Baseball Joe on the School Nine/Chapter 17
For a moment after the unexpected support of Teeter's ultimatum to Hiram there was a tense silence. The lads who had come in with the bully—his supporting army so to speak—remained grouped around him and Luke. On the other side stood Teeter, Peaches, Tom, Joe and their friends, and a number of the better players of the school nine. Included among them were a number of the substitutes.
Hiram Shell looked around him. He must have been aware that his power might slip very easily from him now, unless something was done. It was no time to pursue his usual tactics. He must temporize, but he made up his mind that those who had revolted from his authority would pay dearly for it sooner or later.
"Well, what do you fellows want?" he fairly growled.
"I'll tell you what we want," said Teeter firmly. "In the first place we want this business of shifting players all about, stopped. A fellow gets used to playing in one and he's best there. Then you or Luke change him."
"Well, hasn't the captain the right to do that?" demanded Luke.
"Sure, yes," spoke Peaches, "but when you get a good lad in a good place keep him there."
"Is that all?" sneered Hiram.
"No, we think there ought to be better pitching," went on the self-constituted chairman.
"Ha! I guess that's where the whole trouble is!" cried Hiram quickly. "This meeting is for the benefit of Joe Matson."
"Nothing of the sort!" exclaimed Joe quickly. "I knew nothing about it until Teeter told me. Of coure I'd like to pitch; there's no use denying that, but I don't want any fellow to give way for me if he's making good."
"That's the trouble—he isn't," put in Teeter.
Hiram took a quick resolve. He could smooth matters over now, and later arrange them to suit himself and Luke. So he said:
"All right, I admit that we didn't make a very good showing to-day. But it was our first game, and Brown and Akers didn't do very well in the box. But don't be too hasty. Now I'll tell you what I'll do," and he acted as though it was a big favor. "I'll let you fellows have a voice when I make changes after this. We'll do some harder practice. I'll make Brown and Akers pitch better——"
"I don't believe he can," murmured Tom.
"We won't make any more shifts—right away," went on Hiram. "Maybe you fellows were right. I haven't given as much time to the team as I should. But wait—we'll win the Blue Banner yet."
"That's all we ask," said Teeter. "We just wanted you to know how we felt about it, and if things are better and our nine can win, we won't say another word."
"All right, let it go at that," and Hiram affected to laugh, but there was not much mirth in it. "Might as well quit now, I guess. Everybody out for hard practice next week. I want to see some better stick-work, and as for pitching—where are Brown and Akers?"
"Here!" cried the two boxmen.
"You fellows will have to brush up a bit on your speed and curves," went on the bully manager. "Isn't that right, Luke?"
"Sure," grunted the captain. There was more talk, but it was not of the fiery kind and, for the time, at least, the threatened disruption had passed. But there was still an undercurrent of dissatisfaction against Luke and Hiram.
"Well, I don't see as it did an awful lot of good," remarked Tom Davis to Peaches and Teeter, as they walked out of thewith Joe, a little later. "I don't see that Joe is benefitted."
"I didn't expect much," spoke our hero. "It was well meant and—"
"And it did good, too," interrupted Teeter. "It's the first time any one ever talked to Hiram like a Dutch Uncle, and I guess it sort of jarred him. He'll sit up and take notice now, and it will be for the good of the team."
"But where does Joe come in?" asked Peaches.
"Well, I figure it out this way," replied Teeter. "Brown and Akers will try to make good but they can't. The fellows will see that we've got to have a new pitcher, and Hiram will have to give 'em one. Then Joe will step in."
"There are others as good as I in the school," remarked Joe modestly.
"Well, they haven't shown themselves if there are," was Teeter's retort. "No, Joe will be pitching before the season is over, you see if he isn't."
The question was discussed pro and con, as they went to their rooms, and continued after they got there until a monitor warned them that though permission had been given to hold a meeting it did not extend to midnight lunch.
It was one night, after a hard day on the diamond, that Joe and Tom, who were studying, or making a pretense at it, heard the usual knock on their door.
"Teeter and Peaches—I wonder what's up now?" asked Tom.
"Let 'em in and they'll tell us," suggested Joe, as his roommate went to the door. It was kept locked, for often some of the fun-loving students would come in unannounced to create a "rough-house," to the misery of the two chums.
As the portal swung back, there was revealed to Joe and Tom several sheet-clad white figures, each one with a mask of black cloth over his head. The sight was rather a wierd one, and for the moment Tom was nonplussed.
"Shut the door" commanded Joe quickly. "They're up to some high jinks!"
Tom hesitated for a moment. If it was Peaches, Teeter and their friends, he did not want to shut them out, but, on the contrary might want to join the fun. If, on the contrary, it was a hostile crowd there was no use getting into trouble. So Tom hesitated and was lost.
For a moment later, the throng of white-clad and unrecognizable figures (because of the masks) stepped into the room.
"We have come," announced one in a voice that sounded hollow and deep, "to initiate you into the Mystic and Sacred Order of the Choo-Choo!"
"Get out, Peaches, I know your voice," said Joe, not quite sure whether he did or not.
"Prepare to join the Mystic and Sacred Order of the Choo-Choo! Shall he not, comrades?" demanded a second figure.
"Toot! Toot! He shall!" was the answer in a chorus.
"That's Teeter all right," affirmed Tom.
"Come!" commanded the first figure, advancing to take hold of Tom's arm.
"Shall we go, Joe?" asked his chum.
Joe thought a minute. There had been rumors in the school of late, that several initiations had been held into a newly-formed society. Reports differed as to what society it was, some lads stating that they had been made to join one and some another. But all agreed, though they did not go into particulars, that the initiations were anything but pleasant. Joe was as fond of fun as anyone but he did not like being mistreated—especially when it was not by his friends.
"Don't go!" he called suddenly to Tom.
"Then we'll make you!" said the disguised voice. "Grab 'em fellows!"
Instantly there was a commotion in the room. Joe leaped back to get behind a sofa, but one of the black-masked figures was too quick for him and seized him around the neck. Our hero tried to tear the mask from the face to see who his assailant was, but other hands clasped his arms from behind and he was helpless.
Tom, too, was having his own troubles. He was beset by two of the unknowns and held in such a way that he could do nothing. The struggle though sharp was a quiet one, for the students did not want to attract the attention of a monitor or prowling professor.
"'Tis well," spoke the lad who was evidently the leader, when Tom and Joe were held safely, their hands having been tied behind their backs. "Away with them to the dungeon deep, and they will soon be good, faithful and true members of the Mystic and Sacred Order of the Choo-Choo!"
Then, realizing that discretion was probably now the better part of valor, Joe and Tom meekly followed their captors.