can go ahead and figure as if he was out of it altogether. This thing will ruin his credit with that New Haven bank. They may not be able to prove anything against him, but they’ll have an awful lot of mighty healthy suspicions, and that won’t do him any good around the country when he tries to do any banking business. You can see that for yourself, without my telling you anything about it.”
“Go ahead,” said Phelps. “It’s your own funeral. If I were you, I wouldn’t go after Merriwell that particular way. He’s no easy man to lead into a trap. I expect to have things ready to give him and his partner a pretty warm reception up in the woods when they once get there, but I’m perfectly willing to have you take the job off my hands, as long as I don’t appear in it. If you succeed, I’ll pay you five thousand dollars. But you’ve got to take my word for it, with nothing to give you any hold on me. I won’t sign any agreement of any sort under the circumstances.”
“I’ll take a chance on that,” said Barrows. “I think you’ll be grateful enough to come through when I deliver the goods.”
It was Foote who had taken the money to Riggs, just in time for him to effect the exchange that had given such a bad appearance to the presence of Jim Phillips in the vault. Foote did not thoroughly understand what was in the air, but he knew that there was trouble brewing for the men who had exposed him and caused his present detention in New Haven, and he was glad. Moreover, he had to do what he was told, for he knew that he was at the mercy of the two gamblers, and that his father would never forgive him if it became known that he had lost so much money at Marsten’s gambling house.
Barrows had laid his plan well, but he had made a mistake in this use of Foote. Brady’s discovery that the Yale man, who had a grudge against Dick Merriwell and Jim Phillips, was acting as a messenger for some one who had occasion to communicate with Riggs, directed his suspicions toward the little teller, and that was the worst thing that could have happened to Barrows just then.
With his new authority as his father’s representative, Bill Brady went into consultation with the experts who had been going over the books, and found that the expert was far from sharing President Bromlow’s opinion as to the innocence of Riggs.
“That money wasn’t taken yesterday, Mr. Brady,” said the expert. “He’s worked it carefully, and in another day there’d have been no chance for us to trace the defalcation. But now it’s as plain as daylight. It seems obvious to me that this Riggs took the money, probably intending to put it back, and then, at the last moment, seeing a chance to get clear, tried to make use of that counterfeit money in the vault to conceal his own shortage. We came on him before he was ready—and I think, myself, he’d have been wiser not to monkey with that counterfeit money at all. It looks very fishy to me, if you want my opinion.”
Bill Brady took the result of his investigation to Dick Merriwell at once.
“Here’s the net result, you see,” he said. “That old fool Bromlow thinks that they’ve discovered a motive for Jim to rob the bank—the utterly absurd one that he’s in league with you to cover the deposit of counterfeit money. He doesn’t seem to see that his own theory is full of holes. That money is pretty well made, but, while it would deceive me, and almost any one else not especially trained to watch money, I don’t think it would fool a banker for a minute. Now, Riggs took that deposit from you. Entirely aside from the fact that you and I know that the money was deposited was all right, why didn’t Riggs at once discover that it was not real money, if it was not? He had to go over the money as he counted it, so his explanation that it didn’t occur to him that anything could be wrong with the money you handed in falls down.”
“It looks to me,” said Jim Phillips, “as if this Riggs held the key to the whole mystery. If he actually stole a thousand dollars from the bank, it was his interest to cover that theft, and he would have been able to do that had a larger sum been taken. I know that that was the idea of those men I surprised there—they were out to make a big haul.”
“I can explain Mr. Bromlow’s feelings, I think,” said Dick Merriwell quietly. “You must know, Brady, that he has been in financial difficulties of late. That is one of the reasons why your father was able to buy the control of his bank. Mr. Bromlow very foolishly became associated in a lumber deal with a man called Phelps.
“I discovered this not long ago, when I tried, in behalf of the company in which Chester Arlington and I are interested, to renew one of the company’s notes in that bank. Mr. Bromlow refused to renew the note, although the security, as he himself admitted, was first class. It was simply annoying—we had little difficulty in getting the money we wanted elsewhere. But it showed the way the wind was blowing.”
“Now, there’s the matter of Foote,” said Brady, darkening. “He isn’t a principal—whatever he’s done has been under orders from some one else. I think the same thing applies to Riggs. He probably went into the game because he saw a chance to escape the consequences of a crime that he knew was bound to be discovered within a week or two, at the outside.”
They were in Jim Phillips’ room. As Jim spoke, there was a knock at the door, and Detective Jones appeared.
“They’ve found the watchman, Mr. Phillips,” he said. “He was trussed up in the cellar of the bank. He’s in a pretty bad way—not dangerously hurt, but pretty sick. They’re bringing him here.”
“Good,” cried the three Yale men together. “That ought to settle it.”
The watchman came in, supported by two plain-clothes officers. Jones, who had unhesitatingly cast in his lot with the Yale men this time, because he had had experience with the sagacity of Dick Merriwell before, smiled.
“That’s him,” cried the watchman wildly, pointing to Jim Phillips. “He’s one of the gang. He hit me over the head.”
Dick Merriwell cried out incredulously, then looked hard at the watchman. The man’s cheeks were burning with fever, his eyes were those of a madman.
“You can’t take this man seriously in his present condition,” Dick cried. “He should be in the hospital and receiving proper care.”
“He will be provided for, Mr. Merriwell,” said old Bromlow, who arrived in time to hear that. “In the meantime, I must demand the arrest of Phillips. Mr. Brady, I am still a sworn officer of this bank. I can no longer humor your views.”
Brady’s indignant protests were useless. Jim Phillips was placed under arrest, but he was released at once on bail, and Jones, who had reluctantly made the arrest, was very angry.
“It won’t take you long to clear this up, Mr. Merriwell,” he said to the universal coach. “And I’m here to help you do it, too.”
THE TRUTH COMES OUT.
By herculean efforts, the arrest of Jim Phillips was kept as a close secret. Bromlow, despite his conviction, which was honest enough, that Jim was guilty, dared not oppose Brady too far, and was willing enough that the matter should be kept quiet, moreover, for the sake of the bank itself. But one of the few persons who heard about the arrest was Barrows, who chuckled grimly. He expected that Dick Merriwell would also be involved, and he felt that he could already spend the extra five thousand dollars that Phelps had promised him.
“We’re not getting as much as we expected out of this,” he said to Bascom. “But we can go back for the rest later. And, in the meantime, Riggs is all right, still in the bank, and still able to serve us if we want him again. Merriwell and Phillips are in a hole they’ll never be able to crawl out of, and we’ve got ten thousand dollars.”
“Are you sure this money we’ve got is all right?” asked Bascom. “I understand, of course, that the bank hasn’t got the numbers of the real notes, but how about Merriwell himself? He may have the numbers?”
“Wouldn’t he have said so, to clear himself long before this?” asked Barrows. “The thing has worked out better than I thought was possible. That was why I took the chance of getting that money back to Riggs. Otherwise, I’d have let him go, and made a quick jump out of here after getting what I could for these notes. It’s a good thing our plan didn’t work out, really. We’re better off than we expected to be.”
Barrows, complacent and self-satisfied, enjoyed his triumph over Harding to the full. He strutted around the other gambler’s haunts, making a lavish display of his money, and spending it liberally. His old friends, who had shown signs of deserting him after the disaster that had overtaken him in New London, returned at once, and Harding felt himself discredited and ridiculous in the eyes of his friends. Barrows had turned the tables neatly.
Even some of the politicians who backed Harding were inclined to laugh at him.
“You seem to have raised a husky chap in this fellow Barrows,” said one of them. “Poor work, Bill. You saved him from going under a year ago—and now he’s making you look foolish. There’s nothing on him now.”
“If there is, let them do what they like to him,” growled Harding. “He’s too fresh. He thinks he’s the whole cheese now, just because he’s managed to get a stake. I bet there’s something crooked about the way he got it, too. Give the bulls the tip to soak him if they get a chance, will you?”
“Sure thing,” said the politician. “He’s nothing to me. But I guess he’s got his tracks pretty well covered.”
“He hasn’t got sense enough,” said Harding. “He was up against it hard after that break he made at New London, and he took any way he could to make a stake.”
Even had Barrows known of this conversation, it would not have worried him. Like Harding’s political friend, he thought that he was safe from pursuit. He spent his money as he liked, without a thought of the careless way in which he was changing hundred-dollar bills. And, less than thirty-six hours after he had reached New York with Bascom, he was offering one of his yellow bills in payment for a handful of cigars, when a heavy hand fell on his shoulder, and a detective, well known to him by sight, told him that he was under arrest.
“Quit your kidding!” said Barrows. “You can’t arrest me. You’ve got nothing on me.”
“I’ve got a warrant, issued on the request of the New Haven police,” said the detective, with a grin. “This is the time you’ve missed your guess, Barrows. The warrant charges the robbery of five thousand dollars from the Elm National Bank.”
Bascom escaped. But Barrows, despite his best efforts, was forced to believe that there was no chance for him. His political influence had disappeared—Harding had seen to that—and he found that it was useless to fight his removal to Connecticut, where a jail sentence was sure to be his portion. The New York police are excellent workers. When they are free from political influence, against which, in the old days, they were helpless, they are efficient and fearless. And in this case, the words of Bromlow, meant to apply to Jim Phillips, were the death knell of his hopes. Two thieves had fallen out, and it was time for honest men to reap the rewards of their honesty.
The proceedings in New Haven were simple and direct. Dick Merriwell had kept the numbers of all the bills that he had deposited in the New Haven bank, a simple precaution not always taken even by business men when they are handling large sums, but never neglected by him. And the evidence that he gave was ample to show that the money he had deposited was perfectly good. Suspicion, thus directed toward Riggs, showed the extent of the plot. It was soon made plain that Riggs had falsified the numbers of all the bills in the vaults of the bank, and it was plain that it had been the intention of Barrows and his fellow plotters to substitute counterfeit money for all of that huge sum. Thus detection of the theft, one of the greatest ever planned, would have been delayed long enough to put the stolen money into circulation all over the country, and it would have been impossible to trace any of it, since the bank had none of the numbers of the genuine bills.
Riggs, seeing the evidence piling up, confessed his original theft, and his share in the greater conspiracy, and thus the New Haven police secured evidence which resulted in the closing up of Marsten’s gambling place and his swift departure for parts unknown. The New Haven police had long hunted for evidence against him, but had never before been able to get any that was worth anything in court. Foote, too, appalled at the extent of the conspiracy thus revealed, confessed, and the notes signed by him and held by Marsten, which had been abandoned in his hasty flight, were destroyed.
In view of the valuable evidence he was able to give against Barrows, Riggs got only a suspended sentence for his own robbery, and Brady’s father, urged by his son and Dick Merriwell, saw that the teller received a place where he would be removed from temptation to steal. Barrows was sentenced to five years in prison, being convicted without difficulty, since the complete collapse of his plans left him friendless and powerless.
Jim Phillips was completely cleared when the watchman, after treatment in the hospital, was again called upon to identify him, his story being confirmed in every detail. The watchman told of Jim’s effort to release him, and of as much of the fight as he had seen, and even Bromlow was forced to admit that Jim’s baseball training had saved the bank.
THE PITCHER’S FINAL TEST.
“I’m afraid those Boston fellows are due to get their revenge, all right,” said Bill Brady, on the morning of the Fourth of July, the day for the game in which Briggs, of Harvard, and Jim Phillips, of Yale, were again to measure their abilities as pitchers. “We’ve had a little too much on our minds this last week to do much practicing.”
“We’ll give them a fight for it, anyhow,” said Dick Merriwell. “We’ll be off for Sweden, pretty soon, those of us that are going, and I’d like to celebrate the glorious Fourth here first in the right way. I suppose it’s Harvard’s holiday just as much as it is ours, but I remember that our ancestors did pretty well in spite of difficulties and things that were enough to discourage most people. If they hadn’t stuck to their guns through anything that came up, we wouldn’t have much celebrating to do nowadays, you know.”
The fact that the game with the Boston team was scheduled for the great national holiday insured an enormous crowd to witness it. Not enormous, perhaps, compared with some games that Jim had pitched in, for he had seen the Polo Grounds, in New York, crowded more than once when he played there, but still very large for New Haven. And the news that Dick Merriwell himself was to take part had added enormously to the attractiveness of the game. Dick had not been seen in a regular game for a long time, but his reputation had endured and had, naturally, only been enhanced by his remarkable success as a coach. Old Yale men had come up for the game, and a great crowd had also come down from Boston to cheer the team from the cradle of independence on to victory.
“Those Harvard men are doing a lot of talking about the way Harvard men started the revolution,” said Bill Brady, with a grin. “But we Yale men can remember Nathan Hale and a few others that did their share. So I guess we can just arrange to fight this game out on the line of what is going to happen to-day, rather than of what the old fellows did a hundred years ago or so. We were even with them then, but I think we’re a little ahead of them this year.”
Dick Merriwell, by unanimous consent, was acting as captain of the New Haven team, and in the practice before the game it was at once evident that this contest was likely to be a much more scientific one than the first meeting between the two teams. The presence of so many of the players of the two best college teams of the year insured a well-played game, and as the cheers went up from the crowded stands at every good play, the crowd settled itself down in anticipation of a rattling game, close, and fought out to the last minute.
Jim Phillips, as he warmed up, felt that he was in good condition. He felt that he had taken the measure of Briggs, and, while he had an intense respect for the powers of the noted Harvard pitcher, he was sure that he was his master. Confidence is half the battle in any sport, and there was nothing boastful about Jim’s feeling. He knew just what he could do, and he thought he knew, also, what Briggs could do.
But when the game began, he found himself in difficulties at once. The first inning was easy. The Harvard men went out in one, two, three order, but he saw Reid, who had batted first, looking curiously at him after he had been retired on a screaming line drive, that Harry Maxwell caught, and he knew the reason.
“I don’t know what’s the matter,” he said to Brady, as they sat on the bench, “but my arm seems to have gone back on me altogether. I feel all right, but I couldn’t get the ball breaking right. Did you notice it?”
“There wasn’t any jump on the ball,” admitted Brady. “I couldn’t make it out. Never mind—you’ll be all right when the game gets going.”
“I hope so,” said Jim. “It’s a good thing those Harvard people didn’t get on to me in that inning, though. If they’d only known it, they could have knocked those balls I pitched all over the lot. They just thought I was pitching the way I had before. But that won’t keep up. I’m due for an awful lacing unless I can get that ball going right pretty soon. Reid is on to it already. Did you see him edge right over to Bowen after he sent that fly to Harry?”
Harry Maxwell, in Sherman’s absence, now led the batting order, and he began with a crashing single to right.
Dick Merriwell, facing Briggs for the first time, sent the crowd wild, for he landed on the first ball pitched, and drove it clean over the center-field fence for a home run. Three runs for New Haven, with Jim Phillips in the box, looked like a sure victory.
But Jim knew that his arm was bad. The second inning passed safely, although his control was still so poor when he pitched a curve ball that he contented himself with fast, straight balls, that deceived the Bostonians simply because they didn’t expect them.
Reid came up again in the third inning, when one man was out. Jim had thought that he was going to get safely through that session, but Reid wasted no time at all. He saw a straight ball coming, and sent it whistling past Carter, on third, for a three-base hit. It was the beginning of the deluge. Jim’s curves would not break, and five hits in rapid succession gave Harvard four runs. Jim steadied then for a moment, and struck out a batter, but he was still in trouble, although he felt that he was beginning to find himself anew, and before the inning was over three more Harvard men had scored.
“Whew!” whistled Dick Merriwell. “You’ve been a long time coming to it, Jim, but you certainly have got an awful lot out of your system all at once. I was beginning to think you never were going to have one of those historic bad innings.”
“I was afraid it was coming,” said Jim. “My arm hasn’t been right since the game began. But, as a matter of fact, I was pitching better, when they were slugging the ball so hard, than I had before. They simply didn’t get on to how easy I was. If they had, they could have made all those runs before.”
“Want to go out?” said Dick, looking at him keenly. He knew, although, perhaps, Jim himself did not, that this was the real test of Jim’s quality as a pitcher, long delayed, but to be faced, now that it had come. For the first time, Jim was in a bad hole, and had no one to blame for it but himself. He had faced pinches before, but always with the steadying remembrance that it was errors that had made the trouble. Now he had to look to himself for the cause.
Jim looked up at the universal coach.
“I think I can do better now,” he said, “if you let me stay in to finish it. That’s up to you, of course, Mr. Merriwell. But my arm got straightened out, I think. I don’t know what was the matter. But I feel as if I could stop them now.”
“Good boy,” said Dick Merriwell heartily. “That’s what I wanted you to say. Go in and do the best you can. It isn’t getting beaten that does the mischief—it’s the way you take it. Every pitcher has bad days. You’ve been wonderfully lucky not to have had that experience earlier in the year.”
Reid was facing Jim when the New Haven team had to take the field again, and there was a murmur of surprise when it was seen that Jim was to continue pitching.
“They must be looking for trouble,” said one man to another, near the New Haven bench. “When a pitcher gets a lacing like that, it’s time to send him to the scrap heap.”
“What’s the difference?” asked the other man. “With Briggs pitching the way he is, they’ll never make up that lead, anyhow, and they might as well let this chap Phillips take his medicine. Just proves what I’ve said all season—he’s the most overrated pitcher in any of the colleges.”
They were Harvard men, those two. But they did not quite understand Jim’s true caliber.
Reid was sure that he was going to make another hit. But he didn’t. He tried hard enough. Jim was too much for him.
All Jim’s cunning seemed to have returned; and, after a pretty duel of wits between them, Reid was worsted, and trotted back to the bench, a victim on strikes, filled with new admiration for the Yale pitcher.
“That chap never knows when he’s beaten, anyhow,” he said to Bowen. “He didn’t have a thing with him but his glove in the last inning. And now he’s smoking them over just as if he didn’t know what it was to have one of his benders hit.”
“He’s got nerve,” agreed Bowen. “That’s what counts. All the skill in the world won’t do a pitcher any good if he’s yellow. I thought he’d gone up in the air in that last inning. But I guess it’s a good thing we hit him while we had the chance. If I am not mistaken, we’ll have our own troubles getting another hit off him in this game.”
And, to the surprise of the crowd and both teams, Bowen was right. Jim grew stronger and better as the game wore on, and inning after inning saw the Boston team retired without a hit or a run. In the fifth inning, Briggs wavered for a moment and gave a base on balls to the man who preceded Brady at the bat. Big Bill, sore and angry at the pounding Jim had suffered, swung his big bat with terrific effect, and New Haven had one more run as the result of his slashing triple. But he was left on third himself, and the score was still seven to four in favor of Boston.
It wasn’t at all the sort of game the fans had looked for. A victory for one team or the other by a score of one to nothing, or two to one, had been anticipated, and the course of the game was a stunning surprise, for neither Briggs nor Jim Phillips had been half as effective as their friends had expected them to be.
With the long lead the Boston team had taken, Dick Merriwell had decided on straight hitting as the best means of snatching a victory. But, in the seventh inning, he decided that a change in tactics was necessary. Briggs had improved, and was making it almost impossible for the Yale men to hit him safely.
“We’ve got to try to fool them,” said Dick. “They think now that we’re going to hit out at everything. So we’ll start in by trying to bunt. It may not work at first, but if you keep that sort of thing up long enough, it is apt to disorganize any team not especially prepared for it.”
In the seventh inning, the Bostonians met the new tactics successfully, and repelled the attack. The first three men up for Yale, Brady, Phillips, and Harry Maxwell, all bunted, and all were thrown out at first, though it was a close decision on Maxwell, and one that any captain less sportsmanlike than Dick Merriwell might well have objected to.
“Never mind!” said Dick. “We’ll keep on with it. It didn’t work then, but it may come out better next time.”
Jim, pitching with terrific speed, disposed of the Boston team easily in the first half of the eighth inning, and then it was Jackson’s turn at the bat. His bunt was a beauty, a slow, trickling, deceptive teaser of a bunt, that crept along the third-base line, and gave him plenty of time to reach first.
“Bunt,” said Dick, to Carter, as he lifted his own bat. “We’ll keep right on.”
Obeying the signaled order, Jackson sprinted for second as Carter bunted gently in front of the plate. Briggs thought there was a chance to catch Jackson at second, and threw there instead of making the easy and certain play at first. His throw was a second too late, and both runners were safe.
“Bunt, when you come up,” said Dick Merriwell, to Green, who followed him.
Then he stepped to the plate himself, and the Boston infielder, sure that he would try to drive in a run, backed out. But Dick smiled quietly, and bunted down the third-base line. Too late the fielder came in for the ball. The bunt had been perfectly placed, and the bases were full, with none out.
Again was the same trick worked. A bunt, with the bases full and none out, looked like suicide, but it was not. Jackson raced for the plate as the ball left Briggs’ hand, and was on top of it when Green chopped the ball toward first base. The Boston first baseman, confused and rattled, made a foolish attempt to catch him at the plate, and again all hands were safe, with the bases full—and one run in.
Now Dick Merriwell shifted his tactics, choosing the exact moment for the change. Bill Brady was at the bat, and as the Harvard players crept in on the grass of the infield, ready to break up any attempt at a bunt and turn it into a double play, Bill pushed the ball gently over the shortstop’s head. It rolled with tantalizing slowness to the outfield, and, before it was returned, Carter and Dick Merriwell had scored, and New Haven was only one run behind. Brayson, the next batter, smashed out a sharp single, and Green crossed the plate with the tying run.
Tuthill hit into a sharp double play, the result of a wonderful stop by Briggs and Bowen’s lightning relay to first, and then Jim Phillips came to the bat. Brayson had reached third, and Jim, thirsting with the desire to put his team ahead, had a great chance. The crowd was wild with excitement.
Jim was patient. He waited until Briggs sent up a slow ball that failed to break just right. Then he hit hard, and raced toward first. The Boston shortstop made a great stop, and Jim, as he sped toward first, knew that the play would be close. He ran as hard as he could, but the ball was a step before him, and, just as he touched the bag, he heard the thud of the ball in the fielder’s mitt. He was out—and the score was still tied.
But there was a wild yell from the crowd. He heard the umpire yell “Safe!”
“But I wasn’t safe,” he said to himself, as he turned back to the base. His teammates were jumping up and down by the bench. The Boston players were looking dejected. Deliberately, Jim left the bag and walked toward the umpire.
“You were mistaken,” he said. “The ball reached first before I did.”
The Harvard first baseman, amazed, followed him, the ball still in his hand. Accidentally he touched Jim’s shoulder with the ball. The umpire saw it.
“I called you safe before,” he said, “but you’re out now. You left the bag, and you’ve been touched. Batter up!”
“Oh, I say,” cried the Harvard first baseman, “I don’t want to take advantage of a technicality.”
“It’s all right,” said Jim. “He can’t reverse himself, I suppose. And it comes out all right. I was out, you know.”
“We’ll win, anyhow,” said Dick. “I’m afraid Briggs is up in the air.”
It was true. Jim had no difficulty in blanking the visiting team in the first half of the ninth inning, and when the New Haven team came to the bat, singles by Maxwell and Jackson, followed by a long two-bagger by Carter, quickly sent the winning run over the plate. New Haven was the winner of the game, eight to seven. And Jim Phillips had proved, not only that he was as good as ever, but that, after losing his grip, he could come back—the hardest thing of all to do.