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Title: On Your Mark! - A Story of College Life and Athletics
Author: Barbour, Ralph Henry, 1870-1944
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.

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ON YOUR MARK!



BY RALPH HENRY BARBOUR.

Each 12mo, Cloth.


  The Spirit of the School.
    Illustrated in Colors. $1.50.

  Four Afloat.
    Illustrated in Colors. $1.50.

  Four Afoot.
    Illustrated in Colors. $1.50.

  Four in Camp.
    Illustrated in Colors. $1.50.

  On Your Mark.
    Illustrated in Colors. $1.50.

  The Arrival of Jimpson.
    Illustrated. $1.50.

  Weatherby’s Inning.
    Illustrated in Colors. $1.50.

  Behind the Line.
    Illustrated. $1.50.

  Captain of the Crew.
    Illustrated. $1.50.

  For the Honor of the School.
    Illustrated. $1.50.

  The Half-Back.
    Illustrated. $1.50.


D. APPLETON AND COMPANY, NEW YORK.



[Illustration: “Fooling?” Burley echoed. “Why, no, I ain’t fooling.”]



ON YOUR MARK!

A Story of College Life and Athletics


BY RALPH HENRY BARBOUR

AUTHOR OF BEHIND THE LINE, WEATHERBY’S INNING, ETC.


_ILLUSTRATED BY C. M. RELYEA_

[Illustration]


  New York
  D. Appleton and Company
  1908



  COPYRIGHT, 1904, BY
  D. APPLETON AND COMPANY


_Published September, 1904_



        TO
   BERT AND LILA

   IN MEMORY OF
  “THE BIG HOUSE”



CONTENTS


 CHAPTER                                         PAGE
     I.--THE WINNER OF THE MILE                     1
    II.--A VISITING CARD                           12
   III.--ON THE CINDERS                            22
    IV.--HAL HAS AN IDEA                           33
     V.--“MR. PETER BURLEY, BLACKWATER, COL.”      45
    VI.--“RIGHT GUARD BACK!”                       57
   VII.--“THE RANCH”                               65
  VIII.--PETE’S CLUB TABLE                         73
    IX.--THE DUCK HUNT                             86
     X.--DINNER FOR TWO                            96
    XI.--THE CAPSIZED BOAT                        106
   XII.--TOMMY CORRECTS A REPORT                  120
  XIII.--PETE WRITES HOME                         130
   XIV.--HOCKEY--WITH VARIATIONS                  139
    XV.--IN THE “CORRAL”                          147
   XVI.--THE INDOOR MEETING                       157
  XVII.--ALLAN LEAVES THE CLUB TABLE              172
 XVIII.--AN ALARM OF FIRE                         181
   XIX.--PETE PUTS THE SHOT                       193
    XX.--TRACK AND FIELD                          203
   XXI.--SUNSHINE AND SHADOW                      210
  XXII.--A NEWSPAPER PARAGRAPH                    218
 XXIII.--THE FRESHMAN GAME                        227
  XXIV.--“ON YOUR MARK!”                          239
   XXV.--THE LAST EVENT                           254
  XXVI.--“VALE”                                   263



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                             FACING
                                                               PAGE

  “Fooling?” Burley echoed. “Why, no, I ain’t fooling.”
                                                _Frontispiece_
  A white-clad form sped across the finish.                      11
  “Sorry you don’t approve of them.”                             94
  Pete tipped him over the barrier.                             143



ON YOUR MARK



CHAPTER I

THE WINNER OF THE MILE


“All out for the mile!”

Myer, clerk of the course, stuck his head inside the dressing-tent and
bawled the command in a voice already made hoarse by his afternoon’s
duties. In response a dozen or so fellows gathered their blankets
or dressing-gowns about them and tumbled out into the dusk of a
mid-October evening. Because of the fact that on Wednesday and Saturday
afternoons the athletic field was required for the football contests
it was necessary to hold the Fall Handicap Meeting on one of the other
days of the week. This year it was on Friday, October 17th, and because
the Erskine College faculty does not permit athletic contests of any
sort to begin before four o’clock on any day save Saturday, the mile
run, the last event on the program, was not reached until almost six
o’clock; and in the middle of October in the latitude of Centerport it
is almost dark at that time.

It was cold, too. A steady north wind blew down the home-stretch and
made the waiting contestants dance nimbly about on their spiked shoes
and rub their bare legs. That wind had helped the sprinters, hurdlers,
and jumpers very considerably, since it had blown against their backs
on the straightaway and the runway, enabling them to equal the Erskine
record in two cases and break it in a third. It was Stearns, ’04, the
track-team captain and crack sprinter who, starting from scratch, had
performed the latter feat. Until to-day the Erskine record for the
220-yards dash had been twenty-two seconds flat; this afternoon, with
the wind behind him all the way, Stearns had clipped a fifth of a
second from the former time, to the delight of the shivering audience,
who had cheered the announcement of the result loudly, glad to be able
to warm themselves with enthusiasm on any pretext.

But if the north wind had been kind to the sprinters, the middle- and
long-distance men had derived no benefit from it; for while it aided
them on the home-stretch, it held them back on the opposite side of the
field. The spectators had already begun to stream away toward college
when Myer at length succeeded in getting the last of the milers placed
upon their marks. The two-mile event had been tame, with Conroy, ’04,
jogging over the line a good twenty yards ahead of the second man,
and there was no reason to expect anything more exciting in the mile.
Rindgely and Hooker were both on scratch and surely capable of beating
out any of the ambitious freshmen, who, with a leavening of other
class men, were sprinkled around the turn as far as the 200 yards.
To be sure, Rindgely and Hooker might fight it out, but it was more
probable that they had already tossed a coin between themselves to see
who was to have first prize and who second. So the audience, by this
time pretty well chilled, went off in search of more comfortable places
than Erskine Field; or at least most of them did; a handful joined the
groups of officials along the track, and jumped and stamped about in an
attempt to get the blood back into toes and fingers.

Clarke Mason was one of those electing to stay. Possibly the fact
that he had had the forethought to stop in his room on his way to the
field and don a comfortable white sweater may have had something to do
with his decision. At least it is safe to say that the mere fact of
his being managing editor of the Erskine Purple was not accountable,
for the Purple had a small but assiduous corps of reporters in its
employment, one of whom, looking very blue about the nose, Clarke spoke
to on his way across to where Stearns, having got back into his street
clothes, was talking to Kernahan, the trainer.

“Well, who’s going to win this, Billy?” asked Clarke. (The track
trainer was “Billy” to only a select few, and many a student, seeking
to ingratiate himself with the little Irishman, had had his head almost
snapped off for too familiar use of that first name.) Kernahan looked
over the contestants and nodded to the men on scratch.

“One of them,” he answered.

“Then you have no infant prodigies for this event in the freshman
candidates?”

“I don’t know of any. Two or three of them may turn out fast, but I
guess they can’t hurry Hooker or Rindgely much.”

“Who’s the chap you’ve got by himself over there on the turn?” asked
Stearns.

“That’s--I don’t mind his name; he’s a freshman from Hillton; he wanted
more handicap, but I couldn’t give it to him, not with those legs of
his. He’s built for a runner, anyhow.”

“He surely is,” answered Stearns, “as far as legs are concerned.
But legs aren’t everything. Hello! you haven’t given that little
black-haired sophomore much of a show; thirty yards won’t help him much
in the mile.”

“Track, there!” cried a voice.

The three moved back on to the turf, Kernahan, who was timer, pulling
out his watch. The dozen or so milers who had been summoned from the
tent had had their ranks increased by several others. Hooker and
Rindgely had the scratch to themselves, but the thirty yards held three
men scarcely less speedy, and from that point onward around the turn
as far as the middle of the back-stretch the others were scattered
in little groups of twos and threes. Only the freshman with the long
legs was alone. He had been given a handicap of 120 yards, and was
jogging back and forth across the track with the bottom of his drab
dressing-gown flapping around his slender ankles. Ahead of him in the
gathering twilight six other runners, in two groups, were fidgeting
about in the cold. Across the field floated the command to get ready.
He tossed his wrap aside, revealing a lithe figure of little above
medium height with long legs in which the muscles played prettily as he
leaned forward with outstretched arm. At the report of the pistol he
sprang away with long easy strides that seemed to eat up the distance.
At the beginning of the home-stretch he had caught up the nearest bunch
of runners, and at the mark he was speeding close behind the foremost
men and taking the pace from the leader. It had cost him something to
gain the position, and to the watchers about the finish it seemed that
he was already spent.

“Your long-legged freshman’s done for, I guess,” said Clarke.

“Yes, he’s too ambitious. Has a pretty stride, though, hasn’t he,
Billy?” Walter Stearns followed the freshman runner with his gaze while
he began the turn. Kernahan too was watching him, and with something
like interest. But all he said was:

“Stride’s pretty good; feet drag a good deal, though.”

“Who’s that closing up?” asked Stearns. “Oh, it’s the sophomore chap
with the black hair. He’s an idiot, that’s what he is. Look! he’s
trying to pass Long-legs. There he goes! Long-legs has sense, anyhow.
Sophomore’s taken the lead, and look at the pace he’s making! Long-legs
is dropping back; none but a fool would try to keep up to that.”

They were at the turn now, and the gathering darkness made it difficult
to determine who was who. So the watchers gave their attention to
the scratch-men and one or two stragglers who were bunched together
half-way down the back-stretch. Rindgely and Hooker were close
together, the latter putting his toes down squarely into the former’s
prints. Both were running easily and with the consciousness of plenty
of power in reserve. When the turn was begun they had gained slightly
on the others near them and were about 120 yards behind the first
bunch. The black-haired sophomore was still setting the pace when he
crossed the mark again. Behind him at short intervals sped four others,
and last in the group came the freshman with the long legs. The
half-hundred spectators that remained were clustered close to the track
near the finish and, in spite of chattering teeth, were displaying some
enthusiasm. A junior named Harris who was running third was encouraged
lustily, but most of the applause was reserved for the two cracks,
Rindgely and Hooker; they were well known and well liked; besides, they
were pretty certain to win, and it is always satisfactory to back the
victor.

“What’s this, the third lap?” Clarke asked, thumping his bare hands
together. “Well, I’m going back; better come along, Walt. You’ll freeze
here. If we’re going to have this sort of weather in October, I’d like
to know what’s going to happen to us in December.”

“Well, I guess I’ll go along,” Stearns said. “It surely is cold, and we
know how this is going to end. There go Rindgely and Hooker now; watch
’em overhaul the bunch. If you see Ames, Billy, tell him I said he was
to look me up to-night, will you?”

“All right,” answered the trainer. “But you’d better see this out;
there’s something in the way of a finish coming pretty quick.”

“Why, what’s up?” asked the track-team captain, turning quickly to
observe the runners.

“Well, I don’t know for sure,” answered Kernahan, cautiously, “but the
scratch-men aren’t going to get their mugs without a fight for them,
I’m thinking.”

“Who’s in the running?” Stearns asked, eagerly. Once more the first men
were coming down the home-stretch. But now the order was changed. The
black-haired sophomore was not in sight, but in his place sped Hooker,
an easy, confident smile on his face. On his heels was Rindgely. Then
came the junior, Harris, and beside him, fighting for the pole, was a
little plump senior. Behind this pair and about five yards distant was
the long-legged freshman. His head was held well, but his breathing was
loud and tortured. Stearns looked each man over searchingly. Then he
turned to the trainer.

“Last lap! Last lap!” was the cry.

“Say, Billy, you don’t mean Harris?” shouted Stearns when he could make
himself heard.

Kernahan shook his head.

“Then who?”

“Keep your eyes on Ware,” said the trainer.

“Ware? Who the dickens is Ware?” asked Stearns. But the trainer was
scattering the spectators from beside the finish, and so paid no heed.
The stragglers were passing now and the crowd was speeding them along
with announcements that the last lap had begun and with mildly ironical
injunctions to “move up head” or “cut across the field.” Then all eyes
were turned to the back-stretch, where the five leaders, survivors of
a field of some fifteen, were racing along, dim whitish forms in the
evening twilight. Hooker was setting a hot pace now, and the gaps were
lengthening. But as the last turn was reached the figures changed their
positions; some one dropped back; some one else moved suddenly to the
front. But it was all a blur and the identity of the runners could be
only surmised.

“That’s Rindgely taking the lead, I guess,” said Stearns. “That means
that Hooker’s to sprint the last fifty yards or so and get first. But
I’d like to know who Ware is. Do you know?”

Clarke shook his head.

“Search me,” he answered. “Maybe it’s the long-legged chap. He’s still
in the bunch, I think.”

“Yes, but he was just about done up when the last lap was finished. Did
you notice? He was gasping. Where’s Billy?”

“Over there at the mark. He’s holding a watch; if you speak to him now
he’ll jump down your throat. Here they come. Let’s move over here where
we can see.”

“Well, whoever’s in the lead is making a mighty painful pace for the
finish of the mile,” exclaimed the captain. “Seems to me he’s ’way
ahead, too!”

“It isn’t Rindgely,” said Clarke, decisively. “It must be----”

“Come on, Freshman!” cried a mighty voice at Clarke’s elbow, and a
big broad-shouldered youth crashed by, sending the editor of the
Purple reeling on to the cinders, from where he was pulled back by
Stearns. Clarke glared around in search of the cause of his ignominious
performance, and saw him standing, a whole head above the crowd, a few
paces away at the edge of the track. He seemed to be quite unconscious
of Clarke’s anger. Leaning out over the cinders, he was waving a big
hand and bellowing in a voice that drowned all other cries:

“Come on, Freshman! Dig your spurs in! _Whoo-ee!_”

Clarke’s anger gave way to excitement. Down the home-stretch came the
runners, sprinting for the mark. Stearns was shouting unintelligible
things at his side and apparently trying to climb his back in order to
see the finish. The throng was yelling for Hooker, for Rindgely, for
Harris.

And then, suddenly, comparative silence fell. Twenty yards away the
runners became recognizable. The crowd stared in wonderment. Well in
the lead and increasing that lead with every long, perfect stride came
an unknown, a youth with pale cheeks disked with crimson, a youth
of medium height with lithe body and long legs that were working like
parts of machinery. Back of him ran Hooker; beyond, dim figures told of
a struggle between Rindgely and the junior for third place. It was the
stentorian voice of the big fellow at the edge of the track that broke
the momentary silence of surprise.

“Pull up, Freshman, it’s all yours!” it shouted.

Then confusion reigned. The little throng raced along the track toward
the finish. Hooker’s friends urged him to win, while others applauded
the unknown. And in a second it was all over, mile race and fall
meeting. A white-clad form sped across the finish six yards in the
lead, tossed his arms in air, swerved to the left, and pitched blindly
into the throng.

[Illustration: A white-clad form sped across the finish.]

“What’s the matter with Seven?” shrieked a small youth at Stearns’s
elbow. The track-team captain turned.

“Who was that fellow that won?” he demanded.

“Ware,” was the jubilant reply. “Ware, ’07!”



CHAPTER II

A VISITING CARD


When Allan Ware recovered enough to take an interest in things he found
himself lying in the dressing-tent with some one--it afterward proved
to be Harris--striving to draw a coat from under him. No one was paying
any special attention to him, and the tent was filled with the hard
breathing of the runners, who were now only intent upon getting into
their clothes. Allan took a deep breath and obligingly rolled over so
that Harris could have his coat. Then he sat up.

He had not fainted at the end of the race; it is very seldom that
a runner loses consciousness, no matter how hard or prolonged the
struggle has been. The collapse is produced by oppression of the
chest, less frequently of the heart in particular, and the consequent
difficulty of breathing is the most painful feature of it. Allan had
been dimly aware from the moment he pitched into the throng until now
of what had passed, but his interest in events had been slight; he
knew that arms had reached out and saved him from falling and that
some one--a very strong some one, evidently--had picked him up like a
feather and carried him the short distance to the tent. Allan wondered,
now that he could breathe again without exertion, who the fellow had
been.

Every one was intent upon dressing and no one looked as though
expecting thanks. Rindgely, still blowing like a porpoise, was
balancing himself on one leg and trying to thrust the other into his
trousers, while he explained to Hooker that the track was like mush and
no one should be expected to run on it. Hooker, looking amused, grunted
as he pulled his shirt over his head. Allan scrambled to his feet and
began to dress. He couldn’t help wondering what the others thought of
his victory; it seemed rather important to him, but he had never won
a race before, although he had taken part in a good many, and so it
probably appeared more wonderful than it really was. The trainer stuck
his head in at the door.

“Hurry up, now,” he commanded. “Get up to the gym, and don’t be afraid
of the water when you get there.”

This familiar formula met with the usual groans and hoots, and Kernahan
grinned about the tent. Starting to withdraw his bullet-shaped head
with its scant adornment of carroty hair, the trainer’s eyes fell on
Allan. He picked his way over the tangle of legs.

“Well, are you done up?” he asked. Allan shook his head.

“That’s the boy, then!” continued Billy, heartily. “You’d better come
out Monday and we’ll see what you can do. Did you ever run much?”

“Some,” answered Allan, “at school.”

“Well, you see me Monday.”

When the trainer had gone, Hooker called across:

“Say, Ware, you’re done for now.”

“How’s that?” asked Allan.

“Why, when Billy takes a fancy to you, he just merely works you to
death. You weigh when you get over to gym and then weigh again, say,
three weeks from now. You won’t know yourself.”

A laugh went up. Rindgely chimed in with:

“You’ll find your work different from winning a mile with a couple of
hundred yards handicap.”

Allan had only had one hundred and twenty, but he didn’t think it worth
while correcting Rindgely, who was evidently rather sore over his
defeat. Harris unexpectedly took up for him.

“He didn’t have that much handicap, Larry; and if he had, it wouldn’t
have made any difference to you, you old ice-wagon. What was the
matter with you, anyhow?”

Rindgely entered into elaborate explanations, which concerned the state
of the track, the injustice of the handicapping, and many other things,
and Harris laughed them to scorn.

“Oh, you’re just lazy,” he jibed. “Your name’s Lazy Larry.”

A howl of delight went up, and Allan looked to see Rindgely become
angry. But, after a moment of indecision, he added his chuckle to the
general hilarity. Allan turned to Harris.

“I was rather done up after the run,” he said, “and some fellow must
have lugged me over here. Did you happen to see who he was?”

“Yes; one of your class, a whopping big fellow named Burley. Know him,
don’t you?”

Allan shook his head thoughtfully.

“Well, you will when you see him.”

Harris picked up his togs and hurried off. Allan would have liked to
walk back with him to the gym, but he thought the junior might think
him “fresh” if he offered his company, and so he started back alone.
It was almost dark now, and the lights in the college yard and in the
village were twinkling brightly when he reached the corner of Poplar
Street and turned down that elm-roofed thoroughfare toward his room.
Poplar Street ends at Main Street in a little triangular grass-grown
space known as College Park, and Allan’s room was in the rambling
corner house that faces the park and trails its length along Main
Street. Allan thought his address sounded rather well: “1 College
Park” had an aristocratic sound that pleased him. And since he had
been unable to secure accommodations in one of the dormitories, he
considered himself lucky to have found such comfortable quarters as
Mrs. Purdy’s house afforded.

His room was large, with two windows in front reaching to the floor and
four others arranged in couples along the side, and affording a clear
view of the college yard, from McLean Hall to the library. The fact
that former denizens had left comfortable window-seats at each side
casement was a never-failing source of satisfaction to the new occupant
of what the landlady called the “parlor study.” In Allan’s case, it was
study and bedroom too. Next year Allan meant to room in the Yard, and
for the present he was very well satisfied.

His occupancy of less than a month had not staled the pleasure derived
from knowing himself sole owner of all the apartment’s array of
brand-new furniture, carpeting, and draperies. To-night, after he had
lighted all four of the burners in the gilded chandelier above the
table, he paused with the charred match in hand and looked about him
with satisfaction.

The carpet was beautifully crimson, the draperies at the windows were
equally resplendent, if more variegated in hue, the big study-table
shone richly and reflected the light in its polished top, and the more
familiar objects on the mantel and on the dark walls, accumulations of
his school years, seemed to return his gaze with friendly interest.
To-night, with the knowledge of his victory on the track adding new
glamour to the scene, it seemed to Allan that his first year of college
life was destined to be very happy and splendid.

He stayed only long enough to change collar and cuffs, and then, with a
boy’s cheerful disregard of economy, left the four lights flaring and
hurried across Main Street to Brown Hall and dinner.

The afternoon’s work had put a sharp edge on his appetite, and, having
nodded to one or two acquaintances, he lost no time in addressing
himself to the agreeable task of causing the total disappearance of
a plate of soup. His preoccupation gives us an excellent opportunity
to make a critical survey of him without laying ourselves open to the
charge of impoliteness.

Allan Ware was eighteen years old, a straight, lithe lad, with rather
rebellious brown hair and a face still showing the summer’s tan. His
features were not perfect by any means, but they were all good, and
if you would not have thought of calling the face handsome, you would
nevertheless have liked it on the instant. There was a clearness and
steadiness about the brown eyes, a gentleness about the mouth, and a
firmness about the chin which all combined to render the countenance
attractive and singularly wholesome. It was a face with which one would
never think of associating meanness. And yet to jump to the conclusion
that Allan had never done a mean act would have been rash; he was only
an average boy, and as human as any of them.

Allan had come up to Erskine from Hillton without heralding; he was
not a star football player, a brilliant baseball man, nor a famous
athlete; he had always run in the distances at the preparatory school
principally because he liked running and not because he believed
himself cut out for a record breaker. His afternoon’s performance had
been as much of a surprise to him as to any. At Hillton he had been
rather popular among his set, but he had never attempted to become a
leader. His classmates had gone to other colleges--many to Harvard and
Yale, a few to Columbia and Princeton, only one to Erskine. Allan had
chosen the latter college to please his mother; his own inclinations
had been toward Yale, for Allan had lived all his life in New Haven,
and was blue all through.

But Allan’s grandfather had gone to Erskine--his name was one of those
engraved on the twin tablets in the chapel transept, tablets sacred to
the memories of those sons of Erskine who had given their lives in the
struggle for the preservation of the Union--and Allan’s father had gone
there, too. Allan couldn’t remember very much about his father--the
latter had died when the boy was ten years old--but he sympathized with
his mother’s wish that he also should receive his education under the
elms of Centerport.

His family was not any too well supplied with wealth, but his mother’s
tastes were simple and her wants few, and there had always been enough
money forthcoming for the needs of his sister Dorothy, two years his
junior, and for himself. If there had been any sacrifices at home, he
had never known of them. At Hillton he had had about everything he
wanted--his tastes were never extravagant--and the subject of money had
never occupied his thoughts. At eighteen, if one is normal, there are
heaps of things far more interesting than money. One of them is dinner.

Allan was much interested in dinner to-night. He even found it
necessary to indulge in a couple of “extras,” in order to satisfy
a very healthy appetite. For these he signed with an impressive
flourish. When the last spoonful of ice-cream had disappeared he
pushed back his chair and went out. In the coat-room he found a
dark-complexioned and heavily built youth in the act of drawing on a
pair of overshoes.

“Couldn’t find my boots,” explained Hal Smiths, “so I put these over my
slippers. Wait a minute and I’ll go along.”

They left the hall together and walked briskly toward Main Street.
Allan and Hal Smiths had never been particularly intimate at Hillton,
but as they were the only two fellows from that school in the freshman
class, they had naturally enough felt drawn toward each other since
they had reached Erskine. During the last week, however, Hal had been
making friends fast, and as a consequence Allan had seen less of him.
Hal had quite a reputation, gained during his last year at Hillton, as
a full-back, and he was generally conceded to be certain of making the
freshman football team, if not the varsity second. To-night Hal was
full of football matters, and Allan let him talk on uninterruptedly
until they had reached the corner. There:

“Come on down and play some pool,” suggested Hal.

But Allan shook his head. He liked pool, but with a condition in
mathematics to work off it behooved him to do some studying.

“I’ll play some other night,” he said. And then: “Say, Hal,” he asked,
“do you know a chap in our class named Burley?”

“Pete Burley? Yes; what about him?”

“Oh, nothing. What’s he like?”

“Like an elephant,” answered Hal, disgustedly. “A big brute of a chap
from Texas or Montana or somewhere out that way.” Hal’s ideas of the
West were rather vague. “Met him the other day; struck me as a big
idiot. Well, see you to-morrow.”

Hal swung off down Main Street and Allan turned toward his room,
feeling quite virtuous for that he had resisted temptation in the shape
of pool and was going home to toil. When he opened his door a sheet of
paper torn from a blue-book fluttered to the floor. There was a pin in
it and it had evidently been impaled on the door. Allan held it to the
light and saw in big round, boyish characters the inscription:

“PETE BURLEY.”



CHAPTER III

ON THE CINDERS


On the following Monday, Allan set out after his three-o’clock
recitation for Erskine Field. He stopped at his room long enough to
leave his books and get his mail--the Sunday letter from home usually
put in its appearance on Monday afternoon--and then went on out Poplar
Street.

It was a fine, mild afternoon, with the sunlight sifting down through
the branches of the giant elms which line the way, and a suggestion of
Indian summer in the air. If he hadn’t been so busy with his letter he
could have found plenty to interest him on the walk to the field, but,
as it was, he was deeply concerned with the news from home.

There was talk, his mother wrote, of closing down the Gold Beetle mine
out in Colorado, from which distant enterprise the greater part of
her income had long been derived in the shape of dividends on a large
amount of stock; the gold-bearing ore had given out and the directors
were to consider the course to pursue at a meeting in December.
Meanwhile, his mother explained, the work had stopped, and so had
the dividends, and she didn’t like to consider what would happen if
this source of income was shut off for all time. Allan tried to feel
regretful over the matter, since his mother was clearly worried--more
worried than she was willing to show, had he but known it--but the Gold
Beetle was a long way off, it always had supplied them with money,
and the idea that it was now to cease doing so seemed something quite
preposterous. The Gold Beetle represented the family fortune, about all
that remained after his father’s affairs had been settled.

Allan found other news more to his liking: Dorothy was getting on
nicely at her new boarding-school and had survived the initial period
of tragic homesickness; one of Allan’s friends at Hillton, now a Yale
freshman, had called at the house a few days before; and Edith Cinnamon
had presented the household with a litter of three lovely kittens.
Edith Cinnamon was the cat, Allan’s particular pet, and the news of the
interesting event remained in his mind after the reprehensible conduct
of the Gold Beetle mine had departed from it. Mines stand merely for
money, but kittens are pets, and Allan loved pets. A wonderful idea
struck him: why not have his mother send him one of the kittens? He
resolved to confer with Mrs. Purdy on his return; surely she would have
no objections to his obtaining a room-mate to share the “parlor study”
with him!

When he had changed his clothes for a running costume in the locker
house and reached the track he found fully half a score of fellows
before him. There was Hooker jogging around the back-stretch; nearer
at hand was Harris practising starts; in a group at the finish of the
hurdles he saw Stearns, the track-team captain, Rindgely, several
fellows whose faces he knew but whose names were unknown to him, and
Billy Kernahan. He drew aside to let a file of runners by and then
approached the group. Rindgely nodded to him slightly, not with any
suggestion of unfriendliness, but rather in the manner of one who has
never been properly introduced. Billy accompanied his salutation with a
critical survey of the half-clothed figure confronting him.

“How are you feeling to-day?” he asked.

“Fine, thanks!” answered Allan.

“That’s the boy! We’ll try you at three-quarters of a mile after a
while. You’d better get warmed up, and then try half a dozen starts.”

While the trainer was speaking, Allan was aware of the fact that Walter
Stearns was observing him with evident interest. When Billy ceased,
Stearns said something to him in low tones, and the next moment Allan
found himself being introduced to the track-team captain. Stearns was
rather under than above medium height, with small features and alert
eyes of a steel-gray shade that contrasted oddly with his black hair.
Below his white trunks his legs were thin and muscular, and under the
faded purple sweater his chest proved itself broad and deep. He spoke
rapidly, as though his tongue had learned the secret of his legs and
was given to dashes rather than to sustained efforts.

“Glad to know you, Ware,” he said, as he shook hands. “Glad you’re
coming out to help us.”

“I don’t believe I’ll be much help,” answered Allan.

“Oh, yes; bound to. I saw you run in the handicaps. That was a mighty
pretty race you made. By the way, do you know Mr. Long? And this is
Mr. Monroe. And Mr. Mason. Keep in with Mason. He’s office-boy on the
Purple and writes criticisms of the track team.”

Allan shook hands with the three, while the group laughed at Stearns’s
fling at the managing editor of the college weekly. Long was a
startlingly tall fellow, with a crooked nose and twinkling, yellowish
eyes, and Monroe was short and thick-set, and looked ill-tempered.
Mason, Allan recognized as one of a half-dozen men whom he had seen
about college and as to whose identity he had been curious. Mason was
the sort of fellow that attracts attention: tall, broad-shouldered,
with shrewd, kindly eyes behind glasses and a firm mouth under a
straight and sensitive nose. He looked very much the gentleman, and
Allan was glad to make his acquaintance. He was in the dark as to what
position Mason really occupied on the Purple, and so the point of
Stearns’s joke was lost on him. But he smiled, nevertheless, having
learned that it is sometimes well to assume knowledge when one hasn’t
it.

“See you again,” said Stearns. The others nodded with various degrees
of friendliness and Allan took himself off. The track was in good
condition to-day and held the spikes firmly. Allan jogged up and down
the stretch a few times, trying his muscles, which on Saturday had felt
a bit stiff after the mile run, and lifting his knees high. Then he
started around the track. Half-way around he drew up behind Hooker.

“Hello!” said the latter. “Nice day, isn’t it?”

Allan agreed that it was, and the two went on together to the turn.
There Hooker turned up the straightaway.

“Going to try starts?” he asked. “Let’s go up to the end there.”

Allan couldn’t see the necessity for becoming proficient in the
crouching start until Hooker explained as they returned from a brief
dash, in which the younger lad had been left wofully far behind.

“Sometimes,” said Hooker, “you’ll want the pole at the start, and if
you’re placed two or three places away from it, you won’t get it from a
stand, you see. But if you use the crouch and get away quick, you have
a pretty good show of getting ahead of the men who have the inside of
you. Let’s try it again. You give the signal this time.”

After ten minutes of it, Allan picked up his sweater and followed
Hooker down the track to report to Kernahan. The football men had
taken possession of the gridiron by this time, Long and others were
practising at the high jump, and altogether the field looked very busy.

“You and Ware try three laps,” said the trainer to Hooker. “Watch your
form, now, and never mind about your time. I’ll attend to that for you.
Take turn about at the pacing; you take the first lap, Hooker. Want to
get into this, Larry?”

Rindgely nodded and peeled off his sweater. The others had to trot
about for a minute or two while Rindgely stretched his muscles. Then
the three got on to the mark, Billy gave the word, and they started
off at an easy pace, Hooker in the lead, Allan next, and Rindgely in
the rear. All three hugged the rim of the track and settled down into
their pace. On the back-stretch they had to slow down once to avoid a
group of football substitutes who were crossing the cinders, and once
Rindgely was forced to leap over a ball that came bouncing out onto the
track, and was much incensed about it. Hooker’s pace was wonderfully
steady, but Allan thought it rather slow. At the mark Billy told them
to “hit it up a bit now,” and Hooker slowed down, letting Allan into
the lead.

Allan increased the pace considerably. This time there were no
interruptions, and they neared the end of the second lap fresh and
untired. Kernahan glanced up from his watch as they sped by.

“All right!” he shouted. “Get up there, Larry, and hold that pace.”

Rindgely took the lead. As they commenced the turn Allan’s gaze,
wandering a second from the front, lighted upon a tall, wide-shouldered
and somewhat uncouth figure at the edge of the track. Strange to say,
the figure nodded its head at him and waved a hand, and as Allan went
by there came a stentorian cry of encouragement that might have been
heard half across the field:

“Chase ’em down, Freshman! Give ’em fits!”

Allan bit his lips angrily as he sped on. What business had that big
chump yelling at him like that when he didn’t even know him? Pretty
fresh, that’s what it was! Allan hadn’t made the acquaintances of so
many fellows but that he could remember them, and he was quite sure
that he had never met the big chap who had yelled. But at the same
time there had been something familiar about the fellow’s voice--too
familiar, thought Allan with a grudging smile--and he wondered who he
might be and why he had singled him out for his unwelcome attentions.
Then the incident passed for the time out of his mind, for the last
turn was almost at hand and Rindgely was increasing the pace.

Allan began to feel it at the turn, and when they swung into the
home-stretch and the pace, instead of settling down to a steady finish,
grew faster and faster, he came to the unwelcome conclusion that he
was not in the same class with the other two. Rindgely, in spite of
all Allan could do, lengthened the space between them. Hooker, seeing
that Allan was out of it, passed him fifty yards from the mark and
strove to overhaul the leader. But Rindgely was never headed, and
finished several yards in front of Hooker and at least thirty ahead of
Allan. When they turned and jogged back to the trainer, the latter was
slipping his watch into his pocket.

“What’s the good of doing that, Larry?” he asked, disgustedly. “That
wasn’t a race.”

“Oh, I just wanted to liven it up a bit,” answered Rindgely, grinning.
“What time did I make, Billy?”

“I didn’t take you,” answered the trainer, shortly. “That’s enough for
to-day.”

Allan turned away with the others, but Billy called him back.

“What was the matter?” he asked. “Pace too hot for you?”

“I suppose so; I couldn’t stand that spurt.”

“Well, that was some of Larry’s nonsense; he’d no business cutting up
tricks.” He was silent a moment, looking across to where the second
eleven was trying vainly to keep the varsity from pushing over her
goal-line. Then, “Ever try the two miles?” he asked. Allan shook his
head.

“I don’t believe I’d be any good at it,” he answered. “Not that I’m
any good at the mile, either,” he added, somewhat discouraged at the
outcome of the trial.

“What’s the best you ever did at the mile?”

“About four minutes forty-five seconds.”

“You did it inside of forty, Friday.”

“I did?” Allan looked his surprise. “Oh, but I ran a hundred and twenty
yards short.”

“I allowed for that,” answered Billy, quietly. “Now, look here,
Ware; you’ve got it in you all right, but you don’t make the most of
yourself. You let your feet drag back badly, and you’ve been trying
after too long a stride. You make that shorter by six inches and you’ll
cut off another second after a while. And to-morrow I’ll show you what
I mean about the stride. There’s plenty of time before the dual meet
in the spring, and by then we’ll have you doing things right. The only
thing is,” he added, thoughtfully, “whether you wouldn’t do better at
the two miles. What do you think?”

“I really don’t know,” answered Allan, doubtfully, “but I’d like to try
it.”

“Well, there’s lots of time. The indoor meet in Boston comes along in
February; we’ll have you in shape for that, and you can go in for the
mile and the two miles. Meanwhile, you’d better come out with the other
men while the decent weather lasts.”

“Do you think I can make the team?” Allan asked, hopefully.

“Easy; but they don’t take new men on till after the trials in the
spring.”

“Oh!” said Allan, a trifle disappointed.

“Don’t let that bother you,” advised the trainer. “You’re as good as
on it now. You make the most of the fall training, Ware, and keep fit
during the winter. I’d go in for hockey or something. Ever play hockey?”

“Yes, but I can’t skate well enough.”

“Well, get plenty of outdoor exercise of some sort this winter; don’t
let the weather keep you indoors.”

“All right, I’ll remember.” Allan’s gaze wandered toward the locker
building. Half-way across the field a big figure was ambling toward the
gate, hands in pockets. Allan turned quickly to the trainer. “Do you
know who that fellow is?” Kernahan’s gaze followed his. After a moment:

“That’s a freshman named Burley. Know him?”

“No; I just wondered who he was,” Allan replied.

“And I don’t want to know him,” he muttered, irritably, as he trotted
off to the locker house.

But Fate seldom consults our inclinations.



CHAPTER IV

HAL HAS AN IDEA


It seemed to Allan during the next few days that the bulky form of
Peter Burley was bent upon haunting him. On Tuesday morning, in
English, he was aware of Burley’s presence a few rows behind him;
when he looked around, it was to encounter the big fellow’s smiling
regard. There was really nothing offensive in that smile; it was merely
one of intense friendliness, quite unconventional in its intensity,
but it irritated Allan greatly. Why couldn’t Burley let him alone?
Just because he had kept him from falling and lugged him to the
dressing-tent, he seemed to have an idea that Allan was his especial
property. And then the cheek of scrawling his silly name on a fellow’s
door! And yelling like a three-ply idiot at the track!

Perhaps the fact that Burley, whoever and whatever he was, was markedly
popular rather increased Allan’s prejudice. Wherever Burley sat in
class there was invariably a good deal of subdued noise and laughter,
and when he left the hall it was always as the center of a small
circle of fellows, above which Burley towered head and shoulders.
Secretly, Allan envied Burley’s success with his fellows, but in
conversation with Smiths he dubbed Burley a mountebank. Hal was visibly
impressed with the word and used it unflaggingly the rest of the year.

Wednesday, Burley was again on the field, but this time he made no
remarks as Allan passed him on the track; merely smiled and nodded with
his offensive familiarity and then turned his attention to the football
practise. As usual, he was the center of a group, and after Allan had
passed the turn he heard their laughter and wondered if Burley had
selected him as a butt for his silly jokes. After that Allan saw him
at least once a day until on the following Wednesday night, when the
freshman election took place in Grace Hall, and Burley leaped into even
greater, and to Allan more offensive, prominence.

There were two leading candidates for the presidency, and, contrary
to the usual custom, the opposing forces had failed to arrange a
compromise and a distribution of offices. The contest was prolonged
and exciting. On the ninth ballot, Mordaunt, a St. Mathias fellow, won
amidst the howls of the opposition. The rival candidate was elected
secretary, but promptly and somewhat heatedly declined. New nominations
were called for, and Burley was proposed simultaneously from two
sides of the room. His name met with loud applause. Burley, sitting
unconcernedly near the door, grinned his appreciation of the joke. Two
other names were offered, and then the balloting began. On the first
ballot, Peter Burley, of Blackwater, Col., was elected.

Burley tried to get on to his feet to refuse the honor, but owing to
the fact that three companions held him down while the chairman rapped
wildly for order, he failed to gain recognition. The next moment the
election was made unanimous. Allan grunted his disapproval. Hal said it
didn’t much matter who was secretary; anybody could be that.

Hal accompanied Allan back to the latter’s room and stayed until late,
talking most of the time about his chances of making the varsity squad,
what he was going to do if he didn’t, and how he didn’t give a rap
anyway.

“Of course, I can make the freshman team all right, but what’s that?
They have only four outside games scheduled, and two of those don’t
amount to anything; just high schools. The only game they go away for
is the one with Dexter. And this thing of working hard for a month to
play the Robinson freshmen isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.”

“Who will win?” asked Allan, suppressing a yawn.

“That’s the trouble. It’s more’n likely that Robinson will. We’ve got
a lot of good men--fast backs and a mighty brainy little quarter--but
we haven’t got any support for our center. Cheesman’s a wonder, but he
can’t do much with guards like Murray and Kirk beside him. Why, Kirk
doesn’t weigh a hundred and seventy, and Murray’s only a hundred and
eighty-something. Poor is going to issue another call for candidates;
he’s going to ask every man of a hundred and seventy-five or over to
come out. Say!”

Hal sat up suddenly in the Morris chair and looked like a Great
Discoverer.

“Say what?” murmured Allan, drowsily.

“What’s the matter with that man Burley?”

“A good deal, I should say, if you ask me,” answered Allan.

“I mean for a guard,” said Smiths, impatiently.

“He probably never saw a football,” objected Allan. “They don’t play it
out West, do they?”

“Don’t they, though! Look at Michigan and Wisconsin and--and the rest
of them!”

“I refuse.”

“Why, Burley’s just the man! He must weigh two hundred if he weighs a
pound!”

“Looks as though he might weigh a ton. But if he doesn’t know the
game----”

“How do you know he doesn’t?”

“I don’t. But if he did know it, wouldn’t he have been out before this?”

Smiths was silenced for a moment.

“Well, even if he doesn’t know it, he can be taught, I guess. And we’ve
got a whole lot of science now; what we need is beef.”

“Burley looks more like an ass than a cow,” said Allan, disagreeably.
Smiths stared.

“Say, what’s he done to you, anyway? You seem to be beastly sore on
him.”

“I’ve told you what he’s done.”

“Oh, that! Besides, he lugged you off the track; that’s nothing to get
mad about, is it?”

“I suppose not; I’m not mad about that--or anything else. He just--just
makes me tired.”

“Well, I’ll bet he’s our man.” Smiths jumped up and seized his cap.
“I’ll run over and tell Poor.”

“What, at this time of night?”

“Pshaw! it’s only eleven-thirty. He’ll be glad to know about it.”

“He’ll probably pitch you down-stairs, and serve you right.”

“Not much he won’t. Good night.”

“Good night,” answered Allan. “I’ve got some surgeon’s plaster, if you
need it.”

Hal Smiths slammed the door and took the front porch in one leap. Then
the gate crashed. Allan listened intently.

“That’s funny!” he muttered. “He must have missed the lamp-post!”

He took up a book, found a pencil, and opened the table-drawer in
search of a pad. As he did so, his eyes fell on a folded sheet of lined
paper. He read the penciled words on it--“Peter Burley”--and, refolding
it after a moment of indecision, tucked it back in a corner of the
drawer, frowning deeply the while.

Allan didn’t see Hal the next day; neither was the objectionable Burley
visible on the field in the afternoon when Allan ran his first practise
over the mile. Kernahan didn’t hold the watch on him, the distance was
unfamiliar to him, and he lost all idea of his time after the fourth
lap, and ended pretty well tuckered out.

“All right,” said the trainer, when it was over. “You ran it a bit too
fast at the start. But you’ll get onto it after a while.”

On Friday Allan saw Hal only for an instant and had no chance to
question him as to the result of his midnight visit to the freshman
football captain. Consequently, it was not until Saturday that
he learned of Burley’s appearance on the field as a candidate for
admission into the freshman team. There was no track work that
afternoon, since the Erskine varsity played State University. Allan
went out to the field alone and watched the game from the season-ticket
holders’ stand, and cheered quite madly when the Erskine quarter-back,
availing himself for the first time of the new rules, seemed to pass
the ball to a trio of plunging backs, and after an instant of delay set
off almost alone around State’s left end with the pigskin cuddled in
his arm, and flew down the field for over seventy yards to a touch-down.

That settled the score for the first half, and the teams trotted off
with honors even. There was a good deal of dissatisfaction expressed in
Allan’s neighborhood over the playing of the home team, and much gloomy
prophecy was indulged in in regard to the outcome of the final and
most important game of the season--that with Erskine’s old-time rival,
Robinson University.

About the middle of the intermission, Allan heard his name called, and
looked down to see a small, sandy-haired fellow waving a note-book
at him. Allan waved back, and the owner of the note-book--the latter
his never-absent badge of office--climbed up the seats and was duly
pummeled and laid hold of on his way. Tommy Sweet was a Hillton
fellow, and considering that he had been a class ahead of Allan at
that school, the two had been quite friendly there until Sweet had
gone up to Erskine. So far Allan had not seen much of him, for Tommy
was “on the Purple,” as he liked to put it, and was an extremely busy
youth. Tommy’s friends declared he would find something to do if he was
strapped in bed.

The key-note of Tommy was eagerness. His wide-open blue eyes were
always staring about the world in search for something to engage his
attention, and his ridiculously small mouth was forever pursed into
something between a grin and an exclamation-point. His hair was just
the color of tow, and the freckles which covered every available
portion of his face were several shades darker, but harmonized
perfectly. He was tireless in the search for news for the Purple, and
when it came to activity would have made the proverbial ant or beaver
look like a sluggard. Tommy thought sleep a criminal waste of time, and
even begrudged the moments spent in eating.

Tommy was only perfectly happy when doing four things at once; less
than four left him dull and dissatisfied. Clarke Mason once said:
“I’ll bet some day Tommy will commit second-degree murder so they’ll
give him hard labor for life.” For the rest he was a cheerful, likable
fellow, aggressively honest and painfully conscientious.

“What did you think of that run of Cutler’s?” he asked, breathlessly,
as he sank onto the seat at Allan’s side. “Peach, wasn’t it? It’ll
show up great in the diagram I’m making; see!” He opened his note-book
and exhibited a puzzling maze of lines and dots, figures and letters.
“That’s the first half. Everything’s there--runs, kicks, plunges,
penalties, the whole show.”

“What’s it for?” asked Allan. “Anything to do with geometry?”

“Why, no; it’s-- Oh, quit your kidding! It’s to go with my report of
the game. It shows how the gains were made and who made ’em. And I’ve
introduced something new in diagrams, too. See these figures along the
edge here--4:17, 4:22, and so on?”

“Well, I see something there, I think,” answered Allan, cautiously.

“Those signify the time each play was made,” said Tommy, triumphantly.
“That’s never been done before, you know.”

“I see. But it must keep you pretty busy. Do you have to write the game
up, too?”

“Oh, yes.” Tommy showed three or four pages of awful-looking scrawls
from a fountain-pen. “That’s done in a sort of shorthand, and I write
it out full length at the office. Say, where did you tell me your
room was? I meant to put it down, but forgot it. Purdy’s? Oh, yes; I
know where that is. I want to come around some evening, if I can ever
find the time. How are you getting on? Anything I can do for you? Any
fellows you’d like to meet? No? Well, let me know if I can do anything
for you. Very glad to, you know. That was quite a race you made the
other day. Billy seems to have taken a fancy to you, doesn’t he? He’s
all right, Allan; you shine up to him and-- Hello! there’s a fellow I
want to see. Come and see me, will you? Twenty-two Sesson, you know. So
long, old chap!”

Tommy hurried pell-mell down the stand, shaking off detaining hands,
and disappeared into the throng. Allan took a long breath; he felt as
though a small hurricane had been playing with him. The teams came onto
the field again and the second half began. It proved uninteresting,
and only the superior weight of the Erskine eleven won them the game
finally by the close margin of a safety. Allan followed the throng out
of the enclosure and across toward the locker house and the gate. But
half-way there the crowd divided, and Allan presently found himself
looking on at the practise of the freshman teams. The first team had
the ball on the second’s five-yard line and was trying very hard
to put it over to an accompaniment of command and entreaty from the
coaches.

“Third down and two to go!” some one shouted. A shrill voice called a
jumble of figures and a tandem slid forward at a tangent, and for an
instant confusion reigned. Then suddenly a roar of laughter went up,
the line of watchers broke forward, and Allan found himself directly
in the path of what at first glance looked like an avalanche of canvas
and leather. Springing back, he escaped being borne along by the
group of struggling players, in the center of which, rising like a
city sky-scraper out of a huddle of shanties, stood forth, calm and
determined, the countenance of Peter Burley.

In his arms, struggling but helpless, was the first eleven’s left
half-back, and to his back and legs and, in short, to every portion
of his anatomy, hung the enemy, for all the world like bees on a nest
in swarming time. Behind them the second eleven pushed and shoved,
and relentlessly the whole mass moved down the field. And somewhere,
drowned by the laughter of the spectators and the despairing shrieks of
“Down! Down!” from the abducted half-back, sounded feebly the referee’s
whistle.

One by one the impeditive players dropped away, and Burley’s
triumphant advance toward the enemy’s goal was stopped by the referee
and two coaches. Burley set down the half-back, in whose arms the
pigskin was still clutched, but did not release his grasp until his
obligations were hurriedly but clearly explained to him. Then he patted
the half-back on the shoulder in a paternal manner and retraced his
steps to the enthusiastic applause of the convulsed throng. The second
team hugged as much of him as they could encompass and he smiled
cheerfully, but was evidently still somewhat perplexed. The ball went
to the second on her eight yards and the game continued, Burley, at
right guard, looming head and shoulders above his companions.

Allan watched the game for a few moments longer, and then continued his
journey. Somehow the calm, inscrutable manner in which the big freshman
had strode down the field in unquestioning obedience to what he had
supposed to be his duty appealed to Allan. It had been awfully funny,
and Allan smiled as he recalled it. But the incident had held for him
something more than humor, just what he hardly knew; but whatever it
was, and even though he would have found it difficult to give a name to
it, it completely changed his feeling toward Burley. By the time he had
reached Mrs. Purdy’s front gate, he was wondering whether Burley still
desired his acquaintance.



CHAPTER V

“MR. PETER BURLEY, BLACKWATER, COL.”


Hal Smiths dropped in after dinner that evening and Allan brought the
conversation around to the subject of Burley, whose performance during
practise had been the chief topic at the dinner-table.

“Why, Poor was awfully pleased at my suggestion,” said Hal, “after I
found him. It was after twelve then, and I’d chased half over college
looking for him. He said he wasn’t very good at persuasion and thought
Burley would require lots of it; so he asked me to see him. Poor’s a
pretty good little chap, so I went. Burley was awfully decent. Said he
had never played and had never even seen the game until he came here;
said he hadn’t been able to find out what it was all about, but that if
we wanted him to try it, why, of course, he would. Said he thought it
looked like pretty good fun, and got me to sort of explain it a bit.
One thing he wanted to know,” laughed Hal, “was whether you could hit a
man if he didn’t have the ball.”

“Well, he played it for all it was worth this afternoon,” said Allan,
smiling. “You heard about it, didn’t you?”

“No; what was it? I sat on the side line all afternoon, and waited to
get a whack at State University. What did Burley do?”

So Allan told him, and Hal laughed until the tears came.

“Oh, he’s a genius, he is!” he said.

After a minute of chuckling, he went on:

“Look here, Allan, I think you’d rather like him if you got to know
him. He’s--he’s rather a decent sort, after all. I didn’t take to him
at first, of course, but--and I don’t say now that he’s the sort of
chap you’d want to ask home and introduce to your people; he’s kind of
free and easy, and you couldn’t be sure he wouldn’t drink the catsup
out of the bottle or slap your governor on the back--but he’s--well,
there’s something about him you can’t help liking,” he ended, with an
apologetic tone.

“Maybe I would,” answered Allan, pleasantly. Hal looked surprised.

“He’s given up the class secretaryship, you know,” he announced.

“Why?”

“I don’t know for sure, but Poor says he told him it was because he
didn’t think he’d be here much after the holidays.”

“Where’s he going?” asked Allan.

“Don’t know. Funny idea, to come to college for half a year. Maybe----”

There were footsteps on the porch, the front portal opened with a
crash, and an imperative knock sounded on the room door. Allan jumped
to his feet. Could it be fire? he wondered, shooting a bewildered
glance at Hal. He hurried to the door just as the hammering began
again, more violently than before. Hal raised himself uneasily from the
Morris chair, prepared for the worst. Allan called, “_Come in!_” and
the door was flung open.

Entered Tommy Sweet!

“You thundering idiot!” bawled Hal. “I thought it was at least the
Dean! You can make more-- Hello, Burley! Glad to see you.”

“This is Mr. Burley, Allan,” Tommy was saying. “Brought him around
’cause I wanted you to know each other. Mr. Ware--Mr. Burley.”

Allan felt his hand enveloped in something large and warm and
vise-like. He felt his fingers crushed together, thought he could hear
the bones breaking--and still managed to smile painfully, but politely,
the while. Then Burley had dropped his hand and was saying:

“I’ve wanted to know you ever since I saw you win that running race
the other day. Came around here and left a card on you, but I guess you
didn’t find it.”

Allan murmured his appreciation, but remained silent as to the “card.”

“I told Sweet here that you’d win that race. Offered to bet him
anything he liked. He wouldn’t bet, though.” Peter Burley took the
chair proffered by Hal and carefully lowered himself into it.

“They told me you carried me over to the tent,” said Allan. “Much
obliged, I’m sure.”

“Welcome,” answered the other, heartily. “You didn’t weigh anything to
mention.”

“Not as heavy as the freshman team, eh?” asked Tommy. Burley looked
apologetically around the circle.

“I suppose every one’s heard of that fool thing?” he asked.

“Just about every one, I guess,” laughed Tommy.

“That comes of trying to do something you don’t know how to do. This
fellow Smiths here came around to my shack the other day and said the
class wanted me to play football because I weigh some. Well, ginger! I
didn’t know anything about the thing, and I told him so. But he would
have it that I must play. And look what happens! I make a measly show
of myself right out there on the range in front of the whole outfit!”

“No harm done,” said Hal. “You did what you tried to.”

“No, I didn’t. There was a little cuss there in a Derby hat wouldn’t
let me. I was going to take that half-backed fellow down to the other
end and throw him over the line. That’s what I was going to do. They
didn’t tell me I had to slap him on the chest and butt him with my
head.”

“But, you see,” explained Allan, “he called ‘Down’ just when you began
to lug him off.”

“That’s what they said. I was supposed to let go of him when he said
that, but I just thought he was throwing up the sponge and wanted me to
let him down. If I’d known he could have spoiled it by yelling ‘Down,’
I’d have held his mouth shut.”

This summoned laughter, and Burley glanced around at the others in
wide surprise. Allan felt surprise, too. Was Burley really quite
so unsophisticated as he seemed, he wondered, or-- His glance met
Burley’s. The big fellow’s right eyelid dropped slowly in a portentous
wink. Allan smiled. His question was answered. While the others entered
into an explanation and discussion of the rules and ethics of football,
Allan studied the Westerner.

Peter Burley looked to be, and was, twenty years of age. In form he was
remarkably large; he was an inch over six feet tall, and weighed 203
pounds. Nowhere about him was there evidence of unnecessary fat, but
he was deep of chest and wide of shoulder and hips. His hands and feet
were large, and the latter were encased in enormously heavy shoes.

When it came to features, Burley was undeniably good-looking in a
certain breezy, unconventional way. (Allan soon found that Burley’s
breeziness and absence of convention were not confined to his looks.)
Burley’s hair was brown, of no particular shade, and his eyes matched
his hair. His nose was big and straight and his mouth well shaped. His
cheeks were deeply tanned, but showed little color beneath. His usual
expression was one of careless, whimsical good nature, but there was an
earnest and kindly gleam in the brown eyes that lent character to the
face. He talked with a drawl, and pronounced many words in a way quite
novel to Allan. But--and this Allan discovered later--when occasion
required, he was capable of delivering his remarks in a sharp, incisive
way that made the words sound like rifle-shots. At the present moment
he was talking with almost exaggerated deliberateness.

“Sweet says you and he went to a preparatory school together,” he said,
turning to Allan. “I wish my old man had sent me to one of those
things. What was your school like?”

Allan told him of Hillton, and Tommy and Hal chimed in from time to
time and helped him along. It was a large subject and one they liked,
and half an hour passed before they had finished. Burley listened with
evident interest, and only interrupted occasionally to ask a question.

“How’d you happen to come to Erskine?” asked Tommy, when the subject
had been exhausted. Burley took one big knee into his hands and
considered the question for a moment in silence.

“Well, I’ll tell you,” he said at last. “You see, I had a go at
the university over in Boulder; that’s near Denver,” he explained,
parenthetically. “But we didn’t get on very well together, the faculty
and me, and I was always turning up at the ranch. Well, the old man got
tired of seeing me around so much; said he’d paid for my keep at the
university, and I’d ought to stay there and get even with the game.
But, ginger! the corral wasn’t big enough. Every time I’d try to be
good, something would come along and happen, and--first thing I knew,
I’d be roaming at large again. So the old man said he guessed what I
needed was to get far enough away from home so I wouldn’t back-trail
so often; said there wasn’t much doing when I went to college Monday
morning and showed up for feed Thursday night. First he tried taking my
railroad pass away; but when I couldn’t scare up the money, I rode home
on a freight. I got to know the train crews on the D. & R. G. pretty
well long toward spring. When vacation came, we all agreed to call
it off--the faculty and the old man and me. So I went up to Rico and
fooled around a mine there all summer. When----”

“What was the name of the mine?” asked Allan, eagerly.

“This one was the Indian Girl. There’s lots of ’em thereabouts. The old
man----”

“Say, is the ‘old man’ your father?” asked Tommy.

“Yes; why?”

“Nothing, only I should think he’d lick you if he heard you calling him
that.”

“Oh, he doesn’t mind. Besides, he isn’t really old; only about forty.
He calls me Kid, too,” he added, smiling broadly. “Well, in the summer
he wanted to know where I’d rather go to college--Yale, Harvard,
Princeton, Pennsylvania; he said he didn’t care so long as it was
far enough away to keep me from diggin’ out for home every week and
presenting myself with vacations not down on the calendar. Well, there
was a fellow up at the mine named Thompson; he was superintendent.
I was helping him--or thought I was--and so we got to be pretty good
friends. He was a nice little fellow, about as high as a sage-bush, and
as plucky as a bulldog. Well, he went to college here about ten years
ago, and he used to tell me a good deal about the place. So, when the
old man said, ‘Which is it?’ I told him Erskine. He said he’d never
heard tell of it, but so long as it was about two thousand miles from
Blackwater he guessed it would do. And that’s how. Now you talk.”

“That’s the first time I ever heard of choosing a college because it
was a long way from home,” laughed Hal. “I’d like to meet that father
of yours.”

“Better go back with me Christmas,” said Burley. Hal stared at him
doubtfully, undecided whether to laugh or not. “Of course,” continued
Burley, carelessly, “we haven’t got much out there. It’s pretty much
all alfalfa and sage-bush around Blackwater. But the hills aren’t far,
and there’s good hunting up toward Routt. You fellows all better come;
the old man would be pleased to have you.”

Hal stared wide-eyed.

“Aren’t you fooling?” he gasped.

“Fooling?” Burley echoed. “Why, no, I ain’t fooling. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing; but of course we couldn’t do it, you know; at least, I’m
plumb sure I couldn’t.” Hal looked doubtfully at the others.

“Nor I,” said Allan. “I only wish I could.”

“Same here,” said Tommy, wistfully. “I’d give a heap to have the
chance.”

“Sorry,” answered Burley. “Perhaps in the summer, or some other time,
when you haven’t got anything better. I suppose your folks want you at
home Christmas?”

“Y-yes,” replied Hal, “but it isn’t altogether that; there’s the
expense, you see.”

“Oh, it wouldn’t cost you anything much,” said Burley. “It’s all on me.
You’d better say you’ll come.”

Hal’s eyes opened wider than before.

“You mean you’d pay our fares--all our fares--out to Colorado and
back?” he asked.

“Sure. We’d only have about a week out there, but we could do a lot of
damage in a week.”

Hal was silent from amazement. Allan stammered his thanks. Tommy merely
sat and stared at Burley, as though fascinated. The latter translated
silence into assent.

“Well, we’ll call it fixed, eh?” he asked, heartily.

“Thunder, no!” exploded Hal. “We couldn’t do that, Burley. We’re
awfully much obliged, but, of course, if we went out there to visit
you, we’d pay our own way. And I don’t believe any of us could do
that--this Christmas, at least.”

“Oh, be good!” said Burley. “Now, look here; I’d let you do that much
for me.”

“But we couldn’t,” said Allan.

“Well, you would if you could, of course; wouldn’t you, now?”

“Why--er--I suppose we would,” Allan faltered.

“Well, there you are!” said Burley, triumphantly. “That settles it.”

It took the others some time to prove to him that it didn’t settle it,
and Burley listened with polite, but disapproving, attention. When the
argument was concluded, he shook his head sorrowfully.

“You’re a lot of Indians!” he said. “You’re not doing the square thing
by me, and I’m going to pull my freight.” He drew himself out of the
chair and rescued his big felt hat from beneath it. There was a general
pushing back of chairs. “You and Mr. Ware must come around to my tepee
some night soon,” Burley told Hal, “and we’ll have another pow-wow.
Seems like I’d done all the chinning to-night.” He shook hands with
Allan, who strove to bear the pain with fortitude and only grimaced
once, and said in quite a matter-of-fact way, “I guess you and I are
going to be partners. Good night.”

Allan muttered that he hoped so, and after the three visitors had taken
their departures he examined his hand under the light to see if bruises
or dislocations were visible.

“I wonder,” he asked himself, with a rueful smile, “if he shakes hands
very often with his partners?”



CHAPTER VI

“RIGHT GUARD BACK!”


November started in with an Indian summer, but by the middle of the
month the spell had broken, and a week of hard, driving rain succeeded
the bright weather. Until then Allan had spent almost every afternoon
on the cinder-track, running the half mile at good speed, doing the
mile and a half inside his time, occasionally practising sprinting,
and, once a week, jogging around until he had left nine laps behind him
and had covered a quarter of a mile over his distance.

For by this time Kernahan had decided that the two-mile event was what
he was cut out for, but promised him, nevertheless, that at the indoor
athletic meeting, in February, he should be allowed to try both the
mile and the two miles. The trainer’s instruction had already bettered
Allan’s form; his stride had lost in length and gained in speed and
grace until it became a subject for admiring comment among the fellows.

The Purple, in an article on Fall Work of the Track Team Candidates,
hailed “Ware ’07” as “a most promising runner, and one who has
improved rapidly in form since the Fall Handicaps until at present he
easily leads the distance men in that feature. It is Mr. Kernahan’s
intention,” concluded the Purple, “to develop Ware as a two-miler,
since this year, as in several years past, there is a dearth of
first-class material for this distance.”

But the rains put an end to the track work, as they put an end to all
outdoor activities save football, and training was practically dropped
by the candidates. On three occasions, when the clouds temporarily
ceased emptying themselves onto a sodden earth, the middle and long
distance candidates were sent on cross-country jogs and straggled home
at dusk, very wet and muddy, and much out of temper. A week before
Thanksgiving the sky became less gloomy and a sharp frost froze the
earth till it rang like metal underfoot.

It was on one such day, a Saturday, that the Robinson freshman football
team came to town and, headed by a brass band, marched out to the
field to do battle with the Erskine youngsters. The varsity team had
journeyed from home to play Artmouth, and consequently the freshman
contest drew the entire college and town, and enthusiasm reigned
supreme in spite of the fact that a Robinson victory was acknowledged
to be a foregone conclusion.

Allan and Tommy Sweet watched the game from the side lines; Tommy, with
note-book in hand, darting hither and thither from one point of vantage
to another, and Allan vainly striving to keep up with him. The latter
had gained admission beyond the ropes by posing as Tommy’s assistant;
the assistance rendered consisted principally of listening to Tommy’s
breathless comment on the game.

“Oh, rotten!” Tommy would snarl. “Two yards more!... Oh; perfectly
rotten!... See that pass? See it? What? Eh, what?... Now, watch this!
Watch-- What’d I say? Good work, Seven!... Now, that’s playing!...
Third down and one to-- What’s that? Lost it? Lost nothing! Why,
look where the ball is! How can they have lost-- Hey! how’s that for
off-side? Just watch that Robinson left end; look! See that?... Three
yards right through the center! What was Burley doing?... Well, here
goes for a touch-down. There’s no help now!... Another yard!... Two
more!... Did they make it? Did they?... _Hi-i-i! Our ball!_”

It was a very pretty game, after all, and when the first half ended
with the score only 5 to 0, in the visitors’ favor, Erskine’s hope
revived, and during the intermission there was much talk of tying
the score, while some few extremely optimistic watchers hinted at
an Erskine victory. Considering the fact that the purple-clad team
was twelve pounds lighter than its opponent, this was a good deal to
expect, and Tommy, a fair example of conservative opinion, declared
that the best he looked for was to have the second half end with
the score as it then stood. But a good many guesses went wrong that
afternoon.

Erskine had played on the defensive during the first half, and when,
after receiving Robinson’s kick-off, she punted the ball without trying
to run it back, it seemed that she was continuing her former tactics.
The punt was a good one and was caught on Robinson’s thirty-yard line.
The Brown accepted the challenge and returned the kick. It went to
Erskine’s forty-five yards. Again Poor punted, and the ball sailed down
to the Brown’s fifteen yards, where it was gathered into a half-back’s
arms. Erskine had gained largely in the two exchanges of punts, and her
supporters cheered loudly, while Robinson, realizing discretion to be
the better part of valor, refrained from further kicking and ran the
ball back ten yards before she was downed.

And then, as in the first period of play, she began to advance the
pigskin by fierce plunges at the Erskine line. But now there was a
perceptible difference in results, a difference recognized by the
spectators after the first two attacks. Robinson wasn’t making much
headway. Twice she barely made her distance; the third time she failed
by six inches and, amidst cheering plainly heard on the campus, Erskine
took the ball on her opponent’s twenty-five yards. The first plunge
netted a bare yard, yet it carried the ball out of the checker-board,
and a line-man dropped back. Tommy set up a shout.

“It’s Burley! They’re going to play him back of the line!”

There was no doubt about it’s being Burley. He loomed far above the
rest of the backs, and even when, his hands on the full-back’s hips, he
doubled himself up for the charge, he was still the biggest object on
the field. The stands danced with delight.

So far there had been no hint of the big right guard taking part in the
tandem attacks; in fact, his presence on the team was doubtful until
the last moment, for Burley’s development as a football player had been
discouragingly slow, in spite of his weight and strength and cheerful
willingness. Even yet he possessed only a partial understanding of the
game. He did what he was told to do, and did it as hard as he knew
how; that constituted the extent of his science. The stands composed
themselves, and breathless suspense reigned. Poor’s shrill pipe was
heard reeling off the signals, and then--

Then the advance began.

Robinson had played hard every moment of the first thirty-five minutes,
and she had played on the offensive. Erskine had played hard too, but
her playing had been defensive. To attack is more tiring than to repel
attack, and now what difference there was in condition was in Erskine’s
favor. Her defensive tactics were suddenly abandoned, and from that
moment to the final whistle she forced the fighting every instant of
the time.

Peter Burley was, to use Tommy’s broken, breathless words, “simply
great.” He knew little or nothing about line-plunging. He didn’t do any
of the things coaches instruct backs to do. He merely waded into and
through the opponents, without bothering his head with the niceties
of play. If the hole was there, well and good; he went through it and
emerged on the other side with half the Robinson team clinging to
him. If the hole wasn’t there, well and good again; he went through
just the same, only he didn’t go so far. But there was always a good
gain--sometimes a yard, sometimes two, sometimes three or four.

When the whistle blew, Burley climbed to his feet and ambled back to
his position, unruffled and unheeding of the bruises that fell to his
share. Nine plunges brought the ball to Robinson’s five yards. There
the Brown line held for an instant. The first down netted a bare yard,
the second brought scarcely as much. The cheering, which had been
continuous from the first attack, died down, and a great silence fell.
Tommy was nibbling the corner off his note-book, and Allan, kneeling
beside him, was nervously biting his lip. Poor drew Burley and the
backs aside for a whispered consultation. Then the players took their
positions again, and--

Presto! Erskine had scored!

Without signals, the tandem had plunged onto the Robinson left tackle,
Burley’s leather head-guard had been seen for an instant tossing
high above a struggling mass, and then had disappeared, and chaos
had reigned until the referee’s whistle commanded a cessation of
hostilities. When the piled-up mass was removed, Burley was found
serenely hugging the ball to his chest a yard over the line.

While the stands cavorted and cheered, Poor kicked the goal. Erskine
was already victorious, and Robinson’s youngsters seemed to realize
the fact. For, though they fought valiantly and doggedly for twenty
minutes longer, it was evident that they no longer looked for victory.
With every repulse their defense grew perceptibly weaker, while their
rivals, as though they had husbanded their strength until now, made
each attack fiercer than the one before, until in the last ten minutes
of the contest they simply drove the Brown before them at will. Long
before the game was at an end the stands began to empty; there was
small pleasure in seeing a defeated enemy humbled. When the final
whistle blew, the score stood 17 to 5, and Peter Burley, breathing hard
through bleeding and swollen lips, said “he guessed he was ready to
have his oats and be bedded down.”



CHAPTER VII

“THE RANCH”


It is human nature to dwell at length upon our successes and dismiss
our failures with a word. The writer has given a chapter to the
freshman game, but he is going to tell the story of the varsity
contest, which occurred a week later, in a paragraph.

Robinson won in a clean, hard-fought game--11 to 0. Her rival never
approached a score in either half, but by the grimmest sort of
defensive work she managed to keep the final figures down to half of
what they might have been had she gone to pieces for an instant. Hal
played a brilliant game at full-back in that contest, and proved his
right to the position. Thus the football season at Erskine ended in
decisive defeat. It was an honorable defeat, to be sure; but, since at
Erskine, as at other colleges in this country, they play more for the
sake of winning than for love of the game, there were doleful faces
a-plenty, and on Sunday the college had the appearance of a place
smitten with the plague.

But Monday morning came and brought recitations and lectures, just as
though there was no such thing as football, and the college settled
back into the usual routine. At noon the sting of defeat was forgotten.
At night, fellows were cheerfully discussing the chances for the next
year. If we take defeat too hard, at least we recover quickly; there is
hope for us in that.

Allan, for all that he was quite as patriotic as any, felt the defeat
of the varsity team less than he did the cessation of track work. The
latter left him at first feeling like a fish out of water. Tommy Sweet
suggested that he might rig up a treadmill in his room and run to his
heart’s content, like a squirrel in a wire cage. But Tommy wouldn’t
promise to feed him all the peanuts he could eat, and so Allan refused
to try the scheme. Instead, he spent much of his time out-of-doors and
took long walks and runs out along the river or struck off westward to
Millport.

On many of these excursions he was accompanied by Peter Burley.
Peter--or more properly Pete, since that was the name he declared to
be the proper one--Pete couldn’t be persuaded to do any running, but
he was willing to walk any distance and in any direction, seeming to
care very little whether he ever got back to Centerport or didn’t. And
as his long legs took him over the ground about as fast as Allan could
jog, the latter never suffered for want of exercise while in Pete’s
company.

The friendship between the two had grown rapidly, until now Pete’s
prophecy that they were to be “partners” had come true. The more
Allan saw of the older boy the more he found to like, but just what
the qualities were which drew him to Pete he would have found it hard
to tell. The latter’s never-failing good-nature was undoubtedly one
of them, but that alone was not accountable. Perhaps Pete would have
experienced quite as much difficulty had he been called upon to say why
he had been attracted by Allan the first time he had seen him, or why
he had perseveringly sought his friendship ever since. The two were
radically dissimilar, but even that isn’t sufficient to explain why
each was attracted toward the other. Come to think of it, however, I
don’t believe either Allan or Pete troubled himself about the problem,
and so why should we?

Pete’s sudden leap into fame consequent upon his work against Robinson
in the freshman game had left him unaffected. He had become a college
hero in an hour, but none could see that it ever made any difference
to him. He brushed congratulation aside good-naturedly and ridiculed
praise.

“Stop your fool talk!” he would say. “I didn’t rope any steers. It was
that little jack-rabbit, Poor, that whooped things up and won the
game. I didn’t do a thing but shove ’em round some.” And when it was
hinted that the shoving around was what brought victory, “Get out!” he
would growl. “Science is what does the business, and I don’t know the
first thing about the game.”

And so, while Peter was worshiped by the freshman class and very
generally respected by the others, he wasn’t at all the popular
conception of a college hero. And there were three fellows, at least,
who liked him all the better for it.

Those three were Allan, Tommy, and Hal. Since that first meeting in
Allan’s room, the four had been much together. Tommy showed up at the
gatherings less frequently than any one of the others, for Tommy, in
his own words, “had a lot of mighty difficult stunts to do.”

Sometimes the quartet met in Allan’s room, sometimes in Hal’s, less
frequently in Tommy’s--for Tommy lived up two flights of stairs in
McLean Hall, and Pete had a horror of climbing stairs. The only
climbing he liked, he said, was climbing into a saddle. That was why he
often found fault with his own apartments.

These were on the second floor of a plain clap-boarded building at
the corner of Town Lane and Center Street, with the railroad but a
few hundred feet distant and the fire-house next door. Pete declared
he liked the noise, and could never study so well as when the
switch-engine was shunting cars to and fro at the end of the lane or
the fire-bell was clanging an infrequent alarm. As few ever saw him
studying, the statement sounded plausible.

The ground floor of the building was occupied by a dealer in harness
and leather; the third floor consisted of an empty loft. Across the
lane--and the lane wasn’t wide enough to boast of--was a livery stable.
On the opposite corner was a carriage repair-shop and warehouse. A few
doors below was a wheelwright’s. The upper floors of the neighboring
structures were occupied by carpenters, plumbers, roofers, and masons.

Through Pete’s windows, which were invariably open, be the weather what
it might, floated in a strange and penetrating aroma--a mingled bouquet
of coal-smoke from the railroad, of the odor of pine-shavings from the
carpenter shops, of the pungent smell of leather from below, and of the
fragrance from the stable across the street. Pete said it was healthful
and satisfying. None disputed the latter quality. Pete’s rooms--there
were two of them--were quite as unique as his surroundings.

Picture a bare, plank-ceiled loft, some forty feet long by twenty feet
broad, divided in the exact center by a partition of half-inch matched
boards and lighted by five windows. Imagine the walls and ceiling
painted a pea-green, mentally hang two big oil-lamps--one in the middle
of each room--from the latter, and spread half a dozen skins--bear,
coyote, antelope, and cougar--over the discolored floor, and you
have Pete’s apartments. There was a door in the partition, but as it
wouldn’t close, owing to inequalities in the casing, it was always open.

The furniture, of which there was very little, represented Centerport’s
best: there was a “golden-oak” bureau, a “Flemish-oak” easy chair, a
“Chippendale” card-table--I am employing the dealer’s language--an
iron bedstead, a “mahogany” study table, a sprinkling of brightly
upholstered, straight-backed chairs, and a few other pieces, equally
highly polished and equally disturbing to the esthetic eye.

The walls were almost, but not quite, bare. Pete didn’t care for
pictures, but on nails driven at haphazard hung a silver-mounted
bridle, a rawhide lariat, a villainous-looking pair of Mexican
wheel-spurs, a leather-banded sombrero, a cartridge-belt and holster,
the latter holding a revolver, a leather quirt, and an Indian war-drum,
while over the bedstead in the back room the head of a grizzly bear
perpetually resented intrusion with snarling lips. The head of a
mountain-sheep held a place of honor in the other apartment, and
underneath it hung a Navajo Indian blanket, almost worth its weight in
gold.

There were only two objects that might have been set down in an
inventory as pictures: one was an advertising calendar and the other a
photograph of Pete’s mother, who had died soon after Pete’s advent in
the world. The photograph shared the top of the dazzling yellow bureau
with Pete’s brushes and shaving utensils.

In a corner of the front room was a trunk, covered with a yellow and
red saddle-blanket. Against it leaned two guns--a battered Winchester
carbine and a handsome two-barreled 12-gauge shot-gun. In another
corner, as though thrown there the moment before, lay a brown leather
stock saddle, with big hooded stirrups. The card-table held Pete’s
smoking things--two corn-cob pipes, a small sack of granulated tobacco,
and an ash-tray. The tobacco usually distributed itself over the table
and the ashes always blew onto the floor.

In bright weather, the sunlight streamed in through three of the five
windows and crossed the rooms in golden shafts, wherein the dust
atoms danced and swirled. With the sunlight came the sounds of the
neighborhood--the clang of the blacksmith’s sledge against the anvil,
the screech of the carpenter’s plane, the steady _tap_, _tap_, _tap_ of
the harness-maker’s hammer, the stamping of horses’ hoofs, the clamor
of passing trains, and the chatter of the loiterers below the windows.
Pete called the front room the “corral,” the rear room the “stable,”
the whole the “Ranch.”

If I have risked tiring the reader with too long a description of
Pete’s dwelling-place, it is because, in spite of their strange
furnishings and hideous green walls, the rooms were far more homelike
than many a smart suite in Grace Hall, and, to quote Tommy again,
were “Pete through and through.” Further, while Allan’s, Hal’s, and
Tommy’s rooms sometimes served as meeting-places for the four, the
chambers over the harness-shop were their favorite resort. There was
an undeniable charm about them; and if you could prevail upon Pete to
close a few of the windows in cold weather, and if you didn’t mind
sitting upon the tables and the trunk, you could be very comfy at the
Ranch.



CHAPTER VIII

PETE’S CLUB TABLE


On the Monday night succeeding the Robinson game the quartet was
assembled in Pete’s study. Allan had the easy chair, Hal and Tommy
shared the big table, and Pete sat on the trunk. The windows were
closed, for the night was cold, and the big hanging lamp diffused
light, warmth, and a strong odor of kerosene through the apartment.
This odor Pete was heroically striving to mitigate with the fumes of
a cob pipe. Hal had tried the other pipe, but had soon given it up,
avowing discontentedly that Pete ought to keep some real tobacco on
hand for guests who weren’t used to chopped hay. The bell in College
Hall had just struck nine, and Tommy, for the fourth time, had slid
from the table, pleading press of business, and had been pulled back by
Hal.

“Forget your old business, Tommy,” said Hal.

“Don’t let him sneak,” said Pete. “We’re going to open a can of corn in
a minute.”

“That’s all very well,” Tommy protested, “but I’ve got things to do.
You lazy chaps, who never study----”

Dismal groans from the opposition.

“Can afford to loaf; but I want to tell you----”

“Of course you do, Tommy,” Allan interrupted, soothingly, “but we don’t
want you to. Be calm, precious youth; the Purp” (college slang for the
Purple) “will come out just the same, whether you continue to adorn
that desk for another ten minutes or not.”

“Why don’t you fellows let a couple of weeks go by without putting out
a paper?” asked Pete. “No one would notice it, and think what a high
old time you could all have being useful for once.”

“Wish we could,” sighed Tommy.

“Tommy, you’re a wicked liar!” said Hal. “You don’t wish anything
of the sort. If you missed an issue of that old sheet, you’d commit
suicide in some awful manner; maybe you’d come down here and die of
smells.”

“If you’d only put something in it,” said Pete, “something a fellow
could read and enjoy--a murder now and then, or a lynching. Couldn’t
you run a story with lots of blood? It’s such a dismal paper, Tommy.”

“You fellows might jump into the river,” suggested Tommy, scathingly.
“We’d print your obits.”

“Our which?” Hal asked.

“Obits--obituaries,” he explained in a superior manner.

“Would you put ’em on the fir?” asked Peter.

“On the fir? What’s the fir?”

“Fir--first page.” Pete mimicked Tommy’s tone.

“No,” said Tommy, when the laughter had stopped, “not important enough.”

“Crushed and lifeless!” murmured Allan.

“Tommy,” asked Pete, severely, “do you mean that I’m not enough of a
heavy-weight to be dishonored by having my name on the front page of
that old up-country weekly of yours?”

“The front page is for important news,” said Tommy, with a wicked smile.

“Such as measles in the grammar school and the election of Greaves as
president of the Chess Club,” explained Hal.

“Now, I’ll tell you what I’ll do with you, Thomas,” said Pete. “I’ll
bet you anything from an old hat to a quarter section of land that I
can get my name and a half a column of talkee-talkee on the first page
of the Erskine Purple any time I want to. Now, what say, Thomas?”

“I’ll bet you can’t,” laughed the other.

“What’ll you bet? Money talks, my son.”

“Oh, most anything. If you want your name on the front page of the
Purple, you’ll have to do some tall stunts.”

“Of course, that’s what I mean: kill the Dean, or blow up College Hall,
or have a fit in chapel.”

“Or subscribe for the paper,” added Allan.

“Come, Tommy, speak up. What will you bet?”

“Oh, get out, you wild Indian! I’m going home.”

He made another effort to tear himself away.

“Tommy, you’re a coyote: you’re skeered an’ afeared. You know I’d win.”

“Oh, no, I’m not,” said Tommy. “I’ll bet a dinner for the four of us at
the Elm Tree that you can’t get your name on the front page while I’m
on the paper-- Hold on, though; I won’t bet that. I’ll bet you won’t
get it there this year unless it’s merely the name, as a member of a
society, or as having attended a meeting, or something like that, you
know.”

“Thomas, you’re hedging,” said Pete, “but I’ll take your bet. And just
my name isn’t to count; nothing less than a full paragraph to myself
goes. You fellows are witnesses.”

“We are,” said Allan. “I smell that dinner already.”

“And you see Pete paying the bill,” said Tommy.

“I don’t know who pays, and I don’t care.”

“He cares not who pays for his dinner, so long as he may eat it,” said
Hal. “Wise child, Allan. And, by the way, talking of eating reminds me.
You know Billy Greb, Allan?”

“I’m going home,” said Tommy.

“(Shut up and sit down, Tommy!) Billy’s getting up a freshman club
table and wants you and me to join. What do you say?”

“Where’s it going to be?”

“Pearson’s.”

“How much?”

“Six a week.”

“That’s pretty steep, Hal. Besides, I may go to the track-team table in
the spring.”

“I’m going home, you fellows,” announced Tommy again.

“Will you please shut up?” asked Hal. “Well, you’d better join until
then, Allan; sufficient to the spring is the evil thereof.”

“Well, I’ll think it over and let you know in a day or two. When does
Greb want to start it?”

“First of the month. If you weren’t a foolish little sophomore, Tommy,
you could come in too.”

“Huh!” answered Tommy, scathingly. “I’ve seen all I want of freshman
club tables. I’m going----”

“How about me, Hal?” asked Pete. “I’d like to join, if your friend will
have me.”

Hal hesitated for an instant.

“Why--er--I’ll speak to him about it. But I think he’s got his number
made up.”

“That’s all right,” answered Pete, quietly.

“But I’ll do my best,” said Hal, hurriedly and awkwardly. “Maybe----”

“Call it off!” said Pete, with a cavernous yawn.

“If it was my table--” continued Hal, anxious not to hurt the other’s
feelings.

“I know. _That’s_ all right. I can stand it.”

There was the sound of a gently closing door.

“Hello!” Pete exclaimed. “Where’s Tommy?”

The three glanced in surprise around the room. Then--

“I think,” said Allan, dryly, “I _think_ I heard him say something
about going home.”

The next afternoon Pete found Allan at the gymnasium, and walked back
to Mrs. Purdy’s with him. He was so quiet that Allan was certain he had
something on his mind. What that something was transpired when they had
reached Allan’s room.

“What sort of a cayuse--meaning gentleman--is this fellow Greb?” asked
Pete.

“I don’t know him very well,” Allan replied, “but I fancy he thinks
himself a bit of a swell. He’s a Dunlap Hall fellow, and of course you
know what that means.”

“Never heard tell of it,” said Pete. “What is it--a preparatory school?”

“Yes, it’s-- Oh, it’s all right, of course, only we used to make a good
deal of fun of it at Hillton. You go there when you’re nine or ten,
and they give you a sort of a governess to look after you until you
get old enough to make her life a burden; then they put you in another
house. They’re terribly English, you know; have forms and fagging; and
when you want a row with a chap, you have to notify the captain of your
form, and it’s all arranged for you like a regular duel, and you go
out back of one of the buildings, and somebody holds your coat for you
and somebody else mops your face with a sponge, and you try and hit
the other fellow in the eye. It’s like a second edition of Tom Brown.
Think of getting mad with a chap in the morning and having to wait
until afternoon to whack him! There’s no fun in that. You’d like as not
want to beg his pardon and buy him a ‘Sunday’! But they think they’re a
pretty elegant lot, just the same.”

“Think of that!” sighed Pete. “And I might have gone there, if I’d
known, and had a nurse and all the scrapping I wanted. So this fellow
Greb thinks he’s the whole thing, does he? Guess that’s the reason Hal
was hunting a hole when I asked myself to join. I didn’t know you were
so mighty choice about who you ate with. Out there we ask whoever comes
along. I guess you fellows thought I was loco, didn’t you?”

“Thought you were what?”

“Why, crazy, inviting myself like that.”

“Nonsense, Pete; we all understood. There was no harm done. It’s just
that Greb wants to get up a table of fellows he knows.”

“Does he know you?”

“Why--er--I’ve met him, of course.”

“And he could have met me if he’d wanted to, couldn’t he?”

“I suppose he could, but he doesn’t know about you.”

“Wouldn’t care to, I guess.”

“Oh, nonsense, Pete; you’re making a lot out of nothing.”

“Dare say he thinks I eat in my shirt-sleeves and swallow my knife,”
continued Pete, gloomily. “Maybe he thinks I live on horned toads and
grasshoppers.”

“But, I tell you, he doesn’t know you.”

“I guess he’s heard of me,” answered Pete. “Guess he knew you and Hal
and I were traveling together.”

“Look here, Pete; if you want to join a club table----”

“Oh, _that’s_ all right. Moocha wano club table.”

“Oh, all right,” answered Allan, a bit puzzled.

“I’m going to join a club table on the 1st,” said Pete.

“Oh!” said Allan, again. “What--that is, whose is it?”

“Pete Burley’s.”

“What! How--how do you mean?”

“Mean I’m going to run my own grub-wagon. And I want you to join.”

“But-- Look here, Pete, I don’t believe you can find a decent place to
take you. Everything’s full up already.”

“Where is there a decent place?” asked Pete, calmly.

“Well, there’s Pearson’s, of course, but you couldn’t get in there.
And----”

“Why couldn’t I?”

“Because she takes training tables chiefly, and is pretty particular,
anyhow.”

“Yes, that’s what she told me,” said Pete.

“Then you went there?”

Pete nodded.

“I could have told you you wouldn’t get in there. There’s a pretty good
place further along----”

“Oh, _that’s_ all right. We start on the 1st.”

“Start where?”

“Mrs. Pearson’s.”

“Pete, you’re lying!” gasped Allan.

“No, straight talk. I engaged the front corner room on the second
floor. It’s a right nice-looking place: paper on the walls, fireplace,
lounge, window-seat----”

“But--but how’d you do it?”

“Oh, _that’s_ all right. We had a little pow-wow. It’s going to be six
a week and no extras.”

“You crazy Westerner!” said Allan, in bewildered admiration. Then, “But
you haven’t got any one to join, have you?”

“Not yet; but _that’ll_ be all right. It’s going to be select, you
know; eight in all. There’ll be you and me, that’s two; and Hal----”

“I don’t believe he’ll come,” said Allan, doubtfully. “You see, Pete,
he’s promised Greb.”

“I don’t guess Greb will have a table,” said Pete.

“Why not?”

“Well, where’s he going to put it?”

Allan stared. Then----

“Do you mean that you’ve got Greb’s room?” he exclaimed.

“’Twa’n’t his,” answered Pete, coolly. “He hadn’t settled the matter,
and so I said I’d take it and put down a forfeit. And there isn’t
another decent place for a high-toned, pedigreed chap like him to go
to.”

“Pete Burley, you’re a wonder!” breathed Allan.

“Think Hal will join?” asked Pete, unmoved by the tribute. Allan nodded
silently.

“That’ll make three, then. Now, of course, I know lots of fellows who
would come in if I asked ’em, but, as I just said, this thing is going
to be select; it’s going to be the selectest table in town. So you tell
me who are the top of the bunch in our class, and I’ll go and fetch ’em
in if I have to rope ’em and hog-tie ’em.” Pete took out a pencil and
began to write on the back of an envelope.

“Of course, it’s all poppycock,” said Allan, “but--well, there’s
What’s-his-name, the class president, and Maitland, and Poor----”

“Whoo-ee! I’m glad you thought of Poor.”

“And Armstrong--only he lives at home, I think--and Mays, and Wolcott,
and--and Cooper--Cooper of St. Eustace, I mean; the other chap’s an
awful duffer--and Van Sciver----”

“Whoa, Bill! That’s eight--eleven, counting us three; guess I can get
enough out of the list. Besides, I must ask Greb; mustn’t slight Greb.”

“You’re not going to ask him?”

“Ain’t I? Just you keep your eyes peeled and you’ll see.” He got up and
carefully put the list in the big yellow leather wallet he carried.
“Guess I’ll see a few of ’em this afternoon. Want to come along?”

Allan shook his head vigorously.

“Not me, Pete. I don’t want to have to testify against you before the
faculty. How do I know what you’ll do to those chaps to make them join?”

“Oh, say, Allan!” Pete turned at the gate. “Remember those ducks we saw
on the river last week? Well, let’s go after ’em Thursday morning, will
you?”

“Shooting, you mean? I haven’t a gun.”

“You take my shot-gun and I’ll use the rifle. I’ve shot ducks with a
rifle before this.”

“All right, Pete, but like as not the silly ducks won’t be there
Thursday.”

“Well, we’ll find something to shoot, all right, if it’s just
squirrels. We’ll have nothing to do Thursday, and can stay as long as
we like; make a day of it. Maybe we can find some place to have dinner
and won’t have to come back here. I’m getting mighty tired of commons,
Allan. Well, it’ll be considerable different when we get the table
started, won’t it?”

“I suppose so,” answered Allan.

“Say, do you think Hal or Tommy would go along?”

“Ducking? Tommy might, but Hal’s going to sign off and go home over
Saturday.”

“Lucky chap!” sighed Pete. “Wish I was.” He looked thoughtfully across
the leaf-strewn college yard. “Suppose I could, but--guess the old man
would raise Cain. Allan!”

“Yep?”

“I’d give a hundred dollars for sight of a mountain. Well, I must jog
along.”



CHAPTER IX

THE DUCK HUNT


Thanksgiving Day dawned cloudy and still, with a hint of snow in the
air. Allan slept late, in enjoyment of holiday privileges, and Pete was
banging at his front window before he had finished dressing.

They reached Brown Hall a bare two minutes before the doors closed,
and hurried through a light breakfast. Ten o’clock found them walking
briskly along the Morrisville road, some four miles from college,
having crossed the river by the county bridge and turned to the left
through the little town of Kirkplain, which is opposite Centerport.
Allan wore a white sweater, over which he had pulled an old coat; the
pockets of the latter were bulging with shells. Pete wore a canvas
hunting-coat and carried his cartridges in a belt. The Winchester
was slung over his shoulder, and altogether he made a formidable
appearance. Allan had the shot-gun. Tommy had refused to accompany
them, pleading, as ever, a press of business; Hal had taken himself off
to the bosom of his family.

So far they had seen nothing to shoot at save a red squirrel. Allan had
impulsively sought to bring that down, but had failed for the excellent
reason that he had forgotten to load. The squirrel had seemed to
appreciate the humor of the incident and had chattered in their faces
from the bough of a dead maple-tree. Allan had been glad afterward that
the gun hadn’t gone off.

The blunder reminded Pete of a parallel case in his own experience,
and he had told it so well that Allan had been forced to sit on a
rock in order to recover from his fit of laughter. This story led to
others. Pete proved a perfect mine of interesting narratives on hunting
adventure, some of them laughable, some of them so exciting that Allan
forgot how heavy the shot-gun under his arm had become.

When they struck the cross-roads, some three miles from Kirkplain, they
were in the best of spirits. They took the road to the left, which
leads down to the river and the ferry to Harwich. At the ferry they
left beaten tracks and followed the river-bank.

The travel was slower now, both because they had to break their way
through underbrush, make detours around inlets, cross brooks, and climb
an occasional fence, and because they were keeping their eyes open
for game. Allan had never done much hunting, and he was becoming quite
excited at the prospect.

Pete led the way, forcing his big body through the bushes with scarce
a sound, while Allan could make no progress without causing enough
disturbance to frighten any self-respecting duck a mile distant. Pete
seemed to realize this fact, for he frequently looked back at Allan
with pursed lips and violent shakes of his head, and then glanced
anxiously at the river. After a half mile of this, Pete stopped in a
little clearing and leaned his rifle against a bush. Allan joined him,
very much out of breath.

“See anything?” he panted, hoarsely. Pete shook his head.

A few yards away lay the river, sluggish and leaden under gray sky. At
their backs the ground rose gently, and the reeds and bushes gave place
to a thick growth of trees. A few rods further up-stream was a little
promontory. Everything was very still save for the chirp of the birds
in the woods and the infrequent screech of a locomotive-whistle from
toward Centerport. Across the river and further down-stream the little
hamlet of Harwich nestled under its leafless elms. Pete sat down and
drew forth his corn-cob pipe.

“Might as well take a rest,” he said. “Smoke?”

“No, thanks.” Allan didn’t possess a pipe of his own, and wouldn’t
have attempted Pete’s for a ten-dollar bill; the very smell of it
frequently made him faint. Pete stuffed the blackened bowl full of dry
tobacco and lighted it. Then he leaned back on one elbow and puffed
contentedly for a moment. Allan nibbled the end of a grass-blade and
stared across the empty stream.

“This is about the place where we saw those birds the other day,” said
Pete, finally. “Guess they’ve pulled their freight. Sorry!”

“What’s the diff?” asked Allan. “We’ve had the walk. Besides, maybe
we’ll find a gray squirrel if we go back through the woods.”

“Anyhow, I don’t guess there’s any use going farther up the river. What
time is it, I wonder? Did you bring your watch?”

“Quarter of twelve,” said Allan. “Getting hungry?”

“I could eat a saddle!” answered Pete. “Supposing we go back and take
the ferry over to Harwich? Is there any place there we could get a
feed?”

“I don’t know, but I should think there ought to be. Got any money?”

Pete sat up suddenly and searched his pockets.

“Not a red!” he exclaimed. “I forgot to change.”

“Same here,” said Allan, dolefully. Pete picked his pipe up from where
it had fallen and relighted it. Then he threw himself onto his back,
put one leg over the other knee, and chuckled.

“I don’t think it’s so terribly funny,” said Allan, aggrievedly. “We
can’t get home until three or four o’clock. Wish we’d had sense enough
to bring lunch with us.”

“Yes; a half dozen sandwiches and a piece of pie wouldn’t go so bad,
would they? Nice thick sandwiches, with ham or beef inside, and lots of
butter and mustard. And--what kind of pie do you like best, Allan?”

“Oh, shut up, you!”

“I like pumpkin--or, maybe, apple. Yes, apple’s pretty hard to beat.
We’ll have apple; about three pieces each.”

Allan groaned and threw a handful of dried grass into Pete’s face. Pete
brushed it aside and went on:

“When we get the table going, we’ll get Mother Pearson to give us
apple-pie every night.”

“Yes, when you do!” growled Allan.

“Oh, _that’s_ all right, my son. Just because the only fellow I’ve
found wouldn’t join, you needn’t think that table isn’t going to be.
Hal’s going to introduce me to Maitland and Van Something----”

“Van Sciver.”

“If you say so. And Cooper; and I’ll bet you a bunch of cows I get that
table filled up inside of a week. Want to bet?”

“I don’t bet,” said Allan, aggravatingly. “Besides, if I were you, I’d
go slow on betting until I’d paid for that dinner.”

“What dinner?”

“The one you wagered with Tommy.”

“Ginger! I’d clean forgotten that. But _that’ll_ be all right.”

“You’ll lose.”

“Lose nothing! Just you hold your horses and keep your eye on your
Uncle Pete. Let’s think what we’ll make Tommy order for us at that
feed.”

“Let’s go home and get something to eat,” said Allan, irritably.

“Home? Not a bit of it! We’ll find a house and beg a Thanksgiving
dinner, that’s what we’ll do. Saddle up and let’s mosey along.” He
dropped his pipe into his pocket and got to his feet. “There’s bound to
be a house somewhere’s about; look at how the woods have been cleared
out here. Shouldn’t wonder if we found eight courses and a Hinglish
butler.”

“One course’ll do me,” groaned Allan, as he got up, “and I don’t care
how coarse it is.”

“We shot a man out in our county for making a joke like that, and he
was a heap homelier than you-- _Listen!_”

Allan listened. From beyond the little promontory came the unmistakable
quack of a duck. Pete pumped a cartridge into the barrel of his carbine
and tiptoed toward the shore. Allan seized his shot-gun, fell over a
stone, and followed. Pete waved him back, and then returned.

“They’re around that point. We’ve got to go mighty quiet; if we don’t,
they’ll fly. Keep low until you get to the pebbles there, and then get
down and crawl. Come on!”

Allan followed, watching each footstep and trying not to breathe. A
clump of trees came down almost to the water at the point, and hid
what was beyond. But when Allan had, by painfully wriggling his body,
stomach to earth, reached the little expanse of pebbled shore and
Pete’s side, his heart leaped for joy. Before them was a little cove,
and in it, peacefully moving about its surface, was a flock of ducks.
How many there were, he couldn’t tell; there seemed dozens at first. He
threw his gun to his shoulder and squinted along the barrel.

“Hold on!” whispered Pete. “We’ll have to scare ’em up somehow.”

“What for?” Allan whispered, anxiously.

“You don’t shoot ducks in the water, you idiot!” answered Pete. “Here,
I’ll raise ’em with this stone. Be ready and take ’em as they rise.
Wait till you get two together, but shoot quick, and let ’em have both
barrels.”

He dug a small stone out of the sand and aiming at the middle of the
flock, let drive. There was a sensation among the ducks, but not the
panic Pete had looked for. They swam away from the spot where the
stone sank, and made a good deal of fuss, but not a duck took wing.
Pete grunted and threw another rock. The result was the same. The
ducks discussed the matter volubly among themselves and swam around in
circles, but they didn’t show any intention of flying away. Pete was
disgusted.

“I’m going to knock that old drake’s head off,” he whispered. “I guess
that’ll bring ’em up. All ready?”

Allan nodded, clutching his gun desperately and still squinting along
the barrels. There was a loud report, then another, and a third. Two
ducks floated quietly on the water. The others, with wild quacks of
dismay, paddled to shore and disappeared into the bushes.

“Well, of all crazy ducks!” ejaculated Pete, staring after them.

“They--they didn’t fly!” said Allan, breathlessly.

“Fly! Why, the things are clean locoed! They’re not ducks,
they’re--they’re--_I_ don’t know what they are!”

Pete stared about him in bewilderment.

“They didn’t fly, and so I shot,” Allan explained.

“And we only got two!” said Pete, disgustedly.

“But they went up there,” said Allan. “Why can’t we go after them?”

“And shoot ’em on land?” Pete shook his head slowly. “Allan, I’ve done
fool things in my time, but I never shot ducks on land.”

“I don’t see what difference it makes,” objected Allan.

“Maybe not; maybe you’re used to crazy ducks. I’m not. I refuse to have
further dealings with such--such freaks of nature. How we going to get
those?” he asked, nodding at the dead birds.

“We ought to have brought a dog.”

“Or a rowboat. Well, here goes!” He sat down and took off his shoes and
stockings. Then, with his trousers rolled up as far as they would go,
he waded out into the water. Allan sat down on the bank and promised to
rescue him if he went over his depth. Pete reached the first bird--it
was the drake he had shot, and it lacked a head--and held it up. He
studied it a moment, shaking his head slowly.

“What’s the matter?” called Allan.

“Oh, nothing; nothing at all. Only I never saw a duck like this before
in my life!”

“Why, what’s the matter with--” began Allan. Then the words stopped and
he jumped to his feet.

“Sorry you don’t approve of them,” said a voice behind him, “but
they’re the best I’ve got!”

[Illustration: “Sorry you don’t approve of them.”]



CHAPTER X

DINNER FOR TWO


The regret, politely expressed though it was, had the effect of a
thunderbolt on both Allan and Pete, neither of whom had heard or seen
anything to suggest the presence of a third person on the scene.
Allan’s surprise was ludicrous enough, but the picture presented by
Pete--mouth and eyes wide open and the headless duck held stiffly at
arm’s length, his whole attitude suggesting that the icy water in which
he stood had suddenly frozen him stiff--caused even the newcomer to
smile a little under his mustache.

The latter was a rather stout gentleman, of middle age, with
ruddy cheeks, piercing dark eyes, and an expression of extreme
self-possession. He wore a suit of rough gray tweed and leather
leggings and carried a shot-gun. At his side, exhibiting two rows of
very white teeth, stood a red and white setter. Allan liked neither
the gun nor the dog, and envied Pete his chilly, but more distant,
position. The newcomer glanced silently from Allan to Pete. It was the
latter who found his voice first.

“Those your ducks?” he asked.

The man nodded. Pete looked again at the drake in his hand.

“Oh!” he said.

The dog growled and Allan observed that the man’s gun was cocked and
that it was held in a position that was far from reassuring. Pete
regarded the man with a puzzled expression.

“Look here, partner,” he asked, “are those _tame_ ducks?”

“They are, sir.”

Pete’s face cleared; a grin overspread his features, and he chuckled
aloud as he waded back to shore.

“You seem amused?” said the man, politely but with a note of
interrogation.

“Well, I’m mighty relieved, as the broncho said when he bucked the man
off. You see, I thought they were wild ducks, and when they wouldn’t
fly, I was afraid they were degenerating. Of course, as they were tame
ducks, it’s all right.” Pete waded out of the water and the setter laid
back his ears and growled suspiciously. “Hello, dog!” said Pete, as he
went toward where he had deposited his shoes, stockings, and rifle.

“Just stay where you are, please!” said the man. He waved toward Pete’s
possessions. The dog trotted over to them and stood guard, watching
their owner intently. Pete’s grin broadened. He tossed down the duck he
had rescued.

“There’s another out there,” he said. “Guess the dog could get it,
couldn’t he?”

“Where do you gentlemen belong?” asked the man. The gentlemen exchanged
glances. Then--

“Centerport,” answered Allan.

“Students?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Humph!” said the owner of the ducks. “Want me to believe you thought
my ducks were wild ones, do you?”

“You don’t suppose we’d walk six miles to shoot tame ones, do you?”
asked Pete, scathingly. The man shrugged his shoulders.

“I suppose you’re ready to pay for the pair you’ve shot?”

“Glad to,” answered Pete. “How much?”

“Well, I guess a dollar will do. They were both Pekins.”

“Can’t say I’ve had a dollar’s worth of sport,” said Pete, “but here’s
your money.” He put a hand into his trouser pocket. Then he stopped
short and looked with dismay at Allan. The owner of the ducks waited
silently.

“Guess you’ll have to trust us, partner,” said Pete. “We both came
away without any money.” Allan, fearing arrest would follow this
announcement, held his breath. But the man only smiled courteously.

“Very well,” he answered. “There is no hurry.”

“Thanks!” said Pete. He looked inquiringly toward the dog. “How about
my shoes and stockings? It’s a bit chilly.”

“I fancy your walk back will warm you up,” said the man. Pete whistled.

“Going to keep ’em for security, eh?” he asked. The other nodded
gravely.

“Couldn’t compromise, I suppose?” Pete insinuated. “That carbine’s
worth a good bit more’n a dollar. It’s hard walking without any shoes.”

“I dare say,” was the reply. “But maybe if you stub your toe a few
times, it’ll remind you to find out whether a duck is domestic or wild
before you shoot it.”

“Look here, Mr. Whatever-your-name-is,” said Allan, explosively,
“you’ll get your old dollar. We’re not thieves. But you’ve got to let
him have his shoes and stockings.”

“If I don’t?” asked the man, with a flicker of appreciation in his
eyes.

“Why--we’ll just take them, that’s all.”

“I wonder if you could do it?” said the other, measuring the two with
his eyes. “I almost believe you could.”

“Well, then--” began Allan.

“But of course you’d get damaged in the process,” continued the other,
cheerfully. “Now, look here; you’ve killed my ducks, and it’s only
right that you should pay for them. Isn’t that so?”

“Yes; but if we have no money----”

“That’s it,” was the answer. “It doesn’t seem probable that you two
students would come six miles from college without any money. Where are
you going to get your dinner?”

“There isn’t going to be any dinner,” said Pete. “You can believe us or
not, just as you like, and be hanged to you! If you’ll put down your
gun, I’ll lick you.”

“That’s an honest offer,” said the man, smiling outright for the first
time, “but it isn’t just practical. I rather think you could do it, and
I don’t see why I should be licked merely because you have killed my
ducks. Do you?”

“I guess that’s so, partner,” Pete answered. “But something’s got to be
done. I can’t walk home without any shoes.”

The man received this assertion in silence, glancing thoughtfully from
Pete to the articles in discussion. The dog looked suspiciously from
Pete to Allan. Allan scowled at the dog’s master. The latter spoke:

“Here, Jack!”

Jack went to him unwillingly. Pete picked up his shoes and stockings.

“Thanks!” he said. Then he put them on. The man watched him smilingly.
When the last lace was tied, Pete got up.

“My name’s Burley,” he said. “I’ll come over with your money to-morrow
or next day. Come on, Allan. Good day, sir.”

“You’re forgetting your rifle,” said the man. Pete looked puzzled.
Then--

“Do I get that, too?” he asked.

“Yes, you might as well take that along, I guess.” Pete went back and
got it. “Where you going now?” asked the man.

“Home,” said Pete.

“But how about dinner?”

“Well, maybe we’ll beg something to eat on the way. I guess there
ain’t any place around here where they’d take a Winchester carbine
as security for a Thanksgiving dinner, is there?” asked Pete, with a
smile. The stranger answered the smile.

“Hardly. But I tell you what you do. Strike straight up through the
woods here over the hill till you come to a lane. Keep along that for
a quarter of a mile until you come to a big brown house standing back
from the lane. You go there and tell ’em you’re hungry, and you’ll get
plenty to eat. Ask for Mr. Guild. Don’t forget, now; first house you
come to. There isn’t another for a mile further, so you’d better follow
my advice.”

“Thanks!” said Pete. Allan echoed him.

“All right,” said the man, smiling kindly. “Good morning, gentlemen.”

“Good morning,” they answered. They started off through the woods in
the direction he had indicated, but after a few yards Allan turned and
looked back. The man, with the setter at heel, was moving along a path
at right angles to them. He glanced up and waved his hand.

“We’re sorry about the ducks,” called Allan.

“That’s so,” Pete shouted.

The man nodded good-naturedly. Then the trees hid him.

Allan and Pete walked on in silence for a ways. Then--

“Say, he wasn’t such a bad sort, was he?” asked Allan.

“No, he’s all right. I don’t believe he was going to do any more than
scare us, anyway. Guess he was just having some fun with us.”

“Wasn’t it funny about the ducks being tame ones?” asked Allan,
presently, as they left the woods, climbed over a stone wall, and
struck off up a lane.

“That’s a joke on me,” said Pete, laughing. “Ginger! How was I to know
that folks left their old ducks floating around loose all over the
country here? Out our way, when you see a duck in a lake or on the
river, it’s a wild duck, and you just naturally go ahead and shoot it.
That’s what bothered me--those fool ducks sitting there and letting
me throw rocks at ’em. Next time-- Say, I guess that’s our ranch over
there.”

Allan’s gaze followed the other’s.

A turn in the lane laid bare a broad expanse of lawn, interspersed with
ornamental trees and shrubbery, beyond which stood a long, rambling
house of brown-shingled walls and numerous red chimneys. Farther off
were stables and barns. From the chimneys the smoke arose straight into
the still air, suggesting warmth and good cheer. The boys paused and
looked longingly across the lawn.

“Shall we try it?” asked Allan.

“Sure!” Pete said. “I’m so hungry I could eat cedar bark.”

“But what will they think?” Allan demurred. “It isn’t as though it were
a farmhouse, you know.”

“_That’s_ all right; the sweller the folks the better the rations. Come
on; let’s cut across here.”

“We’ll just ask for some bread and a glass of milk,” suggested Allan.

“Bread and milk? Ginger! I’ve got to have pie and hot coffee!”

“But we’ll go to the back door, won’t we?”

“Like tramps? Not a bit of it. We’ll go to the front. What was the name
he told us?”

“Guild.”

“That’s right; Guild. Hello! look there; there’s another one of those
setter dogs. Looks just like the beast the fellow back there had,
doesn’t it?”

But this dog only observed them indifferently from a respectful
distance, and then trotted around the corner of the house as they
mounted the broad steps, crossed a wide veranda, and pushed the ivory
button beside the big oaken door. Allan strove to appear at ease, but
in reality looked as though he had come to steal the family silver. A
neatly-aproned maid opened the door.

“Is Mr. Guild in?” asked Pete, with unruffled composure.

“Yes, sir. Will you please walk in?” They followed her into a library,
in which a wood fire was crackling merrily in the chimney-place. Allan
felt like an impostor. Pete calmly selected the easiest chair and
lowered himself into it with a deep sigh of contentment.

“This is something like!” he said. “I’ll bet we’ll get two or three
kinds of pie, Allan.”

But Allan, sitting uncomfortably on the edge of a straight-backed
chair, only smiled distressedly and listened to the footsteps coming
nearer and nearer down the uncarpeted hall. The footsteps reached the
door; Pete and Allan got to their feet as the door swung open.

“Mr. Guild--” began Pete. Then he stopped short.

Before them was the owner of the ducks!



CHAPTER XI

THE CAPSIZED BOAT


Allan and Pete didn’t forget that day for a long time. In retrospect,
it was the brightest one between the beginning of the college year and
the Christmas recess. For long afterward Pete would point with pride to
his performance at table on that day, and declare that he believed that
should he live to be a hundred he could never eat as much again. Dinner
began at two o’clock and ended, not because of lack of further viands
but because of inability on the part of the guests, at half-past four.

The family at Hillcrest consisted of Mr. Guild, his wife, a
pleasant-faced and sweet-voiced woman several years his junior, and a
three-year-old son and heir, who did not make his appearance at table
but who was afterward ceremoniously introduced in the nursery. Both
host and hostess appeared to have no other desire in life than to make
the two guests happy and utterly ruin their digestions.

Even Pete had had momentary qualms over appearing at table in the
unconventional attire of shooting-coat and flannel shirt, but their
objections had been politely overruled, and by the time the turkey had
made its appearance they had both lost sight of the fact that they
were not dressed in the mode. It was while carving the turkey that the
morning’s episode was recalled.

“This, Mr. Burley,” said their host, “is only turkey. Had there been
more time, we would have had a duck prepared for you.”

Allan wondered, while he laughed, whether Mrs. Guild had heard the
story of the duck-hunt. The demure expression about her mouth led him
to suspect that she had.

After dinner they adjourned to the library again, and Pete was induced
to smoke a cigar, although, as Allan guessed, he would much rather
have used his corn-cob pipe. Mrs. Guild disappeared for a while, and
Pete and Allan stretched themselves luxuriously in front of the fire
and listened to their host and did a good deal of talking themselves.
Mr. Guild led them to tell of their college life, and displayed such
sympathy with their views and ambitions that at the end of an hour the
two boys had become his enthusiastic admirers. He knew the West like a
book, and Pete became quite excited--for Pete--swapping recollections
and stories of “out there.”

After a while Mrs. Guild appeared again, and they went into the
drawing-room and sat silent and happy in the firelight while she
played for them. She apologized for knowing no college songs, but Pete
gallantly assured her that he preferred “straight music.” Still later
there was a four-handed game of billiards in an upper hall, in which
Mrs. Guild and Allan were badly defeated by the host and Pete. Then
came the visit to the pink-hung nursery and the formal introductions
to Master Thomas Guild, Junior. And by that time it was after eight
o’clock, and a surrey stood at the door, waiting to bear them back to
Centerport.

“You must come out some afternoon,” said their host, “and let me show
you around. Both Mrs. Guild and I have enjoyed your visit, and we want
you again. We don’t have so many callers but what a couple more will be
welcome at any time. And when you come, it must be to stay to dinner
with us.”

And Allan and Pete readily agreed, and kept to their agreement. They
each voted Mr. Guild a fine fellow, and each lost his heart to the
hostess. The dollar was duly paid, and they received a receipt “in full
for two ducks. Trusting to receive a continuance of your patronage, I
remain, Yours faithfully, Thomas A. Guild.” There was another visit to
Hillcrest the following week, and several more before the occurrence
of the incident which, for a time at least, put thoughts of visiting
out of mind.

On the Monday after Thanksgiving and the duck-hunt, the story of which
was now college property, Pete stamped into Allan’s room just before
dinner, kicked the snow from his shoes against the chimney, tossed his
sombrero onto the desk, and subsided into the armchair with a mighty
sigh of triumph.

“_That’s_ all right,” he announced, heartily but vaguely.

“What?” asked Allan, momentarily abandoning his struggle with Herodotus.

“Club table. I’ve got my eighth man.”

“Not really? Who have you got?”

“Well, there’s”--he took a list from his pocket--“there’s you, and Hal,
and Wolcott, Poor----”

“Pete, you’re lying!”

“--and Cooper, Van Sciver, Maitland, and your Uncle Pete.”

“But--but how’d you do it, Pete? How’d you get them to join? Offer to
pay half their board, or--or what?”

“Oh, it just took a little dip-lo-macy, my son; just a little
dip-lo-macy. I started out with you and Hal. I got Hal to introduce
Poor. Then I told Poor I was getting up a representative table, and
got him to promise to join if I secured Maitland and Van Sciver. He
introduced me to Van Sciver. I told him that you and Hal and Poor had
promised, and he came right over to the party. You were quite a card,
my son. I had no trouble with Cooper when I told him you were one of
our principal sights. And so it went. After I’d got Poor and Cooper
and Van Sciver cinched, there was nothing left to do but receive and
consider applications. I could have had twenty, but I set out to make
this table exclusive, and exclusive it’s going to be, if I have to get
the Dean--hang him!” Pete frowned a moment in silence. Then, “Wolcott
was the last to join; he agreed ten minutes ago; I just came from his
room.”

“Pete, you surely are a lucky dub!” said Allan. “I don’t believe
there’s another fellow in college that could have got all those chaps
together!”

“There wasn’t much luck about it,” said Pete, calmly. “It just took
hard work. Why, I haven’t studied a lick since Wednesday, and I’ve cut
half my recitations. I guess that’s why the Dean wants to see me.”

“Have you heard from him?”

“Yes. I had a polite postal card from him yesterday, and an impolite
one to-day.”

“But why----”

“Well, I didn’t have time to call on him yesterday; I was too busy
seeing fellows. It seems to have made him some angry.”

Allan whistled expressively.

“You ought to have gone, Pete. He’ll raise thunder with you now; see if
he don’t.”

“Oh, _that’s_ all right; he can’t do any worse than expel me. And I’m
getting pretty tired of this shop, anyway; there isn’t much doing. And
now that I’ve got the table made up, all the excitement’s over with.
I’ve thought all along I wouldn’t be here much after Christmas.”

“Oh, shut up that! Who’s going to run the table, if you go and get
fired? And what do you suppose I’m going to do, you idiot?”

“Oh, I guess you wouldn’t care,” said Pete, sheepishly. But he seemed
rather pleased when Allan threw Fernald’s Selections at his head.

“Well, maybe he’ll let me off easy this time; just suspend me, perhaps.”

“You’d better go and see him right away. But you can’t until to-morrow,
now.”

“Oh, yes; I guess I’ll call at his house to-night.”

“He doesn’t like you to, they say,” cautioned Allan. “If I were you,
I’d wait until morning.”

“No; better have it over with. I’ll drop around afterward and tell you
about it. Coming to dinner?”

Allan pleaded study, and Pete took himself off.

As it turned out, the Dean was merciful and Pete was merely placed upon
probation--a fact which appeared to amuse him vastly.

“It’s just like old times,” he explained to Allan and Hal, the latter
having come in to recount the wonderful things which had happened to
him during his visit home. “Out in Colorado, I was most always on
probation. Used to feel downright lonesome when I wasn’t.”

“That’s all well enough,” said Hal, “but you want to be careful, for
old Levett’s the very dickens if you get too gay with him. First thing
you know, you won’t know anything.”

“Don’t now,” answered Pete, promptly and cheerfully. “But I wouldn’t be
surprised if something did drop. The fact is--” he hesitated, sighed
dolefully, and shook his head, “the fact is, I’ve been feeling lately
that something unpleasant is going to happen to me. I guess it’s a--a
premonition.”

His tone was quite sad, and Allan and Hal stared at him in silent
surprise. Then--

“What’s the matter with you, you idiot?” asked Allan.

“Nothing; I dare say it’s just foolishness, but somehow--” He sighed
again. “Well, _that’s_ all right,” he went on, with an evident effort
at cheerfulness. “Have a good time, Hal?”

“You’re off your feed, that’s what’s the matter with you,” said Hal,
severely. “Your liver’s out of whack. Better see the doctor.”

“What’s probation, anyway?” asked Allan, lightly. “It’s likely to
happen to any one.”

“It isn’t that,” Pete replied, dolefully. “But I don’t want to talk of
my troubles,” he continued, with martyr-like complacency. “Tell us what
you did, Hal.”

“Oh, you’re plumb woozy!” exclaimed the latter. Nevertheless, he
consented to tell again of the remarkable events which had transpired
during his absence, and Pete’s melancholy disappeared. It was a
peculiar feature of it that during the following week it possessed him
only occasionally. But when it did, he seemed in the uttermost depths
of melancholy--a melancholy quite as mysterious and remarkable to his
friends as the celerity with which he recovered on each occasion.
Hal declared over and over that he was “woozy”--a term of doubtful
significance, but quite satisfying to the user--and Tommy hinted at
overstudy. This was among themselves. When Pete was present, they
merely called him a fool, and let it go at that.

It was the first day of December that witnessed the advent upon the
scene of a new character in our story. A wagon stopped in front of
Mrs. Purdy’s in the afternoon and an expressman deposited a small
box inside Allan’s door. He found it there when he returned from
his last recitation. It had slats nailed across the top, and from
its dark recesses came strange sounds. Allan stared. The sounds
resolved themselves into the plaintive mewings of a kitten, and Allan
recollected his request to his mother--a request long since forgotten
by him, but evidently well remembered by her. He tore off a couple of
the slats and lifted out a six-weeks-old kitten.

It was a pathetic little white object, with two black spots on its back
and weak-looking pale blue eyes which blinked inquiringly at him. Its
mouth opened, and the appealing cry was repeated. Allan set it down and
raced for the kitchen. When he returned, he carried a huge bowl of milk.

The kitten was roaming disconsolately about the floor, but at sight
of the milk trotted up, and apparently strove to commit suicide by
overeating--an intention frustrated by Allan, who removed the bowl
finally and took the kitten into his lap in front of the fire. It
seemed to have suddenly grown to twice its size, and instead of the
heart-rending mews, Allan heard a faint but enthusiastic purring as
the poor little object curled itself up in his arm and blinked its
gratitude. Presently it went fast asleep and, rather than disturb it,
Allan sat there for almost an hour, with his books just out of reach.

That evening they named it. Tommy wanted something patriotic: Erskine,
he thought, was just the thing. Hal showed the possession of an
unsuspected streak of sentiment and clamored for Hortense. Allan,
recollecting the fact that the mother’s name was Edith Cinnamon, was
in favor of calling the offspring Clove or Nutmeg. But Pete, who had
been gravely examining the kitten at arm’s length, took his pipe from
between his lips, and with the stem tapped the two black spots on its
back.

“Two Spot,” he said, with finality.

Two Spot it was. And a few days later neither of the others would have
changed the name for any consideration, since, as Tommy sadly expressed
it, “Poor old Pete had named her.”

That first day of December was memorable not only for the arrival of
Two Spot, but for the first gathering at Pete’s club table. Of those
beside our friends who composed the table, it is not necessary to speak
at any length.

Poor we already know very slightly. Wolcott, Cooper, Van Sciver, and
Maitland were average fellows who had gained prestige for one reason or
another, among their companions. It was a fact that Pete had succeeded
in gathering together what might have been called the pick of the
freshman class. That he had been able to do so was partly because of
his tact and powers of persuasion and partly because freshman club
tables were so seldom formed at Erskine that the project had the flavor
of the unusual.

Dinner was the first meal, and it was a very jolly one. There were one
or two introductions to be made, and these Pete performed with his
usual breeziness. After that the eight members sat down, Pete thumped
the bell commandingly, and the table began its official existence--an
existence which endured for four college years.

By the time the roast beef and vegetables made their appearance the ice
was very thoroughly broken. When the cabinet-pudding and fruit came on,
good-fellowship reigned supreme, and long after the last plate had been
pushed aside the members still sat about the table, as though loath to
leave. It is doubtful if there was a single one of them who did not,
mentally at least, thank Pete Burley for including him in his club
table.

One gusty winter afternoon, four days later, Pete appeared at Allan’s
room at about three o’clock. He wore his thickest sweater and a pair
of woolen gloves.

“I’m going up to see the Guilds. Want to come along?”

“You know plaguey well I can’t,” said Allan, impatiently. “I’ve got
all this stuff to do.” He indicated the litter of books and papers
hopelessly. Somehow, of late the Midyears had seemed perilously near.

“Sorry. I’ll tell ’em you said ‘How.’ I think I’ll take a boat and row
up.”

“You’ll what?” gasped Allan. “Why, it’s an easy three miles by the
river.”

“_That’s_ all right; I feel like a little exercise.”

“You’re a chump if you do,” answered the other, irritably. “How’ll you
get the boat back?”

“I’ll let it stay there, maybe. Maybe I’ll come back in it after
dinner. It’s easy enough to get down-stream.”

“Not in the dark. You’ll drown your fool self.”

“Oh, I guess not. Sorry you can’t come along.”

“I’m not,” muttered Allan, as the door closed. “Pete’s a perfect idiot
lately.”

After dinner the wind increased into a very respectable gale, and Allan
fell to wondering whether Pete would be fool enough to attempt the trip
back in the boat. At nine o’clock his uneasiness drove him forth. He
fought his way down Main Street to Center, and so around to Pete’s
lodgings. Lights in the windows reassured him, and he had half a mind
to go back to his studies, but after a moment’s indecision he decided
to go up for just a moment and tell Pete again what an idiot he had
been. So he climbed the stairs and thrust open the door. At the table
stood Tommy.

“Oh!” he said, “I thought you were Pete.”

“Isn’t he here?” asked Allan.

“No; I don’t know where he is.”

“I do,” Allan replied. Tommy was plainly uneasy when he learned of
Pete’s trip. The two stayed until almost eleven. Then, as Pete had not
returned, they went home together.

“He’s probably decided to stay there all night,” said Allan, hopefully.
“Like as not, they wouldn’t let him come back.”

“I guess that’s it,” answered Tommy. “Pete wouldn’t be such a fool,
anyhow, as to try and come down the river on a night like this.”

But despite his words, Allan went to sleep feeling not a little
worried, and awoke the next morning with a feeling of impending
misfortune. Pete was not in the dining-hall, but it was after eleven
o’clock before Allen had an opportunity to make inquiries. When he did,
he could find no news of his friend. No one had seen him that morning.
Allan cut a recitation and hurried down to Pete’s rooms. The bed had
not been occupied. Allan returned to the yard fighting against fear.

At three he heard the news from Hal, who, white of face, was waiting
him on the porch.

“It’s--it’s all up with p-poor old Pete,” he announced, with his mouth
working tremulously. “They found the boat he had a mile down the river.
It--it was capsized!”

Allan felt his own face go pale, but after a moment he muttered:

“Pete could swim like a fish; you know that.”

Hal shook his head.

“Then why hasn’t he showed up?” he asked, hopelessly. “No, he’s a
goner. You remember what he said about premonitions and things going to
happen to him? I guess he was right, Allan. Poor old Pete! They--they
found his hat, too, down by the wharves.”



CHAPTER XII

TOMMY CORRECTS A REPORT


Allan was almost the last of Pete’s friends to give up hope; but when,
by the next morning, Pete had neither returned nor had news of him been
received, even Allan accepted the general belief. The janitor at the
boat-house readily identified the overturned boat, while as for the
hat, which had washed ashore at the foot of Main Street, even if Allan
and Hal had been in doubt about it, there was still Pete’s initials
marked on the inside. Inquiry at Hillcrest had elicited the information
that Pete had never reached there.

The Guilds were deeply concerned, and Mr. Guild not only added a sum
to that offered by the college for the recovery of the body, but
himself took charge of a boat which all the next day dragged the river
between his place and Centerport. The drowned body, however, was
never recovered--a fact which surprised nobody, since the current is
capricious, and the stream so broad as to preclude the possibility of
searching every foot of its bed.

The accepted theory was that Pete had encountered a sudden squall while
crossing the river which had either swamped the boat or overturned it.
Although Pete was known to have been a capable swimmer and a fellow of
more than ordinary strength, yet the fact that he had failed to win the
shore from midstream, weighted down as he had been with heavy clothing,
was not considered strange.

A telegram was at once despatched to Pete’s father in Colorado, and,
since that did not elicit a reply by the following forenoon, a second
message was sent. The death was announced in the city papers with much
detail, and Pete’s athletic prowess was highly exaggerated. The Erskine
Purple, which appeared the second day after the accident, contained a
half-column notice of the sad affair, in which Pete’s many estimable
qualities were feelingly set forth. Tommy wrote the notice himself,
and, as he felt every word he wrote, the article was a very touching
tribute.

The club table was a subdued and sorrowful place for several days.
Pete’s chair stood pathetically empty until, in desperation, Allan put
it away. But as a head to the table was essential, an informal election
was taken two days after Pete’s disappearance, and Wolcott was elevated
to the place of honor. A meeting of the freshman class was called and a
committee was appointed to draw up resolutions of sorrow, to be sent
to Pete’s father and to be published in the Purple.

When, after the second day of search, the tug-boat commissioned by the
college to drag for the body abandoned its work, the first depression
had passed and the college by degrees returned to its usual spirits.
But Allan and Hal and Tommy were not so speedily resigned. Tommy, in
especial, took the event hard.

Perhaps it had been the utter dissimilarity of Pete’s nature and his
own which had drawn him to Pete. That as may be, Tommy was a very
grave-faced little chap in those days.

But Allan, if he showed less grief, was sadly depressed. He had not
realized before how much he had grown to care in six weeks for the big,
good-hearted Westerner. He felt terribly lonely, and besides he blamed
himself for not having accompanied Pete; perhaps, he thought dolefully,
had he gone along, the accident wouldn’t have happened, and Pete would
have been sitting there now across the table, puffing lazily at his
evil-smelling corn-cob pipe. But instead of Pete there was only Tommy
and Hal--and Two Spot.

Two Spot, grown greatly in bulk since her advent, was snuggled against
Tommy’s arm. Outside it was blowing a gale and lashing the rain against
the long windows. It was a most depressing afternoon, and the spirits
of the three friends were at a low ebb. Tommy looked now and then as
though a good cry would do him worlds of good. Hal scowled morosely and
drummed irritatingly on the arm of the Morris chair until Allan, in
desperation, begged him to “cut it out.” It was at this juncture that
Tommy let fall a remark that set Allan thinking hard.

“Poor old Pete got what he was after, though, didn’t he?” asked Tommy,
breaking a silence of several minutes’ duration.

“What’s that?” asked Allan.

“Don’t you remember the bet he and I made?” Tommy replied. “Well,
he got his name on the first page of the Purple, after all. Wish he
hadn’t.”

“That’s so,” said Hal. “I’d forgotten about that bet. I guess you’ll
have to pay that wager to us, Tommy, and we’ll drink to Pete’s memory.”

Allan, his heart thumping wildly, looked at the other fellows’ faces,
but it was quite evident that the wild surmise which had come to him
had not occurred to them. He pushed back his chair abruptly and went to
the window.

Was it possible? he asked himself. Surely, Pete would not have gone to
such a length merely to win a bet! And yet--Pete was Pete; what another
fellow would do was no criterion when it came to Pete’s conduct.
Allan’s heart was racing and thumping now. The more he considered the
affair in the light of Tommy’s remark the more plausible seemed the
startling theory which had assailed him. He turned to blurt out his
suspicions to the others, then hesitated. If he should prove to be
wrong, he would regret charging Pete with such madness. Perhaps he had
better keep his own counsel for a while longer.

To you, respected reader, who have all along known, or at least
suspected, the truth of the matter, it probably seems strange
that Allan should not have instantly realized the hoax. I have no
explanation to offer in his behalf. He was still in doubt when Fate, in
the not uncommon semblance of a postman, came to his relief.

When he answered the landlady’s tap on his door, he received a letter
the mere sight of which set all his doubts at rest. The envelope
was postmarked Hastings--Hastings is a small city eighteen miles
down the river from Centerport--and the round, schoolboy writing was
unmistakably Pete’s.

Tommy and Hal glanced around when the door opened, but paid no
attention while Allan tore open the envelope and rushed through the two
pages of writing inside. They only awoke to the fact that something had
happened when Allan, waving the sheet above his head, gave vent to a
blood-curdling yell of joy that sent Two Spot scuttling out of Tommy’s
arms and under the dresser.

“What is it?” they cried in unison.

Allan waved the letter again ecstatically.

“It’s a letter from him!”

“Him? Who?”

“_Pete!_”

To attempt to describe the subsequent confusion would be absurd. Only
a wide-awake phonograph could do it. Two chairs were overturned, Tommy
screeched, Hal roared, Allan yelled back. The letter waved in air. Then
Tommy danced an impromptu jig and, being quite unconscious that he was
doing it, did it with much grace. Unfortunately none noticed it. Hal
was struggling for the letter. Allan was fighting to keep possession
of it. Tommy danced on. Occasionally he shrieked. His shriek was not
nearly so pleasant as his dancing. After many moments comparative quiet
settled and three breathless fellows gathered at the window while
Allan, holding the precious document in his hands, read aloud. This is
what they heard, leaving out, for the sake of clearness, the frequent
interpolations of the listeners:

    HASTINGS HOUSE, HASTINGS, _Dec. 7, 1903_.

    DEAR ALLAN--I guess you weren’t fooled, but anyhow it may be
    best, in case you are getting worried, to write and let you
    know that I am still alive and kicking like a steer. I would
    have written before, but only got a copy of the Purp this
    morning. It was fine. Tell Tommy he did nobly. I know it was
    Tommy wrote it because of the poetry. I’m going to have that
    front page framed for my descendants to look upon. They’ll know
    then what a noble youth I was.

    I’m leaving here for New York to-night. The old man’s there.
    I’m not stuck on telling him about it, you can bet. He will
    be rip-snorting mad. I had to drown myself when I did because
    I got a letter saying he was going to be in New York a couple
    of weeks, and I knew he wouldn’t get any telegrams or things
    announcing my sad death. I don’t guess they’ll let me come back
    to college, and I don’t care very much, except that I hate to
    say good-by to you and Hal and Tommy. But I’ll see you again
    before I go home, unless they are easy on me, which doesn’t
    seem likely, does it?

    You see, I rowed up to Harwich, turned the boat over and set
    it adrift, and tossed my hat after it. I had another inside my
    coat. Then I walked to Williamsport and took the train back to
    this place. I’ve been here ever since. It’s a dull hole. But I
    had to wait for the Purple to make sure I hadn’t slipped up.
    I suppose there was a lot of trouble. I’m sorry if I worried
    you fellows, but life was getting duller than ditch-water and
    something had to be done. I wish you would go down to my room
    and pack up the things that are lying around.

    Tell Tommy I’ll come back some day for that dinner, and that
    it’s got to be a good one. Maybe, if you have time, you’ll
    write and tell me how you all are. It seems like I hadn’t seen
    you for a month. Address me, Care Thomas A. Burley, Fifth
    Avenue Hotel, New York. You fellows have got to come out to
    Colorado this summer and visit me if they don’t let me come
    back to college. If you don’t, I’ll arise from my watery grave
    and haunt you. Say “How” to Hal and Tommy, and don’t forget
    your poor old

    UNCLE PETE.

       *       *       *       *       *

The news astonished everybody save the Dean, who had already begun
to smell a rat. Astonishment gave place to relief or joy, according
to the hearer’s degree of intimacy with Pete, and joy gave place to
resentment. It is rather annoying to lavish regret over the taking-off
of a friend only to discover that the friend has worked a deliberate
hoax on you and is still alive to enjoy your confusion. That is why,
had Pete put in an appearance at Erskine at that time, he would in all
probability have been mobbed.

But Pete didn’t appear, and ultimately resentment gave place to
amusement. The general attitude became one of laughing disapproval.
After all, Pete was Pete, and even if he had harrowed their feelings
considerably at the same time he had supplied interest at a dull season
and had worked nobody any harm. This reasoning may have appealed to
the faculty as well. At all events, their verdict, when announced, was
thought to be amazingly merciful. Peter Burley ’07 was suspended for
the balance of the term. As there remained less than four weeks of the
term, the penalty would be of short duration.

Allan and Hal were delighted, and even Tommy, after the first day or
two of rampant rage, grudgingly acknowledged that he was glad Pete
was coming back. This was also after Tommy had written a denial for
the Purple of that paper’s announcement of Pete’s death. That denial
was very, very simple and brief. There was no mention made of Pete’s
many excellent qualities, nor did it express exuberant joy over
his restoration. It merely stated that the announcement had proved
erroneous and that Mr. Peter Burley was visiting relatives in New York
city.

When Allan or Hal mentioned that announcement, Tommy went purple in
the face and fell to stuttering. Perhaps, as Allan pointed out, it was
just as well he stuttered, since what he had to say was really unfit
for polite ears. But Tommy’s anger was too intense to last, and by the
middle of the month he was able to smile wanly at Pete’s deception. The
awarding to him of a two-hundred-dollar scholarship helped, perhaps,
to restore his good humor. Hal said the scholarship would come in very
handy in paying for the dinner.

Pete wrote that he had heard the faculty’s verdict, and was glad they
were going to let him come back. He was leaving New York for home as
he wrote, to be gone until the opening of the winter term. By reading
between the lines, Allan surmised that Pete’s father had not been
over-much pleased with his son’s escapade; there were signs of a
chastened spirit.

The term wore itself to a close, and one sunshiny morning Allan and Hal
and Tommy left Centerport for their respective homes, traveling the
first part of the journey in company. Two Spot, apparently indifferent
to the separation, was confided to Mrs. Purdy, and spent the Christmas
holidays in the neighborhood of the kitchen range.



CHAPTER XIII

PETE WRITES HOME


“Of course,” said Allan, “we’re not terribly poor, but it’s going to
make a good deal of difference to us.”

The new term was three days old and Allan and Pete were sitting in
front of the stove in Pete’s study. The stove was a recent addition
to the furnishings, and installed more in deference to his friends’
demands than from any desire of his own. Pete didn’t mind a little
cold; just so long as he could find enough water under the ice in
the pitcher to wash with, he was satisfied. But Allan and Hal and
Tommy made disparaging remarks about his heating arrangements and
ostentatiously kept their hats and coats on while visiting him, and so
Pete bought a base-burner and a half ton of coal.

“What mine is it?” asked Pete.

“The Gold Beetle. Ever hear of it? It’s out in your State.”

“Is it at Rico?” asked Pete.

“Yes, that’s the place. Didn’t you say you were there last summer?”

“Yes, and I know--something about the mine.” Pete looked thoughtfully
at the flames dancing behind the mica. “Fact is,” he continued, “the
old man is interested in it.”

“Really? Then don’t you think it will be all right? He wouldn’t have
anything to do with a poor mine, would he?”

“Well, the trouble is you can’t always tell whether a mine’s good or
bad. The old man’s got stock in all kinds; some of it’s good, some of
it isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. I’ve got a lot of that kind
myself. I used to think I was something of an investor. Now, this Gold
Beetle; what’s probably happened to that is that the pay ore has given
out. It very often does. A mine’ll run thousands to the ton for two or
three years, sometimes twenty, and then all of a sudden the lode will
just naturally peter out. I guess that’s what’s happened to the Beetle.
I remember pretty well how it lies. There are paying properties all
around it, and maybe if they went on or opened up new drifts they’d
come across fresh lodes; or maybe they wouldn’t; it’s just a gamble. I
dare say the stockholders aren’t willing to put any money into it. How
much stock do your folks hold?”

“I don’t know exactly. Pretty nearly half of it, I think.”

“Too bad! I’ll ask the old man, when I write, what he thinks about it.”

“I wish you would. Maybe if he owns some of it we could--could kind of
get together and--and do something,” said Allan, vaguely but hopefully.

“Maybe,” answered Pete, thoughtfully. “Meanwhile----”

“Meanwhile I’ve got to find some way of making a little money; enough
to pay my board, at any rate. And that’s why I ought to leave the
table, Pete, and go back to commons, where I can feed for less.”

“But we can’t let you do that. Now, look here; you don’t eat very much.
What’s the sense in your paying as much as I do, who eat twice as much?
That’s plumb foolish! I ought to pay at least eight dollars and you
oughtn’t to pay a red cent over four; and that’s the way it’s going to
be after this.”

“No, it isn’t,” Allan replied. “If I stay, I’ll pay my share, and
that’s six dollars, Pete. I went over yesterday to see if I couldn’t
get a place in Brown Hall as a waiter, but there aren’t any vacancies;
they told me they had two applications for every place.”

“But you wouldn’t like to wait on table, would you?”

“It isn’t a question of liking. I’ve heard tell of lots of ways of
earning money in college, but none of them seem very practical for my
case.”

“Well, look here; you figure out how much money you’ll need for the
rest of the year and let me know.”

Allan looked puzzled.

“What good would that do?”

“I’ll lend it to you. Now, shut up! I haven’t offered to give it to
you, have I, you chump? You can pay me back any time you like; there
isn’t a bit of a hurry. And I’ve got a whole lot of money in bank from
last term. Somehow, it’s mighty hard to get rid of money up here. You
needn’t say anything to any one about it; it’ll just be between you and
me. That’s all right, ain’t it?”

“No, it isn’t all right, Pete, but it’s awfully good of you, and I
won’t forget it in a hurry.”

And although Pete threatened and coaxed and called names, he was at
last forced to abandon the proposition. And in the end it was Tommy
who, learning of Allan’s quandary, made the suggestion which led to a
measure of success.

“I knew a fellow at school who used to go around to the fellows’ rooms
at night and sell sandwiches and wienerwursts and made good money,”
said Tommy. “Wouldn’t care for that, though, I guess?”

Allan acknowledged that he wouldn’t.

“Then there was a fellow I heard of who was agent for a sporting-goods
firm and sold on commission. He worked up quite a trade, but it took
him a good while to do it. Then there was a fellow had a rental
business: rented rooms and got a commission from the landladies; but he
did most of his business in the fall. Then--” Tommy paused, struck by a
brilliant thought. “You might try for a place on the Purple,” he cried.
“They elect new men in March. If you got a place, you’d make fair money
from March on to the end of the year. That’s what I did last year, and
I made enough to pay my board.”

“But I don’t know anything about reporting, Tommy,” Allan objected.
“Besides, I’m not a hustler like you.”

Tommy looked disappointed. He thought for a minute in silence. Then--

“I tell you, Allan,” he said, “I’ll see Stearns. He’s track-team
captain, you know. I’ll tell him that if you don’t find something to
do, you won’t be able to stay here. And he won’t want to lose you,
you can bet, because he’s set his heart on winning from Robinson this
spring.”

“But I don’t know that that would be quite true,” Allan objected.
“Because, even if I don’t find any work, maybe I’ll be able to hang on
here somehow to the end of the year.”

“Well, I won’t lie to him,” said Tommy, “but I’ll fix him so he’ll find
something; you see if I don’t.”

He lifted Two Spot off his lap and deposited her on the desk, where she
subsided contentedly against a pile of books and purred on as though
nothing had happened.

“Happy little bunch of fur, isn’t she?” asked Tommy. “If she’s too
great an expense to you, I’ll take her off your hands.”

“Indeed, you’ll not!” answered Allan. “While there’s a loaf left in the
house, she shall have the crust.”

“Scratch him, Kitty! Say, did Pete tell you he’d gone out for the
freshman hockey team? Won’t he be a sight on the ice?”

“He says he can skate,” answered Allan. “All I know is, I don’t want to
have the thingamabob--puck--when he’s bearing down on me.”

“Are you going to play?”

“No; I’d like to, but I guess I won’t have time. Besides, I don’t skate
very well.”

“Skating isn’t everything in hockey,” said Tommy, wisely. “I can skate
myself. I can make the ice look like a picture in a book or a map of
China; but last year, when I went out for the freshman team, I was
nearly slaughtered. Leroy butted me into the boards and somebody else
cracked me over the shins with his stick and another chap tripped
me up--accidentally, _of_ course--and I slid thirty-one feet or
thereabouts on my head. The hair didn’t grow back for a month. I quit.
Life was too precious.”

“Wise youth!” commented Allan. “But we mustn’t miss seeing Pete play.
Let’s go over to the rink to-morrow, if there is any ice.”

“All right. And I guess there’ll be ice; it’s cold enough now to freeze
a door-knob. Going down to Pete’s this evening? I’ll see you there,
then. So long. Good-by, Two Spot, my angel child!”

Tommy’s plan bore fruit. Allan had a visit from Walter Stearns next
day, and two days later Allan was giving two hours out of each
twenty-four to clerical work in the office of the Erskine College
Athletic Association.

The work, which consisted chiefly of answering letters from Professor
Nast’s dictation--Professor Nast was chairman of the Athletic
Committee--was ridiculously easy, if somewhat uninteresting, and seemed
out of all proportion to the remuneration, which was one dollar an
hour. There were five working days in the week for Allan, and as a
result he was earning ten dollars a week--twice as much as he had
hoped for. And all the time he was disturbed by a haunting thought
that, when all was said and done, he was not really earning the money.
But it seemed absurd to find fault with his good fortune so long as his
employers were satisfied, and so he offered no objections. Afterwards
he marveled at his blindness.

About this time Pete wrote one of his semi-occasional letters to his
father. He wasn’t much of a letter-writer, and the epistle as a whole
would not interest us, but a portion of it merits attention.

“I remember (he wrote) that you said in New York you’d been down town
to a meeting of the Gold Beetle stockholders, and that they had voted
to stop work on the mine. I didn’t know then that Allan’s folks were
interested in it. I guess they haven’t dismantled yet, and so it isn’t
too late to change your mind. I guess you have enough stock in it
to control it; if you haven’t, the Wares’ shares will give you the
whip-hand. I want you to have them go ahead with the Gold Beetle and
fuss round some. A couple of months’ work won’t break anybody. You can
charge your share of it up to me. There must be pay ore somewhere on
the property. Look at all the gold that’s coming out all around it.
Allan’s folks need the money. It’s about all the income they have. If
that stops, his sister will have to give up her college, and so will
Allan. Allan’s my side partner, and I’m not going to have him lose
what property he has without another try. Let me know right away about
this.”



CHAPTER XIV

HOCKEY--WITH VARIATIONS


Allan, Tommy, and Hal stood at the side of the rink, up to their ankles
in snow, and watched Pete play hockey. The rink was built at the
far end of Erskine Field, and looked, from the locker house, like a
brand-new cattle-pen.

This Saturday afternoon it was snowing in a half-hearted way, making
the ice slushy and hiding the town from view. There were about fifty
other fellows looking on, for the Midyears had begun, and anything
to take the mind off examinations was welcome. The varsity team had
traveled down the river to play Hastings High School, and the freshman
team was making the most of its opportunities.

There were only twelve candidates present, and so the opposing teams
each lacked a forward. But in spite of this the play was fast and
furious, making up in enthusiasm what it lacked in science. Pete was
playing cover-point on the first team, and thus far his performance
had not lacked of applause. If some of the applause was unmistakably
sarcastic, still it was applause.

Pete was a hard skater and very much at home on the ice, but there
wasn’t much of grace about him. He hadn’t as yet learned the subtleties
of stick-handling, but he usually managed to get the puck by the simple
expedient of skating full-tilt against the opponent and knocking him
down in a good-natured, inoffensive way. Allan, Tommy, and Hal felt,
as they watched, that they were being fully rewarded for tramping out
there through the snow.

“Let’s see you skate backward, Pete,” called Allan in a lull of the
game. Pete grinned.

“Give us the grape-vine, Pete,” begged Tommy. Pete grinned again.

“How are you on the outer-edge, old man?” asked Hal. Pete continued to
grin.

Then the puck came sliding down toward him, dribbled this way and that
by the hockey of an opposing forward. Pete drew himself together,
grasped his stick in both hands as though it was a bludgeon, and rushed
toward the foe. Down went the foe, and the three admirers laughed
joyfully. But Pete didn’t get the puck, for the vanquished one had
succeeded in passing it across to another forward, exhibiting the
first suggestion of team-play of the afternoon, so far as the second
team was concerned, and Pete skated wildly in pursuit. The point went
out to meet the attack, another clever pass was made, and then--
Presto! goal was shaking his head and pulling the disk out from under
the netting. The second had scored.

“Ah, that was great work, Pete!” cried Allan, admiringly.

“That was _playing_!” said Hal. “Oh, it was great!”

“Real science, _I_ call it!” declared Tommy. “How’d you do it, Pete?”

“Don’t you mind their scoring, Pete,” said Allan, encouragingly. “You
knocked your man down. Just you kill all you want to.”

Pete skated over and scattered them with his hockey.

“You wait till I get these skates off,” he threatened, “and I’ll roll
you three little snipes in the snow!”

“Don’t waste your strength on us, Pete,” begged Tommy from a safe
distance. “Slaughter the enemy. Don’t be discouraged; there’s only six
left.”

“Eat ’em up, Pete!” cried Hal.

Pete shook his stick at them and turned away. As he skated back to his
position a chorus of admiring “A-a-ahs!” followed him. When the second
half was almost done the score was 5 to 6, in the first team’s favor,
and the captain of the second, a big, round-faced chap who played
center, called on his support for a goal.

“Play hard, fellows, and let’s tie this!” he commanded. “Play together
now!”

Fortune seemed to be favoring them. They secured the rubber and swept
with it down the rink. As usual, Pete put one man out of the play, but
by the time he had recovered from the check the advance was past him
and was threatening the goal. Both teams were mixed in wild confusion,
and the puck was carroming about from goal to attack and from attack to
defense. Then it was sped knee-high at the net, was luckily stopped by
the goal, and shot out to the side right at Pete’s feet.

Pete started off with it, but was in such a hurry that he overskated,
and had to fight for it. When he again secured possession the attack
was thick about him. But he started off again, and the forwards of
his side skated to their positions. Pete kept close to the boards,
fooled the opposing cover-point by carroming the puck against them, and
for an instant had a clear shot at goal. But shooting wasn’t Pete’s
specialty, and so he charged on until, well past the center of the
ice, the second team’s captain charged him fiercely from the side,
hurling him against the boards and knocking his stick into the air.

Luckily, the puck struck the adversary’s skate and carromed back to the
side, and Pete, thrusting his skate against it, held it there while the
other pushed and shoved with his body and tried to work the puck loose
with his stick. About them hovered friend and foe, awaiting the instant
when the disk should slide out of the _mêlée_.

The second-team player fought like mad and at last, by a fierce
shove, moved Pete’s foot. Pete, fearing loss of the precious prize,
swung quickly around, bringing his adversary to the boards, and then,
catching him with one hand at the knee, tipped him over the barrier
into the soft snow.

[Illustration: Pete tipped him over the barrier.]

Without waiting to see him safely landed, Pete rescued the puck from
an interloping enemy and went straight down the rink with it, scorning
friend and foe alike, and drove it furiously into goal. When he swung
around and looked back, it seemed that a devastating gale had swept
over the rink, for along his route first-team men and second-team men
were picking themselves up from the ice. But what surprised him more
was the appearance of the second’s captain, who, snow-covered, black
of face and scowling, was swaggering up to him.

“What did you do that for?” he growled.

From the sides of the rink came shouts of laughter. Allan, Hal, and
Tommy were hanging feebly over the barrier, beating the planks with
their hands in gasping impotence.

“Do what?” asked Pete, plainly at a loss.

“Throw me over the boards,” answered the other, belligerently.

“Oh, that?” asked Pete. “Why, you were in my way, you see.”

“You shouldn’t have done that, Burley,” said the first team’s captain.
“But you needn’t try and scrap here on the ice,” he continued, turning
to the other. “Play the game!”

“Look here,” said Pete, “wasn’t that all right? Mustn’t I do that?”

“Of course you can’t. You ought to know the rules. The puck goes back
there again.” The first’s captain turned away impatiently.

“It’s on me, partner,” said Pete. “Sorry, and hope I didn’t hurt you.”

“All right,” muttered the other, as graciously as he could. The
knowledge that he had served as a source of intense amusement prevented
him from putting much cordiality into his tones. The puck was taken
back to where Pete had transgressed the rules, and again faced off by
him and the second’s captain. The latter got possession and the play
went on, but to the onlookers it was very dull, and none cared when,
after a minute or two, the game came to an end.

Allan, Hal, and Tommy, still very red of face and still grinning,
awaited Pete and escorted him back to the college in triumph, Hal
marching ahead and chanting an improvised pæan of praise until Pete
seized him and rolled him over in the snow. Thereupon Hal retired to a
safe distance and threw snowballs at Pete. He was not, however, a very
good shot and, as a result, Tommy and Allan were hit more often than
their companion. It ended with the three joining forces against the
obnoxious Hal and chasing him all the way down Poplar Street.

When he reached Mrs. Purdy’s, in his retreat, he withdrew into Allan’s
room, locked the door, and sent Two Spot, a white handkerchief tied
around her neck, out by way of a window, to treat with the besiegers.
The flag of truce was respected. Hal opened the window and agreed
to surrender if allowed to march forth from the citadel with colors
flying, and his terms were accepted. He retired from view and presently
reappeared in Allan’s plaid dressing-gown, and holding aloft a Hillton
flag. Silently and proudly he marched forth and twice paraded the
piazza. Then the enemy, violating the rules of warfare, fell upon him
as one man, and he was borne, struggling and kicking, back into the
citadel and deposited on the couch.

Allan returned to the front yard and rescued his handkerchief, which
was trailing in the snow as Two Spot chased an imaginary mouse around
the bare and solitary rose-bush. Tommy had meanwhile poked the fire
into a blaze, and victors and vanquished drew up to it, while Pete
smoked the pipe of peace and the others ate sweet chocolate, which, as
Tommy pointed out, represented the fruits of victory.

Two Spot sat on Pete’s broad knee and purred and blinked at the flames
and occasionally stuck her claws tentatively through Pete’s trousers as
a proof of her affection. And everybody felt very jolly and comfortable
until the six-o’clock bell sent them to prepare for dinner.



CHAPTER XV

IN THE “CORRAL”


While the snow kept piling itself up and the Midyears were still
racking fellows’ brains, the call came for candidates for the relay
team to run against Robinson at the Boston indoor meeting. And
simultaneously the outdoor track was shoveled free of snow and fellows
whose ambitions pointed toward the winning of pewter mugs trotted out
in the afternoons, when the mercury was down to zero, and sped around
the track with their bare legs looking very pink and cold. Kernahan
had induced Allan to enter for both the mile and the two mile, and the
latter was one of the most indefatigable of those who daily risked
death by freezing.

He was glad to be able to stretch his legs again, was Allan. He had
begun to wonder whether the muscles hadn’t forgotten how to work. He
had his first mile trial a week after the beginning of practise and a
fortnight before the date of the meeting.

The result wasn’t especially satisfactory; 4:56 was not anywhere near
record time for that track, while it was more than twenty seconds
slower than what it must be to give him a chance at winning a place.
But Kernahan seemed in nowise discouraged. Instead, he told Allan he
had done well enough for a starter, and promised to give him a trial at
the two miles a week later.

Meanwhile the relay candidates were tested and sifted, the candidates
for the field events practised daily in the gymnasium, and athletic
activity seized upon the college. The baseball cage resounded with
the thump of the balls and the cries of the players, the rowing-room
gave forth strange sounds of an afternoon, and the basket-ball team,
undisputed lords of the gymnasium floor for two months, were hustled
into a corner and given scant attention.

And yet, in spite of all these hints, Winter was strangely dense.
Instead of folding up his blanket of snow and taking himself off, he
showed no sign of contemplated departure, but on the contrary tightened
his icy grip on the world, and almost every day sent a new snow-storm
to emphasize the fact that he still reigned.

Afternoon practise on the track took place in every sort of weather.
Sometimes it snowed so hard that the runners, as they swept around the
far end of the track, were only indistinct blurs in the white mist.
Sometimes the track was sheeted with a rough skim of ice, through
which the men’s spikes broke imperfectly, and on such days the spills
were numerous and the turns were things to be carefully negotiated.
Sometimes the sun shone and the wind blew, straight and cold, out of
the northeast; and such times were best, deluding one for a while, as
they did, into thinking that winter’s sway was drawing to its end. But
they were deceitful moments, and one could fancy old Winter shaking
his lean sides with laughter as he drew the clouds together again and
emptied a new shower of flakes upon the bleak world.

But matters progressed. The relay team of six runners was formed, the
sprinters and distance men worked themselves into condition, and the
hurdlers, jumpers, vaulters, and weight men limbered up their muscles.

A week before the meeting Allan was given a speed trial for the two
miles. The track was in fairly good condition, and Rindgely and
Thatcher made the pace. With Allan was another two-mile candidate,
named Conroy. Allan took the lead at the start and held it for the
first half mile. Rindgely went in then and made the pace for the next
three-quarters, and then gave place to Thatcher, a half-miler. Conroy
was a lap behind at the half distance, and at the finish was entirely
out of it. Allan found his sprinting ability sorely tried in the last
two laps when Thatcher let himself out and Allan tried to keep up with
him. But he finished fairly strong, and Kernahan slipped his watch into
his pocket with a nod of approval.

“Ten, one and an eighth,” he said.

But that seemed slow time to Allan, who had entertained visions of
doing the distance in something like 9:50, and he said so to Billy.

“Well, that’s good enough to give you a chance of a place,” he
answered. “You’ve got three months yet before the dual meet, and
Robinson’s best two-miler could only do--9:46, I think it was. You’ll
get some experience at the Boston meet, if you don’t bring home a mug,
and experience is what you need. You’ll have to get into your pace
sooner down there or you’ll get crowded off the track. You try half a
dozen starts Monday and try getting your pace in the first six or eight
strides. You’d better run along now, and don’t be scarey of the cold
water, my boy.”

During that next week the class hockey championship was decided. The
freshmen won handily from the sophomores by the score of seven goals
to three in the first of the contests, and to Pete went the credit for
four of the seven goals. He played magnificently.

To be sure, as has been said already, he knew little of the science of
the game, but what he lacked there he made up in vigor and enthusiasm.
Thrice he was put off the ice for short periods, but this only caused
him to work harder when he was allowed to re-enter the game. In the
second half--the first period having ended with the score three to four
in favor of ’07--he was played up into the forward line, and when he
secured the puck and once got away with it, it was his until he had
shot at the sophomores’ goal. If Pete had been able to shoot as well as
he skated and dodged the enemy, the score would have been overwhelming.

But Pete’s Waterloo came when the deciding game was contested with ’04.
Pete’s playing was just as hard and fast as before, but the seniors had
two or three players who, in the language of Tommy, “made rings around
him.” Every time Pete tried one of his sensational rushes, some one or
other of the discourteous enemy, carefully avoiding his body, stole the
puck from under his nose. Pete endured it for a while untroubled, then
he began to break hockeys. But the supply seemed unlimited, and the
remedy wasn’t successful. Defeat fell to ’07’s share.

They tried to tease Pete on the afternoon’s performance that evening,
but Pete was invulnerable to gibes. The four had congregated in the
“corral” and were hugging the stove closely, Pete sitting astride the
stock saddle which, for want of a chair, he had lugged from its corner.

“Must have cost you something for sticks,” Tommy suggested.

“Must have cost the other fellows something,” laughed Hal. “I saw
Rindgely lose three. You were a destructive chap, Pete.”

“Rindgely was plumb crazy,” answered Pete, with a broad smile. “Every
time he got a new stick, I bust it for him. I don’t just know whether
that’s good hockey, but I know it worked mighty well. But Rindgely’s
got it in for me, all right.”

“He seems to have it in for me too,” said Allan, thoughtfully. “The
other day he didn’t want to make pace for me when I tried the two
miles, and acted nasty as you like afterward in the locker house.”

“He’s a queer customer,” said Tommy. “A pretty good fellow to keep away
from. I don’t mean that there’s anything wrong with him, you know, but
he’s awfully uncertain. You never can tell how he’s going to take a
thing. Just after recess I met him one day, and asked him if he’d taken
in the St. Thomas Club Indoor Meet--he lives in Brooklyn, you know--and
he nearly took my head off; said he wasn’t home Christmas, and implied
that it was none of my business. I told him I didn’t care a rap where
he was.”

“That’s right, Tommy; don’t you let them monkey with you,” laughed
Allan.

“Well, what did he want to jump on me for?” asked Tommy, warmly. “I
didn’t care whether he went to the old meet or not; I just wanted to be
polite. The reason I mentioned the meet was that he’d told about going
the year before while he was at home, and I just happened to remember
seeing something about it before Christmas. It’s an open meeting, you
know, and they have a big card--weights, team races, boxing, and all
sorts of stunts.”

“What is he, a miler?” asked Hal.

Tommy nodded.

“Guess that explains his cutting up with you, Allan; you beat him in
the fall, didn’t you?”

“Yes, with a good big handicap.”

“Well, he’s afraid you’re going to cut him out of a place in the dual
meet.”

“There’s no good reason why he should think so. He can beat me, I’m
pretty sure. Besides, if Billy Kernahan has his way, I’ll be down only
for the two miles at the dual.”

“We’re going to have a dandy article on the indoor meeting this week,”
said Tommy.

“Wrote it yourself, eh?” suggested Hal.

“I suppose it will be like last year’s, though,” Tommy continued,
ruefully. “We had two columns, with everything figured out finely: who
was going to do what, and which fellows would win places. And then it
came out all wrong.”

“Say, Thomas,” said Pete, when the laughter had subsided, “I don’t want
to hurry you, but I’m getting the powerful hungers.”

“Yes, Tommy, how about that dinner at the Elm Tree?” chimed in Hal.

“He’s making money to pay for it,” said Allan.

“No, I’m not,” answered Tommy, sadly. “That’s the trouble. You’ll have
to wait a bit, Pete; I’m dead broke, honest Injun!”

“All right; just so long as I get that feed. Better not put it off too
long, though; I’m nicely conditioned, you know, since the Midyears, and
there’s no telling what may happen to me.”

“That’s so,” Allan said. “A fellow that’s been drowned, suspended,
and put on probation, all in two short months, is a pretty slippery
customer.”

“Say, Allan,” said Tommy, reminiscently, “do you remember the night we
waited up here for that duffer to come home?”

“The night he was drowned?” asked Allan. “Never’ll forget it. The way
the wind howled and cut up was a caution; made me think of graveyards
and--and corpses.”

“Me, too,” said Tommy. “I went back to the room and dreamed of Pete
floating in my bath-tub, with his old smelly pipe in his mouth and his
face all white and horrid. Every time he puffed on the pipe he winked
his eye at me, and I woke up yelling like a good one.” Tommy arose from
his seat and stood gazing into the flames. “It was a beast of a dream.”

“Must have been,” Hal responded, sympathetically. Pete puffed silently
at the afore-mentioned pipe and grinned heartlessly. Tommy glanced over
at him and commenced an aimless ramble about the room.

“I said then,” he went on, “that if Pete-- Say, it’s getting beastly
hot in here. Let’s have the door open.”

In spite of the protests, he opened the portal into the narrow hallway,
and continued his rambling and his talk.

“I made up my mind then that if Pete wasn’t drowned, that if I ever saw
his dear, foolish, homely face again, I’d--I’d----”

“Be a better man,” Hal suggested.

“Learn to write English,” offered Allan.

“Pay your debts,” muttered Pete over his pipe-stem.

“_I’d take a fall out of him!_” concluded Tommy, savagely. At the
same instant he put a hand under Pete’s chin, tipped him heels over
head backward onto the floor, smothered his outcries by banging the
saddle down over his face, punched him twice in the ribs--and flew!
His forethought in opening the door saved him. As he dived through he
slammed it behind him in Pete’s face, and the others heard four wild
leaps on the staircase. Then all was still save for Pete’s chuckles.
But stay! What sound was that from beneath the window; what doleful
wailings broke upon the night air? They hearkened.

“Cowardy, cowardy, cowardy cat!” shrilled Tommy. “Dare you to come
down, Pete Burley!”

Pete threw up a front window. There was a sound of hasty footfalls and
an exclamation as Tommy collided with an ash-barrel. Then from far up
the street came a last defiant challenge: “_O Fresh!_”



CHAPTER XVI

THE INDOOR MEETING


Mechanics’ Hall, Boston, was filled from floor to gallery, from doors
to stage. The hum of voices, the fluttering of programs, the slow
bellow of the announcer as, with megaphone at mouth, he gave the result
of the events, made a strange medley of sound.

From one corner of the floor to another there ran diagonally a
lime-marked lane. Since half past seven white-trunked figures had
rushed, half a dozen at a time, down this lane at top speed, had flung
themselves panting, with outstretched arms, against the mattresses at
the end, and had turned and trotted back to the dressing-rooms.

The supply had seemed inexhaustible. Heat after heat had been run in
the Forty Yards Novice, heat after heat in the Forty Yards Invitation,
heat after heat in the Forty Yards Handicap, and now the hurdles were
in place, the pistol was cracking forth, and white-clad forms were
flying breathlessly over the bars and breasting the red string at the
finish.

At each report of the pistol the center gallery leaped to its feet, the
hurdlers sprang into sight from below and sped away like arrows across
the yellow floor. Hurdles crashed, the crowd shouted, the racers flung
their arms at the tape and collapsed against the padded wall at the
end of the lane, and the center gallery sank into its seats again and
rustled its programs. And the announcer lifted his crimson trumpet:

“Forty-five Yards Hurdles--fourth heat won by No. 390, No. 3 second;
time, 6⅖ seconds.”

There were dozens of colleges, schools, and associations represented
there that night, and hundreds of competitors. There was the blue Y of
Yale, the crimson H of Harvard, the red C of Cornell, the green D of
Dartmouth, the purple E of Erskine, the brown R of Robinson, and many,
many other insignia flaunted on heaving breasts.

Thirty-odd officials, in immaculate evening clothes, lent a note of
sobriety to the colorful scene, while a blue-coated policeman, whose
duty it was to guard the long table of mugs and tankards, stood out
intensely against the gleam and glitter of the prizes. On the big
stage, the sloping bank of watchers looked from the floor like a bed
of waving somber-hued flowers. From a corner of the balcony came the
strains of brazen music.

The jumping standards were set and the competitors ranged themselves
along the edge of the track, their sweaters and dressing-gowns of all
colors thrown loosely about their bare shoulders. The Clerk of Course
could be heard at the dressing-room door summoning the men for the next
event:

“All out for the two miles!”

The sloping corners of the track rang with the footsteps of the
candidates as they warmed up. There were fifteen entries, and among
them were men from Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, Phillips Exeter Academy, and Erskine College. Erskine’s
representative was rather nervous as, with his number flapping at
his back, he was assigned the place at the pole in the front line.
Beside him was a Cornell runner whose prowess was well known, and
Allan Ware marveled at his own temerity. Surely, he had no chance
against the Cornell man, nor, for that matter, against several of the
others. Well, he would run as well as he knew how and take his beating
philosophically.

The fact was, that the intense excitement was unnerving him. And that
was why, when the starter had cried “Set!” Allan dashed forward, taking
half the line with him. For this misdemeanor he and three others were
promptly relegated to the last row. Then the command came again and the
pistol cracked.

At the first turn Allan had to fight to keep from being hustled from
the track. After the next corner the runners had settled down to their
work, a New York man making easy pace. Allan was well in front. The
nervousness had left him now and he had no thought for the cheering
spectators, for the blaring strains from the band, for anything, in
short, save the struggle on hand. Lap after lap was reeled off until
the race was half finished. Allan was still holding his own, with the
consciousness of much power in reserve. The New York man still kept the
lead, while close on his heels ran one of the Cornell contingent.

Presently a Yale man fought his way up to Allan, and for half a lap
they contested fifth place. Then, at a turn, the Yale man took the bank
and slid into the lead, and Allan was sixth. He expected changes ahead.
Of course the New York runner would not attempt to keep the lead much
longer. He would drop back, Allan would overhaul the Yale chap, and in
the last two laps he would call on the reserve power he was certain he
had and fight it out to the finish.

He looked back. The nearest runner was several yards away and didn’t
appear dangerous. The relative positions remained unchanged for another
lap, and then things began to happen.

The Yale man dropped back, a second Cornell man--Allan recognized him
as the one who had been beside him at the start--spurted into third
place, and Allan found himself still running fifth. He had lost count
of the laps, but believed there could not be more than two left.

So he started to crawl up. At the next corner, that by the
dressing-rooms, he passed the Cornell man who had been second for so
long; his duty was done and he was easing up on his pace. Down the
stretch Allan gained on a Technology runner, but failed to pass him.
Suddenly the gong announcing the last lap clanged. Allan glanced across
the hall. The New York man was still in the lead, and was increasing
that lead at every stride.

Allan threw back his head and fought for third place. On the next
stretch footsteps sounded behind him. At the first corner Allan just
succeeded in keeping the lead; on the short stretch, a Yale man passed
him and left him as though standing. It was all up now; he was fifth,
and there was no chance of bettering his position. The leader, well
ahead of the Cornell man, was taking the last corner. The Yale man
who had just passed Allan was taking third place hand over fist.
The Technology runner was plainly faltering, and yet, thought Allan
savagely, here was he, with all sorts of power of lung and muscle left,
dragging along behind him!

He clasped his hands tighter and threw himself forward. Fourth place
was better than fifth, he told himself, and at least he would not be
beaten by a man who was ready to fall. So up he went, working as hard
to beat out the Technology runner as though first place was at stake.
And beat him he did, and turned off of the track and walked back to the
dressing-room apparently as untired as when he had started.

“You lost that race,” said Kernahan, “when you lost your place in the
first row. But don’t you care; you’ve learned a thing or two, and one
of them’s to wait for the pistol.”

“But I’m not decently winded,” Allan complained. “I could run the mile
now, and yet those chaps beat me.”

“Sprinting ability is what you’ve got to learn, my boy. And with three
months before the dual----”

“Hang the dual!” said Allan, petulantly. “I wanted to win this.”

“Well, there’s the mile yet,” said Billy, soothingly.

But the mile brought Allan scant satisfaction. He was given a handicap
of thirty-five yards, and, although this time he was careful to wait
for the pistol, he came to the conclusion when half the distance was
run that he might as well drop out of the race. There were almost fifty
entries, and it seemed less a race than a fast-moving procession. The
turns were always filled with fellows elbowing and fighting, and after
the half-distance it was hard to tell who the leaders were, so close
they were to the tail-enders.

Rindgely and Harris had also entered, and about the only satisfaction
Allan was able to gather was derived from the fact that he had them
beaten from the start. But the smaller handicaps allowed those youths
had something to do with that. Allan never knew what number he was at
the finish, and didn’t much care.

In the dressing-room, Harris, Rindgely, Long, and Monroe--the latter
the only Erskine entry who had won a place--were finding balm in the
fact that Robinson hadn’t showed up in a single event.

“Wait until the team race, though,” said Rindgely, darkly. “That’s
where they’ll get us; you’ll see.”

“Don’t believe it,” said Harris, stoutly. “When does it come off?”

“After this, I think,” said Long. “Who’s got a program?”

“That’s right,” said Monroe. “Hello, Ware! Say, that was a perfect
mess, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, it was,” growled Allan. “I never knew whether I was running this
lap or the last one.”

“Or the one ahead,” added Harris.

“Thought you were going to do something,” said Rindgely. “You had a
good chance.”

“Did I?” Allan responded, with intense sarcasm. “All right, only I
didn’t know it.”

“Let’s get out of here and see the Harvard and Penn race,” Long
suggested. “Where’s our team?”

“They’re out there somewhere. Thatcher says we’re going to get it put
all over us,” said Allan.

“Thatcher’s an old raven,” said Harris, as they crowded out to where
they could watch the race. “If he runs as well as he croaks, we’re all
right.”

Harvard secured the race with University of Pennsylvania, and though
the result was not long in doubt, yet the crimson-clad runners were
forced to better the record by three-fifths of a second. Then the
clerk’s voice was heard at the dressing-room door:

“All out for Erskine-Robinson Team Race! All out!”

Of Erskine’s relay team, only Thatcher, the captain, was an experienced
runner. The others--Poor, Gibbons, and Tolmann--had earned the right to
represent the college at the trials, but for all of that were unknown
quantities. They were all of them, Thatcher included, small men; Poor
was little over five feet in height, and looked as though he had never
had enough to eat. As they trotted around the track, getting warmed
up, Robinson’s candidates overtopped them to a man. It was a big,
long-limbed quartet that Robinson had sent, and had the result depended
on height and length of leg alone the Brown would have had the race won
at the start.

Allan had secured a place near the front of the throng at the
dressing-room door, and beside him, noticeable because of the evening
clothes which he wore, was one of the officials, an inspector whose
name was down on the program as “Horace L. Pearson, N. Y. A. C.” It was
while the two teams were still warming up that Allan heard his name
spoken, and turned to find Mr. Pearson in conversation with Harris.

“Beg your pardon,” the inspector was saying, “but the man beyond you
there is Ware, of your college, isn’t he?” But he wasn’t looking in
Allan’s direction at all.

“No, sir,” answered Harris, “that’s Rindgely.”

“Sure of it?”

“Quite, sir,” replied Harris, smiling.

“Hm! I saw he was down on the card as Rindgely, but I thought maybe it
was a mistake. What does the other man, Ware, look like?”

“He’s here somewhere,” said Harris. And then his voice dropped and
Allan, looking carefully away, felt the inspector’s gaze upon his
face. He wondered what it might mean and why Rindgely had been mistaken
for him, but his speculation was short-lived, for at that moment the
pistol cracked and two runners, one with his white shirt crossed with
a brown silk ribbon and the other bearing a purple E on his breast,
sprang forward and fought for the lead at the first turn. The Erskine
man was Thatcher and his opponent was named Guild. As they reached the
other end of the track and sped past the dressing-room, conflicting
shouts of encouragement from Erskine and Robinson supporters followed
them.

Thatcher had secured the pole at the start and had leaped into the lead
at the turn. He was still ahead, but Guild was close behind him, his
long strides seeming to be always on the point of taking him past, yet
never doing so. Thatcher’s plan was plainly to hand over the race to
the next runner of his team with a good, big margin of gain, trusting
that, if unable to increase the advantage, the other Erskine men would
at least hold what they had. But the big gain wasn’t forthcoming yet.

As he neared the starting-point and the finish of the first of his two
laps he strove desperately to leave his opponent, but it was not until
the last lap was a third run that daylight opened up between the two.
The Robinson chap was proving himself a worthy foe. Half-way around the
last lap there was ten feet between Purple and Brown. From there on
down to the mark, where the next two men stood with eager, outstretched
hands, Thatcher gained and gained; but he had commenced late, and when
Guild touched the hand of his team-mate and fell over into the arms of
the Robinson trainer he was only fifteen yards to the bad.

Gibbons, short of leg and rather heavy of build, was flying over the
first turn as though possessed, and behind him pattered Thorpe of
Robinson. Down the stretch they flew, while the band was drowned by
the shouts of the onlookers. It was a pretty contest that, even though
to discerning ones, at least, the end was not in doubt. Gibbons looked
like a small whirlwind, and gave every indication of killing himself
before the second lap was finished, but Thorpe, with long and easy
strides, ate up the interval between them foot by foot, and when the
second lap began was in position to take the lead whenever he wanted to.

Half-way down the side he did so. Gibbons fought him off desperately
for an instant, but at the turn Robinson led by a yard. Then it was
that Gibbons surprised even his trainer, for, instead of steadily
dropping back, he refused to yield an inch and chased Thorpe down to
the finish like an avenging fate, crossing the line a bare yard behind
him.

That yard of advantage was five yards half through the next lap,
Tolmann failing to prove a match for Brine of Robinson. Foot after foot
and yard after yard opened up between them, and when the last lap began
the Brown’s runner was an eighth of a lap ahead.

“Well, that’s settled right now,” said Long, who had jostled his way to
Allan’s side. “If we still had Thatcher we might stand some show, but I
guess Poor can’t cut down that lead enough to make it look even close.”

“Thatcher’s idea was all right,” said Allan, “but he didn’t know how
good his man was. Robinson’s next man is her captain, I think, and I
suppose he ought to be the best of the lot.”

“He ought to be, but maybe he isn’t. Poor is a plucky little chap, and
maybe he’ll give Jones a run for his money. Look at him!”

At the other end of the hall Erskine’s last hope was leaning over the
mark, one slim white arm thrust forward and one reaching impatiently
back toward where Tolmann, swaying and gasping, was vainly striving
to save the race. Poor looked plucky without a doubt, and when, after
what seemed an age, Tolmann struck weakly at his hand and staggered
off the track, he was off like a shot, his thin legs twinkling like a
salmon-colored streak as he followed the Robinson captain. The latter
was almost a quarter of a lap ahead and was running easily, yet keeping
a watchful glance upon his opponent. And, as it proved, that watchful
glance was not thrown away.

The band blared forth a two-step with might and main, supporters of the
rival colleges clapped, shouted, and shrieked, and the runners’ shoes
_tap-tapped_ on the floor and pounded over the built-up corners.

And then, of a sudden, a roar started among the audience and gathered
volume and swept deafeningly across the great hall, and Allan,
raising himself on tiptoes, gave a shout of joy. For just an instant
or two after passing the second turn the Robinson captain had become
inattentive to his pursuer, and in that brief moment Poor had literally
eaten up space with his flying feet until now twenty yards would have
spanned the distance between them. Jones, warned by the applause,
leaped ahead, but Poor refused to yield an inch he had gained. More
than that, he kept on gaining.

The bell clanged the beginning of the last lap of the race and the
Robinson runner swept over the line fifteen yards ahead of Poor, his
long strides making the latter’s look ridiculously short by comparison.
But if his strides were short, they were also rapid, and Poor, his
little, weazened face screwed into an agony of effort, chased his
opponent down in the next half lap, and at the second turn was barely
two yards behind. Jones was plainly worried. As he pounded around the
corner his right arm was thrust out in an involuntary effort to keep
his opponent from passing him. But Poor was not able to do that on
the turn, and for the next stretch their relative positions remained
unchanged.

As they dashed by the group at the dressing-room door, Allan and Long
and Harris and the others shrieked exhortations and encouragement to
their runner. Then the next turn was taken, Jones stumbled, saved
himself, and led the way down the last stretch, his head back, his
mouth wide open, and his speed lessening at every stride.

But if he was ready to give up, so, too, was Poor, who had run a
quarter of a lap farther than he. And all the way down that stretch the
Robinson captain struggled and faltered and the Erskine runner dogged
his steps, unable to pass him. And then something happened, and so
quickly that it was all over before the sight had time to register the
meaning of it on the brain.

Half-way over the turn, and twenty yards from the finish, Jones swayed,
tripped, and rolled over to the edge of the track, and Poor, less than
two yards behind him, plunged blindly over him, sprawled and rolled
along for three yards, and then, in some strange manner, found his feet
and took up the running again. So, too, did Jones, but the larger man
had fallen more heavily, and for an instant remained dazed upon the
floor.

That instant decided the race, for although he was up again almost
before the audience had sensed the catastrophe, yet he had lost the
lead. For the last few yards the two men, giddy, swaying, their heads
fallen almost onto their breasts, strove weakly for the line. The next
moment Poor threw out his arms and sprawled forward on his face across
the chalk-mark and Jones, stumbling past him, fell, sliding on hands
and knees to the edge of the track.

Down by the dressing-room door Allan and the others were whooping it up
joyfully, for Erskine had turned defeat into victory and won the relay
by a scant three yards!



CHAPTER XVII

ALLAN LEAVES THE CLUB TABLE


March winds are freakish, prankish things, and the wind in the face of
which Allan crossed the yard one morning a fortnight or so after the
indoor meeting was no exception. He was on his way from Grace Hall to
the Chemical Laboratory for a ten o’clock, and at the corner of the
chapel he passed a couple of fellows whom a casual glance showed him he
did not know. But that he was not a stranger to one of them was soon
proven. The wind, scurrying around the corner of the chapel, tossed him
the following fragment of conversation with startling distinctness:

“Who’s that fellow, Steve?”

“Ware, a freshie; he runs, or tries to. He was in the mile and two
miles at Boston week before last and didn’t do a thing in either of
them. Guess the Athletic Association will take his job away now. They
just employed him to keep him in college, I guess. This thing of giving
fellows work just because----”

The words ended as suddenly as they had begun, so far as Allan was
concerned, and he strode on to the laboratory. But his cheeks were
burning and his heart was filled with wrath. For the first time he
realized that his employment by the E. A. A. had a suspicious look, to
say the least, while it was even probable that what the fellow he had
overheard thought was really true. He was angry at the unknown youth
for saying what he had, angry with Stearns for placing him in such a
questionable position, and angry at Professor Nast for countenancing
it. He wondered whether all the fellows he knew or who knew him
believed as did the fellow he had passed, that he was knowingly
allowing the Athletic Association to present him with money he was not
earning.

The blood dyed his face again, and he marveled at his blindness.
Why had he not seen from the first that Stearns had secured him the
place in the office merely to ensure his stay at college and his
participation in the dual meet with Robinson? And hadn’t he more than
half suspected all along? But no, he was guiltless of that charge.
Credulous and blind he had been, but not dishonest. And dishonest he
would not be now. He passed a miserable, impatient half-hour, and when
it was over hurried to the office of the Athletic Association and found
Professor Nast at his desk.

The professor was a mild-mannered little man, rather nervous and
seemingly indecisive, but he was executively capable and had much sound
common sense. He viewed Allan’s arrival with mild curiosity, nodded
silently, and turned back to his work. But Allan didn’t allow him to
continue it.

“How much am I worth here, sir, if you please?” he demanded,
unceremoniously. The chairman looked somewhat startled and disconcerted.

“Why--er--that is a difficult question to answer, Mr. Ware. But if
you--ah--consider that you are not being paid enough, I shall be glad
to consider the matter of increased remuneration if you will make out
an application in writing, stating----”

“Well, is my work here worth a dollar an hour, sir?”

“Eh? A dollar an hour? I--er-- But I think you are receiving that
amount, are you not?”

“Yes, sir; and that’s what the trouble is.”

“Trouble? Suppose you explain what you mean.”

“Well, I--” He hesitated for words an instant and then threw politeness
to the winds. “You’ve made me do what isn’t honest, you and Stearns,”
he charged, angrily. “You offered me the work here just to keep me in
college, so I could run at your old meet, and you gave me a dollar
an hour for work that any one would do for half that money. Oh,
I know it’s lots my fault,” he went on, silencing the professor’s
remonstrances. “I ought to have guessed it, but I didn’t. I didn’t
think a thing about it until to-day I overheard a fellow say in plain
words that I was taking money I wasn’t earning. That’s a nice thing to
have fellows say about you, isn’t it? And I dare say the whole college
thinks just as he does, and--and----”

“Hold up a minute,” said the professor, finally making himself heard.
“You’re accusing Mr. Stearns and me of pretty hard things. Let’s talk
this over quietly. Sit down, please.”

Allan obeyed. The professor swung around in his chair until he faced
him, clasped his hands over his vest, and gravely studied Allan’s angry
countenance.

“I’m not sure that you--ah--have any right to come here and charge
me--or Mr. Stearns--with unfair dealings. But I will accord you the
right, Mr. Ware, for I see that there has been a mistake made. It was,
however, a mistake and nothing more, I assure you. Neither Mr. Stearns
nor I had any intention of deceiving you. Allow me to finish, please,”
he added, as Allan made an impatient movement.

“It has been the custom here, of recent years, to give employment in
this office to men who have needed the work, and preference has been
given to athletes. If they have been paid more for their labor than
that labor was really worth--and I am ready to grant that they usually
have--the money with which they were paid has always come out of the
general athletic fund and not from the college. I am not--ah--prepared
to defend this custom; on the contrary, sir, I think it a very bad one,
and I for one should be glad to see it discontinued. In your case,
now, Mr. Stearns came and saw me and told me you needed employment.
The place was vacant and I offered it to you at the terms which have
always been paid. You are not earning one dollar an hour, Mr. Ware,
and if you feel that you have been deceived by us, I am very sorry. No
deception was intended on my part, and I am sure Mr. Stearns believed
that you--er--understood the situation.”

“I didn’t, though,” answered Allan, somewhat conciliated by the other’s
manner. “I didn’t dream of it. I--I did think the work was rather easy
considering the pay, but I thought maybe it would get harder, and
that--that I could make up. If I had known the truth, I wouldn’t have
had anything to do with the work.”

“I am sorry, but, as I have said, there was no intent at deception.
I offer you my apologies, and I am sure Mr. Stearns will be quite as
regretful as I am. If there is anything I can do to better matters, I
shall be delighted to do it, Mr. Ware.”

“Yes, sir, there is. I’d like to keep on with the work until I have
squared myself.”

“You mean you want to work without wages?”

Allan nodded. The professor considered the matter for a while in
silence. Then--

“If you insist,” he said, “we will make that arrangement. But there
is another method that may answer fully as well. Are you averse to
continuing the work at--er--a just remuneration?”

“N-no, I suppose not,” Allan replied. “I need the work, and if you’ll
pay me only what it’s worth I’d like to go ahead with it.”

“I’m glad to hear you say so, for you have been very conscientious,
Mr. Ware, and your services in the office have become valuable to
me. I should dislike to make a change. Supposing, then, you continue
at--ah--fifty cents an hour? Would that be satisfactory?”

“Is it worth that much?” asked Allan, bluntly.

“Yes, it honestly is; it is worth quite that. Well, and in regard
to--ah--let us say arrears; I am working on the compilation of a rather
difficult lot of statistics which are to be incorporated into my
report. You could assist me vastly with that matter and could work,
say, an hour three evenings a week. In that way, it seems to me, you
could very shortly ‘square’ yourself, as you term it, and could, to
some extent, choose your own time for doing so. What do you--ah--think?”

Allan considered the matter. It sounded rather easy, and since an
hour ago he had grown to view easy tasks with suspicion. But he could
find no ground for objection, and in the end he accepted the proposal
gratefully and stammered a somewhat lame apology for his hasty
discourtesy. The Chairman of the Athletic Committee waved it politely
aside.

“We will consider it settled, then,” he said. “This afternoon we will
decide on the hours for the extra work. I’m glad you brought this
matter up, Mr. Ware, for I think the time has come to do away with a
pernicious custom. Good morning.”

On his way to his next recitation Allan reflected somewhat ruefully
that under the new arrangement there was one thing which had been lost
sight of, and that was a public vindication. As long as he continued
to work in the office fellows would continue to think he was receiving
money not earned. To be sure, he had the consolation of a clear
conscience, but it was hard to have the fellows he knew and whose
respect he craved think badly of him.

But there Allan was mistaken, for the story got out in short
order--Tommy saw to that!--and it wasn’t long before he heard an
account of the matter, in which he figured as a model of indignant
virtue and a galley-slave to conscience, from a fellow whom he knew
very slightly. After that he had no doubts about public vindication.

It was not a difficult matter to find three hours in the evening each
week for the new labor, and he found it, since he had a fondness for
mathematics, far more interesting than the daily letter-writing and
clerical work. But five dollars a week wasn’t ten, and so, despite
the protests of Pete and all the other members of the club table, he
left the hospitality of Mrs. Pearson’s and went back to the college
dining-hall, where he could, by careful management, make his monthly
bill ridiculously small. Pete commanded and implored to be allowed to
“fix things up” so that Allan need not leave the table; he almost wept;
but Allan was obdurate. Pete even threatened to “let the table go hang”
and return with Allan to Commons, but was finally dissuaded when Allan
pointed out that in all probability he (Allan) would very shortly be
taken onto the training-table of the track squad.

So Pete accepted the inevitable and draped Allan’s chair with some
dozen yards of black crêpe, and allowed none to occupy it for a week
of mourning. But Allan wasn’t a stranger to the table, for every
Saturday night he returned there as Pete’s guest and sat in his old
seat and was made much of by the crowd.



CHAPTER XVIII

AN ALARM OF FIRE


    “Mary had a little dog,
       It was a noble pup;
     ’Twould stand upon its front legs
       When you’d hold its hind legs up!”

Thus warbled Tommy as, having kicked the door shut, he subsided into
one of Allan’s chairs by sliding over the back. Allan pushed his
book away, yawned dismally, and looked over at his visitor mutely
questioning:

“Where’s Pete?” Tommy demanded.

“Am I his keeper?” asked Allan.

“You’re his _fidus whatyoucallit_. Seen him to-night?”

“No; maybe he’s studying.”

“Careless youth,” muttered Tommy. “Say, did you hear about Pete and
Bœotia?”

“No; who’s Bœotia, anyway?”

“Oh, it’s that place in--er--ancient history, you know. It was at
recitation this morning; Professor Grove asked Pete how Bœotia was
situated. Pete wasn’t prepared, but he thought he’d make a bluff at it.
So he gets up and drawls out in his cheerfully idiotic way, ‘Oh, he had
a pretty good situation, but he lost it.’”

“What did old Grove say?” laughed Allan.

“Well, I wasn’t there and can’t tell you. I’m going to settle my debts
this week, and we’ll have that dinner at the Elm Tree Saturday night,
if that’s all right for you fellows.”

“It’s all right for me,” said Allan.

“The funny part of it is,” Tommy went on, smiling, “that I made just
enough to pay for the dinner out of the reports of Pete’s drowning
which I sent to the Boston paper. I got my account yesterday.”

“Tell that to Pete,” laughed Allan.

“I’m going to. Where’s the angel child?”

“The angel child is probably out in the kitchen. I can’t keep her at
home since vacation; she found out then where the grub comes from.”

“I think she ought to go to the dinner with us, don’t you?”

“Well, scarcely. Let’s go down to the ‘Ranch’ and see what Pete’s up
to. I can’t study any more to-night.”

Town Lane was as dark as pitch save at remote intervals where
street lamps flickered half-heartedly, and to reach Pete’s domicile
at night without breaking a limb was quite a feat. To-night nothing
more exciting occurred than a collision with a stable door which was
swinging open, and the two reached the corner to find Pete’s windows
brightly illumined. Tommy, being in a musical mood, took up a position
underneath and broke into song.

    “Here ’neath thy window, Love, I am waiting,
       Waiting thy sweet face to see,”

he declared, strumming the while on an imaginary guitar. But the verse
came to an end without signs from the window, and so they climbed the
stairs. The “Ranch” was deserted. But even as they assured themselves
of the fact by looking into the bedroom, soft footfalls sounded on the
stairs from the third-story loft, and a moment after Pete, looking
like a conspirator, crept into the front room and softly closed the
door behind him. Then his eyes fell on Allan and Tommy, and he grinned
mysteriously.

“Where’d you come from?” Allan demanded.

“Up-stairs.”

“What’s doing up there?” asked Tommy, suspiciously.

“Nothing at all.” But the grin remained. Tommy sniffed.

“I’m going up to see,” he threatened.

Pete sank into a chair, took up his pipe, and spread his hands apart as
if to say, “Please yourself; believe me or not, as you like.” Then he
lighted his pipe.

“What have you done with your coat?” asked Allan. “And why are you
festooned with cobwebs and decorated with dust?”

“_Quien sabe?_” answered Pete, shrugging his broad shoulders.

“Just the same, you’ve been up to something,” declared Allan, sternly.
“And you’d better ’fess up.”

“Huh!” grunted Pete.

“Out with it!” commanded Tommy.

“Huh!” said Pete again.

“Sounds like a blamed old Indian, doesn’t he?” asked Tommy,
disgustedly. “Well, don’t you come and beg me to intercede with the
Dean for you.”

The smile on Pete’s face broadened; he chuckled enjoyably; but commands
and demands failed to move him to confession, and, after arranging for
the dinner at the Inn, Allan and Tommy took their departure, Pete, for
some reason and contrary to custom, making no effort to detain them. As
they clambered down the steep stairs, Pete called after them:

“Say, it would be a great night for a fire, wouldn’t it?”

“Fire?” repeated Allan. “Why?”

“Oh, such a dandy old high wind,” answered Pete. “Well, _adios_.”

“Wonder what he meant?” said Allan, on the way back. “It would be just
like him to get into another mess.”

“About time,” chuckled Tommy. “Good night.”

Allan went to bed soon after eleven, with Two Spot, according to
nightly custom, curled up against the small of his back. For a while
he lay awake listening to the howling and buffeting of the wind, but
presently sleep came to him.

It seemed hours later, but was in reality scarcely thirty minutes, when
he awoke abruptly with the wild clanging of a bell in his ears. He sat
up and listened. It was undoubtedly the fire-bell, and had he had any
doubt about it the sound of running footsteps in the street would have
convinced him at once.

For a moment he weighed the prospective excitement of a conflagration
against the comforts of the warm bed. In the end the fire offered
greater inducements, and he leaped out of bed, lighted the gas, and
tumbled into his clothes. And all the time the fire-bell clanged
and clashed on the March wind. Leaving Two Spot to the undisputed
possession of the bed, Allan left the house and looked expectantly
about him. But there was no glow in the sky in any quarter; darkness
reigned everywhere save about the infrequent street lamps. Here and
there persons were running toward the fire-house, and Allan followed
their example.

Down Main Street he hurried, entered the yard back of the library,
and cut across in the face of the buffeting wind to the beginning of
Town Lane. When he reached Elm Street he was part of a steady stream
of excited citizens and students, all hurrying anxiously toward where,
half-way down the narrow thoroughfare, the brazen alarum was pealing
deafeningly forth. And then, for the first time since he had awoke,
Allan recollected Pete and his mysterious observation regarding fire.
And instantly he knew that Pete and the fire-bell were in some way
working mischief together.

Pete’s rooms were in the building at the corner of Center Street,
and next door stood the fire-house, a plain two-storied building,
surmounted by a twenty-foot tower, at the top of which hung the bell.
When Allan reached the scene the windows of Pete’s front room were
brilliantly illumined, and from one of them hung Pete, exchanging
lively salutations with friends in the throng below.

For a moment Allan’s suspicions were deadened. In front of the
fire-house the crowd jostled and craned their necks as they stared
wonderingly upward to where the tower showed indistinctly against
the midnight sky. On every hand were heard bewildered ejaculations,
while members of the volunteer fire department ran hither and thither,
questioning, suggesting, and plainly distracted. The big doors were
open and inside the engine and hose-cart, horses in harness, were ready
to sally forth the instant any one discovered where the fire was or
why the bell clanged on and on without apparent reason. Through a hole
in the ceiling a big rope descended, and at every clang of the bell it
rose and fell again, and the building shook with the jar.

“Hello, Allan! Isn’t this great?” shouted a voice in his ear, and Allan
turned to find Hal, arrayed principally in a plaid dressing-gown and
white duck cricket hat, grinning from ear to ear.

“But--but what is it?” asked Allan, bewildered.

“Don’t know; nobody knows. There’s the bell and there’s the rope; no
one’s pulling it; must be spooks! Isn’t it jolly?” And Hal leaped with
delight and thumped Allan on the back.

“But why does the bell ring?” he asked, following the general example
and staring upward at the tower.

“That’s it! Why does it? Some say it’s the wind, but that’s poppycock,
you know. What I think is that some one’s got a rope hitched to the
bell and is pulling it from the back of the building somewhere; that’s
what I think.”

“But haven’t they been around there to see?”

“Yes, but they’re so excited and fussed they wouldn’t know a rope if
they fell over it. Some one’s having a lark, you can bet on that. Isn’t
it a picnic? Just hear the old bell! Wow! Listen to that!”

Allan put his mouth to Hal’s ear and whispered a single word. Hal
started, shot a glance at Pete’s window and Pete himself, and burst
into a gale of laughter.

“D-d-do you think so?” he gasped. “But--how could he? Look, there he is
at the window. O Pete!”

“Hush up!” whispered Allan. “They’ll get onto it. Look, they’ve got a
ladder! They’ll find out what’s up now, all right, because the rope
will be hanging. We ought to warn Pete; come on!”

They wormed their way through the crowd, exchanging shouts of
salutation with acquaintances as they went, until they were under
Pete’s window. There they found Tommy, note-book in hand, looking very
important and excited.

“O Pete!” shouted Allan. “Is your door unlocked?”

“Hello, partner!” returned Pete in a happy bellow. “Isn’t this great?
Here I sit at my parlor window and watch all the wealth, beauty and
fashion of our charming metropolis. And, say, ain’t the racket fine?
This is more noise than I’ve heard since a dynamite blast went off
behind my back! Why, it’s almost like living in a city! Say, if you
fellows----”

“We want to come up,” shouted Allan. “Unlock your door.”

Pete shook his head.

“Not on your life, partner; I’ve only got my nightie on. Want me to
freeze to death?”

“Well, put something on,” said Allan anxiously, “and come down.”

“’Fraid of catching cold. Besides, I must turn in now; I’m losing my
beauty sleep.”

“But--but, Pete, they’re--they’re putting up a ladder!” blurted Allan.

“Are they?” asked Pete imperturbably. “Well, I’m not coming down to
help ’em. They’ll have to get on without me, my boy. Hello, Hal, that
you? Ain’t this wano? Such a cheerful----”

Pete’s roar stopped suddenly, as did the noise of the crowd. Two
firemen half-way up the ladder at the front of the building nearly fell
off. For a sudden appalling silence gave place to the uproar! The bell
was still!

After a moment of startled surprise--for at first the silence seemed
louder than the noise--every one broke into incoherent laughter and
ejaculations. The men on the ladder paused, undecided, and finally slid
back to earth to hold a consultation.

“Well, ain’t that a shame!” lamented Pete. “Just when I was beginning
to get sleepy! Now I’m all woke up again. Say, you chaps, wait a bit
and I’ll slip something on and let you up.” He disappeared from the
window and was gone some time. Then the key scraped in the door at the
foot of the stairs and Allan, Hal, and Tommy slipped through. Pete,
standing guard, locked the portal in the faces of several undesired
fellows and followed them up-stairs.

As Allan entered the room he glanced eagerly around. Just what he
expected to find would have been hard to say, but whatever it was he
didn’t find it. The room presented its usual appearance, save that
articles of apparel lay scattered widely about just wherever Pete had
happened to be when they came off. Pete locked the room door, took his
pipe from the table and proceeded to fill it. The others looked about
the room, looked at each other and looked at Pete. Pete scratched a
match, lighted his corn-cob and smiled easily back. Allan sank into the
easy chair.

“How--how did you do it?” he gasped.

“Do it? Do what?” asked Pete, blowing a cloud of smoke toward the open
window. Outside sounds told of the dispersing of the throng.

“You know what,” said Allan.

Pete went to the window, called good night to an acquaintance, closed
the sash and ambled back, smiling enjoyably.

“Wasn’t it moocha wano?” he asked. “Just answer me that, Allan. Did
anything ever go off more beautifully, with more--er--_éclat_, as we
say in Paree? Is your Uncle Pete the boss, all-star bell-ringer? Did
you get on to the expression, the--the phrasing? Did you----”

“Shut up, Pete,” said Hal, grinning. “Tell us about it. Go on, like a
good chap.”

“There’s little to tell,” said Pete with becoming modesty. “Up
there”--he pointed toward the ceiling--“is a loft. Over there is a
bell. Bring a rope from the bell into the back window of the loft,
down-stairs and through that door and--there you are! Quite simple.”

“But, look here,” piped up Tommy. “You were at the window when the bell
was doing its stunts. How--how was that?”

“Simple, too,” answered Pete, waving aside a cloud of smoke. “There was
a noose in the end of the rope and the noose fitted over my knee as I
kneeled on the floor. It was hard work and I guess the hide’s about
wore off, but it was all for the sake of Art.”

The three deluged him with questions simultaneously, and Pete, sitting
nonchalantly on the edge of the table, answered them as best he could.

“But how about the rope?” asked Allan finally. “They’ll see it and
trace it through the window.”

“Oh, no, they won’t, because, my boy, it isn’t there any longer. When
I said I’d put something on and let you fellows in, I cut it off at
the foot of the tower and brought my end of it away. They’ll find a
rope there, all right, but they’ll never guess it went through the back
window. Besides, I can prove an alibi,” he ended, with a generous and
virtuous smile.

“That’s so,” answered Tommy. “We saw you at the window.”

“When the bell was ringing,” added Hal.

“And I saw both his hands,” supplemented Allan.

“Yes, I meant you should,” said Pete. Going to the trunk he took from
behind it the lariat which usually hung on the wall, and from one end
of it detached a few feet of hemp rope. This he put into the stove. The
lariat he replaced upon the wall.

“Thus we destroy all evidences of guilt,” he said.



CHAPTER XIX

PETE PUTS THE SHOT


For a few days following the mysterious serenade on the fire-bell
there was an epidemic of mild colds throughout the college; and as
each fellow who had a cold was able and eager to tell--through his
nose--what had happened at the fire-house, it would seem that there
might have been some connection between the affliction and the midnight
occurrence. But no serious illness resulted, and so we may leniently
assert that no harm came of Pete’s joke.

Not that any one knew it was Pete’s joke, save the quartet and one
other. The one other was Mr. Guild, out at Hillcrest. When morning
came the severed rope hung in plain sight from the bell tower, and
although it told clearly what had happened, yet it threw no light
on the identity of the culprit. Of course every one--townfolk
especially--declared it to have been a student prank, but none
suspected Pete Burley, for it apparently entered no one’s head that
the bell might have been rung from Pete’s room. The perpetrator was
popularly believed to have been hidden in some near-by yard.

That Pete’s innocence was never questioned was a lucky thing for Pete,
because the faculty would have viewed the affair in the light of a last
straw, and Pete’s connection with Erskine College would have ceased
then and there. As it was, the affair remained forever a mystery.

Mr. Guild heard the story a few days later, when the quartet drove out
to Hillcrest in a rattle-trap carryall and spent the afternoon. This
was the second visit the fellows had made to the owner of the ducks
since the beginning of the term. Mr. and Mrs. Guild had been in the
South for two months, and after their return, in February, the snow had
made the roads almost impassable. Hal and Tommy had been introduced on
the occasion of the previous visit and had been cordially welcomed. Mr.
Guild enjoyed the story of the bell-ringing and laughed heartily over
it.

“That’s a better joke, Burley,” he said, “than that drowning business
of yours. That was a trifle too grim to be wholly humorous. And when I
remember the way I had the river dragged for your lifeless body, and
expected to see it every time the men drew the grapples up, I--well, I
hope your dinner the other night choked you.”

But it hadn’t. The dinner had passed off very successfully, and save
that Hal had partaken of too much pie and had sat up in bed until
three o’clock in the morning well doubled over, it had been an affair
worthy of being long remembered. Even Pete, who claimed the right to be
severely critical, had found nothing to find fault with, save, perhaps,
the fact that in winning the banquet he had unwittingly provided the
money to pay for it!

The second week in March witnessed the return of the track team
candidates to practise in the gymnasium. Spring was unusually late
that year--perhaps you recollect the fact?--and several feet of snow
hid the ground until well toward the last of March. But meanwhile
the candidates, thirty-eight in number, were divided into two squads
and were daily put through chest-weight and dumb-bell exercises and
sent careening around the running track. Allan, who since his failure
to “make good”--in the language of the undergraduate--had been
somewhat disgusted and down in the mouth, with the return to practise
experienced a renewal of faith in himself and his abilities. Billy
Kernahan laughed at his pessimistic utterances and assured him that
outdoor work would do wonders for him.

Meanwhile Hal was hard at work with the freshman baseball squad and was
turning out to be something of a “star” at the bat. Tommy, who during
the winter months had found much difficulty in keeping himself busy,
was as happy as a lark, since the awakening activity in athletics,
the class debates and the final debate with Robinson afforded him
opportunities to perform wonderful feats of reporting and gave him
almost as much work to do as even he could desire.

Pete was left forlorn. Of the quartet he alone had no interest in life
save study; and without wishing to be hard on Pete, I am nevertheless
constrained to say that in his case study as an interest was something
of a failure. He managed to stand fairly well in class, but this
was due rather to an excellent memory than to any feats of severe
application. When, toward the last of March, the baseball men and the
track team went outdoors, he was more deserted than ever. Hal and Allan
were inaccessible to him save in the evenings, and even then insisted
on studying. As for Tommy----

“You might as well try to put your thumb on a flea as to try and locate
Tommy,” he growled aggrievedly. “I tried to meet up with him on Monday,
and the best I could do was to find out where he had been last seen on
Saturday. I haven’t caught up with him yet, by ginger!”

“Why don’t you go in for something?” asked Hal. “Try baseball.”

“Baseball!” grunted Pete. “What do I know about baseball? It would take
me a month to learn the rudiments of the game. I’ll go out for spring
football practise next month, but that only lasts a couple of weeks,
they say, and after that I guess I’ll pack up and go home.”

“Try golf,” said Allan, with a wicked smile. Pete snorted.

“I’d look well hitting a little ball with a crooked stick, wouldn’t I?”
he asked disgustedly. “No; I may be a blamed fool, but I know better
than to make such a show of myself as that.”

In the end Pete found an interest, and the manner of it was strange. It
happened in this wise.

It was a few days before the class games. If his friends would not come
to him, Pete could, at least, go to his friends. And so he had got into
the way of walking out to the field in the afternoon and watching Hal
on the diamond or Allan on the track. Sometimes he had a word or two
with them; but at all events it was better, he thought, than moping
about the college. The scene was a lively and, when the weather was
bright, a pretty one. To-day the sky was almost cloudless, the sun
shone warmly and there was a quality to the air that made one want to
do great things, but yet left one content to do nothing.

When Pete approached the field he saw that the varsity and freshman
baseball teams were both at practise, that the lacrosse candidates--whose
antics always amused him--were racing madly about at the far corner of
the enclosure, and that the track men were on hand in force. The scene
was full of life and color and sound. Pete broke into song:

    Sam Bass was born in Indiana, it was his native home,
    And at the age of seventeen young Sam began to roam;
    He hit the trail for Texas a cowboy for to be,
    And a kinder-hearted feller you’d never hope to see.

Pete’s voice was untrained but hearty. Had the tune been more melodious
the effect would possibly have been more pleasing. As it was, the
adventures of Sam Bass were chanted--as they always have been where
Pete came from--in a melancholy reiteration of some half-dozen notes
that threatened in the course of time to become terribly monotonous.

    Sam used to own a thoroughbred known as the Denton mare;
    He matched her in scrub races and took her to the fair.
    He always coined the money and spent----

The song died away to a low rumble as Pete stooped and picked up
a battered sphere of lead which lay on the sod before him. It was
surprisingly heavy and he wondered what it was. Then his gaze fell on
a lime-marked circle a few yards away, and it dawned upon him that the
thing he held was a sixteen-pound shot, such as he had seen the fellows
throw. Near-by the sod was dented and torn where the weight had
struck. Pete hefted the thing in one hand and then the other. Then he
raised it head-high and threw it toward the circle. It narrowly missed
smashing the stop-board. Pete took up his song once more:

    He started for the Collins ranch, it was the month of May,
    With a herd of Texas cattle, the Black Hills for to see.

He picked up the shot again and looked about him. There was nobody
near, and of those at a distance none was paying him any attention. So
he laid his pipe on the ground, balanced the shot in his right hand,
stepped to the front of the circle and sent it through the air. It
described a good deal of an arc and came down about eight paces away.
Pete was sure he could beat that, so he strolled over and recovered
the weight, and, humming lugubriously the while, strolled back and
tried it over again. This time it went a few feet farther and Pete was
encouraged. He took off his coat and rolled his sleeves up, spat on his
hands and seized that lump of lead with determination.

Up near the finish of the mile, by the side of the track, Allan was in
conversation with Kernahan. Suddenly he stopped, smiled, and pointed
down the field.

“For goodness’ sake,” he exclaimed, “look at Pete Burley trying to put
the shot!”

Billy turned and watched. When the shot had landed, he asked:

“Has he ever tried that before?”

“No, indeed; Pete’s stunt is football.” Kernahan smiled.

“Sure. I remember him now. Well, you try a few sprints of thirty yards
or so, and I guess that’ll do for to-day. That stride’s coming along
all right; don’t be in too big a hurry. To-morrow do a slow mile and a
few starts. Then you’d better knock off until the meeting.”

Allan nodded, turned and jogged away up the track. Billy strolled
toward Pete. When he drew near his ears were greeted with a plaintive
wail:

    Sam Bass was born in Indiana, it was his native home,
    And at the age of seventeen young Sam began to roam;
    He hit the trail----

Away sped the shot, and fell with a thud fully thirty feet distant.
Pete grunted. Billy’s face lighted. Pete wiped the perspiration from
his brow with the back of one big hand and strolled after the shot.
When he turned back he saw the trainer. He looked somewhat abashed and
showed a disposition to drop the weight where he stood. But he thought
better of it.

“Taking a little exercise,” he explained, carelessly.

Billy nodded.

“Good idea,” he said. “Don’t throw it, but push it right away from you
as though you were punching some one. You get it too high.”

“Oh, I was just fooling with it,” said Pete.

“I know; but you try it, and don’t let it go so high.”

The first attempt was a dismal failure, the shot scarcely covering
twenty feet. Billy’s presence embarrassed the performer.

“Try it again,” said Billy. Pete hesitated. Then,

“All right,” he said, cheerfully.

This time he did better than ever, and Billy paced off the distance.

“About thirty-two feet,” he announced. “That’ll do for to-day.”

“Huh?” said Pete.

“That’s enough for this time. You don’t want to lame your muscles, if
you haven’t done it already.”

“Oh, my muscles will stand it,” answered Pete. “Do ’em good to get
lame, I guess.” But Billy shook his head.

“No, that won’t do. You leave off now and report to me to-morrow at
four-thirty.”

“What for?” asked Pete, in surprise.

“For practise. We’ll try you in the meet next Friday.”

“No, I guess not,” said Pete, shaking his head. “If you had a roping
contest I might try my hand, but these athletic stunts have me beat.”

“Never mind about that,” answered the trainer, “you do as I say. We
need you, and we’re going to have you. Four-thirty, remember; and you’d
better get some togs.”

He nodded and walked away. Pete, staring after him, expressed his
surprise by a long whistle.



CHAPTER XX

TRACK AND FIELD


The class games were notable that spring merely because they
brought into sudden prominence a new and promising candidate in the
shot-putting event, one Peter Burley, ’07, of Blackwater, Colo. To be
sure, Pete didn’t break any records, nor did he come out first, but he
contributed one point to the scant sum of the freshman class total by
taking third place with a put of thirty-nine feet, four and one-half
inches. Pete’s appearance in athletic circles was a surprise to the
college at large, and those who remembered his prowess at football
and took his size and apparent strength into consideration jumped
to the conclusion that here was a “dark horse” that was going to
carry everything before him and break the college record into minute
particles. Personally, Pete viewed his participation as a good joke,
but he wasn’t quite certain whom the joke was on.

It was evident that he had it in him to become a first-rate man at
the weights, and Kernahan viewed his “find” with much satisfaction.
Erskine had for two years past been rather weak in that line of
athletics, and Billy had visions of developing the big Westerner into
a phenomenal shot-putter and hammer-thrower; though, for the present,
at least, he said nothing to Pete about the hammer, for fear the latter
would mutiny. Pete had had only three days of practise under Billy’s
instruction prior to the class games, but in that time he had mastered
one or two of the principal points and had thereby added seven feet to
his best performance of Monday.

Billy was more than satisfied, the rival shot men, who had viewed
Pete’s appearance among them at first with amused indifference, were
worried, and Pete was-- But truly it is hard to say what Pete was. The
whole thing was something of a joke to him, and possibly mild amusement
was his principal sensation, although he was probably glad to be able
to please the trainer, who had taken a good deal of trouble with him,
and to add a point to the tally of his class.

But after the class games amusement gave place to surprise and dismay,
for Billy informed him that the spring meeting would take place a week
later, and that by diligent practise meanwhile he ought to be able to
add another two feet to his record. Pete had been laboring under the
impression that his troubles were over with the class games, and he
promptly rebelled. But rebellion didn’t work with Billy; he was used
to it. He had a method of getting his own way in things that was a
marvel of quiet effectiveness; and so Pete concluded when, on the next
Monday, he was once more out on the field “tossing the cannon ball,” as
he sarcastically called it.

All that week, up to the very morning of the spring track meeting, he
stood daily in the seven-foot circle and practised with the shot, while
Kernahan patiently coached him. Pete had the height, build and strength
for the work, but it was the hardest kind of a task for him to grasp
the subtleties of the hop and the change of feet. I am inclined to
think that Billy’s oft-repeated explanations went for little, and that
in the end--but this was not until he had been at practise for almost a
month--he learned the tricks himself by constant experimenting.

The actual putting was very soon mastered, but for weeks Pete’s best
efforts were spoiled because he either overstepped the ring or left
himself too far from the front of it. But when the spring meeting came
he climbed to second place, Monroe alone keeping ahead of him. The
latter’s best put was forty-three feet ten inches, and Pete’s forty-one
feet three inches.

Monroe seemed to Pete to view the latter’s efforts as beneath notice,
and Pete resented that from the first. As was to be expected by any
one knowing Pete, Monroe’s attitude was accepted as a challenge, and
Pete vowed he would beat the college crack if he had to work all night
to do it. From that time on Billy found no necessity for pleading; Pete
was always on hand when half past four came around, and none was more
earnest than he, none worked so hard. Pete had found his interest.

Meanwhile Allan had done fairly well in both meets. In the class games
he had entered for the two miles and the mile, had won the first by a
bare yard from Rindgely and in the latter had finished third behind
Hooker and Harris. At Billy’s advice he relinquished the mile event
thereafter and became a two-miler pure and simple. As Billy pointed
out, either Rindgely or Hooker--and possibly Harris, who was coming on
fast--was capable of beating Robinson at the mile, and it was better
for Allan to put all efforts into the two miles, in which, so far as
was known, Robinson at present excelled. Allan had hard luck at the
spring meeting, getting away badly in the first place and taking a
tumble in the next to the last lap that put him out of the race so
far as the places were concerned. Conroy staggered in ten yards ahead
of Rindgely, Harris securing third place, and Allan finishing a poor
fourth.

By this time the training table was started, and Pete, much to his
delight, temporarily deserted the freshman club table up-stairs and
moved to the first-floor front room, where Allan, Rindgely, Hooker,
Harris, Conroy, Stearns, Thatcher, Poor, Leroy, Monroe, Long, and
several others whose names we have not heard, were congregated under
the vigilant eyes of Billy Kernahan. I don’t think Pete was properly
impressed with the honor conferred upon him by his admission to the
training table, but he was glad to be with Allan again and rather
enjoyed the novelty of having his meals arranged for him. If it had not
been that training required the relinquishment of his beloved corn-cob
pipe, I think Pete in those days would have been perfectly happy.

Meanwhile, at another training table farther around the bend of Elm
Street, Hal was one of the stars of the freshman nine. Of the quartet,
Tommy only was not head over ears in athletics, but the fact didn’t
trouble him a scrap. He had all he could do--and a trifle more--and
was laboring, besides, under the harmless delusion that the college’s
success on diamond, track, and river depended largely upon his
supervision and advice. Whenever he had time, which wasn’t very often,
he delighted to stand beside the lime-marked ring and offer gems of
instruction in the art of putting the shot to Pete. And Pete, who was
miserable without companionship, stood it smilingly for the sake of
Tommy’s presence. In the evenings Tommy frequently found a moment or
two in which to look up Allan or Hal and give them the benefit of his
advice regarding playing second base or running the two miles. But
those young gentlemen exhibited a strange and lamentable impatience,
and Tommy quite often left their presence under compulsion or just
ahead of a flying boot.

Meanwhile the spring vacation came and went. Of the quartet, Hal and
Tommy went home, and Allan and Pete stayed at college, Allan from
motives of economy and Pete because nothing better offered.

After recess baseball held the boards and the varsity team was half-way
through its schedule by the first week in May, and had but two defeats
behind it. On the track the candidates were put through their paces
six days a week. Erskine was almost sure of victories in the sprints,
equally certain of defeats in the middle distances, expected to win the
mile, was in grave doubt as to the two miles, and hoped to share the
hurdles with her opponent. In the field events, the high jump alone was
certain to yield a first to the Purple. The pole vault, broad jump, and
both weight events were of doubtful outcome. As Tommy figured it out
in the columns of “his” paper about this time, Erskine had a chance of
winning by seven points. But as second and third places were almost
impossible to apportion with any accuracy, this forecast was not of
much value. The dual games with Robinson came on May 28th. A fortnight
before that Allan’s work was stretched over six days, as follows:

Monday, a two-mile run at an easy pace.

Tuesday, a fast mile, followed by an easy three-quarters.

Wednesday, a hard, fast mile.

Thursday, two miles and a half in easy time.

Friday, a mile and a half at medium speed.

Saturday, a time trial over the two miles.

This was hard work and lots of it, but Allan’s physical condition
could scarcely have been bettered, and never, from the beginning of
outdoor practise until the big event was over with, did he go “fine”
for a moment. Twelve days before the meet Allan had his last trial, and
when, still running strongly, he crossed the finish line, Billy’s watch
clicked at 9:53⅝.

Billy smiled cheerfully enough, but down in his heart he was
disappointed. He had expected better things.



CHAPTER XXI

SUNSHINE AND SHADOW


I have never found any one with sufficient courage to defend the
winters at Centerport. At the best they are bearable, at the worst they
are beyond description. Nothing any one might say would be too harsh to
apply to what the residents call “a hard winter.”

In short, from January to April the weather is everything detestable,
and reminds one of a very bad little boy who has made up his very bad
little mind to be as very bad as he possibly can.

And then--as like as not between a sunset and a sunrise--spring
appears, and it is just as though the very bad little boy had grown
sorry and repentant and had made up his mind to be very, very good
and sweet and kind, and never do anything to grieve his dear, _dear_
parents any more. And there is a soft, warm breeze blowing up the river
valley, the grass on the southern side of the library is unmistakably
green, a bluebird, or maybe a valiant robin, is singing from a branch
of the big elm at the corner of the chapel, and there is a strong,
heartening aroma of moist earth in your nostrils. And you know that
from thenceforth until you leave the old green town the last of June
your lines are cast in pleasant places and that it is going to be very
easy to be happy and good.

Well, I suppose there are other places where spring is superlatively
pleasant, where the trees and sod are extravagantly green, and where
youth finds life so well worth living. Only--I have never found them.
And I doubt if there is an old Erskine man the country over who can
recollect the month of May at Centerport without a little catch of the
breath and a sudden lighting of the eye.

For in those Mays his memory recalls Main Street and the yard were
canopied with a swaying lacework of whispering elm branches, through
which the sunlight dripped in golden globules and splashed upon the
soft, velvety sod or moist gravel and spread itself in limpid pools.
And the ivy was newly green against the old red brick buildings, the
fence below College Place was lined with fellows you knew, and the
slow-moving old blue watering-cart trundled by with a soft and pleasant
sound of splashing water. Fellows called gaily to you as you crossed
the yard, the muslin curtains at the windows of Morris and Sesson were
a-flutter in the morning breeze, and from Elm Street floated the
musical and monotonous chime of the scissor-grinder’s bells. What if
the Finals were close at hand? The sky was blue overhead, the spring
air was kind and--you were young!

I think something of this occurred to Allan when, at a quarter of ten
on a mild, bright morning three days before the dual meet, he crossed
the street from his room, books under arm, and turned into College
Place.

Perched on the fence in front of the chapel were Clarke Mason, the
editor of the Purple, and Stearns, the track team captain. After
exchanging greetings, Allan dropped his books back of the fence and
swung himself onto the top rail.

The sun was pleasant, the ten o’clock bell would not ring for several
minutes, and there was an invitation in the way in which Mason edged
away from the post. Allan was a warm admirer of Mason, and the fact
that, as was natural, he seldom had an opportunity to speak with him
made him glad of the present opportunity. There was but one topic of
overwhelming interest at present, and that was the track and field meet
with Robinson. With two successive defeats against them, and the added
result of the last football game still in memory, it is not strange
that Erskine men had set their hearts on administering a trouncing to
the Brown and regaining something of their old athletic prestige. The
boat race and the baseball contests were too far distant for present
consideration.

“I don’t know when there’s been so much enthusiasm over the athletic
meet as there is this year,” said Mason. “And it’s bound to tell, too.
I’ve noticed that when the college as a whole wakes up and wants a
thing it generally comes pretty near getting it.”

“We wanted the football game badly enough,” said Stearns.

“Yes, just as we want all of them, but there wasn’t the enthusiasm
there has been some years. I think we expected to win, and so didn’t
get much wrought up over it. But next year--although you and I won’t
be here to see it, Walt--I’ll bet the college will be red-headed over
football; there’ll be mass-meetings and the band up from Hastings, and
Ware here will be marching out to the field singing ‘Glory, Glory for
the Purple’ at the top of his lungs. And the team will just naturally
go in and win.”

“At that rate,” ventured Allan, “we ought to lick Robinson on Saturday,
for, as you say, the fellows are all worked up over it.”

“I think we’re going to,” answered Mason, with quiet conviction. “But,
of course, I don’t know so much about it as Walt here, and he says I’m
off my reckoning.”

Allan looked at the captain with surprise. All along Stearns had
displayed a confidence that, in Allan’s case at least, had been a great
incentive to hard work. Stearns frowned a little as he answered:

“Oh, well, maybe to-morrow I’ll be hopeful again. A fellow can’t help
having a spell of nerves now and then, you know.”

“Well, if it’s only that, we’ll forgive you,” Mason replied. “I thought
maybe something had happened. Things have a way of happening, I’ve
noticed, just before a meet; Jones lames his ankle, Brown is put on
probation, Smith is protested, or something else unforeseen plays
havoc.”

“That’s so,” said Stearns, emphatically, “and maybe one reason I feel
uneasy is because nothing _has_ happened; Robinson hasn’t protested any
one and no one has sprained his ankle or got water on the knee. I think
I’d feel safer if something of the sort had occurred.”

“Well, I guess you’re safe now,” laughed Mason. “The men have quit
practise and Robinson’s opportunity for protesting our best men has
passed.”

“I don’t know,” said Stearns, doubtfully. “Something will turn up, you
see if it doesn’t.”

“Nonsense! How about you, Ware? Going to win the two miles?”

“I’m scared to think about it,” answered Allan, uneasily. “That
Robinson crack can do better than I’ve succeeded in doing yet, and so I
guess I’ll have to be satisfied with second place.”

“Oh, Ware’s all right,” said Stearns, encouragingly. “He’s going to
present us with five points, and we’ll need ’em!”

This sounded more like the Stearns Allan was accustomed to.

“They tell me that chum of yours, Burley, is going to do great things
with the shot, Ware,” said Mason, questioningly.

“I hope so,” Allan answered. “He can, all right; the only thing is
whether he will get fussed and forget how; he’s funny that way.”

“Well, Billy thinks he’s a wonder, and says that by next year he’ll
be able to give a foot to the best college man in the country. Well,
there’s the bell. I hate to waste a day like this indoors, but--needs
must when the faculty drives!”

The trio slipped off the fence and went their separate ways, but before
they parted Stearns drew Allan aside.

“I say, Ware,” he said, “don’t say anything to any one about what--what
you’ve heard. There’s no use in discouraging them, you know, and what
I just said doesn’t amount to anything; I guess I’m feeling a bit
nervous. You understand?”

But Allan, as he crossed the yard to College Hall, in the tower of
which the bell was clanging its imperative summons, couldn’t help
feeling apprehensive and worried. It was so unlike Stearns to admit
even the possibility of defeat. On the steps Allan ran against Pete,
big, smiling, and serenely satisfied with life.

“How’d you get on yesterday?” asked Allan, as they went in together.

“Oh, pretty middlin’,” said Pete, cheerfully. “I got within four inches
of that cayuse of a Monroe.”

“But you’ll have to beat him if you expect to win over Robinson,” said
Allan, anxiously.

“Oh, I’m not bothering about Robinson,” answered Pete. “If I can do up
Monroe, that’s all I give a hang about!”

The next afternoon, Thursday, Stearns appeared at Allan’s room, looking
excessively cheerful.

“Hello!” he said, as he sat down. “How are things?”

“All right,” answered the other, wondering at the track captain’s
errand. “How about you?”

“Fine as silk,” he said. “Say, Ware, Robinson has sent a foolish
letter, and asks the committee to look up your record. Of course,” he
went on, carelessly and hurriedly, “it’s all poppycock, but they think
they have a case, and so maybe you’d better walk over with me and see
Nast about it; just explain things so he can write back to ’em, you
know. Are you busy?”

Allan, bewildered and dismayed, looked across at Stearns with wide eyes
and sinking heart. The track team captain’s forebodings of yesterday
flashed into memory, and it was with a very weak voice that he asked
finally:

“You mean that--that Robinson has protested me?”

Stearns laughed carelessly, but something in the other’s tone sent a
qualm of uneasiness to his heart.

“Oh, there’s no question of a protest,” he answered, “because the time
for protests has gone by. But, of course, they knew the committee would
investigate the matter, and that if everything wasn’t all right they
wouldn’t allow you to run. But, of course, as I say, it’s all nonsense.
They say you were entered in the mile run at the St. Thomas Club Meet,
in Brooklyn, during vacation, and came in third. And--and there’s a
silly newspaper clipping with your name in it. But, as I told Nast, you
can explain that all right, I guess. Fact is, you know,” he continued,
with a little annoyed laugh, “you’ve got to; we can’t afford to lose
you, Ware.”

Allan took his cap from the desk.

“Come on,” he said, quietly.



CHAPTER XXII

A NEWSPAPER PARAGRAPH


During the short walk across the yard little was said. Stearns now
and then shot puzzled and anxious glances at Allan’s face, but the
latter looked straight ahead of him, and Stearns learned nothing. In
the office Professor Nast approached the subject at once. The Robinson
authorities, he stated, had written, saying that Ware had won third
prize in the mile event at an indoor meet of the St. Thomas Club,
in Brooklyn, on the evening of December 26th, and in support of the
contention enclosed a clipping from a newspaper. The clipping was
handed to Allan, and he read, opposite a big blue pencil mark:

“Mile run--Won by E. C. Scheur, N. Y. C. C. A. (45 yds.); second, T.
Webb, St. T. A. A. (45 yds.); third, A. Ware, E. A. A. (50 yds.).
Time--4m. 47s.”

Allan returned the clipping calmly.

“You understand,” said the professor, gently, “that the mere fact
of your having entered this meeting without permission would not of
itself render you ineligible on Saturday. The trouble is that the
meeting”--here he tapped the newspaper clipping with his pencil--“was
not an amateur affair; the prizes were purses of money, and, being an
‘open’ meeting, there were, as you may see, a number of professionals
participating. That--er--is the difficulty.”

“I know nothing about it,” said Allan, quietly.

Stearns sank back in his chair with a long sigh of relief. “I told you
it was all nonsense!” he exclaimed. The professor himself looked well
pleased.

“I did not run in that meeting,” continued Allan. “I have been in
Brooklyn but once, and that was fully six years ago.”

“I am very glad to hear it,” said the professor, “very glad. Now,
while I am not in duty bound to explain the matter to the Robinson
authorities, yet it is better for various reasons to do so. And there
is one thing--” He paused and tapped the desk frowningly. “About this
clipping?” he asked. Allan shook his head.

“I’m afraid I can’t explain that. Perhaps there’s another ‘A. Ware’ and
perhaps ‘E. A. A.’ stands for something else besides Erskine Athletic
Association.”

“Stands for lots of things, probably,” said Stearns, a bit impatiently.

“We might find that out,” mused the professor. “Where were you, Ware,
that evening, the--ah--yes, the twenty-sixth of December?”

“I was in New York, visiting my aunt on Seventy-third Street. I was in
the house all the evening, except for about half an hour, when I went
out on an errand.”

“Well, you couldn’t have crossed the river to Brooklyn, run a mile race
and returned home in half an hour,” said the professor, lightly. “Now,
will you get your aunt to write me a letter, stating those facts and
assuring me that you were not and could not have been in Brooklyn? It
is not, you understand, that I doubt your word, Ware, but I have my
duties in these affairs and I must perform them. Simply a letter, you
understand, will suffice.”

“I will do my best,” Allan replied; “but----”

“Eh?” shouted Stearns.

“But my aunt has left New York city and is traveling in the West,
probably in California now. I shall have to find her address from my
mother first, and by that time----”

“Now, look here, sir,” interrupted Stearns. “Surely Ware’s word of
honor is enough in a case of this sort? It’s only a--a coincidence of
names, sir.”

“For my own satisfaction Mr. Ware’s word is sufficient,” replied the
chairman, with dignity, “but the rules require evidence, and I must
have it. I only ask Mr. Ware to supply me with a statement from some
person who knows of his whereabouts on the evening in question.
Perhaps there is some other person who will do as well?” But Allan
shook his head.

“No, sir, I’m afraid not. My aunt lives alone except for the servants,
and I saw no one I knew that evening. I will telegraph to my mother at
once, and perhaps I will be able to get a letter from my aunt before
Saturday. But it’s a pretty short time.”

“Produce your evidence any time before the two-mile race is called,”
said the chairman, kindly, “and it will be all right. And, by the way,
a telegram will answer as well as a letter, if your--er--aunt is in the
West. I am anxious to help you in every way possible, and I regret that
the duties of my office require me to be or--er--seem exacting. Another
thing, Ware; the Athletic Association will incur all the expenses of
telegraphing in this affair; and you need not--ah--spare money. Good
morning.”

“Oh, it will be all right,” said Stearns, cheerfully, as they hurried
together to the telegraph office. But Allan shook his head despondently.

“No, I’ve felt ever since yesterday that something would happen to ball
things up. And now it’s happened. And I don’t believe I’ll hear from my
aunt in time. However, I wouldn’t have got better than second place,
anyway. But I did want to run,” he ended, dolorously.

“Nonsense! Cheer up! We’ll make the wires hum. We’ve got pretty near
two whole days, and we can telegraph around the world fifty times in
two days.”

The telegram asking for his aunt’s address was duly despatched to his
mother in New Haven, and after that there was nothing left to do save
wait her reply. Allan parted from Stearns and went dejectedly back to
his room. There he found Pete engaged in a carouse with Two Spot. They
wouldn’t let Pete practise with the shot to-day, or again before the
meet, and he was feeling quite lost in consequence. Allan wanted some
one to unfold his tale of woe to, and he was glad to find Pete awaiting
him. Pete, as the story was told, grew very indignant, and offered to
punch Professor Nast’s head. But Allan finally convinced him that the
chairman of the Athletic Committee wasn’t at all to blame.

“It’s a beastly way to have things end, after you’ve been practising
hard all spring,” he said, as he arose impatiently from his chair and
strolled to the desk. A Latin book was lying on the blotter, with
a slip of paper marking the page where Allan had been at work when
Stearns appeared. Now he opened the book, crumpled the marker into a
ball and tossed it disgustedly onto the floor. Then he drew up a chair
and plainly hinted that he desired to study. Pete, however, refused to
heed the hint.

“It’s a mighty foolish business,” he said, thoughtfully.

Allan grunted.

Two Spot had discovered the little ball of paper and was making believe
that it was a mouse. She rolled it from under the couch with playful
pawings and frantic rushes, and finally tossing it in the air, so that
it fell at Pete’s feet, she stopped, blinked at it and suddenly fell
to washing her feet, as though too dignified to do aught else. Pete
stooped absent-mindedly and picked up the bit of paper, unfolding it
slowly and smoothing it across one huge knee.

“Seems to me,” he said presently, “you chaps have forgotten one thing.”

“What’s that?” Allan asked, ungraciously.

“To wire the St. Thomas Club people and ask them if you ran in their
old meeting.”

“Well, that’s so,” said Allan, hopefully. “But, then, there was
probably some one there named ‘A. Ware,’ and they’d just answer ‘yes.’”

“Ask ’em if Allan Ware, of Erskine, ran in the meeting, and, if he
didn’t, who the dickens the ‘A. Ware’ was who did run. Tell you’ve got
to know in a hurry, and that it’s blamed important.”

“By Jove!” exclaimed Allan, “that’s a good idea. Funny we didn’t think
of it, wasn’t it?”

For answer Pete grunted, as though he didn’t think it at all funny.

“Hello, who’s ‘Horace L. Pearson, N. Y. A. C.’?” asked Pete, holding up
the scrap of paper rescued from Two Spot, and which now proved to be
torn from the program of the Boston indoor meeting.

“I don’t know; why?” asked Allan.

“I used to know a fellow of that name out in Colorado. He was sort of
studying mining. What does ‘N. Y. A. C.’ mean?”

“New York Athletic Club. It’s probably the same fellow. I remember him
now. He was the chap that thought Rindgely was me.”

“Eh?” asked Pete. “How was that?”

So Allan told him, and Pete grew very thoughtful as the short narrative
progressed. When Allan had finished he asked:

“I suppose these fellows that do stunts at the Boston meet go to pretty
near all of them, don’t they?”

“Oh, I don’t know; a good many, I guess. Why?”

“Just wondering,” answered Pete. “Come on and send that telegram. If
you address it to the president or treasurer or something, it will do,
won’t it?”

“I’ll send it to the chairman of the Athletic Committee,” said Allan,
seizing his hat. “I’m glad you thought of it, Pete. You’re some good in
the world, after all, aren’t you?”

“Sure. See you this evening. I want to see Tommy. Where do you suppose
I’ll find him?”

“Oh, come on down to the telegraph office.”

“Can’t; I want Tommy.”

“Well, try the Purple office; maybe he’s there. Don’t forget to come
around to-night. I may get an answer from my mother by that time.”

Pete was successful. To be sure, Tommy wasn’t in the office of the
Purple, but Pete hadn’t supposed he would be; Tommy wasn’t so easily
caught. But by tracing him from one place to another, Pete at last came
up with him in the library, where he was eagerly securing data for an
article on rowing which he was preparing for a Boston Sunday paper.

“You see,” he explained, hurriedly, “I don’t know very much about
rowing, but it wouldn’t do to say so, and so I come here and consult
these gentlemen.” He indicated the half-dozen volumes by which he was
surrounded. “If I only wrote what I knew, you see, I’d never make any
money.”

“Well, that’s the first time I ever heard you acknowledge you didn’t
know it all, from throwing to tying,” said Pete.

“Oh, a fellow has to keep up a front,” said Tommy, shrewdly, with a
grin.

Pete slipped into the next chair, and for the next quarter of an hour
they whispered fast and furiously. When Pete got up, he said:

“This isn’t for publication in your old paper, Tommy, you know. And
don’t say anything about it to any one, will you?”

And Tommy pledged himself to secrecy, adding:

“And I think you’ve got it, Pete. Are you going to see him to-night?”

“As soon as I can find him in his room,” Pete replied.

“Then I’ll come around to Allan’s to-night and hear what’s happened.”

“Maybe I won’t tell Allan,” answered Pete. “Anyhow, not unless I have
to. I’ll see what the coyote has to say for himself.”

“Rindgely? Oh, he’ll have plenty to say, all right. He’ll talk himself
blue in the face if you let him.”

“Maybe I won’t let him,” answered Pete, grimly.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE FRESHMAN GAME


    “Your aunt was in Los Angeles California Monday expected stay
    week address Mission House. Is anything wrong?      MOTHER.”

This message Allan found awaiting him when he hurried home from dinner
that evening. So far so good, he reflected. But Monday was three
days gone, and if his aunt had changed her mind and gone on!--well,
he didn’t like to consider that contingency. Seating himself at his
desk, he composed two messages, one to his aunt and one to the manager
of the Mission House. In the latter he requested that his message to
Miss Mary G. Merrill be forwarded to her, in case she had left the
hotel. In the other message he finally expressed, at the expense of
thirty-four words, what he wanted his aunt to do. Then he hurried again
to the telegraph office and begged the emotionless operator to get both
messages off at once. The operator nodded silently.

“You haven’t received any other message for me, have you?” asked
Allan. The operator as silently shook his head. Allan wandered back
to his room. Studying was a task this evening, and he was glad when
Tommy demanded admittance. A few minutes later Pete, too, arrived,
looking very satisfied with life. Allan did not notice the exchange of
glances between the last comer and Tommy, and if he had he would not
have understood them, nor would he have connected them with the matter
uppermost in his thoughts. Tommy raised his eyebrows inquiringly and
Pete nodded with a smile and mysteriously tapped the breast of his coat.

Allan was full of his quandary and found much relief in telling
everything to Tommy and exhibiting the telegrams received and
copies of those sent. Pete, strange to say, and somewhat to Allan’s
disappointment, did not display the amount of interest in the subject
which Allan thought he should have; and even Tommy seemed soon to tire
of the matter. Allan fell into silence, reflecting pessimistically on
the readiness of your friends to abandon your troubles. Pete and Tommy
left early--Tommy had been on the point of leaving ever since his
arrival--and with their parting injunctions to “cheer up” and “don’t
let it bother you” in his ears, Allan went sorrowfully to bed.

The next day was Friday, and it dawned cloudy and chill. May has its
moods, even in Centerport, but it was unfortunate that it should have
displayed the fact to-day, for the gloominess of the weather increased
Allan’s despondency until Two Spot, blinking inquiringly from the
Morris chair, saw that the world was awry and decided to go to sleep
until things were righted again. And the answer to his St. Thomas Club
message, which came just before noon, did not tend to lighten Allan’s
spirits.

“Ware of Erskine,” it ran, “won third in mile run December
twenty-sixth.”

Allan, as he tossed the sheet of buff paper angrily aside, wondered
whether, after all, he had not taken part in the meeting while
temporarily unbalanced; he had heard of such things, he thought. Or
perhaps he had fallen asleep and--but no, his imagination couldn’t
conceive of any one running a mile race and negotiating inclined
corners without waking up! It was a strange and maddening mystery,
and the more he puzzled over it the stranger it seemed and the more
exasperated he became.

Stearns called after lunch and listened to an account of the
developments with perfunctory interest. He had given up hope of having
Allan enter the meet, and had decided that it didn’t much matter. For
it was evident that Allan was worried and nervous, and the chances
that he would give a good account of himself, if he ran, were slim.
Stearns was sympathetic, but Allan could see that he, like Pete and
Tommy, wasn’t inclined to let the matter trouble him overmuch.

After the track captain had left, Allan fell into still deeper
despondency and mooned about his room--which was the last thing he
should have done--until four o’clock, when a half-hour of jogging on
the track took him out. No reply from Aunt Mary had reached him by
dinner time, and although he stayed awake until eleven, in violation of
training orders, listening eagerly for the opening of the gate which
should announce the advent of the messenger, he was at last forced to
go to sleep without the message. You may be certain his sleep did him
little good. He dreamed all night, or so it seemed, and morning found
him tired and haggard. His first look was toward the door-sill, but no
buff envelope rewarded it.

“That settles it,” he muttered, bitterly; “I’m not going to hope any
longer.”

Having reached this decision, he threw back his shoulders and walked
to breakfast whistling a tune. To be sure, the tune wasn’t always
tuneful, and sometimes it died out entirely, but it was a brave
effort. Breakfast at the training table was an uncomfortable meal for
him. The others were in the best of spirits, and there was present a
half-suppressed excitement that showed itself on the countenances and
in the bearing of the fellows.

None there save Stearns and Pete knew of Allan’s trouble, and they
gave no sign. Pete even seemed to Allan to be indecently happy, and
his attempts at conversation met with scant encouragement. Half-way
through the meal Rindgely’s absence was discovered, and Kernahan was
despatched to hunt him up. He had not returned when Allan left the
house. Every one was cautioned to spend the forenoon out-of-doors and
report promptly at eleven-thirty for lunch.

The town soon took on a gala appearance. The sidewalks were thronged by
ten o’clock, and none seemed to have anything to do save discuss the
outcome of the afternoon’s performances. Erskine banners hung from the
shop windows and fluttered over front doors. Pete wanted Allan to go
out to the field with him and see the Erskine-Robinson freshman game,
but Allan had no heart for it, and refused to leave his room. He had no
recitations, for the professors had very generally given cuts. He wrote
a letter to his mother--a very dismal production it was, too--and then
sat at the window with Two Spot in his lap and watched the crowds pass
on their way to the game.

The college band, followed by a mob of singing, cheering freshmen,
went by in a cloud of dust, and presently a barge containing the home
nine passed, and Allan had a glimpse of Hal’s gray-clad shoulders.
The Robinson youngsters had already gone out. The steady stream of
townfolk and students became broken; groups of three and four passed at
intervals; now and then a couple of students, laughing and chatting,
or a solitary mortal hurried by the house. Then, quite suddenly, as it
seemed, all traffic ceased, and Poplar Street resumed its wonted quiet.

Half an hour later Allan’s eyes, roaming from the magazine which he was
striving to read, sighted a faded blue coat across the little park, and
his heart leaped into his throat. A messenger boy, whistling a blithe
tune, toiled slowly along, as though his shoulders bore the weight of
a great sorrow. Once, when almost at the corner, he stopped, leaned
against the fence and seemed on the point of going to sleep. Then he
roused himself and came on. Allan restrained an impulse to dart out
into the road and waited on the porch, with his heart beating like a
trip-hammer. The boy reached the corner, glanced with mild interest at
Allan--and went on up Main Street.

After the first moment of blank and sickening dismay, Allan went to
the end of the porch and looked after him. Perhaps, after all, he was
mistaken, and would discover the fact and turn back. But eventually the
lad sauntered across the street and disappeared around the corner of
McLean. Allan went back to his chair, his heart like lead and a lump in
his throat that wouldn’t be swallowed.

       *       *       *       *       *

Out at Erskine Field great things were happening. The purple-lettered
youngsters were more than holding their own against the far-heralded
team of Robinson. It was the sixth inning, and the score stood 9 to
5 in Erskine’s favor. Hal had played a magnificent game at second
and already had a double-play to his credit, and had, besides,
succeeded beyond all of his team-mates at hitting the redoubtable
brown-stockinged pitcher. Side by side on the warm turf back of
third-base, Tommy and Pete were sitting cross-legged, having passed the
ropes by virtue of Tommy’s ever-present note-book, with its staring
inscription, “Erskine Purple,” on the cover. The last man of the
Erskine side went out, the teams changed places, the seventh inning
began with Robinson’s tail-enders coming to the plate, and Pete resumed
his narrative, which had been interrupted by Hal’s hard drive to
left-field.

“He didn’t have any idea what I had come for,” Pete said, “and was
going to be very nice and polite; he can be when he likes, you know.
But I wasn’t there to pass compliments or swap stories, so I got right
down out of the saddle and talked business. ‘Rindgely, I know that you
ran in the St. Thomas Club meet in Brooklyn the night after Christmas,
under the name of A. Ware, and won fifteen dollars,’ I said, ‘and
you’ve got to come out in the open and say so.’ Of course, it was a
rank bluff; I was pretty certain about it after I’d talked with you,
but I didn’t know absolutely, and couldn’t prove anything. If he had
kept his nerve and told me to go to thunder, it would have been all off
on the spot, and I’d had to crawl off with my tail between my legs.
But it took him so sudden that he just gasped and got pale around the
gills. Then I knew I had him roped. So I just waded in and gave it
to him hot and heavy. Told him he was a horse-thief and an all-round
galoot; that he ought to be ashamed of himself, and a lot more. When I
got through he was a pretty sick steer. I had him hog-tied and branded.
Then he began to play fair.--Ginger! look at that hit! Good work!
That’s two out, ain’t it? Only one? Well, it ought to be two.”

“And then what?” asked Tommy, making strange marks in the score-book on
his knee.

“Well, I got kind of sorry for the poor old jack-rabbit. He told me
all about it, and swore up and down he hadn’t meant any harm; that
he wanted to try what he could do against some good men at the mile,
and hadn’t cared a hang about the money. ‘But what did you use Ware’s
name for?’ says I. ‘Wasn’t your own bad enough?’ ‘Because,’ says he,
‘I didn’t want my folks to know about it; they live there in Brooklyn,
and might have seen my name in the paper next day. I didn’t think about
making myself ineligible,’ says he, ‘and I didn’t think I was doing
Ware any harm.’ Well, that may be a lie, but he was sure in the dumps,
and so I agreed to make things easy for him. ‘You write it all out
in black and white and sign your name to it,’ says I, ‘and if I can
I’ll keep dark about it. If Allan gets a message from his aunt, all
right; if he doesn’t, I show your document to Nast. I’ll wait till the
two-mile is called.’ Bully for you, Hal! That’s three, ain’t it? Sure!
Hit it out, Seven!”

“You see,” he went on, after the nines had changed places and the
Erskine captain had seized his bat, “you see, I didn’t want to be any
harder on Rindgely than I had to. He said if the faculty got hold of
it they’d be sure to either bounce him bodily or hold up his diploma.
Well, I guess they would, all right, eh?”

“Sure to,” answered Tommy, promptly, as he marked the first man out at
first, scored an assist to the credit of the opposing pitcher and a
put-out to that of the Brown’s first-baseman.

“So that’s the way we fixed it up. And I hope Allan gets word from
auntie, for I’m blessed if I want Rindgely to get kicked out without
graduating. It would be hard luck for a chap to do four years at hard
labor here and then slip up just when he was going to grab the prize,
wouldn’t it?”

“Hardest kind of luck,” said Tommy. “Hope you don’t have to show the
confession.”

Erskine went out in one, two, three order and the eighth inning
commenced. The band was doing gallant work and Pete found conversation
beyond his powers until the last strains of a lively two-step had
died away. By that time the Brown’s second man had been retired, and
Robinson’s hopes were dwindling fast.

“Is he going to run this afternoon?” asked Tommy.

Pete shook his head.

“No; you see, I couldn’t let him do that; it would be against the law;
if Allan couldn’t run he couldn’t, and that’s certain.”

“No, he hasn’t any right to,” said Tommy, thoughtfully. “He’s plainly
ineligible because he ran for money; and then, there would be other
reasons.”

“Well, that’s the way I figured it out,” said Pete, with a note of
relief in his voice. He was glad to have his decision supported by
some one who knew more about such things. “But he saw himself that it
was all up with him as a runner. He said he’d be sick to-day, and,
as he wasn’t at breakfast, I guess he is. I’ll bet Dr. Prentiss will
have a hard time finding out what’s wrong with him.” And Pete chuckled
wickedly.

“All out,” said Tommy. “Say, Hal! Oh, _Hal_! Give us a home run, Hal!
Get out! Of course you can. We want some more runs.”

“I guess we don’t stand much show of winning this afternoon,” went
on Pete. “With Rindgely out of it and Allan all balled up, I can see
Robinson getting a few points.”

“They’ll win first in the mile, all right,” answered Tommy. “Hooker’s
not in the same class with Rindgely this spring, and Harris isn’t a bit
better; though maybe he’ll manage to get placed. As for Allan, he never
has had any too good a chance at the two miles, and now, after all this
rumpus, it’s a fair bet he’ll be out of it entirely. It’s a mean shame
the way things have gone, and when you think that it’s all Rindgely’s
fault, expulsion doesn’t seem a bit too bad for him.”

“Maybe,” said Pete, doubtfully, “but I don’t want to be the feller to
get him bounced; that’s all. If Allan’s confounded old relative doesn’t
come to time I’ll--well, I guess I’ll give Rindgely’s statement to you
and let you attend to things.”

“You’ve got another guess, Pete,” said Tommy. “_I_ don’t want anything
to do with it. Besides, you worked the racket and ought to see it out.”

Pete sighed dolefully.

“I suppose I’ll have to,” he murmured.

Again the inning closed without a tally, and Robinson came in for her
last turn at bat. Her players looked very determined, and it seemed
not impossible that they would go in and make up the four runs that
threatened to defeat them. And the band played again. Pete and Tommy
were driven from their places by the crowd, which had left the stands
and were invading the field, and they allowed themselves to be pushed
forward to the foul-line.

“I suppose Allan thinks I’m a brute,” said Pete, dismally. “I didn’t go
near him last night. But I just couldn’t stand seeing him so miserable,
and not blurting out everything I knew. So I fought shy. I just hope it
ends all right.”

Whether that ended all right another chapter will have to tell, but
there was no doubt about the game ending that way. Robinson went down
before superb pitching, and with the score still 9 to 5, the spectators
flooded over the field and their cheers drowned even the band.



CHAPTER XXIV

“ON YOUR MARK!”


Once more the crowds were moving out to Erskine Field. It was after one
o’clock, and experienced persons knew that there were no reserved seats
and that “first come first served” was the rule. The midday sun shone
warmly and only enthusiasts looked forward with pleasure to sitting on
the unshaded stands for the next three hours. Robinson’s athletes went
out William Street in two barges, their paraphernalia following them in
a tumble-down express wagon drawn by a limping sorrel nag, whose bridle
was draped with brown and white.

The contents of the barges were viewed with polite interest, but the
wagon awakened amusement on the part of sober citizens and ribald mirth
on the part of undignified undergraduates. Nearing the field, the eyes
caught sight above the tree-tops of the great purple banner, with its
snowy E, which fluttered lazily at the top of the tall staff. At half
after one the stands were thickly sprinkled with spectators, and the
flutter of programs--used in lieu of fans--was visible across the
field; with a little imagination one could have likened the ladies, in
their bright and many-colored gowns and hats, to flowers, and thought
the fluttering programs lighter petals stirred in a breeze.

On the track, runners and sprinters were jogging to and fro and on the
edge of the field the officials were gathering, their purple and gold
badges glowing bravely in the sunlight. Two big tents had been erected
at the end of the oval nearest the gates, and about them white-garbed
contestants lay or sat on outspread dressing-gowns, while rubbers and
trainers came and went among them like anxious hens among their broods.

In front of the Erskine dressing-tent sat Allan. He had been up and
down the straightaway three times and was still breathing heavily as
a result. He had no hope now of being allowed to enter his event, and
even if he were, he reflected, he would stand small show of winning,
since it was evident that he was in poor shape. Physically he seemed
fit enough, but he was aware all the time of a feeling of nervousness
and depression that was ill-calculated to help him in a grueling two
miles.

Word had been left at the telegraph office that if a message came for
him it was to be rushed out to the field as fast as possible, and to
this end a horse and buggy from Pike’s stable was already standing
in front of the door. Stearns was taking no chances, for now that
Rindgely had been declared too ill to enter the contest, another five
points were almost certain to go to Robinson, and if it was possible
for Allan to enter the two miles and make a fight for a place, he must
do it. Stearns was worried and down-hearted.

Even the most optimistic calculators could not figure a victory for
Erskine with first places in both the long-distance events conceded to
her rival. As a last resort, Stearns had secured the postponement of
the two miles to the tag end of the afternoon. He had thrown himself on
the generosity of the Robinson captain and explained the predicament.

And the Robinson captain, who was Brooks, their crack hurdler, had
consented, a piece of sportsmanship which met with the condemnation of
his trainer and many of the team. But the expedient promised to work
little good, for it was plain that if Allan’s telegram to his aunt
had reached her she would have replied not later than yesterday. But
Stearns was in desperate straits and no chance was too slight for him
to seize upon.

At a few minutes after two o’clock the pistol was heard from the far
end of the straightaway, and Erskine took the first honors of the meet,
Stearns securing first place and Leroy second in the 100 yards dash,
and earning 8 points for the Purple.

To chronicle the afternoon’s proceedings in detail would be a tiresome
as well as an unnecessary task. In the 120 yards hurdles, which
followed the first dash, and in the 220 yards hurdles, which came later
on the program, Robinson had things pretty much her own way, Brooks,
her captain, taking first place handily in each. Robinson won 12 points
in these events, and Erskine 6. Stearns again showed his mettle in
the 220 dash, and Robinson got second and third; 5 points for Erskine
and 4 points for her adversary. In the quarter-mile the best the home
team could do was to secure third place, and that by the narrowest
margin, though the time, 50⅖ seconds, was absurdly slow. When the mile
was called, the 220 yards hurdles had not been run and the score on
Professor Nast’s sheet stood: Erskine, 18; Robinson, 18. So far things
were happening in a way that brought joy to the professor’s heart, but
the field events were still undecided and the long distances were yet
to run.

The mile event worked the audience up to the highest stage of
excitement, and for a long while, in fact until the three-quarters had
been passed, the race was most anybody’s. But after that Coolbroth of
Robinson sprang into the lead, closely pursued by Harris of Erskine,
and Patterson of Robinson. The finish was made in that order, Harris
and Patterson fighting for second honors all the way around the last
lap, and Harris finally winning his 3 points by a bare two yards. The
hammer throw was decided about this time, and Robinson was credited
with first and third, Monroe winning second for Erskine. The score
now was not so satisfactory to the supporters of the Purple, since it
stood: Erskine, 24; Robinson, 30.

The Purple exceeded expectations in the broad jump, allowing her rival
but 1 point. In the high jump, however, she didn’t show up so well;
Robinson took first and third places. After the 220 yards hurdles,
which, as has been already told, were won by Brooks, Erskine securing
but 1 point, the score was heavily in the Brown’s favor, 45 to 36. By
this time the afternoon had worn well toward sunset. Only the shot-put,
the 880 yards run, the pole-vault and the two miles remained. Of these,
Robinson was conceded 8 points in the pole-vault, 5 in the shot-put
and 1 in the 880. It was difficult to see how Erskine could pull out
of the meet ahead. In fact, it was evident that she couldn’t. Even
Tommy, normally optimistic, had lost hope. While the competitors in the
hurdles were trotting off to the tents he hurried across to where the
shot-putters were at work. As he approached, six of the nine candidates
were donning their dressing-gowns, and he knew that the trials were
over and that the six were out of it. Then he pursed his lips and
whistled softly. Of the three competitors remaining for the finals, two
were Erskine men, Monroe and--yes, the other was Pete! The Robinson
candidate was Tiernan, who had won first in the hammer throw. Pete
hailed Tommy and drew him aside.

“Have you got that paper safe?” he asked.

“Yes.” Tommy reassured him by allowing a corner of it to peep forth
from his inside pocket. Pete nodded and glanced toward the tent.

“For goodness’ sake, don’t lose it,” he said. “And keep a watch for the
two miles. We’re not through here yet and I don’t want the scheme to
slip up.”

“All right. And say, Pete!”

“Yep?”

“Do your best, old man, won’t you?” begged Tommy. “They’re ’way ahead
of us, but if we get first and third out of this we may have a fighting
chance.”

“Well, we’ll see,” said Pete, untroubled. “I’ve got Monroe dead to
rights, anyway.”

“Yes, but beat Tiernan, Pete; we’ve _got_ to win!”

“Well, just as you say, Tommy,” answered Pete, smiling at the other’s
look of tragedy. “For your sake, Tommy, I’ll do my best.”

“Burley!” called the field judge, and Pete drew his sweater off and
stepped into the ring. There were three competitors remaining, and each
was allowed three tries, the best of which was to count. Pete picked up
the shot, took up his position at the rear of the circle, placed the
weight in his broad right hand, threw his left arm out to balance him,
raised his left foot from the ground, and then, with a motion that was
neither hop nor glide, reached the front of the circle, brought his
right shoulder smartly round and sent the weight flying. The measurer
started to lay the end of the tape where the shot had struck, but
stopped at judge’s announcement.

“Foul,” said the latter. “You overstepped, Burley.”

Pete nodded carelessly and donned his sweater again. Kernahan, who had
approached during the try, beckoned to him, and they stepped aside.

“That won’t do, Pete,” said Billy. “Keep that elbow in to the body; you
had it spread way out that time. And mind the stop. Take all the time
you want, you know; there’s no hurry.”

Pete grinned.

“_That’s_ all right,” he said. “Don’t worry about me, Billy. I’ll get
it away all right next time.”

Monroe followed with a put of 43 feet 6 inches, and Tiernan bettered
this by half a foot. Again Pete peeled his sweater off and took up the
shot. As he stood there, balancing himself, he looked, with a careless,
good-natured smile on his face, like a giant who, for his amusement,
had entered the sports of pigmies. He was taller than Tiernan and
bigger everywhere than Monroe; the judge came barely to his shoulder.
The muscles of his arms were like great ropes under the clear skin.
Once more he crossed the ring, and once more the leaden ball was hurled
forward. From the stands came a chorus of applause. Tommy’s face
lighted, and even Billy gave an appreciative nod. The Robinson trainer,
standing across the circle, shot a quick glance at Pete as he stepped
out and took his sweater from the turf.

“Forty-four feet seven inches,” announced the judge, as he held the
tape to the edge of the stop-board. Tommy clapped Pete on the shoulder
and whispered his delight. Pete smiled good-humoredly.

“All out for the 880!” cried a voice across the oval. “Hurry up,
half-milers!”

Monroe made his second try, and the tape said 44 feet 1 inch. He turned
away in disgust. Pete smiled. Robinson’s champion took plenty of time
at his next try, and made a splendid put. He had exceeded Pete’s best
attempt and there was a breathless silence around the ring as the tape
was adjusted. Then,

“Forty-five feet two inches,” said the judge.

The Robinson trainer, who had looked anxious a moment since, smiled
demurely. Over on the starting line the half-milers were being placed.
Along the length of the stands the spectators were leaving their seats
here and there. Pete stepped into the seven-foot circle for his last
try. Tommy, a few feet away, watched him eagerly. With the shot in
his right hand, Pete looked across and dropped his left eyelid in a
portentous wink.

Tommy’s heart sank. If Pete would only stop his fooling for a minute,
he thought, and really put his heart into it! And while the thought
came to him, Pete was hopping across the ring and poising himself for
an instant at the front edge. Then his body swung around, his right
arm shot out like a steel spring, and the shot went arching over the
ground. Tommy’s heart leaped into his throat and then thumped wildly.
From the stands whose occupants were near enough to be able to follow
the shot-putting came a great roar of applause. Tommy, with his eyes
fixed intently on the tape, felt a hand seize his arm and pull him
around.

“Come along,” said Pete, “and find Nast.”

“Wait! Wait till we find out----”

“Find out nothing,” said Pete. “Monroe can’t touch that put!”

But even as Tommy hung back the judge looked up from the tape with a
smile on his face.

“Forty-five feet eleven inches!” he said.

“_Oh, bully!_” cried Tommy. “But Tiernan----”

“Huh!” said Pete.

From across the field came the sharp report of the pistol sending
the half-milers away, and as Pete and Tommy hurried to the tents the
white-clad runners swept by in a bunch on the first of their two laps,
Poor and Tolmann side by side in the lead, and Thatcher, Erskine’s main
hope, running warily well toward the rear. Around the turns they went
and entered the back-stretch, hundreds of voices urging them on.

Allan, a depressed-looking figure in his dragging drab gown, met them
as they crossed the track. There was no use asking him whether he had
received the longed-for message; one glance at his face was sufficient.
Pete took him aside out of the throng.

“You’re going to run, Allan,” he said, in low tones, “so get warmed up.
Now, don’t ask any questions, for I can’t answer ’em yet. Just do as I
tell you. It’s all right; you’re going to run, and if you don’t win out
I’ll--I’ll lick you!”

The expression of hope which had at first leaped into Allan’s face died
out again, but a look of curiosity remained.

“What--what do you mean?” he asked, wonderingly.

“Just what I say. You’re going to run, and if you want to do anything
in the race get your muscles stretched. Let go of me; I’m in a hurry.
Have you seen Nast?”

“I’ve found him,” said Tommy, hurrying up. “He’s gone over to the
finish. Here come the half-milers. Track, there!”

Once more the runners sped past, but now they were no longer bunched
together. In front, leading by half a dozen yards, ran Poor. Next came
Thatcher, then a Robinson man, then Tolmann. Behind Tolmann the rest of
the field pegged away, already out of the reckoning, barring accidents.

“All out for the two miles!” bawled the clerk.

Pete shot a glance at Tommy and the latter nodded. Together they turned
away.

“Get a move on, Allan,” cried Pete. “Don’t stand there like a wooden
Indian!” Allan, his face expressing wonder and returning hope, slipped
quickly out of his dressing-gown.

“I guess you’re joking, Pete,” he said, “but----”

“Is Mr. Ware here?” piped a shrill voice, and the blue-coated messenger
boy pushed his way through the throng about the tents. “Telegram for
Mr. Ware!”

With a cry Allan turned and seized the envelope from the boy’s hands
and tore it open. Under the gaze of dozens of curious eyes, he read the
words on the still damp sheet of yellow paper and turned with exultant
eyes to Pete and Tommy, who had paused at the edge of the track.

“It’s all right!” he cried. “Where’s Nast?” And he sped off around the
track. Tommy and Pete followed, and the latter, as he went, took a
folded sheet of foolscap from his pocket and tore it into tiny pieces.

“Hurry up for the two miles!” bawled the clerk again.

When Allan reached the finish he was unable for a moment to reach
Professor Nast, for the half-milers were tearing down the home-stretch
and the crowd was thick about the tape. Shouts of triumph, roars of
applause, arose. Down the cinders, their straining forms throwing long
wavering shadows before them, came Thatcher, Tolmann, and a Robinson
runner, the first two almost side by side, the third man four or five
yards behind. Then, in an instant more, the red string fluttered away
and Thatcher raced over the line, a winner by a bare yard over his
team-mate.

“Eight more points!” cried Tommy, gleefully. “Who knows how the
shot-put came out?”

“We got first and third,” answered Hal, turning. “Hello, Tommy, is
that you?” But Tommy was too busy casting up figures on his score to do
more than nod.

“Was Pete first?” he asked in a moment.

“First! Gosh, he was first by almost a foot. Tiernan fouled on his last
try, and----”

“How about Monroe?” asked Pete, worming his way forward.

“Hello, you old brick!” cried Hal, seizing his hand. “Why, Monroe did
something like forty-four feet two, I think.”

“_That’s_ all right,” said Pete.

By this time Allan had found Professor Nast, and the latter was reading
the message. It ran:

    “Allan was at my house New York evening December twenty-sixth
    except between eight and eight-thirty o’clock when he went
    errand for me Thirty-ninth street. Could not have gone to
    Brooklyn and did not if he says so.      MARY G. MERRILL.”

The professor handed back the sheet of paper and put his hand on
Allan’s shoulder.

“Good,” he said, with satisfaction. “Go in and win, Ware.”

He pushed him toward where the long-distance men were assembling at
the start. Allan waited for no more, but darted down the track. As he
reached the group, his name was called and he answered as he slipped
into the second line of runners. The next instant Stearns was pulling
him aside, his eyes wide with eagerness.

“Is it all right?” he whispered. “Did you get word?”

“Yes, a minute ago. I’ve seen Nast.”

Stearns gave him a hug that left him almost breathless.

“Thank goodness!” he said, softly. “The meet’s tied at 54 points. The
whole thing depends on this, and we’ve got to have first place, Ware,
we’ve _got_ to! Watch that man Burns over there; the tall chap with the
tow hair; he’s dangerous. And-- Say, Billy,” turning to the trainer, who
had slipped across the track to them, “Ware’s in it, after all. I was
telling him to----”

“Get the lead at the start, or as soon as you can, and just simply hold
it, if you have to break a leg,” said Billy, quietly. “How are you
feeling?”

“I--I don’t know,” answered Allan. “But--I guess I’m all right.”

“Good. See that light-haired Robinson man over there at the pole? Well,
play for him, Ware. And don’t let him head you for a minute. All right
now.”

“All ready, there?” called the starter, as he dropped back and glanced
at the pistol in his hand. There was an instant of silence. Then,

“_On your mark!_” he cried.



CHAPTER XXV

THE LAST EVENT


Eleven men had entered for the two-mile run, six from Robinson and
five from Erskine. Of these, we know Ware, Conroy, and Hooker, wearers
of the purple ribbon, and have just heard of Burns, the Brown’s crack
long-distance runner. In view of the result of the race, it may be well
to mention also Tammen, another Robinson entry, who, until to-day,
had been viewed as a second-rater. For the others, they were big and
little, fair and dark, and all with their spurs still to win. Taken
together, they were a clean-built, healthy lot as they stood at the
starting line, their white running pants and white shirts--the latter
crossed by the purple ribbon or the brown and white--just tinged with
saffron by the long rays of the setting sun. The starter glanced again
at his pistol.

“_Set!_” he cried.

And as the runners put their weights forward and poised arms front
and back, the pistol spoke and the spiked shoes bit at the cinders
as the men strove for the inside of the track. The timers looked
up from their watches and the group about the line broke up. Ten
minutes--possibly a little less, perhaps a little more--must elapse
before the result could be known and Erskine or Robinson could claim
the meet. For by a freak of fortune each college had now 54 points
to its credit, and final victory would go to that one whose colors
first brushed the string at the finish. Whether the spring’s labor and
planning was to be crowned with victory or draped with defeat depended
on who won first place and its 5 points.

A knowledge of this accompanied Allan all through the race, now
spurring him on to determined effort, now casting him into the depths
of hopelessness and despair. The meet depended upon him, and he wished
with all his heart that it didn’t. For from the first instant he
knew that he was not in a condition to do his best. He was aware of
high-strung nerves and a general feeling of worry. For the latter there
was no longer any reason; but reason or no reason, it remained. The
last two days and their accompanying nights of unrefreshing slumber had
had their effect. For the rest, his muscles were strong and supple, his
lungs eager for their task.

Half-way around the first lap he had secured the lead, none disputing
it with him, and had settled down into that apparently slow pace
which makes the two-mile event look so unexciting at the first. He
knew himself capable of making that pace for the entire distance and
finishing comparatively fresh, but he also knew that Burns, who was
coming serenely along half-way back down the length of the string,
could stand it quite as well, and could probably sprint in the last
quarter mile and beat him out. He decided then to increase the pace, in
the hope of wearing the Robinson crack out, yet knowing that to make
too fast a race would finish him up just as surely as it would Burns.

When the home-stretch was reached in that first lap Allan set his legs
to faster work, and as he crossed the line and completed the eighth of
his distance, supporters of the Purple shook their heads. It wouldn’t
do, they murmured; he would run himself out in the first mile and a
half. Even Kernahan was a little worried, though nothing of the sort
showed on his face. At the end of the second lap Allan had not abated
his speed a jot.

As he passed the groups around the finish and the tents, his eyes were
set straight ahead, his long strides clung closely to the inner rim of
the track and he was holding himself well erect. Into his cheeks the
blood was creeping and dyeing them crimson, save for two disks that
showed whiter and whiter as the contest wore on. Behind Allan ran an
unknown Robinson man, then Hooker, then Tammen, then Burns. Conroy was
dangerously far back, and, with others in his neighborhood, was showing
that he didn’t approve of the pace.

Of all distances, the two miles is the hardest to run. Speed as a
factor in success is largely eliminated, and endurance is the supreme
test. The race requires a large courage on the part of the runner,
the courage to endure. It has been said, and truly, that it takes a
fast man for the sprints and a brave man for the distances. At the
completion of the fourth lap it is safe to say that five of the six
runners were as completely and hopelessly beaten as though the race was
finishing. Their legs dragged, their heads were falling back, and their
lungs were aching. But it had been the fastest half of a two-mile race
ever run on Erskine Field.

Of those in the van of the long line of runners, which now stretched
half-way around the oval, only three maintained their form at the
beginning of the fifth lap; those were Allan, Burns, and Tammen.
Save that the unknown Robinson man who had held second place at the
beginning had dropped back to fifth position, the order was unchanged.
Between Allan and his team-mate, Hooker, there was three yards of
cinders; between Hooker and Tammen, five yards more. Back of Tammen,
only a stride separating them, ran Burns, untroubled, and holding his
own with great, long, easy strides.

The turf was strangely green, for the low slanting beams of the sun
bathed it in their golden glow. The stands were almost deserted, for
the occupants were clustered all along the home-stretch, their eager
gaze following the white-clad figures on the darkening track.

If Allan’s form was still nearly what it had been at the beginning of
the race, it must not be supposed that the mile had not told. Usually
the two-miler finishes the half-distance in comparatively unwearied
condition and faces his troubles from then on, but Allan had set a
fast pace, and it had told on him, in spite of appearances. He felt
as he usually did at the end of the mile and a half, and he wondered
troubledly if he had not overdone it.

At the turns, now and then, a backward glance revealed the confident
face of Burns, while Hooker’s tortured breathing told its own tale.
Either he must last out or Robinson would take second and third
positions, as well as first. But he had grown fearful of his ability to
do so, and on the sixth lap he eased up on his pace. And half-way down
the back-stretch he wondered if he had not, after all, made a mistake
in doing so. For Burns, refusing to slow down, had bested Tammen and
Hooker and was apparently striving to pass Allan. But at the beginning
of the next lap, the seventh, Allan saw that the supreme struggle was
not yet, for Burns had slipped in behind him, apparently content to let
him set the pace for a while longer.

Then Hooker began to drop back. He had done his best, but his best was
not good enough. Tammen passed him and ranged himself behind Burns, and
these three, when the last lap began, were leading the field by sixty
yards or more. As they swept by the finish the shouts of the spectators
made a deafening roar in their ears. Allan had a dim vision of Pete
leaping alongside the track at the first turn, near the tents, waving
his long arms against the sunset glow and shouting unintelligible
things.

Once around that first turn, Allan shot a glance over his shoulder and
his heart leaped. Unless he was very much mistaken, Burns had lost
ground. That was Allan’s last turn of the head. From that time on it
was merely a question of hugging the rim of the track and enduring the
ache of limb and chest, doubting all the while his ability to hold his
place and all the while determining to do it.

He was right about Burns. That redoubtable runner had gone to pieces
all in the minute. At the second turn he was plainly no longer
dangerous to Allan, and back at the finish the throng roared its relief
and delight. And while it was still shouting, Tammen shot around Burns
and began to lessen the dozen or so yards between him and Allan. And
Allan, hearing vaguely a new note in the voices across the field and
the rapid pat of steps on the track behind him, guessed what was up and
felt his heart sink. Here was a man who could sprint, something Allan
had never been able to do satisfactorily, and here, in all probability,
was the winner of the race! Those gazing obliquely across the oval saw
Allan falter for a stride just at the farther turn, and their hearts
sank.

But after that first instant of what was something like terror, Allan
pulled himself together. In his own words, it was up to him to win, and
win he would, if only his breath would last that long. Tammen, three
yards behind him, made no attempt to pass him at the turns, but kept
himself in hand for the home-stretch. And Allan, grim and determined,
weakening with every long gasp for breath, knew that when the track
stretched straight before him to the distant white line the battle
would really begin, and that in the length of that distance the meeting
would be won or lost.

And then he finished the turn and the rim ran straight beside him.
And then the _pat_, _pat_ behind him crept nearer and nearer.
Presently, when the stretch was half run, Allan was conscious, without
looking--for he dared not take his eyes from the track ahead--of
something grayish-white at his elbow.

The time had come to do the impossible, to spur his weary limbs into
renewed effort, to force his panting lungs to greater exertion, and
to keep that grayish blur where it was. To have thrown himself--nay,
to have simply let himself drop onto the grass beside the track and
troubled no more about anything, would have been at that moment the
greatest pleasure of a lifetime. But along the track voices were
roaring and shrieking, and, although the words were sounds only, the
meaning of them he knew. They wanted him to win, and the desire found a
new echo in his heart. He wanted to win, and--why, yes, he _would_ win!

And now the white line was in plain sight, although he didn’t see
it, and the roar of voices was rising and growing. For a moment it
seemed to him that he was motionless, and that the dark ranks on
either side were moving slowly past him. And at the moment a glimpse
of whitish-gray at his right dispelled the illusion, and with a sob
for breath, he forced himself on. Once in that remaining twenty yards
he staggered, and the watchers held their breaths for fear, but he
recovered himself and plunged, reeling, on--and on--and on. Was there
no end to it? he wondered, in agony. The haunting blur beside him was
gone now, and----

“Hold up! Easy, man, easy!” cried a voice that he seemed to know, and
then dozens of arms were clutching him, and he let himself go. And as
his eyes closed a whitish form passed before them and dropped from
sight. Tammen, plucky to the last, was being lifted from the track,
where, defeated and exhausted, he had fallen. And Allan, with closed
eyes and tortured lungs, felt himself being carried to the tent, while
in his ears was a roar of sound that told of victory and a race well
run.



CHAPTER XXVI

“VALE”


Allan and Pete sat on the steps of McLean Hall. The yard was a
fairyland of glowing lanterns and moving colors. Near at hand, in a
bough-screened stand, the band was playing. Above their heads the old
elms of Erskine rustled their leaves and whispered among themselves,
comparing, perhaps, this class-day with the many that had gone before.
On the gravel paths matrons and maids, in light gowns, accompanied by
robed seniors or dress-suited undergraduates, passed and repassed. The
scene was as fair a one as ever Allan had witnessed, while even Pete
was forced to grudging admiration.

“You’ll come out in August, then,” Pete was saying.

“Yes,” answered Allan, “and don’t you be afraid I won’t turn up, for
this is the biggest excursion I ever took. So far I’ve never been
farther away from home than this, and Colorado seems like the other
side of the world.”

Pete smiled in the half-light.

“Hope you’ll like us, Allan. We may seem rather a rough and unpolished
lot at first, but we’re not so bad when you cotton to our way of life.”

“Of course I’ll like you,” said Allan, vehemently. “If it wasn’t for
you and your father, Pete, where’d we be now?”

“Where you are, I guess,” laughed Pete. “Let me tell you something,
Allan. When you get out to Blackwater, don’t you go to speaking pieces
at the old man, and thanking him; that’s a line of talk he can’t stand.”

“But I’ve got to thank him,” objected Allan.

“No you haven’t; your mother’s done that already in her letter.
Besides, there isn’t anything to make a fuss about. I gave the tip to
dad, and he bought up enough stock in the Gold Beetle to get control.
Then he called a meeting, voted to go ahead with the mine, and--did it.
And he found a whole bunch of ore, just as I knew he would. He don’t
need any thanks. Why, ginger, the old mine will make him richer than it
will you folks!”

“Well, then, I’ll thank you again,” said Allan.

“If you do, I’ll punch you! Look, there’s Rindgely with his folks.
Nice-looking woman, that mother of his. Say, maybe I ain’t glad I
didn’t have to show that confession of him!”

“So’m I,” said Allan, heartily. “It would have been a shame to prevent
him from graduating. After all, I don’t suppose he realized what he was
doing.”

“Well, I don’t know about that,” answered Pete. “Anyhow, I’m glad we
caught on to him in time. And it was all Two Spot’s doing, too; did you
ever think of that? If she hadn’t rolled that ball of paper to my feet
I’d never have seen that chap’s name and asked about him. It was that
that put me onto the game. I remembered Tommy’s telling about Rindgely
and the St. Thomas Club. By the way, it’s time those fellows showed up.”

“Tommy and Hal? They’re always late. Have you heard Tommy’s voice? He
cheered so hard at the ball game this afternoon that he can’t talk
above a whisper. Hal’s trying to induce him to sing with the glee club.”

“There’s Hooker and Long. What sort of a captain do you suppose Long
will make?”

“First rate, I should think. The fellows like him and he’s a
hard-working, earnest sort of a fellow.”

“Well, just as long as they didn’t light on Monroe,” said Pete. “That
man will be the death of me, he puts on so many airs. Next fall, when
I get back, I’m going to start right in and learn how to throw the
hammer, and keep at it until I can beat him at that, too.”

“You’ll be busy at football,” suggested Allan.

“Football? Oh--well, maybe; football isn’t a bad game, after all. But--
Here they are. O Tommy! Tommy Sweet!”

Tommy and Hal, attracted by Pete’s bellow, turned and joined them.

“Thought we’d never get here,” said Tommy, hoarsely. “Hal got mixed up
with an ice-cream freezer and ate six saucerfuls before I could drag
him away.”

“That’s so,” Hal confessed. “That’s the trouble with breaking training;
things taste so good and it’s so jolly nice to be able to eat all you
want to. I expect to be fine and sick to-night.”

“You have every right to,” said Allan. “When a little old freshman gets
taken onto the varsity and makes a home run in the ninth inning, just
when it’s needed, and lets in three men----”

“Oh, shut up! And come on up to the room and eat. We can hear the music
finely from the windows. I’ve got some nice cold ginger ale up there,
and Mr. and Mrs. Guild ought to be along about now. Come on.”

“Well, I never took much of a shine to ginger ale,” said Pete, drawing
his big form erect; “the fizzy stuff always goes up my nose. But I’ll
have some, for it sure is hot to-night.”

“We’ll drink Tommy’s health,” said Hal, as they moved across the turf
under the swaying lanterns, “and we’ll get him to sing us ‘A Health to
King Charles’ in his nice new voice.”

“Toast yourselves,” growled Tommy, hoarsely.

“We will!” cried Allan. “We’ll toast ourselves, and we’ll drink to
next year, when we’ll all be jolly sophomores--except you, Tommy dear,
who’ll be a disgustingly serious and dignified junior.”

Laughing, they crossed the yard, under the glow of the lanterns, and
passed out of sight into the shadows of Elm Street. Against the front
of College Hall appeared in sputtering purple flames the word


“VALE.”



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“This is no ordinary work. It is preeminently a work of the present
time and of the future as well.”--_Boston Traveler._

“Mrs. Seelye’s book is pleasing in its general effect, and reveals the
results of painstaking and conscientious study.”--_New York Tribune._

“A very just account is given of Columbus, his failings being
neither concealed nor magnified, but his real greatness being made
plain.”--_New York Examiner._

“The illustrations are particularly well chosen and neatly executed,
and they add to the general excellence of the volume.”--_New York
Times._

“A brief, popular, interesting, and yet critical volume, just such as
we should wish to place in the hands of a young reader. The authors of
this volume have done their best to keep it on a high plane of accuracy
and conscientious work without losing sight of their readers.”--_New
York Independent._


The Story of Washington.

By ELIZABETH EGGLESTON SEELYE. Edited by Dr. Edward Eggleston. With
over 100 Illustrations by Allegra Eggleston. Delights of History
Series. 12mo. Cloth, $1.75.

“One of the best accounts of the incidents of Washington’s life for
young people.”--_New York Observer._

“The Washington described is not that of the demigod or hero of the
first half of this century, but the man Washington, with his defects as
well as his virtues, his unattractive traits as well as his pleasing
ones.... There is greater freedom from errors than in more pretentious
lives.”--_Chicago Tribune._

“The illustrations are numerous, and actually illustrate, including
portraits and views, with an occasional map and minor pictures
suggestive of the habits and customs of the period. It is altogether an
attractive and useful book, and one that should find many readers among
American boys and girls.”--_Philadelphia Times._

“Will be read with interest by young and old. It is told with good
taste and accuracy, and if the first President loses some of his
mythical goodness in this story, the real greatness of his natural
character stands out distinctly, and his example will be all the
more helpful to the boys and girls of this generation.”--_New York
Churchman._


D. APPLETON AND COMPANY, NEW YORK.



BY HEZEKIAH BUTTERWORTH.


The Young McKinley.

Illustrated. 12mo. Ornamental Cloth, $1.50.

Mr. Butterworth portrays the future President at school, where, after
a bitter disappointment, the crusty old school-teacher, who has a good
heart beneath his severe exterior, says to him: “Never mind, you may be
President yet.” He traces President McKinley’s career through his army
days to the time when he was preparing for that great political career
which made the blow that struck him down at the height of his glory a
blow to the whole United States.


Brother Jonathan; or, The Alarm Post in the Cedars.

A Tale of Early Connecticut. Illustrated. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.


In the Days of Audubon.

A Tale of the “Protector of Birds.” Illustrated by B. West Clinedinst
and others. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.


In the Days of Jefferson; or, The Six Golden Horseshoes.

A Tale of Republican Simplicity. Illustrated by F. T. Merrill. $1.50.


The Story of Magellan.

A Tale of the Discovery of the Philippines. Illustrated by F. T.
Merrill and others. $1.50.


The Treasure Ship.

A Story of Sir William Phipps and the Inter-Charter Period in
Massachusetts. Illustrated by B. West Clinedinst and others. $1.50.


The Pilot of the Mayflower.

Illustrated by H. Winthrop Peirce and others. $1.50.


True to His Home.

A Tale of the Boyhood of Franklin. Illustrated by H. Winthrop Peirce.
$1.50.


The Wampum Belt; or, The Fairest Page of History.

A Tale of William Penn’s Treaty with the Indians. With 6 full-page
Illustrations. $1.50.


The Knight of Liberty.

A Tale of the Fortunes of Lafayette. With 6 full-page Illustrations.
$1.50.


The Patriot Schoolmaster.

A Tale of the Minutemen and the Sons of Liberty. With 6 full-page
Illustrations by H. Winthrop Peirce. $1.50.


In the Boyhood of Lincoln.

A Story of the Black Hawk War and the Tunker Schoolmaster. With 12
Illustrations and colored Frontispiece. $1.50.


The Boys of Greenway Court.

A Story of the Early Years of Washington. With 10 full-page
Illustrations. $1.50.


The Log School-House on the Columbia.

With 13 full-page Illustrations by J. Carter Beard, E. J. Austen, and
others. $1.50.


D. APPLETON AND COMPANY, NEW YORK.



YOUNG HEROES OF OUR NAVY.


_NEW VOLUME._

With the Flag in the Channel.

The Adventures of Captain Gustavus Conyngham. By JAMES BARNES.
Illustrated. 12mo. Cloth, $1.00.


OTHER VOLUMES IN THE SERIES.

Illustrated. 12mo. Each, $1.00.


Reuben James.

A Hero of the Forecastle. By CYRUS TOWNSEND BRADY, Author of “Paul
Jones.” Illustrated by George Gibbs and others.


The Hero of Manila.

Dewey on the Mississippi and the Pacific. By ROSSITER JOHNSON.
Illustrated by B. West Clinedinst and others.


The Hero of Erie (_Commodore Perry_).

By JAMES BARNES, Author of “Midshipman Farragut,” “Commodore
Bainbridge,” etc. With 10 full-page Illustrations.


Commodore Bainbridge.

From the Gunroom to the Quarter-deck. By JAMES BARNES. Illustrated by
George Gibbs and others.


Midshipman Farragut.

By JAMES BARNES. Illustrated by Carlton F. Chapman.


Decatur and Somers.

By MOLLY ELLIOT SEAWELL. With 6 full-page Illustrations by J. O.
Davidson and others.


Paul Jones.

By MOLLY ELLIOT SEAWELL. With 8 full-page Illustrations.


Midshipman Paulding.

A True Story of the War of 1812. By MOLLY ELLIOT SEAWELL. With 6
full-page Illustrations.


Little Jarvis.

The Story of the Heroic Midshipman of the Frigate Constellation. By
MOLLY ELLIOT SEAWELL. With 6 full-page Illustrations.


D. APPLETON AND COMPANY, NEW YORK.



A UNIQUE BOOK.

“_For children, parents, teachers, and all who are interested in the
psychology of childhood._”


The Book of Knight and Barbara.

By DAVID STARR JORDAN. Illustrated. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.

The curious and fascinating tales and pictures of this unique book are
introduced by Dr. Jordan with the following preface: “The only apology
the author can make in this case is that he never meant to do it. He
had told his own children many stories of many kinds, some original,
some imitative, some travesties of the work of real story-tellers.
Two students of the department of education in the Stanford
University--Mrs. Louise Maitland, of San Jose, and Miss Harriet Hawley,
of Boston--asked him to repeat these stories before other children.
Miss Hawley, as a stenographer, took them down for future reference,
and while the author was absent on the Bering Sea Commission of 1896
she wrote them out in full, thus forming the material of this book.
Copies of the stories were placed by Mrs. Maitland in the hands of
hundreds of children. These drew illustrative pictures, after their
fashion; and from the multitude offered, Mrs. Maitland chose those
which are here reproduced. The scenes in the stories were also
subjected to the criticisms of the children, and in many cases amended
to meet their suggestions. These pictures made by the children have
been found to interest deeply other children, a fact which gives them
a definite value as original documents in the study of the workings of
the child-mind. At the end of the volume are added a few true stories
of birds and of beasts, told to a different audience. With these are a
few drawings by university students, which are intended to assist the
imagination of child-readers.”


D. APPLETON AND COMPANY, NEW YORK.



ILLUSTRATED JUVENILE STORIES.


Fifty-two Stories for Girls.

Edited by ALFRED H. MILES. Illustrated. 12mo. Ornamental Cloth, $1.50.

A story for every week in the year. The very best present a girl
could have. A constant reminder of the giver. Fifty-two stories by
the best English writers, inculcating the love of honor, truth, and
loyalty. These are such stories as it will do little girls good to
read. They teach the love of home and many lovable qualities. Among the
contributors are Margaret Watson, Jennie Chapman, Lucy Hardy, Alfred H.
Miles, Lucie E. Jackson, and Thomas Archer.


Fifty-two Stories for Boys.

Edited by ALFRED H. MILES. Illustrated. 12mo. Ornamental Cloth, $1.50.

A story for every week in the year. The very best present a boy could
have. A constant reminder of the giver. Fifty-two stories by the best
English writers, inculcating the love of honor, manhood, truth, and
patriotism. These are stories which stir the imagination and stimulate
the reader to try to become a great man himself. Among the contributors
are Alfred H. Miles, Robert Overton, Lieut.-Col. A. J. Macpherson, G.
A. Henty, F. M. Holmes, and Grace Stebbing.


Fifty-two More Stories for Boys.

Fifty-two More Stories for Girls.

Edited by ALFRED H. MILES. Illustrated. 12mo. Each $1.50.

These two volumes are companions to the two “Fifty-two Stories” books
published last fall. Each book will contain a story for every week in
the year, particularly suited to the tastes of young boys and girls.
The stories are by the best writers and cover a wide range of subjects.


D. APPLETON AND COMPANY, NEW YORK.



APPLETONS’ SUPPLEMENTARY READERS.


Uncle Robert’s Geography.

By the late FRANCIS W. PARKER and NELLIE L. HELM. A Series of
Geographical Readers for Supplementary Use. Four volumes. Illustrated.
12mo. Cloth.

    1. Playtime and Seedtime      32 cents.
    2. On the Farm                42   ”
    3. Uncle Robert’s Visit       50   ”
    4. A River Journey            60   ”

Uncle Robert teaches children how to read aright the great book of
Nature. He makes study a pleasure. He teaches geography in the right
way. He makes rural life and occupations attractive. He has a deep and
loving sympathy with child-life. He believes in the education that
strengthens the body as well as the mind. He tells children instructive
stories to arouse their imaginations and stimulate their observing
powers. He believes that every normal child may be made useful in
the world. He has a boundless faith in human progress, and finds his
greatest hopes in childhood and its possibilities.

=These extraordinarily suggestive little books by the late Colonel
Parker--one of the most far-sighted students of child-life of our
day--have approved themselves to thousands of primary teachers. They
form one of the few successful attempts to incorporate that which is
close by nature to child perception into the very warp and woof of the
child mind. They give an intelligible meaning and vitality to the round
of experiences that come to all normal children in our land.=


D. APPLETON AND COMPANY, NEW YORK.



 Transcriber’s Notes:

 --Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_); text in
   bold by “equal” signs (=bold=).

 --Except for the frontispiece, illustrations have been moved to
   follow the text that they illustrate, so the page number of the
   illustration may not match the page number in the List of
   Illustrations.

 --Printer, punctuation and spelling inaccuracies were silently
   corrected.

 --Archaic and variable spelling has been preserved.

 --Variations in hyphenation and compound words have been preserved.

 --The Author’s em-dash and long dash styles have been retained.





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