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An Evening Ride






There was a hubbub of delighted and incoherent exclamations as the
young people greeted each other with all their heart in their eyes. Of
course in the crowded station the greetings could not be just what the
boys--and the girls, too--desired, but those would come later. Reggie
too came in for warm handshakes.

"My word!" he exclaimed, as he smiled affably upon them all, "you folks
seem glad to see one another. I'll just slip over and look after the
luggage."

They spared him without any regret at all. Indeed, it is doubtful if
they even heard him. Joe was saying things to Mabel in an undertone,
and Jim was doing the same thing to Clara. What they said was their own
affair, but it seemed eminently satisfactory to all concerned.

When at last they had come somewhat to their senses, Joe poked Jim in
the ribs.

"Some surprise, old man!" he remarked mischievously.

"Surprise!" repeated Jim. "It's Paradise. It's heaven. Don't tell me
I'm going to wake up and find it all a dream. And you knew this all the
time, you old rascal, and didn't let me in on it."

"Just a little scheme that Mabel and I cooked up," laughed Joe happily.
"I thought Sis might like to come on and take a look at her only
brother."

"Brother," mimicked Mabel saucily. "Don't flatter yourself. You won't
be looked at much while Jim's around."

Clara flushed and laughed in protest. Joe, however, did not seem
disturbed at the prospect. As long as Mabel looked at him the way she
was looking now, he had nothing more to ask.

A taxicab whirled them up to the pretty suite that Joe had reserved for
the girls in a hotel. There were two rooms in the suite, and it was
surprising how quickly Joe and Mabel took possession of one of them,
while Jim and Clara found the other one much preferable. They had so
much to say to each other that required no audience. Reggie, who had
an adjoining room, took himself off on the plea of an engagement that
would keep him till luncheon time, and the happy young people had a
long delightful morning to themselves.

"Oh, I'm so proud of you, Joe," Mabel assured him, among many other
things. "You're making such a wonderful record. You don't know how I
read and treasure all the things the papers are saying about you. They
give you more space than they give the President of the United States."

"You mustn't make too much of it, honey," Joe replied. "I'm in luck
just now; but if I should have a slump the same people that cheer me
now when I make a homer would be jeering at me when I came to the bat.
There's nothing more fickle than the public. One day you're a king and
the next you're a dub."

"You'll always be a king," cried Mabel. "Always my king, anyway," she
added blushingly.

In the meantime Clara and Jim were saying things equally precious to
themselves and each other, but of no importance at all to the general
public. Jim was surprised and pleased at the intimate acquaintance she
had with all the phases of his rapid rise in his profession. She knew
quite as well as the rest of the world that Jim already stood in the
very front rank of pitchers, second only perhaps to Joe himself, and
she had no hesitation in telling him what she thought of him. Sometimes
it is not a pleasant thing for a man to know what a woman thinks of
him, but in Jim's case it was decidedly different, if his shining face
went for anything.

The young people took in a matinee in the afternoon and a musical show,
followed by dinner, in the evening, and all were agreed in declaring
it a perfect day.

Jim was slated to pitch the next day and with Clara watching from a
box he turned in a perfect game, winning by a score of 1 to 0, the run
being contributed by Joe, who turned loose a screaming homer in the
sixth. Naturally both young men felt elated.

It was a beautiful summer evening, and they had arranged for an
automobile ride out on Long Island. Joe had hired a speedy car,
but dispensed with the services of a chauffeur. He himself was an
accomplished driver and knew all the roads. A chauffeur would have been
only a restraint on their freedom of conversation.

They bowled along over the perfect roads, happy beyond words and at
peace with all the world. Mabel was seated in front with Joe, while Jim
and Clara occupied the tonneau. All were in the gayest of spirits. Much
of the time they talked, but speech and silences were equally sweet.

They had dinner at an excellent inn, about forty miles out of the city.
There was a good string band and the young couples had several dances.
The evening wore away before they knew it, and it was rather late when
they turned their faces cityward.

The car was purring along merrily on a rather lonely stretch of road in
the vicinity of Merrick, when a big car came swiftly up behind them.
The driver tooted his horn and Joe drew a little to one side to give
the car plenty of room to pass. The car rushed by and lengthened the
distance until it was about a hundred yards ahead.

"Seems to be in a hurry," remarked Jim.

"A bunch of joy riders, I suppose," answered Joe. "Hello, what does
that mean?"

For the car had suddenly stopped and the driver had swung it across the
road, blocking it.

"Something gone wrong with the steering gear," commented Joe. "Looks
like a breakdown. Perhaps we can help them."

He slowed up as he drew near the car. The next instant four men jumped
out of the car and ran toward them. They had their caps drawn down over
their eyes, and each of them carried a leveled revolver.

"Hands up!" commanded their leader, as he covered Joe with his weapon.





Next: The Attack On The Road

Previous: A Delightful Surprise



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