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Translated By Benjamin Jowett
A CLOSE GAME
“Come on now, Bateye, soak it in!”
“Say, are you going to hold that ball all day?”
“What’s the matter with you; didn’t you ever see a horsehide before?”
“Oh, for the love of Mike! Throw it! Throw it! Do you want to give ’em a run?”
“That’s the way! Wake up, Bateye!”
These were only a few of the expressions and questions hurled by the other players at Bateye Jones, the Freeport rightfielder, who, after running back to recover a ball that had passed high over his head, was holding the sphere for a moment until he had made sure of the position of the runner, Jake Jensen, of the Vandalia team.
“Throw it! Throw it! You can take a picture of it after the game!” howled Captain John Smith of the Freeport nine, as he danced about behind home plate, and saw Tom Evans come in from third, and noticed Jensen legging it around from second.
[Pg 10]Bateye threw, and, mingling with the cries of the players and the yells of the crowd, there were groans of anguish as the ball passed high over the second baseman’s head, who jumped for it in vain.
Bill Smith, the wiry little pitcher, made a successful grab for the horsehide as it bounced on the ground, captured it, and hurled it to third, just in time to catch Jensen there.
“Out!” yelled the umpire.
“Aw, say, I beat it a mile!” protested the panting runner. “What’s the matter with you, Foster?”
“Out,” said the umpire again, waving his hand to indicate that Jensen was to leave the bag.
“Say, I’ll leave it to anybody if I—”
“Come on in,” invited Rube Mantell, captain of the Vandalias in a weary tone, and Jake shuffled to the bench.
“Mighty lucky stop, Bill,” called Pete, or “Sawed-off” Smith, to his brother the pitcher. The small-statured lad again took his position at short stop which he had left for a moment. “I wonder what’s the matter with Bateye to-day? That’s the second error he’s made.”
“Oh, I guess he got a bit rattled with so many howling at him,” spoke Bill good-naturedly. “Come on now, Pete. There are two down, and we ought to wallop ’em easy when it comes our turn. Watch me strike Flub Madison out.”
Bill, who was the best pitcher the Freeport team had secured in several seasons, again took his place in the box, while his brother John, or “Cap” from the likeness of his name to that of the old Indian fighter, resumed[Pg 11] his mask, after shooting a few indignant looks in the direction of the unfortunate Bateye Jones.
“He’s got to improve if he wants to stay on the team,” murmured Cap Smith as he waited for the next ball. “I s’pose he’ll excuse himself by saying the sun was in his eyes, or something like that. Or else that he can’t see well in the daytime. He certainly can see good at night. Old Bateye—well, here goes for the next one,” and Cap plumped his fist into the big mitt, and signalled to his pitching brother to send in a slow out curve to Flub Madison who took his place at the plate.
It was the ending of the eighth inning, and the score was seven to six, in favor of the Freeport lads. The game was far from won, for their opponents were playing strong, and still had another, and last, chance at the bat. To win meant much for the team on which the Smith Boys played, for they wanted to capture the championship of the County League, this being one of the last games of the season.
“One ball!” hoarsely called the umpire, as Bill unwound, and sent the horsehide sphere plump into the mitt of his older brother.
Cap looked an indignant protest, and hesitated as he tossed the ball back. It was as clean a strike as could be desired, but it was not the first time the official had favored Vandalia that day. The game was on their grounds, and the rivalry that existed between the two cities, located on either side of the Waydell river, was carried even into baseball.
“Make him give you a nice one, Flub,” called some of his friends.
[Pg 12]“He’ll walk you, anyhow,” added another sarcastically.
Bill Smith gritted his teeth but said nothing. He shook his head as his brother signalled for the same kind of a ball, and sent in a swift drop. Flub bit at it, and swung viciously.
“Strike one!” sounded sweet to the ears of the pitcher and catcher.
There was a vicious “ping” as the next ball was sailing over the plate, and for a moment the hearts of the Freeport nine and the hopes of their supporters were like lead, but they turned to rejoicing an instant later, as they saw the ball shoot high over the extreme left grandstand, and disappear.
“Foul strike!” called the umpire, as he tossed a new ball to Bill.
Cap signalled for the fast drop, and his brother nodded in assent.
“Three strikes! Batter out!” was yelled a moment later and Flub threw down his stick in disgust, and walked toward the outfield.
“Now’s our last chance!” exclaimed Bill to John, as he came running in, while the teams changed places. “We ought to get at least three runs—in fact we need ’em if we’re going to win, for they’ve got three of their best hitters up when they come for their last dips. But if we can get a lead of four runs we’ll be all right.”
“Yes, we’ll be all right if Bateye doesn’t go to sleep again,” grumbled Cap. “Say, what’s the matter with you?” he demanded as the unlucky rightfielder filed in.
“Why—er I—that is I—”
“Oh, out with it! You’re holding that talk as long as[Pg 13] you held the ball. Don’t do it again!” and Cap, who never could be ill-natured for very long, condescended to smile, while Bateye promised to do better in the future.
“Now Doc, show ’em how to make a home run,” suggested Pete, as Harry or “Doc” Norton, dubbed with the medical term by virtue of his father’s profession, came up to the bat. Doc tried hard, but only got a single. He was advanced to third when Norton Tonkin rapped out a nice two bagger, but that was as far as luck went for the Freeport nine that day. The next three players struck out under the masterly pitching of Nifty Pell, and the three Smith Boys did not get a chance.
“Well, we’re one run to the good. If we can hold ’em down the game’s ours,” observed Pete, as he walked out with his brothers, followed by the rest of the team. “It’s up to you, Bill.”
“I know that, Sawed-off,” was the answer. “I’ll do my best, but I can’t play the whole game. Crimps! But I would like to win this game! They’ve been making so many cracks about putting it all over us!”
“We’ve got to win!” said Cap Smith fiercely. “We need this to help us get the pennant. Don’t get nervous Bill, and you can do ’em. Try that up shoot on Scurry Nelson.”
The last half of the ninth inning began. There were agonized appeals from the Vandalia supporters for the nine to cinch the tying run, and then to bring in half a dozen more for good luck.
“They shan’t do it, if I can help it!” murmured Bill Smith half-savagely, as he took his place.
[Pg 14]Noticing the manner in which Bill stung in a few practice balls his brother behind the plate smiled happily.
“Bill hasn’t lost any speed,” he thought gleefully.
Scurry Nelson swung with all his force at the first ball, and his bat passed neatly under it.
“Strike one!” came from the umpire, as if it made no difference to him.
“Only two more!” howled the supporters of the Freeport nine. “You can do it, Bill!”
Bill tried the same kind of a curve again, and got away with it, but on the third attempt, after giving a ball on purpose, he heard the fatal “ping” and a swift grounder got past Pete.
There were groans of dismay from part of the crowd, accompanied by howls of delight from the other half, as Scurry landed on first. Bill felt his heart wildly beating, and Cap thumped his big glove viciously.
The Vandalia team on the bench was in transports of joy. Already they saw their enemies vanquished. Bill calmed himself by an effort, and even smiled as he faced Buck Wheeler the next man up. Buck was a notoriously heavy hitter and it seemed as if he would knock the cover off the ball when he swung at the first one Bill sent in. Only he didn’t hit it.
And he didn’t hit the next two, either, though he made desperate efforts to do so, and there was not quite so much elation on the faces of the Vandaliaites as the next man got up. He knocked a little pop fly, which Bill caught with ease making two out and, as quick as a flash the pitcher turned and threw to second, toward which bag[Pg 15] Scurry was legging it for all he was worth. Bill was just a second too late, however and the runner was safe.
“Two down! Only one more, and the game is ours!” came the encouraging yells from the grandstand where the Freeport supporters were crowded.
Bill smiled happily and got ready for the next man, at the same time watching Scurry on second. The following player was Will Longton, and had a high batting average. There was a smile of confidence on his face as he stepped to the plate.
Bill sent in a puzzling twister, and Will smiled as he refused to bite at it.
“Ball,” called the umpire.
“Take it easy! He’s afraid, and he’ll walk you,” was the advice Will got. He was still smiling confidently when the next ball whizzed past him.
“Strike,” came from the umpire, with obvious reluctance, since he wanted to see his friends win. Will looked an indignant protest at the official, and rubbed some dirt on his hands, so that he might better grip the bat.
“Watch him soak the cover off!” howled an enthusiastic admirer.
Longton did hit it, but only a foul resulted, and Scurry, who had started for third, had to come back.
“You know how to do it, Bill,” called the catcher to his brother, giving him a sign. Bill nodded, and the next instant, amid a breathless silence a swift ball shot from his hand, straight for the plate.
With an intaking of breath Will Longton swung at it with such force that he turned completely around, and the[Pg 16] look of astonishment on his face was mirth-provoking, as he realized that he had missed.
“Pung!” went the ball as it settled into the pit of Cap Smith’s glove, and the voice of the umpire, as he called “Three strikes—batter out!” was lost in the howl of delight that welled up from grand stands and bleachers as the crowd realized that Freeport had held their opponents down in the last inning, and had won the game. What if it was only by one run? One run has often won a league championship.
“Great work, Bill!” cried Pete as he ran in, clapping his brother on the back.
“That’s the stuff!” agreed Cap, as he hugged the pitcher. “We did ’em! Come on now, we can catch the next boat across the river if we get a move on,” and the Smith boys, followed by the rest of the team, hastened to the dressing rooms, stopping only long enough to return the cheer which their opponents gave them.
The crowd was surging down from the stands, talking about the close game, discussing the best plays, arguing how if such a man had done differently the result would have been changed, and speculating as to Freeport’s and Vandalia’s chances for winning the pennant.
“What are you fellows going to do to-night?” asked Bateye Jones a little later as he stood talking with his chums, the Smith Boys on the little ferry boat which ran across the river from Vandalia to Freeport.
“Nothing special, I guess. Why?” inquired Bill.
“What do you say if we give the fire department a run?”
“Give ’em a run?” asked Cap with a puzzled air. “What do you mean?”
[Pg 17]“Why they haven’t been out in nearly two weeks, and they’re just waiting for a chance to show off their new uniforms, and try the new chemical,” spoke Bateye. “I say let’s give it to ’em.”
“How?” asked Pete, who detected a gleam of fun in the half-closed eyes of the lad who had such a habit of being out nights, and such a reputed ability to see in the dark, that it had gained him the name of Bateye. “How you going to do it?”
“Easy. Come over here, and I’ll tell you. Come on, Doc, and you, too, Norton.”
The two lads thus addressed, together with the Smith boys, moved forward on the little boat.
“I saw Spider Langdon and Beantoe Pudder looking at us,” explained Bateye, when they were safe in a corner of the craft, “and I didn’t want them to get on to us. Now here’s my scheme. We can have some fun, and, at the same time give the department a chance to show off,” and with that Bateye began to whisper the details of his plan.
It did not take long to disclose it, and at the conclusion he asked:
“Will you do it, fellows?”
“Will we? Will a cat eat warm milk?” demanded Pete, as if there was no question about it.
“But say, there won’t be any come-back, will there? We got into trouble enough with the railroad people, and by flying our kite with Susie Mantell on the tail of it last year, so I’m not looking for any more,” said Cap Smith solemnly.
“Oh, this will be all right,” Bateye assured them. “Now[Pg 18] I’ll come over about eight o’clock, and make a noise like a tree toad. Then you come out. But lock up Waggles, your dog, or he might give the scheme away.”
“We will,” promised Bill, and then the boat tied up at the wharf, and the ball players in advance of the crowd rushed off.
“Say, I’ll bet there’s something doing,” said Beantoe Pudder to Spider Langdon, as they followed the throng.
“Why?” asked the long legged lad, who was nicknamed “Spider.”
“Because I saw those Smith Boys and Bateye talking together, and—” but at that moment Sam Pudder stumbled and would have fallen, had not his chum caught him.
“There you go again, Beantoe!” exclaimed Spider, as he helped him regain his balance. “What’s the matter with you?”
“It’s these new shoes, I guess,” and Beantoe, who owed his title to his habit of stumbling, limped along. “But as I was saying, I saw the Smith fellows and Bateye and Doc talking together. There’s something doing. Let’s watch and see what it is,” he concluded.
“All right, I’m with you. We’ll hang around to-night, and maybe we can spoil their game,” and the two cronies who, among other things in common, had a dislike for the Smith Boys and their friends, hurried along, whispering together.
Meanwhile the members of the Freeport Volunteer Fire Department were all unaware of the plot brewing against them.
A FIRE DEPARTMENT RUN
“Well, boys, how did you make out at the game?” asked Mr. Smith, as his three sturdy sons tramped into the house a little later.
“Fine,” answered Pete. “It was a close game, but we won.”
“Good!” exclaimed the father. “I wish I’d been there.”
“What’s Mrs. Murdock got for supper?” demanded Bill, as he sniffed various odors coming from the kitchen. “I hope it’s roast lamb!”
“I want sausage and potatoes!” cried Pete.
“Get out! It’s too early for sausage,” asserted Cap. “Guess again, Pete.”
“What is it, Mrs. Murdock?” demanded Bill, as the housekeeper just then entered the room.
“Roast beef and baked potatoes,” she answered, and there was a chorus of delighted howls.
“Fine!” cried Bill a second afterward making a rush for the buxom lady who had kept house for Mr. Smith, since his wife’s death some years before. The other brothers, following Bill’s lead, tried to kiss her at the same time, but she shut herself up in the pantry for refuge, and declared that they would not only be the cause of making the potatoes burn, but would also spoil the roast if they did not raise the siege. So they capitulated, and[Pg 20] a little later were sitting down to a meal, with such appetites as only bless those who play ball.
And while the meal is in progress I will take the opportunity of introducing you to the Smith lads a little more formally.
There were three of them, as you have guessed, John the eldest, then William, or “Bill,” as he was always called, and Pete, the youngest. They lived with their father and the housekeeper in a large, old fashioned house in the town of Freeport, on the Waydell river. Across the stream was the town of Vandalia, and, as told in the first volume of this series, entitled “Those Smith Boys,” there was much rivalry between the two places.
In the initial volume it was related how the Smith boys, who were always getting into mischief, but who did not mean to do wrong, started off a handcar, which ran away down grade on the new line of the Green Valley Railroad.
The handcar rushed through the railroad construction camp, knocked down a water tank, crashed into the tent of the chief surveyor, and made such a rumpus generally that the Smith boys, fearing the consequences, ran away.
It was a question whether the railroad would locate a station at Vandalia or at Freeport, and the decision was almost in favor of Freeport when the Smith boys, played their unfortunate trick. Then the chief surveyor determined to place the depot in Vandalia, out of revenge.
The Smith brothers had many adventures during the time they were away from home. They were looking for a thumbless man, whom they suspected of having robbed their father, and in their journeyings fell in with Theophilus Clatter, a traveling vendor of patent medicines,[Pg 21] patent soap and a patent stain remover. They also met with Duodecimo Donaldby, who posed as a rain-maker, or a horse doctor, as suited his convenience.
The boys became traveling showmen to aid in the work of selling the patent medicine and soap, after their friend, Mr. Clatter, had been arrested for telling fortunes, and all the while the lads kept a lookout for the thumbless man.
How they found him, and overheard him discussing a plot to rob the paycar of the railroad, how they frustrated his plans, saved the car and won the gratitude of the railroad officials is told of in the book. Also how it was decided, as a sort of a reward for what the Smith boys had done, to locate the railroad depot in Freeport after all. So the thoughtless prank of the lads turned out well after all.
Part of the money stolen from Mr. Smith was recovered, and the boys also received a reward from the railroad company. Their father had planned to send them to Westfield Academy, immediately after their return from journeying about the country, but his financial and other matters prevented, so the boys had spent the winter helping him.
Mr. Smith’s business affairs were now in good shape, and he was quite well off, so he determined that with the opening of the fall term at Westfield, his sons should attend there.
All summer the boys had been having a good time at various sports, of which baseball was chief. They were valued members of the Freeport nine, and it looked as though they would do more than their share in helping[Pg 22] that team win the pennant. Only a few more games remained to be played before the season would be over.
“And then for Westfield,” remarked Pete at the supper table that night, as they talked over their plans.
“I hope we can get on the nine there,” said Cap.
“Oh, sure we can,” declared Bill.
“Well, just because you can pitch well in the county league, doesn’t say that you’ll make good at Westville,” objected Cap. “They play big college teams there, you know.”
“Well, I’m not afraid of a college team,” said his brother. “We’ll make the nine—you see.”
“Hark! What’s that?” asked Pete suddenly, listening intently.
The sound of a tree toad came in through the opened window.
“Bateye Jones,” murmured Cap.
“Are you boys going out?” asked Mr. Smith, looking up quickly from the paper he was reading, as he heard the name of the lads’ chum.
“We—er—that is we thought of it,” replied Bill.
“Well I do hope you won’t get into any more mischief,” went on their father. “I’m about tired of hearing everything that happens in this town laid to ‘Those Smith Boys.’”
“So are we, dad!” exclaimed Cap. “And half of the things that are done aren’t up to us at all.”
“Well, perhaps that’s so. But be careful now.”
“Yes,” they promised in a chorus, as they hurried out to meet Bat-Eye. And they really meant to do as they had said, but they were full of life and energy, and—well,[Pg 23] you know how it is yourselves. Things don’t always turn out as you think they will.
A little later six figures might have been seen hurrying away across lots in the rear of the Smith homestead. There had been some earnest whispering before their departure, and from the manner in which they hastened away it might have been argued, by anyone who knew the lads, that something was going to happen.
Then, a few seconds after the six had melted away in the darkness, two other figures rose up from the deep grass where they had been hiding.
“There they go, Beantoe,” whispered one lad. “I wonder what’s up?”
“We’ll soon find out, Spider,” was the response. “Come on, we can easily follow them.”
Cautiously the two sped on in the blackness. Just ahead of them could be seen the group of six, and, from time to time, the twain could hear the voices of the Smith Boys, and their chums, Bateye Jones, Doc Lutken and Norton Tonkin.
“Can you hear what they’re saying?” whispered Beantoe.
“Naw, but we don’t need to. We’ll just follow ’em.”
The six led their shadowers quite a chase, and it was not until half an hour later that the foremost lad turned into a vacant lot that stood on the outskirts of the town. In the middle of the lot was a tumble-down barn and shed, long disused, and useful only as an abiding place for an occasional tramp.
“Gee whizz!” exclaimed Beantoe, as he and his crony sank down out of sight in the grass, for the six had come[Pg 24] to a halt in front of the ancient structure. “Gee whizz! All this round-about way, when they could have walked down the road to this place in ten minutes.”
“That’s all right,” argued Spider. “That shows that something is up. They didn’t want to be seen coming here, and so they went around through the lots. Say, do you know what I think?”
“No, but I know what I think! I think we’re chumps for coming after them! What does it amount to, anyhow?”
“I’ll tell you,” whispered Spider. “They have a secret society, and they hold meetings here. That’s why they go about it so carefully. But they can’t fool us. We’re right here, and we’ll sneak up, hear all they say, and then where will their secret society be, I’d like to know?”
“Do you really think so?”
“I’m sure of it. Look, they’re going in the barn.”
The two lads who were hiding in the grass, just beyond the fence that enclosed the old shed, raised their heads and looked. Surely enough the Smith boys and their friends were entering the deserted barn.
“Let’s go up and listen,” proposed Spider.
“No, wait awhile,” advised Beantoe. “Give ’em a chance to get started, and we can hear all they say.”
“They’re making a light!” exclaimed Spider.
[Pg 25]“Sure! Maybe they’re going to initiate new candidates into their society. They think they’re great stuff, but wait until they find out that we know all their secrets and passwords. Then they’ll come down off their high horses.”
“Sure! Come on up now. They must be started by this time.”
Carefully getting up from their hiding places the two spies cautiously advanced toward the old barn.
“They’re lighting up all over,” observed Beantoe eagerly. “Must be going to have a regular celebration.”
“I guess so. Come on over on this side. There’s a little window that we can look in.”
Spider was leading the way, and, just as he reached the window in question, his companion, as was his habit, unfortunately stumbled over a stone.
“Oh, there you go again, Beantoe!” exclaimed Spider wrathfully.
“I—I know it,” admitted his crony. “Gee horse, but it hurts!”
“Well, keep quiet and come on. I guess—”
But what Spider guessed he never told, for at that moment there was a rush of figures from the barn, and the two spies were surrounded.
“We’ve caught ’em!” cried Cap Smith gleefully.
“Who are they?” asked Bill.
“I’ve got Beantoe Pudder,” announced Doc Lutken, making a grab for the stumbling lad.
“And here’s Spider Langdon,” added Pete Smith, taking a tighter hold of the struggling youth.
“What were they doing?” inquired Cap.
“Following us, of course,” said Norton Tonkin.
“We were not!” denied Beantoe, but the evidence was against him.
“I wonder what they want?” asked Bill.
“They must have known what we were going to do, and they[Pg 26] want to squeal on us,” suggested Bateye. “What shall we do?”
“Is it too late to stop it?” asked Bill, with a glance toward the barn.
Inside could be seen several flickering lights.
“Sure, it’s going hard,” answered Pete. “We can’t put it out.”
“Then let’s make ’em stand for it,” suggested Bateye. “They’ll squeal anyhow, so let’s make ’em take their share of the blame. It won’t amount to much anyhow, for dad was going to have the place pulled down, and he won’t care what happens to it. We’ll tie Beantoe and Spider to the fence here, and run and give the alarm. The firemen will loosen ’em when they get here.”
“Oh, don’t tie us up!” pleaded Beantoe in alarm.
“No, don’t leave us here!” begged Spider. “We’ll never say a word about your secret society. Not a word, honest we won’t!”
“Who said anything about a secret society?” demanded Bill.
“Why, ain’t that what you came out to the barn for?” asked Beantoe.
“And did you follow us to hear the secrets?” inquired Pete, beginning to understand something.
Beantoe and Spider maintained a discreet silence.
“By Jinks! that’s it, fellows!” cried Bill. “Say, this is rich! Tie ’em to the fence, and leave ’em. Then we’ll give the alarm! Say, this is great!”
“Oh, don’t tie us! We won’t tell!” wailed Beantoe and Spider in a chorus.
But their foes were relentless, and in a few minutes[Pg 27] the two spies were secured to the fence across the road from the barn. Meanwhile the flickering lights in the old structure had increased. Smoke was pouring from the windows and doors.
“There, you can tell any story you like now,” said Pete, as he fastened the last knot. “Maybe they’ll believe you and maybe they won’t.”
“Oh, we Smith boys will be blamed anyhow,” was Bill’s grumbling opinion.
“Then we might as well have the game as the name. Come on, it’s going good now. We’ll give the department something to do.”
With a final look at the barn, and the lads who were tied to the fence, the Smith boys and their chums began to run down the road in the direction of the town. As they left, the whole interior of the rickety structure was lighted up, and the smoke poured out thicker than ever.
“They’ve set the barn on fire!” yelled Beantoe, as he struggled to get loose.
“And they’re going to put the blame on us,” added Spider, threshing about with his long legs.
“But we’ll tell who did it!”
“What good will that do, when they find us here. Besides those fellows will give the alarm, and that will throw suspicion off them.”
“But look how we’re tied.”
“I know it, but they’ll say we did it ourselves. Oh, I wish we hadn’t followed those Smith boys!”
“So do I!”
Swiftly running down the road, the boys in question, and their chums, set up a loud cry:
[Pg 28]“Fire! Fire! Fire!”
They were on the outskirts of the town now, and the yell was soon taken up by many voices.
“Fire! Fire! Fire!”
“Where is it?” demanded several.
“The barn on my father’s place,” answered Bateye Jones pantingly.
Some one rang the alarm bell on the tower of the hose house.
The few firemen on duty began to rush about, and hitched up the horses. Other volunteers from nearby houses hastened to the hose house. A red glare could be seen reflected on the sky. The fire department at last had a chance for a run, and the members rejoiced in it, for there had been many days of inactivity. It mattered not that the barn was a worthless structure, better burned than left standing. It was a chance to get out the new apparatus, and must not be missed.
The hose wagon and chemical engine combined rattled out of the house. Men shouted various unimportant directions. The horses were scarcely awake.
“There they go!” exulted Bateye as he and the others prepared to race back to the scene they had so recently left.
“S’pose they find out we did it?” asked Pete.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Bateye. “I got leave from dad to burn the barn, only he didn’t know I was going to do it to-night. He wants to put up a silo for cattle fodder on the place, so the barn had to come down, anyhow, and burning was the easiest way. But I thought we might as well have some fun out of it while we’re at it.”
[Pg 29]“Sure!” agreed Cap Smith.
And then the boys, and scores of others, ran on, while voices multiplied the cry of:
“Fire! Fire! Fire!”
A LEAKY BOAT
The old barn made a good blaze. Beantoe and Spider, tied with their hands behind them to the fence, could not help but admit that.
“Say, it’s a peach of a fire all right!” exclaimed the long-legged lad, as he vainly struggled to free himself.
“It sure is! I wonder if they’ll arrest us?”
“Of course not. If they did I guess Bateye and the others would be square enough to own up to it.”
“I guess so, but maybe the firemen will be mad when they find out about it.”
“Get out! They’ll only be too glad of a chance to use the new hose. Besides Cooney Humpville hasn’t used his new trumpet yet. Say, it’s getting warm all right!”
“Yes, but it won’t be any hotter. It’s at the worst of the blaze now. Why don’t the firemen come?”
“Here they are!” cried Spider.
From down the highway came a confused sound—shouts and yells mingled with the galloping of horses and the rumble of the hose wagon.
Up dashed the Freeport fire department, glorious in red shirts and red helmets, with the red hose wagon in their midst.
“Unreel the hose!” yelled the chief.
[Pg 31]“Better take the chemical line in first, Cooney,” suggested one of the red shirted men.
“Aw, don’t call me Cooney; call me Chief!” begged the head of the fire-fighters. “I say put the hose on the hydrant and squirt.”
Several men started to do this, but it was found that the nearest fire plug was farther away than the hose would reach, so it was unavailable for the fire.
“We’ve got to take the chemical, Cooney!” called another man. “Run the wagon nearer.”
“Aw, don’t call me Cooney, call me—” but his men did not stay to listen to his renewed pleading. The horses had been unhitched, and led away. Willing hands now dragged the wagon closer to the burning barn, and soon two lines of small hose to carry the chemical stream were unwound.
“Let her go!” yelled the men in a chorus, and the engineer who operated the tanks, screwed down the wheel valve that broke the bottle of sulphuric acid into the solution of soda and water.
Two foamy streams spurted from the hose nozzles, but it was easy to see that they would have little effect on the blaze. A lot of water was needed, and that was not available. Still, even though the old barn burned to the ground no harm could result. There were no other buildings within an eighth of a mile.
“Look here!” suddenly cried some of the firemen as they neared the fence, and then they discovered Beantoe and Spider tied to the rails.
“Who did it?”
“How did it happen?”
[Pg 32]“Did you see anyone start the fire?”
“How did you get tied up?”
Questions were fired at the two lads, who were soon released. They looked through the gathering throng for a sight of the Smith boys and their chums. Beantoe saw Bateye laughing at him.
“There are the fellows who set the barn on fire!” cried the stumbling lad. “We saw ’em; didn’t we Spider?”
“Sure; and they tied us up,” and, forthwith the tale was related to such of the firemen and the crowd as would listen. And this was a goodly number, for it was seen that it was useless to try to save the barn, and all that could be done was to watch it burn, harmlessly.
“And those Smith boys tied you up?” demanded Chief Humpville, “and burned the barn?”
“Sure they did,” asserted Bateye. “Them an’ Doc an’ Bateye.”
“Just as likely as not these fellows set the barn, and tied themselves up,” ventured a fireman, nodding at the captives.
“That’s right; for the Smith brothers, and Bateye ran in and gave the alarm,” added another.
“Didn’t I tell you how it would be,” wailed Spider. “I knew they’d blame us.”
The twain protested, even unto tears, that they had no hand in the prank, and when they related, with much detail, how they had been surprised and caught the tide turned in their favor.
“You might know those Smith boys would be up to some such game as this,” remarked Mr. Wright, who kept the feed store. “They ought to be arrested for arson.”
[Pg 33]“That’s right; or else sent away to the reform school,” added Mr. Henderson, who sold shoes.
“I hear they are going away to school this fall,” declared Mr. Flint, a retired merchant.
“Well, they can’t go any too soon to suit me,” went on Mr. Wright. “They’re always doing something—those Smith boys are!”
“But you must admit that they helped get the railroad to come here,” suggested Mr. Blanchard, the grocer.
“Yes, but they’re like a cow that gives a good pail of milk and then kicks it over,” asserted Mr. Flint. “But I ain’t going to stay here any more. The fire’s most out, and I guess it’s a good thing the old barn went. It was only good for tramps.”
In spite of the usual feeling against the Smith boys this was the general sentiment, and when Chief Humpville wanted to make a charge of arson against the lads, he was persuaded not to.
“And so you fellows really did it; eh Bateye?” asked the chief, when the lad who could see in the dark had admitted his part in the affair, together with the Smith boys. They did it to clear Beantoe and Spider, who were deemed guilty by some.
“Sure I did it,” admitted Bateye shamelessly. “Aren’t you glad you had the run?”
The chief and his men were, but did not want to say so, for their new helmets and red shirts had been audibly admired, and the new apparatus, though its chemical streams were not effective against the fire, because of the start the blaze had acquired, were a source of pride to the townspeople.
[Pg 34]“Ain’t it against the law to set a fire?” demanded the chief, bound to maintain his dignity.
“Not when you have permission,” asserted Bateye, “and my dad said I could get rid of the barn any way I liked.”
“Did he say you could burn it?” asked the chief.
“Well, not exactly, but I liked that way better than any other, and so we did it. I knew nothing could happen, as there wasn’t any wind.”
The chief felt the uselessness of making any comments, especially as Mr. Jones was in the crowd, and confirmed what his son said.
“But I certainly didn’t know he intended to burn it at night,” said Bateye’s father, “or I would have prevented him. However it’s done, and I’m glad the barn is gone. And if the firemen think—”
“Oh, that’s all right, Mr. Jones,” said one of the red-shirts with a laugh. “We were getting too fat lying around. The run did us good.”
It was not long ere the barn was but a heap of glowing embers and then the chief, calling hoarsely through his new trumpet, ordered the apparatus to “take up” though there was little to take up, and the department slowly went back to headquarters. The crowd followed, talking excitedly of what had happened.
“I guess you fellows won’t take after us next time; will you?” asked Cap of Beantoe and Spider, as the two lads passed by.
“Humph! You just wait; that’s all!” threatened Beantoe, vaguely. “We’ll get square with you yet!”
“That’s what,” added Spider, striding along on his thin legs.
[Pg 35]“They’ve got to think up something mighty soon,” said Bill, as he and his brothers and their chums turned down a street that led to their homes. “We’re going off to school in about three weeks.”
“Not before the close of the ball season, though; are you?” asked Bateye anxiously. “We can’t win the championship if you go.”
“Oh, we’ll finish out the season on the nine,” promised Cap. “And I guess our team will win, if you don’t make any more wild throws.”
“Nary a one,” promised Bateye fervidly.
It was several days before the town got over talking about the fire. Mr. Smith heard of the part his sons had taken in it, and talked severely to them.
“Why are you always up to such risky tricks?” he asked.
“This wasn’t risky,” declared Bill in justification.
“We didn’t think it was any harm,” added Pete.
“That’s the trouble. You don’t think enough. You didn’t think the time you started the runaway handcar, and you remember what happened. Now be more careful.”