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´╗┐Title: Jack Winters' Gridiron Chums
Author: Overton, Mark
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Jack Winters' Gridiron Chums" ***

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Tiffany Vergon, Juliet Sutherland, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed


JACK WINTERS' GRIDIRON CHUMS

BY MARK OVERTON



CONTENTS



CHAPTER

I. GRUELLING FOOTBALL PRACTICE

II. THE BOY WHO WAS IN TROUBLE

III. BIG BOB CONFESSES

IV. A FRIEND IN NEED

V. A MESSAGE FROM MARSHALL

VI. JACK AND JOEL INVESTIGATE

VII. STRANGE FRUIT FOR A TREE TO BEAR

VIII. A CALL FOR HELP

IX. HEADED FOR THE FIELD OF BATTLE

X. WHEN THE GREAT GAME OPENED

XI. THE STRUGGLE ON THE GRIDIRON

XII. GLORY ENOUGH FOR ALL

XIII. WHEN BED FIRE BURNED IN CHESTER

XIV. WHAT FOLLOWED THE CELEBRATION

XV. IN THE BURNING HOUSE

XVI. JACK SPEAKS FOR LITTLE CARL

XVII. THE AFTERMATH OF A GOOD DEED

XVIII. BIG BOB BRINGS NEWS

XIX. LOCKING HORNS WITH HARMONY

XX. THE GREAT VICTORY--CONCLUSION

JACK WINTERS' GRIDIRON CHUMS



CHAPTER I

GRUELLING FOOTBALL PRACTICE



A shrill whistle sounded over the field where almost two dozen
sturdily built boys in their middle 'teens, clad in an astonishing
array of old and new football togs, had been struggling furiously.

Instantly the commotion ceased as if by magic at this intimation from
the coach, who also acted in practice as referee and umpire combined,
that the ball was to be considered "dead."

Some of those who helped to make the pack seemed a bit slow about
relieving the one underneath of their weight, for a half-muffled voice
oozed out of the disintegrating mass:

"Get off my back, some of you fellows, won't you? What d'ye take me
for--a land tortoise?"

Laughing and joking, the remaining ingredients of the pyramid
continued to divorce themselves from the heap that at one time had
appeared to consist principally of innumerable arms and legs.

Last of all a long-legged boy with a lean, but good-natured face, now
streaked with perspiration and dirt, struggled to his feet, and began
to feel his lower extremities sympathetically, as though the terrific
strain had centered mostly upon that particular part of his anatomy.

But under his arm he still held pugnaciously to the pigskin oval ball.
The coach, a rather heavy-set man who limped a little, now came
hurrying up. Joe Hooker had once upon a time been quite a noted
college athlete until an accident put him "out of the running," as he
always explained it.

He worked in one of Chester's big mills, and when a revolution in
outdoor sports swept over the hitherto sleepy manufacturing town, Joe
Hooker gladly consented to assume the congenial task of acting as
coach to the youngsters, being versed in all the intricacies of gilt-
edged baseball and football.

It had been very much owing to his excellent work as a severe drill-
master that Chester, during the season recently passed, had been able
actually to win the deciding game of baseball of the three played
against the hitherto invincible Harmony nine.

Mr. Charles Taft, principal owner of the mill in question, was in full
sympathy with this newly aroused ambition on the part of the Chester
boys to excel in athletic sports. He himself had been a devoted
adherent of all such games while in college, and the fascination had
never entirely died out of his heart. So he saw to it that Joe Hooker
had considerable latitude in the way of afternoons off, in order that
the town boys might profit by his advice and coaching.

"A clever run, that, Joel," he now told the bedraggled boy who had
just been downed, after dragging two of his most determined opponents
several yards. "The ball still belongs to your side. Another yard, my
lad, and you would have made a clean touchdown. A few weeks of hard
practice like this and you boys, unless I miss my guess, ought to be
able to put old Chester on the gridiron map where she belongs. Now
let's go back to the tackle job again, and the dummy. Some of you, I'm
sorry to say, try to hurl yourselves through the air like a catapult,
when the rules of the game say plainly that a tackle is only fair and
square so long as one foot remains in contact with the ground."

So Joe Hooker had been laying down the law to his charges every decent
afternoon, when school was out, for going on two weeks now. He seemed
to feel very much encouraged over the progress made by a number of the
boys.

Already he had weeded out three aspirants for honors on the eleven,
who had shown no genuine aptitude for the exciting game where headwork
and footwork combined go to bring success.

Others feared the coach had his eagle eye fastened on them, being
doubtless conscious-stricken with the knowledge that they were not in
their element. Indeed, it was no unusual thing to hear one of these
boys say to his mates that he hardly knew whether he cared to try for
the squad after all; which admission would serve to let him down
gracefully in case his suspicions were later on confirmed.

But there were others who developed wonderfully under the friendly
instruction of the one-time star player. Among them, besides the tall
chap, Joel Jackman, might be mentioned a number of boys whose
acquaintance the reader of other volumes in this series has already
formed.

There was Jack Winters, looked upon as a leader in all sports, and
late captain of the baseball nine; it seemed to be already taken for
granted that he was bound to be given some position on the gridiron,
for Jack seemed to have a wonderful faculty for getting the best out
of those who played in strenuous games with him.

Jack Winters was really something of a newcomer in Chester, but he had
hardly landed in the old town than something seemed to awaken; for
Jack made up his mind it was a shame that, with so much good material
floating around loose, Chester could not emulate the example of the
neighboring towns of Harmony and Marshall, and do something. There
were those who said Jack's coming was to Chester like the cake of
yeast set in a pan of dough, for things soon began to happen.

Then there was Toby Hopkins, one of Jack's particular chums, a lively
fellow, and a general favorite. Another who bore himself well, and
often elicited a word of praise from the coach, was sturdy Steve
Mullane, also a chum of the Winters boy. Besides these, favorable
mention might also be made of Big Bob Jeffries, who surely would be
chosen to play fullback on account of his tremendous staying
qualities; Fred Badger, the lively third baseman who had helped so
much to win that deciding game from Harmony before a tremendous crowd
of people over in the rival town; and several other boys who may be
recognized as old acquaintances when the time comes to describe their
doings on the gridiron.

It was now well into October.

Already the leaves had begun to turn scarlet and gold on some of the
hedges, and even in the forest, where the boys were beginning to go
for the early nuts. Early in the mornings there was a decided tang to
the air that hinted at frost. Considerable talk was being indulged in
whenever a group of boys came together, concerning the prospects for a
regular old-fashioned winter, and many hopes along this line were
indulged in.

There was a good reason for this, Chester being most favorably
situated to afford her young people a chance to enjoy ice sports when
the bitter weather came along. Right at her door lay beautiful Lake
Constance, several miles across; and the intake at the upper end near
the abandoned logging camp was the crooked and picturesque Paradise
River, where wonderful vistas opened up with each hundred yards, did
any one care to skate up its course for miles.

And with this newly aroused spirit for outdoor sports in the air, also
a splendid gymnasium in the course of building where the boys of
Chester could enjoy themselves stormy days, and many nights, during
the winter, it can be easily understood that a glorious prospect
loomed up before them. Why, over in Harmony they were getting
decidedly envious of the good luck that had befallen Chester; and all
reports agreed that their football squad was working fiercely overtime
with the idea of overwhelming utterly all rivals on the gridiron, once
the Fall sports opened.

By slow degrees, as he saw best, Joe Hooker was leading his charges
along the rugged path; for there is no loyal road to a knowledge of
the intricacies of successful football. Constant practice alone will
make a player act through intuition, since the plays are so lightning-
like that there is never any time to figure out what is to be done;
all that must be considered beforehand, and the player be able to
decide what the most probable scheme of his opponents is likely to be.

After they had again gone through a series of tackles, using the
dangling dummy for the practice, and being shown by old Joe in a
spectacular fashion just what was the proper and lawful method of
interfering with the man who was supposed to be running with the ball,
play was called off for the day.

It was about time, for some of the fellows were panting for breath,
owing to the vigorous way in which they had been working. Besides,
most of them would need a bath before they could be allowed to sit
down at the family table.

"I've been asked by several persons deeply interested in football,"
Joe Hooker remarked, as they gathered around him for a parting word,
some looking anxious, as though they half expected to receive their
dismissal then and there, though it was not Joe's way to "rub" it into
any one, "what chance we had to meet Harmony with a team that would be
a credit to Chester. To all such I give the same answer. There is no
reason to despair. We have plenty of promising material, though it
will need constant whipping to get it in shape between now and the
first game with Marshall. That will be a test. If we down those
fighters we can hope to meet Harmony on something like even terms.
Tomorrow I shall have to drop out several boys who, I'm sorry to say,
do not show the proper qualifications for the rough game; but I want
them to understand that we appreciate their offering their services,
and we need their backing all the time. Our motto must be 'Everything
for Chester!' Now get away with you, and if the day is half-way
decent, meet me here tomorrow, prepared to strive harder than ever to
hustle for victory."

And with that the boys commenced to start homeward.



CHAPTER II

THE BOY WHO WAS IN TROUBLE



As usually happened, the three inseparables, Jack, Toby and Steve,
kept company on the way home. They had much in common, and only that
summer the trio had spent a glorious two weeks camping up in the woods
of the Pontico Hills country. There were a number of remarkable things
connected with that outing, and if the reader has not enjoyed already
its perusal, he would do well to secure the preceding volume of this
series, and learn just what astonishing feat Jack and his chums
carried to success.[Footnote: "Jack Winters' Campmates."]

"I wish both of you could drop over after supper," Toby Hopkins was
saying as they trudged along with the air of tired though contented
boys. "I've got those plans for our new iceboat nearly finished, with
several novel suggestions which I'd like to ask your opinion about
before I order the wood to make it in my shop."

"I guess I can run across lots, and spend half an hour with you,
Toby," Jack announced; "though I couldn't promise to stay late,
because I ought to be doing some of my lessons, you know. This
football work afternoons throws everything out of gear."

"Sorry to say I'll have to beg off this time," said Steve. "Fact is,
I've got a date, and couldn't break away very easily. Another time
will have to do, Toby. And of course whatever you and Jack decide on
goes with me, you understand."

In fact it was almost always that way, such unlimited confidence had
both Toby and Steve come to place in Jack Winters. But then he merited
all their high esteem, for rarely did things go wrong when Jack's hand
was at the helm; he seemed to be one of those fellows whose judgment
is right nine times out of ten. Looking back, the Chester lads could
begin to understand what a great day it had been for them when Jack
came to town, full of ideas which he had imbibed in the lively city
where his folks had formerly lived.

"I'm more than ever convinced," Toby went on to say, reflectively,
"that we'll be able to put a flier on the ice this coming winter that
will have everything beaten a mile. It works out all right in theory
anyway."

"The proof of the pudding is in the eating," chuckled Steve, who
apparently was not built along quite as sanguine lines as Toby. "But
then it'll be a heap of fun to try something new. All the iceboats
I've ever seen around here have always been built after the same old
model. Nobody ever seemed to think they could be improved on the least
bit; and that it was only a matter of the pilot jockeying in order to
blanket his rival and win out."

"Joe Hooker seems to be taking considerable stock in what we're doing
to build up a machine for gridiron work," mentioned Jack, with a ring
of satisfaction in his voice. "I certainly hope we can make things hum
around here this Fall. Chester's hour has struck, it seems; and after
our baseball victories we ought to be just in time to carry our colors
to a sweeping triumph over Harmony and Marshall."

"Some of the boys are showing up splendidly," Steve continued. "I'm a
whole lot disappointed, though, in my work today, but I expect to
improve, and hope to make the team when the final choice is reached."

"Huh! I guess there isn't much chance of _you_ being dropped, Steve,"
snorted Toby. "I only wish I was as sure of being retained on the
honor roll. That run of mine today was as punk a thing as any
greenhorn could have attempted. I saw Joe look at me as if he'd like
to eat me, and I felt so small I could have crawled into any old rat-
hole. But I mean to surprise him yet, see if I don't. I've got the
faith to believe I can play quarterback, and I will, I tell you; I'm
thinking of it most of the night while I lie awake."

"That kind of grit will take you a long ways, Toby, believe me, "said
Jack encouragingly. "All of us fall far short of perfection; but Joe
is persistent and I've no doubt he already knows just who the members
of the team will be, barring accidents, also the substitutes in the
bargain."

"We were mighty lucky to have such a dandy coach right at hand,"
declared Steve; "and Mr. Taft is the best sort of a man to lend him to
us so much, at a loss to himself. He contributed heavily to the fund
for building the gym, too, I understand."

"Yes," added Jack, "a town that has a few public-spirited citizens of
his type is to be congratulated. But here's where I leave you, and
hike across lots to my shack, where a nice bath awaits me. See you
later, Toby; and sorry you can't join us, Steve."

"Oh! bother," chuckled Toby, maliciously; "he's got something a whole
lot better to attend to than just jabbering with his two chums over
the lines of a projected iceboat wonder."

Good-natured Steve only laughed in return, though had the gloaming not
been settled down so early, the other fellows might have seen his
cheeks flaming; for Steve was an exceedingly modest chap, and easily
flustered.

Jack Winters reached home, and had his bath in time to come to the
table when the supper bell rang. And it goes without saying that his
appetite showed no sign of flagging on that occasion, for football
work is calculated to put a keen edge on a boy's natural desire for
food.

Later on he again set forth, after a hack at his lessons, and turned
to make his way across lots along a well-worn path, in this fashion
cutting off several corners, and shortening the distance, which is
apparently a thing desired by every American lad.

It was about eight when he arrived at the Hopkins domicile, and was
let in by Toby himself. The other seemed wildly excited, for the first
thing he did was to burst forth with:

"Jack, I've gone and done it, I do believe, this time! Yes, sir, I've
struck an idea that promises fairly to revolutionize iceboats. It came
to me like a flash, and I'm wild to know what you think about it."

Jack did not enthuse as much as Toby would have liked to see. Truth to
tell, Jack had known several of these wonderful "theories" which Toby
had conjured up, to fail in coming up to expectation when put to the
test; so he did not allow himself to anticipate too much.

Nevertheless when the idea was gone over he admitted that there might
really be something in it.

"Perhaps you _have_ struck something worth while at last, Toby," he
told the other, "and we can work it out by degrees when we get down
to actual business. Evidently, you've got an inventive mind, and you
needn't despair if a whole lot of your ideas do go by the board. Every
inventor has conceived a score of schemes to one he's adopted. Even a
failure may be the stepping-stones to success, you know." "That's
good of you to say as much, Jack, old chap, when I do think up some of
the greatest fool notions ever heard of," acknowledged Toby; "but it's
my plan to keep right on, and encourage my brain to work along that
groove. I feel it's going to be my forte in life to invent things. I'd
rather be known as the man who had lightened the burdens of mankind
than to be a famous general who had conquered the world."

Jack did not stay longer than half an hour, but during that time he
went over the whole scheme of building the new iceboat in Toby's shop.

"I've got all the specifications down in black and white, you see,
Jack," the other said at the door, "as to what we'll need; and now
that you've approved, I shall start right in and order the stuff
tomorrow. The sooner we get started the better; though I don't suppose
we'll really have much spare time to work at it until after
Thanksgiving, and the big game with Harmony is over."

So Jack said goodnight and went out of the front door. Usually he was
wont to whistle as he crossed the lots that would serve as a short cut
to his own house; but somehow tonight he was busily engaged with his
thoughts, and forgot to indulge in this favorite pastime.

It was a moonless night.

The stars shone brightly in the blue dome above, but gave very little
light; although it was not really dark anywhere inside the confines of
Chester, since the streets were pretty generally illuminated with
electricity.

Jack had just started across lots when he made a discovery that
aroused his curiosity a little. There was a queer sort of light
flickering beyond him. He quickly realized that some person must be
walking the same way as he was, and carrying one of those useful
little hand-electric torches, which he seemed to be moving this way
and that in an erratic fashion.

"Whoever it is," Jack told himself presently, "I do believe he is
looking in the grass for something he's lost."

Walking on and a bit faster than the unknown seemed to be going, he
soon drew closer, and was able to see that it was a boy who bent over
and scrutinized everything upon which the light of his flashlight
fell. Once he uttered an exclamation of sudden delight and made a jump
forward, only to stop short, and give a doleful grant as though
discovering his mistake.

"Oh! how cruel to fool me so," Jack heard him mutter to himself; "only
a scrap of waste paper, and I thought I'd found it. Twice now I've
gone over the whole lot, and never a trace have I seen. Oh! what shall
I do about it? I wish I knew."

Jack by now had recognized the boy as Big Bob Jeffries, the heavy-
hitting outfielder of the Chester baseball team, and who was admitted
as standing a first-rate chance to be made the sturdy fullback of the
new eleven in football.

He was filled with curiosity to know what ailed Big Bob. Something he
must have certainly lost which he was now endeavoring to find again,
and, if his lament was to be taken at its face value, without much
success.

Jack was always ready to lend a helping hand to a comrade in distress.
He had proved this on numerous former occasions, so that his first
thought was to speak to Big Bob, and ask what was wrong.

At the sound of his voice the other started as though shot, and Jack
could see that his face, usually florid and cheery, looked white and
drawn. Undoubtedly, then, the Jeffries boy was suffering acutely on
account of some carelessness on his own part. Jack suspected that he
might have lost some money which he had been carrying home for his
mother. As the path was used by a number of persons to "cut corners,"
it would be next door to a miracle if the lost cash were found again,
unless the one who had picked it up proved to be an honest citizen.

"Oh! is that you, Jack?" said Bob, in a trembling tone, as he turned
his flashlight so that its rays fell full upon the other boy. "You
certainly did give me an awful jolt, because I didn't dream anybody
was so near by. On your way home, I reckon? Well, I suppose I might as
well give it up, and go home, too; but I hate to the worst kind, I
sure do."

"What's the matter--lost something, Bob?" asked Jack, joining the
other.

Bob Jeffries did not answer for a brief time. He was apparently
pondering over the matter, and trying to decide in his mind just how
far he ought to take Jack into his confidence. Then, as though some
sudden impulse urged him to make a clean breast of the facts, he broke
out with:

"Jack, to tell you the honest truth, I'm in just a peck of trouble for
a fact. You asked me if I lost anything, and you'll think me a bit
daffy when I tell you I don't know--I only fear the worst. I'm going
to tell you all about it, Jack, because I feel sure you'll never give
me away; and maybe yon might even help me."



CHAPTER III

BIG BOB CONFESSES



"Look here, Bob, suppose we adjourn over to my house and have our
little talk out in my den. I've got some comfortable chairs there, as
you happen to know; and it'll be a heap better than standing here,
where people may come along any old time and interrupt us."

That last line of argument seemed to convince Bob, for he immediately
agreed.

"The fact is, Jack," he went on to say, "I wouldn't want to have
anybody hear what I'm going to tell you now. It certainly is a shame
how I've muddled this thing up, and I guess I deserve all I'm getting
in the shape of worry. It's going to be a lesson to me, I give you my
word on that, Jack."

They were trudging along in company when Big Bob said that. Of course
such talk could only excite Jack's natural curiosity still more. He
began to understand that whatever the other had been searching for was
not his own property, for he was hardly the kind of fellow, inclined
to be careless, and free from anxiety, to let such a personal loss
bother him greatly.

Presently the pair found themselves in Jack's particular room, which
he, like most boys of the present day, liked to call his "den." It was
an odd-shaped room for which there had really been no especial use,
and which the boy had fitted up with a stove, chairs, table and
bookcases, also covering the walls with college pennants, and all
manner of things connected with boys' sports.

Jack closed the door carefully.

"Pick your chair, Bob, and I'll draw up close to you," he said,
briskly, as though bent on raising the other's drooping spirits
without any delay, just by virtue of his own cheery manner.

Bob looked as though he had lost his last friend. He sighed and then
started to tell just what ailed him.

"Seems like I've grown three years older since I suddenly failed to
remember about that particular letter father gave me to be sure to
post before the afternoon mail went out. I had some others, you see,
two of my own, and three that Mom gave me. I can recollect shoving
them in the shute one by one; but for the life of me, Jack, I can't
say positively that the one going across to England was with the
bunch. Oh! it gave me a cold chill when I first had that awful thought
I'd lost it on the way. I remembered pulling something out of my
pocket when crossing that shortcut path, and that's why I hurried
there with my light, hoping to discover it in the grass."

Jack understood what lay back of this. He chanced to know Bob's father
was reckoned a very stern man, and that he had grown weary of Bob's
customary way of forgetting things, or doing them in a slipshod
fashion. He even knew that Mr. Jeffries had laid down the law to his
son, and promised to punish him severely the next time he showed such
carelessness.

"It's too bad, Bob, of course it is, but then don't despair yet," Jack
told the other boy. "There is always a good chance that you did put
that particular letter in the post-office. We'll try to find out if
Mr. Dickerson, the postmaster, or his assistant, chanced to notice a
letter addressed to England. It must have been of considerable
importance, I take it from what you've said already."

"It was just that, Jack; and father impressed its importance on me
when he handed it to me stamped, and ready to go. I think it means
something big in a business deal of his. Now, in these times when war
has gripped nearly the whole world, Uncle Sam with the rest, it's a
long wait before you can expect an answer to a letter going abroad,
even if the German submarines allow it to reach there. And if I don't
find out the truth now, just think of the days and weeks I'll be
worrying my head off about that letter! Oh! it makes me just sick to
even think of it. I could kick myself with right good pleasure."

Jack realized that this was bound to be the long-needed lesson, by
means of which careless Bob would cut loose from his pernicious habit
of taking everything free--and--easy. Good might spring from evil, and
what now seemed to be a crowing disaster, the boy was likely in later
days to look upon as a blessing in disguise.

"If you'd like, Bob," he told his friend, to ease the strain, "I'll
see the postmaster in the morning, and without arousing his suspicions
find out if he noticed a letter directed to England in the mail
yesterday. There are not so many foreign letters going out of Chester
these days but what such a thing might happen to catch his eye. If he
says there was, of course that'll settle the matter. Even if he didn't
happen to notice any such, you mustn't believe it is absolutely
certain you dropped it."

"I'd give anything to just know, one way or another. Then I could, if
the worst turned out to be true, tell my father, and stand the
consequences, for he'd be able to rewrite the letter, you see. But,
Jack, it would hit me terribly hard if he has to know what a fool I've
been; because he told me if he caught me in any bit of carelessness
again this Fall he'd force me to give up all my connection with the
football squad, and not even allow me to attend the gym this Winter.
Oh! he's in dead earnest this time, and I'm afraid my goose is cooked.
It'd almost break my heart to be shut off from connection with my
mates in athletic sports, because I'm crazy about such things, you
know; it's in the blood, I guess."

Big Bob stretched out his massive arms when saying this, as though to
call the attention of his companion to his splendid physique. Indeed,
he did look like a boy whom a generous Nature intended to take part in
every conceivable manner of athletic sports; no fellow in all Chester
was built in quite such a massive mould as Big Bob Jeffries.

"I tell you what let's do," said Jack, immediately afterwards; "I'll
get my lantern, and we'll walk back over that path. Possibly the wind
may have carried the letter further away than where you looked. How
about that, Bob?"

"It's mighty kind of you to take so much trouble for such a stupid
comrade, Jack, and let me tell you I appreciate it a heap. Yes, and
I'll also get out before dawn in the morning to scour every yard of
ground on the way from my house to the post-office. If I could only
find that letter I'd be the happiest fellow in Chester, believe me."

So they once more donned their caps, and Jack lighted the lantern he
had mentioned. While its rays might not be as strong as the glow of
the hand-torch, it was able to cover much more ground at a time; and
with its help a white envelope half hidden in the long grass could not
escape detection.

Jack could easily understand just what had happened to Big Bob. He had
become so "rattled" when that dreadful suspicion first flashed into
his brain after supper that for the life of him he found it impossible
to say positively one thing or the other. Now he thought he could
remember distinctly pushing the important letter through the slot or
drop inside the post-office; and immediately afterwards doubts again
assailed him, leaving him worse off. after each experience.

If they failed to find the letter, and the postmaster and his
assistant had no recollection of having noticed it in cancelling the
stamps of the heap that went out with the afternoon mail, then there
was no help for it; and poor Bob was doomed to wait day after day, as
even weeks went on, always dreading lest each morning was destined to
usher in the time when his great crime must come to light, and his
punishment begin.

They were soon on the spot, and each with his separate light started
to carefully examine the long and tangled grass, now partly dead, that
lay on either side of the well-worn path across the lots.

Doubtless Bob's heart still beat high with hope and anticipation; for
when Jack on one occasion started to say something he saw the other
whirl around as though thrilled with expectations that were
immediately doomed to disappointment.

Nothing rewarded their search. Bob might further satisfy himself, and
believe he was only doing his duty, by coming out again at peep of
dawn and once more covering the ground before giving it up as
hopeless; but Jack felt certain nothing would be found. If that letter
had dropped from the boy's pocket, then some one must have long since
picked it up. He believed he would hear of it if this person, being
honest, delivered the letter at the post-office, and told how he had
come to find it on the vacant lot.

"Well, it's no use looking any further, I guess, Jack," Big Bob now
remarked, in a decidedly dejected tone, after they had gone twice over
the entire width of the three lots, and without any success attending
their efforts.

"I'm afraid not, Bob," the other admitted with genuine regret, because
he felt just as sorry as could be for the poor chap. "I suppose you'll
sleep mighty little tonight, for worrying over this thing. Try your
level best to follow out all you did when in the post-office. Some
little thing may recall to your mind that you certainly did drop that
particular letter in the slot."

"I will, Jack, surely I will," Bob told him, vigorously; "but I'm
afraid it won't do much good. You see, I've become so mixed up by now,
thinking one thing and then another, that no matter what did happen I
couldn't honestly say I remembered it. But I still have a little hope
you'll hear good news from Mr. Dickerson; or that in the morning it
may be handed in at our house, for my dad put his full address on the
back flap, I remember that very distinctly. Yes, I'd be willing to
stand my gruelling and not whimper if only it turned up."

He walked away looking quite down-hearted, Jack saw. Really he felt
very sorry for Big Bob Jeffries. The latter was well liked, having a
genial disposition, like nearly all big boys do, the smaller runts
being the scrappy ones as a rule, as every one knows who has observed
the lads in their play hours, and made any sort of a study of their
characteristics.

On another occasion Jack well remembered he had come very nearly
losing one of the best players on the baseball nine, when the pitcher,
Alec Donohue, appeared exceedingly gloomy, and confessed to Jack that
as his father was unable to obtain work in the Chester mills and
shops, and had been offered a position over in Harmony, he feared that
he would thus become ineligible to pitch for Chester.

But Jack, as so often happened when trouble beset him, took the bull
by the horns. He went and saw a gentleman who could give Mr. Donohue
employment, and enlisted his sympathy. It had all ended right, by a
place being found for the man who was out of work; and so Alec pitched
the great game whereby Harmony's famous team went down to a crushing
defeat.

Jack could not but take note of the similar conditions by which
Chester was to be threatened with the loss of one of the strongest
members of her team.

"Looks as though history liked to repeat itself," Jack mused, as he
walked back home after parting company with Big Bob; "only in this
case it's the football eleven that's liable to be weakened if Bob's
father takes him out; and we never could scare up a fullback equal to
him if we raked old Chester with a fine-tooth comb. So I certainly
hope it'll all come out right yet, I surely do!"



CHAPTER IV

A FRIEND IN NEED



It lacked only five minutes or so of the school hour on the following
morning when Jack Winters, hurrying along, was intercepted by a
disturbed looking boy, who had been impatiently awaiting his arrival.

Of course this was none other than Big Bob Jeffries, who had kept
aloof from all his customary associates ever since arriving, and had
never once taken his eyes off the street along which he knew Jack must
come.

He seized hold of the other eagerly. Jack needed no second look to
convince him that poor Bob had passed a wretched night. His eyes were
red, and there was an expression of mute misery on his usually merry
face, that doubtless had induced more than one fellow to ask if he
felt ill. No doubt Bob had a stereotyped answer to this sympathetic
question, which was to the effect that he was "not feeling himself."

"Oh! I thought you'd never come along, Jack!" he exclaimed, in a voice
that quivered with eagerness and anxiety; "though of course I
understood that you must be waiting for Mr. Dickerson to be free to
talk with you. Tell me what you did, please, Jack?"

"I'm sorry to say I couldn't learn much at the post-office," the other
hastened to say, determined not to keep Bob in suspense any longer
than could be helped.

"But you did ask about the foreign letters, didn't you, Jack?"

"Yes, I worked that part of it pretty well, and managed to get into a
talk about the great difficulty which most foreigners here in this
country found in communicating with their old folks abroad. Mr.
Dickerson said there was a time when every day he had quite a batch of
letters going out to different countries; because you know there are
many foreign workers in our mills here, and they were constantly
sending money home to their poor folks. But as the war went on, he
said, they began to write less and less, because they feared the
letters were being held up by the British, or the vessels being sunk
with all the mail aboard by the German subs. So he said it was a rare
event nowadays for him to cancel the stamps on a foreign letter,
though he had one yesterday, he remembered."

"Yesterday, Jack? Oh! what do you mean?"

"But it was to Italy the letter was going," Jack hastened to explain.
"Mr. Dickerson said he took particular pains to notice it, because the
stamp was put on the wrong end of the envelope. He remembered that
Luigi, the bootblack at the railroad station, always insisted on doing
this. He also read the address, which was to Luigi's parents in
Genoa."

Big Bob's face darkened again.

"Too bad!" he muttered, disconsolately; "why couldn't that letter he
chanced to notice have been my lost one? Hard luck, I must say, all
around."

"Then you didn't meet with anything this morning, I take it, Bob?"
continued Jack, hardly knowing what to say in order to raise the
drooping spirits of his friend.

Big Bob shook his head in the negative.

"Not a thing, Jack," he went on to admit, "though I was really out,
and walking up and down that path at peep of day. I couldn't tell you
how many times I went over the ground without finding anything. Why, I
even remembered which way the breeze was blowing yesterday, and spent
most of my time on that particular side of the path. Think of that,
will you, Jack; and yet for the life of me I can't positively
recollect whether I did drop that letter into the slot along with the
rest. I must be getting looney, that's what."

"Well, you've just got to brace up, Bob, and believe it's all right,"
Jack told him, slapping the other heartily on the shoulder, boy
fashion. "As time goes on you'll sort of get used to it; and then some
fine day your father will speak of having heard from his correspondent
abroad."

"Thank you for trying to bolster up my nerve, Jack It's mighty nice of
you in the bargain. I'll need your counsel more than a few times from
now on, and I'm right glad I can have some one to go to when I feel so
sick with the suspense, All the while I'm waiting and hoping I've got
to tremble every time my father speaks to me That's the result of
having a guilty conscience you know. I've read about such things
before, but this is the first time I've actually had the experience
myself."

"Besides," continued Jack, "even if you did mail the letter, that's no
assurance it would ever reach the party he wrote to. Many a vessel has
gone down before arriving at its destination, a victim to the terrible
policy of the Germans with their U-boats. And of course the mail sinks
when the boat goes down in the war zone. If your father were wise he
would duplicate that letter several times, and in that way make sure
one of them had a chance to reach the party abroad."

"Do you know I thought of that myself, Jack!" exclaimed Bob, quickly;
"but you see it would never do for me to mention it to him. Why, he'd
suspect something lay back of it at once, and ask me the question that
I shall be dreading to hear--'Did you positively mail that letter I
gave you?' Jack, sometimes I can see just those words in fiery letters
a foot high facing me, even when I close my eyes. It makes me think of
the handwriting on the wall that appeared before the eyes of that old
worthy, a victorious general, I believe it was, or an ancient king,
but which spelled his doom."

"If I knew of anything else I could do to help you, Bob, I'd be happy
to try. Now, I do remember reading an account of a gentleman who
carried out the very policy of follow-up letters that I was speaking
about. He explained how to make sure he reached his correspondent
across the water he would send a duplicate letter every week for a
whole month; and so far he had never failed to connect, although more
than one boat carrying his letters went down. Now, perhaps I can find
that same newspaper, and give it to you. If you placed it where your
father would be apt to pick it up, with the article marked a little,
he'd read it, and might act upon it."

"That sounds good to me, Jack. Please look hard, and see if you can
run across that paper. It might be the solution of the whole thing. If
father wrote again and even a third time I'd lose my guilty fears,
because one of his letters would be bound to get across."

"Why, even the possibility of this proving to be a success caused the
boy to smile, though he looked almost comical while so doing, because
his heart still hung like lead in his breast.

"Well, try and forget it all you can, Bob," Jack went on to say,
encouragingly. "I believe I can find that paper, and I'll hunt far and
wide for it, I give you my word. If anything else strikes me
meanwhile, I'll speak to you about it. If I were you I'd throw myself
into the game, and that ought to help you forget your troubles."

"Yes, it's all very good for the time being, Jack," sighed the other,
"but say, after the excitement is all over with, and you find yourself
nearing the house, and father, the most terrible feeling grips you
around your heart. I know I'll have a perfectly terrible month of it,
every day seeming to be forty-eight hours long. But it serves me
right. After this Bob Jeffries will be a reformed boy, I give you my
word for that. Never again can I allow myself to grow careless, and do
important things as though I was in a dream. I've awakened at last,
Jack."

"Then if that is so, Bob, you're bound to profit by your lesson. It
may seem hard, but in the long run it'll pay you many times over. I'll
not mention your trouble to either of my chums, though for that matter
both Toby and Steve would feel just as sorry as I do. Still, there's
no way they could help you, and for your sake and peace of mind I'll
keep mum."

Big Bob impulsively clutched Jack's hand, and squeezed it so fiercely
that it actually hurt.

"You're a friend worth having, Jack Winters!" he exclaimed, warmly,
while his eyes seemed to dim in a strange fashion, though he winked
several times to conceal the fact that tears were near. "You put fresh
heart into a fellow every time. If you can find that paper with the
account of the duplicate letters in it, please let me know, and I'll
run over to your house to get it."

"I'll give a big look tonight," Jack assured him; "and I'm almost sure
I know just where I saw it. Father never allows papers to be destroyed
under a month old, and it'll likely be up in the attic. Depend on me
to get it for you, Bob."

Just then the high school bell started to ring, and both lads had to
hurry to enter in time. Bob braced up and tried to assume his ordinary
look. His pride came to the rescue, for no boy likes to find himself
an object of commiseration among his mates. As for Jack, he had to put
the entire matter from his mind just then, having other things to
occupy his attention.

But every time he chanced to look toward Big Bob during that day's
session it would be to find the other staring eagerly toward him; and
a peculiar smile would creep across the big fellow's face when he
caught Jack's eye. He was depending on this comrade to extricate him
from the pit which his own carelessness had dug for his feet. And Bob
was finding how good it was at such a crucial time in his life to have
a reliable friend upon whom to lean. Again and again he doubtless told
himself how lucky he was to be so favored.

It may be said in passing that Jack did inaugurate a search among the
latest pile of papers in the attic that night, and after a thorough
hunt actually succeeded in locating the article he had mentioned. His
wonderful memory had again served him in good stead, for it turned out
to be in the very periodical he had had in mind.

He even went to the trouble to drop over to give Big Bob the paper,
marking with, a blue pencil the article just above the item in
question. Any one reading this interesting account of something
connected with the war must naturally have his attention arrested by
the heading just below it, which ran: "How to make sure foreign
letters reach their destination in spite of U-boats;" and then went on
to tell how the gentleman in question sent out follow-up letters,
exact duplicates of the original one.

Bob was intensely interested.

"I can fix it," he assured Jack, "so that this paper will be lying on
the floor of the library. I'm glad you had it wrapped around that old
sweater you were returning, because if father should ask me about it I
can truthfully say I believe you brought it here in that way, and that
I must have dropped it in the library; which would be just like my
careless habits of the past, you know, Jack."

Taken altogether Jack thought it a pretty good scheme. It might work,
too, which would be a fine thing for everyone concerned; since Mr.
Jeffries would be sure of having his letter reach its destination, and
poor Bob could be relieved of at least a portion of the load that was
weighing on his mind.

When Jack left Bob after a short stay, he saw that fresh hope had
already taken hold of the other's heart. It had been the fact that he
did not know which way to turn in order to try to remedy his mistake
that had been the chief cause for the boy's desperation. Now that
there was at least a little chance of the ugly affair coming out all
right, Bob was beginning to pluck up fresh courage.



CHAPTER V

A MESSAGE FROM MARSHALL



"What does this mean, Phil Parker? Why are you sitting here and
watching the boys get the right dope from Joe Hooker out there on the
field? I thought you were sure to land a tackle job."

The speaker, a student who wore glasses, and therefore could have no
hope of taking part in such a rough game as football, slapped a fellow
on the back who was wearing the blue and white sweater of a Chester
athlete.

Phil Parker, who had done yeoman service as left fielder on the
baseball nine the preceding summer, laughed as he went on to reply.

"Oh! the fortunes of war, Doc. I chanced to be one of those who didn't
come up to the scratch with old Joe. And I want to say right now he
was right when he made up his mind I wasn't fast enough for his team.
I hurt my leg a month ago, and it's never been quite as strong since.
I've been expecting to hear something drop, and now it's come I'm
actually relieved. The strain is over, and I can root for our team
with the rest from the side lines."

"You're the right sort, Phil, I must say," the other student
continued, warmly. "With you it's a question of Chester first, last,
and all the time. Personal matters ought never to have any part in
such things. Every boy ought to be ready and willing to sacrifice
himself for the good of the team. That's what I heard Jack telling
Archie Frazer, who's also been dropped; but his Scotch blood seemed to
be up, and he looked as if he had a personal grievance against old Joe
for letting him go."

But the wisdom of the coach weeding out the weak brothers was already
beginning to bear fruit. Anyone who knew football could easily see
that there was a distinct gain in the general work. It is just as
happens in a convoy of vessels trying to slip past waiting submarines;
the fastest has to hold up for the slowest, and in consequence much
valuable time is lost. It has even been figured that this loss of time
amounts to fifty per cent in all.

A new fire and ambition seemed to possess the players on this
afternoon. They appeared to adapt themselves to the conditions much
more readily than at any time in the past It might be the steady work
of the coach was beginning to make itself shown; and that the boys who
remained, under the belief that they now had a good chance of becoming
members of the fighting eleven, were induced to throw themselves into
the battle with fresh vigor.

Joe Hooker encouraged them constantly. His was a policy of this kind,
whereas some coaches think it expedient constantly to keep telling
their charges that they are unusually dull, and will never make
themselves a fighting force; which is apt to discourage fellows, and
fail to bring out all that is in them. Joe believed that enthusiasm
and a firm belief in themselves would in the end serve best.

Another thing Joe did, which was to let down the unfortunate ones who
must be dropped as easily as he could. He talked to them all like a
father, and tried to impress it upon their minds that while Chester
might not be able to utilize their services that season, there was
another time coming. Besides, he endeavored to arouse their pride in
connection with the home town, and beg them to do everything in their
power to assist in encouraging those who were finally selected to
battle on the gridiron for supremacy.

Outside of Archie Frazer no one had shown any ill feeling about the
matter; but all tried to take it as the fortunes of war. Jack himself
had made up his mind to have a heart-to-heart talk with Archie, to try
to win him over. They needed all the backing possible in order to
bring success. When there is any bitterness in the hearts of some of
those who ought to be shouting themselves hoarse for the home team, it
always hurts.

Jack at one time, when resting, and giving another fellow a chance to
get in the game, suddenly discovered a strange face amidst the crowd
that had gathered to watch the practice. He looked closer, and then
remembered where he had seen the boy before.

"Tell me, Stanley," he said to one of the fellows close by, "isn't
that Horace Bushnell, from Marshall? I seem to remember him playing on
their team when we took that game from them last summer."

"That's right, Jack, Horace it is," came the reply. "He played on
third, you may remember, and made some rattling good stops in the
bargain, that were ticketed for clean singles or even doubles. I was
speaking with him a bit ago. He says he's just dropped over to see
what's going on in old Chester, once asleep, but suddenly resurrected
since you came to town. You'll find Horace a pretty decent sort of
fellow, and built along the right lines too."

Jack sauntered over to where the boy was standing watching the
exciting melee just then taking place out there on the field, with old
Joe Hooker dancing and limping around like mad, shouting directions,
or blowing his referee's whistle to indicate that the ball was dead,
and that a fresh start must be made.

"Hello! Bushnell!" said Jack, extending his hand with that Free
Masonry that always exists among boys. "I thought I recognized you,
and asked if you didn't come from Marshall way. Took a notion to see
how we were getting along over here, did you? Well, we're making
progress, I suppose, but only for our luck in having such a cracker-
jack of a coach I'm afraid Chester wouldn't have much show on the
gridiron this season; because most of the boys were as green as grass
at the finer points of the game."

"He certainly is a dandy coach, all right," asserted the Marshall boy,
shaking hands cordially. "I wish we had one half as good as old Joe
Hooker. If you fellows make a dent in the game this season you'll owe
it all to him. I've just been watching how he works, and it's simply
grand. I understand that Harmony is putting in extra licks too this
year, being afraid Marshall will down her team. So altogether it looks
as if we'll have a pretty lively session."

"I don't suppose, Bushnell, that either Marshall or Harmony has much
fear of Chester taking their scalps this year?" laughed Jack.

"Well, you never can tell what may happen in football, until you've
tested the mettle of your antagonist," the other sagely replied.
"Anything is liable to come along the pike. But as a rule the veterans
in the business are those who count; and we take it that few of the
Chester fellows have ever been in a real scrimmage; so we expect
they'll have a heap to learn. Still, with that veteran coach drilling
it in day after day wonders may happen. You've got several weeks for
practice before the game with Marshall comes off. If you fellows keep
on improving as you're doing now, I can see a jolly struggle taking
place, and the result may surprise some folks I know."

"It's nice of you being interested enough in our work to drop in and
watch us, and I mean that too, Bushnell," said Jack.

"Well, of course I wouldn't think of coming across later on, when
you'll be practicing your signal stunts, and different mass plays,"
hastily remarked the other, coloring a bit with embarrassment. "If
Marshall does carry off that game I want to see it won on merit, not
trickery. Football isn't a game where such things should be tolerated.
Once a chap from Harmony was discovered watching our late signal work.
He had a pair of field-glasses, and was perched on top of an old
ruined chimney, from which place he had a fine view of the field. We
didn't do a thing about it, only changed our signals in secret. Well,
believe me, that came near losing the game for Harmony. They took it
for granted that we would play the original signals, and in trying to
cut us off left an opening that gave us a chance for our first
touchdown. And it was only after the hardest kind of savage work that
they were able eventually to lay us out cold, but only by a score of
seven to nine."

"That was playing dirty ball," said Jack, indignantly. "I hope they
won't repeat that thing this year."

"I hardly think so," the Marshall boy hastily went on to say. "Their
paper gave them a rough deal over it, and told them they deserved to
lose every game where they placed any dependence on trickery, rather
than true merit. Some of the Harmony fellows were heartily ashamed of
it all, and came over to apologize after they learned about it. I
don't believe such a thing can ever happen again around these parts.
You weren't here then, Winters, which accounts for your not knowing
about it. But what message shall I take to our fellows from you, as I
understand you have been selected to be captain of the eleven?"

"Only this, Bushnell," said Jack, impressively. "We're going into this
thing with all our vim. We mean to wrest a victory from Marshall by
fair means, if it can be done. If luck is against us we'll be the
first to congratulate you fellows over your success; and then get
ready to give Harmony the best there is in us. We believe in clean
ball, and you never need be afraid that a Chester fellow would be
guilty of spying on your team when practicing signal work. If one did
we'd refuse to take advantage of his knowledge, and warn you that such
a thing had occurred."

"That's the right kind of talk, Jack Winters!" exclaimed the other,
effusively. "It's just what true sportsmanship means. Every tub must
stand on its own bottom, and may the best team win! My comrades will
be glad to get a message like that from Chester; and if such a thing
should happen as your team beating us to a frazzle, why, you'll not
find us poor losers. We'll give you a cheer that'll do a lot to make
you buck up against that terrible Harmony crowd."

"I understand," continued Jack, "that you've strengthened your team
considerably this season."

"Yes, that's the only thing we've got to counterbalance your
possession of such a great coach. We chanced to pick up several star
players this year, fellows who moved to Marshall lately, and who have
played on other teams before. Two of them are grand goal kickers, and
may give you the surprise of your lives later on. Then we've got a
dandy end who is like lightning on his pins; and once he gets the ball
he can bewilder the best of them by his ducking and doubling. Well,
enough for the present. I don't want to discourage you, Winters, but
take my word for it, Chester has to go the limit if she hopes to
snatch that game from us. We're full of ginger and--say, that was as
fine a kick at goal as could be. That big chap is Jeffries, isn't he?
I remember his fielding when we played ball last summer; and the way
he swatted the pill was a caution. It nearly broke our pitcher's
heart. I guess some of your fellows can do stunts? as well as our
stars. But I must be going back home, for I ran over on my motorcycle,
you see. Wish you all the luck going, Captain Winters; after Marshall,
of course!"

Jack rather liked Horace Bushnell. He did not know as yet whether the
other was to play on the rival team, but at least he had shown his
heart was set on his home town coming out victor in the approaching
contest on the gridiron.

At any rate it was a pleasure to know such an honorable fellow was to
be an opponent, and that the Marshall boys were so utterly opposed to
any form of double-dealing or trickery, in order to win.



CHAPTER VI

JACK AND JOEL INVESTIGATE



So the time passed, and a week, yes, fully ten days more had gone,
with the Marshall game only a few more days away. All this while the
coach had kept at his constant grind, trying to get the eleven so
accustomed to the many plays of the game that they could act through
instinct rather than reason.

Every boy remembers how difficult it was at first to ride a bicycle,
when equilibrium was a thing to be studied; but how after the muscles
of the body had grown accustomed to adapting themselves to the
slightest motion of the wheel, from that time on it seemed the easiest
thing going to do all sorts of stunts while riding.

So with football, where the action must be as quick as a flash.
Players who are dull-witted never make any great success in the game,
no matter how clever they may appear at some particular feat.

Old Joe Hooker knew this only too well. It had been the reason for his
detaching several promising fellows who could never understand why
they were given the "Indian sign" and dropped; but the fact was Joe
had found they could not break themselves of the habit of stopping
just a brief space of time as if to consider, before making a play;
and that second or two lost, he knew, might account for the game.

It had now reached the critical point where they were practicing
signals. While doing this it was deemed wise that they should get away
from all spectators; not that they feared any Chester boy would be so
mean as to betray their codes to the enemy, or that either Marshall or
Harmony would descend to taking advantage of such underhand treachery;
but then it was the ethics of the game that such things should be kept
to the players themselves.

So on this particular Wednesday afternoon, besides the eleven in the
field there were only a dozen select fellows on hand, and all of them
really held places as substitutes of one sort or another. Some of them
were likely to be called into action in case a fellow got hurt, and
had to be taken out; so they were just as vitally interested in this
secret work as any one could be.

During the course of the afternoon they would all be given an
opportunity to take part in the play going on, so as to become used to
it.

As the great day approached everyone seemed to be more filled with
ginger than at any time in the past. Coach Hooker was racing this way
and that, calling, adjuring, scolding mildly at times, but always with
an eye singly to the advantage of the Chester interests. If the team
did not pull off a victory with Marshall few there would be to say it
was any fault of old Joe.

Jack had been in the melee for quite some time now, and was giving way
to a substitute who seemed eager to get in the game. Joining the group
over at one side Jack fell into conversation with some of his mates.

As he stood there he continued to follow the excited actions of the
bunch out on the field. The counting could be plainly heard, and then
would come the lightning-like play as the ball was put in motion;
fellows leaped into action, each with a definite aim in view. Then Joe
would call them back, to tell them where they fell short, and could
improve on the play.

"Old Joe seems to see everything that goes on, just as if he had a
dozen eyes in his head," remarked Joel Jackman, who was also allowing
a sub to take his place in the line-up.

"Well, that's what makes him the clever coach he is," Jack told him.
"In his way he's like the old orchestra leader, Theodore Thomas. I've
heard it said that when his orchestra of a hundred and twenty pieces
was practicing some big movement by one of the great composers, Mr.
Thomas would suddenly stop the music, and scold one player in
particular. His wonderful ear had caught a note that was imperfect,
and he had been able to pick out the chap who was guilty. Well, that's
the way with our Joe; only in this case it's his eye that is highly
educated, instead of his ear."

Joel moved aside with Jack.

"Listen to me, Jack," he went on to say, impressively. "Some of the
boys here chanced to mention the fact that last year a Harmony fellow
tried to steal the signals of Marshall, and in fact did so; but the
other fellows discovered him watching the play from a tree or some
place, and they just changed their code of signals after he had been
scared away. Now, Jack, don't look surprised when I tell you I've got
a sneaking notion we're being spied on right at this very minute!"

Jack saw that Joel was not joking, and he looked serious.

"What makes you say that?" he inquired, immediately.

"I haven't mentioned anything about the matter to the fellows; in
fact, I only got on to the game about the time you dropped in. Just
turn to the right a little, will you, Jack. I'm not pointing, because
it would tell the skunk we knew about his being there. See that bunch
of trees over yonder, do you? Pretty thick, all right, and offering a
splendid asylum to any chap who might want to watch what we were doing
out in the open field. He's up in the largest tree, that's right."

"Did you see him then, Joel?" asked the other, after staring for a
brief interval in the direction indicated, without noticing any
incriminating evidence.

"Well, no, I can't say that I did, though it seems to me there is
something like a bunch in that crotch about ten feet from the ground;
but the branches sort of screen it. But, Jack, I saw the sun flash
from the lens of a pair of glasses, not only once but several times."

Jack continued to watch. This sounded like serious business, and he
began to feel something like indignation surging up within him. If
there was anything Jack Winters despised it was underhand work.
Straight and aboveboard himself he was unable to conceive how any
fellow could so demean himself as to wish to win by trickery.

"There, didn't you see that flash then, Jack?" whispered Joel,
eagerly, a short time later on.

"I certainly did," replied the other, between his set teeth.

"Don't you agree with me that there's some one hidden in that same big
tree, and watching us through means of powerful glasses?" continued
Joel.

"I must say it does look a good deal that way," he was assured.

"Well, what's the answer, Jack? Are we going to stand for such dirty
business? Of course he can't exactly catch the signals from over
there, unless he's got some way of accentuating his hearing. But he
can see the work that's being repeated over and over again, and in
that way learn what our play is. It's a burning shame, that's all I
can say. I'd just like to take half a dozen fellows and capture that
spy. We would duck him in the river, and make him sorry he ever took a
notion to peek on us. I heard that Bushnell chap from Marshall was
over one day some time ago."

"You can depend on it this spy isn't Horace Bushnell," Jack hastened
to assure his companion. "I talked things over with him at the time,
and found him a boy after my own heart, who despises trickery."

"But can't we do something about it to let him know he's discovered,
and had better chase himself off?" pleaded Joel.

"I'm thinking of a way in which we might at least learn the truth,"
said the other, thoughtfully. "We've been going over to the little
spring to the left for water. Once we get there it would be easy to
slip around, for it happens there's plenty of good cover, I notice. In
that way we could surprise the fellow, and catch him in the tree."

Joel showed considerable eagerness to try the plan of campaign.

"Let's be starting across for a drink, then, Jack," he urged, and
accordingly they set forth.

No one paid any attention to them, because from time to time some of
the boys would head toward the spring, when the water in the bucket
lost its freshness, and in their heated condition they panted for a
cold drink. Jack and Joel both had their heavy wool sweaters on, so
they took no chances of catching cold after their recent energetic
exercise.

They stopped at the spring, where there was a gourd that could be used
for dipping up the refreshing water, and each of them took a drink.

"There, he's still working away!" snapped Joel, indignantly; "I caught
another flash when he moved his glasses. The sun chances to shine in
just the right quarter to make that flash each time. I only hope the
skunk will stay there till we can get him, that's all."

Joel looked so extremely pugnacious when saying this that Jack knew he
must be making up his mind just what sort of corporeal punishment best
fitted the crime of playing the spy on rivals in football, in order to
obtain an unfair advantage over them and taking a game by trickery.

"Now, just duck down, and we'll be off," Jack told his companion.

He had sized the situation up correctly, Joel saw. There was excellent
cover running around to the patch of trees among which the object of
their solicitude was placed. It would be an easy matter for two such
agile lads to bend over and cover that short distance, all the while
keeping themselves hidden from the eyes of the party perched amidst
the dead leaves of that oak.

It was real exciting work, too, for they fully anticipated having some
trouble in making the spy come down after they arrived under the tree
in which he was so comfortably perched. Perhaps there might be a pair
of them, when the situation was likely to be somewhat more strained.
Joel even wished now they had asked a couple of the fellows to
accompany them, so as to make the capture more certain.

Once or twice they found themselves compelled to make a little detour,
because the ground in front was too open, and offered little in the
way of a screen; but Jack knew just how to manage, and Joel was quite
willing to leave matters in the hands of his associate. Everybody
trusted Jack Winters, when a task was to be performed; and it is a
great thing for any boy to possess the confidence of his mates in this
fashion.

"We're getting mighty close now, Jack," whispered Joel, presently. "I
can see the trunk of the big oak all right. It's got limbs pretty near
the ground too, so that spy couldn't have had a very hard time of it
climbing up. I reckon he must have hit on that particular tree partly
on that account."

"Keep quiet, Joel, he might hear you," warned Jack; although truth to
tell there was little fear of that, because all the while there came
across the field the cries of the workers and the chatter of those who
looked on.

A little farther and Jack stopped short. He held up a finger as if to
tell Joel not to say anything. But that worthy was crouching there,
listening as if petrified, while a look of astonishment bordering on
consternation began to hold sway in his face.

The truth of the matter was both boys had caught a series of giggles,
and sounds of low laughter, which undoubtedly came from the direction
of that particular tree; and what struck them as a staggering fact was
that these gurgling noises seemed to be of a girlish character, rather
than to proceed from boys.

Then Jack made a gesture with his crooked finger, and both of them
again commenced to creep softly along, wondering what effect their
coming would have upon the fair watchers perched in the lower crotch
of the giant oak with the spreading branches.



CHAPTER VII

STRANGE FRUIT FOR A TREE TO BEAR



"Oh! girls, you just ought to have seen Fred Badger run with the ball
then! They all chased after him, but he dodged them like everything.
If the boys win that game from Marshall I'm sure Fred's going to have
a lot to do with it!"

Joel chuckled at hearing one girl say that, for he recognized the
voice of pretty little Mollie Skinner, on whom it was said the Fred
mentioned was rather sweet, since he always accompanied her to choir
meeting, and when they had a dance out in the country, she invariably
went with Fred.  "Well, I don't know what Fred Badger has got over
Steve Mullane, or Jack Winters, or even Joel Jackman," said another
voice, rather cynically, as though the speaker did not wholly
subscribe to Mollie's view that Fred stood out as a shining mark above
the rest of the bunch of struggling players.

Joel chuckled again. It tickled him to be mentioned at all by one of
the fair watchers in the tree, even though with such a doubtful
compliment as "even Joel Jackman!" would imply.

"But I'm beginning to get tired of sitting here in this ridiculous
fashion," said a third one, dolefully, "and taking turns at peeking
through Mollie's mother's opera-glasses. I wouldn't have come only I
felt so much interest in our boys this year. It's their first
appearance on the gridiron, and I'm just wild to see them beat that
bragging old Harmony. As to Marshall, I just know Chester will put
those fellows down where they belong, at the foot of the class,
without half trying."

"Neither would I have gone to all this trouble," spoke up the fair and
spirited Mollie, "only for that silly letter my friend in Harmony
wrote me, saying that it was a foregone conclusion Harmony would sweep
the earth this year because their team had been _terribly_
strengthened. In fact she gave me to understand that everything, even
to the crepe, had been ordered for poor little new beginner Chester.
It kept me awake most all last night; and I felt so much excited that
I just _had_ to get you girls to come out here and see what our
gallant boys were doing."

"Yes, but however are we going to get down from here?" sighed the girl
who had spoken second, and whose name was Lucy Marsh, while the last
of the daring trio Jack knew to be another pretty maid, Adelaide
Holliday by name. "I feel afraid to jump from so high a place; and
girls can't climb trees and come down like boys do."

"Would you mind if we came up and helped you, girls?" suddenly
demanded Jack, as he and his companion showed themselves.

There were alarmed squeals from the three nesting in the crotch of the
tree, and this was followed by girlish laughter when they discovered
who the newcomers were. It was not only the boys of Chester who liked
Jack Winters; for any girl would be proud to be asked for her company
by a fellow like Jack, so universally esteemed.

"You've turned the tables on us this time, Jack," said Lucy Marsh,
bravely enough. "It's a case of the biters bitten, evidently. We came
to spy, and we've been spied on in turn. Well, since you've discovered
us in a tree, perhaps you'd better climb up and help a pack of foolish
girls back to the solid ground again. I seem to lose my head once I
get off the earth."

Accordingly Jack and Joel joined them, and it was no particular effort
to help each girl down. When the last had been safely landed, the boys
jumped lightly after them.

"You'll excuse our looks, of course, girls," said Joel. "We've been in
a scrimmage and are hardly fit for ladies' company; but all the same
we're delighted to have been of service to you."

"And so," remarked Jack, turning to Mollie Skinner, who was small but
pert, and as pretty as a peach, "you had a boasting letter from some
girl over in Harmony, I think I heard you say as we came up. She tried
to discourage you, didn't she? All right, Mollie, you just send her
back a Roland for an Oliver; give her as good as she sent. Tell her
the Chester boys are going to swamp Marshall next Saturday, just to
put them in trim for the great game on Thanksgiving morning with poor
old Harmony. Twit her with a few reminders of that last baseball game
we played, when Chester trailed Harmony's colors in the dust. I guess
you can rub it in good and hard, Mollie, if you try."

"And you guess right, too, Jack Winters," snapped the girl, her eyes
flashing with spirit. "I'll compose a scathing letter that will give
Maude something to think about from now to Thanksgiving. And let me
say that I'll be meaning every word of it, too. Why, after what we've
seen you boys do in practice I just feel that fellows like Fred, and
some of the others of course, in the bargain, just can't be whipped by
any old school team that plays. Those are my sentiments, and I don't
care who knows them."

"Those Harmony fellows wear the yellow and black of Princeton, you
know," spoke up Lucy Marsh, "and love to call themselves the Tigers.
They think to frighten their opponents by a great exhibition of rough
play, and try to act as if they expected to just walk away with every
game."

"That's right for you, Lucy," chipped in Joel, "but those same tactics
didn't carry weight last summer. Chester didn't seem to be afraid of
being bitten by the tiger, in fact we managed to devour the beast,
hide and all; and let me assure you, girls, we can do it again, don't
you fear."

"How about that, Jack, do you subscribe to Joel's boast?" demanded the
girl, as though she would be ready to place a good deal more
dependence on an opinion from the captain of the eleven than from the
left tackle.

Joel laughed.

"You're going to the wrong quarter for that kind of information,
Lucy," he went on to say. "Jack's too modest to boast, as everyone
knows, though he'll work his head off to win the game."

"I'm not claiming anything!" declared Jack; "and only saying that
Chester will have no cause for complaint, no matter whether we win or
lose; for every fellow's grimly determined to do his level best.
Victories sometimes hinge on small things, and the luck of the game
may go against us. But we'll be fighting all the time up to the
blowing of the last whistle that tells the time of the fourth period
has expired."

"Tell them what Coach Hooker said this very afternoon, Jack?" begged
Joel.

"Please do, Jack," the fair Mollie pleaded; while the other two looked
so wistful that Jack could not have declined had he wanted to, which
was far from the fact.

"Oh! Joe seemed to be especially well pleased with our work today," he
remarked, "and told us that taken all in all we made as lively and
hustling a lot of youngsters as he had ever had the pleasure of
handling. He even went on to say that if we worked as well in the
Marshall game we would carry off the prize as sure as two and three
make five. And let me tell you, after hearing those inspiring words we
played better than ever the next round, and had old Joe beaming with
joy. I honestly believe he thinks a heap of our bunch, since it's been
weeded out."

"We're all proud of you, just remember that," said Mollie, boldly;
"and we do hope you'll be able to make the Marshall boys eat humble
pie next Saturday. Why, nearly everybody that's worth knowing at all
in Chester is going over to Marshall to give the Chester salute when
you come on the field. I chanced to hear Packy McGraw, your cheer
captain, drilling his squad; and let me tell you they can give the
Chester yell in a way that thrills the blood."

There could be no doubt about Mollie and her two chums being heart and
soul for the local team. Jack was glad to see such enthusiasm. It
would make himself and the other ten fellows fight all the harder to
know that bright eyes were watching every move that was made; while
dainty hands clapped until they ached, keeping company with the
defiant cries arising wherever Chester girls congregated, in grand-
stand or field.

It means a whole lot to a team to feel that their home folks believe
in them to the limit. Just as soon as this interest gives signs of
waning the best of teams grow careless, and show signs of
disintegration. So Jack hoped the girls as well as the boys and grown-
ups of the town would be with them all the while, ready with cheering
words and praise for good deeds, as well as apologies for mistakes
such as the best of players may sometimes make.

So the three girls departed, binding Jack and Joel to a promise not to
betray them to the rest of the squad. This promise both boys gladly
gave, for no harm had been done; and they knew now just how earnestly
the girls of Chester were hoping and praying for their success. It was
really an inspiration, to Joel at least.

"There's no use talking, Jack," he was saying, as they started to go
around once more to the place of the spring, to avoid exciting any
suspicion on the part of their comrades, "we've just _got_ to beat
Marshall on Saturday. Why, it'd break the hearts of those pretty
girls if we failed. I really believe they'd feel it more than any of
us would. And that little spitfire Mollie is crazy to rub it into her
boastful friend over at Harmony, too. Oh! we've got our job set out
before us for a fact, and must sweep the deck each deal."

The rest of the practice caused the boys to forget their recent little
adventure for the time being. They worked hard, and won additional
praise from old Joe Hooker.

"You're getting better every day, fellows," he told the bunch as they
started homeward, chattering like a lot of magpies. "I never was so
pleased with the improvement shown; why, it's simply marvelous. If an
old football man should watch some of your plays he'd swear you were
anything but novices, and vow you'd done plenty of footwork last
season. Don't stop, boys! Keep up the good work, and my word for it,
your reward is sure to come, for you'll take Marshall into camp on
Saturday, barring accidents."

They would have two more afternoons for practice, and then Saturday
would dawn with its uncertainties that might not be relieved until the
referee had blown his whistle to signify that the time for the game
had expired. Whose would be high score when that minute came around
was an unknown quantity; and many a Chester lad would have given much
to be able to lift the veil of the future just that far. But this was
beyond their ken, and they could only possess their souls in patience
while hoping for the best.

Those two days would soon pass, and the great time come when Chester
folks could be seen thronging the road leading to Marshall, bent on
witnessing the meeting of the rival teams on the gridiron.

How some of the most impatient managed to pull through the intervening
time it would be hard to tell. But finally Saturday morning dawned,
and the fact that the sun shone from an unclouded sky, while the air
was quite nipping, brought joy to thousands of eager hearts in
Chester, and doubtless also in Marshall; for both towns were said to
be football crazy this year.



CHAPTER VIII

A CALL FOR HELP



"Hello! Jack, I was just thinking of dropping around at your place.
Can you spare me a few minutes of your precious time this morning?"

Big Bob Jeffries called this across to the other, down on the main
street of Chester. Jack was hurrying along, after finishing the
several errands that had taken him into the heart of the shopping
district. It was on the great Saturday morning that was to give the
town folks their first taste of real football. Everywhere people
seemed to be talking about it, and the chances the local team had of
pulling off a victory. Jack, being known as the captain of the eleven,
and an acknowledged leader among his fellows, was greeted with many an
anxious question concerning the condition of the team, and whether he
really and truly expected to score a triumph against the hard-playing
Marshall crowd.

To all such inquiries the boy had returned a merry answer, simply
saying:

"We're going to do our level best, and we have hopes, that's all I can
say. Tell you more about it this evening."

When he heard Big Bob calling out this request a look of real concern
flashed across Jack's face, the very first that morning. He feared
lest the other was about to spring some sort of disagreeable surprise
upon him at almost the last hour.

All along he had managed to keep Bob sort of buoyed up with constantly
renewed hope that his troubles were sure to end in smoke. But
evidently the big fellow had suffered in secret, and was in quite a
nervous state of mind.

"Certainly I can, Bob!" he exclaimed, starting to cross over to where
the other stood, looking so forlorn that had any observing fellow come
along just then and noticed the expression on his face, he might have
spread an alarm to the effect that the big fullback was ill, and
consequently there would be a weak spot in the line-up that afternoon,
as sure as anything.

"I hate ever so much to bother you, Jack, with my personal affairs,
just when, of course, you've got your hands full of the coming battle
on the gridiron; but I must ease my head or something will burst, I'm
feeling that wretched."

"Come along and walk with me," said Jack, promptly. "I am in a little
of a hurry, but we can be going in the direction of my house, and take
it slowly. Now what's happened, Bob?"

"Happened, Jack? Why, nothing at all, and that's just what's the
matter. If only something _did_ come along to break up this terrible
monotony, I'd welcome it; but every day's like the one before it. I go
to bed, and get to sleep all right, but when I wake up along in the
early hours, about two or three o'clock, I begin to think, and lie
there till dawn comes, just groaning to myself, and trying to make
up my mind what I ought to do."

"I'm sorry to hear that, Big Bob, sure I am," said Jack, his voice
telling the same thing. "But you say things haven't changed at home.
By that I reckon you mean your father hasn't asked you anything about
that letter he gave you to mail?"

"Not yet, Jack, but I'm mighty much afraid it's going to come any time
now. You see, he must be getting anxious because he's received no
answer to his letter, though of course there hasn't been any too much
time so far. But my mother is worried on account of _me_. I've almost
lost my appetite. The things that used to appeal to me the most I now
let pass with barely two helpings. She knows there's something gone
wrong; you can always trust a boy's mother for being the first to
suspect that, when he gets off his feed."

"Does she say anything to you?" asked Jack, solicitously, for it
pained him to see how much Big Bob felt it all.

"Oh! every day she asks me if I'm real sure I'm not sick," came the
slow reply. "I always tell her I'm all right; but say, she knows
better, Jack. I can't meet her eyes when she looks at me like that.
Once she begged me to tell her what had gone wrong with me, whether I
was doing poorly at school, even if my report stood to the contrary;
but I tried to laugh that off, and told her I'd soon be all right
again, after this football game, mebbe."

"I hope you will, Bob, and a lot of us will have a big load off our
minds if only we can come back home this afternoon, singing, and
feeling joyous. Of course you never really knew how that little scheme
of mine worked, did you?"

"Meaning the idea of putting that marked paper where my dad would be
sure to see the item about the man who sent follow-up letters abroad,
so as to make certain one of them would get to its destination, in
spite of British blockade and German submarines? Why, no, I never
found out if father took to the idea or not. I only know he must have
seen the paper, because I found it later on his desk in the library,
and I left it crumpled up on the floor. He never asked me where it
came from, so I didn't have to tell him you had it wrapped around an
old sweater you were returning to me. All I'm sure of is that he
didn't trust me to mail a second foreign letter. I only wish he had."

"You said he was beginning to look serious, didn't you?" continued
Jack.

"Why, yes, and I can just _feel_ him watching me when he thinks I'm
not looking. He certainly must suspect something, Jack. But the queer
part of it all is that lately he's been a heap more gentle with me
than I ever knew him to be before."

"I don't quite get the hang of that, Bob."

"Well, you must know that my dad is reckoned a stern man. Folks have
always looked on him as what they call austere. He's engaged in a
business that keeps his mind away up in the clouds most of the time,
and he just can't pay much attention to the small things of life. I
heard him tell that once, and I've tried to understand what it really
meant, but somehow I couldn't, because my nature is just the opposite,
so I guess I must take after my mother's side of the family. I can
hardly remember the time when my dad played with me, or seemed at all
interested in my childish hopes and fears. It was always Ma to whom I
went with my troubles; and Jack, she never failed me. That's what
makes it so hard for me now. Only for you to confide in, I don't know
what I'd have done."

He seemed on the verge of breaking down at this point. Jack in order
to prevent anything like this hastened to ask again:

"Go on, Bob, and tell me just how your father is acting differently
nowadays from what he's always done."

"Why, you see," continued the other, with a spasmodic movement of his
big frame that might have been caused, Jack suspected, by a half-
suppressed sob welling up from his sorely distressed heart, "he's not
only been watching me close at times, but twice now he's even asked me
something about the football match with Marshall; and last night Ma
told me he had said they must surely go over today and watch me play.
Oh! Jack, that nearly broke me all up. I felt just like I must throw
my arms around my mother's neck, and pour out the whole wretched story
of my carelessness."

"But you didn't, I suppose, Bob?"

"No, I managed to blurt out an excuse for hurrying away, though I kind
of think she must have seen that there were tears in my eyes, for she
called after me; but I didn't dare turn back right then, and pretended
not to hear her. Later on I'd managed to get a fresh grip on myself,
and even smiled a little, though I tell you that was the most ghastly
smile I ever knew, for it was a hollow mockery, Jack."

"But you've held out this far, Bob, and you must pull yourself
together so as to go through the game today," Jack went on to say,
warmly. "If you failed us our goose would surely be cooked, you know,
because the fellow who has been practicing as your understudy at
fullback is a mighty poor fish, and Marshall will know it as soon as
the first period is over, especially if they push us hard, and he
breaks down, as he's pretty sure to do."

"Oh! as to that, Jack, I'm not meaning to give up just now. I've got
my mind made up to play savagely today. I want to forget my troubles,
and I'll take it out on Marshall. Besides, I'll always be remembering
that Ma and Dad will be there seeing no one but their Bobbie; and it
might ease my pain if only I could do some half-way decent stunt that
would bring out the cheers, and make them glad I was a Jeffries."

"Shake hands on that, Bob. I felt pretty sure you wouldn't fall down
at the last minute."

"I guess I've got a little too much pride in myself for that," said
the other, trying to look like his old self for once. "But that
Thanksgiving game is another question. If this sort of thing keeps on,
I'll surely be a nervous wreck by then, and too weak and wobbly to
play."

"Oh! don't cross bridges before you come to them, Big Bob," sang out
Jack, wishing to inspire the other with fresh confidence. "That's a
poor policy, you know, and some fellows are addicted to it. There's
another old saying that you might take to heart, and which runs like
this: 'Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof;' which also means
that it is foolish to worry, because nine-tenths of the time what we
imagine is hanging over our heads never really comes off."

"Well, one thing I'm sure of, Jack, and that is that you're the boss
comforter. No matter how badly I'm feeling, only let me get in touch
with you, and I seem to draw in new life and hope. I'll never forget
all your kindness, you can depend on that, Jack Winters."

"Oh! don't mention it, Bob; you'd do the same for me, or any other
fellow, given a chance, because it's in your nature. But let's speak
again of your father, for after all he's the central object of the
whole thing. You said in the beginning that you feared he was
beginning to suspect you, and that from the way he kept watching you
when you were reading, you felt as if he might up and say something
about that letter?"

"Yes, sometimes that gives me a cold chill; and then again I'm puzzled
to know why he's taken to being so much kinder than usual. Why,
honestly, Jack, just last night he even asked me if my old skates were
still good for this season's use, or would I like to have a pair like
those he'd noticed in the window down at Higgins' store. Oh! that
nearly broke me all up. I felt as if I wanted to throw myself down on
my knees before Mm, and say that I didn't deserve new skates, or
anything like that this year, because I was a wretched, careless boy,
who had done something wicked. But somehow I managed to stammer out
that I guessed my old ones were going to be good enough for one more
season, though, Jack, they are in bad shape; but then it would have
made me feel worse than ever if I'd accepted his offer, after failing
him when he trusted me."

Of course Jack knew that Big Bob was making a mountain out of
molehills, but he could readily understand how that came. The big
fellow was extremely sensitive, and the possible enormity of his
offense kept standing out before him all the time and constantly
growing in dimensions.

What he said about his father made Jack secretly smile. It was about
time, he told himself, that a reserved man like Mr. Jeffries woke up,
and began to take more interest in his children, and not leave it all
to his good wife. And in the end possibly this affair might work out
for the good of all concerned, the father as well as the son.
Meanwhile, Big Bob must be encouraged to hold on for a time longer,
until they could know the actual state of affairs.



CHAPTER IX

HEADED FOR THE FIELD OF BATTLE



Big Bob was already looking better, after what had passed between
Jack and himself. Although time counted with the captain of the
Chester eleven just then, as he had a number of things he wished to do
before noon, he felt that he could well afford to stand by Bob a
little longer, and get him to feeling more cheerful.

Football games often depend on small things that might seem trifles to
those who do not know that the condition of mind as well as of body,
on the part of every member of the squad, has much to do with ultimate
success or failure. Therefore, as it might turn out that victory would
depend on some play on the part of the fullback, Jack was earnestly
desirous of arousing all the ambition he could in Bob's heart.

"Now, see here, Big Bob," he went on to say, as they sauntered along,
Jack occasionally waving a hand affably to some boy who called out to
him across the street, "I wouldn't think any more than I could help
about your father's actions. Because of your guilty conscience you can
see only suspicion in his watching you so closely, but I'm able to
view it from a different angle." "Tell me what you mean, please,
Jack?"

"It strikes me this way," the other complied. "Your father has just
begun to realize how much you and the other children mean to him. I
think he has had his eyes opened to this in some way, and that in the
future you'll find him changed. Then it would be only natural for your
mother to confide her fears concerning your health to her husband.
That accounts for his watching you when he thinks you're not noticing.
He wonders if you are really sick, and won't own up to it for some
foolish reason. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets you to drop in and
see the doctor, so as to be examined all over. Why, they may even be
giving you a _tonic_, Bob, to try and fetch back that lost appetite of
yours."

"Do you think so, Jack?" said the other, with a grim smile flickering
about his mouth. "Well, I know the very best tonic that could come to
me, which would be the news that the letter he wrote had reached its
destination abroad. Oh! if only I could learn that, I'd feel like
flying, my heart would be so light. And play, why, Jack, if such
glorious news came to me right now I'd wake up those Marshall boys
this afternoon, believe me. They'd think a _cyclone_ had struck
the line when I butted up against it. I'd tear everything to pieces,
and the whole gang couldn't stop me; for all the world would be bright
again, the birds singing, and best of all, I could once more look my
father straight in the eye."

 "I wish that sort of thing would happen, that's all, Bob," laughed
Jack, partly to conceal the fact that he was pretty much shaken up
himself by the way Big Bob expressed his state of feelings. "But even
if you don't get word about the letter, I'm confident that your
position will be well looked after this afternoon."

"You can depend on me, Jack," said the other, simply, for Bob was not
given to boasting.

"There is nothing more you want to say to me, is there?" asked Jack,
for they had by now arrived in front of his gate.

"I guess not," answered Bob, making a dive for the right hand of his
comrade, which happened to be free of bundles, and which he squeezed
most heartily. "Thank you a thousand times for giving me so much fresh
hope, Jack. I'm going to try once more to believe that the whole nasty
business will come out right. See you when we start across for
Marshall this afternoon. I've laid out not to eat more than half a
ration this noon, because I want to be in fighting trim."

So they parted, with a wave of the hand; and at least Big Bob did have
a more contented look on his face than when he first called out to
Jack across the main street of Chester, to ask for a little of his
time.

Of course there was no attempt made to restrain the members of the
team from eating any reasonable amount of food. They did not go in
training for days and weeks before a gridiron battle, as is done in
all colleges, their diet restricted to certain lines of food best
calculated to add to their vigor, without making them loggy. But Joe
Hooker had impressed it on their minds that it would be well for them
to avoid certain things that might upset their stomachs; and all had
bound themselves not to attend any parties, or stay out of bed later
than ten o'clock on any night.

Small things like this often have a tremendous influence in deciding a
fiercely contested battle on the gridiron. If one man has been
indulging in too rich food, so that his digestion is impaired in the
least, he has weakened his system; and in case the crisis of the fight
chances to fall upon his shoulders, he will possibly be unable to bear
the strain as he might had he been in perfect physical shape.

So far as he knew, every fellow was in the pink of condition, Jack was
telling himself as lie worked at something up in his den that morning.
He had been chiefly concerned about Big Bob; but this last little
interview with the fullback gave him renewed confidence. The mere fact
that his father had at last mustered up enough interest in boys'
sports to promise to attend the game at Marshall that afternoon had in
itself inspired Bob to determine to do his family credit, if it came
to him to have an active part in the offense, or rather the defense;
for that was where his duty generally came in.

"We've got all the show we deserve," Jack told himself, after viewing
the situation from every possible angle. "Joe Hooker has taught us all
he knows about the game, and he says we are going to do his coaching
credit. That means he believes Chester has a fair chance to win. And
if every fellow is as determined to crush Marshall under as Big Bob
seems, we'll do the trick, that's sure."

Of course Chester labored under a big handicap, in that they knew so
little concerning the playing abilities of their opponents. Most of
the boys had, of course, attended previous meetings between Harmony
and Marshall, since there was so little interest shown in Chester for
any sports. They had seen those young gladiators from the rival towns
lock horns, and struggle excitedly for supremacy upon the flat
gridiron marked stretch of ground, cheering for one or the other side
without prejudice, as their fancy chanced to dictate; but that was not
like feeling the brunt of a rush, or trying to outgeneral a swiftly
running player with the ball, heading for a touchdown. Actual
hostilities alone could give them the confidence in themselves which
they needed.

"But," Jack went on to assure himself, "after the first period we'll
all be on our tiptoes, and ready to show them what we can do. By then
we'll have a good grasp on their style of mass play, and what old Joe
has taught us will turn to our advantage. However, it's up in the air
still, and as much our game as Marshall's. The only thing I know is
that we expect to fight with every ounce of strength we've got in us,
and never give up till the last whistle blows. No one could ask for
more; no boy do more. And I do firmly believe we'll come back home
tonight crazy with joy over our first scalp."

Later on, having eaten a light lunch, Jack set out for the rendezvous,
clad in his now well-worn suit. Rough usage soon takes the edge off a
new set of football togs, for much of the work is done upon the
ground. Whether grass stains or dirt marks, it does not matter. Like a
sensitive hunter who proceeds to soil a new suit of khaki garments
which he has been compelled to buy, lest some one take him for a
novice in the shooting line, so those who play football take the
keenest pride in their most disreputable clothes. Every stain stands
for a possible struggle on the field that may have spelled a crowning
event for the participant. So they come to look upon these marks as
those of distinction, just as a soldier would the medal he so proudly
wears upon his breast.

The boys were gathering when Jack reached the scene, although it would
be more than a good hour before the start was to be made. Some of them
looked a shade anxious, he was sorry to notice, though really that was
to be expected. Jack made it his duty to try to banish this feeling as
far as possible, and to imbue everyone with some of the same
confidence that was filling his own heart.

As usual, his influence soon began to make itself felt. There were
Steve and Toby also who hastened to back him up, realizing what a
factor toward success this feeling of firm reliance on their ability
to fight their own battles would be certain to prove.

It was not long before a tremendous crowd had gathered. Boys who
expected later on to go over to Marshall stopped to take a last look
at the eleven, and figure out the "dope" as to whether they looked
like winners or "quitters." And in nearly every instance they went
away firmly convinced that Jack's team would give Chester no reason to
be ashamed. It seemed to be in the air that great things were about to
happen for the old town, so newly awakened. Perhaps the pleasing
memory of how Jack Winters had led his nine to victory against both
Marshall and Harmony during the late baseball season still lingered in
their minds, to inspire fresh confidence.

"Well," Doc Speaker remarked, as he sat in a car with his folks, and
surveyed the struggling throng gathered to wish the boys the best of
luck, "one thing certain, Sis, if anybody can bring Marshall's scalp
home tonight it's Jack Winters. No one seems to just know how it
comes, but there's a certain magnetism about that fellow that goes
clean through the bunch. You know leaders like Napoleon and our own
Teddy Roosevelt are born, not made. Jack is built on that plan. Other
fellows who have made up their minds to dislike him, as I did at
first, soon come under the magic spell of his nature, and end by
believing he can do almost anything he tries. And so we are all firm
in the belief he'll carry his team to a glorious victory that'll cause
those Harmony chaps to sit up and take notice, because of course every
last one of them will be on deck today, to pick up points about our
style of play, and see if our line shows any yellow spot."

When finally the big carryall, run by a motor, started off, headed
down with the eleven players, Joe Hooker, and the numerous
substitutes, it did seem as though the town were deserted. Several of
the mills had even closed for the day in order to give their hands an
opportunity to go across and help cheer for Chester.

The road all the way to Marshall, distant something like ten miles,
was filled with all manner of vehicles from a farm wagon and an old-
time buggy to the latest thing in seven-passenger cars. And had a
stranger chanced to come upon that road he must have wondered what all
the travel meant, possibly concluding that some late circus had come
to a neighboring town, or else Billy Sunday was holding forth there to
immense audiences.

The nearer they drew to Marshall the greater the congestion became.
Other roads leading into the town were likewise thronged with
pedestrians, and every manner of vehicles. Such a tremendous
outpouring of the people, and not young folks alone, either, had never
been known before. Seeing such mobs the Chester boys could not help
feeling that they must acquit themselves with credit that day or be
forever disgraced.

In this grim frame of mind they finally reached the field where the
battle of the young gladiators was scheduled to take place, to see a
sight that would thrill anyone capable of being moved by such a
spectacle.



CHAPTER X

WHEN THE GREAT GAME OPENED



It must be Marshall's great field day, that was evident. Business
would be almost suspended while the game was in progress, only the
most necessary stores keeping open. The grandstand was already filled
to overflowing, newly arrived crowds trying to find seats anywhere
they could, but with small success. Those who had the affair in charge
must have underestimated the immense throng that would be attracted to
the field by the fine Fall weather, and the prospect of a rattling
good game.

As usually happens, the Chester crowds kept pretty much together. They
could be picked out as a rule by the swirl of waving school colors,
for every Chester girl and boy who had journeyed to Marshall to see
their team win the game, made sure to carry the favorite combination.

Of course Marshall did likewise, and as this was their home town, they
possibly outnumbered the Chester young people two to one. What they
lacked in numbers, however, the visitors seemed able to make up for in
noise. From time to time songs rang out over the field, that carried
the sentiments of the confident Chester girls, over there with the
sole purpose of encouraging their team to carry off the prize.

At one place a large number of boys from the other town seemed to be
gathered, and there was always something doing in that especial
quarter. Seated in the front rank was a lively little chap who carried
a tremendous megaphone. This fellow was no other than the redoubtable
Packy McGraw, Chester's cheer captain, who had done such yeoman
service during the baseball games in leading the pack to hurl defiance
at the enemy, and to encourage the home boys in every way possible.

When the humor seized Packy, or some stage in the game made such
action desirable, he would leap the barrier, and jumping up and down
like a harlequin in front of the bleacher benches, start his cohort
into a combined school yell that must make the hot blood leap through
the veins of everyone who called Chester his or her home town.

It was really a most inspiring sight, that immense gathering of
people, all filled with animation, and a desire to see one or the
other of the contesting teams carry the ball to goal and touchdown,
until the victory had been won.

The best, of course, was yet to come, when, game being called, every
eye would be riveted upon the figures in the arena, crouching like
wildcats ready to bound into life in concert.

While the necessary preliminaries were being attended to, and the
players were under close surveillance, naturally much of the talk
being indulged in was connected with their appearance.

Some seemed to be of the opinion that Marshall looked much stronger in
the way of beef and brawn. It was undoubtedly true that, taken as a
whole, the home players did outweigh the visitors. This might prove of
advantage to them in certain mass plays, where their machine could mow
down all opposition through sheer avoirdupois. But, on the other hand,
it is not always given to the heaviest team to win. Speed counts for
more than heft in many of the fiercest struggles that take place on
the gridiron; and a fellow who can run like the wind, and dodge all
interference, is more likely to bring his side success than the slower
and more stocky individual who lacks this advantage.

Mollie Skinner and her two chums sat there in the front row of the
grandstand where they could have an uninterrupted view of everything
that took place. They had come over very early, just to secure these
splendid seats, sacrificing their customary warm lunch, it seemed, for
each of them had brought a "snack" along, which they had calmly
devoured while waiting for the crowds to assemble.

They felt amply repaid, however, for they found themselves envied by
many who came later, and could not find a vacant seat. From where they
sat they could watch the two teams as they stood in clumps and chatted
and laughed, doubtless trying to appear quite unconcerned, for they
knew how a myriad of critical eyes must be focused on them just then.

"Well, what do you think of the boys now, Mollie?" demanded Lucy
Marsh, upon noticing that the little girl with the clever tongue was
observing the players critically.

"I tell you what's bothering me," Mollie hastened to say. "It's that
Big Bob Jeffries."

"Why, what ails him?" asked Adelaide in turn. "I always thought Bob
Jeffries was to be depended on any time he was needed. Remember how he
played in those ball games, and with never an error. Yes, and didn't
he knock out more than a few dandy two-baggers, with men on bases? Why
should you be worried about him, Mollie?"

"Really I don't know," came the puzzling reply; "only I've heard
several people say they didn't believe Big Bob could be feeling
himself. He's been acting queer lately. Even Fred Badger admitted that
to me when I quizzed him, though he hastened to say that so far it
hadn't seemed to interfere with his playing, for he kept holding his
own right along. But something seems to tell me that if we lose this
game today it's going to be through some bungling play on his part."

"Listen, Mollie," said Lucy just then, "don't speak quite so loud,
because Bob's father and mother are just back of us, I've discovered."

"Well, that's a queer thing," said Mollie, without even turning to
look. "No one ever knew Mr. Jeffries to take the least interest in
outdoor sports before. He must have waked up from his Rip Van Winkle
sleep, apparently. I even heard that he declined to contribute a
dollar to the new gymnasium that some of the town people are building
to satisfy the craving of the boys for physical exercise, saying he
guessed boys ought to be able to thrive without all those costly
adjuncts; that as a boy he had never found the need for anything of
the sort, and that he didn't mean to squander his hard-earned money on
any such nonsense."

"Well," put in Adelaide Holliday, "whoever told you that must have
been poorly informed, or else there has been a sudden revolution in
Mr. Jeffries' beliefs; because my father, who is one of the committee
to raise funds to pay the first expense of fitting up the new gym,
with all sorts of modern appliances, said just last night at supper
that he had had a visit from Mr. Jeffries that afternoon, who asked
how the subscription list was coming on, and upon learning that there
was still a whole lot needed, handed in his check for a cool hundred
dollars. He also told him that if they still fell short when settling
things up, to call on him for an additional hundred."

"You certainly surprise me, Adelaide," said Mollie, "but I'm glad to
hear that Bob's father has waked up at last to understand just what
such things mean in a civilized, up-to-date community like Chester.
Old things have passed away, it seems, and everybody who has any sense
will get on the band wagon before he finds himself lonesome. But that
doesn't ease my mind about our big fullback."

"Why, he seems to be just the same as ever to me, looking from here,"
expostulated Lucy Marsh.

"Yes, that's because of the excitement, and the fact that his folks
are present," explained the doubting Mollie. "I saw him wave his hand
to his mother just then. All I can say is I hope he'll do himself
credit. Jack Winters assured me there wasn't a weak link in the chain,
and when I mentioned Big Bob to him he turned a little red, and
hastened to say that he would be found doing his duty as he invariably
had in the past. But, all the same, I tell you Jack is a little
nervous about him; I could read that in his face when he answered my
question so hurriedly."

"Oh! look! they're going on the field, girls!" exclaimed Adelaide just
then, and all minor matters were allowed to rest while they watched
the opposing players run out and start to take their positions.

A tremendous salvo of cheers greeted their appearance on the gridiron,
destined to be the battle ground on which they must struggle for
supremacy, utilizing every ounce of strength, and backed up with such
generalship as their chosen leaders could bring to bear.

They were certainly a fine looking lot of youngsters, and those near
and dear to them had a right to feel proud at that moment when the
great game was about to open. The cheering died away as though by some
prearranged signal; indeed, it is simply astonishing how during the
progress of a game the volume of sound will suddenly break out like a
hurricane, and then cease almost as abruptly, so that the whistle of
the referee may be heard in its piercing intensity.

As the young athletes lined up on the field they stood in the
following order:

                 CHESTER

                 Fullback
                 Jeffries

Halfback                       Halfback
Mullane                       Winters (Captain)

                Quarterback
                  Hopkins

End     Tackle   Guard   Center  Guard    Tackle  End
Douglass Badger Hemming Griffin McGuffey Jackman Jones

                 MARSHALL

End  Tackle   Guard   Center          Guard   Tackle  End
Smith Everett O'Toole Needham (Capt.) Willets Bennett Haldy

                Quarterback
                 Lighthart

  Halfback                         Halfback
   Collins                        Trowbridge

                 Fullback
                   Budge

Of course, as the sides faced each other the left end of Chester,
Jones, found himself confronting the right end of Marshall, Haldy. And
while the fullback bore the ominous name of Budge, it was apparent
from his bulky frame that this was just about the last thing he might
be expected to do, for he looked as though a mountain would not move
him.

Silence fell upon the vast throng. If anyone had ventured to speak
above a whisper just at that critical moment, he would have found
himself frowned upon by a dozen angry persons close by.

Out there in the arena the twenty-two contestants crouched in their
favorite attitudes, and with nerves strained to the utmost, waited for
the ball to be put in action. It was a picture never to be forgotten,
and no wonder the eyes of the gathered multitude of spectators
remained glued upon the motionless figures, looking like statues of
famous gladiators in the arena waiting to battle before a Nero, who by
the crook of his thumb, either up or down, would seal their fate
eventually one way or the other.

Then all at once there was a sudden concerted movement, every one of
the players leaping into life; and from that moment on there would be
something constantly doing.



CHAPTER XI

THE STRUGGLE ON THE GRIDIRON



When the struggle first began it looked as though the veteran
Marshall players meant to smother their lighter opponents by means of
the sheer force of their attack. They immediately carried the ball
over into Chester's side of the field, and there was danger of a
touchdown before the game had been in progress five minutes.

During this period the Chester spectators sat with a numb feeling
clutching their hearts, though they tried their best to assume a
confidence they could hardly feel. Their boys were really novices at
the business, and it was to be expected, they reasoned, trying to
bolster up their waning courage, that at first things would hit the
Chester line hard. But just wait a bit, until they began to recover
their wind, and Jack Winters was given a fair chance to unmask some of
his hidden batteries. "He laughs longest who laughs last," was a
saying with a good deal of truth behind it; and anyhow the game was
very young yet. Besides, Marshall hadn't scored, after all, it seemed.

A burst of applause broke out that seemed to almost shake the ground,
such was its vigor. And apparently most of it came from the excited
Chester cohorts, though there were some impartial local admirers of
the great game who could readily cheer a daring and brilliant play, no
matter on which side it occurred.

What had happened was just this: Winters had carried the ball around
the Marshall end for a gain of thirty yards, and when he was finally
downed it was far over on Marshall ground. The tables had been
suddenly turned, and now it was the home team that was forced to act
on the defensive.

Another little gallop, on the part of Joel Jackman this time, gave
Chester additional gains, with the ball still safe in their
possession. As this evidence of the recuperative power of the new
Chester machine was discovered, it seemed as though the vast crowd
would go crazy with delight. Even the local rooters grinned their
happiness.

"Well! well! well! they _can_ do something worth while!" one Marshall
student was heard to call out, as though he were indeed surprised.
"Why, bless my soul, we're going to see a real game after all, and not
a walkaway."

"You needn't worry," snapped a Chester boy close by, full of ginger,
and ready to stand up for his colors all the time; "we've got a pretty
nest of tricks ready to unload on your fellows. Just keep your eye on
Chester, Green, and don't worry. Plenty of time for that after the
game is finished, and you hear the real Chester yell!"

Next Fred Badger, given the signal, seized upon the ball when it was
snapped to him, and actually smashed his way through left tackle for
another gain of twelve yards. His action had evidently taken the
Marshall fellows off guard, for they must have anticipated a renewal
of the drive around the ends.

Now they were well over on enemy territory, and for the first time in
the game a cry began to arise for a touchdown, that only students
hungry for a touchdown can emit. Louder and more insistent it grew in
volume as the players began to settle back again for a renewal of the
desperate tussle. Even many Marshall fellows took part in the demand,
for, as they loudly proclaimed, it would make the game much more
interesting if their team had a handicap in the start to fight
against, since they always did their best work when forced to exert
themselves, and come up from behind.

Well, if they were really sincere about it they had their wish
speedily gratified. Hardly were the players in motion again than a
single figure was seen streaking in like wildfire past the struggling
mass, and heading deeper into Marshall territory as though determined
that this time nothing should prevent a score.

It was Mullane, the left halfback! As a rule, Steve could hardly be
called a genuine sprinter, and doubtless that was just why Jack had
selected him for this special occasion, for the lighter fellows would
of course be under suspicion, and interference focussed on their
actions.

There was pursuit, of course, and it could be seen that Bennett and
Haldy were rapidly overtaking the fugitive. Such a wild howl as went
up all over the field at this thrilling stage of the game! Mullane
dared not look back over his shoulder. By mere instinct alone he
understood just what was happening, and how from several quarters
Marshall players were closing in on him.

Perhaps he fancied he could even hear their panting just behind him.
It must have nerved Steve as nothing else could have done. He knew
that he was on the verge of immortal fame, even though he might not
secure the coveted touchdown that the mob was now shouting for so
hungrily.

It is just such a situation as this that makes a fellow bring to the
front hitherto unsuspected energies. Steve certainly never in all his
life ran like he did on that particular occasion. Why, some of the
delighted Chester boys boasted that he fairly _flew_, as though he had
wings suddenly developed; though of course those light-footed pursuers
came even faster.

Then, just when Bennett hurled himself to drag Steve down, by a mighty
effort the Chester boy threw his body forward, and fell on his face,
with the ball gripped fiercely in his hands _over the line!_

When this wonderful fact became evident to the crowd, as it did like
magic, the air was rent with mad cheers. Everybody jumped up to wave
their hands, school colors, and handkerchiefs; while amidst the
terrific din a hundred hats soared heavenward, to be reckoned with
afterwards by their reckless and excited owners.

It was a clean touch down for Chester! First blood had after all come
to the visitors. The Marshall players began to look more serious.
After all, then, it was not destined to be such a "soft snap" as some
of them had made out to believe. They had better gird themselves, and
start in to do something on their own account. These Chester fellows
could play the game, it seemed, for all there was in it. Visions of
possible defeat spurred the locals on to increasing their pressure.
They remembered that Jack Winters led those hosts from the rival town;
and in the baseball session he had demonstrated what a menace he could
be to any opponent. Besides, it must not be forgotten that Chester had
had the advice and coaching of a veteran college player, who had kept
his finger on the pulse of the football world, even though he had been
actually out of the real struggle for years.

The kick for goal after the touchdown proved futile. Either the
distance was too great, or else a slant of the wind caused the ball to
miss its mark, much to the regret of McGuffey, who had qualified for
that honor. Jack determined that if another like opportunity occurred
he would depend on sturdy Big Bob Jeffries. Now that the thing was
done, he realized that this was his first mistake thus far.

But the score was five to nothing, and the fight still on Marshall's
lines. It might be possible to duplicate the performance, and still
further push the home players down in the mud.

Marshall, however, was now nettled. The sting of that easy touchdown
was like the goad to a lazy horse. The whole line quickened, and
during the remainder of the first period they forced the fighting over
into Chester territory. Indeed, after a number of downs, and a close
call from having a touchdown scored upon them, Chester only barely
managed to hold the hungry enemy at bay until the referee's whistle
announced that the first period had expired.

During the few minutes between the end of the first quarter and the
renewal of activities, there was much buzzing of tongues all over the
grandstand. Everybody seemed to be talking at once; and of course the
three girl chums from Chester had to have their brief say.

"Wasn't it a grand sight, though, to see Steve Mullane carrying the
pigskin oval across the line?" exclaimed Lucy Marsh, her eyes snapping
in her delight. "Girls, after all, I've decided that I'll attend that
barn dance Thanksgiving night out at the Badgeley Farm with Steve. You
see, four fellows have asked me, and I hardly knew which one I wanted
to accept; but after what Steve has done to cheer up Chester this day,
of course I couldn't decline his invitation."

"But please don't say that Steve did it all!" spoke up Mollie Skinner,
quickly. "He was only one in the chain, remember, though deserving of
great praise for beating those fast runners, and falling across the
line with the ball just in time. I noticed that Fred Badger made a
distinct gain, without which Steve never could have reaped his reward.
Some are given to plant, others to water, but the fortunate one is
able to reap the harvest of cheers. It's hardly fair; Fred, yes, and
Joel Jackman, too, deserves a share in the applause, for they made
that touchdown possible."

"There's glory enough for all," said Adelaide, wisely, to settle the
question in a common-sense way. "Every fellow on the team, from Jack
Winters down, had a share in that play; for you must have noticed that
they interfered and shut off much of the pursuit so that the nearest
Marshall boys could not hold Steve when he started his plunge."

"Well, there they are at it again, girls, and what a dandy kick-off
that was! Oh! I hope Chester still holds the advantage when this
period ends."

Lucy's devout wish seemed without avail, for the fighting soon surged
over on Chester territory, with the heavy Marshall machine pushing its
way remorselessly forward yard by yard. Before six minutes had passed
they had scored a safety from their opponents, giving them two points
to start with. Then came a furious struggle ending in a goal being
kicked from field that netted Marshall just three points; and as the
period finally came to an end they were threatening a repetition of
this same system of tactics.

During the intermission Marshall made two changes in their line-up, it
being discovered that there were weak links in their chain. Chester
had thus far fortunately escaped any serious accidents, and Jack did
not give any of the eager substitutes a chance to show what they had
in them, though they were ready to jump in at a word.

Jack now saw it was true concerning the ability of several Marshall
players to kick amazing field goals, and he realized that it must be
his policy after this to try to keep the situation from developing
along those lines, and debar them from such opportunities as much as
possible.

With the starting of hostilities again the play began to center around
midfield. Now it was Chester in possession of the ball, and then like
magic it passed into the hands of the locals. Half-way through the
quarter the tide surged back on to Chester territory, with all that
brawn thrown upon them. Speedily came a touchdown for Marshall, but
the kick for goal missed connections by a foot.

When but two minutes remained for a recovery there came a series of
brilliant forward passes on the part of Chester, followed by steady
gains, until just as the last minute was starting, Jack gave the
signal that brought about a brilliant play, following which Jones, the
left end, ran swiftly around and planted the ball across the line for
another touchdown. A kick for goal failed to score, and as the whistle
of the referee announced that the quarter had come to an end, a mighty
howl arose from thousands of throats, while the whole grandstand and
field seemed to fairly blaze with innumerable waving flags and
pennants and all manner of such objects. For with the game three-
quarters finished the score was actually a tie, being ten to ten!



CHAPTER XII

GLORY ENOUGH FOR ALL



The stage was now set for the deciding quarter of the game. Many
already began to talk of the result being a tie that would necessitate
another test of skill and endurance. Marshall admirers, however,
scoffed at such a thing. They tried to make out that thus far their
veteran team had only been trifling with the fellows from the rival
town. Now that it had reached this stage they were bound to show their
real form, and snow poor Chester under.

But somehow this line of talk failed to frighten those who wore the
colors of the visiting team. What they had seen convinced them that
their faith was in good hands. Jack Winters had yet to go down to
defeat since he took charge of outdoor sports in Chester, barring that
one fight with Harmony in baseball. No doubt he had managed to inspire
his players with some of his own indomitable energy and never-give-up
spirit.

So play was resumed where it had been left off, and almost immediately
the rival teams were at work, "hammer and tongs," as one gentleman
described it. Brilliant plays followed in rapid succession, each
accompanied by a burst of applause, which was, however, instantly
stilled, as though the crowd understood instinctively how it was
necessary that they remain hushed in order that the leaders' signals,
and the whistle of the referee, so frequently sounding, might be
plainly heard by those who fought in the arena.

After a successful plunge Marshall lost the ball on downs. A punting
duel followed, with the advantage slightly in favor of Marshall,
though both Mullane and Jeffries managed to hold up their end with
considerable honor.

Then came a furious attack on the part of the locals that carried
Chester well off its feet. Before they could rally to ward off the
blow, a touchdown resulted, though again the kick for goal failed,
owing to the flukey wind, as some of the chagrined Marshall players
hastened to explain.

It began to look serious for the visitors, with Marshall again in the
lead. Time was a factor to be counted on now in deciding matters. All
Marshall had to do was to hold their opponents, and they would win. Of
course the desire to add to their score would always tempt them to
strive further; and this might give Chester the opening needed.

Jack sent the word around for a supreme effort. He felt that they were
capable again of turning the tables on the enemy, despite the fact of
their superior heft and experience.

When Fred, Joel, and the balance of the boys got that signal they
realized how it was now up to them to play like demons. They had
apparently been doing the best that was in them hitherto; but strange
to say there always seems to be just a little more vim and snap in a
football player's make-up that can be summoned to the fore when a
desperate situation arises.

All those devoted admirers who had traveled across to Marshall to see
them do the old town credit must not be disappointed, if it lay in
human endurance to wrest victory from impending defeat.

So spurred on by this incentive, and with their opponents resting
under the belief that they had the game already "sewed up," by reason
of that last touchdown, Jack's warriors exerted additional pressure,
and bent the line back until they were fighting on Marshall territory,
grimly pressing on a few yards at a time without a single fumble.

It was thrilling to see how like inexorable Fate they continued to
push forward, despite the frantic efforts of the locals to head them
off. Again was the crowd on its feet, every eye fastened on the
struggling mass of players. Hearts beat high with renewed hope among
those Chester onlookers. They realized that this was to be the
crowning episode in all the long and bitter contest, when Jack Winters
would bring every particle of skill and endurance he could command in
his fighting eleven to tear off a victory before the time had expired.

How desperately Captain Needham rallied his players to the defense! It
seemed as though they stood like a stone-wall against the rashes of
the visitors; and yet in spite of everything Chester managed to
continue gaining.

Now it was by a clever swing around the end; again it was a mass play
that tore through the center, and took the ball well along for perhaps
five or six yards before the runaway was downed. Chester still had the
ball, and that was the encouraging feature of it all; Chester meant to
hang on to the ball like grim death until the golden opportunity came
to try for a touchdown that would once again even up the score, now in
Marshall's favor by five points.

There was no talking going on now in the grandstand. Everyone was too
much worked up for such a thing. Besides, what with the outbursts of
spasmodic cheering, instantly quenched, and the necessity for silence
between times, no opportunity for exchanging opinions offered.

Many had their watches out and were casting apprehensive glances at
the dials. There remained much less than two minutes of time. Then the
referee's whistle must sound to indicate that the game was finally
over. Could Chester redeem that loss of a touchdown against such
strenuous opposition as those Marshall fellows were now putting up?

Even the most sanguine began to feel doubts gripping their faithful
hearts. The boys were doing well, much better than anyone had ever
believed possible; but, of course, the gruelling pace must be
beginning to tell upon them. They were not seasoned veterans like most
of the Marshall fellows; and in such a long and bitterly fought battle
on the gridiron experience counts in the last round.

And yet they were still pushing ahead. It was wonderful, grand! How
the sight did thrill some of those who years back may themselves have
taken part in similar struggles, when in college, or attending a high
school; and what vivid memories it must have called to mind as they
stood there, holding their very breath, and drinking in the ever
changing picture!

If anything was going to be done, there was certainly no more time to
lose, for really but a part of a minute still remained. It looked as
though, despite their gallant fight, the boys from Chester were doomed
to be held back from the victory, or the tie, that was so near.

Then something happened.

A gasp seemed to pass over the throng. Scurrying figures on the field
announced that the expected was being carried out. Chester was making
a last desperate effort for a touchdown. It would be the expiring
flicker of the flame; for whether successful or not it must mark the
end, since the referee would be blowing his whistle before play could
be resumed.

They saw a figure shoot out ahead of all the rest. Why, what was
this--could it be Winters, the halfback, who had the ball, when many
had distinctly seen it just a second before in the possession of Fred
Badger? The pass had been so cleverly executed that not only had the
spectators almost to a man been deceived, but the Marshall players
themselves were confused, and in this way last much of their
effectiveness.

Fast upon the heels of the flying halfback two Marshall players came
dashing; but they might as well have hoped to catch the wind in a
sixty-mile gale as overtake that speedy runner. It was as though Jack
had reserved his best powers for this special occasion. He saw just
where he meant to hurl himself over the line, and clutch that envied
touchdown. Had a dozen followed he would have distanced them every
one, such was his mettle just then. He seemed endowed with
supernatural speed, many who stared and held their breath believed.

Then a roar went up that dwarfed all that had gone before. Jack was
over, and had thrown himself, still grasping the ball, for the
touchdown that tied the score!

Hardly had this happened when the shrill whistle of the referee
announced that the fourth and concluding quarter had ended.

"A tie! a tie!" shrilled hundreds of excited voices.

"Hold on there, you're away off!" others called out, making frantic
gestures as they shouted these words. "Don't you see the umpire using
his megaphone, and that referee, head linesman, and field judge are
waving their arms? Keep quiet, everybody! They've got a communication
to make. Perhaps the game isn't _quite_ over yet!"

By degrees the uproar quieted down, when it was generally discovered
that the umpire had an important communication to make. Evidently the
players understood just what its nature was going to be, for while the
Chester boys looked eager and expectant, those on the Marshall side
bore an air of despondency.

"According to the rules of the game, as set down in the official
guide," shouted the umpire through his megaphone, so that everybody
was able to hear all he had to say, "when a touchdown is made just as
play closes for the fourth period an extension of time is to be
granted the side making the same, to try for a kick for goal. So
Chester is now at liberty to make that try. If it fails, the score
remains a tie; if successful, of course the game goes to Chester.
Please everybody remain quiet until the test has been made."

This time Jack made no mistake. He beckoned to Big Bob Jeffries to try
for goal. It was an oblique slant, and only a clever kicker could
succeed, with that baffling wind against him. Big Bob looked once in
the direction of the grandstand as if to draw inspiration. Most people
believed he must know some girl, whose encouragement he sought; but
Mollie and Lucy and Adelaide did not venture to take such honor to
themselves. A little modest woman sat behind them, and it was her eyes
moist with tears of pride that inspired Big Bob Jeffries when he
strode up to win, or know the reason why--his mother sat there!

Well, when the "punk" was heard, every eye followed the sailing ball.
It seemed to sag to one side, then again took on a true course, as
though guided by some invisible hands.

As it was seen to drop squarely over the bar between the posts the
crowd broke into frenzied shouts. Chester had won by a single point!
That last kick for goal after Jack had saved the day by his touchdown,
had done the business; and the happy visitors could go back home
feeling they had a reason to be proud of the scrappy eleven that
represented their town on the gridiron.

The final score was 16 to 15.



CHAPTER XIII

WHEN THE RED FIRE BURNED IN CHESTER



It was such a great victory that the boys of Chester laid plans to
celebrate by making a night of it, just as they always do in college
towns, when the local team brings home high honors, to be handed down
to posterity as great feats worthy of emulation.

On the way back home every fellow in the big carryall promised to come
out and join the parade that must circle through every street in town.
It would be led by a brass band, and they would march to the glare of
numerous bonfires, which of course the younger element could be
depended on to furnish. They had already doubtless taken note of every
old vegetable barrel that grocers unwittingly left outdoors nights, as
well as a few tar barrels in addition, all of which would help make
the heavens turn red under the glare, and add to the joyous occasion.

Jack tried to back out, but his mates would accept no excuses.

"You're no more tired than the rest of the bunch, Jack," Toby told
him; "and say, what is a victorious procession going to be like,
anyway, with the noblest Roman of them all absent? You are the captain
of the football squad, and everybody'll expect you to be in the front
rank. Just forget all your modesty for once, Jack, and make up your
mind to have a grand blowout."

"We certainly deserve it," snapped Joel Jack-man, "after putting up
such a royal fight against desperate odds. Why, when it drew near the
end I warrant you even the most loyal among our rooters began to turn
cold with fear that Chester would be left out in the count. But didn't
Packy McGraw and his crowd sing loud, though? That's what a cheer
captain can do for his side. Every time I heard them give that Chester
yell it seemed to put fresh heart in me."

"'Course you've just got to come out, Jack," protested Steve. "Why,
we'll gather around your shack and keep on yelling bloody murder if
you refuse, until your folks will show you the door. We want you, and
we've got to have you."

So, to "keep peace in the family," as Jack laughingly explained, he
consented, although with a shade of doubt.

"Keep things within reason, fellows," he urged them. "Don't let's be
too crazy with our success. It's true that we've done our town credit
today, and made old Joe Hooker happier than he's been for years,
because he believed in us to the end; but let's hold ourselves in
some."

"It only happens once a year, as a rule, Jack," said Toby Hopkins,
exultantly; "and my stars! we've just _got_ to blow off steam after
that great time, or bust, that's all."

Later on, after night had fully set in, the racket commenced. Small
boys began to set off firecrackers and Fourth of July pistols loaded
with blanks. Here and there the first bonfires started, until one
could hardly look up and down any street in Chester without
discovering one or more burning, with a host of busy little stokers
clustering around, and adding fresh fuel to the flames as new stores
were brought in by industrious scouts and raiders. It was a wise
citizen who, having an ash barrel setting in his yard, had had the
forethought to remove it to a place of safety; for the chances were
decidedly against its being found in its accustomed spot when dawn
came along.

Jack met Big Bob while on his way to the appointed rendezvous of the
football boys, where smiling Joe Hooker had also agreed to join them
for the parade. Indeed, he had a suspicion that Bob had come out of
his way in the hope of finding him at home. This was proven by the
first words the other spoke.

"Well, this is luck, Jack," said Bob, as he saw, by the light of a
street lamp, whom he had run across. "I was on my way around to make
sure you'd come out and join the boys. Then, again, I just wanted to
have a few words with you about--you know what I mean, Jack."

"Has anything happened, Bob?" asked the other, quickly.

"If you mean has the mystery been cleared up, I'm sorry to tell you
no," Big Bob replied. "But there has been a great change in my home
affairs, Jack. It's really wonderful, to me anyhow, because all my
life it seems that my father has held me at arms' lengths. Why, Jack,
what do you think, when I got home tonight, dirty as anything, and
with this bruise on my cheek where I struck the ground that time we
had the big smash, would you believe it, he actually shook my hand
with a vim, and told me he was proud of me. Why, I tell you that was
worth all I did in my humble capacity, to help win the victory, yes, a
dozen times over."

Jack did not laugh, although it seemed very humorous to hear a boy
make such a strange statement as that. Why, most fathers would have
said that much and ten times over; indeed, few could ever have allowed
such a gap of coldness to arise between themselves and their own
children. It was high time Mr. Jeffries awoke to a realization of the
fact that he had a boy of whom any father might well be proud. Yes, he
had shirked his duty as a parent long enough; and Jack was glad to
know the scales were being lifted from his eyes.

To himself Jack was saying that already it seemed as though great good
was coming out of Big Bob's misfortune. What would a dozen lost
letters count in comparison with the knowledge that his father had
begun to know him, and that the gulf hitherto existing between them
was in a fair way of being definitely bridged?

"It's strange how suddenly your father has become interested in boys'
sports, Bob," he went on to tell the other. "I happened to run across
Mr. Holliday this morning after I saw you, and he told me something
that interested me a good deal."

"About my dad, do you mean, Jack?"

"Yes, about him, Bob. Did you ever know he had contributed money
toward paying off what is still due on the new gymnasium? You know Mr.
Holliday is the chairman of the citizens' committee that has the
financial end of the undertaking in charge."

"Do you really mean it, Jack? My father give money for such a project
as that, when I've heard him say many a time that I was wasting every
cent I put in baseball togs and such things; and that when he was a
boy they had only a pair of skates, or a home-made sled, to have sport
with. Tell me more, Jack, please; you've got me all in a flutter now."

"Oh! Mr. Holliday, Adelaide's father, you know, simply said that Mr.
Jeffries had awakened at last to a realization of how much athletic
sports mean for the health of all boys who love to play ball, and
skate, and exercise in a gymnasium, for he had come into his office of
his own accord, planked down one hundred dollars in a check, and told
the chairman that if when they were making up their tally the funds
fell shy to call upon him for another like amount!"

Big Bob gasped, such, was his surprise and delight. He fairly bubbled
over when grasping Jack's hand and squeezing it unmercifully.

"Thank you for telling me that, Jack!" he cried. "It's certainly the
best thing I've heard this many a long day. I thought I was happy over
having had a share in our victory today; but say, that doesn't cut a
figure with the way I am thrilled by such glorious news. It means a
whole lot to me, Jack. After this I'll have a chance to know my
father, and he to understand me better. Oh! if only that one dark
cloud could be settled, how happy I'd be! Did that letter go across to
England, or was it lost out of my pocket on that fatal occasion when I
forgot?"

Jack, knowing that he could not say anything more to comfort Big Bob,
tried to relieve the tension by drawing the other's attention to
something else.

"We must devote ourselves from now on, Bob, to perfecting a new line
of attack," he went on to say. "Every member of the Harmony squad was
there in the front row, and simply devouring our methods of assault.
Depend on it, they will expect to profit from what they saw today."

"That's a sort of unfair advantage, it strikes me, Jack, since we on
our part know so little about their style of play. None of us has seen
them practice this season; and I heard that they had completely
altered their mode of attack and defense since last year."

"All right, we're going to be given a chance to learn something
between now and our Thanksgiving game; because, Bob, as you must know,
Harmony and Marshall are due for a fight next Saturday, the one before
the day we get busy again."

Bob gave a pleased cry.

"Why, of course, how silly of me to forget that important fact, Jack!
And, to be sure, the whole Chester football squad will be bunched
close to the line, watching every play that is made, and remembering
it for future reference. Do you think they will down poor old Marshall
easier than we did?"

"They ought to," came the reply, "because they have a team that works
like a well-oiled machine, I've been told. But wait and see. Lots of
sure things in football dope fail to work out when the trial comes
off. I've known a team that ran ten pounds heavier all through to be
smartly beaten by a more lively bunch, that knew just how to carry the
giants off their feet, and keep them from using their great strength.
But here we are at the church, and most of the boys seem to be on
hand."

It had, of course, been agreed that none of the boys should discard
their football togs, though given the liberty of washing up, and
making themselves a little more respectable. What would a lot of
victors on the gridiron look like in a procession, passing shouting
crowds of enthusiastic admirers, if they appeared dressed as if on a
Sunday parade?

Old Joe Hooker was also present, bubbling over with joy over the
success his proteges had won that afternoon. He freely predicted
another strong fight, with a possible victory in sight, when they
faced the Tigers of Harmony on Thanksgiving morning.

In due time the procession started. Crowds were in all the main
streets, and windows in adjacent houses had been illuminated in honor
of the occasion. Chester assumed a really festive air, and what with
the mad cheering, and the loud laughter, it soon became evident that
there was to be little sleep for anyone until the boys had exhausted
themselves, and the supply of barrels, as well as fire-crackers, gave
out.

Despite his objections they hoisted Jack on the shoulders of Steve
Mullane and Big Bob Jeffries, to lead the van. Then, as though it were
only fitting that good old Joe Hooker should share in the occasion, he
too was taken in hand, and carried in a chair close to Jack. Amidst
whooping crowds they passed, so that everybody might have a chance to
set eyes on the pair whom Chester honored that night; while the
explosions continued and the red fire burned in the streets.

But it was fated that the glorious day was not to be complete without
a touch of tragedy, for along about nine o'clock, when the rioters
were beginning to feel too tired to continue the march much longer,
and people were returning to their homes in great numbers, a sudden
sound rang out that sent a thrill through many hearts.

This was the loud, harsh clang of the fire-bell, telling that a real
conflagration was about to add its quota to the excitement of the
afternoon and evening.



CHAPTER XIV

WHAT FOLLOWED THE CELEBRATION


"Hey! boys, listen to that, will you? Has the fire-engine company
started to join in the celebration?" whooped Phil Parker, who was
along with the rest, though barred from the football squad because of
an injury to his leg, and also positive orders from headquarters at
home to avoid all strenuous sports for some months.

"Not much they haven't, Phil!" cried Joel Jackman, showing signs of
growing excitement. "Nothing make-believe about that alarm, let me
tell you. There's a genuine fire broken out somewhere around town!"

"Just as like as not some of those reckless kids with their bonfires
have gone and done it!" ventured Steve Mullane, indignantly; "and now
the people will begin to say how foolish it was to give up the town to
this wild orgy of celebration, just because the boys of Chester won a
game."

"Listen, will you?" exclaimed still another of the bunch, as they
stood there with strained ears, and at the same time casting
apprehensive glances around, as though each individual fellow had a
haunting dread lest it might turn out to be his own comfortable home
that was threatened with destruction.

"Going to be some fire, let me tell you," snapped Fred Badger, "with
the wind blowing as strong as it does."

"There, look over yonder, boys, just beyond the spire of the
Presbyterian Church! Don't you think it's showing brighter in that
quarter? Yes, sir, the fire lies over that way, as sure as anything!"

"Let's gallop along, then," suggested Toby Hopkins impulsively. "No
telling when the volunteer firemen will get there, they seem so slow
about gathering, and running their old machine to a blaze. Thank
goodness! we've decided to have an up-to-date fire department in
little old Chester right away. Our town has waked up from her long
sleep, and is beginning to stretch and yawn."

They were already in motion before Toby reached the end of his speech,
running in pretty much of a bunch; just as though it might be a game
of hare-and-hounds that was being started, and the signal had been
given to take up the pursuit.

As they dashed along at quite a good speed, the boys could hear cries
of interest on all sides. People who had retired to their homes, under
the belief that the exciting night's doings were about over, now stood
in open doorways. Questions were flung at the boys as they rushed by,
the burden of these anxious inquiries being as to the location of the
fire.

Of course, as they themselves were still densely ignorant concerning
this, none of the bunch could give any coherent answer; though one
might fling over his shoulder some reassuring words such as:

"Don't know exactly; but it doesn't seem to be in the mill section!"

Doubtless that brought a sense of relief, for whenever there sprang up
a fire in Chester the first fear of everybody was that it might be
among the fine structures clustered closely together, and consisting
of various busy mills and workshops employing hundreds of persons.

It was a fit night for a big fire, others thought, as they noted how
the November wind scurried along with a keen tang, as though the first
fall of snow might yet surprise the unsuspecting who may not as yet
have laid in their usual winter's supply of coal and wood.

That same wind was just bound to contribute to the fire-laddies'
troubles, if the conflagration managed to get a fair start, and other
buildings chanced to be close to the one that was burning.

Chester was rather spread out, and covered considerable ground, for it
had taken on quite a building boom during the last few years, when new
enterprises were started, and more people came to town.

There was no question now but that the boys, hurrying along as they
did, were on the right road to the fire. They overtook others bound in
the same direction; and as if this were not enough proof to settle the
question, they could see that a great light was beginning to flame up,
making the sky glow.

"Bet you it's only a grass fire after all!" Jones, the left-end
gasped, as he ran lightly along close beside Hemming, the right guard,
who had also been a substitute catcher in the baseball days when Steve
Mullane held out behind the bat like a stone wall.

"I'd say it was a barn full of hay going up the flue," the other
ventured.

No doubt every fellow was hazarding some sort of guess. None of them
felt any further personal fear, because they now knew that the blaze
was in a section where their homes did not chance to be situated.

"Whee! get that flash of fire, will you?" shouted Big Bob Jeffries,
who, despite his heft, managed to keep in the van alongside Jack and
Joel and several other fast runners.

All of them had seen it. Through the darkness of the night a tongue of
flame had suddenly shot up, and then vanished again; but not before
they could notice that dense volumes of smoke hung around the spot.

"What place is it?" called out McGuffey, from the centre of the bunch;
"does anybody know?"

"I wouldn't be a bit surprised if it turned out to be that crabbed old
miser, Philip Adkins' big house!" ventured Joel; who had often come
around this way on his wheel on errands, and ought to be as well
acquainted with the locality as anyone, it would seem.

"Right for you, Joel; that's just whose house it is!" echoed another
boy, as well as he could utter the words, considering that he was
already beginning to get short of breath.

They all knew of Philip Adkins, who had long been quite a character
about Chester. He was said to be quite well-to-do, though those who
called him a millionaire were doubtless "drawing the long bow," as
people always do whenever the wealth of a miser is under
consideration.

Philip Adkins lived in a big house that was unpainted; but those who
had had the opportunity of seeing the inside always said he did not
stint himself in the way of comfort at all, and that he was only a
"peculiar" man. He had one great grudge against the world it seemed.
Other boys were straight and healthy, but for some unaccountable
reason Heaven had seen fit to give him a crippled grandson. Little
Carl Adkins was a pitiable looking object. They sometimes saw him shut
up in a closed carriage, and being whisked through the town; but few
had ever been able to pass a word with the poor boy. These reported
that he was really bright, and had a woe-begone look on his drawn
white face, as though his life had known little of joy.

His grandfather hated the sight of other lads, because they reminded
him that his boy had none of their abounding health and good looks. He
loved the child almost fiercely, partly on account of the boy's
misfortune. They said he kept a servant whose main duties were just to
attend to little crippled Carl.

Jack remembered an occasion when by sheer accident he had chanced to
be passing close to the property of the so-called miser, when he heard
a soft "Hello, there!" and glancing up discovered a white, peaked face
amidst some vines covering a stone wall. He had heard something about
the strange habits of Philip Adkins, and how jealously he guarded his
deformed grandson from coming in contact with the outside world, under
the belief that people would pity the lad, and some be rude enough to
mock his misfortunes.

Jack had stopped and given the little fellow a friendly smile. He had
even spoken to Carl, and when the boy eagerly answered him, entered
into quite an animated little chat, replying to many feverish
questions the other poured out, mostly concerning the things he knew
other boys did, for he was a great reader, that being his one
enjoyment.

Although their little talk was broken off by the sudden coming of the
man-servant who looked after the crippled boy, Jack had never
forgotten the last words Carl spoke to him:

"Oh! what wouldn't I give if grandfather would let me just
_watch_ other boys play ball, and fish, and go in swimming!"

Jack had somehow never told any one of his little encounter with the
crippled boy, but those plaintive words often rang in his ears. He had
even wondered sometimes whether it would do any good if he should seek
an interview with the crabbed, cross-grained old man, and try to
persuade him to change his belief that he was doing right in
sheltering the cripple from a rude world. But up to the present Jack
had not been able to make up his mind to attempt such a bold thing.

And now, what if it turned out that this was the house that was afire,
possibly set ablaze through some spark that had been carried by the
wind, and lodged where it could communicate to some waste material. A
peculiar sense of "coming events casting a shadow before" assailed
Jack. He had a vague idea that there might prove to be more about this
than mere accident. Sometimes a strange "Destiny shapes our ends," he
remembered reading, "rough-hew them as we may." Mr. Adkins had
determined that his poor grandson, whom he passionately loved, should
be sheltered from stinging criticism, and not allowed to mingle with
his kind; but perhaps a power stronger than his will might take
affairs in hand, to guide him along a new path, as his eyes were
opened to the light.

There was now no longer any doubt concerning the identity of the
doomed structure. Joel loudly declared it to be the Adkins house,
beyond question.

"And let me tell you, fellows, it's going to be a tough job for our
firemen to save any part of the old building, because the blaze has
got such a good start I reckon old Philip will have to put up a really
modern house in place of the old rookery."

"He's got the cold cash to do it, boodles of the stuff!" panted Phil
Parker.

The Adkins house was surrounded with fair-sized grounds, in which no
doubt the little prisoner took his daily constitutionals, crutches in
hand, though his world must indeed have seemed exceedingly small to
the poor chap.

The gate was now open, and people pouring in through the gap, all
expressing a great interest in the prospect of any part of the
structure being saved.

"But you can depend on it the old fellow has got it well insured," one
man was saying to another as they pushed through the opening. "Trust
old Philip for always looking out for the safe side. But she'll make a
big blaze before they manage to get enough water going to smother the
flames."

Just then the boys pushing closer toward the house that stood amidst
clouds of billowing smoke saw some one rushing frantically about. It
was old Philip Adkins himself, and he certainly looked almost crazed
with excitement. At first, as was only natural, the boys rested under
the belief that it was the possible loss of his house and its contents
that made him act so wildly; but when they heard what he was shrieking
they realized that he had good cause for acting so.

"Oh! won't some of you _please_ go in and save my poor boy? I believed
his attendant was with him, and had carried Carl out; but the man had
slipped away after putting his charge to bed, and was over in town,
amusing himself in a tavern, I've just found out. Save the poor child,
and name your own reward, for I'll go mad if anything happens to my
boy!"



CHAPTER XV

IN THE BURNING HOUSE



Something must have happened to delay the coming of the firemen, for
as a rule they were prompt to reach the scene. Possibly their engine
had broken down again, as had happened once before; which accident
caused such a talk that public sentiment was aroused, with the result
that a new, modern auto-engine was ordered, and a paid department
arranged for.

"Look here, boys, we ought to do something about this!" exclaimed Jack
Winters, thrilled with what he had heard the sobbing old man cry out.

Philip Adkins turned toward him frantically. He certainly did not hate
boys just at that moment in his life, when it seemed that perhaps he
would have to depend on them for the help he was demanding.

"Oh! don't lose any time, I beg of you!" he cried. "I tried to rush
indoors myself, but some men caught hold of me, and said I'd surely
smother in the smoke. If I thought my poor Carl was lost, nothing
could keep me from going in. Save my boy for me, and any favor you ask
will be granted; but hurry! hurry, or it will be too late!"

Jack saw that the old man was wild with fear. He reached out and took
hold of him by the arm.

"Get a grip on yourself, Mr. Adkins," he said, in that steady voice of
his that generally acted so soothingly on those whom Jack addressed.
"We'll try to get him out for you. But first tell me where his room
is?"

"Upstairs at the first turn; but the hallway is full of smoke by now,
and oh! I even fear the fire has reached there!" cried the old man,
wringing his hands pitifully as he spoke.

"Try to point out the window of his room to me!" continued Jack,
steadily.

Eagerly Mr. Adkins consented to do so, even dragging the boy around
with him as he thrust up a hand and with trembling finger pointed
upward.

"That one you see with the sash lowered. We try to keep him from any
chilly draughts. When you push up the front stairs you must turn to
the left, and enter the small passage. Don't lose any more time, or it
will be too late! Go! please go!"

"We might make a human chain, and push up the stairs that way,"
suggested Phil Parker. "Then, even if one fellow does get dizzy
inhaling all that terrible smoke he won't be apt to drop down. Jack
could be at the end of the chain, always pushing ahead as we added on
to it here at the open door!"

Some of the others seemed to think that a pretty clever idea, judging
from the exclamations that arose all around. But Jack believed he knew
what might be a safer way than the scheme thus proposed.

"Hold on," he told the others, "I've got an idea that beats yours all
hollow, Phil. Leave it to me, fellows."

With that Jack sprang forward.

"I understand what he's got in his head!" cried Toby Hopkins. "It's
the grape-arbor! Don't you see it lies just under that window. Fact
is, a fellow can climb right up to the sash as easy as anything."

"Bully boy, Jack; you know how to manage it all right!" exclaimed
Steve, admiringly, though truth to tell he had never once doubted but
that Jack would discover a means to the end, as he nearly always did.

Jack was climbing fast. He knew that in a case like this seconds
count. That pungent wood smoke was a terrible thing, and if Carl lay
helpless at its mercy for a given period of time the chances were no
power on earth could restore the little cripple to life; for his
constitution was far from robust at the best, and consequently he must
succumb much more speedily than would a stronger boy.

Beaching the top of the arbor Jack started to crawl along the bars
heading toward the window. He had already arranged his simple plan of
campaign. There was indeed only one thing he could do, which was to
enter the room, and finding the lad manage in some fashion to get him
to the window, and down to the ground.

"Be ready down there when I want your help!" he shouted to the rest of
the gang; for what with the loud cries of new arrivals and the
crackling of the flames close by it was necessary to raise one's voice
in order to be heard.

One look downward Jack took just before he arrived at the side of the
house. It was light enough now to see easily, for the fire had broken
through, and the entire grounds seemed illuminated with the glow. He
saw the faces of his numerous comrades turned upward toward him,
intently watching his progress. And others had gathered around, too,
intensely interested in the outcome of the affair; for they realized
that it was a rescue that the football player had in hand.

There amidst the rest Jack picked out the weazened-up face of the old
man. He would never so long as he lived forget that, there was such a
world of apprehension, of piteous appeal in the look old Philip Adkins
was bending upon him; as though all his remaining hopes of a little
happiness in this world centered now upon the gallant boy who had
undertaken to save his Carl.

Then Jack reached the side of the house. It felt warm to his touch, a
fact that gave him a sudden fear that the worst might have happened to
the crippled boy beyond the window.

One effort he made to raise the sash, but it seemed stuck, or else was
locked. There was no time for halfway measures, and accordingly Jack,
tearing loose a broken section of a wooden bar that formed part of the
top of the trellis, smashed the window with several blows, after
warning those below to get from under.

He took pains to clear the sash from any projecting fingers of glass
that might have given him trouble in the shape of severe cuts. Then
without another glance at the spectators gathered below the boy
proceeded to crawl swiftly through the opening, heedless alike of the
smoke that was oozing forth in thick volumes, or the possibility of
his striking the fire itself, once he had entered the house.

They saw his heels vanish through the gap. Something like a gasp arose
from some of the gathered crowd, constantly augmented as fresh
arrivals came running up, to ask what had happened, and who it was
they saw entering through that window.

Some seemed to consider it a rash thing to do. These for the most part
were women who had not yet grasped the fact that Jack was not risking
his life out of sheer bravado, but that it was believed the poor
little cripple had been abandoned in his room through mistake, and it
was Jack's intention to save him if he could.

Then their opinions changed like magic, for their hearts filled with
sympathy. Even the sobbing old man became an object of pity, though up
to then few in the crowd had been heard to express any sorrow because
it was Philip Adkins' house that was afire. This was owing to his
unpopularity in Chester, where he never gave to any charitable object,
or for that matter even treated folks decently in his bitterness
toward all mankind because his poor boy was so deformed, and stricken
by a cruel Fate.

The football boys, however, felt none of those fears. They knew Jack
Winters' ways, and that he always did what he attempted, if it lay
within the range of human possibilities. Although he had gone from
their sight they continued to stand there in a bunch, ready to catch
the child if Jack dropped him from the window.

One there was who did not seem content to just stand and wait. Joel
Jackman was built upon too nervous lines for that; and just as soon as
he had seen the last of Jack through the broken window he started up
after his leader. Some of the other fellows called to him to come
back, but Joel knew what he was about, and gave no heed to their
cries.

Jack might need help, he argued with himself, and in that case his arm
would come in handy. There was surely enough of them below to do all
that was necessary, so that his absence would not count for much. And
after all perhaps Joel would prove to be right in his surmise.

Meanwhile Jack had entered the room.

He found it full of pungent smoke that filled his eyes, and made them
smart in a way that was almost unbearable. Of course under such
conditions he could not distinguish a single thing, and would have to
depend on groping his way around.

But it could not be a very large apartment, he figured, and the bed on
which little crippled Carl lay must be against the wall. So he
immediately started to go the rounds, feeling with his hands in front
of him. Foot by foot he went, coming in contact first of all with some
sort of dresser that evidently stood between the windows, for there
were two in the room, the other having its shutter closed, probably in
order to keep out the light to a certain extent.

Still onward Jack pressed, groping as he went. He shut his eyes, for
sight was next to useless under such trying conditions, and the smart
of the wood smoke almost unbearable.

Then to his satisfaction he stumbled against what proved to be the
side of a bed. Eagerly he bent lower, and began to feel among the
clothes. He was thrilled when he actually touched something that
seemed like a human form, though Jack felt a wave of feeling pass over
him when he realized that it was the poor boy's distorted back that he
had first of all come in contact with.

Tenderly, eagerly he gathered some of the bedclothes around the
figure. There was not the least sign of life or animation about the
boy. He might be dead for all Jack could tell; but no matter, he must
be saved from those cruel approaching flames.

Having bundled him up the best he could, under such trying conditions,
Jack gathered the little chap in his arms. He felt a glow in the
region of his heart just then, such as anyone engaged in a mission of
rescue might experience. But then, it was only a little thing to do,
Jack thought; he really took no risk, and had he held back he would
never have forgiven himself for allowing prudence to sap his desire to
render assistance.

Now for the window again. He looked around him in vain. His eyes were
blinded by the smoke so that he could not tell in which direction he
must go in order to come upon the exit.

Baffled in this one respect, that of vision, Jack turned to another of
his senses. He knew there must be a draught setting toward the
opening, from which smoke was pouring so heavily. So he set to work
endeavoring to learn which way the air moved, knowing that in this
fashion he could grope his way to the exit.

Those outside were becoming a bit worried. No doubt seconds had been
magnified into minutes in their minds, and they began to have fears
that something had happened to the daring lad who had ventured within
the building. Every eye remained glued upon the place of his
disappearance.

Joel had before then succeeded in reaching the open window, where he
crouched and waited, occasionally peering in as if half tempted to
crawl through the gap after Jack.

He had hard work contenting himself to remain there on his precarious
perch; indeed, only that he did not wish to seem to be interfering
with Jack's plans Joel certainly would have ventured across the window
sill. Unable to beep silent any longer, he finally gave a loud shout:

"This way out, Jack! Here's the window, over this way!"



CHAPTER XVI

JACK SPEAKS FOR LITTLE CARL



That was a bright idea on the part of Joel, cowering there at the
window, and dodging the dense volume of smoke that poured forth as
through a funnel. For Jack heard the call, and it gave him a clue as
to where the window lay. So presently he arrived there, greatly to
Joel's delight.

"Oh! you've got the poor little chap then, have you, Jack? Is he dead
or alive?" was what he burst out with, as he became aware of his
friend's presence.

"I don't know," Jack replied; "but we must get him down as quick as we
can, Joel, so a doctor can work over him. He may not be too far gone
yet from the smoke. The fire never touched him. Do you think we could
manage it between us, by taking all manner of care?"

"Sure thing, Jack. Here, let me hold him some while you climb out.
Hang that awful smoke, it makes the tears blind you!"

A shout arose from the anxious crowd below. Jack did not dare waste
even seconds in glancing down, but he could imagine the old man
stretching his hands up mutely as though imploring the rescuers to
hasten, so as to relieve the tension of his breaking heart.

Cautiously they began to make their way along over the top of the
trellis. Jack only feared lest some strip of rotten wood might give
way under their combined weight, and allow them to plunge downward. A
solid phalanx of the sturdy football players had formed directly
beneath, and they seemed determined that if anything of this sort took
place they would serve as a buffer, so that those who fell through
might not be seriously injured.

But no accident befell them, and soon they were being assisted down
the arbor by willing hands. The old man fought his way into the midst,
nor did anyone have the heart to deny him this privilege,
understanding how frantic he must be to learn the worst.

A gentleman pushed forward.

"Here's Doc. Halleck!" cried Phil Parker, just then recognizing one of
the town physicians, who with the rest had hurried to the spot,
possibly being at the time on his night round of visits to patients,
and thinking that perhaps the services of a doctor might be needed at
the fire.

He took the bundled form of the cripple from Jack. Old Mr. Adkins hung
over the boy as though everything he had in the wide world could go up
in flames if only he might be told that the child was all right. In
that minute of time people who had looked down on the old miser with
scorn began to realize that he was capable of human affection, and
that he actually had a heart.

Carrying the lad to some little distance from the house, to be out of
the way of the firemen when they arrived and set to work with their
apparatus, Doctor Halleck laid his burden on the ground. Then he
called for some water, and the old man told one of the boys how to get
a supply from the well close by.

When this was fetched, the physician, who had already been holding a
small phial containing ammonia, Jack suspected, to the cripple's nose,
set to work to bathe his patient's face with the cool liquid.

"Oh! tell me the worst, Doctor, please!" begged old Mr. Adkins,
wringing his hands as, by the light of the fire, he looked at the
white face of little Carl, seemingly so corpse-like. "Is he dead, my
poor, poor boy?"

"Nonsense, Mr. Adkins, he will be all right inside of five minutes,"
said the doctor, brusquely, for like many other people he had never
liked the old miser. "He has inhaled considerable of the smoke, and
must have fainted away up there in his room, after calling out for
help without being heard. I give you my word, sir, there is nothing
serious the matter with him; though had he remained in that terrible
atmosphere a short time longer all efforts to resuscitate him would be
in vain. You owe a lot to the boy who brought him out in time, let me
tell you, sir."

At that the old man turned upon Jack Winter, and clutched his hand
almost fiercely. He was about to pour out a torrent of words telling
how grateful he felt, when to the great relief of the boy a shout
arose that drowned everything else out.

"Here comes the engine at last! Now watch the boys get busy!"

A roar went up as the red-shirted firemen with their helmets and their
waterproof garments came rushing into the grounds. A babel of
confusion followed, as they demanded to know where they could get
connection with the nearest fire hydrant on the street, or if none
were handy where could the cistern be found!

Jack broke away and went with the rest of the boys to lend a hand if
anything could be done to assist the fire-fighters. It was learned
that a hydrant stood handy not a hundred feet distant, and to this a
hose was attached without delay. Meanwhile the engine was run
alongside a cistern, and set to work, the loud pumping soon telling
that operations had been started.

When the first stream of water was seen pouring into an open window a
cheer arose from the crowd. Of course few expected that there would be
much left of the building but the bare walls, for the fire had by this
time gotten a good start, and was being whipped by the night wind; but
then they did not bother to waste any sympathy upon the owner, after
once learning who he was.

It was a spectacular and fitting climax to the night's celebration,
just as though Nature wished to add her mite to the glorification on
account of the victory Chester's boys had won on the gridiron that
day.

For some time it was a fight between the rival elements, fire against
water; and as the former had obtained a good start it proved to be a
difficult thing to head it off. Here, there and in many places the
flames would break forth, and eat up whole sections of the frame
building, despite the vigorous efforts of the firemen to control them.
Fortunately there was no house near enough to be caught in the
whirlwind of flames that poured furiously forth from time to time. A
myriad of red sparks flew on the wind; but those who lived in the
quarter whence they went were doubtless taking all necessary
precautions to prevent damage, even to wetting the roofs of their
dwellings with the garden hose, or by means of buckets.

Taken in all, it was a pretty lively time in Chester, and one not soon
to be forgotten either. The fire burned well through the house. It
would have gone like a bundle of shingles only that the flames had
started at the leeward end, and consequently had to eat their way
against the wind.

Some of the boys had gone home, well tired out, but a number of them
still hung around, and seemed bent on staying as long as Jack Winters
did. If he had seen old Mr. Adkins approaching, Jack might have tried
to slip away, but he was unaware of the fact, though Joel and Toby
knew it, and exchanged nods, while refraining from putting the other
on his guard.

So suddenly Jack found himself once more seized upon by Philip Adkins.
The miser was looking a thousand per cent better than before. That
agonized expression had left his face, and something seen there caused
Toby to say aside to Joel, "He almost looks human."

"You are the boy who saved my Carl's life!" exclaimed Mr. Adkins, in a
voice that trembled with emotion, all the while he was clinging to
Jack's hand as though he did not mean to let him go free. "They tell
me that your name is Jack Winters, and that you are a comparatively
new boy in Chester. I don't remember hearing of you before, but they
say you have taken the lead of the boys here in town, and that
everybody is talking about the influence you have with them. You have
done me a great favor this night, Jack Winters. That poor little
fellow, tortured as he is by a cruel Nature, is dearer to me than most
boys are to their parents. I told you to ask me any favor you could
think of, and if it was within my means I'd gladly respond. Even now
I'd be glad to know something that I could do, just to prove to
everyone how grateful an old man like me can be. Isn't there anything
I can do for you, Jack Winters?"

The other fellows listened, and their eyes gave indication of how they
considered this the golden opportunity in Jack's life. Why, to have an
old miser worth all sorts of money say he would like to bestow
anything in his power on a boy, to show his gratitude, was an event
that only came to most fellows in dreams.

Jack had a sudden inspiration. It seemed to him that he could again
see the pitiful look on the white face of the cripple, and once more
hear little Carl saying so sadly:

"Oh! what wouldn't I give if my grandfather would only let me
_watch_ other boys play ball, and fish, and go in swimming!"

"I'll tell you something you can do, Mr. Adkins, since you seem bent
on thinking my little assistance needs compensation; and I'm going to
hold you to your promise, sir. In the first place, please alter your
opinion of the boys of Chester. They are not the gang of young
ruffians you've been picturing to yourself, when you set your mind on
keeping your grandson from coming in contact with them. They would
never taunt him, or make fun of his misfortune, sir, I give you my
word for that. They would only feel very sorry that he couldn't have
all sorts of fun like they enjoyed; and if it lay in their power at
any time I assure you every fellow would go far out of his way to give
little Carl a good time.

"I hope I'm not overbold in saying this to you, Mr. Adkins; but one
day I happened to have a little chat with Carl, who hailed me from the
top of the wall where he had climbed. And, sir, if you could have
heard the longing in his voice when he said to me at parting: 'Oh!
what wouldn't I give if my grandfather would only let me _watch_ other
boys play ball, and fish, and go in swimming!' Don't you see you are
starving his soul by keeping him away from everybody? Some day, if
he lives, he must face the world, and you're keeping him from getting
used to it now. Please think this over, Mr. Adkins, and let him mingle
with boys of his age. You'll never regret it, I'm sure, and it would
be the best thing for the boy that could happen. You'll soon see color
come in his face, and his eyes will take on a different look from the
one of pain and dread they have now. And the first boy who offends
that little cripple will have to reckon with me, sir, I give you my
word for it!"

"And with me, too," snapped Fred Badger, trying hard to keep from
letting his eyes betray the fact that he was near crying; for Jack's
earnest plea, and the thought of the lonely life the little cripple
had been leading greatly affected Fred.

Other boys added their assurances to what had already been said. Mr.
Adkins was plainly much impressed. He showed it by the way he stared
around at the circle by which he was surrounded. Jack held his breath
with suspense. He wondered if he had made the impression he hoped for
when saying what he did. Strange, how things had worked to bring
matters to this focus.

"I _will_ think it over, Jack," said the old man, presently. "I
already begin to find my eyes opened to the fact that I have sadly
misjudged the Chester boys all these years. This almost tragic event
may be what was needed to lift the scales from my distorted vision,
and enable me to see clearly. Yes, I will think it over, and let you
know the result very soon. If I can convince myself that it would be
for that dear child's benefit there is nothing from which I would
shrink."

And after the boys had seen him depart, once more hurrying back to
where Carl lay bundled up in blankets, every fellow insisted on
shaking Jack's hand, and telling how his feat in saving the cripple
was overshadowed in his victory over the crabbed old boy-hating miser.



CHAPTER XVII

THE AFTERMATH OF A GOOD DEED



"Well, this is the last chance we'll have to practice our secret
signal codes before we run foul of Harmony in the big game tomorrow!"
said Joel Jackman, on Wednesday afternoon, as he and several other of
the team arrived at the same isolated field, where we saw them working
under the direction of old Joe Hooker on that previous occasion when
Jack and Joel discovered the presence of spies, who later on turned
out to be three little maids from school, deeply interested in the
doings of the boys, and watching the play through a pair of opera
glasses.

"Yes, tomorrow morning is the grand and glorious occasion when we hope
to more than duplicate our past performance with Marshall," laughed
Fred Badger.

Joel cast a quick glance across the field. Jack smiled when he saw
that his attention was centered on the big oak, in the branches of
which they had found Mollie Skinner and her two girl chums snugly
ensconced.

"Still thinking of that other time, eh, Joel?" he asked, as the other
caught his eye and turned a little red.

"Why, you see, it's this way, Jack," stammered Joel; "I honestly
believe those girls were our mascots. They said they meant to wish,
and hope, and pray that we'd win the game against Marshall, and sure
enough we did that same thing. Now, why shouldn't history repeat
itself, I'd like to know? Suppose we did discover 'em peeking again,
wouldn't it make you believe we were bound to down Harmony tomorrow?
I'm not given much to superstition, but I own up I could see something
like a good sign about that sort of thing."

"Well, I happen to know that Mollie, for one, is over at her
grandmother's in Springfield today," spoke up Fred Badger, who of
course had heard about the visit of the trio of high school girls to
the big oak, and how Jack and Joel had to climb up and help them get
back to earth again. "But she'll be on hand for the game tomorrow; in
fact, she expects to be home tonight."

"Oh! leave it to little Freddy to know all about the movements of Miss
Mollie Skinner," crowed Phil Parker somewhat derisively; but then no
one paid much attention to what Phil said, because it was well known
that the said Fred had cut him out of Mollie's favors, for once upon a
time she and Phil had gone together to singing-school and parties.

They found most of the boys assembled, and waiting for the coming of
the coach, who had faithfully promised to be on hand that afternoon,
in order to go over the various signal codes again. Joe Hooker had not
yet put in an appearance, and several of the substitutes were enjoying
themselves punting the ball, doubtless also wondering if they were
going to be as luckless as before about breaking into the game, this
time with Harmony's Tigers.

"Jack," remarked Toby Hopkins just then, "I want to know what's
happened to keep you chuckling to yourself right along. I never knew
you to do such a thing except when you had something _especially_
pleasant to communicate."

"Do you know," spoke up Steve, "I was just thinking the same thing,
Toby. More than a few times I've seen Jack look around at the rest of
us, and grin as if he felt almost tickled to death over something."

"Well, I am," calmly remarked the object of this attack.

"Then why don't you up and tell the whole bunch what's in the wind,
Jack?" asked Joel. "It isn't fair to keep it to yourself hoggishly, is
it, fellows?"

"We demand that you confess, Jack!" said Big Bob, sternly.

Jack beckoned to the fellows who were knocking the ball about.

"Come over here, all of you, and gather around me," he said,
pretending to look very serious, but not making a great success of it.
"I've got something to communicate that may please the bunch, for it
concerns every one of us, as well as all other boys in Chester."

"Then it must be about the new gymnasium, Jack!" exclaimed Fred.

"Some one has given the project another boost," ventured Phil Parker.
"I wonder now if your dad, Bob, has planked down more hundreds after
what he's already donated. Is that it, Jack?"

"Mr. Jeffries has already done his whole duty in the matter, and
proven his interest in Chester boys," said Jack. "There happens to be
another gentleman in the town who up to date had a pretty poor opinion
of boys in general, but who's had a change come over him, a
revolutionary change, I should say, because he'd been in to see Mr.
Holliday, asking for facts and figures, and then binding himself to
stand for every dollar still needed to put the gymnasium on a firm
footing, without going one cent in debt!"

The boys held their breath for just five seconds. Then, as if by some
concerted signal, they burst out into one great shout, while several
threw their extra sweaters high in the air, as though bound to give
expression to the state of their feeling in some exuberant fashion.

"Great news this you've brought us today, Jack!" cried Steve Mullane,
his honest face lighted up with joy. "Now, what generous gentleman do
we have to thank for putting the project on such a solid basis as
that? All the boys of Chester will for ages to come feel bound to
honor his memory."

"What ails you, Steve, not to be able to guess ?" Toby demanded. "Have
you forgotten what happened the night after we licked Marshall, and
the Adkins house burned to the ground? Am I right in my guess, Jack,
and was this grand present made in the name of little Carl Adkins?"

"You've hit the nail on the head, Toby," admitted the leader of the
football squad. "It was old Philip Adkins, and Mr. Holliday said to me
that he had never seen such a change as has taken place in that man.
Why, he's smiling all the time now, and has been known to stop and
watch street boys playing marbles in the vacant lots, or kicking an
old fake football around in the side streets of town. Seems like the
old gentleman had just waked up, and begun to understand that boys
have their appointed place in the whole fabric of animated Nature, as
Mr. Holliday expressed it to me in his poetic way."

"Go on and tell us all about it, Jack," urged several, as they
continued to press around and listen to all that was being said.

"There isn't such a lot to tell, fellows," protested Jack. "Mr. Adkins
told me he would think matters over, and it seems that he has come to
a sensible conclusion. He signed an agreement with the chairman of the
gym. committee of finances, binding himself to pay all bills
outstanding after the present collections have been taken up. I
understand that this will be something like six thousand dollars, so
you can see that after all it sometimes pays to have a converted miser
in any community."

"Just what it does," agreed Steve, "because, once he sees things at
their true value, he's apt to give a heap more liberally than some
tightwads who never have had to turn over a new leaf."

"So you see," continued Jack, "we'll not have to worry any more as to
how the balance of the debt is going to be paid. When we open our new
and wonderful gym, containing all sorts of up-to-date appliances for
physical development, there will be no debt hanging over our heads. We
figured on having to give all sorts of entertainments the coming
winter, from basket-ball matches to minstrel performances, in order to
raise funds to help out; but now we can devote our time to having all
the fun going. You also remember the big promise several of the mill-
owners made, led by Mr. Charles Taft?"

"They agreed that if we could work wonders, and get the gymnasium
fully paid for when it started, they'd guarantee having a salaried
physical instructor engaged who would be there week in and week out,
ready to devote his entire attention to the job of building up weak
bodies, and giving counsel to those who might strain themselves too
much all at once. Yes, and everybody agreed that if any such
instructor were engaged we'd all vote to have our dear old Joe Hooker
installed. Well, that dream is going to come true also. Joe has signed
for a year and will begin his new duties on the first day of December,
so that he can be present to see that the apparatus is all properly
installed in the gym. when it arrives."

Again a mighty shout attested to the love those fellows felt for
smiling Joe, the old-time college player, who had been such a helpful
instrument in building up a winning baseball nine, and now a football
eleven, in Chester.

"There never was and never will be again a town more highly favored by
fortune than little old Chester," affirmed Steve Mullane, when he
could make himself heard above all the wild clamor. "While the spirit
is strong within us, fellows, let's give three cheers, first for Mr.
Philip Adkins, the boys' best friend; and then another series for our
own beloved Joe."

"There he comes now, hurrying along, with a limp, and waving his hand
to us!" exclaimed another boy.

The cheers were given with a will. Joe waved his hand again in
greeting. He must have guessed that they had heard about the contract
he signed that same morning in the office of his employer, Mr. Charles
Taft, whereby he agreed to be responsible for the upbuilding of the
new gymnasium, and the character of its many boy members, for the
period of a whole year, devoting his energies to the task, even as his
heart was already enlisted in the work.

"Is there anything else you want to tell us before we settle down to
business, Jack?" asked Toby Hopkins.

"Just one more thing," replied the other, still smiling. "It concerns
that poor little cripple and hunchback, Carl. He has a really
wonderful mind, once you get to know him, as so many of his type seem
to have; as though Nature to make amends for having cheated them out
of so many pleasures connected with boy life had given an additional
portion of intellect. Mr. Adkins came over to our house especially to
see me last night. Now although he completed those arrangements with
the chairman of the financial committee yesterday he never once
mentioned the fact to me. What he did say was that he had thought my
proposition over carefully, and was convinced that after all he had
made a terrible mistake in trying to shield Carl from contact with the
world that some day, if he lived, he must mingle with. So he has
determined that the boy shall go in and out as he wishes, meet other
boys, take the little knocks as others do, and have something to do
with the sports boys love so dearly. Of course he won't be able to
run, or attempt most things; but he can see others doing them, and
that will give him almost as much pleasure. Why, fellows, Mr. Adkins
fairly cried when he told me how the poor little chap hugged him after
he learned what big revolution was coming about in his daily life. But
here's Joe on hand, and ready to put us through our last signal
drills; so let's forget everything, except the game with the Harmony
Tigers tomorrow morning."



CHAPTER XVIII

BIG BOB BRINGS NEWS



When his mother told Jack he was wanted at the 'phone on Thanksgiving
morning shortly after he finished his breakfast, he had a queer little
feeling down in the region of his heart, as though something was going
to happen.

"I've been half expecting it," he said to himself, as he hurried to
the stair landing, where the small table with the receiver stood,
handy to those above and below. "It would be pretty tough now if some
fellow called me to say he couldn't show up this morning for the game,
because he had been taken with the colic during the night, and was as
weak as a cat. Hello, there!"

"Jack, are you through breakfast?" asked a voice.

"Oh! it's you, is it, Big Bob?" Jack went on to say, his fears in no
way relieved by the discovery of the identity of the one who had
called him up. "Yes, I'm through eating. What's up?"

"I'm coming over right away, Jack. Got to see you--very urgent!"

Jack groaned. Then the blow was about to fall, and Chester would be
deprived of their best full-back. No one else could be depended upon
like Big Bob for kicking a field goal, or one after a touchdown.

"All right, come along. I'll try to brace myself to stand it!" he
said.

Bob did not make any further comment, but just before Jack caught the
click as of a receiver being placed on the hook, he thought he heard a
sound that was either a chuckle or a grunt, he did not know which.

So he waited for the other to make his appearance, waited, and puzzled
his head in the endeavor to guess what Bob would have to say,
inventing all sorts of possible excuses for wanting to give up
connection with the game. Jack was grimly determined that he would not
let go his hold on the big fullback until the last gasp. Surely he
must be able to advance some argument that would have weight with any
objections the other might raise.

But there was Bob coming as fast as he could walk, even breaking into
a little run at times. His case must indeed be a desperate one to make
him act like that. Jack went to the door to meet him, thinking the
worst. Of course, just at the last hour as it might be Bob's father
had put the vital question to him, asking squarely if he could vouch
for it that he had mailed that important letter; and poor Bob had to
confess his shortcoming. Then Mr. Jeffries, with a return of his old-
time sternness, had told the offender that in punishment he should not
be allowed to participate in the great Thanksgiving morning game with
boasting Harmony.

It was too bad, and Jack felt his heart sink within him like lead. The
morning had up to then seemed so crisp and promising that he had been
telling himself how even Dame Nature favored the football rivals, and
that everything was fine; but now all of a sudden the whole aspect
seemed to change.

He had refrained from opening the front door until Bib Bob mounted the
steps, on account of the cold wind that would enter. Now as he swung
it wide to allow the other passage Jack gave a tremendous start.

"See here, what's this mean? You don't look as if you brought bad news
along with you, Big Bob?" he fairly gasped, clutching the other by the
arm.

The Jeffries boy was grinning for all he was worth. Jack could not
remember ever looking upon a face that seemed so utterly joyous. His
eyes were dancing, and there was a flush in his cheeks that did not
even confine itself to that portion of his round face, for Big Bob was
as red as a turkey-gobbler strutting up and down the barnyard to the
admiration of his many wives.

"Bad news, Jack!" exclaimed the other in a half-choked voice; "well, I
should say not. It's the most _glorious_ news I'm rushing over here
with this fine morning. No one could have given me a more delightful
surprise than I got just a little while ago. Jack! I _did_ mail that
letter, of course I did, silly that I was to ever doubt such a thing!"

"How do you know now that you did?" asked Jack, thrilled with
satisfaction, while he dragged the other into the hall so that he
might close the front door.

"Why, while we were just finishing breakfast who should stop at the
house but Mr. Dickerson himself. He said an important letter had
arrived for father, and as he was on his way back home to have his
breakfast according to his usual habit between mails, he though he'd
fetch it along with him; for father and he are very good friends, you
must know, and Jack, when I saw that it was from London, you--well,
you could have knocked me over with a feather I was so excited. Father
read it, and I heard him tell mother that _two_ of his letters
did get across after all. So you see, Jack, he took a hint from that
article we left for him to see, and used the follow-up style of
correspondence. I've figured it all out, and know that a steamer
carrying a third letter couldn't have had time to get there. Besides,
I heard father say it was the first, and also the second letter that
landed, for his correspondent told him he had just received a copy of
the original, and hastened to reply to both."

Jack seized the other's willing hand, and the two indulged in a mutual
squeezing affair, in which the honors were about even. Big Bob
certainly looked happier than Jack could ever remember seeing him
before. Well, he had good reason for feeling light-hearted, since in a
flash he had been enabled to throw overboard the terrible weight that
had for days and weeks been lying upon his soul, and making life
unhappy for the poor fellow.

"But, Jack," Bob went on to say, earnestly, "right now I want you to
understand that I mean to profit by this thing."

"Yes, I remember you vowed you would, Bob," remarked the pleased
captain of the Chester eleven, once more easy in his mind, and no
longer seeing that horrible gaping weak spot in the line-up.

"This is going to be a lesson to me," continued Bob, soberly. "I've
turned over a new leaf for keeps. Just let me catch myself acting
careless again, whether in small things or in weighty ones, that's
all. If I do I'm resolved to punish myself severely. That fault has
_got_ to be conquered, once and for all."

"Fine for you, Bob," Jack told him. "And so in the end the terrible
trouble that threatened to break you all up, and keep you from
enjoying the sports you love so well, has turned out to be only the
best thing that could ever have happened to a fellow with a bad fault.
That's the way things often go, Bob. Every fellow can look back and
see a number of happenings that at the time he considered to be almost
calamities; but long after they are past he discovers that they only
forced him to change his calculations, much to his profit in many
ways; so that they turned out to be mere stepping-stones on the road
to success."

"Well," the other went on, "I just couldn't keep the good news from
you, Jack, so I ran over to tell, because you've been such a great
help to me in my time of trouble. And, Jack, there's something more.
Tonight, after the game's all over, I've made up my mind I'm going to
have a good heart-to-heart talk with my father."

"Yes, I think that would be a wise move for you, Bob," said Jack,
deeply impressed.

"I want him to know first of all what it was worried me all this
while; that instead of my being sick in body I was sick at heart, and
grieving because I had, as I feared, done him a great wrong. Yes, I'm
going to tell him everything, even to how we put that paper where he
could see it, so he might take a notion to write a second and a third
letter, and make dead sure. He must know that I've changed, and had my
lesson that will make me a different sort of a fellow. Besides, my dad
has changed, too, as you know; and I firmly believe that after this
we're going to be regular chums."

"It couldn't be better, Bob, and I certainly congratulate you on the
way things have come out. And of course, after such a glorious piece
of news striking you on this particular morning, you'll be able to eat
your Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie with the right sort of
spirit."

"Will I?" laughed the fullback; "well, they'll wonder whether there's
any bottom to my stomach today, for I've got a lot of neglected
dinners to make up for, you know. The sky never did look one-half so
bright to me as this morning, after I learned the great news. It would
seem cheery even if black clouds sailed over, and the snow began to
fritter down; because my heart is as light as a feather right now, and
there's no place for gloom down there."

"I'm glad in many ways that this has happened just now," continued
Jack. "First, I'm glad on your account, because you certainly have had
a rocky time of it for long dreary weeks. Then I'm rejoiced for your
father, because he has such a true-blue son, and has only just found
it out. Last of all, I'm feeling particularly joyful for the sake of
Chester, because after this, Bob, I expect you'll be in trim to play
the game of your life this morning against Harmony Tigers."

"Just you watch my smoke, that's all, Jack. Why, I feel as if I could
do almost anything, I'm that full of ginger and snap and happiness.
The cobwebs have all been swept clear from my brain, and Robert is
himself again. If I don't do Chester credit today just take my head
for a football, and boot it, that's what. But I must be going now,
because both of us have things to do before we dress to go out on the
field. This will be a banner day for the old town. It's been a long
time back since they've seen a genuine game of football here. I'm glad
you drew the choice, because in Harmony there's always an element that
tries to make it unpleasant for visiting teams, none of which is found
in Marshall or in Chester, where we treat our visitors as true
sportsmen should. Well, so-long, Jack. I couldn't keep such good news
any longer, you understand."

"And I'm mighty glad you didn't, Big Bob; for you've given me a whole
lot to be thankful over. When I heard some one wanted me at the 'phone
I was conjuring up all sorts of evil things happening that would
threaten our line-up. Even after I heard your voice I wasn't at all
sure but you meant to tell me your father had learned the truth, and
ordered you to stay at home today. But everything has come out gilt-
edged, and we can afford to laugh."

"Yes," sang out the happy Bob as he started for the door, "everything
is lovely, and the goose hangs high; only today I reckon the bird will
turn out to be a turkey instead. I'll be on deck long before time for
the game, Jack, and something tells me we're going to give those
fighters from Harmony the tussle of their lives, as well as win the
game from them."

"I hope you're a true prophet, Big Bob," laughed Jack, waving his hand
after his friend, and then closing the door.

Indeed, he felt, as he said, like "shaking hands with himself," the
reaction had been so great, and Bob's news so satisfactory. It might
be looked at as an omen of good luck for the momentous occasion.
Surely a day that had opened in such a glorious manner for Big Bob,
and the team in general, could not have bitterness and gall in store
for those gallant Chester fellows who expected to improve upon their
work in Marshall, and tear a victory on the gridiron from Harmony's
team.

Jack occupied himself in various ways until it was time for him to
sally forth and join his band at the rendezvous. Then in good time
they would head for the field, where they might expect to see a
perfect mob awaiting their coming.



CHAPTER XIX

LOCKING HORNS WITH HARMONY



Such a crowd had never before been seen in Chester, according to the
opinion of the oldest inhabitant. The fact of its being a holiday had
something to do with it, of course. Then again the recent victory of
the home eleven over Marshall seemed to have electrified the entire
community, which was rapidly becoming "sport mad," as some of the old
fogies complained.

The Harmony Tigers showed up in a big carry-all motor-van about the
time Jack and his followers trooped on the field, and began to pass
the ball around to limber up their muscles for the great test. They
were given a royal reception, for there were many hundreds of Harmony
rooters on hand to help the boys with cheers and the waving of flags
and pennants. Besides, Chester was showing a fine spirit that could
applaud a clever play, even on the part of the enemy team, though
naturally their best yells would be reserved for the home boys.

When the two teams lined up facing each other they stood as follows:

Chester          Position            Harmony
Jones.............. L.E ...........Osterhide
Jackman............ L.T. ............O'Leary
McGuffey........... L.G. .............Bailey
Griffin........... Center .............Chase
Hemming............ R.G. ..............Boggs
Badger............. R.T. ............Leonard
Douglas............ R.E. ...........Clifford
Hopkins............ Q.B. .....Martin (Capt.)
Mullane........... L.H.B. ............Oliver
Winters (Capt.)... R.H.B. ..........Oldsmith
Jeffries........... F.B. ..........Hutchings

Really it looked as though the Tigers outclassed their opponents at
the ratio of five to six, so far as weight and brawn went. They were
an even heavier aggregation than the Marshall team; which, by the way,
had been snowed under on the preceding Saturday to the tune of 27 to
6, the Harmony boys scoring almost at will; and this sort of
proceeding of course warned the whole Chester team, watching eagerly
from the side lines, what they would be up against when their day
came.

The game was started, and it was a seesaw affair all through the first
period, play being kept near mid-field most of the time, with the
advantage on neither side. Consequently, when after a brief
intermission to allow of any necessary changes in the formation of the
teams, not required as yet, the crowd was unable to decide where the
advantage lay. But Harmony fans kept saying that the time had not yet
come for their favorites to break loose; when it did there would be
"something doing" to make Chester folks "sit up and take notice."

This proved to be poor prediction so far as the second quarter went.
Indeed, the tide started immediately to set in the other direction.
Hopkins, quarterback for Chester, scored a touchdown in this period
that carried the crowd off its feet with excitement, it was so
cleverly done. He took a forward pass from Winters, who shot the ball
from the fourteen-yard line zone.

The defense of Harmony was all set and ready, but the artful Hopkins
must have discovered a small opening through which he managed to dash.
It was, taken altogether, a daring play, and succeeded as much from
that reason as anything else. In football the unexpected counts most,
and Harmony was certainly caught napping.

Winters made his difficult pass as swift and sure as a rifleshot into
Hopkins' arms. In a moment the Harmony backs downed him, but the
tackle came too late to save the score.

This touchdown really had its origin in an error of the Harmony
team--just one of the errors that add thrills to the enjoyment of the
crowd, but which must have doubtless made the respective coaches shudder.
Chester kicked off at the beginning of the second half, and Captain
Martin of Harmony ran the ball back to the 39-yard line, where he was
tackled so hard by Jones that he fumbled, and Badger fell on the ball
for Chester.

The Harmony team was thrown into momentary confusion by this sudden
turn in affairs, and Chester was quick to take advantage of the
opportunity thus thrust upon them. On the very next play Winters
called for an end-over play which left Jackman clear and alone; and
accordingly Badger heaved a pass to Jackman, who dashed to Harmony's
20-yard line before he was dragged down.

A thrust at the line was repelled, but another pass, Winters to
Griffin, gained 5 yards, and the ball rested on Harmony's 5-yard line.
An attack on Harmony's line resulted in a 3-yard loss, and on the last
down Winters resorted to the play that resulted so advantageously for
his side.

The ball traveled through a charmed zone, it seemed, for a dozen
Harmony hands leaped out to bat it as it sped along into the arms of
the Chester quarterback.

Thus at the beginning of play in the third period, after Harmony had
brought two new men into the field, and Douglas, for Chester, who had
been injured, was replaced by Wiggins, the scare stood 6 to 0 in favor
of Chester, for of course it had been easily possible to kick a goal
following the touchdown.

Harmony looked dangerous at once. They started in as though determined
to make amends for that blunder which had cost them so dearly.

Those in the grand-stand who knew the signs best settled back with the
comfortable feeling that Harmony had at last awakened to the fact that
with half the game over they were in peril of being beaten, which
would cover them with shame. It was bad enough to have lost to Chester
in baseball, but to have to yield the supremacy of the gridiron to the
same town would be a calamity indeed.

So they just tore their way down the field, and soon had Chester
fighting madly to keep them from a touchdown. There was some really
brilliant play shown here, on both sides, that called forth frenzied
cheers. But the applause died away like magic almost as quickly as it
started; for everybody knew how essential it was in a grim struggle
like this that the players should be allowed to hear the signals
called out by their leaders.

The hilarity of the Harmony rooters increased when Oldsmith, right
halfback, crashed through left tackle for a gain of 8 yards, dragging
a couple of Chester tacklers with him. Hutchings plunged straight
ahead for 6 yards more, and the ball was then on Chester's 8-yard
line.

There began to arise a howl for a touchdown as the Chester players
braced themselves for the shock. The Harmony line shifted quickly and
a double pass was tried. Martin tossed the ball to Hutchings, who shot
it toward Oldsmith for a dash upon Chester's 6-yard line. Oldsmith
reached the ball, but it slipped through his eager fingers, and was
buried under a swirl of Chester fellows.

After that the Harmony team waxed anxious again. They had learned that
this Chester aggregation was all that Marshall had found it to be, if
not more so. Their line tightened up at the critical places, and their
right halfback, Oldsmith, proved himself to be a very dangerous
person, likely to circle the ends, and break up the game at any stage.

Soon another drive was started on the part of Harmony, seemingly
determined not to be denied the touchdown so urgently needed. Sheer
weight carried Chester back, as it seemed, helplessly. Plainly the
only way to counteract this advantage on the part of Harmony was
through cleverness and swiftness. Captain Winters unbottled another of
the tricks which old Joe Hooker had taught them, and the crowd gasped
in wonder as they saw the tide again turn in Chester's favor, since
they had possession of the ball.

Back and forth the battle raged. It was furious while it lasted, and
kept everybody keyed up to top-notch excitement. Most of the fighting
in this period was done on Chester territory, however, for despite
their utmost endeavors Jack and his boys seemed unable to carry the
war into the enemy's country.

With but a short two minutes to cover Harmony finally took a mad pace
and managed to get the touchdown so ardently desired, as well as a
subsequent goal, making the score a tie, just as it had been at the
end of the third period when Chester and Marshall locked horns.

The mighty Harmony machine-roller seemed at fault when trying to crush
all opposition on the part of Chester. Something seemed to have
happened--either Harmony was weaker than when playing last with
Marshall, or else they found the defensive tactics of their latest
enemy more stubborn and resourceful.

The last quarter opened, and again the fight raged bitterly. Jack
uncorked more of the contents of the trick bottle, and as a result the
ball was over on Harmony territory from the start. Captain Winters had
figured it all out, and knowing what slight chances they had of
securing another touchdown against those stalwart fellows, he had
determined to risk everything on a kick from placement.

Somehow he seemed to feel this was Big Bob's special day, and that
some of the glory ought to be given to him in order to prove that
happiness can work wonders, even on the gridiron. So with an eye on
the chances, also observing the slant of the wind, and such minor yet
important things, Jack tried his best to work matters that the ball
would still be in their possession when on Harmony's 30-yard line.

At last he gave the signal. The crowd stood up to see better when it
was realized that a kick from field was going to be resorted to. Jack
himself sprawled there on the ground to grip the ball, while Jeffries
poised himself to deliver the boot that might settle the whole game.

Such a play is a spectacular thing when done properly, and
particularly when attended by success. With the halfback down flat and
holding the oval, and the kicker with one eye on the ball and the
other on the tacklers just breaking through it is not the easiest
thing in the world to do. There was intense silence, so that the sound
of the blow was plainly heard, even in the grandstand. Up rose the
ball, describing a graceful arch. Would it fall between the goal-
posts, or, carried by the wind, drop far to one side? Everybody was
doubtless asking himself or herself that question.

Then it was seen to drop exactly between the posts and well beyond,
really one of the most beautiful kicks ever seen. A mighty roar from
the crowd attested to the admiration felt for Jeffries, the fellow
capable of doing such a fine piece of work.

With the score 9 to 6 and against them Harmony now started in to make
a last game fight to carry the ball across into hostile territory; but
there were only four minutes left in which to do or die.



CHAPTER XX

THE GREAT VICTORY--CONCLUSION



Striving like mad Captain Martin and his ten followers tried to rush
the fighting, so as to get another touchdown before the referee called
the game; for that would fill them with joy, since it meant the score
would be reversed and stand at 12 to 9.

Just as bent on preventing such a calamity Jack and the Chester boys
braced themselves to out-maneuver all attempts looking at a successful
run. At times their line proved a veritable "stone wall" to the heavy
Harmony halfbacks, who were dragged to earth before completing their
intended long runs. Still there was a constant gain, with the ball
still Harmony's. That one bitter fumble seemed to have stiffened their
game wonderfully, for it was not repeated.

Time was passing, but, so, too, was Harmony creeping up. One good run
now was likely to wind up the game, for Chester could never hope to
retrieve such a misfortune. Visiting rooters were frenzied, and every
little forward movement on the part of their team was greeted with a
burst of yelling that sounded almost like the discharge of a cannon,
it came so suddenly, and died out again as quickly. Oldsmith was the
dangerous man, Jack well knew. Somehow he felt certain that to him had
been delegated the task of carrying the ball through, and putting it
over for the needed touchdown. Several times Harmony might have tried
for a field goal, and the fact that they declined to accept this
chance told Jack what was in the wind. They were a greedy lot. A goal
from field would have netted them just 3 and tied the score, but it
would also have injured their chance for making a touchdown within the
prescribed time; and Harmony meant to either win that game, or lose
it, with no halfway measure as a tie to carry home with them.

Well, Jack Winters was a good guesser, for just as he decided it fell
to the Harmony halfback to make the attempt. The bluff was dazzling,
and deceived nearly all the Chester players, so that it looked as
though Oldsmith with the pigskin oval in his grip would have a clear
field to the coveted place in the line where he could drop for a
touchdown, and victory.

But he counted without the fleet Winters, who was after him like a
shot, and determined to make his tackle before Oldsmith could cross.
This of course was the real crisis of the entire game; it was win or
lose for a certainty, because not a half minute of time remained, and
a new attempt could not be made if this one proved futile.

Faster than the wind the two players tore along. There was no other
opposition offered to Oldsmith. Indeed, the rest of the field almost
stopped play, to watch the result of this duel of speed.

Oldsmith was a shade heavier than Jack. He had also been engaged in
more scrimmages latterly, and might have been a bit short of breath.
Such things count heavily against a player in football work, and they
certainly did in this case; for it could be plainly seen that the
Chester captain was overtaking the possessor of the ball, despite his
most frantic efforts to keep his own ground.

Could he reach the line before being dragged down? Jack seemed
inspired to abnormal efforts, as though he knew how those whom he
loved were watching, and hoping, and feeling confidence in him. Once
before in the game with Marshall he had been called upon to win for
his team by a supreme effort; that time it was in the way of offense,
whereas now it seemed to be along the line of defense. But no matter,
one was just as important under certain conditions as the other.

Jack overtook his man, and made a beautiful tackle, bringing Oldsmith
to the ground just in time to prevent him from scoring his touchdown.
It was a thrilling moment when this occurred. The vast crowd remained
silent for a second, as though hardly able to grasp the truth that
Harmony had shot her last bolt and lost. Then came the din of cheers
that soared to the very clouds, it seemed, such was their intensity.
Confusion reigned, with a whirling mass of Chester boys dancing around
and hugging each other, while the faithful girl rooters broke out into
frantic shrieks, waving their beloved school colors in riotous
profusion.

Of course Harmony tried to rally in the brief space of time yet
remaining, but by now the Chester team was sure of its ground, and
backed Captain Winters up handsomely; so that when presently the
referee blew his whistle nothing had been accomplished.

So the great Thanksgiving game ended in favor of Chester. It would be
the last battle on the gridiron for that season, as is customary. The
boys gave Harmony a salvo of cheers to try to take some of the
bitterness of the sting of defeat away, but doubtless Captain Martin
and his squad felt pretty sore to be beaten at the hands of these
newcomers in the game.

Martin was man enough, however, to shake hands cordially with Jack,
and tell him that he certainly had a clever team back of him. Of
course, like most Harmony fellows, he believed the hard knocks of the
game had gone against their side, and that if the "luck" had been more
evenly distributed they would surely have won; but then all that sort
of talk invariably follows when a team wends its way back home after
getting "licked." There seems to be some sort of consolation about
figuring out just what share luck had in bringing about disaster.

There was no mad celebration that night, as on the occasion of the
victory over Marshall. The town authorities had forbidden a single
bonfire to be started in the streets of the town. That burning of the
Adkins home must serve as a lesson, through which they should profit.
Instead, a banquet was arranged for an a succeeding evening, by some
of the friends and admirers of the football team, which all the boys,
substitutes as well as regulars, should be invited to attend, and at
which speeches would be in order. There would also be a little
statement from the head of the financial committee connected with the
gymnasium then building, telling just what progress had been made, and
how every dollar of the expected expense had been guaranteed, thanks
mainly to the generosity of their esteemed fellow citizen, Mr. Philip
Adkins.

Chester was now well started on her career of outdoor sports. Other
towns less fortunate envied her the possession of that splendid
gymnasium where, during the long winter evenings, basket-ball could be
played, and all sorts of athletics indulged in under a competent
instructor. There could be no doubt that it would prove of inestimable
benefit to the growing lads, not only serving to keep them off the
street corners at night, but also enable them to strengthen their
bodies, and enjoy fellowship with their mates under uplifting
conditions.

Big Bob carried out his scheme as mentioned to Jack and on the very
morning after Thanksgiving he took pains to let the other know the
result. His father had heard the whole story with deepest interest,
and then told Bob that he was very glad such a thing happened, since
it had really been the means of taking the scales from both their
eyes, and allowing them properly to appreciate one another.

Bob assured Jack that his father was a different man nowadays, and
showed an increasing appreciation for healthy sports, and the welfare
of boys in general.

Although the football season wound up with that glorious Thanksgiving
victory, it must not be assumed that there would be any lack of fun
abroad in Chester, with the coming of the time of snow and ice. With
that magnificent sheet of water at the door of the town, in the shape
of Lake Constance; also the crooked Paradise River beckoning the boys
to explore its upper reaches, and the mysteries to be found there,
surely winter should open up a new round of exciting outdoor
activities for Jack and his friends. That this proved to be the case
is evident from the title of the next story in the Series, which it is
to be hoped every reader of this volume will secure and enjoy to the
full--"Jack Winters' Iceboat Wonder; or, Leading the Hockey Seven to
Victory."

THE END





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ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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