Baseball Joe on the School Nine/Chapter 3
AN ANGRY BULLY
"Well, why don't one of you fellows open the door?" demanded Peaches in a hoarse whisper from his point of vantage under the table. "If it's one of the 'profs,' or a monitor, he'll get wise if you wait all this while."
It might be explained that there was a rule at Excelsior Hall against students visiting in their classmates' rooms at certain hours of the day, unless permission had been secured from the professor or monitor in charge of the dormitory. Needless to say Peaches had not secured any such permission—the lads seldom did.
"Aren't you going to open it?" again demanded Peaches, from where he had taken refuge, so as to be out of sight, should the caller prove to be some one in authority.
"Yes—certainly—of course," replied Joe. "Tom, you open the door."
Once more came the knock.
"Open it yourself," insisted Tom. "It's as much your room as it is mine. Go ahead."
But there was no need for any one to first encounter the stern gaze of some professor, if such the unannounced caller should prove to be. The knock was repeated and then a voice demanded:
"Say, you fellows needn't pretend not to be in there. I can here you whispering. What's up?" and with that the portal swung open and Teeter Nelson entered. He advanced to the middle of the room and stood moving up and down on his tiptoes.
"I like your nerve!" he went on. "Having a spread and not tipping a fellow off. Is it all gone?" and with a sweep of his arm he sent the paper cover flying from over the half-emptied ginger ale glasses. "Where's Peaches?" he demanded. "I know he's out, for I was at his den, and there's not a soul in. He's got a 'dummy' in the bed, but it's rank. Wouldn't fool anybody."
"Then you must have spoiled it!" exclaimed Peaches, sticking his head out from beneath the table, the cloth draping itself around his neck like a lady's scarf. "I made a dandy figure. It would fool even Sixteen himself; and then I sneaked out. I made it look as natural as could be. I'll bet you did something to it."
"Only punched it a couple of times to see if it was you," retorted Teeter. "But say, what's going on? Why didn't you open when I knocked?"
"Thought it was a prof," replied Joe. "Why didn't you give the code knock. Tat—rat-a-tat-tat—tat-tat—and the hiss."
"That's right, I did forget it. But I got all excited when I found that Peaches had sneaked off without telling me. Say, what's on, anyhow? Where's the feed? Give me something good."
"Nothing going but ginger ale," answered Joe, as Peaches crawled the rest of the way out from under the table. "And I don't know as there's any left."
"Gee, you fellows have nerve!" complained the newcomer.
"There's one bottle," said Tom, who had charge of the improvised refrigerator, and forthwith he hauled up the basket, at the sight of which Teeter laughed joyously, and proceeded to get outside of his share of the refreshments.
"What's doing?" he demanded, after his thirst was quenched, and when they were all seated at the table.
"We're going to have a snow battle," explained Peaches. "We were just talking about it when you gave us heart disease by pounding on the oak."
"Heart disease; my eye!" exclaimed Teeter. "You should have a clear conscience such as I have, and nothing would worry you. That's good ale all right, Joe. Got any more?" and he finished his glass.
"Nary a drop. But go on, Peaches. Tell us more about the snow fight."
Whereupon the lad did, waxing enthusiastic, and causing his chums to get into the same state of mind.
"It will be no end of fun!" declared Teeter. "We'll choose sides and see which one can capture the fort."
"When can we do it?" asked Tom.
"The sooner the quicker," was Joe's opinion. "The snow won't last long."
"Then we ought to start on the fort to-morrow and have the battle the next day," was the opinion of Peaches.
Permission to have the snow battle was obtained from Dr. Fillmore the next day, and the work of building the snow fort started soon after lessons were over. Fortunately the white flakes packed well, and with a foundation of a number of big snowballs the fort was shortly in process of construction.
A better day for a snow battle could not have been desired. It was just warm enough so that the snow stuck, and yet cool enough so that the exertion would not be unpleasant. The fort was at the far end of the big school campus, and all about it the ground had been practically cleared of snow to build it. This made it necessary for the attacking party to carry their ammunition from afar. As for the defenders of the fort, they had plenty of snow inside, and, as a last resort they could use part of the walls of the structure itself to repel the enemy.
The lads had made wooden shields for themselves, some using the heads of barrels, with leather loops for hand and arm. Others were content with something simpler, a mere board, or a barrel stave.
Sides had been chosen, and, somewhat to his own surprise, Joe Matson was made captain of the attacking force.
"We want you because you can throw straight and hard," explained Teeter, who was a sort of lieutenant of the attacking army.
"Soak those fellows good!" pleaded Peaches.
"We've got to look out for icy balls," cautioned Tom.
"How so?" asked Joe, as he looked toward the fort where Frank Brown, as captain, was marshalling his lads.
"I heard that Hiram Shell and Luke Fodick soaked a lot of snowballs in water last night, and let 'em freeze," went on Tom. "They're just mean enough to use them."
"That's right," agreed Peaches, "and we made it up not to throw that kind. Well, if we catch Hiram or Luke using 'em we'll make a protest, that's all."
"Say, are you fellows all ready?" asked Frank Brown at length, as he looked to see if he and his mates had a good supply of ammunition.
"Sure," answered Joe. "Yell when you want us to come at you."
"Any time now," replied Frank. "Get on the job, fellows!" he called to his force.
The snow battle began. Joe and his lads had boxes and baskets of snowballs piled where they could easily get them. They took them with them, up to the very walls of the fort, certain boys being designated as ammunition carriers.
The fight was fast and furious. The air was thick with flying balls; and the yells, shouts, cries, and laughter of the lads could be heard afar.
Up to the fort swarmed Joe and his mates, only to be driven back by a withering fire. Then they came once more to the attack, pouring in a destructive rain of white balls on the defenders of the snow fort. But this resulted partly in disaster for the attacking foe, as several of their number were captured.
"At 'em again!" ordered Joe, after a slight repulse. "We can capture that place!"
Once more they swarmed to the attack, and with very good effect, delivering such a rattling volley of balls, that the defenders were thrown into confusion, and could not send back an answering fire quickly enough.
"Swarm the walls! Swarm the walls!" yelled Joe.
He and his lads scrambled up, their pockets filled with balls. Down upon the hapless foe they threw them, and in another moment the fort would have been theirs.
"Repel boarders! Repel boarders!" sang out Hiram. "Come on, fellows, give 'em an extra dose!"
Joe saw the bully, and Luke, his crony, rush to a corner of the fort and take something from a wooden box. The next instant several lads uttered cries of real pain, as they felt the missiles of almost solid ice hit them. Joeat once.
"The mean, sneaking coward!" he cried. In his hand he held a large snowball. It was hard packed, but did not equal the ice balls in any particular. Yet it was effective.
Joe saw the chance he wanted. Hiram had drawn back his hand to throw one of the missiles he and Luke had secretly made, when, with a suddenness that was startling, Joe threw his large snowball full in the bully's face.
Hiram caught his breath. The ball he had intended throwing fell from his hand. He staggered back, his face a mass of snow. Then he recovered himself, cleared his eyes of the flakes and, with a yell of rage sprang forward.
"I saw you throw that, Joe Matson!" he cried. "You had no right to pitch it with all your might at such close range."
"I had as much right as you and Luke have to use iceballs," retorted our hero.
"I—I'll fix you for that!" threatened Hiram, boiling over with wrath, as he scrambled up the inner walls of the fort and stood before Joe. "I'll knock you Into the middle of next week! I'll teach you how to behave. I'm going to lick you good," and he drew back his fist, and aimed a mighty blow at our hero.