“May I ask for my own catcher, sir?” Fred asked.
“Yes; certainly,” nodded the coach.
“Rip must have something big up his sleeve, if any old dub of a catcher won’t do,” jeered some one at the back of the crowd.
“Attention! Rip, the ladylike twirler!” sang out another teasing student.
“Let her rip, Rip!”
A good many were laughing. Fred was not popular. Many tolerated him, and some of the boys treated him with a fair amount of comradeship. Yet the lawyer’s son was no prime favorite.
“Order!” rapped out the coach, sharply. “This is training work. You’ll find the minstrel show, if that’s what you want, at the opera house next Thursday night.”
“How well the coach keeps track of minstrel shows!” called another gibing voice.
“That was you, Parkinson!” called Mr. Luce, with mock severity. “Run over and harden your funny-bone on the punching bag. Run along with you, now!”
Everybody laughed, except Parkinson, who grinned sheepishly.
“Training orders, Parkinson!” insisted the coach. “Trot right over and let the funny-bone of each arm drive at the bag for twenty-five times. Hurry up. We’ll watch you.”
So Mr. Parkinson, of the junior class, seeing that the order was a positive one, had the good sense to obey. He “hardened” the funny-bone of either arm against the punching bag to the tune of jeering laughter from the rest of the squad. That was Coach Luce’s way of dealing with the too-funny amateur humorist.
Fred, meantime, had selected his own catcher, and had whispered some words of instruction to him.
“Now, come on, Ripley,” ordered Mr. Luce, swinging his bat over an imaginary plate. “Let her come in about as you want to.”
“He’s going to try a spit ball,” muttered several, as they saw Fred moisten his fingers.
“That’s a hard one for a greenhorn to put over,” added another.
Fred took his place with a rather confident air; he had been drilling at Duxbridge for some weeks now.
Then, with a turn of his body, Ripley let the ball go off of his finger tips. Straight and rather slowly it went toward the plate. It looked like the easiest ball that had been sent in so far. Coach Luce, with a calculating eye, watched it come, moving his bat ever so little. Then he struck. But the spit ball, having traveled to the hitting point, dropped nearly twenty inches. The bat fanned air, and the catcher, crouching just behind the coach, gathered in the ball.
Luce was anything but mortified. A gleam of exultation lit up his eyes as he swung the bat exultantly over his head. In a swift outburst of old college enthusiasm he forgot most of his dignity as a submaster.
“Wow!” yelled the coach. “That was a bird! A lulu-cooler and a scalp-taker! Ripley, I reckon you’re the new cop that runs the beat!”