Martha’s eyes followed him wistfully, and she hoped for a backward look before he turned in at the door. But he was absorbed in sailing a broomstick across Aunt Melvy’s pathway, causing her to drop her basket and start after him in hot pursuit.
That evening the judge glanced across the table with great satisfaction at Sandy, who was apparently buried in his Vergil. The boy, after all, was a student; he was justifying the money and time that had been spent upon him; he was proving a credit to his benefactor’s judgment and to his knowledge of human nature.
“Would ye mind telling me a word that rhymes with lance?” broke in Sandy after an hour of absorbed concentration.
“Pants,” suggested the judge. But he woke up in the night to wonder again what part of Vergil Sandy had been studying.
“How about the scholarship?” he asked the next day of Mr. Moseley, the principal of the academy.
Mr. Moseley pursed his lips and considered the matter ponderously. He regarded it as ill befitting an instructor of youth to dispose of any subject in words of less than three syllables.
“Your protege, Judge Hollis, is an ambiguous proposition. He possesses invention and originality, but he is sadly lacking in sustained concentration.”
“But if he studies,” persisted the judge, “you think he may win it?”
Mr. Moseley wrinkled his brows and looked as if he were solving a problem in Euclid. “Probably,” he admitted; “but there is a most insidious enemy with which he has to contend.”
“An enemy?” repeated the judge, anxiously.
“My dear sir,” said Mr. Moseley, sinking his voice to husky solemnity, “the boy is stung by the tarantula of athletics!”
It was all too true. The Ambiguous Proposition had found, soon after reaching Clayton, that base-ball was what he had been waiting for all his life. It was what he had been born for, what he had crossed the ocean for, and what he would gladly have died for.
There could have been no surer proof of his growing power of concentration than that he kept a firm grasp on his academy work during these trying days. It was a hand-to-hand fight with the great mass of knowledge that had been accumulating at such a cruel rate during the years he had spent out of school. He was making gallant progress when a catastrophe occurred.
The great ball game of the season, which was to be played in Lexington between the Clayton team and the Lexington nine, was set for June 2. And June 2 was the day which cruel fate—masked as the board of trustees—had set for the academy examinations. Sandy was the only member of the team who attended the academy, and upon him alone rested the full agony of renunciation. His disappointment was so utterly crushing that it affected the whole family.
“Couldn’t they postpone the game?” asked the judge.
“It was the second that was the only day the Lexingtons could play,” said Sandy, in black despair. “And to think of me sitting in the bloomin’ old school-room while Sid Gray loses the game in me place!”