Over on the green, the boys of the village were playing a sort of “match-game” of base-ball, with a picked nine from the academy; and there seemed no reason why Dick and his basket should not stroll along inside the barrier-fence of the green, and see them play it.
That was where his unwisdom showed itself; for among the boys who were not playing were Joe and Fuz Hart and all their “crowd,” and this was the first time they had seen Dick on the green “all alone.”
That would have been quite enough of itself, considering how black he was, and that he was a “new boy” at the academy; but the additional fact that he had his basket on his arm opened the way to trouble for him all the sooner.
He was standing still, on the walk near the fence, gazing at the batting and catching with so deep an interest that his mouth would stay open, when he suddenly found himself “surrounded.”
“Hullo, Dick, what you got in your basket?”
“Groceries! Groceries! Fresh from Afriky.”
“Let’s see ’em.”
“Jes’ you keep off, now.”
“Give us that basket.”
“Don’t you tech a thing!”
“What you got, Midnight?”
“None ob youah business. I’s ‘tendin’ to mine. Put dat back, now, will you?”
Dick had promptly retreated against the fence, in his surprise and vexation, and was defending himself and his cargo vigorously, but he was sadly outnumbered.
They were a cowardly lot: for their all but helpless victim had even received several sharp blows, in return for his grasps and pushes; and the matter threatened to end unpleasantly for him, when suddenly Joe Hart felt his feet jerked from under him. Down he went, and over went Fuz on top of him; and then there were four or five boys all in a heap, with Dick’s basket upset just beyond them, and Dick himself diving hither and thither after its late contents, and exclaiming,—
“Cap’n Dab’s come! I’s all right now. Jes’ let me pick up some ob dese t’ings.”
There was a resentful ring in the last remark, as if he were thinking of something like war after the recovery of his groceries; but it was indeed the voice of Dab Kinzer, shouting full and clear,—
“Pick ’em up, Dick! we’re just in time.”
A boy somewhat larger than the rest, a good half-head taller than Dabney, but with a somewhat pasty and unhealthy complexion, had selected Ford Foster, as the shortest of the new arrivals, and demanded,—
“What are you meddling for?” just as he aimed a clumsy blow at his head. That blow did not hit Ford; but a shorter young ruffian had also picked him out, perhaps for the same reason, and the hit he aimed reached its mark, for Ford had no extra pair of arms behind to box with. Frank Harley seemed, just then, to be remarkably busy with the heap of boys on the ground.
“Spat!”—that was the way something sounded; and Dab Kinzer added,—