Perhaps it was the brassie that was to blame—for a full-length, supple-shafted, wooden driver would have been what you or I would have chosen for that stroke—or perhaps West himself was to blame. That as it may be, the fact remains that that provoking ball flew clear over the bunker as though possessed of wings and disappeared over the bluff!
With an exclamation of disgust West hurried after, for when they cost thirty-five cents apiece golf balls are not willingly lost even by lads who, like Outfield West, possess allowances far in excess of their needs. But the first glance down the bank reassured him, for there was the runaway ball snugly ensconced on the tiny strip of sandy beach that intervened between the bank and the water. West grasped an overhanging fir branch and swung himself over the ledge.
Now, that particular branch was no longer youthful and strong, and consequently when it felt the full weight of West’s one hundred and thirty-five pounds it simply broke in his hand, and the boy started down the steep slope with a rapidity that rather unnerved him and brought an involuntary cry of alarm to his lips. It was the cry that was the means of saving him from painful results, since at the bottom of the bank lay a bed of good-sized rocks that would have caused many an ugly bruise had he fallen among them.
But suddenly, as he went falling, slipping, clutching wildly at the elusive weeds, he was brought up with a suddenness that drove the breath from his body. Weak and panting, he struggled up to the top of the jutting ledge, assisted by two strong arms, and throwing himself upon it looked wonderingly around for his rescuer.
Above him towered the boy in the straw hat.
STATION ROAD AND RIVER PATH.
Traveling north by rail up the Hudson Valley you will come, when some two hours from New York, to a little stone depot nestling at the shoulder of a high wooded hill. To reach it the train suddenly leaves the river a mile back, scurries across a level meadow, shrills a long blast on the whistle, and pauses for an instant at Hillton. If your seat chances to be on the left side of the car, and if you look quickly just as the whistle sounds, you will see in the foreground a broad field running away to the river, and in it an oval track, a gayly colored grand stand, and just beyond, at some distance from each other, what appear to the uninitiated to be two gallows. Farther on rises a gentle hill, crowned with massive elms, from among which tower the tops of a number of picturesque red-brick buildings.
Then the train hurries on again, under the shadow of Mount Adam, where in the deep maple woods the squirrels leap all day among the tree tops and where the sunlight strives year after year to find its way through the thick shade, and once more the river is beside you, the train is speeding due north again, and you have, perhaps without knowing it, caught a glimpse of Hillton Academy.