Baseball Joe on the School Nine/Chapter 6

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"Well, you ought to get out a patent on this," remarked Joe, when they resumed the eating of the pie and the drinking of the pop, following the withdrawal of the professor.

"You sure had," agreed Tom. "Let Joe give you some points. His father has taken out several patents."

"Oh, I guess we'll make it free for all—any fellow is welcome to the idea," replied Teeter. "So your dad's an inventor, eh, Matson?"

"Yes, harvester machinery—his latest was a corn reaper and binder, and he nearly lost it," and Joe briefly told how Iasac Benjamin and Rufus Holdney had nearly ruined his father, as related in detail in "Baseball Joe of the Silver Stars."

"Ever hear anything more of those fellows?" asked Tom, following the recital of the schemes of the plotters.

"No, they seem to have disappeared," answered Joe. "They cleared out after dad won his case in the courts. But he's on the watch for them, he told me. His business isn't all settled yet, and there is some danger. But I guess Benjamin or Holdney won't bother him, though some other rascals may."

"Anything more to eat?" asked Peaches, during the pause that followed.

"Say, what are you, a human refrigerator?" demanded Teeter. "I couldn't carry any more pie if I tried."

"It'll be our treat next time," observed Joe. "Why didn't George Bland come with you?"

"Had to bone on trigonometry, I guess," replied Peaches.

"Does he play on the team?" Joe wanted to know.

"Yes, we all do. George is short, I'm on third, and Teeter holds down first sometimes. But you never can tell what Hiram is going to do. He and Luke are always making shifts, and that's what lost us the Blue Banner last season. The fellows would no more than get familiar with their positions than Hiram would shift 'em. Oh, he runs things to suit himself."

The hour of ten boomed out from the big school clock and the visitors left.

"Spring fever!" exclaimed Joe one day, as he and Tom came from a physics lecture.

"Yes, I've got it, too," admitted Tom. "It's in the air, and I'm glad of it. What's that Shakespeare says about 'now is the winter of our discontent?'"

"Oh, cheese it! Don't begin spouting poetry. Besides I'm not sure it was Shakespeare, and I don't give a hang. All I know is that Spring is coming, and soon they'll begin getting the diamond in shape."

"Precious lot of good that will do you—or me, either. Hiram is as down on me as he is on you."

"I know it, and I was going to speak of that, Tom. There's no use in your losing a chance to play on the nine just because I'm on the outs. Why don't you cut loose from me? You can get another room, and maybe if you do—"

"Hold on!" cried Tom quickly. "Do you want me to go, old man?" and he looked sharply at Joe.

"Nonsense! Of course you know I don't."

"Then drop that kind of talk, unless you want a fight on your hands. You and I stick together, Hiram Shell or no Hiram Shell—and Luke Fodick."

"Well, I didn't know," spoke Joe softly.

"Here, come on; let's have a catch," proposed Tom. "I've got an old ball that we used in one of the Star games. Get over there and sting some in to me. Wait until I get my glove on," and he adjusted his mitt.

"Jove! This is like old times!" exclaimed Joe, as he lovingly fingered the horsehide—dirty and stained as it was from many a clouting and drive into the tall grass and daisies. "I wish we could go and see a game, even if we couldn't play."

"Same here," came from Tom, as he crouched to receive the ball his chum was about to deliver. Joe wound up and sent in a "hot" one. It landed squarely in Tom's glove for the first-baseman (a position he sometimes had played on the Stars) was not a half bad catcher.

"How was that?" asked Joe.

"Pretty good. Not quite over the plate, but you can get 'em there. Let 'em come about so," and Tom indicated a stone that would serve for home.

"Watch this," requested Joe as he wound up again and let drive.

"A beaut!" cried Tom. "Give me some more that way, and you'll have the man out."

"Say, what are you fellows doing?" demanded a voice, and the two chums looked up to see Hiram Shell gazing at them with mingled expressions on his fleshy face.

"Oh, having a little practice," replied Joe easily. The feeling between himself and the bully had nearly worn off, and they were on speaking, if not on friendly terms.

"Practice for what?" demanded Hiram.

"Well, the baseball season opens pretty soon," went on Joe, "and Tom and I sort of felt the fever in out veins to-day. Want to have a catch?"

"No," half snarled Hiram. "Say, did you fellows play ball before you came here?" he demanded.

"Sure," put in Tom. "Joe was one of the best pitchers on the Silver Stars."

"The Silver Stars? Never heard of 'em!" sneered Hiram.

"Oh, it was only an amateur nine," Joe admitted modestly. "Tom here was first baseman, and we had some good country games."

"Huh! Maybe you came here to play baseball!" suggested Hiram with a leer. "Seems to me I heard that you had some such notion."

"Well, I have," asserted Joe confidently. "I like the game, and I'd give a good deal to get on the nine. So would Tom, I guess."

"First base is filled," snapped Hiram.

"How about pitcher," asked Tom eagerly, anxious to put in a good word for his chum. "I hear you need a new pitcher."

"Oh, you did; eh?" exclaimed the bully with an unpleasant laugh. "Well, you've got another 'hear' coming. Besides, if there wasn't another pitcher in the country, you wouldn't get a chance, Matson!"

"No?" queried Joe easily.

"No, and a dozen times no! What, you pitch? Say, you may have been all right on a sand-lots team, but there's some class to Excelsior Hall. We don't want any dubs on our nine. You think you might pitch on my team? I guess nixy! We want some fellow who can deliver the goods."

"Joe can!" exclaimed Tom eagerly.

"Aw, forget it!" sneered Hiram. "Why, you'd be knocked out of the box first inning with some of the teams we play. You pitch! Ha! Ha! That's pretty rich. I'll have to tell the fellows about this!"

"I didn't ask you to let me pitch," said Joe quietly though an angry spot burned in either cheek.

"No, and you'd better not!" snapped Hiram. "You pitch! Ha! Ha! It makes me laugh," and with a sneering look at Joe the bully strode off, chuckling unpleasantly.