Dick Hamilton's Cadet Days/Chapter 29
DICK'S GREAT RUN
Dick Hamilton hurried across to the players' bench, tightening his belt as he ran.
"If I only get a chance to play," he kept thinking. "I don't care what happens after that, nor what Uncle Ezra may want."
The game soon started, and it began to look bad for Kentfield, for the outfielders made several costly errors, and at the ending of the sixth inning the score was eight to three, in favor of Mooretown.
"Looks rather bad," said Captain Rutledge to the coach.
"Nonsense," replied Hale. "You can win yet. Take a brace, that's all."
Kentfield had elected to be last at the bat, and, in the beginning of the seventh inning, when Mooretown was up, Perkins, the regular short-stop, split his hand in stopping a "hot" ball. The other players gathered about him.
"I guess it's all up with us now," remarked Dutton, from his seat in the grandstand. "We haven't got anyone who can play like Perkins. Hamilton is green. Our goose is cooked."
"Say, I've got some news about Hamilton," spoke Russell Glen, worming his way to Dutton's side, during the lull in the contest following the injury of Perkins.
"I don't care. I want to see how this game is coming out."
Perkins walked to the bench, blood dripping from his hand.
"Hamilton!" cried Captain Rutledge, and Dick sprang from the bench, pulling off his sweater. His chance had come.
"Hamilton's going to play," said Dutton. "Oh, what a score they'll roll up against us! They'll knock all their balls at him, and he'll miss them. What were you saying about Hamilton?" he went on, turning to Glen. "This is tough luck, though!"
"Hamilton has lost all his money!" cried Glen, and his tone seemed to show that he relished the news.
"Fact. His uncle told me," and Glen related the story he had received from Mr. Larabee.
Dutton was greatly surprised, and so were several other cadets who overheard what Glen had said. But there was little time to speculate on it, as the game was under way again.
Whether it was Dick's presence at shortstop, or because the other players on his team braced up, was not evident. At any rate, Mooretown was held down to a goose egg in that inning, and when it came the turn of Kentfield to show what the nine could do in the ending of the seventh inning, there were three runs to the credit of the cadets, Dick having made one.
"The score is six to eight!" murmured Glen to Dutton. "Hamilton isn't doing so bad."
"No, but he would if he knew all his money was gone, I guess."
"Maybe we ought to tell him," suggested the sporty student.
"I wish I could," murmured Dutton.
The game went on fiercely. It was nip and tuck all the while now, for Kentfield's chances had improved wonderfully, and they were fighting hard to win.
In the eighth inning neither side scored. There was an anxious look on the faces of all the players as the ninth opened. Mooretown could afford to smile, however, as she was still two runs ahead. At first it looked as if she would pile up several more tallies on this score, for the Kentfield pitcher gave two men their bases on balls, and the next man got to first on an easy fly.
A heavy hitter was up next, and at the first crack he sent a "hot liner" straight at Dick. Our hero did not flinch, though the impact was terrific. He caught the ball squarely, and the batter was out. Then, by a neat double play, Dick and the third baseman put out another man who was trying to steal home.
The next batter struck out. retiring Mooretown without a run, but still leaving them two ahead.
"Now, fellows, we must show them what we're made of!" cried the captain. "We want three runs this inning!"
Captain Rutledge did his share by getting one, and another was brought in by a narrow margin, tying the score.
"One to win!" cried the coach.
"Hamilton up!" announced the score keeper.
"And two out!" added Dutton to Glen. "He can never do it. "We're dumped already."
Dick took his place at the plate. It was a trying ordeal for a substitute player, and the eyes of all the spectators were upon him. The result of the game, in a great measure, depended on him. If he did not get the winning run, it meant that the game would go another inning, and the chances of Kentfield would not be improved. For their pitcher's arm was going "back on him," and Mooretown's man was still good for much twirling.
Amid a silence that was almost painful, Dick waited for the first ball. It came, but he did not move his bat.
"One strike!" called the umpire, and there was something like a groan among the Kentfield players.
The next was a ball, and the following one looked as if it was going fairly over the plate. But Dick did not attempt to hit it.
It was like a death knell.
"He's cutting it pretty fine," murmured the captain nervously.
"Hamilton's all right," said Coach Hale confidently.
A moment later there came a resounding crack, as Dick's bat met the ball fairly. The horsehide went up in a graceful curve, and then sailed far out toward right field.
"Go on! Go on! Go on!" yelled Captain Rutledge, but his voice was lost in the roar that greeted Dick's hit. The young millionaire was leaping toward first base, while the right fielder was sprinting after the ball.
"A home run! A home run!" begged the coach, and it looked as if Dick would do it.
He got to third, and started for home. The fielder had the ball by this time, and relayed it to second. The man there threw it to third just as Dick left. Possibly it was an error of judgment, but Dick kept on. He could distinguish no coaching instructions now above the yells, though Hale was calling to him to remain on the bag. But Dick kept on.
Then, by some curious chance, the third baseman, instead of sending the ball home, held it in his hand, and raced after Dick. It was a contest of legs now. The baseman ignored the demands of the catcher to throw the ball, and leaped after Dick, who ran as he had never run before. He saw a vision of the game won, and, though his breath was coming in labored gasps, he did not stop. There was a mist before his eyes. His legs were tottering.
"Jove! But he can run!" whispered Dutton. "I never saw anything like it!"
"You bet!" agreed Glen fervidly.
On and on ran Dick. One quick glance over his shoulder showed him the baseman at his heels. He expected every moment to see the catcher get the ball, and put him out. But the horsehide did not come, and, the next instant, when Dick felt as if he could not go another inch, or draw another breath, he dropped, and slid home in a cloud of dust.
"Safe!" cried the umpire, and, as he spoke, the baseman, realizing the proper play, threw the ball. But it was too late. Dick had brought in the winning run.
"Wow! Wow! Wow! Hamilton! Hamilton! Hamilton! Whoop!" yelled the frenzied players. Above their shouts could be heard the shrill cries of many girls.
From the stands burst forth mighty cheers. A crowd of the cadet players surrounded Dick and would have carried him on their shoulders had he allowed them. They patted him on the back, and even punched him in their uncontrollable joy.
"Hamilton, you're entitled to the thanks of the entire school!" cried Coach Hale, rushing up, and wringing Dick's hand.
"We never could have won but for you!" admitted the captain. "Wow! but it was a fierce game!" and he sat down on the grass to recover his wind, after his lusty cheers.
They escorted Dick back to the dressing room in a sort of triumphal procession, scores of cadets pouring from the stands to join it. Never did a hero takes his honors more modestly. It was enough for Dick that he had helped win the victory, and he saw coming to him now what he had waited nearly a year for—fellowship.
Through the throng came Dutton and Glen.
"I say, Hamilton," called Glen, "your uncle's waiting for you."
"I know it," answered Dick. "But I couldn't talk to him until after the game."
"He's got news for you—bad news," went on Glen, with the relish some persons seem to take in telling of calamities.
"What is it?" inquired Dick, alarmed by the cadet's words and manner.
"Your father's fortune is wiped out, and so's yours! The New York bank has failed!"
For an instant Dick stared at the speaker. Then a changed look came over his face. He stepped forward, his suit covered with dirt, his face bleeding from a scratch, and still panting from his great run.
"My fortune lost?" he said. "I don't care a hang! We've won the game!"
There was a moment of silence, so surprised were the cadets at the manner in which Dick took the news. Then Glen cried out:
"My word, but you're plucky! Three cheers for Hamilton—who used to be a millionaire—but isn't any longer," he added, and Dick's ears rang with the joyous shouts.