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The Anonymous Letter






All rose to their feet in hearty welcome. It was not the first time
Reggie had visited the Matson home, and all were fond of him. Joe and
Jim especially gave him a hilarious greeting.

"Hello, Reggie, old man," cried Joe, as he shook hands. "I'm tickled to
death to see you. What good wind blew you down this way? I didn't think
you were within a thousand miles of here."

"Well, old top," explained Reggie, as he gracefully drew off his gloves
and divested himself of his topcoat, "it was so beastly quiet in
Goldsboro, don't y'know, that I got fed up with it and when the guv'nor
suggested that there was a bit of business I could attend to in Chicago
I just blew the bally town and ran out there. Then bein' so near, I
thought I'd run down and see Sis and the rest of you. It's simply
rippin' to see y'all again, don't y'know."

He sat down in a chair, carefully adjusting his trousers so as not to
mar the creases in the legs, and beamed blandly upon the friendly
faces that surrounded him.

Joe and Reggie had first met under rather unpleasant circumstances,
that bore no promise of a close friendship later on. Reggie had left
his bag in a seat of a railroad station while he went to buy his
ticket. Upon his return he missed his bag, which had been left in a
seat adjoining the one in which Joe had in the meantime seated himself,
and had practically accused Joe of taking it. As may be readily
imagined, Joe was not the one to take lightly such an accusation, and
Reggie had to apologize. It was only after Joe had met Mabel that he
again encountered Reggie and learned that he was the girl's brother.
But apart from his relationship to Mabel, Joe had found further reason
for liking Reggie, as time wore on and he became better acquainted with
him.

Reggie had never been restrained much by his father, who was rich and
indulgent. He had an inordinate love of fine clothes and an affectation
of English customs and manner of speech. But these, after all, were
foibles, and at heart Reggie was "true blue." He was a staunch friend,
generous, kindly and honorable. He idolized his charming sister, who in
return was devotedly attached to him.

Another thing that strengthened the friendship between Joe and Reggie
was that they were both ardent lovers of the great national game.
Reggie was a "dyed-in-the-wool fan," and though his general information
was none too great he had the records of individual players and the
history of the game at his tongue's end, and could rattle on for an
hour on a stretch when he once got started on his favorite theme. He
was a great admirer of Joe as a player, and intensely proud that he was
going to be his brother-in-law. Whenever the Giants played and Joe was
slated to pitch, the latter could be perfectly certain that Reggie,
even if he chanced to be at the time in San Francisco, was "rooting"
for him to win.

Jim also had met Reggie frequently and liked him thoroughly. The other
members of the Matson family liked him, both for Mabel's sake and his
own. So it was a very friendly circle into which Reggie had come so
unexpectedly.

"But I didn't expect to see you two chaps here," said Reggie, as he
looked from Joe to Jim. "I thought you were down in the training camp,
or else on your way to New York with the rest of the Giants."

"It was just a bit of luck that we are here," replied Joe. "McRae
thought that we were trained fine enough, and might go stale if we
worked out in practice any longer. He wants us to be at the top of our
form when the bell rings at the Polo Grounds."

"Bally good sense, I call it, too," replied Reggie, looking admiringly
at their athletic forms. "Just now you look fit to fight for a man's
life, don't y'know."

"Never felt better," admitted Joe. "Nor happier either," he added, as
he glanced at Mabel, who dropped her eyes before his ardent look.

"You came just in time to see the boys," put in Mrs. Matson. "They're
starting to-morrow for New York."

"Bah Jove, I'd like to go with them," said Reggie. "I'd give a lot to
see that opening game on the Polo Grounds. But this beastly business in
Chicago will make it necessary for me to go back there in a few days.
In the meantime I thought that perhaps you might put me up here for a
little while, don't y'know?"

He looked toward Mr. Matson as he spoke, and both he and Mrs. Matson
hastened to assure the young man that they would be only too glad to do
so.

All had a lot to talk about, and the evening passed quickly, until at
last Mrs. Matson excused herself on the plea that she wanted to see
about Reggie's room. Mr. Matson soon followed, and the young people
were left to themselves.

"Well, what do you think the chances are of the Giants copping the flag
again, old top?" asked Reggie, as he pulled down his cuffs and put up
his hand to make sure that his immaculate tie was all right.

"The Giants look mighty sweet to me," answered Joe. "They've had a
good training season and shown up well in practice. They've won every
game they've played with the minor leaguers so far, and haven't had to
exert themselves. Of course that doesn't mean very much in itself, as
the bushers ought to be easy meat for us. But we've got practically the
same team with which we won the pennant last year, and I can't see why
we shouldn't repeat. Jim here has been coming along like a house afire,
and he'll make the fans sit up and take notice when they see him in
action."

"Oh, I'm only an also ran," said Jim modestly.

"Indeed you're not," Clara started to say indignantly, but checked
herself in time. Not so quickly, however, that Jim failed to catch her
meaning and note the flush that rose to her cheek.

"Funny thing happened when I was in Chicago," mused Reggie. "I heard a
chap say in one of the hotels that there was heavy betting against the
Giants winning this year. Some one, he didn't know who, was putting up
cash in great wads against them, and doing it with such confidence that
it almost seemed as though he thought he was betting on a sure thing.
Taking ridiculous odds too. Queer, wasn't it?"

"A fool and his money are soon parted," remarked Joe. "That fellow
will be a little wiser and a good deal poorer when the season ends, or
I miss my guess. Who's going to beat us out? Nothing short of a train
wreck can stop us."

"Now you're talking!" cried Jim.

"Another thing that's going to help us," said Joe, "was that trip we
had around the world. We had some mighty hot playing on that tour
against the All-Americans, and it kept the boys in fine fettle."

"Speaking about that trip, old chap," put in Reggie, "reminds me of
another thing that happened in Chicago. I was going down State Street
one afternoon, and almost ran into that Braxton that you handed such a
trimming to over in Ireland."

"Braxton!" cried Joe.

"Braxton!" echoed Jim.

"Sure thing," replied Reggie, mildly puzzled at the agitation that the
name aroused in the two chums. "I'm not spoofing you. Braxton it was,
as large as life. The bounder recognized me and started to speak, but
I gave him the glassy eye and he thought better of it and passed on.
Funny what a little world it is, don't y'know."

"It surely is a little world," replied Jim, as a significant glance
passed between him and Joe.

"I glanced back," Reggie went on, "and saw him getting into a car
drawn up at the curb. As classy a machine as I've seen, too, for a long
time. Built for speed, y'know. If he hadn't driven off too quickly, I'd
have made a note of the make. My own is getting rather old, and I've
been thinking about replacing it."

The conversation turned into other channels and finally began to drag a
little. The others made no sign of being ready to retire, and at last
Reggie woke to the fact that he would have to make the first move.
He looked at his watch, remarked that he was rather tired after his
journey, and thought that he would "pound the pillow."

Joe showed him to his room, chatted with him a few minutes, and then
returned to the living room where he found Mabel alone, as Clara and
Jim had drifted into the dining room. It was the last night the boys
would have at home, and the two young couples had a lot to talk about.
To Jim especially the time was very precious, for he had made up his
mind to ask a very momentous question, and there is little doubt but
that Clara knew it was coming and had already made up her mind how it
should be answered.

It was an exceedingly agitated Jim that asked Mr. Matson for a private
interview the next morning, and it was an exceedingly happy Jim that
emerged from the room a few minutes later and announced to the family
already seated at the breakfast table that Clara had promised to be
his wife. There was a stampede from the chairs, to the imminent danger
of the coffee being upset, and Clara was hugged and kissed by Mabel
and hugged and kissed and cried over by her mother, while Jim's hand
was almost wrung off by Joe and Reggie in the general jubilation. For
Jim was a splendid fellow, a Princeton graduate, a rising man in his
chosen calling, and an all round good fellow. And there was no sweeter
or prettier girl than Clara in all Riverside, or, as Jim stood ready to
maintain, in the whole world.

Needless to say that for the rest of that morning Reggie and Joe had
no other masculine society than each could furnish to the other, for
Jim had shamelessly abandoned them. Soon Reggie, too, had to chum with
himself, as Joe and Mabel had found a sequestered corner and seemed to
be dead to the rest of the world.

Just before noon, however, when Mabel had gone in to help Mrs. Matson
to prepare lunch, Joe had a chance to talk with Reggie alone.

"Mabel's looking rippin', don't you think?" remarked Reggie, as he
caught a glimpse of his sister passing the door of the room in which
they sat.

"Most beautiful girl that lives," returned Joe, with enthusiasm.

"I guess she's stopped worrying about----" began Reggie, and then
checked himself as though he had said more than he intended to.

"Worrying about what?" asked Joe, with the quick apprehension of a
lover.

"Oh, about--about things in general," replied Reggie, in some confusion
and evading Joe's searching eyes.

"Look here, Reggie," said Joe with decision. "If anything's worrying
Mabel, I've got a right to know what it is. I've noticed lately that
she seemed to have something on her mind. Come now, out with it."

Reggie still tried to put him off, but Joe would have none of it.

"I've got to know, Reggie," he declared. "You've simply got to tell me."

Reggie pondered a moment.

"Well, old top," he said at last, "I suppose you have a right to know,
and perhaps it's best that you should know. The fact is that Mabel
got a letter a little while ago telling her that it would be a sorry
day for her if she ever married Joe Matson. Threatened all sorts of
terrible things against you, don't y'know."

"What!" cried Joe, wild with rage and leaping to his feet. "The
scoundrel! The coward! Who signed that letter? What's his name? If I
ever lay my hands on him, may heaven have mercy on him, for I won't!"

"That's the worst of it," replied Reggie. "There wasn't any name signed
to it. The bounder who wrote it took good care of that."

"But the handwriting!" cried Joe. "Perhaps I can recognize it. Where is
the letter? Give it to me."

"I haven't got it with me," Reggie explained. "It's at my home in
Goldsboro. The poor girl had to confide in somebody, so she sent it to
me. And even if you had it, it wouldn't tell you anything. It was in
typewriting."

"But the postmark!" ejaculated Joe. "Perhaps that would give a clue.
Where did it come from?"

"There again we're stumped," responded Reggie. "It was postmarked
Chicago. But that doesn't do us any good, for there are two million
people in Chicago."

"Oh!" cried Joe, as he walked the floor and clenched his fists until
the nails dug into his palms. "The beastliness of it! The cowardice of
it! An anonymous letter! That such a villain should dare to torture the
dearest girl in the world! But somewhere, somehow, I'll hunt him out
and thrash him soundly."

"Don't take the beastly thing so much to heart," returned Reggie. "Of
course it's just a bluff by some bally bounder. Nobody ought to do
anything with such a letter but tear it up and think no more about
it. Some coward has done it that has a grudge against you, but he'd
probably never have the nerve to carry out his threats."

"It isn't that I care about," answered Joe. "I've always been able to
take care of myself. I'd like nothing better than to have the rascal
come out in the open and try to make his bluff good. But it's Mabel
I'm thinking about. You know a woman doesn't dismiss those things as a
man would. She worries her heart out about it. So that's what has been
weighing on her mind, poor, dear girl. Oh, if I only had my hands on
the fellow that wrote that letter!"

And here he yielded again to a justified rage that was terrible to
behold. It would have been a bad day for the rascally writer of that
anonymous letter if he had suddenly stood revealed in the presence of
Joe Matson!





Next: Play Ball!

Previous: Reggie Turns Up



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