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Title: Bert Wilson on the Gridiron
Author: Duffield, J. W.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Bert Wilson on the Gridiron" ***

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BERT WILSON ON THE GRIDIRON

BY J. W. DUFFIELD

          AUTHOR OF "BERT WILSON AT THE WHEEL,"
          "WIRELESS OPERATOR," "FADEAWAY BALL,"
          "MARATHON WINNER," "AT PANAMA."

          NEW YORK
          GEORGE SULLY & COMPANY
          PUBLISHERS



          Copyright, 1914, By
          SULLY AND KLEINTEICH

          _All rights reserved._

          Published and Printed, 1924, by
          Western Printing & Lithographing Company
          Racine, Wisconsin
          Printed in U.S.A.



CONTENTS


          CHAPTER                             PAGE
             I. NEVER SAY DIE                    1
            II. RAKED, FORE AND AFT             20
           III. A THRILLING EXPLOIT             32
            IV. BREAKING THE RULES              52
             V. TACKLING THE ARMY               62
            VI. REDDY'S RECOLLECTIONS           82
           VII. THE LION'S ESCAPE               90
          VIII. ON THE TOBOGGAN                108
            IX. HAMMERED INTO SHAPE            127
             X. IN THE ENEMY'S COUNTRY         140
            XI. A DESPERATE FIGHT              153
           XII. THE COACH ROBBERY              171
          XIII. AN UNEXPECTED MEETING          186
           XIV. A PLOT THAT FAILED             195
            XV. THE DASH FOR THE GOAL          209



BERT WILSON ON THE GRIDIRON



CHAPTER I

NEVER SAY DIE


"HOLD 'em! Hold 'em! Buck up, fellows. Don't give an inch!"

A storm of cheers swept over the field, as it was seen that the scrubs
were holding the 'Varsity on their ten-yard line.

Three times in succession the 'Varsity players plunged like enraged
bulls against the defenders of the goal, only to be thrown back without
a gain. One more fierce attempt, and the ball went to the scrubs on
downs.

It was unprecedented. It was revolutionary. It shrieked unto heaven. The
poor, despised scrubs were actually holding the haughty 'Varsity men on
even terms. More than that; they even threatened to win. They seemed to
forget that they were doormats for the "regulars," mere "sparring
partners," to be straightened up with one punch and knocked down by the
next. The "forlorn hope" had suddenly become a triumphant hope. The
worm had turned, and turned with a vengeance. Pale and panting,
plastered with mud and drenched with sweat, with "blood in their eyes"
and here and there a little on their features, they faced the "big
fellows" and gave as good as they took.

Reddy, the college trainer, danced up and down on the side lines and
sputtered incoherently. "Bull" Hendricks, the head coach, stamped and
stormed and yelled to his charges to "put it over." The things he said
may not be set down here, but he gave the recording angel a busy
afternoon. His words stung like whips, and under the lash of them the
'Varsity men braced themselves desperately. They burned with shame and
rage. Were they to have a defeat "slapped" upon them by the scrubs? The
college would ring with it, and it would be the sensation of the season.

But the scrubs were not to be denied. They had caught the 'Varsity "off
its stride," and they fought like tigers to clinch their advantage.
Every ounce of strength and determination that they possessed was called
to the front by the prospect of impending victory. A daring run around
the left end netted them twenty yards, and they gained fifteen more on
downs. An easy forward pass was fumbled by the regulars, who were
becoming so demoralized that the men fell all over themselves. The
panic was growing into a rout that promised to end in a Waterloo.

The referee was poising his whistle and looking at his watch, ready to
blow the signal that marked the end of play. There was but one chance
left--a goal from the field. On the 'Varsity team only two men had
seemed to keep their heads. The quarterback and fullback had sought to
stem the tide, but in the general melting away of the defence had been
able to do but little. The ball was now on the scrubs' forty-yard line.
The player who had it fumbled in his eagerness to advance it, and the
'Varsity quarterback pounced on it like a hawk. With almost the same
motion he passed it to the fullback. The opposing line bore down upon
him frantically, but too late. One mighty kick and the pigskin rose in
the air like a bird, soared over the bar between the goal posts, and the
'Varsity was three points to the good. An instant later and the whistle
blew. The game was over.

The hearts of the scrubs went down into their boots. Another minute and
the game would have ended with the ball in the middle of the field, and
the score a tie; and a tie on the part of the scrubs was equivalent to a
victory. But that last kick had dashed their hopes into ruin.

Still, they were not wholly cast down. They had deserved success, if
they had not actually won it. They had really played the better game and
beaten their foes to a standstill. The nominal victory of the 'Varsity
was a virtual defeat.

And the 'Varsity knew it. For an instant they felt an immense relief, as
they crowded around Wilson, the fullback, and clapped him on the
shoulder. But their momentary exultation was replaced by chagrin, as
they filed past the coach on the way to the shower baths, and their eyes
fell before the steely gleam in his.

"I won't say anything to you dubs, just now," he announced with ominous
calmness, as they shambled along wearily and shamefacedly. "I don't dare
to. What I'd have to say wouldn't be fit for the ears of young ladies
like you. Besides, I don't want to commit murder. But I may have a few
quiet remarks to make before practice to-morrow."

"A few quiet remarks," muttered Ellis, when they got beyond earshot.
"Gee. I'll bet life in a boiler factory would be peaceful compared with
the training quarters when he once gets going."

"I've always thought deafness an affliction," said Drake, "but I think
I'd welcome it for the next twenty-four hours."

"Ten to one that's why they call a football field a gridiron," grumbled
Axtell. "The fellows that play on it get such a fearful roasting."

Just then, Morley, the captain of the scrubs, came along with a broad
grin on his face.

"Buck up, you fellows," he joshed, "the worst is yet to come. I can see
just where you 'false alarms' get off. Your epitaph will be that of the
office boy."

"What was that?" queried Martin, biting at the bait.

"Monday, hired-Tuesday, tired-Wednesday, fired," retorted Morley.

"Don't you worry about epitaphs," snapped Tom Henderson. "We're not dead
ones yet, as you'll find out the next time we take your measure."

"What was that Satan said," asked Dick Trent, "about rather reigning in
hell than serving in heaven? I'd rather be a boob on the 'Varsity than
king of the scrubs."

"O, well," laughed Morley, "if you want to put yourself on a level with
Satan, there's no one to prevent you. As for me, I'm a little particular
about _my_ company;" and with this Parthian shot he rejoined his
exulting mates.

It was a disgruntled group of athletes that plunged into the tank and
stood beneath the shower. And when it came to the rubdown, Reddy and
his helpers seemed to take a fiendish delight in picking out the sore
spots and getting even for the day's poor showing. But such vigorous
health and splendid condition as theirs could not be long a prey to
gloom, and when, refreshed and glowing, they wended their way to the
training table, they were inclined to take a more cheerful view of life.
They ate like famished wolves, and when they had made away with
everything in sight, even the promised raking from "Bull" Hendricks had
lost some of its terrors.

"O, well," remarked Tom, "while there's life there's hope. We won't be
shot at sunrise, anyway, even if we deserve to be."

"No," assented Dick, yielding to his irrepressible habit of quotation:

          "Somewhere 'tis always morning, and above
           The wakening continents from shore to shore,
           Somewhere the birds are singing evermore."

"The only bird you'll hear to-morrow," said practical Bert Wilson, "will
be a crow. Poe's raven won't have a thing on Hendricks when he starts
croaking."

One would have had to go far to find a finer group of young fellows than
this trio, as they sauntered over the campus to the college buildings.
They were tall, well-knit and muscular, and no one, looking at them,
would "despair of the Republic," as long as she produced such sons.
Outdoor life, clean living and vigorous exercise had left their stamp on
face and frame. They were immensely popular in the college, leaders in
fun and frolic, and in the very front rank as athletes. Each had won the
right to wear the college jersey with the coveted "initial," proving
that on hard fought fields they had brought glory to their Alma Mater.

This was preëminently the case in college baseball. Tom at third and
Dick at first had starred in their positions, while Bert in the
pitcher's box with his masterly "fadeaway" had cinched the pennant,
after a heartbreaking struggle with the "Greys" and "Maroons," their
leading rivals. The story of how he had plucked victory from defeat in
that memorable fight was already a classic and had made his name famous
in the college world. And now, in the early fall, the three comrades
were seeking to win further laurels on the gridiron as they had
previously won them on the diamond.

Provisionally, they had been placed by the keen-eyed coach on the
'Varsity team. Tom's quickness and adroitness had singled him out as
especially fitted for quarterback. Dick, who had been the leading
slugger on the nine, was peculiarly qualified by his "beef" and
strength for the position of center. Bert's lightning speed--he had made
the hundred yards in ten seconds, flat, and won a Marathon at the
Olympic Games--together with his phenomenal kicking ability, made him
the leading candidate for fullback.

So far, the results had seemed to indicate that no mistake had been
made. But no one knew better than they how insecure their positions
were, and how desperate a fight they would have to wage in order to hold
their places. The competition was fierce, and the least sign of wavering
on their part might send them back to the scrubs. Bull Hendricks played
no favorites. He was "from Missouri" and "had to be shown." His eagle
eye was always looking for the weak places in the armor of his players,
and no one was quicker to detect the least touch of "yellow." He had no
use for any one but a winner. He watched unceasingly for any failure of
body or spirit and pounced upon it as a cat upon a mouse. Nor could any
past success atone for present "flunking."

Not that he acted hastily or upon impulse. Had he done so, he would have
been unfitted for his position. He knew that everybody had his "off
days." The speediest thoroughbred will sometimes run like a cart horse.
No one can be always at the "top of his form." But after making all
allowances for human weakness and occasional lapses, when he once
reached a definite conclusion he was as abrupt and remorseless as a
guillotine. Many a hopeful athlete had been decapitated so swiftly and
neatly, that, like the man in the fable, he did not know his head was
off until he tried to sneeze.

It was a sharp but wholesome discipline, and kept his men "on their
toes" all the time. It gave hope and energy also to the scrubs. They
knew that they had a chance to "make" the 'Varsity team, if they could
prove themselves better than the men opposed to them. The scrub of
to-day might be the regular of to-morrow. They felt like the soldiers in
Napoleon's army where it was said that "every private carried a
marshal's baton in his knapsack." So they fought like tigers, and many a
battle between them and the 'Varsity was worthy of a vaster audience
than the yelling crowds of students that watched it rage up and down the
field.

But the rivalry, though bitter, was also generous. There was nothing
mean or petty about it. After all, it was "all in the family."
Everybody, scrub or 'Varsity, was crazy to win from the other colleges.
If it could be shown that the team could be strengthened thereby, any
'Varsity man would go back to the scrubs without grumbling and "root"
just as hard as ever for the team to make good. It was a pure democracy
where only merit counted and where the individual effaced himself for
the common good of all. So that while the 'Varsity and scrubs were
bitter enemies on the gridiron, they were chums as soon as they had shed
their football "togs."

"We certainly did put up a rotten game to-day," ruminated Tom. "I don't
wonder that the coach was sore. We ought to have eaten those fellows up,
but they walked all over us. What was the matter with us, anyway?"

"Aw," snorted Dick, disgustedly, "why is it that an elephant runs away
from a mouse? They simply threw a scare into us and we lost our nerve.
We can thank our stars it was only a practice game."

"It goes that way sometimes," said Bert philosophically. "It's just the
same in other games. I've seen the Giants and Athletics play like a lot
of schoolboys. One fellow will muff an easy fly and then the whole
infield will go to pieces. They'll fumble and boot anything that comes
along."

"Yes," assented Tom, "and the pitchers get theirs too. There's Matty,
the king of them all. There are days, when even Ty Cobb, if he were
batting against him, couldn't do anything but fan. Then again, there
are other days when he hasn't anything on the ball but his glove. I saw
him in an opening game in New York before thirty-five thousand people,
when he was batted out of the box like any bush leaguer."

"Even Homer sometimes nods and Milton droops his wing," quoted Dick. "If
our playing is rank sometimes, it's a comfort to feel that we have lots
of company. But speaking of baseball, fellows, how do you think it
compares with chasing the pigskin?"

"Well," said Bert slowly, "it's hard to tell. They're both glorious
games, and personally I'm like the donkey between the two bundles of
hay. I wouldn't know which to nibble at first."

"Of course," he went on, "they're so different that it's hard to compare
them. Both of them demand every bit of speed and nerve a fellow has, if
he plays them right. And a bonehead can't make good in either. There are
lots of times in each game when a man has to think like lightning. As
for courage, it's about a stand off. With three men on bases in the
ninth, nobody out, and only one run needed to win, it's a sure enough
test of pluck for either nine. But it needs just as much for a losing
eleven to buck its way up the field and carry the ball over the goal
line, when there's only three minutes left of playing time. Both games
take out of a fellow all there is in him. As for brute strength, there's
no doubt that football makes the greater demand. But when it comes to
saying which I prefer, I'm up a tree. I'd rather play either one than
eat."

"How happy could I be with either, were 'tother dear charmer away,"
laughed Dick.

"Well," remarked Tom, "it's lucky that they come at different seasons so
that we can play both. But when you speak of 'brute' strength, Bert,
you're giving 'aid and comfort' to the enemies of football. That's just
the point they make. It's so 'awfully brutal'," he mimicked, in a high
falsetto voice.

"Nonsense," retorted Bert. "Of course, no fellow can be a 'perfect lady'
and play the game. Even a militant suffragette might find it too rough.
There are plenty of hard knocks to be taken and given. It's no game for
prigs or dudes. But for healthy, strong young fellows with good red
blood in their veins, there's no finer game in the world to develop
pluck and determination and self-control and all the other qualities
that make a man successful in life. He has to keep himself in
first-class physical condition, and cut out all booze and dissipation.
He must learn to keep his temper, under great provocation. He must
forget his selfish interests for the good of the team. And above all he
has to fight, fight, fight,--fight to the last minute, fight to the last
ditch, fight to the last ounce. It's a case of 'the Old Guard dies, but
never surrenders.' He's like old General Couch at the battle of Kenesaw
Mountain, who, when Sherman asked him if he could hold out a little
longer, sent back word that 'he'd lost one eye and a piece of his ear,
but he could lick all Hades yet.'"

"Hear, hear," cried Tom. "Listen, ladies and gentlemen, to our eloquent
young Demosthenes, the only one in captivity."

He skilfully dodged the pass made at him and Bert went on:

"I don't deny that there was a time when the game was a little too
rough, but most of that has been done away with. There has been progress
in football as in everything else. There's no wholesale slugging as in
the early days, when the football field was more like a prize ring than
a gridiron. Of course, once in a while, even now, you'll be handed a
nifty little uppercut, if the referee isn't looking. But if they catch
on to it, the fellow is yanked out of the game and his team loses half
the distance to its goal line as a penalty. So that it doesn't pay to
take chances. Then, too, a fellow used to strain himself by trying to
creep along even when the whole eleven was piled on him. They've cut
that out. Making it four downs instead of three has led to a more open
game, and the flying wedge has been done away with altogether. The game
is just as fierce, but the open play has put a premium on speed instead
of mass plays, and made it more interesting for the spectators and less
dangerous for the players. And the most timid of mothers and anxious of
aunties needn't go into hysterics for fear that their Algernon or
Percival may try to 'make' the team."

"This seems to be quite an animated discussion," said a pleasant voice
behind them; and wheeling about they saw Professor Benton, who held the
chair of History in the college.

They greeted him cordially. Although a scholar of international
reputation, he was genial and approachable, and a great favorite with
the students. In connection with his other duties, he was also a member
of the Athletic Association and took a keen interest in college sports.
He himself had been a famous left end in his undergraduate days, and his
enthusiasm for the game had not lessened with the passing of the years
and the piling up of scholastic honors.

"We were talking about football, Professor," explained Bert, "and
agreeing that many of the rough edges had been planed off in the last
few years."

"I could have guessed that you weren't talking about your studies," said
the Professor quizzically. "You fellows seldom betray undue enthusiasm
about those. But you are right about the changes brought in by the new
rules. It surely was a bone-breaking, back-breaking game during my own
student days.

"And yet," he went on with a reminiscent smile, "even that was child's
play compared with what it was a thousand years ago."

"What!" cried Dick. "Is the game as old as that?"

"Much older," was the reply. "The Greeks and Romans played it two or
three thousand years ago. But I was referring especially to the
beginning of the game in England. In the tenth century, they commenced
by using human skulls as footballs."

"What!" exclaimed the boys in chorus.

"It's a fact beyond all question," reaffirmed the Professor. "In the
year 962, when the Danes were invading England, a resident of Chester
captured a Dane, cut off his head and kicked it around the streets. The
gentle populace of that time took a huge liking to the game and the idea
spread like wildfire. You see, it didn't cost much to run a football
team in those days. Whenever they ran short of material, they could go
out and kill a Dane, and there were always plenty swarming about."

"Those good old days of yore," quoted Dick.

"Plenty of bonehead plays in those days as well as now," murmured Tom.

"Of course," resumed the Professor, "that sort of thing couldn't go on
forever. The Danes withdrew, and naturally no Englishman was sport
enough to offer his own head for the good of the game. So they
substituted a leather ball. But the game itself was about as rough as
ever. It was usually played in the streets, and very often, when some
dispute arose about the rules, it developed into a battle royal, and the
players chased each other all over the town with ready fists and readier
clubs. Heads were broken and lives lost, and the King issued an edict
forbidding the game. But under other rulers it was resumed, though in a
somewhat milder form, and has continued up to the present.

"No longer ago than yesterday," he added, taking out his memorandum
book, "I ran across a criticism of the game, by an Englishman named
Stubbs, way back in 1583. He goes for it right and left, so bitterly and
yet so quaintly, that I thought it worth while preserving, old-fashioned
spelling and all. Here's the way it goes:

"'As concerning footballe, I protest unto you it may rather be called a
friendlie kind of a fight than a play or recreation, a bloody and
murthering practice than a felowy sort of pastime. For doth not every
one lie in wait for his adversary, seeking to overthrow him and kicke
him on the nose, though it be on hard stones or ditch or dale, or valley
or hill, so he has him down, and he that can serve the most of this
fashion is counted the only fellow, and who but he, so that by this
means their necks are broken, sometimes their backs, sometimes their
arms, sometimes their noses gush forth with blood, sometimes their eyes
start out; for they have the sleights to mix one between two, to dash
him against the heart with their elbows, to butt him under the short
ribs with their gripped fists, and with their knees to catch him on the
hip and kicke him on his neck with a hundred murthering devices.'"

"Phew," said Tom, "that's a hot one right off the bat."

"He hits straight from the shoulder," agreed Dick. "I'll bet the old boy
himself would have been a dandy football rusher, if he'd ever got into
the game."

"He certainly leaves no doubt as to where he stands on the question,"
assented the Professor, "and I think we'll admit, after that, that the
game has improved. The most rabid critic of to-day wouldn't go so far
as this old Briton. The game as played to-day offers very little danger
to life and not much more to limb. Of course, accidents happen now and
then, but that's true of every game. The old French proverb says that
'he who risks nothing, has nothing.' The element of risk in football is
more than counterbalanced by the character it develops. The whole secret
of success in life is to 'never say die.' And I don't know of any game
that teaches this as well as football. But I must be going," he
concluded, with a glance at his watch; and, turning off to the right
with a farewell wave of the hand, he left the boys to finish their
interrupted stroll.

"The Prof's all right," said Tom emphatically.

"They say that he was the bright particular star on his football team,"
contributed Dick.

"And he's starred just as brightly in his profession since then," chimed
in Bert.

"I guess that 'never say die' motto has stuck by him all the time,"
mused Tom. "It's a bully motto, too. By the way, have you fellows ever
heard the story of the mouse that fell in the milk pail?"

They stared at him suspiciously. Long experience with that facetious
youth had taught them the folly of biting too quickly, when he put a
question.

"No catch," protested Tom. "This is on the level."

"Well," said Dick, "if a crook like you _can_ be on the level, shoot."

"It was this way," continued Tom, cheerfully accepting the reflection on
his character. "Two mice fell into a bucket of milk. They swam about for
a while and then one of them gave it up and sank. The other one, though,
was made of different stuff and wouldn't give up. He kept on kicking
until he had churned the milk into butter. Then he climbed on top of it,
made a flying leap for the edge of the bucket and got away. You see, he
was a kicker from Kickersville and his motto was 'Never say die'."

They looked at him reproachfully, but Tom never "batted an eye."

"That mouse was a smooth proposition," murmured Dick softly.

"A slippery customer," echoed Bert. "But, Tom," he asked, in mock
innocence, "is that story true?"

"True?" snorted Tom, "you'd butter believe that it's true. Why----"

But this crowning outrage on the English language was too much, and he
took to his heels, barely escaping a flying tackle as they launched
themselves toward him.



CHAPTER II

RAKED, FORE AND AFT


IN the training quarters, "Bull" Hendricks paced to and fro, his
forehead creased by deep lines as he wrestled with the problems that
beset him.

Six feet two inches in height and built in proportion, he was a fine
figure of a man. Despite his weight and bulk, there was nothing ungainly
or awkward about him. If he had not the grace of an Apollo, he had what
was better--the mighty thews and sinews of a twentieth century Hercules.
His massive chest and broad shoulders were capped by a leonine head,
from which looked the imperious eyes of a born leader of men. Few men
cared to encounter those eyes when their owner was angered. He was a
good man to have as an ally, but a bad one to have as an antagonist.

How he had obtained his nickname was a disputed question in college
tradition. Some maintained that it was due to a habit of plunging
through the opposing lines with the power and momentum of an enraged
buffalo. Others with equal likelihood held that it was an abbreviation
of "bulldog," and had been won by the grit and grip that never let go
when he had closed with an enemy. But whatever the origin of the term,
all agreed that either definition was good enough to express the courage
and power and tenacity of the man. Force--physical force, mental force,
moral force--was the supreme characteristic that summed him up.

In his college days, ten years earlier, he had been a tower of strength
on the greatest football team that had ever worn the Blue, and the part
he played in its triumphs was still a matter of college song and story.
It was the day when mass play counted heavily, when the "guards back"
and the "flying wedge" were the favorite formations; and the Blue would
never forget how, after a series of line plunging, bone-breaking rushes,
he had dragged himself over the enemy's goal line with the whole frantic
eleven piled on him, while the Blue stands went stark raving mad over
the prowess of their champion. That famous goal had won him an
undisputed place on the All-American team for that year and the
captaincy of his own team the following season.

His reputation clung to him after he had graduated, and even among his
business associates he was commonly and affectionately referred to as
"Bull." The same qualities of courage and tenacity that had marked his
student days had followed him into the broader arena of business life,
and he had speedily become prosperous. But the tug of the old college
had drawn him back for more or less time every year to help "lick the
cubs into shape" and renew the memories of the past. This year the call
had been particularly insistent, owing to two bad seasons in succession,
when the Blues had been forced to lower their colors to their exulting
rivals who had so many defeats to avenge. A hurry call had gone out for
the very best man available to stop the "tobogganing" of the team; and
as this by universal consent was "Bull" Hendricks, he had, at a great
sacrifice, laid aside his personal interests and come to the rescue.

A few days on the ground had been sufficient to show him that he was "up
against it." A herculean task awaited him. The material he had to work
with was none too good. The line was lacking in "beef" and the backs in
speed. There were exceptions, notably at center and full and quarter;
and here his falcon eye detected the stuff of which stars are made. But
it takes eleven men to make a team and no individual brilliancy can
atone for a lack of combination work. "A chain is no stronger than its
weakest link," and, in a modified sense, a team is no stronger than its
weakest player. That one weaker player would be unerringly "sized up" by
the sharp-eyed scouts of the opposition and they would plunge against
him like a battering ram.

Usually, at the beginning of the fall season, there would be an influx
of promising candidates from the leading academies and preparatory
schools. Fellows who had starred at Andover and Exeter and
Lawrenceville, some of them giants in bulk or racehorses in speed, would
come in as Freshmen and give the Sophs or Juniors a tussle for the team.
But "nothing succeeds like success," and the failure of the Blues for
two seasons in succession had tarnished their prestige and turned toward
other colleges the players emulous of football glory. The "Greys" and
"Maroons" had "gobbled" the most likely "future greats" and the Blues
had been replenished by a number limited in quantity and mediocre in
quality. Of his veterans, the right guard and left tackle had graduated
that summer, and their places in the line would be hard to fill.

Not that the coach felt discouraged. He didn't know the meaning of the
word. It simply meant that he would have to work the harder. Like
Napoleon, the word "impossible" was not in his dictionary. It was said
once of a famous educator that "Mark Hopkins at one end of a log and a
student at the other would make a university." With equal truth it could
be declared that "Bull" Hendricks on the coaching line and eleven men
on the field would turn out a 'Varsity team.

His task was the more difficult just now because he was practically
alone. It was too early in the season for the "old grads" to put in an
appearance. By and by they would come flocking in droves from all
quarters of the compass, eager to renew their youth, and to infuse into
the raw recruits some of the undying enthusiasm that they felt for their
old Alma Mater. Then every separate player on the team could have the
benefit of the advice of some famous former player in his own position,
who would teach him every trick and turn by which he had won his own
reputation. But at present most of the work devolved on him. He had to
teach the backs how to kick, the ends how to run down under a punt, the
guards and tackles how to interfere; and into all he had to infuse the
deathless determination to win that is the very heart and core of the
game. Like a new Atlas, he was carrying the football world on his
shoulders, alone.

No, not quite alone. There was "Reddy." And that sorrel-topped
individual was a host in himself.

Not one fellow out of ten could have told his real name. He was simply
"Reddy" and they let it go at that. His flaming mop of hair to which he
owed his nickname covered a shrewd if uneducated mind. For many years he
had been connected with the college as head trainer, and in this
capacity he had turned out so many winners that he had become famous in
the athletic world. He had supreme control of the physical training of
all the teams turned out by the college--track, baseball and
football--and none excelled him in sending their men to the post in
superb condition. He had an unerring eye for an athlete and knew how to
bring each individual to the very top of his form. Whatever was in him
he brought out to the full. He was a universal favorite in the college.
All the boys swore by him, although at times perhaps--for his temper was
as red as his hair--they were tempted to swear _at_ him. But if they
ever did, it was under their breath, for Reddy was an autocrat, and in
his own domain ruled with an iron hand.

Just now, he was, as he himself put it, "as busy as a one-armed
paperhanger with the hives." Dinner was over and the football
candidates, scrub and 'Varsity alike, were getting into their togs and
undergoing the searching scrutiny of Reddy. There were bad knees and
ankles and shoulders galore. He began at the soles of the feet and went
up to the crown of the head.

"Take off those shoes, Kincaid," he commanded. "The soles are worn so
thin that you can't help feeling the cleats through them. Before you
know it, your feet'll be so bruised that you'll be wanting a crutch."

"Those phony ankles again, eh," he remarked, as he noticed a slight
wobbling on the part of Anderson. "Here," to an assistant, "give me that
tape." And with the skill of a surgeon he applied strips of adhesive
tape along each ligament, leaving a narrow space down the instep free
from bandaging to allow free circulation of the blood. And when he got
through, the "phony" ankle was so protected that it was practically
impossible for it to turn under its owner.

So, step by step, he went up the human frame that he knew so well. Shin
guards were handed out to the forwards to help them against the fierce
hammering that they would have to meet. Pads were strapped below the
knee and left loose above to give free play to the joints. The thighs
were protected by fiber, and large felt pads covered the hips and
kidneys. Then with shoulder and collarbone pads, topped by a head guard,
the costume was complete. Then Reddy stood in the door that led to the
presence of the coach and not a man went through until the trainer's
critical eye pronounced him ready for the fray.

"Don't hurry," he said goodnaturedly, as some crowded past him. "'Tis
quick enough ye'll be getting in there, I'm thinking," and his eyes
twinkled, as he thought of the castigation that awaited them.

To tell the truth, they did not hurry. There were no bouquets awaiting
them. They knew that they were due for a raking fore and aft and that
they deserved it. No one could tell which one or how many would be
"fired" back into the scrubs. More than one of them, on waking in the
morning, wondered what made his heart so heavy, until with a qualm the
thought of "Bull" Hendricks came to enlighten him. That thought had
persisted all through the morning hours, and, if they were distrait in
the recitation rooms, the reason was not far to seek. Even Tom's
irrepressible spirits were somewhat tamed, although he had less to fear
than some of the others.

"Gee," he whispered, "it's like a funeral."

"Don't cheer, boys, the poor devils are dying," murmured Bert.

          "They piled the stiffs outside the door,
           There must have been a cord or more,"

quoted Dick.

The subdued way in which the boys filed in gave the coach his cue.

"Nice little flock of sheep," he purred. "Little Bo-Peep will miss you
pretty soon and come down here looking for you."

"There was a time," he flashed, "when a Blue football team was a pack of
wolves. But you're just sheep and the 'Greys' and 'Maroons' will make
mutton of you, all right."

"A football team!" he went on scornfully. "Why, you don't know the
rudiments of the game. You're a bunch of counterfeits. You can't tackle,
you can't interfere, you can't kick, you can't buck the line. Outside of
that, you're all right.

"Now this kind of work has got to stop. As a comic opera football team,
you're a scream. If the 'Greys' or 'Maroons' had seen you yesterday,
they'd have laughed themselves to death. But no Blue team has ever been
a joke in my time, and you're not going to get away with it, if I can
pound any brains into your heads or any strength in your muscles. If
Nature hasn't done it already, I don't know that I can, but I'm going to
try. The team I'm going to send into the field may be licked but it
shan't be disgraced. It's going to be an eleven made up of men--not
female impersonators. And I'll get them if I have to rake the college
with a comb."

From generals he came down to particulars, and his rasping tongue spared
no one, as he went over the plays of the day before and described their
sins of omission and commission. The men writhed beneath the lash and
their faces tingled with shame. But they were game and stood the
"lacing" with what grace they might, the more so as they realized that
the criticism, though bitter, was just. His whip tore the flesh and he
rubbed vitriol into the wounds, but behind it all was his immense
passion for victory and his pride in the old college that they loved and
wanted to serve as ardently as he did. It was a wry dose and they
swallowed it with a gulp, but it braced them to new endeavor, and deep
down in their hearts was forming a resolution that boded ill for the
scrubs, who had been gloating while the 'Varsity "got theirs."

"Now," the coach concluded, "I'd about made up my mind to fire half this
gang of quitters back into the scrubs, but I'm going to give you one
more chance. Do you get me? Just one more. For the next hour, you'll
practice tackling and passing and interference. Then when you've
limbered up your poor old joints, I'm going to line you up against the
scrubs. I want you to rip them up, eat them alive, tear them to pieces.
And heaven help the 'Varsity man that falls down on the job."

The boys saw some real practice that day. The coach was merciless. They
flung themselves against the dummy tackle until they were bruised and
sore. They ran down the field under punts until their breath came in
gasps. They practiced the forward pass until they were dizzy and seemed
to see ten balls flying over the field instead of one. But no one
complained or shirked, although every separate bone and muscle seemed to
have its own particular ache. A short respite, the 'Varsity and scrub
faced each other as they had the day before.

But the hour had struck for the scrubs. They faced their doom. To be
sure, they faced it gallantly, but it was doom none the less. From the
beginning they never had a chance. All the pent up rage of the 'Varsity
that had accumulated while they were being flayed by the coach was
poured out on the devoted heads of their opponents. They wiped out the
stigma of the day before and paid their debt with interest. It was a
"slaughter grim and great," and before their furious attack the scrub
line crumpled up like paper.

In vain Morley yelled to his little band to stand fast. They might as
well have tried to stem Niagara. Warren and Hodge tackled like fiends.
Dick at center and Tom at quarter worked together with the precision of
a machine. Bert's mighty kicks were sure to find Caldwell or Drake under
them when they came down, and three times he lifted the pigskin over the
bars. Then as the play was most of the time in the scrubs' territory,
the kicking game gave place to line bucking. Bert was given the ball,
and through the holes that Boyd and Ellis made for him in the enemy's
line he plunged like a locomotive. There was no stopping them, and the
game became a massacre. They simply stood the scrubs "on their heads."
Their own goal line was not even threatened, let alone crossed.
Touchdown followed touchdown, until when the whistle blew, the 'Varsity
had rolled up a score of 54 to 0 and their humiliation had been
gloriously avenged.

"Well, Morley," taunted Drake, as the panting warriors left the field,
"how about that 'false alarm' stuff?"

"Who's loony now?" crowed Tom.

"Only a spasm," countered Morley, with a sickly grin. "We'll get you
yet."

"Bull" Hendricks said never a word as the fellows filed past, but, as he
turned to leave the field, his eyes encountered Reddy's, and he favored
that grinning individual with a drawing down of the right eyelid that
closely resembled a wink. And when he was alone in his own quarters, he
indulged in a low chuckle.

"Pretty strong medicine," he said to himself as he lighted his pipe,
"but it worked. I guess I'm some doctor."



CHAPTER III

A THRILLING EXPLOIT


A PLEASANT surprise awaited the boys that evening as they went from the
training table to their rooms. Under the elms in front of their
dormitory, two men were pacing up and down. The close resemblance
between them indicated that they were father and son. As they turned
toward the boys there was an instant recognition, and they hurried
forward in eager greeting.

"Mr. Quinby--Ralph," they cried in chorus.

"We can't tell you how glad we are to see you," said Bert. "What lucky
wind blew you so far from California?"

"Business, as usual," responded Mr. Quinby, evidently pleased by the
warmth of his welcome. "I had to attend a meeting of directors in New
York, and while I was so near, I thought I'd take a day off and run down
here for a look around."

"That's what he says," laughed Ralph, "but, as a matter of fact, Dad
gets hungry to see the old college every once in so often, and I think
he fakes up the 'business' talk just as an excuse."

"Impudent young cub, isn't he?" said Mr. Quinby with mock severity. "But
I refuse to say anything in defense, on the ground that I might
incriminate myself. Anyway, I'm here, and that's the main point. How are
things going with you fellows?"

"Fine," was the response. "But come right on up to our rooms. We're not
going to let you get away from us in a hurry, now that we've laid hands
on you."

"We'll surrender," smiled Mr. Quinby. "Lead on MacDuff." And they
mounted to the rooms that Bert and Dick occupied together, a floor
higher up than Tom.

A flood of memories had swept over Bert at the unexpected meeting. Two
years had passed since they had been closely associated and many things
had happened since that time. Yet all the experiences of that memorable
summer stood out in his mind as clearly as the events of yesterday.

Mr. Quinby had been the owner of a fleet of vessels plying between San
Francisco and China. Needing a wireless operator on one of his ships, he
had applied to the Dean of the college and he had recommended Bert, who
was pursuing a course in electricity and making a specialty of wireless
telegraphy. Tom and Dick had made that trip with him, and it had been
replete with adventure from start to finish. At the very outset, they
had been attacked by a Malay running amuck, and only their quickness
and presence of mind had saved them from sudden death. Soon after
clearing the harbor, they had received the S.O.S. signal, and had been
able thereby to save the passengers of a burning ship. A typhoon had
caught them in its grip and threatened to send them all to Davy Jones.
His flesh crept yet as he recalled the tiger creeping along the deck of
the animal ship after breaking loose from his cage. And, traced on his
memory more deeply perhaps than anything else, was that summer evening
off the Chinese coast when they had been attacked by pirates. Sometimes
even yet in his dreams he saw the yellow faces of that fiendish band and
heard the blows of the iron bars on their shaven skulls, when old Mac
and his husky stokers had jumped into the fray.

How large a part he had played in that repulse he seldom allowed himself
to dwell upon in thought and never referred to it in speech. But the
country had rung with it, and his friends never tired of talking about
it. And none knew better than Mr. Quinby himself that he owed the safety
of his vessel and the lives of all on board to the quick wit of Bert in
sending the electric current from the dynamo into the wires and hurling
the screaming rascals back into their junks. His first words, after
they were settled comfortably in their chairs, showed of what he had
been thinking.

"Have you run up against any more pirates lately, Bert?" he asked.

"Not of the yellow kind," was the laughing response, "but it looks as
though we might meet some white ones before long. They say that the
'Greys' and 'Maroons' are flying the skull and crossbones and
threatening to give no quarter, when they stack up against us on the
gridiron."

"Threatened men live long," said Mr. Quinby drily. "I've heard that talk
before, but I notice that the Blues usually give a good account of
themselves when it comes to an actual fight. It was so in my own college
days. There'd be all sorts of discouraging rumors afloat and the general
public would get the idea that the team was going around on crutches.
But when the day of the game came, they'd go out and wipe up the field
with their opponents. So I'm not worrying much for fear you'll have to
walk the plank."

"You'd have thought so if you had heard the way the coach waded into us
to-day," broke in Tom. "Since I heard him, I've had a new respect for
the English language. I never knew it had such resources."

"There was a certain honeyed sweetness about it that was almost
cloying," grinned Bert.

          "'Twas all very well to dissemble his love,
           But why did he kick us downstairs?"

added Dick.

Mr. Quinby laughed reminiscently.

"I've heard coaches talk," he said, "and I know that some of them are
artists when it comes to skinning a man alive. They'd cut through the
hide of a rhinoceros. But that is part of the game, and if a man is
over-sensitive, he doesn't want to try to make a football team. I'll
wager just the same that it did you fellows good."

"We licked the scrubs by 54 to 0," answered Tom. "We felt so sore that
we had to take it out on somebody."

"Sure thing," commented Mr. Quinby. "Just what the coach wanted. He gets
you fighting mad, until when you go out you are 'seeing red' and looking
for a victim. I've been there myself and I know."

"Did you ever play on the football team while you were an undergrad?"
asked Tom.

"No, I wasn't heavy enough. They needed beef in those days more than
they do now. You wouldn't think it, perhaps," with a glance at his
present generous girth, "but I was a slender young sprout at that time,
and I had to content my athletic ambitions with track work and baseball.
But I was crazy over football, and I was always there to root and yell
for the team when the big games were pulled off. And many a time since
I've traveled from San Francisco all the way to New York to see a
Thanksgiving Day game. Sometimes, the result has made me want to go away
somewhere and hide, but more often the good old Blue has come out on
top, and then I've been so hoarse from yelling that I haven't been able
to talk above a whisper for a week. Of course it wouldn't be a good
thing for the game if one team won all the time, and as long as we cop
about two out of three, I'm not doing any kicking. It isn't often that
we lose two years in succession, and I'm looking for you fellows now to
come across with a victory."

"We'll do our best not to disappoint you," said Bert. "It's a sure thing
that we haven't as heavy a line as we've had in other years, and for
that reason we'll have to play more of an open game. But we've got a
dandy new shift that will give the other fellows something to think
about when we spring it on them, and probably Hendricks has one or two
aces up his sleeve. I heard him tell Reddy the other day that he was
planning a variation of the forward pass that he thought would be a
corker."

"Well," said Mr. Quinby, "we'll hope so. It's almost as hard to forecast
results in football as it is in baseball. The game's never over until
the referee blows his whistle. I've seen teams touted as certain winners
go all to pieces on the day of the game. Then, again, there have been
times when the team didn't seem to have as much of a chance as a blind
man in a dark room hunting for a black cat that wasn't there. But they'd
go out just the same and stand the other fellows on their heads."

"You must have seen a lot of sparkling plays in your time," remarked Tom
enviously.

"I surely have," assented Mr. Quinby. "Perhaps the best of all was one
that thrills me now when I think of it, although I didn't enjoy it so
much at the time, because it did the Blues out of a victory just when
they thought they had it tucked away safely."

"Tell us about it," came in a chorus from the boys.

"Well, it was this way," and he lighted a fresh cigar as he settled back
for a "fanning bee." "The 'Greys' came up to meet us that year with one
of the best teams they ever turned out. They seemed to have everything,
weight and strength and speed, and, on the 'dope,' we didn't have a
chance in the world. They had gone through their schedule with the
smaller colleges like a prairie fire, and the scores they piled up had
been amazing. Their goal line hadn't been crossed all season, and all
the newspaper writers tipped them to slaughter us.

"We had a dandy captain that year, though, and he, together with the
coaches, had done wonders with the material on hand. The old Blue spirit
that never knows when it is licked was there too. The game was on our
grounds and although the 'Greys' had an immense delegation in their
stands, we outnumbered and outyelled them. Say, maybe we didn't give the
boys a send-off when they trotted through the gates and began passing
and falling on the ball in practice. If we felt any doubts, that yell
didn't show it.

"From the time the ball was kicked off it was a fight for blood. And you
can imagine whether we fellows went crazy when we saw that our team was
winning. We got off to a flying start, and, instead of having to defend
our own goal, we took the offensive and kept the ball in the enemy's
territory most of the time. We scored a goal from the field, and
although the 'Greys' fought desperately, we seemed to have their number.

"It was the same in the second half. We downed them when they tried to
rush us, blocked when they kicked, and stopped them in their attempt to
skirt the ends. It was near the end of the last half, and there was only
five minutes left to play. It looked as though it were 'all over but
the shouting,' and you can bet that we were doing enough of that. The
Blue stands were a good imitation of a lunatic asylum.

"But here Fate took a hand, and two minutes later we wanted to die. The
ball was in our hands, halfway down the field. As we had already made
one score, while the 'Greys' had nothing, all we had to do was to play
safe and the game was ours.

"Peters, our captain, was a splendid fellow and a 'dead game sport.' It
seemed to him a little like 'babying' to fritter away the few minutes
remaining in safety play. The more generous instinct prevailed, and he
'took a chance.' He shot the ball back to the quarter. He in turn passed
it to the back, who got in a perfect kick that sent it far down the
field and close to the enemy's goal. One of the 'Greys' made a grab at
it, but it was one of those twisting deceptive punts and bounded out of
his hands down toward the southern line. One of his mates was just
behind him and, quick as lightning, he caught the ball on the bound,
tucked it under his arm and scooted down the field toward our goal line.

"Our forwards of course had run down under the kick and had got past the
ball, expecting to pick it up when they saw that it had been muffed. So
the 'Grey' runner was well past them before they could stop their
momentum and turn in their tracks. The back who had kicked the ball was
near the northern side, too far away to interfere, and Lamar, the
runner, covering the ground like a deer, hugged the southern line.

"There were only two men in his way, and they made the mistake of
keeping too close together, so that, as Lamar neared them, he made a
superb dodge and slipped by both of them at once. Now he had a clear
field before him, but with forty yards yet to go.

"How he ran! He had lost some time in the dodging and twisting, and now
the whole Blue eleven were thundering at his heels. He could hear their
panting as they sought to close in on him. The nearest one was not more
than five feet away. He let out a link and fairly flew. The white lines
of the field fell away behind him. One more tremendous effort by pursuer
and pursued, and just as eager hands reached out to grasp him, he
flashed over the goal line for a touchdown. Suddenly, brilliantly,
inconceivably, the 'Greys' had won the game.

"Were we sore? We felt like draping the college buildings with crepe. To
have had victory right within our reach and then to have had it snatched
away in that fashion! Poor old Peters was fairly sick over it. I suppose
to this day he has never forgiven himself for that sportsmanlike
instinct.

"But nobody blamed him. The crowd took their medicine. Strictly
speaking, I suppose it was foolish. As was said of the charge of the
Light Brigade that 'it was magnificent but it was not war,' so, no
doubt, many thought of Peters' move that although generous it was not
football. Still the finest things in human life are often the 'foolish'
things. At any rate, it enriched the history of the game with one of the
most dashing and spectacular plays ever made.

"Those pesky 'Greys'," he mused. "They were always doing things like
that. They had a fellow once that was always starting the fireworks. Poe
was his name--a relative, by the way, of Edgar Allan Poe. I remember
once, when with just one minute left to play and the ball thirty yards
from our goal line, he dropped back for a kick and sent the ball sailing
over the line for the goal that won the game. You've heard no doubt the
song that the gloating 'Greys' made to immortalize a run down the field
that he made on another famous occasion:

          & never mortale Manne shall knowe
            How ye Thynge came about--
          But from yt close-pressed Masse of Menne
            Ye Feet Balle poppeth oute.

          & Poe hath rushed within ye Breache--
            Towards Erthe one Second kneeled--
          He tuckes ye Balle benethe hys Arme,
            & Saunteres down ye Fielde.

          Ye Elis tear in fierce pursuite;
            But Poe eludes yem alle;
          He rushes 'twixt ye quyvverynge Postes
            & sytteth on ye Balle.

          But Arthur Poe hathe kyckt ye balle
            (Oh woefulle, woefulle Daye.)
          As straighte as myghte Dewey's Gunnes
            upon ye fyrste of Maye."

"They're foemen worthy of our steel, all right," laughed Dick.

"All the more credit in licking them," chimed in Tom.

"The percentage is on our side, after all," added Bert. "We've won about
two-thirds of all the games we have played together."

"Some funny things happen in the course of a game," went on Mr. Quinby,
who in this congenial company was feeling the years drop away from him
and was enjoying himself immensely. "I remember once when our boys
played Trinity in Hartford. At that time, the woolen jersey was part of
the regulation football suit. This made tackling too easy, as one could
get a good grip on the jersey, especially after it had been stretched in
the course of the game. There had been some talk of substituting other
material for it, but nothing had been done. You can imagine our surprise
then when, on the day of the game, the Trinity men came out on the field
in a full uniform of canvas. It was stiff and shiny and you couldn't get
a good grip on it to save your life. That was bad enough, but, in
addition, the Trinity boys had covered their uniforms with grease. Our
fellows didn't tumble to it until after the game was under way and the
enemy were wriggling away from us like so many eels. It was a time for
quick thinking, but the Blues rose to the occasion. They sent out a
hurry call for a bag of sand, and when it came, they grabbed handsful of
it and so were able to get more or less of a grip on their slippery
opponents. A rule was made later on forbidding the use of grease. The
canvas uniforms, however, proved so much superior to the older style
that it was officially adopted and has been in use ever since."

"How did the trick work?" asked Ralph. "Did they get away with the
game?"

"No, we beat them all right, but by a close score and it certainly
played hob with our tackling and interfering.

"Speaking of tricks, I remember one played by the Carlisle Indians. In
addition to being crack football players, those 'noble red men' are
about as smooth propositions as you'll find anywhere. The bland Ah Sin
was a piker compared with them. You have to keep your eye peeled all the
time. They were playing Harvard and the Indians got the ball on a kick
off. There was a scrimmage, and when the crowd was untangled, the ball
had disappeared. Suddenly, Dillon, of the Indians, darted out and made
for the Harvard goal. But he didn't have the ball under his arm, and,
after starting in pursuit, the Harvard boys thought it was a mere feint
to draw them after him and turned back to see who really had it. Dillon
went 105 yards down the field, running like the wind, and crossed the
Harvard goal for a touchdown, and then they saw that he had the ball.
And where do you think it had been all the time? Tucked up the back of
his jersey. It had been enlarged especially for that purpose before the
game began, and the first chance they had they worked the trick. The
Harvard fellows raged, but there was nothing in the rules to forbid it
and the touchdown counted. Since then the rules have been amended, and
now the ball has to be in sight outside the clothing."

"He must have had a hunch that he would win," murmured Tom.

"Yes," assented Mr. Quinby. "A hunch on his back and a hunch in his
heart. The Harvard boys had to stand for an awful joshing on the way
they had been outwitted by 'Lo! the poor Indian with untutored mind.'

"But brain work and quick thinking aren't confined to the redskins. I
recall a game played between the Army and Navy. You know there's always
a fierce rivalry between those branches of Uncle Sam's service, and this
game was being played for all it was worth. The Army had the ball and
the fullback punted it to the center of the field. The Navy quarter
tried to make a fair catch, but it slipped from his fingers. The Army
center had run down under the kick and was close to the ball when it
fell to the ground. The Navy men were so close behind that they would
have piled on top of him if he had stooped to pick up the ball. So he
kicked the ball ahead of him, following it up and ready to reach down
and pick it up the minute he had the chance. But the Navy was so close
that he had to keep dribbling it along and he kept this up until with
one last kick he sent it over the goal and fell upon it for a touchdown.
It was a new wrinkle in the game, and one of the hardest things in the
world to get away with. They've tried it repeatedly since, but that
feat of the Army man still stands as the star play of the 'dribbling'
game.

"A good deal of the rough stuff has been cut out of the game and I'm
glad of it, but in my college days almost everything 'went,' provided
the referee wasn't looking. There was a lot of slugging and jiu-jitsu
work, and more fellows had to be taken out of the game because of
injuries than at present. Often a concerted effort was made to 'get'
some especially efficient man on the other side, and they weren't always
scrupulous about the way they did it. I remember one time we were
playing a big game, and 'Butch' Allaire, the best player on the Blue
team, had his knee badly hurt. We were short of good substitutes, and he
felt that he had to continue playing, if it were at all possible. So,
after a short wait, he came limping out again to his position, with a
white bandage tied round his knee outside his uniform. To the other
side, that bandage was like a red rag to a bull. They lunged against
him, piled on top of him, and in every scrimmage they pressed heavily on
that wounded knee. But, despite all their efforts, he played out the
game, and we came out winners. After the excitement was over, the
captain said to him:

"'Great work, Butch, but why in thunder did you wear that bandage on
your knee? They knew just what to go for.'"

Butch grinned. "I tied it round the well knee," he said.

The boys laughed.

"Well," remarked Dick, "some of the prize-fighting tactics may have been
rooted out of the game, but I'll bet the coaching is just as rough as it
used to be."

"I'm not at all sure about that," said Mr. Quinby dubiously. "I'll admit
that 'Bull' Hendricks is a finished workman when it comes to the use of
pet names, after he's been stirred up by some bonehead play. But, after
all, he doesn't use the paddle."

"Paddle!" came the exclamation in chorus.

"That's what I said. Paddle. In my day it was used by almost all the
coaches, as an aid to quick thinking. Some advocate it even yet. The
coach would take up his position right behind some line man when the
ball was about to be put into play in practice.

"'Now, my son,' he would say, 'the minute the ball is snapped back I'm
going to give you a fearful whack with this paddle. It's up to you to
jump so fast that the paddle won't find anything to hit.'

"Did it work? I should say it did. Sometimes the paddle would catch him
and sometimes it wouldn't, but after a few days of that the slowest of
them would be off like a flash the instant the ball was snapped back.
After that it wouldn't be necessary. They'd got the habit of a quick
start. And you fellows know that that is the secret of good football, as
it is of almost everything else--to get the jump on the other fellows.

"Nowadays, the methods are more often mental than physical. One coach I
know works it something like this:

"'I want you to imagine that I have a loaded shotgun in my hand and that
I am going to pull the trigger when the ball is snapped, and that you
must get out of range before I fill you full of shot.'

"No doubt both methods help in the development of speed, but as between
the two, my money goes on the paddle.

"But now," he said, as he made a motion to rise, "I'll have to go. I've
had a bully good time with you fellows, but I'm keeping you from your
studies and then, too, there are one or two of the old Profs I want to
see before I turn in. I'll see you again before I go and I'll be there
with bells on where the big games are pulled off. Good luck," and
although they urged him to stay longer, he and Ralph took their leave.

"Great old sport, isn't he?" said Tom, when they were left alone.

"All to the good," replied Bert heartily.

"Let's hope that last 'good luck' of his was prophetic," remarked Dick.

"It's up to us to make it so," said Bert thoughtfully. "Of course there
is such a thing as luck, but I've usually noticed that luck and pluck go
together."

"O, I don't know," said skeptical Tom. "Sometimes a 'jinx' follows a man
or a team, and everything goes against them. You've heard of the man

          Whose horse went dead and his mule went lame,
          And he lost his cow in a poker game,
          And a cyclone came on a summer day
          And blew the house where he lived away.
          Then an earthquake came when that was done,
          And swallowed the ground that the house stood on.
          Then a tax collector, he came round
          And charged him up with the hole in the ground."

"Some hard luck story, sure enough," grinned Bert. "Heaven forbid that
any such hoodoo get after us. But, somehow, the result of the game
to-day and Mr. Quinby's talk have braced me up, and I feel a mighty
sight more hopeful than I did yesterday."

"Same here," acquiesced Dick. "I've a hunch that we're due to give the
'Greys' and 'Maroons' a great big licking. At any rate, if we lose,
they'll know they've been in a fight, and we'll try to take our medicine
gracefully."

"Spoken like a sport, old man," cried Bert, clapping him on the
shoulder. "God loves a cheerful giver, but the whole world loves a
cheerful loser."



CHAPTER IV

BREAKING THE RULES


"YES," remarked Tom, following up a conversation he and his two comrades
had been engaged in for some time, "there's certainly something
radically wrong with Martin, and personally I believe he's hitting the
booze, or something just as bad. There's always some explanation when a
fellow goes all to pieces the way he has, and ninety-nine times out of a
hundred the answer is 'red-eye.'"

"I wouldn't be surprised if you were right, Tom," agreed Bert soberly,
"and it's too bad, too. Martin has always been such a good scout that I
hate to see him going back. What he needs is to have somebody give him a
heart-to-heart talk and point out the error of his ways to him. But
likely even that would do little good, anyway. When drink once gets a
hold on a man it usually takes more than talk to break him of the
habit."

"You can bet your hat it does," put in Dick. "I guess nobody who hasn't
actually fallen a victim of the liquor habit and then broken himself of
it can have any idea of the struggle necessary to do it. The only safe
way is to let the 'stuff' strictly alone."

"Right you are," said Bert earnestly. "Everybody thinks that liquor will
never get a grip on him. Oh, no! But what most people never take into
account is the fact that every drink of whiskey taken weakens the will
just a little, and makes it just so much harder to refuse the next
drink. So it goes on, in increasing ratio, until it becomes next to
impossible for the victim to break himself of the habit. My idea is,
don't monkey with a red-hot poker and you won't get hurt. If you do, no
matter how careful you may be, you're apt to get hold of the hot end,
and then it's too late to wish you hadn't."

"My, Bert, you could get a job as lecturer for the W. C. T. U.," laughed
Dick. "But just the same," he continued more seriously, "there's not a
doubt in the world but what you're dead right. But the question is, if
Martin, as we have reason to believe, has started drinking, what can we
do to help him? Not only for his sake, but for the sake of the college.
Without him on the team, we'd be so badly crippled that we wouldn't have
a chance in the world to win the championship."

"I don't know what we can do, I'm sure," said Bert with a perplexed
frown; "about all we can do is sit tight, and hope he'll see the error
of his ways before he gets so bad that Reddy will have to fire him from
the squad."

The others had no suggestions to offer, and after a little further
discussion of the problem they gathered up their paraphernalia and went
to their respective rooms.

The foregoing conversation took place on a Monday evening, and all the
next day the three comrades saw comparatively little of each other, all
being "up to their eyes in work," as Tom expressed it. But on Wednesday
morning they happened to meet on the campus after the first lecture
period, and Tom proposed that that evening, after supper, they take a
ramble through the town after they had prepared their work for the
following day.

"I'm beginning to feel stale," he complained; "Reddy won't let us go to
a theater, of course, because that would keep us up too late. But I
guess he'd have no objection to our taking a walk like that, provided we
got back early."

"All right," said Bert. "I was just going to propose something of the
kind myself. You'll come, won't you, Dick?"

"Surest thing you know," agreed that personage promptly. "What time do
you want to go? About seven o'clock?"

The others were agreeable to this, and so the matter was settled. They
talked a few minutes more, and then hurried away to the classrooms.

In accordance with this plan, they met at the appointed time in Bert's
room, and sallied merrily forth. And indeed, it seemed as though these
three needed no other entertainment than they could give each other.
What with jokes, laughter, and "monkey-shines" the time passed very
quickly, and they soon found themselves on one of the main thoroughfares
of the town. They sauntered along, extracting amusement from everything
they saw, and were about to return to the college, when Bert's laughing
face suddenly grew grave.

They were approaching a brilliantly lighted saloon at the time, and Bert
halted his companions with a gesture.

"What's up, Bert?" inquired Tom and Dick in surprise.

"I may be mistaken," replied Bert, "but I'm sure I saw Martin go into
that place. And I should think, by the way he was walking, that he'd
absorbed a few drinks already. What do you think we ought to do about
it?"

"We might wait around until he comes out, and then give him a talking
to," suggested Dick.

"No, I think that the best thing we can do is to go in and catch him red
handed," said Bert. "It may make him so ashamed of himself that he'll
cut out such things in the future."

"Well, perhaps that would be best," said Dick, and as Tom seemed to
think so too, they decided to follow this course of action.

Accordingly, they made their way through the swinging doors, and found
themselves in the brilliantly lighted interior of the saloon. Rows of
glasses behind the polished mahogany bar sparkled in the light, and many
mirrors reflected it, so that at first their eyes were almost dazzled.
Nevertheless, they had little difficulty in locating Martin. He was
leaning up against the far end of the bar, a whiskey decanter in front
of him, and a glass a third full of the liquor in his hand.

Even as the boys watched him he raised the glass to his lips, and
emptied the contents at two gulps. He was starting to pour out another
portion when Bert walked swiftly up to him and laid his hand on his arm.

"Come on along out of this, Martin," he said; "we're all going back to
the college now, and you'd better come back with us."

Martin turned toward him, but hardly seemed to recognize him. He was
about to speak when the bartender, who saw a good customer being taken
away from him, interfered.

"Aw, let de gent alone, can't youse," he said, in a belligerent tone;
"he's got a right to take a drink or two if he wants to, ain't he? He
don't look like no kid to need a guardian."

"You keep out of this," said Bert, with a steely glint in his eyes,
"this is our business, not yours, and if you want to steer clear of
trouble don't try to mix in."

The bartender seamed inclined at first to try the efficacy of force, but
as Dick and Tom ranged up alongside Bert, he thought better of it.

"Awright," he grumbled, "awright. Take the guy along wid youse, an' I
wish you joy of him."

Martin at first refused to move, but at last, by dint of much
persuasion, the three comrades prevailed on him to go with them. Bert
and Tom supported him on either side, guiding his uncertain footsteps to
the best of their ability.

"I only hope we don't meet any one we know," said Dick fervently. "We'd
better take a roundabout course going back, so as to take as little
chance as possible of that happening."

"It wouldn't be a bad idea," said Tom, "and I think it would be a good
stunt for me to go on ahead and do a little scouting. I could meet you
at the east gate and let you know if the coast is clear. If possible, we
want to get Mart to his room without anybody getting on to the state of
affairs."

"All right, go ahead," acquiesced Bert, "we'll get there as soon as we
can."

Accordingly Tom set off at a round pace, and soon came within sight of
the college towers. Fortunately, there was a swimming contest going on
in the natatorium, and many students who ordinarily would have been apt
to be wandering about on the campus were indoors watching the swimmers.
There was hardly a soul to be seen, and Tom prayed that the favorable
conditions might last until Bert and Dick arrived with their unfortunate
charge.

He hurried to the appointed meeting place, and strained his eyes through
the darkness in search of the trio that he knew must be pretty near by
this time. Sure enough, in less than five minutes they emerged from a
neighboring street, and Tom walked swiftly up to them.

"We're in luck," he said, in a low tone. "Everybody's in the natatorium
watching the swimming meet, and we've got the campus practically to
ourselves. I'll walk in front of Martin, and the chances are we'll get
him to his room without anybody getting wise."

Bert and Dick accordingly hurried Martin forward as fast as possible,
and, as Tom had predicted, found everything favorable to them. They
hurried across the deserted campus, and entered the dormitory in which
Martin's room was located by a side door.

By the greatest good fortune they met no one in the corridors, and in a
very few moments had the "high life" exponent safely in his room.

"Well, that's about all we can do to-night," said Bert, as they were
leaving the room. "I think the best thing will be to let him sleep off
the effects of his carouse, and then give him a talking to to-morrow."

"I think we'd better leave that to you," said Dick, after exchanging
glances with Tom. "Probably if we all got at him at once, it would only
make him obstinate. You do the talking for all of us, Bert. Show Mart
what bad medicine he's been mixing, and maybe he'll come around to your
point of view."

"Well," agreed Bert, but with evident reluctance, "I suppose that would
be the best way to do it. I'll get hold of him some time to-morrow, and
talk to him like a Dutch uncle."

Accordingly, the next day he was on the lookout for the backslider.
Several times in the course of the day he saw him, but Martin always
managed to avoid him, more by design than accident, as Bert thought. At
last, however, after the last recitation period, he cornered him in a
secluded corner of the campus.

"I guess you know what I want to say to you, don't you, Mart?" he
inquired gravely.

"Oh, yes, I guess I know, all right," the other replied sullenly, "but
there's no use your preaching to me about the evils of drink, or
anything like that. I've tried to cut out the stuff, and I can't, that's
all. I'm going to Reddy to-night and resign from the team."

"You're not going to do anything of the kind," said Bert gravely,
"you're going to keep right on being the best halfback the college ever
had, but I'm going to ask a personal favor of you on behalf of myself,
and also Trent and Henderson."

"I think I know what you mean," said Martin suspiciously, "but fire away
and ask it."

"We want you to go to Reddy and make a clean breast of it, ending up by
promising to do your best to cut out the 'stuff,'" said Bert. "Will you
do it? Don't say no now," as the other started to shake his head, "don't
give me an answer now, if you don't want to. Think it over. I'm mighty
sure if you think hard enough you'll do what we want you to."

"I'll do it!" exclaimed Martin, suddenly thrusting out his hand, "and
I'll let the booze alone in the future if it takes a leg. You and the
others have done me a bigger service than you'll ever realize,
probably."

"Well, you know the way you can best repay it," said Bert, with a hearty
smile, and after another strong handclasp they parted.

Bert went straight to Dick and Tom, and told them what he had
accomplished. "I think he'll keep his word, too," he finished. And as it
proved, he, was right. From that day forward Martin reported regularly
for practice, and kept strictly to training table regulations. In less
than a week he was back to his old time form, and became as he had been
before, one of the mainstays of the team.



CHAPTER V

TACKLING THE ARMY


"THIS looks like a case of bearding the lion in his den," remarked Dick,
as the stately steamer on which they had embarked at New York that
morning swept up to the landing at West Point, and the boys were
gathering up their traps to go ashore.

"It's certainly a stiff contract to tackle the future leaders of the
United States Army," replied Tom. "But we're the boys to do it, and to
lick them, too. If that be treason, make the most of it."

"Don't you be too sure of that," admonished Bert. "From all I hear,
they're a husky set of brutes, and we're likely to have our hands full.
They've never been easy picking and we'd better postpone our jubilee
till after the game."

"Punk philosophy," countered Tom. "Let's have it now and make sure of
it."

He was clearly a hopeless case, and they gave up the task of subduing
his levity, and started for the gang plank.

It was a large party that had come up the river on that glorious day in
early October, to test the prowess and mettle of the cadets. The team
itself with the substitutes numbered over thirty, and there was a small
army of rubbers and other attendants. To these were added several
hundred of the college boys, and these were further reinforced by a host
of "old grads" who sniffed the battle from afar and couldn't resist the
temptation to "come on along," and root for the youngsters on their
scalp-hunting expedition.

The game with the Army was always one of the events of the football
season. Although not ranked with the "big three," they followed close
behind, and once in a while gave the "top-liners" a hard struggle to
avoid defeat. Only the year before, they had held the Blues to a 6 to 0
score, and on a muddy field had played a tie with the "Maroons" after a
Homeric contest. They were not "easy meat" for any one, and the coaches
of every team had learned not to hold them lightly.

This year, disquieting rumors had leaked out from West Point as to the
strength of the team. They were said to have the heaviest aggregation
behind the line that they had had in twenty years, and it was freely
predicted that here, if anywhere, the Blues might find themselves
overmatched. The fullback was a new recruit who weighed close to two
hundred pounds, and despite his weight was said to be as fast as greased
lightning. The two halves were both veterans, and one of them the
previous season had been picked for the All-American team in his
position. In addition they had a powerful set of guards and tackles, and
it was universally acknowledged that their quarterback was one that it
would be hard to match on any of the big teams.

Still the Blues were not greatly stirred up by this advance information.
If they were to be "licked," it would have to be by actual speed and
muscle on the field, and not by "dope" that might prove fallacious.

"They can't come too big or heavy to suit," philosophized Drake. "The
bigger they are the harder they fall."

There was a stiff wind blowing when the rival teams came on the field,
and in the toss for position the Army won. As the teams lined up for the
kick-off, there was a tremendous outburst of cheers from the Army
supporters who, of course, vastly outnumbered the loyal Blues who had
accompanied their team. What the latter lacked in numbers, however, was
made up by the enthusiasm with which they cheered the wearers of the
Blue colors, that had waved triumphantly over so many hard-fought
fields, and which, they hoped, was now to add another trophy to their
list.

Since the Blues had lost the toss for position, they were entitled to
the kick-off. Bert took careful aim and lifted the ball far and high.
Ordinarily it would have been good for at least fifty yards, but the
wind limited it to thirty-five. Caldwell was down under it like a flash,
but Birch, of the Army, made a fair catch and kicked back for twenty
yards. Drake got possession of the ball, and the Blues had it on the
Army's forty yard line.

A forward pass, superbly engineered by Tom, gave them twelve yards. They
gained eight more on two successive downs, but were penalized five yards
for off-side play. On the next play they gained their distance, but on
the next, in attempting to skirt the end, Axtell dropped the ball, and
the Army left pounced upon it instantly.

It was now the Army's ball, and they immediately started to try a
plunging game. The Blue line held like a rock, however, and then the
Army tried one of their favorite formations. They lined up as though for
a kick, but the back who had dropped behind as if for that purpose,
either tried a forward pass or made a quick dash around the ends. To
complicate the play still further, it was sometimes passed to still
another back before the attempt was made. It was a clever "fake," and
against a weaker or slower team might have worked. But the Blues had
practiced many a weary hour in breaking up just such a combination, and
they met it and smothered it so effectually, that before long the Army
recognized its futility and fell back on straight football.

And here for the first quarter they fairly held their own. McAlpin,
their giant fullback, proved a tower of strength, and when he was given
the ball plunged through the line like a thunderbolt. There seemed to be
no holding him, and his team backed him up so powerfully that he made
his distance easily on the four downs. The ball was still in the Army's
possession when the referee's whistle announced the end of the first
quarter, and the field was swept by the cheers of the cadets at the
gallant way in which their favorites had made a stand against the most
famous team in the country.

In the short rest between quarters, there was a hurried council of the
Blues.

"Buck up, fellows, for heaven's sake," urged Bert. "We mustn't let these
Army men outplay us. What'll the boys at home think of us? They've
already got the bulletin of this quarter, and they're wondering what on
earth is the matter with us. Get a move on now and show them some real
football. Just go in and eat them up."

This was an eminently desirable thing from the Blue standpoint, but the
cadets refused to subscribe to such a cannibal programme. They were not
ready to glut anybody's appetite. On the contrary, their own was whetted
by their sturdy resistance so far, and their ambition was rapidly
growing. They had really not had much idea of winning at the outset. It
would have been almost more than they dared to hope to hold these
doughty warriors to a tie. Failing that, they hoped possibly to cross
the enemy's goal line for at least one score or perhaps more. But their
wildest hopes had hardly soared so high as to count on actual victory.
Now, however, that they had locked horns with their adversaries and
found to their delight and surprise that they were holding them on even
terms, they were fired with a mighty determination to win.

Nor did the second quarter dim their hopes. The Blues had not yet found
themselves. There was a cog missing somewhere in the machinery.
Technically, their playing was not open to much adverse criticism. Their
passing was accurate and their tackling fair, but they were too
mechanical and automatic. They needed something to wake them up.

That something came more quickly than any one expected. Out of a
scrimmage on the forty yard line of the Army, a flying figure emerged,
with the ball tucked under his arm. Twisting, dodging, ducking, he
threaded his way through the field, bowling over Caldwell, eluding
Axtell's outstretched arms and bearing down upon the Blue goal. As he
neared Bert, who was running in a diagonal line to head him off, he
swerved sharply to the right in an attempt to pass this last obstacle
between him and a touchdown. But in a twinkling Bert had launched
himself against him, gauging the distance unerringly, and they both came
heavily to the ground on the Blue's ten yard line.

It was the Army's ball with only ten yards to go! The stands went
frantic as the teams lined up for a last desperate trial of strength.
The Blues were thoroughly awake now. All their apathy was gone at this
moment of deadly peril, and they swore to themselves to hold that
precious ten yards if they died in doing it.

The jubilant Army men called on McAlpin, their giant fullback, to buck
the line. He went into it like a maddened bull, but Dick at center
refused to give an inch. He tried again at left and made two yards
through Ellis. A hole made by his guards between Axtell and Martin
yielded three more. Five yards yet to go and only one chance left! Once
more he braced and hurled himself savagely against the right side of the
line. But Bert was crouching there in readiness, his six feet of bone
and muscle instinct with power and resolution. He went into McAlpin like
a human pile driver, and threw him back for a loss of four yards. The
goal was safe and the ball belonged to the Blues on their ten yard line.
It had been a close call, and a murmur of disappointment went up from
the Army partisans, while the Blue stands rocked with applause.

The elevens lined up and Tom snapped the ball to Dick, who passed it to
Bert, five feet behind the line. The ball rose from his toe like a bird
and soared down to the forty yard line. From there the Blues rushed it
down to within thirty yards of the Army goal before the whistle
announced the end of the second quarter.

It was a different crowd that gathered in the Blues' dressing rooms in
the interval that followed. That threat against their goal line was the
electric spark that was necessary in order to shock them into action.
They were worked up to fighting pitch. Their eyes were blazing, their
features grim, and "Bull" Hendricks, who was primed to lash them to the
bone with his bitter tongue, wisely forebore. He saw that they were
fairly fuming with eagerness for the fray, and after making some minor
changes in the line-up--Ellis having sprained his ankle and Caldwell
broken a finger--he sent them out with the single exhortation to
"hammer the heart out of them."

It wasn't as classic as Wellington's "Up, Guards, and at them," but
quite as effective. Against that electrified and rejuvenated team, the
Army didn't have a chance. Their highly raised hopes went glimmering
before the raging onslaught of the Blues. Every man worked as though the
outcome of the game depended upon him alone. They plunged into the
crumbling lines of the Army like so many wild men. Their opponents
fought back nobly, furiously, desperately, but to no avail. The "class"
was with the Blues, and as this fact was driven home to the spectators,
deep gloom settled over the Army stands, while from the opposite side
the old college song went booming down the field.

The Blues were bent on massacre. They charged hard and played fast. Dick
plunged through the line again and again like a battering ram for
tremendous gains. Tom did some dazzling running back of punts. Drake hit
the forwards hard and often, and Axtell tackled with deadly accuracy,
laying out his victims all over the field.

As for Bert at fullback, no such demon playing had been seen at West
Point for a generation. His handling of the forward pass was a delight
to the eye, and even the hostile stands were stirred at times to
involuntary applause. Twice he carried the ball over for a
touchdown--once by straight bucking and again by a spectacular run of
fifty-five yards through a broken field. The quarter ended with a result
of 15 to 0 in favor of the visitors.

From that time on, it was only a question of the size of the score. The
battle had become a rout. In the last quarter the ball was in the Army
territory all the time. There was no necessity now for tricks to further
befuddle the demoralized cadets. By "straight football" the Blues
pursued their victorious course down the field and added two more goals
before the game was called, with the ball on the fifteen yard line, and
destined, had the play continued two minutes longer, to make a final
touchdown. It was a dashing victory, gallantly won after an inauspicious
start. The weary players drew the first long breath they had permitted
themselves since the start of the game. The cadets, game as pebbles,
gave their conquerors the rousing Army cheer and the Blues responded
vigourously. The rival teams fraternized for a while and then the Blues
retired to their quarters to dress and make their "get-away."

Naturally, despite the immense fatigue that weighed them down, they were
tingling with exultation. It was the first time they had been pitted
against a really big team, and they had clearly outclassed them. The
contests with the smaller colleges had been little more than practice,
and in most cases the scrub could have won as certainly if not as
overwhelmingly as the 'Varsity. And the victory to-day had been won not
by a "fluke," but by clearcut playing. To be sure, the memory of the
first part of the game kept rising up like Banquo's ghost to make them
uncomfortable. But they had redeemed that so royally in the final half
as to silence the most captious critic.

Moreover, they had come through that crucial contest in good shape.
There had been no serious accident to weaken the team. The injuries to
Ellis and Caldwell were only trivial and in a week they would be as well
as ever. Of course there were minor wounds and bruises galore, but they
were incident to the hardening process and were of no consequence.

The mere fact that they had won, satisfying as it was, counted for
little compared with the enormous benefit of the game in welding the
team together. It had taken eleven stars and molded them into a team. No
individual brilliancy, however great, can atone for the lack of team
work. To-day they had tested each other, supported each other, played
into each other's hands, forgotten that they were anything but parts of
one great, smoothly moving, swiftly running machine. And, having so
tested his fellows, each one would play with the confidence and
self-forgetfulness that alone can win a championship.

For all these reasons, it was a very hilarious bunch that foregathered
in the dressing rooms and tumbled into their clothes, after the soothing
ministrations of shower and rubdown.

"I guess we're poor, eh, old top," chuckled Tom, as he poked Bert in the
ribs.

"Ouch," responded that worthy, "haven't I been punched enough to-day
without you soaking me? I'm black and blue all over."

"I don't wonder," put in Dick. "The way that big McAlpin lammed into you
was a crime. He piled on me in one of the scrimmages, and I thought the
Flatiron building had fallen."

"He's a tough bird, all right," said Drake, "but he ran up against a
tougher one when he tried to go through Bert for that last down in the
second quarter. I never saw anything prettier than the way Bert flung
him back as though he had been a lightweight. I caught the bewildered
look on his face as he went over. He didn't know for a minute what had
hit him."

"It was the only thing that saved us from being scored on," said
Martin. "It's the tightest place we've been in so far this season."

"Well, a miss is as good as a mile," said Bert, slipping on his coat.
"But hurry up, you fellows, and let us tackle some eats. I'm so hungry
that it hurts."

He had struck a responsive chord and in a few minutes they were on their
way to the mess hall of the cadets, who had insisted that they should be
their guests at supper.

To reach the dining hall they had to cross the baseball field, abandoned
now in the early fall, but the scene of fierce diamond battles earlier
in the season. To Bert and Tom and Dick it brought back the memory of
the great game they had played there two years before--a game that had
gone into extra innings, and had been won by a wonderful bit of playing
on the part of Tom who was holding down third.

"Remember that game, Tom?" asked Bert.

"O, no," mocked Dick. "He doesn't remember. A man who has made a triple
play unassisted never thinks of it again."

"He's blushing," exclaimed Drake. "Look at him, fellows. What a
shrinking violet."

Tom made a pass at him.

"A mere bit of luck," he countered. "You fellows give me a pain."

But there had been no luck about it. The game had been bitterly fought,
and at the end of the ninth the score was a tie. The Blues had got a man
round in the tenth, and the cadets went in to do or die. Before long the
crowds were on their feet and screaming like maniacs. There was a man on
third, another on second, nobody out, and the heaviest slugger in the
nine was at the bat. Amid exhortations to "kill it," he caught the ball
squarely on the end of his bat and sent it whistling toward third about
two feet over Tom's head. He made a tremendous leap, reaching up his
gloved hand, and the ball stuck there. The batter was out, but the man
on third, thinking it was a sure hit, was racing like mad to the plate.
As Tom came down he landed squarely on the bag, thus putting out the
runner, who had by this time realized his mistake and was trying
desperately to get back. In the meantime, the man on second, who had
taken a big lead, was close to third. As he turned to go back to second,
Tom chased him and touched him out just before he reached the bag. The
game was won, three men were out, and the bewildered spectators were
rubbing their eyes and trying to make out just what had happened. They
had seen a "triple play unassisted," the thing that every player dreams
of making, and one of the rarest feats ever pulled off on the baseball
diamond.

"We've certainly got the edge on Uncle Sam's boys in both baseball and
football," commented Dick, in discussing the incident, "but it's only an
edge. They always make us extend ourselves to win."

They had a royal time at the mess hall and afterward at the barracks,
where both the vanquished and victors mingled on terms of the most
cordial good fellowship. But the demands of training were not to be set
aside, and all too soon they were forced to tear themselves away and
repair to their hotel. By ten o'clock they were in their beds, lights
were out, and they were sleeping as only a college team can sleep after
a day of such storm and stress.

After Reddy had made his rounds and assured himself that all his charges
had retired, he joined "Bull" Hendricks for a chat and smoke over the
day's happenings. Few things had escaped their keen eyes during that
crowded hour, when conditions and formations changed with the swiftness
of a kaleidoscope. And now that it was all over, they could recall every
play, every gain, every fumble, every pass, with a precision that would
have been astounding to any one less versed than they in every turn and
angle of the game.

Their mood was one of deep, if quiet, satisfaction. A long and bitter
experience had made them cautious in prediction. They were by no means
ready to admit yet, even to themselves, that they had a team of "world
beaters." There were still a host of faults to be corrected, of raw
edges to be polished off, of plays to be developed. But, on the whole,
the boys had done surprisingly well. The dogged way in which they had
held the enemy when their goal was threatened was worthy of the best
"bulldog" tradition. And the slashing, ding dong way in which they had
worked the ball down the field in the last half had been gratifying
beyond words. It showed that the "never say die" spirit, that they had
tried so hard to instill, was there in abundance.

There was still another cause for congratulation. They had not been
forced to uncover any of the new tricks that they were holding in
reserve for the championship games. At one point, in the early part of
the game, they had feared this might be necessary, but the quick
recovery later on had enabled them to depend upon straight football. The
scouts for the "Greys" and "Maroons," several of whom had been "spotted"
in the stands, had had "their trouble for their pains," and the coach
was greatly elated in consequence.

"They'll go home with an empty bag from this day's hunting," he
chuckled.

"They sure will," assented Reddy, as he filled and lighted his faithful
cob. "And I'm thinking 'tis a little bit shaky they are, after seeing
the way we ripped up the Army line."

"That boy Wilson is certainly a hummer," commented Hendricks, flicking
the ash from his cigar. "I haven't seen such plunging and line bucking
since the days of Heffelfinger. You could no more stop him than you
could a runaway horse."

"He's all there, full sixteen ounces to the pound," was Reddy's emphatic
endorsement. "I've seen some crack fullbacks in my time, but none to top
him. He's got the weight, he's got the speed, and as for nerve, begorra!
Did ye note the way he toyed with that big rhinoceros, McAlpin?"

"What he did to him was plenty," laughed Hendricks. "I guess that's one
position we don't need to worry about any longer. And I'm feeling pretty
good, too, about Trent and Henderson. They worked together at quarter
and center like a pair of shears. Axtell tackled like a tiger, and if he
keeps it up, we can count on him as a fixture. And Drake, too, did some
dandy work at end. Did you see the way he got down under Wilson's punts?
Johnny-on-the-spot, every time the ball came down."

"For them five positions there's nothing better in sight," said Reddy.

"I rather think so," acquiesced the coach. "There's only one weak spot
in the back field, and that's at left half. Martin, for some reason,
isn't playing his game. He's too slow in starting, and he doesn't tackle
as hard and fast as he ought to. Then, too, he's a little bit thick when
it comes to the signals. He got mixed up twice to-day, and he was all at
sea on that 'fake' pass in the second quarter. He needs more blackboard
work, and I'm going to see that he gets it.

"But it's in the line that we've got to make some changes. Most of the
forwards to-day would have been 'pie' for the 'Greys' or 'Maroons.' I
can excuse Caldwell for not playing his best, since he broke his finger
in the beginning of the game and nobody knew it until twenty minutes
later. Plucky of the youngster, but he ought to have told us. Ellis is
all right, but that's the second time his bum ankle has given way, and I
don't know whether he can stand the strain of a big game. Hodge has got
the weight and the strength, but he leaves too much of the work to
Trent. As for Boyd, I'm afraid he lacks sand."

"I saw him flinch to-day, when McAlpin piled into him," mused Reddy.

"I'm going to try out Warren a little longer," went on Hendricks.
"There's good stuff in that boy, but I'm afraid there's hardly enough
beef. But he's trying all the time, and never lets up till the whistle
blows. Perhaps I'll let him change places with Martin and see how it
works. He's quick as a flash and an expert at dodging, and he may make a
better back than he is a tackle. We'll shift him there for a tryout.

"I'll have to keep quite a bunch of them 'under suspicion' for some time
yet, and we may have quite a different line up by November. But, take it
all in all, I'm not kicking at the way we're going along, so early in
the season. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't let them know for a farm how
good I really feel over their showing. I'd like to get a line, though,
on the other teams. By the way, I saw you talking with Bushnell, the old
'Grey' quarter. Did that Irish blarney of yours get anything out of
him?"

"Niver a bit," mourned Reddy. "I did me best, but he was as
close-mouthed as a clam. I ran across a reporter though, who's been down
that way lately, and he says they're going great guns in practice."

"They're the fellows we've got to beat. That agrees with everything I've
heard from that quarter. We're heavier and I think we're faster than the
'Maroons' this year. But from all accounts the 'Greys' have got
everything, and then some. They'll take a lot of beating."

"Hivin send that they take it instead of giving it," ejaculated Reddy;
and with Hendricks' grunted indorsement of this pious wish, the captain
and first mate of the football craft parted for the night.



CHAPTER VI

REDDY'S RECOLLECTIONS


IN spite of the trainer's autocratic rule, the life of the team while in
training was not just one long grind, without any recreation to break
the monotony. Reddy, it is true, prohibited theaters and kindred
amusements, because they necessarily meant late hours, and late hours,
as the trainer well knew, meant decreased efficiency, both physical and
mental.

Nevertheless, he had no objection to the athletes playing quiet games of
an evening, provided they were well up in their studies, and sometimes
even contributed to the general enjoyment by spinning some yarn culled
from his own vast store of "past performances."

Whenever the members of the squad found him in a reminiscent mood, all
other amusements were suspended, and they would listen attentively to
the little trainer's reminiscences of victories won on field and track.

In his day Reddy had taken part in almost every branch of sport, and
could tell stories about them all. For some time this particular evening
he had not uttered a word, however, and had sat listening to the
conversation of his charges with a faraway look in his twinkling blue
eyes. The boys had been talking of motorcycling, and had been discussing
Bert's record-breaking run across the continent.

In a lull of the conversation he spoke up.

"Motorcycle racing is all right in its way," he said, "but for real
sport on two wheels give me the old bicycling days. Why, we had more fun
then at one meet than you guys have now in a whole season. I call to
mind one time----"

Reddy stopped to light the pipe that he had been carefully packing with
rather rank tobacco, and there was a general movement toward him while
he was taking the first few puffs. Feet and chairs scraped, and by the
time he had his pipe pulling satisfactorily there was a ring of
interested faces gathered about him.

"I suppose you think I'm going to spin ye a yarn now, ye
good-for-naughts, don't ye?" he inquired, with a ferocious glance around
the circle.

"If you back out now, Reddy," laughed Bert, "after getting us worked up
this way, we'll all swear to throw the next game we play, just to get
even with you."

"Well, I suppose I'll have to satisfy you, that bein' the case," said
Reddy, his assumed ferocity of demeanor melting down into a broad grin,
"although 'tis not much of a tale at that."

"'Twas in the palmy days of the bike, when everybody that could possibly
scrape the price together owned one. A bicycle race in them days meant
somethin', let me tell you, and people for fifty miles around would
organize parties to go see it.

"Well, I had the fever just like everybody else, and after a while, when
I'd saved up enough, me and a friend bought a tandem machine. It cost a
pretty penny all right, but it was a well-built machine, and had better
stuff in it than most bikes you see nowadays.

"My partner, whose name was Barney Keogh, and myself took many a long
spin on it, and many a time had sprints with other 'speed boys' out on
the road. We got so we could hit it up at a pretty hot clip, but neither
of us ever thought of going into the racing game.

"But one fine Sunday there was a big meet to be held at the old Newark
track, in New Jersey, and we made up our minds to go see it. We started
out bright an' early and took it easy along the road enjoyin' the
scenery and the fresh, mornin' air. 'Twas in the early spring, I
remember, and we both felt like two colts that had just been turned
loose in a big pasture.

"We just took it easy though, for we had quite a long pull ahead of us,
and we was enjoyin' ourselves too much to want to hurry anyway. We got
to the track a good hour before the first race was slated to start, and
after puttin' our bike in a safe place we meandered around, seein' if we
could locate anybody we knew. We hadn't gone far when I heard someone
callin' my name, and when I turned I saw a feller named Robertson, a man
I'd worked for once. I introduced Barney, and we hadn't talked very long
before Robertson informed me that he was one of the committee in charge
of affairs. 'Come on around with me to the judges box,' he invited, 'an
I'll get you a couple of good seats.'

"O' course that was pretty soft for us, so we trailed along with him and
he located us in fine seats not far from the judges box. Of course we
thanked him and then he shook hands and hurried off.

"Well, the first events passed off all right, although they were rather
tame, and then came the big race, which for that day happened to be a
tandem race. There was a big purse offered for the winner, and there
were several entrants. But for some reason there was a long wait, and
first thing we knew there was Robertson coming toward us, his face red
and perspirin' and his collar wilted.

"He rushes up to us, and leans over and whispers:

"'Say, Reddy,' he says, 'you can help us out if you want to. We're shy
an entrant. One of the teams hasn't shown up, and according to the
conditions of the race no less than six entrants can start. We've only
got five, and if the race isn't ridden the crowd will go wild. Here's a
chance for you and your friend to help us out of a bad fix and at the
same time maybe win a nice piece of money for yourselves.'

"Well, at first Barney and me was knocked flat, an' then we turned down
the proposition cold. But Robertson wouldn't take no for an answer.

"'It can't hurt you any, can it?' he said. 'An' if you should win, think
of the coin you'd pull down. Why, you've got everything to win and
nothing to lose.'

"Well, to make a long story short, he finally talked us into it, and we
beat it around and got our machine. By the time we got on the track the
crowd was getting pretty impatient, and Robertson hustled us around to
the starting line.

"'Do your best, boys,' he says, 'it's a ten mile race, so don't put all
your steam into it at once. Let one of the others set the pace and then
you come up at the end.'

"It sounded easy all right, but I guess both Barney and I were more
than a little doubtful about that 'coming up at the end' business. But
it was too late to back out then, so we lined up in front of the
starter's stand, and when the pistol cracked made a pretty fast getaway.

"We weren't in it with some of those professionals though, and before
we'd hit our speed at all they had several yards lead over us. But we
were feeling pretty strong at that. I was steering the bike, and I could
feel Barney pushing along like a steam engine. But at first it was all
we could do to hold our own, no matter how hard we pedaled. Pretty soon
I began to feel mighty tired I can tell you, and I guess Barney must
have, too, because we began dropping behind. But we kept on pushing like
mad, and pretty soon we began to get our second wind. And then we
certainly made that old tandem hum! We burned up that track for fair,
and before very long were on equal terms with the last team. We crept
steadily past them, and before the end of the sixth mile our front wheel
was even with the back wheel of the leaders.

"Well, by that time the crowd had begun to sit up and take notice, and
before we had covered another mile everybody was on their feet, cheering
like mad and waving flags. But no matter how hard we tried, we couldn't
seem to draw up even with the leading machine. By that time the blood
was beating through my head fit to burst it, and I suppose Barney must
have felt the same way. But neither of us was exactly what you might
call a quitter, so we kept on. And by the end of the ninth mile they
hadn't more than the length of one wheel's lead over us! As we started
the last lap I could feel the old bike shove forward, and I knew that
Barney had some reserve strength left. That kind o' put heart into me,
too, and I put everything I had into that last mile, believe me. Between
us we pretty nearly lifted that tandem off the ground at every stroke, I
guess. Anyway, we crawled up on the leaders inch by inch, and managed to
cross the finishing line a scant foot ahead of them.

"Well, I don't think I ever saw a much more excited crowd than that one.
They swarmed down onto the track, and it was only by makin' a mighty
quick sneak that we managed to get away from them. We weren't feeling
like being made heroes of just then, let me tell you. We were just about
all in."

"Believe me, I'd like to have been there," exclaimed Bert, as Reddy
finished; "it must have been a real race for fair. I should think that
after that you and your friend would have gone into professional bicycle
racing."

"We did try to," confessed the trainer with a grin, "but we could never
seem to do as well again, and after a few attempts we gave it up in
disgust. But we found the prize money very welcome, for we were both
hard up at the time.

"But now," he continued, "I've kept you up too late as it is, so off
with you. Vamoose!"



CHAPTER VII

THE LION'S ESCAPE


"FELLOWS, I've got an inspiration," said Dick one evening when several
of his companions, including Tom and Bert, had gathered in the latter's
room.

"Well, well," said Bert, "old Dick's got an inspiration, boys. I wonder
what it is? The last time Dick had an inspiration, that one about taking
a cow up onto the roof of the recitation hall, we all pretty nearly got
into trouble, including the cow. I think any other inspiration from the
same source will have to come with first-class references and a letter
of introduction. Otherwise I, for one, refuse to recognize it at all."

"If you're quite through," said Dick, with elaborate politeness,
"perhaps you'd be so kind as to let me get in a word edgewise, and
enlighten an expectant world regarding this inspiration. Just because
the cow fell down a flight of steps that time and made everybody think
there was an earthquake in progress doesn't prove that it wasn't a good
idea. Accidents will often spoil the best laid plans."

"I notice something almost always does happen to plans of that kind,"
laughed Bert. "But go ahead and tell us your scheme. What is it?
Kidnapping the dean, or just burning down one or two of the buildings."

"Well, that wasn't what was in my mind," confessed Dick. "But now that
you speak of it, either one might be worth trying. But the particular
idea simmering in my massive intellect at the time I was so rudely
interrupted by a certain low character, was this: There's going to be a
circus in town to-morrow, and I for one feel a whole lot like going to
see it. I haven't been to a circus for the last five years and I'm just
honing to see this one."

"That's an inspiration as how _is_ an inspiration," said Tom; "it's
funny how really first-class ideas originate in unbalanced minds at
times. Dick comes out real strong once in a while."

"Thanks for your valued approval," said Dick sarcastically; "how do the
rest of you fellows feel about it? Want to go?"

There was a general chorus of assent, and Dick gravely declared the
proposition carried by a unanimous vote. "I think it starts around half
past two," he said, "and I guess we can all be there by that time, can't
we?"

It appeared that everybody could, and after discussing incidents of
circuses they had seen in the past the group dispersed to their
respective rooms.

The next day was clear and bright, and at the appointed time the merry
group met on the campus and took their way in high spirits toward the
center of the town, where the circus had pitched its tents. Many others
were going the same way, and numerous were the jokes and furious the
repartee exchanged between the different groups. In a short time they
reached the "big top," and after inspecting the grounds and gazing in
mock wonder at the portraits of bearded ladies and wondrously thin
"living skeletons," made for the gorgeously decorated ticket wagons and
secured their tickets.

"It's more fun, of course," said Tom, "to crawl in under the canvas, but
I'm afraid that wouldn't be quite dignified enough for me. The rest of
you can go in that way if you like, however. Don't let me interfere with
your pleasure."

"If you get off much more of that stuff we'll show the crowd a
'Christian martyr' stunt by feeding you to the lions," threatened Bert.
"Maybe the animals could appreciate you better than we can."

"Yes, I've heard that in many respects animals are wiser than men,"
retorted Tom, "and I wouldn't be surprised at that. I don't see how they
could have much less sense than some people I know."

"I wonder if he means us?" inquired Bert seriously. "It hardly seems
possible, does it?"

"Oh, no, I wasn't thinking of you at all," said Tom. "I was thinking of
the faculty when I said that."

"Well," said Bert amid a general laugh, "in that case we'll forgive all
your past offenses and start you off with a clean slate. Your sentiments
regarding the faculty do you credit."

By this time the group found themselves opposite the beginning of the
row of cages containing the menagerie, and started out on a tour of
inspection. There was a big crowd and progress could only be made at a
snail's pace. By the time they had reached the elephants it was close on
to the time set for the show to begin, and after feeding the big brutes
a few peanuts they hurried into the main tent. They secured seats near
the top of the high tier of loose planks placed on trestles, and settled
themselves to enjoy the performance. Before ascending to their places
they had amply provided themselves with popcorn and peanuts, without
which, as one of the fellows remarked, a "circus wasn't a circus."

The circus was one of the smaller variety, but had a reputation of
giving a first-class exhibition, and in the opinion of some of the
spectators was more satisfactory to watch than one of the big shows,
where the very multiplicity of attractions made it difficult for the
spectator to really enjoy anything. The onlooker's attention is drawn by
a burst of applause in some distant line of seats, and while he is
trying to make out what is going on there he misses, most likely, the
act that is being performed near him.

This circus had only two rings, but the acts presented were of a high
character and our friends enjoyed everything from the opening parade to
the final act, in which a man "looped the loop" on a bicycle. At the
conclusion of this feat, Dick leaned over toward Bert. "Why don't you
try that stunt on a bicycle some time, Bert?" he inquired, "it ought to
be a cinch for you."

"Too easy, too easy," laughed Bert, "give me something hard while you're
about it. Just the same," he added more seriously, "it is a mighty hard
stunt, and requires nerve and skill of the highest sort. Personally, I'd
rather make a living some other way."

By this time they were able to make their way through the throng to the
main entrance, and were just passing through into the outer tent when
they were startled by hearing shouts and screams from the direction of
the animal cages. There was a wild flurry and commotion in the crowd in
front of them, and suddenly they saw a great tawny form flying through
the air. The people in the path of the beast scattered wildly to left
and right, and the brute landed on the sawdust floor without doing any
damage. He stood there a moment glaring about him, swishing his tail
angrily back and forth. Meanwhile there was a mad scramble for the
exits, and many persons were thrown down and trampled in the crush.

The group of collegians had stood stupefied for a few minutes watching
the escaped lion, for such the animal proved to be. The big brute seemed
bewildered by the crowds and the shouting, and knew not what use to make
of his new-found freedom. But suddenly he emitted a deep roar, and
bounded toward the main exit, in which a struggling, shouting crowd was
now solidly packed. Suddenly Bert sprang into action. "Head him off!
head him off!" he shouted and, suiting the action to the word, started
diagonally toward the entrance. Tom and Dick were close after him,
followed by the more courageous of their companions. By this time
several of the animal keepers and trainers had also struggled through
the press, and were hot in pursuit of the fleeing lion. But they were
too far behind to be of any good, and the lion would surely have dashed
headlong into the packed mass of humanity had not Bert and the others
with him intervened. They waved their hats and shouted, and the lion,
somewhat taken aback, halted for a second. Then he gathered himself
together and, with a mighty bound, leaped clear over their heads. With
another spring he cleared the crowd at the entrance, and was free. He
hesitated a moment, looking this way and that, and then, just as one of
the keepers, a rifle in his hand, reached the tent entrance, bounded
swiftly forward and disappeared around a corner.

The trainers started out in hot pursuit, accompanied by Bert and his
friends. "I don't want to shoot him," panted the man with the rifle as
he ran, "he's worth five thousand dollars. He's one of the finest lions
in captivity, and his loss would mean a bad blow to the outfit. But if I
get a crack at him I'll shoot, just the same. We can't run the risk of
trying to capture him alive."

It was not difficult to trace the lion's path, although not once did
they actually catch sight of him. Distant shouts and cries told of the
beast's progress, and their path was lined by closely shut doors and
pale faces peering from upper windows. Soon they reached the outskirts
of the town and then, in the more open country, were able to catch a
glimpse of their quarry. He was about half a mile distant, and evidently
making directly for a dense piece of woodland just ahead of him. Soon
he disappeared among the trees, and the man carrying the rifle, who was
evidently the head trainer, called a halt.

"How far do those woods extend?" he asked Bert.

"Not very far," replied Bert. "I should say there's not more than a
square mile of woodland, at most."

"Well, then," said the other, "the chances are ten to one that Leo will
stick to the trees, and not come out unless he has to. In that case, all
we have to do is surround the place to see that he doesn't get away.
Then I don't think we'll have much trouble recapturing him."

As this seemed to be the opinion of his assistants, too, their leader
sent one of them back to the circus to make a report and bring out
reinforcements, and then made plans to surround the strip of woods. By
this time quite a crowd had collected, and the animal trainer selected
volunteers to set up a guard about the trees and give warning if the
lion attempted to break cover.

"All you have to do," he explained, "is to climb a tree near where I
post you, and if you see anything of the lion, sing out. He can't climb
a tree, of course, so you'll be perfectly safe."

There was no lack of volunteers, and our three comrades were among the
first to proffer their services. "This is a little more than we had
counted on," laughed Tom; "we expected _some_ excitement for our money,
of course, but nothing like this."

"Well, we won't kick now that it is handed to us," remarked Bert; "it
begins to seem like old times again. Only that time we were up against a
tiger instead of a lion."

"Yes, that's so," agreed Dick, "but I hope we don't have as close a
shave this time as we had then. That was getting a little too close to
the undertaker to suit me."

"No, we won't go looking for trouble the way we did that time," said
Bert. "If that lion wants us, he'll have to climb a tree to get us. I'm
not anxious for a fracas with a big healthy lion. I'll leave that
pleasure to some one else."

By this time twilight had begun to set in, and it was with the greatest
caution that the volunteers and circus men began to skirt the edge of
the patch of trees. The head trainer went with them, and at intervals
stationed one of the band in a convenient tree. "Just keep your eyes
peeled until it's too dark to see," he instructed them, "and by that
time we'll have torches from the circus. Then we'll form a ring of fire
around the woods, and keep the brute inside it until daybreak. Then
we'll get him, dead or alive."

In this way he made the circuit of the woods, until his last helper had
been stationed to his satisfaction. Tom, Bert and Dick were stationed in
succession at a distance from each other of two or three hundred yards,
and accommodated themselves as best they could among the branches. They
kept a sharp lookout below them, but all remained quiet and undisturbed,
and it seemed hard to believe that there was lurking death in the midst
of the quiet woodland. No sound reached their ears save an occasional
distant shout, probably of command or direction from the head trainer.

Time wore on slowly, after the first excitement had passed, and the
watchers began to get thoroughly chilled in the crisp autumn air before
they saw a host of twinkling lights approaching from the direction of
the town. The lights grew rapidly nearer, and the watchers knew that
this was the squad of men of which the trainer had spoken. Soon they
reached the fire where the head trainer had made his headquarters, and
after a brief halt started to surround the woods. Each man of the party
held a flaring, smoking gasoline torch, and their combined strength gave
a brilliant illumination. In their progress they stopped at the trees
where the watchers were stationed, and one after the other relieved
them. Bert, Dick and Tom were soon on the ground once more, and were
glad to get an opportunity to stretch their cramped muscles.

"Well, what's the plan now?" Bert asked one of the men.

"Oh, there's nothing we can do till daylight," he answered, "we'll just
hang around and make sure that the lion doesn't get out of these woods.
Then we'll capture him some way, and hustle to catch up with the rest of
the outfit."

"Why, have they gone on without you fellows?" asked Tom in surprise.

"Sure," replied the other; "we're due in the next town to-morrow, and a
little thing like a lion getting away can't stop us. Nothing much less
than an earthquake could, anyway."

And indeed, it was very much as the fellow said. A circus simply must
meet its engagements on time, or else go out of business. Its agents go
on days in advance of it, advertising and pasting bill posters over the
surrounding landscape, and if the show isn't on time all the cost of
this is wasted, besides the loss of prestige to the circus, not to say
anything of the loss of the day's gate receipts.

Therefore, the circus from which the lion had escaped struck its tents
and traveled on exactly as though nothing out of the ordinary had
happened. To be sure, it was hindered by the fact that so many of its
men had to be assigned to capturing the lion, but in spite of this it
was hardly an hour late in starting.

After the volunteer watchers had been relieved, Burton, the trainer in
charge of the proceedings, thanked them for their services, but told
them that there was nothing more they could do, so that they could feel
at liberty to go home if they were so inclined. A few did, but the
majority elected to stay and "see the show through," as Tom expressed
it. "It isn't often you get a chance to see a lion hunt in a quiet
college town," he said, "and I, for one, am not going to miss it merely
to get a little sleep. I can sleep 'most any old time."

"Yes, but there probably won't be anything doing until morning, anyway,"
said Burton with a smile; "you could get your sleep, and come back
again."

But the three comrades were of one mind, and resolved to spend the night
around the camp fire, so as to miss nothing of the novel experience.
Fortunately, the next day was Saturday, and, as it happened, none of
them had any recitations on for that day. This left them free to do
about as they liked, and it did not take them long to make up their
minds.

They settled themselves around the fire, and soon had good reason to
feel glad that they had decided to stay. The last arrivals had brought
food and coffee in plenty, and this was soon passed around, everybody
making a hearty meal. Then pipes were lit, and those of the circus men
who were not on duty began swapping tales of adventures and experiences
while following the "game," that were teeming with interest to the boys.
Many of the men were fairly well educated, and told what they had to
tell in a very interesting way. Every once in a while those about the
fire would leave to replace some of their companions who had been
watching some time, and the men thus relieved would have a new batch of
stories to relate. Around the crackling, roaring fire it was very warm
and comfortable, and time flew by faster than the boys realized. They
had never felt more wide awake in their lives, and they were much
surprised when the first faint streaks of dawn in the eastern sky told
of approaching day.

As soon as it became light enough to see, two carpenters started
constructing a wooden cage out of lumber they had brought with them, and
had soon built a cage large enough and strong enough, it seemed to the
boys, to hold an elephant. When the work was completed, several men
lifted the cage and carried it to the very edge of the woods. Then,
having located the place where the lion had entered, they placed the
cage directly across the trail. It had been provided with a door that
slid up and down, and this was fastened open with a stout cord.

By the time these preparations were finished Mr. Burton hurried up, and
carefully inspected the work. He had just returned from a trip around
the trees, and reported everything quiet so far. "Now, boys," he said,
"get a move on, and we'll carry this trap a little farther in. Old Leo
might not want to come out this far for his breakfast, even though he's
probably pretty hungry by this time. Lively's the word, now!"

The cage was lifted by willing arms, and carried well into the shadow of
the trees. "All right, here's the place," said Mr. Burton, when he
judged they had penetrated far enough, "set it down here. Have you got
the meat with you, Bill?" The man addressed produced a large bundle,
which on being unwrapped proved to be a large piece of juicy raw meat.

"That will do fine," said Burton, approvingly and, taking the meat from
the other, placed it well inside the cage. "All right," he said, when
everything was arranged to his entire satisfaction. "All hands get into
the trees now, and we'll wait for Leo to come for his breakfast. I'll
take the rope into my tree, and spring the trap. Hustle. The brute's apt
to come around most any time now."

Even as he spoke a loud roar echoed through the woods, so close at hand
that for a moment every heart stood still. Then there was a wild dash
for the nearest trees. Dick and Bert and Tom made for a large oak near
at hand, and went up it faster than they would have imagined possible.
They had barely reached a place of safety in the lower branches, than
with another roar the lion leaped into the clearing. For a few minutes
he stood motionless, with the exception of his tail, which swished
angrily back and forth. Soon he located the boys in their tree, and made
an angry dash toward it. By this time, however, they were high up in the
branches, and the lion seemed to realize that they were beyond his
reach, and after giving vent to another roar, walked away. Then he saw
others in the surrounding trees, and made a circuit of inspection,
gazing eagerly upward at the tempting human beings so close to him and
yet hopelessly beyond his reach. Finally, he seemed to dismiss them from
his mind and, going over to the cage, sniffed eagerly at the meat inside
it. He had had nothing to eat since the preceding noonday, and was
ravenously hungry. But he seemed to suspect some trap to curtail his
new-found liberty and, hungry as he was, for more than half an hour he
refused to enter the cage. He made numerous attempts to hook the meat
with his claws, but found it always a little beyond his reach. At last,
with an angry growl, he made up his mind and stepped inside the cage.

He had hardly commenced to gnaw the meat, however, when Burton released
the cord that held the sliding door open. With a crash it slid closed,
and the great beast was a prisoner once more!

The lion whirled like lightning and dashed himself madly against the
restraining bars, but the cage had been built with an eye to
emergencies, and stood the strain without any sign of weakening. Finally
the lion's ragings subsided, and the head trainer concluded it was safe
to descend and complete the work. He expressed himself accordingly, and
everybody swarmed down to the ground, and surrounded the cage, taking
care, however, to keep at a respectful distance.

"All right, boys, get busy," sang out Mr. Burton. "Let's get this cage
up against the wagon as soon as we can. We're behind our schedule as it
is."

Long poles were thrust under the cage, and with a good deal of heaving
and tugging the lion was lifted through the air and his temporary cage
placed alongside the animal wagon. When it had been securely fastened,
the door was opened, and Leo was at liberty to enter his old abode. At
first he seemed disinclined to do so, but after much coaxing and
prodding he was persuaded. The door of his old cage was slammed shut,
and the capture had been effected.

"Well!" exclaimed the trainer, drawing a long sigh of relief, "that's a
good job well done. And I want to thank you lads," he continued, turning
to where our three friends were standing; "the circus owes you a big
debt of gratitude, and that's a fact. If ever any of you should be out
of a job, there'll always be one waiting for you with our outfit."

"Thanks," smiled Bert, speaking for his comrades and himself, "if we
ever do, we'll let you know. We've had quite an adventure out of this,
anyway."

"I should say you had!" said Mr. Burton; "the chances are you'll never
be in another lion hunt as long as you live."

After a few more words the trainer turned away, and the party proceeded
in the direction of the town. At its outskirts our three comrades said
farewell and made off toward college.

On the way they discussed the exciting happenings of the previous day
and night, but as they reached the campus Bert said: "Well, fellows, I
hadn't noticed it much before, but now I come to think of it, I'm
mighty tired. I think I'll turn in and sleep until about supper time."

The others also expressed themselves as "all in," and sought their beds,
where slumber was not long in coming.



CHAPTER VIII

ON THE TOBOGGAN


"MISFORTUNES never come singly," groaned Tom.

"It never rains but it pours," added Dick gloomily.

"O, cut out the croaking, you fellows," admonished Bert. "Or, if you're
dead set on proverbs, remember that 'it's no use crying over spilt
milk.' We're up against it good and plenty, but that's all the more
reason to get together and try to kill the 'jinx.'"

There certainly was room for disquietude, if not despair, in the present
condition of the football team. The "Blues" were in the throes of a
"slump." And that misfortune, dreaded like the plague by all coaches and
trainers, had come on them suddenly, like "a bolt from the blue." From
the heights of confidence they had fallen to the depths of hopelessness.
The superb machine, evolved and developed with infinite pains, now
seemed headed straight for the scrap-heap.

Only the Saturday preceding they had been lined up against
Dartmouth--always a fierce proposition--and to the delight of Hendricks
had "run rings around them." They had played with a dash and fire that
made them seem simply unbeatable. The ball had been in the enemy's
territory three-fourths of the time and, after the first quarter, it was
simply a question as to the size of the score. When at last the game was
over, they had run up thirty-two points, and the ball had never once
been within twenty yards of their own goal. The criticisms on the game
in the Sunday papers had dwelt upon the impregnable defense and slashing
attack of the "Blues." On the same Saturday the "Greys" and "Maroons"
had also met redoubtable antagonists, and although they won, the scores
were small and the playing by no means impressive. The general consensus
was that on the form already shown, the "dope" favored the Blues in the
great games yet to come. While admitting the wonderful work of some of
the men who had starred in their positions, special stress was laid upon
the smoothness and accuracy of the team work as a whole.

This of course was balm to the coach, all whose efforts had been
directed toward making individual work subordinate to the development of
a coherent system of team play, and he began to see the reward of the
untiring labors that he had given without stint for the six weeks
preceding. Reddy went about his work with a complacent smile, and the
boys themselves were jubilant at the way they were rounding into form.

Then suddenly the blow fell, to be succeeded by others no less
paralyzing.

"Have you heard the news?" exclaimed Drake, as he burst in upon Bert and
Dick on Monday evening, as they were preparing their lessons for the
following day.

"What is it?" they cried in chorus.

"Axtell and Hodge have been conditioned and forbidden to play until they
get up with the rest of the class," was the answer.

"No," said Bert incredulously.

"Sure thing," affirmed Drake. "I had it straight from the boys
themselves not five minutes ago. They sure are in the doleful dumps."

The three friends looked at each other in a perplexity and anxiety that
they made no effort to conceal.

"But it will break up the team," cried Dick. "They're two of our very
best men."

"You're right there," gloomed Drake. "There isn't a fiercer tackler than
Axtell on the eleven, and Hodge is the heaviest man in the line. We
haven't any too much beef at best, and man for man, the 'Greys' average
five pounds heavier."

"Just when we were getting into such dandy shape, too," groaned Dick.

"Why in thunder didn't they keep up in their work," demanded Drake
fiercely. "They must have known they were falling behind, and there's
too much at stake for them to take any risk."

"There, there," soothed Bert. "Don't you suppose they're feeling worse
about it than any one else?"

Just then there was a knock at the door and Axtell and Hodge themselves
stalked in.

"I see you've heard about it," said Hodge, falling heavily into a chair.
"I wish you fellows would take me out and kick me around the campus."

"Same here," echoed Axtell despondently. "I'll pay for all the shoe
leather you wear out doing it."

"O, brace up, fellows," said Bert cheerily. "Things will come out all
right yet. How bad is it anyway?"

"It isn't so bad with Axtell," replied Hodge. "He's only got a condition
in Latin, and he can probably work that off in a week. But I'm stuck on
mathematics and Greek both, and I've got about as much chance as a
snowfall in June of making them up before the big games."

"I wonder if there's no chance of getting the faculty to let you put off
making them up until after the games," pondered Bert thoughtfully.

"Such a chance," said Drake sardonically. "That stony-hearted crew
hasn't any sporting blood. They'll insist that every t must be crossed
and every i dotted before they'll take off the conditions."

"I'm not so sure of that," replied Bert. "There's Benton. He used to be
a star at left end, and I don't think he's forgotten how he used to feel
about such things. I can't any more than fail anyway, and I'm going to
take a hack at it. You fellows stay right here and I'll run over and see
him."

He found the professor at home, and received a cordial greeting.

"I see you boys trounced Dartmouth last week," he said genially. "I've
seldom seen a better game."

This gave Bert his opening.

"We hope that isn't a circumstance to what we'll do to the 'Greys' and
'Maroons,'" he replied. "That is, we did hope so up to this afternoon."

The professor looked at him sharply.

"Why not now?" he asked.

And then Bert told him of the conditions of Hodge and Axtell, and the
hope he entertained that some way might be found to make them up after
the big games instead of before. He spoke with all the earnestness he
felt, and the professor listened sympathetically.

"It's too bad," he assented. "I'm afraid, though, there's no remedy. The
rules of the college are like those of the Medes and Persians, not to be
broken, even"--and his eyes twinkled--"for so important a thing as a
football game. Those matters anyway are in the province of the Dean. You
might see him if you like, but I fear that it is a forlorn hope."

And so it proved. The Dean had a warm corner in his heart for Bert, but
in this matter was not to be shaken. The college, he reminded his
caller, was primarily an institution of learning and not a gymnasium.
The conditions would have to be made up before the men could play,
although he hinted slyly that the examinations would not be over severe.

And with this one crumb of comfort, Bert was forced to be content. He
bowed himself out and returned to report the non-success of his mission.

"What did I tell you?" said Drake.

"You're a brick anyway, Bert, for trying," acknowledged Axtell, "and
perhaps it will make them go a little easier with us when we try again
to show them how little we know. And now, old man," addressing Hodge,
"it's up to us to make a quick sneak and get busy with those confounded
conditions. Plenty of hard work and a towel dipped in ice water round
our heads, with a pot of hot coffee to keep us awake, will help make up
for our lack of brains. Come along, fellow-boob," and with a grin that
they tried to make cheerful, the two culprits took their departure.

The next morning the campus was buzzing with the news. It jarred the
college out of the self-complacency they had begun to feel over the
prospects of the team. Many were the imprecations heaped upon the heads
of the hard-hearted faculty, and one of the malcontents slipped up to
the cupola without detection and put the college flag at half-mast. The
smile on Reddy's face was conspicuous by its absence and Hendricks
chewed furiously at his cigar instead of smoking it. But when it came to
the daily talk in the training quarters, he was careful not to betray
any despondency. There was enough of that abroad anyway without his
adding to it. Like the thoroughbred he was, he faced the situation
calmly, and sought to repair the breaches made in his ranks.

"Winston will play at right guard until further notice," he announced,
"and Morley will take the place of Axtell."

The two members of the scrubs thus named trotted delightedly to their
places. For them it was a promotion that they hoped to make permanent.
They knew they would have to fight hard to hold the positions if Hodge
and Axtell came back, but they were bent on showing that they could fill
their shoes.

But although they worked like Trojans, the machine that afternoon
creaked badly. The new men were unfamiliar with many of the signals and
made a mess of some of the plays that the old ones whom they supplanted
would have carried out with ease. This, however, was to be expected, and
time would go a long way toward curing the defects.

The real trouble, however, lay with the other nine. They seemed to be
working as though in a nightmare. An incubus weighed them down. Their
thoughts were with their absent comrades and with the altered prospects
of the team. They played without snap or dash, and the coach ground his
teeth as he noted the lifeless playing so strongly in contrast with that
of three days earlier.

Just before the first quarter ended, Ellis, in running down under a
punt, came heavily in collision with Farrar, of the scrubs, and they
went to the ground together. Farrar was up in a moment, but Ellis, after
one or two trials, desisted. His comrades ran to him and lifted him to
his feet. But his foot gave way under him, and his lips whitened as he
sought to stifle a groan.

"It's that bum ankle of mine," he said, trying to smile. "I'm afraid
I've sprained it again."

They carried him into the dressing room and delivered him to Reddy. He
made a careful examination and, when at last he looked up, there was a
look in his eyes that betokened calamity.

"Sprained, is it," he said with a voice that he tried to render calm.
"It's broken."

"What!" cried Ellis as he realized all this meant to him.

"Are you sure, Reddy?" asked Hendricks, aghast.

"I wish I wasn't," was the answer, "but I've seen too many of them not
to know."

To poor Ellis the words sounded like the knell of doom. The pain was
excruciating, but in the rush of sensations it seemed nothing. The real
disaster lay in the fact that it put him definitely off the football
team. All his work, all his sacrifice of time and ease, all his hopes of
winning honor and glory under the colors of the old college had vanished
utterly. Henceforth, he could be only a looker on where he had so fondly
figured himself as a contender. His face was white as ashes, and the
coach shrank from the look of abject misery in his eyes.

"Come now, old man, buck up," he tried to comfort him. "We'll send for
the best surgeon in New York, and he'll have you on your feet again
before you know it. You may make the big games yet." But in his heart he
knew that it was impossible, and so did all the pale-faced crowd of
players who gathered round their injured comrade and carried him with
infinite care and gentleness to his rooms.

The rest of the practice was foregone that afternoon as, under the
conditions, it would have been simply a farce, and the players made
their way moodily off the field, chewing the bitter cud of their
reflections. Sympathy with Ellis and consternation over this new blow to
their prospects filled their minds to the exclusion of everything else.

Bert and Tom and Dick--the "Three Guardsmen," as they had been jokingly
called, as they were always together--walked slowly toward their rooms.
The jaunty swing and elastic step characteristic of them were utterly
gone. Their hearts had been bound up in the hope of victory, and now
that hope was rapidly receding and bade fair to vanish altogether.

Apart from the general loss to the team, each had his own particular
grievance. Tom, as quarterback, saw with dismay the prospect of drilling
the new men in the complicated system of signals, of which there were
more than sixty, each of which had to be grasped with lightning
rapidity. The slightest failure might throw the whole team in hopeless
confusion. Dick was ruminating on the loss of Ellis, whose position in
the line had been right at his elbow, and with whom he had learned to
work with flawless precision on the defense. And Bert would miss sorely
the swift and powerful coöperation of Axtell at right half. Those two in
the back field had been an army in themselves.

"The whole team is shot to pieces," groaned Tom.

"The hoodoo is certainly working overtime," muttered Dick.

"It's a raw deal for fair," acquiesced Bert, "but we're far from being
dead ones yet. We haven't got a monopoly of the jinx. Don't think that
the other fellows won't get theirs before the season's over. Then, too,
the new men may show up better than we think. Morley's no slouch, and
there may be championship timber in Winston. Besides, Axtell and Hodge
may be back again in a week or two. It's simply up to every one of us to
work like mad and remember that

          The fellow worth while is the one who can smile
          When everything's going dead wrong.

"You're a heavenly optimist, all right," grumbled Tom. "You'd see a
silver lining to any little old cloud. You remind me of the fellow that
fell from the top of a skyscraper, shouting as he passed the
second-story window: 'I'm all right, so far.' We may be 'all right so
far,' but the dull thud's coming and don't you forget it."

And during the days that followed it seemed as though Tom were a truer
prophet than Bert. Storm clouds hovered in the sky, and the barometer
fell steadily. On Wednesday they were scheduled to play a small
college--one of the "tidewater" teams that ordinarily they would have
swallowed at a mouthful. No serious resistance was looked for, and it
was regarded simply as a "practice" game. But the game hadn't been
played five minutes before the visitors realized that something was
wrong with the "big fellows," and taking heart of hope, the plucky
little team put up a game that gave the Blues all they wanted to do to
win. Win they did, at the very end, but by a margin that set the coach
to frothing at the mouth with rage and indignation. After the game they
had a dressing down that was a gem in its way, and which for lurid
rhetoric and fierce denunciation left nothing to be desired.

But despite all his efforts, the lethargy persisted. It was not that the
boys did not try. They had never tried harder. But a spell seemed to
have fallen upon them. They were like a lion whose spine has been
grazed by a hunter's bullet so that it can barely drag its deadened body
along. In vain the coach fumed and stormed, and figuratively beat his
breast and tore his hair. They winced under the whip, they strained in
the harness, but they couldn't pull the load. And at length "Bull"
Hendricks realized that what he had been dreading all season had come.

The team had "slumped."

There are over three hundred thousand words in the English language, and
many of them are full of malignant meaning. Fever, pestilence, battle,
blood, murder, death have an awful significance, but in the lexicon of
the coach and trainer of a college team the most baleful word is
"slump."

This plague had struck the Blues and struck them hard. It was a silent
panic, a brooding fear, an inability of mind and muscle to work
together. There was but one remedy, and "Bull" Hendricks knew it.

The next day a dozen telegrams whizzed over the wires. They went to
every quarter of the continent, from Maine to Texas, from the Lakes to
the Gulf. And the burden of all was the same:

          "Team gone to pieces. Drop everything. Come."

If one had looked over the shoulder of the telegraph operator, he would
have seen that every address was that of some man who in his time had
been famous the country over for his prowess on the gridiron, and who on
many a glorious field had worn the colors of the Blues.

One of them was delivered in the private office of a great business
concern in Chicago. Mr. Thomas Ames, the president--better known in
earlier and less dignified days as "Butch"--turned from the mass of
papers on his desk and opened it. His eyes lighted up as he read it and
saw the signature. Then the light faded.

"Swell chance," he muttered, "with this big deal on."

He turned reluctantly to his desk. Then he read the telegram again. Then
he sighed and bit viciously at the end of his cigar.

"Nonsense," he growled. "There's no use being a fool. I simply can't,
and that's all there is to it."

He crushed the telegram in his hand and threw it into the waste basket.

Ten minutes later he fished it out. He smoothed out the wrinkles and
smiled as he noted the imperious form of the message. He was more
accustomed to giving orders than obeying them, and the change had in it
something piquant.

"Just like 'Bull,'" he grinned. "Arrogant old rascal. Doesn't even ask
me. Just says 'come.'"

"Off his trolley this time though," he frowned. "Nothing doing."

The pile of letters on his desk remained unanswered. His stenographer
waited silently. He waved her away, and she went out, closing the door
behind her. He lay back in his chair, toying idly with the telegram.

The memory of the old days at college was strong upon him. A few minutes
ago, engrossed in the details of a large and exacting business, nothing
had been farther from his thoughts. Now it all came back to him with a
rush, evoked by that crumpled bit of paper.

Days when the wine of life had filled his cup to the brim, when "the
world lay all before him where to choose," when the blood ran riot in
his veins, when all the future was full of promise and enchantment. Days
when laughter lay so near his lips that the merest trifle called it
forth, when fun and frolic held high carnival, when his unjaded senses
tasted to the full the mere joy of living. Days, too, of earnest effort,
of eager ambition, of brilliant achievement, of glowing hope, as he
prepared himself to play his part in the great drama of the world's
life. Glorious old days they had been, and although he had had more than
his share of prosperity and success in the years since then, he knew
that they were the happiest days of his life.

In his reverie his cigar had gone out, and he lighted it again
mechanically.

The old place hadn't changed much, he supposed. That was one of its
charms. World-weary men could go back to it and renew the dreams of
their youth in the same old surroundings. A new dormitory, perhaps,
added to the others, a larger building for the library, but, apart from
these, substantially unchanged. The old gray towers covered with ivy,
the green velvet of the campus, the long avenue of stately elms--these
were the same as ever. He thought of the initials he had carved on the
tree nearest the gate, and wondered if the bark had grown over them. And
the old fence where the boys had gathered in the soft twilight of spring
evenings and sung the songs that had been handed down through college
generations. How the melody from hundreds of voices had swelled out into
the night!

There was the old "owl wagon," where the fellows late at night, coming
back from a lark in town, had stopped for a bite before going to bed.
There never were such delicious waffles as that fellow turned out. And
there was Pietro at the chestnut stand, always good natured under the
teasing of the boys, and old John, the doughnut man----

O, what was the use? He must get back to those letters.

There was the "sugar eat" in the spring. That usually came in the latter
part of March. The soft wind would come up out of the south, the snow
would begin to vanish and the sap stir in the trees. That was the signal
for the "Hike." A scouting party would be sent out to make arrangements
at some sugar camp five or six miles away. Then the next morning the
fellows would "cut" recitations, and the startled professors would find
their rooms deserted, while the hilarious culprits were footing it out
to the camp. The farmer's wife, forewarned in advance, would have the
long rough tables under the trees prepared for the hungry crew. Out from
her capacious ovens would come great pans of hot puffy biscuits, while
from the boiling caldrons the boys drew huge cans of bubbling maple
syrup. And that sugar on those biscuits! Ambrosia, nectar, food for the
gods! He had dined since then in the finest restaurants in the world,
and never tasted anything to be compared to it.

What mattered the sarcastic and cutting remarks of the Profs. on the
following day? They had had their fling and were willing to pay the
price.

He came back to reality and the telegram that he was automatically
folding and unfolding.

"Team gone to pieces." He stirred uneasily.

That was certainly tough luck. It must be serious when "Bull" talked
like that. It had usually been the good fortune of Blue teams to make
the other fellows go "to pieces." Now it really seemed as though the
good old colors were in danger of being dimmed, if not disgraced.

They hadn't been disgraced when he wore them, he remembered. How they
had wound up the season in a blaze of glory the last year he had played
on the team! He saw even now, the crowded stands, the riot of colors,
the frenzied roars of the Blues, when he had squirmed out of the mass
piled on him, and grabbing the ball, had rushed down the field for a
touchdown, with the enemy thundering at his heels. He felt still the
thrill of that supreme moment when the fellows had hoisted him on their
shoulders and carried him in triumph off the field.

He half rose from his chair, but sank back.

"If it wasn't for that confounded deal," he groaned.

He had been so used to Blue victories that their failure for the last
two years had made him "sore." In his business associations and at his
club he came in contact with many graduates from different colleges. He
had usually been able to "josh" them good naturedly over the way the
Blues had "done them up." But lately the shoe had been on the other foot
and they had delighted in getting even.

He was not too thin skinned, and took their jibes smilingly, even though
the smile was a trifle forced. They were entitled to their revenge.
Sometimes, however, he winced when they flicked him "on the raw." There
was Evans, for instance, an old Princeton tackle. Good fellow,
Evans--corking good fellow--but after the Blues lost last fall, he had
gloated a little too much. He had met him on the street and clapped him
hilariously on the shoulder.

"Ha, ha, Ames," he shouted, "how about it? We tied the can on the
bulldog's tail, and we'll do the same next year."

That had stung. His face flushed now as he recalled it:

"We tied the can on the bulldog's tail, and we'll do the same next
year."

"They will, will they?" he roared, jumping to his feet.

He pressed a button on his desk, and his confidential man came in.

"Thompson," said Ames hurriedly, "I've been called East on important
business. Keep in touch with me by wire. I've just got time to catch the
Twentieth Century Express."



CHAPTER IX

HAMMERED INTO SHAPE


LIKE a sheaf of arrows, the other telegrams sped over the country, and
most of them went straight to the mark. A mining engineer in Montana got
one, and pulled up stakes at once. A rising young lawyer in Minneapolis
found it necessary to look up some data in the old college library. A
guest on a houseboat down near Jacksonville made hurried excuses and
came North by the first train. Others felt urgently the need of a brief
vacation from their accustomed duties and acted promptly on the impulse.
Not a week had elapsed before ten of the dozen were on the scene of
action. Of the remaining two, one was up in the North Woods and could
not be reached, and the other was on his honeymoon.

They had a royal welcome from the coach, who had not doubted for a
moment that they would heed the call. He knew that the old war horses
would "sniff the battle from afar" and come galloping to the fray. Now
that they were there, he felt the lightening of the tremendous load of
responsibility he had been carrying since the beginning of the season.
These men were not theorists, but from actual experience knew every
point of the game from start to finish. Now he could divide his men up
into squads, each one presided over by an expert who could coach each
individual player in the duties of his position, while Hendricks himself
could exercise a general supervision of the whole.

"It was bully of you fellows to come," he said, as they gathered in his
rooms, as full of life and ginger as so many two-year-old colts. "And,
now that you are here, I'm going to give you plenty of work to do.
Heaven knows there's enough to keep you busy if we're to have a ghost of
a show to win this fall."

"What's the seat of the trouble?" asked Ames. "Are they shirking? Are
they too light? Many accidents? Come, get it off your chest. Tell us the
sad story of your life."

"It wasn't so sad until lately," grinned "Bull," "and up to a week ago I
didn't feel the necessity of weeping on any one's shoulder. In fact, I
was beginning to think that the team was the real goods. They walked all
over the Army, and what they did to Dartmouth was a sin and a shame.
Then somebody must have wished a hoodoo on us and things began to
happen."

And he narrated in detail the unexpected way in which three of his best
men had been whisked off the team, and the results that followed.

"The fellows simply got in the doldrums," he went on, "and, with a few
exceptions, have played like a lot of schoolboys. They seem to have
forgotten all that they ever knew. Now you fellows know as well as I do
that when a team slumps in that fashion there's only one thing to do.
We've got to have new blood, new faces, new tactics. That's the reason I
sent for you fellows. The boys know you by reputation. They've heard of
the big things you did when in college, they look up to you as
heroes----"

"Spare our blushes!" exclaimed Hadley.

"And it will give them a new inspiration," went on the coach, not
heeding the interruption. "They'll forget their troubles and play like
fiends to justify your good opinion, and to show you that the honor of
the old college is safe in their hands. I want you to teach them all you
ever knew, and then some.

"I'm not asking you to make bricks without straw," he continued. "The
stuff is there for a crackerjack team. We're a bit short on beef, and
I'd like to have an average of five pounds more in the line. But I've
got the finest back field in the country, bar none. Wilson at full is
simply chain lightning, and the whole country will be talking of him by
November. Axtell is one of the most savage tacklers I've ever seen, and
if he can only get his conditions worked off soon, we won't have to
worry about right half. Morley, the man I put in his place, is a dandy,
but doesn't come up to Axtell. Henderson at quarter is as quick as a cat
and as cunning as a fox. Trent at center and Drake at right end are as
good as they make 'em. Those fellows I've named are stars. The rest are
good, but I've seen as good and better on many a Blue team.

"Now that's the way I size them up, and I want you fellows to go to it.
There are just about enough of us to take a man apiece. Do what you like
with them. I'll stand for anything short of murder. Work them till their
tongues hang out. Knock it into them if you have to use an axe. Every
day counts now. Do you realize that the game with the 'Maroons' is only
three weeks off? If it were to-morrow they wouldn't leave anything of us
but a grease-spot. And the 'Greys' wouldn't leave even that."

"Leave it to us," answered Ames, grimly voicing the general sentiment.
"We'll give 'em medicine in allopathic doses, and it will be a case of
'kill or cure.'"

And promptly the next afternoon they proceeded to make good their
threat. They went at their men hammer and tongs from the start. And the
boys responded at once to this drastic treatment. There was a general
brace all along the line. A new factor had been injected into the
situation. The listlessness of a few days back gave place to animation,
and before half an hour had passed the coach was delighted at the way
his plan was working.

In order that the newcomers might get a line on their style of play, the
whole team was put through the fundamentals. The tackling dummy was
brought out, and the players in turn launched themselves against it to
the accompaniment of stimulating cries:

"Harder."

"You're too low."

"That was a love tap."

"Batter it."

"Above the knees."

"Slam the life out of it."

"Too ladylike."

"Once more."

"Murder it."

And there was no let up until the tackling was as savage as even the
most exacting of the visitors demanded.

Then followed practice in falling on the ball in such a way as to
shelter it with hands and knees, while avoiding having one's breath
knocked out by the fall; running with it tucked under the arm so
securely that no grab of the enemy can dislodge it; getting down under
kicks fast enough to take advantage of any fumble by the enemy in trying
for a "fair catch;" getting a quick start the moment the ball was
snapped back, and a dozen other elemental features that constitute the
alphabet of the game. The boys had practiced these things a hundred
times before, but they can never be done too often or too well; and
to-day under the new stimulus they outdid themselves. Each tried to
surpass his fellows and worked as he had never worked before.

After an hour of this, they were lined up for two ten-minute sessions
with the scrubs. The play was sharp and snappy and every move was
followed by keen and critical eyes that nothing, however trivial,
escaped. By the time the team had rolled up twenty points and held their
opponents scoreless, the volunteer coaches knew pretty well the defects
that would have to be corrected, and just what work was cut out for
them.

The coach was immensely pleased. Once more he saw daylight ahead.

"What do you think of them, Butch, now that you've clapped your eyes on
them?" he asked, as they strolled off the field.

"All to the good," said Ames, sententiously. "Of course it's far from
being a finished team as yet, but you've got some first-class material
to work on. You're a little weak at the end of the line, and right
tackle can stand a lot of improvement. But all the fellows seem willing,
and that goes a long way. I didn't see one that appeared to be holding
back."

"That fullback of yours is a peach," broke in Hadley. "He comes pretty
near to being a team in himself. If he once gets a start, there's
nothing that can ever catch him."

"He's the fastest man in college," replied Hendricks. "He's the fellow
that carried off the Marathon at the Olympic Games in Berlin. And he's
as game as he is speedy. You ought to have seen the way he stood McAlpin
on his head when we played the Army. That fellow was as big as a house
and as full of grit as a gravel path, but he wasn't one-two-three with
Wilson. If all the boys were like him I'd have the championship won
right now."

"What made a hit with me," commented Lawrence, "was that classy bit of
dodging when he went down the field for sixty yards toward the end of
the game. At least six of them tried to stop him, but he slipped by them
like a ghost. And yet he ran almost in a straight line. All the dodging
was done by the swaying of his hips and shoulders. A man that can do
that comes pretty near to being the king of them all."

"You haven't any kick coming on your center and quarterback either,"
broke in Allen. "Jove, they're a pair of dandies. They work together
like a well-oiled machine. They're playing with their heads as well
their feet all the time. They've got the snap-back and the forward pass
down to perfection. And they're a stone wall when it comes to the
defense."

"Two of my very best," assented Hendricks, "and as sandy as the Sahara
desert. It's around those three that I've had to build up my team."

"Those three," all unknowing of the comments that were being made on
their work, were at the moment engaged in getting their bath and
rubdown, never more grateful than just now after their strenuous labors
of the afternoon.

"That was a course of sprouts for fair," remarked Tom when they were
putting on their clothes.

"They certainly put us through our paces," assented Dick. "I haven't
been so tired since the Army game."

"Just what we dubs needed," affirmed Bert. "Did you notice the snap and
pepper in the team? It's the first time for a week that we've known we
were alive. We're going to be a real football team after all. 'The cat
came back,' and why shouldn't we?"

"I suppose it was due to that lot of 'old grads' looking on," surmised
Tom. "Gee, when I thought of all those fellows leaving their work and
traveling hundreds of miles for the sake of the old college, it made me
ashamed of myself. I felt like going through a knot hole and drawing the
hole in after me."

"Same here," said Dick. "And they can bully-rag me all they like.
There'll be never a squeal from me. I'll work my head off to show them
that we're fit to wear the Blue."

"Hear! hear!" exclaimed Bert. "That's the real tobasco. And I'll bet
there isn't a fellow on the team that doesn't feel the same way."

They were still stirred by this feeling of elation when, after a hearty
supper, they reached their rooms. What was their surprise on opening the
door to find Axtell sprawled out in a chair, his feet upon the window
sill. He grinned affably.

"Come right in and make yourself at home," he greeted.

"What are you doing here, you old flunker?" laughed Bert.

"Take back them cruel woids," demanded Axtell. "Flunker," he went on
meditatively, "it hath a right knavish sound. Beshrew me, if I fling it
not back in the teeth of any caitiff knight that dare put such shame
upon me."

A great light dawned upon them.

"What!" cried Dick. "You old rascal. You don't mean to say that you've
worked off your conditions?"

"You speak sooth," was the reply, "albeit your wonder at the same
pleasureth my pride but little. For less than that my sword hath
ofttimes drunk the blood of churls."

They fell upon him and pounded him till he was out of breath.

"Glory hallelujah!" shouted Tom.

"The best news I've heard since Hector was a pup," declared Dick.

"Now we've got a fighting chance," exulted Bert. "By Jove, old scout,
you don't know how the team has missed you."

Axtell flushed with pleasure.

"Maybe I won't be glad to get back with the gang again," he ejaculated.
"Gee, for the last two weeks I've felt like a sneak. I can't forgive
myself for getting in such a fix, just when we were in such good shape
and going like a house afire. You bet that from now on my record will be
as clean as a hound's tooth."

"Bully!" said Bert. "I think you've done wonders though, to get rid of
the conditions so soon. You must have worked like a horse."

"I've worked all right," said Axtell grimly. "It was the least I could
do, heaven knows. Some nights I haven't gone to bed at all. Even at
that, I felt a little skittish when I went up for my exam. But I was
desperate and went in largely on my nerve. When the Prof. looked over my
papers I thought I heard him mutter to himself something that sounded
like: 'All Gaul is divided into three parts and you've got two of them.'
But that may simply have been my guilty conscience. At any rate I got
away with it, and the old sport gave me a clean bill of health."

"It's like getting money from home," affirmed Dick. "Maybe 'Bull'
Hendricks won't be tickled to death. He'll kill the fatted calf if he
can find one straying loose around the training quarters."

"O, he'll fall on my neck all right--with a club," remarked Axtell
drily. "When it comes to disguising his joy, 'Bull' is a dandy actor."

"Don't you believe it," said Bert. "But how about your accomplice in
crime?"

"O, Hodge will be coming along soon," was the reassuring reply. "He's
been working just as hard as I have or harder. But he's had two to make
up, where I had only one. He's hired a tutor to coach him and is
cramming away like mad. He told me this morning he thought he'd be
ready to go into the torture chamber by the end of this week."

"That'll be all to the merry," jubilated Tom. "Honest, Axtell, we've
been all at sea since you fellows have been away. Winston has done
fairly well at tackle, but he can't seem to start quickly enough when it
comes to blocking. 'Bull' has been trying out Chamberlain in place of
Ellis, but he gets mixed on the signals. He plugs away like a beaver,
but finds it hard to get them straight. Morley is doing fine work at
half, but he can't fill your shoes when it comes to tackling. Of course
I don't know what 'Bull' will do, but I have a hunch that he'll take
Chamberlain out and put Morley there permanently, as there isn't a
chance in the world for Ellis to come back in time."

"Poor old Ellis," mourned Bert. "Game to the core, that boy. It nearly
broke his heart when his ankle went back on him, but he never whimpers.
He hopes to be out on crutches in time to see the big games. Told me
yesterday, when I dropped in to see him, that when it came to yelling
for the boys we'd find his voice was all right even if his leg was on
the blink."

"Plucky old scout," agreed Axtell, "and one of the best men we had. But
now I must be going. I'll toddle over and give 'Bull' a chance to
welcome back the prodigal son. It'll be an affecting greeting," he
grinned.

But if he had expected to be "skinned alive" for his shortcomings, he
was agreeably disappointed. The coach was too delighted at the
strengthening of the team to dwell too much or too sternly on the
defection that had thrown it out of gear. He gave him a fatherly talk,
pointed out the necessity of keeping his studies up to the mark from
that time on, and put it up to him to "play the game" both in the
classroom and on the field for all it was worth. Then he dismissed him
with an injunction to turn up early for practice the following day.

The reinstated halfback went away with his eyes shining and his heart
elate. Once more "his foot was on his native heath." And the dignified
"Bull," after a cautious glance around to make sure that no one was
looking, indulged himself in the luxury of an impromptu Highland fling.



CHAPTER X

IN THE ENEMY'S COUNTRY


ONE afternoon, after practice, "Bull" Hendricks called Bert aside and
said: "I want you to stay a few minutes after the others have gone,
Wilson. Reddy and I have something we want you to do."

"All right," was the reply, and accordingly, after the other members of
the squad had finished dressing and had left the dressing room Bert
lingered behind. In a few minutes the coach walked into the apartment,
followed by Reddy.

"Reddy and I," began Hendricks, "have decided that we want something a
little more definite than rumor concerning one or two of the rival
teams. We have talked the matter over, and what we want you to do is
this. Next Saturday afternoon, as of course you know, the 'Maroons' and
'Greys' are scheduled to play off the game that was postponed on account
of bad weather. We want to get a line on the two teams, but both Reddy
and myself are too busy just at present to take the time off. But we
thought you could go over and size things up about as well as we could.
You understand the game thoroughly, and in addition I believe know how
to use your head for something besides eating."

"You compliment me more highly than I deserve," laughed Bert. "But,"
more seriously, "I'll be glad to do anything you want me to that will be
of any service in helping the team to win."

"Well, it will be a help," said the coach. "We hear one thing to-day,
and the exact opposite to-morrow, so we never know what to believe. But
if you go and see this game, you ought to be able to get a pretty fair
line on the real state of affairs."

"The only trouble is," worried Reddy, "that the team will practically
miss a whole afternoon's practice, because it's not much we can do
without Wilson."

The little trainer would never have made this admission had he not been
very sure of his man. But he knew Bert's sterling character well enough
to be sure that the remark would cause no case of "swelled head."

"We'll get along some way," said Hendricks, "and the team is in good
enough shape now to afford taking it easy one afternoon. We'll just
practice on signals, and they'll be all the better for a little let up."

"In that case," suggested Bert, "why couldn't I take Dick and Tom along
with me? You know the old saying that 'two heads are better than one,'
and on the same plan, three heads ought to be better than two."

"At that rate you'd have the entire college going over there and giving
the whole thing away," grunted Hendricks, "but I suppose you might as
well take them along. The chances are you won't be noticed in the crowd,
and if you are there's no special harm done. There's no law against
players from one team going to see another team play."

"An' what's more," put in Reddy, "I don't believe one o' them can think
real well unless the other two is hangin' around somewheres close by. It
sure beats the Dutch, the way them three lads holds together."

"Well," said Bert, "that 'holding together,' as you call it, has been a
mighty good thing for each of us at one time or another. Looked at in
one light, it's a sort of mutual benefit affair."

"Whatever it is, it seems to work pretty well," remarked Hendricks, "and
it's results that always make a big hit with me."

They then proceeded to arrange the details, and it was decided that the
three boys should leave immediately after breakfast on Saturday. When
everything had been settled Bert took leave of the coach and trainer and
sought out his friends.

After he had explained the plan to them, Tom threw a book he had been
studying into a far corner, and gave a shout of delight which was
echoed by Dick.

"Some class to us, all right," exulted Tom; "it shows old Hendricks must
have some confidence in us, even though he'd probably be pulled to
pieces before he'd admit it."

"I suppose he must have," grinned Dick, "although up to this time I will
confess that I never suspected it."

"Well, we'd better not look a gift horse in the mouth," said Bert. "The
fact remains that we're in for an afternoon of good sport. It will
certainly be a pleasure to me to watch somebody else play football for a
change. And before the afternoon is over, you can take it from me I'm
going to know all about the comparative strength of their teams and ours
that there is to know."

"Well, you _may_ be able to learn something, seeing that I'll be along
to explain the fine points of the game to you and see that you
understand what is going on," said Tom. "I suppose the coach realized
that there wouldn't be much use in sending you over alone, and that's
why he told you to ask us to go too."

"You certainly hate yourself, don't you?" grinned Bert. "However, I
won't lower myself to answer you, merely remarking in passing that your
words are only worthy of the deepest contempt."

"Is that so?" replied Tom. "I'm afraid if you pull much more of that
stuff I'll have to find a quiet nook for you in my private graveyard.
I'd have done it before only that I find myself somewhat overcrowded
even now."

"Say, cut out that nonsense, you two, and get down to business, will
you?" interrupted Dick. "What time are we supposed to leave here, Bert?"
he asked.

"Right after lunch," responded that individual. "I'll get a time table,
and we'll see what will be the best train to take."

"I know a better way to go than by train," said Dick.

"What's that--walk?" inquired Tom sarcastically.

"Please don't be any more foolish than you can help," said Dick with
elaborate politeness; "what I was about to say was, that I think I know
where I can borrow an automobile for the afternoon. How does that idea
strike you?"

"Greatest ever," ejaculated Bert, "but where in the world are you going
to get the car?"

"Leave that to your Uncle Dudley," replied Dick. "I met an old friend
the other day. He's visiting relatives in the town for several weeks. He
has all sorts of money, and sports two 'devil wagons.' He told me I
could have the use of one any time I had a mind to ask for it, so I
don't think I'll have any trouble on that score."

"That seems too good to be true," said Bert. "Suppose you look up your
friend this evening after supper and make sure of getting the car. It's
better to know in advance what we can count on."

"I'll do that," promised Dick, "and if I get back in time I'll let you
know if everything is all right. If I get back late I'll tell you about
it in the morning."

Matters were left in this state, and it was not until the next morning
that the boys learned of the success of Dick's visit to the town.

When they caught sight of him in the morning, Bert and Tom did not have
to question him.

"It's all right fellows," he said. "I fixed it all up, and we can have
the car any time we want it. And the one we're going to use is a peach,
too."

"That's certainly fine," said Tom. "We'll make the trip in tip-top style
all right."

"People will think we're regular swells, for fair," agreed Bert.

"I think we'd better pose as a rich man traveling with his chauffeur and
valet," said Tom. "I'll be the rich man, Dick can be the chauffeur, and
Bert can be the valet."

"All right," said Bert, "but under those conditions, I insist on being
paid in advance."

"So do I," grinned Dick. "I refuse to run that car a foot until I'm paid
in full, a year in advance, cash down."

"If you feel that way about it," grumbled Tom, "I'll be forced to fire
you both and run the car myself. All you fellows think of is money
anyway, it seems to me."

"Well, if you can't pay us I suppose we'll have to pose as just three
friends traveling together," laughed Bert. "That's the only way out of
it that I can see."

"I'll have to let it go at that I suppose," said Tom; and after a hearty
laugh the boys dispersed to their recitation rooms.

Practice that afternoon was fast and hard, and it was a tired trio that
met that evening in Bert's room to make final plans for their trip the
next day. They decided to walk to the garage where the automobile was
kept, and Dick showed them a written order his friend had given him
authorizing him to take the car out.

"Your friend has certainly done everything up in fine style," commented
Bert; "he must be a good man to know."

"He's a brick," said Dick enthusiastically; "we used to be in the same
class in school, and we were always good friends. I'd like to have you
fellows meet him."

"Yes, I'd like to get acquainted," said Tom. "It seems funny we haven't
met him before."

"Well, you see, his folks moved West when we were both youngsters, and
that's the reason," explained Dick, "otherwise I suppose you would
have."

"Well, probably we will before he leaves town," said Bert. "But now, how
about to-morrow?"

"Why, right after breakfast to-morrow," said Dick, "we'll go straight
from the training table to the garage. We won't have any more than
enough time as it is. It must be a matter of a hundred miles or more,
and we want to travel easy and allow for possible breakdown and delay."

As there seemed to be no objection to Dick's plan, the boys adopted it.
Immediately after the morning meal they set out for the town, and after
a brisk walk reached the garage.

Here they sought the proprietor, and Dick showed him the written order
from Moore, his friend.

"Oh, yes, that will be all right," said the garage man. "Mr. Moore told
me that you would call for the car at about this time, so I've been
expecting you. There she is, over in the corner, the big gray one
there."

He indicated a big gray touring car, and the three comrades walked over
to it. It was, as Dick had told them, a beautiful machine, and they
piled in with many expressions of admiration. As Dick had procured the
car the honor of driving it naturally fell to him. He manoeuvred the big
automobile skilfully out of the garage, and they were soon spinning
smoothly over an ideal country road. The car behaved perfectly and Dick
was enthusiastic over it.

"We could get twice the speed out of it that we are now," he exulted,
"but I'm not taking any chances to-day. We owe it to the team to be
careful."

"Right you are," agreed Bert. "There's no use taking risks when we don't
have to. At this rate we'll eat up the distance in mighty short order
anyway."

And indeed, it was no great time before they reached their destination
and were bowling through the streets.

They left the car at the local garage, and made their way to the field,
guided thereto by a constant stream of chattering and laughing people
evidently bound for the same place. They obtained good seats and sat
down to await the beginning of the game.

Before long the "Grey" players trotted out onto the field, and were
shortly followed by the "Maroons." Both teams went through their
preliminary practice with snap and "pep," and received enthusiastic
applause from their admirers in the stands. Then the actual play began,
and the three comrades noted every play and formation with the greatest
attention. They were resolved to justify the coach's confidence in them,
and to be able to give him an accurate line of "dope" when they returned
to their Alma Mater.

The game was fast and furious, but at the end of the first half the
"Maroons" were leading by one touchdown. Excitement ran high at the
opening of the second half, and a battle royal began. But the "Greys"
fought fiercely, and by a splendid run down the field made a touchdown
and tied the score. Then, in the last three minutes of play, they forced
the ball over for another touchdown, and the day was theirs.

"Well!" exclaimed Bert as they filed out with the crowd, "both those
teams have the 'goods,' but I think the 'Greys' are just a shade better
than the 'Maroons.'"

"I do, too," said Tom, and this seemed also to be Dick's opinion. They
made their way to the garage, and as it was now almost dark, Dick lit
the lamps on the car. Then they purred smoothly along the macadam road
and after a delightful ride through the crisp autumn air delivered the
car safely into its garage before midnight.

The next morning they were received with an uproarious welcome when they
made their appearance at the training table. The other members of the
team had a pretty good idea of where they had been, and assailed them
from every side with questions. But they kept their own counsel,
reserving their information for the ears of the coach, and knowing that
he would tell the team all that he thought fit.

After the meal was over they repaired to the training quarters, where
they found the coach awaiting them.

"Well," he said, "what luck?"

Speaking for his comrades, Bert related the story of the game, and the
coach listened attentively. When Bert had finished, he asked a number of
crisp questions of each of the three boys, and their answers seemed to
satisfy him.

"Well," he growled, when at last he rose to go, "I can go ahead now with
more certainty. You fellows have done better than I expected." Which
from Hendricks was high praise.

"We've certainly got our work cut out for us," said Bert after the coach
had departed. "I haven't a doubt in the world but what we can beat them,
but just the same we'll have to do our prettiest to get the long end of
the decision."

"Bet your tintype we will," said Tom; "both those teams are a tough
proposition for anybody to handle. But there will be all the more glory
for us when we win."

"That's the talk!" exclaimed Dick, "there's no fun in winning a game
where you don't get hard opposition, anyway."

Meanwhile Hendricks had wended his way back to the training quarters,
where he sought out Reddy.

He gave the red-headed trainer a brief outline of what the boys had told
him, and Reddy listened attentively, once or twice breaking in with a
question or two.

"So it seems," said Hendricks at last, winding up his discourse, "that
the team we've really got to look out for is the 'Greys.' According to
the report of our three boys, they are mighty strong on the attack, and
nothing behindhand on their defense."

"It looks that way," acquiesced Reddy, nodding his head, "the lads did
pretty well, don't you think?"

"They did," agreed Hendricks; "they got just the information that I was
after. And what do you think," he added with a laugh, "they weren't
content to go by the train or trolley, but borrowed an automobile and
went in style."

"Sure, and it's like themselves," grinned Reddy, "if I was runnin' a
business I'd be afraid to give those byes a job. They'd be ownin' the
plant in less than a year."

"I believe they would," said Hendricks. "They're natural born winners."



CHAPTER XI

A DESPERATE FIGHT


THE day for the game with the "Maroons" broke dark and lowering. Clouds
chased each other across the sky, the air was saturated with moisture
and, although rain had not yet fallen, there was every prospect that it
would before the day was over.

The team had been "tuned to the hour." There was not a man on it that
was not fit to put up the game of his life. Each one had brought himself
down to the weight at which he was most effective, their flesh was "hard
as nails," and their lean bronzed faces betokened the pink of condition.
If they were doomed to be beaten there could be no excuse put forth that
they were not at the top of their form.

Not that they anticipated any necessity of making excuses. An air of
quiet confidence was everywhere apparent. The old indomitable Blue
spirit was as much in evidence as their splendid physical condition. Not
that they underestimated their opponents. The "Maroons," despite their
defeat of the week before by the "Greys," were formidable opponents and
still full of fight. In fact, their loss of that game might be counted
on to put them in a savage mood of retaliation, and nothing was more
certain than that they would fight like demons to down the Blues. But
the latter welcomed the prospect of a bitter fight, and were fully
convinced of their ability to give harder blows than they would have to
take.

"We've simply got to win to-day, fellows," said Tom as they strolled
back to their rooms after breakfast.

"It's the only way we can have a clear title to the championship,"
remarked Bert. "It won't do us much good to lick the 'Greys' next week
if we fall down to-day. In that case it will be 'even Steven.' Each team
will have won and lost one and we'll be as much at sea as ever as to
which has the best team."

"Then, too," added Dick, "we're fighting to-day on our own grounds and
next week we'll have to play the 'Greys' on a neutral field. If we can't
win now with that advantage it will be doubly hard to win then."

"We'll cop them both," said Bert with an air of finality. And this
solution received the hearty approval and implicit faith of his
companions. In one form or another every man on the team was swearing to
himself that the prediction should come true, if it lay in human power
to compass it.

As the day wore on the town took on a festal air. Flags and bunting
fluttered everywhere. Special trains drew in from every point of the
compass and disgorged their thousands to swell the crowds. The streets
resounded with the raucous cries of the fakirs, and their wares of canes
and flags were soon sold out. Groups of college boys accompanied by
pretty girls wandered over the campus, and the walks under the elms
resounded with song and laughter. From every city in the country "old
grads" came down to renew their youth and shout themselves hoarse for
their favorites. The clouded sky and threatening rain daunted them not
at all. They were there to make holiday, and serenely ignored everything
else. Only an earthquake or a cyclone could have kept them from coming.
It might rain "cats and dogs," rheumatism and pneumonia might hang out
danger signals, but they cared not a whit. They were out for the time of
their lives and bound to get it.

The game was to begin at two o'clock, and after cleaning out all the
restaurants in town, put to their utmost to feed the ravening horde of
locusts that had swarmed down upon them, the throngs set out for the
stadium. That gigantic structure could hold forty thousand people and,
long before the time for the game to begin, it was crowded to repletion.
On one side were the stands for the Blues and directly facing them were
those reserved for the "Maroons." The occupants yelled and shouted and
waved their flags at each other in good-natured defiance. At the upper
end a band played popular airs that nobody cared for, and half the time
in the din and tumult did not even hear. In front of the stands the
cheermasters jumped up and down and went through their weird
contortions, as they led the cheers and gave the signal for the songs.

The Blues were gathered in their training quarters, ready and anxious
for the fight. They were like a pack of hounds straining at the leash.
Reddy and his assistants had gone over every detail of their equipment,
and the coach had spoken his last word of appeal and encouragement. This
he had purposely made short. There was little dwelling on the game to be
played, nor any attempt to rehearse signals. The time for that was past.
If they were not ready now, they never would be. He had done his utmost
and now the result must be left to the team and to fate.

At half past one a slight drizzle set in. Old Jupiter Pluvius had lost
patience and refused to hold off until the game was over. But the
general hilarity abated not a particle. It would take more than rain to
drive that crowd to cover. The field had been strewn with straw to keep
the ground beneath as dry as possible. Now, however, it was time for
practice, and a crowd of assistants appeared and raked the straw away,
showing the glistening newly-marked yard lines underneath.

Then a gate at the end of the one of the stands opened and the
"Maroons," in their gaily colored jerseys, trotted on the field. The
"Maroon" stands rose en masse and a torrent of cheers swept over the
field as they gave the team a greeting that must have "warmed the
cockles of their heart."

The boys peeled off their jerseys and commenced punting and falling on
the ball. They kept this up for ten minutes and then gave way to their
rivals.

Out from the other side of the field scampered the Blues. Then
Pandemonium broke loose. The yells were simply deafening, and, as the
home crowd let itself go, the fellows grinned happily at each other and
their muscles stiffened with ardor for the fight.

"Seems as though they were glad to see us," laughed Tom, as he sent the
ball whirling in a spiral pass to Bert.

"You bet," answered Bert, "and we must make them yell louder yet at the
finish."

The practice was short and snappy. There was ginger in every movement
and Bert's tries for goal elicited the unwilling admiration at the same
time that it awakened the fear of the "Maroon" supporters.

Then the signal was given and the captains of the two teams clasped
hands cordially in the middle of the field and tossed a coin for
position. The "Maroons" won and, as there was not enough wind stirring
to favor either goal, elected to take the kick off. The teams lined up
on the "Maroon's" forty yard line. Miller kicked the ball thirty yards
down the field and the game was on.

Martin made a fair catch, but before he could run back was downed in his
tracks. The teams lined up for the scrimmage. Dick plunged through left
guard and tackle for a gain of five yards. Axtell went through right for
two more. Then the ball was given to Bert, and he went through the hole
opened up by Drake and Boyd for eight more. They had gained their
distance and the ball was still in their possession on the fifty yard
line.

Their bucking had been so successful that they were still inclined to
try the plunging game. But the "Maroons" had braced. Three successive
downs failed to yield the coveted ten yards and Bert dropped back for a
kick. The ball was handled with superb precision by Tom and Dick, who
made a perfect pass to Bert. It was off from his toe like a flash, just
escaping the "Maroon" forwards as they broke through to block. Miller
made a great jumping catch, but Axtell's savage tackle downed him where
he stood. The ball was now in "Maroon" territory on their twenty yard
line.

It was altogether too close for comfort, and the "Maroons" made a
gallant and desperate effort to get it further down the field. The
Blues, however, were no less determined. Against the bull-like plunges
of the enemy they held like a stone wall. Three times in succession they
refused to let their foes gain an inch. It was clear that other tactics
would have to be resorted to. Halliday, the "Maroon" quarter, tried a
forward pass. Richmond at right end caught it and started down the
field. Warren tackled him, but slipped in the mud and Richmond shook him
off. His interference was good and he was off like a frightened rabbit.
He had made twenty yards before Bert caught and threw him heavily. But
he held on to the ball and the "Maroons" breathed more freely. The ball
was still theirs, forty yards from their goal line.

"Never mind, old man," called Bert cheerfully to Warren. "A bit of hard
luck, but don't let it get your goat. Any one might have slipped in such
muddy going."

The narrow escape heartened the "Maroons" and they fought like wildcats.
They were on the defensive and the ball stayed in their territory. But
the utmost efforts of the Blues failed to make substantial gains, and
when the whistle blew at the end of the quarter neither side had scored.

By this time the rain was coming down in torrents. The stands were a
mass of glistening umbrellas and shining raincoats. The flags and
decorations no longer waved defiantly, but hung dank and dripping. The
field beneath the rushing feet of the players had been churned into a
sea of mud, and this was plastered liberally on the uniforms of the
teams. In the minute's interval between quarters a host of trainers'
assistants rushed from the side lines with sponges and towels and tried
to get their charges in some kind of shape.

When the next quarter started the play was fast and furious. The teams
had sized each other up and got a line on their respective line of play.
Each side realized that the battle was for blood, and that it had in the
other a worthy foeman. There would be no walkover for anybody that day.

Floundering and slipping in the mud, the Blues steadily pounded their
way down to the "Maroon's" goal. Morley made a successful dash around
left end, netting twenty yards. On a forward pass Caldwell fumbled, but
Tom made a dazzling recovery before the enemy could pounce upon the
ball. Bert found a gap between left and tackle and went through with
lowered head for twelve yards before the "Maroons" fell on him in a
mass. Then the Blues uncovered the "Minnesota shift"--one of "Bull"
Hendrick's pet tricks--and they went through the bewildered "Maroons"
for twenty yards. Another trial of the same shift was smothered and a
daring end run by Hudson of the "Maroons" brought the ball to the middle
of the field. Four unsuccessful attempts failed to advance it and it
went to the Blues on downs.

The ball was now on the "Maroons'" forty yard line and there were only
two minutes left of playing time. The "Maroon" defence had stiffened and
it was a practical certainty that line bucking could not avail in that
limited time, so Bert dropped back for a kick. Tom snapped it back to
Dick, who with the same motion made a beautiful pass to Bert. With all
the power of his mighty leg he swung on it and lifted it far and high.
Straight as an arrow it winged its way toward the "Maroons'" goal.

A tremendous shout had gone up as the ball left his toe, but then
followed a deadly silence as they watched its towering flight. Would it
go over the posts and score three points for the Blues or would it go to
one side just enough to give the "Maroons" a new lease of life?

Now the ball had reached its highest point and was falling in a swift
curve toward the goal. As it neared the posts it seemed for a moment to
hesitate. Then, as though it had made up its mind, it swooped suddenly
downward and crossed the goal bar, just grazing it. The goal had counted
and a groan went up from the "Maroon" stands, while those in the Blues
leaped to their feet waving their flags and cheering like madmen.

Tom danced a jig on the field and threw his arms about Bert, and the
other fellows coming up swarmed around him with frantic congratulations.
And just then the second half ended and both teams went to their
quarters for the fifteen minutes' rest that marks the half of the game.
Here they changed quickly into fresh uniforms and braced themselves for
the second and decisive half. Naturally the confidence was on the side
of the Blues, but the lead was not large, and as yet it was anybody's
game.

"You've got them started," exhorted Hendricks. "Now keep them on the
run. Don't let up for a minute. Hit them, hammer them, tear their line
in pieces. I want you to roll up a score that will scare the 'Greys'
before we tackle them."

The advice was good in theory and the will was not lacking to carry it
out in practice. But the "Maroons" had other views and from the moment
they came on the field it was evident that they had taken a brace. They
were yet a long way from giving up the ghost. After all, the field goal
had only counted three points, and a touchdown would not only even this
up but put the Maroons in the lead.

To get that touchdown they worked like fiends. Berriman kicked the ball
out of bounds and Flynn fell upon it, sliding along in the mud and water
as he did so. The ball was brought in at the Blues' forty yard line and
the teams lined up for the scrimmage. Adams slammed through left tackle
for five yards. Gibbons with lowered head butted into center, but Dick
threw him back for a loss of two. Hudson skirted left end, cleverly
dodging Caldwell and making twelve yards, before Tom leaped upon him and
downed him heavily. But the ball was under him and the "Maroons" had
more than made their distance on the four downs.

Once more they lined up, and now the Blues were on the defensive. Boyd
had hurt his knee and Chamberlain came running out to take his place.
Instead of reporting to the referee, he spoke first to one of his
comrades, and for this violation of the rules the Blues were penalized
five yards. A moment later they lost five more through off-side play by
Warren. Ten precious yards thrown away when every one was beyond price!
And now the jubilant "Maroons" were within fifteen yards of the goal,
and their partisans were on their feet yelling like wild men.

Panting, crouching, glaring, the two teams faced each other. The
"Maroons" consulted for a moment. Should they try a kick for goal,
yielding three points if successful and tieing the score, or buck the
line for a touchdown which would put them in the lead? The first was
easier, but the latter more profitable if they could "put it over." They
might never be so near the line again, and they thought that they saw
signs of wavering among the Blues. They decided then to try for the
greater prize and buck the line.

Berriman, their halfback, bowled over Chamberlain for a gain of four
yards. Richmond tried to make a hole between Dick and Tom, but was
nailed without a gain. Once more Berriman ploughed in between Warren and
Chamberlain, which seemed to be the weakest part of the defense, but,
anticipating the move, Bert had posted himself there and, meeting the
rush halfway, dumped Berriman on his head. As he fell, the ball slipped
from his hands and Tom, quick as a cat, picked it up and twisting,
dodging, squirming, scuttled down along the southern line. Burke flung
himself at him in a flying tackle and grabbed one leg, but the runner
shook him off and, with his momentum scarcely checked flew down the
field, aided by superb interference on the part of Drake and Axtell,
who bowled over the "Maroon" tacklers like so many ninepins. He had made
thirty-five yards and was going like the wind when, in eluding the
outstretched arms of Miller, he slipped in a pool of mud and water and
went down, skating along on his nose for several yards, while the whole
"Maroon" team piled over him. But his nose guard had saved him from
injury and, when the wriggling mass was disentangled, it was found that
he still had the ball. He wiped the mud from his face and grinned
happily while his mates gathered round him and billows of cheers swept
down from the Blue stands, frantic with delight at the brilliant run.

"Splendid, old boy!" cried Bert, slapping Tom on the back. "That was
classy stuff. You went down the line like a shot from a gun."

"It saved the goal line all right," panted Dick. "Jove! They were close.
It looked for a minute as though they had us going."

The ball was put into play again but just as the teams lined up time was
called. The game was three-quarters over and the remaining fifteen
minutes would tell the tale of victory or defeat. The boys stood around
in groups scraping the mud from their uniforms and rubbing rosin on
their hands to get a better grip in tackling.

Just as the breathing spell was over the sun suddenly burst forth in a
blaze of glory. Umbrellas went down like magic and even the "Maroon"
supporters, chagrined as they were, joined in the cheer that rose from
the drenched spectators. It put new life into the players also.

"Look!" cried Bert as the teams took their places. "The rainbow!"

All eyes were turned in the direction he pointed, where in a magnificent
arch of shifting colors the bow of promise curved over the field.

"It's our rainbow," shouted Tom. "We saw it first."

"Come off, you dubs," sang out Halliday. "Don't you see that it's over
our goal?"

"Sure," retorted Tom. "That's to show us where we've got to go."

"It is, eh?" said Halliday grimly. "You'll only get there over our dead
bodies."

"You're dead ones already," taunted Drake good-naturedly. "You're only
walking round to save funeral expenses."

But in the furious battle that developed from the kick-off, it was
evident that the "Maroons" were very lively corpses. It was no use to
play on the defensive. If they did that, they were beaten already by the
three points that now loomed up in such tremendous proportions. Nor was
there any reason to keep any of their plays up their sleeves. For them
it was the last game of the season and now was the time to uncover their
whole "bag of tricks."

So they threw caution to the winds and played with utter recklessness
and abandon. Their "Wheel shift" was a new one on the Blues, and the
"Maroons" had used it twice for a gain of thirty yards before the Blues
solved and checkmated it. Then the forward pass was tried, usually
without advancing the ball, though one clever skirting of the end gained
fifteen yards. The ball was getting pretty well down into Blue territory
when a magnificent drop kick by Bert sent it sailing to the middle of
the field. In the momentary silence that succeeded the cheering, some
wag from the Blue stands piped out:

"It's too bad that fellow Wilson is lame." And everybody laughed.

But the laugh of the "Maroons" had a pang behind it. Only five minutes
of playing time were left, and the ball was in the hands of their
enemies. They ranged up for the scrimmage with the desperation of men
faced by advancing doom but bound to go down fighting.

And go down they did before the savage and exulting onslaught of the
Blues. Fighting, raging, blocking, charging, they were forced back
toward their goal. Drake and Dick and Axtell went ploughing through big
holes opened up by their comrades in both sides of the line until, with
two downs yet to go, the ball was in the hands of the Blues twelve yards
from the enemy's goal.

Everybody was standing now. Flags were waving, voices yelling and the
tumult was indescribable.

It was the supreme moment, and Bert was called on for the final plunge.

"Go to it, old man, the instant I snap it back," whispered Tom.

"For the sake of the old college," urged Dick.

Bert stiffened.

"Watch me," he said.

It was a perfect snap from Tom to Dick, who passed it to Bert so swiftly
that the eye could scarcely follow it. At the same instant Drake and
Axtell opened up a hole between left guard and tackle and Bert ploughed
through it like an unchained cyclone. The whole "Maroon" team was on him
in an instant, but the fearful headway of his charge had carried him
through nine of the coveted twelve yards and the goal post loomed almost
directly overhead.

"Buck up, fellows, buck up," screamed Halliday wildly. "For heaven's
sake, brace!"

Bert's head was buzzing with the impact of that mighty plunge, but his
eyes blazed with the light of coming triumph.

"Not an inch, boys, not an inch," yelled Halliday. "Throw them back.
It's their last down."

But their hour had struck. Once more the ball was passed and, charging
hard and low, Bert went into the line. The "Maroons" hurled themselves
savagely against him, but a regiment could not have stopped him. He
crumpled them up and carried the fragments of the broken line on his
head and shoulders, coming at last to the ground five yards over the
goal for the touchdown. And the Blue stands promptly went stark raving
mad.

Bruised and dizzy but smiling, Bert rose to his feet. At that moment he
would not have changed places with an emperor.

The ball was carried out to the twenty-five yard line and Dick, lying
flat on the ground, steadied it for the kick. Bert took careful aim and
lifted it unerringly over the goal. It had scarcely touched the ground
when the whistle blew and the game was over. The Blues had triumphed,
ten to nothing, but only after a desperate battle that left the
"Maroons" vanquished, but not disgraced. Their gallant foes gave them a
rousing cheer that was returned by the victors with interest.

Then the crowds swept down like a tidal wave from the stands and
submerged the doughty fighters. The Blues, all muddy and disheveled as
they were, were hoisted on the shoulders of their exulting comrades and
carried from the field. And it was all they could do to get away from
them and repair to their shower and rubdown, never before so needed or
so welcome.

The campus blazed that night with bonfires and resounded with noises
that "murdered sleep." But all the pleading that the team might take
part in the festivities fell unheeded on the ears of the two inexorable
tyrants, Hendricks and Reddy. Happy and exulting tyrants just then, but
tyrants none the less.

"Not until they lick the 'Greys,'" was "Bull's" decree. "If they do that
they can split the town wide open. Until then the lid is on."

There was no appeal from his decision, and by nine o'clock the weary
warriors were tucked away in bed to dream of past and hope for coming
victory.

Dick was just dropping off when a voice came from Bert's bed:

"Say, Dick, what's the greatest game in the world?"

"Football," was the prompt reply.

"And, Dick, what's the greatest team in the world?"

"The Blues," averred Dick stoutly.

"Right," assented Bert. "Now go to sleep."



CHAPTER XII

THE COACH ROBBERY


ONE morning Bert received a letter that caused him to emit a wild whoop
of joy, and then set off post haste to find Tom and Dick. He discovered
them at last on the campus, kicking a ball around, and rushed toward
them waving the open letter over his head.

"Say, fellows," he shouted when he got within speaking distance of them,
"whom do you suppose this letter is from? Bet you a million you can't
guess right in three guesses."

"From the way you seem to feel about it," grinned Dick, "it must contain
money from home. I don't know what else could make you feel as happy as
you appear to be."

"No, it isn't money," replied Bert, "but it's something better."

"Come off," chaffed Tom, "there 'ain't no such thing.' But tell us what
it is and get it out of your system."

"It's a letter from Mr. Melton," explained Bert, "saying he's on his way
East, and is going to visit us here. What do you know about that, eh?"

"Great!" exclaimed Dick and Tom in chorus, and Dick asked, "When does he
say he'll get here?"

"Monday or Tuesday of next week," replied Bert, consulting the letter.
"Either Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning. He's going to stop at the
'Royal,' and wants us to be on hand to meet him. He says in all
probability he'll arrive on the 7:45 Monday evening. And just make out
we won't be on hand to give him a rousing welcome, what?"

"I rather guess we will," said Tom, "and then some. I move that we hire
a brass band and do the thing up right."

"That's a good idea all right," laughed Bert, "but I rather think Mr.
Melton would prefer to dispense with the brass band. But we'll manage to
make him know he's welcome, I have no doubt of that."

"I'd deserve to be hung, drawn, and quartered if _I_ didn't," said Dick
with feeling. "He was certainly a friend in need if there ever was one."

Dick alluded to a never-to-be-forgotten time when Mr. Melton had, at the
risk of his own life, rendered timely aid to Bert and Tom in rescuing
Dick from a band of Mexican outlaws. The three comrades were not ones to
forget such a service, and from that time on Mr. Melton had always
occupied a warm place in their regard. In addition to his personal
bravery he was genial and good natured, with a heart as big as himself.
He had taken part in many enterprises, but was now a prosperous rancher
in the Northwest, calling many a fertile acre his own.

He had traveled extensively and knew much of the world. His stock of
experiences and anecdote seemed inexhaustible, and he was never at a
loss for some tale of adventure when called upon to tell one. His bluff,
hearty manner gained him friends wherever he went, and it was with
feelings of the keenest anticipation that the three comrades looked
forward to his coming. It was only Wednesday when Bert received the
letter announcing his coming, so they had several days of inevitable
waiting.

However, "all things come to him who waits," and the day to which the
boys looked forward with so much anticipation was no exception to the
rule. They were at the station long before the train was due, and it
seemed hours to them before they heard its whistle in the distance.

"The chances are though," said Tom pessimistically, "that something has
happened to delay him and he won't be on this train at all, but on the
one that comes in to-morrow morning."

"That's the way it usually works out," agreed Bert with a grin, "but
somehow I have a hunch that Mr. Melton is going to be on this train. He
said in the letter you know, that in all probability he would be on the
earlier train."

"Yes, I know," said Tom, "and I only hope that my fears are groundless.
But we won't have to wait long now to find out at any rate."

He had hardly ceased speaking when the train puffed into the station.
They scanned the long line of cars carefully, and it was Dick who first
discerned the burly form descending the narrow steps of one of the rear
Pullmans.

"There he is, fellows," he shouted and made a dash in the direction of
the approaching figure, followed closely by Bert and Tom. Mr. Melton saw
them coming and stretched out his hand. "Well, well!" he exclaimed,
after shaking hands all around. "I'm certainly glad to see you once
more, my boys. You don't look as though the grind of college work has
interfered much with your health," with a twinkle in his eyes.

"No," laughed Bert, "we're not actually wasting away under the strain.
But as far as that goes," he continued, "you look pretty fit yourself."

"Yes, and I feel it, too," replied Mr. Melton. "I'm not quite as spry as
I used to be, but I never felt better in my life. There's nothing like
an open air life to keep a man young."

While this talk was going on, the little party was making its way toward
the hotel at which Mr. Melton had said he was going to put up, and were
not long in reaching it.

"Well, boys," said Mr. Melton as they ascended the handsome flight of
steps leading up to the entrance, "I don't suppose you've had supper
yet, have you? If not I want you all to keep me company. It's on me, and
the best in the house is none too good for us."

"Well," replied Bert, "speaking for myself, nothing would give me
greater pleasure. But we're all three slaves of the training table, you
know, so I'm afraid you'll have to excuse us this time."

"That's right!" exclaimed Mr. Melton in a disappointed tone, "for the
moment I had forgotten all about that. But duty is duty, and far be it
from me to put temptation in your path."

"What I think we had better do," said Bert, "is to see you safely
installed here, and then hustle back to college and eat. Then we can
come back here and spend the evening with you."

"I guess that will be the best plan," agreed Mr. Melton, "but you must
promise me to get back soon."

Of course they all promised, and after leaving their friend to the
tender mercies of the hotel clerk, hastened back to their Alma Mater.

They were just in time for dinner, but in their excitement and hurry to
get back to the hotel ate less than usual. In reply to Reddy's query as
to "what was up," they told him of Mr. Melton's arrival. Reddy had heard
of the Mexican adventure and spoke accordingly. "He must be a good man
to know," he opined, "and I'd like to meet him. Go ahead an' make your
call now, but don't get back late. I guess, from what I hear of this
Melton that he'll see that you leave in time anyway."

"No, he's not the kind to persuade people to forget their obligations,"
said Dick. "In fact, he's just the opposite. But of course our own
well-known principles would make it impossible for us to be late," with
a grin.

"Yes, I know all about that sort of stuff," said Reddy. "See if for once
you can live up to your own 'rep.'"

"All you got to do is keep your eyes peeled, and you'll see us piking in
here right on the dot," laughed Tom. "Come on, fellows. The sooner we
get started the sooner we'll get back."

"Right you are," agreed Bert, and the three comrades swung into a brisk
stride. A twenty-minute walk brought them to the "Royal," and they were
immediately ushered up to Mr. Melton's room. In answer to their knock a
hearty voice bade them "come in," and as they opened the door Mr. Melton
met them with outstretched hand.

"Come in and make yourselves at home," he said genially. "If you want
anything and don't see it, ask for it."

"You seem to be pretty well fixed with about everything that anybody
could want, now," commented Bert, glancing about the luxuriously
appointed room. "This place certainly looks as though it had had some
thought and money expended on it."

"Yes," admitted the Westerner, "it reminds me of the so-called 'hotels'
we used to have out West in the early days--it's so different. The
height of luxury there was in having a room all to yourself. As a rule
you had to bunk in with at least two or three others. O yes, this is
quite an improvement on one of those old shacks. I remember one of the
pioneer towns where there was a fierce rivalry between the proprietors
of the only two hotels in town. They were each trying to get the better
of the other by adding some improvement, real or fancied. First the
owner of the 'Palace' had his shack painted a vivid white and green.
Then the owner of the 'Lone Star' hostelry, not to be outdone, had his
place painted also, and had a couple of extra windows cut in the wall.
So it went, and if they had kept it up long enough, probably in the end
people stopping at one of the places would have been fairly comfortable.
But before matters reached that unbelievable pitch, O'Day, owner of the
'Palace,' was killed in a shooting fracas. The man who plugged him
claimed he was playing 'crooked' poker, and I think that in all
probability he was. If he wasn't, it was about the only time in his life
that he ever played straight."

"What happened to the man who did the shooting?" asked Bert.

"Well, O'Day wasn't what you'd call a very popular character," replied
Mr. Melton, "and nobody felt very much cut up over his sudden exit from
this vale of tears. They got up an impromptu jury, but the twelve 'good
men and true' failed to find the defendant guilty."

"But how did they get around it?" asked Tom. "There was no doubt about
who did the killing, was there?"

"Not the least in the world," replied Mr. Melton with a laugh; "but as I
say, popular sentiment was with the man who did the shooting, so the
jury turned in a verdict that ran something in this fashion, if I
remember rightly: 'We find that the deceased met death while
inadvisably attempting to stop a revolver bullet in motion' or words to
that effect. I thought at the time it was a masterpiece of legal
fiction."

"I should say it was," commented Dick. "The quibbles and technicalities
that make our laws a good deal of a joke to-day have nothing much on
that."

"That's a fact," agreed Mr. Melton; "some of the results of our modern
'justice,' so called, are certainly laughable. It's all very well to
give a man every chance and the benefit of every doubt, but when a
conviction is set aside because the court clerk was an hour behind time
getting to court on the day of the trial, it begins to look as though
things were being carried too far. Mere technicalities and lawyers'
quibbles should not have the weight with judges that for some reason
they seem to possess."

"I've no doubt," remarked Bert, "that some of the rough and ready courts
such as you were just telling us about meted out a pretty fair brand of
justice at that."

"Yes, they did," replied Mr. Melton. "They got right down to the core of
the argument, and cut out all confusing side issues. If, for instance,
three witnesses all swore they saw a man steal a horse, and yet were
unable to agree on the exact time of the stealing, the chances were ten
to one that the horse thief would be strung up without further loss of
time. And there was no appeal from the findings of a frontier jury."

"It must have been an exciting life, that of the old frontier days,"
commented Bert. "I guess nobody had to complain much of the monotony of
it."

"Not so you could notice," replied Mr. Melton with a smile, "but there
wasn't half as much shooting going on all the time as you might believe
from reading the current stories in the magazines dealing with the 'wild
and woolly West.' Most everybody carried a gun, of course, but they
weren't used so very often. Every man knew that his neighbor was
probably an expert in the use of his 'shooting irons,' too, so there
wasn't much percentage in starting an argument. Most of the scraps that
did occur would never have been started, if it hadn't been for the
influence of 'red-eye,' as the boys used to call the vile brands of
whiskey served out in the frontier saloons. That whiskey bit like
vitriol, and a few glasses of it were enough to make any man take to the
war path."

"I suppose you carried a gun in those days, too, didn't you, Mr.
Melton?" questioned Dick.

"Yes, I carried a pair of Colt's .45s with me for years," replied the
Westerner, with a reminiscent look in his eyes. "Why, a couple of guns
were as much a part of a man's dress in those days as a pair of shoes.
Every one carried them as a matter of course."

"Did you ever have to use them?" asked Bert.

"Only once," replied Mr. Melton. "I never went looking for trouble, and
it has been my experience, when you don't look for trouble, trouble
seldom looks for you. But the one time I did have use for my arsenal
made up for lost time."

"Tell us about it, please," chorused the boys, and Mr. Melton smiled at
their eagerness as he lit another perfecto.

"Well," he began, "it was back in the old days before the time of the
railroads, when stage coaches were the only carriers known. I was
traveling to Fort Worth on business, and was finding the journey
anything but a pleasant one. The coach was old and rickety, and the way
it lurched and rolled reminded me of a small boat in a rough sea. It was
a terrifically hot day, too, and the stinging alkali dust got down your
throat and in your eyes until life seemed an unbearable burden. We had
traveled steadily all the morning, and along toward afternoon most of
the passengers began to feel pretty sleepy, and dozed off. I was among
the number. Suddenly I was awakened by a shout of 'hands up!' and found
myself looking full into the muzzle of a blue barreled Colt, held in the
hand of a masked man.

"There was nothing for it but to obey, seeing he had the drop on us, so
up went our hands over our heads. There were six other passengers in the
coach, but if we had been sixteen we would have been no better off.

"As we gazed in a sort of fascination at the ugly-looking revolver,
another masked man entered the coach and commenced systematically to
relieve the passengers of their valuables. I happened to be nearest the
front of the coach, and so did not receive the benefit of his attentions
at first. He had almost reached me when there was a commotion outside,
and he straightened up to listen, all his senses on the alert.

"He was between me and the door in which his companion was standing. For
the moment the man in the door could not get at me except through his
comrade, and I resolved to grasp the opportunity. In a flash I had
reached down into the breast of my coat and grasped the butt of my
revolver. Before the desperado in front of me could get his gun in
action, I had fired. At the first shot he dropped to the ground and, as
he fell, a bullet from the man in the doorway took my hat off. I pulled
the trigger as fast as my fingers could work, and he did the same. I
have only a confused recollection of smoke, flashes of flame, shouts and
a dull shock in my left arm. In what must have been but a few seconds it
was all over. With my own gun empty, I waited to see what would happen.
I knew that if by that time I hadn't killed the bandit, he had me at his
mercy. And even with him disposed of, I fully expected to be plugged by
the man outside who was holding the driver under guard.

"But he must have had a streak of yellow in him, for when he failed to
see either of his comrades come out of the coach he concluded that they
were either dead or prisoners, and made off as fast as his pony could
carry him. By that time we passengers had rushed out of the coach, and
some of us began firing at the fugitive. But a revolver is not very
accurate over two or three hundred feet, and I doubt if the desperado
was even grazed. I was unable to shoot for, as I had realized by this
time, my left arm was broken just above the elbow, and I was unable to
load my gun.

"Well, finding that we could not hope to harm the fugitive, we returned
to the coach. An examination of the two hold-ups showed that one, the
man I had shot first, was dead. The other, who had guarded the door, was
badly wounded and unconscious. One of the passengers had been bored
through the shoulder by a stray bullet, but was not hurt seriously.

"The driver bound up my arm after a fashion, and whipped up his horses.
It was after dark before we reached Fort Worth though, and by that time
my arm was giving me a foretaste of what Hades must be. But there was a
good doctor in the town, fortunately for me, and he fixed the arm up in
fine fashion. And, believe me, I felt lucky to get off as easy as that."

"I should think you would," said Bert admiringly. "It must have taken
nerve to pull a gun under those conditions."

"Well," replied Mr. Melton, "it was all on account of a watch I carried
at that time. It was one I had had for years, and thought a lot of. The
idea of losing that watch just made me desperate. I think if it hadn't
been for that I would never have taken the chance."

"And what happened to the man you wounded?" asked Dick.

"He gradually recovered," replied Mr. Melton. "The boys were going to
hang him when he got well enough, but one night he broke jail and got
away. They made up a posse and chased him through three counties, but
never caught him. I imagine, though, that his liking for hold-ups
suffered a severe check."

"Very likely," agreed Bert, "but I'm glad you saved the watch, anyway."

"So am I," said Mr. Melton with a smile. "Here it is now, if you'd care
to see it."

He passed a handsome gold timepiece over to the boys, who admired it
greatly. Then the talk turned to other subjects, and before they
realized it, it was time for them to go.

Before leaving, however, they made Mr. Melton promise to visit the
college the following afternoon. This he readily did, and the boys took
their departure after saying a hearty good night to their Western
friend.



CHAPTER XIII

AN UNEXPECTED MEETING


TRUE to his promise, Mr. Melton made his appearance at the south end of
the campus a little after three o'clock of the following day. The three
friends were there to meet him, and they exchanged hearty greetings.

"There's so much we want to show you that we hardly know where to
begin," said Bert. "What shall we show him first, fellows?"

"Let's start with the library," suggested Dick, "that's one of the
handsomest buildings. When he sees all the books he'll get the idea that
we're very literary, and first impressions are lasting, you know."

"I'm afraid it wouldn't do any good," said Bert. "He'd just be getting
that impression, and then Tom would pull some of his low comedy stuff
and queer the whole thing. We can never palm ourselves off as highbrows
while he's around."

"Just because you're unable to appreciate the little gems of wit I offer
you from time to time, you have to go and run them down," protested Tom.
"It isn't my fault that you haven't sense enough to laugh at them. It's
your misfortune, that's all."

"Well, I'll do my best to bear up under the deprivation," laughed Bert.
"But here we are, Mr. Melton. What do you think of the outside?"

While he and Tom had been exchanging thrusts the little group had been
strolling toward the library building, and by this time had reached the
broad flight of steps that led up to it. There they halted while Mr.
Melton examined the front of the building.

"It is very handsome," he commented; "if its interior answers to its
outer appearance it must be a beautiful place."

"I think you'll find that it does," said Bert; "but the best way to tell
is to go inside."

Accordingly, they ascended the stone steps and, entering the massive
doors, found themselves in a lofty hall, from which branched the various
reading rooms. Everything was in perfect harmony and taste, and Mr.
Melton was outspoken in his expressions of admiration.

Leaving the library, the boys showed their friend all the college
buildings--the recitation hall, the dormitories, the chapel and the
gymnasium. Mr. Melton seemed attracted most of all by the latter, and
examined the different athletic apparatus with the greatest interest.

"You certainly have everything that modern science can furnish,"
commented Mr. Melton enthusiastically. He lingered long by the swimming
tank, in which a number of athletic young fellows were disporting
themselves.

"How would you like to visit the engine room?" asked Dick. "To my mind
that's the most interesting place in the college."

"I'd like it first rate," said Mr. Melton; "anything in the way of
machinery can always be sure of getting a respectful hearing from me."

The three friends accordingly guided him down into the engine and boiler
rooms, sacred ground to which few visitors ever penetrated. Here was
machinery of the latest and most up-to-date patterns, and Mr. Melton
listened attentively while the boys explained to him the uses of the
various mechanisms. They were familiar with everything in the place, and
their listener knew enough about machinery to readily understand
everything that they told him. They spent over an hour altogether in the
engine room, and when at last they emerged into the upper regions again
Mr. Melton drew a long breath.

"It's certainly a wonderful place," he said with enthusiasm; "and I envy
you boys the chance you have of getting an education in a such a
college. It's a privilege that you'll probably appreciate ten years
from now even more than you do at the present time."

"Possibly," said Bert with a note of doubt in his voice. "But I don't
think we'll ever take any more pride in the old college than we do right
now."

"Nope, can't be done," said Tom flippantly; "any place that can give
Bert three such meals a day as he gets at the training table is sure to
make a hit with him."

"_I'll_ make a hit with a brick if you make any more comments of that
kind," threatened Bert; "and what's more, you'll be _it_."

"I call you to witness, Mr. Melton," said Tom, turning to that
gentleman, who by now was laughing heartily, "this low person has
threatened to land me with a brick if I make any further criticism of
his bad habits. Now, what I want to know is, is this, or is it not, a
land of free speech? Is a freeborn American citizen to be threatened and
bullied by a----" but here his protest ended in a muffled roar, as Dick
and Bert pounced on him and wrapped their coats tightly about his head.

"It's the only way to make him quit," apologized Bert to Mr. Melton.
Then, addressing the muffled Tom, "Will you promise to be good if we let
you out?"

The only answer was a series of wild plungings, that ended by landing
the three in a tangled heap on the grass. At last Tom managed to get
his head free, and struggled to his feet.

His laughing comrades also scrambled to theirs, and they stood facing
each other.

"Well," said Tom, smoothing down his rumpled mop of hair, "you knew you
were tackling something, anyway."

"It was quite exciting," laughed Mr. Melton. "If you boys play football
in the same fashion you employed then, I don't see how your opponents
ever have a chance."

"They don't when they have me to deal with," said Tom unblushingly;
"it's only when the rival teams come up against Dick or Bert that they
have an easy time of it."

Bert and Dick passed this remark over with the silent contempt they felt
it warranted, and asked Mr. Melton what he would like to do next.

"Anything you suggest will suit me," replied that individual. "I place
myself entirely in the hands of my friends."

"Well, then," suggested Dick, "why not go over and watch the boys
practising football? There's always a few kicking the ball around, even
when there's no regular practice on the programme, and sometimes they
play sides. It won't hurt to go over and see what's doing, anyway."

As Mr. Melton expressed himself as agreeable to this plan, they
strolled over toward the campus, and were soon standing on the sidelines
watching the practice. There was a goodly number out, and the air
resounded with the smack of leather against leather as the pigskin was
sent soaring high into the air, to be caught expertly as it descended
swiftly toward the earth. A few of the regulars were out, and it was
easy even for a stranger to distinguish them by the deftness and quick
sureness of their actions. The others sometimes missed hard catches, but
these veterans, with clocklike precision, were always in position to
make the most difficult catches without even the appearance of effort.

"Looks easy, doesn't it?" said Bert to Mr. Melton.

"Well, I wouldn't say that exactly," said Mr. Melton, "but I've no doubt
it looks a good deal easier than it really is. I have had enough
experience of life to realize that nothing is as easy as it looks. Many
people never realize that though, and the result is they never try hard
enough, or at least, when they do realize it, find it too late to do
anything."

They watched the practice a short time longer, and then as the afternoon
was getting well along, Mr. Melton looked at his watch and said he would
have to get back to his hotel. They were just turning away when they
came face to face with Hendricks, who was hurrying toward the scene of
activities. He and Mr. Melton had hardly glanced at each other when they
each gave a shout and rushed forward with outstretched hands.

"'Bull,' you old reprobate, is it really you!" exclaimed Mr. Melton,
pumping the coach's hand up and down like a pumphandle.

"It certainly is, old timer," replied Hendricks, "and you sure are a
welcome sight to me. But how in the name of all that's good did you
happen to get here?"

"I came as a guest of our young friends here," replied Mr. Melton; "they
mentioned your name, but I didn't think that it might be you. It's some
years now since we were together last."

While all this had been going on, the three boys had looked on
wonderingly, but it did not take long to explain matters. It seemed that
Hendricks and Mr. Melton had once been members of a hunting party, and
had scoured the Rockies together in search of game. They had formed a
friendship then that had never grown cold. Through the years that had
elapsed since their last meeting it had lain dormant, but now, at sight
of each other, blazed up again brightly.

After a little further talk, Mr. Melton insisted that the coach and the
three boys come to his hotel for dinner and spend the evening there.
"You can tell me what to order now," he said, cutting short Hendrick's
objections, which, to tell the truth, were not very strong. "I'll order
exactly what you say, and it will be just the same as though you were
eating dinner at the training table. That's satisfactory, isn't it?"

"Why, I suppose it will have to be," laughed the coach; "if you'll
follow out that programme I'll consent. But you can bet your boots I
wouldn't do it for everybody."

"All right then that's settled," said Mr. Melton; "so make out your
menu, and I'll hustle back to my hotel and make arrangements."

Hendricks fished out an old envelope and jotted down a list of edibles,
starting with "beefsteak." This he gave to Mr. Melton, and then they
shook hands and after saying good-by to the boys, Mr. Melton hurried
away in the direction of his hotel.

Not long afterward the three comrades, accompanied by the coach, set out
for the same destination. When they arrived they were greeted by a
cordial welcome, and shortly afterwards dinner was served.

It consisted of nothing but the plainest and most nourishing foods, and
Hendricks expressed himself as feeling perfectly satisfied. After the
meal they repaired to Mr. Melton's rooms, and for a couple of hours the
two old friends swapped yarns, while Tom and Bert and Dick listened
with the greatest interest. They told tales of adventure by field and
forest, and the time passed like magic. But "Bull" Hendricks was not to
be beguiled into forgetting the time, and shortly after ten o'clock he
glanced at his watch and rose.

"Time to be going, boys," he announced crisply. "I'm sure it would be a
pleasure to stay all night, but rules are rules, you know."

"Well, I'd like to have you stay," said Mr. Melton, "but far be it from
me to try to urge you against your judgment. I hope, though, that there
won't be as much time between our next meeting as there was between the
last, old fellow."

"So do I," responded Hendricks heartily as they shook hands, "but so
long till then, anyway."

"Good-by," said Mr. Melton, and then shook hands with the boys. "I'm
afraid I won't see you fellows again this trip, although I'm going to
make a desperate effort to stay East until the big game comes off," he
said. "I've got to get a very early train for New York to-morrow, so I
guess we'd better say good-by now until the next time."

The boys shook hands with him warmly, and then started downstairs. Mr.
Melton followed them to the door, and the last thing they saw as they
looked back was his sturdy bulk outlined in the square of light formed
by the open doorway.



CHAPTER XIV

A PLOT THAT FAILED


ALTHOUGH Reddy, in common with everyone else in the college, felt
jubilant over the gallant victory of the Blues, he relaxed not one jot
of his vigilance. Two days' rest was all that he allowed. By that time
Boyd had recovered from the injury to his knee, the strain of the
contest had largely abated, and the team was once more in a condition to
face the final test--the battle with the redoubtable "Greys" in New York
on Thanksgiving Day.

But other and more baleful eyes were fixed on the condition of the team.

Football is one of the cleanest games in existence, and few sports are
more free of gambling of every kind. Nevertheless, it is impossible to
control the actions of a few professional gamblers who grasp eagerly at
every chance to ply their trade. Naturally, the conditions of the
different teams are of vital importance to them, and they make it their
business, through spies and in every possible way, to be well informed
on the subject. And the big football games of this season were no
exception to the rule. The condition of every player was carefully
noted and kept track of, and it is safe to say that the gambling clique
had almost as accurate a line on these points as the different trainers
themselves.

During the practice games in the earlier part of the season the "Greys"
had seemed to have the "edge" on the other members of the "Big Three."
Consequently, they were picked by the poolmakers as the eventual
winners, and large bets, amounting in some cases to practically the
entire "bank roll" of the plungers, were placed on them to win.

But the "Blues" had of late been going at such a terrific pace that they
had a most excellent chance of winning the pennant. And when this was
accentuated by the splendid victory of the "Blues" over the "Maroons" it
threw the "sports" into a condition closely bordering on panic.

A week before the final game on Thanksgiving Day one of the most
unscrupulous of the gamblers decided that if he could not win as matters
then stood, he would have to resort to underhand methods to change them.
Accordingly, one evening he called a number of his henchmen about him,
and when they and other plungers of his own stamp had assembled at a
designated rendezvous, he broached his plan.

"Boys," he said, glancing from one to the other of the hard faces turned
toward him, "there's no use telling you of the hole we're in. You know
just as well as I do, I guess, that we stand in a fair way to lose about
all we've got on account of the 'Blue' team coming up the way it has
lately. And according to Donovan here, it's not just a flash in the pan,
either. It looks as though they had hit their stride and meant to keep
it up until the end of the season."

"You can lay a stack of blues on dat," here spoke up the individual
referred to as "Donovan." "Dose guys has got more pepper in dem dan a
Mexican stew. De way dey practice an' de way dey play sure has got me
scared stiff. I knows a snappy football team when I sees one, an' you
can take it from me dem guys has de goods, and plenty of dem."

"Well, you see how things stand," said their leader, when Donovan had
finished. "If we don't do something, and do it pretty quick, we'll be
cooked--hashed--done brown on both sides."

There were significant looks exchanged among his auditors, and at last
one of them said:

"Well, what's your plan? Do you think we could buy one of the 'Blue'
players? It would be worth our while to ante up something handsome, if
you think it could be done."

"No chanct in de world," spoke up Donovan disgustedly, "dey're all
straighter'n a string, an' I tink any guy what made a proposition like
dat to one o' them would need a ambulance mighty quick."

"That leaves us only one thing to do, then," spoke the leader; "if we
can't buy one of them, we'll have to steal one, that's all. We'll have
to pinch one of the players some way, and keep him until the big game is
over. Then we can let him go, and if we play our cards right nobody will
ever get on to who turned the trick."

If, as is altogether unlikely, there existed any lingering scruple among
those present at taking part in any such project, the thought of the
ruin impending over their heads quickly banished such thoughts. All that
remained to be discussed was which player should be kidnapped, and there
were various opinions on this point. But the voice of Donovan decided
the question.

"De best man we can crimp," he said, "is Henderson, de quarterback. He's
de guy what gives de signals, an' it will stand de whole bunch on deir
heads. Besides," with a crafty grin, "he ain't quite as big as some of
de other huskies, an' dere's no use makin' ourselves any more trouble
dan we got to."

"I'll provide a good safe place to keep him in," said Bloom, the leader.
"There's a place over Mike's saloon, on the outskirts of the town, that
will be just the thing, and there won't be any questions asked, either."

So the plans for kidnapping the unconscious Tom were finally settled and
disposed of.

Bloom immediately set about perfecting his plans. He realized that he
was confronted with a difficult problem. He knew that it would be
necessary for him to capture Tom at some time when he was not in the
company of his two comrades, and from what his spy, Donovan, had told
him, he knew that the three were seldom separated for any length of
time. But he finally evolved a plan, and without loss of time set about
putting it in action.

He secured the use of a powerful automobile, and put it in charge of one
of his trusted lieutenants. The man was carefully instructed in the part
he was to play, and was intrusted with a note that he was to deliver to
Tom at a certain time. Thus the trap was laid, and Bloom settled back to
wait for the proper time to spring it.

And fate seemed to play into his hands. Toward dusk of the Tuesday
immediately preceding Thanksgiving Day Bert and Dick had occasion to go
to town, and as Tom had some studying to do, they left him in his room
and set out on their errand.

This was the time for which the gambler had been waiting. His spies
immediately sent him word of the favorable condition of affairs.
Excitedly he slammed the receiver of the telephone on its hook and sent
word to the man in charge of the automobile. The latter immediately
cranked up his car, and a few minutes later the big limousine rolled
quietly up to Tom's dormitory. The driver, who was dressed in ordinary
chauffeur's garb, mounted the stairs to the entrance, and when his ring
was answered by the appearance of an attendant, requested him to deliver
a letter that he handed him to "Mr. Tom Henderson."

A few moments later Tom was interrupted in his studies by a knock on the
door of his room, and on opening it was handed an unstamped envelope.
Somewhat surprised, he drew forth a yellow slip of paper that proved to
be a telegraph blank. Tom read the words scrawled across it, in
careless, hasty writing.

"Dear Tom," the message read, "am in town just for one evening, and want
you to drop in and see me. I would visit you if possible, but have some
friends with me, and so cannot. Just to make sure of your coming I'm
sending my car for you. Please don't disappoint me." The letter was
signed "Dave."

"Why," thought Tom, "that must be Dave Rutgers. I should say I would go
to see him. I haven't laid eyes on the old sinner since I came to
college."

Crumpling the yellow slip into a ball, he flung it into a corner of the
room and hastily donned his coat and hat. As he was about to leave the
room he hesitated a moment, and started back. But after a second he
started out again, and slammed the door after him. "I'll be back in a
couple of hours," he thought. "Bert and Dick probably won't return much
before that, so there's no use writing a note telling them where I've
gone." With this thought he dismissed the matter from his mind, and
hurried down to the waiting auto. He stepped in, the chauffeur slammed
the door, and the big machine glided noiselessly away, at a rapid gait.

About ten o'clock that evening Bert and Dick returned, and on their way
to their room pounded on Tom's door. They received no reply, so
concluded that he must be asleep, and passed on.

But when they stopped at his room the next morning, as was their
invariable custom, and received no answer to repeated summons, they
began to feel uneasy.

"Perhaps he's stolen a march on us and gone down early," suggested Dick.

"Possible," answered Bert, "but more likely he's just 'playing possum.'"
As he spoke he seized the knob to rattle the door, and the door swung
open!

"Why, he's not in here," exclaimed Bert, as he gazed about the room;
"and what's more," he continued excitedly, "he hasn't been here all
night, either. It's easy to see that the bed hasn't been slept in."

"That mighty queer," said Dick uneasily. "Where do you suppose he can
have gone?"

"I haven't the slightest idea, I'm sure," said Bert. "He didn't say
anything to you about going anywhere, did he?"

"Not a word," said Dick, "and I think if he had expected to be away any
length of time he would have told one of us about it."

"Something might have come up unexpectedly," said Bert; "but then he'd
have left a note for us. I--but what's that over in the corner!" he
suddenly exclaimed, "looks as though it might be a telegram."

As he spoke he pounced on the crumpled ball that Tom had tossed there
the evening before, and hastily smoothed it out. Then he and Dick read
the words written on it.

"That explains why he went," said Bert when they had mastered its
contents. "But it doesn't explain where he went or why he didn't get
back before this." They gazed at each other a few seconds, and each saw
his own fears mirrored in the eyes of his friend.

"There's something wrong somewhere," declared Dick at length, "and it's
up to us to find out what."

"It looks that way," said Bert. Then he continued, "this isn't a regular
telegram, you see. It looks as though the person writing it had just
scribbled the message on the handiest scrap of paper he could find,
which happened to be this."

"It may give us a clue to the writer," said Dick, as a sudden thought
flashed across his mind; "there are several telegraph offices in the
town, and probably if we showed that slip in any of them we could learn
what office it came from. There must be some identifying mark on it.
Then the people in that office might be able to give us some clue as to
who wrote it."

"It's worth trying, anyway," said Bert after a brief consideration. "And
the sooner we start the better. I'm getting more worried every minute."

With all thoughts of breakfast forgotten, they hurried from the college,
and were not long in reaching the railroad depot where the main
telegraph office was located. They showed the slip to the operator,
asking him if he could tell them from what station it had been taken.

"Sure," he said, looking at a figure in the upper left-hand corner,
"that came from station 'D,' on the corner of Spruce and Elm Streets."

The boys thanked him and hurried out. The address the operator had given
them was nearly a mile away, and they broke into a run. As they went
along they noticed that the houses lining the streets began to wear a
very tumble-down aspect, and to thin out more and more.

"This is a rotten neighborhood," panted Bert; "we must be getting pretty
near the edge of the town."

They had almost reached their destination when, as they passed a
particularly ramshackle building with a saloon on the ground floor, they
became conscious of a terrific hubbub going on within. There was a sound
of shouting and blows, and every once in a while the whole crazy
building would fairly rock as some heavy body crashed against the walls
from within.

Even as Bert and Dick stood watching in amazement, a muffled shout arose
above the general uproar that they both recognized. "That was Tom's
voice for a million!" yelled Bert, and without another word the two
friends made a dash for the door that evidently led to the floor above.
Without hesitating to find out whether or not it was locked they crashed
against it. Their combined weight acted like a battering ram and the
door, torn from its hinges, fell inward. They rushed up the rickety
stairs in great bounds and, crashing through another door that barred
their way, found themselves precipitated into the midst of a fierce
struggle.

On the floor four men were locked in a deadly grapple. The meager
furniture of the room was splintered and broken, and the whole place
looked as though a cyclone had struck it. With a yell Bert and Dick
plunged into the struggle.

And now the odds were more even. Instead of three to one they were now
three to three, and the tide of battle began to turn. Bert and Dick tore
Tom's assailants away from him and he staggered to his feet. He was
battered and bruised, but still full of fight. "Come on, fellows, wade
into them," he shouted hoarsely. His tried and true comrades needed no
second bidding, and now began a battle compared to which the other
seemed mild. The three thugs who had been trying to overpower Tom were
brutal fighters, and withal were men of muscle. But it did not take long
to decide which side would win. The three friends, every fighting
instinct in them aroused, and the lust of battle hot within them, fought
with a fury and concentrated power that nothing could withstand.

Slowly they forced the thugs across the room, planting blow after blow
with deadly effect. Their opponents gave ground steadily, unable to
withstand the terrific punishment meted out to them. Suddenly the one
nearest the door made a dash for it, and the others followed suit. The
three comrades started in hot pursuit, but reached the street only to
see the last of their erstwhile antagonists disappearing around the
nearest corner, and Bert called a halt.

"No use chasing them," he said, when they had gotten their breath a
little. "They know the neighborhood and we don't, and the chances are
we'd never catch them. We licked 'em good and proper though, didn't we?"

"That was _some_ scrap, all right," said Dick with a long whistle, "and
we didn't get off scot free, either. My left eye feels as though a coal
wagon had fallen on it."

"It looks it, too," said Bert with a wry grin; "we're all marked up a
little, but I'll bet that bunch of roughnecks will remember us for a
little while to come. But how did they come to get you, Tom? Tell us all
about it."

Tom then told them about receiving the note, and getting into the
automobile. "After that," he said, "there's not much to tell. It was
dark, and I didn't notice what kind of a neighborhood that rascally
chauffeur was taking me into. After a while he stopped and opened the
door, telling me we had arrived at Dave's house. As I stepped out those
three 'bad men' jumped on me. One of them pressed a rag soaked in
chloroform over my face, and I went to sleep almost before I had a
chance to fight. When I came to I found myself in that room, with one
lowbrow on guard. I waited until my head cleared a little, and then I
sailed into him. The noise of the shindy brought up the other two, and
then the argument got pretty hot. There's no doubt but what they'd have
won the decision soon, too, if you fellows hadn't happened to butt in
just as you did. I couldn't have held out much longer against odds like
that."

"Yes, it is rather lucky," agreed Bert; "we weren't a minute too soon."

"How did you learn where I was?" inquired Tom.

Bert then told him how they had discovered the slip of paper containing
the note to him, and gave a brief outline of his and Dick's actions
after discovering it.

"Pretty good detective work," said Tom admiringly. "Sherlock Holmes
would better look out for his laurels."

Meanwhile they had been walking back toward the college, and with the
aid of a street car were not long in reaching it.

As they were crossing the campus, they met Reddy.

"For the love of Hivin," exclaimed the trainer, as he caught sight of
their swollen faces, "what in the world have you been doin' anyway? You
haven't been lambastin' each other, have ye?"

"Not exactly," said Bert, and then proceeded to give the trainer a
detailed account of the recent happenings. Reddy listened attentively,
and when Bert finished made no reply at once. After a thoughtful
silence, he said: "Well, it's something of a mystery, Wilson, but one
thing is certain--without Henderson the team would have been so crippled
that we wouldn't have had a chance in the world of winning, and I have
an idea that the bunch connected with Mike's place, where he was held
prisoner, have a pretty big interest in our winning or losing, in a
money way. And the two facts put together may come pretty near giving
the correct answer."

"I imagined it might be something of the kind," said Bert; "I wonder
what chance there is of bringing the scoundrels to justice."

"You'll bet we'll do everything possible," said Reddy grimly, "but now,
you'd better pack Henderson off to bed, and Trent had better put a bit
o' beefsteak on that damaged 'lamp' of his! This afternoon we start for
New York, and we want everybody fit."



CHAPTER XV

THE DASH FOR THE GOAL


          "The day, the important day,
           Big with the fate of Cato and of Rome,"

quoted Dick.

"It is the sun of Austerlitz," chimed in Tom, not to be outdone in
quotation, as he drew aside the curtains of the hotel window and saw the
bright rays streaming over the city roofs.

"As long as it isn't Waterloo, we'll have no kick coming," added Bert.
"I'm tickled to death to see that it's this kind of weather. I'd hate to
play on as muddy a field as we had with the 'Maroons.'"

"The paper predicted rain yesterday," said Tom, throwing up the window,
"but from the bite in the air, it seems cold enough for snow. How would
you like to play on a snowy field, fellows?"

"Not for mine," replied Dick emphatically, "although the Western teams
do it often. Only a few years ago Chicago and Michigan played in what
was almost a blizzard."

"I'll bet the teams kept warm enough," commented Bert; "but it must have
been tough on the spectators."

"O, those dyed-in-the-wool football fiends don't care for a little thing
like that," said Dick. "We'll never play to empty benches, no matter
what the weather. But hurry up now and come down to breakfast. We won't
dare to eat very much at lunch and we'd better fill up now."

It was Thanksgiving Day, and the Blues had come up to New York the night
before, so that they might have a good night's rest before the most
important game of the season. The game was to be played at the Polo
Grounds and public interest was so great that all the seats had been
sold out long in advance. It was a foregone conclusion that the vast
amphitheater would be crowded to capacity when the teams should come
trotting out on the gridiron.

The excitement was the greater because of the superb form shown by both
teams all through the season. Seldom had competitors been more equally
matched. Both had come through their schedules unbeaten, and the
shrewdest followers of the game were hard put to it to pick a winner.
Even the games played by each with the "Maroons" did not give much of a
line. The "Greys," to be sure, had made two touchdowns, while the Blues
had only tallied one. But, on the other hand, the "Maroons" had scored
on the "Greys," while the Blues had been able to keep their goal
intact. The "dope" was perplexing and the wisest tipsters were all at
sea. Man for man, the "Greys" had a slight advantage in weight. But the
Blues were admitted to have the finest backfield in the country, and
Wilson was "touted" as the greatest player seen at full for the last
twenty years. All in all, it was a "toss up," and many predicted that
neither side would score.

But no such neutral tint shadowed the rosy dreams of the Blues. They
were full of fight, and brimming over with confidence. All their
cripples had come back except Ellis, who was just able to limp around
without a crutch. But Morley in his place had rounded to in great shape
and there was scarcely a shade to choose between the two. Boyd's knee,
hurt in the game with the "Maroons," was all right again and, best of
all, good old Hodge was back again at right tackle, having at last made
up his conditions. He plugged up the only really weak place on the team,
and made the line twenty per cent. stronger than it had been without
him. For all these reasons the team felt itself unbeatable, and were
eager for the hour to come when they might prove it. Even Dan, the old
bulldog that served the team as a mascot, moved about with unusual
alacrity and seemed to have caught the contagion.

"He's actually smiling," declared Tom, as he patted him affectionately.
"It's up to you to bring us luck to-day, old fellow."

Hendricks and Reddy, although delighted to see the way the boys were
feeling, felt it incumbent to add a word of caution.

"You're going to win, boys," said the former; "but you'll have your work
cut out for you. Those fellows are never easy, and there'll be something
doing every minute. Get the jump at the very start, and keep forcing the
fight. Go in for straight football until you feel them out, and don't
resort to the 'fireworks' until you have to. And keep your eyes on that
quarterback of theirs. He's one of the trickiest in the game and always
liable to start something."

"Not forgetting the full," added Reddy, "they say he's as big and strong
as a bull elephant, and it's aching he'll be to stack up against you,
Wilson."

"Let him come," grinned Bert. "I'll try to make it interesting."

Even New York, big and indifferent as it is to most things taking place
within it, was agog with interest over the contest. The front pages of
the papers were devoted to a review and comparison of the teams, and
bulletin boards were prepared for the great crowds expected to gather
about the offices during the progress of the game. Broadway and Fifth
Avenue were alive with flags and the college colors, and the lobbies of
the hotels were packed with a swarming mob of undergraduates. Tally-hos
with merry parties and tooting horns rolled up the Avenue, and hundreds
of automobiles joined in the procession. The subways and elevated roads
were crowded to the doors, and at one o'clock, although the game did not
begin till two, there was not a vacant seat in the vast stadium, while
thousands of deadheads seized every point of vantage on the bluffs that
surrounded the grounds. The stands were a perfect riot of beauty and
color, and the stentorian voices of the rival rooters, to which was
joined the treble of the girls made the air echo with songs and shouts
of defiance.

After a light lunch the teams had been bundled into swift autos and
hurried to the field, where they made their final preparations and
underwent the last scrutiny of coach and trainers. Both were in superb
fettle and ready to present their strongest line-up, and when they
tumbled out on the field, amid frantic roars of greeting, there seemed
nothing to choose between them.

The preliminary practice was sharp and snappy. The crisp tang of the air
was a tonic to which all responded, and the inspiration of the huge
crowds spurred them on to do their prettiest. Bert attracted especial
attention as he kicked goals in practice. His fame had preceded him, and
the college men in the stands were kept busy at the behest of a
sister--or somebody else's sister--in "pointing out Wilson." Other
heroes of the gridiron also came in for their meed of admiration, and by
the time the game was started expectation was wound up to the highest
pitch. Everyone felt, as the young gladiators faced each other, that the
game would be "for blood."

Nor were they disappointed. From the moment the referee's whistle blew,
the playing was of the most desperate kind. The "Greys" had won the
choice of goal and the Blues had the kick-off. Bert poised himself
carefully and shot the ball down the field far and high. Hamilton made a
fair catch at the thirty yard line, but Caldwell had gone down like a
flash, and nailed him before he could run back.

The ball belonged to the "Greys." Dudley went through left and tackle
for a gain of five. Hamilton gained two more on the other side of the
line. Again Dudley tried between center and guard, but caught a Tartar
in Dick, and was thrown back for a loss of three. The bucking game was
not panning out and the ball was passed back to the giant fullback,
Livingston, for a kick. The snapping was good and the kick speedy, but
Bert burst through the line like a whirlwind and by a superb leap
blocked it in mid-air. It was a rattling play and the Blue stand shook
with cheers.

The teams lined up for the scrimmage on the "Grey's" thirty-five yard
line. Hodge plunged through for seven with the whole "Grey" team
sprawling over him. A forward pass, beautifully engineered by Tom,
garnered eight more. Martin skirted left end for a pretty run of fifteen
yards, but was tackled so heavily by Livingston that he dropped the
ball, and Felton pounced upon it. It was a close call for the "Greys"
and a sigh of relief went up from their partisans when on the next play
a great punt by Minden sent it whirling down the field and out of
danger. A furious battle ensued, but Fortune seemed angry at the Blues
for their disregard of her gifts, and the quarter ended with the ball in
the middle of the field.

Nor, try as they would, could they gain in the next period against the
stonewall defense put up by the "Greys." Perhaps the Blue attack was
somewhat more savage than their own, but they made up for that by
superior weight in the line. Their signals were working perfectly and
they moved with the precision of a machine.

Twelve minutes of playing time had elapsed when, with the ball on the
"Greys'" forty yard line, Bert suddenly dropped back for a kick. The
"Greys" burst through, but it got off perfectly. High in the air it
soared like a hawk, headed straight for the goal. A groan rose from the
"Grey" stands, while those in the Blue sprang to their feet, in a burst
of frantic cheering. But, just as it neared the bar, a stiff gust of
wind from the north caught it and deflected it from its course. It
curved down and out, striking the post and bounded back into the field,
where Ensley fell upon it.

The hearts of the Blues went down into their boots, while their
opponents capered about and hugged each other.

"What's the use playing against such luck as that?" growled Drake
disgustedly.

"It's tough, all right," agreed Bert, "but they can't get all the
breaks. It'll be our turn next."

Before the ball could be put in play the period ended, and the teams
went to their quarters for the fifteen minute rest before the final
struggle.

"Hard luck, boys," consoled the coach, "but things are due to change.
Wilson deserved that goal if he didn't get it, but that's part of the
game. You've got their number. Keep on hammering the line, and if you
find that won't work, uncork that variation of the forward pass. Go in
now and eat them up."

As the fellows filed out, they passed Dan, the bulldog, dressed in a
brand-new suit of blue in honor of the occasion. Tom stooped and patted
his head.

"Get on the job, old boy," he urged. "Show those fellows that you are
the real thing in mascots."

Dan barked reassuringly. But he took his time in thinking it over. And
the hard luck of the Blues still persisted.

A fruitless attempt to buck the line by either team failing to yield the
desired gain, there followed a kicking duel between the two fullbacks in
which Bert easily carried off the honors. But slips and off-side playing
neutralized the advantage.

On the "Greys" forty yard line they tried out "Bull" Hendricks' new
variation. The ball was passed to Bert, apparently for a drop kick, but
immediately on receiving the ball, he started on an end run as though
the move had been a "plant" to draw in the end rush. Thinking the whole
thing a fake, the halfback at first hesitated to come in, but Bert kept
on parallel to the line of scrimmage until the half dared hesitate no
longer, as it looked certain that Bert was bent on a run around the
ends. In the meantime the long run had given Drake time to get down the
field, and Bert, turning swiftly, sent the ball to him in a beautiful
spiral swing. It would have worked to a charm had not Drake tripped as
he started on his run and been savagely tackled by Livingston before he
could regain his feet.

"Another good thing gone wrong," groaned Dick. And it certainly seemed
as though "the stars in their courses" were fighting for the "Greys."

A moment's breathing space, and the fourth quarter opened up. With a
strength born of desperation the teams went at each other hammer and
tongs. The "Greys" were heartened by the good fortune that had declared
so steadily for them and they played like wild men. A brilliant run
around left end netted them twenty yards, and a forward pass gained ten
more. Inspired by their success they "forced" their luck until they were
on the Blues fifteen yard line with the ball in their possession. But
here the Blues braced savagely.

The crowds were standing now and crazy with excitement. The "Grey"
followers shrieked to their favorites to "put it over," while from the
Blue stands their football song came booming from twenty thousand
throats:

          "Steady, boys, steady.
            You're fighting for your father,
            You're fighting for your mother,
            You're fighting for your sister,
            You're fighting for your brother,
            You're fighting for the Blue.
            Hit them up, rip them up, tear their line in two.
            Steady, boys, steady."

Panting, pale, determined, the team heard, and their muscles stiffened.
Livingston plunged in but was thrown back on his head. Dudley tried and
failed to gain an inch. The line was impregnable, and Ensley dropped
back for a kick. But like lightning, Bert was on him so suddenly that
the ball shot up and back over Ensley's head. Without checking his
speed, Bert scooped it up on the bound and was off down the field.

Such running! It was flying. Its like had never been seen on a football
field. On he went, like a bullet. Down that living lane of forty
thousand people, he tore along, his eyes blazing, his head held high, a
roar like thunder in his ears, while beneath him the white lines slipped
away like a swiftly flowing river. On and on he went, nearer and nearer
to the goal.

Behind him came the "Greys" like a pack of maddened wolves. But the
Blues were coming too. Savagely they hurled themselves on the enemy,
grasping, holding, tackling and brought them to the ground. Then from
the tangle of legs and arms emerged Tom and Dick, and running like the
wind put down the field to the help of their flying comrade.

Victory! Before him was the goal, but twenty yards away. Behind him
pounded his pursuers, who had made up ground while he was dodging. He
could hear their panting and almost feel their breath upon his neck. One
more tremendous leap, and like an arrow from a bow, he flashed over the
line for a touchdown. He had made a run of ninety yards through a broken
field in the last minute of play.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some days later when the "tumult and the shouting" had died away--when
the "sound of revelry by night" had ceased--when the "lid" for a moment
open was again "on"--when the snake dances and the bonfires and the
toasts were over--Bert, more than ever the idol of his college, together
with Tom and Dick, were bidding good-by to Mr. Melton at the railroad
station.

"And remember," he called through the window as his train pulled out,
"I'm going to hold you boys to that promise to come out to my Montana
ranch. I'll give you a corking good time."

How "corking" a time they had, how full of dash and danger, adventure
and excitement, will be told in

          "=BERT WILSON IN THE ROCKIES.="

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors repaired.

Page 83, "althought" changed to "although" (broad grin, "although)

Page 138, "Elllis" changed to "Ellis" (Poor old Ellis)

Page 205, "pecipitated" changed to "precipitated" (found themselves
precipitated)

Page 220, "yard" changed to "yards" (twenty yards away)

"Good-natured" is printed with the hyphen, without the hyphen and as one
word (goodnaturedly) in this text. This was retained.





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