Chapter XV Baseball Talk - The Rover boys on a Tour by Edward Stratemeyer

"Fogg!" cried Sam, in astonishment. "Do you mean Belright Fogg?"

"That's the man--the fellow who used to do the legal work for the railroad here."

"Was this Bissette sure it was Fogg?"

"No, he wasn't sure, because he didn't pay very much attention. But he said if it wasn't this Fogg, it was some one who looked very much like him," answered Andy Royce.

This was all he could tell Sam of importance, and the Rover boy went off, to rejoin his chum in a very thoughtful mood.

"That's rather a queer state of affairs," was Spud's comment, when told of the matter. "If Fogg met this Blackie Crowden, what do you suppose it was for?"

"I haven't the least idea, Spud."

"Do you think he was mixed up in this robbery?"
"No, I can't say that. The assault was committed by one man, and so far they haven't been able to find any accomplices."

When Sam returned to Brill he at once sought out Songbird and told him of what he had heard. The would-be poet of Brill was even more surprised than Spud had been.

"I wouldn't put it above Belright Fogg to be in with a rascal like Blackie Crowden," was Songbird's comment. "He did his best against you in that flying machine affair and in that affair in New York City."

"I've got an idea," said Sam, after a slight pause. "I am to pay him six dollars' damages for hitting him in the head with that snowball. Doctor Wallington was going to send him a check. I've got a good notion to ask the doctor to let me pay the bill and get Fogg's receipt for it. That will give me a chance to pump him about this matter."

"Do it, Sam! And I'll go along," burst out his chum, quickly. "If this Belright Fogg knows Blackie Crowden I want to know it."

Permission was readily granted by the head of Brill to Sam to pay the bill, and that evening the Rover boy and Songbird took the former's automobile and rode over to where Belright Fogg boarded, on the outskirts of Ashton. They found the lawyer just preparing to go out, and he showed that he was very much surprised to see them.

"I suppose you are here to pay that bill you owe me," he said stiffly to Sam.

"I am, Mr. Fogg," was the answer. "I believe you agreed to accept six dollars. If you will make out a receipt for the amount I will give you Doctor Wallington's check."

"Humph! isn't the check receipt enough?" demanded the lawyer.

"Perhaps. But I would prefer to have a receipt showing exactly what the money is being paid for," answered Sam. "As a lawyer you must know it is best to have these things straight."

"Oh, very well. Come in and I'll write out your receipt for you,"

announced Belright Fogg, coldly, and ushered the pair into a sitting-room.

Sam had asked Songbird to say nothing about Blackie Crowden until the matter of the snowball injury was settled. A receipt for the money was quickly penned by Belright Fogg.

"There, I presume that will be satisfactory," he said, as he showed it to Sam.

"That's all right, Mr. Fogg," was the answer. "And here is your check."

Sam paused for a moment while the lawyer looked the check over. "By the way, Mr. Fogg, I understand you were in Leadenfield a few days ago at the tavern kept by Bissette."

"What's that?" shot out the lawyer, somewhat startled.

"I said that I understood that you were in Leadenfield a few days ago at the tavern kept by Bissette."

"And that you met a man there named Blackie Crowden," broke in Songbird, quickly.

"I--I was in Leadenfield some days ago on business," answered Belright Fogg, hesitatingly, "but I wasn't at the Bissette place, or anywhere near it."

"But you met a man named Blackie Crowden?" queried Sam.

The lawyer glared at the Rover boy and also at Songbird.

"Blackie Crowden? I don't know such an individual--at least, not by name."

"He is a fellow who used to work in Hoover's livery stable in Center Haven--a man who stutters greatly."

"Don't know the fellow," was the prompt response.

"You mean to say you didn't meet Blackie Crowden at Bissette's?" cried Songbird.

"Look here, young man, what are you driving at?" stormed Belright Fogg, in a sudden temper. "You've no right to question me in this manner.

What is it all about?"

"We have it on good authority that you met this man, Blackie Crowden, outside of Bissette's place," answered Sam, stoutly.

"Who is this man you mention?"

"Being a lawyer and interested in public affairs, you ought to know that, Mr. Fogg," answered Songbird. "He is the man who, we think, knocked me down and robbed me of Mr. Sanderson's four thousand dollars."

"Ah! I--I remember now. And so you are trying to connect me up with that rascal, are you? What do you mean by that?"

"Never mind what we mean," declared the would-be poet of Brill, stoutly.

"I want to get at the facts in this matter. If you say you didn't meet Crowden, all right, we'll let it go at that. But there are others who say you did meet him."

"It's false--absolutely false!" roared Fogg, but as he spoke his face paled greatly. "I--I don't know this fellow, Crowden--never met him in my life. This is all a put-up job on your part to make trouble for me,"

and he glared savagely at both Songbird and Sam.

"It's no put-up job, Mr. Fogg. We intend to get at the bottom of this sooner or later," answered Sam, as calmly as he could. "Come on, Songbird."

"See here! you're not going to leave this house until I know just what you are driving at," roared the lawyer. "I won't have you besmirching my fair name!"

"Your fair name!" returned Sam, sarcastically. "There is no necessity for you to talk that way, Mr. Fogg. I know you thoroughly. If you want to rake up the past you can do it, but I advise you not to do so."

"I--I----" began the lawyer, and then stopped, not knowing how to proceed.

"We might as well go," broke in Songbird. "But perhaps, Mr. Fogg, you haven't heard the end of this," added the would-be poet of Brill; and though the lawyer continued to storm and argue, the two chums left the house and were soon on the return to Brill.

"I'm afraid we didn't gain anything by that move," was Sam's comment, as they rode along. "He'll be on his guard now, and that will make it harder than ever to connect him with this affair--provided he really is mixed up in it."

"He acted pretty startled when we put it up to him," returned Songbird.

He heaved a deep sigh. "Well, maybe some day this matter will be cleared up, but it doesn't look like it now."

Several days passed, and Sam stuck to his lessons as hard as ever. Once or twice he thought of calling up Grace at Hope or of writing her a note, but each time he put it off, why, he could not exactly explain even to himself. But then came a rift in the clouds and the sun shone as brightly as ever. A note came from Grace, which he read with much satisfaction. A part of the communication ran as follows:

"I was thinking all manner of mean things about you because you did not answer my note of last week, when--what do you think?

The note came back to me, brought in by one of the smaller girls here, Jessie Brown. Jessie was going to town that day, and I gave her the note to post and she put it in the pocket of her coat, along with several other letters, so she says. Well, the pocket had a hole in it, and, as you might know, my own particular letter had to slip through that hole into the lining of the coat. The rest of the letters were mailed, but my letter remained in the lining until this morning, when Jessie came to me with tears in her eyes to tell of what had happened. I felt pretty angry over it, but glad to know that you were not guilty of having received the note and then not answering it.

"In the note I told you how sorry I was to find that you had called here while I was away. You see, Ada Waltham's brother, Chester, came on in his new automobile--a big foreign affair, very splendid. He wanted to give Ada a ride, and invited me to go along, so I went, and we had a very nice time. Chester is an expert auto driver, and the way we flew along over the roads was certainly marvelous. He insisted upon it that we dine with him. And, oh, Sam! such a spread as it was!

"You know he is a millionaire in his own right (Ada has a great lot of money too). We certainly had one grand time, and I shall never forget it. He got a beautiful bouquet for the table, and also bouquets for Ada and me to take home, along with boxes of the most beautiful chocolates I ever ate. But just the same, I am awfully sorry I wasn't at the seminary when you called, and I don't understand why you haven't been up since, or why you didn't telephone to me.

"One of the girls here says they are organizing the Brill baseball nine for the coming season, and that they want you to play as you did last year. If you do join the nine, I hope you have the same success or more. And you can rest assured that I will be on the grandstand to offer you all the encouragement possible. I hope that Dick and Tom come on to see the game and bring Dora and Nellie along, and then we can have the nicest kind of a jolly party. Ada Waltham, as you may know, loves baseball games too, and she says that she is going to have Chester here at that time to take her over to Brill, unless somebody else turns up to accompany her."

"All right, as far as it goes," mused Sam, on reading this note. "But I wish Chester Waltham would stay away. Of course I can't blame Grace for liking a ride in a big, foreign car and being invited out to such a first-class spread as she mentions, but, just the same, I wish she wouldn't go with him."

However, the communication brightened his thoughts considerably, and it was only a little while later when he talked to the girl over the telephone and made an arrangement for a ride in the automobile on the following Saturday afternoon, Songbird and Minnie to accompany them.

The four went off to Center Haven, where Sam spread himself on a dinner which was certainly all that could be desired. Grace was in one of her most winning moods, and when the young couple parted the cloud that had hovered over them seemed to be completely dispelled.

As winter waned and the grass on the campus took on a greener hue, baseball matters came once more to the fore at Brill. Bob Grimes, who played at shortstop, was again the captain of the team, and it was generally understood that Spud Jackson would again occupy the position of catcher.

"We're going to miss Tom Rover a good deal this year," said Bob to some of the others. During the year past Tom had been the candidate for head twirler against both Bill Harney and Dare Phelps and had shown that he was the superior of both of the others.

"Well, you haven't got Tom Rover, so you've got to make the best of it,"

answered Stanley. "Phelps has been doing pretty well, I understand, so you might as well give him a chance."

"Yes, I thought I'd do that," answered the team captain. "Harney isn't in it at all, and doesn't want even to try. I'll give Phelps a chance and also Jack Dudley." Dudley was a sophomore whose swift pitching had become the general talk of the college. He, however, was rather erratic, and liable to go to pieces in a crisis.

As my old readers know, Sam had joined the team the year before only after considerable coaxing, and then merely as a substitute. During the middle of the great game he had been assigned to left field in place of a player who had twisted his foot. In that position he had caught a fly in a thoroughly marvelous manner, and he had also managed, when at the bat, to bring in a home run.

"We've simply got to have you on the team, Sam," said the captain, a little later, when he caught the Rover boy in one of the corridors.

"Your hanging back this year is rather hurting our chances of winning."

"But, Bob, I want to pay attention to my lessons," pleaded Sam. "I can't afford to get behind."

"You'll not get behind," was the answer. "Aren't we all striving to graduate? You ought to be willing to do as much as Spud and myself."

"All right, then, Bob, if you are going to put it that way," was the answer, and thereupon Sam allowed his name to go on the list of prospective players and at once began training.

After that matters moved along swiftly. The committee from Brill met with the committee from Roxley and arrangements were perfected for the coming game. As the contest had taken place the year previous at Roxley, it was, of course, decided that the game this year should be played at Brill. Then men were set at work to place the diamond in the best possible shape for the contest, and the grandstand was repaired, and a new set of bleachers put up to accommodate a larger crowd than ever.

"This is a baseball year," announced Bob Grimes, "so we can expect a big rush of visitors." The nine had already won three games of minor importance.

"They tell me Roxley has got the best team it ever put in the field,"

announced Stanley one day, after he had been over to the other institution. "They've got three dandy pitchers, and two outfielders who are crackerjacks at batting. One of their men told me that they expected to walk all over us."

"Well, we'll see about that," returned Bob Grimes. "We've got a good team of our own, and I know every one of us will try to play his head off to win."