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

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Right End Emerson" ***

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                           RIGHT END EMERSON



THE FOOTBALL ELEVEN BOOKS

BY

RALPH HENRY BARBOUR


  LEFT END EDWARDS
  LEFT TACKLE THAYER
  LEFT GUARD GILBERT
  CENTER RUSH ROWLAND
  FULL-BACK FOSTER
  QUARTER-BACK BATES
  LEFT HALF HARMON
  RIGHT END EMERSON



[Illustration: Now he was blocked, now he had broken free again!]



                           Right End Emerson


                                  BY
                          RALPH HENRY BARBOUR


                               AUTHOR OF
                           LEFT END EDWARDS,
                          LEFT TACKLE THAYER,
                        FULL-BACK FOSTER, ETC.


                            ILLUSTRATED BY
                             LESLIE CRUMP


                            [Illustration]


                           GROSSET & DUNLAP
                       PUBLISHERS      NEW YORK

                 Made in the United States of America



                            Copyright, 1922
                    By DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY, Inc.



CONTENTS


 CHAPTER                                 PAGE
      I A TIP TO THE WAITER                 1
     II PARTNERS CONFER                    15
    III A NEW YEAR BEGINS                  26
     IV JIMMY READS THE PAPER              37
      V RUSSELL EXPLAINS                   45
     VI BILLY CROCKER DROPS IN             54
    VII JIMMY GOES SHOPPING                65
   VIII THE SECOND TEAM COACH              78
     IX AT THE “SIGN OF THE FOOTBALL”      88
      X JIMMY CONSPIRES                   104
     XI FAIR PROMISES                     114
    XII BACK IN HARNESS                   124
   XIII THE NEW ASSISTANT                 136
    XIV JIMMY’S DAY                       148
     XV MR. CROCKER CALLS                 162
    XVI ALTON SQUEEZES THROUGH            173
   XVII STICK CONFIDES HIS TROUBLES       184
  XVIII NOT IN THE GAME                   195
    XIX STICK FINDS A BUYER               211
     XX JIMMY HAS A CLEW                  224
    XXI STICK SELLS OUT                   238
   XXII MR. PULSIFER SHAKES HIS HEAD      248
  XXIII A MEMBER OF THE TEAM              255
   XXIV “WE’VE WON!”                      263



ILLUSTRATIONS


  Now he was blocked, now he had broken free again!
                                                        _Frontispiece_

                                                                 PAGE
  “Rather an unusual proceeding, Emerson,” pursued the doctor      48

  “Yes,” said Russell faintly. “I’m--fearfully--soft!”            132

  “I wish to goodness I’d never gone into this fool thing”        170



RIGHT END EMERSON



CHAPTER I

A TIP TO THE WAITER


A very gaudy red automobile whirled up the circling drive that led to
the white-pillared portico of the big hotel at Pine Harbor, announced
its approach with a wheezy groan of the horn and came to a sudden stop
before the steps, a stop so disconcerting to the extreme right-hand
occupant of the single seat that he narrowly escaped a head-on
collision with the wind-shield. Taking advantage of the impetus that
had unseated him, he flung his legs over the door and alighted on the
well-kept gravel.

“This car may be sort of cranky when it comes to _going_, Mac,” he
said, “but she sure can _stop_!”

“Well, she got you here,” chuckled Harley McLeod. “Give the kid a hand
with the suit-cases, Jimmy. Pile out, Stan, and I’ll take Matilda
around to the garage and give her some oats. You fellows register, and
tell the guy at the desk that we want one room and no bath; tell him
we had a bath last week. Don’t let him soak you, either. We’ve got
four more days of this foreign travel before we get home, and the old
sock’s mighty near empty. Something about twelve dollars for the crowd
will be pretty near right.”

“Fine,” agreed the third member of the trio, sarcastically, viewing as
he spoke the long front of the building and its general air of hauteur
and expensiveness. “Twelve dollars apiece is likely to be closer to it.
If you want economy, Mac, why the dickens do you pick out the swellest
joints on the route?”

“Well,” answered McLeod, glancing rearward to see if the suit-cases had
been wrested from their place, “we don’t seem to have much luck that
way, and that’s a fact. Gee, that place last night pretty nigh ruined
me! You do your best, anyway. All clear, Jimmy? Let go their heads!
Back in a minute!” The small red car leaped forward impetuously, dashed
down the drive to the road, swerved precipitately to the right and
was lost to sight--if not to hearing--beyond a hedge. Stanley Hassell
joined Jimmy Austen and together they followed a small uniformed youth,
laden with three suit-cases, up the steps, across the wide porch and
into the hotel.

It was Stanley who took the pen from the politely extended hand of the
clerk and inscribed the names of his party on the register. After each
name he added “N. Y. City.” This was less truthful than convenient,
for although he and Harley McLeod lived in widely separate sections
of that far-stretching metropolis, Jimmy hailed from Elizabeth, New
Jersey. But, as Stanley had explained soon after the beginning of
their two-weeks tour in Mac’s disguised flivver, “Elizabeth, N. J.”
was too long to write. Besides, he added, it wouldn’t be long before
Elizabeth became a part of New York, anyway, and there was no harm in
anticipating.

“We’d like a room for three,” announced Stanley when he had put down
the last dot. “With single beds, if possible, and without a bath. As
reasonable a room as you have, please.”

The clerk, a carefully attired gentleman, frowned hopelessly. “I’m
afraid we haven’t a room with three single beds,” he said, as he
consulted a book. “I can give you a nice large room on the front of the
house, however. That has a double bed in it, and I can have a cot put
in also. I’m afraid that’s the best--”

“What’s the price of it?” interrupted Stanley anxiously.

“How long are you staying?”

“Just overnight.”

“Eight dollars, in that case.”

“For the bunch?” inquired Jimmy eagerly.

The clerk shook his head and smiled again, this time commiseratingly.
“Eight dollars a day apiece,” he said in his nicely modulated tones.
“Our regular price, gentlemen.”

It was Stanley’s turn to do a little head-shaking. “Look here,” he
confided earnestly, “you’ve got us wrong. We weren’t thinking of
_buying_ the room; we just want to _rent_ it. Now, what about a room on
the _back_ of the house? Something about fifteen dollars for the three
of us? We aren’t crazy about the view, anyway; besides, we couldn’t see
much at night, could we? You just take another peep into the old book
there and talk reasonable!”

The gentleman seemed inclined to be haughty for a moment, but Stanley’s
smile was captivating and he went back to the book good-naturedly
enough. “There’s a room on the third floor,” he announced at last.
“It’s rather small, but perhaps it will do. The rate is sixteen-fifty.”

Stanley mused a moment, mentally dividing sixteen dollars and fifty
cents by three, and then nodded. “All right,” he agreed. “Guess that’ll
have to do.”

“Front! Show the gentlemen to 87!”

“Say,” broke in Jimmy with very evident anxiety, “that includes meals,
doesn’t it?”

This time the clerk smiled quite humanly. “Certainly,” he replied. “We
are on the American Plan.”

“Idiot!” breathed Stanley as they turned away.

“That’s all right,” replied Jimmy doggedly. “It’s just as well to be
sure. Look at the time they held us up for seven dollars apiece and
then we found we had to pay extra to eat!”

“That was in a city, you chump,” reminded Stanley. They bade the boy
with the luggage wait a minute, but Harley McLeod came hurrying in just
then and they began the ascent of the stairs. Harley showed a wrathful
countenance.

“Those robbers want three dollars for the car!” he sputtered.

“Three dollars for the car?” echoed Jimmy. “Let ’em have it, I say.
It’s worth five, maybe, but three dollars is three dollars, and the
room’s costing us sixteen-fifty--”

“_What!_” exclaimed Harley, standing stock-still on the landing.
“Sixteen _dollars_?”

“And fifty cents,” confirmed Jimmy cheerfully. “The fifty cents is for
the food.”

Harley McLeod stared darkly at Stanley. “You’re a swell little
bargainer, you are! Why, that’s five and a half apiece!”

“Well, what of it?” asked Stanley huffily. “We had to pay six and a
half last night, didn’t we? Say, if you don’t like the way I do it, why
don’t you do it yourself? If you think you can get better terms--”

“That includes the meals, Mac,” interrupted Jimmy soothingly. “I asked
the Duke of Argyle, and he said so.”

“Oh, shut up,” begged Harley. “Gosh, these summer hotels are regular
robber dens! All right, I’ve still got a few sous left, and when I’m
broke I’ll borrow from Jimmy. Say, where is this room? On the roof?”

“Third floor, sir,” answered the bell-boy. “Nice and cool up here.”

“Ought to be if altitude has anything to do with temperature,” agreed
Harley with sarcasm. “What time’s dinner, son?”

“Seven, sir, and runs to eight-thirty.”

“And it’s only a bit after five,” groaned Jimmy. “I’ll tell you
one thing, fellows, right now, and that’s this: When the Earl of
Buckminster down there charged me five-fifty he committed a fatal
error. If I don’t eat five-fifty worth of food at dinner to-night you
fellows can throw me in the ocean!”

“Not so horrid,” commented Stanley as they strode after the boy into
the apartment. “Small, but sufficient, eh?”

“Do they think we’re going to sleep three in a bed?” demanded Harley,
aghast.

“They’re going to put in a cot for you,” said Jimmy comfortingly.

“For me!” Harley viewed him coldly. “How do you attain that condition,
Jimmy? What’s the matter with your sleeping on the cot?”

Jimmy shook his head. “I don’t rest well on the things,” he answered.
“Maybe Stan had better--”

“We’ll draw lots,” said Stanley. He tossed a dime to the grinning
bell-boy and then pulled three strands from the tattered fringe of the
straw matting rug. “Short piece gets the cot. Help yourself, Mac.”

Stanley himself fell heir to the shortest straw and good-naturedly
accepted his fate. “I’m the smallest, anyway,” he said. “Let’s wash up
and look the place over. Any one for a swim?”

“I’d like a swim,” said Jimmy, “but it always gives me a fierce
appetite, and I’m hungry enough right now to chew nails! Let’s sit on
the porch and look wealthy. You don’t get so hungry if you sit still.”

Some two hours later the three boys were conducted across a large
dining-room by an awe-inspiring head-waiter and seated at a table set
for four. Jimmy looked approvingly at the crowded menu and passed it
across to Harley. “Let’s not be choosey,” he suggested. “Let’s start
right at the top and take things as they come.”

“Well, we can’t eat three kinds of soup,” said Harley.

“I could,” Jimmy replied. “But I’m going to have some clams first.
Which soup is the fillingest?”

A boy of about their own age, which is to say seventeen or eighteen,
began pouring water into the glasses, which led Jimmy to observe for
the first time that the waiters were all masculine and youthful, though
most of them were older than their own attendant. Just then Harley’s
foot collided painfully with Jimmy’s ankle and the latter emitted a
loud howl of anguish that attracted the disapproving curiosity of the
neighboring diners.

“Shut up, you idiot!” whispered Stanley severely.

“That’s all right,” returned Jimmy aggrievedly, rubbing the injured
ankle under the table, “but he pretty near killed me with that big hoof
of his! Gee, Mac, what’s the prodigious conception?”

“Sorry,” muttered Harley, his eyes on the menu. “Do we all want clams?
All right, clams for three, then.” This latter to the waiter at his
elbow.

“Will you order your soup and fish now, please?” asked the waiter. “It
saves time.”

“Sure. Let’s see. I’ll have the cream of celery. What’s yours, Stan?”

“Same, I guess.”

“Oxen tails for me,” said Jimmy. “And a large portion of that bluing
fish.”

The waiter took himself off and Harley leaned toward Jimmy with a
scowl. “Didn’t you see who that was, you dumb-bell?”

“See who what was?” asked Jimmy, glancing around blankly.

“The waiter, of course.”

“No, who was he? Charlie Chaplin?”

“Emerson, one of our fellows. You know him. A junior, I think.”

Jimmy shook his head. “I don’t know any Emerson, Mac. You mean the chap
that’s waiting on us is an Alton fellow?”

“Sure! What did you think I kicked you for?”

“I thought you just wanted to show your love for me. What’s he doing
here?”

“Waiting on table,” replied Stanley. “Haven’t you any eyes?”

“Yes, but I mean-- Well, it seems a funny thing for an Alton fellow,
doesn’t it?”

“Guess all these waiters are students,” returned Stanley. “College men,
a lot of them. I suppose Emerson needs the money.”

“Well, yes, he would,” agreed Jimmy readily, “if he’s staying at this
joint. I must have a look at him. I dare say I know him by sight.
What’s he do?”

Harley shrugged. “Nothing much, I guess. Seems to me, though, he was
playing on the second team last fall.”

“Football?”

Harley nodded, and Stanley confirmed him. “Yes, he’s been on the second
a couple of years. You’ll remember him when you see him, Jimmy, for you
must have played with him year before last.”

“Well, if he isn’t any faster on the field than he is here,” Jimmy
grumbled, “it’s no wonder he’s never made the first. Do you fellows
know him? I didn’t notice any warm hand-clasps!”

“Oh, I know him to nod to,” replied Harley, “but you don’t exactly
expect to find your school fellows waiting on table in a public hotel.
I dare say he doesn’t want to be recognized. Anyway, he didn’t speak to
me.”

“Suppose he thought it was up to you to signal first,” said Jimmy.
“After all, Mac, waiting in a summer hotel isn’t much different from
waiting at college, and lots of corking chaps have done that. Here he
is now, I guess. Making good time through a broken field, too! Just
missed a tackle then! If that other fellow had got him it would have
been good-by, clams! Yes, I’ve seen him lots of times, but I never knew
his name.”

While the waiter placed the orders on the table Jimmy observed him.
He was a well-made boy, slim yet muscular, a fact not entirely hidden
by the ill-fitting waiter’s jacket that he wore. He had brown eyes,
rather quiet seeming eyes, and brown hair that was very carefully
brushed away from his forehead, and a fairly short nose. On the whole,
Jimmy decided, Emerson, so far as his appearance went, was a credit
to Alton Academy. That he had recognized the trio was very evident
to the observer, and that he had no intention of making use of his
slight acquaintance with Harley was equally evident. He spoke only when
addressed and then carefully avoided the speaker’s eyes. Jimmy didn’t
know whether Emerson felt any embarrassment, but he somehow wished
that the impressive head waiter had seated them elsewhere. It was
rather jarring to be served in this fashion by a chap you were likely
to meet on the Green a week or so hence!

But Jimmy soon forgot that, for he was extremely hungry, the food was
excellent, the waiter, in spite of having two other tables to serve,
attended to their wants in quite professional fashion and the dinner
passed off pleasantly and expeditiously. Toward the last of it Stanley
presented a problem to them. “Say, fellows, how about tips?” he asked.

Harley frowned. “I was wondering,” he said. “Of course these fellows
must take tips. I’ll bet the hotel doesn’t pay them much. But, just the
same, it sort of goes against the grain, Stan.”

“Leave it till morning,” advised Jimmy. “Then we can slip a dollar
under a plate when he isn’t looking.”

“A dollar!” ejaculated Harley. “Listen to the millionaire! It’s always
been fifty cents for the bunch so far.”

“Oh, well, this is different,” replied Jimmy. “This guy’s one of us,
you see. You can’t be a piker with one of your own School!”

And so the matter was left, and they moved from the dining-room rather
ponderously and sighingly seated themselves in three rocking chairs on
the broad veranda and, almost in silence, watched a huge orange-colored
moon arise beyond the rim of the quiet ocean. The longest speech of
the ensuing quarter of an hour was made by Jimmy. “Allowing fifty cents
for breakfast and a dollar for my third of the bed to-night, I figure
that I’ll be just twenty-five cents ahead of the house when we go our
way!”

Later, having decided to play some pool as an aid to digestion, Jimmy
paused as they passed through the lobby and fixed what he afterwards
explained was an expression of triumphant gloat on the clerk behind
the desk. This expression he continued until the clerk, happening to
glance toward him, returned his look with one of mingled surprise and
concern. Thereupon Jimmy ceased gloating and hurried after the others,
who, meanwhile, had reached the billiard room just in time to secure
the last pool table ahead of two disgruntled elderly plutocrats in
dinner-jackets. These latter gentlemen, grumbling their displeasure,
seated themselves, behind large and expensive cigars, on a leathern
divan and watched the play of the trio with basilisk stares that
interfered seriously with Stanley’s game. Harley and Jimmy refused
to be intimidated, but after five games, all won by Harley, they
acknowledged defeat and yielded the table to the besiegers. However, it
was just on nine o’clock then, and, as Stanley wisely observed, they
were paying good money for that room and so might as well make use
of it. At ten they were fast asleep, as was befitting those who had
traveled one hundred and eight miles since morning in Matilda!

Yet it was well after nine o’clock the next day when they descended
for breakfast. They were unanimous in declaring regretfully that they
were not really hungry, but they managed to do fairly well with cereal,
eggs, steak, hot biscuits and coffee. Their waiter again attended to
them in a manner that was beyond criticism, and Jimmy acknowledged a
warm admiration for his skill and dexterity. “Some garsong, if you
ask me,” said Jimmy. “Has everything under perfect control and hasn’t
dropped a plate yet!”

“I feel a bit mean about not speaking to him,” said Stanley. “After
all, he’s one of us, and we know it, and he knows we know it, and--”

“Yes, and he doesn’t want us to do anything of the sort,” interrupted
Jimmy. “The chap’s incog. Let us--let us respect his wishes, eh?”

Harley looked relieved. “Jimmy’s right, I think. Besides, it isn’t as
if we were personal friends. We only know him by sight, as you might
say. Who’s got a dollar?”

Jimmy produced a crumpled bill with less hesitation than usual and
curled it cunningly under his plate. Then they departed hurriedly
before the waiter returned. Half an hour later Matilda jumped away on
the next lap of her journey, honking asthmatically as she disappeared
from sight.

Russell Emerson, clearing the dishes from the table lately occupied by
his school-mates, discovered the crumpled dollar bill and frowned at
it. Then the frown vanished and he shrugged his shoulders and slipped
the money philosophically into his pocket.



CHAPTER II

PARTNERS CONFER


Alton Academy commenced its Fall Term on September 24th that year, and
on the afternoon of the nineteenth Russell Emerson dropped from the
train at Alton Station, a battered valise in hand, and, disregarding
the cordial invitations of carriage and taxi drivers, set forth on
foot. It appears to be a New England custom to locate the railroad
station as far as possible from the center of the town, and Alton had
made no departure from custom. A good half-mile intervened between
station and business center, and a second half-mile between the heart
of the town and Alton Academy. There had been a time when Alton and
Alton Station had been two quite distinct settlements, but now the
town had followed the route of the trolley and the two were slenderly
connected by a line of small dwellings, small shops and, occasionally,
a small factory. Russell followed the trolley tracks and, although
presently a car came rattling and whisking toward him from the
direction of the station, continued on foot, the valise growing heavier
as the stores became more important and more prosperous in appearance.
But the boy rested frequently, always before one of the little stores,
and at such times the valise was set down beside him on the pavement
while his gaze roved from door to window and when possible penetrated
past the usually unattractive display of goods into the further dim
recesses of the building. Oddly, as it would seem, his pauses were
longer and his interest greater when the window was empty of goods and
a placard announced the premises for rent. Indeed, on three occasions
he crossed the street to peer up at and into tenantless stores, and on
two occasions he jotted down memoranda on the back of an envelope ere
he took up his burden and went on.

Reaching the busier and more populous part of Alton, he turned to the
left, past the town’s single department store, and halted under a sign
which read: “Hartford House--Gentlemen Only--One Flight.” Russell
pushed open the door and climbed the stairs. The office was at the
left of the landing, a clean, sun-filled room through whose broad
windows one might look down on the traffic of the street or watch, if
one cared to, the casements across the way, beyond which a tailor, a
Painless Dentist and a manufacturing jeweler plied their trades. At
the desk, presided over by an elderly man with abundant gray whiskers,
Russell set his name down in an ink-smeared register, paid the sum of
seventy-five cents and was presented with a key.

“Eighteen,” said the clerk wheezily. “One flight, turn to the left.
Thank you.”

Acting as his own bell-boy, Russell took himself and his luggage to
the second floor, found the door numbered 18 and took possession of a
very small, barely furnished room which had, nevertheless, the merit of
cleanliness. He ran the shade up, opened the window and found himself
looking down on the roof of the Imperial Steam Laundry, as a bold
inscription painted on the corrugated iron roof informed him. Beyond
the laundry were the brick backs of several office buildings.

“Not much of a view,” murmured Russell tolerantly, “but plenty of air.
Now let’s see.” He stripped off his coat and placed it, with a somewhat
yellowed straw hat, on the narrow bed. Then, rolling up his sleeves,
he poured water into the chipped basin and washed face and hands. That
done, he dried on a wispy towel and opened his valise. From it he
extracted a thin bundle of papers held together by an elastic band,
placed a chair before the window and seated himself, lodging his feet
comfortably on the ledge. For the next ten minutes he was busy looking
through the contents of the bundle. That completed, he brought forth a
fountain pen from a pocket and began to figure thoughtfully on the back
of one of the papers.

“Eighty-eight, sixty in bank,” he muttered as he set down that
sum. “Check for one hundred and twenty-five. Fifteen and--” He
paused and counted the contents of a small leather purse. “Fifteen
and seventy-four. It’ll cost me three dollars for my room here for
four days and, say, four dollars for meals. That’s seven dollars.
Then there’ll be incidentals. Guess I’ll say ten altogether. Ten,
seventy-four rather. That leaves five. Now then. Naught, six, eight and
one to carry, one--two hundred and eighteen dollars and sixty cents.”

He gazed for a long minute at the result of his figuring and finally
shook his head. “That isn’t nearly enough,” he sighed. “Maybe, though,
Stick can do better than he thought he could. If he can put in two
hundred more I guess we can manage.” He looked at his watch. “Ought to
be here in an hour. Guess I’ll go out and have a look around before he
gets here.”

He put his coat on again and took his hat and sallied forth, stopping
at the office long enough to leave his key and to inform the clerk
that he would be back at five o’clock, in case any one should inquire
for him. Then for the better part of an hour he roamed the streets in
that portion of Alton which lay between the Hartford House and the
Academy, specializing on the side streets but not neglecting such
important arteries of traffic and avenues of trade as Meadow and West
and State streets. He was back at a minute or two before five and had
made himself comfortable in one of the six wooden armchairs that stood
empty in a row before the windows when feet echoed on the stairway,
the office door was pushed open and a very tall, very thin youth
appeared. He carried a suit-case, an overcoat and an umbrella, all of
which, perceiving Russell across the room, he dumped on the desk before
stepping to meet him.

“Hello, Rus,” he greeted. “How long have you been here? Have you got a
room? Do I bunk in with you, or--”

“You’ll have to get one of your own,” replied Russell as they shook
hands. “Mine’s just a single one. Guess they all are. How are you,
Stick? Haven’t fattened up much this summer.”

“I’m very well, thanks. Wait till I register and we’ll go up and have a
talk. Got your letter about ten minutes before I left. Thought you were
dead or something.”

In a room very similar to that assigned to Russell, the two seated
themselves, George Patterson on the bed and Russell on the single
chair. Stick, as he was called, was a boy of Russell’s own age, which
was seventeen, but looked fully a year older. He came from St. Albans,
Vermont, according to the school catalogue, and the catalogue was quite
infallible on such subjects, but before that Stick had lived--in fact
had been born--in Toronto, and there was much more of the Canadian
than the Yankee in him. He was extremely tall and extremely thin,
with high cheek bones, a good deal of color, very dark brown hair
that curled, gray eyes, a generous nose and a rather large mouth. You
couldn’t call him handsome, but he looked particularly healthy and
clean and wholesome. One of the things that Russell liked most about
him was his appearance of having just stepped out of a bath, and even
now, after a long train journey, that appearance persisted. The two
were room-mates in Upton Hall. They had been thrown together quite by
accident the preceding fall and had not yet regretted the fact; which,
I think, speaks well for each of them.

Stick wasn’t an awfully brilliant chap. In fact, there were some who
declared that he was rather a bore. But Russell was used to him, and he
had long since decided that an even temper and similar attributes were
preferable in a room-mate to mere conversational scintillations. Stick
had rather a peculiar sense of humor, or, perhaps, lack of humor. He
adored a practical joke when it was on some one else, but saw no fun
in such a joke played on himself. As a fair sample of his ideal in the
way of a funny story it may be stated that his favorite was a rather
long and ponderous tale about a London window-washer who fell from the
sixth story of a building and landed on a “bobby.” To Stick there was
something irresistibly appealing to his sense of humor in the fact
that the policeman was killed and the window-washer wasn’t! But Stick
was a fellow who wore remarkably well, and, after all, that’s a fine
quality in a room-mate.

“Well, I brought the money,” he announced after a few exchanges of
remarks anent the past vacation.

“How much?” asked Russell anxiously.

“A hundred and twenty-five.”

“A hundred and twent-- But, Stick, you said it would be a hundred and
fifty at least!”

“I didn’t say it positively,” disclaimed the other. “I did think I
could put in that much, Rus, but--well, I just can’t do it.” Then,
after a short pause, he added in a desire to be strictly truthful: “I
mean, I don’t think I ought to, Rus. Of course, it’s my money, and all
that, but father doesn’t think very well of the idea, and if he needed
money some time he’d expect me to let him have a little, and if I put
it all into this I won’t have any left. You see, we don’t know for
certain that this thing’s going to be a go. I hope it will be, for I’d
hate to lose that money, but there’s nothing sure about it, is there?”

Russell shook his head. “No, nothing’s sure until it’s happened, Stick,
but this thing is bound to go all right. Gee, it’s just got to!”

“Yes, I know,” Stick agreed without much enthusiasm, “but things don’t
always succeed because some one says they’ve got to.”

Russell sighed. “I wish your grandmother hadn’t married a Scotsman,
Stick!”

“What’s that got to do with--”

“You’ll die a poor man, Stick, just on that account,” returned his chum
gloomily. “Left to itself, the Irish in you would risk a dollar now and
then, but that Scotch blood sets up a howl every time.”

“It’s all right to take a chance,” said Stick seriously, “but there’s
no sense in being risky. I say, with what you have, won’t a hundred and
twenty-five do?”

“It will have to,” answered Russell grimly, “if that’s all you’ll come
in with. I’ve gone too far now to back down. I spent a whole day in New
York, and every one was mighty decent, and I arranged for a whole raft
of stuff to come down the twenty-second. The Proctor-Farnham people
even offered me ninety days’ credit. You see, their goods are new in
the East, Stick, and they’re making a big try to get them going. They
make mighty good stuff, too, and I’m pretty certain we can sell a lot
of it once we’re started. Of course we’ll have to carry the other
makes, too. Some fellows won’t look at a thing unless they grew up with
it! Well, anyway, they were quite enthusiastic about the scheme and
would have pretty near stocked us up for nothing if I’d agreed to sell
only their stuff. But that wouldn’t do. Not yet, anyhow. They offered
to send a man down to arrange a window display, but I had to decline
that, for I didn’t want them to know that we hadn’t even found a store
yet. They might have thought I was crazy. As it was I did a good deal
of bluffing, I guess, and talked as if I had about a million dollars.
The other folks were a heap more haughty, although they were willing
enough to let us have a fair line of samples. They don’t have to offer
inducements to sell their goods, you see. Well, now about the money,
Stick. I’ve got a little more than two hundred. That’s three hundred
and twenty-five, about three hundred and forty, really. I’d hoped for
four hundred at least. It means that we’ll have to be satisfied with a
more modest store, for it’s store rent that’s going to be the principal
expense for a while. I’ve been pretty well over the town, Stick. There
are two places I’d love to have, but they’re both on West street and
the rent would be something awful. Then there are a couple of places
out on the way to the station. They’d be cheap enough, but I guess we
might just as well throw our money away as locate out there. Fellows
never get that far from school.”

“No, we’ve got to be somewhere around Bagdad,” replied Stick. Bagdad
was the Academy name for the two blocks on West street lying nearest
to the school. Here was established a small shopping district quite
distinct from that further in the town, one depending largely, though
by no means wholly, on the students for trade. The stores that lined
both sides of the street were usually small, but, in the parlance of
trade, “select.” One found neckties of a rather more “zippy” coloring
here, hats with a more rakish air, shoes with more character, clothing
that bordered yet did not infringe on the sporty. And, of course, the
stationery store carried the sort of books and blanks and binders
and pens that Alton Academy affected, while The Mirror specialized
in such highly colored and ultra sweet concoctions of ice cream and
syrups, fruits and nuts as are beloved of all preparatory school youths
everywhere. Bagdad, in short, provided for so many of the wants of
Alton students that only once in a blue moon was it necessary for them
to seek further afield.

“Yes,” Russell agreed, “but I don’t believe we can find anything very
close that we can afford to take. There’s one place--”

He broke off to look thoughtfully across at Stick.

“Well?” prompted the latter.

“It’s upstairs, over The Parisian Tailors, on West street. But I don’t
like the idea, Stick. You know yourself that a chap won’t climb a
flight of stairs if he can find the same thing by walking a block or
two further. And there’s Crocker’s store only five doors beyond. I
guess that wouldn’t do.”

“Let’s go and have another look,” suggested Stick. “There must be some
place we can have. We’ve got an hour before we need to eat, Rus. What
do you say?”

“All right, but there’s no use going to Bagdad. We might try River
street below West.”

“Huh, no fellow ever sets foot over there! I say, I’ve got it!”

“Shoot, then, Stick.”

“We’ll hire half a store from some one who doesn’t need it!”

“Why, yes, that might do,” replied Russell slowly, “but where are we
going to find it?”

“I don’t know. Maybe we can’t, but it’s an idea, isn’t it? Something to
work on, eh? Let’s go and have a look.”



CHAPTER III

A NEW YEAR BEGINS


The journey of the little red car came to an end in three days instead
of four, for Matilda developed distressing symptoms at a place called
Bradford, got vastly worse at Mystic and broke down utterly some two
miles short of New London. There for the present the three travelers
left her and completed the trip by rail, parting one afternoon in the
Grand Central Station with assurances of a speedy reunion.

Four days later, on the twenty-second, which was a Monday, Harley
McLeod and Jimmy Austen reached Alton shortly after two o’clock and at
half-past three were out on the football field with some sixteen other
candidates. To-morrow would bring more, but sixteen wasn’t so bad for
a first session, and Martin Proctor, this year’s captain, was plainly
elated.

“Twenty-two fellows had the call,” he said to Harley and Jimmy after
they had shaken hands, “and you fellows make sixteen who have shown up.
That’s mighty good, isn’t it?”

“When’s Johnny coming?” asked Harley.

“Not until Wednesday. He telephoned this morning. He expected to come
to-day, but something’s happened. We won’t need him, anyway. We can’t
do much more to-day and to-morrow than get the kinks out. Oh, say,
Jimmy, that reminds me. You’ll have to put in a lot of time on punting
this fall. Keep that in mind, will you? Practice whenever you get a
chance, like a good fellow. We’ve got to work up a kicking department
with not much to build on. And we play Lorimer in a little over three
weeks!”

“How does it seem to be captain, Mart?” asked Jimmy, grinning.

Mart Proctor smiled back, shook his head and then looked suddenly
grave. “Well, so far, Jimmy, being captain’s been a cinch. Spring
practice was short and easy, as you know. And during the summer all
I’ve had to do is write about a dozen letters a week, read half a
million clippings sent by Johnny Cade--he cuts out everything he sees
that relates in the slightest way to football and piles it all on
me!--and try to look stern and important; and you know that’s no easy
job for a merry wight like me! But since I got here yesterday afternoon
I’ve discovered that being captain of the Alton Football Team is about
the same as being President of the U. S. of A. That guy Johnson’s been
at me every ten minutes with a new problem, Jake’s sitting over there
on the wheelbarrow trying to think up a new worry-- Oh, gee, here comes
Johnson again now!”

Henry Johnson, the football manager, was a short, rotund and very
earnest-seeming youth. His forehead, above the big spectacles that
adorned his short nose, was creased into many deep furrows as he
greeted Harley and Jimmy warmly but hurriedly and turned to Mart.

“Peter says he can’t get the lines marked out to-morrow, Mart,” he
announced agitatedly. “Says he hasn’t enough lime. Says he ordered it
and it hasn’t come, and--”

“We can get on without lines,” replied Mart calmly but a trifle
wearily. “Can’t you find anything better than that to bother about,
Hen? You ought to leave that small stuff to your helper.”

The manager’s frown relaxed slightly. “Tod hasn’t come yet.” The
furrows came back. “He promised to get here to-day. He ought to be
here, too. Some one’s got to look after the weighing, and I don’t
see how I can do it, Mart. I’ve got that letter to get into the five
o’clock mail--”

“Let the weighing go until to-morrow,” said Mart. “We’re all old
stagers and don’t need watching yet. You attend to the letter. Tod may
come on the four-twenty, for that matter. Well, let’s go, fellows! Oh,
Brand! Brand Harmon! Take a bunch of the backs out and throw around,
will you? You’re in that, Jimmy. Mac, you’d better come with me and
we’ll try some starts. You’ve got six or eight pounds that you don’t
need, and so have I. Throw out some balls, Jake, will you?”

Jakin, the trainer, opened the mouth of the big canvas bag and
trickled three scarred and battered footballs across the turf. Ned
Richards, quarter-back candidate, pounced on one and slammed it hard
at Paul Nichols, last season’s center, and Nichols caught it against
his stomach, doubled his heavy body over it and gave a high-stepping
imitation of a back getting under way.

“Mawson off on a one-yard dash,” he laughed.

“Shut up, Paul! Show respect to your betters!” And Mawson quickly
knocked the ball from his grasp, caught it as it bounded and hurled it
smartly against the back of the center rush’s head.

“You’re likely to break the ball if you do that,” warned Ned Richards.
“Hit him in the tummy instead.”

There was an hour and a half of rather easy work, which, because the
September afternoon was warm and still, reduced most of the candidates,
veterans though most of them were, to perspiring, panting wrecks of
former jauntiness. Two laps about the track at a slow jog did nothing
to restore their freshness!

Harley McLeod and Jimmy Austen plodded back to the gymnasium together,
Harley wiping his streaked face with one gray-clad arm. “I didn’t
know I was so soft,” he sighed. “Bet you I dropped four pounds this
afternoon, Jimmy.”

“Soft living plays the dickens with a fellow,” granted Jimmy. “I feel
like a pulp myself. I guess if we weighed in this afternoon I’d be six
pounds over. Gee, but it’s good to be back again, Mac. The old field
felt mighty fine underfoot, what? What’s on for a week from Saturday?
High School, I suppose.”

“Yes. They scored on us last year, too. Remember?”

“Yes, Gil Tarver missed an easy tackle that day. I didn’t get into the
game. Did you?”

“No, Macon played right end. Banning scored on us, too, last fall.
Maybe it’s a good plan to get a couple of kicks in the shins in the
early season. Wakes you up, maybe. Anyway, we came back and beat Kenly
to the king’s taste!”

“Hope we do it again, but I guess it’s her turn this year.”

“That’s the wrong thought, Jimmy. Kenly ain’t got no turn. Hold that,
son. Say, maybe that shower isn’t going to feel swell! Oh, boy!”

“Some fine moment, I’ll remark! By the way, where are we eating?”

“Down town. Lawrence doesn’t open until Wednesday morning. We’ll get
Mart and Rowly and some of the others and go to the Plaza. You can get
a pretty good steak there.”

“Yes,” agreed Jimmy as they entered the building, “but I don’t like
those unclothed tables, Mac.”

“Well, you don’t have to eat ’em! Wonder what’s at the movie theater
to-night. Want to go? My treat.”

“Sure! Under such unusual circumstances--”

But Harley had hurried away to his locker.

Stanley Hassell, who roomed with Jimmy in Upton Hall, arrived early
on Wednesday, registered at the office, unpacked and bestowed his
belongings in their accustomed places to a running fire of comment
and information from Jimmy and then accompanied the latter to the
field and looked on while the now greatly augmented company of
football candidates went through a long practice under a hot autumn
sun and the darting eyes of Coach Cade. “Johnny,” as he was generally
called--though not to his face--was a short, compactly-built man of
some twenty-eight years with a countenance rather too large for the
rest of him on which various small features were set; such features as
a button-like nose, two extraordinarily sharp eyes, a somewhat large
mouth and a very square chin. Mr. Cade had rather a fierce appearance,
in spite of his lack of height, but this was largely owing to a great
deal of thick black hair that stood up bristle-like and defeated all
attempts to make it lie down. Add to these items an extremely mild and
pleasant voice and you have the Alton Academy football coach as he
appeared to the many new candidates that afternoon.

Recitations began on Thursday morning, and the four hundred and odd
youths of various ages from twelve to nineteen who composed this
year’s roster took up scholastic duties again. When the nine o’clock
bell pealed in Academy Hall the dormitories began to discharge their
quotas. Young gentlemen, armed for the first fray of the term with
text-books and note-books and pencils and pens, set their faces toward
the vine-clad and venerable Academy Hall, along the flagged walk on
which the morning sunlight, dripping through the trees, cast golden
pools amongst the cool shadows. From Haylow, on the left of the row,
from Lykes, beside it, from Borden at the extreme right and from
Upton that was next, the youths trickled into the two streams that
flowed briskly toward their confluence, the entrance to the big brick
recitation hall. There were all sorts and conditions of boys in that
larger stream that eddied through the wide doorway; short boys and tall
boys, stout boys and thin boys, boys who swaggered and boys who went
with the diffidence of the stranger, boys with sunburned faces and
boys with cheeks too pallid, boys in short trousers and boys in long
trousers, boys with straw hats, boys with soft caps and boys with bare
heads, high-spirited boys and home-sick boys, eager boys and boys whose
feet lagged on the steps; all kinds, all descriptions of boys; just
such a medley as is always found when the bell summons to the first
recitation on a late September morning.

In a month, even in so short a time as a week, maybe, the sorts will
be fewer, the difference between this boy and that less apparent.
Already the influences that in the end mold all toward a certain
pattern will have been felt, and Jack will have begun to model his
conduct and speech and attire after those of Tom, who, impressed with
the stamp of one or more years at the school, already tends toward the
ultimate pattern. That pattern varies with different schools, yet it is
much the same in essentials, and, on the whole, it is a good pattern,
being founded on a wise discipline and builded of cleanliness of mind
and healthfulness of body, of self-respect and self-control and,
always, the love of fair-play.

To-day there was the genial warmth of a still New England early autumn
morning over the scene. The elms and maples that bordered the streets
still held their verdant leaves and the grass that grew between the
graveled roads and paths that intersected the School Green was still
unchanged. The Green extended along the west side of Academy street for
two blocks and from that quiet thoroughfare arose at an easy grade for
the width of another block to the line of brick and limestone buildings
that spanned it. Yet, following the center path, one passed two
structures ere the wide steps of Academy Hall were met: on the right,
near River street, Memorial Hall, containing library and auditorium
and a few class rooms, and on the left, close to Meadow street, and
partly hidden by trees, the modest and attractive residence of the
Principal, Doctor Maitland McPherson, known to the School more simply,
yet quite respectfully as “Mac.” Behind the main row of buildings stood
two others, the Carey Gymnasium, a recently built, up-to-the-minute
structure, and, to its left and directly back of Academy Hall,
Lawrence, where Alton boys flocked thrice a day and performed certain
rites at many long, white-draped tables. Having passed Lawrence and
Carey, one passed a cluster of tennis courts and saw, spread out before
him, several acres of fine turf whereon, close at hand, were set many
steel-framed stands between whose tiered seats appeared the blue-gray
ribbon of the running track and the gleaming white lines of the first
team gridiron. To the left was the diamond, and ere the further
confines of the tract stayed the wandering gaze a second baseball field
and a second gridiron met the sight. Far away was a faint glint that
told of the river, though the stream was hidden for most of its way
by trees that, beyond its winding course, marshaled themselves into a
forest and marched westward over the low hills toward the sunset.

But we have wandered far afield. Let us retrace our steps as far as
Upton and climb the first flight of stairs. Half way along the corridor
to the right is a door numbered 27, and under the numerals two cards
are secured with thumb-tacks. These bear the following inscriptions,
in the first case written, in a rather round hand, with pen and ink,
in the second case imprinted by the engraver’s art: Russell Wilcox
Emerson--George Patterson.

Beyond the now closed door only one of the young gentlemen named is to
be found. Russell, seated in front of the study table in the center of
the small yet pleasant room, bends over a sheet of paper that looks
very much like a bill of goods. At the top in fat black letters appears
the legend: The Proctor-Farnham Sporting Goods Company. Follows a
Broadway, New York, address, and then come many typewritten lines, each
ending in figures that form a column down the right-hand margin of the
sheet. With pencil in hand, Russell reads, frowns and lightly checks
the items, and finally, having reached the bottom of the paper, he
leans back in his chair, taps the pencil against his teeth and stares
dubiously across to the open window. During the last few days it has
become more and more apparent that the merchant who starts in business
with insufficient capital must expect anxious moments. Removing his
gaze from the window, Russell opens the small drawer at the right and
takes out a very new bank book. Reference to the first--and so far
only--item set down therein fails, however, to lift the frown from his
brow, and, sighing, he looks once more at the appalling total beneath
the column of figures on the bill, shakes his head, returns the small
bank book to the drawer and glances at his watch. Although the nine
o’clock bell had held no summons to him, it will be different when ten
o’clock comes, and it is already very close to that hour. So he places
the troubling bill in the drawer, drops several other documents upon it
and hides them all from sight with a slightly vindicative _bang_. But,
had you been there to look over his shoulder, your gaze would doubtless
have fallen on the topmost document and you would have perhaps wondered
at the presence of what was at first glance a florist’s bill. Then,
however, looking further, you would have beheld beneath the printed
inscription--“J. Warren Pulsifer, Florist, 112 West Street”--the
scrawled legend:

    “Received of Russell W. Emerson Twenty-two Dollars and Fifty
    Cents ($22.50) for one month’s rent of premises.

                                             “J. WARREN PULSIFER.”



CHAPTER IV

JIMMY READS THE PAPER


_The Doubleay_ was written and edited in the sanctum in Academy Hall
and printed in a small job printing shop over Garfield’s grocery
on State street. As school weeklies go, _The Doubleay_ was a very
presentable sheet. Typographical errors were only frequent enough to
encourage the reader of a humorous turn of mind to a diligent perusal
of the four pages; the advertising matter was attractively displayed
and the editorial policy was commendably simple, being to present the
news accurately and briefly. The paper was published on Thursday and
distributed to subscribers and advertisers by a more or less efficient
corps of six young gentlemen, usually freshmen, who received the
munificent reward of half a cent per copy. The first issue of the
paper this fall came out on the second Thursday of the term, and,
according to custom, contained six pages instead of the usual four, the
added matter consisting of the student list arranged by classes and
printed on two sides of a half-sheet under the impressive legend: _The
Doubleay--Supplement_.

Now, if your transom was open when the carrier reached your door you
found the paper on the floor when you returned to your room, or,
if it happened to flutter under a bed or into the waste-basket, you
discovered it the next day or a week later or not at all, as the case
might be. To-day, however, Stanley Hassell pushed it aside with the
opening door when he and Jimmy returned from the gymnasium and, picking
it up, tossed it to the table.

“All the news that’s fit to print,” he commented. “The old _Flubdub’s_
out again, Jimmy.” Stanley intended no disrespect to the journal: he
merely used the customary name for it. Jimmy sighed as he sank into a
chair and reached for the paper.

“Why, I’m glad to see its cheerful face again,” he murmured. “And
doesn’t it look familiar! I wonder if any of the old friends of my
youth are missing.” He was silent a minute as he turned the pages and
as Stanley stretched himself on a window-seat that was four inches
too short for him. “No,” Jimmy went on, “they’re all here: Sampson’s
Livery, Girtle, the Academy Tailor, Go to Smith’s for Stationery, The
Best Soda in the City, College Last Shoes--all the dear, familiar old
friends of me youth, Stan. And here’s Gookin, the Painless Dentist,
still holding out a welcoming hand, and the Broadway Theater and the
New York Haberdashery and--yes, here are a couple of new ones! I tell
you, Stan, the old _Flubdub’s_ a live un! ‘After the Game--Drink
Merlin Ginger Ale.’ Now, why should I, Stan? Seems to me it’s not
enough to just tell me to drink the stuff: they ought to give me a
reason why--hello! Well, I’ll be swiggled! Listen to this, will you?
‘The Sign of the Football. R. W. Emerson and G. Patterson announce the
opening of their shop at 112 West street with a full line of Athletic
and Sporting Supplies and cordially solicit the patronage of their
fellow students. Quality goods at New York Prices. Academy Discount.
“PandF spells Best!”’”

“That’s the Emerson we found waiting on table at the hotel,” exclaimed
Stanley interestedly. “At least, I suppose it is. I don’t believe
there’s another Emerson in school.”

“I’ll soon tell you,” said Jimmy, rescuing the Supplement from beside
his chair. “Emerson, E., Dribble--that’s a swell cognomen, if you
ask me!--Dutton, Eager--none in the senior class. And none in the
junior--yes, there is, ‘Emerson, Russell Wilcox, Lawrence, N. Y., U.
27.’”

“That’s this fellow,” said Stanley. “R. W., Russell Wilcox. Any others?”

“N-no, not in the-- Hold on, though. Here’s another in the freshman
bunch: ‘Emerson, Ernest Prentice--’”

“Not him. He wouldn’t be a freshie. Besides, the initials aren’t right.
But who’s G. Patterson?”

“Seems to me I remember a Patterson,” mused Jimmy. “Of course! You
know him; at least by sight. Tall, thin gink; curly hair; Canadian, I
think. Rooms in Upton. Wasn’t he trying for baseball last spring?”

Stanley nodded. “Yes, but didn’t make it. I believe he’s a bit of a
tennis shark. I remember. Maybe he and Emerson room together.”

“Right-o!” corroborated Jimmy, referring again to the list. “What do
you know about them opening a store? Got their courage, what? Athletic
goods, eh? Well, honest, Stan, there’s a mighty good chance for some
one to handle a decent line of athletic goods here. Crocker never has
what you want, or, if he has, it’s so old it falls to pieces before you
can use it. Remember the glove you bought last spring?”

Stanley nodded earnestly. “Fool thing went to pieces the third time I
wore it,” he grunted. “Crocker’s higher than thunder, too. He doesn’t
know the War’s over yet! Wouldn’t be surprised if these fellows did
pretty well, Jimmy.”

“Nor I; and I hope they do. This Emerson guy seems to have a lot of
grit, or--or something. Initiative, too. Plucky chap. I liked his looks
that day at Pine Harbor.” After a moment, his eyes returned to the
advertisement, “Say, what do you suppose this cryptic bit means? ‘PandF
spells Best.’ What’s PandF?”

“You may explore me,” replied Stanley, yawning. “Maybe a misprint for
P and E, Patterson and Emerson.”

“But it’s ‘Emerson and Patterson.’ Besides, the thing’s run together,
like one word.”

“It’s probably put there to make fellows curious, just as it’s made
you, Jimmy. Sort of a--a--what do they call ’em? Slogans, isn’t it?
Like ‘It Floats,’ or--or--” But to save his life Stanley couldn’t think
of another example, and he subsided on the pillows again with a grunt.

“Yes, but what’s ‘PandF’?” reiterated Jimmy, frowningly. “Potatoes and
Farina? Pork and--and--”

“Cabbage,” suggested Stanley. “Queer how your thoughts always run
toward food, Jimmy. Isn’t there anything else in the paper?”

“I guess so. Let’s see.” Jimmy turned to the first page. “‘Record
Enrollment’; that’s about the number of fellows; four hundred and
twenty-four, Stan: ‘estimated.’ Don’t see why they have to estimate.
Maybe they didn’t have time to count ’em, though. ‘New Courses
Offered.’ Avaunt! ‘Football Situation.’ Hm, the usual twaddle. ‘Not
in recent years has the Team lost so many of its first-string players
by graduation.’ Guess that’s so, too. ‘Of those who started the Kenly
game last Fall but three remain to serve as a nucleus about which to
build this year’s Eleven; Captain Proctor, tackle, Nichols, center,
and Mawson, half-back. The situation is not, though, as desperate as
this fact would make it appear, as there is much excellent substitute
material on hand. Rhame and McLeod, ends, Rowlandson, guard, Cravath,
center, Richards, quarter-back, Harmon, Austen, Longstreth and Kruger,
half-backs, and Browne and Linthicum, full-backs, have all had
experience, and from them Coach Cade will doubtless be able to select
a Team of no mean ability. What may develop from the new candidates is
problematic, but nearly always one star appears unheralded.’ Hurrah!
There’s a lot more of it, but as I don’t see my name again we’ll quit.
And here’s the schedule. ‘Alton High School, Banning High School,
Lorimer Academy, Hillsport School, New Falmouth High School, Mount
Millard School--’ Say, look where Mount Millard comes, Stan; second
game from the last!”

“Sure! Why not?”

“How come?”

“Why, you dumb-bell, didn’t they whale us last year, 19 to 0?”

“That’s so, but--”

“Well, we’ve put them down the list where we can handle them. Who’s
next?”

“Oak Grove. Then Kenly. We have three games away from home.”

“All faculty will allow. Good thing, too, if you ask me.”

“I hadn’t, old dear, but I will. What’s the answer?”

“Takes too much money traveling around with the team.”

“Oh! Yes, there’s something in that. Here’s a bit about the baseball
situation, but who cares about that? Let’s see, now--”

“Read it,” commanded Stanley.

Jimmy looked across protestingly. “But it’s of absolutely no interest
to any one except a few mistaken idiots who--”

“_Read it!_”

“Oh, well!” Jimmy sighed. “‘Fall baseball practice, which started
Monday, brought out an unusually large field of candidates. Six of
last year’s creditable Team were on hand--’” Jimmy paused and sniffed.
“‘Creditable!’ How do they attain that condition? ‘On hand, and
practically all of the Scrub Nine. Of new men the more promising at
present are Dixon, who hails from Springfield High School, and Jameson,
from Earl Academy. Captain Grainger announces that daily practice will
be held as long as the weather permits, and asks all those who expect
to take part in baseball next Spring to report at once.’ There, there
wasn’t a single mention of your name, Stan. I knew there was no call to
read the piffle.”

“We’ll have a corking team this year,” mused Stanley.

“Huh, you said that last year, and look what Kenly did to you!”

“That’s all right,” replied the other warmly. “We landed seventeen out
of twenty-one games and tied one--the best record in--”

“Son, you lost to Kenly, and that’s the unforgivable sin,” interrupted
Jimmy didactically.

“Oh, well,” grumbled Stanley.

“Not, of course, that baseball is a sport to be taken seriously,”
continued Jimmy lightly. “We can lose at soccer and tennis and baseball
and still hold our heads up; which is extremely fortunate, too. Those
minor sports--” He broke off to dodge a cushion, and then looked at his
watch. “Geewhillikins, Stan! It’s after six! Move your lazy bones and
let’s eat!”

Whereupon all was bustle and action in Number 4 Lykes Hall.



CHAPTER V

RUSSELL EXPLAINS


Doubtless Doctor McPherson’s copy of _The Doubleay_ was delivered to
him absolutely on time, but the Doctor was always a busy man, and
this was still very close to the beginning of the term, and so it was
not until he was at ease in his very large and very old-fashioned
green leather arm-chair that evening that he found time to scan the
pages of the school weekly. This was a thing that he invariably did
with much interest, for the paper echoed very clearly the pulse of
the School. The Board of Editors and Managers were representative
fellows and published their opinions--which were the opinions of their
schoolmates--very frankly. In fact, as the Doctor recalled as he turned
to the first page, there had been times when their frankness had been
almost alarming; certainly embarrassing to him and the faculty! The
Doctor was very thorough in all that he did, which probably accounts
for the fact that, having perused and digested the news and editorial
portions of the paper, he considered the advertisements, and with
scarcely less interest. And, having reached one of them, he read
it twice, frowning a little, and then, drawing a memorandum-pad
toward him along the top of the big desk, he made three funny little
characters on it, which, since the Doctor numbered a knowledge of
short-hand among his other accomplishments, meant much more to him than
it would have to you or me.

The direct result of those three lines and pot-hooks was the appearance
the next forenoon of Russell Emerson in the school office and his
prompt passage to the Principal’s private sanctum beyond. This room,
which Russell had never before entered--and had never pined to!--was
a large, high-ceilinged chamber with cream-white walls and woodwork
and three massive windows toward the Green. It was saved from coldness
and austerity by the huge mahogany bookcase along the farther wall,
by a soft-piled green rug occupying most of the floor space, by a
big mahogany desk in the center of the rug and by the presence along
two walls of some half-dozen armchairs of the same warm-toned wood.
Nevertheless, the first effect of that chamber on Russell was awesome,
if not alarming. Although conscious of no lapse from the straight and
narrow path, he nevertheless felt most uneasy as he closed the heavy
door behind him, responded to the Principal’s smiling “Good morning,
Emerson” and seated himself in the chair that stood beside the nearer
end of the desk. Secretly curious, he sent a hurried look along the
top of the shining mahogany, thinking that perhaps there would be
somewhere in sight a clew to this unexpected summons. But the desk,
save for some half-dozen books between handsome bronze book-ends in a
distant corner, a large leather-bound writing pad under the Doctor’s
elbow and a combined ink-well and pen-tray beyond it, was absolutely
empty. Nor did the Doctor’s brown and rather sinewy hand hold anything
that appeared like incriminating evidence. It held, in fact--I am
referring to the hand that held anything--only a sharply-pointed yellow
pencil which the Doctor, as he inquired politely as to Russell’s health
and, subsequently, the health of Russell’s parents, slipped slowly back
and forth between his fingers, alternating sharpened lead and rubber
tip against one gray-trousered knee. Then he laid the pencil down on
the blotting-pad, very exactly, so that it lay absolutely parallel to
the rim of the pad, and came to the subject.

“I read in _The Doubleay_, Emerson, that you have opened a shop in the
town--in West street, I believe--for the sale of athletic supplies.”

He paused, and Russell said, “Yes, sir.”

“Rather an unusual proceeding, Emerson,” pursued the Doctor. “Unusual,
that is to say, at this school. It may have been done elsewhere. Would
you mind telling me why you have embarked in this--ah--enterprise?”

[Illustration: “Rather an unusual proceeding, Emerson,” pursued the
doctor]

“Why,” replied Russell a trifle blankly, “to make money.”

“I see. But do you really need money? That is, more money than, I
presume, your parents allow you?”

“Yes, sir,” answered the boy emphatically. “My tuition is paid until
the end of this term, sir, but if I’m to remain here for the rest of
the year I’ll have to pony up--I mean I’ll have to pay for it myself.”
Russell paused, frowned a little and looked speculatively at the
Principal. The latter smiled faintly and nodded.

“Yes, I would,” he said.

Russell looked a bit startled and a bit questioning.

“Tell me all about it,” explained the Doctor. “You were wondering
whether you should, weren’t you?”

“Well, I--” Russell began apologetically. Then he smiled and began
anew. “You see, sir, my father isn’t very well off. I guess I oughtn’t
to have come here in the first place, but I wanted to pretty badly, and
father said I might as well have the best as any, and so I came. It
went all right the first two years, but last spring things got sort of
bad in our town. Folks got out of work and went away, and those that
stayed didn’t have much money and didn’t spend much of what they had.
And a good many didn’t pay their bills. So father’s business sort of
ran down and we didn’t have much money.”

“What is your father’s business, Emerson?”

“He keeps a store, sir, a sort of general store. He told me away back
last March that if things didn’t pick up soon there wouldn’t be much
chance of my getting back here, and I tried to think of some way of
making money so I could come back. I’d helped in the store a good deal
and so, naturally, I thought of selling something, and I was pretty
sure that athletic goods would go pretty well here, because there isn’t
any one in town that makes a specialty of them, you see. Crocker, the
hardware man, carries some, but he tries to shove off second-rate
stuff at first-class prices, and the fellows have been stung a good
deal. Then there’s another man away down town, Loring, who carries a
few things, but he’s a good distance off, and his stuff is kind of
second-rate, too. When the football team or the baseball team or the
hockey team want supplies they send to New York for them, and that
takes time and they don’t get any different goods than what we carry.”

“I see,” commented the Doctor interestedly. “And so you and Patterson,
your room-mate, decided to start this shop. That was last spring, you
say?”

“We didn’t exactly decide then, sir. That is, I decided to do it if
I could, but I couldn’t get Stick--that’s Patterson, sir: his name’s
George, but every one calls him Stick--I couldn’t get him to promise
until about the middle of the summer. I’d have gone into it alone, only
I didn’t have enough money, and Stick had some he’d saved and I wanted
it. You see, it takes quite a lot to get a thing like this started,
sir.”

The Doctor nodded gravely. “Undoubtedly,” he agreed. “And between you,
you managed to get enough together to put it through, Emerson?”

Russell shook his head ruefully. “No, sir, not enough, but--well, it
has to do,” he answered a bit defiantly. “Stick didn’t want to--I mean
he found he couldn’t put in quite as much as he thought he could, sir,
and I didn’t make quite as much during the summer as I’d expected to,
and so it left us sort of short when the time came.”

“You worked during the summer, then?”

“Yes, sir, I waited on table at the Pine Harbor House. They didn’t
have a very good season. Too much rain and cold weather. A lot of the
fellows made less than I did, though, so I guess I oughtn’t to kick,”
added Russell thoughtfully.

There was silence for a moment, and then the Doctor, having taken up
his pencil again, said: “I don’t want to pry into matters that don’t
concern me, Emerson, but it must have taken at least several hundred
dollars to start this shop of yours. Now, just suppose that there isn’t
the demand for your wares that you anticipate. What then? It’s going to
whisk that money away, isn’t it? You’ve laid out most of it, I presume,
on goods, you’ve had to sign a lease of the premises you occupy and
you’ve paid some rent already. Have you thought what may happen? What
happens every day in retail business?”

“Yes, sir,” replied Russell. “It’s a risk, I know, but it isn’t as big
as you think, I guess. We didn’t have much money to start on and so we
don’t stand to lose very much, even if all went, which it can’t. We’ve
taken only half a store and we’ve leased it by the month. A florist has
the rest of it, a man named Pulsifer. You see, we couldn’t afford to
take a whole store, not where we wanted it, and so we made an offer to
this florist fellow and he fell for it right away. He had more space
than he needed, except around Christmas and Easter time, and he was
quite keen about renting it. Then we haven’t put in a very big stock,
sir. You see, there are so many things that we have to handle that
we just couldn’t begin to keep them all. So we have samples of most
everything and a fair line of the fall things. If we don’t happen to
have what’s wanted to-day we telephone to New York for it and we get it
to-morrow.”

“I see,” said the Doctor. “And of course you aren’t depending solely on
the Academy trade?”

“No, sir, we’re after the High School fellows and the public generally.
But we do expect to get a good deal of patronage from the Academy. In
fact, sir, what I want to do ultimately is persuade the athletic teams
to trade with us instead of New York!”

“Well, I endorse your courage, Emerson, and I trust you won’t be
disappointed. That is--” The Doctor stopped and frowned at the pencil.
“To be frank, Emerson,” he went on, “I had some idea of persuading you
to give up this scheme when I sent for you. I say persuading because
there is nothing in the rules of this institution that empowers me to
forbid it. The mere fact that it has never before been done doesn’t
prohibit it; although it is probably the reason that there is no
regulation that does! I dare say you can understand why the faculty
would view such a proceeding askance, Emerson.”

Russell looked frankly puzzled and finally shook his head. “No, sir,
I’m afraid I can’t,” he said.

The Doctor’s brows went up a trifle and he smiled faintly. “Really?
Doesn’t it occur to you that keeping a shop might interfere somewhat
with the real purpose of your presence here?”

“You mean it might keep me from studying, sir?”

“Exactly, from study and progress, which, after all, Emerson, are what
you are here for.”

“Why, but don’t you see, sir,” exclaimed Russell, “that if I don’t run
that store I can’t stay here? Why, I--I’m doing it just because I want
to study and learn! I’m doing it so I _can_, Doctor McPherson!”

The Doctor’s golden-brown eyes lighted kindly and the creases that
ran from each side of his straight nose to the corners of his rather
wide mouth deepened under his smile. “Yes, I do see it, my boy,” he
replied heartily. “And because I see it I’ve quite changed my course
of action since you arrived. I certainly would not like to see your
example followed by--well, by many of your companions, Emerson. And
for that reason I trust shop-keeping won’t become the fashion here at
Alton! But in your case--well, we’ll see how it works out. I sincerely
hope that we shall be satisfied with the results, Emerson. And I
certainly hope you will, too. In fact, I wish you the best of luck, my
boy. And, while I know very little of merchandising, I’ll be very glad
to give you any assistance in my power. And”--whereupon the Doctor’s
eyes twinkled--“I’ll certainly patronize ‘The Sign of the Football’ in
preference to the gentleman who keeps second-rate goods at first-rate
prices! Good morning, Emerson.”

“Good morning, sir,” stammered Russell. “And--and thank you.”

“Not at all. And let me know how you’re getting on sometime!”



CHAPTER VI

BILLY CROCKER DROPS IN


Alton played her first game two days later, against the local High
School team. The latter had suffered quite as much as the Academy
from graduations, and the eleven that took the field to oppose the
Gray-and-Gold knew very little football. Alton fairly ran High School
off her feet in the first half, scoring three touchdowns and missing
two excellent opportunities to kick goals from the field because of
the Coach’s instructions to play only a rushing game. Along in the
third period Mr. Cade began to send in substitutes, and ere the brief
contest was ended Alton had tried out just twenty-one players. There
was only one score in the last half, the result of a blocked kick on
Alton’s thirty-two yards. High School, held for downs, had attempted
a goal, but a plunge of eager Alton substitutes had borne down the
defense and the ball had bounded aside from some upstretched arm to be
gobbled up by Harmon and borne fleetly down the field. There was little
opposition, for the nearest High School pursuer reached the final
white line a good two yards behind the swift-footed left half-back.
Harmon, rather tuckered, was taken out and Mawson replaced him, and
it was Mawson who strove to add another point to the Academy’s total
of 26. But his attempt was weak and the ball never threatened the
cross-bar. That was in the third period. In the fourth the playing
on both sides became amusingly ragged, and fumble followed fumble
and signals were mixed and the spectators fairly howled with glee at
times. Twice over-eagerness was penalized under the visitor’s goal and
so two more probable touchdowns were averted. High School showed one
brief session of determined offensive in the third quarter and, taking
advantage of Crocker’s sleepy game at right end, managed two long runs
which, together with a rather flukey forward pass, landed the pigskin
on Alton’s twenty-two yards. There, however, the attack petered out
and, after losing seven yards in three downs, High School faked a
try-at-goal and tossed forward over the line, where the ball landed
untouched on the turf.

Considered even as a first contest, the afternoon’s performance wasn’t
encouraging from an Alton standpoint, for the line had been slow and
had played high, the backs had worked every man for himself, with no
semblance of team-play, and even Ned Richards’ generalship had been
particularly headless. Against an equally green and much lighter team,
Alton had failed to show any real football. However, one swallow
doesn’t make a summer, nor one game a season, and so Coach Cade had
little to say after the contest, and the audience, taking itself lazily
away through the warm sunlit afternoon, chose to view the humorous
aspects of the encounter and disregard its faults. Harley McLeod did
fairly well at right end until he gave way to Billy Crocker, and Jimmy
played at right half during a brief and glorious third quarter and
retired with a bruised and ensanguined nose.

In the Coach’s room, across Academy street from the Green, Mr. Cade
and Captain Mart Proctor conferred long that evening and in the end
reached the conclusion, among other less certain ones, that the task of
building a team this fall was going to be a man-sized job!

Jimmy had determined that he would drop in at the Sign of the Football
and look the shop over at the first opportunity. By that he meant
the first occasion when he was in want of something that might
reasonably be expected to be on sale there. But it didn’t seem that the
opportunity would come, for, with the football management supplying
everything from head harness to shoe-laces, there wasn’t anything he
stood in need of. Nor, between the reading of the advertisement to
Stanley that Thursday afternoon and the hour of eleven on the following
Tuesday, did he even get as far from the Green as West street. He had
heard, though, many comments on the Sign of the Football. Among his
acquaintances the store was treated as something of a sensation, while
Russell Emerson and his partner in the enterprise were both scoffed at
and commended. The idea of an Alton student descending to shop-keeping
disturbed many fastidious ones, while others thought it rather a
joke--though they couldn’t seem to put their finger on the point of
it!--and still others declared that it was a corking good stunt and
they hoped Emerson and his pal would make it go. Jimmy lined up with
the latter when the matter was discussed in his hearing, and so did
Harley McLeod, as, for instance, on Monday night when a half-dozen
fellows were gathered in Harley’s room in Haylow. The number included
Jimmy and Stanley, Ned Richards, Harley’s room-mate, Billy Crocker and
Cal Grainger, the Baseball Captain. It was the latter who introduced
the subject when, apropos of something Ned Richards had said regarding
his finances, he informed them that anything approaching financial
depression wouldn’t bother him hereafter as he and Brand Harmon were
going to open a tea shop in the town.

“Keeping a shop is getting to be all the rage,” he explained airily,
“and those that get into it early are going to reap the shekels. Brand
and I have got it all doped out. Some swell little joint we’re going
to have, too. Rose and gray is to be the--the color motif. We’re going
to have three kinds of tea: hot, cold and Oolong; and a full line of
sandwiches and cakes. Wait till you see us swelling around there with
the High School girls! Fine moments, boy, believe me!”

“Better stock up with chewing gum,” suggested Ned Richards. “From what
I see, I guess that’s about all those High School girls ever eat!”

“You’re jealous because you didn’t think of it yourself,” retorted Cal
untroubledly.

“Hope you get more trade than those fellows who opened the sporting
goods store are getting,” said Billy Crocker. He was a rather large,
though not heavy, youth, with black hair and thick eyebrows that met
above his nose. The latter, being beak-like, gave him an unattractively
parrotish look. Billy lived at home, in the town, but spent most of
his evenings at the Academy. He wasn’t especially popular, and fellows
sometimes found themselves wondering why it was he was so frequently in
evidence at such gatherings as to-night’s. The explanation, however,
was very simple. Billy Crocker took his welcome for granted and didn’t
wait for a formal invitation. Being a football player, he affected
the company of the football crowd, and although many protested him as
a nuisance he was allowed to tag along. “I’ve looked in there twenty
times,” continued Billy, not too truthfully, “and I’ve never seen any
one there yet. They’re a couple of nuts!”

“As a member of the Alton Academy Merchants’ Association,” began Cal
protestingly.

“They must have some money they don’t need,” interrupted Ned Richards
enviously. “I heard they’d put a thousand dollars into the thing.”

“A thousand dollars!” scoffed Billy Crocker. “More like a hundred!
Why, those fellows haven’t any money, Ned. They’re on their uppers.
Patterson wears clothes that were made when Grant took Richmond!”

“What scandal is this?” murmured Jimmy. “Who’s Grant?”

“Well, that’s what I heard,” replied Ned coldly. “Of course, if the
gentlemen are personal friends of yours, Crocker--”

“They’re not, thanks,” answered Billy emphatically. “I don’t--”

“They’re friends of mine, though,” cut in Harley. “At least, Emerson
is. And I wish him luck. He’s got courage, that chap. Guess it’s so
about his being poor, though, for we came across him two or three weeks
ago waiting on table at a hotel at Pine Harbor. He was a good waiter,
too.”

Jimmy rather wished that Harley hadn’t told that, for, while he had
only admiration for the deed, he doubted that Ned and Cal and Billy
Crocker would view it in the same way. However, no one looked other
than faintly interested; no one, that is, save Billy Crocker. Billy
laughed scornfully. “Those fellows would do anything to get a bit of
money,” he said. “It was Patterson who wore Irv Ross’s suit up and
down West street a couple of years ago, with a placard on him like a
sandwich man, and all for a dollar and a half. You fellows remember.”

“Yes, but it was Stacey Ross’s suit, and not Irv’s,” said Stanley.
“Girtle charged Stacey ten or twelve dollars more than he charged
another chap for the same thing. Girtle said it was because the other
fellow paid cash and Stacey didn’t, but Stacey was mad clean through
and got Patterson to put the suit on and walk up and down in front of
the store with a placard saying ‘Bought at Girtle’s.’ Of course the
clothes hung all over Patterson--”

“That’s all ancient history, Stan,” said Harley.

“Well, what I was getting at is that, as I remember it, this fellow did
it for a joke and wasn’t paid for it.”

“He certainly was paid,” exclaimed Billy. “I know!”

“He ought to have been,” remarked Ned. “Anyway, Stan, there’s no sense
in arguing with Crocker about what his friends do or did. He’s in the
know, aren’t you, Crocker?”

“I told you they aren’t my friends,” answered Billy gruffly. “I don’t
know either of them, except by sight.”

“Then why,” asked Ned, yawning, “persist in talking about ’em?”

“I only said they wouldn’t make that store pay,” replied the other
defensively. “And they won’t.”

“Say, Crocker,” inquired Jimmy, “isn’t it your father or uncle or
something who runs the hardware store?”

“Father,” said Billy in a tone that suggested reticence.

“Thought so. Maybe you’re a bit prejudiced then. You folks sell the
same line of stuff as Emerson and Patterson do, eh? Guess you don’t
like the idea of a rival almost next door.”

“All those fellows will sell won’t affect my father any!”

“Say!” This explosive exclamation came from Stanley, who suddenly sat
up very straight on Ned’s bed and fixed Billy with a baleful glare.
“Say, is that your store, Crocker?”

“My father’s,” answered Billy with dignity.

“Well, say, let me tell you something then. You sell the punkest
stuff that ever came out of the ark! Honest, Crocker, you do! Say, if
Patterson’s clothes were made by Grant at Richmond, or whatever it was
you said, the baseball gloves you take good money for were made by Mrs.
Cleopatra the day she got bitten by the snake!”

“They’re just as good as you can get anywhere,” protested Billy
indignantly. “Baseball gloves aren’t made as well as they used to be,
since the War, and if you got a bum one you ought to have brought it
back, Hassell, and--”

“There wasn’t enough of it to bring back,” said Stanley grimly, “after
the third time I put it on! And I’m blamed if I see what the War’s got
to do with baseball gloves. The trouble with you folks is that you got
stocked up about twenty years ago and the moths have got busy!”

The rest, with the notable exception of Billy Crocker, were laughing
and chuckling at Stanley’s tirade. Billy was flushed and sulky. “We
can’t help it,” he muttered, “if the sewing on a glove gives way
sometimes. That’s the way they come to us, and we buy the best we can
find--”

“Listen,” said Stanley impressively. “The sewing was the only part of
that glove that held together! It was the leather that was rotten, and
if I--”

“Have you still got it?” demanded Billy, goaded to desperation. “If you
have, bring it to the store and I’ll see that you get another.”

“Of course I haven’t got it,” answered Stanley disgustedly. “I bought
it last spring, and the last I saw of it, it was hanging over the wire
netting back of the home bench, where I pitched the blamed thing!”

“Well, the next time, you bring it back,” said Billy. “We don’t want
any one dissatisfied.”

“There ain’t going to be no next time,” answered Stanley significantly.
He subsided on the pillows again. “No hard feelings, Crocker,” he
added apologetically, “but your store certainly does carry a bum lot of
athletic goods.”

There was more laughter, and Billy decided to join in, which he did
with what grace he might, and the troublesome subject lapsed.

Crocker left some twenty minutes later with Cal Grainger, although the
latter showed no overmastering desire for his company, and when the
door was closed Stanley asked: “What do you see in that fellow, Mac?”

“How do you mean?” asked Harley. “He isn’t my pal. He comes to see Ned.”

“What?” demanded his room-mate. “Gosh, I never asked him here! I
thought maybe you had. I’m not keen for him, let me tell you. I’ve
hardly spoken a hundred words to him, and then only on the field, and
did you hear him calling me Ned? Cheeky bounder! I was tickled to death
when you pitched into him about your old glove, Stan. He was as sore as
a poisoned pup!”

“_Old_ glove!” exclaimed Stanley, in arms again. “It was a _new_ glove,
gosh ding it! And I wore it just three times and--”

“Oh, sweet odors of Araby!” groaned Jimmy. “You’ve gone and got him
started again! Listen, you fellows! I have to hear the history of that
glove ten times a day, and it does seem that when I get out in society,
as ’twere, I might--might--”

“Glove?” broke in Harley gravely. “What glove is that? Did you have a
glove, Stan?”

“Oh, dry up,” muttered Stanley. “I’m going home. But I’ll tell you
chumps one thing,” he went on with returned animation. “Those fellows
who have the new store are going to get _my_ trade!”

“Ha! Their success is assured!” cried Jimmy. “Stan buys a fielder’s
glove every spring, and all they’ve got to do is hold until maybe April
or May--”

“Any one been in there yet?” asked Harley.

No one had, it appeared. “I haven’t even seen the place,” said Ned.
“I hear they’ve got a real jazzy sign, though; a football, you know,
hanging on a whatyoucallit.”

“Sounds mighty effective,” mused Jimmy. “Just what is a whatyoucallit?”

“Oh, a--one of those things that stick out--”

“A sore thumb?”

“--From a wall. A crane, isn’t it?”

“I think that’s a bird,” replied Jimmy, “but I know what you mean. A--a
sort of--of iron projection--”

“Brilliant conversation, I’ll say,” interrupted Stanley. “Come on, you
dumb-bell. The best place for an intellect like yours is a pillow.”
He propelled Jimmy, still struggling for expression, to the door. “So
long, fellows! What he means is an arm.”

“But I don’t!” wailed Jimmy as the door closed. “I don’t!”



CHAPTER VII

JIMMY GOES SHOPPING


Jimmy was very conscientiously obeying Mart Proctor’s request to
practice punting. As a senior who was not overburdening himself with
extra courses, Jimmy had several periods of leisure between nine in
the morning and three in the afternoon, and while these periods came
at different hours on different days they never failed, and, as it
happened, Tuesdays came very close to being full holidays for him. On
those days his morning was blissfully free from the requirements of
class attendance, and not until eleven-thirty did his schedule mean
a thing to him. Usually there was some one on the field when Jimmy
arrived who was quite willing to chase his punts and kick them back to
him, and so he had already put in a good many hours of work outside
the regular practice sessions. He had requisitioned a football from
Jake and kept it in his room, since more often than not he went from
dormitory to field without stopping at the gymnasium for a change of
raiment. Casting aside his jacket, he was ready for the task, since
he always affected knickerbockers. An old pair of football shoes, one
having a tan lacing and the other a black, which ordinarily kicked
about under his bed collecting dust, were donned before leaving the
room. On Tuesdays, however, Jimmy dressed for the work and engaged the
aid of some football aspirant whose hours of leisure matched his.

On this particular Tuesday, the day following the small events narrated
in the preceding chapter, Jimmy, having picked up the football from
where it had lodged under Stanley’s bed, viewed it with disapprobation.
It was a very old ball, and a very scarred and battered one. As Jimmy
mentally phrased it, it had whiskers all over it, by which he meant
that what may be termed the epidermis of the ball was abraded and
scruffy and adorned with little--for want of a better word--hang-nails
of leather which in Jimmy’s opinion mitigated seriously against both
distance and accuracy. Of course he couldn’t expect a brand-new ball,
but it did seem as if Jake might have found one less feeble and senile
than this! Why, the poor thing ought to have been retired on a pension
years ago! Jimmy viewed it dubiously and at last distastefully,
dropping it from one hand to the other. If he had a decent ball to work
with--

Well, why not? If the management wouldn’t afford him one, why not buy
one of his own? Why not indeed? Jimmy tossed the ancient pigskin from
him, unmindful of direction or ultimate destination, pulled out the
top drawer of his chiffonier and selected two bills from a number
that reposed in a small box there. Then he looked at his watch. He had
commandeered Neirsinger, a quarter-back candidate, for half-past nine.
It was now twelve minutes after. In eighteen minutes he could get to
West street, purchase a new football and--well, if not reach the field
at least get within sight of it. So, stuffing the money in a pocket, he
hurried forth and down the stairs and across the Green by an illegal
but well-defined path that led straight to the center gate. Being like
most of us a creature of habit, Jimmy’s subconscious mind was leading
him to Crocker’s hardware store, and to Crocker’s hardware store he
would have gone, so, doubtless, moving Stanley to reproaches, had his
eyes not caught sight of an unaccustomed object when, having traveled
the block between the Green and West street, he turned to his left on
the latter thoroughfare.

The object was suspended above a doorway a half-dozen rods from the
corner, a sign about two feet in length and somewhat less than a
foot and a half wide. It hung from a projecting wrought-iron rod, at
right angles to the building, and presented a bravely gay broadside
to the passers, for paint and gilt were still new and fresh upon it.
There was background of dead black against which was portrayed a
golden-brown football. Above and below the ball read the legend in
plain but quaintly old-fashioned lettering: Sign of the Football. The
letters, like the molding that surrounded the whole, were of gilt. In
its way, that swinging sign was quite a work of art, and Jimmy, who had
a keen appreciation of the picturesque, paid it tribute ere, stopping
stock-still two doors away, he viewed it fixedly, frowningly for a
moment. Then:

“‘Inverted bracket,’” he muttered triumphantly. “‘Inverted bracket.’
That’s it!”

He went on triumphantly, aware now that he had no business to transact
at Crocker’s, and wondering that he had forgotten the new store. Under
the glittering sign he stopped and observed the windows. In that at
his left were displayed four weary-looking geraniums, bearing a few
pink blossoms, in pots; two ornamental vases filled with dahlias of
various hues; a glass sign that leaned against the vases and proclaimed
in gold letters against a black ground: Pulsifer the Florist--Funerals
a Specialty; and, finally, somewhat in the background and so
unobtrusively suggestive, a wreath of artificial ivy and white roses.
Jimmy turned from this appalling display with a shudder and moved to
the window beyond.

This, he told himself commendingly, was better. Against an expanse
of clean white paper lay, at either side, a pennant; at the left the
gold-and-gray of Alton, at the right the blue-and-white of High School.
Between these had been assembled a fairly enticing array of seasonable
articles: a football, a head harness, a nose-guard, one of the small
horns affected by umpires, a shining nickel whistle, two pairs of
shoes, two pairs of woolen hose, a tennis racket, a box of felt-clad
balls and one or two other objects. Across the back of the window hung
a low curtain of dark blue material and against it was a colorful
poster: a brawny youth in togs, football nestled against his ribs,
arm outstretched, face stern with ferocious determination, spurning a
vividly green sod beneath flying feet. Below the figure was the cryptic
legend: “PandF spells Best.”

Jimmy entered the store. It wasn’t a very large store, even for West
street, and it was rather dark. On the left was the establishment
of J. Warren Pulsifer: a long counter, bare save for some wrapping
paper and a box of pins, a desk surrounded by iron grilling, a
refrigerator, or what looked like such, behind whose glass doors could
be indistinctly glimpsed a modest stock of flowers in tall, brown
papier-mâché receptacles. There were, also, two tiers of shelves back
of the counter, and these held an array of dusty boxes. Behind the iron
grilling a tall, dejected looking man with faded hair and mustache
looked anxiously up from his desk as Jimmy entered and then with a
slump of his narrow shoulders that was, Jimmy was certain, accompanied
by a sigh of relief, returned to his occupation.

The other side of the store held a duplicate of the long counter, but
it had been recently varnished and so presented a different appearance.
Varnished, also, had been the shelves beyond, while a six-foot
show-case near the entrance lent an added air of luxury. In fact, this
side of the store was, in contrast, almost startlingly gay. Boxes
of various colors thronged the shelves, pennants hung above them, a
blue-and-white sweater lay across the counter, articles of leather and
metal gleamed from the show-case, show-cards and posters and placards
were numerous. Jimmy thought, in fact, that there were rather too many
of these latter, even if they did lend a certain air of business.
Viewing cannily the, after all, rather scanty furnishings and stock on
hand, he felt that there was something akin to bravado in that display
of advertising placards.

There was but one customer within when Jimmy arrived, a small youth
of perhaps a dozen years who was frowning doubtfully over a helmet
displayed before him on the counter. Behind the latter stood the
senior partner of the new firm, and at Jimmy’s appearance he looked up
inquiringly.

“Hello,” said Jimmy, ending his leisurely inspection of the premises.
“I’d like to get a football, please. No hurry.” He had quite forgotten
Neirsinger and the flight of time.

“Just a moment,” answered Russell. The boy laid the helmet down with a
sigh of rejection.

“Maybe I’ll be back,” he muttered, and turned away from the counter
with a last desirous look at the article.

“All right,” replied Russell cordially. “Glad to see you.”

Jimmy smiled as Russell turned to him. “Didn’t have enough money, I
guess,” he said.

Russell shook his head, and smiled, too. “I showed him a cheaper one,
and one that would have fitted him, but he said he wanted to buy one he
could ‘grow into’! You wanted a football?” He reached to a shelf behind
him, drew down a box, set it on the counter and took the lid off. The
box was empty, and he pushed it aside and reached for another. “Silly
to put the empties back on the shelf,” he said carelessly as he opened
the next box. Jimmy’s gaze roved over the rows of boxes and he smiled
quizzically, but to himself.

The football looked very good to him as he searchingly examined it, but
it was different from those he had been used to, a fact explained when
his eyes fell on a design lightly burned into the outer leather. It was
a diamond enclosing the characters “P. & F.” Curiosity clamored. “Say,
for the love of lemons, Emerson, what does ‘P. & F.’ mean?” he demanded.

“Proctor and Farnham. They’re the makers. Ever used any of their goods?”

“No, never heard of them. New folks?”

“New in the East. They’ve been making footballs and things for years
and selling in the West. They’ve just begun to go after this part of
the country and we succeeded in getting the agency here. Very good
stuff they make. Notice the way that ball is sewed? Those seams can’t
open in a hundred years, I guess. And that leather’s the best horsehide
procurable. There’s a big difference in leather, you know. Some balls
scuff up the first time they’re used after they’ve been once wet.”

Jimmy nodded. “I know. Looks pretty good, still I’m sort of used to the
other balls, Emerson.”

“I can sell you your kind,” Russell returned, “but I’d like awfully
to have you try one of these. You see, fellows are sort of shy of new
things and you’ve got to get them started. After that they go all
right. If you care to try this Proctor and Farnham ball I’ll guarantee
to give you a new ball or your money back if you decide you don’t like
it after a fair trial.”

“Fair enough,” said Jimmy. “I’ll take it. By the way, what’s the
price?” His eyebrows lifted when he heard it and he frowned a little.
“What’s the price of the others?”

“Just the same,” replied Russell, folding a paper neatly about the
pasteboard box.

“But that’s forty cents less than Crocker asks!” protested Jimmy.

“Then they ask forty cents too much,” answered the other calmly. “I
think you’ll find Crocker’s prices going down before long.”

“I wouldn’t wonder,” agreed Jimmy. He picked up a pair of greenish-gray
sport hose from the counter. “How much are these?”

“Three and a half,” said Russell. “We’ve got some good ones for less,
though.”

“Guess I don’t need any just now, but those are mighty good-looking.
Doing any business yet, Emerson?”

“Fair,” answered Russell, exchanging the bundle for Jimmy’s money. “Of
course, it takes time to get started.”

“I suppose so.” With bundle in hand, Jimmy showed little inclination
to hurry away. “You seem to have a pretty big stock here,” he went on.
“Must take some money to get a place like this going.”

Russell nodded. “Quite a bit,” he agreed. “We haven’t laid in much
except fall stuff yet. Have to go a bit slow at first.”

“Yes,” mused Jimmy. He was wondering if the storekeeper recognized him.
If he had he certainly hadn’t shown it by so much as a flicker of his
eye-lids. “Say, I saw you at that hotel at Pine Harbor, didn’t I?” he
asked.

“Yes, I waited on you there,” replied Russell readily.

“I thought so,” murmured Jimmy. He was sitting on the edge of the
counter now, swinging his legs thoughtfully. “Say, Emerson, I like
your pluck,” he continued after a moment. “Working there at the hotel,
you know, and then starting this place. Makes me feel downright lazy
and no-good, though. Hope you’ll have all kinds of success.”

“Thanks,” said Russell, a little surprised. “I guess I wouldn’t be
doing either thing if I didn’t have to, though, Austen; so I suppose
there isn’t much credit coming to me.”

“Rot!” said Jimmy. “Lots of fellows need money and never think of
getting out and hustling for it. They just let the old man come across
with it. Don’t see why a fellow shouldn’t help his folks put him
through school and college. Wish I could do it myself!”

“Can’t you?” laughed Russell.

Jimmy shook his head and frowned. “Wouldn’t know what to do nor how to
do it,” he answered. “Besides, my father wouldn’t--” But he stopped
there. “How do you fix it for time?” he resumed. “I mean, don’t
recitations interfere with looking after this place?”

“Yes, but we manage pretty well. You see, Patterson’s a senior and I’m
a junior, and most days we make it go all right. If we can’t either
of us be here Mr. Pulsifer explains that we’ll be back in an hour. I
suppose we lose some customers that way, but it can’t be helped. The
store is closed for an hour at noon, too, but lots of them do that in
this part of town. To-day I’m here until a couple of minutes to ten and
then Stick--that’s my partner--stays until twelve. I’m here always in
the afternoon from three-thirty to six, and sometimes Stick comes over,
too. When there’s no one to wait on we can study pretty well here.”

“I thought you were playing football with the second, though,” said
Jimmy.

“I had to give it up,” replied Russell. “Some one has to be here
afternoons, and three mornings a week I can’t get around at all and
Stick has to do it all.”

“Too bad, though,” Jimmy said. “About football, I mean. Still, maybe
they don’t need you much. The scrubs have been pushing us around pretty
fiercely so far.” Jimmy looked at his watch, whistled and jumped to
the floor. “I must be getting back. I’ll give this ball a try-out this
morning, Emerson, and let you know how I like it. And I’ll see that
fellows know about your prices, too! Good luck!”

So Jimmy went his way briskly, a full twenty minutes late, and Russell,
folding up the stockings that the customer had admired, smiled
contentedly. He had at last succeeded in selling a “P. & F.” football,
after several attempts, and, fortunately, to a fellow who, for some
unknown reason, was anxious to boost the store. Russell decided to
order four more balls that very day, since, in spite of the brave array
of boxes on the shelf which looked as if they might contain footballs,
the only other ball in stock reposed in the window!

When, presently, Stick Patterson arrived Russell announced to him
the sale with much satisfaction and delegated to him the writing and
mailing of the order to New York. Stick was equally pleased, but he
voiced doubts as to the order. “They cost a lot of money, Rus,” he
said. “Better get two instead of four, don’t you think? We can order
two more later if those sell.”

“All right,” Russell agreed. Sometimes Stick’s conservatism was a
trifle dampening, but he realized that it wasn’t a bad idea to have
such a check on his enthusiasm. Without it his optimism might some day
lead him to an error of judgment. “I’ll bet we’ll sell them, though,
Stick. Austen’s sort of a leader in his crowd, and if he likes that
ball he will say so, and from what he said I know he wants to like it,
and I’m sure he will.”

“I fancy the ball’s all right,” returned Stick cautiously, “but not
many fellows buy them. Did he want tick?”

“No, he didn’t say anything about having it charged. I was mighty glad,
too, for I’d have hated to have lost a customer like him.”

“Wish the fellows that come around when I’m here were like that,”
retorted Stick. “They always want tick and get sore when I tell them we
don’t give credit. Any one else in, Rus?”

“Only a small kid looking at a helmet. He may be back. I tried to sell
him one of the cheap ones, but he wouldn’t have it. Well, I’ll run
along, Stick.”

“All right.” Stick seated himself behind the counter near the window,
leaned his chair back and opened his book. “Say, Rus, how much longer
do you think we can hold out if we don’t do any more business than
we’ve been doing?”

Russell stopped at the door and leaned across to speak in a voice so
lowered that it would not reach the rather prominent ears of Mr. J.
Warren Pulsifer. “About three weeks, Stick,” he said soberly. “But
we’re going to begin to sell things long before that, so don’t get the
crêpe out yet. You wait and see, Stick!”

“I’ll wait, all right,” grumbled Stick as the other hurried out, “but
I’m sure of one thing, and that is I wish I’d never let him get me into
this blamed partnership!”



CHAPTER VIII

THE SECOND TEAM COACH


“Want to try a good ball, Mart?” asked Jimmy that afternoon while the
candidates were assembling for practice.

Mart Proctor accepted the pigskin and looked it over critically.
“Where’d you get it, Jimmy?” he inquired. Jimmy explained and Captain
Proctor dropped the ball to the ground, caught it on the rise, balanced
it in his right hand, tried it in his left and then fell to a careful
inspection of the seams.

“Looks good,” he commented.

“It is good,” responded Jimmy earnestly. “Try a kick, Mart.”

So Mart, nothing loth, swung a sturdy leg, dropped the ball and watched
with satisfaction its forty-five-yard flight down the field. “Kicks
well,” he acknowledged while a willing youth chased the pigskin and
hurled it back. “Let’s see it again, Jimmy.”

But while Jimmy was handling it a third person joined them. “What make
of ball is that, Cap?” asked Mr. Cade.

“I don’t know. Jimmy here is booming it. Something he got in the
village at the new store a couple of the fellows have started.”

“Proctor and Farnham,” commented the coach as he read the label. “Oh,
yes, I’ve heard of it. Used out West a lot, I believe. Very sturdy
looking trick, isn’t it? Feels nice, too. A good wet weather ball, I’d
say. Grain’s very heavy, if you notice. Gives you a good hold.”

“It’s the best ball I ever put a foot to,” declared Jimmy impressively.
“I can get a lot better distance with it than I can with the ball we’re
using.”

The coach smiled. “They must be giving you a commission, Austen,” he
laughed. “I’m glad, though, you like it. Only, don’t get so used to it
that you won’t be able to kick one of our sort. How you getting on, by
the way?”

“Oh, pretty fair,” replied Jimmy modestly. “I guess I’m sort of getting
the hang of it. Neirsinger and I put in a couple of hours this morning.”

“That’s fine,” said the coach. “Well, let’s get started, Captain
Proctor.”

So Jimmy deposited his ball with Jake the trainer, with instructions
to guard it with his life, and departed to the field where for the
succeeding thirty minutes he trotted about behind Appel in signal
drill. The second team proved far less formidable that afternoon and
the first walked through its line three times for touchdowns and ran
rings around it meanwhile. Rumor had it that Steve Gaston, second team
coach, expressed dissatisfaction very strongly to his charges after
the day’s work was over. Certain it is that on Wednesday there were
several changes in the scrubs’ line-up, changes which resulted in a
smaller total of points for the first team, but which did not entirely
satisfy the big coach. Gaston had spent two seasons as a second team
player, for some not quite explicable reason never reaching the first.
Perhaps this was because he knew football just a little better than he
could play it. Last season an injury to his leg had laid him off a few
days before the end, an injury which seemed at the time inconsequential
enough but which had afterwards proved so serious as to bar him from
football for two years at least. Had it not been for that injury Gaston
would have been this year’s second team captain. As it was, a wise
Athletic Committee proffered him the position of coach, and Steve,
bitterly resenting the fate which had deprived him of the fierce joys
of the game, could have wept with delight. Of course he did nothing of
the kind. All he did do was accept with a contained air and earnestly
promise to show the committee and the School the best scrub eleven of
recent years.

It is frequently easier to promise than to perform, however, and now,
in the second week of the term, Steve Gaston was learning as much. He
had started, a week since, with a promising lot, many of them veterans
from last year, a few old campaigners with two years of service behind
them. He had gathered a scanty handful of likely youngsters from last
season’s freshman and dormitory teams, youngsters, of course, who
for one reason or another were not yet varsity caliber. Falls, an
experienced guard, had been made captain, and the second had started
off with fair prospects. The difficulty in building up a second team,
however, lies in the fact that just as sure as a player shows anything
resembling remarkable ability a hawk-eyed first team coach snatches
him away. This is likely to happen, too, toward the end of the season,
when there is scant time left in which to break in a substitute. But
it may happen at any period, and Steve prayed for a team that would be
composed of hard, steady workers and that would contain not a single
“phenom.”

The start was like most starts. The first team, playing together
better, made Steve’s aggregation look very weak and very futile. But
that was to be expected. It took time--yes, and patience, too--to weld
seasoned, plugging veterans and inexperienced, high-tensioned newcomers
into a smoothly-working whole. After a few days the scrubs began to
lose some of their rough edges and Steve relaxed a bit.

Thursday brought new frowns of perplexity to his rather rugged and very
earnest countenance. The ends were not what they should be, nor did
they look to Steve like fellows who could be taught. Then, too, on the
other side of center from Captain Falls, the guard position worried
him. On Friday he switched a full-back candidate to the guard position
and tried young Williams, who had played quarter rather brilliantly on
a dormitory eleven last fall, at left end. But the results were not
satisfactory. The backfield man lacked the steadiness required of a
lineman, and Williams’ performance showed Steve that he was sacrificing
a good quarter-back in the securing of a doubtful end. Steve cudgeled
his brains and, after supper that Friday night, metaphorically seized
his club and set forth on his man-hunt. At a little after nine he
arrived at Number 27 Upton.

His prey, attired in a stained and faded old blue flannel dressing
gown, his stockinged but slipperless feet supported on his bed, his
chair tipped precariously back so that the light from the green-shaded
lamp fell over his shoulder, was deep in study. On the other side of
the table Stick Patterson sat with head in hands and nose close to
his own book. Stick was down to trousers and shirt, for the night was
warm. Visitors were infrequent at Number 27, and so when the somewhat
imperative knock sounded both occupants looked up startledly. It was
Stick who called “Come in!” in a decidedly ungracious tone of voice.
Then Steve Gaston entered, big and broad-shouldered and, somehow,
momentous looking, and Russell’s chair came down with a crash of its
front legs and his dressing-gown was ineffectually drawn together.

“Hello, Gaston,” said Russell, surprised. “What--I mean-- Do you know
Patterson?”

Steve didn’t and shook hands rather perfunctorily and took the chair
that Russell yielded. Russell perched himself on the bed and gathered
his scantily covered knees within his arms. He thought now that he knew
Gaston’s mission, for he had suddenly recalled the forgotten fact that
Gaston had become second team coach. Steve smiled, but it was plainly
only a sop to etiquette, or whatever law it is that decrees that a
guest must show pleasurable emotion on arrival. So, perhaps, did the
Cave Man smile ere he raised his club and smote, subsequent to dragging
off his victim. Although Steve didn’t smite, having got that brief
smile out of his system he approached his errand with as little delay
as his distant progenitor.

“How does it happen you’re not with us this fall, Emerson?” he asked
severely.

Russell, who had determined to put on a bold front and be as adamant
to all pleas and protestations, secretly quailed a little. There was
that about this big, serious-faced youth that made him wish he had not
been discovered in dressing-gown and “undies”; his attire, or lack of
it, put him at a disadvantage, for it is difficult to do battle, even
moral battle, when your unclothed ankles stare up at you from under
the frayed hem of a dressing-gown and you are distressingly aware of a
large hole in your left sock! Russell had to blink once or twice before
he answered, and blinking took time and looked like hesitation and so
weakened his cause right at the outset.

“I haven’t time for football this year, Gaston,” he answered finally.
“You see, Patterson and I have started a small store--”

“Yes, I know that,” interrupted Steve impatiently. “I hope you do well,
Emerson. But that store won’t take all your time, I guess. We’re up
against it for good men this fall and I’d take it as a real favor if
you’d give us a hand, old man.”

That phrase “good men” didn’t unduly elate Russell. He knew that Gaston
would use it in like circumstances to any fellow he might be after.
Still, there was a pleasant sound to it. Russell shook his head,
though, and steeled himself.

“I’m afraid it can’t be done. I’d like to, Gaston, but I’m in this
store business to make some money, and there’s only Patterson and
me to look after it. Patterson tends the place most of the morning,
generally, and so I have to be down there afternoons. If it wasn’t for
that--”

“You played end a good deal last year, didn’t you?” Steve asked.
Russell felt helplessly that Gaston hadn’t been one bit impressed by
what he had told him. Russell nodded dolefully.

“Quite a bit,” he conceded.

“Thought so. We need you, Emerson. Got a place ready and waiting for
you. Fact is, I want to make this year’s second something the School
will remember and talk about for the next ten years. I want to turn
out a rip-snorting bunch of fellows that’ll make the first team sit up
and take notice. You’ve got to have a good scrub team if you’re going
to have a good first, Emerson. You can’t train a first team against
a lot of easy-marks and then beat Kenly. No, sir, you’ve got to have
something hard to go up against, and the better your second team is
the better your first will be. Well, I mean to give the school a great
second, Emerson, and that’s why I’m after you; you, and a couple of
others who have been playing possum. I want all the good stuff I can
get hold of, and, believe me, I’m going to get it!”

“Yes, of course,” answered Russell uneasily, glancing toward his
room-mate for assistance. Stick, however, was pretending to study, and
Russell saw that he must expect no help from that quarter. He went on
more firmly. “I wish I could help you, Gaston--”

“Oh, not me, Emerson! Never mind about me! It’s the School you’re going
to help, you see. Keep that thought in your mind, son. You can’t turn
down the School, can you?”

“Why, no, but--”

“When a fellow can play football, Emerson, he’s got a duty to the
School, and you don’t need to be told that. Fellows like you don’t
hesitate at a sacrifice when the good of Alton is at stake. And you’ve
been here long enough to know that a fellow who goes out and does his
best on the second is doing just as much for the success of the big
team as he would be doing if he played on the first instead.” Gaston
was horribly earnest, and his brown eyes bored Russell’s implacably.
Russell stirred uncomfortably.

“Well, but, you see how I’m fixed, Gaston,” he said pleadingly.
“I--we’ve put quite a little money in this thing, and we can’t afford
to lose it. Fact is, between you and me, we--the store hasn’t got
started very well yet, and it wouldn’t do at all to get careless about
it. Now, if--”

“No, indeed,” agreed Steve quite heartily. “Naturally, you want to
make it go. I don’t blame you. I’d see what arrangement I could make,
Emerson.” He glanced at Stick. “I dare say Patterson can fix it somehow
to take charge in the afternoon long enough for you to get in some
work. A couple of hours would do. Patterson would be doing his part,
too, that way. Every fellow wants the team to win, of course, and is
willing enough to do what he can.”

Patterson looked over and scowled. “That’s all right, Gaston, but I
can’t tend that shop morning and afternoon both. I’ve got recitations
and things. Seems to me there must be plenty of chaps for your team
without Rus!”

“Got to have him, Patterson.” Steve arose smiling calmly but
inexorably. “You fellows fix it up between you. You can do it better
without me, so I’ll be going along. I’m grateful to you, Emerson, for
doing what you’re going to do, even if, as I’ve said, it isn’t as a
favor to me. And the School doesn’t miss these things either. Well,
I’ll look for you Monday, old man, and I’ll give you a chance to be
mighty useful. Good night. Good night, Patterson.”

“Night,” replied Stick morosely.

“Good night,” said Russell. “You--you mustn’t count on me, though,
Gaston. I’ll think it over and if there’s any possible way--”

“Sure! I understand. That’s the way to talk.” Steve paused in the open
door and smiled back appreciatively. “Monday at three-thirty, then!”

When the door had closed Russell stared blankly across at Stick and
Stick scowled darkly back at Russell.

“A nice mess you’ve made of it,” growled Stick disgustedly.



CHAPTER IX

AT THE “SIGN OF THE FOOTBALL”


Alton expected a rather hard game with Banning High School, which she
had succeeded in beating last year by the small margin of two scores
to one. Banning, however, proved scarcely more formidable than Alton
High had been, and on Saturday afternoon the Gray-and-Gold, playing a
fairly ragged game herself, romped off with the contest to the tune
of 27 to 6. Banning’s touchdown came to her as the result of a clever
quarter-back run from midfield to Alton’s thirty-four yards, followed
by a forward pass that again gave her her distance and laid the pigskin
on the twenty-two. Two attempts past tackle were foiled and Banning
prepared for a try-at-goal, her left half-back, who performed such
feats for her, retiring as far as the thirty-three yards. Alton read in
this a fear of having the kick blocked and was unprepared for the play
that followed. The Banning half, having received the ball from center,
romped away toward the right side of the field, drawing the adversary
with him. Only Harmon, the opposing left half, refused to be taken
in, and when, besieged by the enemy, the Banning runner side-stepped,
poised the ball and threw hard and far diagonally across the gridiron,
over the tangled lines of the players, it was Harmon who saw the danger
and raced to meet it. But a Banning end, who had sneaked unobserved
well toward the left side-line, caught the hurtling ball perfectly and,
although challenged an instant later by Harmon and plunged at by Ned
Richards a few feet from the goal line, sped over for Banning’s score.
The handful of Banning supporters cheered rapturously and even the
Alton crowd clapped their applause for a very pretty stratagem.

That happened in the second quarter and practically brought the half
to its close. Banning missed the goal and left the score 13 to 6. In
the second half Alton took revenge, adding two more touchdowns to her
portion, both in the third quarter. Neither was spectacular, the Alton
team plunging again and again at the enemy line, satisfied with short
and certain gains. Once Moncks was banged through from the four yards
and once Browne went over from the two. Captain Proctor attempted three
of the goals and made each. The fourth, after Mart had given place to
Butler at left tackle, was missed by Mawson, though by a few inches
only.

The game showed better team-play by the Gray-and-Gold and better
generalship by Ned Richards, but most of the faults which had been so
apparent in the earlier game were still visible. Second and third
substitutes had their inning in the fourth quarter and, at least, made
the game more interesting if less scientific. Jimmy Austen had two
chances to show what he could do at punting, and whether it was because
he didn’t like the ball as well as his precious “P. & F.” or whether he
was perturbed by the frantic efforts of the opponents to get through on
him, the fact remains that he sent off two of the poorest punts seen on
Alton Field in many a day.

Russell wanted very much to witness that game, but Patterson, who had
been in a continual state of disgruntlement since the evening previous,
made no offer to relieve him of duty at the store and Russell didn’t
care to make the request. So far as business was concerned, though,
he might almost as well have gone to the field, for there were only
two customers and their combined expenditures amounted to but three
dollars and forty cents. Russell was getting not a little alarmed over
the lack of trade. Of course, as he told himself frequently enough, it
took time to establish a business, but now the store had been open for
more than a fortnight and the total of its sales--well, Russell didn’t
like to dwell on that! Stick was more than alarmed. There were times
when he showed absolute panic and loudly bewailed his connection with
the enterprise. Without putting it in so many words, he managed to
convey the impression that he held his partner to blame for enticing
him into the enterprise, that, indeed, Russell had somehow managed to
blind his better judgment. Stick was vastly afraid that he was going
to lose his capital, and if he could have got out without impairment
of it he would have gladly done so. Russell frequently wished devoutly
that it was in his power to return Stick’s contribution to the fund,
but that was quite out of the question. More than half of the capital
had already disappeared. Stock, rent, advertising, half a hundred
incidental expenses had eaten it up as a March sun consumes a snowbank.
And sometimes, looking over the scanty stock on hand, encountering the
doleful, pessimistic countenance of Mr. J. Warren Pulsifer, Russell
thought there was just about as much left to show! At such times he had
to go outside and look up at the gay cheerfulness of that sign above
the door. Somehow that sign always restored his spirits.

This Saturday afternoon, however, as he waited in the darkening store
for the hour of six to arrive and release him, his worries were
complicated by that overnight conversation with Steve Gaston. Russell
had a rather highly developed conscience, and he wasn’t able to get
away from the idea that perhaps Gaston was right and that his duty to
the School ought to take precedence over everything else. The fact
that it appeared to be a physical impossibility to play football on
the second team and conduct the business of the Sign of the Football
at one and the same time added to the complications. Even if he should
reach the decision that it was his bounden duty to join the second, how
was he to do it? It would be useless to look to Stick for assistance.
Stick had already and on four occasions assured him emphatically that
he didn’t propose to do all the work connected with the store and
that he’d be switched if he was going to sit around down there half
the morning and all the afternoon while Russell went out and played
football. Stick wasn’t keen on football, anyway, and he didn’t hesitate
to say so. Russell had spent a whole hour trying to work out a schedule
that would equalize their store duties and yet give him two hours each
afternoon between three and five, and had signally failed. It couldn’t
be done. The only alternative appeared to be the employment for a part
of the day of a paid assistant, and Stick wouldn’t consider that for
a moment. And Russell couldn’t blame him. With affairs as they were
now, paying out good money, even a little of it, to a clerk would be
rank absurdity. In fact, Russell didn’t seriously consider the plan
himself. Faced squarely, the situation came to just this, he ruefully
concluded. Either he must keep out of football or he must close the
store each afternoon between three and five, or even half-past five,
a period during which trade, should it ever discover the Sign of the
Football, might well be expected to prove heaviest. Russell sighed and
shook his head and kicked dolefully at the counter. Kicking at the
counter appeared to bring him no relief and seemed to prove irritating
to Mr. J. Warren Pulsifer, who glanced across reprovingly from where
he was sadly making up a funeral wreath of wilted ferns and forlorn
white carnations. Russell desisted. He wished there was some one he
might talk it over with, some one with common-sense whose judgment he
could rely on. He had quite a number of friends and acquaintances, had
Russell, but, passing them before his mind’s eye, he found them all
wanting. Ordinarily he could have thrashed the matter out with Stick,
but as regards the present question Stick was badly prejudiced. And
then, just as he was giving vent to another doleful sigh, there was a
shrill and cheerful whistle at the open doorway and Jimmy breezed in.

Jimmy had a badly wrapped parcel under one arm from which protruded
the label of what was, for all the world to know, a carton of biscuits
of a popular and well advertised brand. Jimmy whistled because he
was rather in the dumps, and it was for the same reason that, having
hurried himself into civilian clothes after the game, he had set forth
alone for Bagdad and the bazaars thereof. It always cheered Jimmy up
wonderfully to spend money, and to-day, being in need of cheering
after his dismal fiasco as a punter, and having plenty of money on
hand, he had fared from store to store and bought a number of things
of which he stood in no immediate want--mostly edible! He dumped his
disintegrating parcel on the counter and smiled brightly, gayly at
Russell.

“Hello,” he greeted. “How’s the busy mart of trade, Emerson?” He
glanced across the store and then swung himself to a seat on the
counter. “Guess I’ll buy me one of those things,” he went on in a lower
and confidential tone, nodding toward the wreath. “Place it on my dead
hopes, Emerson.”

“Dead hopes?” repeated Russell questioningly and smilingly.

“Ah,” replied Jimmy, “you weren’t at the game, then. I see. If you
had been you wouldn’t have asked that question, Emerson. Yes, sir, my
poor dead hopes. You see, I had an idea that I could become a punter.
I toiled and moiled-- Say, what is that? Anyway, I did it, and to-day
Johnny let me in in the last quarter and I tried twice to punt the ball
and each time I--well, the thing almost hit me on the head when it came
down!”

“Dropped the ball too late, probably,” offered Russell. “I guess it
takes a lot of practice, punting. You’ll probably bring it off all
right the next time. By the way, what do you think of that ball you
bought here?”

“That’s what I dropped in about,” said Jimmy, brightening again. “Came
over for a few eats”--he glanced unenthusiastically at the parcel--“and
thought I’d drop in and tell you about that there ball, Emerson. It’s
a corker! It’s a dream! It--it’s all right! Say, honest, if I’d had
that ball in the game I’d have poked it fifty yards, Emerson. Honest,
I would! I like it mighty well, and I’ve talked it up a lot. Showed
it to Mart Proctor the other day; and Johnny Cade, too. I wouldn’t be
surprised if you sold quite a few of them this fall. Well, how are
things going with you? Been busy to-day?”

“Fairly,” answered Russell. Then, encountering Jimmy’s straight and
level gaze, he shrugged. “I guess there’s no use lying, Austen,” he
corrected. “Business has been rotten this afternoon, and every other
afternoon.”

“Thought so,” said Jimmy. His eyes roamed over the poorly lighted store
and came back to Russell. “I guessed the other day that a lot of this
was just bluff.” He nodded backward at the shelves. Russell flushed
slightly. “Not that it isn’t all right,” added Jimmy quickly. “Bluff’s
a part of every game nowadays, I guess. And I like your nerve. So
business isn’t rushing, eh?”

“It isn’t even crawling,” responded Russell wryly. “At least, it isn’t
crawling this way.”

“I wonder,” mused Jimmy, “if you didn’t make a mistake in locating over
this way instead of further down town. You’d ought to get the trade
from the town folks, Emerson; high school and grammar school fellows,
you know, and that crowd. I’m afraid there isn’t enough business among
the Academy fellows to make it go. What do you think?”

“Well, I wanted the Academy trade first,” said Russell. “I can get the
other trade, I believe, if I can wait long enough. But the question is,
can I wait? I--we’ve advertised in the High School paper, and we’re
running a small ad. in the town paper three times a week. They gave us
a pretty good reading notice last Saturday. Something ought to come of
those ads.”

“Sure to,” agreed Jimmy comfortingly. “Later on, now, when fellows
start baseball, you’d ought to do better, too. Fellows buy baseball
stuff more than they do football. Take the dormitory teams, for
instance. They’ll be starting up this week, I guess. Well, most
every fellow will have a shirt and a sweater and a pair of breeches,
and that’s about all they’ll need. Maybe they’ll be along to buy a
nose-guard or a pair of stockings, and that’s their limit. They get an
old football from the first team, one that’s been through ten wars, and
that fixes them. Baseball, though, is different. Every chap wants to
own a ball and a bat and, maybe, a glove--”

“It’s a long time till spring,” interrupted Russell. “Look here,
Austen, do you know any good reason why the football management
shouldn’t buy their stuff here instead of sending to New York for it?”

Jimmy looked startled for a moment. Then: “Why, n-no, I can’t say I do,
Emerson. Of course, they always have bought their truck in New York,
but--” Jimmy stopped and viewed the other with dawning suspicion. “Say,
is that what you’re after?” he asked incredulously.

Russell hesitated, looked away and finally nodded. “Yes,” he said,
“it is. I haven’t told any one else, Austen, but that’s what I had in
mind. If we can get the job of supplying the school teams we’re fixed.
We can do it, too, just as well and just as reasonably as any place in
New York. That’s what I’m working for. It will take time, though, and
meanwhile we’ve got to keep going. And that’s going to be the tough
part. It’s harder than I thought it would be.”

Jimmy was staring reflectively at the floor. At last: “Do you know Sid
Greenwood?” he asked.

“No. He’s basket ball captain, isn’t he?”

“Yes. You’d better meet him. Coolidge, too. Bob’s hockey captain.
And--yes, by jove, Stan ought to be able to help you. You know my chum,
Stan Hassell, don’t you?”

“Just to speak to,” replied Russell, doubtfully. “I don’t think he
knows me, though.”

“Yes, he does. We were speaking of you just the other day. Now I tell
you what you do, Emerson. You drop in at our room some night; say
to-morrow; to-morrow’s Sunday, isn’t it? Thought so. Yes, you come
around and we’ll talk this over. I don’t see why Stan shouldn’t have
something to say about where baseball stuff is bought. He’s captain.
And I’ll try to get either Bob Coolidge or Greenwood there; maybe
both. If you could get the job to supply the basket ball team and the
hockey team it would be a help, eh? And then, maybe, we can wangle the
baseball situation, too, later. Gordon, the manager, is sort of a pill,
but Stan can put something over on him, I guess.”

Jimmy was quite radiant, and his infectious grin met a ready response
from Russell. “That’s mighty fine of you,” stammered the latter. “It
would be a dandy start just to get one of the teams, Austen. Don’t know
why you should take all that trouble, though. But I’m--”

Russell’s further and somewhat incoherent remarks were interrupted by
Mr. J. Warren Pulsifer, who, having deposited the funeral wreath in
the refrigerator at the back of the store, now paused nearby. “I’ll be
going along, Mr. Emerson,” he announced sadly. “Please be sure that the
door is locked when you leave. Good night.”

“Good night,” answered Russell. “I’ll look after everything, sir. By
jove, it’s six o’clock!”

“Right-o! I must toddle. You coming over?”

A few minutes later, having put out the lights and securely locked the
door, Russell fell in beside Jimmy and the two went briskly off toward
the Green. Jimmy was whistling again, but now he had quite forgotten
his great sorrow and the sounds he made no longer disguised a crushed
spirit and a broken heart. At the corner of State street Russell broke
in on the melody.

“Austen, I wish you’d do something for me,” he said.

“Name it,” answered Jimmy promptly. “Hang you, keep still!”

The latter part of the remark was addressed to the parcel he carried,
which was earnestly striving to distribute its contents along the way.

“I want to--I want some advice,” continued Russell.

“In that case you’ve come to the right person, Emerson. I’m famous for
my advice. What’s the problem?”

Thereupon Russell told about Steve Gaston’s visit and the resulting
complications. “Now,” ended Russell, “do you think I ought to go back
to the team, Austen?”

“Hm,” said Jimmy. “Well, I don’t just see how you can, you know!”

“But that isn’t it. _Ought_ I to? Is it my duty to--to the School?”

Jimmy was silent for nearly half the block. Then: “Well, if you want
my perfectly honest opinion, Emerson,” he said, “I think it’s every
fellow’s duty to do what he can for the old A. A. If you can play
a fair line of football and Steve needs you--” He stopped. “Still,
there’s this store. I don’t believe any fellow could find fault with
you if--well, if you didn’t play, Emerson. At least--” Then his voice
dwindled again.

“Just the same,” persisted Russell, “you _do_ think it’s my duty to,
don’t you?”

“Except for the store--”

“Leave the store out of it, please, Austen.”

“Oh, well, in that case,” said Jimmy relievedly, “absolutely yes.
Maybe I’m a little nutty on the subject, Emerson, but I never could
stand fellows who weren’t willing to pitch in and do their blamedest
for their school or their college or--or their country. Maybe I’m sort
of sentimental, but that’s the way I feel. I hate a quitter. Not that
you’d be that, of course, under the circumstances--”

“I guess, though, I would be,” said Russell thoughtfully. “Well, that’s
settled then.”

“Meaning you’ll go back on the second? What about the store, though.
Hang it, Emerson, you’d better not take my say-so. Leave it to some one
else. Put it up to--to--I tell you! Have a talk with Mr. Kincaid. He’s
a good old scout and has a fine bean on him!”

But Russell shook his head. “I’d rather have your idea than any of the
faculty’s, Austen. I mean, it’s the way the fellows look at it that
interests me. You’re right, and Gaston was right, and I’m sure of it.”
Then he smiled ruefully in the twilight. “I wish, though,” he added, “I
didn’t have to convince Stick!”

“Stick? Oh, Patterson: yes, I see. He won’t like it, eh? Look here,
Emerson, why shouldn’t he take over the store afternoons? He’s got his
money in it, the silly ass. Doesn’t want to lose it, does he? Well, it
seems to me it would be just common horse sense for him to--to leap
into the breeches--I should say breach, eh?”

“He won’t though. He’s--well, he’s pretty fairly obstinate. He doesn’t
want to lose his money, no, but he says he won’t keep store afternoons
and I know him well enough by this time to be mighty certain that he
won’t!”

“Silly ass!” commented Jimmy as they reached the front of Academy Hall
and the parting of their ways.

“I’m awfully much obliged to you,” said Russell. “You’ve been mighty
friendly, Austen. I’ll be around to-morrow night if you’re quite
certain you want to go to all that--”

“Wait a second!” interrupted the other, hunching the dilapidated parcel
further under his arm with a thoughtful frown. “Look here, old son,
I’ve got an idea. At least, I think I have. I’ve got something, anyhow.
Would this Stick fellow be willing to stay in the store afternoons if
he didn’t have to go there at all in the mornings?”

“Why, yes, I think he would. I’m sure he would. But, you see, the
trouble is that he has to be there mornings, too. I have recitations--”

“_A bas les_ recitations!” exclaimed Jimmy. “Listen! Suppose you could
get some one to stick around the shop in the morning when you couldn’t.
Wouldn’t old Stick be willing to put in the afternoon there?”

“Yes, but we’d have to pay some one, and--just now--”

“Not necessarily. At least, not much. Say--say twenty-five cents a
week. Would twenty-five cents a week seem unreasonable? Then let us say
fifteen--ten--five!”

“We might pay that much,” laughed Russell mirthlessly, “but just where
could we find any one who’d come for that?”

“Where?” Jimmy struck an attitude intended to be heroic but which was
somewhat marred by the sudden collapse of the parcel under one arm. A
carton of crackers, a box of caramels, six oranges and two unidentified
articles descended to the flagging. When the oranges had been chased
down and recovered and the wreckage stowed into various of Jimmy’s
pockets the latter took up the conversation where it had been so rudely
interrupted.

“You asked where you were to find this--this paragon of industry,
Emerson. In response I say to you: Look! Behold! He is before you!”

“Eh?” faltered Russell. “You? You mean--”

“Who else? Here am I with most of my mornings wasted. Of course, I kick
the jovial football into the empyrean, but there are other times for
that. Besides, I am convinced that I shall never cause Charley Brickley
to faint with envy! When Mart picked me to become a punter he picked a
most acidulous lime! But that aside and, as it were, apart, Emerson. I
have always had a sneaking desire to sell things over a counter, and
here’s my opportunity. You wouldn’t want me to do it for nothing. Your
pride would rebel. So I insist on a salary, a salary of, shall we say,
ten cents a week.”

“You’re--you’re fooling,” said Russell dubiously.

“Nary a fool! Come on, do I get the job? Let me remind you, Emerson,
that time is fleeting and my inner man cries for sustenance. Also,
doubtless, Stan is pacing the room like a caged lion. If the salary
asked is too steep, why, I’ll compromise. We’ll say five cents; but I
won’t come down another nickel!”

“Why--why--” stammered Russell.

“Agreed then! I’m a wage-earner at last! I’ll drop around later and
we’ll sign the contract. So long!”

And Jimmy waved gayly and sprinted for Lykes.



CHAPTER X

JIMMY CONSPIRES


True to his word, Jimmy arrived at Number 27 Upton shortly after
supper. Stick, to whom Russell had imparted the proposed solution
of the problem, was not present. Stick had succinctly declared that
Russell was crazy and that he refused to listen to any more of his
ravings. He had not, however, refused to keep store in the afternoon in
return for having his mornings free, and that was the principal thing.

Jimmy declared that he had feared Russell might change his mind about
employing him and so leave him jobless in the face of a long and cruel
winter, and consequently he had hurried right up so soon as he had
satisfied the inner man. He had brought his schedule and when Russell
had produced his they leaned over the two cards and, as Jimmy phrased
it, doped out a course of action. On the whole, Russell’s hours and
Jimmy’s seldom interfered, and there were but two mornings when for
more than sixty minutes the store would have to be left to Mr. J.
Warren Pulsifer’s care.

“Corking!” declared Jimmy. “I’ll go down Monday morning with you and
you can show me where things are and all that. Something tells me,
Emerson, that I was born to be a merchant, and Heaven help any poor guy
that steps his foot inside that store while I’m there. He will either
have to buy something or fight me!”

“Better try peaceful means first,” suggested Russell, smiling.

“Oh, yes, I shan’t insist on trouble. By the way, are there any
punching-bags in stock? It might be well for me to keep in trim. Let’s
see, how do you do it?” Jimmy rubbed his hands and bowed to Russell.
“Good morning, sir. Nice weather we’re having, are they not? Tennis
balls? Certainly. Right this way, please, to the tennis department.
Here you are, sir, the finest ball on the market. Used exclusively by
the Prince of Wales, Lloyd George and all the best players. Covered
with the most expensive Peruvian broadcloth. Every ball filled with
two thousand atmospheres of balloon gas, making it the lightest and
liveliest ball on the market. As I might say, sir, it’s bound to bound.
We are making a special price on them this year, eighty cents apiece
or five dollars a half-dozen. If you take six dozen we include a
high-grade racket. With a gross we give you, absolutely without charge,
a receipt for making indelible ink. Half a dozen? Yes, sir. Thank you,
sir. Shall I wrap them up or will you take them with you?”

“Aren’t you mixed on your prices a little?” laughed Russell.

“Possibly.” Jimmy waved carelessly. “I never was good at arithmetic. By
the way, you haven’t a cash register, have you? No? That’s good. I’d
never be a success as a salesman where there was one of those things to
keep tabs on me!”

“Austen,” asked Russell, sobering, “what are you doing this for?”

“This? Oh, you mean _this_. We-ell--” Jimmy blinked. “I don’t know,
Russell. I thought it was because I liked your--your pep and wanted to
help you out. But I’m not sure that it isn’t really because I want a
lark!”

“Well, it’s mighty decent of you, anyway,” replied Russell. “It gets me
out of a hole. You see, I like football, Austen, even if I’m not very
much good at it, and it was sort of hard not to play this fall. Still,
I wouldn’t have thought of doing it if Gaston hadn’t got after me. Now
I’m wondering whether I’m going to play because I think it’s my duty to
or just because I really want to!”

“Jove,” said Jimmy, “you’ve got a regular Puritan conscience, Emerson!
What’s it matter? The main thing is that you’re going to. Now sit down
and tell me about things at the store. You give a discount to our
chaps, don’t you? Well, how about high school students?”

“Just the same,” said Russell. “I thought we’d better. They might get
sore if we didn’t.”

“I see. Still, I don’t believe Crocker does.”

“All the more reason why we should, then, Austen.”

“Yes, but-- Say, cut out that ‘Austen’ stuff, won’t you? My name’s
Jimmy.”

“And mine’s Russell,” replied the other, smiling. “More often just Rus.”

“I get you! Though, of course,” Jimmy added, “when I am on duty I shall
call you Mr. Emerson!”

Half an hour later Jimmy paused at the door to say: “Oh, by the way,
about to-morrow night.”

“That’s all right,” replied Russell quickly. “It doesn’t matter.”

“Eh? What doesn’t matter?” asked Jimmy, puzzled.

“Why, I mean,” floundered Russell, “if it isn’t convenient--”

“Rot! What I was about to say was that I think it’ll be best not to
be too raw, if you see what I mean. We’ll use tact and diplomacy, old
son. You just happen in and we’ll have a social little talk, the lot
of us, and after awhile I’ll accidentally bring up the subject of the
store. You leave it to me. Better not let those guys suspect that
we’re putting up a game on ’em, eh? Well, so long, Rus. Drop in about
seven-thirty or a quarter to eight.”

Stick, when he returned to the room later, was in a much better humor
than when he had left. He had, it developed, won two straight games
of billiards from another chap over in Haylow. Russell listened with
flattering attention to Stick’s dramatic narrative of the contests,
thereby increasing the latter’s content. At last, Stick tore himself
from the engrossing subject, frowned slightly and asked: “Well, did you
and Austen fix it up?”

Russell explained the arrangements. “That’ll give you every morning
free except Saturday, Stick. Saturday Austen won’t be able to be there,
and I have a nine o’clock and an eleven. In the afternoons, except
Tuesdays-- Here, this is the schedule. I tend store every afternoon
except Tuesday from one to three. You come on at three and stay until
six. Or, five-thirty, if you like. I’ll be down every day right after
practice and I ought to get there by half-past. How is that?”

“All right, I guess,” replied Stick slowly, looking over the schedule
rather as though he suspected that something was being put over on
him. “Of course, afternoon’s likely to be the busy part of the day, if
things ever get busy, that is!”

“I know, but you won’t have so much to do that it’ll wear you out,”
answered Russell.

“It doesn’t look like it,” agreed Stick plaintively. “Say, we’re going
to lose our money as sure as shooting, Rus!”

“I don’t think so,” answered the other with more confidence than he
felt. “We can’t lose it all, anyhow, Stick. We haven’t signed any
lease and we can give up the place at a month’s notice. We can return
most of our stock, too.”

“Yes, but we’ll be out two months’ rent at the very least, and we’ve
sunk about a hundred in rent and advertising and dolling the place up.
Pulsifer won’t allow us anything for the paint and varnish and work we
put in there, I suppose.”

“No, we’re bound to lose something, of course, if we have to quit,”
acknowledged Russell. “But I don’t believe we’ll have to, Stick.
Something tells me that things are going to pick up pretty soon.”

“I wish something would tell me so,” said Stick mournfully. “I don’t
mind saying, Rus, that I’m plaguey sorry I went into it!”

“Well, don’t let’s give up the ship yet,” replied the other patiently.
“Toss me that Latin book over here, will you?”

“What I don’t see,” went on Stick, complying, “is what this fellow
Austen gets out of it. I suppose he’s--well, square, eh?”

“Of course he is,” answered Russell indignantly.

“Well, don’t get waxy. How do I know? What’s he going to tend the store
for without pay, then?”

“He’s not. He’s on salary.”

“_What?_” almost shrieked Stick. “You mean we’re going to pay him
money?”

Russell nodded, enjoying Stick’s consternation.

“I won’t do it!” cried the other. “No, sir! Why, hang it, Rus, we can’t
afford it!”

“Oh, yes, we can,” answered Russell soothingly. “It’s only ten cents a
week!”

“Ten cents! Ten cents a--” Stick stared blankly. “Is he crazy? What’s
he want ten cents for? Why doesn’t he do it for nothing?”

“Well, he told me that he wanted to be a wage-earner,” explained
Russell gravely.

Stick viewed him suspiciously. “It’s mighty funny,” he grunted. “The
whole business is mighty funny. You and Austen are up to something,
I’ll bet. All right, but just let me tell you that I’m not paying out
my money to him!”

“You don’t mind five cents a week, do you?” asked Russell, grinning.

“No, I’ll pay five cents, all right, but I won’t pay a penny more. I’ve
lost enough already in the fool business!” And Stick pulled a book to
him savagely and intimated that he was through with the subject.

Russell found not only the hockey and basket ball captains in Number
4 Lykes Hall the next evening, but Cal Grainger. These, with Stanley,
Jimmy and Russell, quite filled the room. Afterwards, Russell learned
from Jimmy that Cal’s appearance was unsolicited and unexpected.
Jimmy managed to convey the impression that Russell was a frequent
caller, and was aided in the mild deception by Stanley, who had been
admitted to the conspiracy. Russell was aware of the slightly puzzled
inspections of the others, but appeared not to be. Bob Coolidge, the
hockey team captain, was a tall, slim-bodied senior with a nice smile
and a queer way of stuttering when he got the least bit excited. Sid
Greenwood was small in comparison, with sharp black eyes, rebellious
dark hair and a quick manner of speech and movement. Russell knew
them both by sight, just as he knew Cal Grainger, but had never been
introduced to them before to-night. He found a seat on a corner of
Stanley’s bed after the introductions had been performed and helped
himself to the caramels that Stanley passed. The talk was concerned
with the criminality of the Athletic Committee, and Coolidge stuttered
amusingly as he thumped the edge of the window-seat.

“A l-lot of Miss N-N-Nancies,” he declared earnestly. “You’d think we
were j-just kids, the way they c-c-coddle us! Gosh! Why, look at Kenly!
They g-g-got a twelve-game sc-sc-sc-sc--”

“Schedule,” prompted Cal kindly.

“--Hedule,” went on Coolidge, batting his eyes wildly. “And all we
c-c-can get is s-seven games, with a p-p-possibility of eight if we
c-c-can p-p-persuade Oak Grove to play here! What kind of a sc-sc--”

“You can’t say it, Bob,” interposed Greenwood. “Don’t try. We know what
you mean. Also, son, we agree with you that the committee is a bunch
of old women and that Peghorn is the worst of the lot. I hope he gets
his bonnet-strings all knotted up! You can’t--”

“Oh, Peg isn’t to blame,” said Jimmy. “He’s no worse than the rest.
What we need here is a student council or something to talk turkey to
those antediluvian birds. How many games do you fellows get away, Sid?”

“Four,” replied the basket ball leader scornfully.

“Well, that’s one more than we get,” said Jimmy.

“Sure, but it’s different--”

“Taking a football team around’s not at all the same,” broke in Cal.
“You have to have thirty or more fellows and half a dozen coaches and
trainers and nurses--”

“Quite different,” agreed Coolidge, eagerly. “We take ten or eleven
f-f-fellows, and it d-d-doesn’t c-cost us anything to speak of, and we
get home early--”

“Having lost the game,” interpolated Cal, unkindly.

“Sh-sh-shut up! S-s-same with the b-b-basket ball outfit, too.
S-s-seven or eight men and n-no expense--”

Russell lost the rest, for just there, under cover of the conversation,
Stanley addressed him. “I hear you’re on the second football team,
Emerson,” he said.

“I’m going out to-morrow,” answered Russell.

“Yes, Jimmy was telling me. I guess Steve Gaston’s going to work up a
rip-snorting outfit, if what I hear is right. Great fellow, Steve. Hard
luck, his not being able to play this year. What’s your position?”

“I played end last year. Gaston wants me to try for it again.”

“How’s the store getting along? Doing pretty well?”



CHAPTER XI

FAIR PROMISES


Russell was spared an answer, for just then Jimmy appealed to him.
“That’s right, isn’t it, Rus? If it wasn’t for football these fellows
would be prying up asphalt or laying sewer pipes, wouldn’t they? We
have to earn money to keep their old hockey teams and basket ball teams
going. Yes, and pay for the crew and the baseball nine, too!”

“Not by a long shot,” exclaimed Cal. “Leave the Nine out of it, Jimmy.
We’ve paid our own way for many a season, old scout!”

“Pooh! Made expenses, maybe, but you generally have to come a-borrowing
from the old sock every spring.”

“Well, we pay it back, son.”

“You fellows have to have too many bats and gloves and fancy fixings,”
continued Jimmy. “And you wear too good clothes, too. I’ll bet it costs
you a fortune to outfit every spring, and--”

“Listen to him!” exploded Cal. “Great Guns, what does it cost to run a
football team?”

“That’s different,” laughed Jimmy. “A football team’s worth while, Cal.
Besides, when it comes to that, those uniforms you fellows wear cost
more than a football suit, I’ll bet.”

“Rot!”

“Well, what do they cost? Come on, now. Let’s hear.”

“I don’t know, you idiot. We get ’em by the bunch. Maybe eight dollars,
maybe nine.”

“Can you beat that?” Jimmy appealed to the company. “Captain of the
Nine and doesn’t know what his uniforms cost him!”

“That’s not my business, you chump. That’s up to the managers. I’ve got
enough to look after--”

“Well, here’s a fellow can tell us.” Jimmy turned to Russell. “What do
those uniforms cost, Rus, per uniform? You ought to know.”

Russell smiled and shook his head. “I’m afraid I don’t. You can pay
almost any price for a three-piece uniform, from six dollars up to
twelve. It depends on how many you buy, of course, and on quality, too.”

“Are you an authority on the subject, Emerson?” asked Greenwood.

Russell shook his head. “No, not at all,” he answered.

“You’re an awful bluffer, Jimmy,” laughed Cal.

“Not a bit,” denied Jimmy stoutly. “Rus sells uniforms and he ought to
know the prices of ’em better than we do. It’s his busi--”

“Oh!” exclaimed Cal. “You’re the Emerson who has the store on West
street! Of course! I missed that. Yes, you must know something about
baseball togs. Football togs, too, eh? Well, tell us, then, which
outfit costs the most, Emerson.”

“Football,” answered Russell, smiling. “There’s more wool. Football
togs have to be better because they get harder use.”

“There you are!” exclaimed Cal, in triumph. Russell noted that Coolidge
and Greenwood were observing him with new interest.

“I still maintain,” said Jimmy, with great dignity, “that one of the
suits you fellows wear costs more than my football outfit. I got my
jersey for nothing, from a chap who was leaving school--”

“It looks it,” breathed Coolidge.

“That’s not the point,” said Cal. “Every one knows you’re such a miser
you wouldn’t _buy_ anything. We were discussing new uniforms, and
Emerson says himself--”

“Say, Emerson, what’s a hockey shirt w-w-worth?” asked Bob Coolidge.

“I can’t say. We haven’t stocked any yet. I’ll find out for you,
though, if you want me to.”

Coolidge shook his head. “Thanks, no, it doesn’t matter. I just
wondered.”

“Bet you Rus can sell you shirts and whole outfits, too, for that
matter, less than you paid for them last year,” announced Jimmy. “You
fellows always get stuck when you send to New York.”

“It’s not my funeral,” said Greenwood, with a shrug. “Let the manager
worry.”

Coolidge, however, seemed impressed. “I don’t know about that,
B-B-Bob,” he said earnestly. “We’d ought to get th-th-things as cheap
as p-p-p-possible.”

“You ought, but you don’t,” jeered Jimmy. “You pay any price you’re
asked, and then go broke before the end of the season and have to dig
into the old Ath. Com. stocking. Say, why don’t you give Emerson a
chance this year? Let him bid on the stuff. Might as well hand the
profit to one of our own crowd as send it on to some guy you don’t know
in New York. That applies to you, too, Cal.”

Cal pursed his lips. “Why, we usually buy a goodish lot, Jimmy; new
uniforms all through, bats, balls, a raft of stuff; I’m afraid Emerson
couldn’t handle our business.”

“Why couldn’t he?” demanded Jimmy. “Of course he could, you chump!
Besides, the uniforms would fit a blamed sight better than they did
last year if he took the fellows’ measurements. This thing of sending
the size of your waist and the number collar you wear and expecting
to get a decently fitting suit gets my goat! And as for your bats and
all the other lumber you have to have to play your absurd game, why,
Emerson could sell you those better and cheaper than the New York
folks, I’ll bet. Besides, you could see what you were getting, which
is something you don’t do now.”

“Well, I’m not throwing off on Emerson,” replied Cal, throwing a kindly
glance toward that youth, “but, unless I’m mistaken, Jimmy, they tried
getting their outfits here in town several years ago and it didn’t
work. If I were--”

“Course it didn’t work,” interrupted Jimmy scornfully. “They went to
Crocker’s. Every fellow knows that Crocker’s stuff is punk. I mean his
sporting goods. Maybe he keeps good nails and--”

“I bought a fielder’s glove there last spring,” began Stanley eagerly.
But Cal groaned and Jimmy threatened his roommate with the empty candy
box.

“I oughtn’t to have introduced the subject,” continued Jimmy sadly. “I
might have known Stan would try to tell about his old glove--”

“‘Old’ is right,” muttered Stanley gloomily.

“I th-th-think Jimmy’s right,” declared Coolidge. “No reason why we
sh-sh-shouldn’t pat-pat-pat--”

“Stop talking Irish, Bob,” said Greenwood. “Are you going to have
basket ball stuff, Emerson?”

“Yes, we’ll have a pretty complete line by the first of December, or
a little before. I’d like to have you come in and let me show you,
Greenwood. We’re agent here for the Proctor and Farnham Company, and
their basket balls are certainly corkers.”

“Never heard of them,” said Sid Greenwood unenthusiastically. “We’ve
always used--”

“He’s got the other makes, too,” assured Jimmy. “But if those P. and F.
folks make as good a basket ball as they do a football, I advise you to
tie to them. I’ll bet even you could shoot a basket with one of those
balls, Sid!”

Greenwood grinned. “I’d surely like to see one of them,” he said. “I’ll
drop around some time, Emerson, and have a talk. Of course, it’s the
manager’s place to do the buying, but I dare say I could get him to
consider your stuff. There’s no special reason, so far as I can see,
for sending to New York for things if we can get them just as good in
town.”

“Say,” said Stanley, after a long silence, “why not start a Home
Consumption League, if that’s what they’re called? We fellows represent
four of the school sports, and here’s Emerson and his pal trying to
make a little coin out of a store in the village that sells just the
stuff we buy. Let’s see if we can’t--can’t head some trade his way.
What do you say? It took pluck to start that store, I guess, and we all
like pluck. Seems to me he deserves to win out. And he can’t fail to if
he gets the school trade. Of course, there wouldn’t be any favoritism
about it. He’d have to make as good prices as New York, and sell as
good stuff, but I dare say he could do it, eh, Emerson?”

Thus appealed to, Russell nodded, smiling rather seriously. “I’m quite
sure we can supply just as good stuff, including uniforms, as can be
bought in New York, and I think we can sell a little cheaper. How much
cheaper I don’t know now, but enough to be worth considering, I’d say.
Besides that, there’d be no express to pay, for I’d deliver the goods
right to you.”

“S-s-sounds reasonable,” declared Coolidge.

“And,” continued Russell, “I don’t need to tell you fellows that if we
had the job of outfitting some of the teams we’d be certain of making
a go of that business. We don’t ask any favors, or expect any, but I
guess we can prove that we can sell just as high quality goods and just
as cheaply as any New York house can. We’d be mighty glad of a chance,
anyway.”

“F-f-fair enough,” exclaimed Coolidge. “Far as I’m c-c-concerned--”

“Look here, Jimmy,” said Cal, prodding that youth to attention with his
shoe, “did you get us here to--to work this scheme for Emerson?”

“Get you here!” replied Jimmy indignantly. “Why, you poor fish, who
asked you around, anyway?”

“Well, Bob and Sid, then. I know you didn’t say anything to me about
it. But I suspect--”

“Go on and suspect,” said Jimmy, virtuously. “I had no idea that you
were coming here this evening. If you don’t believe that--”

“You asked me, though,” said Greenwood, grinning.

“M-m-me, too,” said Coolidge. “Not that I m-m-mind, because--”

“Oh, well, I don’t mind fessing up,” Jimmy broke in, “now that you
fellows have taken the bait. I did ask Sid and Bob--Rus, too, of course
with the notion of getting something started. Your arrival, Cal, was as
unforeseen as--er--pleasing. There’s nothing to apologize for. Rus is a
good sort and needs to make a success of that store over there. We can
help him. So let’s do it. Any objections?”

“Of course not,” said Cal, laughing. “I’ll do what I can to steer some
business to him. I don’t make any promises, for our management have
been buying in New York for some time and aren’t likely to make a
change. Still, I’ll do my best.”

“We don’t buy much new stuff,” said Sid Greenwood, “but I guess I can
promise Emerson that he shall have what trade there is.”

“Thanks,” murmured Russell. He was finding the situation just a bit
embarrassing in spite of the evident good-will of the fellows.

“And that g-g-goes for me, too,” announced Coolidge earnestly. “I’ll
see Nagle to-morrow and b-b-bully him into g-g-giving you a ch-ch-ch--”

“Spoken like a man, Bob!” said Jimmy warmly. “Your speech is halting,
but the spirit that prompts your words--”

“Go to th-th-thunder!” grunted Coolidge.

“The Home Market Club is organized,” announced Stanley, yawning.

“It was a Home Consumption League awhile back,” objected Greenwood.
“But never mind. The motto is: Patronize Home Industries! Emerson, I
hope your place will do well and make you a rich man; as rich as Jimmy!”

“And m-m-more generous,” supplemented Coolidge. “A f-f-fellow who
offers one box of c-c-caramels to a mob like this is a p-p-p--”

“Introducing Mr. Robert Coolidge, gentlemen, with his famous imitation
of a flivver working on one cylinder. Gentlemen, Mr. Coolidge!” And
Jimmy clapped loudly.

“--p-p-p-piker!” ended Coolidge triumphantly.

Whereupon the assemblage broke up, greatly aided by a tussle between
Jimmy and the hockey captain. Russell left with the others, parting
with Cal at the stairs and with the others outside, since both
Greenwood and Coolidge lived in Haylow. “Glad to have met you,
Emerson,” said the basket ball leader affably. “I’m coming into your
place some day soon and see what you’ve got there. Good night.”

A somewhat unintelligible utterance from Coolidge followed and Russell
went his way. Of course, reason told him, nothing might come of those
fair promises, but he couldn’t help feeling elated and encouraged,
and even when, reaching Number 27 Upton, he unfolded the tale of the
astounding success of the evening to Stick and was met with gloomy
pessimism his elation was not much subdued. Stick was like that, he
reflected, and climbed into bed to lie awake a long while in the
darkness and vision rosy dreams. His last conscious reflection ere he
finally fell asleep was that Jimmy Austen was certainly a corking chap!



CHAPTER XII

BACK IN HARNESS


Jimmy was at the store in the morning and Russell went over the stock
with him, explaining cost marks and various other matters that should
form part of a clerk’s knowledge. Jimmy was, for once, not in the least
flippant, and Stick, when he finally appeared to release Russell for
a recitation, appeared to view the new employee more leniently than
Russell had dared hope he might. Jimmy’s duties were not to begin until
the morrow, and presently he and Russell hurried back to the Academy
together.

“Your friend Stick seems rather a Gloomy Gus,” observed Jimmy on the
way, “but perhaps by kindness and forbearance we may cheer him up. Is
he taking the afternoon watch to-day, Rus?”

“Yes, I’m going back after this class, and he’s going to stay from
three to five-thirty. Stick’s not a bad sort, but he doesn’t put his
best foot forward very often.”

“I didn’t think to notice his feet,” replied Jimmy thoughtfully.
“Well, here’s where we part. Oh, by the way, what about my attire? Do
you think I ought to--well, dress for the part to-morrow? Something,
say, a trifle modish, eh? Gray trousers and frock-coat, maybe, with a
lavender tie and a single black pearl in it. Or do you think the usual
more negligent dress would answer?”

“I’d go in for simplicity,” answered Russell, grinning. “What you have
on looks all right. Besides, customers might think you bought those
knickers in the store, and that would be quite an advertisement, eh?”

“Right-o! Well, see you this afternoon, doubtless. So long, Mister
Employer!”

There was nothing very dramatic about Russell’s return to the football
fold. A hurried and curt-spoken Gaston welcomed him with a sudden
smile and a brief congratulatory nod. “Fine, Emerson!” he called as he
passed. “B Squad for you.”

Followed half an hour’s work that proved to Russell very conclusively
that he was in no good shape for the task ahead of him. He had
lost a fortnight’s training and the fact was evident. Long before
signal drill was done he was aching in most of his muscles and
puffing like a grampus. He was glad indeed of a short respite on the
bench before the squad walked across to the first team gridiron,
where, although the time for scrimmage had arrived, a squad under
leadership of Ned Richards was still hustling down the field, Ned’s
voice, sharply imperative, rising above the tones of Coach Cade and
Captain Proctor, trailing behind and rapping out criticism. That
bunch, reflected Russell as he paused with his companions to form a
sweatered and blanketed group along the edge of the field, was the
first team’s A Squad, although there were two players on it whose
presence surprised him. These were Crocker, at left end in place of
Lake, and Greenwood, at full-back. Joe Greenwood was Sid’s brother,
a heavy, dark-complexioned youth who had played with Russell on last
year’s second. Russell hadn’t thought him varsity material, but he
was displacing the veteran Browne. Possibly, though, Browne was on
the hospital list or in trouble at the Office: Russell hadn’t been
following football very closely.

The rest of the squad were first-string men: Butler, playing at
left tackle for Captain Mart Proctor, Rowlandson, Nichols, Stimson,
Putney, McLeod, Richards, Harmon, Moncks. Across the sunlit field,
the substitutes’ bench showed far fewer huddled forms than had sat
there last week, indicating that the first cut had taken effect. In
the stands a score or so of onlookers were scattered, their hands more
often than not thrust deeply in their pockets, for the afternoon was
chill in spite of the flood of late sunlight. Captain Proctor detached
himself from the followers behind the squad as it trotted past down the
center of the gridiron and cupped his hands.

“Ready for you in five minutes, Gaston!” he called. “Help yourself to
the field, will you?”

Steve Gaston nodded and tossed a ball to the turf. “Pass it around,” he
ordered crisply, “and keep moving.”

So the second team players strung out along the edge of the gridiron
in two roughly formed ranks and, walking briskly, shot the ball from
one to another, frequently tripping over a trailing blanket when the
pigskin eluded them and bobbed across the turf. Finally there was the
hoarse squawking of a horn and Manager Johnson was signaling them. Two
sweatered substitutes were unsnarling the chain. From the stand came a
rat-a-tat of chilling feet against the boards.

“Second team’s ball,” announced Coach Cade through his small megaphone.
“We’ll take this goal!”

“Yah,” derided the scrub’s captain sotto-voce as he pranced about,
limbering his legs, “why don’t you let us toss for it, Tightwad?”
Russell grinned as his glance met Falls’. “They haven’t kicked off to
us for a week,” the captain added ruefully, yet smiling. “Come on,
fellows! Let’s take it away from them!”

“You take right end, Emerson,” ordered Coach Gaston. “Look out for
Harmon on forward passes, boy. All right, Second! Go to it! You fellows
who aren’t playing, keep your blankets on. You’ll be wanted before
this ruckus is through.”

The second lined up across the field for the kick-off, a whistle
shrilled and big Jim Newton, center, lifted the ball well toward the
first team’s goal. Russell, following down under the kick, scanning
warily the hastily forming enemy interference, told himself that it was
good to feel the sod underfoot again, to hear the soft rasp of canvas
and creak of leather. Then he was swinging on a heel to dash across the
field toward where Moncks, the pigskin clutched tightly, was coming
along behind his interference. It was not Russell who stopped Moncks,
but Captain Falls. The best Russell could do was topple Richards, in
doing which he got a fine rap on the side of his head that, partly
broken by the edge of his helmet, was yet hard enough to make his
senses swim for a moment. When he got unsteadily to his feet again the
teams were lining up near the thirty-five-yard line. Behind each team
was its coach, and their voices were already to be heard. Russell,
skirting the first team line to his position, saw that Captain Proctor
was at his place again. Then Ned Richards yelped the signal, the lines
swayed, met, there were gasps and grunts, an angry, stifled exclamation
from Wells, the scrub’s right tackle, a hoarse bellow from Falls,
and Harmon was crashing out of the welter of brown canvas bodies.
Russell, playing out and back, sprang in, eluded the savage spring of
an interferer and got his man, aided by Reilly, a half. But Harmon was
hard to stop, and both tacklers gave ground for another yard ere the
runner was down. Russell, blocking with one knee Harmon’s attempt to
thrust the ball forward, muttered: “No, you don’t!” Then the whistle
piped just as reënforcements plunged down on the group. Harmon had made
four yards outside Wells, and Wells was mad. He muttered aloud as he
crouched with swaying arms at the end of the line, and Russell caught
his threatening, taunting words.

“Come on! Try that again, you big stiff! I’ll put that long nose of
yours on the blink for keeps! Send it this way, Ned! Come on, you
Sore-Heads! Oh, you would, eh?”

This latter remark was to Mart Proctor, who had feinted inside Wells
as the ball was snapped. There was an ecstatic moment for Wells, and
then Mart deposited him neatly against his guard and tore outside him.
Russell, already crossing behind the backs, left the invader to Reilly
and met the play which was coming through left tackle. It was Greenwood
this time, and the full-back added another three yards to the total. On
the next attempt there was a fumble by Moncks, recovered by Richards
for a yard loss. Then first team punted, Richards dropping the ball
in Goodwin’s arms on the scrub’s twenty-yard line and the left half
reeling off seven strides before he was downed by Crocker.

Carpenter, the scrub quarter, made two on a wide run and then Reilly,
red-headed and hard-fighting, squirmed through Rowlandson for three
more. But that ended the advance and Kendall punted well into enemy
territory. First gained three on a criss-cross, Harmon carrying, and
then Richards passed diagonally across the line to McLeod, and the
latter, catching the heave unchallenged, went half-way to second’s
goal before Carpenter stopped him. Play was held up while first team
and second team coaches criticized and instructed, and while Russell,
his last breath about gone, sat on the ground and longed for the horn
to sound the end of the period. Then he was up again, almost on his
fifteen-yard line, set for a forward pass that didn’t materialize.
Harmon carried past Wells once more and fought and squirmed to the
scrub’s twenty-one. Falls went down the crouching line and slapped
perspiring backs and implored his men to hold, and Gaston, deep-voiced,
shouted to Goodwin to close in and watch that guard! Then came the
play again, and, over the heads of his plunging team-mates, Russell
saw Richards, ball in hand, trotting back and back, saw Harmon
sneaking fast across the turf to the left, saw Squibbs dash headlong
at Richards, saw the latter side-step, calmly, smilingly, and saw the
right arm go back for the long throw. All about him were warning voices
as he forced his tired legs and tuckered lungs to new exertion.

“_Pass! Watch that man! Stop that throw!_”

Russell, running, glanced back. Overhead was the ball, a dozen yards
ahead was Harmon, walking sidewise, hands ready. Behind Russell
streamed the field, coming fast but too late to get into the play.
Carpenter was closing up the gap between his position and the side
line. Russell called on his flagging strength for one last supreme
effort. Harmon had stopped, was facing the descending ball, had raised
his arms. Russell was still a good six yards distant and he knew that
Harmon would be off before he could reach him. There was but one chance
and he took it. Throwing his arms high, he leaped into the air, hoping
against hope. But fortune was with him. The flying pigskin grazed his
left hand. The touch of it was so light that Russell scarcely felt it,
but it served to deflect the ball. Harmon swayed to the right, the
ball spurned his eager grasp and went trickling, bouncing across the
turf toward the side line. Russell paid no further attention to it. He
eased himself gently to the ground and turned onto his back. A minute
later Lawrence pulled him to his feet and put a strong arm under his
shoulders.

“Good work, Emerson,” he panted. “Better step out. Gaston’s looking.
All right now?”

“Yes,” said Russell faintly. “I’m--fearfully--soft!”

[Illustration: “Yes,” said Russell faintly. “I’m--fearfully--soft!”]

They made their way back to the forming line-up, but Coach Gaston
intervened. “That’ll do, Emerson,” he called. Then, turning to the far
side of the field, “Tierney!” he bawled. “Tierney! Hurry up!”

Russell yielded his helmet and went off with drooping head. He was
heartily ashamed of himself. He had lasted some eight minutes only!
Of course the reason wasn’t far to seek: a fellow can’t play football
if he isn’t conditioned; and Russell realized that he was very far
from conditioned. A summer spent largely indoors hadn’t, he thought
ruefully, prepared him very well for what was before him. He sank down
in the line of waiting substitutes and wondered if he would ever get
his breath fully back again!

Of course first team went over. Having reached the twenty yard line,
it wasn’t to be held by anything the second had to offer in the way
of argument. Moncks got a good gain through center and Harmon made it
first down on the scrub’s sixteen. From there, using concealed plays,
the first wore down the defense until, on fourth down, with the ball
on the five yards, Richards faked a forward and passed to Moncks and
the latter raced around the second’s left for a touchdown. The period
ended soon after and the second team players joined the substitutes
and huddled into blankets and listened to a grave discourse on their
shortcomings and failures from the coach.

When the second period started Steve Gaston put on almost a new eleven.
Russell didn’t go in again, but sat on the turf, wrapped in a faded
gray blanket, and saw Tierney play right end. And Tierney did very
well, Russell thought, even if he did let Harmon get safely off with
another forward pass that paved the way for the first team’s second
score. For that matter, Russell had almost done the same thing himself.
He was still wondering why he had been caught flat-footed on that play!

Coach Cade likewise called on his second-string players for the last
period, and on his third-string as well. Russell saw with satisfaction
that when Jimmy Austen supplanted Mawson at left half--Harmon had not
started the last period--his punting, if not in the least phenomenal,
was very good. Russell got a case of mild heart-failure every time
the ball went to Jimmy for travel by the aerial route, for Jimmy was
deliberate to a fault. It looked as though he simply hated to part
from that ball until at least two of the enemy were almost upon him.
But he had Fortune with him to-day, and of his four punts not one was
blocked and each went its way as he fore-ordained it to; forty yards,
forty-five and, once, a magnificent fifty-odd. At carrying the ball,
though, Jimmy met with less success, and after each of his several
attempts Russell heard the incisive voice of the coach dealing out
rebuke.

Second didn’t score that afternoon, didn’t approach to scoring, indeed,
and, afterwards, Steve Gaston’s quiet thoughtfulness indicated that he
wasn’t any too well pleased. Steve had yanked Squibbs and Emerson back
to the fold and added two other unknown quantities in the persons of
a brace of sophomores who had messed about with last year’s freshman
team. So far, so good, but the second team was still far from the
hard-fighting, bull-dog aggregation that he was working for. He told
himself that the weight was there, and the aggressiveness, and the
knowledge sufficient for his ends, but that for some reason the fellows
weren’t using them. He wondered if there was some way in which to
make the team forget that they were doing battle with their fellows
and really fight! Of the crowd, Wells was the only one who exhibited
the proper spirit. When Wells went into action friendship ceased. Put
Wells in football togs and he would have fought to a finish with his
grandmother! Sometimes Steve had to call the tackle down for “slanging”
too much, but he always hated to do it. If he could only get the rest
of the team into the same frame of mind he would, he felt, have a real
eleven, an eleven that would make history.

On the way out of the gymnasium he caught sight of Russell and hailed
him. “I used you a bit hard this afternoon, Emerson,” he said, “but
I wanted to see how you showed up, and there isn’t much time for
coddling.”

“I’m afraid I showed up pretty poorly,” said Russell. “I had no idea a
fellow could go stale so soon, Gaston.”

“I know.” Gaston nodded. “You were all right, though. Get some one to
work out the kinks in your muscles to-night. A good hot bath will help,
if you get right into bed afterwards. I’ll let you off easy to-morrow.
How did the team strike you?”

Russell hesitated, for it hadn’t occurred to him before to consider
that subject. “Pretty fair,” he said at last. “It’s early yet.”

“It’s never early when it comes to getting a team in shape,” responded
the coach. “I’ve got the stuff there, Emerson, but I don’t get it out.
I will, though, by ginger! I’m going to make that bunch deliver the
goods. Well, good night. Take care of yourself.”



CHAPTER XIII

THE NEW ASSISTANT


“If I only had a tin dinner-pail!” reflected Jimmy regretfully as
he turned into West street the next morning and caught sight of the
gay sign above the doorway of Number 112. His enthusiasm had brought
him there at a minute after half-past eight and to his surprise the
store was still locked. But Russell had provided him with a key and
Jimmy thrust it into the lock with an important air and swung open the
creaking door. The place exhaled a stale odor of withered flowers, and
Jimmy traversed the long aisle and threw open the rear door as well.
From the unwillingness displayed by the bolts he judged that that
portal was seldom disturbed. He looked out. There was a diminutive
yard there surrounded by a sagging board fence and littered with boxes
and rubbish. A gate gave onto a narrow alley beyond which was another
fence above whose rim could be seen the trees and white gables and red
chimney-tops of the residences on State street. Jimmy went back into
the store and looked about him. Through the front door came the morning
sunlight, displaying to his disapproving gaze a very dirty floor.

“Might as well do the thing right,” said Jimmy to himself. In a dark
corner stood a dilapidated broom. In the back yard he had noted a box
half-full of sawdust. Jimmy removed his coat, folded it, placed it
beneath the counter alongside the cigar box that did duty as a money
drawer for the Sign of the Football, and went to work. A small sink at
the back of the store provided water, and Jimmy moistened the sawdust
thoroughly and then, starting at the front of the place, sprinkled it
lavishly. After that, whistling blithely, he went to work. Now and
then he paused to observe a passer or to watch hopefully some one who
had paused outside the window. But no one infringed on his solitude;
no one, that is, until Jimmy had the sawdust swept nearly to the back
door. Then it was Mr. J. Warren Pulsifer who appeared.

He showed no surprise at Jimmy’s presence. Perhaps he had overheard
the arrangements being made yesterday. But he did show a concern that
almost amounted to disapproval. “H’m,” he said sadly, viewing the thick
windrow of dirty sawdust in front of the boy’s broom. “H’m.”

“Good morning,” responded Jimmy brightly. “Cleaning up a bit, you see,
sir.”

“Yes. H’m. Well, there’s a man comes in to do that the first of the
month. Washes the windows, too.”

“Whether it’s needed or not,” said Jimmy innocently.

“Sweeping makes a good deal of dust,” continued the other severely.

“Collects a good deal, too,” answered Jimmy, continuing toward the door.

Mr. Pulsifer pretended to be affected by the dust and coughed
delicately. “It’s bad for the flowers,” he said querulously. “I’d
rather you didn’t do it, my boy.”

He coughed again and went back to his wire enclosure. Being called
“my boy” grated on Jimmy and he leaned on the handle of his broom and
favored Mr. J. Warren Pulsifer with a malignant stare. Then he finished
his job, placed the now almost useless broom back in the dim corner,
washed his hands, dried them on his breeches for want of other means
and started after his coat.

“Please close the back door if you’re through,” said Mr. Pulsifer
drearily. “There’s a draft.”

Jimmy obeyed. When he had his coat on again he stationed himself behind
the small show-case and looked into the street. After a while that
occupation palled and he pulled a box down from a shelf and removed
the lid. It was empty. So was the next one. So were all boxes in that
tier. Jimmy grinned and tried the next pile. He was more fortunate.
Three gray sweaters rewarded him. He took one out, examined it, held
it before him and shook his head.

“Too small,” he muttered. The others were too small also. He put the
garments back and returned the box to its place. Then he surveyed the
goods in the window. Raising his eyes, he saw two boys doing the same
thing from beyond the glass. They weren’t Academy fellows, nor, since
the hour was now nine o’clock, could they be high school fellows. Yet
they were well dressed and appeared to have plenty of time on their
hands. In age they were evidently about sixteen years. Their gazes
were set on the tennis racket and they were discussing it seriously.
Jimmy could see their lips moving, but could hear no sounds. After a
moment he withdrew from sight and went swiftly to the doorway. There
he stepped just outside and leaned a shoulder negligently against the
frame. The two boys were still admiring and discussing. Jimmy started
to whistle, his gaze set across the street on Whitson’s Blue Front
Pharmacy. The sound drew the boys’ attention and at the same instant
Jimmy turned his eyes their way. Jimmy had a winning smile, and now he
used it. The nearer of the two boys smiled back. The other drew away as
though to continue his journey along the street.

“Come on in, fellows, and let me show you some things,” invited Jimmy.
“I’m looking for something to do.”

“We were just--looking,” murmured the nearer youth.

“Sure!” responded Jimmy heartily. “Come on inside and look. You don’t
need to buy anything. Let me show you a tennis racket, maybe, or a
sweater.” He drew back invitingly. There was low-voiced colloquy
and the two followed hesitantly inside. Jimmy reached the back of
the counter by the simple expedient of placing one hand thereon and
vaulting it. That seemed to put the visitors more at their ease, and
one of them laughed and said:

“Say, how much is that tennis racket in the window?”

“That one?” Jimmy reached over the curtain and brought the racket into
view, as he did so reading the tag attached to the handle. “Have a
slant at it,” he invited, handing it to the questioner. “That’s a nice
racket. One of Proctor and Farnham’s. You won’t find another one of
those in this town.” He might have added “or in this store,” but he
refrained.

“Never heard of that make,” said the more reticent boy.

“What?” Jimmy was surprised, but politely so. “One of the best, if not
_the_ best. Ever see Williams play?”

“I have,” assented the first speaker, “but I didn’t notice what sort of
a racket he used.”

“You have a look the next time,” advised Jimmy, wondering just what
racket Williams did wield. “How do you like the feel of that? Corking
balance, eh? That handle gives a nice firm grip, too. I’d like to own
that myself.” This was no more than the truth, although the desire of
possession was but a minute old.

“What did you say the price was?”

“Price? Oh, six-twenty-five. That’s a special price, too. You see, we
have the agency for the P. and F. goods here and we’re selling very
low to introduce them. That racket would sell for seven dollars in New
York, I suppose.”

The boy nodded agreement. “Yes, I dare say it would.” He turned to his
companion. “I like it better than Carty’s,” he said, “don’t you?”

The second youth took the implement and subjected it to a minute and
sustained inspection. Finally he balanced it across a finger. Then
he stepped back and swung it mightily through the air, smashing an
imaginary ball through the doorway. Then he handed it back, and Jimmy
heard plainly the sigh that accompanied the action. The boy nodded
soberly but convincingly. “It’s a corker,” he declared.

The intending purchaser of a racket glowed. It is always satisfying
to have one’s judgment upheld. He swung the racket himself slowly
and looked admiringly at it. At last he laid it on the counter, and
Jimmy’s heart fell. “I like it all right,” said the youth, “but that’s
more than I want--more than I meant to pay for one.”

“That so? Well, you can’t get much of a racket these days for less than
six dollars,” replied Jimmy. “You fellows know what the fancy ones
fetch; eight, nine--more if you want to pay it.” Jimmy fondled the
tightly-stretched strings admiringly. “That racket would last three
hard seasons, I’ll bet, without restringing. You don’t see finer gut
than that very often. I like the way it’s reënforced there, too, don’t
you? That small gut strengthens the racket without making it dead.”

The two boys nodded in unison and in silence. Two pairs of eyes were
following Jimmy’s pointing finger absorbedly. At last: “I can lend
you a dollar,” said the reticent youth in low tones. The other turned
eagerly, then shook his head.

“I oughtn’t to pay more than five,” he said virtuously but sadly.
Jimmy drew a breath of relief. He was, he knew, about to make a sale,
his first sale! He drew a caressing hand along the handle, from the
black-and-gold diamond trade-mark and the word “Runner-Up” to the soft
brown leather band at the end. The tempted one followed the gesture,
thrilling to it. Jimmy looked up and spoke at the psychological moment.

“Are you high school fellows?” he asked.

“No.”

“Because, if you were, I could give you the regular high school
discount of five per cent. That would make it cost you--let me
see--yes, five-ninety-four.”

“We’re Mount Millard fellows,” said one of the boys.

Jimmy pricked up his ears at that. “Mount Millard! Is that so? What
sort of a football team have you got over there this year?”

“Pretty good, I guess. Not so good as last year’s, maybe, but--”

“Hope not!” laughed Jimmy. “You beat us badly last year. How do you
fellows happen to be so far from home?” Mount Millard was at Warren,
and Warren was some eighteen miles from Alton.

“We came over to go to the dentist’s,” the boy explained. “There isn’t
a decent one in Warren.”

“Nor anything else,” mourned his companion.

“Except the school,” said Jimmy smilingly.

“Sure, the school’s all right, but there aren’t any decent stores
there. It’s a hole that way.”

“Where do your crowd buy your athletic supplies, then?”

“Oh, one of the druggists keeps a few things. Generally he sends away
for them.”

“How long did it take you to get over here?” Jimmy asked.

“About twenty-five minutes, I guess. We came in an automobile with a
man who lives there. It takes about forty minutes by the trolley.”

“Uh-huh,” responded Jimmy thoughtfully. “Don’t see why you fellows
can’t do your shopping over here.”

“Well, it isn’t worth while, I guess. We manage to get most everything
we want, one way or another.”

“Rackets like this one?” asked Jimmy, smiling.

The boy shook his head, smiling, too.

“Tell you what I’ll do,” announced Jimmy. “We give a ten per cent
discount to Alton fellows and I don’t see why we shouldn’t give the
same to Mount Millard. You may have that racket for five dollars and
sixty-two cents. All I ask is that you tell fellows where you bought
it and that if they’ll take the trouble to come over here--or send
over, if they like--we’ll treat them white and give them ten per cent
discount from the regular price. What do you say?”

The boy hesitated, but the space of that hesitation was so brief as to
be almost negligible. “I’ll take it!” he said crisply.

When they were gone, hurrying off to their appointment at the nearby
dentist’s, Jimmy smiled proudly as he took out a pen and began to
figure on a piece of wrapping paper. “‘b.j.t.,’” he murmured. “That’s
6, 5, 0. I was only a quarter of a dollar out of the way. All right.
Now, ten per cent off that leaves--let’s see--yes, five-eighty-five.”
He counted the money on the counter: a five dollar bill and sixty-two
cents in change. Then he figured once more. “I owe twenty-three cents,”
he muttered, and found the amount in his pocket and added it to the
sum on the counter. Then he reached beneath for the cigar box and
swept the proceeds into it, with an air of intense satisfaction not at
all marred by the fact that the sale of the tennis racket, because he
had translated the price-tag’s inscription erroneously, had cost him
personally twenty-three cents!

That transaction satisfactorily completed, Jimmy went, whistling, back
to the doorway to again play the rôle of the watchful spider. The tune
he whistled evidently did not please Mr. J. Warren Pulsifer who had
left his cage and was listlessly arranging a bunch of asparagus fern
in the wax-papered bottom of a long card-board box. As he worked he
shot impatient, even indignant glances at the unconcerned Jimmy, who,
not realizing the pain he was inflicting on the florist’s nerves, went
heedlessly and blithely on. It is just possible that, even had he
realized the discomfort his melody was causing, he would have continued
it, for Mr. Pulsifer didn’t stand very high with Jimmy.

Others came and looked into the window, some interestedly, some
carelessly, and all ultimately passed by. The better part of an hour
passed. The sunlight became very warm, and Jimmy looked longingly
across the street toward the screen door of the Blue Front Pharmacy
from behind which came the hiss of carbonated water. Jimmy wanted a
cooling drink very much. But duty held him sternly at his post. If,
he warned himself, he were to cross the street even for a scant three
minutes some one might enter the store in his brief absence and,
finding none to wait on him, go away again. Besides that--and Jimmy
glanced at his watch--Rus Emerson had promised to run over at ten to
see how he was getting on, and it certainly wouldn’t do to be missing
when Rus arrived! Tiring of watching the street, Jimmy went back behind
the counter. There was no chair there, which he thought showed a sad
want of interest, on the part of his employers, in his comfort, but he
found that it was possible to squeeze a scant portion of his anatomy
against the boxes on the lowest shelf and maintain his position there
by bracing his feet against the edge of the counter. He had just got
himself satisfactorily settled when the doorway was darkened and an
anxious voice hailed him above the tramp of hurrying footsteps.

“Where’s the tennis racket?” called Russell anxiously.

Jimmy dropped his feet and came upright very promptly. “Tennis racket?”
he repeated. “_The_ tennis racket? If you mean--”

“I mean the one in the window,” interrupted Russell excitedly. “It’s
gone!”

“Oh, that!” replied Jimmy casually. He brushed an invisible speck from
a sleeve and smiled boredly. “We sold that.”



CHAPTER XIV

JIMMY’S DAY


True to his word, Steve Gaston used Russell more gingerly on Tuesday,
and Russell, who was still aching in many places, was grateful. Just
the same, he was not entirely satisfied when, after a twenty-minute
practice line-up between the two scrub squads, the second crossed the
field to the first team gridiron and he made the discovery that it was
Tierney who was to play right end. It takes more than a few pains to
reconcile your enthusiastic football player to the bench--or, in this
case, the sod. And yesterday’s short taste of the game had reawakened
all of Russell’s old ardor. But he wasn’t to be quite neglected, for
in the middle of the second twelve-minute period of battle Tierney was
laid low, with every bit of breath eliminated from his body, and Gaston
sent a quick call across the field for Russell. Back in the game,
facing the redoubtable Captain Proctor or warily watching Crocker,
at left end on the enemy team, Russell forgot his aches and entered
lustily into the fray. Crocker proved a troublesome opponent that
afternoon, for the first was trying out a “bunch forward” in which,
when the play was made to the left, Crocker and Harmon and Browne
participated, or sought to. Russell, aided by Reilly, had an anxious
and breathless time of it. It is to their credit, though, that the
“bunch” succeeded but twice and then on the other side of the field.
First scored but once to-day, and only after a blocked kick on the
scrub’s thirty-six yards, when Putney, the first team right tackle,
grabbed up the bouncing pigskin and marvelously dashed through half
the enemy forces and planted it behind the line. The second had two
tries at goal from the field, and Kendall missed both. On the whole,
however, the second was fairly well satisfied with the afternoon, and
even Gaston looked as though he spied a glint of hope in the clouds of
adversity.

That evening Russell’s thoughts turned wistfully toward a nice clean
cot in the school infirmary, and every time he moved he groaned either
in spirit or very audibly, depending on whether or not he was alone.
Yet life held its cheering aspects, for Stick had jubilantly reported
three sales during the afternoon, which, combined with Jimmy’s sale
of the tennis racket, brought the day’s business up to the colossal
sum of thirteen dollars and eighty-three cents, a sum hitherto never
even approached. Jimmy came in after supper and the three talked the
matter over in detail and with much enthusiasm. Stick forgot to be
pessimistic and swung to the other extreme. His sales had been to high
school fellows, and he had discovered that there were two hundred and
twenty-two of them in this year’s enrollment and proceeded to prove, to
his own satisfaction at least, that the high school students were due
to enrich the firm of Emerson and Patterson to the tune of one dollar
and eighty-seven cents, net, every day until the middle of next June.

“I guess,” said Russell when that fact had been thoroughly demonstrated
by the very earnest Stick, “that that advertisement we put in the high
school paper fetched those fellows. It might be a good plan to keep it
running.”

But Stick didn’t see that. Advertising cost a heap of money, and now
that the ball had been started rolling there wasn’t any sense in going
on with it. “Those fellows will tell other fellows,” he asserted, “and
that’s the best sort of advertising there is.”

“We are advertised by our loving friends,” quoted Jimmy.

Russell agreed to discontinue the high school advertisement, but he was
firm for going on with the one in _The Doubleay_, and Stick dubiously
agreed to that wasteful course. Jimmy described once more with great
gusto the details concerning the sale of the tennis racket--they
laughingly referred to it as “the” racket, since it had been the only
one in stock--and predicted that much trade would accrue from Mount
Millard School as a result of his brilliant acumen.

“We might,” began Russell, “put an ad. in their paper--” But Stick’s
unhappy frown cut him short, and he dropped the subject and turned
back to Jimmy. “You keep talking about six and a quarter,” he said
perplexedly. “You mean six and a half, don’t you?”

“Eh? Oh, the price of it! Yes, yes, six and a half. I was thinking
about the discount, I guess.”

“But the discount brought it to five-eighty-five.”

“Yes, well--you see, I’m an awful ass at figures,” answered Jimmy
desperately. Not for worlds would he have had Russell know that he had
mulcted himself of that twenty-three cents!

“Well, I don’t know what you think about it, Stick,” said Russell, “but
I believe Jimmy has brought us luck!”

And Stick, rather unwillingly, agreed.

And as time went on that conviction strengthened with Russell. By
the end of that week business had picked up enormously at the Sign
of the Football. There had come a letter from Mount Millard ordering
“one of those rakets like George Titus bought from you resently,” and
as the money was enclosed Russell didn’t find it incumbent on him to
criticize the spelling. High school boys were frequent visitors in the
afternoons. They didn’t always buy, but those who didn’t spread the
news and others came in their places. Another football had found its
way to the Academy, and more and more Altonians were learning to enter
under the alluring sign rather than to proceed a few doors further to
the more pretentious House of Crocker. All this was vastly cheering
to Russell and to Stick, and hardly less so to Jimmy, who, if not one
of the firm, was nevertheless fully as interested in the success of
the business as either of the others. Sid Greenwood had dropped in one
morning when Russell was there and had looked and talked and pored over
catalogues, and it was already an assured fact that the Sign of the
Football was to have the patronage of the Basket Ball Team. And Bob
Coolidge had broadly hinted but a few days later that it would be a
good plan for Russell to put in a few sample hockey sticks and skates
and so on; and Russell had duly ordered. Ordering was a regular daily
performance now. Fellows were very good-natured about waiting a day or
so, which was certainly fortunate, for only occasionally as yet did the
store have just what was wanted! Russell or Stick or Jimmy would open
an empty box, out of sight of the customer, frown, put it back, open a
second and then shake his head. “Sorry, but we haven’t your size,” he
would announce apologetically, or, “We’ve sold the last one.” Always,
though, such a remark was invariably followed promptly by a reassuring:
“They’re on order and will be along to-morrow. If you don’t mind
dropping in about half-past four it’ll be here.” The New York train
that carried the noon mail and express reached Alton at four. It took
only fifteen or twenty minutes to get the goods from the post office or
express company, and at four-thirty the customer went away contentedly.
There was a slim black-covered book behind the counter and into this
the orders went, and some time before six o’clock Russell would take
himself to the telephone office and call up the New York dealer. Seldom
did the dealer disappoint him.

Money was coming in now, but money was also going out, and the balance
in the firm’s name at the bank was growing very slowly. Stick frowned
often and darkly at the size of the orders that were despatched to the
city and still more darkly at the checks drawn in settlement for them.
But even Stick’s economical brain couldn’t find any way of selling
goods without ordering them or of ordering them without ultimately
paying for them. Meanwhile Jimmy was becoming a salesman of ability, to
say nothing of poise. Jimmy had a way of selling a nose-guard as though
it were a diamond set in platinum, and no purchaser of so small an item
as a tennis ball went away without feeling that he had been treated
like a person of importance and had somehow unintentionally managed to
get the best of the transaction.

Russell’s aches left him gradually and by the end of that week he
had fairly beaten out Tierney for the position at the right end of
the second team line. The first team found their daily opponent a
harder and harder proposition, and on Friday, for the first time, the
scrimmage ended without a score for either side. To be sure, only one
twelve-minute period was played, but even so--

The big team made its first trip away from home the next day and played
Lorimer Academy. Lorimer had last year held Alton to a 3 to 3 tie,
and an easy contest was neither expected nor found. At the end of the
first half the opponents were even, with a touchdown and goal each. In
spite of the story told by the score, Alton had showed rather better
work, and the ball had, save for one brief and regrettable period,
remained in Lorimer territory. The regrettable period had occurred at
the beginning of the game, when, receiving the ball on the kick-off,
Lorimer had brought it back to Alton’s forty-one yards. That unexpected
feat had quite nonplused the visitors and during the next series of
plays they showed that it had, for two gains had been made through
the left of their line for a first down on the thirty-yard line. From
there, following an attempt at Putney that yielded a scant stride,
Lorimer threw forward to the fifteen-yard line where an unwatched
half-back caught and, although chased down by Harley McLeod, managed to
fall across the last line mark just inside the boundary. There was some
discussion as to whether the runner had not gone out before he got the
ball over, but the officials gave him the benefit of the doubt. Lorimer
kicked the goal easily.

After that Alton had pulled herself together, quickly wrested the
pigskin from the enemy and taken the offensive. There was, though, no
score for her until the second period was well along. Then a long,
hard march from the center of the field to Lorimer’s eighteen yards
culminated in a series of smashing attacks on the enemy’s left by
Harmon and Moncks, and on the seventh play the ball went over. Captain
Proctor kicked the goal.

When the third quarter started Lorimer showed the benefit of the
rest and, possibly, of the coach’s tuition. She kicked off to the
Gray-and-Gold and her ends spilled Ned Richards on his ten-yard line.
After two running plays that failed to advance, Alton punted to
Lorimer’s forty. Lorimer pulled a trick play that went for twelve yards
around the opponent’s left end. A jab at the center was wasted and her
quarter punted diagonally to Alton’s eight yards where Harmon gathered
in the ball but was forced outside after a few strides. The pigskin
was too near home for comfort, and Ned Richards stepped aside in favor
of Browne on second down and Browne punted to midfield. Again Lorimer
tried a quarter-back kick and again gained. Ned Richards, waiting for
the ball to bound over the goal line for a touchback, saw it change
its mind erratically and start back up the field. He fell on it finally
near the five-yard line, with, by that time, most of the Lorimer
forwards hovering about him.

Alton decided to kick on first down, and Browne stepped back behind the
goal posts. Nichols passed low and the full-back punt was necessarily
hurried. The ball sailed high in the air and descended near the
twenty-yard line, and the Lorimer back who caught it very carefully
stepped outside, since there was no chance for an advance. The pigskin
was stepped in and Lorimer found herself in the fortunate position of
being in possession of the ball on first down on the enemy’s nineteen
yards. A fake attack to the left, with left half running to the right
took the ball to the center of the field, although for no gain. Lorimer
prepared for a placement kick from close to the thirty yards, but the
pigskin was taken by quarter through Stimson for two. Again, on third
down, the same preparations were carefully gone through with, and this
time the ball went back to the kicker, instead of the holder, and then
was hurled through the air to where, one foot over the goal line, an
end had stationed himself. It was a pretty pass, well concealed, well
thrown and well caught, and although Harmon brought down the catcher
promptly the touchdown was accomplished. Again Lorimer kicked the goal.

Alton was chagrined and rather angry. It was very evident that, since
her defense against the opponent’s forward passing game was not good
enough, the opponent must not be allowed again within scoring distance
of the goal. It was extremely trying, extremely exasperating to be
twice scored on by a team who was plainly unable to gain consistently
by rushing! Coach Cade seized the interim following the goal to remove
Crocker from left end and to substitute Rhame and to put Johnson at
right tackle in place of Putney who was showing the battle. The third
period ended in a punting duel between Browne, for Alton, and Snow, for
Lorimer, and when the teams changed sides it was Alton’s ball on her
thirty-four yards.

There was then a slight advantage in the possession of the south
goal, for a breeze had arisen since the beginning of the half and was
blowing, at moments quite strongly, toward the other end of the field.
Austen had replaced Harmon, and to Jimmy was handed the task of using
that breeze to work the team’s way inside the enemy’s first defenses.
As a prelude, Moncks took the ball and managed to batter through left
guard for four yards. Then Jimmy punted and, getting height, saw the
breeze take a hand in his effort and add a good ten yards to the kick.
Rhame was on the catcher almost before the ball had landed in his arms.
Lorimer tried two attempts outside tackle and then punted in turn.
But Alton had gained nearly ten yards on the exchange, and, after a
first down that netted barely a yard gain, Jimmy again stepped back
and, the Gray-and-Gold line holding well, punted with his customary
deliberateness and again got more than fifty yards. This time Lorimer
ran the pigskin back across one white line before she was stopped.
Lorimer recognized the futility of pitting her punter against Alton’s
in the circumstances, but, with her back to her goal, there was no help
for it after two desperate rushes had been stopped for five yards, and
again the ball sailed off. This time the kick was weak and Appel, who
had just relieved Richards, caught it on Lorimer’s forty-seven yards
and, feinting and twirling, cut across the field with it, found open
territory for a moment and sped along to the thirty-five before his
meteoric career was stopped.

That proved the result that Alton had sought. From the thirty-five
yards to the twenty she went in four rushes. There she was slowed up
and a short forward pass, Browne to McLeod, was used as a last resort
and did the business. After that, with a small coterie of devoted
Altonians begging for a touchdown, the result was not long in doubt.
Still smarting over her indignities, Alton hammered and thrust, and,
reaching the six yards in two downs, hurled Moncks past left tackle for
half the remaining distance and then literally piled through the center
of the Lorimer line and deposited Appel and the ball well over the last
mark.

Unfortunately, Mart Proctor missed the goal miserably, and the handful
of Alton supporters groaned. Lorimer was still one point ahead and
the time was getting short. Captain Proctor gave way to Butler and
Linthicum went in for Browne. During the remaining minutes several more
changes were made in the Alton line-up, so that when the last whistle
blew the Gray-and-Gold presented a thoroughly second-string appearance.

Lorimer fought for time now, fought to keep the opponent away from
scoring territory, punting even on first down and against that breeze.
But she didn’t have many chances to put boot leather to pigskin, for
Alton was through with the kicking game. Lorimer was beatable by surer
methods, and Alton returned to rushing. Twice her backs got almost
free around the Lorimer ends and once Linthicum found a barn-door
opening in the center and staggered through for twelve yards. With the
time-keeper’s watch showing something less than two minutes left, the
ball was Alton’s on the home team’s thirty-six. Appel held a whispered
conference with Rowlandson, who had succeeded to the captaincy, and
then sprung a surprise. Linthicum was sent back to kicking position
and, since a field-goal would win the game for Alton, Lorimer never
doubted that, with the time nearly up, a drop-kick would follow. But
Jimmy Austen got the ball when it left center and Jimmy found as many
holes in front of him as there are in a sieve and proceeded to ooze
through one of them. And, being through, he kept right on oozing, just
how no one, least of all Jimmy, could have afterwards told. But he
oozed faster and faster. In fact, the ooze became a trickle and then a
spurt, and, escaping a tackle here and dodging an enemy there, turning,
twisting, as elusive as a drop of quicksilver, Jimmy somehow kept going
straight for the goal and somehow got there, got there without having
been once tackled, got there through the whole enemy team and with
never a bit of aid from his own side! And, having got there, Jimmy
put the ball down, hunched his shoulders and philosophically and even
smilingly bore the useless onslaught of the infuriated enemy.

It didn’t matter that Rowlandson missed the goal. No one expected him
to make it, certainly not Rowlandson, for he was no goal expert and, as
he put it, became the goat only for lack of some one better qualified.
He managed to send the ball between the posts, but only because the
line of discouraged opponents hadn’t enough interest left to put up a
hand and stop it!

There was one more kick-off and four more plays, and then the game was
over. Every fellow loves a hero, and so, for quite a week, Jimmy Austen
wore the laurels. And doubtless he deserved them, although, as Jimmy
explained often enough during the next forty-eight hours, no one but a
cripple could have failed to make that touchdown! “Their old line was
full of holes,” said Jimmy. “They were all set for a try-at-goal and
came pouring through as soon as the ball was off. All I had to do was
hug the old turnip and let ’em by. Then I side-stepped a couple and
took it across. There’s no sense in making a fuss about it!”

But they did--for a while. In football there’s a new hero, of larger or
smaller caliber, every week or so, and Jimmy’s fame only lived until
the Hillsport game the following Saturday, when Ned Richards sprinted
sixty-odd yards for the score that evened up matters in the third
period and turned what looked horribly like defeat into a 6 to 6 tie.



CHAPTER XV

MR. CROCKER CALLS


Russell didn’t see the Loring game, although there was no second team
practice that afternoon to prevent. Instead he took Stick’s place in
the store, allowing that youth to put in an afternoon at tennis, the
only kind of physical exertion he approved of. Russell was glad that
he had done this long before closing time arrived, for he spent a very
busy time at the Sign of the Football. There was one heart-stirring
quarter of an hour when, by actual count, seven customers lined the
counter! Russell surreptitiously counted the throng a second time,
incredulously certain that he had overestimated. Even femininity
invaded the store when two high school girls came in search of
sweaters. Russell, always shy in the presence of the opposite sex,
was all thumbs when it came to displaying his wares and, for the
first time, wished that he had not relieved Stick. Stick wouldn’t
be disturbed in the least by the whole female population of Alton!
Nothing, pursued Russell in his thoughts, as he clumsily brought a pile
of boxes crashing down on his head, ever did disturb Stick much except
an attack on his pocketbook.

The two young ladies were extremely self-possessed and viewed Russell’s
embarrassment with a sort of kindly contempt. The boy’s first hopeful
announcement that they carried no girls’ sweaters failed of the effect
he desired. They did not, they explained calmly, want girls’ sweaters,
but boys’ sweaters. After that there was nothing for it but to display
wares, falteringly explain why the garments were priced half a dollar
higher than similar garments purchased by the fair customers in New
Haven two years before and resist a horrible temptation to wipe the
perspiration from his brow. Russell heaped the counter high with
boxes--some of them, of course, empty--and got very much mixed in the
matter of sizes and prices. In the end, when the shoppers severely
declared that they would take two of the sweaters but couldn’t think
of paying the price set for them, Russell weakly but, oh, so gladly
knocked off a quarter of a dollar, almost frantically wrapped the
parcels up, overlooked a discrepancy of a nickel in one payment, and,
had not courtesy forbade, would have joyously pushed them out the door.

When they were at last gone, he wiped his forehead, sighed deeply with
heartfelt relief and wondered if it would not be a good idea to hang a
card in the window with some such inscription on it as “Gentlemen Only”
or “No Females Need Apply”! After that he sold a pair of woolen hose to
an Alton chap and two tennis balls to a tall bespectacled gentleman
who, Russell suspected, was the “Painless Dentist” further down the
street. The hour for closing was nearing and Mr. J. Warren Pulsifer,
who had been leaning in a sort of trance over his books in the wire
cage since four o’clock, moved and sighed loudly. Then followed
business of locking a drawer with much jangling of keys, the clanging
of the cage door and the florist set his hat on his head, looked
dubiously at the single light in the further window--Mr. Pulsifer never
lighted his window--took three boxes from the glass-fronted case at
the back of the store and passed out with a dismal “good night.” Those
three boxes, which, Russell concluded, Mr. J. Warren Pulsifer was going
to deliver in person, appeared to constitute the day’s business of the
florist’s establishment. Russell wondered whether it was possible that
the dejected gentleman made money over his expenses. It didn’t seem
that he could, for the few orders that came to him surely did amount
to more than thirty dollars a week. Russell’s thoughts were still on
Mr. Pulsifer when the doorway was darkened by a large, thickset man in
a suit of black and a wide-brimmed felt hat of the same color. When he
came into the light from the window Russell recognized him.

“Good evening, Mr. Crocker,” he said politely.

Mr. Crocker replied affably and then looked curiously about him.
“Your name’s Emerson, I take it,” he said finally. “Nice little
establishment you’ve got here.”

Russell agreed, although he saw quite plainly that the visitor didn’t
think it a nice little establishment at all, that, on the contrary, he
had viewed it rather contemptuously.

“Thought,” continued the hardware merchant, “I’d stop in and have a
word or two with you.”

“Very kind, I’m sure,” murmured Russell.

“Well, I’m an old hand at the selling game, Mr. Emerson, and I’ve
learned one or two things you haven’t--yet. You’re young and, I guess
you won’t mind my saying so, inexperienced.”

“Not in the least, sir.”

“Exactly,” pursued the other, interpreting the boy’s reply to suit
himself. “Now I’m always glad to help young fellows like you who are
just starting out for themselves. I’ve done it many times. Us older men
mustn’t forget that we owe a duty to youth and inexperience. That’s
why I dropped in, Mr. Emerson.” Mr. Crocker had thrust his hands into
the pockets of a pair of capacious trousers and was observing Russell
smilingly across the counter. “Now you and I are in the same line of
business, partly. That is, you sell athletic supplies and so do I. Of
course, it’s a small part of my business, but I’m not hankering to lose
it. Not,” added Mr. Crocker, quickly, “that there’s any danger of that.
I’ve always welcomed competition, Mr. Emerson. There’s plenty of trade
here for you and me both if we handle it right.”

“I hope so,” affirmed Russell.

“Yes, but cutting prices isn’t going to get us anywhere.” Mr. Crocker
smiled almost playfully. His was a leather-grained, deeply-furrowed
countenance, and that arch smile looked extremely out of place. “No,
sir.” He shook his head gently but emphatically. “No, sir, my young
friend, cutting prices is bad for us. You cut and I cut and what’s
left? Neither of us is making a profit. I’m not in business for
pleasure, and neither are you, I take it. Now, the best thing for both
of us is to come to a sort of friendly agreement. As I said before,
there’s trade enough for us both, and there’s no sense in throwing away
our profits. That’s sense, isn’t it?”

“Perfect sense, Mr. Crocker. But I haven’t been throwing away my
profits, so far as I know, sir.”

“You’ve been selling goods ten, fifteen, twenty per cent under the
usual local prices,” replied Mr. Crocker firmly. “I manage to keep tabs
on what’s going on around me, my friend.”

“I’ve been selling goods at prices that bring me a fair profit, Mr.
Crocker, a profit that I’m satisfied with. Of course, it costs me less
to do business than it costs you, sir, but that’s nothing for me to
worry about.”

The hardware man looked searchingly at Russell and stiffened. “You’ve
been cutting prices to get my trade, young man,” he announced severely.
“I’m here to tell you it’s got to stop. I came in here like a friend,
but I’m going out an enemy if you persist in taking that tone with me.
Don’t think I’ll let you get my business away from me, sir, because I
won’t. It’s been tried before.” Mr. Crocker’s face hardened and his
voice was grim. “Four years ago a fellow opened up right over there,
where Whitson is now. He lasted eight months. Then the sheriff sold him
out. There’s been others, too. You take my advice and think it over.
Why”--Mr. Crocker’s gaze traveled disparagingly over the shelves and
the little show-case--“why, you haven’t enough stock here to run three
weeks if you were getting any business.”

“In that case, why worry, sir?” asked Russell.

“Oh, I’m not worrying! That’s up to you.” Mr. Crocker smiled again, but
the smile was more like a snarl. “You think it over. That’s my advice
to you. You think it over and then drop around to see me about Monday.
There’s no reason why you and I shouldn’t come to an agreement on
prices, Mr. Emerson. I’m willing to come down a little here and there.
I’ll be fair. We can fix it so’s you’ll make a bigger profit than
you’re making now--if you’re making any; which I doubt--and won’t lose
any of your trade. If you don’t decide to be reasonable, why, you’d
better look for another line of business!”

Mr. Crocker settled his hat more squarely on his head, nodded curtly
and went out. When he had gone Russell put out the lights and locked
the door, all very thoughtfully. The thoughtfulness continued while he
strode quickly to State street and thence made his way to the Green
and to Upton Hall. In Number 27 he recounted briefly to Stick the
conversation with Mr. Crocker. Stick was fairly aghast.

“I knew something rotten would happen,” he groaned. “I knew the luck
was too good to hold. Well, I guess there’s only one thing to do.”

“That’s all I see,” agreed Russell as he hurriedly prepared for supper.

“And maybe,” went on Stick, a wee bit more hopefully, “he’s right, Rus.
Maybe we’ll do just as well if we charge a little more for things. I
suppose it is rather cheeky for us to open up almost next door to the
old codger and try to undersell him. In a way, it was fairly decent of
him to give us a warning, wasn’t it?”

“Well, perhaps. But wasn’t it sort of a confession of weakness, Stick?”

“I don’t get you.”

“Why, if he really thinks he can put us out of business, why should he
come and offer us a part of the trade? Why not take it all?”

“I suppose he wanted to be fair,” answered Stick, doubtfully. Then he
started and shot an anxious look at his companion. “Look here, Rus,” he
exclaimed, “you’re--you’re not thinking of acting the fool!”

“Hope not. Depends on what you mean by acting the fool.”

“I mean you’re not going to try to buck him, are you?”

“I guess you could call it that,” answered Russell easily. “At least, I
don’t propose to let Crocker or any one else come and tell me--”

“But you can’t do that!” wailed Stick. “I’m as much interested in that
store as you are--almost, and--and I won’t have it! We can’t afford
to make an enemy of that fellow, Rus. He’ll do just as he told you
and we’ll be broke in a month. There’s no use in being stubborn. Of
course, it isn’t pleasant to have him dictating to us, but he’s got the
whip-hand, now hasn’t he?”

“He may have, but I doubt it.” Russell gave a final pat to his tie and
glanced at the little clock on his chiffonier. “Come on and let’s eat,
Stick. We can talk about this later.”

Stick, however, chose to talk about it all the way to Lawrence and
would have talked about it during supper had Russell given him an
opportunity. But Russell dived into general conversation and left
his partner to silent and moody meditation. Stick was so thoroughly
alarmed that he ate almost nothing; and Stick’s appetite was normally
something to be proud of. Afterwards the subject was returned to and
the two came nearer to a quarrel than they ever had before. Only the
fact that Russell refused to get angry prevented it. Stick pleaded and
begged, argued and, at length, commanded, but Russell was not to be
moved.

“We agreed,” he said firmly, “that, as I had put more money into this
than you had, I was to have the say in such matters as this. And I’ve
thought it over carefully, Stick, and I mean to go right on as we’ve
been going. Look here, now. Suppose we agreed to Crocker’s plan. We
make an agreement with him not to sell goods below a certain price.
He had all the trade before and he will have it all again. He says
there is business enough for both of us. That listens well, but it
isn’t true. Our only chance of making good lies in getting a whole
lot of trade away from him if we can do it. And we’re doing it. And
that’s what’s worrying him. He’s been selling things at a big profit,
just as though the War hadn’t ever stopped, and there’s been no one to
interfere with it. Now we come along and put a fair price on our goods
and, of course, we’re getting customers away from him. Every day some
one comes in and says, ‘Why, Crocker asks fifty cents more than that,’
or sixty cents, or whatever it may be. He realizes that he’s either got
to scare us into an agreement on prices or lower his own prices; yes,
and put better goods in stock, too! He hates to get less than he’s been
getting, and so he tries to frighten us. Well, he can’t do it. We don’t
frighten. As for driving us away, why, he will find that we’re hard to
drive, Stick. He simply can’t do it.”

“That’s all well enough to say,” replied Stick desperately, “but how do
you know he can’t? Suppose he lowers his prices below ours? Then what
happens? Why, folks go to him, of course, and we sit and whistle. And
then the rent comes due and a lot of bills come piling in and--bingo!
good-by, Football!”

“Crocker will have to cut a lot below our prices, Stick, to get any
trade away from us. In the first place, we sell better stuff. You know
that yourself. Then we treat customers a heap better, and we know our
stock. But, if we do begin to slip, we’ll cut prices, too. We can play
that game just as well as he can.”

“No, we can’t! He’s got all sorts of other goods to sell, and we
haven’t. He could run his sporting goods department at a loss for
months and not have to worry!”

“He would worry, just the same,” said Russell, smiling. “I know
Crocker’s sort. He’d worry if a clerk sold a five cent screwdriver at
less than ten! But never mind that. Those P. and F. folks are after
business, Stick. They’re making a hard drive to introduce their goods
here in the east, and, I think, they’re having difficulty. The other
folks are fighting them for every inch. Now if I run over to New York
and tell them that Crocker is cutting prices on rival goods they’ll
stand back of us, I’ll bet. They’ll sell to us at prices that’ll let us
meet Crocker and go him one better.”

“That’s what you think,” sneered Stick. “You always think what you want
to think, Rus. That’s your trouble. You’re too blamed optimistic. I’d
rather hear the P. and F. folks say so before I banked on it!”

“They’ll say so when the time comes,” replied Russell cheerfully. “But
I don’t believe it will come.”

“I know you don’t,” said Stick disgustedly. “But I do! All right, go
ahead in your own stubborn, silly-ass way and ruin us! I’ve said all I
have to say. Except this. I wish to goodness I’d never gone into this
fool thing, and if I could get out of it--”

[Illustration: “I wish to goodness I’d never gone into this fool thing”]

“We’re making pretty fair profits now, Stick,” returned Russell
quietly, “and maybe, later, we can arrange it.”

“Huh!” snorted Stick. “Later! By that time there won’t be anything left
to arrange!”



CHAPTER XVI

ALTON SQUEEZES THROUGH


It was after the Hillsport game that the slump began. The first team
seemed to fairly droop under the shock of that unexpected reverse;
for to be played to a tie by that opponent was virtually no less than
a defeat. Last year, even on Hillsport’s own field, Alton had easily
beaten the other by 14 to 0, and for years past Hillsport had gone down
in defeat, often ingloriously. On this regrettable occasion, however,
the enemy had honestly earned her touchdown by outrushing Alton all
through the first two periods and, finally, by old-fashioned smashing
tactics, pushing across for a score. Had Hillsport possessed a more
adept goal-kicker she might have departed with a victory. Ned Richards’
scurry down the field for Alton’s touchdown in the last moments of the
third period had been a splendid piece of individual brilliancy, and
it had, in a measure, saved the day for the Gray-and-Gold, but there
was no blinking the fact that all of Alton’s efforts to gain through
the Hillsport line had failed and that against a heavy, fast-working,
clever team the Gray-and-Gold had showed up rather miserably. All
this, realized by the onlookers, had not been lost on the players
themselves, and the effect of the knowledge seemed to be paralyzing.
The team promptly passed into what Captain Mart feelingly termed a
“forty below” slump. Coach Cade sweated and scolded and planned and
pleaded, and all through the following week the second pushed and
tossed the big team about the gridiron with an amazing lack of respect.
The second, awaking to the evident fact that the opponent was not,
after all, invulnerable, took revenge for past abuse and aspersion and
bullied and maltreated the first eleven brutally. In this reprehensible
course they were aided and abetted, nay, even encouraged, by one Steve
Gaston. Steve had no mercy, or, at least, showed none. The second
jestingly referred to the daily scrimmage as the “massacre.” “Come
on,” Captain Falls would blithely call. “Let’s go over and finish ’em
up, second!” Now all this was fine for the morale of the second, as
was speedily proved. Success, instead of spoiling them, improved them.
It welded them more firmly together just as, doubtless, a successful
sortie by the Robber Barons of the Rhine in the old days produced an
increased _esprit de corps_. Probably a career of crime, such as the
second was now following, is like that. Anyhow, Steve Gaston secretly
rejoiced as he incited his desperadoes to greater atrocities.

The first didn’t take their drubbings meekly, you may be sure, but they
took them. They took them three times that week. They almost cried
at some of the indignities put upon them by an awakened and merciless
scrub, and they fought back desperately and staged many “come backs”
that never developed, and the School, attracted by the novel, well-nigh
incredible spectacle of a first team being baited and beaten by a
second, flocked to the field of an afternoon as for a Roman holiday.
They didn’t always see the helpless victim devoured by the ravening
lion, for twice the victim forgot his rôle and held the lion at bay,
and once--that was Friday--even sent him cringing back to his lair,
defeated! But in any case the spectators got their money’s worth in
thrills.

It would be nice to be able to say that Russell was the bright
particular star of the second, but he wasn’t anything of the sort.
Russell didn’t aspire to be a star, and maybe he couldn’t have been,
anyway. Besides, Steve Gaston didn’t hold with stars. He discouraged
them as soon as they lifted their heads into sight. His idea of a good
football team was one in which eleven men acted as one man and in which
none stood out above his fellows. Steve’s slogan was “Fight!”

“I don’t care,” he would say, “how much football a fellow knows if he
won’t fight. He’s no use on this team. Football’s fighting, from first
to last. Keep that in mind. The fellow who fights hardest wins. Fight
fair, but _fight_. Some of you chaps act as if you thought you were in
this to let the first slap your face and get away with it. You’re not,
by gumbo! You want to forget that the first team fellows are members of
the same frat! They’re your enemies from the moment the whistle blows,
and your business is to everlastingly whale ’em. Beat the tar out of
’em! Knock the spots off ’em! That’s football. That’s the game. The
harder you use those fellows, the harder they’ll use Kenly. Paste that
in your helmet!”

Russell took Steve’s earnest commands with a grain of salt; wherein
he was wrong, for Steve meant all he said. Russell liked football
and liked to play it hard, just as he liked to do anything else he
attempted, but he retained all through that unprecedented week a
sneaking sympathy for the first. Probably others of his mates did also,
even if they dissembled the fact most successfully. Russell made his
mistake in not thoroughly dissembling, which is why there was a knock
on his door that Friday evening and Coach Gaston entered.

As was his way, Steve got to business at once. “I’ve been watching you
playing pretty closely this last week, Emerson,” he began, settling
into a chair, “and I’m curious. Thought I’d come around and have a
little talk with you. Now, suppose you tell me, first off, just what
you think the matter is.”

“Matter?” echoed Russell. “What is the matter?”

“You tell me,” answered the coach. “I’ve seen fellows who could play
and fellows who couldn’t play--a lot more of the last kind than the
first, you bet!--but it’s sort of out of the ordinary to find a fellow
who can play and doesn’t. Must be a reason, of course, so I thought I’d
ask you.”

Russell looked every bit as puzzled as he felt. “But I don’t get you,
Gaston. Are you--do you mean _me_?”

Gaston nodded. “Of course. You’re the man. If it’s a private matter,
Emerson, and you’d rather not let me in on it--”

“But I _am_ playing, Gaston! I don’t understand what you mean!”

“Yes, you’re _playing_, and I guess that’s the trouble. Maybe some
one’s clipped your claws, eh?”

Russell couldn’t have said whether Gaston’s tone had been sneering or
not, but he flushed as he answered warmly: “If you mean that I’m not
trying my hardest and doing my best--”

“Uh-huh, that’s it,” replied the coach easily. “Why don’t you?”

“But I tell you I am!”

Gaston smiled gently and shook his head. “No, you’re not, Emerson.
Maybe you think you are, but you’re not. You go through the motions
very nicely. You follow the ball as closely as any of the fellows, you
sense plays well and you handle yourself finely. But you always hold
something back, son. I’ve seen it time and again. To-day, for instance,
you let Crocker get around you twice, and you tackled Austen on one
play there as though you thought he was made of glass and might break
in the middle.”

“I stopped him,” protested Russell.

“Sure, you stopped him! But, man alive, don’t you know that he was
carrying the ball? Don’t you know that a smashing hard tackle will
sometimes make the runner drop the ball? I’ve seen a college game won
by the team that tackled the hardest. Sooner or later a runner will get
a jar that’ll send the ball out of his arms. It doesn’t happen often,
but it does happen, and it’s worth counting on, Emerson, for games have
been won before now because of a fumbled ball.”

“But I don’t want to kill any one!”

“Don’t worry about that. Players don’t get hurt by hard tackling,
beyond a bruise or two. It’s because we count on hard tackles and stiff
blows that we train for the game as we do. No fellow who learns to take
a fall the right way gets anything broken. Emerson, you can’t play
football and consider the other fellow’s feelings. Now, as I’ve said,
I’ve watched you, and I like your style, but, by gumbo, son, you’re
not doing yourself justice! And you’re not playing fair by me! You’ve
heard me tell the team over and over that when the game starts those
other chaps aren’t friends of ours, they’re the enemy. And the enemy is
something to lick! I don’t care if the man playing opposite you shares
your room here, Emerson. When you’re playing against him he’s just as
much your foe as if he wore the red K on his sweater! Funny I can’t
drill that into you chaps. I’ve tried hard enough!”

“Seems to me,” said Russell, “that’s carrying it pretty far.”

“No, it isn’t. You think a minute. What are we in business for? To give
practice to the first team, eh? Sure! All right. Now suppose we’re a
poor lot. What’s the result? First gets feeble opposition. She walks
through us, holds us for downs, fools us on plays, out-punts us. She
gets the notion that she’s pretty good and is right pleased and cocky.
Then she runs up against a real team and gets knocked into a cocked
hat. What good’s that?”

“I know all that,” acknowledged Russell, “but we aren’t that bad,
Gaston.”

“Of course not, but don’t you see the point? We’re here to do our
honest, level best, Emerson, to fight hard every minute, to show the
first that she’s just a bunch of mutts, to knock her down and rub her
face in the mud and teach her to fight, _fight_! That’s our part in
licking Kenly next month. That’s our share of the big moment. The
better we are, the better the first will be.”

Russell sighed. “Maybe that’s all true, Gaston, but it doesn’t seem to
me that we have to play like muckers to do our share.”

“Muckers! Gosh, no! But there’s nothing muckerish in playing hard. Hard
playing isn’t dirty playing, Emerson. I’ll chuck any fellow on the
second who plays dirty, and do it before the umpire can open his mouth.
But I want my men to give me everything they’ve got, Emerson. When they
give it to me they’re giving it to the School. Next month you’ll sit
and watch the big team wallop Kenly, and you’ll say to yourself: ‘Some
team that, some team! And I helped build it! I blamed near wore myself
out, and maybe I won’t get the last bandage off before Christmas, but
it was worth it! That’s my team that’s winning, and I taught it how!’
Well, I must be going. There’s a conference at Johnny’s in ten minutes.
Think over what I’ve said, Emerson. Good night.”

And Steve was gone, having wasted no time on ceremony.

Russell did think it over, during the ensuing few minutes before Stick
came in and, later, when the light was out and he was curled up in
bed. He knew that Gaston was right, and before he went to sleep he had
determined that the second team coach should never again have cause to
reproach him for holding back. Maybe Gaston took the whole thing too
seriously, but that was up to Gaston. Russell’s duty was to obey orders.

The first journeyed to New Falmouth the next day and played High
School. New Falmouth was a manufacturing town and the High School bunch
was a very husky aggregation of youths who played the game of football
earnestly and in a manner that doubtless won the warm commendation
of Steve Gaston. It is possible, though, that they sometimes allowed
their enthusiasm to lead them into devious ways, for there was much
penalizing that afternoon and some cautioning, and if further proof
was needed there was Nichols’ ensanguined nose and Mart Proctor’s
extremely discolored eye! The game was lacking in science but not in
interest, for it see-sawed back and forth as the twelve-minute periods
passed and neither the goodly army of Alton supporters or the much
larger assemblage of enthusiastic and strongly prejudiced New Falmouth
cohorts dared predict a victory for its team. At the end of the first
quarter Alton was in the lead, 6 to 0. When the half was done the teams
were tied at 6 to 6. When the third period had passed into history,
the Gray-and-Gold was once more trailing, for again New Falmouth had
scored a touchdown, without, however, adding a goal to it. At the final
tooting of the horn Alton was victorious by the narrow margin of one
point, the complete score being 13 to 12. Mawson, succeeding where Mart
Proctor had previously failed, had added the deciding point amidst the
hostile howls and shrieks of the enemy. After that five minutes more of
play had failed to alter the figures.

Alton had certainly not done herself proud, but she derived some joy
from the victory and returned home with the notion that she had got her
feet back on terra firma once more and that, come Monday, she would
show that second team that it couldn’t bite her and get away with
it! That was the team’s notion. The School wasn’t nearly so set-up,
while Coach Cade, although he kept his own counsel, was not unduly
optimistic. That slump was still hanging around, as the day’s game had
shown, and he didn’t look for an immediate departure. Such maladies as
that which held the Alton football eleven in its grip are mysterious
and difficult to conquer. They must run their course, although that
course may be shortened by skillful handling of the case. Having tried
heroic measures for a week, Coach Cade now decided to try opposite
methods. On Monday there was no work for any of those who had taken
part in the New Falmouth game, and, consequently, no scrimmage with the
second. On Tuesday the work was light, and again there was no meeting
with the scrubs. The latter were chagrined and insulting. The first
didn’t dare face them, they declared. Johnny was afraid to have them
hurt. As a result of such charges there were two mix-ups between first
and second team players, one in the locker-room that was halted this
side of bloodshed, and one which was said to have gone four full rounds
to no decision. The latter was held back of Haylow and witnessed by an
appreciative audience in nearby windows. Neither affair did anything
towards fostering that spirit of forbearance so deplored by Steve
Gaston!

Meanwhile, from Kenly came bright reports of the Cherry-and-Black team,
and Alton Academy settled down into deep pessimism on the subject
of the big game. This, it was clear, was not to be an Alton year.
Youths of literary proclivities wrote indignant letters to the school
weekly--a few of which were published--and wherever two or more were
gathered together the invariable subject of discourse was What’s the
Matter with the Team? In such unsatisfactory way the early season
passed and the Mount Millard game loomed closely ahead.



CHAPTER XVII

STICK CONFIDES HIS TROUBLES


On Wednesday of that week Crocker’s Hardware Store had announced in
the paper a twenty per cent reduction in the price of athletic goods.
Also, as Jimmy had discovered that morning, one window of Crocker’s had
been devoted to a display of football supplies and a general athletic
miscellany. Rather an attractive window it had been, too, although
the dresser had evidently experienced some difficulty in finding
sufficient articles with which to fill it, since he had eked out with
canoe paddles, baseball bats and a lunch hamper. Jimmy had reported the
matter with some concern to Russell and that morning and the mornings
following had spent a large part of his time at the front door prepared
to accost any person looking like a prospective buyer of athletic goods
before he could get as far as Crocker’s. But Russell had not seemed
greatly worried, and events proved that he had had no reason for worry.
If there was no great growth in trade at the Sign of the Football,
neither was there any perceptible falling off; and Jimmy, who kept a
sharp watch on the rival establishment, reported that so far as he
could determine Crocker’s was getting no more custom than usual.

Even with that twenty per cent discount it was doubtful if Crocker’s
prices were yet lower than those of the Sign of the Football, and until
they were Russell saw no reason for lowering his own prices. Stick
spent a miserable week, fearing financial ruin and doing surreptitious
figuring on scraps of paper. Russell was never allowed to see those
figures, but he could guess what they meant. Business was really good
now, and as the days of that week passed without any lessening of it
Stick was almost encouraged to take hope. But it took a great deal to
make Stick optimistic and he was still lugubrious when Saturday came.
Russell sought to cheer him up by displaying figures that represented
the week’s sales and the net profits, but Stick only viewed them
moodily and sniffed.

“Crocker hasn’t started on us yet,” he said.

Russell who had toiled hard and whole-heartedly for the last three days
at the task of teaching football to the first team wanted very much to
see to-day’s game. Nevertheless he would not have asked Stick to take
his place in the store, since it had become understood that on Saturday
afternoons Stick was a gentleman of leisure. But it was Stick who
proposed it. He didn’t care much about football, anyway, he observed,
and if Rus wanted to see the game he, Stick, didn’t mind looking after
business. So Russell thanked him and hurried off at three o’clock in
an effort to reach the field for the kick-off.

An hour later, the Mountain having failed to come to Mohammed, Mohammed
put on his black felt hat, left his store and walked a few doors
southward. Secretly he was incensed, outwardly he was unperturbed and
even genial. His geniality increased when he found the junior partner
instead of the senior presiding behind the counter in the Sign of the
Football. He introduced himself to Stick, and Stick replied warily that
he was glad to meet him, not being anything of the sort.

Mr. Crocker found the junior partner quite a different proposition from
Russell. Stick was uneasy and showed it. There was none of Russell’s
confident defiance about him. Mr. Crocker leaned against the counter
and talked about weather, trade, the Academy and again trade. He
impressed Stick vastly, which was just what he intended to do. Stick
lost some of his discretion and it wasn’t long before the caller was
in possession of the knowledge that Stick regretted his financial
connection with the Sign of the Football, although Stick didn’t say so
in so many words. Mr. Crocker gave it as his frank and disinterested
opinion that there had been a great mistake made when the Sign of the
Football had been opened for business. He quoted figures to Stick,
figures showing that it had never paid Mr. Crocker to carry athletic
goods and never could pay him. There was not, he confided, sufficient
trade in the town. Only the fact that those who came to purchase
athletic goods returned for hardware or related articles sold by Mr.
Crocker induced him to continue in the sporting goods business. That
sounded reasonable and Stick nodded.

Mr. Crocker suggested that being a junior partner wasn’t very
satisfactory, anyhow, since you didn’t have an equal voice in the
conduct of business, and again Stick nodded. Mr. Crocker was fast
proving himself a man of discernment and wisdom. It is an odd fact
that your extremely suspicious person--and that Stick Patterson surely
was--can be readily fooled if the right intelligence undertakes the
job. Look around and see if I’m not right. Stick reversed his opinion
of Mr. Crocker in something under thirty minutes. He no longer thought
him base and designing. On the contrary he saw now that Russell’s
picture of the hardware merchant had been quite out of drawing and
that Mr. Crocker was a kind-meaning, well-intentioned gentleman whose
seeming interference in their affairs was actuated by honest and
sympathetic motives. In short, Mr. Crocker saw from his long experience
the fate awaiting the unfortunate venture of the Sign of the Football
and, having the Golden Rule ever in mind, was doing what he could to
avert it. Having accepted that estimate of the caller and his errand,
Stick became confidential.

Ten minutes later Mr. Crocker, patting his soft hat more firmly on his
head, remarked: “Well, if your partner can’t be made to see the wise
thing there’s nothing I can say or do, Mr. Patterson.” He smiled kindly
and sorrowfully as he moved toward the door.

“I suppose not,” assented Stick gloomily. “Gee, if I could get out of
it--”

“Yes, you might do that,” said Mr. Crocker carelessly.

“Eh?” exclaimed Stick. “How could I?”

Mr. Crocker turned a slightly surprised countenance over his shoulder.
“Why, sell out, of course,” he said.

“Oh!” replied Stick disappointedly. “I’m willing enough but Russell
hasn’t got the money. He says he may have it later, but--”

“I don’t believe,” said Mr. Crocker, pausing and looking thoughtfully
through the door, “that your partner would be willing to give you more
than you put in for your share of the business.”

“I wouldn’t expect him to,” said Stick. “I’d be glad to get my money
back!”

“You ought to do a little better than that,” asserted the man. “In
fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you could sell at quite a neat little
profit, Mr. Patterson.”

“I don’t believe so, sir. By the time Rus gets ready to buy me out
there won’t be any business left, I guess.”

“I agree with you, but why wait so long? Why not sell now?”

“He won’t buy now,” answered Stick, a trifle surprised at Mr. Crocker’s
density.

Mr. Crocker waved a hand carelessly. “Some one else might,” he said.
Stick stared.

“You mean that--that you--”

“Dear me, no,” protested the other. “I wouldn’t touch it for half what
you put in, Mr. Patterson. You see, I know the business. But there may
be others who don’t.”

“I guess there wouldn’t be any one who’d care to buy,” said Stick.
Mr. Crocker, he thought, was a bit visionary for a man seemingly so
hard-headed.

“Possibly not, possibly not,” Mr. Crocker returned. “Still, if I should
hear of any one looking for a small investment of the sort I’ll take
the liberty of letting you know. If it isn’t too much of a secret, Mr.
Patterson, what does your interest here amount to?”

Stick hesitated. The sum was, of course, ridiculously trifling from
the point of view of a person of Mr. Crocker’s wealth. But Stick
finally gave the figures, nevertheless. Mr. Crocker’s brows raised
incredulously.

“But your partner must have put in very much more then!”

“Only about seventy-five more,” denied Stick.

“You mean to tell me you’ve been doing business here on a capital
of something under four hundred dollars?” exclaimed Mr. Crocker.
“Astounding! Ridiculous!”

“It was all we had,” replied Stick defensively.

“H’m. Well, you won’t have so much to lose, anyway,” said the other
cheerfully. “That’s fortunate, eh?”

“A hundred and twenty-five’s a lot more than I want to lose,” answered
Stick earnestly. “If you hear of any one who will pay that much, sir, I
wish you’d let me know.”

“I will, certainly. In fact, Mr. Patterson, I’ll make inquiries.
Perhaps, though, we’d better keep this to ourselves for the present.
For instance, I wouldn’t mention it to your partner just yet. Time
enough when we have a buyer, eh? For that matter, maybe it’ll be just
as well if Mr. Emerson doesn’t learn of my call. Between you and me,
Mr. Patterson, he seems to have taken a--er--well, a dislike to me.”
Mr. Crocker smiled patiently and forgivingly. “He might, you see,
object to losing your interest, which, doubtless, he hopes to acquire
himself when he is quite ready. Perhaps he figures that by spring, say,
the business will be so run down that your interest can be purchased
for less than you’d be willing to let it go for now.” Mr. Crocker shook
his head sadly, in the manner of one who, during a blameless life,
has watched the devious ways of less upright persons. “Well, I’ll be
going,” he continued. “Very glad to have met you, Mr. Patterson, and
to have had this talk. It is always a pleasure to meet a reasonable and
sensible person. Good afternoon.”

After the caller had gone Stick had one or two qualms of doubt. Had
he done right in letting Mr. Crocker so far into the secrets of the
business? Would it be fair to sell out his interest to any one save his
partner? Still, if Rus couldn’t buy, and another could--

Stick had plenty of food for thought during the rest of the day.

Russell watched the Mount Millard game from a comfortable seat in
the grandstand and heroically joined his voice to the voices of some
three hundred and seventy-five others during four hectic periods.
For neighbors he had Stanley Hassell and Bob Coolidge, those young
gentlemen having spied Russell making an eleventh-hour search for a
seat, hailed him and in some mysterious manner wedged him in between
them. No matter how much difficulty Bob Coolidge might experience in
ordinary conversation, when it came to cheering he was all there. There
was no hesitation, no stuttering, and his voice was like unto the voice
of the Bull of Bashan. But had every Altonian there that afternoon
possessed Bob’s vocal powers it is doubtful if the outcome of the game
would have been much different.

Russell saw the enemy hold the home team scoreless throughout the
first quarter, when, with the wind in her favor and all the luck of the
game with her, the Gray-and-Gold struggled valiantly and desperately
to cross the enemy’s goal-line and, twice reaching the fifteen yards,
was halted and turned back. It was in that period that Alton played her
best game, although the fact wasn’t known then. In the second quarter,
with the wind behind her, Mount Millard punted and kept on punting
until, near the end, her chance came. Then Crocker, who seemed to have
definitely won the left end position from Rhame, shooting around the
opposite end of the Alton line with the ball, was met head-on by a
watchful enemy back and in the shock of that collision let go of the
pigskin. When the whistle again piped the pigskin lay twelve yards
nearer the Alton goal and a Mount Millard lineman sprawled protectingly
above it. That was the enemy’s opportunity, for the line-up was on
Alton’s thirty-two yards and the brisk wind was blowing straight toward
the Alton goal-posts. Mount Millard tried two rushes that added four
yards more to her possession and then, amidst a deep silence, sent
her left halfback to kicking position for the third consecutive time.
This time, as friend and foe alike knew, there was no pretense about
it. A minute later the ball had sailed lazily across the bar and Mount
Millard had scored.

But three points seemed as yet nothing to worry about. Stanley
Hassell predicted that after Johnny had got through reading the riot
act in there--nodding backward toward the gymnasium--the home team
would come back and bite large and gory holes in Mount Millard. Bob
Coolidge agreed thoroughly if stutteringly and only Russell remained
pessimistic. Russell had noted the first team’s let-up in that second
period, had seen the signs before and interpreted them correctly as
subsequent events proved. Alton never again during the remaining
twenty-four minutes of actual playing time showed herself dangerous.
The third quarter was all Mount Millard, even if she didn’t score. For
Alton, who had taken a leaf from her opponent’s book and was kicking
on second down, Jimmy Austen performed creditably enough, but what he
managed to gain on his punts the enemy stole away by running back the
ball for ten, fifteen, occasionally twenty yards. The Alton ends were
heavy-footed and slow, tackled the wrong man and, when they had picked
the right one, generally missed him. Rhame went in for Crocker and Lake
for McLeod, but little improvement resulted. In the line Alton at times
seemed half asleep. The men charged high and slow, and on defense it
was only the secondary army that saved the day a dozen times. Mount
Millard paved the way for a touchdown in the final minutes of the third
quarter and secured it soon after the last period had begun. Then a
short forward-pass took the ball to the Gray-and-Gold’s twenty-seven
yards, a long-legged halfback skirted Lake for six and Mount Millard
formed for a try-at-goal. None expected it and it didn’t materialize,
but again Mount Millard edged closer, this time by a full-back sprint.
The enemy made it first down on Alton’s sixteen, and from there,
although Coach Cade threw in almost a new line from end to end, took
the ball over in four plays, the last of which went for three yards
through an utterly demoralized defense.

Mount Millard kicked the goal and made the score 10 to 0, and then set
to work to further humiliate the opponent. And she would have done so,
there is no doubt, if the last trump hadn’t brought the game to an end
just when it did. For Mount Millard was again well inside Alton’s last
defenses and coming hard.

Bob Coolidge remarked sadly as they made their way down the aisle that,
anyway, ten to nothing wasn’t as bad as nineteen to nothing, which had
been the score of last year’s win for the visitor. But neither he nor
his hearers appeared to derive much comfort from the thought!



CHAPTER XVIII

NOT IN THE GAME


Sunday morning at school is always a time of reckoning. On Saturday
events are likely to succeed each other too swiftly to give one time
for reflection or realization, and when bedtime comes sleep arrives
quickly to a tired body. But Sunday is different. There is that added
half-hour of slumber, the later and more leisurely breakfast at which
one eats a little more heartily than on weekday mornings, the following
period of repletion and calm, and, subsequently, a long day interrupted
by few duties. Under such circumstances even the least thoughtful are
given to thought, even to introspection. Yesterday’s events, the events
of the week, present themselves to the mind, pleasurably or otherwise,
insisting on consideration. Even consciences have been known to stir on
Sunday morning!

This particular day of reckoning brought one realization to each and
every fellow at Alton, which was that the football situation was
desperate. Some phrased it one way, some another, but that was what
they meant. The team was variously described as “punk,” “shot full
of holes” and “sunk without trace.” Certain morbid youths took to
figuring the size of the score that Kenly Hall School would roll up
against her helpless opponent. The figures ran all the way from 10 to 0
to 36 to 3. The youth accountable for the latter prediction explained
that 3 by stating that even so implacable an enemy as Kenly would let
Mart Proctor put over a field-goal under such circumstances, seeing
that it was Mart’s last game and everything! But there were many who
felt that the youth in question was unjustifiably optimistic.

How Coach Cade felt about the situation I don’t know. No one did know,
probably, unless, possibly, it was Captain Mart. The coach never wore
his heart on his sleeve, and his sharp dark eyes saw much more than
they told. It was no secret that there was a conference in the coach’s
room that Sunday night that lasted well after ten o’clock, but those
who attended it gave out no news. Rumors, of course, were rife. Mart
Proctor had resigned the captaincy after a falling-out with Johnny.
Coach Cade had resigned after a row with Captain Proctor. They were
going to scrap the first team, all but one or two fellows, and play the
second against Oak Grove and Kenly. Hurry calls had been sent to all
quarters of the East for assistant coaches. Ned Richards and Mart were
at outs because the latter had taken the running of the team away from
Ned in the last quarter yesterday. These were some of the wild rumors
that circulated through the school on Sunday and Monday. There were
others, but they were less sensational, and so less popular.

On Monday, however, things looked much as usual on the field. There
were no cuts allowed, even those who had sustained injuries being out.
The hospital list was also in evidence to a man; Neirsinger, with his
neck swathed in bandages, Nichols with his left shoulder under leather,
Harmon with a right ankle sporting much silk elastic, Smedley looking
sad and pale after a ten-day bout with bronchitis; and one or two
others. But they were all there, and while a few did no more than look
on most of them performed at least some slight labor. There had been
a short but earnest talk in the dressing room before practice and the
members of the team had worn more serious countenances than usual when
they had reached the field.

Contrary to the usual procedure, the second team was called across at
half-past four and lined up against a first eleven consisting largely
of second-string players. They looked easy to the scrubs, and the
latter visioned another jolly massacre, but something went wrong with
their vision. With Coach Cade and Captain Mart driving as mercilessly
as in a mid-week scrimmage, that patched-up first eleven got together
as no first eleven had for a fortnight and gave the scrubs the fight of
their lives.

Russell had no difficulty that afternoon in following Coach Gaston’s
injunction and forgetting that the opponents were Altonians. Butler,
who played left tackle in Proctor’s place, erased all merciful
tendencies from Russell’s mind shortly after the first clash when he
sent a none too heavily padded elbow against the opposing end’s face,
an all-encompassing attention that set his head ringing, almost jarred
his teeth loose and, proceeding further, put his nose temporarily out
of plumb. Of course, it was quite accidental. That is to say, Butler
held no personal animosity toward Russell. He would have done the same
no matter who had been playing scrub end. Perhaps Russell should have
taken that into consideration and felt better about it. But there
wasn’t much time for judicial consideration of anything, and so,
occasionally removing the sanguine evidence with a sleeve, he forgot
that Butler was a school-mate, a neighbor in Upton Hall, a brother
member of the Debating Society and a good fellow generally, and, in
football parlance, proceeded to “smear” him. So successful was he
that Appel soon stopped sending plays at that end--greatly to Wells’
chagrin, a chagrin he didn’t hesitate to voice--and the two deadly
opponents did more glaring than battling. That was a pretty struggle
while it lasted, and it was watched enjoyably by non-combatants and
approvingly by Coach Gaston. When the trouble began again after the
first no-score period and a five-minute breathing spell it was Mart
Proctor who occupied left tackle position on the first and Russell’s
supremacy was at an end. Not that he allowed Mart to walk over him
often, however. Russell played real football that Monday afternoon,
and his deeds were respectfully spoken of afterwards. He and the
passionate-spoken Wells formed on defense an outer guard that turned
back most invasions.

Coach Cade whipped and spurred and the first fought as it hadn’t fought
for two weeks and more. One by one the substitutes were withdrawn
whenever possible and first-string men took their places, and there
was a last whirlwind, breathless five minutes that took the ball half
the length of the field and landed it under the scrub’s goal. There,
spurning half-measures, Ned Richards, who had replaced Appel, sought to
drive across. A field-goal would have been possible, easily possible
from the eighteen-yard line, but a touchdown was still something that
the first was incapable of against a team which, like the scrubs, had
been fed for a fortnight on victory. Coach Cade stormed and thundered,
Captain Mart shouted encouragement, Ned Richards scolded and goaded,
and each time the second team gave back grudgingly, growlingly a scant
yard or two yards. It was fourth down on the thirteen yards, with five
to go, and Ned took matters into his own hands. A fake forward by
Linthicum, standing well back of the line, the ball to Ned instead,
a moment of delay and concealment, and then a lightning dash inside
tackle on the right. It was Goodwin who stopped the runner barely
on the eight yards. There was doubt about the distance and talk of
measuring, but the second team captain pushed the hesitant official
aside.

“Let ’em have it!” he said hoarsely, defiantly. “Sure, they made it!”
He silenced a protest from the red-headed Reilly sharply. “Now let’s
see ’em get over! Come on, Second! Show ’em who we are! They don’t
know they’re up against the _real_ team!” There was insult in that
emphasis, and the first growled angrily. But the second laughed proudly
and exultantly and lined up inside the eight yards and drew in their
breaths deeply. Then came the onslaught once more. Mawson tried to
get through Captain Falls and made less than a yard. Moncks tried the
other guard position and made nothing. The first snapped into a shift
and Linthicum edged back up the field. The second crossed to meet it.
Russell went out and back. The ball passed, was gone from sight. A
sudden massing of the scrubs at the left of center. A muddy helmet was
lifted above the mêlée, was poised there an instant and went back and
down. The scrubs pushed in. A whistle blew.

“Fourth down!” panted the referee. “About ten to go!”

First had lost its scant gain!

Second howled raucous derision, taunted as it dug its cleats again.
But first team had shot its bolt. A field-goal or a forward pass alone
remained to her, and she tried the latter. It was Russell who took
that pass five yards behind his goal-line and under the nose of the
desperate Crocker, and it was Russell who sank gently down on the sward
and, with the ball carefully beneath him, stifled a groan. For the
disappointed Crocker had signified his feelings by a quick, hard blow
to Russell’s already damaged nose.

In the tense excitement of the instant the blow had gone unseen, or
unrealized, by most. But Wells had seen it and Wells acted quickly.
Billy Crocker measured his length beside the goal-post, while first
and second players rushed up, expostulating, threatening, eager for
trouble. For the moment none remembered Russell, and that youth
presently crawled to his feet with the ball, dabbed ineffectually at
his bleeding nose and became aware of the fact that internecine strife
was threatening a few yards away. But the coaches and the managers and
the captains and one or two other exponents of peace dug their way into
the group and begged and commanded and threatened, pushing and shoving
here and there, and war was averted. Above all other voices could be
heard the strident tones of the indignant and blood-thirsty Wells.

“He poked Emerson square in the nose, the dirty bounder! I saw him do
it! Let him come over here and try it on me! Yah, you’d better get him
away, Mart!”

Then Coach Cade and one or two more were questioning Russell and
Russell was shaking his head negatively. “I’m sure it was an accident,”
he asserted. “I’m satisfied.”

“He’s lying!” shouted the irrepressible Wells, struggling between his
captors. “He’s lying!”

So the scrimmage ended.

Russell didn’t go over to the Sign of the Football that afternoon when
he left the gymnasium. Jake had rendered first aid to his swollen and
extremely painful nose, but Russell didn’t quite fancy parading that
disfigured feature in public. Stick appeared slightly peeved when he
got back to the room, but a glimpse of his friend’s countenance seemed
to restore his good humor, or so, at any rate, Russell thought. Stick
received a brief and bald narrative of the affair, voiced as much
sympathy as he ever voiced over the misfortunes of any one but himself
and put the matter aside.

“Kincaid was in this afternoon,” he announced. Mr. Kincaid was the
Physical Instructor. “Wanted prices on a lot of gymnasium stuff;
dumb-bells, eight pairs of clubs, a punching-bag--quite a lot of
things. I brought the list back. Told him we’d let him know to-morrow.”

“But you could have figured the prices easily enough with the
catalogue,” protested Russell troubledly. “He will think we’re a funny
bunch if we have to hold a conference before we quote him prices!”

“That’s all right, but we’ve got to remember that Crocker’s got
everything marked away down, Rus,” replied Stick placatingly. “If we
want to get this sale we’ll have to beat Crocker, I guess.”

“Do you think he went to Crocker’s, too?”

“I don’t know. He didn’t go that way when he left the store, but he may
have been there first.”

“Well, we’ll give him the regular prices with the regular discounts,”
said Russell. “Let’s see the list.”

Stick produced it and Russell ran his eye down the typewritten
memorandum. The list was surprisingly long and represented a very neat
profit for the seller. Russell pulled a pad of paper to him and began
to figure tentatively, appealing to Stick at intervals when memory
failed him. But Stick answered at random and seemed little interested
in what, three weeks ago, would have been a stupendous affair. Russell
wondered. Had Stick informed him of the conversation on Saturday with
Mr. Crocker he might have understood his partner’s indifference, but
Stick had been very careful to make no mention of that.

After supper, a meal somewhat marred by many jocular allusions to his
nose, Russell hurried to West street, avoiding as much as possible the
lighted stretches. Not for several weeks had he been to the store in
the evening, and when, expecting to find the premises dark, he saw a
dim light burning within, his first feeling was of uneasiness. Nor was
his uneasiness lessened when he found the door locked. But once inside
he saw that there was no occasion for alarm. Behind the iron grilling
of the desk sat Mr. Pulsifer, his startled countenance dimly illumined
by the single light.

“Hello,” greeted Russell cheerfully. “I didn’t expect to find you here,
sir, and thought of burglars or something when I saw the light.”

“I--I sometimes come here at night,” answered the florist hesitantly.
“I was--er--looking over my books.”

Russell went back of the counter and found the catalogue he had come
for, all the time aware that Mr. Pulsifer was following him with a
perturbed gaze. Evidently, thought Russell, he was not wanted there,
although it was hard to believe that Mr. Pulsifer’s occupation was so
important as to cause him to resent intrusion. “If,” continued Russell
to himself, “it was me, I’d be mighty glad to have some one come in to
speak to! The old chap looks sort of down on his luck to-night.”

When he had said good night and gone out, locking the door behind him,
his thoughts continued with Mr. Pulsifer. “Queer old codger, anyway,”
he reflected. As a matter of fact, the florist was not really old, but
he did give the impression of being so. “Wouldn’t be surprised if he
went flooey some day and we had to either move or take the whole store.
He can’t be making any sort of a living. Wonder if he has a family
to support. Hope not. They must be starving, for all the money his
business brings in. Well, I don’t wish him any hard luck, but I’d just
as lief have a change of landlord. He sort of gives me the creeps!”

When he got back to the room Stick was gone, but Jimmy was awaiting
him. “Thought I’d drop around and ask after the jolly old proboscis,”
said Jimmy. “How’s it feeling?”

“If,” replied Russell with dignity, “you are referring to my nose,
it is feeling punk. How does it look?” He forgot his dignity and was
frankly anxious. Jimmy viewed it from various angles, his head on one
side. Finally:

“Strange and--ah--quaint,” he answered. “It--it’s sort of spread, isn’t
it?”

“Feels as if it was all over my face,” replied Russell, laughing.
“Well, Jake says it will return to its usual graceful outlines in a day
or two.”

“Possibly,” murmured Jimmy, “possibly, but I can’t conceive it. What
have you got there?” he added, nodding at the catalogue.

Russell explained. “You’re just the fellow I wanted, too, Jimmy. Sit
down over there and give me a hand with this. I’m going to get these
prices to Mr. Kincaid to-night.”

Jimmy sighed as he took the indicated place and accepted the catalogue
from Russell. “I came to tender sympathy,” he said, “and remain to
toil. All right. What’s the first item?”

Twenty minutes later Russell departed for Borden Hall and Mr. Kincaid,
and, left to himself, Jimmy settled down on his spine and picked out in
the catalogue a great many articles that he meant some day to acquire,
a favorite diversion of his in moments of leisure at the store. He knew
that catalogue quite thoroughly now, from end to end, but he still
found it interesting. He had spent something over a hundred dollars,
in imagination, by the time Russell was back, looking very pleased and
satisfied.

“Find him?” asked Jimmy, laying the catalogue down.

Russell nodded. “I guess we get the order, too, Jimmy. He didn’t say
so. Said he would have to consider the prices a bit. But he was awfully
nice and said we deserved encouragement and--and all that.” Russell
thrust his hands in his pockets and beamed down on Jimmy. “There’s more
than forty dollars of clear profit in that bill of goods!”

“Great! Say, do I get a raise of salary?”

“Yes, if we make that sale you get fifteen cents a week.”

“Gosh!” Jimmy was plainly awed. “What’ll I ever do with it?”

They talked over the afternoon’s events then. “You put up a corking
game, Rus,” declared the visitor. “I was watching you and Butler, and
I’ll say that Butler had nothing on you, son. Say, you’re playing lots
better football than you did last year, aren’t you?”

Russell reflected. “Yes, I think I am,” he answered. “Steve Gaston’s
a crackajack coach, Jimmy. He has a way of showing you how to do
things that--oh, I don’t know, but he just says a couple of words
and makes a motion and--and you get him! Yes, I really do think
I’ve improved. Fact is, last year there didn’t seem to be any great
whatyoucallit--incentive to do very much. You know that yourself. We
just went over and let the first team whale us five days a week and
that’s all there was to it. This year it’s lots different. We--”

“I’ll say so! This year you just go over and whale the first! Well,
I’ll acknowledge that you guys have quite a team there. I’ll hand it
to you. Also to Steve. He’s a regular, raging, rampageous tiger these
days. Seems as if he’d like to get us all laid up in the hospital and
then die happy.”

“Steve says the harder we use you fellows the harder you’ll use
Kenly,” said Russell, grinning.

“Yes, and we’re going to use you fellows hard before we get to Kenly,”
answered Jimmy warmly. “Believe me, Rus, there’s some kick in the old
team yet, and in a day or two more you guys will be sorry you took
advantage of our enfeebled condition--”

“Well, who enfeebled you?” laughed Russell. “It was the little old
second that put the skids under you.”

“Nothing of the sort,” answered Jimmy indignantly. “Look at the
hospital list we had!”

“You didn’t have any hospital list until we gave you one!”

“Say, you fellows hate yourselves,” said Jimmy wearily. “Anyway, you’re
due for an awful shock pretty quick!”

“Sooner the better,” replied the other, cheerfully. “Then we’ll know
that all our toil hasn’t been in vain. I don’t mind saying that
teaching football to you mutts is pretty hard work, and I’ll be glad
when it’s over.” Russell felt tenderly of his nose.

“I guess you’ll be looking on to-morrow,” said Jimmy, grinning.

“Oh, I don’t know. This thing will be a lot better by morning. I
wouldn’t wonder if I was back on the job again, giving a few more
pointers to you fellows.”

“Looks to me as if the old pointer was a bit out of commission,” Jimmy
laughed. Then: “Say, Rus, I wish Johnny’d swipe you for our team. I
don’t see why he doesn’t. You’re as good as that wild ass Crocker.
Better, I believe. Or you would be if you were in fast company for a
week or so.”

“Fast company!” groaned Russell. “Oh, my sainted aunt!”

“That’s all right, son. We may be going a little slow just now, but
when we go back into high--watch our dust!”

“Watch you _in_ the dust, you mean,” retorted Russell. “No, thanks,
Jimmy, I get all the excitement that’s good for me now. And unless you
fellows really take a brace in the next week it’s going to be a bigger
thing to have been on this year’s second than on the first!”

“Something in that, too,” acknowledged Jimmy ruefully. “Say, what do
you take it is the matter with us, anyway?”

Russell shrugged and frowned. “Blessed if I know,” he said. “You
started out pretty well and went nicely until you struck Hillsport.
That seemed to take all the starch out of you.”

“That’s right: we’re sort of rough-dried now. Maybe old Johnny can put
the starch back into us, though. I’d hate to finish out here with a
licking by Kenly. I wouldn’t mind if I had another year.”

“I suppose you’ll play in the Kenly game,” said Russell.

Jimmy nodded. “Bound to for a while. Of course, it’s hard luck having
fellows like Harmon and Mawson on the same job, but Harmon won’t last
the game; he plays too hard; and Mawson can’t punt much. Oh, yes,
you’ll doubtless see little James rushed on in the last quarter to pull
the game out of the fire.”

“I wouldn’t mind being in that game,” said Russell reflectively.

“Of course you wouldn’t! Even if you lose you don’t forget that you’ve
been through one of the big hours of your life. Gosh, if something
happened and I didn’t get in I’d just lie down and die, Rus!”

“And if you do get in you’ll probably die just the same, only more
painfully! They say that Kenly’s got a rip-snorting team this year.”

Jimmy shrugged. “They say that every year--until we’ve licked them.
Still, I do think they’re rather better than usual. And that’s sort of
rotten, for we’re about half the team we were last year. Between you
and me, old son, I guess we’re in for a drubbing. It’s against orders
to say that, or even think it, but it’s my honest belief. Oh, well,
we’ll make ’em work for it! And there’ll be some gorgeous and hectic
moments before the old Gray-and-Gold is counted out! Besides, ding bust
it, you can’t always tell, Rus. The under dog has won the battle before
this! Well, see you to-morrow.”



CHAPTER XIX

STICK FINDS A BUYER


The first team worked its way slowly out of the Slough of Despond that
week. Progress was not uninterrupted, to be sure, but it seemed certain
enough. On Tuesday the first took slight revenge on the scrubs, but
on Wednesday it slipped back a little, allowing the second to give a
spirited imitation of its former high-handed methods. Thursday again
saw the first team in the ascendancy and the scrubs got their first
thorough licking in more than three weeks. Perhaps it needed just that
to restore the first’s confidence, for thereafter, while the season
lasted, it never again bowed to its friendly enemy. Russell saw hard
work and took hard blows, but lived very fully those days and enjoyed
life exceedingly. His comrade on his left, Wells, was wrought to new
heights of eloquence daily, eloquence that, as his opponents gathered
speed, failed more and more of effect. By the end of that week Wells
had fairly exhausted his powers of sarcasm and vituperation and had
subsided into an amazed silence that was almost pathetic to observe. He
played on, but it was easily seen that his heart was not in it. Battle
had lost its savor for the right tackle.

Coach Cade chose to devote Friday to smoothing off the angles in
preparation for the Oak Grove Academy contest the next day, and hence
the second, its season almost over, was released from work that day.
Oak Grove was not ordinarily a hard proposition; had, in fact, been
given the date for that reason; but, with the Kenly game a week later,
the time had come for a dress rehearsal. Indeed that time, but for
the slump, would have arrived a week before. Released from practice,
Russell went to the Sign of the Football at three to relieve Stick. He
found the latter busy and the counter fairly crowded with customers
and friends. Russell had long since discovered that it took, on the
average, two and a half boys to conduct a purchase; which is to say
that a customer was usually accompanied by from two to three--sometimes
four--companions whose duty it was to lend advice and counsel. Russell
went to Stick’s aid and half an hour later the last purchaser had
departed and the store was, for the moment, empty of all save the
partners and the ever-present Mr. J. Warren Pulsifer. Stick, free to
return to school, lingered, and Russell guessed that he had something
on his mind. What it was developed after a few moments of desultory
conversation.

“Say,” began Stick, “I suppose you don’t want to buy me out, Rus.”

Russell shook his head slowly. “No, Stick. That is, I’d be glad to do
it, if you wanted me to, but I haven’t got enough money. If I took a
hundred and twenty-five out of the business I’d be in a hole right off.
There’s another month’s rent coming due pretty soon, and three bills
that must be paid by the twentieth. Maybe after the first of the year,
though, I could manage it. Still, I don’t see why you want to get out,
Stick. Things are coming our way at last and we’re doing pretty well.”

Stick nodded gloomily. “I know,” he agreed, “but--but I’ve got another
use for the money.” He avoided Russell’s gaze, however, and the
latter surmised that the statement wasn’t exactly truthful. The true
explanation was indicated by Stick’s next remark. “You think you’ve got
Crocker beaten, Rus, but he’s going to get you yet.”

“I don’t believe so, Stick, honestly. I’m sorry you can’t get out if
you want to, but I don’t believe you’ll lose anything by staying in.”

Stick looked unimpressed during the short silence that followed. At
last: “Well, I’ve made up my mind,” he said a trifle defiantly. “I
can’t afford to lose that money, Rus. Now, I tell you what I’ll do.
I’ll give you until next Wednesday. Maybe you’ll change your mind.
Maybe you can get the money somewhere?” Stick’s voice ended in a rising
inflection.

Russell shook his head. “I can’t, Stick. But I don’t understand, I
guess. Suppose I don’t change my mind by Wednesday. What do you intend
to do?”

Stick hesitated. Then, “Sell out,” he answered challengingly.

Russell stared. “Sell out! But I tell you I can’t-- Oh, I see! You mean
to some one else.” Stick nodded. “I’m afraid you won’t find that very
easy, Stick. Folks wouldn’t consider it a very enticing investment just
now.” Russell smiled a little at his friend’s surprising ignorance, and
Stick caught the smile and bristled.

“That’s all right,” he answered. “Don’t you worry. I’ve found some one
who’ll buy me out to-day if I’ll sell. I just thought I ought to give
you first chance.” Something in Russell’s expression caused him to add
hastily: “I’ve got a right to sell, haven’t I?”

“Yes, I suppose you have,” replied Russell quietly. “At least, I guess
the law would say so, but it seems to me that, in a partnership like
this, selling out to a third person isn’t just fair, Stick.”

“Why isn’t it? I’ve offered to sell to you--”

“You know I can’t buy!”

“That’s not my fault! This thing isn’t going to make money: it’s going
on the rocks just as soon as Crocker starts in to really fight you! I
want to get out while there’s time, and I mean to. If you can’t buy my
interest I’ve got a perfect right to sell it to some one else, and I’m
going to.”

“Who is it, Stick?” asked Russell.

“Fellow named Throgmorton.”

“One of our fellows?”

“Sure.” Stick nodded vigorously. “He came to see me yesterday, and
again to-day. He’s going to give me a hundred and fifty for my share in
the business. I’ll sell to you for a hundred and twenty-five, just what
I put in. That’s fair enough, isn’t it?”

Russell had to acknowledge that it was. “But why does Throgmorton want
to buy you out?” he asked perplexedly.

Stick shrugged. Evidently that didn’t interest him. “He says the
thing’s all right. I let him think so.”

“But how did he learn that you wanted to sell?”

“I guess he heard it somewhere,” answered the other evasively. “Maybe
he didn’t know it. He didn’t say so. He just came to me and asked.”

Russell frowned. “Throgmorton,” he mused. “I don’t believe I know him.
Did he say he knew me, Stick?”

“No, I don’t believe so. He’s all right, though. He’s a senior, Rus;
a big, dark-looking fellow. You’ll know him when you see him. I guess
he would make a good partner. He talks like he knew a good deal about
business.”

“He understands, I suppose, that he isn’t buying an equal interest?”

“Oh, sure! He said you and he would get on all right. Said he had this
money and wanted to make a little more, and thought this was a good
way.” Stick laughed. “I let him keep right on thinking so.”

Russell shook his head. “I don’t understand it,” he murmured. “Fellows
don’t usually have a hundred and fifty dollars lying around loose like
that.”

“I don’t say he’s got it in his pocket,” replied Stick. “Maybe it’s
in the bank. But I guess he can get hold of it all right. He talks
straight, anyway.”

“Well, I wish you wouldn’t do this,” said Russell pleadingly. “Honest,
Stick, we’ll make this go if you’ll hold on. Why, we’ve got a lot of
business in sight right now. We’ve got the hockey and basket ball
teams, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we got the baseball team too. And
then there’s that stuff for Mr. Kincaid. That’s almost certain. And
next fall--”

But Stick was shaking his head stubbornly. “That’s all right, Rus. You
believe all that, maybe, but I don’t. I’ve made up my mind. I’d rather
sell out to you, even if I didn’t make anything, but if you can’t buy,
why, I’m going to sell to Throgmorton. You’ve got until next Wednesday,
anyway. I promised him I’d give him his answer then.”

“You can give him his answer to-morrow just as well,” said Russell
sadly. “Waiting until Wednesday doesn’t help me any.”

“Well, I’d rather,” replied Stick. “I’d feel better about it. You--you
think it over, Rus. Well, I’ll be getting back. I told Wallace I’d play
him some tennis at four. So long!”

Russell didn’t have much time to reflect on this new and sudden turn of
affairs until closing time, for as Stick went his way two high school
fellows entered in search of gymnasium togs, and after that the store
was never quite empty of customers.

Between him and Stick the matter was not again mentioned that evening,
but after supper Russell made his way across to Lykes and found Jimmy
and Stanley in Number 4. It wasn’t until Stanley took himself out
after a while that Russell confided his perplexities, however. Jimmy
took a philosophical view of the situation, although he did refer
disparagingly to Stick as a “quitter.”

“I don’t know this Throgmorton chap,” he said, “but I’ve seen him
about and he looks all right. I think Stan has met him. I believe he’s
rather a shark for study and copped a scholarship last year. After all,
he can’t trouble you much, can he? I mean, you’ve got the say about
things.”

“Y-yes, of course,” Russell agreed hesitatingly.

“Besides,” went on the other cheeringly, “it ought to be a grand relief
to get rid of that crêpe-hanger. Patterson has a conniption fit every
time you suggest buying another dollar’s worth of stock or paying a
quarter to have the window cleaned. He can think up more reasons for
not spending a dime than any fellow I ever saw! If this Throgmorton
chap is willing to invest a hundred and fifty in the business he’s
likely to want to see it succeed. Besides, he’s a senior and will have
more time to put in at the store than Patterson has.”

“Stick’s a senior, too,” reminded Russell.

“I know, but he’s a regular crab when it comes to doing his share.
Honest, Rus, I wouldn’t be surprised if this turned out to be a stroke
of luck.”

“Well, maybe,” agreed Russell doubtfully. “I guess what worried me most
was having some one I don’t know for a partner.”

“Why don’t you go and see him and have a talk?” asked Jimmy. “It
wouldn’t take long to find out what he’s like.”

“I don’t believe I will,” answered the other slowly. “If I didn’t like
him I couldn’t do anything about it. Stick’s set on going through with
it. Gee, I wish I could buy him out myself!”

“Too bad you can’t,” said Jimmy sympathetically. “I suppose when
Throgmorton takes hold I’ll get fired.”

“Not unless you want to be,” said Russell, smiling.

“Well, I guess there’s not much chance of promotion and I’d better give
notice and look about for something else,” replied Jimmy, grinning.
“I’ll help out awhile longer, though. I’ve really had rather a good
time, Rus. I’m sort of sorry dad’s so--that is, I’d kind of like to
keep a store of some sort. It’s fun, Rus.”

“You might buy Mr. J. Warren Pulsifer out,” suggested Russell with a
smile. “I guess he’d be glad to sell to you!”

“Fine idea! Only, you see, he can’t sell.”

“Can’t sell? Why not?”

“Well, it’s quite a story, Rus. He confided it to me one morning almost
with tears in his eyes. You see--”

“You mean to tell me that Mr. Pulsifer _talked_ to you?”

“Of course! Why not? Oh, I see what you mean. Yes, he is inclined to be
a bit taciturn, but he will talk if you prod him. We didn’t mix much
at first, but I treated him kindly and now we’re quite thick. Funny
old guy, but human underneath. You see, Rus, he’s a man with a secret
sorrow.”

“What’s his sorrow?”

“Here’s the yarn. It seems that he had an aunt who ran a sort of a
florist’s establishment in connection with her home. She was fond of
flowers and started in selling them to the neighbors. Then other folks
came--there wasn’t any other florist around then--and so she built a
greenhouse and, first thing she knew, had quite a trade. That was quite
a while back, though, before the town was as big as it is. Of course
she had competition finally and her business sort of petered out. But
she didn’t give up. Instead, she died. And when she died she left the
place, quite a big piece of ground with a nice house on it, to J.
Warren on condition that he continue the business.

“Well, J. Warren, according to what he didn’t say, was on his uppers
about then. He had married and the old sock was full of nothing much
but holes. He had some sort of a job with the railway, he said. So he
moved to the auntcestral home--rather good, what?--and turned himself
into a florist. But folks didn’t come that far any more, for there were
other florists in town here, and pretty soon the business was on its
last legs. J. Warren was willing enough to let it die, for, as he said,
he hated messing around with flowers and didn’t know a--a sunflower
from a violet when he started. But he had a feeling that he wasn’t
carrying out the terms of the will, as the lawyer chaps say, without
making another struggle. So he opened up this place, stopped raising
flowers and bought them instead. By that time he had sold off three
or four pieces of the land for house-lots and, I fancy, had plenty of
money. This place has never paid. He’s lost money every year. He’d like
nothing better than quit, but he’s got an enlarged conscience, you see,
and there’s the will and dear old Auntie’s dying command! What he
really wants to do is go home and shut himself up in a third-floor room
and work on an invention of his; something to do with train signals, as
near as I could make out.”

“Still, I don’t see why he can’t sell the business.”

“Conscience, dear boy. Auntie wanted him to continue the business.
She didn’t say for how long, and there’s the joker. J. Warren dopes
it out that just as long as there’s any business to continue it’s
up to him to continue it. And he plays fair, too. He advertises and
tries to keep the thing going. But he’s set himself a limit. When the
losses reach a certain figure--he didn’t tell me what--he will consider
that he’s done his duty and close up shop. I thought at first, when I
saw him figuring and figuring there at that little desk of his, that
he was worried about business and was trying to make out whether he
could make ends meet. But he wasn’t, Rus. He was figuring how much
longer he’d have to keep things going. Haven’t you ever noticed how he
always frowns and looks dejected if some one comes and wants to buy
anything? Sure! Every purchase sets him back just so much. Every time
there’s a funeral he figures that the time when he can shut himself
up in that third-floor room is delayed another two or three days. You
ought to hear him talk about the doctors in this town! He says they’re
a lot of ‘nincompoops’--whatever that is--and that the mortality
here is disgraceful. And he’s as keen as anything for the bill in
the legislature that makes Armistice Day a state holiday. J. Warren
believes in holidays, lots of ’em. The more holidays the less business,
and the less business the sooner the florist establishment of J. Warren
Pulsifer gets its death blow and J. Warren grabs a screw-driver and a
cold chisel and goes back to inventing!”

“Now,” said Russell, laughing, “I know why he was so funny about
renting that half of the store to us. One moment he’d be all scowls and
the next quite willing!”

“Of course! Auntie pulling one way and the third-floor room another!
Well, you see why it isn’t possible for me to buy him out and become a
florist.”

“Well, I’m glad he isn’t bothered about money,” said Russell. “I was
afraid he was getting ready to jump in the river! He didn’t say how
much longer he expected the business to last, did he?”

“N-no, but I rather gathered that, if all goes well--I should say
badly--he will be free of it in about one more year.”

“Good,” laughed Russell. “Of course, I’m sorry that his business is
doing so well, but I’d hate to have to look for new quarters this year.
Maybe by next we’ll be ready to rent the whole building.”

“That’s so. You ought to. Say, Rus, I wouldn’t be surprised if you
could supply the football team next fall. I was telling Tod Tenney
about you and the shop the other day. Tod will be manager next year,
you know. He was mighty interested and said he didn’t see why they
couldn’t buy their stuff here as well as in New York. Of course, he
didn’t make any promises, and, I suppose, he would have to consult
others about it, but it looks promising.”

“That was mighty kind of you,” said Russell gratefully. “You’ve been
awfully decent to me, Jimmy, lots of ways, and I want you to know--”

“Can it,” said Jimmy.



CHAPTER XX

JIMMY HAS A CLEW


It was a rejuvenated team that met Oak Grove Academy the following
afternoon. I don’t mean that it played faultless football, for it
didn’t, but it had certainly come back wonderfully, and the School,
looking on, marveled and perked up and, toward the end of the game,
regained its old confidence and belief. It might have been argued that
Oak Grove was, after all, not a very strong opponent, but that argument
would have been wasted. Besides, while Oak Grove doubtless did show
herself weak in one or two departments, it was still true that she had
passed through a successful season, sustaining but one defeat, and that
two weeks before she had held Kenly to a 6 to 9 score.

It was the first full-period game of the season, and the sixty minutes
of actual playing time was filled with excitement and, from an Alton
point of view at least, pleasure. From the third or fourth minute of
the contest, when Oak Grove fumbled on her forty yards and watched
Putney gobble up the ball and streak down the field for a touchdown,
to the last twilighted moments when, her back to her goal, Alton, her
line holding many substitutes, repelled the frenzied attacks of the
enemy and finally punted out of danger, the interest never flagged.
Jimmy stood eight yards behind the goal-line when he sent the ball
corkscrewing away into the gathering gloom, and even as it fell into
the anxious hands of the enemy quarter-back the last whistle sounded.
The score at the end was 21 to 6.

Ned Richards gained new fame that day, not by spectacular dashes, but
by the truly remarkable manner in which he ran the team. There were
weak places in the line, there were faults of performance all through,
but the generalship was of the best. Ned was steady in his catching of
punts, too, and once or twice gained ground for his side, but it was as
a commander of men and a strategist that Ned excelled. There were other
heroes beside Ned, though none were really outstanding. Perhaps when
all is said and done Jimmy deserved as much credit as any other player
in the last two periods. He entered the game when the third quarter
was a few minutes old and when, with the game secure by an 18 to 3
score, it was thought best to kick rather than rush. Jimmy surprised
his audience, perhaps even Jimmy, by the length of his punts and the
direction of them. Nothing hurried him or seemed to fluster him. Time
and again the ball escaped the upthrust hands of the charging enemy
by an apparent miracle. But escape it always did. Jimmy had no kicks
blocked.

Harmon, at left half, Browne, at full-back, Nichols, at center, and
Rowlandson, at left guard, played top-notch football. Captain Proctor
was, as always, good, although to-day he was far from at his best. The
Alton ends were not up to the rest of the forwards, and the right of
the line, especially after Raleigh had replaced Stimson at guard, was
decidedly weak. Tackling was not of the best, the team was penalized
far too often and there were times when even Ned’s most frantic efforts
failed to speed up the players. But the old fight was back again, the
old will to win, and that brought victory. And victory brought joy to
the School.

Even in the sudden turn from pessimism to cheerfulness, Alton did
not, however, swing to the extreme. No one, perhaps, yet looked for a
conclusive victory over Kenly Hall next week. Many predicted a tie,
some a triumph by a few points--perhaps a goal after touchdown or even
a goal from the field. But the main thing was that the Gray-and-Gold
had shown that afternoon that, come what might, she was not to be
trampled on; that, victor or vanquished, she would uphold the honor of
Alton and its proud traditions. So the student body took hope, and high
spirits reigned. If Alton was not destined to win, at best the enemy’s
triumph was to be insignificant. That the School should find reason for
rejoicing on so slight an excuse was, when one considered it, strange,
for a preponderance of victories during recent years had endowed Alton
with a perhaps excusable arrogance. A more disinterested philosopher
than any of our characters might have told himself that a defeat for
the Gray-and-Gold would possibly prove an unpalatable but beneficial
medicine!

Naturally enough a certain restraint existed between the roommates in
Number 27 Upton subsequent to Stick Patterson’s ultimatum. In spite
of being quite convinced that he was acting within his rights, Stick
was uncomfortable and showed it by acting in an unusually care-free
and careless manner which fooled neither him nor Russell. On his part,
Russell, recognizing his friend’s privilege of selling his interest
as he had indicated, tried to feel no sense of injury, failed and was
unnaturally polite and awkward in Stick’s presence. It was a relief
to both when either could avail himself of an excuse to get away.
Fortunately for Russell football affairs took precedence over all
else during the next few days. The Best Second Team in the History of
Alton Academy was finishing its career at full steam, and Russell was
steaming with it. Monday and Tuesday saw battles royal between the
first and the scrub. Wednesday’s meeting was less ferocious, since then
the second was used as a battering ram and, given the ball time and
again on the first team’s ten yards, was instructed to carry it over.
That success came but once, and then with the aid of a half-distance
penalty, spoke well for the big team’s reviving defense. Work was
interrupted frequently while coaches explained and corrected, and
under such circumstances the old fury of battle was sadly wanting.
Thursday, though, contrary to established custom, saw one final,
glorious struggle. The second, knowing that it was the last, offered
life and limb and fought as never before. More than once Coach Cade
was forced to intervene and caution in the interest of his charges
and Coach Gaston was obliged, unwillingly it appeared, to echo the
remonstrance. That was a fine and fitting finish for the second, for
although the first scored a touchdown and kicked a field-goal, the
scrub team took the ball away from the enemy on the latter’s forty-two
yards and, growling and snarling, plunged and twisted, battered and
hammered her way across nine almost obliterated white lines and set the
pigskin behind the first team’s goal. That march was epic. Friendship
was forgotten and no mercy was asked nor shown. Behind the retreating,
amazed first team line Coach Cade barked passionate entreaties. In the
wake of the second Steve Gaston, an unholy light of triumph on his lean
face, roared hoarsely.

“Fight! _Fight!_ FIGHT!” urged Steve. “Six yards more! You can do it,
Second! Take it over! It’s your last chance! Don’t quit now! Smash
them! Smear them! Fight, Second.”

To the cries of the coaches were added the panting expostulations,
appeals, commands of the quarterbacks and captains and the hoarse
clamors of the players. Wells, of the second, had found his old
eloquence once more and his voice sounded well above the bedlam. “Yah!
Try that again, you mutton-face! Come on, Second! Tear ’em up! Look
out, you yellow curs, we’re coming through! Yah!”

And then red-headed Reilly was flat on the yellowing sod, his legs in
their torn gray hose inside the field but his body in its sweat-stained
jacket well over and the pigskin nestled beneath him in a grip that
would have resisted wild horses! No goal was kicked, none attempted.
The last scrimmage was over. Friend and foe faced each other, panting,
glaring, growling. A hushed moment passed. Then tense faces relaxed.
The second swarmed together and beat each other’s backs and turned
somersaults with the last ounce of remaining strength, shouted
with what breath was left in their well-nigh empty lungs, and the
first looked on with understanding at least. A few grins made their
appearance, gruesome efforts, maybe, on dirt-marked and sometimes
battered countenances. Then Captain Proctor, leaning heavily on
Rowlandson’s big shoulder, lifted a tired voice.

“Regular ... cheer ... for the ... Second ... fellows!... All together!
Come on!”

And the second, grouping themselves about Captain Falls, came back
heartily, and their season was over, the duties finished, their rest at
hand!

But that was on Thursday, and before it happened other events had
occurred which must be set down here. It was Tuesday night that Jimmy
appeared hurriedly at Number 27 and, since Stick was seated across the
table from Russell, decoyed the latter into the corridor and thence
downstairs to a corner of the recreation room.

“Look here,” he began when they were seated, “there may not be anything
in this, but I thought I’d better tell you. You know that fellow
Throgmorton? Well, I’ve just discovered that he and Billy Crocker are
as thick as thieves. I happened to see them together in the village
this morning. They went into the drug store across the street. Had
drinks, I suppose. Then I asked Stimson this evening at table; he rooms
in the same corridor with Throgmorton; and Stimson says those two are
great pals. Crocker’s at Throgmorton’s room half the time.”

Russell stared blankly. “You mean--”

“Well, what do you think? Here’s this old geezer, Crocker, trying to
put you out of business. Patterson gets an offer for his interest from
Throgmorton. Throgmorton is young Crocker’s pal. Smell a rat?”

Russell nodded. “Still,” he said, “I don’t see--why, even if
Throgmorton bought Stick out--”

“Why, he’d sell to old Crocker again the next minute! Throgmorton
doesn’t want to buy in for himself. I don’t believe he’s got any
hundred and fifty to his name. Billy Crocker has probably arranged
the whole transaction. He picked on Throgmorton because Throgmorton
wouldn’t arouse suspicion and you wouldn’t dream that old man Crocker
was behind him. But Billy made the silly mistake of letting me see them
together; and that got me thinking.”

“I guess you’re right,” agreed Russell dejectedly. “Although even if
Mr. Crocker owns a minority interest he can’t do much damage, can he?
I’ve still got the say about things. I don’t mean that it would be very
pleasant--”

“Wake up, son! How long do you suppose you’d keep on doing business if
old Crocker wanted to close you up? He’d find plenty of ways to put the
store on the blink. No, sir, it won’t do, Rus, and you’ve got to find
some way of fooling ’em.”

“You’re right, Jimmy. Well, I don’t believe that Stick will sell to
Throgmorton when I tell him this. He’s a pretty decent sort, after all.
He will be disappointed--”

Jimmy laughed incredulously. “Why, you silly chump, Stick Patterson
does know! At least, I’m pretty sure he does. I’ll bet he and old
Crocker fixed it up between them.”

“Oh, no, I don’t believe that,” Russell expostulated. “I don’t believe
Stick has ever even spoken with Mr. Crocker.”

Jimmy looked puzzled. “Hasn’t spoken to him? Why, how about that time
when Crocker was in the store? Saturday before last, wasn’t it?”

Russell looked blank. “Saturday? You mean that Mr. Crocker was in our
store and talked to Stick? Are you sure?”

“Of course. J. Warren told me. Said the old guy was there half an hour
or more talking with Patterson. He couldn’t tell what they were talking
about, but he said it looked like something important. I thought of
course Patterson had told you.”

Russell shook his head. “He didn’t say a word about it,” he replied
soberly. He was silent a moment. Then, “I wouldn’t have thought it of
Stick,” he sighed.

“I don’t know that I would,” said Jimmy. “He doesn’t seem quite such a
cut-throat as that. But it certainly looks--”

“Yes, I guess he fixed it up with Mr. Crocker. Well, if he did there
isn’t anything I can do. There’s no use asking him not to sell.”

“Of course not. Now I’ve been mulling it over ever since I talked with
Stimson. What you want to do is buy out Stick yourself.”

“Yes, but I can’t. I don’t dare take enough money out of the bank,
Jimmy. It would leave me flat, and--”

“Wait a sec! What about Patterson? Will he give you until to-morrow
noon, say?”

“Oh, yes, I think so. He said I could have until Wednesday to buy him
out. To-morrow’s Wednesday, isn’t it?”

“Yes, if it doesn’t rain. Now listen. Here’s a proposition. I haven’t
worked it out yet, but-- Look, Rus! You see Patterson right away and
make him agree not to sell until twelve to-morrow. By that time you’ll
have the money.”

“I’ll have the money,” agreed Russell. “Of course. Some one’s going to
die and leave it to me, I suppose.”

“Shut up! I’ll get it for you. Listen, idiot.” Jimmy dropped his voice
another note, although the nearest person was a small boy half the
length of the long room away. “I’ll jump the ten-twenty train to-night.
That’ll get me to New York at twelve-forty. I’ll put up at a hotel and
be downtown at nine in the morning. Dad always gets to his office at
ten past. That’ll give me thirty-six minutes to see him and get the
nine-forty-six back. That gets here at eleven-thirty-three. I’ll take a
carriage--”

“Are you crazy?” interrupted Russell.

Jimmy chuckled. “Not a bit. It’s a cinch. You stall Patterson off until
twelve--”

“But your father isn’t going to let you have a hundred and twenty-five
dollars for a crazy business like this!”

“Oh, yes, he is. He’s a good sort, dad is. I can get a check from him
and make that express easy.”

“But, Jimmy, you’re sick in the head! A hundred and twenty-five dollars
is a lot of money. Even if your father happened to have that much to
spare right now he wouldn’t--”

“Huh?” Jimmy looked surprised. “To spare? Oh, I see.” He grinned then.
“Rus, you don’t happen to know who my dad is, do you?” Russell shook
his head. “He’s Austen of Austen and Cooper.”

“Is he?” asked Russell, unimpressed.

“Oh, gee,” laughed Jimmy, “you’re no New Yorker, are you? Well, Austen
and Cooper are a couple of disgustingly wealthy old men, Rus. That’s
enough for them. Anyway, dad is pretty sure to be able to dig up a
hundred and twenty-five, and he will let me have it, all right, when I
tell him what it’s for.”

“Oh!” said Russell. “But, look here, Jimmy, I couldn’t take a loan of
that size!”

“Why not? Oh, very well, we won’t argue about that. I’ll buy
Patterson’s interest from you as soon as you get it from him. That is
if you don’t object to me as a partner. Of course I wouldn’t be a very
active partner after next June, but we could make some arrangement
that would be fair to you. The main thing now is--”

“But have you got permission to go to New York?” interrupted Russell.

Jimmy grinned and shook his head. “Permission? I couldn’t get it if I
tried, you idiot. And I’ve no notion of trying. No, what I do is just
unostentatiously walk away about half-past nine. No one’s going to
know anything about it. I’ll have to cut chapel and two classes in the
morning, but I’ve been a pretty good boy so far this term and that’ll
be all right. I’ll be around for dinner and no one need know I’ve been
away.”

“I don’t like it,” protested Russell. “Suppose Coach Cade got wind of
it?”

Jimmy sobered perceptibly and then shrugged. “Let’s not be Glooms,” he
said, grinning. “Of course there’s a slight risk, but the end excuses
the means, or whatever the saying is. What time is it now?” He looked
at his watch.

“Never you mind what time it is,” said Russell firmly. “You’re not
going to do it, Jimmy. It’s corking of you to want to, and all that,
and I’m awfully much obliged to you, but you’re staying right here.”

“Nonsense!”

“Yes, you are! Look here, Jimmy. If Mr. Cade ever found out you know
what would happen. You’d be dumped off the team in a minute. No matter
if you were the mainstay of it, the only fellow who could win us a
victory over Kenly, you’d go just the same. You know that. You know
Johnny Cade well enough. Isn’t it so?”

“Possibly, but he isn’t going to know.”

“Yes, he is.”

“How?”

“I shall tell him.”

They eyed each other straightly for a moment. Then:

“You mean that?” asked Jimmy.

“Yes.”

Jimmy shrugged. “All right. That’s that. Only thing left to do is
telegraph.”

“How about telephoning?”

“No good. I thought of that. This is Tuesday and dad will be in town.
I’ll send a wire to the office, but I don’t believe the money will get
here in time. I’ll try it, though. I’ll ask him to telegraph it. Now
let’s see.” Jimmy crossed to a writing table and brought back a sheet
of paper. While he frowned and wrote, erased and rewrote Russell fell
into thought. He didn’t really believe that Jimmy would get the money,
and he sought in his mind for some other way out of the dilemma. He
had said that there would be nothing gained by an appeal to Stick, and
yet perhaps he was wrong. At least, he would try the appeal. In spite
of some faults, Stick had heretofore always acted straight. Russell’s
cogitations were interrupted by Jimmy, who thrust the written message
in a pocket and got to his feet.

“I’ll cut across to the telegraph office and get this off,” Jimmy
announced. “Come along?”

Russell shook his head. “I guess not. I think I’ll have a talk with
Stick.”

“We-ell, all right. Going to the cheer meeting?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“See you in the morning, anyway. Don’t forget to get Patterson to hold
off until twelve to-morrow; later, if he’s willing. And keep your head
up, Rus. We’ll pull it off all right.”



CHAPTER XXI

STICK SELLS OUT


Stick Patterson was drawing meaningless lines and figures on a sheet of
paper when Russell opened the door, and he didn’t cease doing it nor
relapse from his preoccupied attitude until Russell had drawn his chair
nearer the end of the table, from where he could see his companion
without having to dodge the lamp, and seated himself. Then Stick looked
across gloomily.

“I want to talk about--about this,” announced Russell.

Stick returned his level gaze a moment and then tossed the pencil he
had held aside and thrust his hands into the pockets of his coat. “So
do I,” he replied with a tone of relief. “Look here, Rus, I’ve been
thinking about it, and I guess I’ve been wrong. I don’t believe it
would be fair to you to sell out to some other chap. You and he might
not get on together the way we do. I’ve decided to stick it out. Maybe
later you’ll have the money. Anyway, I’ll stay with you to the end of
the school year, or as long as we hold out. Even if we do bust, maybe
we’ll save something.”

“That’s fine, Stick,” replied Russell gratefully. “And it’s very decent
of you. You have a perfect right to sell, of course, but if you did it
would put me out of business, I guess.”

“I don’t see why, Rus. Anyway, I’m not going--”

“Because Mr. Crocker would see to it, Stick. You don’t really believe
that he has any idea of keeping both businesses going?”

“What’s Crocker got to do with it?” asked Stick.

“A whole lot if he owned your interest.”

“But he wouldn’t.” Stick looked genuinely puzzled. “This fellow
Throgmorton--”

“Stick,” interrupted Russell, “did Mr. Crocker stop in at the store a
week ago last Saturday?”

“What? Why, yes, he did. I didn’t say anything about it because--well,
he didn’t want me to, and--Oh, well, I know I ought to have told
you, but he said he thought he might find some one who would buy my
interest, and that you’d better not know about it until it was settled.
It was sort of low-down, Rus, and I’m sorry.”

“Crocker didn’t offer to buy himself, then?”

“Crocker? No, he said he wouldn’t take it at any price. Of course I
wouldn’t have sold to him, anyway.”

“Then you really thought that Throgmorton wanted your interest for
himself?”

Stick stared. “Of course! Didn’t he? Look here, you don’t mean--”

“He and Billy Crocker, Mr. Crocker’s son, are together a lot,”
answered Russell. “And Mr. Crocker would like to see our place closed
up. I can’t prove it, but--”

“You don’t need to!” cried Stick angrily. “Of course that was the game!
You wait until I see that smart Aleck! I’ll--I’ll tell him where he
gets off! I’ll kick him across the Green! I’ll--”

“I wouldn’t say anything about it,” said Russell soothingly. “He only
has to deny it. You can’t prove anything, Stick.”

“That’s all right! I don’t need to do any proving!” Stick, as has been
already intimated, greatly disliked having anything “put over on him.”
“The fat-head! I thought it was funny, his wanting to buy into the
business. Why--” Stick paused and dropped his voice several tones. “I
say, Rus, I didn’t suspect that for a minute. I wish you’d believe me.
I know it looks funny. But honest--”

“That’s all right,” replied Russell. “I believe you, Stick. I couldn’t
quite believe that you meant to do anything like that.”

“But wasn’t I the goop?” muttered Stick incredulously. “Never thought
that that old shifty-eyed rascal was trying to pull my leg! He was so
thunderingly nice and--and sympathetic! You wait till I see the old
fraud! You wait--”

“Never mind that,” laughed Russell. “After all, the laugh’s on your
side, Stick, for you’ve got them fooled. When you tell Throgmorton
you’ve changed your mind--hold on, though! How can you get out of it?
You gave him your promise, didn’t you?”

“I said he could have it if you didn’t take it by to-morrow,” answered
Stick, “but he didn’t tell me he was buying to sell again to Crocker!
He can chase himself now!”

“Still, a promise is a promise,” mused Russell.

“I’ll tell him you’ve bought it. No, I guess that wouldn’t do, either.”
Stick scowled perplexedly. “I’ll tell you--”

“It’s barely possible I may be able to get the money by twelve
to-morrow,” Russell cut in. He told about Jimmy’s plan and Stick
listened impatiently until the end. Then:

“Austen can’t have it,” he declared vehemently. “No one can have it!
I’m going to keep it myself, and we’re going to show that old pirate
of a Crocker that he can’t run us out of business! But I will do this,
Rus. I’ll take your note now for a hundred and twenty-five dollars and
you can have my interest until noon to-morrow. Then we trade back.
Here’s a piece of paper.”

“What shall I write?” asked Russell.

“‘One month after date I promise to pay to George Patterson One Hundred
and Twenty-five Dollars with interest at six per cent.’ Now date it and
sign your name.”

“But is it legal, Stick?”

“I guess so. It’s legal enough for me, anyway. I’ve sold out to you
and I can tell Throgmorton so without lying. That’s all I want.”

“I forgot to tell you,” said Russell as Stick folded the piece of paper
and thrust it into the drawer on his side of the table, “that there’s
a pretty fair chance of our selling to the football team next fall.”
He recounted Jimmy’s talk with Tod Tenney. “There’s nothing certain,”
he ended, “but I’m going to speak to Mr. Cade some day before he goes
away, and--”

“Of course we’ll get it!” put in Stick almost impatiently. “We’ll work
for it until we do! Rus, when we get through with old man Crocker he’ll
be selling hardware and nothing else, believe me!”

“All right,” laughed Russell. “Now do you want to go over to the
football mass meeting?”

The next morning appeared Jimmy with a tragic countenance. His father’s
secretary had wired him that Mr. Austen was in Boston and would not
be back until to-morrow. “He says,” wailed Jimmy, “that he will bring
the matter to father’s attention immediately on his return, the crazy
galoot, but what good will that do? It wouldn’t have hurt him to have
used his bean and sent the money!”

Russell soothed him with news of Stick’s new attitude, and Jimmy glowed
with delight. Then he chuckled. “I’d like to be there when Patterson
talks to Throgmorton,” he said wistfully.

“Well, there won’t be any bloodshed,” replied Russell. “Stick usually
calms down before the battle begins! And Throgmorton, you tell me, is
fairly sizable.”

Jimmy grinned. “That’s so. I guess Patterson is too wise to start
anything he can’t finish. Well, I’m awfully glad it’s turned out so
well. I’m sort of sorry, though, that I’m not to get a finger in the
pie after all. I believe you and I, Rus, could have made the Sign of
the Football pay real money.”

“Yes, Jimmy, I guess we could have, but it’s going to pay real money as
it is, I think, for Stick’s as stubborn as a mule, and now that he’s
decided to work instead of growl I believe we’ll make a success of it.”

“Hope so,” said Jimmy. “You’ve got my best wishes, old son, if they’ll
do you any good. By the way, I’m glad you kept me from making a useless
trip to New York last night. Wouldn’t I have been sore when I got to
the office this morning and found dad wasn’t there? Still, I’ll bet I’d
have dug that money out of some one before I left! Well, so long, Rus.
Come over to-night and tell me what happens.”

Not very much did happen. Stick kept his engagement with Throgmorton
at the latter’s room and found Billy Crocker with him. The money was
there, too, seven nice new twenties and a ten. There was, too, a very
official looking paper awaiting Stick’s signature, and Billy Crocker
explained his presence by stating that he was there as a witness. Stick
took the money and counted it slowly, prolonging the agony, as he put
it later to Russell. Then he laid it down and shook his head.

“Anything wrong with it?” demanded Billy.

“No, it looks all right,” replied Stick. “May be counterfeit, but I
can’t tell.”

“Not likely,” said Throgmorton, who was a large and rather
heavy-mannered youth of nineteen. “Put it in your pocket, Patterson,
and sign on the dotted line.”

Stick shook his head and smiled gently. “No, I just dropped around to
tell you that the deal is off.”

“Off!” shouted Billy Crocker. “What do you mean, off?”

“Why, just off; not on,” explained Stick patiently. “O, double-F, off.
Meaning nothing doing, Crocker.”

“Why?” asked Throgmorton darkly.

“Emerson bought,” replied Stick.

“That’s a lie,” cried Billy. “See here, you agreed to sell to us--”

“‘Us’?” Stick’s brows went up.

“To Throg, here,” corrected Billy. “Now you’re welching, and--”

“But, my dear fellow,” protested Stick, thoroughly enjoying the other’s
disappointment, “how can I sell what I haven’t got? Be reasonable.”

“Oh, shut up!” wailed Billy. “You make me sick!”

“Sorry. Don’t see what business it is of yours, though. If you must
witness something, Crocker, I’ll sign my name on my cuff for you. Well,
I must be getting on. By the way, you might try Emerson. Maybe he’ll
sell to you. Seems to me he ought to be glad to get into partnership
with a fine, straightforward man like your father!”

Stick left them staring at him, looking, as he said to Russell, like
two sick cat-fish! And that ended that affair for the time and Russell
heaved a big sigh of relief. Fortunately he didn’t know then that Billy
Crocker was quite as averse as was Stick Patterson to having anything
put over on him, and that, unlike Stick, he didn’t forgive readily.

Thursday saw the end of the season for the second team, as has been
told, and Thursday night witnessed the second team’s annual banquet
in Ford’s Restaurant, in the town. Twenty-two battle-scarred but very
contented youths ate their fill and sang and cheered and listened to
speeches, of which that delivered by Coach Steve Gaston, while the
briefest was the best. Steve told them a lot of nice things about their
playing and their devotion to the School, and he told them, and with
convincing emphasis, that what he had planned and hoped for had come
true, that he was standing at that moment in the presence of the finest
second team in the annals of Alton football! At which the roof of the
building must have raised an inch before the cheering ceased!

They sang their last song at a quarter past ten and tumbled noisily
and hilariously down the stairs to the street and out into the frosty
sharpness of a starlit night and swung unhurriedly back to the Academy,
very happy and very proud and, now that the excitement was over,
deliciously tired. Near the end of the walk Russell found himself
beside Steve Gaston. Steve had taken his season’s task seriously and,
in a way, he had taken the celebration seriously. But now he had
relapsed into a smiling and rather silent content, and it was not until
they were crossing the Green that he made any lengthy remark. Then:

“Emerson, you certainly worked hard for me--well, for us, for the
School. It’s hard to be impersonal always. And, for my part, I thank
you. I needed you like the very dickens when I dug you out that time,
and by making good the way you did you just about saved me. You’ve
got another year, haven’t you? I thought so. Well, let me tell you
something. You may know it already, but I don’t believe you do. Next
fall you walk out on the field and tell the coach that you’re going to
play right end. You’ll get it!”

Russell pondered that on his way upstairs. Of course Steve Gaston ought
to know, but it did seem to him that the coach had let his judgment
slip for once! Further cogitation on the subject was denied him just
then, for as soon as he had stepped into Number 27 he knew that
something startling had happened. Stick’s face was enough. Stick had
thrown the door open at the sound of Russell’s steps in the corridor
and now he was asking excitedly:

“Have you heard about it, Rus?”

“No! What?”

“Some one broke into the store to-night and beat up Mr. Pulsifer! They
got him, too. That is, one of him; there were two. I’ve just come back
from there. The police won’t tell who the fellow is, but every one says
it’s Billy Crocker!”



CHAPTER XXII

MR. PULSIFER SHAKES HIS HEAD


It was well along toward the middle of the following morning before
Russell had learned definitely what had happened at Number 112 West
street. Stick’s account had been exciting but vague. He had, however,
assured Russell that he had personally made an examination of the
premises and found everything all right, after learning which Russell
had been able to compose himself to slumber with the determination to
await philosophically the full explanation of the surprising event.
Not that he had sought sleep very early, for Stick, in spite of
small knowledge, had had much to say, and his theories had prolonged
conversation well toward midnight. In fact, Stick was still theorizing
when Russell dropped asleep.

When he did learn the particulars it was from the still agitated lips
of Mr. J. Warren Pulsifer. The two met in the police station, whither
they had been summoned, and on a bench in the outer room waited to be
conducted into the presence of the Chief. Shorn of unnecessary details
and repetitions, the facts were these. Mr. Pulsifer had gone to the
store after supper last evening and had remained there until nearly
ten o’clock. He had then put out the light, locked the door behind
him and reached the corner of Linden street, where the post office is
situated. There he annoyingly discovered that he had failed to bring
away with him two letters which he had early in the evening prepared
for the mail. As it was necessary that they should be delivered in
the city early in the morning, he had thereupon retraced his steps,
entered the store and, without troubling to light up, groped his way to
his desk and found the letters. He had again started toward the front
of the store when sounds at the rear had attracted his suspicion. The
sounds resembled the straining of a window sash, as though some one was
forcing it upward with a jimmy.

Mr. Pulsifer had promptly made his way silently to the window at the
left of the rear door. Sounds outside told him that burglars were
at work. What his emotions were at the moment Mr. Pulsifer didn’t
state. It is to his credit, though, that he quickly seized the nearest
available weapon, which happened to be a broom reposing in a corner,
and prepared to repel the marauders. He had barely got into position
when the window sash went up and he dimly saw some one swing across the
sill. What happened then was still doubtful so far as Mr. Pulsifer’s
memory was concerned. He recalled raising a loud shout of “_Police!_”
and of swinging the broom lustily. He recalled, less distinctly, the
crash that resulted when the broom, evidently missing the intruder,
struck the window glass. Then a surprising number of stars shot into
his vision and when he next took cognizance of events he was being
supported by a policeman, the store was dazzlingly illuminated and a
second policeman stood by with a firm grasp on the prisoner.

Mr. Pulsifer had a dreadful headache and a swelling under his right
eye, but after being given a drink of water was able to recount what
had happened. Fortunately, one of the officers had been crossing the
mouth of the alley on State street when the sound of breaking glass
had reached him. He had run toward the scene in time to see a figure
speeding away in the opposite direction, had shouted to it to stop and
was raising his revolver to fire when a second figure had collided with
him at the gate of the rear premises. The officer had been obliged to
use the butt of his revolver to make his capture, for the prisoner had
strongly objected to being detained. Mr. Pulsifer, having been assisted
from the floor, observed that the prisoner, who was hardly more than
a boy, although a very robust boy, looked extremely pale and that he
was holding a handkerchief to the side of his head. Mr. Pulsifer was
uncharitable enough to hope that the prisoner’s head was aching was
much as his was!

After that they had proceeded in a compact body to the station house,
accompanied by an ever-growing body of curious spectators. Inside,
the prisoner had, after several hesitations, given his name as William
Crocker and his residence as 43 Munroe avenue. Mr. Pulsifer had duly
made a charge against the prisoner and then been conveyed in a taxicab
to his home.

After some minutes of waiting Russell and his companion were summoned
into the Chief’s office. The latter did most of the talking. He had,
he informed them, got a confession from the boy. What had appeared
last evening as an attempt at burglary turned out to be no more than
a very silly school-boy prank. Of course, the Chief wasn’t excusing
young Crocker, but, on the other hand, Mr. Pulsifer of course knew
what boys were! The offender was a boy of excellent character, the son
of one of Alton’s prominent merchants and respected citizens and of
a hitherto stainless record. Young Crocker had earnestly disclaimed
having intended any theft or damage, and the Chief believed him. Now,
then, did Mr. Pulsifer think that any good would be done by prosecuting
the charge already made?

Mr. Pulsifer felt of his cheek, blinked a few times and shook his
head. The Chief smiled his approbation. Of course, he continued, if
Mr. Pulsifer felt that he had a claim for personal injury doubtless
that matter could be arranged easily and without publicity. The Chief
bore heavily on the last word. Mr. Pulsifer started to feel of his
cheek, thought better of it and again shook his head. The Chief looked
relieved and arose from his arm-chair, intimating that the consultation
was at an end and implying that Mr. Pulsifer had acted in exactly
the way he--the Chief--had expected a gentleman of his wisdom and
kindliness to act. It was Russell, who so far had said nothing, who, in
a way of speaking, spoiled the finale.

“I’d like to ask,” said Russell, “what Crocker intended to do when he
got inside the store.”

The Chief turned a displeased look on him. “Nothing at all, I
understand, nothing at all. They--that is, he had no plan. It
was merely a foolish prank, conceived hurriedly and carried out
without--er--without reflection.”

“There were two of them in it, I think?” asked Russell.

“Two of them? Possibly, possibly.” The Chief frowned darkly. “Only one
was apprehended, Mr. Emerson. As he refuses to state whether he had
an accomp--a companion, that is, we are left in doubt. And since Mr.
Pulsifer has decided not to prosecute the matter is of no importance.
You are not, I think,” added the speaker suggestively, “the lessee of
the premises?”

“No, but I sub-rent half the store, and--”

“Nothing has been stolen or damaged?”

“Not so far as I know,” acknowledged Russell.

“Of course not! Very well then!” The Chief was once more affable and
was herding them toward the door. “Thank you for your visit, Mr.
Pulsifer. The matter will be allowed to drop, and so, of course, I
trust that neither you nor Mr. Emerson will discuss it with others. I
have the boy’s promise, and his father’s, that nothing of the kind will
happen again. Good morning!”

Saying good-by to the florist, Russell hurried back to school and an
eleven o’clock recitation. At twelve he mounted to Number 27 and found
Stick anxiously awaiting his account of the interview. Russell told
what had happened, and Stick snorted. “Ha, that’s old man Crocker,”
he said. “I suppose he’s got enough influence to get Billy off if he
committed murder! J. Warren’s a spineless shrimp, if you ask me. Didn’t
intend any mischief! Oh, no, not a bit! If J. Warren hadn’t been there
those two would have put the place on the blink, I’ll bet! Maybe they
wouldn’t have swiped anything: I don’t believe they meant to: but
they’d have ruined a lot of our stock.”

“Do you think the other fellow was Throgmorton, Stick?”

“Sure! Why not? Billy was mad because he couldn’t get my share in the
business and he made up his mind to get square. Throgmorton’s a chunk
of cheese, if you ask me, and Billy probably made him think it was just
a sort of lark. Well, Crocker got a crack on the head and a couple of
hours in jail, and he ought to be satisfied!” Stick’s expression became
more mollified. “I guess we might as well be satisfied, too, Rus. The
laugh’s on our side, all right. Billy’s in bad with faculty, you see,
and out of football-- Gee, that reminds me!”

Stick stepped to the table and rummaged amongst the litter.

“Out of football!” exclaimed Russell. “Gee, that’s tough, Stick!”

“Tough?” Stick laughed unfeelingly. “I don’t see it. Where the dickens
is that-- Oh, here it is! That crazy guy Johnson left this a few
minutes ago.”

Russell took the folded sheet of paper and read the hastily scrawled
words amazedly.

    “Emerson: Report at training table at twelve-thirty.
                                              HY. JOHNSON, Mgr.”



CHAPTER XXIII

A MEMBER OF THE TEAM


Afterwards Russell believed that he didn’t get his breath again until,
at ten o’clock that night, he put the light out and crawled into his
bed. Things had happened swiftly after the reading of that note from
the first team manager. There had been dinner at the training table in
the corner of the dining hall, a dinner of which Russell ate little.
His appearance had evoked only few greetings and had been accepted
in a surprisingly matter-of-fact fashion. Coach Cade was absent from
table and it had been Johnson who had indicated his chair and briefly
explained matters, talking across Rowlandson in an aside that probably
reached the entire table.

“Crocker’s out of the game to-morrow, Emerson,” said Johnson, “and
we’re shy an end. Wouldn’t be surprised if you had a shot at the enemy
before the game’s over.”

“I’d be surprised if he didn’t,” growled Rowlandson, entering without
apology into the conversation. “Seen you play, Emerson. You’re good.
Pass the beets, some one.”

“Well, anyway, you be out at two-thirty this afternoon,” went on the
manager.

“I’ve got a class at two,” said Russell.

“That’s all right. They’ve allowed cuts to-day.”

Jimmy came over from the other table where the substitutes sat while
Russell was still toying with a large helping of tapioca pudding and
sank into the chair at Russell’s left, recently vacated by Longstreth.
“Hail, hail, the gang’s all here!” whispered Jimmy joyously. “Welcome
to the Brotherhood of Hard Boiled Eggs, Rus! Say, accept it from yours
truly, this is great! When did they nab you? What happened to Crocker?
I heard he was out on bail and the old man had shipped him to South
America.”

The afternoon was a hectic nightmare for Russell. He went through a
slow but grueling signal practice with the third squad, conducted about
the second team gridiron by Neirsinger, made innumerable mistakes, was
scolded bitterly by all hands--who couldn’t, it seemed, make allowance
for one who, only a few hours ago, had been a complete stranger to
first team methods--and passed a very miserable, blundering forty
minutes. Followed some throwing and catching with seven other youths,
and here Russell regained a measure of his self-respect. Coach Cade had
a good word for him as he came back to the bench, and Russell held up
his head again. At a quarter to four they went back to the gymnasium
and took possession of the floor, driving out a few thin-limbed young
gentlemen who had been performing aerial feats on the rings. The doors
were locked, benches were dragged noisily from the walls, the big
blackboard was pushed out under the light and Mr. Cade, chalk in one
hand and pointer in another, began to talk. Russell was pulled onto a
bench between Jimmy and Harley McLeod. They seemed anxious to make him
feel at home, and he was grateful. The chalk made dots and rings and
figures and lines on the board and Mr. Cade’s voice went on and on.
Russell tried to understand, but he found his mind and gaze wandering.
Before him, his broad shoulders rounded as he sat hands between legs,
was Paul Nichols, the center. Beside him on the right was Ned Richards,
two-thirds his size, his scarred hands clasped behind his tousled
head. Harmon, Alton’s best half-back in several years, came next. And
then Putney and Stimson and Butler. Captain Proctor was at Russell’s
left, further along the roughly curving row, with Browne, whose big,
long legs stretched far under the bench before him. Russell couldn’t
believe yet that he was really there, that he was one of this silent
congregation of the school’s elect. A member of the Alton Football
Team! Maybe he would wake up presently and find that he was dreaming!

He did wake up, but not with that result. Mr. Cade, noting his
wandering glance, had shot a question at him. “Emerson, what’s the
count on this play?” demanded the coach sharply.

Russell, startled, shook his head miserably. “I--I don’t know, sir,” he
said.

“And you never will if you don’t listen! Kindly give me your attention
now.”

After that Russell managed to concentrate his gaze and his mind and
began to understand. Presently they were up, eleven of them, walking
slowly through a play. Twice this was done. Then: “All right,” said
the coach. “Now speed it!” A confused mingling of bodies and a rush
half-way down the long floor followed. Then eleven more players went
through the same antics, and, finally, eleven more. Then back to the
benches, and the coach went on. The shadows deepened under the balcony
and the white light from the windows and skylight no longer reflected
from the shiny floor. Manager Johnson switched the electricity on. The
clock at the end of the hall indicated twenty minutes to six. Mr. Cade
tossed down the fragment of chalk and dusted his hands.

“That’s all,” he said. “Eight o’clock promptly, please.”

They filed out and down the stairs to showers and street clothes. At
six they began to assemble again at the table for supper. To-night Mr.
Cade was in his place at the end of the board and conversation was
general and cheerful and laughter frequent. Some of the sixteen fellows
who lined both sides of the long table didn’t laugh; some scarcely
talked; and Russell was of the latter number. He was feeling strangely
apprehensive. To-morrow he might--indeed, if he was to believe some,
undoubtedly would--be called on to play against Kenly Hall, and the
realization was decidedly unnerving. Going up against the first team
was one thing; that held no terrors; but facing the school enemy, the
redoubtable wearers of the Cherry-and-Black, gave him a sort of sick
feeling in his stomach. There were periods when he longed for his
erstwhile obscurity with all his heart!

There was an hour or longer of respite after supper, but it didn’t help
Russell much to regain his courage and peace of mind. The school talked
football incessantly. No other subject was for the moment acknowledged
to exist. Long before it was time for him to accompany Jimmy to the
gymnasium the fellows were flocking to the Assembly Hall for the
final cheer meeting. Football songs sounded on all sides. Fellows who
couldn’t sing them, whistled. They just wouldn’t let you forget for a
minute, thought Russell resentfully.

Back in the gymnasium, Mr. Cade and the blackboard came again into
action, but now there was a veritable “quiz,” and the players were
called on to answer questions that, as it seemed to the new member of
the team, might have floored the inventor of football himself! Signal
practice once more followed, several plays were again run through and
then “Johnny” put aside his pedagogic manner, pushed the blackboard
aside and talked to them very quietly for ten minutes during which
time a dropping pin would have caused a stampede of alarm. What he
said doesn’t matter. Coaches all say pretty much the same thing all
over this broad land on the eve of the big battle. But “Johnny” got it
across, and grave faces looked back at him and told him things that
tongues couldn’t have put in words. And then there was a sudden silence
broken at last by Captain Mart.

“Three cheers for Mr. Cade, fellows!” cried Mart passionately. “Come
on! _Come on!_” Then there was a cheer for Alton, and they went out
rather silently and sought their rooms. Overhead a star-pricked sky
promised a fair day for the supreme test. Russell fell asleep at last
just after midnight had sounded.

Russell was not late for chapel the next morning only because Stick, in
spite of all protests and pleas, pulled him bodily from bed. The bell
was ringing as they went tumbling down the stairs and they reached the
goal just as the final stroke sounded. Doctor McPherson, as was his
yearly custom, added to the prayer an intercession for the football
team. “For those of us who do contend this day in manly sport we pray
thy countenance. If in thy sight they be deserving, give them, O Lord,
strength of soul and of body that they may attain their goal.”

Breakfast was a melancholy meal, for under the pretense of merriment
and nonchalance lay dubiety and dread. To Russell it seemed that he
had awakened to a Roman holiday for which he was cast in the rôle of
the Christian Martyr. After breakfast, with a long two hours ahead of
them, he and Jimmy walked over to the Sign of the Football. Stick was
already busy, for trade was brisk to-day, and promised to be brisker.
The counter was fairly piled with pennants of Alton and Kenly colors,
with small gray-and-gold megaphones and with arm-bands of the rival
hues. Russell took his place behind the counter with his partner and
managed to forget for a short time the impending fate. But after he had
made the wrong change twice he decided to let Stick manage alone. Jimmy
had gone to the back of the store where Mr. J. Warren Pulsifer seemed
unusually busy and unusually cheerful. Out on the street again, Jimmy
chuckled and, in reply to Russell’s unspoken question, said:

“Well, J. Warren’s got his release, and the old boy’s as happy as a
lark!”

“His release?” echoed the other.

“Yes, he’s going out of business, Rus. Packing up right now. Monday
you’ll have the place to yourself.”

“But, how--why--”

“That’s what I wanted to know,” chuckled Jimmy. “Well, J. Warren says
that what happened Thursday night settled it. Says he thought it all
over carefully and decided that Aunt Mary--or whatever her name
was--wouldn’t want him to continue the business after it had become
dangerous. Aunt Mary, he says, was very tender-hearted, and he knows
that she wouldn’t approve of his getting beaten up merely to keep to
the terms of the will. It sounds sort of weak to me, but he’s perfectly
satisfied with his reasoning, and he’s the doctor! Funny, isn’t it?”

Russell laughed for the first time that day. “Funny? I should say so!”
Then he sobered suddenly. “Look here, though, Jimmy, that puts the
whole place on us! What about the rent?”

“Well, J. Warren’s lease isn’t up until the first of the year, so you
fellows will have six weeks, nearly, to look around. But if it was me,
I’d take the whole premises, Rus.”

Russell was thoughtfully silent for several minutes. Then he nodded
resolutely. “That’s what we’ll do, Jimmy,” he declared. “Something
tells me that the Sign of the Football is going to be a success. Of
course, it will mean nearly twice as much rent, and we’ll have to sign
a lease for a whole year, but--still--”

“Nothing venture, nothing have,” said Jimmy gayly. “The store’s going
to be a winner, Rus. Accept that from yours truly. You’ve tied the can
to old Crocker, and he won’t trouble you again, I’ll bet. From now on
you’ll have clear sailing, old son. Such is the prediction of James W.
Austen. The W, Rus, stands for Wisdom!”



CHAPTER XXIV

“WE’VE WON!”


For nearly an hour Russell had sat, blanketed, tense of nerves, on the
narrow bench on the Alton side of the field and watched the fortunes
of battle. There had been no scoring. Twice Kenly’s red-stockinged
warriors had threatened the home team’s goal, once trying a drop-kick
from an almost hopeless distance and once piling up on the twenty-three
yards for three downs and no gain and then hurling a hit-or-miss
forward pass that, fortunately for the defenders, had missed! Once
Alton had rushed as far as Kenly’s eighteen yards where an off-side
play had spoiled her chance of scoring. A desperate fake kick, with
Harmon taking the pigskin around left end, had lost the ball on the
nineteen. For the rest of the time the two teams had edged back and
forth across the almost obliterated fifty-yard line, rushing, passing,
punting, playing somewhat ragged football to be sure, but playing it
very desperately.

Now the Gray-and-Gold was back in the gymnasium, sore and battle-scarred;
weary, too, but not knowing it. And the minutes were ticking away fast
toward the second half. Manager Johnson, watch in hand, pale-faced and
as nervous as a wet hen, walked a sentry beat between the door and the
benches. Coach Cade had said his say, and he and Captain Proctor and Ned
Richards were conferring soberly together.

“Time’s about up, Coach!” called Johnson.

The group of three broke up. The coach nodded to the manager and then
held up his hand. “Same line-up,” he announced, “except Longstreth at
right half and Emerson at right end. All right! You know what to do,
fellows! Let’s get them this time!”

There was a cheer, hoarse, deafening, and then they crowded eagerly
about the door, pushing and shoving good-naturedly, laughing, pranking,
until, outside, they waited for Mart Proctor to take the lead. Then
they trotted back to the gridiron, while the long Alton cheer broke
forth from the stand.

Russell, keeping close beside Jimmy, tugged his sleeve. “Jimmy,” he
asked with dry lips, “Jimmy, did he say me at right end?”

Jimmy turned and laughed at sight of Russell’s face. “Yes, you lucky
dog! For the love of Pete, don’t look like that, Rus! What’s the
matter?” Jimmy knew, but pretended he didn’t. Russell grinned crookedly
and wet his lips with his tongue.

“I--I’m scared!” he croaked.

“Fine stuff! Hand it on! I’ll be with you pretty soon, son, and we’ll
show those red-legs how to play football!”

During the first half of the game McLeod had played left end and Lake
right. Harley had showed himself just as much at home on the left of
the line as in his accustomed position, but Lake, first substitute, had
not equaled him. Lake had been boxed far too often, and, once, when he
had missed a tackle almost under Kenly’s goal, the Cherry-and-Black’s
quarter had dodged his way along the side line to the forty yards
before he had been pulled down by Richards. Coach Cade had determined
to try a new right end for the third quarter. Perhaps when the fourth
period began Lake would go back again. Meanwhile new blood might help.

Kenly kicked off and Longstreth captured the short kick and was brought
down with no gain. From the twenty-eight yards Alton began her journey.
Kenly’s line from guard to guard was impregnable. That had been already
proved. Her tackles, too, were clever and not easily fooled. In short,
gains through the Kenly line were few and far between, and Alton had
recourse now to end runs and occasional forward passes. Russell’s
stage-fright lasted through two plays. Then he forgot to be scared,
forgot everything but his overmastering desire to serve and win. After
all, this was not greatly different from playing against the first.
Those red-legged, red-sleeved opponents seemed no more in earnest than
the old opponents and played no more desperately. The big, square-jawed
tackle who faced him at times was no more formidable than Mart Proctor
had been. In fact, Russell began to think that Mart was the better of
the two, especially after Ned Richards, with a cunningly concealed
ball, whizzed inside the big tackle for four yards.

Like the first half, the second proved the teams too evenly weighted
and skilled for long gains by either side. Two yards, three, two yards
again, and then a punt. Sometimes one or the other managed an end
run that brought a larger gain, but neither team made first down by
straight rushing until the third quarter was almost done. Then Kenly
worked a criss-cross of a pattern as old as the hills and got seven
yards through Stimson, placing the pigskin on Alton’s thirty-eight. Yet
two minutes later the Gray-and-Gold was again in possession and Ned
Richards’ voice was chanting his shrill signals.

Back and forth across the middle of the field went the ball. Penalties
for off-side were many. There were a few for holding. Each team
suffered about equally from these. The quarter came finally to an end
and the rivals drew away and the ball was taken across the field and
deposited close to the forty-five-yard line. Raleigh and Mawson trotted
on, then Linthicum. But Lake did not come back. It didn’t occur to
Russell to give consideration to this fact. The whistle blew again and
the lines once more tensed. On the stands the prospect of a no-score
game was already a favorite topic of discussion. The teams were too
well matched for anything short of a miracle to break the dead-lock.
Alton accepted the likelihood with better grace than Kenly, for Alton,
until a few days since, had looked for defeat, and anything short of
that was to be accepted with thanksgiving. Kenly, however, knowing of
her ancient rival’s long-continued slump and realizing her own powers,
had come to Alton looking not only for victory but a decisive and
glorious one. Of the two forces it was Kenly Hall who saw the time
shortening and the game drawing to an inconclusive end with the less
satisfaction.

Once, soon after the last period started, Ned Richards brought the
Alton stand to its feet with a thirty-yard run that, for one ecstatic
moment seemed to spell a touchdown. But he was spilled on Kenly’s
twenty-four, and, although Alton chanted lustily for a score, two
rushes made no headway, a forward-pass grounded and Linthicum’s effort
at a drop-kick was a sad performance. Coach Cade began on his reserves
then, and from that moment new men appeared at short intervals. Jimmy
joined soon after the period started, and afterwards came Cravath and
Johnston and Smedley and still others.

Russell had long since proved Coach Cade’s wisdom. Harley McLeod was no
more fleet of foot under kicks than Russell, nor were there more gains
at Russell’s end of the line than at the other. At tackling Russell
showed himself earnest and certain, and no Kenly back, having caught
the booted ball, moved after Russell’s arms had clutched him. He was
streaked of face, sore of muscles, lame of leg, but gloriously happy.

Kenly was becoming almost hysterical now in her mad efforts to score.
Forward-passes that were on the face of them forlorn hopes sailed
through the air. Twice the Cherry-and-Black almost made them good,
but once Captain Proctor saved the day and once it was Russell who at
the last moment shouldered the expectant catcher aside. Alton tried
her best to win, but she indulged in no risky plays. To keep the ball
and get a back away inside or outside tackle was now her only hope
until she could reach a point inside the enemy’s thirty yards. Once
there, she would try a field-goal. But the backs couldn’t get away, at
least, not far. Kenly watched Harmon, and subsequently Mawson, as a cat
watches a mouse. So, as through the former periods, the ball remained
well inside the two thirty-five-yard lines and, so far as scoring was
concerned, the game was already evidently at an end.

The time-keeper announced four minutes, then two. The stands were
emptying. Kenly, who had risked all on her first-string men until now,
began to hurl new warriors into her army. Every other moment the pauses
were prolonged by the appearances of hurrying, eager substitutes. The
shadows were deepening about the field and over on the Alton stand the
hundreds of voices were singing the spirited pæan that is reserved for
victory. The ball was on Alton’s forty-six yards and it was the third
down. Linthicum took the pass from Richards and hurled himself at right
tackle for one scant yard. It was fourth down and five to go now. Jimmy
stepped back slowly, held forth his hands. Four times he had punted far
and true, but this time it was to be different. Cries of “Hold ’em,
Alton!” and cries of “Get through, Kenly! Block this kick!” broke forth
hoarsely. Then the lines swayed, were torn into fragments. A Kenly
forward hurled himself high in air and met the kicked ball against his
helmet. The pigskin bounded back up the field toward the Alton goal.
Half a dozen players tried for it and missed. Then, in the blue haze of
twilight, the watchers saw a figure detach itself from the mêlée and
cut across toward the side line. Shouts of warning, of joy, of despair
floated up from the field. The scattered forms there, like hounds on
the track of the fox, sped helter-skelter after the fleeing player. Now
he was blocked, now he had broken free again! Past midfield he went,
heading in again toward the center of the trampled expanse. Friend
and foe were about him and his flight seemed ended a dozen times.
Yet always, by a sudden turn, a wrenching to left or right, a quick
thrust of a straight arm, he managed to break away. Now he was out
of the confusion, the field was trailing astern. He was passing the
thirty-five yards under flying feet. Between him and the nearing goal
no enemy lurked, for Kenly’s quarter had been drawn out of position
by the blocked kick. But that quarter was in hot pursuit a half-dozen
strides behind. Back of him the rest of the players were strung out for
many yards.

The fox faltered once near the twenty, and the nearer hound lessened
the intervening space, but a third actor had joined them now. Close
to the fifteen yards he made his final desperate effort. Drawing even
with the red-legged pursuer, he launched himself sidewise. Together
the two went down and rolled over, and the fox ran free! Another white
line passed under his feet, and another. Bedlam had broken loose on
the Alton stand and that last faint streak was crossed to the wild
exultation of victory! And having crossed the line, Russell set the
ball down and set himself down beside it. Then he closed his eyes while
the nearer goal-post swayed like the mast of a vessel in a heavy sea!

It was Jimmy who reached him first, Jimmy who, panting and exhausted,
threw an arm about his shoulders and rubbed streaming eyes against a
dirty sleeve. “Oh, Rus!” muttered Jimmy. “Bless your heart, son! We’ve
won! Do you get it, Rus? We’ve won the old ball game!”


THE END



Football and Baseball Stories


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aviator. He says, “During my five years in the army I performed
nearly every sort of flying duty--instructor, test pilot, bombing,
photographing pilot, etc., in every variety of ship, from tiny scout
planes to the gigantic three-motored Italian Caproni.”

Not only has this author had many experiences as a flyer; a list of his
activities while knocking around the country includes postal clerk,
hobo, actor, writer, mutton chop salesman, preacher, roughneck in the
oil fields, newspaper man, flyer, scenario writer in Hollywood and
synthetic clown with the Sells Floto Circus. Having lived an active,
daring life, and possessing a gift for good story telling, he is well
qualified to write these adventures of a red-blooded dare-devil young
American who became one of the country’s greatest flyers.

  REX LEE; GYPSY FLYER
  REX LEE; ON THE BORDER PATROL
  REX LEE; RANGER OF THE SKY
  REX LEE; SKY TRAILER
  REX LEE; ACE OF THE AIR MAIL
  REX LEE; NIGHT FLYER
  REX LEE’S MYSTERIOUS FLIGHT
  REX LEE; ROUGH RIDER OF THE AIR


GROSSET & DUNLAP, _Publishers_, NEW YORK



THE WESTY MARTIN BOOKS

By PERCY KEESE FITZHUGH

Author of the “Tom Slade” and “Roy Blakeley” Books, Etc.

=Illustrated. Every Volume Complete in Itself.=


Westy Martin, known to every friend of Roy Blakeley, appears as the
hero of these adventures. As a scout in Bridgeboro and Temple Camp he
has learned the rudiments of scoutcraft. Now as an Eagle scout you can
follow him along new trails and among new adventures. How he became the
companion of an old trapper on a trip into the heart of the Rockies,
how he followed an old Indian trail, how he explored the vast spaces of
the old Sante Fe Trail, and later was plunged into the dramatic events
of the Mississippi flood, is told in these stories teeming with action
and thrills.

  WESTY MARTIN
  WESTY MARTIN IN THE YELLOWSTONE
  WESTY MARTIN IN THE ROCKIES
  WESTY MARTIN ON THE SANTE FE TRAIL
  WESTY MARTIN ON THE OLD INDIAN TRAIL
  WESTY MARTIN IN THE LAND OF THE PURPLE SAGE
  WESTY MARTIN ON THE MISSISSIPPI


GROSSET & DUNLAP, Publishers, NEW YORK



BOOKS BY LEO EDWARDS

=Illustrated. Every Volume Complete in Itself.=


Hundreds of thousands of boys who laughed until their sides ached over
the weird and wonderful adventures of Jerry Todd and his gang demanded
that Leo Edwards, the author, give them more books with belt-bursting
laughs and creepy shivers. So he took Poppy Ott, Jerry Todd’s bosom
chum and created the Poppy Ott series. Now there are two more
series, The Andy Blake and the Trigger Berg--and if such a thing is
possible--they are even more full of fun and excitement than the Jerry
Todds.


THE JERRY TODD BOOKS

  JERRY TODD AND THE WHISPERING MUMMY
  JERRY TODD AND THE ROSE COLORED CAT
  JERRY TODD AND THE OAK ISLAND TREASURE
  JERRY TODD AND THE WALTZING HEN
  JERRY TODD AND THE TALKING FROG
  JERRY TODD AND THE PURRING EGG
  JERRY TODD IN THE WHISPERING CAVE
  JERRY TODD, PIRATE
  JERRY TODD AND THE BOB-TAILED ELEPHANT
  JERRY TODD EDITOR-IN-GRIEF


THE POPPY OTT BOOKS

  POPPY OTT AND THE STUTTERING PARROT
  POPPY OTT AND THE SEVEN LEAGUE STILTS
  POPPY OTT AND THE GALLOPING SNAIL
  POPPY OTT’S PEDIGREED PICKLES
  POPPY OTT AND THE FRECKLED GOLDFISH
  POPPY OTT AND THE TITTERING TOTEM


THE ANDY BLAKE BOOKS

  ANDY BLAKE
  ANDY BLAKE’S COMET COASTER
  ANDY BLAKE’S SECRET SERVICE
  ANDY BLAKE AND THE POT OF GOLD


THE TRIGGER BERG BOOKS

  TRIGGER BERG AND THE TREASURE TREE
  TRIGGER BERG AND THE 700 MOUSETRAPS


GROSSET & DUNLAP, _Publishers_, NEW YORK



THE PEE-WEE HARRIS BOOKS

By PERCY KEESE FITZHUGH

Author of “Tom Slade,” “Roy Blakeley,” “Westy Martin,” Etc.

=Illustrated. Every Volume Complete in Itself.=


All readers of the Tom Slade and the Roy Blakeley books are acquainted
with Pee-wee Harris. These stories record the true facts concerning his
size (what there is of it) and his heroism (such as it is), his voice,
his clothes, his appetite, his friends, his enemies, his victims.
Together with the thrilling narrative of how he foiled, baffled,
circumvented and triumphed over everything and everybody (except where
he failed) and how even when he failed he succeeded. The whole recorded
in a series of screams and told with neither muffler nor cut-out.

  PEE-WEE HARRIS
  PEE-WEE HARRIS ON THE TRAIL
  PEE-WEE HARRIS IN CAMP
  PEE-WEE HARRIS IN LUCK
  PEE-WEE HARRIS ADRIFT
  PEE-WEE HARRIS F. O. B. BRIDGEBORO
  PEE-WEE HARRIS: FIXER
  PEE-WEE HARRIS: AS GOOD AS HIS WORD
  PEE-WEE HARRIS: MAYOR FOR A DAY
  PEE-WEE HARRIS AND THE SUNKEN TREASURE
  PEE-WEE HARRIS ON THE BRINY DEEP
  PEE-WEE HARRIS IN DARKEST AFRICA
  PEE-WEE HARRIS TURNS DETECTIVE


GROSSET & DUNLAP, _Publishers_, NEW YORK



 Transcriber’s Notes:

 --Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_); text in
   bold by “equal” signs (=bold=).

 --Except for the frontispiece, illustrations have been moved to
   follow the text that they illustrate, so the page number of the
   illustration may not match the page number in the Illustrations.

 --Punctuation and spelling inaccuracies were silently corrected.

 --Archaic and variable spelling has been preserved.

 --Variations in hyphenation and compound words have been preserved.

 --The Author’s em-dash style has been retained.





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