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Under Fire A Tale of New England Village Life   By: (1854-1925)

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"Well, Dave, it was a close game, but we managed to save ourselves after all their talk," said Tom Martin, referring to a baseball match of the previous day.

"Yes, but thanks to our lucky stars that Fred Worthington was with us. If John Rexford had kept him at the store, as I was afraid, we should have been badly beaten."

"He didn't play the whole game, did he?" asked Tom sarcastically.

"Of course not," retorted Dave Farrington, with some warmth, "but you know very well we should have lost it, if it had not been for him. If he saved us from defeat, why not be fair and give him credit for it? I am sure he would do as much for you if the case were reversed."

"I didn't say anything against him."

"No; but you don't appear to say anything for him."

"Why should I?"

"Well, I can say frankly that his playing was equal to that of some professionals that I have seen. The factory boys couldn't get the hang of his pitching, and the best batters fouled nearly every ball."

"Don't you want some credit for catching?" asked Tom, with a view to turning the conversation from Fred.

"Yes, but " Here the conversation was interrupted by the sudden appearance of Matthew De Vere, a rather foppishly dressed boy, who showed very clearly by his manner that he considered himself the "swell young man" of the town.

"Oh, boys, I have a bit of good news for you," he cried. "Guess what it is."

"Anything startling?" asked Tom.

"No; but it is something you and Dave will both like."

"Tell us what it is. We give it up, don't we, Dave?"

"Grace Bernard is going to have a party a birthday party."

"A party?" echoed Dave. "Who told you?"

"My sister Annie just came from Mr. Bernard's and said so."

"When is it to be?" chimed in both boys eagerly.

"Next Thursday evening," answered their informant.

"Well, that strikes me about right," replied Tom, with evident pleasure at the prospect. "How old is Grace, I wonder?"

"She will be sixteen next Thursday," returned Matthew.

"I'm glad some one has life enough to wake us up a little. I'm hungry for a 'racket,'" put in Dave. "The evenings are getting long, and it is too cold to rove about much. Three cheers, I say, for Grace Bernard! I speak for the first waltz with her."

The cheers were given with a will, for the mere mention of a party, the first one of the season, was sufficient to make the boys enthusiastic.

"I wonder who will be invited," said Matthew; and then added, with a scowl, "well, I don't care who is if Fred Worthington only gets left; I hate him . He tries to push himself ahead too much for a fellow in his circumstances, and since he has gone into John Rexford's store he is worse than ever."

"I don't know why he should not be invited as well as any of us," said Dave Farrington. "He is certainly one of the smartest boys in the village, both at his books and at whatever else he undertakes; and the fact that his father is a poor man ought not to be against him;" then, with a sly wink at Tom, he added, "and you may be certain he won't be overlooked, for he and Nellie Dutton are getting to be very good friends, and of course Grace Bernard will ask him on her account, if for no other reason."

Now Matthew liked Nellie Dutton himself, and like most rich boys (his father was a retired sea captain and president of the Mapleton National Bank), could ill bear the deprivation of anything which his fancy craved. Therefore the thought that a poor fellow, like Fred Worthington, might come between him and the object of his fancy was exceedingly disagreeable.

This was one reason why he "hated" Fred; the other was, he could not lord it over him, as he did over most of the Mapleton boys, for Fred had a will of his own, as well as a perfect physical development, which convinced Matthew, bully as he was, that it would not be well to grapple with him... Continue reading book >>

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