The Father of a Hero by Ralph
The Hero sat in the window-seat, and
nursed his knee and frowned. He was rather
young to be a hero, he lacked a month of being
twenty; he looked eighteen. He had a round
face, with a smooth, clear skin, over which
spring suns had spread an even coat of tan
that was wonderfully becoming. His eyes
were blue, and his hair was as near yellow
as hair ever is. For the rest, he was of medium
height, slim, and well-built. His name
was James Gill Robinson, Jr. Throughout
college he was known as “Rob”; on the baseball
diamond, the players, according him the
respect due a superior, called him “Cap.”
His father, with the privilege of an extended
acquaintance, called him “Jimmie.”
The father leaned back in a dark-green
Morris chair, one gray-gaitered foot swinging
and his right thumb reposing between the second
and third buttons of his white vest. This
was a habit with the thumb, and meant that
Mr. James Gill Robinson, Sr., was speaking
of weighty matters, and with authority. The
father was well this side of fifty and, like his
son, looked younger than he was, for which
an admirable complexion was to be thanked.
He wore side-whiskers, and the brows above
the sharp blue eyes were heavy and lent emphasis
to the aggressive character of the lower
part of his face. But if he was aggressive he
was also fair-minded, and if he was obstinate
he was kind-hearted as well; and none of these
are bad qualities in a lawyer. And of course
he was smart, too; as the father of James Gill
Robinson, Jr., he couldn’t have been anything
Through the open window the length of
the Yard was visible, intensely green and
attractively cool. Fellows with straw hats
adorned with fresh new bands of all colors
and combinations of colors, fellows flannel-trousered
and vestless, lounged on the grass
or intersected the verdant, tree-shaded oblong,
bearing tennis racquets or baseball bats. It
was mid-June, warm, clear, and an ideal Saturday.
The Hero turned from a brief survey of
the outside world and faced his father again,
listening respectfully to the latter’s remarks,
but quite evidently taking exception to the
gist of them. At length he was moved to defense.
“But look here, dad, seems to me the showing
I made last year proves that I haven’t
“That’s not the point, sir. I’ll acknowledge
that you—ah—did uncommonly well last
year. I was proud of you. We all were.
And I take it for granted that you will do
equally well, if not better, this year. I expect
it. I won’t have anything else, sir! But you
don’t gather my meaning. This is an old subject
of controversy between us, Jimmie, and
it does seem to me that by this time you should
have come to an understanding of the position
I take. But you haven’t; that’s clear, sir,
and so I’ll state it once more.”
He paused, and glanced at a massive gold
“It is twelve minutes after two; I’m not
detaining you?” he asked, with a broad suggestion
“No, sir, I have ten minutes yet,” answered
“Ah, thank you. Well, now—” Mr.
Robinson drew his eyebrows together while
he silently marshaled his arguments. Then—“I
have never,” he said, “opposed athletic
sports in moderation. On the contrary, I
think them—ah—beneficial. Mind you,
though, I say in moderation, distinctly ‘in
moderation!’ In fact, in my own college days
I gained some reputation as an athlete myself.”
The Hero suppressed a smile. His father’s
reputation had been gained as short-stop
on a senior class nine that, with the aid of
pistols, old muskets, and brass bands, had defeated,
by a score of 27 to 16, a sophomore
team, his father having made three home runs
by knocking the ball into a neighboring back
yard. The Hero had heard the history of that
game many times.
“But you, sir,” continued Mr. Robinson,
severely, “you, sir, are overdoing it. You
are allowing athletics to occupy too much of
your time and thought. I take to-day to be
an average one?”
“Hardly, sir,” answered the Hero.
“Saturday is always busier than week-days,
and to-day we have one of our big games.”
“I am glad to hear it, very glad. I
reached here at eleven o’clock, and you
dragged me out to the field while you practised
batting. At twelve you had a recitation.
At one you took me to the training table, where
I sat among a large number of very—ah—frivolous
young men who constantly talked
of things I do not, and do not care to understand.
You have now kindly allowed me a
half-hour of your society. In a minute or
two you will tear off to the field again, to be
there, so you tell me, until half past five. Now,
sir, I ask you, is what I have described an
equable adjustment of study and athletics,
“I’m very sorry, dad,” replied the Hero,
earnestly. “If I’d known you were coming
to-day I could have fixed things a little differently.
But as it was, I couldn’t very well give
you much time. I wish you’d come out to the
game, sir. It’s going to be a thundering good
one, I think. Princeton is after our scalps.”
“No, Jimmie, I refuse to lend countenance
to the proceedings. You are overdoing it, sir,
overdoing it vastly! Why, confound it, sir,
who are you here at Harvard? What do I see
in the morning paper? ‘Robinson is confident.’
‘Plucky captain and first-baseman of
the Harvard nine looks for a victory over the
Tigers.’ That’s the sort of stuff I read, sir!
A whole column of it! That’s who you are,
sir; you’re just the baseball captain; you’re
not James Robinson, Jr., not for a minute!
And the papers are full of silly talk about you,
and refer to you as ‘Rob.’ It’s disgraceful,
if nothing else!”
“Well, dad, I don’t like that sort of notoriety
any better than you do, but I don’t think
it’s fair to blame me for it. When you win
a big case at home it’s just the same, sir; the
papers even print your picture sometimes,
and that’s more than they do with mine, because
they can’t get it.”
His father glared silently. It was too true
to bear contradiction. But he wasn’t one to
back down any further than was absolutely
“Maybe, sir, maybe. But let me inform
you that winning an important case in the
courts is decidedly different from winning a
game of baseball before a lot of shouting, yelling
idiots with tin horns and flags! Eh?
“Well, I don’t altogether agree with you
there, dad. In either case it’s a matter of
using your brain and doing your level best and
keeping your wits about you. The results
may not be on a par as to importance, sir,
although—” he smiled slightly—“maybe it
depends some on the point of view. I tell you
what, sir,” he went on, “you come out to the
Princeton game this afternoon and if, when
it’s over with, you say that trying to win a
big game of college baseball isn’t worth doing,
why, I’ll give up the captaincy and have nothing
more to do with such things next year!
What do you say, sir?”
“I refuse to enter into any such agreement,
sir. Moreover, I have no intention of
sitting on a plank in the hot sun and watching
a lot of idiots run around the bases. No, sir,
if you’ve got to take part in that game, as I
suspect you have, you go ahead and I’ll look
after myself. Only I must have at least one
undisturbed hour with you before my train
“Certainly, dad; I’ll be with you all the
evening. I hope you’ll be comfortable. You’ll
find the library at the Union very pleasant if
you want to read. I will be back here at about
half after five. I do wish, though, you’d come
“You’ve heard me on that subject, Jimmie,”
replied Mr. Robinson, severely. “Naturally,
you—ah—have my wishes for success,
but I must decline to make myself miserable
all the afternoon.”
After the Hero had gone, Mr. Robinson,
with much grumbling, strove to make himself
comfortable with a book. But he had looked
upon his journey to Cambridge as something
in the way of a holiday, and sitting in a Morris
chair didn’t conform to his idea of the correct
way of spending it. The Yard looked inviting,
and so he took the volume and went out
under the trees. But he didn’t read. Instead
he leaned the back of his immaculate gray coat
against a tree-trunk and fell to thinking.
From where he sat he could see, at a distance,
the window of the room that he had occupied
during his last two years in the Law School.
That window suggested memories.
Presently he heard a voice near by. A fellow
passing along in front of Matthews was
“Aren’t you going over to the game?” he
“Sure. What time is it?”
“Ten of three. Better come along now.
I’ll wait for you.”
A moment later the other emerged from
“How are you betting?” he asked.
“Even that we win.”
“Think so? Princeton’s got a wonderful
young nine, they say.”
“So have we. ‘Rob’ says we’re going to
win, and what he says goes, my boy.”
“Yes, he knows his business all right.”
“Well, I guess! He’s the best captain
Harvard’s had for years and years, and he’s
as level-headed as they make them. All
They went off in the direction of the
Square. Mr. Robinson watched them and
wondered what they would say if they knew
“Rob’s” father had overheard them. He
rather wished they could have known who he
was. Then he frowned impatiently as he
realized that in a moment of weakness he had
coveted glory in the rôle of “Rob’s” father.
But he was glad he had overheard that conversation.
Even if Jimmie was paying altogether
too much attention to baseball and too
little to the graver features of college life, still
he was glad that Jimmie was a good captain.
He was—yes, he was proud of that.
It was very cool and restful there on the
grass, with the whispering of the little breeze
in the leaves above him, and he laid the book
carefully aside, folded his hands, and closed
his eyes. The Yard was deserted now save
for the squirrels and the birds, and so for quite
an hour none disturbed Mr. Robinson’s slumber.
Once his hat fell off, and after a sleepy
attempt to find it he let it go. His trousers
gradually parted company with his gaiters,
exposing a length of thin, black-clad ankle.
Altogether he presented a most undignified
spectacle, and a squirrel who ran down the
tree-trunk and surveyed him from a position
a foot or two above his head chattered his disapprobation.
Perhaps it was this that woke
Mr. Robinson up.
He yawned, arranged his trousers, recovered
his hat, and looked at his watch. It was
just four o’clock. He felt rather stiff, but
the nap had rested him, and so he returned the
book to the room with the idea of taking a
walk. Swinging his gold-headed cane jauntily,
he passed through the Square and made
his way toward the river. The breezes would
be refreshing, he told himself. But long before
he reached the bridge disturbing sounds
came to him, borne on the little west wind that
blew in his face:
“Ha-a-ar-vard! Ha-a-ar-vard! Ha-a-ar-vard!”
He crossed the bridge, left the river behind
and went on. Now from the right, around the
corner of the Locker Building, came wild, confused
“That’s pitching, old man; that’s pitching!”
“Now, once more; make him hit it!”
“Put it over; you can do it!” “Hai, hai,
hai! Now you’re off! Down with his arm!
On your toes, on your toes!” “Look out!
Twenty minutes, Mr. Umpire!” “He’s out
Then the cheering began again.
Mr. Robinson frowned, but kept on his
way. He was back of the stands now. The
scene was hidden from the street by a long
strip of canvas. He looked about him; the
road was deserted hereabouts. He stooped
and strove to look under the canvas, but he
saw only a pair of sturdy, red-stockinged legs.
The cheering became wild and incoherent, and
was punctuated with hand-clapping and the
stamping of many feet on the boards. Mr.
Robinson went on at a faster gait, something
of excitement appearing in his face. At the
gate a few loiterers stood about. Mr. Robinson
approached one of them and asked with
“What—ah—what is the score?”
“Seven to six in favor of Princeton.
They’ve knocked Miller out of the box.”
“Indeed?” Mr. Robinson glanced at his
watch. “I—ah—suppose the game is about
“Last of the sixth. There, that’s three
out. This is the seventh now.” From the
left somewhere came cheers for Princeton.
“Thank you.” Mr. Robinson turned and
went on, followed by long, inspiriting “Ha-a-ar-vards!”
But the scenery was not attractive
and the breeze was no longer cool. He
stopped, frowned, and gazed absorbedly at the
sidewalk, drawing figures with the end of his
cane in the gravel.
“It must be very close,” he muttered.
Then, after a moment, “Jimmie will be badly
disappointed if they’re beaten.”
With sudden resolution he stuck his cane
under his arm, pulled his waistcoat free of
wrinkles, and walked quickly, determinedly,
back to the entrance. At the ticket booth he
drew a bill from his pocketbook and, in the
act of purchasing, recalled his informant of a
few minutes before. He was still there, craning
his head and listening.
“Here, do you want to see the last of
this?” he asked.
“Yes, sir,” was the eager answer.
“Two tickets, please.”
Mr. Robinson strode through the gate followed
by a freckle-faced, rather tattered
youth of sixteen, and sought a seat.
“You come along with me,” he said to the
boy. “I may want to know who some of
these fellows are.”
Seats were hard to find, but in the end they
obtained them on a stand back of third base.
Mr. Robinson settled his stick between his
knees and looked about him. The triangle of
stands was crowded with excited men and
women; men in straw hats and all sorts of
vivid shirts, women in cool cotton dresses, with
here and there a touch of crimson ribbon.
The field stretched away green and level as a
carpeted floor to the river and the boathouse.
Princeton was at the bat. Mr. Robinson
turned to his new acquaintance.
“Seven to six, you said?” The boy
glanced at the little black score-board.
“Yes, sir, that’s right. See? Harvard
made three in the first and two in the third
and one in the fifth, and Princeton made three
in the third and four in the fifth. That’s
when they didn’t do a thing to Miller. Gee,
I could hear ’em hittin’ him outside there!
I’d like to been inside then, wouldn’t you?”
“Hm, yes,” replied Mr. Robinson.
“Say, what made you so late?” asked the
other with a suspicion of a grievance in his
voice. “Gee, if I’d been going to this game
I bet you I’d been on time!”
“I—ah—I was detained,” replied Mr.
Robinson. He realized that the boy held him
in some contempt, and knew that it would
never do to tell the whole truth about it; the
other would simply look upon him as a lunatic.
Clearly, too, he owed his acquaintance
an apology. “I am sorry that I didn’t get
here sooner,” he said, “so that you could have
seen—ah—more of the contest.”
“So’m I,” was the frank response. Then,
“Still, maybe if you’d come before you
wouldn’t have taken me in with you?”
“That’s true; maybe I wouldn’t have—ah—noticed
you. So perhaps it’s just as well,
Mr. Robinson gave attention to the game
in time to see the second Princeton batter
thrown out at first. The stands subsided
again, and the ushers waved their hats and
the cheering broke out afresh.
“Supposing you tell me who some of the
men are,” suggested Mr. Robinson.
“Sure thing. That’s Hanlon pitching.
He’s pretty good, but he ain’t as good as Miller,
they say. I guess ‘Mill’ must have had
an off day. And that’s Morton catching.
Say, he’s a peach!”
“You bet; a regular top-of-the-basket
peacherina! You just keep your eye on him.”
“Thank you, I will,” answered the listener.
“And the small fellow at first base?”
The boy turned and stared at him, open-eyed
and open-mouthed. Then he whistled
softly but with emphasis.
“Say!” he exclaimed, finally, “where’ve
“Well, I—” Mr. Robinson faltered, and
the other gave a grunt of disgust.
“Gee, I thought everybody knew ‘Rob’!”
“‘Rob.’ His name’s Robinson; they call
him ‘Rob’ for short. He’s the captain, of
course. Didn’t you know that?”
“Well, yes, I did, now that you mention
it,” answered the man humbly. “Is—is he
“Pretty good! Why, he’s a star! He’s
a wonder! He’s—” Words failed him.
“Say, you must live in Chelsea!” he said at
“Chelsea?” repeated Mr. Robinson.
“No, I don’t live there.”
“Anybody’d think you did,” muttered
The third man went out on a long fly to
center field, and Harvard trotted in to bat.
“If Harvard loses this game,” said the
boy, “it’ll break her record. She ain’t lost
one this year. That’s Greene going to bat.
He ain’t much good at hittin’; he generally
Greene sustained his reputation, and a tall
youth, whom Mr. Robinson was informed was
Billings, the left-fielder, made a hit to short-stop
and reached first by a bad throw. Harvard
filled the bases in that inning and the
excitement became intense. A base-hit would
bring in the desired two runs. But the
Princeton pitcher wound himself into knots
and untangled himself abruptly and threw
wonderful balls, and the umpire, a short,
round, little man with a deep voice, yelled
“Strike!” “Strikes!” “Striker’s out!”
“Aw, thunder!” lamented Mr. Robinson’s
companion. “That’s two gone. Ain’t that
Mr. Robinson, sitting on the edge of his
seat, clutching his cane desperately with both
hands, nodded. Over on the other stands,
across the diamond, they were standing up
and cheering grimly, imploringly. The Harvard
short-stop took up his bat and faced
the pitcher. Back of second and third bases
the coaches were yelling loudly:
“On your toes, Charlie, on your toes!
Go down with his arm! Now you’re off!
Whoa-a-a! Look out for second-baseman!
All right! He won’t throw it! Whoa-a-a!”
“Strike!” called the umpire.
“Aw, gee!” muttered the boy.
“Now, lively. Watch his arm! Come
on, come on! Hi, hi, hi! Look out for passed
balls! Now you’re off!”
“Strike two,” called the umpire.
Mr. Robinson thumped the boards with
Then there came a crack as the batsman
found the ball, and the men on bases rushed
home. But the arching sphere fell softly into
the left-fielder’s hands, and the nines again
changed places. Mr. Robinson and his acquaintance
exchanged looks of disgust.
“Wasn’t that rotten?” asked the boy
with the freckled face.
“Awful!” answered Mr. Robinson.
Nothing happened in either half of the
eighth inning, but the suspense and excitement
were intense, nevertheless. Princeton
reached second once, but that was the end of
her chances. Harvard got her first man to
first, but the succeeding three struck out.
The cheers were hoarse, incessant. The ushers
waved hats and arms wildly. And Princeton
went to bat for the first of the ninth.
“Now, then, fellows, get together!” Mr.
Robinson recognized his son’s voice, cheerful,
hopeful, inspiriting. The Hero was trotting
to his place at first. “Ginger up, everybody,
and shut them out!”
“All right, Cap!” “We’ve got them on
the run, Cap!” “Lucky ninth, Rob!” The
in-fielders were answering with the same
cheerful assumption of confidence. To the
right of Mr. Robinson a section of the stand
was waving orange and black streamers and
flags, and cheering joyously. The Princeton
pitcher stepped to the plate.
But Hanlon, if he wasn’t the equal of the
deposed Miller, was on his mettle. The batter
had two strikes called on him, and then
struck at a deceptive drop. The ball thumped
into the hands of Morton, the “top-of-the-basket
“Striker’s out,” droned the little man in
Then came a long hit over short-stop’s
head and the batsman reached first without
hurrying. A moment later he had stolen second.
The next man sent him to third, but was
put out himself at first.
“Gee, a hit will bring him in, won’t
it?” asked the boy. “But there’s two out.
The man at bat had found a high ball and
had sent it whizzing down the base-line, eight
feet or more in the air. The man on third
was speeding home, the runner racing for
first. The Hero threw his arms over his head
and jumped lightly off his toes. The next
instant he was rolling head over heels, but one
hand was held triumphantly aloft and in it
was the ball.
“He’s out!” called the umpire.
The panting, weary crimson-legged players
trotted in amid a salvo of applause. Mr.
Robinson was beaming proudly, delightedly
across at the Hero. The boy was shouting
absurdly and beating the planks with his
“Gee, if they can only make two runs
they’ll have ’em beaten!” he cried, excitedly.
“Yes,” said Mr. Robinson; “do you think
“I dunno. Maybe they can. Say, didn’t
I tell you that ‘Rob’ was a corker? Did you
see that catch? That wasn’t anything for
him; I’ve seen him do better stunts than that;
that was just ordinary, that was!”
Now had come Harvard’s last chance.
After the one round of cheering that greeted
the first man at the plate, silence fell. The
man was Morton, the catcher, and he struck
out miserably, and turned away toward the
bench with wobegone countenance. The
Harvard second-baseman took his place.
With two strikes and two balls called on him,
he hit out a straight grounder between second-baseman
and short-stop and reached first by
a good margin. The next man struck at the
first ball and it passed the catcher. The man
on first took second. Then the Princeton
pitcher steadied down.
“Strike two,” said the umpire.
Then the batter hit at a low ball and
popped it high and straight over the base.
The audience held their breath. Down—down
it came plump into the catcher’s hands.
“Two gone,” groaned the boy with the
freckled face. And then, “Hi! Here comes
The Hero was picking out a bat, carefully,
calmly, and the stands were shouting “Robinson!
Robinson! Robinson!” hoarsely,
entreatingly. The Hero settled his cap firmly,
wiped his hands in the dust and gripped
his bat. Then he stood, blue-eyed, yellow-haired,
smiling, confronting the Princeton
pitcher. The latter doubled and unbent.
“Ball,” droned the umpire. The Hero
tapped the base and smiled pleasantly. The
pitcher studied him thoughtfully, while the
catcher knelt and beat his mitten in signal for
a “drop.” Again the pitcher went through
his evolutions, again the ball sped toward the
plate. Then there was a loud, sharp crack!
High and far sailed the sphere. The
Hero’s crimson stockings twinkled through
the dust as he turned first and raced for second.
The man who had been on second
crossed the plate. The stands were sloping
banks of swaying, shrieking humanity. Far
out in the green field beyond the center’s position
the ball fell, a good ten feet beyond the
frantic pursuers. Then the center-fielder
seized it and hurled it in to short-stop with a
hard, swift throw that made the runner’s
chances of reaching the plate look dim. But
he was past third and still running like a
twenty-yard sprinter, while along the line
beside him ran and leaped and shouted two
“Come on, Cap! Come on! You can do
it, Cap! You can do it! Run hard! Hard!”
Short-stop swung, and threw straight and
sure toward where the catcher, with outstretched
arms and eager white face, awaited
it above the dust-hidden plate. Ball and runner
sped goalward. The stands were bedlams
of confused shouts and cries. Mr. Robinson
was on his feet with the rest, his hat in one
hand, his gold-mounted cane in the other. He
had been shrieking with the rest, stamping
with them, waving with them. His face was
red and his eyes wide with excitement. And
now he measured the distance from ball to
plate, from plate to runner, with darting
glances, and raised his voice in one final, triumphant
“Slide, Jimmie! Slide!”
Above the riot of sound arose that despairing
command. The ball thumped against the
catcher’s mit and his arm swung swiftly outward
and downward. But it didn’t hit the
runner. He was sprawling face down above
the plate in a cloud of brown dust. Jimmie
“Safe!” cried the umpire.
Two hours later the Hero and his father
were at dinner in a Boston hotel. Mr. Robinson
dropped a crumb into his empty soup-plate
and smiled across the table in the manner
of one well pleased with the world.
“I haven’t seen a game of baseball like
that, Jimmie,” he said, “since we won the
class championship back in ’73.” He looked
reminiscent for a moment; then asked suddenly:
“By the way, didn’t you say they’d
make you captain again next year?”
“They will, if I’ll take it, sir.”
“If you’ll take it! What’s to prevent
your taking it? Don’t be a fool, Jimmie!”
The Hero applied his napkin to his lips to
hide a smile.
“Very well, sir,” he replied, gravely, “I