"Whew!" whistled Joe Matson, the astonishment on his bronzed face being indicated by his surprised exclamation of:
"Well, what do you know about that, Sis?"
"What is it, Joe?" asked his sister Clara, as she looked up from a letter she was reading to see her brother staring at a sheet of paper he had just withdrawn from an envelope, for the morning mail had been delivered a few minutes before. "What is it?" the girl went on, laying aside her own correspondence. "Is it anything serious—anything about father's business? Don't tell me there is more trouble, Joe!"
"I'm not going to, Clara. It isn't trouble, but, if what he says is true, it's going to make a big difference to me," and Joe looked out of the window, across a snowy expanse of yard, and gazed at, without consciously seeing, a myriad of white flakes swirling down through the wintry air.
"No, it isn't exactly trouble," went on Joe, "and I suppose I ought to be corkingly glad of it; but I hadn't counted on leaving the Central Baseball League quite so soon."
"Oh, Joe! Have you lost your place?" exclaimed Clara. "And just after you have done so well, too; and helped them win the pennant! I call that a shame! I thought baseball men were better 'sports' than that."
"Listen to her—my little sister using slang!" laughed Joe.
"'Sports' isn't slang," defended Clara. "I've heard lots of girls use it. I mean it in the right sense. But have you really lost your place on the team, Joe?"
"Well, not exactly, Sis, but I'm about to, I'm afraid. However, I guess I may as well make the best of it, and be glad. I sure can use the extra money!"
"I certainly don't know what you're talking about," went on Clara, with a helpless look at her big, handsome brother, "and I suppose you'll take your own time in telling me. But I would like to know what it all means, Joe. And about extra money. Who's going to give it to you?"
"Nobody. I'll have to earn it with this pitching arm of mine," and the young baseball player swung it around, as though "winding-up" for a swift delivery.
"Look out, Joe!" cried Clara, but she gave the warning too late.
At that moment Mrs. Matson entered the room with a jug of water, which she intended pouring on a window-box of flowers. Joe's arm struck the jug a glancing blow, and sent it flying, the water spraying over the floor, and the jug itself falling, and cracking into many pieces.
For a moment there was a momentous silence, after two startled screams—one each from Mrs. Matson and Clara. Then Joe cried gaily:
"Out at first! Say, Momsey, I hope I didn't hit you!"
"No, you didn't," and she laughed now. "But what does it all mean? Are you practicing so early in the season? Oh, my carpet! It will be ruined!" she went on, as she saw the water. "But I'm glad I didn't bring in a good jug. Did you hurt your hand?"
"Nary a hurt," said Joe, with a smile. "Ha! I'll save you from a wetting!" he exclaimed, as he stooped quickly and picked up an unopened letter, the address of which was in a girlish hand....