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Title: Center Rush Rowland
Author: Barbour, Ralph Henry
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Center Rush Rowland" ***

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Transcriber's note:

      Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).



CENTER RUSH ROWLAND


      *      *      *      *      *      *

   _BY THE SAME AUTHOR_


   LEFT END EDWARDS
   LEFT TACKLE THAYER
   LEFT GUARD GILBERT

      *      *      *      *      *      *


[Illustration: Ira felt the blood pouring into his cheeks as he jumped
to his feet]


CENTER RUSH ROWLAND

by

RALPH HENRY BARBOUR

Author of
Left End Edwards,
Left Guard Gilbert, etc.

Illustrated by E. C. Caswell



[Illustration]

Grosset & Dunlap
Publishers      New York

Copyright, 1917, by
Dodd, Mead and Company, Inc.



CONTENTS


 CHAPTER                                    PAGE
      I  ROWLAND ARRIVES                       1
     II  A CHANCE ACQUAINTANCE                17
    III  GETTING SETTLED                      36
     IV  FOUND--A ROOMMATE                    48
      V  SCHOOL BEGINS                        61
     VI  THE ENEMY CALLS                      78
    VII  THE FIGHT                            94
   VIII  IRA DECLINES AN INVITATION          108
     IX  AN ULTIMATUM                        126
      X  ON THE FOURTH SQUAD                 140
     XI  IRA RENEWS AN ACQUAINTANCE          157
    XII  IN THE LINE-UP                      169
   XIII  A CONFERENCE                        182
    XIV  HARD KNOCKS                         196
     XV  PARKINSON HAS A CHANGE OF HEART     211
    XVI  IRA PLANS                           224
   XVII  THROUGH THE ENEMY'S LINE            234
  XVIII  "OLD EARNEST"                       251
    XIX  CALLERS                             264
     XX  BEFORE THE GAME                     278
    XXI  PARKINSON SCORES                    288
   XXII  COACH DRISCOLL APOLOGISES           297



ILLUSTRATIONS


  IRA FELT THE BLOOD POURING INTO HIS CHEEKS
    AS HE JUMPED TO HIS FEET (Page 304)          _Frontispiece_

                                                        FACING
                                                          PAGE
  "THE COAT SLIPS OFF RIGHT EASY"                           14

  MORE CIRCLING THEN, EACH WATCHING THE OTHER WARILY        98

  "I WANT TO TELL A STORY," HE SAID                        220



CENTER RUSH ROWLAND



CHAPTER I

ROWLAND ARRIVES


"Say, where's this school located?"

The speaker removed a straw hat, rather the worse for wear, and
mopped a damp forehead, while a youngster with a freckled face, who
was engaged in lowering an awning in front of a grocery store, paused
and viewed the inquirer with a mixture of curiosity and amusement.
Eventually he jerked a thumb northward. "Two blocks straight ahead," he
answered.

"All right. Thanks." The other settled his hat on his head again
and went on. He was a big, deep-chested, broad-shouldered youth,
rugged-looking, bronzed of face and hands. He carried himself a
trifle awkwardly, as though conscious of being a bit too large for
his seventeen years. Under the straw hat the hair was warmly brown
and a pair of calm dark-grey eyes looked out with level gaze. He
was good-looking without being handsome, for, while his nose was
exceptionally straight and well made, the mouth, turned up at the
corners in a quiet smile, was too wide for beauty, just as the chin was
too square.

The street hereabouts mingled houses and shops, but beyond the next
intersecting thoroughfare, which a sign declared to be Main Street, the
shops ceased. On the boy's left was an elm-shaded cemetery filled with
slate headstones, mossy and ancient, and beyond it was a wooden church
with a square, stunted steeple. Burying ground and churchyard continued
for the next block, while across the tree-lined street, pretentious
dwellings peered over white picket fences or rather straggly lilac
hedges with an air of strict New England propriety.

The boy in the straw hat walked slowly, partly because the day was
excessively warm for the last of September, and partly because he was
curious to see this place that was to be his home for the next nine
months. So far it was attractive enough and not greatly different
from Cheney Falls, which was the little Maine town from which he had
departed yesterday evening. Of course, one should scarcely expect to
find much difference between towns barely four hundred miles apart,
but he had never been so far away from home before and had looked
on Massachusetts as a place quite foreign. He was, perhaps, a trifle
disappointed to discover that Warne was only, after all, a bigger and
more ancient appearing Cheney Falls.

At the next crossing he stopped in the shade of a maple tree and viewed
with interest the scene before him. Across the street--the corner
post declared it to be Washington Avenue--lay the school grounds. The
campus, a level expanse of smooth turf intersected by neat gravel walks
between rows of linden trees, stretched at his left for a distance of
two blocks. Beyond the campus the school buildings were lined up as
though on parade, with, to aid the simile, a building at either end set
in advance of the line--like officers. There were five buildings in the
row--no, six, for there was a smaller one peering around a corner like
a "rookie" slightly out of position--and all were of red brick with
grey slate roofs save the big and more pretentious one in the centre.
This was, as the boy knew from familiarity with the school catalogue,
the Recitation Building, Parkinson Hall. It was built of light-hued
sandstone, in shape a rotunda flanked by wings. It was two stories in
height, with an imposing dome in the centre. Two curving steps led to
the big doors and the entrance was guarded by copper columns holding
big ground-glass globes. There were, the observer decided, more windows
than he had ever seen in one building. On the whole, Parkinson Hall was
really beautiful, and one didn't have to be a student of architecture
to realise it. The boy on the corner felt a thrill of pride as he
looked, for this was to be his school after today. He guessed, too, as
he fanned his flushed face with his hat, that he was going to like it.
It was a heap more attractive than the pictures in the catalogue had
shown it. But of course, he reflected, the pictures had just been black
and white, while now the scene was full of colour: the blue of the
sky above, the warm red of the bricks, the cooler cream-white of the
sandstone, the many greens of grass and trees and shrubbery and ivy,
the hot, golden-yellow splotches of sunlight and the purplish shadows.

Facing the campus, on the south side of Washington Street, were
perhaps a dozen residences, beginning beyond the church property,
each surrounded by lawns and beds of flowers and shaded by big elms
or maples. Nearby a locust shrilled loudly, making the heat even more
appreciable, and beyond the churchyard a gate opened and closed with
a click and a man passed through and approached the corner. He was a
tall, spare gentleman and wore, in spite of the weather, a long, black
frock coat and a broad-brimmed, black felt hat. As he drew near the boy
observed a lean, clean-shaven face, kindly, nearsighted eyes behind
gold-rimmed glasses and a rather thin mouth set in a friendly smile.
The gentleman appeared to be quite sixty years of age, but held himself
very erect and walked with a firm energy that was a defiance to the
heat. He bowed and smiled and would have passed around the corner had
not the boy spoken.

"Excuse me, sir, but will you tell me where I should go to register?"

"Very gladly indeed," was the reply in a thin but pleasant voice. "The
small building in the corner of the campus is your destination, young
sir." The gentleman laid a friendly hand on the boy's arm and with
gentle pressure turned him about. "That is the Administration Building
and you will see the office of the secretary on your right as you
enter. I am not certain, however, that you will find him in just now."
The speaker drew a very large gold watch from his pocket and snapped
open the case. "Hah! You will just get him, I think. It is not as late
as I presumed it to be."

"Thank you, sir."

"You are entirely welcome. I should be very glad to accompany you and
present you to Mr. Hoyt if it were not that I have an engagement in
another part of the town. May I inquire your name?"

"Ira Rowland, sir."

"Rowland? A fine old English name. I am Professor Addicks, of the Greek
and Latin Department. We shall doubtless meet again, and, I trust, to
our mutual advantage."

"To mine, I'm sure, sir," replied the boy, with a smile, "but where
your advantage will come in I'm afraid I don't see!"

"Why, as to that," responded the Professor, his grey eyes twinkling
behind his glasses, "I shall have the pleasure of your society for
several hours each week, and, from what I see of you, I judge that an
advantage. Good morning, Mr. Rowland."

The old gentleman smiled sunnily, bowed again and went on along Maple
Street, and as he proceeded his smile continued and seemed to hold a
trace of not unkindly amusement.

Ira Rowland once more donned his hat and made his way toward
the small, three-story brick building set close to the street.
Over the door was a small sign which bore the words, "Parkinson
School--Administration Building." Two worn granite steps led to the
entrance and as Ira mounted them the screen door was thrust open and a
rather smartly dressed youth collided with him.

"I beg your----"

"All right," said Ira, drawing aside to let the other boy pass on down
the steps. But the other seemed to have got over his hurry and was
observing Ira with an interest that held both surprise and amusement.
However, he spoke before the silence became embarrassing.

"Are you--are you Parkinson?" he asked.

"No." Ira shook his head. "My name's Rowland."

"Oh, I see. But I meant were you a student here."

"Going to be. I'm looking for the place to register."

"First door to your right." The other stepped aside and held the door
open. "You've got a good day for it," he added pleasantly.

Ira nodded once more, not thinking of any suitable rejoinder to this
somewhat puzzling remark, and went on. The boy at the door looked
after him until he had passed into the secretary's office, still
holding the screen open. Then he let it shut, whistled softly and
expressively and hurried off, a broad smile wreathing his good-looking
face.

The office of the secretary was a square, well-lighted and business-like
apartment holding, beside the necessary desks, chairs and filing
cabinets, only one settee. A railing divided the room approximately in
half, and the secretary's desk was set close to it. Two boys finished
their business as Ira entered and turned to go out. But at the doorway
they turned with one accord and looked back at the newcomer, and as they
disappeared their mouths began to curve upwards at the corners.

Mr. Hoyt, the secretary, was a small, light-complexioned man with a
near-sighted scowl and a nervous manner. But experience had taught
him expedition, and before the second hand on the face of the big
clock between the windows had moved sixty times Ira had answered all
questions and was moving away in possession of a copy of the school
catalogue and a slip of paper on which was printed a list of private
houses, approved by the school, offering accommodations.

Parkinson School had a roster of four hundred and eighty-odd that year
and the four dormitories housed but three hundred and ninety. Since Ira
had applied for admittance as late as the preceding June he had not
drawn a room on the campus, and now, leaving the little brick building,
he drew the list from between the pages of the catalogue and consulted
it. More than two dozen addresses were given, each followed by the
mystifying letters "R" or "R & B." Fortunately the catalogue contained
a map of the town in the vicinity of the school, and by referring to
that he found that most if not all of the addresses were within a few
blocks of the campus. Instead of returning by Maple Street, he entered
a gate and went along the gravel walk leading in front of the row of
school buildings. Being very intent on the matter of locating the
first entry on the list: "J. D. Anstruther, 29 Linden Street, R & B,"
he failed to notice that the steps of the Gymnasium Building toward
which he was proceeding held a half-dozen youths who were watching
his approach with poorly concealed amusement. In fact, he would have
turned off on the path leading across the campus to the middle gate on
Washington Avenue had not one of the group hailed him.

"Good morning, stranger! Are you looking for something?"

Ira stopped and removed his puzzled gaze from the map. After a moment
of hesitation he crossed the few yards to the gymnasium steps. "Yes,"
he replied, addressing the group in general, "I'm looking for a room.
Where's Linden Street, please?"

"Linden Street? Straight ahead. Follow this path until you come to a
gate. Open the gate--it isn't necessary to climb over it--and there you
are."

"Thanks." Ira viewed the speaker a trifle doubtfully, however. In spite
of the serious countenance, the reference to the gate had sounded
suspicious. "And will you tell me what 'R' means here; and 'R & B'?"

"'R'? Oh, that means--er----"

"'R,'" interrupted a tall, dark-haired chap, stepping forward and
taking the list from Ira's hands, "means 'Rats,' and 'R & B' means
'Rats and Bugs.' You see, the faculty is very careful about our
comfort. Some fellows object to rats and some object to bugs. So they
state here what you're to expect."

"Rats and bugs!" exclaimed Ira. "You're fooling, aren't you?"

"Certainly not," replied the other almost indignantly. "Do you mind
rats? Or bugs?"

"Why--" Ira's gaze swept over the group in puzzlement--"I'm not
particularly stuck on either of 'em. Aren't there any places where they
don't have 'em?"

"No, not in Warne. Warne is noted for its rats. Bugs are scarcer,
though. You'll notice that only about half the houses offer bugs with
their rats."

"'Offer' 'em," muttered Ira dazedly. Surely these fellows were poking
fun at him. And yet they all looked so serious, so kind and eager to
help him. He shook his head as he reached for his list. "Do you know
anything about that first place, J. D. Anstruther's?"

"Not bad," was the answer, "but I've never lived there myself. I've
heard, though, that the rats at Baker's are bigger. Billy, you roomed
at Anstruther's, didn't you? How about it?"

"Good rooms, but rats very inferior," answered a chunky, broad-shouldered
boy in tennis flannels. "And scarcely any bugs at all."

"There it is, you see," said the dark-haired youth sadly. "Now if you
want some corking big rats you'd better try Baker's. That's on Apple
Street. Or, if you prefer bugs, too, you might go to Smith's. I've
heard Smith's spoken of very highly."

Ira received this advice in silence. He was thinking. At last: "Well,
I'm much obliged to you," he said gratefully. "But I guess I'd rather
go where the rats aren't so big. Of course you fellows are used to
rats, being together so much, but I've never had much use for them."

"Just a minute," exclaimed a well-built boy of medium height who held a
pair of running shoes on his knees. "I didn't quite get that. About our
being used to rats, Freckles. Come again, please."

"I beg your pardon?" said Ira innocently.

"The gentleman wishes to know," explained the dark-haired boy sweetly,
"the meaning of your cryptic utterance. Why, Mr. Johnson, should our
being together make us used to rats?"

"My name is Rowland."

"Really? Well, then, Mr. Rowland, kindly elucidate."

"I guess I don't know what you want," said Ira, viewing them blankly.

"Of course he doesn't," said another member of the group. "He didn't
mean anything. What class are you in, Hayseed?"

"Who, me? I'm going into the third, I guess."

"Then you've got another guess," jeered the boy with the running shoes.
"How were the crops when you left home, Freckles?"

"Speaking to me? My name's Rowland. First name's Ira."

"Well, don't take on about it. You can't help it. How's crops?"

"It's mostly lumbering where I come from. Cheney Falls, Maine, is my
home."

"Dew tell!" drawled the dark-haired youth. "What were you, a bump?"

"A bump?" asked Ira.

"Yes, don't the logs up your way have bumps on them?"

"Oh, yes!" Ira smiled faintly. "The bumps grow on 'em, though. You--you
don't put 'em on."

"Oh, you don't? Thought you did. Well, what did you do in the lumbering
line, then?"

"Well, last Winter I worked on the knots. It's hard on your fingers,
though." He observed a hand reflectively. "I'm not going to do that
again," he added.

"Worked on the knots," repeated the boy with the running shoes. "What
do you mean by that?"

"Why, you see," explained Ira patiently, "you take a pine or a spruce
log and it's got knots in it and it isn't so good for sawing."

"Well, what was your stunt?"

"Me? Oh, I untied the knots," replied Ira gravely.

There was a moment of silence. Then most of the audience chuckled. But
the boy with the running shoes flushed.

"You think you're pretty smart, don't you?" he asked irritably. "You're
one of those 'country wits' we read about, eh? Dressed for the part,
too! For the love of mud, where'd you get the costume?"

"Oh, cut it out, Gene," said the dark-haired fellow. "Run along,
Rowland, and find your room."

"Better get a job as a scarecrow," sneered the boy addressed as Gene.
"Say, those clothes must have cost you as much as six dollars, eh? If
you'd had another dollar you might have got them big enough."

"They're all right for me," responded Ira calmly. "And the coat slips
off right easy."

[Illustration: "The coat slips off right easy"]

"What do you mean by that?" demanded Gene, jumping to his feet.

"Oh, forget it, Gene!" begged one of the fellows. "Let him alone."

But Gene pushed his way past the boy's detaining arm and thrust an
angry countenance in front of Ira. "What do you mean, eh?" he repeated.

"What do you take it that I mean?" asked Ira, viewing the other
undismayedly with half-closed grey eyes.

For answer, Gene Goodloe brought his right hand up quickly from his
side. The boy with dark hair stepped forward to interfere, but he was
too late. Ira sprang nimbly to the right and ducked, avoiding Gene's
blow, and at the same time shot his own right fist around. It was only
a half-arm jab, but there was enough behind it when it landed on Gene's
chin to send him staggering back into the arms of one of the others and
to temporarily deprive him of all desire for battle. He stared at his
assailant in a dazed and almost reproachful way as they lowered him to
the turf, and then he closed his eyes wearily.

"That's a bad place to hit a fellow!" grumbled the dark-haired fellow,
regarding Ira uncertainly. "You'd better get out of here before someone
comes."

"Maybe he will want to go on," suggested Ira mildly.

"Huh! Maybe he will, but not for awhile! Billy Wells, duck inside and
get some water, will you? You, Rowland, or whatever your name is, you
get along. If the faculty sees this they'll make trouble for you. I
know he made the first swipe, but that wouldn't help you much."

"All right," said Ira. "What's his name?"

"Goodloe. Why?"

"I'll let him know where he can find me. Just tell him, will you?"



CHAPTER II

A CHANCE ACQUAINTANCE


"Not what you'd call a very good beginning," thought Ira, ruefully,
as, followed by the somewhat puzzled looks of the group in front of
the gymnasium, he made his way across the campus. "It was his fault,
though. There wasn't any call for me to stand around idle and get
jabbed in the nose. Just the same, it would have been better if I'd
gone on about my business instead of trying to get a rise out of them.
Guess what you need to do, son, is keep your hands in your pockets and
your mouth shut!"

For the following hour he was very busy. Mrs. Anstruther regretfully
informed him that all her rooms were engaged, and the same announcement
awaited him at Baker's. It was at the latter house that the mysterious
symbols were satisfactorily explained. "R," he was told, meant that the
house offered rooms only, while "R & B" stood for room and board. Ira
mentally called himself an idiot for not having guessed as much. At a
little past one he gave up the search long enough to perch himself at a
counter in a lunch-room on School Street. A sign over the doorway held
the inscription "The Eggery," and, judging from the fact that fully
half the patrons in sight were boys of ages from fourteen to twenty,
it was the favourite resort for hungry Parkinsonians. There were many
small tables at the back, but all were occupied, and Ira finally found
an empty stool in front of the long counter. The school colours,
brown and white, were lavishly displayed, and there were many framed
photographs of school teams and numerous unframed posters on the walls.
These, however, interested Ira less than the neat sign which proclaimed
the restaurant's offerings, for he had eaten his breakfast on alighting
from the Portland train in Boston, and that had been quite early, and
he was now extremely hungry in spite of the warmth of the day.

While the electric fans overhead spun dizzily and the clatter of
crockery and the babel of a hundred voices made a cheerful pandemonium,
he thoughtfully contemplated the signs. One thing he knew he was going
to have, and that was iced tea, but beyond that he was open-minded.
Corn-beef hash sounded too warm. The same was true of roast beef and
lamb stew with dumplings. Eggs didn't sound appealing, although they
were offered in more styles than he had ever heard of. He was still
undecided when a voice said: "Try the cold ham and potato salad. It
isn't bad."

Ira looked around to find the boy with whom he had collided at the door
of the Administration Building sitting beside him.

"All right," said Ira. "I guess I will. It looks good."

"It's too hot to eat today," went on his neighbour, "but you sort of
get the habit. This iced coffee is the best thing I've found. Do you
like it?"

"I never tried it. I thought I'd have some iced tea."

"No one can blame you. I saw you over at Ad, didn't I?"

"'Ad'?"

"Administration. What's your class?"

"Third."

"Mine, too. Here's Alphonse. Tell him what you're risking."

"Alphonse" proved to be a sandy-haired waiter who grinned at the
speaker as he ran a towel over the counter. "Sure, take a chance," he
said cheerfully. "What's it going to be, sir?"

"Some of the cold ham and potato salad and a glass of iced tea,"
replied Ira. "Got any lemon?"

"I don't know. I'll see," was the sober response. "We did have one last
week." Then, applying his mouth to a tube: "One-cold-ham-potato-salad!"
he called. "Ice-tea-with-lemon!"

"Do you eat here regularly?" asked Ira of his neighbour.

"Dear, no! I eat in hall, but they don't start until supper tonight.
Lots of the fellows don't come until afternoon, you see. Them as does
has to eat where they can, and this is as good a joint as any. How do
you like the place, as far as you've got?"

"All right. I haven't seen much of it, though. I've been tramping
around looking for a room most of the time."

"Any luck?"

Ira shook his head. "There was one at--" he refreshed his memory by
glancing at the slip--"at Parent's, but it was pretty small and awfully
hot."

"Keep away from that dive," advised the other. "You'd freeze to death
in Winter there. Besides, we come to school to get away from them."

"To get away from----"

"Parents," chuckled the other. "Asterisk. See footnote. Joke intended.
Have you tried Maggy's?"

"No. I don't think it's on my list."

"Let's see. Yes, here it is: 'D. A. Magoon, 200 Main Street.'"

"Oh! I thought you said----"

"Maggy's? Yes, they call her that for short. She's got some good rooms,
but you have to more than half furnish them. About all Maggy gives you
is a carpet and a bed. If you like I'll go around there with you when
you're through."

"Why, thanks, that's very kind, but I don't want to trouble you."

"You don't. I haven't a thing to do until the boat comes in."

"Boat?" ejaculated Ira.

"Figure of speech, meaning that the afternoon stretches before me
devoid of--of--Say, what do I call you?"

"Rowland's my name."

"Mine's Johnston. There's a t in it to make it harder to say. Here's
your grub. Guess I'll have a piece of pie, Jimmy."

"What kind?" asked the waiter as he slid Ira's repast before him.

"Why the airs? You know you've only got apple."

Jimmy grinned. "Got you this time, Johnston! There's cream and
cocoanut, too."

"Make it cream, Jimmy, and tell the Pie Specialist downstairs to let
his hand slip a little."

"Do they give board at this place you spoke of?" asked Ira when he had
sampled his dinner.

"No, they don't. You can eat in hall, though, or you can get your meals
around. There are four or five places like this and a lot of boarding
houses. The way I did my first year was live at the restaurants and
quick-lunch joints for the first term and then, when I was sick to
death of them, go to a regular boarding house. Smith's is pretty fair.
A lot of fellows eat there."

"They give you pretty good meals at the school dining hall, don't they?"

"Y-yes, but they charge for them." Johnston shot a swift, appraising
glance over Ira. "If you can stand six dollars a week, all right. Some
fellows can't." Jimmy presented his slice of pie at that moment and
Johnston observed it gloomily. "That fellow's got perfect control,
hasn't he, Jimmy?"

"Oh, they cut the pies with a machine," replied the waiter airily.
"Want some more coffee?"

"Walk around! Think I'm a millionaire? Make it a glass of water
instead." Then, addressing Ira again: "What are you going in for?" he
asked.

"Going in where?"

"My fault! I mean what are you going to do with your spare time?
Football? Tennis? Golf? What's your line?"

"Oh! I don't know. I've never played anything except a little baseball.
I guess I won't try any of those things yet."

"You look as though you'd make a football player," said Johnston. "If
you don't intend to try it you'd better keep out of sight. If Driscoll
sees you he will get you sure."

"Is he the captain?" asked Ira.

"Coach. Ever played it?"

"Football? No." Ira shook his head. "I never thought I'd care to. I saw
a game once at Lewiston."

"Where's that?"

"Maine. I live in Cheney Falls."

"No one can blame you. How's the grub?"

"Fine, thanks. Who is Goodloe?"

"Gene Goodloe? Track Team captain. Know him?"

"Not very well. I--I sort of met him awhile back."

"You'll like him, I guess. Most of us do. He's a corking runner. Good
fellow to know, Rowland. Better cultivate him. Meet all the fellows you
can, old man. The more the merrier. You can't know too many at school,
especially if you're a new boy. I had a perfectly miserable time of it
here my first year. I was horribly shy, you see. Yes, I got over it!"
He laughed as he caught Ira's quick glance of surprise. "Had to. I used
to get red clear around to the back of my face if anyone spoke to me.
The second year I realised that it wouldn't do and I made up my mind
to get cured. How do you think I did it? I got up one morning and went
out and spoke to every fellow I met, whether I'd ever seen him before
or not. It nearly killed me at first and I got all sorts of snubs and
funny looks, but it cured me. Now I--I'd slap Jud himself on the back
if it would do me any good."

"Jud?" asked Ira.

"Otherwise Doctor Judson Lane, principal of this here school. All
through? Going to have desert? No? Come along then. There's your
check. Might as well pay it if you've got the money. They have a nasty
way of going out on the street after you and bringing you back if you
get absent-minded."

They slid off their stools and made their way to the cashier's desk,
Johnston hailing many acquaintances on the way and once pausing in
response to the invitation of one. Ira had an uncomfortable suspicion
that he was the subject of the short, whispered dialogue that ensued.
"It's probably these clothes," he thought. "They _are_ different from
other fellows'. I'll have to get some new ones, I guess."

Outside, Johnston chatted merrily as he conducted his companion around
the corner of Main Street and finally brought up before a three-story
house set close to the sidewalk. It showed evidences of past grandeur,
but the buff paint was peeling away from the narrow porch and stores
had been built close to it on either side. The first floor was
occupied by a tailor's establishment on the right and by the agency
of a spring-water company on the left. Johnston gaily pointed out the
convenience of having your trousers pressed on the premises as they
waited in the hallway. Presently, in response to the tinkling of a
faraway bell, footsteps creaked on the stairs and a tall and angular
woman came into sight.

"Good afternoon and everything," greeted Johnston. "You don't remember
me, Mrs. Magoon, but we were very dear friends once. I used to come
here to call on Dan Phillips a couple of years ago."

"I remember you very well," was the reply in a dry voice. "You're the
young man that broke the newel post one time when you was sliding down
the----"

"My fault! I see you do remember me, after all. I feared you didn't.
Now----"

"It wasn't ever paid for, either, although you said time and again----"

"You're perfectly right, ma'am. It just somehow slipped my memory. I'm
glad you mentioned it. Everybody ought to pay his just debts, I should
think. I've brought you a lodger, Mrs. Magoon. This is Mr. Rowland, Mr.
Thomas Chesterfield Rowland, of Cheerup Falls, Maine, a very personal
friend of mine. He was about to take a room over on Linden Street, but
I prevailed on him to come to you. I told him that you had just the
room for him. You have, haven't you?" Johnston beamed ingratiatingly.

"Well, I dunno," said Mrs. Magoon, folding her hands in a blue checked
apron and looking doubtfully from one boy to the other. "Everything's
pretty well taken now. There was a young man in here not ten minutes
ago to look at the only room I've got left. I dunno will he be back,
though. He said he would, but they always say that. If you'd care to
look at it, sir----"

"He would," declared Johnston. "He would indeed. After you, Rowland.
One flight and turn to your left."

"Two flights and turn to your right, if you please," corrected the
landlady. "All the second floor rooms are taken." She toiled upstairs
at their heels and directed the way to a large, scantily furnished
room at the back of the house. "It's a nice, cheerful room," she said
pantingly. "Two good windows and a fine view. There's a washstand goes
in here yet."

The fine view consisted of several backyards, the roof of a shed and
a high board fence in the immediate foreground, but beyond the fence
lay the trim, green lawn of a residence on Washington Avenue, while,
by stretching his neck a little, Ira could see a few gravestones in
the cemetery around the corner of the next-door building. Just now the
foliage hid the school, but Mrs. Magoon predicted that in the Winter
he would have a fine view of it. There were two big windows on the back
of the room, a sizable closet, a fireplace with a dingy, white-marble
mantel and a rusted grate and a few oddments of furniture all much the
worse for wear. Ira tested the bed and shuddered inwardly. It was like
a board. There was a green plush rocking-chair, a battered walnut table
with an ink-stained top, a bureau of similar material and condition,
two straight-backed chairs and an ornate black walnut bookcase with one
glass door missing. A faded, brown ingrain carpet covered the centre of
the floor, the wide expanse of boards surrounding it having at some far
distant time been painted slate-grey.

Johnston expatiated warmly, even with enthusiasm, on the room's
attractions. "How's that for a fireplace, old man?" he asked. "It's
real, mind you. No stage fireplace, with a red lantern in it, but the
genuine thing. Lots of room here, too. Must be twenty feet each way,
eh? Of course, you'll need a few more things. A window seat would
help. And another easy-chair, maybe. Then, with the family portraits
on the walls and a fire crackling cheerily--what ho! 'Blow, wintry
winds! What care we?' Or words to that general effect. You say there's
a washstand, too, Mrs. Magoon? Fine! Imagine a washstand over there
in the corner, Rowland. Sort of--sort of finishes it off, eh? Useful
little affairs, washstands. No home should be-- How about the bathroom,
Mrs. Magoon? Adjacent or thereabouts, I presume?"

"One flight below, sir. It's a very nice bathroom, with an enamelled
tub, sir. If you'd care to look at it----"

"By all means, ma'am, as we descend. You said the rent was----"

"Four a week, sir."

"Oh, no, indeed! For the school year, Mrs. Magoon."

"I said four a week, sir."

"And I said--Oh, I see! Four dollars a week! You will have your joke,
eh? The lady has a sense of humour, Rowland. You can't deny it."

"It doesn't seem to me that it's worth that much," said Ira dubiously.

"Bless us, no!" said Johnston. "That was only her joke. Now, Mrs.
Magoon, seriously, what do you ask by the month for this palatial
apartment?"

"It's four dollars a week, young man, whether you pay weekly or
monthly; although I have to insist on the bills not running no longer
than a month."

"No one can blame you. But you'll find my friend here very prompt,
ma'am, in such matters. I have never known him to let a bill run longer
than a month. You might almost call him finicky in money matters.
Considering that, now, suppose we say three dollars a week, with--" he
shot a questioning glance at Ira--"two weeks paid in advance?"

"I couldn't do it, sir," replied the landlady firmly, arms akimbo.
"Three-seventy-five is my lowest figure, and nothing you could say----"

"I don't think I want the room, thanks," interrupted Ira. "I'd have to
buy a good many things for it to make it comfortable. Much obliged,
ma'am."

"Don't be hasty, old man. Think well. Rooms are scarce, as Mrs. Magoon
will tell you, and at three and a half----"

"Three-seventy-five," corrected the landlady.

"You couldn't do better. I'll take you to a place where you can get
anything you need for half of nothing and pay when you like. With
another chair and a couch and a few pictures--why, you wouldn't know
the place! He wouldn't know the place, would he, ma'am?"

"'Twould look better, no doubt. There's the washstand yet, sir, and it
helps to fill up, so to speak."

"We-ell," began Ira, doubtfully.

"That's decided, then!" exclaimed Johnston gaily. "Have the room all
ready in an hour, Mrs. Magoon. If you've got seven dollars where you
can put your hand on it, Rowland, you might bind the bargain, eh?"

"If the lady wants to let me have it at three dollars and a half----"

"She does! Hasn't she said so? You said three and a half, didn't you,
Mrs. Magoon?"

"I did not!"

"No? My fault! But you're going to, eh? Rather than lose a tenant?"
Mrs. Magoon wavered. "Here it is the last day, ma'am. School begins
tomorrow. I guess everyone's settled by this time. You wouldn't want
the room to stay empty, now would you? Of course not! A bird in the
hand, and all that, eh? Well, that's settled, what?"

Mrs. Magoon nodded without enthusiasm. "It's less than I ever took
for it before," she said sadly. Then, brightening: "Maybe the young
man would want his breakfasts in?" she asked hopefully. "Many of them
does."

Johnston was shaking his head violently, but neither the landlady nor
Ira saw it.

"Why, thanks, I--How much are breakfasts?" said Ira.

"Twenty-five cents, sir. Coffee and toast and two eggs or a bit of
meat."

"Perhaps it would be more convenient than going out," mused Ira. "All
right, ma'am, I'll take breakfasts."

"Fine! Come along, Rowland. Remember that Doctor Lane was very
particular about having you let him know what you decided on. He will
be anxious. Back in an hour, Mrs. Magoon."

"If you'd care to see the bathroom--" began Mrs. Magoon as they
descended.

"Not now," said Johnston, shoving Ira along toward the next flight.
"I'm sure it's absolutely perfect, ma'am." When they were once more
on the street he turned sorrowfully to Ira. "You shouldn't have let
yourself in for the breakfasts, old man," he said. "They're fierce. I
tried to give you the sign, but you wouldn't look. Still, you can cut
them out after a week or so. They all do."

"I dare say the room will look better when there's more in it," said
Ira.

"Rather! You'll be crazy about it, old man."

"Or in it," said Ira drily. Johnston preferred not to notice the remark.

"And three-fifty isn't bad these days, either."

"I guess I'd rather pay her what she asked, Johnston. She says she
never let it for so little, and----"

"Yes, but her memory's failing her. Johnny Grew had that room two years
ago, and I happen to remember that he paid exactly three and a half for
it. Besides, she'll make it up on the breakfasts. Now let's run around
to Jacobs' and see what we can pick up. Better leave the buying to me,
old man, for in spite of being a Maine Yankee, you're a mighty poor
bargainer!"

"I'm taking up a lot of your time," Ira demurred.

"I like it. Besides, I've got nothing on until the five-twelve gets
in." He was silent for a full minute, something so unusual that Ira
viewed him in surprise. Then, with an odd lack of assurance, he said:
"About that newel post now, Rowland. I--you see----"

"All right," said Ira. "I understand."

"Eh?" asked the other startledly. "Hold on, though! No, you don't, old
man."

"All right. I don't care, anyway."

"But you mustn't think I took you around there on that account. Fact
is, I'd quite forgotten about it." Johnston chuckled. "Guess if I'd
remembered it I'd have stayed away. But when she sprang it on me,
why--why, then I thought I might as well square myself." He looked
uncertainly at Ira. "See what I mean?"

"Oh, yes."

"Well--well--Oh, hang it, Rowland! Now, look here. You don't need to
take that room if you'd rather not. I guess I did sort of force your
hand. We'll go back now and get the money and tell her it's off. Come
on! I'd feel a lot better. Then we'll look somewhere else. Hang it, it
was only a dollar, and I'm switched if I want to look like a piker for
just a little old dollar! Come on back!"

But Ira shook his head. "When you know me better, Johnston," he said
with a smile, "you'll find that it's awfully hard to make me do
anything I don't want to. If I hadn't thought the room would answer
I'd never have taken it, no matter what you might have said. I don't
think it's palatial, but I do think it will do well enough, and if Mrs.
Magoon lets you off about the newel post on my account I'm glad of it.
I owe you that much, anyhow, for all your trouble. Just the same, I'm
glad you didn't--didn't take me around there on purpose."

"I didn't, honestly, old man. I'd forgotten all about it. But you're
quite sure it's all right, eh? Sure you really want to take the room?"

"Certain sure."

"Well, you're a brick. I guess I'll drop around and pay Maggy her
money, just the same. Any fellow ought to, I should think. I'll do it
this afternoon while I've got it. Well, that's settled. And here's the
emporium of our friend Jacobs.

    "'Open the door and tinkle the bell:
      You want to buy and I want to sell!'"



CHAPTER III

GETTING SETTLED


Half an hour later Ira was the proud possessor-- Now that's what comes
of using phrases. It's a poor habit. As a matter of honest fact, no
one could have been really proud of the articles purchased in Mr.
Joseph Jacobs' Second-hand Emporium. First, there were the remains of
a window seat. Ira had viewed it distastefully until Johnston--it had
developed that his first name was Martin and that he was usually called
Mart--assured him that with a hammer and four nails and a bit o' luck
he could fix it as good as new. Then came a leather couch. The frame,
springs and hair were quite serviceable, but the leather--well, Mart
said it was a "crime," and we'll let it go at that. "But," he pointed
out, "all you've got to do is throw something over it, old man, and
no one will know. Haven't you some trifle like a Paisley shawl or a
Persian rug about your person? Never mind, we'll find something. And
five dollars is dirt cheap for it. Why, it's worth that much for fuel,
and you want to remember that you've got a perfectly good grate to feed
when Winter comes. We'll take it, Jacobs."

The easy-chair was not as easy as it looked. About the only thing easy,
except its appearance, was the price. It was one of those brown-oak
contraptions with a back that let down to form various angles with
the seat. Unfortunately each succeeding angle was more uncomfortable
than the last. "Old Man Mission," observed Mart, "may have been a
dandy carpenter, but he was a mighty poor comforter!" They picked up
some hanging book shelves for sixty cents and two rugs only half worn
out for a dollar apiece and, finally, an oak table-desk with a column
of drawers at one side, one of which would open without the use of a
jimmy. Leaving instructions to have the furniture delivered not later
than five o'clock, they returned to "Maggy's."

Mart heroically paid Mrs. Magoon a dollar, much to that lady's
bewilderment, and then they went up to the room. A decrepit walnut
washstand was already in place, but Ira couldn't see that its presence
added much to the apartment. They tried it in three places and at last
returned it to its original position, restoring the casters which it
had sprinkled around the room in its travels. Then Mart threw himself
into the plush chair and stretched his legs out and viewed the room
thoughtfully.

"Better make a list of things to buy, old man," he advised. "All ready?
Paper of tacks and a hammer--better get a real hammer and not one of
those playthings; a hammer's always useful--, two brass curtain rods--
By Crickey, we forgot curtains! Never mind, though, we'll get those at
Alston's. We can get the rods there, too. And you'd ought to have a
cloth for that table. Every fellow ought to have a cloth on his table,
I should think. And--let's see--" He looked around the room inquiringly.

"I guess that's enough for today," said Ira. "The next thing is to get
my trunk over from the station. I suppose there's an expressman around
somewhere."

"Come on down with me at five and give your check to Harris. He does
most of the school work and won't mind lugging it up two flights. Some
of them expect ten cents more for that. Let's get cooled off a bit and
then buy the curtains, eh? Curtains will make a lot of difference, I
tell you! I'll borrow a yard-stick or something from Maggy and measure
the windows."

When that had been done they sailed forth again. There was one
excellent feature about Ira's abode, and that was its convenience
to the shops. Alston's dry goods store was only a half block away,
across School Street, and soon they were viewing muslin and scrim
curtains which an obliging saleslady hung over big brass rods. Mart
found that he might as well have spared himself the trouble of taking
measurements, for the curtains were all the same length. They finally
selected two pairs of what the young lady called "cross-barred muslin"
and purchased rods and fixtures. Subsequently they visited a hardware
store and bought the hammer and the paper of tacks and a small quantity
of nails. When they got back to Number 200 Main Street they found an
expressman struggling upstairs with the leather couch, followed grimly
by the landlady who exhorted him at every step to "mind the plaster
now!"

When the new purchases were in place the room did look a lot better,
and when Mart had, after much difficulty, put up the rods and pinned
the curtains over them the two boys viewed the result with deep
satisfaction. "It's the little touches that do it," proclaimed Mart.
"Now when we get a cloth----"

But they had forgotten the cloth for the table, as well as the "drape"
for the couch, and had also neglected to provide anything in the way of
a cushion for the window seat. "But Rome was not built in a day," said
Mart cheerfully. "I forget how long it took, but it was more likely
a week. Now, in a week you won't know this place, Rowland. Got any
pictures to hang on this lovely yaller paper?"

"No, but I can get some," answered Ira, regarding the paper
distastefully. "Wish I could get enough to hide the walls entirely!"

"Put up half a dozen and hang a pennant over the door and stick a few
posters around and you won't notice the walls at all. And if I were you
I'd buy a can of brown paint and go over this border again. That colour
on there now makes me sort of faint. What time might it be?"

"Twenty to five."

"Geewhillikins! Where's the afternoon got to? Here, I'll knock this
window seat together and then beat it. Where's that hammer? Don't tell
me--Oh, all right! Toss it over. Nails? Thank you, sir. Now then, you
rickety, tumble-down, lob-sided bunch of boards, how do you go, anyhow?
I say, Rowland, there's a leg missing! I didn't notice that, did you?
Never mind. It won't matter if you don't sit on that corner, and some
time you can nail a piece of board on there. Say, this thing is a
regular Chinese puzzle! Know what I think? Well, I think he's gone and
sold us parts of two different seats!"

But he wronged Mr. Jacobs, for ultimately the sections fitted together,
and when they did the two boys looked at the result in silence and then
burst into howls of laughter. The window seat had been built for a
corner! No matter how they struggled with it it remained L-shaped! If
half of it ran across a window the other half stuck out into the room
at right angles like a sore thumb! Ira subsided on the bed and Mart
sprawled himself on the floor and they laughed until they were weak.

"Well," said Mart finally, "either you've got to change your room or
this seat, and I guess the seat's the easier. Now look here. If we turn
this end around, so, and tack a couple of short boards on here----"

"Oh, don't!" begged Ira. "Don't spoil it! It--it's beautiful!"

"Oh, well, if you won't be serious," laughed Mart, dropping his hammer.
"Let's leave it until tomorrow. I've got to meet Brad at five-twelve.
Put your hat on and come along. Bring your trunk check, by the way.
Hang it, quit laughing! Get a move on, you--you idjit!"

"Y-yes, but--but look at it, Johnston!" gasped Ira. "Isn't it--_funny_?"

"It's killing," agreed the other, grinning. "I say, why not leave it
that way just for a joke?"

"I--I'm going to! I--l-like it!"

"Well, don't cry, old man! Pull yourself together! Here's your hat. Now
come on. We've only got eight minutes."

The railway station was four blocks south and by the time Ira had
arranged for the delivery of his trunk and rescued his suitcase from
the parcel room those eight minutes were gone and the express was
rumbling in. Mart left Ira at the waiting-room door, with instructions
not to move until he returned, and was presently pushing his way
through the throng of arriving students in search of his roommate. Ira,
however, concluded that he would only be in the way. The chums would of
course have lots to say to each other and he didn't believe that either
of them would really be any happier for his presence. So, before the
new arrivals had more than overflowed the platform, he was on his way
uptown again, the heavy suitcase, into which at the last moment he had
forced a lot of things that had been intended for the trunk, tugging
at his arm. Station carriages, filled to capacity with merry youths,
began to pass him before he reached Main Street and turned toward his
lodgings, but he saw nothing of Mart.

He had a bath in the wonderful enamelled tub on the floor below and
felt cooler and generally better for it. After he had returned to
his room and made himself as comfortable on the bed as the hard,
lumpy mattress would allow he heard the sound of arrivals. Voices and
footsteps and the banging of doors came to him. Downstairs a spirited
battle began for the possession of the bathroom. Across the hall from
his closed door a youth with a strident voice sang loudly and opened
and shut drawers most ungently. In spite of the noise, Ira, who had
slept but poorly on the train the night before, drowsed off presently
and knew no more until there came a banging at his portal. Half awake,
he admitted the expressman with his trunk, paid for it in a stupor and
then subsided on it to gather his faculties. His blinking gaze rested
on the window seat and he began to chuckle at the perfectly idiotic way
in which it thrust one decrepit end into the room. By that time he was
sufficiently awake to find his key and open the trunk, after which he
donned fresh underwear and his second-best suit of blue serge, spruced
himself up and thought of supper. However, there was no great hurry
about that, he concluded. Since he had decided to get his meals at the
restaurants for awhile he was not required to observe regular hours. It
was only a little past six, and there was his trunk to unpack and his
things to find places for.

The closet, although short on hooks, was roomy. He made a mental
memoranda to buy some hooks tomorrow and in the meanwhile "doubled
up" with what there were. The bureau drawers stuck abominably, but he
at last conquered them and arranged his possessions within. Books,
of which he had brought a good many, were equally divided between
bookcase and shelves. (He wondered why he had bought the shelves until
he remembered that he hadn't; that Mart Johnston had bought them!) By
half-past six the nearly empty trunk was pushed out of sight in the
closet, his few toilet things decorated the marble top of the bureau,
sponge and toothbrush reposed on the washstand and, in short, he was
settled.

The room really began to look a bit homelike, he concluded, viewing it
critically from what would have been the hearth-rug had he possessed
such a thing. He would have to get something to hide the tattered and
torn leather on the couch, and a cloth for the hideous walnut table;
and, of course, there was that ridiculous window seat! He had to smile
every time his eyes fell on it, but for some reason it seemed quite the
most companionable article of furniture in sight. He decided that he
would find an upholsterer and have a good cushion made for it, and then
he would buy some pillows. Probably, he reflected, he would fall over
the protruding end of the crazy thing a dozen times in the next week.
If only----

And right there a brilliant idea struck him! "Why, of course!" he
exclaimed. He tugged and pushed the oak desk alongside the end of
the seat that ran out from the wall, restored the walnut table to
its erstwhile position in the middle of the rug, placed the plush
easy-chair beside it and there you were! That put his desk between the
windows, with the light coming over his left shoulder very nicely, and
made a back for the homeless end of the window seat. And it looked
great! He was quite proud of that arrangement and went out in search of
supper very cheerfully.

He found a lunch room around the corner on Linden Street and, probably
more because he was really hungry than because the food was especially
good, made an excellent repast, with an evening paper propped up
against the vinegar cruet. It was nearly eight when he wandered back
to his lodging through the warm, quiet evening. Most of the stores
on Main Street were closed, but a few windows still threw floods of
yellow radiance across the brick sidewalks. Doorsteps held family
groups, quite as if Summer had not gone, and children played along the
pavement. An old-fashioned lantern with a gas jet sizzling inside it
hung above the door of Number 200 and threw a wavering, uncertain light
on the four creaking steps. As Ira passed into the hall the door of the
tailor's shop was open and he saw a little hunchbacked man of uncertain
age and nationality working steadily and swiftly over a pressing board.
On each floor a dim gaslight flickered, but for most of the distance
each flight was in darkness and he made his way upwards warily, a
guiding hand on the banister rail.

Halfway up the second flight he heard Mrs. Magoon's voice. It sounded
querulous, even a trifle resentful. The next moment another voice broke
in angrily, and Ira reached the third floor and viewed an astounding
scene. In the doorway of his room, seated determinedly on a small
trunk, with a bag on his knees, was a boy of perhaps sixteen. In front
of him stood Mrs. Magoon, her hands wrapped in her apron. At the sound
of his footsteps both actors in the little drama staged on his doorsill
turned their heads and regarded him, the boy with an expression of
dogged defiance and Mrs. Magoon with very evident relief.



CHAPTER IV

FOUND--A ROOMMATE


"Now I guess you'll behave yourself," exclaimed the landlady
triumphantly. "Here's the young man that's taken the room."

"He hasn't any right to it," declared the boy on the trunk, gripping
the bag on his knees more firmly. "You gave me the refusal of it! I
told you I'd be back! It's my room, and I mean to keep it!"

Ira looked inquiringly at Mrs. Magoon, but she silently referred him to
the claimant in the doorway.

"What's wrong?" Ira asked of the latter.

"Why, I came here this afternoon and looked at this room and I asked
this--this lady if she'd give me the refusal of it until evening and
she said she would. I agreed to come back in any case and say whether
I'd take it or not. And now, when I send my trunk here, she tells me
she's rented it to you!"

"I gave him no refusal," exclaimed Mrs. Magoon irately. "He said he'd
be back, yes, but he didn't know whether he wanted it or didn't want
it. And I can't be losing the chance to rent my rooms while he's making
up his mind."

"Well, if you didn't have a refusal," said Ira mildly, "I don't see
what claim you have. I found the room for rent and took it this
afternoon, and paid two weeks in advance. I'm sorry, but I guess you'll
have to look somewhere else."

"I have looked!" cried the other. "There aren't any rooms left. This is
all there is. I've been all over the crazy place."

"Oh, I guess you can find one tomorrow," said Ira soothingly. "Why
don't you get a lodging for tonight somewhere and then start fresh in
the morning? I've got a list of houses here----"

"I've been all through the list. Everyone's full up. Anyway, this is my
room, and I mean to have it. She _did_ give me the refusal of it, and
she knows plaguey well she did!"

"The idea!" exclaimed Mrs. Magoon in shrill tones. "Calling me a liar
to my face, are you? If you don't get right out of here this very
minute I'll call a policeman, I will so!"

"Wait a minute," counselled Ira. "He didn't mean it that way. Now I
tell you what we'll do." He glanced across the corridor to where a door
had just opened to emit a large youth who was now regarding them with
his hands in his pockets and a broad smile on his face. "You let this
chap and me talk it over quietly, Mrs. Magoon. We'll settle it between
us. There's no reason to get excited about it, is there? Just you go on
down, ma'am, and it'll be all right."

"There's only one way it can be settled," replied the landlady irately,
"and that's for him to take himself and his trunk out of my house!"

"But there's no hurry, Mrs. Magoon. Besides, we're disturbing the
others with all this racket. Shove that trunk inside, please, and we'll
close the door first of all."

Mrs. Magoon grunted, hesitated and finally went grumbling off down the
stairs, and Ira, taking affairs into his own hands, pushed the small
trunk out of the way of the door, its owner grudgingly vacating his
strategic position atop, and closed the portal, to the disappointment
of the neighbour across the way.

"Now," said Ira pleasantly, "sit down and be comfortable. Try the
armchair. What's your name? Mine's Rowland."

"Mine's Nead," replied the other, not very amiably. "Names haven't
anything to do with it, though."

"Just wanted to know what to call you. Now, honest-to-goodness, Nead,
did Mrs. Magoon say she'd hold this room until you had decided?"

"She did! If it's the last word I ever utter----"

"All right! And, if you don't mind telling me, how much were you to pay
for it?"

"Thirteen dollars and a half a month."

Ira did some mental calculating and smiled. "That's about three dollars
a week, isn't it?" he asked. "You're certain that was the price?"

"Of course I'm certain. Three dollars was all I wanted to pay, and I
told her so. She wanted four at first. Four dollars for this--this old
poverty-stricken attic!"

"Oh, I wouldn't be hard on it," said Ira pleasantly. "I like it pretty
well."

"But it isn't yours! Now you look here, Boland----"

"Rowland. And don't let's have any melodrama, please. We can come to a
settlement if we don't shout, I guess. What you agreed to and what Mrs.
Magoon agreed to is no business of mine. That's between you two. She
says the room is mine. You say it's yours. I've got it!"

"You haven't any right----"

"Well, there's the right of possession," chuckled Ira. "Mind you, I'm
inclined to believe your account of what took place, because--well,
I'm beginning to doubt Mrs. Thingamabob's--er--memory. But I think you
left it pretty late to decide, Nead. If I'd been Mrs. Magoon I'd have
considered myself released from that refusal by six o'clock; by seven,
anyway. You couldn't have got here until half-past, I guess."

"I had to get something to eat and then find a man to fetch my
trunk----"

"Yes, but you could have dropped around before and told her you'd
take it. You see, Nead, if you hadn't wanted it, and she had stood by
her bargain until nearly eight, she might not have rented it at all.
There's that to consider."

"Oh, you make me tired! You talk like a--like a lawyer! She said I
could have the room and I've come for it and that's all there is to it!"

"Well, what about me?" inquired Ira mildly.

"You can find another one. You can do what you told me to do. If you
think it's so easy, just take a try at it!"

"If I thought you really had a right to this room I'd do it," answered
Ira, "but I don't. At least, not a convincing one. Tell you, though,
what I will do, Nead. I'll get Mrs. Magoon to fix up some sort of a cot
or something and you can stay here until tomorrow. It's pretty late to
go room hunting now and that's a fact. Or maybe she has another room
that she will let you have overnight. We'll go down and ask her."

"But I tell you it's my room, Boland! I don't care whether you think
I have any right to it or not. I know that I have. I know that I was
given a refusal of it until evening----"

"What do you call evening?" interrupted Ira.

"Oh, if you're going to split hairs----"

"I'm not, but if I said evening I'd have some time like sunset in mind.
The fact is, Nead, you didn't make sure that there was nothing better
until just before you came around here. And if you had found anything
better you would never have shown up here again. And you know that's
so, too. I'm perfectly willing to share the room with you tonight,
but I'm not going to get out of it. I'm sorry the misunderstanding
happened, but it isn't any fault of mine. Now, what do you say to
making the best of things and bunking out here until morning?"

Nead observed Ira gloweringly, and for a long moment made no answer,
and in that moment Ira had a good look at him. He was at least a full
year younger than Ira, a thin, rather peevish looking youth with a
poor complexion. His features were not bad, and he had rather nice
eyes, but there was something unpleasant about his expression. He
wore good clothes, but wore them carelessly, and Ira noted that his
tan shoes looked as if they had not seen polish for many days. On the
whole, Ira felt no enthusiasm about having Nead for a roommate even
overnight.

"Well, I'll stay here, I suppose," said Nead ungraciously. "But I'm not
giving up my claim on the room. Tomorrow I mean to go to the Principal
and tell him about it. I guess he will see that I get what belongs to
me."

"All right! That's settled for the present, anyway. Now I'll go down
and interview Mrs. Magoon. If she hasn't an empty room she can probably
find us a cot or a mattress. You can come along if you like," he ended
questioningly.

But Nead shook his head. "She will only get mad again if I go," he
said. "Besides," he added, tossing his hat to the table and stretching
himself more comfortably in the plush chair, "it's not up to me. I'm at
home already."

"Glad you feel that way," replied Ira gravely. "I'll be back in a
shake."

He found Mrs. Magoon more complaisant than he had expected. There was,
she recalled, a cot in the attic, but he would have to bring it down
himself. And having an extra person in the room would be fifty cents a
day. Ira, however, gently but firmly negated that, pointing out that
she had got herself into the fix and that it was nothing to do with
him, and finally the landlady agreed to waive remuneration. Ten minutes
later, not very enthusiastically aided by Nead, he had the cot set up.
There was a rather sketchy mattress on it and Mrs. Magoon grudgingly
furnished two sheets and a blanket. By that time Nead had got over his
grouch to some extent and was displaying a few human qualities.

"I thought I was going to have a room in one of the dormitories," he
explained, divesting himself of his outer clothing and depositing it
helter-skelter around the room. "I wouldn't have come if I'd known I
had to room off the campus. Why, you can get a fine study in Leonard
Hall for a hundred and twenty-five for the year, and that's only about
three dollars a week. They ought to have enough dormitories here and
not make fellows live around in dives like this. Gee, some of the
prices they talked today would make your hair stand up! One place I
went to asked six dollars for a room not half the size of this. It was
furnished, though, which you can't say of this place. She's put some
more things in here since I saw it, though."

"Bought 'em myself," said Ira.

"Bought them! But they look second-hand!"

"N-no, I don't guess so. Third-hand, maybe, or fourth, but hardly
second, Nead. Still, they're all right, aren't they? How do you like
the window seat?"

"Window seat? Is that what you call it?" Nead laughed. "Say, what's the
matter with it? Why does it shoot out like that?"

"It used to be straight," answered Ira soberly, "but it's rather old
and has rheumatism. That explains the crook in it."

"Huh! It looks mighty silly. If you expect me to buy this trash off you
you've got another guess coming."

"I don't, thanks. It's not for sale. Especially the window seat. I'm
sort of fond of that." He chuckled. "It's so--so foolish looking!"

Nead viewed him in puzzlement. "Well, if you like foolish things, all
right," he said finally, dipping into his bag for his pyjamas. "I
don't, though. Say, where do you come from?"

"Maine. How about you?"

"Buffalo."

"Dakota?" inquired Ira blandly.

"Dakota! Of course not, you idiot! There isn't any Buffalo in Dakota.
New York, of course."

"There used to be. Maybe they're all killed now, though. Buffalo's
quite a big place, I suppose."

"It's big enough, anyway. And it's the best city in the country."

"Sort of like this place, then, I guess."

"_What!_"

"Well, you said it was a city in the country, didn't you?" asked the
other innocently. "And that's what this is. I'd call it that, at least."

"You go and see Buffalo some time," advised Nead disgustedly. "I guess
you live in the country, all right." He grinned at the nightgown that
Ira was getting into. "Don't they have pyjamas up in Maine?"

"Not many. There's a few raccoons left, though."

"Oh, gee, you're a smart guy, aren't you? Well, I'm going to turn in.
Hope you'll find that cot comfortable, but it doesn't look it!"

"Oh, you're taking the bed, are you?"

"Sure," chuckled Nead. "It's mine, isn't it?"

"It's yours for tonight," was the answer. "If I have the nightmare,
just yell. I usually wake up. Good night."

Ira slept soundly in spite of the discomforts of that wobbly, creaking
cot, and when he awoke the early sunlight was slanting in at the
windows behind the new curtains. Across the room Nead was still asleep.
Reference to his watch showed the time to be but a few minutes past
six. Ira turned over stiffly and tried to slumber again, but after ten
minutes of unsuccessful effort he gave it up, rolled over on his back,
put his arms over his head, fixed his gaze on an interesting crack
that travelled from one side of the ceiling to the other with as many
ramifications as a trunk-line railway and faced the problem presented
by the unconscious form on the bed.

There was a freshness and coolness in the morning air that made for
well-being, and Ira felt extremely kindly toward the world, even
including Nead and the pugnacious Gene Goodloe. He wondered whether
the latter would see fit to follow up the little affair of yesterday,
and remembered that he hadn't sent him word of his whereabouts. He
would write Goodloe a note as soon as he got dressed. As far as he
was personally concerned, he was ready to call quits. It was much too
wonderful a day for fighting! Then he speculated about Mart Johnston
and wondered whether Mart would look him up. He didn't care a whole
lot. Mart was a cheerful sort of idiot, but he wasn't exactly restful!
And Mart had so many friends, besides that chap "Brad," that it wasn't
likely he would recall the existence of the boy who was thinking of him
except, perhaps, to laugh at him. And, finally, there was Nead.

Nead was a problem, and Ira scowled at the crack in the ceiling and
tried to solve it. Perhaps, after all, Nead did have a good claim on
that room. Ira tried to see the affair from Nead's point of view. It
was rather puzzling. He didn't quite know what he ought to do. Of
course, he might follow Nead's idea and leave the decision to the
faculty, but it seemed a trivial affair to bring to its attention. Or
he might----

He brought his gaze suddenly from the ceiling and stared blankly at
the window for a moment. Then he turned and regarded the sleeping
countenance of the boy across the room. In slumber Nead didn't look
so unpleasant, he thought. And living alone would be, perhaps, rather
lonesome. Certainly, could he have his choice of roommates the choice
wouldn't fall of Nead, but he couldn't. And maybe Nead would improve on
acquaintance. Ira had already discovered that first impressions are
frequently erroneous. There was, too, the advantage of having someone
share the expense, although Ira wasn't greatly concerned about that.
He weighed the question for some time, lying in bed there, and finally
made up his mind. He would make the proposition to Nead. If Nead wasn't
agreeable, why, Nead could find another room. Ira considered that he
would then have done all that was required of him. He plunged out of
bed and, gathering up towel and sponge and soap, made his descent on
the bathroom.



CHAPTER V

SCHOOL BEGINS


It was all settled by the time they had finished breakfast. Perhaps the
cheerfulness of the morning, or it may have been Mrs. Magoon's coffee,
worked its effect on Nead, for that youth was far more amiable, and,
while he did hesitate and seem a bit dubious for a moment, he ended by
accepting the proposition. Ira found himself hoping that he wouldn't
and took the other's hesitation as a good augury, but put aside all
regrets the moment Nead made his decision.

"That's all right, then," he declared. "Now we'll have to make a dicker
with Mrs. Magoon, I guess, for she'll want more for the room if there's
two in it."

"I don't see why," objected Nead. "Anyway, we oughtn't to pay more than
four a week."

"I think four would be enough," Ira agreed. "And what about breakfasts?
She charges a quarter apiece, you know."

"And they're pretty punk, if this is a sample," said Nead. "The
coffee's all right, but my chop had seen better days. Still, it's
easier than hunting a restaurant. I thought maybe I'd eat in school.
They say you get mighty good feed at Alumni Hall."

"Well, we'll tell her we'll take two breakfasts for awhile. That will
cheer her up, maybe. Shall I make the dicker?"

"Yes, she doesn't like me. And I don't like her. So that's even. What
class are you going into, Rowland?"

"Third, unless I trip up. What's yours?"

"Second. Wish we were in the same. It makes it easier if you're with a
fellow who's taking the same stuff. There's another thing, too; that
bed's fierce. See if she hasn't got a better mattress."

"I was going to buy one," said Ira. "I guess hers are all about the
same, don't you?"

"Well, make a stab," said Nead. "She may have one that hasn't been
slept on twenty years. What are the other fellows here like?"

"Don't know. I've seen only one, the fat fellow across the hall. There
must be quite a lot of them, because she says she has all the rooms
rented, and there are four rooms on each floor."

"Nine rooms altogether," Nead corrected. "There's one on the ground
floor at the back that she rents. It's behind the spring-water place. I
suppose there are two in some rooms. Must be twelve or fourteen fellows
in this dive, eh?"

"Maybe," agreed Ira, pushing away from the walnut table on which the
breakfast tray had been placed. "Do you know any fellows in school?"

"No, do you?"

"Only one, a fellow named Johnston. I ran across him yesterday and he
told me about this place. They call it 'Maggy's.' I'd been to about
six before that and couldn't find anything I liked. Well, I'll go down
and-- Hold on, though! I must write a note first."

He got a tablet and pulled a chair to the desk, and after wrinkling his
forehead a moment, wrote: "Mr. Eugene Goodloe, Parkinson School, Warne,
Mass. Dear Sir: I have a room at Mrs. Magoon's, 200 Main Street, third
floor back on the left. A note addressed to me here will find me and I
shall be glad to meet any appointment you care to make. Respectfully,
Ira Rowland." Then he enclosed it, stamped the envelope and dropped it
in his pocket.

"That's what I must do, I suppose," remarked Nead. "I told my folks I'd
write last night, but I forgot it. Guess I'll scribble a note while
you're talking to the old girl downstairs. Let me use your pen, will
you? Mine's in the trunk."

"Sorry, Nead," replied Ira, "but that's something I won't do. I'll lend
you about anything but my fountain pen."

"Oh, all right," said the other haughtily. "I've got a better one of my
own. Just didn't want to look for it."

The interview with Mrs. Magoon was a long-drawn-out ceremony. In the
first place, she was not eager to have Nead as a tenant. When she had
finally agreed to it, she held out for four dollars and a half a week
until Ira informed her that they would each want breakfasts. Four
dollars a week was at last agreed on. In the matter of mattresses,
however, she was adamant. More, she was even insulted. "That mattress
has been on that bed for six years," she said indignantly, "and
nobody's ever said anything against it before. Anyhow, I ain't got any
better one."

"All right, ma'am. And how about another bed in there?"

"You can keep that cot, I guess. I ain't got another bed."

"But the cot's as hard as a board!" exclaimed Ira. "It hasn't any
mattress; just a--a sort of pad!"

"Well, I don't know what I can do," replied the lady. "I can't afford
to go and buy a lot of new things. It's all I can do to get along as
it is, with rents as low as they are. That room ought to fetch me six
dollars a week, it should so. And I'm only getting four for it. And the
price of everything a body has to buy is going up all the time. I don't
know what we're coming to!"

"Suppose I buy a cheap single bed and mattress," suggested Ira. "Will
you take it off my hands when I move out?"

"I might. It wouldn't be worth full price, though, young man, after
being used a year or more."

"No, that's so. Suppose you pay me half what it costs me? Would that
do?"

"Why, yes, I guess 'twould. But don't go and buy an expensive one. I
wouldn't want to put much money into it."

"Well, I dare say I can get a bed for six dollars and a mattress for
ten, can't I?"

"Land sakes! I should hope you could! You can get an iron bed for four
dollars and a half that's plenty good enough and a mattress for six.
You go to Levinstein's on Adams Street. That's the cheapest place. Ask
for Mr. Levinstein and tell him I sent you. I buy a lot from him.
Leastways, I used to. I ain't bought much lately, what with times so
hard and rents what they are and everything a body has to have getting
to cost more every day. I mind the time when----"

But Ira had flown, and Mrs. Magoon's reminiscences were muttered to
herself as she made her way down to the mysterious realms of the
basement.

Nead flatly refused to spend any money for bed or mattress, but agreed
to go halves on the furniture that Ira had already purchased and on
anything it might be necessary to buy later. "You see," he explained,
"it will be your bed, and I won't get anything out of it. Maybe I might
swap mattresses with you if I like yours better, though," he concluded
with a laugh.

"You just try it!" said Ira grimly.

He purchased the bed and mattress before first recitation hour,
paying, however, more than Mrs. Magoon had advised. After testing the
six-dollar mattresses Ira concluded that there was such a thing as
mistaken economy! After leaving Levinstein's he remembered the letter
in his pocket and dropped it into a pillar box and then hustled for
school.

He was somewhat awed by the magnificence of Parkinson Hall as he made
his way up the steps and entered the rotunda. It still lacked ten
minutes of first hour, which was nine o'clock, and the entrance and
the big, glass-domed hall were filled with groups of waiting fellows.
He found a place out of the way and looked about him interestedly.
The rotunda was a chamber of spaciousness and soft, white light. The
stone walls held, here and there, Latin inscriptions--Ira tried his
hand at one of them and floundered ingloriously--and there were several
statues placed at intervals. A wide doorway admitted at each side to
the wings, and into one of the corridors he presently ventured. There
were three doors to his right and as many to his left, each opened and
showing a cheerfully bright and totally empty classroom, and at the
end of the corridor was a stairway leading to the floor above. About
that time a gong clanged and, with a hurried and surreptitious glance
at the schedule card in his pocket, Ira began a search for Room L. A
small youth in short trousers came to his assistance and he found it at
the end of the opposite wing. He had rather hoped to run across Mart
Johnston, but it was not until he had taken a seat in the recitation
room that he saw that youth several rows nearer the front. Mart
didn't see him, however, for he was busily engaged in whispering to a
good-looking, dark-complexioned fellow beside him whom Ira surmised
to be "Brad." The whispering, which was general, suddenly died away
and the occupants of the seats, fully a half-hundred in number, Ira
judged, arose to their feet and began to clap loudly. Ira followed
suit without knowing the reason for the demonstration until he caught
sight of a tall, thin figure in black making its way up the side aisle
toward the platform. Then he clapped louder, for the figure was that of
Professor Addicks, and Ira already had a soft spot in his heart for the
pleasant-voiced man who had spoken so kindly to him the day before.

Professor Addicks bowed and smiled, standing very straight on the
platform with one gnarled hand on the top of the desk. "It gives me
much pleasure to see you young gentlemen all back here again and all
looking so well," said he. "I trust you have spent a pleasant Summer
and that you have returned eager for work--and play. Someone--was it
not our own Mark Twain?--said that play is what we like to do, work
what we have to do. But he didn't say that we can't make play of our
work, young gentlemen. I can think of nothing that would please me more
than to overhear you say a few years from now: 'I had a good time at
Parkinson. There was football, you know, and baseball and tennis; and
then there was Old Addicks' Greek Class!'"

A roar of laughter greeted that, laughter in which the Professor joined
gently.

"Oh, I know what you call me," he went on smilingly. "But I like to
think that the term 'Old' is applied with some degree of--may I say
affection?"

Clapping then, and cries of "Yes, sir!"

"Age, young gentlemen, has its advantages as well as its disadvantages,
and amongst them is the accumulation of experiences, which are things
from which we gain knowledge. I am old enough to have had many
experiences, and I trust that I have gained some slight degree of
knowledge. I make no boast as to that, however. In fact, I find that
I am considerably less certain of my wisdom now than I was when I was
many years younger. Looking back, I see that the zenith of my erudition
was reached shortly after I had attained the age of the oldest of you,
that is, at about the age of twenty-one years. Today I am far more
humble as to my attainments. But, young gentlemen, there is one thing
that I have learned and learned well, and that is this: each of us can
make his work what he pleases, a task or a pleasure. Some of you won't
believe that now, but you'll all learn eventually that it is so. And if
you make your work a task you are putting difficulties in your own way,
whereas if you make it a pleasure you are automatically increasing your
power for work. If it is a pleasure you want to do it, and what we want
to do we do with a will. Therefore, young gentlemen, bring sufficient
of the element of play to your studies to make them agreeable. You go
through hard and difficult exertions for the exercise of your bodies
and call it fun. Why, then, pull a long face when you approach the
matter of exercising your minds? If one is play, why not the other? A
word to the wise is sufficient. I have given you many words. Let us
consider the pleasures before us."

There was no class work that day, and after they had had the morrow's
lessons indicated and had listed the books required for the courses in
Greek and Latin the fellows departed to gather again in another room
before another instructor. By noon Ira had faced all his instructors,
his head was swimming with a mass of information as to hours, courses
of reading and so on, and he had made quite a formidable list of books
and stationery to be purchased. He returned to Mrs. Magoon's and
spent a half-hour filling in a schedule card, and then, as Nead hadn't
returned, set off by himself to The Eggery for dinner. Now that the
big school dining room was open in Alumni Hall, The Eggery was rather
deserted as to students. The bulk of the patrons today were clerks and
shopkeepers.

After dinner he made various purchases of scratch-pads, blue-books,
pencils and similar articles, bought several books at a second-hand
store and paid a visit to the First National Bank of Warne. There he
made a deposit of all the money he had with him save enough change to
meet immediate demands, signed his name where the teller pointed and
emerged the proud possessor of his first check book. By that time it
was nearly three, and, having nothing especial to interest him, he
crossed the campus, made his way around Parkinson Hall and past the
little laboratory building and found himself facing the broad expanse
of level and still verdant turf known as the Playfield.

There was some twelve acres here, in shape a rectangle, with one corner
cut off by Apple Street, which began at the end of Linden Street and
proceeded at a tangent to the Cumner Road, the latter forming the
northern boundary of the field. Directly in front of Ira were the
tennis courts, a dozen in all, of which half were clay and half turf.
To the right of the courts was a quarter-mile running track enclosing
the gridiron and beyond that were the baseball diamonds, three in
number. A sizeable grandstand flanked the gridiron and a smaller one
stood behind the home-plate of the 'varsity diamond. Already the
playfield was well sprinkled with fellows. Several white-clad youths
were practising flights over the high-hurdles, another was jogging
around the farther turn of the track, the tennis courts were fairly
well occupied and the football candidates were beginning to emerge from
the nearby gymnasium and gather in front of the stand.

Ira stopped and watched the tennis for awhile and then gave his
attention to the hurdlers. He had never seen hurdlers in action before
and he looked on with interest while one after another went springing
by with long strides and queer steps; stride, stride, stride, step and
over; stride, stride, stride, step and over! Ira wondered what would
happen if he ran up to one of those barriers and tried to stick one leg
across and double the other one behind him. He chuckled at the mental
picture he got! One of the hurdlers interested him particularly. He
was a much shorter and chunkier lad than the others; in age probably
seventeen. There was no useless flesh on him, but he was very solidly
built and had more weight than the usual boy of his age. As a hurdler
he was persevering rather than brilliant. He struck four hurdles out of
the ten invariably, each time throwing himself out of his stride and
just saving himself from a fall, but he finished through with a fine,
dogged patience, rested and went at it again.

"If," thought Ira, "I was selecting a fellow to win one of these hurdle
races I wouldn't pick him, but if I was choosing a chap to--to hunt for
the South Pole or take on a hard job and finish it I guess he'd be the
one!"

When the hurdlers had picked up their sweaters and gone panting back
to the gymnasium Ira turned toward the grandstand. By this time a
half-hundred boys in football togs were assembled on the field,
while twice that number were seated in the stand to watch the first
practice of the year. Ira found a seat a little removed from the
throng and viewed the gathering. Even as he turned his eyes toward the
candidates their number was increased by the arrival of some eighteen
or twenty others accompanied by a man of perhaps thirty years whose
air of authority plainly stamped him as the coach. By his side was a
strapping youth with broad shoulders, a slim waist and sturdy legs who
was quite as plainly the captain. He had tawny hair, light eyes and
a lean, sun-browned face that, without being handsome, was striking.
He looked, Ira decided, like a born leader. And those shoulders and
that deep chest and the powerful legs under the brown-and-white
ringed stockings suggested that he was as capable physically as any
other way. A rotund man in brown denim overalls pushed a wheelbarrow
around the corner of the stand and from it unloaded a surprising
amount of paraphernalia; a canvas bag containing a half-dozen scuffed
footballs, many grey blankets, a water bucket and several shining new
tin dippers, head-guards, several pairs of shoes, a bunch of leather
laces, a nickel-plated horn with a rubber bulb attached and a leather
case whose contents were not divulged that afternoon but which Ira
later discovered to hold adhesive tape, bandages, phials and similar
first-aid requisites.

A tall, immaculate youth in street attire joined coach and captain.
He carried a square of light board to which were held by a clamp a
number of sheets of paper. Ira surmised correctly that he was the team
manager. A short conference ensued between the trio and then things
awoke to action.

"First squad down the field," called the coach. "New candidates this
way, please!"

The knot of players who had accompanied him on the field went off
with a couple of the worn footballs, while the balance of the fellows
gathered around. They represented all ages from fifteen to twenty,
although there were but two or three who looked more than eighteen;
and were of assorted sizes and of various builds. There were slim boys
there and dumpy boys; undersized boys and overgrown boys; fat boys
and lean boys; and boys who weren't anything in particular. All wore
football togs of some description, many new, more old. Here and there
Ira caught sight of a brown sweater with the white P followed by the
insignia "2nd," and here and there a white sweater bearing the letters
"P.B.B.C." in brown. But for the most part the candidates, perhaps
sixty-odd in number, appeared to be tyros. What the coach said to them
Ira was too far distant to hear, but he spoke for several minutes
amidst respectful silence. Then the group broke up and a minute later
the candidates had formed three groups at different parts of the field
and were passing balls to each other.

It wasn't an exciting sight, and after a half-hour Ira pulled himself
from his sun-smitten plank and made his way homeward across the campus,
loitering a little in the grateful shade of the buildings. He passed
three or four groups of fellows studying, or at least making a pretence
of studying, under the lindens, and always he was followed by curious
and faintly amused looks. He didn't know it, however, and wouldn't have
been troubled if he had known it. It certainly didn't occur to him
that anyone could find anything unusual in his appearance now that he
was wearing his blue serge. He had bought that suit in Bangor and he
had the salesman's word for it that it was absolutely the last cry in
fashionable attire and that it fitted him perfectly. Perhaps, however,
the salesman had been nearsighted. Let us be charitable and think so;
for the fact is that that blue serge suit was too short as to trousers,
leaving a painful lapse between the edge of each cuff and Ira's low
shoes--a lapse rather startlingly occupied by faded brown socks--and
the coat was ungracefully long and fell away at the back of his neck.
Possibly the waistcoat fitted as well as the salesman had asserted, but
Ira wasn't wearing the waistcoat today. There is no gainsaying that,
judged by the standard of the flannel-garbed youths under the trees,
Ira's appearance was somewhat unusual at Parkinson.

As he crossed Washington Avenue from the centre gate and entered School
Street he found himself hoping a trifle wistfully that he would find
Nead in the room, for he was beginning to feel a bit lonesome and
out of it. But he was destined to disappointment, for when he opened
the door the room was quite empty. There were, however, evidences of
recent occupation, evidences both olfactive and optical. First, there
was a distinct odour of cigarette smoke, and, second, there was a note
propped up against the lamp on the desk.



CHAPTER VI

THE ENEMY CALLS


The note proved to be from Mart Johnston.

"Where do you keep yourself? [he read] Come over to 16 Goss about five
and play with us. Eternally and indestructibly yours, M. J."

Ira smiled over the message as he crumpled it up and dropped it into a
waste basket. The temptation to accept Mart's invitation was strong,
but he knew that he ought to at least get acquainted with some of the
books piled there beside him. It wouldn't do to leave all the studying
until evening. Anyhow, five o'clock was still three-quarters of an hour
away, and----

And just then the odour of stale cigarette smoke assailed his nostrils
again and he frowned. Of course, if Mart wanted to smoke cigarettes it
was no one's business; at least, not Ira Rowland's; but Ira didn't hold
with smoking for boys and he guessed he and Mart weren't destined to
continue that acquaintance after all. He wasn't afraid that Mart would
corrupt him, of course, but he didn't see any advantage to be gained by
becoming intimate with fellows who smoked. Doubtless Mart was one of
the "smart class" at Parkinson, and Ira wasn't "smart" and didn't want
to be. No, on the whole he guessed he'd let Mart Johnston slide. He was
a little bit sorry, for the gay-hearted chap with his queer phrases and
ready laughter was certainly likable, and an existence containing only
Nead as an intimate didn't look enticing. He didn't even know Nead's
first name yet, he reflected--as he settled himself for study--and,
in any case, he didn't believe that he could ever grow fond of that
rather unpleasant youth. He supposed, though, that he'd get acquainted
with other fellows after awhile. Amongst nearly five hundred there were
surely some to become friendly with! After which encouraging conclusion
he opened his Greek Reader, settled his elbows on the desk and his chin
in his hands and resolutely began his task.

Ten minutes later footsteps sounded outside and a knock came at the
door. Ira marked his place with a finger and called "Come in!" For a
moment Ira failed to recognize the boy who entered, although he knew
that he had seen him. He was a finely built chap of eighteen or so,
of middle height and with rather an engaging countenance. It wasn't
until the visitor had nodded smilingly, closed the door behind him and
greeted Ira with a careless "Hello!" that the latter recognised him as
Eugene Goodloe. Today he was wearing tennis flannels and carrying a
racket in his hand. Ira arose from his chair a trifle warily.

"How do you do?" he responded gravely.

"Better than when you saw me last," answered the caller, his smile
deepening. "Mind if I sit down? I've had three sets of tennis and I've
been leading a lazy life of late. I'm about all in, Rowland."

"Of course! Have a chair!" said Ira, trying not to sound surprised.
"I--er--Did you get my note?"

"Yes, a little while ago. That's why I'm here. I thought I might as
well drop around and talk things over. Say, where did you learn to
punch like that, Rowland? You nearly broke my jaw!"

"Why, in the woods, I guess. Sorry if I hurt you much. Maybe I hit
harder than I needed to, Goodloe."

"Oh, that's all right. I had it coming to me. What do you mean by the
woods, though? Oh, I know! You said you lived in a lumber camp, didn't
you?"

"Not exactly," replied Ira, seating himself on a corner of the desk.
"I don't live in a lumber camp, but I've spent some time in them. The
lumbermen are mostly pretty handy with their fists. You sort of pick up
fighting when you're around with the drive."

"Guess I'd better spend a few months in the Maine woods," said Gene
Goodloe ruefully. "Well, what's your idea, Rowland? Want to try it
again?"

"Any time you say, thanks."

"Suits me. We'd better not advertise, though. Faculty's a bit down on
scraps. I don't see why you and I can't just take a walk, say, tomorrow
morning early, eh? Do you know where the brick-yards are, over across
Apple Street? They aren't used nowadays and the fellows generally pull
off their scraps there."

"I don't know where you mean," said Ira, "but I can find the place all
right."

"Sure! Or you might meet me at the West Gate. It's on our way. Any time
you say after six-thirty."

"Six-thirty will suit me. The West Gate's the one over that way, to the
left, isn't it?"

"Yes. Of course, if you'd rather bring some fellow with you, I don't
mind. I'll do the same, if you like. Only I don't see any use in
having a crowd, what?"

"N-no; and I don't think I know anyone who would go with me." He did
think of Nead, but somehow Nead didn't appeal to him in the rôle of
second. "We can get along without help, I guess," he added.

"Sure! You may have to carry me home, or I may have to lug you back,"
chuckled Goodloe, "and I hope it'll be the latter way. No use in
fighting rounds, is there? Just dig in and keep at it until we've had
enough, what?"

"I think so."

"Good! And now that that's settled," said Goodloe, "I'd like to say
that--well, I guess I want to apologise, Rowland, for anything I said
yesterday that wasn't decent. I had a sort of a grouch, I guess."

"All right," assented Ira. "Maybe I was sort of flarey, too."

"No, you weren't," Goodloe laughed. "You were about as cool as they
make 'em. Do you ever lose your head and get rattled?"

Ira smiled slowly. "I guess so--sometimes. I did yesterday."

"No one would have known it! Rather jolly room you've got here. All
alone? Oh, I see you're not."

"No, there's a fellow named Nead in with me."

"Nead? Don't know him, I guess. But I thought you said you didn't know
any fellow who'd act as second for you."

"Well, I did think of Nead, but--he doesn't--" Ira hesitated and his
visitor laughed understandingly.

"Not the sort you want in a pinch, eh? Well, we won't Nead him. Rotten
pun, wasn't it? So long, Rowland. I must be getting back to hall. Much
obliged for that note, you know. Glad we got together so nicely, too.
I guess there won't be any hard feelings, no matter who pulls down the
purse! Six-thirty at the West Gate then. I'll be there."

Gene Goodloe nodded affably and took his departure, leaving Ira looking
perplexedly at the door that had closed behind him.

"I wonder," thought Ira, "what there is to fight for? He says he was
in the wrong and has apologised. I'm certainly satisfied. Then what do
we scrap about in the morning?" But there was no satisfactory answer
to that conundrum and he went back to his books. When, just before six
o'clock, Nead came in, he had conquered his Greek lesson and had dipped
into Algebra.

Nead viewed him contemptuously as he skimmed his hat across the room to
his bed. "Gee," he said in disgust, "I hope you're not going to be a
'grind,' Rowland. That would be the limit."

"Hope not myself," replied Ira. "By the way, Nead, what's your other
name, if you have one?"

"Humphrey."

"Thanks. Mine's Ira."

"There's not much choice between them, is there?" laughed Nead. "I was
named for an uncle, my Mother's brother. How did yours happen?"

"I don't know, I'm sure. I guess Father or Mother liked the name. I
confess I'm not fond of it, but it might be worse. What have you been
doing this afternoon?"

"Oh, moseying around. It's rather a dull hole. Played some pool over on
Green Street with a fellow, for one thing."

"Who was he?" asked Ira.

"Search me. I ran across him there and he wanted to play and I took
him on. He was a shark, too. I only got three games out of ten. Had
perfectly rotten luck."

"One of the school fellows, was he?"

"Great Scott, no! He was a real player. Guess I could handle any of
the school chaps at pool without much trouble. Say, there's a reception
or something tonight at the Principal's. Sort of a shindig for the new
chaps. You going?"

"I think so. One of the instructors said we ought to. By the way, who's
your adviser?"

"Hale, Physics man. He looks like a pill. I've got a date with him at
seven-thirty. Who's yours?"

"Mr. McCreedy, the Mathematics instructor. I'm to confer tomorrow at
eleven-thirty. Where do we eat tonight?"

"Let's try the Owl Grill. This guy I played pool with says it's swell."

"Where is it?"

"A block this side of the station, on Maple Street. Want to start along
pretty soon? I'm starved."

"I'm ready now," responded Ira, marking his place and closing his book.
"Done any studying yet?"

"Me? No, I'll take a fall out of it tonight. It looks like a cinch. The
Algebra's review stuff. I've had it already. And the Latin's easy, too.
Guess German's the only thing I'll mind much. How about you?"

"Looks stiff," acknowledged Ira. "I didn't expect to have to take
French until next year. Languages were always hard for me. I've elected
Greek instead of German. I don't see why a fellow needs much German, do
you?"

"I don't see why he needs any. Or French, either, for that matter.
Latin's enough, I think."

"Really? But French is different from German. I mean, it's a sort of
universal language----"

"Sure. I know. But why not learn it in college? That's time enough. My
idea is that they try to teach you too blamed much at these big prep
schools."

"A good many fellows don't go to college," said Ira. "I'm not certain
that I shall."

"Gee, I wouldn't miss it! If it wasn't for going to college I wouldn't
ever waste time at a prep school, believe me. College is fun, old man.
You take my advice and go. Get a move on and let's start along. I could
eat bent nails!"

The food at the Owl Grill proved excellent, but the prices were
dismayingly high and the atmosphere of the place didn't please Ira.
They ate in one of the little booths that lined the walls of the
restaurant, which was a bright and attractive place of many lights
and black-oak panelling and cheerful pictures of hunting and coaching
scenes. But after the room had filled up Ira had an uncomfortable
feeling of being in the wrong place. His modest order brought an
expression of disdain to the waiter's face, and when he glanced
out into the room and saw what most of the diners were surrounding
themselves with he understood it. Humphrey Nead ordered as if quite
familiar with that style of restaurant and bought far more food than he
was able to eat and paid his check later with a lordly air.

"Some place for a one-horse town like this, eh?" he asked, looking
approvingly around. "I guess it beats eating in hall, what? Sometime
I'm going to have one of those planked steaks like the fat guy over
there has. Bet they cost about two dollars. They ought to have music
here, though. We've got a place in Buffalo you ought to see, Rowland.
It's got this beat a mile. Going to drink anything?"

"I guess not. I don't like tea much, and coffee at night keeps me
awake."

"Gee, you're a greenie!" jeered Nead. "I meant a real drink, a glass of
beer or something."

"I don't drink beer," replied Ira shortly. "And if you take my advice
you won't, either."

"Piffle! I often have a glass of beer with my dinner. Don't be a pill!"

"What you do at home is different, Nead. You're not allowed to do it
here, and if faculty found it out----"

"What faculty doesn't know won't hurt it," returned Nead flippantly.
But Ira observed that he didn't order the beer. When they had finished,
Nead wanted to sit there awhile and talk, but Ira wasn't comfortable
and Nead grumblingly consented to leave. When Ira handed the waiter
fifteen cents, which was the change from the dollar he had placed
on his check, Nead looked even more disgusted than the waiter and
ostentatiously tossed a fifty-cent piece on the cloth.

"Did you see his look when you slipped him that tip?" he asked as they
passed out. "It was a study. It doesn't do to be a piker in a place
like that, Rowland. They remember it, and the next time you go there
you don't get any sort of attention. It pays to loosen up sometimes."

"There won't be any next time for me," answered the other untroubledly.
"I don't like the place. And, anyway, I wouldn't have tipped him more
than fifteen cents. That's more than enough."

"Oh, sure! You don't _have_ to give anything, but they expect it, you
know, and they think you're a tightwad if you don't come across."

"What that waiter thinks of me doesn't worry me a bit," replied Ira,
smiling. "It isn't a patch on what I think of him!"

"Oh, he didn't do so badly," said the other carelessly. "I think it's
a pretty decent dive for a town like this. They do know how to charge,
though. A fellow couldn't eat there more than a couple of times a week,
I guess."

"I couldn't. Suppose we look around and find a good boarding house,
Nead?"

"Not on your tintype! No boarding house for yours truly! Guess I'll
go to Alumni after a week or so. I'll be busted by that time," he
chuckled, "and you can chalk it up at Alumni until the end of the term.
It's nearly seven-thirty and I'll have to hustle over to Goss and keep
that date with Hale. See you at the party, eh?"

"All right. I'll be there about a quarter past eight. Bye!"

Humphrey Nead turned into School Street in the direction of the campus
and Ira kept on until he reached Number 200. As usual, the little
tailor was hard at work under a flaring gas jet as Ira pushed open the
outer door, and was humming a queer tune as he trundled the steaming
goose up and down the pressing board. Ira fumbled his way up the dark
staircase to the floor above and then went along the hall with more
certainty in the dim radiance of the single bracket. As he passed the
door of a room on the front of the house it opened suddenly and a tall
form in a blanket dressing gown stood revealed in the light.

"The Peloponnesian War was 430, wasn't it? Or was it 431?"

Ira, already startled by the sudden apparition, drew back in surprise.
"I--What did you say?" he gasped.

"The Peloponnesian War," repeated the stranger in the doorway
impatiently. "What was the date?"

"I'm afraid I don't remember," replied Ira apologetically. "But it was
somewhere around there."

"Rather indefinite," said the other drily. "Thought you might know.
Much obliged." He was gone and the door was closed before Ira could
reply, leaving the dim impression of a thin, earnest face and a pair of
big spectacles. Ira smiled as he climbed the next stairway. From the
room across the corridor came the muffled strains of "Boola" punctuated
by a sound that suggested the beating of a book with a ruler. Ira's
smile became a grin. Evidently "Maggy's" was inhabited by some queer
characters, he thought.

There was barely time for a letter before eight o'clock and he lighted
the gas and set to work. But after writing "Dear Dad" at the top of the
sheet he leaned back and began to think of that encounter with Goodloe
in the morning. He found that he entertained a sentiment of cordiality
toward Goodloe and the idea of standing up to him and trying to flatten
his nose for him seemed somewhat ridiculous. "If only he hadn't come
around and called," thought Ira. "He seemed such a decent chap, and
apologised so nicely! Wonder why he wants to fight. I'm sure I don't.
Well, I suppose I'll have to go through with it. I guess I can lick
him, all right, but I haven't got much enthusiasm for it. Still, if I
don't make a fight of it he will probably mess me up considerable. I
guess he's the sort that'll bore in and take a lot of punishment, too.
Bother him, I wish he was in Halifax!"

After that there was not time left for the home letter, and he spruced
up a bit and trudged through School Street and then along Washington
Avenue, in front of what was known as Faculty Row, and found the
Principal's residence, at the corner of the grounds, quite gay with
lights within and coloured lanterns without. A thin stream of more
or less embarrassed First Class fellows was ascending the steps and
edging in to be greeted by Dr. and Mrs. Lane at the door of the big
library. Ira liked Dr. Lane's looks and his hearty handshake and his
deep and pleasant voice. The Principal was a man still slightly under
thirty, of medium height and build, clean-shaven, with rather more
of the executive than the pedagog in his appearance. He held Ira in
conversation a few moments and then passed him over to Mrs. Lane, a
rotund, cheerful little woman who invited him to tea on Friday next at
half-past four and asked him what church he attended. Ira was afterward
in doubt whether he had accepted the invitation or not, but concluded
that it didn't matter. He met Professor Addicks a minute later and was
flattered to discover that the professor remembered him. The professor,
although Ira didn't know it, always remembered everyone and everything.
After that he met many other members of the faculty, many of whose
names he promptly forgot, and talked, without being introduced, to a
number of lonesome looking fellows whom he found standing around in
corners or flattened against walls. Most of the guests were, of course,
first year students, and Ira and some eight or nine others were the
only older boys there. One small chap of fourteen whom Ira discovered
in a niche between a door and a mantel in a back room mistook him for
an instructor or something official, a misapprehension flattering but
embarrassing. He caught sight of Nead once for a moment, but that
youth was hobnobbing with a freshman in the hall and didn't see him.
Refreshments were served in the garden at nine, and after demolishing
a helping of ice cream and a slice of cake Ira slipped quietly away.
It wouldn't do to stay up very late, since he had an important
engagement at half-past six at the West Gate, and he had still to do
some studying. What time Nead returned he didn't know, for he was fast
asleep at half-past ten.



CHAPTER VII

THE FIGHT


When Ira awoke the next morning an expression of Mart Johnston's came
to him. "You've got a good day for it!" It certainly was a good day,
for the early morning sky was cloudless and swept by a crisp breeze
that held enough tingle as it came through the window to make him hurry
a bit with his dressing. He managed to get through his ablutions and
put his clothes on without disturbing Nead, and at twenty minutes past
six he closed the door quietly behind him and went cautiously down the
dim stairways. Main Street was for the most part still asleep, although
a few yawning persons were opening stores for the day's trade. He found
himself whistling a tune as he turned into Linden Street and realised
that it was rather an incongruous thing to do under the circumstances.
He ought, he told himself, to plan his battle and keep his mind on
feints and leads. But the morning was too fine for that and he didn't
feel in the least sanguinary. He would much have preferred a long walk
into the country.

There was no sign of Goodloe when he reached the West Gate, and he had
begun to hope that that youth had overslept when he caught sight of him
running down the steps of Williams Hall. Goodloe waved a greeting as he
hurried up, still buttoning his waistcoat.

"Sorry if I'm late," he said as he joined Ira. "I came mighty near
missing it. Fred wouldn't let me set the alarm clock and I'm not much
good at waking up myself. Say, it's a peach of a morning, isn't it? If
we cut through here it's nearer, Rowland."

He led the way down a sort of lane beside an old white house on Apple
Street and they squeezed themselves between the bars of a gate.

"I suppose you went to Jud's reception last night?" asked Goodloe. "I
went last year. He asked a lot of us over to give the glad hand to the
new boys, but Halden--he was baseball captain last year--and a lot more
of us made such inroads on the refreshments that we didn't get asked
this time. I suppose Mrs. Jud asked you to tea?"

"Yes, she did. On Friday, I think it was. I'm not sure whether I said
I'd come or not."

"It doesn't matter. She doesn't expect you. No one ever goes. Not
more than once, anyhow. She makes you do things: sing or recite or
do card tricks. She means well; in fact she's a nice little person,
Mrs. Jud; but it's a nuisance. Ned Mailman went the first time he was
asked and recited Casey at the Bat with the aid of an umbrella out of
the stand in the hall, and knocked about sixty-eleven dollars worth of
bric-a-brac off the mantel! Here we are!"

They had crossed a field during Goodloe's chatter and now were making
their way past the old workings of a brick-yard, skirting a clay pit
that was half full of water and a tumble-down shed littered with broken
bricks. Further on was a small building in a fair state of repair, save
for the windows which had been practically denuded of glass, and to the
back of this Goodloe cheerfully led the way.

"Out of sight of the world," he announced. "There have been more
scraps pulled off here than you can shake a stick at. It used to be
a brick-yard, but now it's a scrap yard." Goodloe removed his coat
and waistcoat and hung them carefully from a nail against the side of
the shed. "There's a nail for you," he said, pointing. "We don't get
checks, but they'll be safe." He put his hat over his garments and drew
his belt in another hole.

Certainly, reflected Ira, the place was private enough. The shed cut
off all sight of the school, the street and the nearer houses, while
in other directions a young growth of birch and oak which had sprung
up since the yard's activities had ceased effectually screened them.
The morning sunshine fell warmly on the little space of hard-trodden
clay and the side of the shed, turning the weathered, grey boards of
the latter to pale gold. Ira removed his coat and vest and hat and hung
them beside Goodloe's. He didn't cinch in his belt because he didn't
wear one, but he did shorten his suspenders a little.

"I needn't tell you, I guess," observed Goodloe, "that it won't do
to be seen around school with our faces messed up. After honour is
satisfied we'd better look each other over and do the first-aid act. If
faculty sees us with our eyes bruised it'll get to asking questions.
All ready? Shake hands, do we? Fine! I suppose hitting in the clinches
is barred, eh?"

"Just as you like," answered Ira.

"Well, it's more shipshape to break away, I guess. We might as well act
like gentlemen even if it hurts us! Let her go, Rowland!"

Goodloe had been smiling genially thus far, and the smile on his face
still continued now, but his eyes narrowed a little as he stepped
warily back and raised his guard. Ira, for his part, experienced a
strong desire to laugh, for the humour of the affair struck him harder
than before. But he tried to look grave as he faced his antagonist and
waited for the latter to begin. It soon became evident, though, that
Goodloe was also waiting. In the course of the first thirty seconds of
that remarkable meeting they each completed one circuit of the "ring"
without offering a blow.

"Come on!" said Goodloe encouragingly.

"Come on yourself," replied Ira grinning.

Goodloe grunted. "I suppose someone's got to start it," he muttered.
He feinted with his right and landed a light tap on Ira's shoulder and
danced away before Ira could reach him. He came back and they each
sparred for an opening until Ira landed a weak left to the neck.

"Short," said Goodloe. "You're quick on your feet for a big chap. I'll
have to watch you."

He rushed in and managed to reach Ira's chin, but the blow was half
blocked and scarcely jarred the recipient, and Ira landed twice on the
body before Goodloe retreated. More circling then, each watching the
other warily, and then a half-hearted rush by Goodloe that failed to
beat down Ira's guard. Half a dozen quick blows were given by each,
but the blocking was good and neither got home.

[Illustration: More circling then, each watching the other warily]

"This is a perfect farce," declared Goodloe mournfully. "You're not
half fighting, confound you!"

"Neither are you," replied Ira, laughing.

They drew off by common consent, panting a little, but more from their
circling than their sparring, and viewed each other. Goodloe shook his
head discouragedly. "You'll have to do better than you've been doing,
Rowland," he complained. "Can't you hand me one on the face? I can't do
it all, you know."

"I don't see that you've done any of it yet," said Ira indignantly. "If
you want to fight go ahead and fight. I'm not stopping you."

"Well, but--hang it, Rowland, I can't smash a fellow unless he does
something to get me worked up! Why don't you start something?"

"Why don't you?"

"Why, it isn't my row!"

Ira burst out laughing. "Whose is it, then?"

"Yours, of course. You said you wanted to fight----"

"_I_ said so! When?"

"Well, that note said so, then."

"I said I'd meet you whenever you liked," protested Ira. "You don't
call that a--a challenge, do you?"

"N-no, maybe not, but it sort of sounded as if you wanted to finish up
the scrap we started, and I couldn't very well refuse, could I? If you
didn't want to fight what the dickens did you get me out of bed for at
this unearthly hour?" Goodloe sounded pained and pathetic.

"That was your suggestion," answered Ira. "I wasn't crazy about
scrapping before breakfast, or any other time."

"Then--then you don't want to fight?" demanded Goodloe.

"I'm not a bit keen about it," laughed Ira. "I was only obliging you,
Goodloe."

"Well, I'll be blowed! What do you know about that? Thunderation, I
don't want to fight you! Why should I? I made an ass of myself the
other day and got knocked down, but I deserved it, and I've said so.
You--you're quite sure you don't want to go ahead?"

"Quite, thanks. I'd rather have some breakfast."

Goodloe grinned. "So would I," he said heartily. "Tell you what,
Rowland. We'll go down to The Eggery and have some coffee and cakes
and a few trimmings. What do you say? I don't believe I want to go to
dining hall this morning."

"All right. That suits me. Let's get there. I'm as hungry as a bear!"

"Me, too! Say, it looks to me as if we were a couple of silly chumps!"
Goodloe chuckled as he handed Ira his hat. "For the love of Pete, don't
let this out or we'll be a regular laughing-stock! If Fred Lyons ever
got onto this he'd never let up on me!"

"Is he the football captain?" asked Ira as he pulled his vest on.

"Yes. We room together. You ought to know him, Rowland. He's a dandy
old scout. Tell you what! You run around tonight and meet him, eh? I
wish you would. You'd like him. Come over about eight, will you?"

"Thanks, I'd like to. Now which is the shortest way to The Eggery?"

Ten minutes later they were seated at opposite sides of a small table
in the restaurant and no one of the patrons would have suspected them
of having lately met on the field of honour. For they were talking as
amicably as though they were old friends while they consumed their
buckwheat cakes with maple sirup and drank their piping hot coffee. And
afterwards, when they had supplemented the main part of the repast
with three doughnuts apiece and had ordered more coffee, they still sat
there chatting and laughing.

"I wish," said Ira, at last approaching a question he had had on his
mind to ask for some time, "I wish you'd tell me something."

"Will if I can," answered Gene. "Shoot."

"Well, it's about my--about that suit I had on the other day. I suppose
it doesn't look just right, Goodloe, but what's the trouble with it?"

"Why--er--if you want the truth, Rowland, it's too small for you. It
looks as if you'd grown about six inches since you got it."

"Oh! Yes, I guess I have. I've had it two years, about. I realise that
my things don't look like what you fellows wear. I dare say even these
aren't--aren't quite right, eh?"

"Well, I wouldn't want to say that," responded Gene cautiously.

"Well, are they? I thought they were yesterday morning, but they don't
seem to look just--just proper."

"Perhaps they're a wee bit--er--skimpy," allowed Gene, evidently
anxious not to hurt the other's feelings. "Did you have them made for
you or--or just buy them?"

"I bought them ready-made. I never had a suit made to order. You see,
Cheney Falls is just a village and the only tailor there would probably
die of fright if you asked him to make a suit of clothes for you! I got
these in Bangor. The man I got them of said they were fine; said they
fitted perfectly. But I guess they don't, eh?"

"Well, n-no, they don't, Rowland; not perfectly. If I were you I'd
take them to a tailor here and let him take a fall out of them. If you
want a suit built, try Dodge, on Adams Street, next door to the Music
Hall. He does a lot of work for the fellows and is pretty good, and he
doesn't charge terribly much, either."

"I guess I will," answered Ira. "I mean, have these doctored. Maybe
I'll get me a new suit, too, later. How much does he charge?"

"Oh, he'll build you a mighty good one for thirty-five."

"Thirty-five!" exclaimed Ira. "Gee! These only cost eighteen!"

"Yes, but what Dodge will turn out will outwear that suit two to one
and, besides, it'll fit you, Rowland. You won't have to pay the whole
bill right away if you don't want to, only you mustn't tell faculty. It
doesn't approve of the fellows running accounts."

"Oh, if I got it I'd pay cash, I guess."

"It's best to," agreed Gene. "I used to charge things all over the shop
when I first came, but I was always scared that faculty would get on to
it. Besides, I had a fierce time getting my bills paid off at the end
of the year. Well, I must be starting back. Put your money up, please.
This is my treat."

"Oh, no! I'd rather not!"

"Can't help it, old man. As the challenged party I have the choice of
weapons, and I choose to defeat you with cash." He had already seized
Ira's check and so the latter gave in, although a bit uncomfortably.
Still, the breakfasts had been only thirty cents apiece, so perhaps
it didn't much matter. They parted outside, Gene reminding Ira of his
agreement to call that evening, and went their separate ways. When Ira
got back to the room he found Humphrey just starting out for breakfast.

"Well, what happened to you?" he demanded. "Been catching worms?"

"I got up early," replied Ira. "I've had breakfast."

"You have? What's the idea? Didn't you have enough dinner last night to
hold you for a while?"

"Yes, but--it was a fine morning and--Say, we ought to get a cushion
for that window seat today."

"You get it," said Humphrey. "I'm going to be busy this afternoon. I've
got a date with a fellow."

"All right. I'll try to get out of it cheap."

"You'd better. I don't intend to spend much money on this dive. It
isn't worth it."

"Why, I thought it was beginning to look pretty nice," replied Ira.
"When you get your pictures up----"

"Oh, it'll do, I suppose. Well, I'm off to feed. Don't want to come
along, do you?"

"No, thanks. I'm going to do a little studying before first hour."

"I wish you'd do some for me. I haven't looked into a book yet. So
long!"

Ira had plenty to keep him busy until three that day. He had a
consultation at half-past eleven with Mr. McCreedy, his adviser, and in
consequence made one or two alterations in his elective courses. The
Mathematics instructor was a youngish man with a sort of cut-and-dried
manner that Ira found unsympathetic. But the advice was good and Mr.
McCreedy begged Ira to look him up frequently and not to hesitate to
consult him on any matter at any time. In the afternoon--studies went
easily enough as yet--Ira found himself at a loose end, although one
could, of course, always "grind." But "grinding" didn't appeal to him
on such a day, and he wandered around to the playfield again and looked
on at football practice for awhile. Several fellows nodded to him,
and some spoke, for he had made acquaintances in classroom and at the
Principal's reception. But he met no one he knew well enough to talk
to, and about four he returned to his lodging to get the measurements
for the window-seat cushion. When he opened the door he was surprised
to find that the odour of stale cigarette smoke still lingered, in
spite of wide-open windows. There was a brief note from Humphrey asking
him to meet him there at six for supper. He arranged at a furniture
store for the cushion and then went back and finished that letter to
his father. As he had a good deal to write, it was six o'clock before
he had reached the last of the twelve pages. He waited until half-past
for Humphrey and then, as that youth was still absent, sallied forth
alone. He was quite as well satisfied, for Humphrey was inclined to eat
bigger suppers than he needed, and Ira, after buying an evening paper,
sought The Eggery and did very well at an expense of twenty cents.
At half-past seven, having brushed his blue suit and his shoes and
his hair, and changed his tie for one more after the fashion of those
affected at Parkinson, he started out for Gene Goodloe's room.



CHAPTER VIII

IRA DECLINES AN INVITATION


Goodloe roomed in Number 30, Williams Hall, the dormitory nest to
Parkinson on the left, and Ira wandered around for several minutes
before he discovered that there were two entrances and that he had
selected the wrong one. Finally, a boy whom he encountered in the
corridor set him right and Number 30 was eventually located on the
second floor at the west end of the building. The door was ajar and
his rap went unheard at first. Then someone called "Come in if you're
good-looking!" and Ira entered to find the big room seemingly full of
boys. As a matter of fact, though, there were only seven there, as Ira
discovered presently when, having been welcomed by Gene and introduced
off-handedly to the rest, he found a seat and an opportunity to look
around. His entrance proved the signal for a general withdrawal, and
all the visitors but one left, nodding carelessly to him from the door
on their way out. The fellow who remained was the tall, dark-haired
boy who had so kindly and readily interpreted the mystic "R & B" the
day of Ira's arrival. He had, however, shown no sign of recollection
on being introduced, and Ira had concluded that he had failed to
recognise him. But when Fred Lyons had closed the door on the heels of
the final departing caller, White--his was one of the few names Ira had
remembered--turned to him with a smile and remarked:

"How are you getting on with the rats, Rowland? Hope they're giving you
your money's worth at Maggy's."

"What's the joke about rats?" inquired Fred Lyons before Ira could
reply.

"Oh, we tried to put one over on Rowland the other day," replied Gene
Goodloe. "He wanted to know what 'R & B' stood for on the list of
rooming houses they give you and Ray told him it stood for 'Rats and
Bugs.' We thought we'd got away with it at first, but now I'm not sure
Rowland fell for it at all. Did you?"

"He did at first, didn't you?" asked Raymond White. "Say you did,
Rowland, anyhow. Let us down easy."

"Yes, I did--at first," answered Ira. "You all looked so sober and--and
truthful, you see."

"Truthful! Gee!" exclaimed White. "I guess you didn't take a good look
at Gene!"

"Oh, that was when Gene got the lovely knockout, was it?" asked the
football captain. "I'd like to have seen that. It would do me a lot of
good to see Gene get what's coming to him."

"Why don't you try to give it to me, you big bluff?" demanded Gene,
truculently. "Why depend on--on outside talent?" He doubled up his
fists and frowned formidably until his roommate stirred as though to
get out of his chair. Then he put the table between them, and Fred
Lyons grunted contemptuously.

"You see what a coward he is, Rowland," he said. "Hit him any time you
like. He'll stand for it."

"Not from you, I won't! Just one more crack like that, you old stiff,
and I'll come around there and put you over my knee!" Even Ira had
to smile at the idea of Gene spanking his chum, who was a good three
inches taller and bigger all around, and White laughed amusedly and
asked:

"Why don't you flay him some time, Fred? It would do him good."

"I'm going to. I'm saving it up for him," answered Lyons. Then he
turned to Ira and asked: "How are you getting on, Rowland? Things
breaking all right for you?"

"Oh, yes, thanks. It's sort of strange yet, but I'm learning."

"That's good. Take my advice, though, and choose your companions
carefully. Avoid questionable company."

Ira nodded politely, secretly a little surprised until he caught the
amused look on White's countenance. Then he, too, smiled doubtfully as
Gene said:

"Oh, Rowland's able to look after himself. If he wasn't I wouldn't
have asked him around here to meet you chaps. I might as well explain,
Rowland, that you're quite at liberty to cut these fellows dead the
next time you see them. I only wanted to show them to you so you'd know
whom to avoid."

"Where are you hanging out?" asked Lyons.

"Mrs. Magoon's, on Main Street."

"Maggy's, eh? Not a bad place. She lets you do about as you like,
anyway, so long as you pay your bills. They said last year that faculty
was sort of frowning on Maggy's and weren't going to let the fellows go
there any more. Who's in the house with you?"

"I don't know. I haven't met any of them yet. At least, not exactly.
One of them gave me a scare last night, though." He told about the boy
who had asked the date of the Peloponnesian War, and the rest laughed.

"That was 'Old Earnest,'" said White. "He's been at Maggy's ever since
he came here."

"And he will be there awhile yet if he doesn't stick to his courses,"
said Lyons. "He took up so many extras last year that he didn't have
time for the required studies and flunked in a couple of them. He's a
wonder! You'll find him amusing, Rowland, when you get to know him.
He's our prize 'grind,' I guess."

"Rather handy having him around," observed White. "If you ever want to
know anything all you've got to do is run down and ask Ernest Hicks."

"Yes," agreed Gene, "it's like the signs you see: 'Ask Hicks: he
knows!'"

"He didn't know about the What-you-may-call-it War, though," said Fred
Lyons. "I hope you were able to tell him, Rowland."

"I wasn't, though," laughed Ira. "I told him it was about the time he
said, but he seemed to think that was too indefinite."

"I'll bet he did!" said Gene. "'Old Earnest' would have to know not
only the year but the day of the month, and whether it was in the
morning or the afternoon."

"Wonder why he didn't look it up," remarked White. "He has a library of
encyclopedias and reference books about a mile long."

"Maybe he'd forgot how to spell the word," suggested Gene. "I have!"

"Absolutely no criterion," said Lyons. "'Old Earnest' has forgotten
more than you ever knew or ever will know, you ignoramus."

"Is that so? I'll bet you you don't know who the Peloponnesians were."

"Don't I? They were inhabitants of Peloponnesia. Ask me a hard one."

"Well, where was Peloponnesia, then?"

"Oh, about half-way between Cumner and Springfield," replied Lyons
without hesitation. "Anybody knows that! By the way, Rowland, I don't
remember seeing you out."

"Out?" asked Ira.

"Out for football, I mean. You're trying, of course."

"No, I'm not. I've never played football. I'd be no good, I guess."

"Great Jumping Jehosaphat, man!" ejaculated Lyons. "That'll never do!
We've got to have you, Rowland. Why, if Driscoll knew there was a
chap of your build who hadn't showed up he'd be after you with a gun.
Seriously, though, Rowland, I wish you'd come out and have a try. We
really do need husky chaps like you. You're built for a guard if any
fellow ever was, isn't he, Ray?"

"He certainly is," replied White. "What do you weigh, Rowland?"

"I don't know. I haven't weighed for a long time. About a hundred and
forty-one or -two, I guess."

"A hundred and fifty-one or -two, more likely," said Lyons. "But you'll
drop some of that. You're a bit soft, I'd say. Haven't you ever tried
football at all?"

"No, and I've never seen it played but once. I never thought I'd care
for it."

"Oh, but you will," replied Lyons confidently. "You're bound to,
once you get a taste of it. I wish you'd promise to report tomorrow,
Rowland. I'm not exaggerating a bit when I say that we need men the
worst way. These chaps will tell you the same thing."

"We never needed them more," said White. "I could easily be a pessimist
on the football situation, Fred. We've never started off with a bigger
handicap."

"Oh, the fellows will turn out when they know they're really needed,"
said Gene comfortably. "You always have to coax them a bit."

"I wasn't thinking so much of getting material," answered White
gravely. "What's bothering me--or would bother me if I let it--is the
indifference. No one, except a dozen or two of us who play, cares much
this year whether we have a team or don't have one."

"You'll see them begin to sit up when you get started," said Gene.
"I'll grant that football has rather soured at Parkinson, but any sort
of a fairly decent team will find support."

"We've got to find support," said Captain Lyons grimly. "We haven't
enough money to print tickets for next week's game. We need at least
two hundred and fifty dollars to get to the Kenwood game. After that
we'll be able to clear up our debts."

"Can't you get tick for things until then?" asked Gene.

"Yes, but if we do we end the season the way we did last year. There
were only twelve hundred and odd admissions to the game last year and
our share was a bit over five hundred after expenses were paid. And
when we had settled all our bills, most of which had run all season,
we had ninety-something left. Spring expenses took about sixty and
we began this Fall with about thirty dollars in the treasury. We've
already spent it and a few dollars more. Lowell is advancing money from
his own pocket for next week's tickets. I've dug down once myself. The
worst of it was that everything had given out together. Usually we
start the season with half a dozen good balls and head harnesses and
so on, but this year we were short on every blessed thing. The balls
we're using now aren't fit to play with. I tried to get the Athletic
Association to make us a donation, but Mr. Tasser said there was
almost no money on hand, and what there was would be needed for other
sports. I suppose he's right, but when you consider that until last
year football has always paid for itself and everything else, except
baseball, it seems sort of tough."

"Wouldn't the students stand a small assessment?" asked Ira.

"They'd have to if they were assessed," replied Lyons, "but faculty
won't allow it. The best we can do is ask for contributions, and
that's what we will have to do. Lowell wanted to do it last year, but
Simpson--he was manager--was certain that the Kenwood game would go
big and we'd have enough to settle everything up and leave a start
for this year. You see, Rowland, the trouble is that we've had four
perfectly punk football years running. It's human nature, I suppose,
to cheer for a winning team and turn your back on one that loses.
Well, we've lost the Kenwood game three years out of four and tied it
the other time, which was three seasons ago. Last year we started out
nicely and won five or six games without a hitch. After that we had
trouble. Our captain couldn't get along with the coach and it came to
a show-down and faculty supported the captain, which, to my thinking,
it shouldn't have, and Emerson left us about the first of November.
Fortunately, we got Mr. Driscoll right away, but the fat was in the
fire then, and ten coaches couldn't have pulled things together in
time for Kenwood. So we lost again. And now the school is soured on
football. It's tired of seeing the team beaten, naturally. I don't
blame it altogether."

"I do," said Gene warmly. "When a team's in trouble is when the school
ought to stand back of it."

"Well, they stood back of us three years," said Lyons pessimistically,
"and it didn't seem to do much good. There's a fine, healthy 'jinx'
doing business around here, I guess."

"When does the meeting come off?" asked Ray White.

"It isn't decided. We thought we'd better wait until we'd won a game
or two--if we do. I'm glad we've got Mapleton and Country Day to start
with. They ought to be easy."

"Another thing," remarked White, "is that we've got a punk schedule
this year. We've dropped two of our best opponents."

"They dropped us, didn't they?" asked Gene. "You mean Harper's and
Poly-Tech?"

"They didn't exactly drop us," said Lyons. "They wanted a guarantee
bigger than we could promise. We simply had to let them go. Lowell
wants to put down the season ticket price to two dollars so as to get
more fellows to buy them, but I don't believe taking off a half dollar
would make much difference. What we've got to do some way or other is
get the school warmed up again. Of course one way to do it is to turn
out a winning team, but--well, sometimes I wish someone else had the
job. I can play football, after a fashion, but this thing of financing
the team and worrying about the money end of it is too much for me!"

"It's hard luck, Fred," said Gene sympathetically. "But just you stick
it out, old horse."

"Oh, I'm not going to quit. Don't worry about that. I'll still be
playing football on the twenty-second of November if I'm playing it all
alone. Only it does bother a fellow to have to wonder where the next
batch of tickets is coming from and whether there'll be enough money
at the end of the year to pay off the coach. Driscoll, by the way, has
been bully about the salary business. We're supposed to pay him five
hundred at the beginning of the season and five hundred at the end, you
know, but he says we can let it all go until November. That'll help
some!"

"What gets me," observed White, "is why Tod Driscoll wants to fuss with
a job like this, anyway. He ought to get three thousand dollars any
day. He's good, Driscoll is!"

"I don't believe he will be back here next Fall," said Lyons. "Not at a
thousand dollars, anyway; and it isn't likely we can pay more. I guess
it will be a case of graduate coaching for us. Then--good night!"

"Aren't graduate coaches satisfactory?" asked Ira.

"They are if they know their business," replied Lyons, "but the ones
that do are either drawing down good salaries coaching somewhere else,
like Tom Nutting and Howard Lane, or they're too busy to give more
than a fortnight to the team. You can't expect a man who is getting
started in business to throw it up for two months to coach a football
team. And you can't expect a man who is getting twenty-five hundred or
three thousand coaching some other team to leave his job and come here
for a thousand. Unfortunately, Rowland, the fellows who would come for
a thousand aren't worth it. Good football players are plentiful, but
good football coaches are as scarce as hens' teeth."

"I wonder," mused Gene, "what would happen if every school coached
itself. I mean, suppose it was agreed that no graduate was to have
anything to do with the teams. What would it be like?"

"We'd all play punk football," responded White, "but we'd have just as
much sport. And a heap less trouble."

"Schools wouldn't stick to the agreement," said Lyons. "They'd begin to
sneak in fellows who weren't real students so they could take hold of
the teams."

"Oh, come, Fred! There are some honest folks in the world," protested
Gene.

"A heap of them, son, but when it comes to winning at games there's
something a bit yellow about us. Fellows who wouldn't crib at an exam,
will do all sorts of shady tricks to put it over a rival team. I guess
it's because we want to win too hard. Still I'd like to see it tried
out, that 'no graduate need apply' idea."

"So would I," said White, "but I'd rather some other school started it."

"I'd certainly hate to see the scheme applied to track athletics," said
Gene, shaking his head dubiously. "It wouldn't work there."

"Wouldn't work anywhere," declared Lyons. "Not nowadays. Wait for the
millennium. I guess we've bored Rowland stiff with all this serious
guff. We aren't always as dull as we are tonight, Rowland."

"You haven't bored me," answered Ira, smiling. "I've been interested.
Care to know what I've been thinking, Lyons?"

"Why, yes."

"Well, I've been thinking that you're pretty lucky."

"Lucky! Who, me?"

"Yes. You see, you've got a fine, big man's-size job, and if you manage
to make--what do you say?--turn out a good team and get the school to
support it you've really done something worth doing, haven't you?"

"Gosh! Rowland's a regular Little Sunbeam," laughed Gene. "I'll bet you
never thought of it in that way, Fred."

"I never did." Lyons smiled and shook his head. "But there's something
in it, Rowland. There's a lot in it, by Jove! Only thing is, you know,
you've got to keep that in mind. If you don't you're likely to consider
yourself in hard luck. I'll try to see the bright side of it, Rowland."

"I suppose that sounded cheeky," said Ira. "I didn't mean it to."

"Not a bit! And I wasn't sarcastic. I really do mean that I'll try to
keep in mind that it _is_ a big job and that it's worth doing. And,"
he added warmly, "I'm mighty glad you said it. It's going to help. But
there's another way you can help, Rowland, if you will."

"How is that?"

"Come out and try for the team tomorrow. Will you?"

Ira hesitated. "I'd like awfully much to oblige you, Lyons, but I
don't want to do it. I'm quite certain that I'd never be any good at
football. I guess it takes some quality I haven't got. I don't believe
a fellow ever makes much of a success at a thing he hasn't any--any
inclination for. If you don't mind, Lyons, I'd much prefer not to."

"If it's only not liking the game," said Lyons, "you can take my word
for it that you will like it after you get to know it better, and----"

"It isn't that altogether. I'm not a very brilliant fellow at studying,
and, of course I did come here to learn. I don't expect to go to
college and so I want to make the most of this school. And I'm afraid
that playing football would raise hob with studying. It does, doesn't
it?"

"Not necessarily," answered White. "Fred manages to keep his end up
without trouble, and so do a lot of others."

"Don't lie to him," said Lyons. "Football does play hob with your
studies, Rowland. The only thing is that it lasts but a short while and
it leaves you in mighty good shape to buckle down and get caught up.
But it's piffle to say that the two things mix well. They don't. I've
always managed to keep up fairly well in my classes, but how it will be
this year I don't know. Luckily, I've got a fairly easy term ahead of
me. You do just as you think best about trying for the team, old man.
We'd like mighty well to have you, and I think you'd make good, but
if you think you'd better not, why, that's your affair. Only, if you
change your mind in the next fortnight and see your way to giving us a
chance to use you, come on out. We need men--I mean likely ones: we've
got a raft of the other sort--and we can find a place for you somewhere
or I miss my guess."

"Seems to me," observed Ray White, "Rowland is rather losing sight of
the question of duty."

"I don't think so," answered Ira, before Gene could interpose. "Seems
to me my duty is toward my dad, who is paying for my schooling. After
that to myself. Then to the school."

"Right," said Lyons heartily.

"It's a good thing every fellow doesn't look at it that way, then,"
grumbled White.

"If I thought I could help on the football team and still keep up my
studies as I ought to I guess I'd join," said Ira. "I'd like to do
anything I could to help. But I don't. Still, it's all pretty new to me
yet and maybe after I've been here another week I'll have a better line
on what's going to happen. Maybe I can tell then how much work I'll
have to do." He got up, smiling apologetically at them. "I'm sorry if I
seem unpatriotic," he added.

"Oh, don't mind Ray," said Gene. "He's a sorehead. And don't hurry
off. The night is still extremely young."

"Thanks, but I ought to be going. I'm glad to have met you all. Good
night."

"Good night, Rowland," answered the football captain. "Don't let
anything we've said bother you. Do as you think best. Only remember
there's a trial awaiting you any time inside the next fortnight and
help us out if you can."

Ray White got up and followed Ira to the door. "Sorry if I was
peevish," he said, holding out his hand. "Forget it, Rowland. Get Gene
to bring you up to my room some night, will you?"



CHAPTER IX

AN ULTIMATUM


Several days passed without incidents worth recording here. Life at
Parkinson settled down into the groove that it was to follow for
the next nine months and Ira found that his studies looked far less
formidable on close acquaintance than they had at first. Ira had
declared that he was not a brilliant fellow at studying, and he wasn't,
but he had the gift of application and an excellent memory, which,
combined, are half the battle. The courses he had feared most, Greek
and French, were proving easier than English, which he had not troubled
about. But third year English at Parkinson was a stiff course and Ira's
grammar school preparation had not been very thorough. Greek he took
to avidly, possibly because Professor Addicks was a very sympathetic
teacher and managed to make his courses interesting. Mathematics came
easily to him and his other studies--he was taking nineteen hours in
all--were not troublesome. On the whole, he felt himself quite able to
cope with his work, and wondered if he was not in duty bound to go out
and save the destinies of the football team. Of course, putting it that
way he had to smile, for he couldn't imagine himself of any more use on
the gridiron than nothing at all! Only, he reflected, if it would give
Captain Lyons any satisfaction to have him there, perhaps, since it
seemed quite possible to play football without flunking at recitations,
he ought to put in an appearance. At all events, he would, he decided,
wait a few days longer. There was no hurry.

For want of a better confidant, he put the case up to Humphrey Nead
one evening. Humphrey told him he was silly not to grab the chance. "I
wish," he said, "they'd beg me to come out for the football team. You
couldn't see me, for dust! You're in luck, Rowly."

"Rowly" was Nead's compromise between "Say!" and "Rowland" at this
time. Ira didn't like it overmuch as a nickname, but entered no
protest. He was determined to make the best of Humphrey Nead as a
roommate, and during the first week was careful to make no criticisms.
When, however, he did criticise he did it effectively. The occasion was
just a week after that first chance meeting with Nead. The latter had
formed a habit of eating his dinners in the evenings downtown in the
company of various "Jimmies" and "Billies" whose last names Ira never
heard, or, hearing, forgot. Usually Humphrey didn't return to the room
until nearly ten o'clock. Sometimes it was nearer midnight, although,
to do him justice, those occasions were few. On this particular
evening, Ira, returning at half-past seven from Mrs. Trainor's boarding
house, where he had lately become a "regular" for dinners and suppers,
found Humphrey stretched out on his bed, a book face-open on his chest
and a dead cigarette between the fingers of a hand that hung over the
edge. He was asleep. Although both windows were open the tobacco smoke
still lingered. Ira frowned thoughtfully as he hung up his cap in the
closet. Then, after a moment's indecision, he walked across to the bed
and shook the sleeper awake.

"Eh? Hello!" muttered Humphrey. "Must have fallen asleep." He yawned
widely, blinked and stretched himself. "What time is it? Had your
dinner?"

"I've had my supper," answered Ira.

"Oh, the dickens! I was going to get you to stand me a feed."

"Sorry. Look here, Nead, you'll have to stop that."

"Stop what?" asked the other blankly.

Ira pointed to the cigarette still clutched in Humphrey's fingers.
Humphrey brought his hand up and looked. A brief expression of dismay
changed to a grin.

"Caught in the act, eh? 'Flagrante--' What's the Latin of it, Rowly?"

"Never mind the Latin," replied Ira grimly. "The English of it is that
you've got to quit it in this room."

"Who says so?" demanded Humphrey, scowling.

"I say so. Faculty says so, too."

"Oh, piffle! Look here, faculty says you can smoke in your room if
you're a fourth year man. If a fourth year man can smoke, I can. It's
my own affair."

"Faculty allows fourth year fellows to smoke pipes in their rooms if
they have the written consent of their parents. You're not a fourth
year fellow, you haven't the consent of your parents and that isn't a
pipe; it's a cigarette."

"Well, don't lecture about it. There's no harm in a cigarette now and
then. Half the fellows in school smoke on the sly."

"I don't believe it," denied Ira stoutly. "I don't know one who does
it."

"Huh! You don't know very many, anyhow, do you? And you're such a nice,
proper sort of chump that they wouldn't do it when you were around, I
guess."

"Never mind that, Nead. This is as much my room as it is yours, and
I don't like cigarettes and won't stand for them. We might as well
understand each other now. Then there won't be any further rowing."

"Suppose I choose to smoke?" drawled Humphrey.

"Then you'll have to find another room."

"Yes, I will! Like fun! I suppose you'd go and tell faculty, eh?"

"I might, if I couldn't stop it any other way," returned Ira calmly.
"But I don't think it would be necessary."

He viewed Humphrey very steadily and the latter, after an instant of
defiant glaring, dropped his gaze uncertainly.

"Rough-stuff, eh?" he sneered. "Well, you're a heap bigger than I am,
and I guess you could get away with it. Anyway, I don't care enough
about smoking to fight."

"Then I think I'd quit," said Ira. "What's the idea, anyway, Nead?"

"Oh, just for fun," answered the other airily. "Haven't you ever done
it?"

"Once," said Ira, with a fleeting and reminiscent smile. "I guess every
fellow tries it once. I didn't like it, though."

"Of course not. You have to keep at it." Humphrey laughed. "Gee, I was
a wreck after my first attempt!"

"Seems to me that anything that has that effect on you can't be
especially good for you," said Ira.

"Oh, a fellow doesn't want to just do the things that are good for him.
There's no fun in that. Smoking cigarettes is like--like playing hookey
when you're a kid. You do it because it--it's a sort of adventure, eh?"

"I suppose so," agreed Ira. "Well, you've had your adventure, haven't
you? You've got all the fun out of it. What's the use of keeping it up?"

Humphrey gazed at Ira thoughtfully. "Gee, that's a new idea," he
chuckled. "Never thought of that! Maybe you're right, old scout. Guess
I'll quit cigarettes and try something else. Burglary or--or murder,
maybe."

"Well, don't practise at home," laughed Ira. Then soberly: "I wish
you'd agree to call it off on the cigarettes, though, Nead."

"Oh, when you ask me nicely like that," answered the other, "I don't
mind, I guess. But I won't stand being bullied." He blustered a bit.
"You can't scare me into doing things, Rowland, and you might as well
learn that first as last."

"I don't want to scare you or bully you," answered Ira. "Sorry if I
went at it wrong."

"Well, you did," grumbled the other. He sat up and ran a hand through
his rumpled hair. Then: "Tell you how you can square yourself, Rowly,"
he said. "Lend me a quarter, like a good chap, will you? I'm stony."

"Of course. But you don't mean, really, that you've got no money?"

"Sorry to say I mean that exactly," replied Humphrey with a grin.

"But--but you've been here only a week! What have you done----"

"With my wealth?" prompted Humphrey as the other hesitated. "Well
I've dropped about six dollars playing pool with those sharks down at
the Central, and I've bought a lot of food and I've paid for a year's
subscription to the 'Leader'--didn't want the silly paper, but a fellow
cornered me--, and I've--oh, I don't know! Money never sticks around
me very long. But you needn't worry about your quarter, because I've
written home for more. I told mother I was taking an extra course in
poolology and it was expensive!" He chuckled. "She'll understand and
come across."

"I wasn't worrying about my quarter," answered Ira. "I was wondering
what you expected to do for meals until the letter comes."

"Well, I sort of intended going around to Mrs. Thingamabob's with you
tonight and signing on there until--for awhile. But you didn't show up
and I fell asleep."

"Unless you arrange for regular board," said Ira, "Mrs. Trainor will
make you pay at every meal. You'd better let me lend you enough to see
you through until you hear from your folks. How much will it take?"

Humphrey looked vastly surprised and a trifle embarrassed. "Why,
that's mighty decent of you, old scout!" he exclaimed. "But can you--I
mean----"

"I can let you have five dollars," said Ira, "if that will do."

"Honest? It won't make you short? But I'll give it back to you by
Saturday. I wrote yesterday."

"I can't do it tonight," said Ira. "I'll have to get it out of the
bank. But here's thirty-five cents you can have."

"Right-o! Thanks awfully, Rowly! You're a brick. Sorry if I talked
nasty." He got up from the bed, viewing the cigarette stub whimsically.
Then he scratched a match, lighted the cigarette and exhaled a cloud
of smoke into the room. "Good-bye forever!" he exclaimed tremulously,
and, turning to the window, flicked the cigarette out into the night.
"Now for burglary!" Whereupon he picked up the coins Ira had put on the
table, planted his cap rakishly over one ear, winked expressively and
hurried out.

Ira, arranging his books for study, wished somewhat ruefully that he
hadn't jumped to conclusions by connecting the cigarette odour with
Mart Johnston that time. He had met Mart two days before and that youth
had passed him with a very cool and careless nod, evidently resentful
because Ira had not accepted the invitation to call.

"I guess, though," thought Ira, as he seated himself at the desk and
sucked the end of a pencil, "he doesn't care very much."

Gene Goodloe he saw every day, sometimes only long enough to exchange
greetings with, sometimes long enough for a chat. But he hadn't been
back to Number 30 Williams yet, nor had Gene, in spite of promises,
called at "Maggy's." Captain Lyons and Raymond White were always genial
when he met them, but it didn't look much as if the acquaintances with
those fellows were likely to expand. Several times Ira watched football
practice, and, while he failed to discover anything about the game
to captivate him, he viewed it with more interest since meeting Fred
Lyons and learning what a difficult task the latter was undertaking.
That Lyons had not exaggerated the attitude of the school toward
the football team was made plain to Ira by the comments he heard at
practice. It seemed the popular thing to speak with laughing contempt
of the team and the football situation. The "Forlorn Hopes" was a
favourite name for the players, while it seemed to be a generally
accepted conclusion that Parkinson would go down in defeat again in
November. All this made Coach Driscoll's efforts to get additional
candidates doubly difficult. Some fellows did go out, from a sense of
duty, and at the end of the first week of school there were nearly
eighty candidates on the field. That number looked large to Ira until
he overheard one of the instructors remark to another one afternoon:
"A most discouraging situation, isn't it? Why, four years ago we used
to turn out a hundred and twenty to a hundred and fifty boys, I'm
afraid it will be the same old story again this Fall!"

The first game took place Saturday afternoon and Ira paid his quarter
and went to see it. It wasn't much of a contest, and even he, as
ignorant of the game as he was, could discern that neither team covered
itself with glory during those two twenty-minute halves. It seemed to
him that had all the Parkinson players done as well as Captain Lyons or
the fellow who played full-back or the one who was at quarter during
the first half the story might have been different. But those three
stood out as bright, particular stars, and the rest didn't average up
to them by a long shot. Ira, by the way, was interested to find that
the quarter-back--inquiry divulged his name to be Dannis--was none
other than the youth who had so earnestly and unsuccessfully practised
hurdling that day. Dannis ran the team in much the same spirit, but
with far more success. He was not very big, and he looked rather heavy,
but he had a remarkable head on his shoulders, and was quite light
enough to make several startling runs and was a live-wire all the time
that he remained in the contest. When, in the second half, another
candidate for the position took his place the difference was at once
discernible in the slowing down of the game.

While most of the fellows turned out to look on, enthusiasm, when
there was any, was distinctly perfunctory. Still, that might have
been laid to the game itself, for interesting features were few and
far between. Dannis got away several times for good gains and showed
himself a remarkably elusive object in a broken field, but as nothing
much depended on his success or non-success there was scant reason to
enthuse. Mapleton was outclassed from the first and that Parkinson did
not score more than the twenty points that made up her final total was
less to Mapleton's credit than to the home team's discredit. A game
in which one contestant takes the lead in the first five minutes of
play and is never headed is not very exciting at best, and Ira walked
back to the campus after the game with his estimate of football as a
diversion not a bit enhanced.

If Parkinson deserved any credit for winning from her adversary by a
score of 20 to 0, she certainly didn't get it. "Just the way we started
off last year," Ira heard a fellow remark on the way back to the yard.
"Ran up about half as many points as we should have on Cumner High
School and then played worse every game for the rest of the season."

"We ought to have scored forty on that team today," replied his
companion. "A team with any sort of an attack could have torn our line
to fragments. Why, as it was our centre just fell apart every time
anyone looked at it!"

"Lyons didn't do so badly," said the other. "And neither did Wirt. But
'The' Dannis was the whole shooting match, pretty nearly. I don't see
why they wanted to put Basker in in the last half. He isn't a patch on
'The.'"

"I suppose Driscoll wants to bring him around for second-string man.
You'll see all sorts of combinations tried out for the next month. And
they'll all be about equally punk, too, I guess. What the dickens is
the matter with the team nowadays, anyway? Is it the coaching or the
leading or what, Steve?"

"Search me! All I know is that it's rotten. Has been for three years.
I don't think it's the coaching. This chap Driscoll looks like a good
one. Everyone says that. And Fred Lyons is all right, too. There isn't
a fellow in school that can boss a job better than Lyons. I guess it's
a plain case of chronic slump!"

Ira wanted very much to speak out and tell them that possibly some
of the fault for the team's lack of success was due to them. "If," he
said to himself as he watched the two boys turn off toward Sohmer Hall,
"you'd stop thinking the team was poor maybe it wouldn't be. No team,
I guess, can do much if no one believes in it. What is needed here
is a change of heart! I suppose every fellow connected with the team
realises that the school is laughing at him, and I guess that doesn't
help much. Seems to me there ought to be a way to change things, to get
the fellows back of the team again. But--I wonder how!"



CHAPTER X

ON THE FOURTH SQUAD


"How much does a football suit cost, Humphrey, and where do you buy it?"

Humphrey looked up from his book and smiled quizzically across at the
enquirer. "Hello!" he said. "Going to the rescue of the dear old school
after all, Rowly?"

Ira nodded slowly. "It sounds sort of silly, I guess," he replied,
"but I've decided to have a try at it. I don't believe for a minute
that they'll keep me more than one day, but Lyons wanted me to try
it, and--well, I guess that's the least I can do. Someone ought to
do something for the team besides 'knock' it. Where do you get these
things you wear?"

"Wherever they sell 'em. There's a store a block or so over towards
the common where they have footballs and things in the window. Don't
remember the name, but you can't miss it."

"How much do you have to pay for a regular outfit?"

"Never bought one, Rowly. The only time I played football it was just
kid stuff, and we wore whatever we had. You might ask our fat friend
next door. He's on the team--or trying for it."

"Duff? I don't know him well enough, I guess. Do you think ten dollars
would do it?"

"Well, hardly, Rowly! Why, shoes cost four, I suppose. And then you
have to have trousers and stockings and jacket and sweater----"

"I've got a sweater," interrupted Ira. "I wish I knew someone who had
some things they weren't using. I hate to spend a lot of money for
something I may not need after two or three days!"

"You don't seem to think very well of your chances," laughed Humphrey.
"But, say, why don't you ask someone? I'll bet there are plenty of
outfits you could buy or borrow. How about that chap Goodloe? He might
know of someone."

"That's so. I think I'll ask him."

"The only trouble," chuckled Humphrey, "is that another fellow's togs
will probably be too small for you. Maybe you could have them let out,
though."

"I sort of wish I'd stop growing so fast," said Ira sorrowfully.
"Everything I get is too small for me after a few months. The tailor is
fixing both my other suits, but I dare say by the time he gets them
done he will have to start over again!"

This conversation took place on the Sunday evening succeeding the
Mapleton game. That it was Sunday explained Humphrey's presence at
home, for he spent most of his evenings in or around the Central
Billiard Palace, so far as Ira could make out. Humphrey had heard
from home and was once more in funds. He had promptly returned Ira's
loans and paid his share of the furnishings, laughingly explaining
that he wanted to keep his credit good as he would probably have to
borrow again soon. Ira wished that he would spend less time in the
town and more in the third floor back room at Maggy's, for there were
already indications of impending trouble between Humphrey and various
instructors. But Ira decided that Humphrey had better learn his own
lesson from experience. Humphrey was not the sort one could offer
suggestions to, no matter how excellent or well-meant they might be.
Of late the roommates had got on very well. Ira was certain that there
had been no more cigarette smoking in the house and was fairly sure
that Humphrey had given up the habit entirely. Perhaps it was because
Ira was getting used to the other, but it seemed to him that he could
detect an improvement both in Humphrey's manners and appearance. When
the latter wanted to be pleasant he could be very pleasant, and at such
times he was rather a likable sort.

Ira went across to Williams as soon as breakfast was over the next
morning and found both Gene Goodloe and Fred Lyons at home. When he
had explained his mission both fellows dived into closets and trunks
and in about three minutes Ira was outfitted. Fortunately, the pair of
well-worn trousers were Fred's, for had they been Gene's they would
never have answered. The jacket was practically new, one that Gene had
purchased two years before with visions in mind of making his class
team. It didn't lace quite close across the chest, but answered well
enough for the present. The shoes were Fred's, and save that each had
one or more cleats missing, were in very good shape. The brown jersey,
with leather pads at elbows and shoulders, was Gene's, and, while it
fitted a bit too soon, promised to conform in time to the physical
proportions of the new wearer. A pair of stockings alone was wanting.
Fred found some, but after exposing the heels he discarded them.
However, stockings were a small item, and as for a sweater, Ira had a
perfectly good one that had never been worn. It wasn't brown, but Fred
said that wouldn't matter a bit.

The only trouble obtruded when Ira broached the subject of price.
Neither boy wanted to consider payment. "Why, the things aren't worth
ten cents," declared Gene. "I'd never use mine, and Fred's got more
togs at the gym than he can wear!"

"But I can't just--just walk off in them," protested Ira. "I'd rather
buy them, if you don't mind."

"But we do mind!" said Gene. "We'd blush to take money for them. Look
at Fred. He's blushing already!" Ira couldn't detect it, however, and
resolutely draped the garments over the back of a chair as he took them
off.

"I guess I'll have to buy them at the store then," he said regretfully.
"I'm awfully much obliged to you, but I can't take them unless you let
me pay for them."

"Oh, don't be a silly chump!" begged Gene. But Fred interposed.

"If you feel that way about it, Rowland, why, we'll take your money, of
course. A couple of dollars will settle with me and I guess Gene won't
want more than a dollar."

"A dollar!" jeered his roommate. "He can have them for fifty cents."

"I guess I'd better make an offer," said Ira soberly. "The trousers
aren't so new as the other things. I'll give you a dollar for them.
And I'll give two dollars for the shoes, fifty cents for the shirt and
fifty cents for the jacket. Will that do?"

"Suits me," said Fred.

"Me, too," answered Gene. "And, say, Rowland, I've got a lot of other
things I wish you'd look at. Need a nice Winter overcoat? Or a few
pairs of shoes? Or--say, what'll you give for the furniture just as it
stands?"

"Dry up, Gene," growled Fred. "I'm glad you're coming out, Rowland.
Practice is at three-thirty. If you don't find time to get stockings
don't bother about them. We'll find some for you at the gym."

"Thanks, but I'll get a pair this morning. What shall I do when I get
there this afternoon?"

"Report to me, please, and I'll look after you. And, say, Rowland,
don't get discouraged if it seems a good deal like drudgery at first.
Stick it out, will you? There is a good deal of hard work in it, and
coming out a week late will make it a bit harder. But you'll like it as
soon as you get used to it."

"Yes, just as soon as you've broken an arm or a leg," said Gene
cheerfully, "you'll positively love it, Rowland!"

When Ira had gone out, his purchases draped over his arm, Fred said
mildly: "What's the good of trying to make him feel uncomfortable,
Gene? He wanted to buy the things, so why not let him do it if it was
going to make him any happier?"

"I'll bet he didn't feel as uncomfortable as I did," answered the
other. "I felt like a second-hand clothes dealer. I didn't want his old
dollar. Besides, he hasn't much money, I guess, and it seemed a shame
to take it."

"Folks who don't have money, Gene, are the ones who are touchiest about
accepting presents," observed Fred wisely. "I hope we can do something
with that chap," he added as he gathered his books together. "If he can
be taught he'll be a prize."

"Why can't he be taught? If you think he's stupid you're dead wrong,
Frederick dear. He's got a heap of horse sense, that kid."

"I know. I don't mean that he's stupid. Only--well, some fellows can
learn about everything except football. I don't know why it is, but
it's so. Maybe football requires a certain sort of instinct----"

"Oh, piffle! You football fellows think the game's something sort
of--of different from everything else there is! You make me tired! It's
a sight harder to run the half-mile than it is to play a dozen football
games!"

"It might be for you," answered Fred, dryly. "To the limited intellect
an easy task always seems the harder. Good morning!"

"Listen, you big galoot! You use Rowland right. Hear me? If you don't
I'll lick you!"

"What you say goes, Gene," answered Fred airily from the doorway. "I'll
wrap him in cotton wool the very first thing!"

"Yes, take the stuffing out of your head," retorted Gene triumphantly.

That afternoon, feeling queer and conspicuous in his unfamiliar attire,
Ira slipped out of the gymnasium and joined the stream trickling to
the gridiron. That the football togs made a difference in him was
proved when he passed Raymond White near the grandstand. Ray viewed him
carelessly and looked away without recognition. Then, dimly conscious
of a likeness to someone he knew, Ray looked again and turned back.

"Hello, Rowland!" he exclaimed, laughing. "By Jove, I didn't know you!
So you're out, eh? I'm awfully glad. I sort of thought you'd get the
fever after watching a game or two. Well, you'll like it. See if you
don't."

Ira didn't think it worth while to explain that instead of having
acquired the football fever, he had, on the contrary, decided that
his first opinion of the game was the correct one and was there that
afternoon more because of a sense of duty than anything else.

"Are you looking for Lowell?" continued Ray. "He isn't out yet, I
guess. What are you trying for? Or don't you know that?"

"No, I don't. What I think I'd rather do is hold one of those iron rods
along the side," laughed Ira. "I was told to report to Lyons, but I
don't see him around."

"No, he isn't here yet. Pick up one of those balls back of you and
we'll pass a minute."

After two attempts to catch and throw the erratically behaving pigskin
it dawned on Ira that he had even more to learn than he had suspected.
However, following Ray White's instructions, he presently learned to
stop the ball with both hands and body instead of treating it like a
baseball, and to wrap his fingers about it so he could throw it within
a few yards of where he meant it to land. There wasn't much time for
passing, however, as coach, captain and manager arrived together very
shortly, and Ira, rather conscious of his strange togs, approached the
group.

"Oh, here you are!" greeted Fred Lyons. "Coach, this is Rowland, the
chap I was telling you about. Shake hands with Coach Driscoll, Rowland.
And Manager Lowell. You might give Lowell your name and so on. He's
full of questions."

Ira shook hands and, while De Wolf Lowell put down his name, age, class
and so on, was conscious of the coach's intent regard. When Lowell was
satisfied Ira turned inquiringly to Captain Lyons, but it was the coach
who took him in hand.

"You've had no experience at all, Rowland?" asked Mr. Driscoll in a
somewhat sceptical tone.

"No, sir."

"Funny! A chap with your build ought to be playing long before this.
What have you done? Baseball? Track? What?"

"I've played baseball a little. That's about all."

The coach reached out and closed his fingers inquiringly over Ira's
forearm and then pressed his knuckles against the boy's chest. "Where'd
you get those muscles, then?" he demanded.

"I don't know, sir. Maybe in the woods. I've swung an ax sometimes,
and I've ridden a saw."

"Ridden a saw? What's that?"

"Why," replied Ira, smiling, "when a kid like me, or a new hand, takes
hold of a cross-saw they say he 'rides' it. 'Just you keep your feet
off the ground, sonny, and I'll ride you' is what the old hands tell
you."

His audience laughed, and Coach Driscoll remarked: "Well, I guess you
got down and walked sometimes, Rowland! You've got some fat on you that
you don't need, but we'll work that off. Put him on the scales after
practice, Lowell, and see that he doesn't come down too fast. Have you
had your examination?"

Ira shook his head. "For what, sir?" he asked.

"For football--or anything else. I guess it's all right for today, but
you'll have to see Mr. Tasser tomorrow and he will fill out a card. If
he finds you all right for football--as he will, I guess--show your
card to Lowell. Now, then, let's see. You'd better join that fourth
squad over there. Learn to handle the ball the first thing, Rowland.
It'll take you two or three days to get acquainted with it, I guess.
Don't be in a hurry to get on. I'll look you up again in a day or two."

"I'll take you over," said Fred Lyons. "Do we scrimmage today, coach?"

"Oh, I think so. You fellows didn't work very hard Saturday from what I
saw!"

Fred smiled as he crossed the field with Ira in tow. "We worked hard,
all right," he said, "but we worked rotten, too! Did you see Saturday's
game, Rowland?"

"Yes. I suppose you wouldn't call it a very good one, would you?"

"Punk! Here we are. Oh, Cheap! Will you take Rowland in your squad,
please? He's new at it, but willing to learn. How's it going?"

"Fair," replied the boy addressed. "Some of these fellows think that
thing's an egg, though. They hate to be rough with it for fear it'll
break. Fall in there beyond Webster, Rowland, will you? Hug the ball
when it comes to you. You can't bust it!"

A tall youth sidled along to make room for Ira and during the next
twenty minutes he learned a lot about the uncertain disposition of a
football. They passed it in a circle and then in a line, and after that
Cheap, a freckle-faced, tow-haired youth with a short temper and a
fine command of sarcasm, stood in front of them and tossed the ball to
the ground and it was their duty to fall on hip and elbow and secure
it. Falling on a dribbling ball is not the easiest thing in the world
for a novice, for the ball does the most unexpected things, such as
bounding to the right when you think it is going to jump to the left,
or stopping short when you think it will come on. On the whole, Ira
comforted himself with the reflection that he met with more success
than many of the squad even if he didn't do as well as a select few.
Practice at starting followed, and for ten minutes they raced from a
mark at the instant that Cheap snapped the ball. Then they were coached
in picking the ball up without stopping and in catching it on the bound
as it was tossed in front of them. By that time Ira was drenched in
perspiration and was extremely short of breath. Finally, they were
formed again into a ring and the ball was passed from one to the other
as before, the boy at the right throwing it at the next fellow's
stomach and the next fellow making a "basket" for it by raising one
leg, bending his body forward at the waist and holding has hands apart.
If he was successful the ball thumped against his stomach and his hands
closed about it. If he wasn't, it leaped away to the ground and he had
to fall on it. Ira discovered that day why his brown jersey was padded
at elbow and shoulder!

Cheap strolled off to the side line, leaving them to continue the
exercise without him, whereupon conversation went around with the ball.
"I'm getting sick of this," said the fellow at Ira's right as he gave
the pigskin a more than ordinarily vicious drive at Ira's stomach. "We
were at it five minutes before you came."

"I guess I'll dream of it tonight," laughed Ira breathlessly, passing
the pigskin along to his left-hand neighbour.

"If you don't it'll be a wonder," growled the other. "I did for
two or three nights. Cheap makes me tired, anyway. He's a regular
slave-driver. If we don't get something else tomorrow I'm going to
quit."

"You said that last week," remarked a small youth beyond him. "So did
I. But we're still here. Change!"

He started the ball around in the other direction and the fellows
shifted to meet the new order. Presently Cheap returned, watched
disapprovingly for a minute and then called: "That'll do, squad! You're
fine and rotten! On the run to the bench, and put your blankets on!"

Trotting half the length and width of the field seemed to Ira the final
insult, but he managed to reach the substitutes' bench without falling
by the way and sank on to it with a deep sigh of gratitude. The rest
of the practice time was spent by his squad and one other in watching
the half-hour scrimmage. Then came the return to the gymnasium, showers
and a leisurely dressing, during which nearly every muscle in Ira's
body ached protestingly.

But after he had eaten his dinner he felt, in spite of his soreness,
particularly fit, and found himself looking forward to the next day's
work with a sort of eagerness. It wasn't so much that he expected to
enjoy it as that he was curious to know whether he would survive it!
He did survive it, however, although when he rolled out of bed in the
morning he had to groan as his stiff muscles responded to the demands
put on them. He underwent an examination at the hands of the physical
director, Mr. Tasser, at noon, and was put to all sorts of novel tests.
Mr. Tasser was not very communicative. His conversation consisted
entirely of directions and non-commital grunts. While Ira donned his
clothes again the director filled out a card with mysterious figures
and symbols, and it was when he handed the card to Ira that he attained
the zenith of his loquacity.

"Very good," he said. Then he grunted. And after that he added: "Better
than the average. Lower leg muscles weak, though. Twelve pounds
overweight, too. Good morning."

Practice that afternoon, which was no different from the day before
except that it contained a strenuous session of dummy tackling, left
Ira lamer than ever, so lame that he couldn't go to sleep for some
time after he was in bed. And the next morning he groaned louder than
before when he tumbled out. He wondered what they would say or think if
he begged off for that one day's practice! But when he had been up and
about awhile he found that the lameness had miraculously disappeared,
or most of it had, and it didn't come back again that Fall! He was
given easier work that afternoon, for Billy Goode, the trainer,
informed him that he was losing too fast.

"'Tain't good to drop your weight too suddenly, boy. You do some
handling today and run the field a couple o' times at a fast trot and
come in. That'll do for you."

Oddly, Ira somehow resented being pampered and was inclined to grumble
when, having had thirty minutes of kindergarten work and trotted twice
around the oval, he was remorselessly despatched to the showers.
That, having dressed, he did not return to the gridiron to watch his
companions disport themselves shows that so far as football fever is
concerned Ira was still free from contagion. Instead, he went to his
room and put in an extra hour of study which shortened his evening's
duty by that much and allowed him to do something that he had had in
mind to do for some time, which was to call on Mart Johnston.



CHAPTER XI

IRA RENEWS AN ACQUAINTANCE


Martin Johnston and Dwight Bradford occupied what at Parkinson was
known as an alcove study. To be correct, it was not the study that
formed an alcove, but the bedroom. There were only a few of such
apartments in Goss Hall and those who had them were considered
fortunate. Number 16 proved to be rather a luxurious place. There was
a good deal of furniture, most of it black-oak, the chairs having
red-leather cushions and the study table being adorned with a square
of the same brilliant material. One side of the room was lined with
bookcases to a height of about five feet and the shelves were filled
and a row of books overflowed to the top. Many pictures were on the
walls, a deep window seat, covered in red denim, was piled with pillows
and there was a dark-brown wool rug with a red border on the floor. The
alcove, just big enough for two single beds and a night stand between,
was partly hidden by red portières. At first sight, as Ira paused in
the doorway after being bidden to enter, the room was disconcertingly,
almost alarmingly, colourful.

"Evening and everything!" said a voice from beyond the light on the
table, and a chair was pushed back. Then Mart's form emerged from the
white glare. "Hello!" he said. "How are you, Rowland? Glad to see you.
Meet Mr. Bradford, Rowland. Brad, you remember my speaking of Rowland?"

A second youth, who had been lying on the window seat, arose and came
forward to shake hands. He was a nice-looking fellow of eighteen,
broad of shoulder and deep of chest. Ira recognised him as one of the
substitute ends he had seen in practice. He had a pleasant, deep voice,
a jolly smile and a firm, quick way of shaking hands. Ira fell victim
to Bradford's charms then and there.

"Awfully glad to meet you, Rowland. Yes, I remember you said a lot
about this chap, Mart. It was Rowland you landed in Maggy's, wasn't it?"

"Yes. Sit down, Rowland. How's everything going?"

"Very well, thanks."

"That's good. Toss your cap anywhere. Brad won't like it, but never
mind." Mart's words were amiable enough, but it was evident to the
caller that he was not forgiven for his indifference, and so, as he
thrust his cap into a pocket, he decided to make an explanation.

"I guess you thought it was funny I didn't look you up," he began. But
Mart waved carelessly.

"Not a bit! Not a bit, Rowland! I never thought of it."

Ira, glancing at Bradford to include him in the conversation, saw a
flicker of amusement cross that youth's face.

"I'd like to tell you why," he went on. "It--it makes me out rather
a chump, I guess, but--well, anyway, it was like this." And Ira told
about finding Mart's note and the odour of cigarettes at the same time
and of connecting both with Mart. "Of course," he concluded, "any
fellow has a right to smoke, but I don't believe in it, and I sort of
thought that if--you were that kind--I mean----"

"Got you!" exclaimed Mart. "Say no more, Rowland! All is understood and
all is forgiven! Brad, we're going to like this frank and unspotted
child of nature, aren't we?"

Brad laughed softly. "I certainly admire Rowland's decision," he
replied. "And his courage in explaining. It's always so much easier
not to explain, Rowland."

"I'm afraid I haven't done it very well," said Ira doubtfully.

"You have, old man!" declared Mart. "Beautifully! And you have covered
me with confusion and filled me with remorse. Brad," he added gravely,
"from this time forth tempt me not. I'm through with the filthy weed. I
shall empty my cigarette case into the fire. And if you take my advice
you'll do the same."

"Oh!" exclaimed Ira. "I didn't know--I'm awfully sorry----"

But Mart waved again grandly. "Not a word, Rowland! We quite
understand. You have convinced me of the error of my way. And I
sincerely hope and pray that Brad, too, will see the light."

But Brad was smiling broadly and Ira concluded relievedly that Mart was
only joking. "I might have put my foot into it horribly," he said, with
a sigh of relief.

"Well, you didn't, so don't worry," replied Mart. "We don't smoke much
here. Of course, Brad's a senior and enjoys his pipe after dinner--you
doubtless noticed the odour--and I sometimes puff a cigar in the
evening. I find it soothes me and aids digestion. I smoke two on
Fridays, on account of having fish for dinner. I never could digest
fish very well."

"Oh, dry up, Mart," laughed Brad. "Rowland will believe you. He's
looking shocked."

"Not he! You can't shock him. I tried it. I say, Rowland, how's the
funny window seat?"

"It isn't so funny now. I put the desk against one end of it and it
looks quite fine."

"You spoiled the effect. I'm sorry. What's this fellow like, your
roommate? The one who contaminates the air with cigarette smoke?"

"Nead? Oh, he's all right. He doesn't do it any more."

"Really? What did you say to him?"

"I just--just told him he mustn't. He was very decent about it."

"I'll bet he was!" laughed Mart. "I can see you." He jumped up, folded
his arms across his chest and bent a stern look on Ira. "'Smead,
this must cease. I cannot have the pure atmosphere of this apartment
polluted with your vile cigarettes. Do you realise that it is a dirty
and unhealthful habit? Let me beg of you to have done with it. Think of
your future, Smead, of your unsuspecting family at home, of your own
welfare, and pause on the brink of destruction. And I may add, Smead,
that if you don't pause, I'll knock your block off!' Wasn't that about
it, Rowland?"

"Not quite," laughed Ira. "I didn't have to offer to fight him, because
he was very nice about it."

"Irrefutably! _But_ if he hadn't been I can guess what would have
happened to Smead," chuckled Mart.

"His name is Nead," Ira corrected.

"Need? Well, a friend in Need is a friend indeed. Asterisk. See
footnote. 'Vide Bartlett's Familiar Quotations.' What are you doing to
pass the long Winter evenings, Rowland?"

"I went out for the football team the other day," was the reply.

"Of course!" exclaimed Brad. "I knew I'd seen you around somewhere,
Rowland. If you'd been in togs I'd have recognised you. How is it
going?"

"I don't know much about it. They've had me in the awkward squad for
several days and I guess I'm no more awkward than when I began."

"That's something," said Mart. "Now Brad here is much worse after three
years than he was when he started. Aren't you, Brad?"

"Sometimes I think I am! What are you trying for, Rowland?"

"Me? Oh, I don't know. Whatever they say, I guess. I wasn't keen about
doing it, but Fred Lyons said I ought to try, and so I did. Things
don't look very easy for Lyons and the others and I thought that if
they really could find a use for me I might as well go out."

"Wish there were more like you," said Brad. "I've been trying to get
Mart started, but he hasn't your sense of duty."

"Duty!" scoffed Mart. "That isn't duty, that's Rowland's fine, old New
England conscience. He comes from Vermont----"

"Maine, please," said Ira.

"I mean Maine, and that's where they make them. I come from New Jersey,
you see, and we don't have consciences."

"Haven't you ever tried it?" asked Ira.

"Football?" Mart shook his head. "No, I never felt reckless enough.
I play a little baseball and some tennis and a bit of hockey and can
swing a golf stick, but beyond that I don't participate in athletics."

"They don't allow us to take part in more than three sports," explained
Brad, "and that's Mart's difficulty. If he went in for football he'd
have to give up either baseball, hockey or tennis. And as he thinks he
is needed on those teams he hesitates."

"I do more than hesitate," replied Mart. "I stand immovable. There are
plenty of fellows who can play football. Let them go out and save the
country. I'm busy."

"I don't see how you could play football, too," said Ira. "But I
guess there are plenty of fellows who could and won't. I don't know
much about things here yet, but it seems a pity to me that the school
doesn't take more interest in the team."

"No one can blame you," said Mart flippantly. "Football at Parkinson,
Rowland, is one of the lost arts. It's like dragon's blood vases
and--and Tyrian purple and Rembrandt paintings. We live in the past,
as it were. Football vanished from Parkinson about the time the battle
of Bunker Hill took place on Breed's Hill. That's a funny thing, by
the way. Why do you suppose they fought the Bunker Hill battle where
they did? My idea is that Mr. Breed offered them more money and fifty
per cent of the moving picture rights. Mr. Bunker must have been
frightfully peeved, though, what?"

"Football is in a bad way here, Rowland, and that's a fact," said Brad,
"but it only needs one successful season to put it on its feet again.
And I'm hoping hard that this season will do it. We've got a pretty
fair start as far as material goes. I mean, we've got quite a bunch of
last year's fellows back. The trouble is we can't seem to get out new
material. They just won't come. Fred has fits and talks about calling
a mass meeting and all that, but Driscoll says he can build a team of
what he's got; that he'd rather have fifty fellows who want to play
than a hundred who don't. And I think Driscoll's dead right."

"Yes, you think anything Driscoll says or does is right," jeered Mart.
"If he told you to stand on your head for an hour in the middle of the
field and wave your legs you'd do it."

"Perhaps. Anyway, he's a good coach. He showed that last year."

"By letting Kenwood lick us?"

"By not letting her lick us worse than she did, son. When Driscoll took
hold everything was at sixes and sevens. The other coach had gone off
in a huff and half the team were for him and half for the captain and
there was the dickens to pay generally. Well, Driscoll stepped in and
paid no attention to anything that had happened. When the captain tried
to tell him about the fuss he just said: 'I don't want to hear anything
about it. I'm here to turn out a football team. What happened last
week or yesterday doesn't concern me in the least. I'm beginning today.
Now then, let's get at it.'"

"Well," said Mart, "I hope he justifies your belief in him, old chap.
Personally, I don't like the way he brushes his hair. I never yet saw
a fellow with a cowlick who amounted to a hill of beans. Did you,
Rowland?"

"I don't think I ever noticed."

"Well, you study it and you'll find I'm right. Who do you know? Met
many of the fellows yet?"

"Not a great many. I guess I know twenty or thirty."

"Twenty or thirty! Geewhillikins! I'd say that was going some. You're
a good mixer, Rowland. I'll bet I didn't know ten when I'd been here a
month."

"Who were the other nine?" asked Brad, drily. "I was one."

"You! I didn't count you at all! You said you knew Gene Goodloe, I
remember, Rowland. He's a good sort. And of course you know Fred Lyons."

"Yes, a little. I've been pretty busy so far and haven't been around
much."

"Busy? What do you find to do?"

"Study, for one thing," said Ira smiling.

"My fault! I forgot you had a conscience. Well, a certain amount of
study does help one. That's what I tell Brad, but he won't listen.
Advice with Brad is like water on a duck's back, in one ear and out the
other."

"I guess I'd better go back and do some more of it," said Ira, pulling
his cap from his pocket.

"Walk around! It's early yet. Well, if you must go----"

"I hope you'll come and see us again," said Brad. "Come some time when
Mart's out so we can have a chat."

"I like that!" cried his chum. "Gee, I never get a word in edgeways
when you're around. I'll leave it to you, Rowland. Who's done most of
the talking here this evening?"

"I'm afraid I have," laughed Ira. "Good night. I--if you'd care to come
and see me some time I'd be glad to have you. My place isn't very much,
though. Still, if you'd care to--And I'd like you to meet Nead."

"Very glad to," replied Brad. "We'll drop around some evening. Good
night, Rowland. Don't forget your way here."

"Good night," said Mart. "I'm sorry you must go, Rowland, but at least
I can smoke my cigarette now. Come again and bring your dog!"

When Ira reached the first landing at Maggy's a sudden glare of light
shot across the dim hall and he saw the tall form of "Old Earnest"
silhouetted in his doorway.

"Do you know--" began a voice.

"Oh, yes: B.C. 431 to 404," said Ira.

"Eh? What are you talking about?" exclaimed the voice startledly.

"Why, the Peloponnesian War!"

"Pelop--Huh! Who cares about----!"

The door was slammed irately and Ira stumbled his way up in the gloom,
chuckling.



CHAPTER XII

IN THE LINE-UP


Country Day School came Saturday and put up a good fight, but was
defeated by the score of 7 to 3. Ira witnessed that contest from the
bench and found more interest in it than in the Mapleton battle because
he wanted very much to have Parkinson win. He felt certain that a
defeat would make much more difficult the already discouraging task
ahead of captain and coach. Then, too, there was a personal side to
it. He was, to a limited extent, a member of that brown-legged team,
and, naturally enough, he preferred to be associated with success. But
he just couldn't get up any real excitement, even when, in the third
period, Country Day scored that field-goal and took the lead, or when,
ten minutes later, Parkinson, with Dannis back to yelp and drive,
marched from the enemy's forty-yard line to her nine and then tossed a
forward-pass over to Ray White. Of course, now that he knew what it was
all about--or some of it!--and realised how hard the brown team was
working on that thirty-yard march, he found more interest, but, unlike
some of the others around him, he was able to sit quietly on the bench
without squirming, didn't make funny noises in his throat when Wells
fumbled a pass and, in brief, kept his heart beating away at its normal
speed. But he _was_ glad when it was over and Parkinson had won, and he
said as much to Logan, a substitute end, with whom he walked back to
the gymnasium.

"I'm glad we won it," he said in a quietly satisfied tone. "Aren't you?"

Logan turned and viewed him quizzically. "Are you really?" he asked.
"Just like that, eh? Well, if I were you I'd try to restrain my
enthusiasm, Rowland. Over-excitement is bad for the heart!"

"Over-exci--Oh, well, I guess I haven't been here long enough to get
very excited about it. I was just thinking that maybe the school would
be pleased and be more--feel better disposed toward the team."

"The school!" scoffed Logan. "Who cares what the school does? We play
our own game." With which somewhat cryptic remark he kicked open the
door and hurried in to get undressed before the showers were all
occupied.

The next Monday Ira was taken from the seclusion of the fourth squad
and handed over to the none too tender mercies of a large, red-faced
youth of nineteen named Neely. Dave Neely looked Ira up and down
almost, as Ira felt, compassionately. "Oh, all right," said Neely as
though disclaiming further responsibility, "get in with that gang
there and see what you can do. You can't be worse than most of them, I
suppose. What's your name?"

"Rowland."

"What makes you think you want to play guard, Rowland?"

"Nothing. I mean, I don't want to play guard, especially."

"You don't!" growled Neely. "Then what are you doing here?"

"Coach Driscoll told me to report to you. He didn't tell me what I was
to do. But I'd just as lief be guard as anything."

"Suffering cats!" groaned Neely. "And this is what happens to a
peace-loving citizen like me! Have you ever played guard?"

"No." Ira shook his head, smiling a little in sympathy with Neely's
outraged feelings. "I haven't played anywhere. I'm just beginning."

"Fine! I can see that you're going to be a huge success. Well, all
right." Neely waved a hand weariedly. "Cut across to that gang and do
what you see them do. Only for the love of Mike, try to do it better!"

The "gang" alluded to consisted of some ten or a dozen boys who were
divided into two lines. They faced each other and, when one of their
number stooped down and trickled a ball back between his wide-spread
legs immediately crashed together and lunged and pushed and shoved and
gave a good imitation of a small riot. Most of the linesmen were older
than Ira, and several of them were larger. He couldn't find a place to
station himself and was still hesitating when Neely arrived, almost on
his heels.

"Move up one, Buffum, and let this man in there. You're a guard,
Rowland. The other side has the ball. Now get through."

The man nearly opposite Ira grunted and trickled the pigskin away. Ira
was watching him intently and would have continued to watch had not
the youth in front of him plunged into him and sent him reeling back.
Dave Neely's face became apoplectic. "Didn't you see you were in the
gentleman's way, Rowland?" he demanded with heavy sarcasm. "Why didn't
you lie down and let him go over you?"

Ira regarded him doubtfully. "Should I have stopped him!" he asked.

A roar of laughter arose from the panting players and Neely's
countenance became even redder. "Should you have--Oh, no! Oh, dear,
no! Not if it's too much trouble, Rowland! This is just a little light
exercise, you know. Nothing of consequence. We're just whiling away an
idle hour. Why, you--you--Look here, don't you know anything about the
duties of a linesman?"

"I'm afraid not, but if you'll tell me----"

"Oh, I'll tell you! Listen now. That brown oblate spheroid, or whatever
the scientific name of it is, is a football. Those fellows in front of
you are attacking. When you see that football snapped you want to get
through and go after it. You have other duties, but that's enough for
now. Get through! Get through! Try it now."

Away trickled the ball, the lines crashed together and--Ira was lying
on the ground four yards behind the opposing line with the ball
snuggled to his chest! Neely stared a moment. Then, seeing the grins on
the faces of the others, he chuckled. "All right, Rowland," he called.
"Let him up. You needn't bother to fall on the ball just now, but that
_is_ the way I want you to get through. That was all right. Now, then,
Tooker, what happened to you?"

Tooker looked puzzled and shook his head vaguely. "I guess he caught me
napping," he replied.

"You _guess_ he did! You _know_ he did! Try it again."

Ira didn't get by the next time, for his opponent was prepared, but he
gave Tooker all the work he could stand, and Neely grunted approval.
They kept at it for some twenty minutes longer, one side playing on
defence and then the other. Ira discovered things from watching the
rest and Neely instructed between each charge. After that they had ten
minutes with the machine, a wooden platform having a padded rail on
one side and four small and absolutely inadequate iron wheels beneath.
Having loaded the platform with half the squad, Neely set the rest at
pushing it ahead with their shoulders set against the rail. It was
punishing work for the chargers, only partly compensated for when it
became their part to ride and watch the others push.

Work with the linesmen continued for a week without much variety.
Always the afternoon started with tackling practice on the dummy and
ended with a jog around the field. Ira made progress and Neely no
longer viewed him with an air of patient fortitude. In fact, Neely was
rather pleased with him and more than once said so. Almost anyone save
Ira would have been all perked up by that commendation, and would have
had hard work concealing the fact. But Ira only looked mildly gratified
and said simply that he was "glad if he was any use, thanks!"

The Cumner High School game went to Parkinson, 18 to 7, and was
quite an exciting event if only because of the numerous fumbles and
misplays which were about evenly divided between the contending teams.
Cumner was light and fast and Parkinson heavier and decidedly slower.
A wet field aided the home team by handicapping Cumner's speedy
backfield. All three of Parkinson's touchdowns resulted from steady
line-plunging--diversified by fumbles of the wet ball--and Cumner
scored by the overhead route, tossing a long forward-pass across
the line in the third quarter. Cumner kicked her goal, while Cole,
of Parkinson, missed each attempt. The brown team suffered several
injuries that afternoon, for a slippery field invariably takes its toll
of the players. Donovan, left guard, sprained his knee badly, French, a
tackle, pulled a tendon in his leg and Cole, first-string right half,
got a nasty bruise on his head. Cumner, too, sustained injuries, but
none were serious.

Ira went back with Gene Goodloe to Williams that evening after a
lecture in the auditorium and found Lyons and several football fellows
present. He had entertained the notion that the afternoon's victory
was something to be mildly proud of, but after listening, in silence
for the most part, to the conversation he saw that he had been far too
optimistic. Parkinson had committed every sin in the football category.
Everyone agreed on that. The line had been slow and had played too
high, the backfield had lacked punch and the ends--well, the least said
of the ends the better! Everyone was inclined to be very gloomy, and
the injury to Donovan didn't seem to cheer them up any! Ira went home
at ten o'clock realising that football was not merely the pastime he
had believed it to be, but something terribly earnest and important, a
little more important, evidently, than mid-year examinations or--or a
presidential election! He shook his head and sighed as he climbed the
stairs at Maggy's. It was beyond his comprehension, he concluded.

They put him in a line-up one afternoon the next week and he struggled
for some ten or twelve minutes in a perfectly hopeless effort to
outplay Brackett, of the first squad. Perhaps he shouldn't have
expected to get the best of a veteran like Brackett, but he was, at all
events, rather disappointed when he was taken out and sent hobbling
off to the showers. He hobbled because someone had ruthlessly stamped
on his foot and he had a suspicion that one or two of his toes were
crushed and broken beyond repair. Also, his head was still ringing from
the hearty impact of someone's shoe. He was relieved to find that,
although red and swollen, the toes were apparently intact, while, as
for his head, that responded to cold water and rest.

"Football," said Ira to himself as he limped down the steps on his way
to the town, "is a funny sort of game. You work like the dickens five
days a week so you'll be able to 'play' on the sixth. Only I don't call
it playing exactly, at that. Well, if I don't get killed I suppose I'll
manage to get through the season. Unless, that is, they realise, as I
do, that I'm no earthly use to them. I sort of hope they'll let me go
before I break something worse than a couple of toes!"

But it didn't seem to be their plan to let him go, for two days later,
when the first real cut came and the fourth squad ceased to exist, Ira
was still kicking his heels on the bench during scrimmage. It seemed
to him that Coach Driscoll had let many a better player depart in
peace, and he wondered why he was retained. The second team had been
made up for nearly a fortnight and Ira had been rather relieved at not
being relegated to it. If, he argued, they put him on the second he
might prove just good enough to be kept there for the balance of the
season, while, if they kept him out for the first it was very likely
that after awhile they would recognise his deficiencies and let him
off. He was willing to stay there and do what they asked him to do just
as long as he was wanted, but he always entertained the hope that some
fine day Captain Lyons would gently and kindly inform him that they had
decided to worry along without him.

He was given instruction in catching punts, something at which he
failed to distinguish himself, and was glad to find that the course was
merely a sort of "extra" and intended to qualify him for an emergency
rather than to fit him to play in the backfield. Of course, if Driscoll
had said: "You go in for Dannis, at quarter, Rowland," he would have
nodded and gone, just as he would have done had he been nonchalantly
informed that he was to play right end or centre. But he did secretly
hope that, failing to drop him, they would let him continue to play
in a guard position. Without flattering himself, he felt that he
could play guard fairly well if he wasn't opposed to some wonder like
Brackett or Donovan. Ira's estimate of himself as a football player was
modest those days, for, although he frequently received commendation,
he concluded that folks were just being nice to him and "letting
him down easy." Once when Fred Lyons said warmly: "Rowland, you're
certainly shaping, old man, wonderfully!" Ira looked mildly gratified
and said "Thank you" and secretly liked Fred better for being gracious
to a "dub" like he.

After that first cut Ira could count on playing a few minutes every
afternoon. Sometimes he was opposed to the first squad men and
sometimes he was lined up with the first against the second team. When
the latter event happened he usually gave a fairly good account of
himself, always, in fact, when he played at left of centre, for then
he was opposed to a rather light and seedy chap named Faulkner, and he
could do about as he liked with Faulkner. If they played him at right
guard--and they didn't seem to care much which side of the line they
put him--he had his work cut out, for Johns was a hard, fast fellow
to stand up to. As the days went by Ira began, rather to his own
surprise, to look forward to those more or less brief periods of play.
After all, there was something exciting about a physical encounter like
that, something very interesting in matching his wit and brawn against
the wit and brawn of another. Such times as he gave a good account of
himself, Ira went back to the gymnasium and, later, to his room, in
quite a glow of satisfaction. The glow didn't last long, however, and
he always ended by laughing at himself for caring whether he or Johns
had emerged victor in the struggle.

Parkinson met her first reverse when she went away and played
Phillipsburg Academy. Phillipsburg had won from Kenwood by one score
the week before and Parkinson was anxious to defeat her. Perhaps Fred
Lyons was more anxious than anyone else, for it seemed to him that a
victory over a team which had lately defeated Parkinson's special rival
would convince the school at large that the brown team was worthy of
support. But it was not to be. With Donovan out of the game, the left
side of the Parkinson line was unbelievably weak. Buffum did the best
he could, doubtless, but Buffum was not a Donovan and never would be.
Cole was not called on until the beginning of the third quarter, by
which time Phillipsburg had a lead that Parkinson couldn't wear down.
Coach Driscoll thrust a veritable army of substitutes into the fray
in the final ten minutes, but all to no purpose. Ira had his baptism
by fire that chilly, blowy October afternoon, and did neither better
nor worse than the player he succeeded. Phillipsburg already had the
game on ice by a score of 19 to 9, and as she played entirely on the
defensive during most of the final period, Ira had little chance to
distinguish himself. He played through six minutes, most of which was
spent by him, or so he thought afterwards, in running up and down the
field. Phillipsburg punted every time she got the ball, with the one
thought of keeping the adversary outside her twenty-five-yard line.
Parkinson nearly forced another score on her in the last three minutes
when a forward pass from Wirt went to a Phillipsburg player and he had
almost a clear field ahead of him. Dannis, however, managed to pull him
to earth just short of the ten-yard line and when the home team had
exhausted two downs in a vain attempt to puncture the brown line, her
try-at-goal went a few inches wide of the upright. In the end 19 to 9
was the result, and Parkinson went home with trailing banners.



CHAPTER XIII

A CONFERENCE


As it happened, an unusually large number of fellows had accompanied
the team that day, and in consequence a great many disappointed and
disgruntled youths returned to Warne and a late supper and recited
discouraging stories of the contest. Those who had remained at home
shrugged their shoulders and said: "Well, what did you go for? You
might have known!"

Fred Lyons was too downcast to make an effort to put a good face on the
matter. As for Coach Driscoll, it was hard to say what his feelings
were, for he looked and acted the same in success or failure. De Wolf
Lowell, the manager, declared that Driscoll was beastly unsatisfactory,
since he "always looked untroubled and you never could tell whether
he wanted to kiss you or kick you!" The defeat could not have come at
a more inopportune time, for the _Leader_, which appeared on Fridays,
held that week an appeal for funds for the football team. It was a
well-worded appeal, signed by the four class presidents and Manager
Lowell, but it failed of its purpose very largely. In the course of the
next week or so enough small contributions materialised to enable the
team to struggle along for the moment, but the amount donated was only
a drop in the bucket when viewed with the season's expenses in mind.

There was a consultation Sunday evening in Coach Driscoll's room
attended by coach, captain and manager. The coach's attitude was one
of polite indifference when the matter of finances was reached. "It
isn't in my province," he explained calmly. "That may sound heartless,
fellows, but if I have to worry about money I can't give the undivided
attention to my real business that it requires. I'm here to turn out
a good team, and I mean to do it if it's any way possible. I can't do
it if my mind is disturbed by questions of receipts and expenditures.
Whatever you decide I'll agree to, and I'll do anything in reason to
carry the play through, but you mustn't look to me for schemes."

"If we don't get some money," said Lowell dismally, "there won't be any
use for a team."

"That's up to you," replied the coach, smiling.

Lowell looked doubtfully at Fred, and the latter nodded agreement.
"The coach is right, old man. It isn't his funeral. We've got to find a
way out ourselves."

"Then, for the love of lemons, let's get something started," said
Lowell impatiently. "Canvas the school, go through it with a fine-tooth
comb. There's no other way. If we called a meeting it would end in a
farce."

"I don't think so," said Fred. "We'd have the class leaders with us and
a good many others. We could get them on the platform and have them
speak. Whatever we do, though, we must wait until we've won a game."

"That's all very well, but suppose, we lose again Saturday!"

"We won't," replied Fred confidently. "We can beat High School without
trouble. The only thing is that it won't be much of a victory when we
get it! I wish it was Musket Hill next Saturday instead of High School."

"We can't wait much longer," protested the manager. "We need coin,
Fred. We owe so many bills now that I'm ashamed to walk through town!
Hang it, the money's here. Why can't we get hold of it? If it was the
baseball team that needed it the fellows would fall all over themselves
passing it out!"

"We're not popular," said Fred, with a grimace.

Coach Driscoll, who had listened tranquilly to the discussion, took his
pipe from his mouth and viewed it thoughtfully. "I wouldn't count too
much on a win next week," he said. "I'm planning to use a good many
second-string fellows Saturday." The pipe went back again and he viewed
Fred untroubledly.

"Great Scott!" exclaimed Lowell. "That'll never do, Coach!"

"Is it necessary?" asked Fred dubiously.

The coach nodded. "Very," he answered. "The subs have got to taste
blood if they're going to be any use. Just putting them in for a few
minutes at the end of a game doesn't do much good. I want to start with
practically a substitute line-up Saturday; Bradford, French, Buffum,
Conlon maybe, and so on. You can start if you like and Dannis had
better run them: and we'll keep Wirt in the backfield. I don't say that
we won't win even with that bunch. I don't know much about the High
School team. But I wouldn't consider it a foregone conclusion, fellows."

"That means waiting another week," said Lowell disgustedly.

"No, we'll go ahead whatever happens," said Fred. "Look here, we'll
start things up tomorrow. Call a mass meeting for next Saturday night
in the auditorium. I'll see Knowles and Hodges. You get after Sterner
and young Lane. Tell them we'll want them to sign the notices and to
say something at the meeting. Who else can we count on?"

"You'll speak; and Mr. Driscoll?" Lowell looked inquiringly across at
the coach and the latter nodded. "And I will, too, if you want me to.
Perhaps I'd better. I can tell them facts, give them figures and so on.
How about Gene? He's Track Captain. Wouldn't he count?"

"Gene can't talk much," replied Fred. "I mean he isn't much of a
speaker in public. Still, he will do his best if we ask him. I wish we
knew of someone who really had the gift of the gab, someone who could
get them started."

"How about you, coach?" asked Lowell.

But Mr. Driscoll shook his head. "I'm no spellbinder," he replied.
"I'll talk, but don't expect eloquence, Lowell."

"Well, we'll just do the best we can," said Fred. "What time can you
come around tomorrow? We'll have to draw up some notices to post and
another to put in the _Leader_."

"I'll see my men in the morning and meet you at your room at half-past
one," answered Lowell. "I'm glad we're going to get something started
at last. I'm getting white-headed over it!"

"Through?" asked Mr. Driscoll. The others nodded. "Then let's take up
another subject." He reached to the table and lifted a notebook to
him. "We've got forty-odd men out now and we don't want them all much
longer. I think we'd better make a final cut a week from Monday. We can
tell how some of the green ones size up in the High School game. I wish
I'd asked Billy Goode to come around here tonight. He's got dope on
some of these chaps that I don't know."

"How many shall we keep?" asked Fred.

"Twenty-eight or thirty are enough. Run your eye over that list and see
how it strikes you. I've crossed the names I mean to drop."

"Sumner?" asked Fred doubtfully as he went down the list.

"Don't need him. We've got five half-backs without him. He will be
better next year, but he isn't 'varsity material yet."

Fred nodded and went on. Presently: "Rowland?" he questioned.

"Y-yes," answered the coach hesitantly. "I wasn't certain about him,
though. If I were certain Crane would keep coming I'd drop Rowland,
but Crane's pretty poor sometimes. What do you think?"

"I'd keep him," said Fred. "Rowland's a mighty steady player, and
considering that he didn't know a football from a ham sandwich three
weeks ago I think he's done remarkably."

"Yes, he has. I only questioned him because we don't want a lot of
deadwood around. Cross him off, Lyons. If Donovan doesn't come around
we may need him."

"Al? Isn't he going to? I thought he was coming back tomorrow."

"So he is, as far as I know, but a fellow who gets hurt once is twice
as likely to get it again. I'm always leery of them after they once
come a cropper. I've seen it happen so often. We'll keep Rowland and be
on the safe side. The boy is a worker and would make a corking guard if
he put his mind on his work. The trouble with him is that he acts as if
he was attending a tea-fight instead of football practice!"

Fred laughed. "He's too good-natured, I guess."

"It doesn't do to be too good-natured in football," replied the coach
drily. "But I don't think it's that so much, as it is that he doesn't
take it seriously. I watched him the other day in practice and he
smiled the whole time!"

Fred handed the list back. "The others are all right, I think," he
said. "Maybe we'll want to make changes after Saturday's game, though.
Is there anything more tonight, coach?"

"Not a thing. You fellows go ahead with your meeting and try to make
a hit with it. Let Lowell attend to as much of it as he can. That's
his business, I guess. If you get it on your mind too much you will be
falling off in your play. And we don't want that. Save him all you can,
Lowell. We may need him."

Beginning on Monday, Ira's services were constantly in demand. Donovan
returned to his position at left guard on the first team, but he was
used very carefully and most of the time Tom Buffum had his place.
That brought Ira into the substitute squad and he and Crane alternated
opposite to Buffum, or, in the usual scrimmage, against Johns after
Donovan and Buffum had had their chances. Ira played hard and fast and
used his head, but in the final analysis there was something lacking,
and not even Coach Driscoll could put his finger on that something. One
day he called Ira to him on the side line and questioned him.

"Well, what do you think of it, Rowland?" he asked pleasantly.

"Of what, sir?"

"Football work. Find it interesting?"

"Oh, yes, sir, quite. I like it better than I expected to. But I'm
still pretty green at it, I guess."

"Why, I don't know," replied the coach slowly. "You've come pretty fast
for a beginner. Do you feel yourself that you're still green?"

"Well, I--realise that I don't know as much about the game as I should.
The other fellows seem to always know just what to do. I sort of--sort
of blunder along, I guess."

"What is it you think you don't know?" asked the coach.

"I can't say exactly. I suppose it's lack of experience that I mean.
There's so much more in it than I realised, sir; in the game, I mean."

"Yes, there's a lot in it, but all you need to know is how to play the
guard position, Rowland. Don't worry yourself too much about the game
as a whole. Play your own position as well as you can and leave the
rest to the others. Which of the fellows are you most afraid of?"

"Oh, I'm not afraid of any of them," replied Ira placidly.

"I didn't mean it just that way," corrected the coach, hiding a smile.
"I meant which one do you find it hardest to play against?"

"Johns," was the prompt reply.

"Johns?" The coach's voice contained surprise. "But Johns isn't the
player that Buffum is."

"No, I guess not, sir, but Johns--well, I don't know; I think he plays
_harder_ than Buffum."

The coach looked mystified. "Harder, eh? Look here, isn't it just that
you yourself don't play as hard against Johns as you do against Buffum
or Donovan? Maybe Johns has got you scared."

"It might be that," answered Ira. "Anyway, I'd rather tackle Johns."

"But you just said you found him harder!"

"That's the reason, I guess," laughed Ira.

"Hm. Well, you go in there now and see what you can do to Johns. Hold
on! Wait till the play's over. Just forget that Johns is Johns and see
if you can't put it over on him, Rowland."

But Ira didn't put it over on Johns. For the ensuing ten or twelve
minutes they played each other to a standstill and neither could have
fairly claimed supremacy. Coach Driscoll, watching at intervals from
the side line--he had a way of absenting himself from the field for
long periods before jumping in and reading the riot-act--frowned in
puzzlement. "I wonder," he muttered once, "what the result would be if
Johns handed him a jolt under the chin! What that boy needs is to get
warmed up to his work. He's too calm!"

The announcement of the mass meeting appeared on the different
bulletin boards on Tuesday and occasioned plenty of interest but small
enthusiasm. "'Football Mass Meeting,' eh?" Ira heard one fellow remark
in front of the board in Parkinson. "Suppose they want us to shell out.
Not for mine, thank you. Let them win a game once."

"Oh, a dollar won't hurt us," observed his companion carelessly. "I
guess they're pretty hard up."

"I paid perfectly good money for a season ticket," answered the first
speaker, "and that's enough. I haven't had my money's worth so far and
don't expect to. They'll have to tie me and take it away by force if
they get any dollar from me!"

"Where's your patriotism?" jeered the other. "You're a nice piker, you
are!"

"Patriotism be blowed! Where's their football team, if it comes to
that? Why should I give good money to support a bunch of losers and
quitters?"

"Oh, pshaw, if they'll beat Kenwood I don't care how many games they
lose."

"If!" sneered his companion. "Well, they won't. Not that bunch. I'd
give them _two_ dollars if they would."

"They'd fall dead if you did," laughed the other boy. "You never gave
two dollars to anyone in your life, you tightwad!"

The second- and third-string players had the call all that week and on
Thursday it became rumoured about that Coach Driscoll was to start the
game with the Warne High School team with a substitute line-up and a
deal of speculation ensued among the substitutes. Ira was interested,
but not greatly. Buffum would play right guard, of course, and Brackett
left. If substitutes were needed there were Tooker and Crane. He
couldn't conceive of getting into the battle save, perhaps, for a scant
five minutes after the result had been determined. On Friday there was
only signal work for the subs, but the first-string players and the
second held scrimmage as usual. To his surprise, Ira was not called on
when Donovan was released, Fuller, a third-string tackle, falling heir
to the position, and, very naturally, playing it badly.

It was not until half-past two on Saturday that the line-up was
given out. The squad was getting into togs in the locker-room of the
gymnasium when Coach Driscoll arrived, a little earlier than usual, and
proved the rumour correct.

"We're going to make a cut next week," he announced, "and some of you
fellows are going to leave us. Which of you stay and which go depends
largely on how you show up this afternoon. You'll all have a chance to
play before the game's over. Any of you who want to keep on must show
something. It's your last chance. We're going to beat High School and
we're going to do it with the subs."

And then he read the line-up, and Ira's surprise was considerable when
he found himself slated in Brackett's place at right guard. Of the
regulars only Captain Lyons and Quarter-Back Dannis were to start.

"Don't," added the coach, "fool yourselves with the idea that if you
get in trouble I'll put the first-string men in to pull you out. It
isn't being done this season. You'll win this game or lose it on your
own merits. Now go ahead and show that you're just as good as the
regulars. Take them out, Captain Lyons!"

High School was already at work when the brown-stockinged players
reached the field and the stands were filling with an audience that
threatened to test their capacity, for High School had plenty of
friends and admirers, many of them of the gentler sex. The light
dresses of the girls, together with a multitude of red-and-blue
pennants and arm-bands, made the scene unusually bright and colourful,
and for the first time Ira felt something very much like stage fright.
But there wasn't much time to indulge it, for they were at once hustled
out of blankets and sweaters and set to work at warming up, and almost
before Ira had limbered his muscles decently a whistle called them back
to the bench. And then, three minutes later, while High School cheered
mightily, Fred Lyons kicked off.



CHAPTER XIV

HARD KNOCKS


High School had the advantage of a longer preliminary season than
her opponent, having already taken part in six contests, and in
consequence what she lacked in weight--for she was a light team--was
made up to her in experience. The first period resulted in a good deal
of wasteful effort on both sides. High School yielded the ball soon
after the kick-off and Parkinson started with line-plunging plays that
took her from her own twenty-nine yards past the middle of the field
and well into the opponent's territory. Hodges, Little and Pearson,
the substitute backs, showed good ability and were hard to stop. It
was a fumble that finally cost them the ball and High School started
back from her thirty-six-yard line with a series of running plays that
for awhile fooled the Parkinson ends and backs and put the ball on
the home team's forty-yard line. During the rest of the twelve-minute
quarter the pigskin passed back and forth across the fifty yards with
slight advantage to either side. The Parkinson supporters grumbled
because the team didn't open up and try the High School ends instead of
invariably yielding the ball after an unsuccessful fourth down plunge.
But Dannis was in command, and Dannis generally knew what he was up to.

During that first period Ira found the going rather easy, for his
opponent played a stupid game. It was only when, on attack, he had
to try conclusions with the opposing centre that he had difficulty.
That centre, although a comparative youngster, was, as everyone agreed
afterwards, "some player!" He had no trouble standing the Parkinson
centre, Conlon, on his head, to use the phrase, and it was his ability
to do that that led to the first score which came a few minutes after
the teams had changed places.

Dannis had intercepted a forward-pass just behind his line and
zigzagged to the enemy's thirty-eight. From there, in four rushes,
Little and Pearson alternating, the pigskin had gone to the twenty-seven.
Hodges had failed to get away outside right tackle and had lost a yard.
With eleven to go on second down, Dannis had skirted the Red-and-Blue's
left and, behind good interference, had placed the ball near the
twenty-yard line just inside the boundary. The next play had gone out
and gained a scant yard, and Little, crashing through the right side of
the High School defence, had just failed of the distance. Then, with the
ball nearly opposite the goal-posts and eighteen yards away from them,
Captain Lyons had dropped back for a try-at-goal. Conlon's pass had been
rather poor, the ball almost going over the kicker's head, and possibly
the knowledge of the fact had unsteadied him for a moment. At all events,
the opposing centre had brushed him aside, avoided Pearson and leaped
straight into the path of the ball as it left Lyons' foot. It had banged
against his body and bounded back up the field, and a speedy back, who
had followed through behind the centre, had gathered it into his arms on
the second bound and raced almost unchallenged for some seventy-five
yards and a touchdown from which High School had kicked an easy goal.

Perhaps that handicap was just what Parkinson needed to make her show
herself, for, after Lyons had again kicked off and the opponents had
been held for downs and had punted back to Little, the brown team
started with new determination. By that time Ira's competitor had
recovered from his slump, doubtless heartened by those seven points on
the score board, and Ira had his hands full. Dannis thrust the backs
at right and left of centre and Ira was busy trying to make holes or
to keep the left of the High School line from romping through. Pearson
was the best gainer through the line, and once he got almost clear and
rushed twenty-two yards before he was brought down. Little and Hodges
worked the ends for smaller gains and Dannis pulled off a twelve-yard
stunt straight through centre on a fake pass. Parkinson was halted on
High School's twenty-five and the Red-and-Blue recovered seven of the
necessary ten yards before she was forced to punt. Little caught near
the side line and got back eight before he was run out of bounds. With
the ball on the thirty-four, Dannis attempted a quarter-back run, but
lost two yards. Hodges faked a forward and made six around right end
and Little got the rest of the distance off right tackle. Near the
fifteen yards, with four to go on third down, Hodges threw across the
lines and Bradford caught on the eight. From there the ball was pushed
over in three plays, Little scoring the touchdown. Lyons kicked the
goal from a slight angle.

High School was given the ball for the kick-off and a short lift
dropped it into the arms of Pearson near the twenty-yard line. The
Red-and-Blue showed demoralisation then and her line went to pieces
during the next dozen plays. Parkinson crashed through almost at will
and had reached the enemy's twenty-one when the whistle blew.

There was some criticism in the locker-room between halves, but Coach
Driscoll found little fault, on the whole. Ira, who had been rather
roughly used, had a piece of plaster applied to his nose and arnica
rubbed into his right ankle. Conlon was horribly messed up and was,
besides, angry clear through. The knowledge that he had been outplayed
disgruntled him badly, and he spent the time when he was not in the
hands of the rubber or trainer in glowering by himself in a corner.

Both teams presented new talent when the third quarter started. For
Parkinson, Basker had taken Dannis's place, Little and Pearson had
retired, Crane was at left guard in place of Buffum, and Logan was at
right end. High School had one new back and two new linesmen. Ira's
opponent was still on hand, however, and viewed him darkly as they
lined up after the kick-off. Ira was as yet unable to view the struggle
as anything other than a somewhat rough amusement, and the other boy's
evident ill-will puzzled him. He soon found, though, that his opponent
held a different idea of the matter in hand. The High School left guard
was not viewing the affair as a pastime, and the fact was brought home
to Ira very speedily. The other fellow did not actually transgress the
rules, but he approached so close to the borderland between fair and
unfair use of the hands that Ira found himself at his wit's end to
protect himself from punishment. Almost anyone else would have lost his
temper and fought back, but Ira kept his smile and took his medicine.
By the time Parkinson had reached scoring distance once more he was
pretty badly used up. He wondered what would happen if he called the
umpire's attention to his opponent's tactics, and was tempted to see.
But he didn't. It seemed too much like acting the baby. Lyons, playing
beside him at tackle, saw what was happening and hotly told Ira to
"give him what he's asking for, Rowland!" And, as Ira didn't, Lyons
took matters into his own hands on one occasion when the opportunity
presented itself to him and considerably jarred the High School left
guard by putting his shoulder under that youth's chin. Fortunately for
Lyons, the umpire didn't see it. But the compliment didn't alter the
left guard's tactics and Ira was sniffing at a bloody nose and looking
dimly through one eye when, after three plunges at High School's line
had failed, Lyons dropped back and put the pigskin over the bar for the
third score.

Fred went out then, Hodsdon taking his place, and James went in for
Hodges. High School kicked off to Basker and the substitute quarter
was run back for a loss of four yards. A fumble a minute later was
recovered by Mason, at left half, on Parkinson's twelve yards. Two
attempts at the line gained but six and Basker punted to midfield. A
smash at the Parkinson right side went through for five yards and Ira,
who had been mowed down in the proceeding, felt so comfortable on the
ground that it didn't occur to him to get up until someone swashed a
wet sponge over his face. When he did find his feet under him he was
extremely glad of the support of the trainer, and when he found himself
walking toward the bench he didn't even protest. There was, he felt
subconsciously, something radically wrong with a game that allowed the
other fellow to "rough" you at pleasure and forbade you to "rough" him
back. Someone lowered him to a bench and draped a blanket around his
shoulders, and someone administered to his half-closed eye and added
another piece of plaster to his already picturesque countenance. And
after that he was sent off to the gymnasium, receiving as he went a
scattered applause from the friendly stands.

Coach Driscoll used twenty-four players that afternoon, and the score
of the game in the next morning's Warne _Independent_ looked a good
deal like a section of a city directory. But in spite of putting two
whole teams into the field the coach failed to capture the game, for,
in the last three or four minutes of play, High School performed a
miracle with a sadly patched-up eleven and worked the ball down to
Parkinson's twenty-two yards and from there, plunging once, grounding
a forward-pass once and trying an end run that was stopped, she lifted
the pigskin across the bar and tied the score at 10 to 10! And Fred
Lyons, dragging tired feet up the gymnasium steps, remarked sadly
to De Wolf Lowell: "Father was right!" Lowell, himself downcast and
disappointed, not knowing that Fred had Coach Driscoll in mind, found
the remark frivolous and senseless and only grunted.

"Well, what in the name of common sense has happened to you?" demanded
Humphrey Nead as Ira trailed into the room about five. Ira smiled
tiredly and gingerly lowered himself onto the erratic window seat.

"I've been playing football," he answered. "Didn't you see the game?"

Humphrey shook his head. "I did not," he answered. "But if they all
look like you it must have been a fine one! Who won?"

"Nobody. It was a tie. Ten to ten."

"Great Scott! Do you mean that you tore your face into fragments and
ended where you began?"

"Something like that. Only, of course, we all had a pleasant time,
Nead, and got a lot of nice exercise. It's a remarkable game, football."

"Are you sure you've been playing football?" asked Humphrey, grinning.
"Sure you haven't been in a train wreck, Rowly?"

"Quite sure, thanks. I played opposite a fellow who probably invented
the game. Anyway, he knew a lot of stunts I didn't. He had more ways of
using his hands without being seen than you can imagine."

"Oh, that was it!" Humphrey frowned. "What did you do to him?"

"Nothing much. Lyons said I ought to, but what's the good of having
rules if you don't stick to them? I tried to keep from getting killed
and barely got off with my life. I don't think he got through me more
than three times, but he certainly made it difficult for me! The last
time he came through very nicely, though, and when I came to I was on
my back and the trainer was trying to drown me with a sponge full of
water. After that they lugged me off and sent me home. I didn't see the
rest of it, but I heard they tied up the game in the last quarter. I
guess Fred Lyons is awfully disappointed. You see, there's the meeting
tonight."

"It'll be a frost," said Humphrey. "I've heard a lot of the fellows say
that they weren't going. Here, you'd better let me doctor you a bit,
Rowly. That eye's a sight! Who stuck the plaster all over you?"

"Billy Goode. I do look sort of funny, don't I?" Ira observed himself
in the wavy mirror above the bureau. "I'd laugh," he added, "only it
hurts my mouth!"

"You were a silly ass not to go after that butcher," growled Humphrey.
"I wish I'd been playing against him! What was his name?"

"I don't think I heard it. Hold on, don't take that plaster off!"

"Shut up and stand still! You don't need half a yard of the stuff
there. Where are those scissors of yours? There, that's something like.
Oh, hang it, it's bleeding again! Reach me the towel. Are you going to
the meeting?"

"I don't know. Yes, I suppose so. Lyons wouldn't like it if we didn't
all go. That eye looks bad, though, doesn't it? Guess I'll get some hot
water and bathe it."

"Hot water be blowed! Cold water is what you want. Here, I'll pour some
out in the basin and you get to work."

"Why didn't you go to the game?" asked Ira, as he sopped a dripping
wash cloth to his eye.

"Oh, I had something better to do."

"Pool, I suppose," sniffed Ira. "You do too much of that, Nead."

"Well, you miss your guess, old top. I was out with Jimmy Fallon on his
motorcycle. Say, that's sport, all right, Rowly! Sixty-five miles an
hour sometimes, and everything whizzing past so quick you couldn't see
it! I wish I could afford one of the things."

"You'll break your neck if you go rampaging around on one of those
contraptions," said Ira. "It isn't safe, Nead."

"Huh! That sounds fine from a fellow whose face looks like a beefsteak!
You don't see any black eyes or broken noses on me, do you?"

Ira laughed. "You've got the best of the argument," he replied. "But
some day you'll come home with a broken neck if you're not careful.
Where'd you go?"

"Springfield. Took us forty minutes to go and less than that to get
back. A motor cop tried to chase us once, but never had a chance. We
left him standing."

"Who is Jimmy Fallon?"

"He works in Benton's cigar store. He's a corker, Jimmy is."

"He must be if he spends his time racing policemen. I suppose you think
you're going to play pool tonight."

"Surest thing you know, sport!"

"Well, you're not. You're coming with me to the mass meeting. And
you're going to----"

"Yes, I am! Like fun!" jeered Humphrey.

"And you're going to clap your hands at the right moment and pull for
the football team," continued Ira, regardless of the interruption.
"Also, Nead, you're going to subscribe liberally to the cause."

"Nothing doing, Rowly! I've got a date with some of the fellows
downtown. Anyway, I couldn't subscribe to the cause, as you call it,
having but about a dollar and a half to my name and needing that for
more important things, old top."

"Broke again?" asked Ira.

"Pretty nearly. I've got a dollar and sixty-two cents, or something
like that. Want to borrow a hundred, Rowly?"

"No, thanks. But I'll stake you to a couple of dollars so you can put
in your coin when they pass the hat."

"All right. You put in a dollar for me and let me have the other now."

"You can put it in yourself. You'll be there."

"Nothing doing!"

"This is something special, Nead," said Ira, seriously, speaking
through the folds of the towel. "I want you to go with me. It won't
matter if you miss one evening at the billiard place."

"But I don't want to go to your old meeting," expostulated Humphrey.
"It's nothing in my young life! You give them a dollar for me and tell
them I wish them well."

"No, we want all the fellows we can get. You'll be wanting to borrow
in two or three days, Nead, and I shan't want to loan to a fellow who
won't do a little thing like this to oblige me."

"Oh, don't you worry, old top. There are other places to make a raise."

"Maybe, but I don't believe you want to try them. I'll be back here
about half-past seven and the meeting's at eight. We'd better start
fairly early so as to get good seats."

"Gee, a fellow would think you were going to the movies," scoffed
Humphrey. "What fun is there in listening to a lot of idiots talk about
the football team? Are you going to speak, too?"

"Me?" asked Ira startledly. "Thunder, no! I couldn't speak a piece!"

"Then I won't go," laughed Humphrey. "If you'll make a speech, Rowly,
I'll take a chance."

"Guess I'm the one who'd be taking a chance," replied Ira. "How does
this eye look now?"

"Dissipated, old top, dissipated! But it's a bit better. Well, I guess
I'll run along and feed. Want to donate that dollar now, Rowly?"

"N-no, I don't believe so."

Humphrey frowned and paused irresolutely by the table, hat in hand.
"You're not in earnest about that, are you?" he asked. "I mean about
holding out on me if I don't go to the meeting."

"Yes, I am, Nead. You're wanted at the meeting and I'm asking you to go
as a personal favour to me."

"Rot! I don't see how it affects you any, whether I go or don't go. It
isn't your picnic."

"Why not? I'm on the team, fighting and bleeding for the cause." Ira
felt tentatively of his nose. "Bleeding, anyhow. Naturally, I want the
thing to be a success. Besides, Nead, they've got to raise some money
if they're going to last the season out. Shall we say about twenty
minutes to eight?"

"Say what you like," laughed Humphrey, "but don't look for me, Rowly.
I've got something to do tonight. Bye!"

"Bye," answered Ira. When the door had closed he smiled gently. "If he
doesn't go with me I miss my guess," he murmured as he donned his vest
and coat and slicked his hair down with a wet brush. "I suppose it's a
poor business, buying him like that, but you've got to suit your method
to your man." With which bit of philosophy he observed his disfigured
countenance dubiously and turned out the light.



CHAPTER XV

PARKINSON HAS A CHANGE OF HEART


Humphrey was waiting when Ira returned from supper. "Thought I might as
well go along and see the fun," he observed carelessly.

They reached the auditorium, on the second floor of Parkinson
Hall, in good time but found it already half-full. A dozen rather
conscious-looking fellows stood or sat about the stage: Fred Lyons, De
Wolf Lowell, Gene Goodloe, the four class presidents, Steve Crocker,
baseball captain, and several whom Ira didn't know. Mr. Driscoll,
followed by Billy Goode, the trainer, came in a few minutes later and
joined the assemblage on the stage. There was a good deal of noise in
the hall, for everyone was talking or laughing. It was evident not only
that about every fellow in school was to be on hand but that they were
here principally with the idea of finding amusement. Ira and Humphrey
found seats on the left about midway between the stage and the green
swinging doors with the oval lights at the other end of the auditorium.
By five minutes to eight all the seats were occupied and a fringe of
boys lined the wall at the back. Ira saw several of the faculty in the
audience: Mr. Morgan, Mr. Talbot and Mr. Tasser. Their presence was
easily explained since they were the faculty members of the Athletic
Committee.

At eight by the big, round clock over the stage, Hodges, fourth class
president, who had evidently accepted the office of chairman, arose
and the noise quieted to furtive scraping of feet or coughing. Hodges
explained unemotionally the purpose of the meeting and introduced
Lowell. The best feature of Hodges' introduction was its brevity,
and the best feature of the manager's talk was doubtless its strict
attention to facts and figures. He undoubtedly showed conclusively
that the Football Association was sadly in need of funds; the figures
which he paraded proved it; but figures and facts are dull things and
by the time he had finished the quiet had gone. Many fellows were
whispering behind their hands and many others were frankly yawning.
Ira knew that they needed stirring up and hoped that the next speaker
would do it. But the next was Fred Lyons, and although Fred wanted very
much to make an appeal that would reach his audience, he failed most
dismally. Perhaps it was because he wanted to do it too hard that he
couldn't. His earnestness was convincing enough, but it so closely
approached solemnity that it was better calculated to produce tears
than enthusiasm. Fred apologised for the poor showing made by the team
in recent years and made the mistake, possibly, of placing a share of
the blame on the lack of support supplied by the school. No audience
cares to listen to a recital of its shortcomings unless it is in a
particularly sympathetic mood, and this one wasn't. Fred asked the
school to get behind the team, to believe in it and to aid it.

"It's your team and it will do what you want it to if you will give
it support. It can't win without that support. We've got good players
and a fine coach, and we're all eager to do our best, fellows. But we
need your help, moral and financial. Manager Lowell has told you how
we stand regarding money. Last season was a poor one financially and
we started this year with a practically empty treasury. So far we have
managed to worry along from one game to the next, but we need a lot of
supplies, we owe money for printing and we owe Mr. Driscoll half his
salary. What Lowell didn't tell you is that he has dug into his own
pocket several times, just as I have, for that matter, in order to keep
going. Comparatively few season tickets have been taken this year,
nearly eighty less than last, and the attendance at the games, with one
exception, has been poor. We need money, fellows, quite a lot of money,
and I'm hoping you will give it to us. And we need even more; to feel
that you are behind us and want us to come through. If you will do your
part we'll do ours, every one of us, players, coach, management and
trainer. I think that's all I have to say. Thank you."

Fred sat down amidst a salvo of applause, but Ira somehow knew that his
address had not carried conviction and that the applause was for Fred
personally rather than for his appeal. And Fred's countenance said that
he realised the fact.

Coach Driscoll spoke briefly, dwelling on the ability of the team and
the spirit of it and paying a tribute to Captain Lyons that again
brought applause. He ended by echoing Fred's request for support and
stepped back to a hearty clapping of hands. Gene Goodloe did his
best, but Gene was sadly out of his element. His embarrassment was
so evident that it brought a ripple of laughter, and Ira had hopes.
But Gene made the mistake of resenting it and finished his remarks
amidst a deep and discouraging silence. Others followed, but the first
speakers had, so to say, sounded the tone of the meeting and each
succeeding speaker seemed more lugubrious than the last. Feet shuffled
impatiently and many eyes were fixed longingly on the doors. A few
of those near the entrance had already slipped away. The meeting was
proving long-drawn-out and dismal to a degree. Audible remarks began
to be heard, such as: "Pass the hat and call it a day!" "Question,
Mr. Speaker! Question!" "Let's have a song!" It was Hodges who,
recognising the attitude of the audience, tried to induce Billy Goode
to say something. But Billy resolutely refused to be dragged from his
chair, even though the audience, scenting possible relief from the dead
solemnity of the proceedings, clapped loudly and demanded a speech. In
the end, Hodges gave the trainer up and took the floor himself.

"Well, you've heard us all, fellows. You know what is wanted of you. So
let's get down to business. We've got some slips here and some pencils
and some of us are going to pass them around to you in a minute. I hope
every fellow will contribute. The Association needs about three hundred
dollars to get to the Kenwood game with. That means that some of us
must give liberally. But before we start the collection perhaps there's
someone that would like to say something. If there is let's hear from
him. Debate is open."

No one, however, seemed to have any message to deliver, although there
was plenty of whispering and subdued laughter. Finally, though, a tall,
lean youth with an earnest manner arose at one side of the hall and
cleared his throat nervously. Hodges recognised him and sat down.

"Who's the giraffe?" whispered Humphrey. Ira shook his head.

"Mr. President--er--Chairman, and Fellow Students," began the earnest
one. "I've listened carefully to what has been said and as near as I
can see it doesn't amount to much." Some applause and a good deal of
laughter rewarded him. "This football team of ours needs money to go on
with, they tell us," continued the speaker, encouraged by the applause,
"but I ask them: Why? This is an age of efficiency, gentlemen, and
when something is proven inefficient it is discarded. Seems to me this
football team has proved itself about as inefficient as anything could
be. Seems to me a football team's excuse for existence is--er--is
winning games. If that's so, this football team of ours stopped being
efficient three years ago. I ask you what use there is in contributing
money for the benefit of something that has outlived its usefulness. I
claim that it's poor business, gentlemen. I maintain----"

But he didn't get any further, for the audience was laughing and
shouting its applause by that time. At last someone had waked them up!
The idea of discarding the team appealed to their sense of humour and
while the tall youth went on making faces and waving his hands the
audience gave way to hilarity.

"Good scheme! Discharge the team!"

"Pay 'em off and let 'em go!"

"No wins, no wages! How about it, Fred?"

On the stage the fellows were smiling, but not very comfortably. Fred
Lyons was whispering to Lowell, and the latter was shaking his head
helplessly. Somewhere in the back of the hall a second speaker was
demanding recognition and there was a general craning of necks as
Hodges rapped for order. Someone pulled the long-necked youth to his
chair, still talking and gesticulating.

"Mr. Chairman!" began the new speaker, "I want to say that most of us
fellows would support the football team if it would show itself worth
supporting. Isn't that so, fellows?"

Laughing agreement arose about him.

"That team hasn't won anything worth winning for so long that no one
remembers what it was they won. They talk about wanting three hundred
dollars. Well, maybe they do. But I say let them show something first.
This school is just as loyal to its teams as any school, but it wants
something for its money. I say let's give the team a hundred dollars
now and tell them to earn the rest!"

"That's right!" someone called. "We're from Missouri!"

A young, second class fellow jumped up and declared in a thin, high
voice that he "seconded the motion." Hodges rapped for silence.

"No motion has been put. If you want to put a motion we will vote on
it. But I must say that many of you are wrong when you think this is a
vaudeville show. Please try to talk sense. Are there any more remarks?"

There were several, but they weren't serious and the speakers didn't
stand up. Hodges looked slowly around the hall and then turned toward
the table beside him.

"If there aren't," he announced, "we will proceed with the purpose of
the meeting."

"Mr. Chairman!"

"Mister--" The chairman paused, at a loss, and Fred Lyons whispered
across to him--"Mr. Rowland?"

Ira, on his feet, conscious of Humphrey's wide-open mouth and of the
four hundred and more curious gazes, moistened his lips and took a deep
breath. He had acted quite on impulse, which was something he seldom
did do, and he was still a bit surprised to find himself standing there
facing the meeting.

"Shoot!" called someone, and many laughed.

"Mr. Chairman and--and fellows," began Ira slowly, "I----"

"Louder!" came a demand from the back of the auditorium.

Ira made a new start, facing so that he could make himself heard at the
back of the hall. "I want to tell a story," he said.

[Illustration: "I want to tell a story," he said]

"Naughty! Naughty!" cried a facetious youth.

Ira smiled. "It's about a horse race. Down in Maine, where I come from,
there was an old man who owned a horse." There was a nasal twang in
his voice that brought chuckles from many and smiles of anticipated
amusement from more. "She wasn't much of a horse, fellows. She was
about fourteen years old, and her front knees sorter knocked together
and she had the spring-halt in the left hind leg and she was blind in
one eye and couldn't see any too well outer the other. And she was
fat and she was lazy because this man I'm telling about didn't use
her except to drive to the village once a week in an old rattletrap
buckboard to get a pound of coffee and a sack of flour and so on. Well,
one time when he was in the village he saw a notice about a trotting
meeting to be held at the Fair Grounds a week or so later. So all the
way home that day he talked it over with Old Bess and she switched her
tail and flicked her ears and between them they decided to enter the
race. So he went in to the village again and put down his entry fee and
borrowed an old sulky of Peters, the blacksmith. It wasn't a very good
sulky to look at, but Peters put a new rim on one wheel and tied some
baling wire around it here and there and the old man hitched it on back
of the buckboard and fetched it home. And every day after that you'd
see him and Old Bess jogging along the turnpike.

"Well, it came the day of the meeting and the old man and Bess went
to the Fair Grounds. There was a heap of betting going on and the
old man he strolled around and strolled around and pretty soon he'd
met about everyone he knew and he didn't have a red cent left in his
pockets, and he calculated that if Old Bess won he'd be about fifteen
hundred dollars to the good, because everyone he laid a bet with gave
him perfectly scandalous odds. When it came Old Bess's time he drove
out on the track and everyone howled and the judges got down out of
the stand and asked him to go away and keep the peace. But he wouldn't
listen to 'em and so they had to let Old Bess start. And that's about
all she did do. Once on a time she'd been a pretty good trotter, but
that was a long way off, and maybe the old man didn't realise it. There
was just the one heat for Old Bess. When the other horses started she
switched her tail once or twice, looked around over her shoulder and
jogged away. Pretty soon they met the other horses coming back, but
Old Bess didn't take any notice of 'em. She just jogged on. And after
awhile a man came running up to them and asked wouldn't they please
get off the track because they were starting the next heat. And so the
old man he turned Old Bess around and she jogged back. And that's all
there was to it. But one of the men that had laid a bet with the old
man was sorter sorry for him, guessing he was just about cleaned out,
and he said: 'Old Man, ain't you got nary sense at all? Didn't you know
that horse o' yourn had spring-halt and epizootics and was knock-kneed
in front and fallin' away behind?' 'Why, yes,' replied the old man, 'I
knowed that, I guess.' 'An' you knew she was fourteen or fifteen years
old, didn't you?' 'Ought to, I lived right with her all the time.'
'An' you knew she was stone-blind in one eye, didn't you?' 'Yes, I
knowed that, too.' 'An' you knew she was too fat, anyway, didn't you?'
'I sorter suspected it.' 'Well, then why in tarnation did you bet on
her for?' 'Well, I'll tell you,' says the old man. 'She's _my_ horse,
an' what's mine I stands back of. An' win or not win, she's the finest
horse an' the fastest trotter in the State o' Maine! Get ap, Bess!'"

Ira sat down.

The clapping and stamping and laughter might have been heard across
on Faculty Row. It went on and on, and Hodges, smiling broadly as he
pounded his gavel, might just as well have been hitting a feather bed
with a broom-straw!

"Get up!" urged Humphrey. "Go on! They want more!"

"There isn't any more," said Ira, smiling. "And they don't need any
more."

And maybe they didn't, for it was a vastly different gathering that
scrambled for the slips of paper and put down figures and names.
Perhaps tomorrow or still later some of them would regret the size
of the figures, but just now they were in the mood to be generous,
for Ira's story had succeeded where all the rest of the oratory had
failed. They still chuckled as they passed the slips along and were
still smiling when the pledges were dumped on the table. Among them was
one which bore the inscription "$2.00--Humphrey Nead."

The meeting broke up then, but most of the audience waited until
those on the stage had hurriedly reckoned up the pledges, and when
Hodges held up his hand for silence and announced the total to be
three hundred and forty-one dollars they cheered loudly and long. And
when Steve Crocker pushed past Hodges and called for "a regular cheer
for the Team, fellows, and make it good!" the result indicated that
Parkinson School had experienced a change of heart!



CHAPTER XVI

IRA PLANS


Ira escaped that night from the gratitude of those in charge of the
meeting, but he had to face it next day. Fred Lyons was almost tearful
and Gene slapped him on the back repeatedly and Manager Lowell shook
hands with him earnestly on three separate occasions. And at least
three of the class presidents if not all of them--Ira became a bit
confused eventually--congratulated him and told him he had saved the
meeting. Later, between recitations, he was waylaid on the steps of
Parkinson by a youth with glasses and a long, thin nose and asked to
join the Debating Society.

"But I couldn't make a speech to save my life," declared Ira.

"You'd learn very soon, Rowland. Any fellow who can tell a story as
you did last night has the making of a public speaker. In my own
experience--" and the president of the Debating Society managed to give
the impression that he had spent a lifetime on the rostrum--"I have
found it much more difficult to tell a story or anecdote effectively
than to deliver an argument."

Ira managed to escape by agreeing to "think it over" and let the other
know his decision when the football season was done.

For several days he experienced the treatment that falls to one who
becomes suddenly prominent. He had the feeling that fellows looked
after him as he passed and spoke his name in lowered tones. It wasn't
unpleasant, but it made him a little self-conscious, and Ira didn't
exactly like to feel self-conscious. Fellows who usually nodded to him
on campus or gridiron now fell into casual conversations, during which
mention was generally made of the football meeting, if not of his share
in it. At the field, too, there were signs of a new consideration,
or else Ira imagined them. Coach Driscoll, who never referred to the
meeting in Ira's hearing, nevertheless gave more attention to the
substitute guard, and the same was true of Fred Lyons. It seemed to Ira
that one or the other always had an eye on him, was always offering
criticisms or suggestions. It was flattering, no doubt, but it made
him a little nervous at first, and his playing suffered a bit. Even
Billy Goode got the habit of hovering over him like a fussy old Mother
Hen, just as he hovered over such celebrities as Captain Lyons or
"The" Dannis or Billy Wells or numerous others whose welfare might be
considered a matter of importance. Several times Ira was "pulled" from
play merely because he was a little short of breath or had developed a
momentary limp. He usually protested weakly, but Billy never listened
to protests. He was an extremely decided trainer.

Another event traceable to Ira's participation in the football meeting
occurred the Tuesday evening following. Neither Fred nor Gene had so
far accepted Ira's invitation to his room at Maggy's, nor had Mart
Johnston repeated his visit, but on the evening mentioned Fred, Gene,
Mart and Brad turned up, and, as Humphrey was also at home for some
inexplicable reason, the room's seating accommodations were severely
tested. Mart displayed the famous window seat and told humourously of
their bewilderment when, on putting it together, they had discovered
that it formed a right angle. Ira saw that the visitors viewed Humphrey
both curiously and, perhaps, a trifle dubiously at first, but Humphrey
was quite at his best tonight and by the time Gene had disappeared
down the stairs and subsequently returned with a supply of rye bread
sandwiches and hot frankfurter sausages the entente cordial was firmly
established. They had a very merry evening, and talked of more subjects
than could be set down here. Once Gene asked Ira about the story of Old
Bess, and Ira explained that he had heard it told several times in a
lumber camp.

"'Fritzy' Smart used to tell it," he said. "'Fritzy' is about seven
feet tall and all angles, and he talks out of one side of his
mouth--like this." Ira mimicked him. "'Fritzy' could make that story
last a quarter of an hour and used to get up and give an imitation of
Old Bess trotting down the track so you could almost see her. I was
afraid I strung it out too much, although, at that, I left out most of
the details that 'Fritzy' gets in."

"It wasn't a bit too long," said Fred. "You had us sitting on the
edges of our chairs. I guess as a story it doesn't amount to so much,
Rowland, but it was certainly corking the way you told it."

"Half of the fun," chuckled Brad, "was the way he hit off the Down-East
dialect. The fellows around me were doubled up half the time."

"Anyway, it did the business," declared Mart. "It was just the thing
for the moment. I had a nice little speech all framed up myself,
but----"

"You!" scoffed Brad. "You couldn't make a speech if your worthless life
depended on it!"

"Run around! Run around! I taught Cicero and Billy Sunday all they ever
knew! William Jennings Bryan was one of my first pupils!"

"Making a speech is no fun, anyway," sighed Fred. "I made a awful mess
of it the other night, and I knew it all the time and couldn't seem to
help it."

"Well, you did sound a bit sepulchral," agreed Gene. "I wanted to stick
a pin into you or something."

"You made a nice little address," said Mart kindly. "I liked your
speech, Gene. It was so short."

"It would have been shorter if I'd had my way," Gene grumbled. "For
that matter, every fellow that spoke sounded as though he was just back
from a funeral and didn't expect to live long himself! We were a merry
lot!"

"If those slips had been passed around before Rowland here leaped
nimbly into the breeches--I mean the breach--you'd have collected the
munificent sum of nine dollars and thirty-seven cents," said Mart. "I
already had my hand on the seven cents."

"And I'll bet you kept it there," laughed Brad.

"You guess again! I subscribed for such a vast sum that I won't get
square with my allowance until Spring. And it was all your fault,
Rowland. You and your Old Bess! If I run short I'll be around here to
borrow, so keep a little something handy."

"Seen any more of 'Old Earnest,' Rowland?" asked Fred.

Ira replied that he hadn't, and Mart was for inviting him up. "He's a
good old scout, Hicks is, and he'd love to sit in and listen to our
enlightening discourse I should think." But the others vetoed the
proposal and shortly after the party broke up.

Humphrey was somewhat impressed with the visitors, although he
pretended to make fun of them when they had gone. "That fellow Johnston
is a regular village cut-up, isn't he?" he asked. "I guess a fellow
would get fed up with him pretty quick. Does Bradford room with him?"

"Yes, in Goss. They have a corking room. We'll go around some night, if
you like."

"Oh, I haven't time for those 'screamers,' thanks." "Screamers" was
a word evidently of Humphrey's own devising and was used by him to
indicate anyone who "put on side."

"I don't think you can call those chaps 'screamers,'" said Ira mildly.
"They aren't snobs, anyway."

"Lyons acts as if he wanted to be," Humphrey sniffed. Then, after a
few moments of silence, he said: "I don't see how you got acquainted
with that bunch, anyway. I don't. I never meet up with anyone at school
except pills!"

"Want to know the real reason?"

"Yes," answered Humphrey, with a trace of suspicion, however.

"Well, you don't give yourself a chance, Nead. You train with that
bunch of loafers in the town and it takes all your time."

"Loafers! Don't call my friends names, please. They aren't loafers.
Every one of them has a steady, respectable job, Rowland."

"Y-yes, when they work, but it seems to me they're a lot like a fellow
who used to live in my town. He sat in front of the grocery most all
day, or, if it was Winter, he sat inside. He had a steady, respectable
job, too, but he didn't work at it much. He was a maker of wooden
shoes."

"Oh, piffle," grunted Humphrey. "The fellows I know work just as hard
as anyone."

"All right, but they always seem to be able to get away for a game of
pool," answered Ira drily. "If you'll cut loose from them, Nead, and
get acquainted with fellows of your own age and--and class, you'll be a
lot better off. Why, thunderation, you might as well be a day scholar
for all the school life you get!"

"I get all the school life I need," answered Humphrey grumpily. "All
those fellows like Lyons and Johnston and Goodloe talk about is
football and baseball and rot like that. They make me tired."

"No, they don't, and you know it," replied Ira calmly. "You'd be glad
to know a dozen fellows like them. And you're going to, too."

"How am I?"

"Why, you're going to cut down your evenings at the Central Billiard
Palace, or whatever it's called, to two a week, for one thing. And
you're going to keep away from there entirely in the daytime, for
another thing. And you're going to pay a few visits with me for a third
thing."

"Like fun I am!" But Humphrey couldn't disguise the fact that the
programme held attraction for him. "I don't talk their sort of baby
talk," he added sourly.

"You'll learn. It isn't hard. We'll run over tomorrow evening and see
Johnston and Bradford."

Humphrey was silent a minute. Then: "I promised to do something
tomorrow night," he said doubtfully.

"All right, we'll make it Thursday, then. One night's as good as
another for me. By the way, how did it happen you were around here
tonight?"

"Oh, I thought I'd stay at home." Then, after a moment: "Fact is,"
he went on, "I'm broke, and there's no fun going down there and just
looking on."

Ira pushed himself back from the table, crossed his legs and observed
his roommate thoughtfully, drumming gently on his teeth with the pen in
his hand. Humphrey grinned back a trifle defiantly.

"Know what I think?" asked Ira finally. "I think you need a financial
agent, Nead, a sort of guardian to look after your money affairs. How
much do you get a month?"

"Fifteen dollars regularly. If I want more I usually get it. My mother
ponies up now and then and dad is generally good for an extra fiver."

"Then you have at least twenty a month, eh? Seems to me you ought to be
able to scrape along on that."

"It does, does it? Well, it isn't so easy. Food costs a lot, for one
thing."

"But you don't have to pay for your food out of your allowance, do you?"

"Some of it. I get seven a week for board, but eating around at
restaurants costs a lot more than eating in hall or at a boarding
house, you see."

"Then why not go to Alumni or come with me to Trainor's? That's what
you'd better do, I guess. Then, when you get your allowance you hand it
across to me----"

"Help!" laughed Humphrey. "I can see myself doing that!"

"Why not? I'll hand a quarter of it back to you every week. If you
need more than that I'll advance it, but I'll take it out of the next
month's allowance. Then you won't have to write home for extra money
every ten days or two weeks. Yes, I guess that's what we'll have to do,
Nead. I'll put your money in bank with mine and you'll find that it
will last twice as long. Tomorrow you come around to the boarding house
and I'll get you started."

Humphrey stared dubiously. At last: "Oh, well, I'll try it," he said.
"But if I don't like it I don't have to keep it up."

"No, but you will like it. Meanwhile, how much do you need?"



CHAPTER XVII

THROUGH THE ENEMY'S LINE


Parkinson played Musket Hill Academy the next Saturday at North
Lebron and met her second defeat. As, however, Musket Hill was, with
the possible exception of Kenwood, the most formidable adversary on
the season's schedule, the school was not much surprised nor greatly
disappointed. Of course, there had been a secret hope that the Brown
would triumph, but to have done that she would have had to play a far
better game than she had so far exhibited, and Coach Driscoll was not
ready to speed up the team for the sake of a single victory. Parkinson
played true to midseason form and so did Musket Hill, and as Musket
Hill's midseason form was by far the better she took the contest. The
score, 16 to 6, fairly represented the merits of the teams.

Parkinson was outplayed in three periods and held her own and no more
in the fourth. By that time Musket Hill had accumulated a touchdown
from which she had failed to kick goal and a field-goal, and had held
her adversary scoreless although the latter had twice threatened to
tally. Once Parkinson had reached the home team's twenty-two yards and
had attempted a forward-pass across the line which had failed, and
again, in the third inning, she had rushed the ball as far as Musket
Hill's eighteen, where, held twice for downs, she had tried to put
the ball over the bar from placement. Instead of going between the
uprights, though, the pigskin went into the mêlée and was captured by
the opponents. It was that failure of Right Half-Back Cole's that paved
the way for Musket Hill's second score, for the fortunate youth who
picked the ball from the ground got nearly to the centre of the field
before he was stopped and from there it was rushed to the visitors'
twenty-six and, when the brown line stiffened, was sent across the bar
for three points.

In the fourth quarter, Parkinson went bravely at it to retrieve her
fallen fortunes, but a fumble by Basker, who had gone in for Dannis
a minute or two before, gave the ball to Musket Hill on Parkinson's
thirty-yard line and Musket Hill was not to be denied. She tore big
holes in the brown line between tackles, favouring the centre for the
last stage of the journey, and at last pushed her full-back over. She
brought her score up to sixteen by kicking a pretty goal from a hard
angle. Parkinson wanted to give way to discouragement then, but Coach
Driscoll sent back Donovan and Walker and replaced Almy with Conlon at
centre, Almy having been injured in the final play of the drive, and
somehow the Brown took on a new lease of life and acquitted herself
rather heroically. And when, with some five minutes of playing time
left, one of Basker's punts went over the head of the Musket Hill's
quarter, Ray White dropped on it near the enemy's twenty-yards. Then
the Brown pulled herself together in really superb style and showed an
offence which, had it matured earlier in the game, might have written
a different page in history. Parkinson went over the immaculate Musket
Hill goal line in just five plays, of which three were mighty rushes by
Wirt, one a delayed pass to Billy Wells for a slide off tackle and the
fifth and last a straight plunge through the centre of the crumbling
Musket Hill line by Cole. That final rush met with so little opposition
that Cole went stumbling and falling half-way to the end line!

But six points--Lyons failed at goal by a mere inch or so--while
comforting, didn't alter the fact of defeat, and Parkinson went home
through a cloudy, chilly evening with another dent in her shield. But
the fact that the school had "come back" in its allegiance was proved
well that afternoon, for the hundred-odd boys who had accompanied the
team stood up in the stand after the battle was over and cheered again
and again for "Parkinson! _Parkinson!_ PARKINSON!"

As it turned out later, Parkinson had sustained something more serious
than a defeat that day. She had lost the services for most if not all
of the balance of the season of Bill Almy, the centre. Almy had borne
the brunt of the last half-dozen rushes made by Musket Hill when on the
way to her final score and he had paid for it. They had taken him off
groaning and half fainting, but it wasn't known until the next morning
that he had broken a collar bone in two places! The attending physician
seemed highly elated over that second break, but his enthusiasm was
shared by no one else. There was hopeful talk of a pad later on and of
Almy getting into the Kenwood game at least, but Coach Driscoll didn't
deceive himself. On Monday afternoon he moved Conlon into Almy's place
and looked around for a likely substitute for Conlon. His choice fell
on Tooker, a guard, and Tooker was put through a course of sprouts
that almost ruined an excellent disposition but failed to satisfy Mr.
Driscoll. Crane, too, was given a chance to demonstrate that he was
intended for a centre rather than a guard, and Crane failed quite as
signally as Tooker.

There was a time when "any old man," provided he had weight, bulk
and strength, did well enough for the centre position on a football
team, but that time has long since passed. Today the centre position
is rightly called the pivotal position. A poor centre may do more to
handicap a team than any other one player, and a good centre can do
more to perfect it. He is the man that the team lines up about, and
his spirit is, more frequently than is realised, the spirit of the
whole eleven. In these days, instead of merely learning two passes,
one to the quarter and another to the kicker, a centre must become
accomplished in anywhere from six to a dozen, for each of the new
formations requires its special sort of pass. Instead of being guardian
only of the little piece of territory on which he stands, the centre
today must be "all over the lot." He goes down the field with the ends
under a punt, plunges into the interference on mass plays or end runs
and must do his part when a forward-pass is tried. Nor is he less busy
on the defensive, for he shares the responsibility for end runs and
forward-passes and must help in blocking off the opponents going down
the field under kicks. And, whether on offence or defence, he must
handle the opposing centre and at all times use his head as well as his
body. Consequently, an ideal centre must combine a good many qualities,
as many if not more than any other man on the team. He must be steady,
fast, intuitive and high-spirited. If he has weight besides, so much
the better but some of the weight should be inside his head and not all
below the neck.

Ira had not been used in the Musket Hill game, but the following
Saturday, after a week of longer and harder practice than had fallen
to the lot of the team all season, he found himself at right guard
when the third quarter of the game with Chancellor School began.
Chancellor had not come up to expectations and the Brown had run up
nineteen points in the first half and had the contest secure. Brackett
had played at right of centre during the first half and Neely was
supposed to be next in succession, but for some reason Coach Driscoll
called Ira's name. Tooker had started at centre, but had lasted only
through the first quarter and half of the second, and Crane had taken
his place. Crane, while a fairly good substitute guard, was still
quite at sea in the centre position and much of his work devolved on
the guards. As Chancellor School was not yet acknowledging defeat;
had a slow-moving but heavy line and was relying on rushes between
tackles for the most part, Ira and Tom Buffum, the latter playing at
the left of Crane, had their hands pretty full. Crane could be relied
on to play his man on most occasions, but on the attack he was slow in
recovering after the pass and it was usually Ira or Buffum who blocked
the opposing centre. Any save ordinary passes to quarter or kicker were
beyond Crane, and so most of the direct passes were eliminated. On
getting the ball back to the kicker Crane was inclined to be erratic,
but so far had not sinned many times. He worked as hard as he knew
how, perhaps twice as hard as he would have had to work had he known
his position better. For most of the third quarter he got on well
enough, with the two guards sharing his duties, but when the period was
nearly over he began to weaken and Chancellor discovered the fact very
speedily. Play after play came through the centre of the brown line, in
spite of the efforts of the guards and the backfield, and had there not
been a fumble by a Chancellor half-back on the opponent's twenty-seven
yards Chancellor would surely have scored. She recovered the fumble for
a twelve-yard loss and began her rushes again, but the distance was
too great and an unsuccessful attempt at a field-goal from near the
thirty-five yards gave the ball to Parkinson.

Cole tore off four yards and Wirt got two and then the latter was sent
back to punt. Crane had been pretty badly used and what might have
happened earlier in the game happened then. The pigskin flew away
from him at least two feet above Wirt's upstretched hands and went
rolling and bobbing toward the goal line. It was merely a question of
whether a Chancellor end would get to it before it could be recovered.
Something told Ira that the pass had gone wrong almost as soon as he
had seen it vanish from Crane's hands, and he was tearing back nearly
on the heels of the ball before his own backfield had more than sensed
the catastrophe. Chancellor came piling through and her ends fought
desperately to get around. Wirt was legging it back after the pigskin
and several other Parkinson players had begun pursuit. But Ira's
start had given him the advantage and he passed Wirt at full speed.
The ball was trickling toward the five-yard line. Behind, pounded the
feet of friend and foe as Ira slackened, caught the ball up, stumbled,
recovered his gait and swung to the long side of the field. He might
have played it safe by taking it over the line for a touchback,
but the idea didn't occur to him. Instead, he pushed the ball into
the crook of his left elbow as he had been taught to do, raised his
right hand to ward off tacklers and plunged back the way he had come,
circling, however, well over toward the further side of the field.

Hasty interference gathered to his aid, but the enemy was abreast
of him and stretching toward him as he reached the twenty yards. He
avoided one tackler by dodging. Then two of the enemy faced him and
escape looked impossible to the watchers. But he stopped short in
his tracks, stopped for such a perceptible period that it seemed as
if he was deliberatingly studying his chances, and then, just as the
two pair of striped arms reached for him, he was off again, swinging
on his heel, swerving to the left, leaving the enemy empty-handed as
they staggered and rolled over the turf. After that only something
approaching a miracle could account for Ira's escape. In evading the
last danger he had thrown himself straight into the centre of the enemy
horde. His interference, never very effective, was scattered now and
he had only his own wits to serve him. But serve him they did. And so
did his weight and strength, for twice he literally tore himself loose
from Chancellor players when it looked from the side line as though
he was stopped, and twice he bowled over an eager tackler by sheer
weight and impetus. He deserved to carry the pigskin the remaining
length of the field for a touchdown, after such an exhibition, but we
don't always get what we deserve--when we deserve it. Ira still had the
Chancellor quarter to reckon with, and that canny youth had refused to
be drawn up to the line and was waiting just short of the centre of the
field.

Eager shouts urged the runner on and behind him brown legs and striped
legs sped desperately. Ira changed his course a little toward the
nearer side line and the quarter edged in to meet him. Then they came
together. The Chancellor quarter tackled surely and Ira's attempt to
get past him failed. But then, with the quarter hanging to his hips,
Ira kept right on. The exclamations of dismay from the stands turned to
shrieks of laughter, for the quarter-back, who, although smaller than
the runner was of no mean size, dangled from Ira like a sack of meal,
squirming, dragging, pulling! Five yards Ira gained. Then his plunging
steps shortened, for the quarter had slipped his clutching arms lower
until they were binding Ira's legs together. But even then he managed
to conquer another two yards, and perhaps he would have gone on and
on to the far-off goal line had not a ponderous Chancellor linesman
reached the scene at the next moment and hurled himself on the runner.

When they wrested the ball away it was just past the centre line and
Ira had made a good forty-five yards in that plucky run. Fred Lyons
hugged him as he helped drag him to his feet, and Basker shouted:
"That's going some, Rowland! That's going some, boy!" and thumped what
little breath was left in his lungs away. That ended Crane's session
and Conlon went in at his position. After that Parkinson took the ball
forty-eight yards without losing it and shot Cole across for the fourth
score. When the whistle shrilled Billy Goode summoned Ira out and
sent him trotting back to the gymnasium and Neely came into his own.
Ira was not at all pained at being taken out, for he had had a pretty
busy fifteen minutes and was glad enough to get under a shower. He was
dressed and out of the building before the others returned and only
heard the final score at supper time.

Coach Driscoll had put in too many substitutes in the fourth period, he
was told, and one of them--some said Cheap and some said Mason--had
fumbled a pass near goal and a Smart Aleck Chancellor youth had fallen
on the ball. It had taken the full allowance of downs to get the ball
over, but they had done it, and the final score stood 26 to 7. Ira was
something of a hero at Mrs. Trainor's table that evening, but he must
have been a disappointing one, for his account of his achievement had
to be dragged from him piecemeal and sounded extremely flat as he told
it. To his credit, it may be stated that he didn't look on his feat as
at all remarkable and didn't feel at all heroic. Only rather tired. He
fell asleep over his Latin about nine and was in bed ten minutes later.

When he wrote home the next morning--it was a rainy Sunday and so
eminently suited to the writing of letters and the balancing of bank
books and the "getting up" on neglected studies--he did mention his
part in the Chancellor game, but he didn't make much of it, first,
because he didn't think much of it and, second, because his father
didn't know as much about a game of football as Ira himself had known
before coming to Parkinson!

On Monday Ira might have seen evidences of new respect in the looks
and behaviour of his teammates, but he wasn't looking for them. It
didn't occur to him that picking up a football and carrying it through
the opposing team for a matter of forty-five yards could make any
difference in his status. But there was a difference, and he was
ultimately forced to perceive it. For awhile, however, he was far
too busy. Coach Driscoll beckoned him from the bench before practice
started. The coach had a quizzical smile on his face as Ira approached.

"Rowland," he said, "that was a nice little piece of work of yours on
Saturday, and it seems too bad to find fault with you, but, my boy, you
had no more business with that ball than a tramp with a cake of soap!"

"Oh!" murmured Ira. "I'm sorry, sir."

"Your duty was to play your position, no matter what went on behind.
As it turned out you got away with it, but you might not have. It was
Wirt's place to pick up that ball, or Basker's, but not yours. When you
left the line you left a hole open for half the opposing team to pile
through. If you'd made a slip they'd have brushed you and Wirt aside
and had a touchdown in the shake of a lamb's tail. See it?"

"Yes, sir," agreed Ira sheepishly. "I'm afraid I didn't think of that."

"No, but those are the things you must think of, Rowland. You must
use your head every minute. You're not likely to do the same thing
again and we'll say no more about it. Aside from the fact that it was
wrong at the start, Rowland, that was as pretty a piece of running in a
broken field as I ever saw. And I was mighty glad to see one thing in
especial: you didn't stop when you were tackled. I liked that. You got
a good seven yards after Myers grabbed you, and when you did go down
you went down the right way, toward the other fellow's goal. That may
seem a small thing to you, Rowland, but if you put together all the
ground lost during a game by men who give in too soon when tackled and
who don't 'stretch' when they're down you'd have a fairly respectable
slice of territory. All right. Now, here's something else. Do you think
you could play centre?"

"Centre?" Ira stared blankly. "I don't know, sir."

"Well, we've got an opening for a bright, industrious lad like you,"
said the coach, with a smile. "You'd have to work like the very
dickens, Rowland, but I have a hunch that we can make a centre of you
if you'll do your part. Want to try it?"

"Why, yes, sir, if you want me to."

"Hm! Your soul doesn't exactly crave it, I see."

"I'd just as lief, Mr. Driscoll, but I don't know much about it. I'll
be glad to try."

"And try hard?"

"Hard as I know how, sir."

"Well, we can't expect more than that, I guess. Anyway, we'll see in
a few days how you shape up. Today you'd better study Conlon and try
to see how it's done. Keep your blanket on and follow scrimmage from
behind the line. Use your eyes, Rowland. Maybe we'll get you in for a
minute or two at the end. Have you ever tried to pass?"

"No, sir, not as a centre."

"Well, it isn't hard if you put your mind on it. I'll turn you over to
Basker when he gets through signal work. If you make good, Rowland, you
stand a mighty good show of getting into the Kenwood game. And if you
do that you'll get your letter."

"Yes, sir."

"Hang it, Rowland!" laughed the coach. "Don't you ever get enthusiastic
about anything? Most fellows would be tickled to death at the idea of
playing against Kenwood."

"I suppose I'd like it very much," replied Ira in a slightly puzzled
tone. "I hope I'll be good enough."

"If you're not, you won't get a chance," said the coach drily. "All
right now. Join your squad. When you get through signal work report to
me again."

Work like the very dickens Ira did, not only that day but every
practice day following during the next fortnight. He was taught his
duties in the line and he was taught to pass the ball in all of seven
different styles and angles. It was Basker who did most of the coaching
as to passing, although on one or two occasions Dannis took him in
charge. Then Bill Almy, his shoulder and arm confined in a cast and
a hundred yards of bandage--I'm accepting Almy's estimate--appeared
and went at Ira unmercifully. There were half-hour sessions at odd
times during the day and every afternoon he stayed on the field with
the goal-kickers and, always with two, and frequently with three or
even four, busy coaches about him, passed and passed and passed! Or he
stood up and was pushed about by Coach Driscoll or he hurled his weight
against the charging machine to a chorus of "Low, Rowland, low! Now!
Push up! Harder, man! You're not working!"

Not working! Ira decided that he had never even suspected before what
the word meant! And what haunted him most of the time was the bothering
conviction that a whole lot of persons, including himself, were wearing
souls and bodies out for no important result! Surely, if it came to
all this bother it would be much more reasonable to let Kenwood win
the game. Of course he realised that a victory for Parkinson would
be very nice and would please everyone around him, especially Fred
Lyons and Coach Driscoll, but it didn't seem to him that the game was
worth the candle. Still, he kept his nose to the grindstone without
a murmur, remained good-tempered in the face of many temptations to
be otherwise and worked like a dray-horse. And, at last--it was the
Tuesday following the game with Day and Robins's School--he was told
that he had made good. "You'll do, Rowland," was what Coach Driscoll
said briefly that day. "Rest up tomorrow. Thursday we'll give you a
good try-out against the second."

If he expected signs of delight, he was disappointed. For all that Ira
said was: "Thank you, sir."



CHAPTER XVIII

"OLD EARNEST"


Humphrey was "breaking into Society," to use his own half-contemptuous
phrase. That is to say, he had made two visits with Ira, had renewed
acquaintances with Fred Lyons and Gene Goodloe and Mart Johnston and
Dwight Bradford, and had shaken hands with perhaps a half-dozen others.
He pretended to make fun of the proceedings, but was secretly very
pleased. He was received politely by new acquaintances, more on Ira's
account than his own, for Ira had become a person of prominence now,
and with a fair degree of cordiality by those he had met before. He
had sense enough to show his best side, and behaved quietly and even
modestly and let the others do most of the talking. Perhaps his best
side was his real side. At any rate, Ira began to hope so then, and
later in the year he became convinced of it. Humphrey didn't give up
his friends at the Central Billiard Palace all at once, but he did
confine his visits to that place to two or three evenings a week. And
Ira heard a great deal less of "Billy" and "Jimmy" and the rest of the
billiard-hall crowd.

Meanwhile, Ira had taken possession of Humphrey's November allowance
and Humphrey was having it doled out to him three dollars at a time.
The first week he ran through his three dollars by Wednesday and Ira
had to advance two more. But the next week Humphrey got along with
the three, and after that he seldom had to ask for more. Boarding at
Mrs. Trainor's was the real solution of his financial problem; that
and wasting less money on pool. Later in the year he became thoroughly
interested in economising and eventually opened a banking account of
his own. But that doesn't belong in the present narrative.

With the end of the football season only about a fortnight away,
Parkinson School became rampantly patriotic, and no one could have
sanely found fault with its attitude toward the team. It was now
as enthusiastically supporting the eleven as even Fred Lyons could
wish. There were cheer meetings about every other night and the one
principal subject of conversation whenever two or more fellows met
was: "Will We Beat 'Em?" "'Em," of course, were the Kenwood team, for
no one particularly cared what happened to Day and Robins' or St.
Luke's. Fortunately for discussion, there were plenty who believed
or pretended to believe that Kenwood would repeat her last year's
performance and tie another defeat to Parkinson. Those who held that
view had excellent grounds for their conviction, for Kenwood had
passed, or, more correctly, was passing through a very successful
season. So far the Blue had met with but one defeat, had seven
victories to her credit and had played a 0 to 0 game with the State
College Second Team. In fact, Kenwood had one of her Big Teams this
season, if Kenwood was to be believed, and was pretty confident of a
victory over the Brown. The Kenwood school paper caused a spasm of
indignation throughout Parkinson by editorially calling on the Football
Association to move the Parkinson game up the next Fall so that the
blue team might meet in her final contest a foeman more worthy of her
steel. _The Leader_ replied scathingly to that impertinent reflection
on the Parkinson team and printed a page of letters to the editor from
"Patriot," "Veritas," "Indignant" and other well-known scribes.

Theoretically at least, Ira had no time for interests or adventures
outside football, for he was an extremely busy, hard-worked youth
from the Monday succeeding the Chancellor game to the Thursday
before the contest with Kenwood Academy. Nor, for that matter, did
any other interests win his attention or other adventures befall him,
if we except, in the first case, study--he had to do more or less of
that--and, in the second case, a call from "Old Earnest."

Ernest Hicks would probably have been much surprised if anyone had
connected him in any way with an adventure, for adventures didn't lay
within his scheme of life. But at a period when Ira's days were made
up of hearing, thinking and playing football, anything not connected
with that all-absorbing subject possessed for him the attributes of an
adventure. It was on a Friday afternoon, the Friday preceding the Day
and Robins's game, between his last recitation and the practice hour,
that someone knocked on his half-closed door. He had heard footsteps
on the stairs, but usually such footsteps went on to one of the other
doors and he hadn't looked up from the book he was studying. He said
"Come in!" and rather expected to be confronted by the freckle-faced
youth who called for and, in the course of time, brought back the
laundry. But when the door opened it was "Old Earnest" who stood there,
and Ira wonderingly slipped a pencil between the pages and arose.

"Have you got an encyclopedia?" inquired the visitor, his gaze, from
behind the big, round lenses of his spectacles, roaming inquiringly
about the room.

"No, I haven't," answered Ira. "At least, only a small, one-volume one.
I'm afraid it wouldn't be of much use to you. I usually go over to the
library."

The visitor nodded. "Yes, you can do that." He rubbed his chin
reflectively with long, thin fingers and observed Ira dubiously. He
was quite the tallest youth Ira had ever seen, and he was as thin and
angular as he was tall. He had brown hair, which was worn rather too
long and which looked sadly in need of brushing, grey eyes, a very
sharp nose, a wide, thin mouth and a chin that came almost to a point.
He looked to Ira as if he needed a square meal, or, rather, a whole
series of square meals, for his face was as narrow as his body and
his queer, nondescript clothes hung about him as though they had been
fashioned at some far-distant time when he had weighed about three
times his present weight. His coat was a plaid lounging jacket from
which depended by a few threads one remaining frog. The corresponding
button had followed its companions into oblivion. His trousers were
of grey flannel and his feet were encased in a pair of brown canvas
"sneakers." Ira had glimpsed him frequently about the corridors of
Parkinson Hall, but this present costume was not what he wore at
recitations, which, as Ira reflected, was a fortunate thing for the
sobriety of the classrooms!

Hicks finally removed his gaze slowly from Ira, sighed and said
dejectedly: "I'll have a look at it, I guess. It might give me what I'm
after. Where is it?"

It lay in the centre of the desk, a cheap little limp-leather affair of
infinitesimal print and a woeful lack of contents. Hicks shook his head
as he opened it and ran his long fingers over the edges of the leaves.
Ira saw, with a sort of fascination, that the tips of the fingers
turned back almost at right angles under pressure. Hicks regretfully
closed the book and pushed it from him. "What do you know about the
Hamiltonian-System?"

"Not a thing," answered Ira cheerfully. "What is it?"

"It's a system of teaching languages. But who invented it? Was it James
or William? And if he did invent it how does it happen that John Locke
wrote about it a century before? Explain that if you can."

"I shouldn't want to try, thanks," laughed Ira.

"Old Earnest" sniffed. "You couldn't. But did Locke himself originate
it? Take his _Essay Concerning Human Understanding_, now. All through
that you'll find evidence pointing to the contrary. Have you read it?"

Ira shook his head dumbly.

"You'll want to some day. It's a wonderful work. He applies the
Baconian method to the study of the mind, you know."

"Really?" murmured Ira.

"Of course, it's not startling nowadays, but it must have been then.
That knowledge results from experience and not from innate ideas is no
longer novel. In fact, the whole Descartes theory can be knocked into
a heap if you apply Locke's philosophy. He doesn't stand for dualism,
you know. Nor do I. To say that the mind and body are heterogeneous
substances is quite absurd. You agree with me, of course?"

"I might if I knew what the dickens you were talking about," replied
Ira helplessly.

"Oh!" Hicks looked both surprised and disappointed. "Well--" He plunged
his hands into the pockets of his cavernous trousers and looked about
the room. "I used to visit a fellow up here two or three years ago. I
forget what his name was. He was in my class, though, and he and I had
a go at Friesian. We didn't keep it up, for some reason. I don't know
if you ever studied it?"

"No, I never did. Is it--did you like it?"

"I think so. I rather forget. Let me see, what was it I came for? Oh,
yes that Hamiltonian-System! I'll have to go over to the library. It's
a bother. I'm always having to go over to the library. It is was more
central----"

"I'd be glad to look it up for you, if you liked," offered Ira. "But
I'm afraid I wouldn't get it right."

"You wouldn't," answered Hicks calmly. "It doesn't matter. I do miss my
own library, though. It was very complete."

"What happened to it?" asked Ira. "Er--won't you sit down?"

"Old Earnest" evidently didn't hear the invitation. At least, he paid
no attention to it, but continued to stand there, hands in pockets,
and ruminatively stared at the window. "I sold it," he said quite
matter-of-factly. "Over a hundred and twenty volumes."

"But--but what for?"

"Why, I needed some money. You see, I had the misfortune to fail in the
finals last Spring, and I hadn't planned on another year. It costs a
good deal here. Food especially. I got sixty-two dollars for them. They
were worth two hundred at least. There was a twelve-volume set of the
Universal Encyclopedia and a copy of the first edition of Fanning's
_Morals_. Some others, too. Valuable. He's still got most of them, and
I'm hoping to get them back some day. I've bought five or six already.
I wanted the encyclopedia, but he put an outrageous price on it. I miss
it a great deal. Well, I'm much obliged for your information."

He turned abruptly toward the door and shuffled across the room. Ira
was tempted to remind him that he had obtained no information, but
didn't. Instead: "Who buys books here?" he asked.

"Books? Oh, there are several. All robbers, though. I sold mine to
Converse, on Oak Street. He will do as well for you as any of them. If
you ever want to read that book of Locke's, I've got it."

"Old Earnest" passed out, closing the door behind him with a resounding
crash. When he had gone Ira smiled at the closed door. Then he
chuckled. Then, quite suddenly, he became serious and, seating himself
at the table again, picked holes in the blotter with the nib of a pen
for quite five minutes. And finally he tossed the pen aside with the
air of one who has reached a decision, seized his cap and clattered
down the stairs.

Converse's Second-hand Book Emporium--it seemed to Ira that Warne's
merchants exhibited a marked and peculiar partiality to "emporiums" as
opposed to mere "stores"--was not difficult to find, for the sidewalk
in front was stacked with broken-backed books and old magazines. It was
a dim and dingy place inside, and smelled of dust and old leather. The
proprietor arose from an armchair before a small desk under a window
and approached smilingly. He was a thin, stoop-shouldered little man
in rusty black clothes and wearing a black skullcap. The smile was
wonderfully benignant, but the little deep-set eyes looked crafty.

"I just wanted to look around," said Ira.

"Of course! Certainly! Help yourself, sir. Is there any special subject
you're interested in?"

"N-no, I guess not." Ira picked up a book from a shelf and examined it
carelessly. "I might use a good dictionary, though."

"I have a fine lot, sir. This way, please." The proprietor led the way
down one of the two dim passages and snapped on an electric light at
the end. "Here we are! Big and little, sir. You'll find the prices
plainly marked in the front. Here's a Webster Unabridged----"

"N-no, I think a smaller one----"

"Then a Student's, like this." He slapped the book on his hand and sent
a cloud of dust into the air. "Only a dollar and a quarter, sir."

Ira viewed it without enthusiasm. Finally: "I might give you fifty
cents for it," he said indifferently.

"Oh, dear, no, sir! I couldn't do it, I honestly couldn't! That's one
of the best dictionaries there is. I sell a great many of them to the
young gentlemen at the school. Perhaps you are one of them?"

"Yes, but I couldn't pay a dollar and a quarter for that," said Ira,
laying it down.

"Ah, but if you're one of the young gentlemen from the school, sir,
I'll make a discount. We'll say a dollar. Shall I wrap it up?"

"There's no hurry. Perhaps seventy-five cents--What's this? An
encyclopedia, eh? Too bad it isn't in better condition."

"But it's in very good condition indeed, sir," protested the little
man. "I bought that not more than a month ago from a gentleman who is
most particular with his books. In fact, I took his whole library, a
matter of--hm--something under two hundred volumes. Now if you wanted a
rare bargain in a set of the Universal----"

"No, I guess not. I couldn't afford it."

"You don't know, sir, you don't know," chuckled the man. "Just wait
till you hear the price I'm going to make. You can have that set for
ex-act-ly twenty dollars! And it cost, when new----"

"Yes, but it isn't new," interrupted Ira. "Twenty dollars, eh? I'll
wager you didn't pay more than ten for it."

"Ten! Ten dollars for a perfect set of the Encyclopedia Universal! My
dear sir!"

"I might give twelve," said Ira tentatively.

The man held up his dusty hands in horror. "You're not serious!" he
protested.

"Not very, because I don't specially want them," replied Ira. "What
else is there here?"

"But--I tell you what I _will_ do, sir, I'll let you have the set
for--let me see, let me see--eighteen-fifty! There, I can't offer
better than that!"

"Oh, yes you can," answered the boy cheerfully. "You can say fifteen.
But I'd rather you didn't, for I might take it, and I oughtn't to do
it."

"Hm. You'd pay fifteen, you think?"

"Well, I might. Yes, I guess I'd fall for it at fifteen. But----"

"It's an awful thing to do, but times are hard and--well, take it!"

"Thanks," laughed Ira, "but they're a little heavy to take with me. I
guess you'll have to send them to me."

"Hm: I'd have to charge a little for delivering them."

"Suit yourself, but don't charge me," replied Ira. "I'll write you a
cheque if you'll show me where the ink is. Oh, thanks. There you are,
Mr. Converse. And the books are to go to 200 Main Street, Mrs. Magoon's
house."

"Eh? You said 200 Main Street? Why, that's where--hm--yes, of course!
Very well, sir. Thank you. I hope you'll remember me whenever you want
anything else, Mr.--er--Rowland. Good afternoon."



CHAPTER XIX

CALLERS


Ira had just time to get to the field before practice began. The work
today was easy, consisting principally of signal drill in preparation
for the game with Day and Robins's School on the morrow, and Ira was
put in Basker's squad and trotted around the gridiron for a good
half-hour. Coach Driscoll had given them four new plays to learn and
they were still far from perfect in them when time was called. The
others went off to the gymnasium, all save a few kickers and Ira.
Ira had still a session of passing ahead of him. On the practice
gridiron the second team was playing Warne High School and, from the
few brief glimpses Ira caught of the contest, getting beaten. To his
satisfaction, several of the quasi-official assistant coaches went off
to watch the second team game, leaving only Basker and Almy to deal
with him. Coach Driscoll was hard at work with the goal-kickers.

Ira did very well this afternoon, and even Basker, who was a critical
youth, said so. They kept him at it until it was almost too dark to
see, by which time everyone else had departed and the second team field
was deserted. "I guess Driscoll will put you in tomorrow for awhile,"
observed Basker, as they went back through the twilight. "If he does,
just you keep your head and you'll get on all right."

"The big thing to remember," said Bill Almy, "is to take all the time
you want. Don't let anyone hurry you in getting the ball away, Rowland.
And if the other side interferes with you, yell right out! Make a big
fuss about it. If you do the officials will watch the other side so
close they won't dare to try it on again. In fact, it isn't a bad idea
to claim interference, anyway, if you get half a chance."

"We won't have much trouble with Day and Robins's," said Basker. "It
will be a good game to get some experience in, Rowland. Are you going
to get back in time for Kenwood, Bill?"

"Not likely," replied the centre sadly. "This thing doesn't do much.
Doc says a double fracture is always slower work than a single one.
He's as pleased as pickles about it, the silly chump. Smiles all over
his face whenever he looks at it. I wish he had it!"

"I don't see then but that Rowland has a pretty good chance to get in
against Kenwood."

"Chance? It's a dead sure thing. I'm not knocking Terry Conlon, but he
won't last the game. You know that yourself. Terry plays like a house
on fire at first and then begins to let up. Oh, Rowland will get in all
right. I hope he does, too. He's worked like a Trojan."

"I haven't minded it much," said Ira. "All that's worrying me is the
fear that Mr. Driscoll will change his mind about me again and try to
make an end of me!"

"Look out that Beadle doesn't make an end of you!" laughed Basker.

"Who's Beadle?" Ira asked.

"The Kenwood centre. He's a peach of a player, isn't he, Bill?"

"Beadle," replied Almy slowly, "is about as good a centre rush as
you'll find on a prep school team today. That's saying something, too.
He's as pretty a player to watch as I ever saw. I'm sorry I'm not to
try him again. I've been thinking I'd give him a better fight this
time. Last year he put it all over me, and I don't mind owning up to
it. The man's as quick as greased lightning."

"He's as strong as an elephant, too," added Basker. "And he plays hard.
You'll subscribe to that, eh, Bill?"

Almy smiled. "Well, next to a steam roller, Beadle's the toughest thing
to stop I know of. He isn't a dirty player, but he certainly can mess
you up to the King's taste. I'll never forget my handsome phiz after he
got through with it last Fall!"

"Is that the fellow I'll have to play against?" asked Ira.

"Yes, if you get in," assented Almy. "Like the sound of it?"

"Not a bit," replied Ira. "I'm hoping that Conlon will last all through
the game!"

When he got back to the room he found the encyclopedia piled up beside
the door, twelve big, heavy volumes. It was a little after five and he
was fairly certain that "Old Earnest" was still in his room downstairs.
He left the door wide open and, during the next three-quarters of an
hour, listened intently for sounds from below and several times crept
to the banisters and peered over. It was not until nearly six, however,
that Hicks' door crashed shut--"Old Earnest" had an emphatic manner
with doors--and Ira caught sight of him starting down the first flight.
Giving him time to get clear of the house, Ira gathered up four of the
books and made his first trip. Hicks' room was in darkness, but the
bracket in the hall faintly illumined a patch near the door and Ira
set the volumes against the baseboard and returned for more. To his
relief he completed the transfer before Humphrey appeared, for Humphrey
would be sure to ask questions and Ira didn't know that he could
explain the affair to his roommate's satisfaction. Humphrey clattered
in shortly after he had returned from the final trip and they went over
to supper together.

Afterwards Humphrey announced in tones that held a queer mixture of
pride and apology that he was going over to see a fellow in Goss. "You
know him, I guess," he added carelessly. "Sterner. He's a second year
fellow. President of the class, I think. He spoke at the meeting that
night."

"No, I don't know him except by sight," answered Ira. "Where did you
meet him!"

"Oh, he was with Brad this afternoon. He comes from Tonawanda. That's
near my home, you know."

"As Mart says, no one can blame him," laughed Ira. "I'd come away, too,
if I lived in a place with such a name."

"Tonawanda? What's the matter with the name?" demanded Humphrey. "It
isn't half as bad as some of the names in your part of the country.
What's that one you sprung the other night? Chemquat----"

"Chemquasabamticook? Oh, that's just a river. Our towns have pretty
names, like Skowhegan and Norridgewock and Pattagumpus," replied Ira
gravely. "Well, see you later."

He found Mart Johnston in possession when he reached the room. Mart
explained that Brad had tried to get him to go to a meeting of the
Debating Society and that he had had to run off after dinner to
escape that horrible fate. "They all talk," he said, "and no one says
anything. And they get most frightfully excited and tear their hair and
froth at the mouth and beat on the table, and all they're fussed up
about is whether Daniel Webster was a greater man than John L. Sullivan
or whether honesty is the best policy! They're a queer bunch, those
debaters, I should think! But if I'm in the way here I can go somewhere
else. I can't go home until after eight, because Brad will get me if I
do, but I can walk the streets or go to sleep in a doorway."

"You're not in my way," laughed Ira, "and Humphrey is calling on Mr.
Sterner of Tonawanda."

"Who's he?"

"Sterner of the second," explained Ira. "He comes from Tonawanda, New
York, and that makes a bond of sympathy between him and Nead. Nead
hails from Buffalo. From what he said I gathered that the two places
were near each other."

"No one can blame you. Well, how's the battle going? Are you a
scientific centre rush yet? I heard Fred say some nice things about you
the other day. I guess he and Driscoll are real proud of you."

"I'm afraid they won't be when they see me play. Basker says they'll
put me in tomorrow. Bet you anything I'll pass the ball over Wirt's
head or do something else perfectly awful!"

"Pull yourself together, old man. You can't do any worse than some of
the others Driscoll has had at centre. Someone's at the door, I think.
Oh, _do_ you suppose it's Brad? I won't go without a struggle!"

It wasn't Brad, however, but Hicks, Hicks looking oddly bewildered and
embarrassed as he entered in response to Ira's call. His embarrassment
wasn't reduced any when he found Mart there, and he started to retire,
but thought better of it and slammed the door mightily behind him as
one burning his bridges. Ira, surmising his errand, tried to head him
off.

"You know Johnston, don't you?" he asked.

"How are you, Hicks?" inquired Mart. "How's the old boy?"

"How do you do?" murmured Hicks. "I--I wanted to ask----"

"Have a chair," interrupted Ira. "Did you--did you find out about
the--er--the Hamiltonian Theory?"

"Hamiltonian-System," Hicks corrected. "Not all I want. There's a book
in the catalogue that I couldn't find. They're very careless at the
library about misplacing volumes, and--" Hicks paused and frowned. "Oh,
yes," he resumed. "I want to ask you if--if you know anything about
that Encyclopedia Universal. I came in awhile ago and----"

"I've heard it was a very good encyclopedia," said Ira hurriedly,
winking desperately at Hicks and all to no purpose. "Don't you think
so, Mart?"

"Oh, yes! Oh, yes! Go ahead and rave! Don't mind my presence on the
scene. Gibber away, you two!"

"But, what I mean," resumed Hicks, after a puzzled look at Mart, "is
how did it get there? I thought maybe--perhaps--You see, I hadn't
mentioned it to anyone else----"

"Also, you wanted to know when they were and, if so, to what extent,"
rattled Mart glibly. "And, while we are inquiring into the matter, let
us also consider the other side of it. For instance, fellows: If it is
as we say it is, then why not let them do it? Or, failing that, and all
other things being equal----"

"Oh, dry up!" laughed Ira. "Don't mind him, Hicks. He's crazy. Tell you
what, I'll drop down to your room later and we'll--we'll talk it over."
Ira winked meaningly. Hicks stared and shook his head.

"What I'm getting at," he said carefully, "is this. When I got in
from supper I found my encyclopedia piled up on the floor of my
room. I didn't ask Converse to send it, and I thought that possibly
you--ah--knew something about it."

Ira sank into a chair and tried to look innocent. There was evidently
no use in attempting to head "Old Earnest" off.

"Oh, I see," he said affably. "You--you've got it back, eh?"

"Yes. At least--Yes, I've got it back. But what I wanted to know
was----"

"Ah, now we're coming to it!" murmured Mart. "Go on! You interest me
strangely, Hicks!"

"Well, did you--I mean--" Hicks's embarrassment was becoming painful
and Ira took pity on him. He nodded.

"Yes, I did, Hicks," he said apologetically. "I hope you don't mind.
You see, you needed the books and--and I happened to have the money,
and Converse sold them dirt cheap----"

"Someone," muttered Mart, "has done something. But what?
Books--money--dirt cheap! The plot thickens. Have patience, Martin,
have patience! All will be revealed to you in good time."

"Oh!" Hicks swallowed once as though it hurt him and got up from his
chair. "Well--" He observed Ira in a puzzled way. "I--I'm greatly
obliged to you--er--What is your name, please?"

"Rowland," answered Ira gravely. "I hope you won't think it was cheeky
of me, Hicks."

"Old Earnest" shook his head slowly. "No, no, I--I don't. I'm so--so
glad to have them, you see, Rowland! It was--very good of you. Of
course I'll pay you for them. But I--you'll have to give me time. I'm
much obliged. Good evening."

"Old Earnest" fairly bolted to the door and an instant later it crashed
shut with a shock that made the walls shake. Ira stole a glance at
Mart. That youth, his legs stretched far across the old brown carpet,
his head back, was whistling softly and tunelessly. Silence reigned for
a long minute. Then:

"Oh, don't be an ass!" exclaimed Ira.

"I beg your pardon?" Mart turned and regarded him in polite surprise.
"You spoke, I believe."

"You heard what I said," laughed Ira. "Why shouldn't I buy his old
books for him? He's dead-broke and----"

"Ira, my lad," said Mart sternly, "what have you been and gone and
done?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, what dreadful crime have you committed? When I do anything
like that, anything--er--kind-hearted and noble--which is very, very
seldom--it's because I've been naughty. That's how I square myself with
what would be my conscience if I had one. Isn't that the way with you?"

"I got his books because I had the money and he didn't and he needed
them. You heard him say he'd pay me back. It's merely a business
arrangement."

"Oh, certainly, certainly! My fault!"

"Well, then, dry up," grumbled Ira.

"But I haven't said anything, have I?"

"You've looked things, though."

"Have I? Well, I'll stop looking things, Ira. I suppose you don't want
me to say that you're a--a rather decent sort, eh?"

"I do not," answered Ira emphatically.

"Then I won't. I do wish, though, that you'd let me ask you one
tiny little question. It's this. Pardon me, I prithee, if it sounds
impertinent. Are you--that is, have you--oh, gosh! I'll try again. Are
you a wealthy citizen, Ira?"

"Why, no, I guess not. I have enough money, of course."

"I see. Very nice. 'Enough money, of course.' Well, I only asked
because I assumed--we all did, in fact,--that you were sort of hard-up."

"Hard-up? Why?" asked Ira, puzzled.

"Well, you see, you--you didn't spend much money on--things----"

"Meaning my clothes?" asked the other, smiling.

Mart nodded apologetically. "Clothes for one thing. And then I--we
got the idea that as your father was a lumberman you wouldn't be very
well-off."

"I see. Well, dad isn't exactly a lumberman in the way you mean. He's
president of the Franklin Lumber Company and owns most of the stock.
I dare say you could call him rather well-off. And of course he gives
me all I need--and a bit more, I guess. As for spending, why, I don't
know, Mart. You see, I've lived in a small place all my life, and
there's never been very much to spend money on. And, besides, folks
up our way are sort of saving. You get the habit, I guess. I always
buy whatever I want that seems worth while, but I like to see that I'm
getting the value of my money when I do buy. I didn't know I was giving
you the idea that I was poverty-stricken. I certainly didn't mean to,
Mart."

"Say no more. My fault! We sort of jumped to delusions, so to say.
Personally, I'm glad that you aren't in the pauper class. It makes it
easier for me to get around to the real, bona fide reason of my visit.
You thought I dropped in for a social call or to escape Brad and his
Debating Society, but I didn't, Ira. My real reason--but I hardly like
to broach it even now."

"Go ahead," Ira laughed. "If it's a loan you can have it, you know."

"Well, it is," acknowledged the visitor, palpably embarrassed. "I--the
fact is--Oh, hang it, could you lend me fifty dollars?"

Ira nodded promptly. "I _could_," he replied.

"Well--er--will you?"

Ira shook his head. "No, I won't."

"Oh! Why? I'll pay it back."

"I know it, but you couldn't pay it back for a month of Sundays, Mart,
and while you owed it you'd be no use to me as a friend. That's so,
isn't it?"

"How do you mean, no use?"

"I mean that you'd have it on your mind and you'd be wondering whether
I was getting impatient and you'd get so you'd dislike me because you
owed me money. How would twenty dollars do?"

Mart laughed. "It wouldn't do, old Mr. Solomon. Nor ten. Nor five. But
I will borrow a half if you've got it."

"What's the idea?" asked Ira. "Were you fooling?"

"Sure! I just wanted to see what sort of a philanthropist you were.
Where's my fifty cents?"

"In my pocket," answered Ira grimly. "And that's where it's going to
stay!"



CHAPTER XX

BEFORE THE GAME


Events rushed headlong past. Ira played a round twenty minutes at
centre in the Day and Robins' game and proved himself steady and
dependable. He made mistakes, certainly, more than he liked to remember
afterwards, but he never messed a pass and he held his position
impregnable against the attack of a not very strong enemy. His sins
were those of omission and were due to inexperience. On the whole,
he put up a satisfactory game, and Coach Driscoll and the rest were
secretly very pleased even if they didn't say so. The contest was not
interesting from the point of view of the spectators except in that
it showed the home team to have developed well during the last week.
There were ragged moments and some loose handling of the ball by the
backs, but the team showed fifty per cent more team play than it had
shown before. The new plays, not all of which were used, went smoothly
and gained ground. There was a noticeable improvement in kicking,
also. Wirt and Captain Lyons made some punts that brought applause
and Walter Cole missed but one goal in six tries. Two were drop-kicks
from the field and the rest followed touchdowns. Parkinson had no
trouble running up twenty-three points in the first half and ten in the
second, while her opponent failed to score until the last quarter when
a field-goal saved her from whitewash.

Practice was hard on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the next
week, but Monday was an easy day and Friday held only a blackboard
instruction in the gymnasium for the first team. The school was quite
football-crazy by this time and meetings were held almost nightly. The
old songs were sung and new ones tried and the cheer leaders went into
training. Twice a week the Musical Clubs supplied music, and always
earnest, enthusiastic youths waved their arms and predicted victory for
Parkinson to a wild and approving chorus of cheers.

Ira no longer sought the field for strenuous half-hours of coaching. He
practised with the first team substitutes and got as much and no more
work than they did. Sometimes, when he allowed himself to visualise
the mighty Beadle, he had qualms of stage fright and heartily wished
himself back in private life. It wasn't that he was afraid of anything
Beadle might do to him in the way of punishment, for he didn't mind
taking blows or giving them, but he was certain that Beadle would, in
the language of the gridiron, "put it all over him." And Ira didn't
like to come out second-best, even if it was only in playing centre
rush in a football game!

Ernest Hicks came again shortly after that second call and spent the
better part of an hour bolt upright in one of the more uncomfortable
chairs and talked far over Ira's head, eventually arising and taking
his departure as abruptly and noisily as usual. Ira returned the
visit and in the course of the next month a rather odd friendship
sprang up between the two. "Old Earnest," while grateful to Ira for
the restoration of his encyclopedia, sympathised with his benefactor
because of the latter's regrettable ignorance on so many important
subjects, and Ira was very sorry for Hicks because that youth had
stowed his brain so full of impractical knowledge! But they got on very
well together, and Ira had to acknowledge that "Old Earnest's" erudite
conversation was an excellent antidote for an hour of Mart Johnston's
persiflage.

Ira ordered himself a suit about this time from the tailor recommended
by Gene, and Humphrey, not to be outshone, followed his example.
Humphrey had a little money in the keeping of his "financial agent"
and it worried him until it was spent. Ira's suit fitted him perfectly
and was becoming, but Gene, cordially commending it, was forced to the
mental reservation that Ira had somehow looked more like Ira in his old
duds!

The St. Luke's Academy game aroused the school to new heights of
football ardour, for it proved to be a see-saw, nerve-racking affair
from kick-off to last whistle. St. Luke's was theoretically an easy
aggregation to subdue and had been given her location in the season's
schedule for that reason, but something had happened since last year at
St. Luke's, and the big, rangy team that trotted onto Parkinson Field
that Saturday afternoon was quite a different proposition to that of
last Fall. Coach, captain and players scented trouble at first sight of
the purple-legged team and even the spectators had an inkling that the
home team's "easy game" was to prove less simple than had been expected.

Parkinson received a bad fright in the first minute of play, when
Cole dropped St. Luke's kick-off and recovered it on his six-yard.
Two attempts at the purple line netted but four yards and, amidst a
tense and uneasy silence, Wirt dropped well back of his goal line to
punt. Even after that Parkinson was still in danger, for Wirt's kick,
purposely sent high to avoid blocking, was caught in a current of air
and came down but thirty-odd yards from goal. St. Luke's sprang a
lateral pass from a wide formation and got seven yards, but when she
attempted to repeat the play on the other side of the line Brad managed
to pierce the running interference and bring down the man with the ball
for a three-yard loss. In the end St. Luke's tried a goal from the
thirty-four yards and kicked short.

There was no scoring until the second quarter was almost over. Then
Parkinson electrified the watchers by pulling off a forward-pass,
Wirt to Price, that covered nearly thirty-five yards. From St. Luke's
twenty-six to her twelve, Parkinson advanced by line plunging, Wirt and
Wells alternating. Then St. Luke's braced and two tries availed little.
Wirt went back to kicking position and Dannis broke through centre
for five. On the fourth down, with four to go, Wirt again dropped
back, but again the play was a fake, for, after an interminable moment
of suspense during which the Parkinson backfield became seemingly
inextricably mixed-up, Cole was discovered sneaking around the enemy's
left flank. When he was down the tape had to be used. Parkinson had
got her distance, though, by half the length of the ball, and from the
two-yard line Cole went over on the second attempt. Lyons kicked an
easy goal.

St. Luke's evened the score soon after the beginning of the second
half. Her big backs were fast and heavy, and got away quickly from a
three-abreast formation close up to the line. Parkinson failed to stop
them after a lucky fumble had given the ball to the enemy near the
centre of the field. St. Luke's had to fight hard to win, but win she
did, finally pushing her left half across the Brown's goal line near
a corner of the gridiron. A good punt-out put her in position to kick
goal and a moment later the score stood at 7--7. In that advance both
Conlon and Donovan were severely battered, and the latter was taken
out then and Conlon a few minutes later. Conlon's withdrawal called
on Ira, and Ira held the centre of the line fairly intact for a good
twenty minutes. It was a far stiffer trial than he had had, and just at
first the desperate plunges of the hard-fighting enemy quite took him
off his feet, physically and mentally. But when he once discovered that
no quarter was given or taken today he promptly revised his ideas and
held his own on most occasions.

Parkinson dropped a field-goal over from the twenty-six-yard line just
before the third quarter ended and St. Luke's came back with a second
touchdown soon after the beginning of the fourth. As she failed to kick
goal, the score stood 13 to 10 when the last period was half gone.
Parkinson was showing her quality and no one was surprised, although
many were vastly relieved, when, after a punting battle, Dannis got
away and eluded the enemy as far as its seventeen-yards. Two tries at
the tackles resulted in short gains and then Wirt went back to kick.
Ira followed advice and took so much time that the impatient St. Luke's
players began to rage. But when the pass shot away it was straight and
true and Wirt would have had plenty of time to get the ball out had
he tried. But he didn't try. He trotted out to the left, and, just as
the enemy leaped at him, threw diagonally to Ray White, and Ray went
over the line without challenge. Lyons made the Parkinson total 17 by
kicking a clever goal, and the remaining three or four minutes failed
to change it.

The school was highly elated over that contest, and the elation was
expressed in a monster meeting that night in the Auditorium at which
the team and first substitutes sat sheepishly on the stage and heard
themselves cheered and praised. Ira was glad he had managed to beat
Brackett to the last chair in the back row, for the whole proceeding
seemed much too emotional. Ira always rather resented having his
emotions disturbed, and tonight the singing and the cheering had their
effect.

There was only light practice Monday, but on Tuesday they went back to
the grind. There had been several mix-ups in signals on Saturday and
Coach Driscoll was after them today hot and heavy. More new plays were
experimented with. Eventually all but two were discarded and Parkinson
went into the Kenwood game with fewer plays in her repertoire than any
brown team in years. Evening sessions began in the gymnasium at which
the plays were diagrammed on the blackboard and afterwards walked
through on the floor. Each man had to know what to do in every play,
and the coach was not satisfied until the lot were gone through with in
perfect precision and smoothness. And that didn't happen until Thursday
evening. In the scrimmages, and there were hard ones on Wednesday and
Thursday, Ira found himself starting at centre each time, for Conlon
had been fairly badly used up in the St. Luke's game and too much work
might have put him stale. He got in for a few minutes, however, each
afternoon, and Ira couldn't see that he was any the worse for wear.

During the final fortnight of the season the players were supposed to
be in bed before ten o'clock and unnecessary noise in the dormitories
was frowned on. Ira obeyed the rule, but as his neighbour across the
corridor had evidently not heard the request for silence, he didn't
always get to sleep promptly. The stout youth knew more different ways
to make a racket than a cage full of monkeys, Ira decided!

On Friday there was a half-hour of signal work and some practice later
for the kickers. Then the regulars trotted off and the third-string men
and the second team pushed each other around for fifteen minutes for
the benefit of the school which had marched to the field with banners
and songs and cheers. That contest ended the second team's activities
for the year. The regulars were dressed and waiting for them on the
gymnasium steps when they came back and there was a fine and heartening
exchange of cheers. Then the marchers arrived and cheered first and
second, coach, trainer, rubbers, manager and school, and went off
again, singing, to parade twice around the yard and once through the
town. The final mass meeting came off that evening, but neither Ira nor
any other member of the team was there. They walked or trotted through
the plays in the gymnasium, listened to a few words of final advice
from Mr. Driscoll and then went home to bed and, in most cases, sleep.
Anyone who has lived through a night before the Big Game knows that one
or two, at the least, didn't find slumber very speedily.

Saturday was cold, raw and cheerless at dawn, but in the middle of a
long forenoon the sun peeped out for a few minutes. The wind peeped
out too, however, and, unlike the sun, it stayed out. The football men
had been excused from recitations and at ten o'clock they were taken
in four big automobiles on a long ride that ate up most of the time
remaining until the early lunch hour. When they returned they found
town and campus in the hands of the enemy, for blue pennants were to be
seen on every side. Kenwood ate her dinner at The Inn, just outside of
town on the Sturgis road, and came rolling up to the field at a little
before two. At two-thirty to the second, Captain Lyons having won the
toss and chosen the up-wind goal, Kenwood kicked off.



CHAPTER XXI

PARKINSON SCORES


The sun broke forth at the very instant that the Kenwood kicker's toe
sent the pigskin hurtling from the tee, and a flood of wintry sunshine
illumined the scene. But a chilling wind still blew from the northeast,
snapping the big brown banner above the grandstand and eddying amidst
the serried ranks of the onlookers. Brown pennants flapped and blue
pennants, fewer in number, waved back defiantly. On the Parkinson
side of the field the substitutes sat huddled in their sweaters and
blankets on the bench or lay sprawled on the windrow of marsh hay that
had covered the gridiron overnight and was now piled in the lee of the
barrier. Ira, cross-legged, his back to the boards, meditatively chewed
at a grass blade as Wells doubled himself over the ball, dug his cleats
and went swinging off to the left behind his converging teammates. Five
yards, seven, and then he was down, the arms of a Kenwood end wrapped
about his thighs. Dannis' voice piped shrilly across the wind-swept
field: "Line up, Parkinson! Signals!"

A moment of suspense and then the brown-shirted backs lunged at the
Kenwood centre, faltered, stopped and came tumbling back.

"Nothing doing there," muttered Brad, at Ira's left.

Then came a try at left tackle and a short gain, with Cole carrying the
ball. A third attempt was hurled back by the right of the Blue's line,
and Wirt dropped back. The ball went corkscrewing down the field, borne
on a blast of the whistling wind, and the players sped under it. Here
and there a man went down, rolled over, found his feet again and sped
on. The Kenwood quarter signalled for a fair-catch and heeled the ball
on his ten-yard line.

"Good work," commented Brad. "They're taking no chances with the ball
floating like that. Ever try to catch in a high wind, Rowland?"

Ira shook his head.

"It's hard. You can't tell where the silly thing will come down until
just before it gets to you. Now we'll see what they've got in the way
of an attack. Hello!"

Kenwood was shifting her whole left side except the end. Parkinson
shuffled over to meet the attack, the ball was snapped and the
quarter was running back with it, while, far off at the left, a
blue-stockinged end was racing down the field with upraised arm.

"Not a soul with him!" groaned Brad. The ball went streaking across,
well above the heads of the players. Cole, discerning the danger too
late, was running hard and Dannis was making toward the side line. But
the pass was safe and the Kenwood end plucked the ball from air, tucked
it in the crook of his arm and started for the distant goal. Cole's
effort was late and only Dannis stood in the path of the runner. But
Dannis got him and they went rolling together over and over into the
hay, while the Kenwood substitutes scattered right and left.

"Twenty yards easy," said Brad drily. "If Price gets fooled like that
again it's good night to us! It was a peach of a throw, wasn't it?"

"I guess we weren't looking for it," said Ira. "I thought they'd rush."

"So did I. They'll bear watching. No one saw that. They'll try our line
now, though. There they go! You would, would you? Well, you can stay
where you are, Kenwood! How much did they get? Not more than a yard,
eh?"

"About two feet, I think," answered Ira. "Brackett was right there,
that time."

Kenwood tried the centre and pushed through for two and a wide end
run around the Parkinson left gave her three more. Then the Blue was
forced to punt and the pigskin settled into Dannis' arms and he dodged
one end and scampered over two white lines before he was pulled down.

Parkinson plugged at the centre, hurling Wirt and Cole into the blue
wall, but Kenwood stood fast and Wirt again booted the ball far down
the field. With that wind behind him it was no feat to kick fifty
yards once he got the ball high enough and this time the opposing left
half-back caught well over in a corner. It was a fair-catch again,
which was fortunate, since both Parkinson ends were by him when the
ball came down. Kenwood tried another long forward and again eluded
the enemy, but the throw was short this time and the ball went back.
A plunge at Conlon got through for six and a skin-tackle play on the
right added two more. But, with two to go on the fourth down, Kenwood
again punted, trying to keep the ball low and out of the wind with the
result that it rolled out of bounds near the Parkinson forty-yard line.
Parkinson was not yet satisfied that she couldn't dent the opposing
line, and Cole and Wells were hurled against it, with the result that
after three attempts the ball was not far from where it had started.

"Gee, they've got some line there," marvelled Brad. "I suppose 'The'
wanted to know what he's up again, but it looks to me as if he was
silly not to kick while he's got this wind behind him. All right,
Lester! Make it a good one! Get down there, Ray!"

Once more the pigskin sped toward the further goal and once more the
Brown and the Blue scampered after it. This time the ball went askew
and landed outside near Kenwood's thirty. The Blue made the first
down of the game then. Parkinson failed to diagnose a cross-buck play
that slashed her line at left guard, and a big blue-legged back came
fighting through and wasn't stopped until he had put eight yards
behind him. Two plunges gave Kenwood the rest of her distance and the
blue pennants waved and triumphant cheers crashed out. Kenwood found
encouragement and smashed savagely at the Parkinson line. Twice she
made three yards. Then Fred Lyons dived through and brought down the
runner behind the line, and Kenwood punted to the enemy's eighteen. And
so it went for the rest of that quarter, Kenwood plunging and punting
only when she was forced to, Parkinson plunging and punting regularly
on third down. The wind tipped the scales in the home team's favour,
and when but a scant three minutes remained it was Parkinson's ball on
her own forty-eight yards. The stand was cheering hopefully now. Coach
Driscoll, hands in pockets, uncoated, walked slowly back and forth, his
gaze always on the play, his expression always undisturbed.

"If we can get to their thirty-five, Walt can put it over the bar,"
said Brad tensely. "Wouldn't you think 'The' would try that split-line
play, Rowland? Look where Kenwood's playing her ends! Man alive, we
could get around that left easy! I believe he's going to. No, it's
another line play. Oh, tush!"

"Looks like a forward," observed Ira. "Unless we're really going to
kick on first down!"

"It's an end-around, that's what it is. I hope it's Price. It is! Here
he comes! Oh, rotten pass! Got it, though! In, you idiot! In! Got him!
No, he's past! Go it, Chester! Go it, you--Wow! Five--ten--twelve
yards, old man! What do you know about that, fellows?"

Expressions of delight from the substitutes, however, were drowned in
the roar that swept over their heads from the stand behind them. The
cheer leaders were on their feet again, brown megaphones waving. Brad
leaned closer and shouted amidst the din: "It's square on their forty,
Rowland! And it's first down! We've got them going!"

"There isn't much time," said Ira doubtfully.

"Time enough! Two more rushes and then a try-at-goal and first blood
for old Parkinson!"

Wirt back again and the ball to Cole for a plunge at left guard. Only
a scant yard and a half gained. Wirt still back and the ball to Wells,
and the backfield trailing to the right like a wall, with the runner
scurrying along behind it. A break in the opposing line, a quick turn
by Wells. Through! But only through, for a Kenwood man is on him and
half a dozen bodies pile together and the whistle blows.

"Four more!" cried Brad. "Now then, Walter! Put it over, old man. You
can do it with this wind back of you!!"

But it was still Wirt back, and Brad groaned and shook his head sadly
as Cole tucked the ball to his stomach and went head-on into a resolute
defence for a scant half-yard gain.

"Oh, shucks! Fourth down!" wailed Brad. "Why the dickens didn't they
try for a goal? What's this? Another end-around? No, it's Wells outside
tackle. Watch it! By Jove, he's done it! How much did we need? Four?
Then we've got it! Got to measure it, eh? Who's that down? One of our
fellows? No, he's a Blue-leg."

"Kenwood left tackle," said Ritter from further along. "How much time
is there, Brad?"

"I don't know. About a minute, I think. We've got it! First down! We'll
do it yet!"

The linemen were trotting off, trailing the chain, and the referee had
waved his arm toward the Kenwood goal. The Parkinson cheer leaders
were dancing along the side line and a mighty volume of triumph rolled
across the field.

Parkinson went back at the centre and was stopped short, Wells squirmed
outside tackle for two yards, Cole smashed at the right guard and went
spinning through for another two. Now the pigskin lay almost on the
twenty-five-yard line. The timekeeper was edging nearer and nearer. Ira
viewed him anxiously and chewed harder on that straw. A sudden lull in
the wind allowed Dannis' voice to reach them:

"Come on now, Parkinson! Let's have it! Signals! Lyons back!"

"It's a place kick!" exclaimed Brad. "Go to it, Fred! Hold that line,
Parkinson!"

Dannis was on one knee and patting the turf. Fred was walking back
slowly. Then he stopped, studied the distance and shortened it a
stride. Dannis crept further back and leaned an elbow on the ground.
From the blue team came hoarse commands, implorations:

"Get through, Kenwood! Block this kick! Block this kick!"

A moment of silence, a brown streak from between Conlon's legs, the
ball settles in Dannis' hands. Very carefully he turns it, points it.
Fred Lyons steps forward one step and his right foot swings in a long
arc. The lines are battling fiercely. Kenwood comes plunging, leaping
through, arms upstretched. But the ball is sailing well above the eager
fingers. Now the wind has it and it veers to the right, still rising,
turning lazily over in its flight, sailing nearer and nearer the
further upright----

An instant of silence and suspense and then a wild burst of acclaim
from the Brown stand, for the Parkinson players are running back,
thumping each other on the shoulders, capering, tossing their
head-harnesses aloft!

"Goal!" shouted Brad exultantly. "Three for us! Cheer, Rowland, you
wooden Indian!"

Ira smiled. "It's bully, isn't it? I thought at first he'd missed it,
though."

"So did I. I guess it was pretty close. Well, that'll do for a start.
Three points may look pretty big when this game's over!"



CHAPTER XXII

COACH DRISCOLL APOLOGISES


Half a minute later the horn blew and the quarter ended.

Parkinson went back to line attacks, now that she was facing the wind,
and soon yielded the ball. Kenwood, profiting by her adversary's
example, started a kicking game. History repeated herself and every
exchange of punts gave the Blue a good five yards of territory and
before the period was many minutes old Parkinson was digging her cleats
into her thirty-yard line. Dannis let the centre alone now and sent his
backs outside of tackles and made gains of a sort. Only once did she
try a forward-pass, and then it was a short one over the middle of the
line that gained her eight yards. Slowly but irrevocably she was being
forced back. When, from her twenty-five, Wirt's punt was caught in a
flurry of wind and blown almost back to him and captured by the enemy,
it was evident that Fortune meant to even her favours.

The Kenwood supporters cheered incessantly while the Blue team tore at
the Brown line and, failing to gain the distance, again punted. This
time it was Parkinson's time to taste of luck, for Dannis, cuddling
the ball to him squarely on his goal line, leaped away, eluding both
Kenwood ends, and tore it past friend and enemy to his own forty-two
yards amidst a perfect thunder of cheers. But three tries only netted
six yards and Wirt had to punt and the ball was Kenwood's again on her
fifteen yards. A penalty set her back five and then came another long
forward-pass and the pigskin was back in midfield. Price, right end,
was hurt and Ritter took his place.

Kenwood smashed the line once, skirted the left end once and tried a
quarter-back run, all for a gain of five yards. Back went her punter
and the Parkinson backfield scattered. But the ball didn't sail into
the air this time. Instead, it was borne straight through centre by the
husky fullback for a good seven yards, and when the dust of battle had
settled Conlon and Brackett were on their faces.

"They got Terry," said Brad. "I saw it. It was their right guard. Guess
Brackett's only winded, though."

And to prove it, Brackett was already climbing to his feet. But
Conlon was taking full time and Billy Goode was kneeling over him
solicitously. Coach Driscoll was looking intently across the field, and
Billy had scarcely raised a beckoning hand before he had swung smartly
on his heel and his eyes were searching the line of substitutes.

"Rowland! On the run!" he called sharply.

Ira, startledly disentangling himself from his blanket, stumbled to
his feet, dimly aware of Brad's cheerful and envious "Good luck!", and
hurried across. He expected the coach to give him instructions, but Mr.
Driscoll only nodded sidewise toward the line-up.

"Go in at centre," he said. "Here, leave your sweater behind!"

Ira stopped and struggled out of that garment, tossed it behind him
and trotted on. They were carrying Conlon off, his head sagging, and
as Ira paused to catch the head-harness tossed by Billy Goode he had a
glimpse of the boy's pale face, dirt-streaked and drawn with pain, and
something that was as near like fear as Ira had ever felt came to him!

Then Dannis was thumping his arm and the others were grinning tiredly
at him and he was pulling his harness on. In front of him, inches wider
of shoulder and inches taller, loomed the formidable Beadle. He was
a fine-looking youth, in spite of a swollen mouth and a greenish lump
under one eye, and there was nothing savage in the steady look he gave
Ira. It was an appraising look, and as Ira met it something very much
like a smile flickered for an instant in the big centre's eyes. Then
the signals came and Ira stepped back out of the line and the game went
on.

For the first few minutes Ira had only a dim conception of what he
was doing and of what was going on about him. He worked in a sort of
haze, doing what he had been taught to do, blocking, breaking through,
tripping, falling, racing here and there after the ball, passing now
and then, always with his breath coming hard and every energy alert.
Kenwood came through time after time, but the gains were short. Beadle
was a terror at his job and Ira's efforts to stop him were seldom more
than half successful. Beadle was quicker than anyone Ira had ever
played against, and he knew more tricks, and he was terribly hard to
reach. Ira worked like a Trojan during that remaining six minutes, and
sometimes he got the better of his man, but those times were few in
number. Toward the end of the half Parkinson palpably played for time,
and it was only that that saved her, for when the welcome whistle
finally blew the enemy was raging about her fifteen yards. Had Kenwood
been satisfied with a goal from the field she might easily have made
it, for two chances were hers, but Kenwood wanted a touchdown and kept
after it, and only the timer's watch defeated her. As it was, Parkinson
trotted back to the gymnasium still leading by three points, but very
doubtful of the outcome.

Ira was wondering how it would be possible for him to last another
half-hour, for it seemed to him that he had already done a day's work.
He had a bleeding nose--he couldn't remember where or how he had got
it--and one of his wrists had been badly wrenched, but compared with
some of the others he was in fine condition! The locker-room was a
scene of wild confusion, with rubbers hard at word, a vile odour of
liniment in the air, dozens of tired voices scolding, the sound of
rushing water over all. Mended and massaged, Ira sank into a corner and
tiredly looked on. Fred Lyons, pale-faced, agitated, was pushing Billy
Goode aside in his effort to reach Coach Driscoll.

"Oh, let me alone, Billy! I'm all right, I tell you! Coach! Coach! What
are we going to do if they try that forward-passing again! We haven't a
man who can stop it! It's rotten!"

"It's up to the ends," answered Mr. Driscoll. "What's wrong with them?
Where were you, White? And you, Price? Haven't you been taught----"

"It wasn't my end, sir!" denied Ray warmly.

"It's always your end! Any end's your end in a forward-pass! You don't
keep your eyes open! Bradford! You go in at left end next half and
see if you can cover your man. Where's Wells? Look here, what sort of
football have you been taught? Can't you do anything but throw your
head back and paw the air? You weren't much better, Cole. Someone's got
to get through that line if we expect to win this game. Slow starting
and slow running! It's been awful! Dannis, you've got to speed them up
next half. They'll fall asleep in their tracks! Lyons, for the love
of Mike, let Billy get that bandage on you! What is it, Lowell? Oh, I
don't know. Yes, let them have it. Well, Rowland!" The coach paused in
front of Ira and looked down at him with a sneer. "You're a fine piece
of work, aren't you? Is that the best you can do?"

Ira, startled and surprised, looked back dumbly. Surely this wasn't
the Mr. Driscoll he knew, this snarling, contemptuous person with the
flashing eyes!

"Can't you fight a little bit?" went on the coach. "Clean yellow, are
you? All you did was stand up there and take your punishment. Let me
tell you something, Rowland. They're coming after you this next half.
They're going to flay you if you don't show signs of life. They want a
touchdown and they mean to have it and they'll be hitting the centre
from now on. What do you intend to do about it, eh? Speak up!"

"Why--why--" faltered Ira, "I--I'm going to do the best I can!"

"Best you can be blowed! Don't you know you're up against the best
centre there is today on a school team? 'Do the best you can!' Great
Scott, man, you've got to do _better_ than you can! Better than
you ever dreamed of doing! You've got to _fight_! This isn't any
Sunday-school picnic. This is football. We're out to win. I was afraid
all along you had a yellow streak, and now I know it. But you'll stay
in there until you have to be carried off, like Conlon. Want to know
what your trouble is?"

Ira was still too amazed to answer.

"You're a coward! That's your trouble! You're afraid! You don't dare
fight back! You're a plain squealer! I've got your measure, son!"

Ira felt the blood pouring into his cheeks as he jumped to his feet and
faced the coach with clenched hands.

"You take that back!" he said in a low voice that trembled in spite of
him.

"Take it back!" sneered the coach. "Yes, I'll take it back when you
show I'm wrong. You can't bluff me, Rowland. I see right through you."

"You take it back now, or--" Ira stopped and his arms fell at his
sides. "You're coach now," he said hardly above a whisper, "but
afterwards--if you aren't what you say I am--you'll--you'll answer for
what--what----"

But the tears, hot, angry tears, were no longer to be denied, and he
ended in a sob and turned away blindly and stumbled his way to the
door. Outside, in the cold sunlight, he blinked the tears back and
tried to get control of himself. Coward, was he? Then what was the
coach? He had taken advantage of his authority! He knew well enough he
wouldn't be called to account now. But afterwards! Just wait until the
game was over, until they had quit training! Ira's hands clenched until
they hurt. They'd see who was the coward. Driscoll wouldn't be coach
then, he'd be just--just a thing to strike! He--

And then the door banged open and the players came trooping out, Fred
Lyons in the lead, and Ira fell in with them as they passed and went
back to the field, his thoughts in a strange confusion and a red-hot
anger at his heart.

It was Parkinson's kick-off and Fred, no longer white and tremulous,
but quiet and cheerful and composed, sent the ball skimming the heads
of the charging enemy. Then the battle began again, desperately.
Kenwood settled down to batter her way through the opposing line.
Forward-passes were not for them any longer. They wanted the six
points a touchdown would give them and they meant to have them, and
their way of getting them was to wear down the enemy and make weight
and endurance tell. Minutes passed and the slow, steady grind went
on. Twice Kenwood made her distance through the opposing line, yet,
once past midfield, her plunges failed. Then came a punt, and it was
Parkinson's turn. There was little to choose between those rival teams
today. Offence and defence were evenly matched, and only when one side
was favoured by the wind did that team's kicking excel. Between the two
thirty-yard lines the battle raged until the third period was nearly
gone. Then fortune favoured the visitors and a runner got away past
Fred Lyons and reeled off twenty-odd yards before Dannis brought him
down. The enemy was on the Brown's twenty-two-yards now and it was
first down. Plunge, plunge, plunge! Two yards--three yards--one yard!
Four to go still and only one down left! A fake attack at centre and a
back stealing off to the left, Wells breaking through and bringing him
crashing to earth, cheers and frenzied shrieks of joy and relief from
the Brown stand! Back to midfield then under the ball, and the same
thing to do all over again.

No scoring in that first fifteen minutes. Subs going in now for both
teams. Basker for Dannis, Pearson for Wells, Neely for Brackett on the
Brown. Parkinson works the ends for short gains and then Wirt tears
through the redoubtable Beadle and goes on and on, dodging, turning,
twisting, throwing off tackle after tackle!

The ball is on the enemy's thirty-four-yards. Pearson, fresh and eager,
makes four through tackle on the left, Cole adds two more, Wirt is
stopped. Off goes the ball on a short kick and the Kenwood quarter
is thrown on his five-yard line. Now the Blue desperately tries a
forward-pass again, faking a kick, but Bradford has his man covered
and the ball rolls into the hay. Two attempts at the line and Kenwood
punts far down the field. Basker fumbles, recovers and is thrown on
his twenty-eight. Pearson slips around the end for a yard, Cole gets
three through Beadle, Cole takes the ball for two more, Wirt punts.
And so it goes, and the minutes slip by. Kenwood sees defeat staring
at her now. Eight minutes left and the ball again in midfield. Kenwood
tries desperate tactics. She pulls her line apart and opens her bag
of tricks. Sometimes she fools the enemy and gains, but for the most
part she is forced to fall back on a punt on third down or fourth. Five
minutes left and Parkinson well satisfied now to play on the defensive
and hold what she has. And then, a sudden change in the fortunes of the
game!

It was Basker's fault, for the punt was unmistakably Pearson's. With
both backs trying for it, the pigskin escaped and trickled past, and a
flying Kenwood end was on it. Fortunately, Basker got him in the act of
finding his feet again and pulled him back to earth, but the pigskin
was Kenwood's on Parkinson's twenty-seven-yards and there was time
enough to turn a victory to a defeat!

Then it was that Kenwood made her final, fiercest effort. Straight at
the centre she sent her backs. Slowly but surely the Brown gave way.
Play after play crashed at Lyons and Ira and Donovan, sometimes gaining
a yard, sometimes two, infrequently more. Beadle worked like a wild
man, but the holes weren't always there now. Time and again he brought
up against his opponent as against a stone wall. Something--Beadle
could never guess what--had wrought a change in that smiling-faced
adversary since the first inning. The smile was still there, but it was
a different smile. This man Rowland was playing him out, and he knew it
well now. He couldn't fool him any longer, couldn't turn him in or pull
him past as he had before. Every inch had to be fought for desperately.

Back to her seventeen went Parkinson, fighting hard but giving a
little each time. Kenwood might tie the game now if she chose to try a
field-goal, but Kenwood wanted a victory. Still she aimed her plays at
the centre, from guard to guard, though twice she attempted the ends
and was stopped. Two yards was her best gain, once past the fifteen,
and after that the distances grew shorter each time. With five to go
on fourth down and the ball just short of the ten-yard line, she sent
her quarter sneaking out toward the left end and, somehow, he squirmed
and wriggled through for the distance. Parkinson's supporters were
imploring wildly as the panting teams lined up on the seven-yards.
It was now or never for the Blue, while, if she got over that line,
Parkinson's lot would be defeat, for the minutes were nearly gone.

Kenwood sent her full-back straight at centre. The Brown line bent, but
held. A scant yard was gained. Then an attack on Lyons made two. Third
down now and four to go! Kenwood shifted, thought better of it, changed
her signals and shifted back. Quarter and captain walked apart and
whispered. Then signals again, and once more the plunge came at Ira.
There was a moment of heaving, panting confusion, the charge faltered
and stopped. Another yard was gone!

Kenwood lined up quickly, put her backs in a tandem behind her left
guard and the signals piped once more. But the tandem split and the
ball went again to the big full-back and again he charged, head down,
straight into the centre. Cries, grunts, the rasping of canvas! A surge
forward checked in the instant. A second surge as the Kenwood linesmen
turned in behind the attack. A yard gained! A sudden pause then and,
somewhere, a faint voice grunting "_Down!_"

The whistle shrilled and the referee dived into the mass of squirming
players. One by one they were thrust aside or pulled breathless to
their feet until only two figures remained there on the trampled turf.
One was the fullback with the ball clutched desperately under him,
but a full yard from the line, and the other was the Kenwood centre.
Above the latter stood a boy in a brown uniform who looked down at his
vanquished foe with a queer, crooked smile on his lips.

They lifted Beadle to his uncertain feet presently and carried him
away, and the game went on. But the time was practically up, for after
Wirt had punted from behind his goal and Kenwood had made a fair-catch
on the enemy's forty-five-yard line the final whistle blew and the
Parkinson hordes swept down from the stand and flooded over the field
with waving pennants.

Ira, head hanging, feet dragging, climbed the gymnasium steps. He had
fought off those who would have placed him aloft and borne him around
the field--they had captured fully half the team--and made his escape.
With him was a happy, dirty-visaged Brad and an equally disreputable
Pearson, for substitutes will flock together even in the hour of
triumph, and behind and in front were straggling groups of other
heroes. Brad found Ira strangely taciturn on the way to the gymnasium,
and marvelled. Himself, he could have danced, as tired as he was! They
burst riotously into the building, shouting mightily, and tore off
soaking, dirt-grimed togs.

Ira, struggling grimly with his shirt, heard his name called above the
din and saw Coach Driscoll standing in front of him. The shirt parted
with a rip and Ira stepped forward, free.

"Are we out of training yet, sir?" he asked.

The coach nodded. He was smiling gravely. Ira wondered at that smile
even as he poised himself to strike.

"Wait a minute, Rowland," said Mr. Driscoll quietly. "There's time
enough."

Ira paused irresolutely. "What is it?" he demanded frowningly.

"First, it's an apology," answered the coach. "Don't you understand
yet, Rowland?"

"Understand? Yes, I understand that you--you called me a coward a while
ago, Mr. Driscoll. We're not in training now and you're going to answer
for it!"

"My dear fellow," laughed the coach, "I'm quite ready to answer for
it. But listen to me first, will you? I suppose I played rather a
mean trick on you, but I think the end justifies it. You weren't
doing yourself justice. You weren't half playing the game you could
play--and did play afterwards. And I knew there was only one way to
wake you up, and that that was to make you angry. I'm sorry, Rowland,
if I hurt you, even for a half-hour, but--well, I wanted to win! We
all did! Even you did, though you didn't know it! Rowland, if I hadn't
insulted you you'd never have played Beadle to a standstill, my boy!
We won and you did a big share of the work. And you did it because you
were mad clean through. Now didn't you?"

Ira's look of amazement brought chuckles of amusement from the circle
of listeners.

"You mean that--that you said that just to--to make me play better?"
gasped Ira.

The coach nodded. "Just for that," he said. "And now I apologise.
You're no coward, Rowland, and I never believed you to be. Want to
shake hands and forget it?"

A smile came slowly to Ira's face and he shook his head hopelessly.
"Football," he murmured, "is a funny game!" But he stretched his hand
out and clasped the coach's firmly.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

 --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 Illustrations.

 --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 style has been retained.





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operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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