Much Ado About Peter/Chapter 6

 

HELD FOR RANSOM

 

 

VI
HELD FOR RANSOM

PETER, from being a care-free, irresponsible young groom, suddenly found himself beset with many and multiform anxieties. It commenced with Joe's falling through the trap-door in the ice-house and breaking his leg. While he was in the hospital impatiently recovering, Peter was put in command of the stables. The accident happened only a short time after the burning of the waggon-shed, and Peter was determined to retrieve his good name in Mr. Carter's sight. The axle grease episode remained a black spot in his career. The three Brainard boys were still at Willowbrook, but their visit was to come to an end in a week, and in the meantime they, too, were in a chastened mood. Peter marked out a diamond in the lower meadow, and with infinite relief saw them devote themselves to the innocent pursuit of base-ball. If their enthusiasm could only be made to last out the week, he felt that the waggon-shed would be cheap at the price.

But though the boys were providentially quiescent, Peter's private affairs were not moving so smoothly. He had another reason besides mere ambition for wishing to prove himself capable of taking command in that uncertain future when Joe should resign. Heretofore, the prospect of being coachman, absolute ruler of three grooms and two stable-boys, had been sufficient goal in itself; but of late, visions of the coachman's cottage, vine-covered, with a gay little garden in front, and Annie sewing on the porch, had supplanted the old picture of himself haughtily ordering about his five underlings. He had not, however, ventured to suggest this dream to Annie. His usual daring impudence, which had endeared him to her predecessors, seemed to have deserted him, and he became tongue-tied in her presence. Peter had been possessed before by many errant fancies, but never by an obsession such as this. He went about his work blind to everything but the memory of her face. When he peered into the oat-bin it was Annie that he saw; she smiled back at him from the polished sides of the mail phaeton and the bottom of every bucket of water. She made him happy and miserable, exultant and fearful, all at once. Poor badgered Peter knew now what it felt like to be a brook-trout when a skilful angler is managing the reel.

This alternate hope and fear was sufficiently upsetting for one whose whole mind should have been upon his duties, but it was nothing to the state that followed. Their quarrel fell from a clear sky. He had taken her, one Sunday afternoon, to a popular amusement resort, a trolley ride's distance from Willowbrook, and had suggested refreshments in a place he remembered from the year before. It was called the "Heart of Asia," and represented, so the man with the megaphone announced, the harem of a native prince. The room was hung with vivid draperies of gold and crimson, and dimly lighted by coloured lanterns suspended from the ceiling. The refreshments were served by maidens billed as "Circassian Beauties," but whose speech betrayed a Celtic origin.

Peter picked out a secluded table and ordered striped ice-cream. He had thought the place particularly conducive to romance, but Annie was too excited over her first introduction to the glamour of the East to give attention to anything but her surroundings.

"Ain't she wonderful?" Annie whispered, as a Circassian Beauty, in green and gold, trailed across her field of vision.

Peter shrugged in blasé, man-of-the-world fashion.

"'Tis the paint an' powder an' clothes an' lights," he said sceptically. "Out in the daylight, with her own clothes on, she would n't look so different from you."

This was not a strictly politic rejoinder, but he meant it well, and for the moment Annie was too dazzled to be in a carping mood. The gorgeous creature drew near, and set their ice-cream upon the table. She was turning away, after a casual glance to make sure that they had spoons and ice-water and paper napkins, when her eyes lighted upon Peter. Her second glance was not so casual; it lingered for a moment on his face. Peter had never visited the place but once in his life, and that the summer before, when he had spent an inconsequential half hour in chaffing the girl who served him. The incident had completely faded from his mind; but the girl had a diabolical memory and a love of mischief.

"Hello, Peter Malone!" she laughed. "You have n't been around much lately. I guess you don't care for me any more."

Peter's face—for no reason on earth but that he felt Annie's questioning eyes upon him—took on a lively red. Annie transferred her gaze and studied the Circassian Beauty at close range. After some further reminiscences, audaciously expansive on her part, gruffly monosyllabic on Peter's, the girl withdrew with a farewell laugh over her shoulder; and Annie's eyes returned to Peter, an ominous sparkle in their depths.

"I 've had all I want o' this place," she observed, pushing away her dish of ice-cream.

Peter followed her outside, aware of a chilly change in the atmosphere. He anxiously ventured on an explanation, but the more he explained, the more undue prominence the incident acquired.

"Ye need n't be apologizin'," said Annie, in an entirely friendly tone. "Ye 've got a perfect right to go anywhere ye please, an' know anyone ye please. It's none o' my business."

She bade him good-night with an air of cheerful aloofness, thanking him politely for an "interestin' afternoon." Her manner suggested that there was nothing to quarrel about; she had been mistaken in her estimate of Peter, but that was not his fault; in the future she would be more clear-seeing. This wholly reasonable attitude failed to put Peter at his ease. He passed a wakeful night, divided between profanity when he thought of the Circassian Beauty, and anxiety when he thought of Annie.

In the morning the plot thickened.

A fourth youngster was spending a few days at Willowbrook—another Brainard, cousin to the three who were already there; but, providentially, he was only thirteen months old, and had not learned to walk. Peter accepted the arrival without concern, never dreaming that this young gentleman's presence could in any degree affect his own peace of mind. The baby, however, had lost his nurse, and while they were searching a new one Annie volunteered to act as substitute. The morning after her visit to the Heart of Asia saw her ensconced on a rustic bench under an apple tree on the lawn, the perambulator at her side. The tree was secluded from the house by a mass of shrubbery, but was plainly visible from the stables. It was also closely adjacent to the grounds of Jasper Place, and this morning, by a fortuitous circumstance, Vittorio was clipping the hedge.

It had never entered Peter's mind to regard Vittorio as a possible rival; but now it suddenly occurred to him that the man was good looking—not according to his own ideals, but in a theatrical, exotic fashion, sure to catch a woman's eye. It also occurred to him that Vittorio's conversation was diverting—again from a woman's point of view. There was something piquant in the spectacle of a broad-shouldered, full-grown man conversing in the baby accents of a child of three. Peter went about his work that day, bitterly aware of the by-play going on under the apple tree. Annie had undertaken the task of teaching Vittorio English, and the lessons were punctuated by the clear ring of her merry laugh.

In the evening the man was enticed to the back veranda, where he sat on the top step singing serenades to his own accompaniment on the mandolin, while the maids listened in rapt delight. Even Miss Ethel added her applause; overhearing the music, she haled Vittorio and his mandolin and Italian love songs to the front veranda to entertain her guests. Peter, who had never been invited to entertain Miss Ethel's guests, swallowed this latest triumph with what grace he might. The irony of the matter was that it had been Peter himself who had first rescued Vittorio from social obscurity, and who had insisted to the other sceptical ones that the man was "all right," in spite of the misfortune of having been born in Italy instead of in Ireland. He had not hoped to be taken so completely at his word.

In this sympathetic atmosphere Vittorio expanded like a flower in the sunlight. He had suddenly become a social lion. His funny sayings were passed from mouth to mouth, and everybody on the place commenced conversing in Italian-English.

"Eh, Peta!" Billy hailed him one afternoon, "Mees Effel, she want-a go ride. She want-a you go too. I saddle dose horsa?"

"Aw, let up!" Peter growled. "We hears enough Dago talk without them as knows decent English havin' to make fools o' theirselves."

While Peter's private troubles were thus heavy upon him, his official responsibility increased. Mr. Carter was called away on business. On the morning of the departure, as they were starting for the station, Miss Ethel ran after them with a forgotten umbrella. "Take care of yourself, dad!" She kissed him good-bye, and stood on the veranda waving her handkerchief until the carriage was out of sight. Mr. Carter settled himself against the cushions with a sigh.

"What a world this would be without women!" he murmured.

"Yes, sir," Peter agreed gloomily, "an', beggin' yer pardon, what a hell of a world it is with 'em, sir."

The following few days strengthened this opinion. Vittorio's education progressed, while Annie still maintained her attitude of superior aloofness. Her manner was friendly—exactly as friendly to Peter as to any of the other men. The intangibility of the quarrel was what made it hardest to bear. Could he have punched some one it would have eased his mind, but in all fairness he was forced to acknowledge that the "Dago" was not to blame. The advances were blatantly from Annie's side.

In the meantime, however, a new complication had developed, which acted in a measure as a counter irritant. Mr. Carter's train was barely out of hearing, when the most extraordinary amount of petty thieving commenced. Nothing could be laid down anywhere about the place but that it immediately disappeared. There had been a number of Armenian women in the neighbourhood selling lace, and Peter would have suspected these had not the list of stolen articles been so unusual. It comprised the clothes-line, half a dozen sheets and the wash-boiler, six jars of jam from the cellar, and some bread and cake from the pantry window, a bundle of stakes for training the tomato plants, and Master Wallace's spelling book (he was having to study through vacation, and he bore the loss with composure), a Japanese umbrella-holder from the front veranda, a pair of lap-robes from the stable, and last, most uncanny touch of all, the family Bible! This had stood on the under shelf of the table in the library window, where it could be reached easily from the outside; but, as Peter dazedly inquired of the world in general, "Why the divvil should anyone be wantin' to take a Bible? It can't do him no good when it's stolen."

It was Annie who had discovered this last depredation in the course of her daily dusting. As yet the family had not noticed the loss of any of the articles, and Peter, fearing that the matter might reflect upon his own generalship, had hesitated about reporting it; none of the things were very valuable, and he had daily expected to find the thief. The boys knew, however, and took an open delight in the situation. Anything approaching a mystery was food and drink to them. They abandoned base-ball, and gave themselves over entirely to a consideration of the puzzle.

The day the lap-robes disappeared, they were gathered in a group outside the stable, Peter tipped back in an old armchair pulling furiously at his pipe, with a double frown the length of his brow, the four boys occupying the bench in an excited, chattering row.

"Perhaps the place is haunted!" Master Jerome put forth the suggestion with wide eyes.

"Haunted nothin'," Peter growled. "It was a pretty live ghost that got off with them lap-robes durin' the two minutes the stable was empty."

"They were the old ones," Bobby consoled him. "At least it was kind of him not to take the best ones when they were just as convenient."

"Do you fink it's gypsies?" Master Augustus asked the question with a fearful glance over his shoulder. He had been told that gypsies carried off bad little boys.

"I don't know what it is," Peter said sullenly, "but if I ever ketches anybody snooping about this place who has no business to snoop——" The sentence ended in a threatening silence.

The four boys looked at one another and shuddered delightedly.

"It's like a book," Master Wallace declared. "The miscreant has foiled us at every turn."

"Let's form a detective bureau!" Bobby rose to the occasion. "You can be chief of the local police, Peter. And since you find the mystery beyond your power to solve, you have called to your aid a private detective force—that's us. Jerome and Wallace and me can be detectives, and Augustus can be a policeman."

"I want to be a detective, too," objected Augustus.

"It's nice to be a policeman," soothed Bobby. "When we 've tracked down the thief, we 'll call to you and say, 'Officer, handcuff this man!' and you 'll snap 'em on his wrist and lead him to jail."

"All right!" agreed Augustus. "Give 'em to me."

"Later, when we 're on his track," said Bobby. "Now, Peter, you ought to plan a campaign. 'Course, you are n't expected to find out anything, the local police never do; but nominally we 're under your orders, so you must tell us to shadow some one."

Peter had been staring into space only half at tending to their prattle. Bobby jogged his elbow.

"Pay attention, Peter! We 're waiting for orders. You ought to detail two plain-clothes men to watch the gates, and I think it would be well to shadow Vittorio. He's a foreigner, you know; maybe he b'longs to the Black Hand. I should n't wonder if he was planning to blow up the stables. Only," he added, as an afterthought, "it's sort of hard shadowing a man who stands by the hedge all day talking to Annie."

Peter's frown darkened as his gaze sought the rustic bench under the apple tree. He had little spirit left for the boys' diversions, but he roused himself to say:

"I 'll turn the details o' the case over to you, Master Bobby. Guard the gates, an' shadow anyone that seems suspicious. I'm drivin' Joe's wife to the hospital this afternoon; ye can report at six o'clock, when I gets back."

The four rose and saluted; they held a whispered consultation, and crept warily away in different directions. Peter watched them out of sight with a wan smile, then turned inside to hitch up. The ladies of the family were spending the day in the city on a midsummer shopping expedition, so he had no fear of any demands issuing from the house. He called the under-groom, gave him strict orders not to leave the stables alone a minute, and drove on to the cottage to pick up Joe's wife. She packed a basket for the invalid into the back of the cart, and climbed up beside Peter.

"I'm fetching him out something to eat," she explained. "They don't give him nourishment enough for a kitten. A man of Joe's size can't keep up his strength on beef tea and soft-boiled eggs."

As they drove through the gate, a small figure sprang out from the bushes in front of the astonished Trixy's head.

"I'm sorry to detain you," said Bobby, with dignified aloofness—his expression suggested that he had never seen Peter before—"but my orders are to search every person leaving the premises."

"Lord love you, Master Bobby! What are you playing at now?" inquired Joe's wife with wide-eyed amazement.

"I am Robert Carter, of the Secret Service," said Bobby, icily, as he walked to the rear of the buckboard and commenced his search. "Ha! What is this?" He raised the towel that covered the basket and suspiciously peered inside. It contained two pies, a quantity of doughnuts, and a jar of cherry preserves. "Madam, may I ask where you obtained these articles?" His manner was so stern that she stammered her reply with an air of convicted guilt.

"I—I made them myself. They 're for Joe in the hospital."

"H'm!" said Bobby. "As they are for charitable purposes, I will not confiscate the entire lot." He gravely abstracted two of the most sugary doughnuts and transferred them to his pocket. "These will be sufficient to exhibit at headquarters with a description of the rest. Please favour me with your names and addresses."

Peter complied in all seriousness. Evidently, his was a case of dual personality; he represented the local police only when he was not acting as coachman. He drove on with an amused grin. After all, the boys and their escapades added to the dull routine of daily life a spice of adventure which most twentieth century households lacked; the entertainment they furnished paid for the trouble they caused.

Three hours later Peter set down Joe's wife at the door of the cottage and drove on to the stables. As he rounded the corner, he perceived an excited group gathered under the apple tree where he had left Annie and her kindergarten class.

"There he is!" cried Nora. "Peter! Come here quick."

Peter threw the lines to an adjacent groom—the one who had been told not to leave the stables—and hurriedly joined the circle. He found Annie collapsed on her bench beside the baby-carriage, rocking back and forth, and sobbing convulsively, while the other servants crowded about her.

"What's the matter?" he gasped.

"They 've stolen the baby!" Annie wailed.

Peter felt a cold chill run up his back as he peered into the empty carriage. For a moment he was silent, struggling to grasp the full horror of the fact; then he laid a hand, none too lightly, on Annie's shoulder, and shook her into a state of coherence.

"Stop yer noise an' tell me when it happened."

"Just now! Just a few minutes ago. The baby was asleep, an' Vittorio, he had some new flowers in the farther bed, an' he wanted me to tell him their name. I was n't gone more'n five minutes, an' when I come back I peeked in to see if the baby was all right, an' the carriage was empty! We 've hunted everywhere. He's gone—stolen just like the lap-robes."

Annie buried her head in her arms and commenced sobbing anew. Peter's face reflected the blankness of the others.

"Lord! This is awful! What will its mother be sayin'?"

Annie's sobs increased at this agonizing thought.

"It's them Armenian-lace women," Nora put in. "Master Bobby says they 're gypsies, and are always stealing babies and holding them for ransom."

"Have n't ye done anything?" he cried. "Did n't ye telephone for the p'lice?"

"Master Bobby would n't let us. He says the local police are blind as bats and what we need are detectives. An' above all, he says, we must not let it get into the papers; his father is awful mad when anything gets into the papers. Leave it to him, he says, and he 'll have the gypsies shadowed."

"This ain't no time for play," growled Peter, whirling toward the house and the telephone. "What's that?" He stopped as his eye lighted upon a vivid sheet of paper lying on the ground.

"It was pinned to the p-pillow," Annie sobbed.

Peter snatched it up and stared for a moment in blank amazement. The words were printed in staggering characters, a bright vermilion in tone.


P 160--ransom note--Much ado about Peter.png


A flash of illumination swept over Peter's face.

There was an old barn at the end of the lane that had been moved back when the new stables were built. A few days before, Peter, himself unobserved, had seen Wallace knock three times on the door, and had heard a voice from inside respond:

"Who goes there?"

"A friend," said Wallace.

"Give the countersign."

"Blood!"

"Pass in," said the voice.

The door had opened six inches while Wallace squeezed through. Peter had supposed it merely their latest play, unintelligible but harmless; now, however, he commenced putting two and two together. Evidently, his was not the only case of dual personality.

"Gee! I'm a fool not to have thought of it," he muttered.

"Oh, Pete!" Annie implored. "Do you know where he is?"

Peter controlled his features and gravely shook his head.

"I can't say as I do, exactly, but this here paper furnishes a clue. I think p'raps I can find the baby without calling in the p'lice." He faced the others. "Go back to the house and watch out that none o' them gypsy women comes prowlin' around." He waited until they were out of hearing, then he sat down on the bench by Annie. "I 'll find the kid on just one condition—ye 're to let that Dago alone. D'ye understand?"

"Get the baby, hurry—please! I 'll talk to you afterward."

"I think I 'll be talkin' just a second now. Ye know well enough I never had nothin' to do with that Circassian Beauty girl."

"Yes, yes, Pete! I believe you. I know you did n't. Please go."

"Stop thinkin' o' the kid a minute an' listen to me." He reached over and grasped her firmly by the wrist. "If I fetches him back without no hurt before his mother gets home, will everything be just the same between us as before I took ye to that infernal Heart of Asia?"

"Yes, Pete, honest—I promise." Her lips trembled momentarily into a smile. "I knew you did n't have nothing to do with her. I just wanted to make you mad."

His grasp tightened.

"Ye succeeded all right."

"Ow, Pete, let me go! You hurt."

He dropped her wrist and rose to his feet.

"Mind, now, this is on the straight. I finds the kid an' we 're friends again."

She nodded and smiled into his eyes. Peter smiled back, and swung off, whistling, down the lane. A rustling behind the hedge, and a scampering of feet, warned him that the enemy had posted scouts. He stilled his whistle and approached the old barn warily. It presented a blank face when he arrived; the door was shut and locked. He pounded three times. A startled movement occurred inside, but no challenge. He pounded again, more insistently, pushing with his shoulder until there was the sound of straining timber.

"Who goes there? Give the countersign," issued from the keyhole in Master Augustus's tones.

"Blood!" said Peter, with grim emphasis.

A pause followed, during which he kept his ear to the crack. A whispered consultation was going on inside, then presently, a small window opened and Master Augustus's head appeared.

"Oh, Pete! Is dat you?" There was relief in his tone. "Wait a minute an' I 'll let you in. I was 'fraid it was gypsies."

"Well, it ain't gypsies; it's the local p'lice on the track o' stolen goods. You open up that door an' be quick about it!"

A long wait ensued while Augustus ineffectually fumbled with the lock, talking meanwhile to Peter in as loud a voice as possible to drown the sound of movement behind him. The door was finally flung wide, and Peter was received with a disarming smile. He stepped inside and peered about.

"Where have ye hid the other boys?" he demanded.

"I'm a p'liceman," lisped Augustus, with engaging inconsequence, "stationed here to guard de lane. I fought it was safest to keep de door locked for fear some more gypsy people might come along."

"Where's the ladder gone to that loft?"

"De ladder?" Augustus raised wide innocent eyes to the hole in the ceiling. "Maybe de same person stole de ladder as stole de ovver fings."

"Maybe," Peter assented genially, as he squinted up through the opening.

The end of the ladder was visible, also the end of a rope-ladder, easier to haul up in emergencies. The clothes-line at least was accounted for. Peter took off his coat, shoved a saw-horse under the opening, and sprang and caught the edge of the scuttle, while Augustus, in a frenzy of remonstrance, danced below and shouted warnings. After a few convulsive kicks Peter swung himself up and sat down on the edge of the scuttle to get his breath, while he took a preliminary survey of the room. There was no doubt but that he had tracked the robbers to their den. Opposite him, in letters a foot high, the legend sprawled the length of the wall:


TOM SAWYER'S ROBBER GANG


As his eyes roved about the room they lit on one familiar object after another. The four walls were hung with sheets; two pirate flags of black broadcloth (he recognized his lap-robes) fluttered overhead; the centre of the room was occupied by the umbrella-stand, upside down, serving as a pedestal for the Bible, and the tomato stakes, made into cross swords, decorated the walls. The booty was there, but the thieves had escaped. A second, more thorough examination, however, betrayed in a shadowy corner, a slight bulging of the sheets, while sundry legs protruded from below. Peter stalked over, and laying a firm grasp on the nearest ankle, plucked out Master Wallace from behind the arras. He set the boy on his feet and shook him.

"What have ye done with that baby?"

Wallace dug his fists into his eyes and commenced to whimper. Peter tried another cast, and fetched out Master Bobby.

"Hello, Pete!" said Bobby, with cheerful impudence.

"You cough up that baby," said Peter.

"He's in the wash-boiler." Bobby waved his hand airily toward the opposite end of the room.

Peter, still grasping Bobby's collar with a touch unpleasantly firm, strode across and raised the lid. The baby was sleeping as peacefully as in his own perambulator.

"We were just going to return him when you came." Bobby's voice contained an increasing note of anxiety. "We fed him and sterilized his milk just like Annie does. He's been having a bully time, laughing and crowing to beat the band. He likes adventures. It's terribly stupid lying all day in that carriage; a little change is good for his health."

Peter shook his captive. "What's the meanin' o' this?" His gesture included the entire interior.

"We 're robbers," said Bobby, stanchly. "I'm Huck Finn, the Red-handed, and Jerome's Tom Sawyer, the Terror of the Plains. When we saw that baby left alone in the carriage, we thought we ought to teach Annie a lesson. We meant to turn into detectives pretty soon and raid this robber den and take the baby back. We were just getting ready to be detectives when you came."

"This is one time the local police got in first," observed Peter. "What's that Bible for?"

"To take our oaths on."

"Huh! I guess yer mother will be havin' somethin' to say to that." He lowered the ladder and faced the robbers. There were three by this time: Jerome had emerged of his own accord. "I 'll take the baby meself. Master Bobby, ye follow with the Bible; Master Jerome, ye rip the skull an' bones off them lap-robes, fold 'em up neat, an' put 'em in the closet where they b'long. I 'll give ye just half an hour to break up this gang an' return the loot. Master Augustus!" Peter bellowed down the trap, "fetch four pairs o' handcuffs an' have these robbers at the p'lice station in half an hour to hear their sentence."

He shouldered the baby with awkward care, and retraced his steps toward the house. Annie was still drooping on her bench. Peter approached softly from behind.

"Here he is like I promised."

"Oh, Pete! Is he hurt?" She snatched the child from his arms and commenced anxiously examining his limbs for injuries. The baby grabbed her hair and cooed. She covered him with kisses. "Where'd you find him?"

"I found him—where I found him," said Peter, cannily, "an' don't ye be leavin' him alone again."

"I won't! I can't never thank you enough."

"Yes, ye can—by not flirtin' with that Dago any more."

"I was n't flirtin' with him; he don't care nothin' about me. All he wants is to learn to talk."

Peter looked sceptical.

"Honest, Pete! It's the livin' truth. I never flirted with no one, except—maybe you."

Peter's face softened momentarily, but it hardened again as a shadow fell between them. Vittorio was standing on the other side of the hedge.

"You find-a dat baby?" he inquired with an all-inclusive smile. As the fact was self-evident, nobody answered. Vittorio was a romantic soul; he caught the breath of sentiment in the air. "Annie you girl?" he inquired genially of Peter.

Peter scowled without speaking.

"I got-a girl too, name Marietta. Live-a Napoli. Some day I send-a money, she come Americ'; marry wif me. Nice girl, Marietta. Annie nice girl, too," he added, as a polite afterthought. "You marry wif her?"

Peter's face cleared.

"Some day, Vittorio, if she 'll be havin' me." He stole a side glance at Annie. She rose with a quick flush.

"Quit your foolin', Pete! 'Tis time this baby was getting his supper. Would you mind settin' his carriage on the porch? Good night, Vittorio." She tucked the baby under her arm and started, singing, for the house.

Peter put up the carriage and sauntered toward the stables in the utmost good humour. He found Augustus with his prisoners drawn up in line, their wrists and ankles shackled together.

Augustus saluted. "I caught free robbers," he observed. "De ovver one 'scaped."

Peter drew his face into an expression of judicial sternness. "What have ye got to say for yourselves?" he growled.

There was silence for a moment, then Jerome ventured: "We 're going away in three days. I should n't think at the very end you'd want to have hard feelings between us."

"If you tell mother," Bobby added, "you 'll get Annie into an awful lot of trouble. Annie's been good to me. I'd hate to have her get a scolding."

Peter suppressed a grin.

"Ten years at solitary confinement is what ye deserve," he announced, "but since there's extenuatin' circumstances, I 'll let ye go free on parole—providin' ye play base-ball all the rest o' the time."

"I say, Pete, you 're bully!"

"It's a bargain," said Peter. "An' mind ye keep to it. Officer, set free the prisoners."