Baseball Joe on the School Nine/Chapter 2

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Professor Elias Rodd was rather elderly, and, as he never took much exercise, his sprinting abilities were not pronounced. So it took him about a minute and a half to cross the campus to where the little group of lads awaited him—anxious waiting it was too, on the part of Joe and Peaches. And in that minute and a half, before the excitement begins, I want to take the opportunity to tell you something about Joe Matson, and his chum Tom Davis, and how they happened to be at Excelsior Hall.

Those of you who have read the first volume of this series entitled, "Baseball Joe of the Silver Stars," need no introduction to our hero. Sufficient to say that he was a lad who thought more of baseball than of any other sport.

Joe was the son of Mr. and Mrs. John Matson, and he had a sister named Clara. Joe's father was an inventor of farming machinery and other apparatus, and had been employed by the Royal Harvester Works of Riverside, which was located on the Appleby River, in one of our New England States. Joe lived in Riverside, his family having moved there from Bentville.

In the previous story I told how Joe made the acquaintance of Tom Davis, who lived in the house back of him. Joe became interested in the Silver Stars, the Riverside amateur nine, and through doing a favor for Darrell Blackney, the manager, was given a position in the field.

But Joe wanted to become a pitcher, and, in fact, had pitched for the Bentville Boosters. He longed to fill the box for the Stars, and was finally given a chance. But he had incurred the enmity of Sam Morton, the regular pitcher, and there were several clashes between them. Finally Joe displaced Sam and won many games for the Stars.

Mr. Matson had some trouble with his inventions, for Isaac Benjamin, manager of the harvester works, and Rufus Holdney, the latter once a friend of the inventor, determined to get certain valuable patents away from Mr. Matson. How they nearly succeeded, and how Joe foiled the plans of the plotters once, is told in the first book.

Though Joe aided his father considerably, the young pitcher never lost his interest in baseball, and when, at the last moment, word came that Mr. Matson had seemingly lost everything, Joe hid his own feelings and went off to pitch the deciding championship game against the Resolutes of Rocky Ford, the bitter rivals of the Silver Stars.

Joe's heart was heavy as he pitched, for he knew that if his father lost his money through the taking away of his patents there would be no chance of his going to boarding school, and Joe desired that above everything.

But he pluckily pitched the game, which was a close and hot one. He won, making the Stars the champions of the county league; and then Joe hurried home.

To his delight there was a message from his father, stating that at the last minute unexpected evidence had won the patent case for him, and he was now on the road to prosperity.

So it was possible for Joe to go to boarding school after all, and, to his delight, Tom Davis prevailed upon his parents to send him. So Joe and Tom went off together to attend Excelsior Hall, just outside of Cedarhurst, and about a hundred miles from Riverside.

Joe and Tom who had each finished short courses in the Riverside High School, started for Excelsior Hall at the opening of the Fall term, and had spent the Winter, with the exception of the Christmas holidays, at the institution. They liked it very much, and made a number of friends as well as some enemies. Their chief foe, as well as that of nearly every other lad in Excelsior Hall, was Hiram Shell.

The months passed, and with the waning of Winter, Joe began to feel the call of the baseball diamond. He and Tom got out some old gloves and balls and bats, and in the seclusion of their room they played over again, in imagination, some of the stirring games of the Silver Stars. As yet, however, there had been no baseball activity at Excelsior, and Joe was wondering what sort of team there would be, for that there must be one was a foregone conclusion. Joe knew that before he picked out Excelsior Hall as his particular boarding school.

I might add that Dr. Wright Fillmore was the principal of Excelsior Hall. He was dubbed "Cæsar" because of his fondness for the character of that warrior, and because he was always holding him up as a pattern of some virtues to his pupils. Dr. Enos Rudden the mathematical teacher was one of the best-liked of all the instructors. He was fond of athletics, and acted as sort of head coach and trainer for the football and baseball teams.

As much as Dr. Rudden was liked so was Professor Rodd disliked. Professor Rodd, who was privately termed "Sixteen and a Half" or "Sixteen" for short (because of the number of feet in a rod) was very exacting, fussy and a terror to the lads who failed to know their Latin lessons.

And as we are at present immediately concerned with Professor Rodd, now I will go back to where we left him approaching the group of students, with wrath plainly written on his countenance.

"Who—who threw that ball—that snowball?" the irate instructor cried. "I demand to know. Look at my hat! Look at it, I say!" and that there might be no difficulty in the boys seeing it Mr. Rodd endeavored to take off his head-piece.

But he found this no easy matter, for the snowballs, hitting it with considerable force, had driven it down over his brow. He struggled to get it off and this only made him the more angry.

"Who—who threw those balls at me?" again demanded Professor Rodd, and this time he managed to work off his hat. He held it out accusingly.

"We—I—er—that is—we all were having a throwing contest," explained Teeter Nelson, diffidently, "and—er—"

"You certainly all didn't throw at me," interrupted the professor. "Only two balls struck me, and I demand to know who threw them. Or shall I report you all to Dr. Fillmore and have him keep you in bounds for a week; eh?"

"Nobody meant to hit you. Professor," put in Tom. "You see—"

"Will you or will you not answer my question?" snapped the instructor, in the same tone of voice he used in the classroom, when some luckless lad was stuttering and stammering over the difference between the gerund and the gerundive. "Who threw the balls?"

"I—I'm afraid I did," faltered Joe. "I threw one, and—and—"

"I threw the other," popped out Peaches. "But it was an accident. Professor."

"An accident! Humph!"

"Yes," eagerly went on Peaches, who, having been longer at the school than Joe, knew better how to handle the irate instructor. "You see it was this way: We were having a contest, and wanted to see who could throw over the trees. Instead of throwing primus, secondus, and tertius as we might have done, Joe and I threw together—um—er—ah conjunctim so to speak," and Peaches managed to keep a straight face even while struggling to find the right Latin word. "Yes, we threw conjunctim—together—and we both wanted to see who could do the best—er—supero—you know, and—er we—well, it was an accident—casus eventus. We are awfully sorry, and—"

Professor Rodd gave an audible sniff, but there was a marked softening of the hard lines about his face. He was an enthusiastic Latin scholar, and the trial of his life was to know that most of his pupils hated the study—indeed as many boys do. So when the teacher found one who took the trouble in ordinary conversation to use a few Latin words, or phrases, the professor was correspondingly pleased. Peaches knew this.

"It was a casus eventus—an accident," the fair-cheeked lad repeated, very proud of his ability in the dead language.

"We are very sorry," put in Joe, "and I'll pay for having your hat ironed."

"We threw in conjunctim," murmured Peaches.

"Ha! A very good attempt at the Latin—at least some of the words are," admitted Professor Rodd. "They do credit to your studying, Lantfeld, but how in the world did you ever get casus eventus into accident?"

"Why—er—it's so in the dictionary, Professor," pleaded Peaches.

"Yes, but look up the substantive, and remember your endings. Here I'll show you," and, pulling from his pocket a Latin dictionary, which he was never without. Professor Rodd, sticking his battered hat back on his head, began to quote and translate and do all manner of things with the dead language, to show Peaches where he had made his errors. And Peaches, sacrificing himself on the altar of friendship, stood there like a man, nodding his head and agreeing with everything the instructor said, whether he understood it or not.

"Your conjunctim was not so bad," complimented the professor, "but I could never pass casus eventus. However, I am glad to see that you take an interest In your studies. I wish more of the boys did. Now take the irregular conjugation for instance. We will begin with the indicative mood and—"

The professor's voice was droning off into his classroom tones. Peaches held his ground valiantly.

"Come on, fellows, cut for it!" whispered Teeter hoarsely. "Leg it, Joe. Peaches will take care of him."

"But the hat—I damaged it—I want to pay for it," objected our hero, who was square in everything.

"Don't worry about that. When Old Sixteen gets to spouting Latin or Greek he doesn't know whether he's on his head or his feet, and as for a hat—say, forget it and come on. He'll never mention it again. Peaches knows how to handle him. Peaches is the best Latin lad in the whole school, and once Sixteen finds some one who will listen to his new theory about conjugating irregular verbs, he'll talk until midnight. Come on!"

"Poor Peaches!" murmured Tom Davis.

"Never mind, Sister," spoke George Bland, as he linked his arm in that of Joe, "Peaches seen his duty and he done it nobly, as the novels say. When Sixteen gets through with him we'll blow him to a feed to make it up to him. Come on while the going's good. He'll never see us."

Thus the day—rather an eventful one as it was destined to become—came to an end. The boys filed into the big dining hall, and talk, which had begun to verge around to baseball, could scarcely be heard for the clatter of knives and forks and dishes.

Some time later there came a cautious knock on the door of the room that Tom Davis and Joe Matson shared. The two lads were deep in their books.

"Who's there?" asked Joe sharply.

"It's me—Peaches," was the quick if ungrammatical answer. "The coast is clear—open your oak," and he rattled the knob of the door.

Tom unlocked and swung wide the portal, and the hero of the Latin engagement entered.

"Quick—anything to drink?" he demanded. "I'm a rag! Say, I never swallowed so much dry Latin in my life. My throat is parched. Don't tell me that all that ginger ale you smuggled in the other day is gone—don't you dare do it!"

"Tom, see if there's a bottle left for the gentleman of thirst," directed Joe with a smile.

Tom went to the window and pulled up a cord that was fastened to the sill. On the end of the string was a basket, and in it three bottles of ginger ale.

"Our patent refrigerator," explained Joe, with a wave of his hand. "Do the uncorking act, Tom, and we'll get busy. You can go to sleep,"—this last to a book he had been studying, as he tossed it on a couch.

"Oh, but that's good!" murmured Peaches as he drained his glass. "Now I can talk. I came in, Joe and Tom, to see If you didn't think it would be a good thing to have a fight."

"A fight! For cats' sake, who with?" demanded Tom.

"Are you spoiling for one?" asked Joe.

"Oh, I mean a snowball fight. This is probably the last of the season, and I was thinking we could get a lot of fellows together, make a fort, and have a regular battle like we read about in Cæsar to-day. It would be no end of sport."

"I think so myself," agreed Joe.

"Bully!" exclaimed Tom sententiously, burying his nose in his ginger ale glass. "Go on, tell us some more."

"Well, I was thinking," resumed Peaches, "that we—"

He was interrupted by another tap on the door. In an instant Peaches had dived under the table. With one sweep of his arm Joe noiselessly collected the bottles, while Joe spread a paper over the glasses. The knock was repeated, and the two lads looked apprehensively at the door.