Baseball Joe on the School Nine/Chapter 21

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Attention was divided, on the part of the crowd, between the man who had been rescued, and the fire. The old factory was now burning fiercely and it was useless to try to save the structure. In fact, nearly everyone was glad that it had been destroyed, for it would harbor no more tramps. So the man who had been so thrillingly rescued was the greater attraction.

Fortunately there was a doctor in the throng, and he gave Mr. Benjamin some stimulants which quickly brought him out of his faint. Then a carriage was secured, and the man was taken to the village hotel, Joe agreeing to be responsible for his board. Though Mr. Benjamin had treated Mr. Matson most unjustly, and had tried to ruin him, yet the son thought he could do no less than to give him some aid, especially after the warning.

"Well, I guess it's all over but the shouting, as they say at the baseball games," remarked Tom to Joe "Let's get home. I'm cold," for they had both been drenched over the upper part of their bodies by the initiation, and the night wind was cold, in spite of the fact that Spring was well advanced.

"So am I," admitted Joe, as he watched the carriage containing Mr. Benjamin drive off. "I'd like some good hot lemonade."

The fire now held little attraction for our friends and they hastened back to the dormitory, Joe explaining on the way how he had unexpectedly rescued a former enemy of his father's.

"And aren't you going to send some word home about that warning he gave you?" asked Tom, as Joe finished. "That Holdney scoundrel may be working his scheme now."

"Oh, yes, sure. I'm going to write to dad as soon as we get back to our room. Sure I'm going to warn him. I'm mighty sorry for Mr. Benjamin. He's a smart man, but he went wrong, and now he's down and out, as he says. But he did me a good service."

"It doesn't even things up!" spoke Teeter. "He surely would have been a gone one but for you."

"Oh, some one else might have thought of that way of getting him down if I hadn't," replied Joe modestly. "I remember a story I read in one of the books I had when I was a kid. A fellow was on a high chimney, and a rope he had used to haul himself up slipped down. A big crowd gathered and no one knew how to help him. His wife came to bring his dinner and she got onto a scheme right away.

"'Hey, John!' she called 'unravel your sock. Begin at the toe!' You see he had on knitted socks. Well, he unravelled one, got a nice long piece of yarn and lowered it to the ground. He tied on his knife, or something for a weight. Then they fastened a cord to the yarn, and a rope to the cord, he pulled the rope up and got down off the chimney."

"Your process, only reversed," commented Tom. "I say fellows," he added, "let's run and get warmed up. I'm shivering."

"It was warm enough back there at the fire," said Teeter, as he looked to where the blaze was now dying out for lack of material on which to feed.

"Beastly mean of Hiram and Luke," commented Peaches. "They're getting scared I guess. I hope we get 'em out of the nine before the season's over."

Joe and Tom entertained their friends with crackers and hot lemonade, and none of the professors or monitors annoyed them with attentions. They must have known of it, when Peaches went to get the hot water in the dormitory kitchen, but it is something to have a hero in a school, and Joe was certainly the hero of the night.

The two lads, who had been thoroughly soaked, stripped and took a good rub down, and this, with the hot lemonade, set them into a warm glow. Then they sat about and talked and talked until nearly midnight.

Joe wrote a long letter to his father explaining all the circumstances and warned him to be on the lookout. One of the janitors who had to arise early to attend to his duites promised to see that the missive got off on the first morning mail.

"There, now, I guess we'll go to bed," announced Joe.

There was much subdued excitement in chapel the next morning, and Dr. Fillmore made a reference to the events of the night before.

"I am very proud of the way you young gentlemen behaved at the fire," he said. "It was an exciting occasion, and yet you held yourselves well within bounds. We have reason to be very proud of one of our number who distinguished himself, and——"

"Three cheers for Joe Matson!" yelled Peaches, and they were given heartily—something that had never before happened in chapel. Dr. Fillmore looked surprised, and Professor Rodd was evidently pained, but Dr. Rudden was observed to join in the ovation, over which Joe blushed painfully.

Joe caught a cold from his wetting and exposure. It was nothing serious, but the school physician thought he had better stay in bed for a couple of days, and, much against his will the young pitcher did so.

"How is baseball practice going on?" he asked Tom after the first day. "I wish I could get out and watch it."

"Oh, it's going pretty good. We scrubs have a hard job holding the school nine down when you're not there to pitch. There's a game with Woodside Hall to-morrow, and I guess we'll win.

Excelsior Hall did win that contest, but not by as big a score as they should have done. It was the old story of Hiram and Luke not managing things right, and having weak pitchers. Still it was a victory, and served to elate the bully and his crony.

It was on the third day of Joe's imprisonment in his room, and his cold was much better. He had heard that Mr. Benjamin had recovered and left the hotel; no one knew for what place.

He sent Joe a note of thanks, however, and it came in with some mail from home. Joe opened the home letters first. There was one from his father, enclosed in one from his mother and Clara.

"Dear Joe," wrote Mr. Matson. "I got your warning, but it was too late. Why didn't you telegraph me? The night before your letter got here some valuable papers and models were stolen from my new shop. I have no doubt but that Holdney did it—he or some of his tools. It will cripple me badly, but I may be able to pull through. I appreciate what Benjamin did for us, and it was mighty smart of you to save him that way. But why didn't you telegraph me about the danger to my models?"

"That's it!" exclaimed Joe bitterly to himself. "What a chump I was. Why didn't I telegraph dad, and then it would have been in time. Why didn't I?"