The Crashaw Brothers/Chapter 1
THE CRASHAW BROTHERS
THE GAME WITH THE SIXTH
IT was noon of the first day of the fall term at St. Timothy’s. Most of the boys had dispersed after the morning recitations, but on the steps of the Study sat Guy Blanchard, watching Jim Payne and Fred Bell throwing a ball back and forth. Blanchard knew that, as Secretary of the Pythians, he ought to be canvassing the new boys, trying to secure the most promising as members; but it was pleasant and warm in the sun, he had not seen Jim and Fred for three months, and it was tempting to linger while they chaffed each other and himself.
"Burn it in now, Fred; ah, go on, burn it!” entreated Payne; and in response to this urging, the ball came singing and buried itself in his glove with a comfortable thud.
“Lost your speed, have n’t you, Fred?” Blanchard’s tone was commiserating.
“Glass arm, sure enough,” lamented Payne.
“Is that so now!“
Bell unlimbered his long length and threw a ball so swift that Payne, getting the force of it on his bare hand, danced and shook his fingers.
“Say, just ease off a little, will you, Fred?” he asked; and then Blanchard, laughing, rose and walked away towards the School, in pursuit of his duty.
Just outside the Study gate he met a strong-looking, light-haired boy with a pleasant, freckled face; he stopped him at once.
“Hello, new kid! What’s your name?”
“That’s a queer name. Any relation to Crashaw at St. John’s?”
“The dickens you say!” Blanchard stared at him, then seized him by the arm as if afraid he might escape, and turning shouted to the ball-players,—
“Hey, Jim! Fred! Come and see what I've found.”
The captive Crashaw grinned and made no attempt to get away. He seemed big enough to free himself if he cared to—more sturdy and heavy than Blanchard, even though a year or two younger. But he remained quiet in Blanchard’s grasp and offered the two boys who came up a cheerful smile.
“What is it, Blanche?” said Jim Payne.
“Guess what it is!” cried Blanchard. It says it’s a brother of Crashaw of St. John’s.”
“Charley Crashaw—St. John’s captain?”
They looked at the stranger with widening eyes.
“Yes.” His grin became deprecating. “I admit it.”
“That’s funny,” remarked Bell. “How did you happen to come to St. Timothy’s then?”
“Oh, Charley and I are always scrapping—always on opposite sides,” Crashaw answered.
“I’m always scrapping with my kid brother,” said Blanchard. “But I would n’t let him go to St. John’s.”
“Charley did n’t stand for my coming to St. Timothy’s. But he’s too much the king at St. John’s. It would n’t be any fun to go there and be passed along up, just as Charley’s brother.”
“Why, you’d have had a cinch,” declared Payne. “I don’t see why you did n’t do it.”
“Well, that’s why. It made Charley awfully peevish. He said I was disgracing the family.”
The boys bristled.
“St. John’s is a pretty good school,” said Blanchard. “But the fellows there get so cocky about it they make me tired.”
“We’d have licked them in football last year if it hadn’t been for your brother.” Payne’s voice betrayed resentment. “He had no right to get round Tom Stevens on that criss-cross the way he did.”
“He’s a peach of a quarterback,” acknowledged Blanchard. Are you any good at the game?”
“I’ve played some. But I guess I’ll never be in Charley’s class.”
“I’ll book you for the Pythians,” said Blanchard. “You’ll join the Pythians—not the Corinthians; understand?”
“Just as you say,” replied Crashaw. “Do you mind telling me who you are?”
“This is Payne, and this is Bell, and my name’s Blanchard.”
“Are you the Blanchard that’s captain and quarterback of the St. Timothy’s eleven?”
“Are you really!” Crashaw surveyed him with frank and flattering interest; then he turned to the others. Are you the Bell that pitches on the nine?”
“Even so,” said Bell.
“But he’s never heard of me,” sighed Payne dolefully.
“I have if you’re the captain of the nine.”
“Are n’t we the celebrated bunch, though!” exclaimed Payne with admiration.
They were all somewhat swelled up with pleasure and pride, and went away entertaining an unusually high opinion of the “new kid,” They talked about him among themselves and among their friends, and agreed that in choosing St. Timothy’s instead of St. John’s he had shown a very proper, independent spirit, and deserved to be encouraged in every way possible. Besides, he was an attractive boy, with his frank eyes and humorous smile and quiet voice.
Meanwhile, Edward Crashaw was making himself at home among the members of his own form. There as well as among the older fellows the name of Crashaw carried weight; and a certain romantic interest attached to one who had broken away as he had done from traditions and conventions. In a few days, though a new boy, he was as popular and as well known as any one in the form. One thing that contributed to this result was his easy manner of adapting himself to conditions and assuming leadership.
The September afternoons were warm, too warm to encourage an interest in football; the boys played tennis and organized scrub baseball games. Edward and a tall slim fellow named Keating and a stocky pink-cheeked boy named Lawrence were the baseball enthusiasts of the Fourth Form; they happened to be assigned seats at the same table and early came to know one another. In all the study recesses they would be out passing a ball back and forth; in the afternoons they collected their friends and had scrub games in a corner of the big athletic field.
Edward was much the best of them; he had caught on a nine that summer at the seashore, he had a keen eye, and was a naturally free, hard hitter — and besides he loved the game. So in a very few days he had established himself as the baseball leader of the form; and now and then some of the older fellows would pause to look on at those Fourth Form contests and would carry the word to Bell and Payne that the youngsters were pretty good, and that Crashaw anyway was a real ball-player.
“I tell you what I’d like to do,” said Edward one afternoon as he walked with Lawrence and Keating down to the field. “I’d like to get up a Fourth Form nine and challenge the Sixth.”
“Let’s do it,” said Lawrence promptly. “You’ll catch and I’ll pitch—what?”
“Yes, and Keat on first and Gordon on second and—I’ll see the fellows about it to-day and find out how it strikes them.”
“Of course the Sixth will beat us,” said Keating. “With Payne and Bell, the regular School battery, and some of those other big fellows.”
“We can make them hustle,” declared Edward. “And it would be good fun to have a real match game instead of playing scrub all the time.”
Not only Keating and Lawrence but all the other fellows whom he asked agreed with him. Before the afternoon was over they had elected him captain and authorized him to make arrangements if possible for a game with the Sixth Form on the following Saturday.
“It would be just like them to turn us down,” said Keating. “They’ll probably tell you you’re fresh to suggest such a thing.”
Keating was a new boy who did not know any Sixth Formers and looked upon them all as cold and snobbish.
“Not much they won’t,” said Lawrence, who was not a new boy. “They’ll think they can bat us all over the lot, and that it will give them something to jolly us about the rest of the year.”
“Well, maybe it will,” said Edward. “But it will be fun just the same—especially if the fellows in the Fourth who don’t play will come out on the side-lines and yell for us.”
Lawrence snickered to himself. “I tell you what would be great,” he said. “Let’s get a rise out of the Fifth Form. It’s a poor form, you know—hardly any good athletes in it. Let’s challenge the Sixth to play us for the championship of the School. That will make the Fifth so sore they’ll bite.”
That idea did not interest Edward especially, though it made him laugh. The game was the thing that appealed to him. He went to Blanchard before study that afternoon; he felt that he knew Blanchard a little better than he did Bell or Payne, and moreover that Blanchard might be more approachable than either of those fellows. He said to him,—
"We’ve got a Fourth Form baseball nine that we think is pretty good, and we’d like to challenge the Sixth Form to a game next Saturday. Do you think you could get up a nine and play us?”
"I don’t see why not,” Blanchard replied. "It ought to be good sport. I'll ask Jim Payne and Fred Bell about it; they’re our baseball stars. How does it come that you’re one? That’s one thing your brother never did, is n’t it?”
"Oh, Charley plays a little. But he never was very good at it. In the summer he sails and plays tennis—and in the spring at St. John’s he rows. So he’s not had much chance to play ball. But I always liked it.”
Blanchard looked at the boy’s eager face and honest eyes with a smile; somehow he found himself liking young Edward Crashaw very much—just as he had always liked Charles Crashaw, even in conflict. But he could not forbear teasing Edward a little.
“You’re pretty up and coming for a new kid, are n’t you—organizing a ball nine and challenging the Sixth the first week you’ve been in the School!”
“Oh,” said Edward, flushing, “you think I’ve been fresh!”
“I did n’t say that; I said I thought you were an enterprising young hustler.” Blanchard’s eyes were twinkling.
“I suppose it might have been better if I’d let one of the old boys in the Fourth run the thing,” admitted Edward. “Only I never thought of that. I was so interested in getting up the game, and when I suggested it they all wanted me to go ahead with it.”
“Good thing they did, too,” was Blanchard’s comment. “None of those other kids would have gumption enough. Don’t you worry; nobody thinks you’re fresh, Crashaw.”
At that assurance Edward’s face cleared, and he went off to report the success of his negotiations to his friends. Blanchard laughed in telling Bell and Payne about it.
“Funny such a husky, beefy lad should be so sensitive; his face flamed right up when he thought I was calling him fresh; his feelings were awfully hurt.”
“If he thinks he and his kindergarten nine can beat us, his feelings are going to be worse hurt,” said Bell. “I guess we will take his Fourth Form nine on all right.”
So the challenge was definitely accepted, and at Mr. Elwood’s table, where sat Edward and Keating and Lawrence, there was great excitement that night. And that evening during the study hour, Lawrence, instead of working over the Virgil which lay open on his desk, engaged himself for some minutes in lettering a placard, which he afterwards hung on the bulletin-board in the hall. It read as follows:
THE FOURTH FORM NINE
THE SIXTH FORM NINE
On Saturday, September 25.
Free Seats Reserved for
The Fifth Form.
The notice stayed on the bulletin-hoard until the next morning, when it was discovered and torn down by some indignant Fifth Formers.
“They think you did it,” Lawrence announced gleefully to Edward at dinner that day. “My, but they’re hot about it!”
“Why do they put it on me?” Edward asked.
“Oh, they’ve heard that it was you that got up the game, and they think this was just part of it.”
“I should think you’d better claim the credit that belongs to you,” Keating remarked dryly.
“I’m willing,” Lawrence laughed. “Spread it round if you want to. But I guess it’s too late. The Fifth Form are all saying Crashaw’s the freshest thing that ever came down the pike. They’re all going out to root for the Sixth in the game.”
“We’ll have to get the whole Fourth Form out then to back us up,” said Edward.
“The way the Fifth are feeling, there’s likely to be a riot.” Lawrence seemed to rejoice at the prospect.
“If the Fifth are angry at Crashaw for something he did n’t do, I think you ought to let him out of it,” declared Keating.
“Oh, I’m proud to be considered the author. I think the notice was mighty good—wish I could have thought it up,” said Edward.
As long as Edward felt that way about it, Lawrence decided that the authorship of the notice might be worth claiming, and he proceeded at once to assert it. In consequence he was denounced as cheap enough by some of his Fifth Form friends, while others abated not at all their resentment against the innocent Crashaw; well, they said, perhaps he did n’t actually write the notice, but he must have known about it, and anyway it was he who had the effrontery to challenge the Sixth Form and ignore the Fifth, and that was a fresh enough thing for any Fourth Former, much less a new kid, to do. It just showed that he had the regular bumptious St. John’s spirit in him; he ought to have gone to St. John’s like his brother.
That was the way the conservative and incensed Fifth Formers talked among themselves, and they resolved to avenge themselves upon the ambitious youngsters during the game.
Some rumors of their sentiments and preparations came to Edward, but nothing definite; the fellows in the Sixth Form whom he knew, like Blanchard and Bell and Payne, could have enlightened him if they had chosen, for with them some of the aggrieved Fifth Formers were quite confidential. But they remained silent, partly because they did n’t see any use in hurting Crashaw’s feelings, and partly too because they did n’t want to spoil the prospective fun. Edward himself was so busy practising with his nine the two days before the game that he had neither thoughts nor ears for anything else.
He was therefore somewhat surprised on Saturday afternoon when he went out on the field to find the Fifth Form squatting all along the first-base line, several of them armed with shotguns, one with a small cannon, and others already making dismal noises with tin horns.
The non-combatants of the Sixth Form were also massed with them, making a display of numbers far more impressive than that afforded by the Fourth Form supporters on the third-base line, to whom a few curious and undesired small boys of the First and Second and Third Forms had attached themselves.
During the few minutes of field practice the Fourth Form nine had an opportunity to accustom themselves to what was to come—abusive comments, derisive cheers, personal remarks of the most unflattering kind. Keating at first base was naturally the most direct recipient of these, but he kept working away with the wad of chewing-gum in his mouth and otherwise never changed a muscle of his face—not even when the fellows just behind him condoled with him on being so pigeon-toed and urged him not to walk on his ankle-bones.
The game began with the Sixth Form in the field—Bell pitching, Payne catching, Blanchard at shortstop, Durant at second base, and Watts at first. It was a very quiet inning, and Edward began to think that perhaps the demonstration for which the spectators had prepared was going to fizzle out.
His men did nothing at the bat that inning. Lawrence, who was first up, struck out.
“Ah, but he’s such a wag!” some Fifth Form voice cried soothingly.
Dunbar, who followed Lawrence, popped up a fly which Durant caught; and then Winslow hit an easy grounder to the pitcher.
“0 easy marks!” jeered the Fifth and Sixth Form crowd as Edward and his players took the field.
Then with the first ball pitched, the din began; the horns tooted, the whistles blew, the jeers for the pitcher, the catcher, and the first baseman became continuous. Blanchard, the first batter, took his base on balls, and Edward walked out to hand the ball to Lawrence and steady his nerves.
“Take him out, take him out! He’s cracked already!” yelled the Fifth Form.
The next moment Edward, with a lightning throw to Keating, caught Blanchard far off first base.
“Dreaming, dreaming!” sang Keating as he put the ball to him; and then he turned to the crowd behind him, which had been momentarily shocked into quiet.
“Keep up your noise, fellows,” he said. “You’ll wake your men after a while.’’
They began again when Durant hit a high fly to Dunbar in right field; just as it was falling into Dunbar’s hands, all the whistles, the horns, the three shotguns and the cannon went off, and Dunbar dropped the ball. Amid more noise Lawrence gave Bell his base, and then Watts advanced both Durant and Bell by a sacrifice. Payne came to the bat and drove in two runs by a hit to left field; a moment later, however, the side was out when Cary hit the ball into Keating’s hands.
Let ’em yell,” said Edward to Lawrence. “We’ll soon get used to their noise, and you won’t mind it a bit.”
Edward was the first man at bat that inning. Bell knew instinctively as he confronted him that here was a fellow who could hit the ball. He recognized the dangerous batter by his pose, by the unperturbed steady eye and motionless waiting bat.
With the intention of shaking his confidence and scaring him back from the plate, Bell sent a swift inshoot, but he did not place it accurately; Edward received it in the ribs with a grunt and trotted down to first base.
“One for his St. John’s brother,” cried a Fifth Former vindictively.
“I wish he’d got it instead of me,” said Edward, grinning and rubbing his side.
On the next ball pitched he was off for second. Durant stood squarely in the way; Edward slid into him feet first just as he was catching the ball and upset him; and Edward was safe at second base amid the delighted shrieks of the Fourth Form and the violent demands of the Fifth and Sixth: “Put him out! Mucker ball! Take him out!”
Durant got to his feet, furious.
“Don’t play any of your dirty St. John’s tricks here,” said Durant.
“Dirty nothing!” said Edward, dusting off his clothes. If you stand square in the baseline, of course I’ll run into you.”
“Don’t be fresh,” Durant admonished him.
Edward paid no attention to that, but shouted down to Avery, who was the next batter: “Pitcher’s easy, Avery; you can hit it.”
Avery made a good sacrifice and Edward reached third, and on another sacrifice by Hunter he scored. The Fourth Form were plucking up courage, and were cheering bravely, but that was the only run they made until the fifth inning; and meanwhile the Sixth Form had scored four more.
In the fifth inning, Keating, who had been playing a fine game in the field in spite of the disadvantages of his position, but who had been unable to hit the ball, was first at bat.
“One man gone already,” cried the first-base mob.
But Keating waited patiently and fouled all the good balls and finally was given his base.
Edward went down to coach him. “Take a good lead, Keat; take a good lead.”
Lawrence came to the bat.
“Pitcher’s easy, Laurie; hope he improves before the St. John’s game next spring.”
Even the Sixth Form laughed at that, and Bell waved at Edward an indulgent hand. But he was getting careless, and pretty soon he tossed Lawrence an easy one, and Lawrence hit it smartly into left field. Keating was on second base, Lawrence on first, no one was out; and the Fourth Form were beginning to shout vociferously. Dunbar came to the bat.
Just as the ball was pitched, there was a flash from some one in the crowd near the batter and Dunbar stepped back helplessly from the plate.
“Strike!” called the umpire.
Edward from the coaching-line had seen the flash and the instant bewildered look on Dunbar’s face. He walked towards the batter, calling, “Wait till you get a good one, pick out the good one;” and then suddenly, just as Bell was delivering the ball, he made a dive and a grab and wrenched a pocket-mirror out of a big Sixth Former’s hand.
“That’s one thing that’s not fair,” he said.
“I’ll give it to you after the game.” And he thrust it into his hip-pocket.
The Sixth Former, a big, good-natured looking fellow, whose name Edward did not know, was dazed by this sudden audacity, and stood with nothing to say; then, after Edward had turned and resumed his coaching, his cheeks grew red. But although some of his friends crowded round and urged him vociferously, he made no move to recover his property.
When Dunbar had struck out, as he did quite promptly, and Edward went to the bat, there was an outburst of derisive cries.
“Pishaw, P—shaw!” cried somebody.
“Pishaw, P—shaw, Freshy Crashaw!” cried somebody else, and pretty soon the Fifth and Sixth Form crowd took up the cry and chanted it unctuously.
Edward gave them a hurt, surprised look; then his lips tightened and he faced Bell. They did not keep up their derisive chant very long, for Edward swung at the second ball pitched, and sent it on a beautiful swift rising line far over the centre-fielder’s head. Keating and Lawrence came home on a trot, and Edward, sprinting round the bases, arrived almost as soon as they did; it was a clean home run.
It silenced the scoffers for that inning; but at intervals afterward throughout the game, when nothing else occurred to them, and the Fourth Form was in the field or Edward was at the bat, they would start the chant, "Pishaw, P—shaw! Freshy Crashaw!”
Edward couldn’t quite understand why they had singled him out as the object of their antipathy, but he tried to be cheerful, and he kept on playing just as hard as if his team stood a chance of winning.
He was the only one on it who could hit Bell’s pitching, and though he drove in three more runs they were n’t of much value in the final result. Lawrence weakened, and the Fourth Form infield, with the exception of Keating, went to pieces in the seventh inning; and when the game ended, the score was fifteen to seven for the Sixth.
Edward was engaged in condoling with his players and receiving the expressions of good-will of some of the Fourth Form, when Payne and Blanchard and Bell came up to him. They broke through the more insignificant persons, and Payne seized Edward by the shoulders and said:—
“I’ve got you nailed down for a place on the nine next spring; and don’t you forget it.”
“Oh, do you think so?” Edward’s face lighted up.
“Jing!” said Bell. “I never in all my life threw them in to such a slugger.”
“I don’t wonder your brother was peevish at your not going to St. John’s,” said Blanchard. “Now if you’re only as good at football—!”
Such praise was sweet to Edward’s ears. He was grateful to them for it, and to the fellows of his own form who crowded round him. The unkindness of the jeering crowd, the sting of being called fresh, of having an ignominious rhyme made on his name, all vanished. And then he suddenly remembered.
“Oh, I’ve got to give something to somebody,” he cried, and broke away.
He saw the Sixth Former from whom he had taken the pocket-mirror leaving the field with Durant. For a moment he hesitated; Durant had spoken in a pretty nasty way to him during the game. But he ran up to them.
“Maybe I ought to apologize for snatching this the way I did,” he said, holding out the mirror. Then, because something in the expression of the boy who took it won his confidence, he added on a whimsical impulse, “I hope it has n’t inconvenienced you—my keeping it.”
“I have n’t especially cared to look at myself since then,” the boy confessed with a smile. “You were all right, Crashaw.”
Edward gave him a look of respect as he turned away.
“What was that?” asked Durant. And then Edward heard him continue in a loud, disgusted voice, “Shelly, do you know, that’s the freshest young pup!”
Instantly all the pleasant things went out of Edward’s life; there was the hurt, surprised feeling in his heart again, and the burning memory of the Fifth Form jeers; he felt as if he had been branded, unjustly branded, with a name of infamy.