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Title: Right Guard Grant
Author: Barbour, Ralph Henry
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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RIGHT GUARD GRANT


      *      *      *      *      *      *

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
RIGHT GUARD GRANT

      *      *      *      *      *      *


[Illustration: Then it was that Leonard had his great moment]


RIGHT GUARD GRANT

by

RALPH HENRY BARBOUR

Author of
Left End Edwards,
Full-Back Foster,
Right End Emerson, etc.

Illustrated by Leslie Crump



[Illustration]

Grosset & Dunlap
Publishers      New York

Made in the United States of America

Copyright, 1923,
By Dodd, Mead and Company, Inc.

Printed in the U. S. A.



CONTENTS

 CHAPTER                                       PAGE
      I CAPTAIN AND COACH                         1
     II TWO IN A TAXI                            12
    III ENTER MR. ELDRED CHICHESTER STAPLES      25
     IV LEONARD GETS PROMOTION                   35
      V THE BOY ON THE PORCH                     49
     VI THE SEASON BEGINS                        61
    VII JUST ONE OF THE SUBS                     74
   VIII A STRANGE RESEMBLANCE                    91
     IX LEONARD MAKES A TACKLE                  102
      X THE SECOND TEAM COMES OVER              111
     XI ALTON SEEKS REVENGE                     122
    XII VICTORY HARD WON                        137
   XIII AN EVENING CALL                         147
    XIV MR. CADE MAKES AN ENTRY                 159
     XV A TIP FROM MCGRATH                      171
    XVI FIRST TRICK TO THE ENEMY                187
   XVII SLIM RETREATS                           198
  XVIII LEONARD COMES TO THE PARTY              208
    XIX NOT ELIGIBLE                            219
     XX RIGHT GUARD GRANT                       233
    XXI RENNEKER EXPLAINS                       245
   XXII BEFORE THE BATTLE                       260
  XXIII “FIFTY-FIFTY!”                          276



ILLUSTRATIONS


  Then it was that Leonard had his great moment      _Frontispiece_

                                                              PAGE
  There was another half-hour for each squad with the
    tackling dummies                                            62

  “That wouldn’t be playing the game,” he answered             210

  On the same play he got one more                             282



RIGHT GUARD GRANT



CHAPTER I

CAPTAIN AND COACH


Although the store had reopened for business only that morning several
customers had already been in and out, and when the doorway was
again darkened momentarily Russell Emerson looked up from his task
of marking football trousers with merely perfunctory interest. Then,
however, since the advancing figure, silhouetted flatly against the hot
September sunlight of the wide-open door, looked familiar, he eased his
long legs over the edge of the counter and strode to meet it.

“Hello, Cap!” greeted the visitor. The voice was unmistakable, and, now
that the speaker had left the sunlight glare behind him, so too was the
perspiring countenance.

“Mr. Cade!” exclaimed Russell. “Mighty glad to see you, sir. When did
you get in?”

Coach Cade lifted himself to the counter and fanned himself with a
faded straw hat. “About two hours ago. Unpacked, had a bath and here I
am. By jove, Emerson, but it’s hot!”

“Is it?”

“‘Is it?’” mimicked the other. “Don’t you know it is?” Then he laughed.
“Guess I was a fool to get out of that bath tub, but I wanted to have
a chat with you, and I’m due at Doctor McPherson’s this evening.” He
stopped fanning his reddened face and tossed his hat atop a pile of
brown canvas trousers beside him. “Johnny” Cade was short of stature,
large-faced and broad in a compact way. In age he was still under
thirty. He had a pleasantly mild voice that was at startling variance
with his square, fighting chin, his sharp eyes and the mop of very
black and bristle-like hair that always reminded Russell of a shoe
brush. The mild voice continued after a moment, while the sharp eyes
roamed up and down the premises. “Got things fixed up here pretty
nicely,” he observed commendingly. “Looks as businesslike as any
sporting goods store I know. Branched out, too, haven’t you?” He nodded
across to where three bicycles, brave in blue-and-tan and red-and-white
enamel, leaned.

“Yes,” answered Russell. “We thought we might try those. They’re just
samples. ‘Stick’ hasn’t recovered from the shock of my daring yet.”
Russell laughed softly. “Stick’s nothing if not conservative, you
know.”

“Stick? Oh, yes, that’s Patterson, your partner here.” Mr. Cade’s
glance swept the spaces back of the counters.

“He’s over at the express office trying to trace some goods that ought
to have shown up three days ago,” explained Russell. “How have you been
this summer, sir?”

“Me? Oh, fine. Been working pretty hard, though.” The coach’s mind
seemed not to be on his words, however, and he added: “Say, that
blue-and-yellow wheel over there is certainly a corker. We didn’t have
them as fine as that when I was a kid.” He got down and walked across
to examine the bicycle. Russell followed.

“It is good-looking, isn’t it? Better let me sell you one of those,
sir. Ought to come in mighty handy following the squads around the
field!”

Coach Cade grinned as he leaned the wheel back in its place with
evident regret. “Gee, I suppose I’d break my silly neck if I tried to
ride one of those things now. I haven’t been on one of them for ten
years. Sort of wish I were that much younger, though, and could run
around on that, Cap!”

“You’d pick it up quickly enough,” said Russell as he again perched
himself on the counter. “Riding a bicycle’s like skating, Mr. Cade: it
comes back to you.”

“Yes, I dare say,” replied the other dryly. “Much the same way, I
guess. Last time I tried to skate I nearly killed myself. What are you
trying to do? Get a new football coach here?”

Russell laughed. “Nothing like that, sir. What we need isn’t a new
coach, I guess, but a new team.”

“H’m, yes, that’s pretty near so. I was looking over the list this
morning on the train and, well--” He shrugged his broad shoulders.
“Looks like building from the ground up, eh?”

“Only three left who played against Kenly.”

“Three or four. Still, we have got some good material in sight, Cap.
I wouldn’t wonder if we had a team before the season’s over.” The
coach’s eyes twinkled, and Russell smiled in response. He had a very
nice smile, a smile that lighted the quiet brown eyes and deepened the
two creases leading from the corners of a firm mouth to the sides of
a short nose. Russell Emerson was eighteen, a senior at Alton Academy
this year and, as may have been surmised, captain of the football team.

“Seen any of the crowd lately?” asked the coach.

“No. I ran across ‘Slim’ once in August. He was on a sailboat trying to
get up the Hudson; he and three other chaps. I don’t think they ever
made it.”

“Just loafing, I suppose,” sighed the coach. “I dare say not one of
them has seen a football since spring practice ended.”

“Well, I don’t believe Slim had one with him,” chuckled Russell. “I
guess I ought to confess that I haven’t done very much practicing
myself, sir. I was working most of the time. Dad has a store, and he
rather looks to me to give him a hand in summer.”

“You don’t need practice the way some of the others do,” said Mr. Cade.
“Well, we’ll see. By the way, we’re getting that fellow Renneker, from
Castle City High.”

“Renneker? Gordon Renneker you mean?” asked Russell in surprise.

Mr. Cade nodded. “That’s the fellow. A corking good lineman, Cap. Made
the Eastern All-Scholastic last year and the year before that. Played
guard last season. If he’s half the papers say he is he ought to fill
in mighty well in Stimson’s place.”

“How did we happen to get him?” asked Russell interestedly.

“Oh, it’s all straight, if that’s what you’re hinting at,” was the
answer. “You know I don’t like ‘jumpers.’ They’re too plaguy hard to
handle, generally. Besides, there’s the ethics of the thing. No, we’re
getting Renneker honestly. Seems that he and Cravath are acquainted,
and Cravath went after him. Landed him, too, it seems. Cravath wrote
me in July that Renneker would be along this fall, and just to make
sure I dropped a line to Wharton, and Wharton wrote back that Renneker
had registered. So I guess it’s certain enough.”

“Well, that’s great,” said Russell. “I remember reading about Gordon
Renneker lots of times. If we have him on one side of Jim Newton and
Smedley on the other, sir, we’ll have a pretty good center trio for a
start.”

“Newton? Well, yes, perhaps. There’s Garrick, too, you know, Cap.”

“Of course, but I thought Jim--”

“He looks good, but I never like to place them until I’ve seen them
work, Emerson. Place them seriously I mean. Of course, you have to make
up a team on paper just to amuse yourself. Here’s one I set down this
morning. I’ll bet you, though, that there won’t be half of them where
I’ve got them now when the season’s three weeks old!”

Russell took the list and read it: “Gurley, Butler, Smedley, Garrick,
Renneker, Wilde, Emerson, Carpenter, Goodwin, Kendall, Greenwood.”
He smiled. “I see you’ve got me down, sir. You’re dead wrong in two
places, though.”

“Only two? Which two? Oh, yes, center. What other?”

“Well, I like ‘Red’ Reilly instead of, say, Kendall. And I’ll bet
you’ll see Slim playing one end or the other before long.”

Mr. Cade accepted the paper and tucked it away in a pocket again.
“Well, I said this was just for amusement,” he observed, untroubled.
“There may be some good material coming in that we haven’t heard of,
too. You never know where you’ll find a prize. Were any of last year’s
freshmen promising?”

“I don’t know, sir. I didn’t see much of the youngsters.”

“Seen Tenney yet?”

“Yes, he blew in this morning. He’s going to make a good manager, I
think.”

“Hope so. Did he say anything about the schedule?”

“Yes, he said it was all fixed. Hillsport came around all right. I
don’t see what their kick was, anyway.”

“Wanted a later date because they held us to a tie last season,” said
the coach, smiling.

“Gee, any one could have tied us about the time we played Hillsport!
That was during that grand and glorious slump.”

“Grand and glorious indeed!” murmured the coach. “Let’s hope there’ll
never be another half so grand! Well, I’ll get along, I guess. By
the way--” Mr. Cade hesitated. Then: “I hope this store isn’t going
to interfere too much with football, Emerson. Mustn’t let it, eh?
Good captains are scarce, son, and I’d hate to see one spoiled
by--er--outside interests, so to speak. Don’t mind my mentioning it, do
you?”

“Not a mite, sir. You needn’t worry. I’m putting things in shape here
so that Stick can take the whole thing on his own shoulders. I’m not
going to have anything to do with this shop until we’ve licked Kenly
Hall.”

“Good stuff! See you to-morrow, then. Practice at three, Cap, no matter
what the weather’s like. I guess a lot of those summer loafers will
be the better for losing five or six pounds of fat! And about this
Renneker, Cap. If you run across him it might be a good idea to sort of
make yourself acquainted and--er--look after him a bit. You know what I
mean. Start him off with a good impression of us, and all that.”

Russell chuckled. “It’s a great thing to bring a reputation with you,
isn’t it?” he asked.

“Eh?” The coach smiled a trifle sheepishly. “Oh, well, I don’t care
what you do with him,” he declared. “Chuck him down the well if you
like. No reason why we should toady to him, and that’s a fact. I only
thought that--”

“Right-o!” laughed Russell. “Leave him to me, sir. Can’t sell you a
bicycle then?”

“Huh,” answered Mr. Cade, moving toward the door, “if you supply the
team with its outfits and stuff this fall I guess you won’t need to
sell me a bicycle to show a profit! See you to-morrow, Cap!”

In front of the store, under the gayly-hued escutcheon bearing the
legend: Sign of the Football, Mr. Cade paused to shake hands with
a tall, thin youth with curly brown hair above gray eyes, a rather
large nose and a broad mouth who, subsequent to the football coach’s
departure, entered the store hurriedly, announcing as he did so: “They
can’t find it, Rus! The blamed thing’s just plain vanished. What’ll we
do? Telegraph or what?”

“I’ll write them a letter,” replied Russell calmly. “I dare say the
stuff will show up to-morrow.”

“Sure,” agreed Stick Patterson sarcastically. “It’s been turning up
to-morrow for three days and it might as well go on turning-- What was
Johnny after?”

“Just wanted to talk over a few things. Give me a hand with this truck,
will you? I want to get in an hour’s practice before supper. Bring some
more tags along. Where’s the invoice? Can you see it?”

“Yes, and so could you if you weren’t sitting on it. My, but it’s hot
over in that office! I suppose Johnny wasn’t awfully enthused over the
outlook, eh?”

“No-o, but he brought some good news, Stick. Ever hear of Gordon
Renneker?”

“No, who’s he?”

“He’s a gentleman who played football last year down on Long Island
with the Castle City High School team. Won everything in sight, I
think.”

“Who did? Runniger?”

“The team did. Renneker played guard; right guard, I guess; and got
himself talked about like a moving picture hero. Some player, they say.
Anyway, he’s coming here this fall.”

“Oh, joy! I’ll bet you anything you like he’ll turn out a lemon, like
that chap Means, or whatever his name was, two years ago. Remember?
The school got all het up about him. He was the finest thing that ever
happened--until he’d been around here a couple of weeks. After that no
one ever heard of him. He didn’t even hold a job with the second!”

“I guess Renneker’s in a different class,” responded Russell. “They put
him down on the All-Scholastic last fall, anyway, Stick.”

“All right. Hope he turns out big. But I never saw one of these stars
yet that didn’t have something wrong with him. If he really could play,
why, he was feeble-minded. Or if he had all his brains working smooth
he had something else wrong with him. No stars in mine, thanks! Shove
the ink over here. How about dressing the windows? Want me to do it?”

“Sure. Want you to do everything there is to be done, beginning with
twelve o’clock midnight to-night. That’s the last. Pile them up and
let’s get out of here. It’s after five. If you’ll come over to the
field with me for an hour I’ll buy your supper, Stick. And the exercise
will do you good!”



CHAPTER II

TWO IN A TAXI


Something over eighteen hours later the morning train from New York
pulled up at Alton station and disgorged a tumultuous throng of youths
of all sizes and of all ages between twelve and twenty. They piled
down from the day coaches and descended more dignifiedly from the two
parlor cars to form a jostling, noisy mob along the narrow platform.
Suit-cases, kit-bags, valises, tennis rackets, golf clubs were
everywhere underfoot. Ahead, from the baggage car, trunks crashed or
thudded to the trucks while an impatient conductor glanced frowningly
at his watch. Behind the station the brazen clanging of the gongs on
the two special trolley cars punctuated the babel, while the drivers
of taxicabs and horse-drawn vehicles beckoned invitingly for trade
and added their voices to the general pandemonium. Then, even as
the train drew on again, the tumult lessened and the throng melted.
Some few of the arrivals set forth afoot along Meadow street, having
entrusted their hand luggage to friends traveling by vehicle. A great
many more stormed the yellow trolley cars, greeting the grinning crews
familiarly as Bill or Mike, crowding through the narrow doors and
battling good-naturedly for seats. The rest, less than a score of them,
patronized the cabs and carriages.

Leonard Grant was of the latter. As this was his first sight of Alton
he decided that it would be wise to place the responsibility of
delivering himself and a bulging suit-case to Alton Academy on the
shoulders of one who knew where the Academy was, even if it was to cost
a whole half-dollar! The taxi was small but capable of accommodating
four passengers at least, and when Leonard had settled himself therein
it became evident that the driver of the vehicle had no intention
of leaving until the accommodations were more nearly exhausted. He
still gesticulated and shouted, while Leonard, his suit-case up-ended
between his knees, looked curiously about and tried to reconcile the
sun-smitten view of cheap shops and glaring yellow brick pavement
with what he had learned of Alton from the Academy catalogue. Judging
solely from what he now saw, he would have concluded that the principal
industries of the town were pressing clothes and supplying cheap meals.
He was growing sensible of disappointment when a big kit-bag was thrust
against his knees and a second passenger followed it into the cab.

“Mind if I share this with you?” asked the new arrival. He had a
pleasant voice, and the inquiry was delivered in tones of the most
perfect politeness, but something told Leonard that the big fellow
who was making the cushion springs creak protestingly really cared
not a whit whether Leonard minded or not. Leonard as courteously
replied in the negative, and in doing so he had his first glimpse of
his companion. He was amazingly good-looking; perhaps fine-looking
would be the better term, for it was not only that his features were
as regular as those on a Greek coin, but they were strong, and the
smooth tanned skin almost flamboyantly proclaimed perfect health. In
fact, health and physical strength fairly radiated from the chap. He
was tall, wide-shouldered, deep-chested, and yet, in spite of his
size, which made Leonard feel rather like a pygmy beside him, you were
certain that there wasn’t an ounce of soft flesh anywhere about him.
He had dark eyes and, although Leonard couldn’t see it just then, dark
hair very carefully brushed down against a well-shaped head. He was
dressed expensively but in excellent taste: rough brownish-gray tweed,
a linen-colored silk shirt with collar to match, a plain brown bow-tie,
a soft straw hat, brown sport shoes and brown silk socks. The watch on
his wrist was plainly expensive, as were the gold-and-enamel links in
his soft cuffs. What interested Leonard Grant more than these details
of attire, however, was the sudden conviction that he knew perfectly
well who his companion was--if only he could remember!

Meanwhile, evidently despairing of another fare, the driver climbed to
his seat and set forth with loud grinding of frayed gears, cleverly
manipulating the rattling cab around the end of the nearer trolley car
and dodging a lumbering blue ice-wagon by a scant four inches. Then the
cab settled down on the smooth pavement and flew, honking, along Meadow
street.

“Are you an Alton fellow?” inquired Leonard’s companion as they emerged
from the jam. He spoke rather slowly, rather lazily, enunciating each
word very clearly. Leonard couldn’t have told why he disliked that
precision of speech, but he did somehow.

“Yes,” he answered. “And I suppose you are.”

The other nodded. There was nothing really supercilious about that
nod; it merely seemed to signify that in the big chap’s judgment
the question was not worthy a verbal reply. As he nodded he let his
gaze travel over Leonard and then to the scuffed and discolored and
generally disreputable suit-case, a suit-case that, unlike the kit-bag
nearby, was not distinguished by bravely colored labels of travel.
The inspection was brief, but it was thorough, and when it had ended
Leonard knew perfectly that no detail of his appearance had been
missed. He became uncomfortably conscious of his neat but well-worn
Norfolk suit, his very unattractive cotton shirt, his second-season
felt hat, his much-creased blue four-in-hand tie, which didn’t
match anything else he had on, and his battered shoes whose real
condition the ten-cent shine he had acquired in the New York station
couldn’t disguise. It was evident to him that, with the inspection,
his companion’s interest in him had died a swift death. The big,
outrageously good-looking youth turned his head toward the lowered
window of the speeding cab and not again did he seem aware of Leonard’s
presence beside him.

Leonard didn’t feel any resentment. The big fellow was a bit of a
swell, and he wasn’t. That was all there was to it. Nothing to be
peeved at. Doubtless there’d be others of the same sort at the Academy,
and Leonard neither expected to train with them or wanted to. What did
bother him, though, was the persistent conviction that somewhere or
other he had seen the big chap before, and all the way along Meadow
street he stole surreptitious glances at the noble profile and racked
his mind. So deep was he in this occupation that he saw little of the
town; which was rather a pity, since it had become far more like his
preconceived conception of it now; and the cab had entered the Meadow
street gate of the Academy grounds and was passing the first of the
buildings before he was aware that he had reached his destination. He
would have been more interested in that first building had he known
that it was Haylow Hall and that he was destined to occupy a certain
room therein whose ivy-framed window stared down on him as he passed.

The driver, following custom, pulled up with disconcerting suddenness
at the entrance of Academy Building, swung off his seat, threw open
the door on Leonard’s side and wrested the battered suit-case from
between the latter’s legs. Then he as swiftly transferred Leonard’s
half-dollar from the boy’s fingers to his pocket and grabbed for the
distinguished kit-bag beyond. Leonard, unceremoniously thrust into
a noonday world dappled with the shadows of lazily swaying branches
and quite unfamiliar, took up his bag and instinctively ascended
the steps. There were other youths about him, coming down, going up
or just loitering, but none heeded him. Before he reached the wide,
open doorway he paused and looked back. Straight away and at a slight
descent traveled a wide graveled path between spreading trees, its far
end a hot blur of sunlight. At either side of the main path stretched
green sward, tree dotted, to the southern and northern boundaries of
the campus. Here and there a group of early arrivals were seated or
stretched in the shade of the trees, coolly colorful blots against the
dark green of the shadowed turf. Two other paths started off below him,
diverging, one toward a handsome building which Leonard surmised to be
Memorial Hall, holding the library and auditorium, the other toward the
residence of the Principal, Doctor Maitland McPherson, or, in school
language, “Mac.” Each of these structures stood close to the confines
of the campus; the other buildings were stretched right and left,
toeing the transverse drive with military precision; Haylow and Lykes,
dormitories, on the south flank; Academy Building in the center: Upton
and Borden, dormitories, too, completing the rank. Somewhere to the
rear, as Leonard recalled, must be the gymnasium and the place where
they fed you; Lawrence Hall, wasn’t it? Well, this looked much more
like what he had expected, and he certainly approved of it.

He went on into the restful gloom of the corridor, his eyes for the
moment unequal to the sudden change. Then he found the Office and took
his place in the line before the counter. He had to wait while three
others were disposed of, and then, just as his own turn came, he heard
at the doorway the pleasant, leisurely voice of his late companion in
the cab. There was another boy with him, a tall, nice-appearing chap,
who was saying as they entered: “You’re in Upton, with a fellow named
Reilly, who plays half for us. It’s a good room, Renneker, and you’ll
like Red, I’m sure.”

“Thanks.” The other’s voice was noncommittal.

Leonard, moving past the desk, turned swiftly and stared with surprise
and incredulity. He remembered now. Last November he had gone up to
Philadelphia to see a post-season football game between a local team
and an eleven from Castle City, Long Island. The visitors had won by
the margin of one point after a slow and gruelling contest. Leonard’s
seat had been close to the visiting team’s bench and a neighbor had
pointed out to him the redoubtable Renneker and told him tales of
the big fellow’s prowess. Leonard had had several good looks at the
Castle City star and had admired him, just as, later, he had admired
his playing. Renneker had proved all that report had pictured him: a
veritable stone wall in defense, a battering ram in attack. He had
worn down two opponents, Leonard recalled, and only the final whistle
had saved a third from a like fate. As Leonard had played the guard
position himself that fall on his own high school team he watched
Renneker’s skill and science the more interestedly. And so this was
Renneker! Yes, he remembered now, although in Philadelphia that day the
famous player had been in togs and had worn a helmet. It is always a
satisfaction to finally get the better of an obstinate memory, and for
the first moment or two succeeding his victory Leonard was so immersed
in that satisfaction that he failed to consider what the arrival
of Gordon Renneker at Alton Academy would mean to his own football
prospects. When he did give thought to that subject his spirits fell,
and, rescuing his suit-case, he went out in search of Number 12 Haylow
Hall with a rueful frown on his forehead.

Leonard was only seventeen, with little more than the size and weight
belonging to the boy of that age, and he had told himself all along
that it was very unlikely he would be able to make the Alton team that
fall. But now he realized that, in spite of what he had professed to
believe, he had really more than half expected to win a place on the
eleven this season. After all, he had done some pretty good work last
year, and the high school coach back in Loring Point had more than
once assured him that by this fall he ought to be able to pit himself
against many a lineman older and heavier. “Get another twenty pounds on
you, Len,” Tim Walsh had said once, “and there’s not many that’ll be
able to stand up to you in the line. I’ll give you two years more, son,
and then I’ll be lookin’ for your name in the papers. There’s lots of
fellows playing guard that has plenty below the neck, but you’ve got it
above, too, see? Beef and muscle alone didn’t ever win a battle. It was
brains as did it. Brains and fight. And you’ve got both, I’ll say that
for you!”

And then, just a week ago, when Leonard had gone to bid Tim good-by,
the little coach had said: “I’m sorry to lose you, Len, but you’ll be
getting a bigger chance where you’re going. Sure. And you’ll be getting
better handlin’, too. Take those big schools, why, they got trainers
that knows their business, Len, and you’ll be looked after close and
careful. Here a fellow has to do his own trainin’, which means he don’t
do none, in spite of all I say to him. Sure. You’ll do fine, son. Well,
so long. Don’t put your name to nothin’ without you read it first. And
don’t forget what I been tellin’ you, Len: get ’em before they get you!”

Well, he hadn’t put on that twenty pounds yet, for in spite of all
his efforts during the summer--he had gone up to his uncle’s farm and
worked in the field and lived on the sort of food that is supposed to
build bone and tissue--he was only seven pounds heavier than when he
had weighed himself a year ago. And now here was this fellow Renneker
to further dim his chances. Leonard sighed as he turned in at the
doorway of the dormitory building. If there were eleven guards on a
football team he might stand a show, he thought disconsolately, but
there were only two, and one of the two would be Gordon Renneker! He
wondered what his chance with the scrubs would be!

He tugged his heavy suit-case up one flight of stairs in Haylow and
looked for a door bearing the numerals 12. He found it presently,
cheered somewhat to observe that it was toward the campus side of the
building. It was closed, and a card thumb-tacked to the center bore the
inscription, “Mr. Eldred Chichester Staples.” Leonard read the name a
second time. That “Chichester” annoyed him. To have a roommate named
Eldred might be borne, but “Chichester”-- He shook his head gloomily as
he turned the knob and pushed the door open. It seemed to him that life
at Alton Academy wasn’t starting out very well for him.

He was a bit relieved to find the room empty, although it was evident
enough that Eldred Chichester Staples had already taken possession.
There were brushes and toilet articles atop one of the two slim
chiffoniers, books on the study table, photographs tacked to the
wainscoting, a black bag reposing on a chair by the head of the
left-hand bed, a pair of yellow silk pajamas exuding from it. Leonard
set his own bag down and walked to the windows. There were two of
them, set close together, and they looked out into the lower branches
of a maple. Directly below was the brick foot-path and the gravel
road--and, momentarily, the top of an automobile retreating toward the
Meadow street gate. Some fortunate youth had probably arrived in the
family touring car. Leonard had to set one knee on a comfortably broad
window-seat to get the view, and when he turned away his knee swept
something from the cushion to the floor. Rescuing it, he saw that it
was a block of paper, the top sheet bearing writing done with a very
soft pencil. With no intention of doing so, he read the first words:
“Lines on Returning to My Alma Mater.” He sniffed. So that was the sort
this fellow Chichester was! Wrote poetry! Gosh! He tossed the tablet
back to the window-seat. Then the desire to know how bad the effort
might be prompted him to pick it up and, with a guilty glance toward
the door, read further. There were many erasures and corrections, but
he made out:

    “Oh, classic shades that through the pleasant years
     Have sheltered me from gloomy storm and stress,
     See on my pallid cheeks the happy tears
     That tell a tale of banished loneliness.”

“What sickening rot!” muttered Leonard. But he went on.

    “Back to your tender arms! My tired feet
     Stand once again where they so safely stood.
     Could I want fairer haven, fate more sweet?
     Could I? _Oh, boy, I’ll say I could!_”

Leonard re-read the last line doubtfully. Then he pitched the effusion
violently back to the cushion.

“Huh!” he said.



CHAPTER III

ENTER MR. ELDRED CHICHESTER STAPLES


Eldred Chichester Staples had not arrived by the time Leonard had
unpacked his bag. His trunk, which was to have joined him inside an
hour, according to the disciple of Ananias who had accepted his claim
check, had not appeared, and, since it was dinner time now, Leonard
washed, re-tied his scarf, used a whisk brush rather perfunctorily
and descended the stairs in search of food. It wasn’t hard to find
Lawrence Hall. All he had to do was follow the crowd, and, although the
entire assemblage of some four hundred students was not by any means
yet present, there were enough on hand to make a very good imitation
of a crowd. Leonard endured some waiting before he was assigned a
seat, but presently he was established at a table occupied by five
others--there were seats for four more, but they weren’t claimed until
supper time--and was soon enjoying his first repast at Alton. The food
was good and there was plenty of it, but none too much for the new boy,
for his breakfast, partaken of at home before starting the first leg
of his journey to New York City, was scarcely a memory. He followed
the example of his right-hand neighbor and ordered “seconds” of the
substantial articles of the menu and did excellently. Towards dessert
he found leisure to look about him.

Lawrence Hall was big and airy and light, and although it accommodated
more than twenty score, including the faculty, the tables were not
crowded together and there was an agreeable aspect of space. The
fellows about him appeared to be quite the usual, normal sort; although
later on Leonard made the discovery that there was a certain sameness
about them, somewhat as though they had been cut off the same piece of
goods. This sameness was rather intangible, however; he never succeeded
in determining whether it was a matter of looks, manner or voice; and
I doubt if any one else could have determined. Dinner was an orderly
if not a silent affair. There was an ever-continuing rattle of dishes
beneath the constant hum of voices and the ripples of laughter. Once a
dish fell just beyond the screen that hid the doors to the kitchen, and
its crash was hailed with loud hand-clapping from every quarter. After
awhile the scraping of chairs added a new note to the pleasant babel,
and, contributing his own scrape, Leonard took his departure.

He had seen a notice in the corridor of Academy Building announcing
the first football practice for three o’clock, and he meant to be on
hand, but more than an hour intervened and he wondered how to spend
it. The question was solved for him when he reached the walk that led
along the front of the dormitories, for there, before the entrance of
Haylow, a piled motor truck was disgorging trunks. His own proved to
be among them, and he followed it upstairs and set to work. It wasn’t
a very large trunk, nor a very nobby one, having served his father for
many years, before falling to Leonard, and he was quite satisfied that
his room-mate continued to absent himself. He emptied it of his none
too generous wardrobe, hung his clothes in his closet or laid them in
the drawers of his chiffonier, arranged his small belongings before the
mirror or on the table and finally, taking counsel of a strange youth
hurrying past in the corridor, lugged the empty trunk to the store-room
in the basement. Then, it now being well past the half-hour, he changed
into an ancient suit of canvas, pulled on a pair of scuffed shoes and
set forth for the field.

The hot weather still held, and, passing the gravel tennis courts, a
wave of heat, reflected from the surface, made him gasp. The gridiron,
when he reached it, proved to have suffered in many places from the
fortnight of unseasonable weather and lack of rain. Half a dozen
fellows, dressed for play, were laughingly squabbling for a ball near
the center of the field, and their cleats, digging into the dry sod,
sent up a cloud of yellow dust. Early as he was, Leonard found at
least a score of candidates ahead of him. Many of them had, perhaps
wisely, scorned the full regalia of football and had donned old flannel
trousers in lieu of padded canvas. A perspiring youth with a very
large board clip was writing busily in the scant shade of the covered
stand, and a short, broadly-built man in trousers and a white running
shirt, from which a pair of bronze shoulders emerged massively, was
beside him. The latter was, Leonard concluded, the coach. He looked
formidable, with that large countenance topped by an alarming growth
of black hair, and Leonard recalled diverse tales he had heard or read
of the sternness and even ferocity of professional football coaches.
Evidently football at Alton Academy was going to prove more of a
business than football at Loring Point High School!

This reflection was interrupted by a voice. A large youth with rather
pale blue eyes that, nevertheless, had a remarkable sparkle in them
had come to a stop at Leonard’s elbow. “I’ve accumulated seventeen
pounds this summer,” the chap was saying, “and it cost the dad a lot
of good money. And now--” his blue eyes turned from Leonard and fell
disapprovingly on the sun-smitten gridiron--“now I’m going to lose the
whole blamed lot in about sixty minutes.” He looked to Leonard again
for sympathy. Leonard smiled doubtfully. It was difficult to tell
whether the stranger spoke in fun or earnest.

“If it comes off as easy as that,” he replied, “I guess you don’t want
it.” Looking more closely at the chap, he saw that, deprived of those
seventeen pounds, he would probably be rather rangy; large still, but
not heavy. Leonard judged that he was a backfield candidate; possibly a
running half; he looked to be fast.

“I suppose not,” the fellow agreed in doubtful tones. “Maybe it isn’t
losing the weight that worries me so much as losing it so quick. You
know they say that losing a lot of weight suddenly is dangerous.
Suppose it left me in an enfeebled condition!”

Now Leonard knew that the chap was joking, and he ventured a laugh.
“Maybe you’d better not risk it,” he said. “Why not wait until
to-morrow. It might be cooler then.”

“I would,” replied the other gravely, “only Johnny rather leans on me,
you know. I dare say he’d be altogether at a loss if I deserted him
to-day. Getting things started is always a bit of a trial.”

“I see. I suppose Johnny is the coach, and that’s him up there.”
Leonard nodded in the direction of the black-haired man on the stand.

“Him or he,” answered the other gently. “You’re a new fellow, I take
it. Fresh?”

Leonard, nettled by the correction, answered a bit stiffly, “Sophomore.”

The tall youth gravely extended a hand. “Welcome,” he said. “Welcome to
the finest class in the school.”

Leonard shook hands, his slight resentment vanishing. “I suppose that
means that you’re a soph, too.”

The fellow nodded. “So far,” he assented. Then he smiled for the first
time, and after that smile Leonard liked him suddenly and thoroughly.
“If you ask me that again after mid-year,” he continued, “you may get
a different answer. Well, I guess I’d better go up and get Johnny
started. He’s evidently anxious about me.” He nodded once more and
moved past Leonard and through the gate to the stand. Leonard had not
noticed any sign of anxiety on the coach’s countenance, but it wasn’t
to be denied that the greeting between the two was hearty. Leonard’s
new acquaintance seated himself at the coach’s side and draped his long
legs luxuriously over the back of the seat in front. The youth with
the clip looked up from his writing and said something and the others
threw their heads back and laughed. Leonard was positively relieved to
discover that the coach could laugh like that. He couldn’t be so very
ferocious, after all!

The trainer appeared, followed by a man trundling a wheelbarrow laden
with paraphernalia. The throng of candidates increased momentarily
along the side-line and a few hardy youths, carrying coats over arms,
perched themselves on the seats to look on. Leonard again turned to
observe the coach and found that gentleman on his feet and extending
his hand to a big chap in unstained togs. The two shook hands, and then
the big fellow turned his head to look across the field, and Leonard
saw that he was Gordon Renneker. A fifth member had joined the group,
and him Leonard recognized as the boy who had accompanied Renneker into
the office. Leonard surmised now that he was the captain: he had read
the chap’s name but had forgotten it. After a moment of conversation,
during which the other members of the group up there seemed to be
giving flattering attention to Renneker’s portion, the five moved
toward the field, and a minute later the business of building a
football team had begun.

Coach Cade made a few remarks, doubtless not very different from
those he had made at this time of year on many former occasions,
was answered with approving applause and some laughter and waved a
brown hand. The group of some seventy candidates dissolved, footballs
trickled away from the wheelbarrow and work began. Leonard made one of
a circle of fifteen or sixteen other novices who passed a ball from
hand to hand and felt the sun scorching earnestly at the back of his
neck. Later, in charge of a heavy youth whose name Leonard afterwards
learned was Garrick, the group was conducted further down the field
and was permitted to do other tricks with the ball--two balls, to be
exact. They caught it on the bound, fell on it and snuggled it to
their perspiring bodies and then again, while they recovered somewhat
of their breath, passed it from one to another. In other portions of
the field similar exercises were going on with other actors in the
parts, while, down near the further goal balls were traversing the
gridiron, propelled by hand or toe. Garrick was a lenient task-master,
and breathing spells were frequent, and yet, even so, there were many
in Leonard’s squad who were just about spent when they were released
to totter back to the benches and rinse their parched mouths with warm
water from the carboy which, having been carefully deposited an hour
ago in the shade of the wheelbarrow, was now enjoying the full blaze of
the westing sun. Leonard, his canvas garments wet with perspiration,
his legs aching, leaned against the back of the bench and wondered why
he wanted to play football!

Presently he forgot his discomforts in watching the performance of
a squad of fellows who were trotting through a signal drill. Last
year’s regulars these, he supposed; big, heavy chaps, most of them;
fellows whose average age was possibly eighteen, or perhaps more. The
quarterback, unlike most of the quarters Leonard had had acquaintance
with, was a rather large and weighty youth with light hair and a
longish face. His name, explained Leonard’s left-hand neighbor on
the bench, was Carpenter. He had played on the second team last year
and was very likely to prove first-choice man this fall. He was, the
informant added admiringly, a corking punter. Leonard nodded. Secretly
he considered Mr. Carpenter much too heavy for a quarterback’s job. The
day’s diversions ended with a slow jog around the edge of the gridiron.
Then came showers and a leisurely dressing; only Leonard, since his
street clothes were over in Number 12 Haylow, had his shower in the
dormitory and was wearily clothing himself in clean underwear and a
fresh shirt when the door of the room was unceremoniously opened and he
found himself confronted by a youth whose countenance was strangely
familiar and whom, his reason told him, was Eldred Chichester Staples,
his poetic roommate. Considering it later, Leonard wondered why he had
not been more surprised when recognition came. All he said was: “Well,
did you get rid of the whole seventeen?”



CHAPTER IV

LEONARD GETS PROMOTION


Eldred Chichester Staples appeared to be no more surprised than
Leonard. He closed the door, with the deftness born of long practice,
with his left foot, sailed his cap to his bed and nodded, thrusting
hands into the pockets of his knickers.

“The whole seventeen,” he answered dejectedly. “Couldn’t you tell it by
a glance at my emaciated frame?”

Leonard shook his head. “You look to me just hungry,” he said.

“Slim” Staples chuckled and reposed himself in a chair, thrusting his
long legs forward and clasping lean, brown hands across his equator.
“Your name must be Grant,” he remarked. “Where from, stranger?”

“Loring Point, Delaware.”

“We’re neighbors then. My home’s in New Hampshire. Concord’s the town.”

“Isn’t that where the embattled farmers stood and--and fired--er--”

“The shot that was heard around the world? No, General, you’ve got
the dope all wrong. That was another Concord. There aren’t any farmers
in my town. Come to think of it, wasn’t it Lexington, Massachusetts,
where the farmers took pot-shots at the Britishers? Well, never mind. I
understand that the affair was settled quite amicably some time since.
Glad to be here, General?”

“I think so. Thanks for the promotion, though. I’m usually just ‘Len.’”

“Oh, that’s all right. No trouble to promote you. What does ‘Len’ stand
for?”

“Leonard.”

“Swell name. You’ve got the edge on the other Grant. Ulysses sounds
like something out of the soda fountain. Well, I hope we’ll hit it off
all right. I’m an easy-going sort, General; never much of a scrapper
and hate to argue. Last year, over in Borden, I roomed with a chap
named Endicott. Dick was the original arguer. He could start with
no take-off at all and argue longer, harder and faster than any one
outside a court of law. I was a great trial to him, I suspect. If he
said Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote ‘The Merchant of Venice’ I just said
‘Sure, Mike’ and let it go at that. Arguing was meat and drink to that
fellow.”

“And what became of him? I mean, why aren’t you--”

“Together this year? He didn’t come back. You see, he spent so much
time in what you might call controversy that he didn’t get leisure for
studying. So last June faculty told him that he’d failed to pass and
that if he came back he’d have about a million conditions to work off.
He did his best to argue himself square, but faculty beat him out.
After all, there was only one of him and a dozen or so faculty, and it
wasn’t a fair contest. At that, I understand they won by a very slight
margin!”

“Hard luck,” laughed Leonard. “I dare say he was a star member of the
debating club, if there is one here.”

“There is, but Dick never joined. He said they were amateurs. What do
you say to supper? Oh, by the way, you were out for football, weren’t
you? What’s your line?”

“I’ve played guard mostly.”

“Guard, eh?” Slim looked him over appraisingly. “Sort of light, aren’t
you?”

“I guess so,” allowed Leonard. “Of course, I don’t expect to make the
first; that is, this year.”

Slim grinned wickedly. “No, but you’ll be fit to tie if you don’t. Take
me now. Last year I was on the second. Left end. I’m only a soph, and
sophs on the big team are as scarce as hen’s teeth. So, of course, I
haven’t the ghost of a show and absolutely no hope of making it. But
if I don’t there’s going to be a heap of trouble around here!”

“Well, I suppose I have a sneaking hope,” acknowledged Leonard, smiling.

“Sure. Might as well be honest with yourself. As for playing guard,
well, if you got hold of a suit about three sizes too large for you,
stuffed it out with cotton-batting and put heel-lifts in your shoes you
might stand a show. Or you might if it wasn’t for this fellow Renneker.
I dare say you’ve heard about him? He’s ab-so-lutively sure of one
guard position or the other. And then there’s Smedley and Squibbs and
Raleigh and Stimson and two-three more maybe If I were you, General,
I’d switch to end or quarter.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t want to elbow you out,” laughed Leonard.

“That’s right.” Slim grinned. “Try quarter then. We’ve got only two in
sight so far.”

Leonard shook his head. “Guard’s my job,” he said. “I’ll plug along at
it. I might get on the second, I dare say. And next year-- The trouble
is, I can’t seem to grow much, Staples!”

“Better call me ‘Slim.’ Everybody else does. Well, you know your own
business best. Only, if you tell Johnny that you belong to the Guard’s
Union and that the rules won’t allow you to play anything else, why,
I’m awfully afraid that the only thing you’ll get to guard will be the
bench! Let’s go to chow.”

At the door of the dining hall they parted, for Slim’s table was not
Leonard’s. “But,” said the former, “I guess we can fix that to-morrow.
There are a couple of guys at our table that don’t fit very well. I’ll
arrange with one of them to switch. Care to go over to Mac’s this
evening? Being a newcomer, you’re sort of expected to. They’ll be
mostly freshies, but we don’t have to stay long. I’ll pick you up at
the room about eight.”

Under Slim’s guidance Leonard went across to the Principal’s house at
a little after the appointed hour and took his place in the line that
led through the front portal and past where Doctor McPherson and Mrs.
McPherson were receiving. Slim introduced the stranger and then hustled
him away into the library. “Might as well do it all up brown,” he
observed sotto voce. “Met any of the animals yet?”

“Animals?” repeated Leonard vaguely.

“Faculty,” explained Slim. “All right. We’ll find most of ’em in here.
They can see the dining room from here, you’ll observe, and so they
sort of stand around, ready to rush the minute the flag goes down. Not
so many here yet. Try to look serious and intellectual; they like it.
Mr. Screven, I want you to meet my friend Grant. General, this is Mr.
Screven. And Mr. Metcalf. Mr. Metcalf wrote the French and Spanish
languages, General.”

“If I had, Staples, I’d have written them more simply, so you could
learn them,” replied the instructor with a twinkle.

“_Touche!_” murmured Slim. “Honest, though, I wasn’t so rotten, was I,
sir?”

“You might have been much worse, Staples. Don’t ask me to say more.”

“Well, I’ll make a real hit with you this year, sir. They say Sophomore
French is a cinch.”

“I trust you’ll find it so,” replied Mr. Metcalf genially. “Where is
your home, Mr. Grant?”

Presently Slim’s hand tugged him away to meet Mr. Tarbot and Mr.
Kincaid and Mr. Peghorn, by which time Leonard couldn’t remember which
was which, although Slim’s running comment, en route from one to
another, was designed to aid his friend’s memory. “Peghorn’s physics,”
appraised Slim. “You won’t have him, not this year. He’s a bit deaf.
Left ear’s the best one. Don’t let him nail you or he’ll talk you to
death. Here we are.”

There were others later, but Leonard obtained sustenance before meeting
them, for Slim so skillfully maneuvered that when the dining room
doors were thrown open only a mere half-dozen guests beat him to the
table. To the credit of the faculty be it said that Mr. Kincaid only
lost first place by a nose. The refreshments were satisfactory if not
elaborate and Slim worked swiftly and methodically, and presently,
their plates well piled with sandwiches, cake and ice-cream, the two
retired to a corner. The entering class was large that fall and, since
not a few of the other classes were well represented, the Doctor’s
modest residence was crowded. Slim observed pessimistically that he had
never seen a sorrier looking lot of freshies.

“How about last year?” asked Leonard innocently.

“The entering class last year,” replied Slim with dignity, “was
remarkably intelligent and--um--prepossessing. Every one spoke of it.
Even members of the class themselves noticed it. Want another slice of
cake?”

Leonard rather pitied some of the new boys. They looked so timid and
unhappy, he thought. Most of them had no acquaintances as yet, and
although the faculty members and some of the older fellows worked hard
to put them at their ease they continued looking like lost souls.
Even ice-cream and cake failed to banish their embarrassment. The
Principal’s wife, good soul, haled them from dark corners and talked to
them brightly and cheerfully while she thrust plates of food into their
numbed hands, but so soon as her back was turned they fled nervously
to cover again, frequently losing portions of their refreshments on the
way. Reflecting that even he might do some small part to lighten the
burden of gloom that oppressed them, he broached the subject to Slim
when that youth had returned with another generous wedge of cake. But
Slim shook his head.

“I wouldn’t,” he said. “Honestly, General, they’re a lot happier left
alone. I’m supposed to be on the welcome committee myself, but I’m
not working at it much. Fact is, those poor fish had a lot rather you
didn’t take any notice of them. They just get red in the face and fall
over their feet if you speak to ’em. I know, for I was one myself last
year!”

“Somehow,” mused Leonard, “I can’t imagine it.”

“Can’t you now?” Slim chuckled. “I want you to know that the shrinking
violet hasn’t a thing on me. Chuck your plate somewhere and let’s beat
it. There’s no hope of seconds!”

Back in Number 12 Haylow they changed to pajamas and lolled by the
window, through which a fair imitation of a cooling breeze occasionally
wandered, and proceeded to get acquainted. It wasn’t hard. By ten
o’clock, when the light went out, they were firm friends and tried.

The business of settling down consumed several days, and as the Fall
Term at Alton Academy began on a Thursday it was Monday before Leonard
really found himself. Slim was of great assistance to him in the
operation and saved him many false moves and unnecessary steps. As both
boys were in the same class Leonard had only to copy Slim’s schedule
and, during the first day, follow Slim dutifully from one recitation
room to another, at the end of each trip renewing Wednesday evening’s
acquaintance with one or another of the faculty members, though at
a distance. In various other matters Slim was invaluable. Thursday
evening Leonard took his place at Slim’s table and so enlarged his
circle of speaking acquaintances by eight. Several of the occupants
of the board Leonard recognized as football candidates. There was,
for instance, Wells, universally known as “Billy,” heir apparent to
the position of left tackle, and Joe Greenwood, who might fairly be
called heir presumptive to the fullback position, only one Ray Goodwin
thus far showing a better right. There was, also, Leo Falls, who, like
Leonard, was a candidate for guard. Thus, five out of the ten were
football players, a fact which not only made for camaraderie, but
provided a never-failing subject for conversation. Of the others at the
table, two were freshmen, likeable youngsters, Leonard thought; one
was a sober-faced senior named Barton, and the other two were juniors
who, being the sole representatives of their class there, were banded
together in an offensive and defensive alliance that, in spite of its
lack of numbers, was well able to hold its own when the question of
class supremacy was debated. On the whole, they were a jolly set, and
Leonard was thankful to Slim for securing him admission to them; even
though, as Slim reminded him, several of them would be yanked off to
the training table not later than next week.

What the others thought of Leonard the latter didn’t know, but they
seemed to take to him readily. Perhaps the fact that he was sponsored
by Slim had something to do with it, for Slim, as Leonard soon noted,
was a favorite, not only at his table but throughout the school in
general. (The fact that Slim was President of the Sophomore Class was
something that Leonard didn’t learn until he had been rooming with the
former for nearly three weeks; and then it wasn’t Slim who divulged
it.) I don’t mean to convey the idea that Leonard was unduly exercised
about the impression he made on his new friends, but no fellow can help
wanting to be liked or speculate somewhat about what others think of
him. After a few days, though, he became quite satisfied. By that time
no one at the board was any longer calling him Grant. He was “General.”
Slim’s nickname had struck the popular fancy and gave every sign of
sticking throughout Leonard’s stay at school.

There wasn’t anything especially striking about the newcomer, unless,
perhaps, it was a certain wholesomeness; which Slim, had he ever
been required to tell what had drawn him to his new chum, would have
mentioned first. Leonard was of average height, breadth and weight. He
had good enough features, but no one would ever have thought to call
him handsome. His hair was of an ordinary shade of brown, straight
and inclined to be unruly around the ears and neck; his eyes were
brown, too, though a shade or two darker; perhaps his eyes were his
best feature, if there was a best, for they did have a sort of faculty
for lighting up when he became interested or deeply amused; his nose
was straight as far as it went, but it stopped a trifle too soon to
satisfy the demands of the artist; his mouth was just like any other
mouth, I suppose; that is, like any other normal mouth; and he had
a chin that went well with his somewhat square jaw, with a scarcely
noticeable elevation in the middle of it that Slim referred to as an
inverted dimple. Just a normal, healthy youngster of sixteen, was
Leonard--sixteen verging closely on seventeen--rather better developed
muscularly than the average boy of his years, perhaps, but with
nothing about him to demand a second glance; or certainly not a third.
He didn’t dress particularly well, for his folks weren’t over-supplied
with wealth, but he managed to make the best of a limited wardrobe and
always looked particularly clean. He was inclined to be earnest at
whatever he set out to do, but he liked to laugh and did it frequently,
and did it in a funny gurgling way that caused others to laugh with
him--and at him.

He might have made his way into the Junior Class at Alton had he
tutored hard the previous summer, but as he had not known he was going
there until a fortnight before, that wasn’t possible. His presence
at the academy was the unforeseen result of having spent the summer
with his Uncle Emory. Uncle Emory, his mother’s brother, lived up in
Pennsylvania and for many years had displayed no interest in the doings
of his relatives. The idea of visiting Uncle Emory and working for his
board had come to Leonard after Tim Walsh, football coach at the high
school, had mentioned farm work as one of the short paths to physical
development. Rather to the surprise of the rest of the family, Uncle
Emory’s reply to Leonard’s suggestion had been almost cordial. Uncle
Emory had proved much less of the bear than the boy had anticipated
and before long the two were very good friends. By the terms of the
agreement, Leonard was to receive board and lodging and seventy-five
cents a day in return for his services. What he did receive, when the
time for leaving the farm arrived, was ninety-three dollars, being
wages due him, and a bonus of one hundred.

“And now,” asked Uncle Emory, “what are you doing to do with it?”

Leonard didn’t know. He was far too surprised to make plans on such
short notice.

“Well,” continued Uncle Emory, “why don’t you find yourself a good
school that don’t ask too much money and fit yourself for college? I
ain’t claiming that your father’s made a big success as a lawyer, but
you might, and I sort of think it’s in your blood. You show me that you
mean business, Len, and I’ll sort of look out for you, leastways till
you’re through school.”

So that is the way it had happened, suddenly and unexpectedly and
gorgeously. The hundred and ninety-three dollars, less Leonard’s
expenses home, hadn’t been enough to see him through the year at
Alton, but his father had found the balance that was needed without
much difficulty, and here he was. He knew that this year was provided
for and knew that, if he satisfied Uncle Emory of his earnestness,
there would be two more years to follow. Also, a fact that had not
escaped Leonard, there were scholarship funds to be had if one worked
hard enough. He had already set his mind on winning one of the five
available to Sophomore Class members. As to the Law as a profession,
Leonard hadn’t yet made up his mind. Certainly his father had made no
fortune from it, but, on the other hand, there were men right in Loring
Point who had prospered exceedingly thereby. But that decision could
wait. Meanwhile he meant to study hard, win a scholarship and make good
in the eyes of Uncle Emory. And he meant to play as hard as he worked,
which was an exceedingly good plan, and hadn’t yet discerned any very
good reason for not doing that on the Alton Academy Football Team!



CHAPTER V

THE BOY ON THE PORCH


He liked the school immensely and the fellows in it. And he liked
the town, with its tree-shaded streets and comfortable old white
houses. A row of the latter faced the Academy from across the asphalt
thoroughfare below the sloping campus, home-like residences set in turf
and gardens, guarded by huge elms and maples. Beyond them began, a
block further east, the stores. One could get nearly anything he wanted
in the two short blocks of West street, without journeying closer to
the center of town. In school parlance this shopping district was known
as Bagdad. Further away one found moving picture houses in variety.
Northward at some distance lay the river, and under certain not too
painful restrictions one might enjoy boating and canoeing. On Sunday
Alton rang with the peeling of church bells and Bagdad was empty of
life save, perhaps, for a shrill-voiced purveyor of newspapers from
whom one could obtain for a dime an eight-section New York paper with
which to litter the floor after the return from church. On that first
Sunday Slim acted as guide and Leonard learned what lay around and
about. They penetrated to the sidewalk-littered foreign quarter beyond
the railroad, where Slim tried modern Greek on a snappily-attired
gentleman who to-morrow would be presiding over a hat cleaning
emporium. The result was not especially favorable. Either Slim’s
knowledge of Greek was too limited or, as he explained it, the other
chap didn’t know his own language. Then they wandered southward, to
the Hill, and viewed the ornate mansions of the newly rich. Here were
displayed tapestry brick and terra cotta, creamy limestone and colorful
tile, pergolas and stained glass, smooth lawns and concrete walks,
immaculate hedges and dignified shrubs. Being a newer part of town,
the trees along the streets were small and threw little shade on the
sun-heated pavement, and this, combined with the fact that to reach the
Hill one had of necessity to negotiate a grade, left the boys rather
out of breath and somewhat too warm for comfort. On the whole, Leonard
liked the older part of Alton much better, and confided the fact to his
companion.

“So do I,” agreed Slim. “Of course these places up here have a lot of
things the old houses lack; like tennis courts and garages and sleeping
porches; but there’s an old white house on River street, just around
the corner from Academy, that hits me about right. I’ll show it to you
some time. I guess it’s about a hundred years old; more, likely; but,
gee, it’s a corking old place. When I have a house of my own, General,
none of these young city halls or Carnegie libraries for mine! I want
a place that looks as if some one lived in it. Take a squint at that
chocolate brick arrangement over there. Can you imagine any one being
really comfortable in it? Why, if I lived there I’d be always looking
for a bell-hop to spring out on me and grab whatever I had and push me
over to the register so I could sign my name and get a key. That’s a
fine, big porch, but I’ll bet you wouldn’t ever think of sitting out
there on a summer evening in your shirt sleeves and sprinkling water on
that trained mulberry tree!”

“I don’t believe,” laughed Leonard, “that they put anything as common
as water on that cute thing. They probably have a Mulberry Tree Tonic
or something like that they bathe it in. Say, there is some one on the
porch, just the same, and it looks to me as if he was waving to us.”

“Why, that’s Johnny McGrath!” said Slim. “Hello, Johnny! That where you
live?”

“Sure. Come on over!”

Slim looked inquiringly at Leonard. “Want to go?” he asked in low
tones. “Johnny’s a good sort.”

Leonard nodded, if without enthusiasm, and Slim led the way across the
ribbon of hot asphalt and up the three stone steps that led, by the
invariable concrete path, to the wide porch. A boy of about Leonard’s
age stood awaiting them at the top of the steps, a round-faced chap
with a nose liberally adorned with freckles and undeniably tip-tilted.
He wore white flannel trousers and a gray flannel coat, and there was a
liberal expanse of gray silk socks exposed above the white shoes.

“Want you to meet my friend Grant,” said Slim, climbing the wide steps.
“General, this is Johnny McGrath, the only Sinn Feiner in school. What
you been doing to-day, Johnny? Making bombs?”

Johnny smiled widely and good-humoredly. “You’re the only bum I’ve seen
so far,” he replied. “Come up and cool off.”

“That’s a rotten pun,” protested Slim, accepting the invitation to sit
down in a comfortable wicker chair. “Say, Johnny, there must be money
in Sinn Feining.” He looked approvingly about the big porch with its
tables and chairs, magazines and flowering plants. “Is this your real
home, or do you just hire this for Sundays?”

“We’ve been living here going on three years,” answered Johnny. “Ever
since dad made his pile.” He turned to Leonard and indulged in a truly
Irish wink of one very blue eye. “Slim thinks he gets my goat,” he
explained, “but he doesn’t. Sure, I know this is a bit of a change from
The Flats.”

“The Flats?” repeated Leonard questioningly.

“That’s what they call it over beyond the Carpet Mills,” explained
Johnny. “Shanty Town, you know; Goatville; see?”

“Oh, yes! I don’t believe I’ve been there yet.”

“Well, it isn’t much to look at,” laughed Johnny. “We lived there until
about three years ago. We weren’t as poor as most of them, but there
were six of us in five rooms, Grant. Then dad made his pile and we
bought this place.” Johnny looked about him not altogether approvingly
and shook his head. “It’s fine enough, all right, but, say, fellows,
it’s awfully--what’s the word I seen--saw the other day? Stodgy, that’s
it! I guess it’s going to take us another three years to get used to
it.”

“He misses having the pig in the parlor,” observed Slim gravely to
Leonard. The latter looked toward Johnny McGrath anxiously, but Johnny
only grinned.

“’Twas never that bad with us,” he replied, “but I mind the day the
Cleary’s nanny-goat walked in the kitchen and ate up half of dad’s
nightshirt, and mother near killed him with a flat-iron!”

“Why did she want to kill your father with a flat-iron?” asked Slim
mildly.

“The goat, I said.”

“You did not, Johnny. You told us it was a nanny-goat and said your
mother nearly killed ‘him.’ If that doesn’t mean your father--”

“Well, anyway, I had to lick Terry Cleary before there was peace
between us again,” laughed Johnny. Then his face sobered. “Sure, up
here on the Hill,” he added, “you couldn’t find a scrap if you was
dying!”

The others had to laugh, Slim ejaculating between guffaws: “Johnny,
you’ll be the death of me yet!” Johnny’s blue eyes were twinkling again
and his broad Irish mouth smiling.

“It’s mighty queer,” he went on, “how grand some of these neighbors of
ours are up here. Take the Paternos crowd next door here. Sure, six
years ago that old Dago was still selling bananas from a wagon, and
to-day--wow!--the only wagon he rides in is a limousine. And once, soon
after we moved in, mother was in the back yard seeing the maid hung the
clothes right, or something, and there was Mrs. Paternos’ black head
stuck out of an upstairs window, and thinking to be neighborly, mind
you, mother says to her, ‘Good morning, ma’am,’ or something like that,
and the old Eye-talian puts her nose in the air and slams down the
windy--window, I mean!”

“You’ve got to learn, Johnny,” explained Slim, “that you can’t become
an aristocrat, even in this free country of ours, in less than five
years. That gives you about two to go, son. Be patient.”

“Patient my eye,” responded Johnny serenely. “It’ll take more than five
years to make aristocrats of the McGraths, for they’re not wanting it.
Just the same, Slim, it makes me sick, the way some folks put on side
just because they’ve been out of the tenements a few years. I guess the
lot of us, and I’m meaning you, too, couldn’t go very many years back
before we’d be finding bananas or lead pipe or something ple-bee-an
like that hanging on the old family tree!”

“Speak for yourself,” answered Slim with much dignity. “Or speak for
the General here. As for the Stapleses, Johnny, I’d have you know
that we’re descended from Jeremy Staples, who owned the first inn in
Concord, New Hampshire, and who himself served a glass of grog to
General George Washington!”

“That would be a long time ago,” said Johnny.

“It would; which is why we can boast of it. If it happened last year
we’d be disclaiming any relationship to the old reprobate.”

“McGrath’s right,” said Leonard, smiling but thoughtful. “We’re all
descended from trade or something worse. I know a fellow back home
whose several-times-great grandfather was a pirate with Stede Bonnet,
and his folks are as proud of it as anything. If it isn’t impertinent,
McGrath, how did your father make his money?”

“In the War, like so many others. He was a plumber, you see. He’d gone
into business for himself a few years before and was doing pretty
well. Joe--that’s my oldest brother--was with him. Well, then the War
came and Joe read in the paper where they were going to build a big
cantonment for the soldiers over in Jersey. ‘Why not try to get the job
to put in some of the plumbing?’ says he. ‘Sure, we haven’t a chance,’
says my dad. ‘’Twill be the big fellows as will get that work.’ But Joe
got a copy of the specifications, or whatever they’re called, and set
down and figured, and finally persuaded the Old Man to take a chance.
So they did, and some surprised they were when they were awarded the
contract! Dad said it was too big for them and they’d have to give some
of it to another, but Joe wouldn’t stand for that. He had a hard time
getting money for the bond, or whatever it was the Government wanted,
but he did it finally, and they did the job and did it honestly. Their
figures were away under the estimate of the other firms, but in spite
of that they made themselves rich. Now I say why isn’t dad as much of
a gentleman as old Pete Paternos? Sure lead pipe’s as clean as rotten
bananas!”

“That’s just the point,” replied Slim. “The rotten bananas are old and
the lead pipe’s new. Give the lead pipe another two years, Johnny, and
you can slap Paternos on the back and get away with it.”

“I’m more likely to slap him on the head with a crow-bar,” grumbled
Johnny. Then: “Say, fellows, want some lemonade?”

“Not for worlds,” answered Slim promptly. “Where is it?”

“I’ll have Dora make a pitcher in a shake of a lamb’s tail,” said
Johnny eagerly, as he disappeared. Slim smiled over at Leonard and
Leonard smiled back. Then the latter exclaimed protestingly:

“Just the same, he’s a mighty decent sort, Slim!”

“Of course he is,” agreed the other calmly. “I told you that across the
street. Johnny’s all right.”

“Well, then, aren’t you--aren’t you afraid of hurting his feelings?
Talking to him the way you do, I mean.”

“Not a bit. Johnny knows me, and he knows that what I say is for
the good of his soul. We aristocrats, General, have got to make the
hoi polloi understand that they can’t shove into our sacred circle
off-hand. They’ve got to train for it, old man; work up; go through an
initiation.”

Leonard observed Slim in puzzlement and doubt.

“Why,” Slim went on soberly, “what do you suppose old Jeremy Staples
would say if he could see me now hob-nobbing with the son of a plumber?
The poor old rascal would turn over in his grave, General. Bet you he’d
turn over twice!”

“Oh,” said Leonard, “I thought you meant it!”

“Who says I don’t? Ah, that sounds mighty cheerful, Johnny! Sure you
didn’t put any arsenic in it? My folks are English on my uncle’s side!”

“I’d not waste good arsenic on the likes of you,” answered Johnny,
pouring from a frosted glass pitcher. Followed several moments of
deeply appreciative silence during which visitors and host applied
themselves to the straws that emerged from the glasses. Then Slim
sighed rapturously and held his glass out for more.

“It may be poisoned, Johnny,” he said, “but I’ll take a chance.”

“Are you at Alton?” Leonard asked presently of his host.

“Didn’t I tell you he was?” asked Slim in mild surprise. “He certainly
is. Johnny’s the one bright spot on the basket ball team. You’ll never
know the poetry of motion, General, until you’ve seen him toss a
back-hander into the hoop. The only trouble with him is that, true to
his race, he always mistakes a basket ball game for the Battle of the
Boyne. At least, I think I mean the Boyne. Do I, Johnny?”

“Maybe. I wasn’t there. Anyhow, you’re giving Grant here a wrong idea
of me entirely. I’m the most peaceable lad on the team, Slim Staples,
and you know it.”

“I know nothing of the sort,” protested Slim stoutly. “All I do know is
that whenever you’re playing the casualties are twice as heavy as when
you’re not. Oh, I know you have a foxy way of handing out the wallops,
and that the referee seldom catches you at it, but facts are facts,
Johnny, and I’m nothing if not factotum.”

“You’re nothing if not insulting,” corrected Johnny. “Why does he call
you ‘General?’” he continued of Leonard.

“Why, he hit on that--” Leonard began.

“Is it possible you never heard of General Grant?” demanded Slim
incredulously.

“Oh, that’s it? Well,” as Slim stood up to go and Leonard followed his
example, “I’m pleased to have met you. Come again, won’t you? I’ll not
be asking Slim, for he’s too insulting.”

“Oh, now that I know where you live and what good lemonade you keep
on draught, I’ll come frequently,” said Slim kindly. “Maybe we might
drop around next Sunday afternoon about this time, or a little before.
You’d better make it a point to have plenty of lemons on hand.”

“Why, if you come we’ll not be without them,” Johnny assured him
sweetly.

“Fine! And now, before we go, may we see the pig, Johnny?”

“Sure,” replied the other, relapsing into a rich brogue, “it’s sorry I
am, Slim my darlint, but the pig do be havin’ his afthernoon nap in the
panthry, and he’d be that angry if I was wakin’ him!”

Going back down the slope of Melrose Avenue Leonard remarked: “He said
there were six of them, Slim. Are there other brothers beside the Joe
he spoke of?”

“There were,” answered Slim. “There’s one other now, a little chap
about twelve. I don’t know his name.”

“What happened to the other brother?”

“Killed in the War,” replied Slim briefly.

“Oh!”

“There was a citation,” added Slim. “Johnny says it’s framed and
hanging over his mother’s bed. It’s a lucky thing for the country,
General, that it doesn’t have to look up a fellow’s pedigree before it
can let him fight; what?”



CHAPTER VI

THE SEASON BEGINS


In spite of Slim’s predictions, Leonard’s calm announcement to
Manager Tenney that he was a candidate for guard on the football team
occasioned no evident surprise. Considering that within forty-eight
hours Tenney had registered the name of a fat and pudgy junior whose
consuming ambition was to play quarterback and had listened to the calm
assurance of a lathe-like youth that he would be satisfied with nothing
save the position of center, the manager’s absence of emotion was not
surprising. Anyhow, Leonard was relieved to find that he was not to
meet opposition at the outset, and took his place in Squad C quite
satisfied. Football practice at Alton Academy differed from the same
occupation at Loring Point High School in at least two essentials, he
decided. It was more systematic and it was a whole lot more earnest.
There was little lost motion during the hour and a half that the
candidates occupied the field. You didn’t stand around waiting for
the coach to remember your existence and think up a new torture, nor,
when the coach was present, did you spend precious minutes in banter.
From the moment of the first “Let’s go!” to the final “That’s all,
fellows!” you had something to do and did it hard, impressed every
instant with the importance of the task set you. Of course, practice
was less amusing, less fun here at Alton. There was no social side to
the gathering. Even after a week of practice Leonard knew almost none
of the fellows he worked with. He did know the names of many, and he
had a “Hello” acquaintance with a half-dozen, but there was no time for
the social amenities.

He had been put down as a lineman and spent at least a half-hour daily
being instructed in the duties of blocking and charging. Always there
was another half-hour for each squad with the tackling dummies, of
which headless opponents there were two. Generally the balance of the
period was occupied in learning to handle the ball and in running
through a few simple formation plays. In these Leonard was played
anywhere that the assistant coach, usually acting as quarter, fancied.
Generally he was a guard or a tackle, now on this side and now on
that, but on two occasions he found himself cast for a backfield rôle
and trotted up and down the field as a half. On Tuesday afternoon the
first and second squads held the first scrimmage, and by Thursday Coach
Cade had put together a tentative eleven to meet Alton High School
on Saturday. No one was surprised to see Gordon Renneker occupying
the position of right guard, for Renneker’s fame had already spread
throughout the school.

[Illustration: There was another half-hour for each squad with the
tackling dummies]

That first engagement was played under a hot sun and with the
temperature hovering around seventy-two when High School kicked off.
Naturally enough, as an exhibition of scientific football it left much
to be desired. High School showed lack of condition and her players
were to be seen stretched on their backs whenever time was called.
Alton appeared of somewhat sterner stuff, but there was no doubt that
half-time came as a welcome interruption even to her. “Johnny” Cade
started Gurley and Emerson at ends, Butler and Wilde at tackles,
Stimson and Renneker at guards and Garrick at center. The backfield
consisted of Carpenter, Goodwin, Kendall and Greenwood. But this
line-up didn’t persist long. Even by the end of the first quarter
“Red” Reilly was at right half and Wells was at right tackle. During
the remainder of the game changes were frequent until, near the end of
the final period, second- and third-string players made up the team.
Coach Cade tried out much unknown material that afternoon, and it
seemed to Leonard that he was the only candidate who hadn’t been given
a chance. As a matter of fact, though, there were some twenty others
in like case, for the squad had not yet been cut. It was when Alton
was presenting her weakest line-up that High School cut loose with her
second bombardment of overhead shots--the first essay, in the second
quarter, had netted her little enough--and secured her lone touchdown.
She failed to add a goal since her line didn’t hold long enough for her
kicker to get the ball away. The final score of the slow and ragged
contest was 23 to 6. Talking it over afterwards in the comparative
coolness of Number 12 Haylow, Slim was pessimistic. Perhaps the fact
that his own efforts during approximately half of the forty minutes of
actual play had not been brilliantly successful colored his mood.

“We’ve got plenty of material,” pronounced Slim, elevating his
scantily-clad legs to the window-sill, “and I guess it’s average good,
but it’s going to take us a long time to get going this year. You can
see that with half an eye. Look at the army of queers that Johnny tried
out this afternoon. That’s what slows up development, General. Now,
last year we had the makings of a team right at the start. Only three
or four first-string lads, I think, but a perfect gang of experienced
substitutes, to say nothing of second team fellows. Result was that we
started off with a bang and kept going. You bet High School didn’t do
any scoring last season!”

“But,” objected Leonard, “weren’t you telling me the other day that the
team had an awful slump about the middle of the season, and--”

“Oh, well, that had nothing to do with the start. Two or three things
accounted for that. What I’m getting at is just this. It’s mighty poor
policy to spend the first two weeks of a football season finding out
that more than half of your material’s no good to you. If I ever coach
a team there’ll be no mob under my feet after the first three or four
days. Thirty men’ll be all I’ll want. If I can’t build a team out of
them, all right. I get out.”

“Glad that rule doesn’t hold good now,” said Leonard. “If it did I’d be
out of it already.”

“Well, I don’t know. No, you wouldn’t either! That’s what I’m getting
at. You can play football. You’ve done it for two years. You’ve
had experience. All right. But look at the run of the small fry
that--that’s infesting the field so you have to watch your step to
keep from tramping on ’em. Why, suffering cats, most of ’em won’t be
ready to play football for two years yet! There are chaps out there
who couldn’t stop a ball with their heads! The ball would knock ’em
right over. Well, Johnny gives each of ’em the once-over, and it takes
time. He knows they aren’t going to show anything. It’s just this silly
policy of giving every one a chance to make good. That’s why you’re
sitting on the bench and a bunch of scrawny little would-be’s are
letting High School shove over a score on us.”

“You may be right,” answered Leonard, “but it seems to me that it’s
only by giving every one a chance to show what he’s good for that you
can be sure of not overlooking something. I’ve seen more than once a
fellow who didn’t look like anything at all at the start of the season
turn into something good later on.”

“Sure, that happens now and then, but what of it? If the fellow really
has ability he keeps on playing. He goes to the scrubs or one of the
class teams. If he makes good there he mighty soon finds himself yanked
back to the first. And the coach hasn’t wasted a week or two trying to
find out about him.”

“Well, I guess I’m--I’m conservative, or something,” laughed Leonard,
“for I sort of like a team that starts slow and gets up its speed
gradually. I know that back home our coach used to point us for our
big game, the last one, and all the other games were taken as they
came, more or less. Of course, when we played Delaware Polytechnic we
smoothed out a bit and learned two or three new plays just beforehand,
but we didn’t go out of our way much even for her.”

“Oh, that’s all right, General. I don’t want to see any team hit its
stride too early. Safe and slow is my motto, too, but that doesn’t mean
you’ve got to get started a fortnight after school opens. Look here,
I’ll bet you that next Saturday Johnny won’t be any nearer settled on
the team’s make-up than he was to-day. Well, of course, he’ll know
about some positions, but he’ll still be experimenting. Rus Emerson’s
the same sort he is, too; has an ingrown conscience or--or sense of
responsibility toward others. If Rus had his way any fellow who could
borrow a pair of football pants could have a week’s try-out!”

“Who plays us next Saturday?” asked Leonard.

“Lorimer Academy. They’re a nice crowd of chaps, and they don’t give us
much trouble. Last year, though, they did sort of throw a scare into
us. We got three scores to their two. It was right after that we played
a tie game with Hillsport and went into a jolly slump. Say, that guy
Renneker didn’t show up so mighty wonderful to-day, did you think?”

“N-no, he looked a bit slow to me. But I guess he hasn’t got used to
the place yet. Either that or he was sort of saving himself.”

“Saving himself for what?” demanded Slim.

“Search me.” Leonard smiled. “Maybe he thought there wasn’t much use
working too hard against a weak team like Alton High.”

Slim shook his head, looking incredulous. “All I know is that the short
time we were in together he was generally ‘on the outside looking in.’
Rather gives me the impression of being a poser. Still, to-day wasn’t
much of a test; and he’s pretty big and perhaps the heat stalled him
some. Hope he pans out big, for we sure need a corking good guard.
Smedley’s a pippin, and Raleigh isn’t too bad, but we need another. To
look at Renneker you’d expect him to be a hustler, but he didn’t show
it to-day. He was outside most of the plays when I saw him. Not like
Jim Newton. Jim’s always in the middle of it. For a center, Jim’s a
live wire. Doesn’t matter much where the play comes in the line; Jim’s
always sitting on the enemy’s head when the dust clears away! Say, I
wish you’d switch your game, General, and try for tackle or something,
something you’d have a show at.”

“But you just said,” answered the other demurely, “that the team needed
another good guard.”

Slim grinned and shook his head. “All right, son, but I’d like to see
you on the team. That’s all.”

“Think one of us ought to get on, eh?”

“Huh? Oh, well, there’s something in that, too. I’m not very sure of a
place, and that’s no jolly quip. Gurley’s a good end, worse luck! And
there’s Kerrison, too. But I’ll give them a fight for it. They’ll know
they’ve been working if they beat me out, General! Let’s go and see
what they’re giving us for supper.”

Leonard met the captain that evening for the first time. Met him
socially, that is to say, Russell Emerson and Billy Wells overtook
Leonard and Slim on their way to the movies. Wells was one of those
Leonard already had a speaking acquaintance with, but Emerson had thus
far remained outside his orbit. Continuing the journey, Leonard fell to
Billy Wells and Rus and Slim walked ahead, but coming home they paired
differently and Leonard found himself conversing with the captain, at
first somewhat embarrassedly. But the football captain was easy to
know, as the saying is, and Leonard soon forgot his diffidence. Of
course, football formed some of the conversation, but Leonard sensed
relief on the other’s part when the subject changed to the pictures
they had just witnessed. After that they talked of other things; the
school, and Leonard’s home in Rhode Island--Rus, it seemed, had never
been farther south than he was now--, and the faculty and some of the
fellows. The captain seemed to take it for granted that his companion
was familiar with the names he mentioned, although as a fact most of
them were new to Leonard. Mention of “Jake,” the trainer, introduced
a laughable story about Jake and a track team candidate, in which
Rus tried to imitate Jake’s brogue. That reminded Leonard of Johnny
McGrath, and he asked Rus if he knew him.

“Yes, I’ve met him several times,” was the answer. “I’ve been trying to
get him to try football. He’s a very good basket ball player and I’ve a
strong hunch that he’d make a corking half. But his folks, his mother
especially, I believe, object. He had a brother killed in the War, and
his mother is dead set against taking chances with another of them. Too
bad, too, for he’s a fast, scrappy fellow. The good-natured kind, you
know. Plays hard and keeps his temper every minute. There’s a lot in
keeping your temper, Grant.”

“But I’ve heard of teams being ‘fighting mad’ and doing big things.”

“Yes, the phrase is common enough, but ‘fighting earnest’ would be
better. Just as soon as a fellow gets really mad he loses his grip more
or less. He makes mistakes of judgment, begins to play ‘on his own.’
If he gets angry enough he stops being any use to the team. Of course
there are chaps now and then who can work themselves up to a sort of
fighting fury and play great football, but I suspect that those chaps
aren’t really quite as wild as they let on. There’s Billy back there.
He almost froths at the mouth and insults the whole team he’s playing
against, but he never loses anything more than his tongue, I guess. The
old bean keeps right on functioning as per usual. Billy doesn’t begin
to warm up until his opponent double-crosses him or some one hands him
a wallop! By the way, Grant, you’re on the squad, aren’t you? Seems to
me I’ve seen you out at the field.”

“Yes,” Leonard assented, “I’m trying.”

“Good! What position?”

“Guard,” answered Leonard stoutly.

“Sure?”

“I beg pardon?”

Emerson smiled. “I mean, are you certain that’s the position you want?
You look a little light for guard.”

“I suppose I am,” said Leonard ruefully. “I tried hard to grow last
summer, but I didn’t succeed very well. Our coach back home insists
that I ought to play guard and so I’m sticking to it. Probably I won’t
have much of a show this year, though.”

“Have you been in a scrimmage yet?”

“No, I haven’t. I’ve been on Squad C for a week or so. I’ve been at
guard and tackle, and played back, too. Sort of a utility man.”

“Well, if you’re on C you haven’t done so badly. We’ll have to try you
in the scrimmage some afternoon. To be honest, though, Grant, you’d
have a better chance to get placed at tackle than at guard, for it just
happens that we’re pretty well fixed for guard material this year.
At least, we think so now. We may change our minds later. After all,
a fellow who can play guard ought to fit pretty well into the tackle
position. I dare say you’d rather do that than not get anywhere.”

“I guess so,” replied Leonard. Then he laughed. “I suppose I’m sort of
stubborn about playing guard, Emerson. I’ve just had it dinned into
me that guard’s my game, and I can’t seem to take kindly to doing
something else. But, as you say, I’d rather play any position at all
than none!”

“Why, yes. Besides, you don’t have to stick where they put you. I knew
a fellow who started here in his second year as half-back on the scrub
team, went to the first as end the next year and then played a corking
game at center in his senior year. I guess that was an unusual case,
but lots of chaps switch from line to backfield and vice versa. Well,
here’s my hang-out.” The captain paused in front of Lykes. “I’m in 16,
Grant. Come and see me some time, won’t you? Slim knows the way.”

Slim and Billy Wells joined them and then the latter and Rus Emerson
said good night and went into Lykes. Slim thrust an arm through
Leonard’s as they continued toward their own dormitory. “Well, what
did you and Rus cook up?” he inquired.

“We settled one or two things; such as dropping you and Gurley to the
second and putting me in at left end.”

“Fine! Anything else?”

“Well, he said that if I didn’t like that he’d fix it for me to play
tackle. Of course I told him that guard was my game, and he was awfully
decent about offering to let Renneker go and putting me in at right
guard, but I saw that it would make it a bit awkward for him, and I put
my foot down on it at once.”

“You would,” said Slim admiringly. “You’ve got a kind heart, General.
I’ll say that for you. I wish,” added Slim feelingly, “I could think of
something else to say for you!”



CHAPTER VII

JUST ONE OF THE SUBS


It wasn’t until Wednesday of that week that Captain Emerson’s
quasi-promise bore fruit. Then Coach Cade, consulting his note-book,
announced “Lawrence and Grant, tackles.” Leonard wasn’t quite certain
he had heard correctly, but Leo Falls, beside him on the bench, nudged
him into action and he cast off his enveloping gray blanket and picked
up a helmet.

“Substitutes take the north goal and kick off,” directed the coach.
“All right, Appel! Hurry it up!”

Leonard trotted out with ten other youths and called to Appel,
substitute quarter in charge: “Where do I go?” he asked.

“What are you playing?”

“Tackle.”

“Well, for the love of lemons, don’t you know your position at
kick-off?” asked Appel impatiently. “Get in there between Squibbs and
Gurley.”

As, however, Lawrence beat him to that location, Leonard disobeyed
orders and sandwiched himself in at the left side of the line. Then
Garrick kicked off and the scrimmage started. Truth compels me to say
that Leonard did not cover himself with glory during the ten minute
period allowed him. He tried hard enough, but there _is_ a difference
between playing guard and playing tackle, and Leonard was much too
unfamiliar with the subtleties of a tackle’s duties to put up much of a
game. Besides, he was faced by two veterans in the persons of Captain
Emerson at end and Billy Wells at tackle on the first. Raleigh, who
played guard beside him, gave him hurried cues more than once when the
play was headed his way, but that didn’t always prevent him from being
turned in by the truculent Wells while a first team back galloped past
for a gain. On offense Leonard did better, but he couldn’t think of
much to console himself with when the period was over. First had scored
twice, once by a touchdown and once by a field-goal, and the subs had
never got inside the other’s thirty. To add to Leonard’s discomfiture,
he had plainly heard Appel inquire on one occasion, seemingly of the
blue empyrean, and in pained tones, what he had done to be inflicted
with a tackle who couldn’t stop a toy balloon! About the only thing
that Leonard could think of to be thankful for was the fact that
Carpenter had selected the right of the sub’s line for the attack that
had brought the touchdown. It wasn’t much, but it was something!

With half a dozen others he was sent off to the showers after the
first period, and so he couldn’t see that Cash, who took his place in
the succeeding period, did scarcely any better. Since Cash, though a
newcomer, was a professed tackle, Leonard might have been cheered a
trifle by witnessing that youth’s performance. As it was, however, it
remained for Slim to dispel the gloom to some slight extent. “Why, you
poor prune,” scoffed Slim later on in Number 12, “you don’t need to get
hipped about what happened to you. Why, say, if you think you played
punk you ought to see some of ’em! Bless your dear soul, sonnie, you
were head and shoulders above a lot that get in. I was rather too busy
myself to watch how you were getting on very much, but as I didn’t hear
Appel saying much to you I judge that you did fairly well.”

Leonard repeated the quarter’s remark about a tackle who couldn’t stop
a toy balloon, but Slim only chuckled. “If that’s all ‘Bee’ said you
must have done mighty well,” he answered. “That little hornet has a
sting when he wants to use it, believe me, General! And if he’d been
really out of patience with you he’d have been all over you!”

“Well, I can’t play tackle,” said Leonard sadly. “That’s one sure
thing.”

“Oh, piffle! Snap out of it, General. To-morrow, or whenever you get
another chance, you’ll do a heap better. Anyway, you were on the hard
side there, with Billy and Rus against you. Those two tough guys could
make any one look sick!”

“I don’t believe I’ll get another chance,” said Leonard.

“Sure, you will. I dare say Johnny’ll have you back there to-morrow.
Just you forget about being on earth for the sole purpose of playing
guard and watch how the tackles handle their jobs. Then you go in and
bust things wide open. If Billy gets too gay with you and passes out
compliments, tell him where to get off and poke your elbow in his face.
Don’t let him think you’re soft and easy, whatever you do. But, if
you’ll take my advice, you’ll play right tackle next time!”

“N-no,” said Leonard, “I guess I’ll stick where I was to-day--if I get
another chance to.”

“You’ll get the chance,” predicted Slim. “And I don’t know but what
you’re right, at that. You’ll learn a heap more and learn it quicker
playing opposite Billy than you would against Butler.”

Disquieting rumors had reached Alton from Lorimer Academy. The Lorimer
team was said to be unusually good this season, and since when only
ordinarily good it gave Alton a hard battle, it was considered wise
to make a few extra preparations for the next game. The result of
this decision was to eliminate scrimmage on Thursday. Instead the
first team and substitutes underwent a double dose of signal drill and
learned two new plays. Perhaps the plays weren’t exactly new; few are
any longer; but they were new to Alton, and Coach Cade devoutly hoped
that they’d be new to Lorimer! Leonard, trailing his blanket around the
sod in the wake of the team, was disappointed, for he had hoped to get
another try-out to-day and had earnestly resolved to comport himself
so much better than yesterday that Quarterback Appel would ask no more
despairing questions of the heavens. But it was not to be. Instead,
he was relegated to the rôle of looker-on, he and some twenty others,
and so wandered up and down the field behind the workers, supposedly
imbibing wisdom as he went. Finally all were dismissed except a handful
of kickers and sent back to the gymnasium and showers.

The first cut was announced the next morning, and that afternoon the
second team came into being. Leonard was as surprised as relieved to
find his name not among the seventeen on the list. He read it three
times to make sure. Then he remembered that there would be other cuts
coming, and felt less jubilant. There was a long and hard scrimmage
that Friday afternoon, but he didn’t get into it. However, since the
coach had his thoughts centered on the morrow’s contest that day,
Leonard was not unduly chagrined. It wasn’t likely that any fellow who
hadn’t a chance of being called on to face Lorimer would command Mr.
Cade’s attention to-day. The new plays didn’t go any too well, and
some of the older ones went little better. On the whole, there was a
general air of dissatisfaction apparent about the field and, later, in
the locker room of the gymnasium. Of course, as Slim remarked, walking
back to hall with Leonard, beating Lorimer “wasn’t anything to get het
up about, but, just the same and nevertheless and notwithstanding, it
would sort of feel good to hand those lads a wallop!”

“I’ve got a hunch we’ll win,” said Leonard comfortably.

“You have, eh? Well, I’ve got a hunch that we’ll have to show more form
than we did to-day if we do lick ’em,” answered Slim grimly. “No one
had any punch this afternoon. I don’t blame Johnny for being sore.”

“Was he?” asked Leonard, surprised.

“Was he! I’ll say he was! Don’t you know the symptoms yet?”

Leonard shook his head apologetically. “I guess I don’t. He didn’t say
much, did he?”

“No, he said mighty little. That’s his way. When he gets sore he shuts
his mouth like a clam. Oh, of course, he talks up to a certain point,
but after that--” Slim shook his head. “This afternoon he was so silent
it was creepy! I wouldn’t be much surprised if there was a fine old
shake-up about Monday. Well, we who are about to die salute you!”

Slim drew aside at the entrance to Haylow, his fingers at his forehead,
and Leonard passed impressively by.

“I shall always remember you kindly, Slim,” he said.

Leonard had been watching the Lorimer game exactly four and one-half
minutes the next afternoon when the conviction reached him that the
Gray-and-Gold was in for some hard work. It was four and a half minutes
after the start of the contest that the Lorimer Academy full-back
shot through the left side of the Alton line and, shaking himself
free from the secondary defense, plunged on for fourteen yards before
he was finally dragged down, landing the pigskin on the home team’s
thirty-five. Leonard’s conviction was accompanied by a premonition
of defeat. There was something decidedly awe-inspiring in the smooth
efficiency of the invading horde. They were big chaps; big in a rangy
way, though, and not merely heavy with flesh; and they moved with
speed and precision and a kind of joyous zest that promised trouble
for those who should get in their way. According to the stories one
heard, the Lorimer team was composed entirely of third and fourth year
men, with five of the eleven first-choice players seniors. Leonard
could well believe that, for none of the enemy appeared to be less
than eighteen years old, while three or four were probably nearer
twenty. Opposed to them was a team of much younger players, of whom
only three were seniors. Greenwood and Smedley, oldest of all, were
but nineteen. Captain Emerson was eighteen. The balance of the players
ranged from eighteen down to, in the case of Menge, sixteen. Alton
was, also, many pounds lighter, especially in the backfield. Coach
Cade might have presented a heavier line-up than he had presented,
however. With Newton at center in place of Garrick and Stimson at left
guard in place of Smedley the line would have gained several pounds of
weight. The backfield likewise might have been improved in the matter
of avoirdupois by substituting Goodwin for the diminutive “Cricket”
Menge. Reflecting on these things, Leonard, draped in his gray blanket,
watched anxiously from the substitutes’ bench while Jake, the trainer,
restored Kendall with a sopping sponge and, behind him, the Alton
supporters cheered encouragingly. After all, Leonard told himself,
this was only the beginning and Lorimer’s superiority might be more
apparent than real. It took more than age and weight and bright yellow
head-guards to win a football game!

Lorimer had won the toss and given the ball to Alton. Garrick had
kicked off and his effort had scarcely reached the enemy’s twenty-yard
line. From there it had been run back some five yards. Lorimer had
tried the Alton center and made less than two. Then she had punted and
the ball had gone out at Alton’s forty. Joe Greenwood had made three
at the right of the visitor’s center, Kendall had lost a yard on a try
at left end and Carpenter had punted to Lorimer’s twenty-eight. Then
the enemy had thrown an unexpected forward-pass from regular formation
on first down and made it good for twenty-three yards, Captain Emerson
pulling down the receiver just over the center line. Then the visitor’s
big full-back had torn through for that astounding gain, and now, with
the game less than five minutes old, the enemy was almost inside the
scoring zone.

Lorimer used a four-square backfield formation and a last-minute shift
that was difficult for the opponent to follow. As the game went on she
varied the direct pass by a snapback to the quarter, and a delayed
pass following the latter proceeding accounted for several gains.
Most of all, however, Lorimer had experienced players with weight and
speed, which is a combination difficult to beat, and the game went
badly for the Gray-and-Gold during that first half. Although a stand
was made on the twenty-two-yard line that held the invaders for three
downs and necessitated a try for a field-goal that failed, Alton’s
moment of humiliation was only postponed. It came finally soon after
the beginning of the second period. An exchange of punts had gained a
slight advantage for Lorimer and the “Yellow-Tops,” as they were now
being called in the stands, had twice made their distance, putting the
ball down on Alton’s forty-one yards. Then came a play that fooled
the home team badly. What had every appearance of being a plunge by
left half through his own side, with the whole Lorimer backfield in
it, proved a moment later to be the old hidden ball stunt, with the
long-legged Lorimer quarter sneaking around the other end and no one
paying any heed to him. The whole Alton team had been pulled to the
right, and the runner had a clear field for several precious moments.
When Carpenter tackled him he was only seventeen yards from the last
line.

That misadventure seemed to place the defenders of the north goal in a
condition of consternation from which they didn’t wholly recover until
the enemy had pushed the ball across. It took them but seven plays to
do it, concentrating on Smedley and Butler and using their battering
full-back for four of the seven assaults. It was a sad sight to the
Alton sympathizers on stands and bench, for the Gray-and-Gold warriors
looked strangely helpless and their efforts to repel the attack only
half-hearted. Yet, scarcely a minute later, those same warriors broke
through the enemy line and spoiled the try-at-goal, a feat that had
seemed impossible!

With the score at 6 to 0 the game went on to the whistle that ended
the second period, Alton battling fiercely to reach the Lorimer goal
and never getting nearer than the thirty-six yards. Lorimer appeared
willing to cry quits for the balance of the half, kicking on second
down and seeming satisfied to play on the defensive. It was a penalty
against the visitor for holding that aided Alton in penetrating as far
into the enemy territory as the thirty-six. There, with two to go on
fourth down, Captain Emerson, faking a placement kick, threw over the
line. Menge, however, who was to have taken the pass, failed to get
into position and the ball grounded. The half ended there.

Leonard plodded back to the gymnasium with the others and sat around
and felt very small and useless. There had been plenty of minor
casualties, and Jake was busy all during the intermission. Coach Cade
talked earnestly to this player and that and finally to them all. He
didn’t say much. He told them, in effect, that they were playing a
mighty good team and there was no disgrace attached to the touchdown
that had been scored against them. He said that in the next half they
would find it easier to stop Lorimer’s rushes, now that they knew her
game better, and that he didn’t see why they shouldn’t be able to
score a couple of times themselves. “Of course,” he added quietly,
“you’ll have to play very differently from the way you’ve been playing,
fellows. I’m willing to take my share of the blame, but there isn’t one
of you with enough assurance to tell me that you played that half the
way I’ve taught you to play! You tried out a system of your own. And it
didn’t work. Now, then let’s try the other style of football, the sort
you’ve been learning for the last two years. Watch the ball and not the
players. You’ve been fooled so often you ought to have enough by now!
And when you have the ball start sooner. Don’t let the other fellows
stop you on your side of the line. And play hard, fellows, _hard_! Why,
you haven’t any of you perspired yet! Come on out now and show those
big guys what a lot of poor shrimps they are!”

Of course what ought to have happened then is this. Alton, inspired
by the coach’s words, filled with a new courage and a greater
determination, returned to the field and trampled the foe underfoot,
showing a startling reversal of form and winning the game by an
overwhelming score. Well, maybe, but it didn’t happen that way so any
one could notice it. This is a truthful narrative, and facts are facts.

The line-up for the third period was the same as for the first with
the exception of Stimson at left guard in place of the much-battered
Smedley. There were plenty of other changes before the game came to
an end, but they were not yet. Lorimer kicked off and Kendall caught
and was downed after a twelve-yard run-back. Carpenter sent Greenwood
at the line and Joe hit something hard and bounced back. Menge got
three outside left tackle and Carpenter punted short to midfield.
Lorimer made her distance and placed the pigskin on Alton’s forty-two.
A delayed pass lost a yard. A plunge at left tackle was smeared by
Stimson. Lorimer kicked to the ten yards and Carpenter ran back to his
seventeen. Kendall got through on the right of the line for six yards.
Kendall tried the same place again and was stopped. Carpenter ran wide
around his left and gained two. Kendall punted and the Lorimer quarter
was thrown in his tracks by Emerson. Lorimer started back from her
twenty-four yards and found a soft place at Wells, making it first down
on her thirty-seven. Another try at Wells was good for only a yard.
Lorimer then threw forward, but the pass was knocked down by Staples.
A second forward to the other side of the field grounded. Lorimer
punted.

And so the game went. Alton was playing better and harder, but she
couldn’t make much headway at that. Carpenter seemed unwilling to
attempt variety in the plays he ordered, and Lorimer solved most of
them before they started. Several penalties were meted out, both teams
sharing about equally. The third period ended with the ball in Alton’s
possession on her own forty-yard line. With ten minutes left to play, a
victory for the home team was scarcely within the possibilities, while,
on the other hand, it was very generally predicted that Lorimer would
not be able to add to her holdings.

Five fresh players went in for Alton. Newton succeeded Garrick at
center, Renneker gave way to Raleigh, Wells to Wilde, Carpenter to
Appel and Kendall to Reilly. Leonard, who had expected to see the
hard-fighting Goodwin replace young Menge at left half before this, was
surprised to observe “Cricket” still in place when the whistle blew
again. Appel proved an improvement over Carpenter right away. “Bee,”
as Slim had once remarked, had a sting, and it wasn’t long before
Lorimer experienced it. The new quarter appeared to possess no awe of
the enemy. He banged “Red” Reilly into the line once and then called
for a risky double-pass play that threw Menge around the enemy right
end with almost a clear field ahead of him. The Lorimer right half
nipped the play and stood the diminutive Cricket on his head after a
seven-yard gain, but Alton cheered loudly and triumphantly and took
heart. But the Alton advance ended four plays later when Reilly fumbled
and a Lorimer back shot through and fell on the rolling ball. Lorimer
worked to Alton’s thirty-one, was held for three downs and attempted
a desperate placement kick that fell five yards short. Seven of the
last ten minutes were gone when a short forward-pass straight over the
middle of the line gave Emerson a chance to dodge his way for a dozen
yards and put the pigskin down on the enemy’s thirty-four.

Carpenter had twice tried the new plays for no results, and now Appel
had a go at one of them. The one he selected was a half-back run from
close formation, the ball going to quarter and from him to one of
three players running past him and turning in around a boxed end. The
chief merit of it lay in the fact that the ball was well hidden and
the play could be made fast. Much, naturally, depended on the work of
the linemen in doing away with the enemy defense. The ball went to the
second runner in the tandem, who might be either one of the backs.
The first man’s duty was to clear away the enemy’s secondary defense
long enough for the man with the ball to get clear of the line. After
that it was mainly up to the latter to look after himself, although,
theoretically at least, he was protected from behind.

Appel chose this play--Number 39 was its official title--with the ball
on Lorimer’s thirty-four-yard line well over toward the west side of
the field. Cricket Menge was second in line when the backs turned as
the ball was snapped and ran past the quarter. The play was nearly
spoiled by Slim’s inability to throw the opposing end in, but he did
the next best thing and allowed him to go past on the outside. Reilly
took the Lorimer right half and disposed of him neatly and Cricket
piled around on his heels. Greenwood prevented a flank attack and then
confusion reigned and for a moment no one could have said exactly
what did happen. But when the moment--a brief one--had passed, there
was Cricket running two yards ahead of the nearest pursuer and making
straight for the goal. It was Appel who put the crowning touch on his
work by spurting through the ruck and engaging the Lorimer quarter
just in time. Menge, small and fleet, reached the goal-line an instant
later almost unchallenged. And after that the Gray-and-Gold held firmly
against the charge of a frantic opponent and Rus Emerson dropped the
ball very neatly between the uprights and well over the bar, doing what
Lorimer had failed to do on a like occasion and so winning a game that,
viewing the matter without prejudice, belonged to the enemy!



CHAPTER VIII

A STRANGE RESEMBLANCE


The school weekly, _The Doubleay_--more generally referred to as the
“_Flubdub_”--was almost epic over the Lorimer game in the following
Thursday’s issue. It dwelt heavily on the dramatic aspects and very
lightly on the scientific. It found, or pretended to find, much
encouragement in the masterly way in which the Alton representatives
had overcome the enemy’s lead and soared to victory in the last
minutes of play. Every one came in for a kind word--every one save
the adversaries--and there was even fulsome praise for a few: Captain
Emerson and Appel and Cricket Menge and Greenwood and Gordon Renneker.
Even Slim, who had stuck it out for three periods, was mentioned
approvingly. The _Flubdub_ concluded with a flourish of trumpets,
declaring that the Alton team had already found its stride and was
headed straight for a victory over Kenly Hall.

The _Flubdub’s_ effusion is set forth here, out of chronological order,
merely to show how judgments differ. There were others who viewed
the Lorimer game with less enthusiasm; as, for instance, Slim and
Leonard. Slim made a wry face and shrugged his shoulders. “Just plain
robbery,” said the left end. “We hadn’t any more right to take that
game than--than nothing at all! Talk about stealing the baby’s rattle!
Why, bless my soul, General, the only reason that ‘39’ play succeeded
was because it went wrong! I was supposed to box that end of theirs,
Kellog, and he wouldn’t box. By rights, he ought to have swung around
back of me and spoiled the picture. Just by luck he didn’t, and Cricket
got by and squirmed loose. That wasn’t good football, son, it was good
luck. We played pretty fairly punk, the lot of us, although we did do
a bit better after Appel took the helm. Bee isn’t the player Carpenter
is, but he certainly can run the team a sight better, if you want my
opinion. As for me, I don’t mind owning that I was rotten. But all the
others were, too, so I don’t feel so badly. Even your friend Renneker
did more heavy looking on than anything else, so far as I could see.”

“I’m afraid I can’t claim him as a friend,” said Leonard. “He’s never
known me since we parted in the cab that day.”

“Well, I’m beginning to sour on that handsome guy as a tackle. Looks to
me like he was touched with frost!”

At about the same time that Saturday evening Rus Emerson was seated in
Coach Cade’s front room in the old white house opposite the school
gate on Academy street. Johnny sat at one side of a big mahogany table
and Rus at the other, and each was slumped well down on his spine as
if he had put in a hard day’s work. The soft light of the lamp left
their faces in shadow. The coach was speaking. “Who makes up these
All-Scholastic Football Teams, Cap?” he inquired.

“The papers, I guess. That is, the sports editors.”

“Reckon they make mistakes now and then?”

“I wouldn’t wonder.” Rus smiled gently in the shadow.

“H’m.” There was silence a moment. Then: “He certainly looks good,”
continued the coach almost wistfully. “I don’t know that I ever saw a
chap who came nearer to looking the part of a clever, hard-fighting
lineman. Why, just on appearances you’d pick him out of a crowd and
shake hands with yourself.”

“He certainly does look the part,” agreed Rus. “And maybe he will find
his pace after a bit.”

“Maybe.” But Johnny’s tone was dubious. “He won’t find it unless he
looks for it, though, and it doesn’t seem to me that he’s taking the
trouble to look.” The coach laughed softly, ruefully. “The funny thing
is, Cap, that he’s got me bluffed. I know mighty well that he needs
jacking up, but every time I get ready to ask him if he won’t kindly
come alive and take an interest in things he turns that calmly superior
gaze on me and I haven’t the courage. Why, drat his handsome hide, Cap,
he looks like he _invented_ football! Speaking harshly to him would be
like--like knocking off the President’s hat with a snowball!”

Rus chuckled. “He’s got me like that, too. I want to apologize every
time I open my mouth to him. Do you know, I’m beginning to wonder
whether it wouldn’t be a good plan to switch him over to the subs for a
few days. It might be good medicine.”

“Ye-es, it might. We’ll see how he comes on the first of the week,
though. Besides, Cap, who’s going to tell him he’s out of the line-up?”
laughed Johnny. “Me, I’d have to write him a letter or send him a
telegram!”

There was a knock at the door and Tod Tenney came in. “Hello, Coach!
Hi, Rus! Say, is there anything special this evening? Anything to
discuss, I mean? If there isn’t I want to cut. There’s a shindig down
town.” Tod grinned.

“‘Nobody knows,’” hummed Rus, “‘where the Old Man goes, but he takes
his dancing shoes!’”

“Yes, there’s one thing,” answered the coach gravely. “I’d like your
opinion, Tod. What do you think of this fellow Renneker?”

Tod already had the doorknob in hand, and now he turned it, pulled the
portal inward and sort of oozed through the aperture. But before the
countenance quite disappeared the mouth opened and the oracle spoke.

“He’s a false-alarm,” was the verdict.

Then the door closed.

Sunday afternoon Slim and Leonard went to walk again and, at Leonard’s
suggestion, ended up at Number 102 Melrose avenue. Johnny McGrath
seemed extremely pleased to see them, but Slim had to hint broadly
before the lemonade pitcher appeared. They talked of yesterday’s game,
which Johnny had attended. “I took my kid brother,” said Johnny.
“He plays on his grammar school team now and then. He’s a sort of
tenth substitute or something, as near as I get it. Well, he told me
confidentially yesterday after we got home that his team could beat the
stuffing out of ours!”

Slim laughed. “I wouldn’t want to say it couldn’t, the way we played
yesterday. How does it happen, though, that the kid’s playing football
when you can’t, Johnny?”

Johnny smiled. “Mother doesn’t know it, you see. Maybe I ought to tell
on him, but he’s crazy about it and I haven’t the heart. Sure, I don’t
believe he’s likely to get hurt, for all the playing he does.”

“Nor I. I just wondered. I do wish you could talk your mother around,
though.”

“Why,” answered Johnny, “if I was to tell her I’d set my heart on it
she’d not forbid me, Slim. But she’d be fearful all the time, and she’s
had worry enough. And it isn’t like I cared much about it. Maybe I’d be
a mighty poor football player, do you see? And, anyway, there’s basket
ball, and baseball, too.”

“I didn’t know you played baseball,” said Slim.

“In the summer. We have a team here in town called the Crescents. I
play second. Most of the fellows are older than me. It’s a good team,
too.”

“Sure,” said Slim. “I’ve heard of the Crescents. Some of the fellows
from the carpet mills are on it, eh?”

“Most of them are mill fellows; McCarty and O’Keefe and McCluer and
Carnochan--”

“How come you don’t call yourselves the Shamrocks? Or the Sinn Feiners?”

“Well,” laughed Johnny, “our pitcher’s name is Cartier and the
shortstop’s is Kratowsky. And then there’s--”

“Don’t,” begged Slim, “I can’t bear it! Who do you play against?”

“Oh, any one. We played about thirty games last summer and won more
than half. We go away for a lot of them. We went as far as Bridgeport
once. We played twice at New Haven and once at New London and--” Johnny
stopped and pushed a slice of lemon around the bottom of his glass
with the straw. “Say, what’s the name of the big fellow who’s playing
left--no, right guard for us?”

“Renneker,” said Slim. “First name’s Gordon. What about him?”

“Nothing. Gordon Renneker, eh? Does he play baseball, do you know?”

“No, I don’t, Johnny. Want him for the Crescents next summer?”

Johnny shook his head. “I was--I was just wondering. You see, there
was a fellow played on this New London team--the Maple Leaf it was
called--looked a whole lot like this chap.”

“Maybe it was he,” said Slim cheerfully, setting down his glass with a
regretful glance at the empty pitcher. “Maybe baseball’s his real game
and he got mixed.”

“This fellow’s name was Ralston, George Ralston,” replied Johnny,
frowning. “Sure, though, he was the dead spit of Renneker.”

“I’ve heard of fellows changing their names before this,” said Leonard.
“Perhaps, for some reason, Renneker didn’t want to play under his own
name. Was he good, McGrath?”

“He was,” answered their host emphatically. “He played first, and
he had a reach from here to the corner of the porch and could hit
the cover off the ball every time. He played fine, he did. Kind of a
lazy-acting fellow; looked like he wasn’t much interested. And maybe he
wasn’t, if what they told us was so.”

“What was that?” asked Slim, smothering a yawn.

“Well, it was the newsboy on the train handed me the story. I wouldn’t
like to say he was giving me straight goods, for he was a mean looking
little guy. You see, those Maple Leafs beat us, something like 14 to
6 it was, and some of our crowd were kind of sore. Going back on the
train they were talking over the game and this newsboy was hanging
around. Pretty soon he came over to where I was sitting and got to
talking. Seemed he lived in New London, or else he hung over there.
Anyway, he knew some of the players, and he got to telling about
them. ‘That fellow Smith,’ he said--that wasn’t the name, but he was
talking about the pitcher--‘gets thirty for every game.’ ‘Thirty
what?’ I asked, not getting him. ‘Thirty dollars,’ said he. ‘No wonder
we couldn’t hit him then,’ I said. ‘And how about the catcher?’ ‘Oh,
he don’t get paid,’ said the boy. ‘They don’t any of the others get
paid except that Ralston guy. They give him twenty-five. He don’t
play regular with them, though.’ I let him talk, not more than half
believing him. Of course, I’d heard of fellows taking money for playing
on teams supposed to be strictly amateur, but it’s always on the quiet
and you don’t know if it’s so. Afterwards I told Ted McCluer what I’d
heard and Ted said he guessed it was straight goods; that he’d heard
that that pitcher wasn’t playing for his health.”

Slim frowned and shook his head. “I guess you are mistaken, Johnny,”
he said. “Renneker’s rather a swell, as I understand it, and it isn’t
likely he’d be running around the country playing ball for a trifling
little old twenty-five dollars. Guess you’re barking up the wrong tree,
son.”

“I’m not barking at all,” replied Johnny, untroubled. “Only when I had
a close look at this Renneker fellow yesterday he was so much like
Ralston that I got to thinking.”

“Well, I’d quit,” advised Slim with some emphasis. “And I’d be mighty
careful not to tell that yarn to any one else. You know how long
Renneker would last if it got around.”

Johnny nodded. “That’s a fact,” he agreed.

Leonard looked puzzled. “But if he isn’t the fellow McGrath took him
for, how could it matter any?”

“You aren’t Julius Cæsar,” answered Slim, “but you might have a hard
time proving it.”

“Get out! Cæsar’s dead!”

“So are you--from the neck up,” retorted Slim. “Come on home before you
get any worse.”

“I suppose, now,” said Johnny thoughtfully, “they’d not let Renneker
play on the team if it happened that he really was this other guy.”

“Of course they wouldn’t,” answered Slim, a bit impatiently. “What
do you think? Accepting money for playing baseball! I’ll say they
wouldn’t! But I tell you you’re all wrong about it, anyway, Johnny. So
don’t talk about it, son. Even if a fellow is innocent, getting talked
about doesn’t help him any.”

“Sure, I know,” agreed Johnny. “It wouldn’t be him, I guess.”

“Not a chance,” said Slim heartily. “Coming, General?”

Half a block down the avenue Leonard broke the silence. “Sort of
funny,” he remarked, “that the initials should be the same. ‘G. R.’;
Gordon Renneker and George Ralston.”

“Too blamed funny,” muttered Slim.

Leonard looked at him with surprise. “You don’t think, do you,
that--that there’s anything in it?”

Slim hesitated a moment. Then: “Don’t know what to think,” he answered.
“Johnny’s no fool. If you play baseball with a chap you get a pretty
good view of him. Of course, now and then you find a case where two
fellows look so much alike their own mothers mightn’t know them apart
at first, and Johnny might easily be mistaken. I dare say he didn’t get
a very good look at Renneker yesterday. Besides, what would a chap like
Renneker be doing barnstorming around for a measly twenty-five?” It
was evident to Leonard that Slim was working hard to convince himself.
“Anyway,” he went on, “Johnny’ll keep it to himself after this.”

“Yes,” Leonard affirmed, “but I think he still believes he’s right.”

“Let him, so long as he keeps it to himself. I’m not awfully
enthusiastic about this Gordon Renneker, General. So far he hasn’t
shown anything like what you’d expect from a fellow with his
reputation. And I don’t warm up to him much in other ways. He seems
a pretty cold fish. But he may get better, and, even if he doesn’t,
I guess we wouldn’t want to lose him. So it’s up to us to forget all
about this silly pipe-dream of Johnny’s, see?”

“I see,” replied the other thoughtfully.

Something in his tone caused Slim to dart a questioning glance at him,
but Leonard’s countenance added nothing to his voice and they went on
in silence.



CHAPTER IX

LEONARD MAKES A TACKLE


Monday was a day of rest for those who had taken part for any length
of time in the Lorimer game, and so the two teams that finally faced
each other for a short scrimmage contained much doubtful talent.
Leonard again went in at left tackle and, since he didn’t have Billy
Wells and Captain Emerson to oppose him, he managed to do a great
deal better. Cruikshank, who acted as quarterback and captain of the
patched-up eleven on which Leonard found himself, twice thumped the
latter on his back and uttered hoarse words of approval. The two teams
were very nearly matched, and the ten minute period was nearly over
before either secured a chance to score. Then A Team got Dakin off
tackle for a gallop of sixteen yards, and the pigskin lay close to the
opponent’s twenty. Goodwin slashed through center for four and Dakin
got two. Then Goodwin tried the middle of the line again and found
no hole, and there was a yard loss. Goodwin, who had been playing
full-back until recently, had not yet fully mastered his new job. With
five to go on third down, Cruikshank took the ball himself and managed
to squeeze through the enemy’s right wing and squirm along for the
rest of the distance. The ball was then close to the ten-yard line.
Kerrison dropped back from end position to the eighteen and held out
his arms. But no one was fooled by that gesture, and Dakin, plunging
past Leonard, made less than a yard. Then it was “Kerrison back!” once
more, and this time Leonard got the jump on the opposing guard and
Dakin found a hole to his liking and plunged through to the four yards.
With less than three to go, Kerrison went back to end position and on
the next play the whole backfield concentrated behind Goodwin, and once
more Leonard put his man out and felt the runner rasping by him. The
opposition melted, and Goodwin went through and staggered well past the
goal-line before he was downed. The coach wouldn’t let them try the
goal, and so they had to be satisfied with the six points. They trotted
back to the gymnasium fairly contented, however.

Leonard secretly hoped that his performance, even though against a none
too strong adversary, had been noted by Johnny. If it had the fact
was known only to the coach and no immediate results materialized. On
Tuesday, with the first-string men back in place, Leonard wasn’t called
on; although he had plenty of work with C Squad. There was a second cut
that afternoon and the number of candidates left was barely sufficient
for three elevens. Of that number, however, was Leonard, even though,
as he assured himself, better players had been banished!

Wednesday found him again at tackle, but now on the right of the line,
with Stimson at one elbow and Gurley dodging back and forth at his
other side. He found Butler less trying as a vis à vis than Billy
Wells, but he somehow wished Johnny hadn’t changed him over. Billy,
even at his deadliest, was an honorable foe, and even a partial success
gained against Billy was something to be proud of. Not, however, that
Leonard found Butler an easy adversary. Far from it. Butler made
Leonard look pretty poor more than half the time, while, when Leonard
was obliged to give his attention to Left Guard Smedley, the substitute
tackle made an even sorrier showing. On the whole, Leonard wasn’t a
bit proud of his work, either on offense or defense, during the first
period, and returned to the bench convinced that his goose was cooked.
When Johnny, criticizing and correcting along the line of panting
players, reached Leonard he stopped again.

“Not so good to-day,” he said. “What was wrong, Grant?”

Leonard hadn’t the least idea what was wrong, beyond a general
inability to play the position as it should be played, and, besides, he
was horribly surprised and embarrassed by the unexpected attention.
Nevertheless, after a moment of open-mouthed dumbness, he had a flash
of inspiration.

“I don’t think I can play so well at left tackle, sir,” he replied,
meeting the coach’s eyes with magnificent assurance. Mr. Cade smiled
very slightly and moved past. But he turned his face again toward
Leonard an instant later.

“I’ll take you up on that, Grant,” he said sharply.

Leonard felt uncomfortable. He wasn’t quite certain what Johnny had
meant. Besides, there had been something--well, not exactly unfriendly,
but sort of--sort of rasping in his tone; as if Johnny had thought to
himself, “Get sassy with me, will you. I’ll show you!” Leonard wished
now he had kept his mouth shut. Some of the fellows who had taken part
in the first period of scrimmaging were making their way back to the
showers, but as no one dismissed him Leonard sat still and got his
breath back and wondered what awaited him. Then Tod Tenney called “Time
up, Coach!” and Johnny Cade swung around and pulled out his little book
and sent them back on the field again.

“B Team,” he called. “Gurley and Kerrison, ends; Wilde and Grant,
tackles; Squibbs and--”

But Leonard didn’t hear any more. He was shedding his blanket and
telling himself fiercely that he just had to make good now. The
fierceness remained throughout the subsequent twenty-one minutes
required to play ten minutes of football. At the first line-up Billy
Wells smiled joyfully at Leonard. “See who’s here,” he called gayly,
swinging his big arms formidably. “Who let you in, sonny? Some one sure
left the gate open! Which way are you coming?”

“Inside,” answered Leonard grimly.

“Welcome to our midst, sweet youth!”

Of course Leonard didn’t go inside. In the first place, the play was
around the right end, and in the next place Billy wouldn’t have stood
for it. Leonard busied himself with Renneker, got slammed back where he
belonged and then plunged through the melting lines and chased after
the play. Rus Emerson slapped him on the back as they passed on their
way to the next line-up.

“Glad to see you, Grant,” declared the captain.

On the next play Leonard and Billy mixed it up thoroughly, but truth
compels the admission that of the two Leonard was the most mixed! You
just couldn’t get under Billy. If you played low, Billy played lower.
If you feinted to your right, Billy moved to his right, too. If you
tried to double-cross him and charged the way you feinted he outguessed
you and was waiting. He knew more ways of using his shoulder than there
were letters in the alphabet, and his locked hands coming up under
your chin were most effective. No cat was half as quick as Billy and
no bull-dog half as stubborn and tenacious. Yet Leonard did have his
infrequent triumphs. Once, when Reilly wanted three yards to make the
distance, Leonard put Billy Wells out completely and Red slid by for a
yard more than needed. Leonard had got the jump that time by a fraction
of a second, and he was so proud of his feat that doubtless it showed
on his face, for Billy viewed him sarcastically for a moment and then
announced: “Just bull-luck, you poor half portion of prunes!”

Leonard paid for that moment of success two plays later when his chin
got in the way of Billy’s elbow. They had to call time for Leonard, for
an accidental blow on the point of the chin eliminates ambition for all
of a minute. But he got up with ambition returning fast and gave Billy
a promising look that brought a grin to that youth’s countenance. “Atta
boy,” he approved. “Lots more waiting!”

If there was Leonard didn’t go after it. Instead, he was more careful
to keep his head down. A leather helmet can take a lot of punishment
without showing it. A few minutes later, after A Squad had taken the
ball away and pushed herself down to B’s twenty-six yards, Leonard had
the supreme satisfaction of smearing a play aimed at him. Billy came
through all right, for Leonard let him, but the hole closed behind him,
and if Leonard felt any compunction because his cleats were digging
into the lower extremities of the fallen Billy he didn’t show it!
That time Billy viewed his adversary ponderingly as he accepted the
proffered hand and scrambled to his feet.

“Huh,” he said, “the kid’s getting on, eh?”

Leonard grinned. “On to you, Wells,” he answered.

But these great moments were few and far between. Generally Billy was
too good for the neophyte. Usually if there was a gain needed where
Leonard held forth, that gain eventuated, although it wasn’t always as
big as expected. Stimson helped his tackle in many a hard place, and
Goodwin, playing behind, could be depended on to quell a too ambitious
runner. Oddly enough, when Leonard found Renneker in front of him,
as happened when A Squad spread her line open, he wasn’t nearly so
concerned. Renneker, in spite of size and weight and reputation, could
be fooled and, after a fashion, handled. Renneker was slow, for one
thing. There was no doubt about that. The A Squad quarter was forever
telling him so, even if Leonard hadn’t discovered the fact for himself.
Leonard could handle Renneker far better when A had the ball than he
could Billy Wells.

A Squad fought desperately to a touchdown and then added a goal. As she
had already scored once in the first period, she was entitled to be
a trifle lordly, which she was. B Squad kicked off again and Cricket
Menge, catching near his five-yard line, raced back up the field,
miraculously worming his fleet way through most of the enemy forces.
At the forty yards he was still going, with his own players building a
hasty interference about him and the B Squad players converging on him
from all points, mostly from behind. Forced close to the side-lines
near the center of the field, Cricket swung out from behind his
interference and started across. Gurley dived for him and missed him.
Cricket straightened out for the distant goal, still running hard and
fast. Leonard and Reilly drew up on him as he passed the forty-yard
line, and Appel, the B Squad quarter, hovered anxiously ahead. It was
a confused rabble of friend and foe that scuttled down the field.
Leonard tried hard to get around Greenwood, plunging along in Menge’s
wake, but the big full-back held him away over two white lines. Reilly,
edging in, dove too soon and went over and over. Greenwood, striving to
hurdle the obstacle, faltered long enough for Leonard to thrust past
him. Kendall threw himself in Leonard’s way, but the latter hurdled
over him. He was a bare three yards behind the runner now, and the
thirty-yard mark was underfoot. Appel was edging over, yet not making
the mistake of leaving his goal too far. Leonard was too tuckered to
do much planning. He put every ounce of strength into a last supreme
effort, gained a little and plunged forward, arms out-thrust and
fingers groping.

His left hand closed on something tightly, he felt himself being
dragged along the turf. Then Appel landed on Cricket’s back, and the
race was over. Cricket turned a reproachful countenance toward Leonard
when they had pulled him to his unsteady feet. But he managed a grin.
So did Leonard. That was about all he could have managed just then, for
his head was going around, his lungs were bursting and his stomach was
horribly empty. He was infinitely relieved when he discovered that the
battle was over and that, having been assisted to his feet, he could
make his uncertain way to the bench. He passed Coach Cade on the way,
and the coach met his eyes and nodded. At least, Leonard thought he
did. He was too exhausted to be certain of it.



CHAPTER X

THE SECOND TEAM COMES OVER


That incident seemed to bring about a subtle difference in Leonard’s
relations with the other players. He received no particular praise
for what, indeed, was only a part of the day’s work; probably none
besides Appel and Slim referred to it; but the next day he noticed
that many more of the fellows spoke to him or nodded to him in the
gymnasium, on the way to the field or during practice. Jim Newton even
hailed him as “General,” having probably heard Slim use that nickname.
But Wednesday’s performance appeared to have made no difference in
Leonard’s standing on the squad. To-day he relieved Lawrence for the
last five minutes of the last scrimmage period, and that was all the
attention he received from Johnny. Billy Wells nodded to him, but had
nothing to say. That was Leonard’s last appearance in the line-up that
week, for on Friday only the first- and second-string players got
into the brief practice. On Saturday the eleven went to Hillsport and
played Hillsport School, winning an easy contest by a score of 14 to
0. Leonard didn’t go along, although some half-hundred of the fellows
did. Instead, he and a half-dozen others whose presence at Hillsport
had not been considered necessary by the coach spent an hour or more on
the field with a ball and they went across to the second team gridiron
and saw the last half of a ragged game between the scrubs and a team
of substitutes from the Alton High School. Slim showed up just before
supper time with two broad strips of plaster over his right cheekbone.

It was on Sunday that Leonard first heard reference to the Sophomore
Dinner. “By the way,” said Slim, looking up from the book he was
reading--it was raining, and the usual Sunday afternoon walk was out of
the question--“have you come across for the dinner yet, General?”

“Eh?” asked Leonard. “What dinner?”

“The class dinner. You’re going, of course.”

“Do you mean our class? I hadn’t heard about it!”

“Oh, that’s so; the notices aren’t out yet, are they? Well, it’s to be
the seventh of next month. I forgot this was your first year with us,
old son. It’s always the first Saturday in November.”

“First I’ve heard of it. How much does it cost?”

“A dollar and a half this year. It used to be a dollar, but they put up
the price on us. You’ll get your money’s worth, though.”

“Why, I suppose I’ll go. Does every one? All the fellows in the class,
I mean.”

“Pretty much. A few pikers stay away. Same with all the class feeds, I
guess.”

“Do you mean that all the classes have these dinners?”

“Sure. We have ours in November, the freshies have theirs in February,
the juniors in April and the seniors in June, just before Class Day.”

“Where do we have it?” asked Leonard.

“Kingman’s this year. There are only about two places, Kingman’s
restaurant and the Alton House. Last year we had the freshman feed at
the Alton House, and it wasn’t very good.”

“Is it fun?”

“Sure it is. Especially when the freshies try to break it up! Last year
the sophs had their shindig at Kingman’s and we smuggled Billy Wells
into the basement in the afternoon and he hid behind a pile of boxes
until about seven o’clock and then unscrewed the electric light switch.
We came rather near getting into trouble over that. The sophs were
upstairs, on the second floor, and of course we didn’t want to put the
lights out all over the building, but we had to do it. Mr. Kingman was
tearing mad and made a holler to faculty. It ended with an apology from
the freshman class, though, for Kingman thought it over, I suppose,
and realized that if he made too much of a fuss we’d stop going to his
place. Billy almost got caught getting out that night. He was sneaking
out the back way when he ran into one of the cooks. Billy swears the
man had a cleaver in his hand. Anyway, Billy got behind a door or into
a corner and they didn’t see him.” Slim chuckled. “The sophs didn’t get
on with their banquet for nearly an hour.”

“But what’s the idea?” asked Leonard. “Why did you want to bust up
their party?”

Slim pondered a moment. Then he shook his head. “I don’t know. It’s
just a custom. It’s always been done, I guess.”

“And do the sophs do the same thing when the freshmen have their
blow-out?”

“Oh, no, that would be beneath our dignity. But we try to make things a
little difficult for the juniors.”

“I see.” Leonard smiled. “Then, after I’ve paid my dollar and a half, I
can’t be quite certain that I’ll get my dinner, eh?”

“Oh, you’ll get it,” answered Slim confidently. “No silly bunch of
freshies is going to bust up this party, son! We’ll see to that. And
that reminds me. Keep your ears open from now on and if you hear
anything let me know.”

“Hear anything?”

“Yes. You might, you know. Freshies like to talk big, and one of them
might let drop some information that would be of interest to us. Of
course, they’ll try something, you know, and it would make it easier
for us if we got an inkling beforehand so we’d know what to look for.”

“I see,” said Leonard. “I suppose you, as Class President, are sort of
responsible for the success of the affair, Slim.”

“Well, I’m chairman of the dinner committee, and about half of our
duty is to see that the freshies don’t hurl a monkey-wrench into the
machinery, so to speak. Know any freshmen?”

“Two or three, but only to speak to.”

“Well, it would be a good plan to get better acquainted,” said Slim.
“It’s an older fellow’s duty to be friendly with the freshies and make
life pleasant for them, you know.”

Leonard grinned. “And keep his ears open? Sort of like playing the spy,
isn’t it?”

“Of course. There’ll be a lot of spying done on both sides during the
next fortnight. They’ll be trying to find out where we’re going to
feed, and when, and we’ll be trying to find out what they’re going to
do about it.”

“But if we get out notices, as you said we did, what’s to keep the
freshmen from knowing all about it?”

“The notices don’t give the date and place, General. They’re just
reminders to the members of the class. Of course, the freshmen do find
out easy enough, but it makes them work harder if we don’t tell ’em.
There’s one thing they won’t do, anyway, and that’s cut off the light.
Mr. Kingman will take mighty good care that no one gets into the cellar
this year!”

“What will they do, do you suppose?” asked Leonard.

“Search me! Maybe they’ll try to rush the hall. They did that three or
four years ago, they say, and ate most of the dinner before the sophs
could get them out again!”

“Gee,” murmured Leonard, “I can’t imagine this year’s bunch of freshies
trying anything like that!”

“Well, you can’t tell. They get pretty cocky after they’ve been here
a month or so. Besides, they had their election last week, and that
always sort of starts them going. There’s a lot of them this year;
nearly a hundred and thirty, I hear; and if they want to make trouble
they can do it.”

“How many of us are there, Slim?”

“Ninety--something; ninety-six, I think. Oh, we can look after
ourselves. The most they can do, in any case, is hold things up for
awhile.”

“Sounds exciting,” mused Leonard. “Do they ever get to scrapping?”

“Oh, no, not what you’d really call scrapping. Sometimes there’s a rush
and a few fellows get mussed up a little. There’s no hard-feeling,
you understand. It’s just the freshmen’s bounden duty to break up the
sophomore party if they can do it. They never do, but they keep right
on trying. It’s rather fun, you know.”

“Yes, but I guess I’ll have a good feed before I go,” laughed Leonard.
“Then I’ll be sure of not starving!”

He paid his dollar and a half to the class treasurer the next day and
received the strictly confidential information that the dinner would
take place on the evening of November 7th at Kingman’s Restaurant at
seven o’clock. “You understand, I guess,” added Wilfred Cash, “that
you’re not to mention the place or the date to any one.”

“Oh, quite,” Leonard assured him gravely.

That Monday afternoon the second team, which for unavoidable reasons,
one of which was the inability to find a coach, was nearly a fortnight
late in getting under way, came over and faced the first. Many familiar
faces were to be seen amongst the scrub aggregation, for fully half of
the second team’s line-up had tried for the big team and been rejected.
Leonard, looking on at the scrimmage from the bench, still marveled
that he was not taking orders from Mr. Fadden instead of from Mr. Cade.

The second’s coach was an old Alton graduate and a resident of the
town who, at the earnest solicitation of the Athletic Committee, had
consented to give up several hours a day to the task of providing
something for the school team to whet their claws on. He was in the
real estate business and was a busy man, and that he had listened to
the call of the committee was greatly to his credit; the more so that,
although he had played football well at Alton and, afterwards, at
Yale, he had grown out of touch with the game and was forced to make
a study of its modern developments before he dared face his charges.
That year’s second team never quite reached the average of Alton second
teams, but it was for no lack of hard work on the part of Mr. Fadden.
He was quite a stout man, and the scrub was soon calling him “Tub,”
though never to his face; but when the second team was dissolved a
month later the nickname was no longer deserved, since, however the
players had fared, Mr. Fadden had lost some thirty pounds from a
portion of his anatomy where it had been extremely noticeable.

Leonard had a few minutes of play at tackle and found himself opposed
to a very tall and rather awkward youth named Lansing. Lansing wasn’t
difficult and Leonard had little trouble with him. In fact, the whole
second team showed up pretty poorly that afternoon and the first scored
three times in twenty minutes of scrimmage. The first might have done
even better had she used her best line-up. As it was, most of those who
had played against Hillsport on Saturday were not used.

With the advent of the scrub team Leonard’s chance of getting into
action was much diminished, as he speedily realized. There were,
naturally, but two tackle positions on the first, and for those
positions there were exactly six applicants, including Leonard Grant.
Billy Wells was mortally certain of the right tackle position,
and Butler or Wilde would get the other. That left Lawrence, Cash
and Leonard himself. Probably Lawrence would be chosen for second
substitute. It looked to Leonard as if he and Cash would be out of jobs
in a very short time!

Theoretically, of course, those tackle positions were still open,
but Leonard knew very well that, although he might conceivably give
Lawrence and Cash--possibly even Wilde--a run for his money, he had
no more chance of equalling Billy Wells or Sam Butler as a tackle
than he had of displacing Johnny Cade as coach! It didn’t seem to him
that Slim’s advice to become an applicant for a tackle position had
been very good. Tackles were a drug on the market. Still, to be fair
to Slim, so were guards! Well, he would just do the best he could and
be satisfied with what he got. Perhaps he might manage to hang on by
the skin of his teeth; and it would help him considerably next fall,
he concluded, to finish this season out on the first team, even if he
never got off the bench again.

With the Hillsport game out of the way, the season was half over
and Alton metaphorically took a deep breath, cinched its belt up
another hole and set its gaze on the Mt. Millard contest. Last year
the neighboring institution, situated at Warren, some eighteen miles
distant, had beaten Alton by the score of 10 to 0. Of course that was
at the height--or perhaps bottom would be better--of Alton’s historic
slump, but the defeat had rankled. It rankled yet. Until two years ago
Mt. Millard had been an adversary of no consequence. Then she had taken
unto herself a new coach and won two games running, the first 19 to
0, the second 10 to 0. The fact that Alton hadn’t been able to score
against Mt. Millard in two years made it even worse. There was a very
general sentiment at Alton this fall in favor of defeating Mt. Millard,
and defeating her conclusively. In fact, Alton wanted Revenge, Revenge
with a capital R! To that end, therefore, on Tuesday Johnny Cade set to
work to strengthen his defense against the kicking and passing game,
which was Mt. Millard’s long suit. The offense was not neglected,
but it was given second place in the week’s program. By Thursday two
changes, each of which looked to be permanent, had been made. Reilly
had succeeded Kendall at right half and Appel had taken Carpenter’s
position at quarter. Several changes in the line were also tried, but
none appeared more than tentative. Jim Newton was running Garrick very
close for center and, strange to tell, Coach Cade on two occasions
relegated Gordon Renneker to the subs and placed Raleigh at right
guard. To an unbiased observer there seemed little choice between them,
although they were notably different in build and style of playing.
When practice ended Thursday afternoon, which it didn’t do until it
had become almost too dark to see the ball, it would have required a
prophet of more than usual ability to predict the line-up that would
face Mt. Millard.

That evening Slim took Leonard over to Lykes to see Rus Emerson.
Leonard went none too eagerly, in spite of Emerson’s invitation of some
time ago, but he went. Afterwards he was very glad he had.



CHAPTER XI

ALTON SEEKS REVENGE


Number 16 was already pretty well crowded when Slim and the diffident
Leonard entered. Captain Emerson was there, and so was his roommate,
George Patterson. Then there was Billy Wells, Tod Tenney, Jim Newton,
Gordon Renneker and a chap named Edwards who later turned out to be the
baseball captain. As it seemed to be taken for granted that every one
knew every one else Leonard was not introduced. He and Slim squeezed
onto a bed beside Jim Newton--the thing squeaked threateningly but
held--and Rus passed them a bottle of ginger-ale, with two straws, and
a carton of biscuits. Having helped themselves to the biscuits, they
passed it on to Newton. Jim, at the moment engaged in conversation
with Tod Tenney, absent-mindedly set the box on the bed. After that
it couldn’t be found until Jim got up to go. And then it wasn’t worth
finding, for it had slipped down under the big chap and was no longer
recognizable.

A good deal of “shop” was talked, in spite of Captain Emerson’s
repeated protests. The Mt. Millard game was discussed exhaustively.
The only feature concerned with it that was not mentioned was the
Alton line-up. That seemed to be taboo. Tod Tenney declared that if
Alton didn’t wipe the ground up with those fellows this time he’d
resign and let the team go to the bow-wows. Whereupon Jim Newton gave
a grunt and remarked that maybe if Tod resigned beforehand it would
change their luck.

“Luck!” countered Tod. “It isn’t your luck that’s wrong, you big piece
of cheese. You’re scared of those fellows over at Warren. They’ve put
the kibosh on you. Why, last year you didn’t know whether you were on
your head or your heels. They didn’t have half the team that you had,
and you went and let them lick the daylight out of you.”

“Sic ’em, Prince!” murmured Stick Patterson.

“Oh, well,” said Billy Wells confidently, “never mind last year, Tod.
Keep your glimmers on Saturday’s fracas. We’re going to smear those
lucky guys all over the field. We’ve got it on them in weight this year
and--”

“We had last year, too, hadn’t we?” asked Edwards.

“Not above the collar,” grunted Tenney.

“For the love of Mike, fellows,” begged Rus, “shut up on football. It’s
enough to play it every day without having to talk it all evening.”

“What else do you expect football men to talk about?” asked Slim,
rolling the empty ginger-ale bottle under Stick’s bed. “You ought
to know, Rus, that the football player’s intellect isn’t capable of
dealing with any other subject.”

“Dry up, Slim,” said Billy Wells, “and move over, you poor insect. I
want to talk to General Grant.”

There being no room to move over without sitting in Jim Newton’s lap,
Slim crossed the room and took the arm of the Morris chair, just
vacated by Billy. Billy squeezed onto the bed, securing another inch
or two by digging Jim violently with an elbow. Jim grunted and said:
“Little beast!” Billy turned a shrewd, smiling countenance on Leonard.

“Well, how’s it going?” he asked.

“All right, thanks,” answered Leonard vaguely. Just what “it” was he
didn’t know. Probably, however, life in general. But Billy’s next words
corrected the assumption.

“How long have you been playing the tackle position?” he asked.

“About three weeks,” replied Leonard. “That explains it, doesn’t it?”
He added an apologetic smile.

“Explains what? Oh, I’m not ragging you, Grant. Why, say, you and I
had some swell times! If you’ve been at it only three weeks, I’ll say
you’re pretty good. But where’d you been playing?”

“Guard. I played guard two years at high school.”

“Guard, eh?” Billy looked slightly puzzled. “Must have had a fairly
light team, I guess. You don’t look heavy enough for that, Grant.”

“I am sort of light,” sighed Leonard.

“Yes.” Billy sized him up frankly. “You’re quick, though, and I
certainly like that. Had me guessing lots of times, I don’t mind
telling you.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Leonard murmured. “I’m pretty green at it.”

“You’ll do,” said Billy. “But, say, mind if I give you a couple of
tips? It may sound cheeky, but--”

“Gee, not a bit!” protested the other. “I wish you would. I--it’s
mighty good of you.”

“Well, I don’t pretend to know everything about playing tackle,” Billy
answered, “but there are one or two things I have learned, and I’m glad
to pass them on to you, Grant, because you play a pretty nice game.
Maybe if you were pressing me a bit closer for the position I wouldn’t
be so gabby.” Billy grinned. “One thing is this, son. Watch the other
fellow’s eyes and not his hands. I noticed you kept looking at my hands
or my arms. Don’t do it. Not, at least, if you want to get the jump
on your opponent. Watch his eyes, son. Another thing is, don’t give
yourself away by shifting too soon. You come forward every time with
the foot that’s going to take your weight. There are several ways of
standing, and it’s best to stand the way that suits you, but I like
to keep my feet about even. That doesn’t give me away. Then when I do
start it’s too late for the other fellow to do any guessing. See what I
mean?”

Leonard nodded, but a little doubtfully. “I think so. But we were
taught to put one foot well behind us so we’d have a brace if the
opponent--”

“Sure, that’s all right if you’ve got to let the other fellow get away
first. But you don’t need to. You start before he does, Grant. Look.”
Billy held his hands out, palms upward, elbows close to his body.
“Come up under him like that, both legs under you until you’re moving
forward. Then step out, right or left, and get your leverage. Push him
straight back or pivot him. You haven’t given yourself away by moving
your feet about or shifting your weight beforehand. You try it some
time.”

“I will, thanks,” answered Leonard gratefully.

“And there’s one more thing.” There was a wicked glint in Billy’s eyes.
“Keep your head down so the other fellow can’t get under your chin.
I’ve known fellows to get hurt that way.”

Leonard smiled. “So have I,” he said.

Billy laughed and slapped him on the knee. “You’ll do, General Grant,”
he declared. He turned to Jim Newton, and Leonard, considering what
he had been told, didn’t note for a moment that Gordon Renneker was
speaking across the room to Slim. When he did, Renneker was saying:

“Baseball? No, very little. I’ve got a brother who goes in for it,
though.”

“Oh,” replied Slim, “I thought maybe you pitched. You’ve sort of got
the build, you know, Renneker. Hasn’t he, Charlie?”

Charlie Edwards agreed that he had, looking the big guard up and
down speculatively. Renneker shrugged his broad shoulders and smiled
leniently. “Never tried it,” he said in his careful way. “The few times
I have played I’ve been at first. But I’m no baseball artist.”

“First, eh?” commented Slim. “By Jove, you know, you ought to make a
corking first baseman! Say, Charlie, you’d better get after him in the
spring.”

Edwards nodded and answered: “I certainly mean to, Slim.”

Nevertheless it seemed to Leonard that the baseball captain’s tone
lacked enthusiasm. Slim, Leonard noted, was smiling complacently, and
Leonard thought he knew what was in his chum’s mind. Shortly after that
the crowd broke up and on the way over to Haylow Slim asked: “Did you
hear what Renneker said when I asked him if he played baseball?”

“Yes,” said Leonard. Slim hadn’t once mentioned the subject of Johnny
McGrath’s suspicions since that Sunday afternoon, and Leonard had
concluded that the matter was forgotten. Now, however, it seemed that
it had remained on Slim’s mind, just as it had on his.

“He said,” mused Slim, “that he didn’t play. At least very little. Then
he said that when he did play he played at first base. What do you make
of that, General?”

“Very little. Naturally, if he should play baseball he’d go on first,
with that height and reach of his. I noticed that Edwards didn’t seem
very keen about him for the nine.”

“Yes, I noticed that, too.” Slim relapsed into a puzzled silence. Then,
at last, just as they reached the dormitory entrance, he added: “Oh,
well, I guess Johnny just sort of imagined it.”

“I suppose so,” Leonard agreed. “Only, if he didn’t--”

“If he didn’t, what?” demanded Slim.

“Why, wouldn’t it be up to us--or Johnny McGrath--to tell Mr. Cade or
some one?”

“And get Renneker fired?” inquired Slim incredulously, as he closed
the door of Number 12 behind him.

“Well, but, if he took money for playing baseball, Slim, he hasn’t
any right on the football team, has he? Didn’t you say yourself that
faculty would fire him if it was so, and they knew it?”

“If they knew it, yes,” agreed Slim. “Now, look here, General, there’s
no sense hunting trouble. We don’t know anything against Renneker, and
so there’s no reason for starting a rumpus. A fellow is innocent until
he’s proven guilty, and it’s not up to us to pussyfoot about and try to
get the goods on Renneker. Besides, ding bust it, there’s only Johnny
McGrath’s say-so, and every one knows how--er--imaginative the Irish
are!”

“All right,” agreed Leonard, smiling. “Just the same, Slim, you aren’t
fooling me much. You believe there’s something in Johnny’s story, just
as I do.”

“Piffle,” answered Slim. “Johnny’s a Sinn Feiner. The Irish are all
alike. They believe in fairies. You just can’t trust the unsupported
statement of a chap who believes in fairies!”

“You surely can work hard to fool yourself,” laughed Leonard. “I
suppose you’re right, Slim, but it would be sort of rotten if one of
the other schools got hold of it and showed Renneker up.”

“Not likely, General. You stop troubling your brain about it. Best
thing to do is forget it. That’s what I’m going to do. Besides, I keep
telling you there’s nothing in it.”

“I know. And I want to believe it just as much as you do, only--”

“There isn’t any ‘only!’ Dry up, and put the light out!”

On Saturday Leonard was very glad indeed that, in Slim’s words,
there wasn’t any ‘only,’ for without Gordon Renneker the Mt. Millard
game might have ended differently. Renneker found himself in that
contest. Slim always maintained that the explanation lay in the fact
that Renneker’s opponent, one Whiting, was, like Renneker, a big,
slow-moving fellow who relied more on strength than speed; and Slim
supported this theory by pointing out that in the last quarter, when
a quicker and scrappier, though lighter, man had taken Whiting’s
place Renneker had relapsed into his customary form. Leonard reminded
Slim that by that time Renneker had played a long, hard game and was
probably tired out. Slim, however, remained unconvinced. But whatever
the reason may have been, the big right guard on the Alton team played
nice, steady football that Saturday afternoon. His work on defense was
better than his performance when the Gray-and-Gold had the ball, just
as it had been all season. He seemed to lack aggression in attack. But
Coach Cade found encouragement and assured himself that Renneker could
be taught to play a better offensive game by the time the Kenly Hall
contest faced them. The big guard had been causing him not a little
worry of late.

Mt. Millard brought over a clever, fast team that day. Her line was
only a few pounds lighter than Alton’s, but in the backfield the
Gray-and-Gold had it all over her in weight, even when Menge was
playing. Mt. Millard’s backs were small and light, even her full-back
running to length more than weight. Her quarter was a veritable midget,
and if Alton had not witnessed his work for two years she might have
feared for his safety amongst all those rough players! But Marsh was
able to look after himself, as well as the rest of the team, and do
it in a highly scientific manner. In spite of his diminutive size he
was eighteen years of age and had played two seasons with Mt. Millard
already. For that matter, the visitors presented a veteran team, new
faces being few and far between.

Alton looked for trouble from the enemy’s passing game and didn’t
look in vain. On the third play Mt. Millard worked a double pass that
was good for nearly thirty yards and, less than eighty seconds after
the whistle, was well into Alton territory. That fright--for it was
a fright--put the home team on her mettle, and a subsequent play of
a similar style was foiled with a loss of two yards. Mt. Millard was
forced to punt from Alton’s thirty-seven. Cricket Menge caught and made
a startling run-back over three white lines. Then Alton tried her own
attack and had slight difficulty in penetrating Mt. Millard’s lighter
line. Greenwood ripped his way through for three and four yards at a
time and Reilly twice made it first down on plays off the tackles.
It was Red’s fumble near his own forty that halted that advance. Mt.
Millard got the ball and started back with it.

From tackle to tackle the Alton line was invulnerable, save for two
slight gains at Smedley’s position. Mt. Millard’s only chance, it
seemed, was to run the ends, and that she did in good style until the
opponent solved her plays and was able to stop them twice out of three
times. But the visitor had brought along a whole bagful of tricks,
and as the first period--they were playing twelve-minute quarters
to-day--neared its end she opened the bag. Alton had plunged her way
to the enemy’s thirty-seven, and there Menge, trying to cut outside
of left tackle, had become involved with his interference and been
thrown for a two-yard loss. It was third down and six to go, and Joe
Greenwood dropped back eight yards behind center and spread his hands
invitingly. But the ball went to Reilly and Red cut the six yards down
to three by a plunge straight at center. Goodwin went back once more,
and this time took the pigskin. But, although he swung a long leg, the
ball wasn’t kicked. Instead it went sailing through the air to the
side of the field where Menge was awaiting it. Unfortunately, though,
Cricket was not the only one with a desire for the ball, and a fraction
of a second before it was due to fall into his hands a long-legged
adversary leaped upward and captured it. Cricket tackled instantly and
with all the enthusiasm of an outraged soul and the long-legged one
came heavily to earth, but the ball was back in the enemy’s hands and
again Alton’s triumph had been checked.

One hopeless smash at the Gray-and-Gold line that netted less than a
yard, and Mt. Millard opened her bag of tricks. Speaking broadly, there
aren’t any new plays in football and can’t be except when an alteration
of the rules opens new possibilities. What are called new plays are
usually old plays revived or familiar plays in novel disguise. Mt.
Millard, then, showed nothing strictly original that afternoon, but
some of the things she sprang during the remainder of that game might
almost as well have been fresh from the mint so far as effectiveness
was concerned. During the minute or two that remained of the first
period she made her way from her own thirty-two yards to Alton’s
sixteen in four plays, while the home team supporters looked on aghast.
First there was a silly-looking wide-open formation with every one
where he shouldn’t have been, to meet which Alton rather distractedly
wandered here and there and edged so far back that when, instead of the
involved double or perhaps triple-pass expected, a small half-back took
the ball from center and ran straight ahead with it, he found almost no
opposition until he had crossed the scrimmage line. After that, that he
was able to dodge and twirl and throw off tacklers until Billy Wells
brought him down from behind just over the fifty-yard line, was owing
to his own speed and cunning.

When Mt. Millard again spread wide Alton thought she knew what was
coming, and this time her ends dropped back only some five yards and,
while displaying customary interest in the opposing ends, kept a sharp
watch on the wide holes in the line. What happened was never quite
clear to them, for Mt. Millard pulled things off with dazzling speed.
The ball shot back from center and well to the left. Some one took it
and started to run with it, while the broken line of forwards came
together in a moving wall of interference. Alton was not to be held
at bay so easily, and she went through. By that time the runner with
the ball was well over toward the side-line on his left and when his
wall of interference disintegrated he stopped suddenly in his journey,
wheeled about and threw the pigskin diagonally across the field to
where, lamentably ostracized by Alton, the attenuated full-back was
ambling along most unostentatiously. That throw was magnificent both as
to distance and accuracy, and it reached the full-back at a moment when
the nearest Alton player was a good twenty feet distant. What deserved
to be a touchdown, however, resulted in only a seventeen-yard gain, for
the full-back, catching close to the side-line, with Slim Staples hard
on his heels and Appel coming down on him in front, made the mistake of
not edging out into the field while there was still time. The result
of this error in tactics was one false step that put a flying foot
barely outside the whitewashed streak at the thirty-two yards. I think
the referee hated to see that misstep, for if ever a team deserved
a touchdown that team was Mt. Millard. Even the Alton stands had to
applaud that play.

Mt. Millard went back to regular formation when the ball had been
stepped in, and I think Alton breathed easier. The diminutive
quarterback used a delayed pass and himself attempted Slim’s end and
managed to squirm around for three yards. That took the pigskin to
Alton’s twenty-nine, and with three more downs to draw on there seemed
no reason why the visitors shouldn’t score a field-goal at least.
The Alton stands chanted the “Hold, Alton!” slogan and the visiting
contingent shouted loudly and appealingly for a touchdown. The Mt.
Millard left half moved back to kicking position and the ball was
passed. But, instead of a drop-kick, there was a puzzling double-pass
behind the enemy’s line and an end, running behind, shot out at the
right with the ball snuggled against his stomach and ran wide behind a
clever interference to the sixteen yards. Again it was first down, and
the enemy had reeled off just fifty-four yards in four plays! It was
one of those things that simply couldn’t be done--and had been done!

Before Marsh could call his signals again the quarter ended.



CHAPTER XII

VICTORY HARD WON


The long-suffering reader mustn’t think that I have any intention of
inflicting on him a detailed account of the remaining three periods of
that game. I have offended sufficiently already. Besides, it was that
first period, with a few moments of the second, and the last quarter
only that held the high lights. The in-between was interesting to
watch, but it would be dull reading.

Mt. Millard started the second period on Alton’s sixteen and, perhaps
just to show that she could perform the feat against a still bewildered
opponent, slashed a back through between Newton and Renneker for three
yards on a fake run around end. Of course had she tried such a thing a
second time it wouldn’t have come off, but Marsh had no intention of
trying it. He deployed his ends, sent his goal-kicker back and then
heaved across the center of the line. Fortunately for the defenders of
the south goal, Reilly knocked down the ball. After that there wasn’t
much left for Mt. Millard but a try-at-goal, and after a conference
between captain and quarter the try was made. The kicker retreated
a good twelve yards from his center, which took him close to the
twenty-five line, a retreat that in view of subsequent happenings was
well advised. For Alton, stung by recent reverses, piled through the
Mt. Millard forwards and hurled aside the guardian backs. It was just
those added yards that defeated her. The ball, hurtling away from the
kicker’s toe, passed safely above upstretched hands and sailed over the
cross-bar.

Mt. Millard did a few hand-springs while a 3 was placed to her credit
on the score-board, and her delighted supporters yelled themselves
hoarse. There was noticeable lack of enthusiasm on the other side of
the field, although by the time the opponents again faced each other
for the kick-off the Alton cheerers had found their voices again. The
balance of the second period held its moments of excitement, but on
the whole it was tame and colorless after that first quarter. Alton,
regaining the ball after she had kicked it off, started another
pilgrimage to the distant goal, smearing the enemy with hard, old-style
football and eating up ground steadily if slowly. Once Menge got safely
away around the Mt. Millard left end and shot over sixteen yards of
trampled turf before an enemy stood him on his head, but for the rest
it was gruelling work, the more gruelling as the attack drew near the
edge of scoring territory. If Mt. Millard was light of weight she
was nevertheless game, and seldom indeed did the Alton attack get
started before the enemy was half-way to meet it. Reilly gave place
to Kendall in the middle of the journey, and Smedley to Stimson. Mt.
Millard likewise called on two fresh recruits to strengthen her line.
Alton hammered her way to the Mt. Millard twenty-eight yards and there
struck a snag. Greenwood failed to gain at the center, Kendall was
repulsed for a slight loss, Greenwood made four on a wide run from
kicking position, and then, with seven to gain on fourth down, it was
put up to Captain Emerson, and that youth tried hard to tie the score
with a placement-kick from just back of the thirty yards. The aim was
true enough, but Rus hadn’t put quite enough into the swing of his
leg and the ball passed just under the bar, so close to it, indeed,
that deceived Alton supporters cheered loudly and long before they
discovered their error. Mt. Millard kicked on second down and the few
plays that brought the half to an end were all in Alton territory.

The visitor presented the same line-up when the third quarter began.
For Alton, Red Reilly was back at right half and Garrick was at
center in place of Newton. Alton was expected to return refreshed
and determined and wreak swift vengeance on the foe, and the anxious
cheerers gave the players a fine welcome when they trotted back to
the gridiron. But although the Gray-and-Gold seemed to have profited
by the interim and played with more skill than before, Mt. Millard
was still clever enough to hold her off during the succeeding twelve
minutes. Alton tried three forward-passes and made one of them good.
This brought a reward of fourteen yards. Another pass grounded and
a third went to Mt. Millard. To offset that fourteen yards, the
Gray-and-Gold was twice penalized for off-side. Twice Alton reached
the enemy’s thirty-yard line only to be turned back. The first time
Greenwood missed the pass for a six-yard loss and was forced to punt
and the other time Mt. Millard intercepted Appel’s toss across the left
wing. When, at last, the whistle once more sounded, the ball was in
Alton’s hands close to Mt. Millard’s forty-yard line. The teams changed
goals and the final period started.

Greenwood got seven yards outside right tackle and put the ball on Mt.
Millard’s thirty-four. Menge made one through left guard. With two to
go, Greenwood smashed through the left of center for six, but the horn
sounded and the ball was put back fifteen yards for holding. Greenwood
ran from kicking position, but a ubiquitous Mt. Millard end dumped him
well back of the line. Greenwood punted to the corner of the field and
the ball rolled across the goal-line. Mt. Millard got four yards in two
plunges at Stimson and then made the rest of her distance by sending a
half around Slim’s end. Another attempt at Stimson was good for three
yards, but when the full-back tried Renneker he was stopped short. On
third down Marsh threw across the field to a waiting half, but Slim
knocked the ball aside just short of the receiver’s hands. Mt. Millard
punted to Alton’s twenty-eight and Appel caught and by clever dodging
raced back to the forty-one.

Then Alton’s big drive began. Using a tackles-back shift, Appel sent
Greenwood and Reilly and again Greenwood at the Mt. Millard line, first
on one side of center and then on the other, and took the pigskin into
the enemy’s country. Then Menge got three around left and Slim, running
behind, added three more on a wide expedition in the same direction.
Greenwood threw short across the center to Captain Emerson, and Rus
made five before he was thrown. From the thirty-seven the ball went
more slowly, but no less certainly to the twenty-five. There a skin
tackle play at the right gained but a yard, and Greenwood again threw
forward, the ball grounding. From kick formation Greenwood raced around
left for five. With six to go he stood back as if to try a goal, but
the ball went to Reilly who, with the right tackle ahead of him, dug a
passage through center and made the necessary four yards. After that
there was no stopping the invasion. From the fifteen to the four Reilly
and Greenwood, alternating, went in four tries. With the Alton stand
cheering madly, imploringly, little Menge slid around left end while
the attack was faked at the center and made the one-yard. From there
Greenwood was pushed over on the second attempt.

When the teams lined up on the five-yard line it was Captain Emerson
who went back for the try-at-goal. This time, the line holding stoutly,
he had no difficulty in placing the ball over the bar, and it was
Alton’s turn to celebrate. At last, it seemed, the hoodoo had been
broken and Mt. Millard defeated.

There remained, however, more than six minutes of playing time, and
much might happen in six minutes. Much did happen, for when, having
kicked off to Alton and forced the latter to punt after once gaining
her distance, Mt. Millard went back to her bag of tricks. Some of
the things she tried were weird and some risky, so risky that only
desperation could have counseled them. But too frequently they were
successful. A wide formation with both ends on one side of the line
and the tackles on the other was good for a twelve-yard gain when the
ball was shot obliquely across the field. The runner was spilled before
he could get started by Rus Emerson, but twelve yards was enough to
move the stakes to a new location. After a plunge at the line, good for
two yards, the enemy used the same formation again. But this time a
quartering run by a half-back eventuated and was stopped almost at the
line. Again Mt. Millard tried a long forward-pass. The receiver was out
of position and the ball came back. Faking a punt, the full-back hit
the Alton line and went through for eight yards, placing the ball on
Alton’s forty-six.

Desperately indeed the visitor waged the attack. Mr. Cade sent in three
fresh players; Wilde for Stimson, Kerrison for Emerson and Dakin for
Reilly. Mt. Millard had already made several substitutions, one a guard
who gave Gordon Renneker a hard battle. Forced to punt at last, Mt.
Millard sent the ball over the goal-line, and Alton lined up on the
twenty. Here it was that Dakin nearly upset the apple-cart. Plunging at
tackle on his own side, he let go of the ball, and it trickled across
the field with about every warrior after it. It was Slim who finally
fell on it on his own eight yards.

Goodwin, standing astride the goal-line, punted on first down, but the
ball went high and short, passing out of bounds at the twenty-six,
and from there Mt. Millard started again with unabated determination.
Greenwood was replaced by Goodwin. A forward-pass made a scant seven
yards for the besiegers. Then, from wide-open formation, came another.
This time three backs handled the pigskin before it was finally thrown.
It would have scored a touchdown had it been caught, but there were
two Alton men on the spot, and the Mt. Millard end had no chance. Then
the enemy hustled into kick-formation and Alton breathed a sigh of
relief. Even if the enemy secured another field-goal the game would
still be Alton’s. Perhaps Mt. Millard had that knowledge in mind, for
she didn’t kick, after all. Standing back near the twenty-five-yard
streak, Quarterback Marsh poised the ball in the palm of his hand, a
tiny motionless figure amidst a maelstrom of rushing forms. Cries of
warning filled the air. Marsh, as if unaware of the enemy plunging down
on him, surveyed the field. Then, just as Billy Wells bore down with
arms upstretched, Marsh side-stepped easily and threw to where, beyond
the goal-line, a Mt. Millard end was wheeling into position. Scarcely
above the finger-tips of the leaping Alton players sped the oval, fast
and straight. The Mt. Millard end ran forward a step, poised for the
catch. And then Nemesis in the shape of Slim Staples took a hand. Slim,
crashing off a goal-post, staggered into the path of the ball, leaped
upward and closed his hands about it. Then he went down into a sea of
massing players and a whistle blew shrilly.

The game was over and Alton had won it, 7 to 3. Mt. Millard had staked
all on that final play and lost, but there was more honor accruing from
that heroic attempt than would have been hers had she secured that
field-goal. Defeated but far from disheartened, the tiny quarterback
summoned his teammates and cheered heartily if hoarsely for the
victors. And Alton, returning the cheer with no more breath than the
losers, paid homage to a gallant foe.

Slim emerged from that contest something of a hero and with his right
and title to the left end position unassailable. Smedley emerged less
fortunately, for he had wrenched a knee so badly that his future use
to the team was more than doubtful. There were many other injuries,
but none serious. Alton was joyous over having at last won a game
from the enemy, but by the next day she was weighing the pros and
cons and unwillingly reaching the conclusion that, on the whole, the
Gray-and-Gold had a long way to go before she would be in position to
face Kenly Hall with better than a one to two chance of winning. There
were plenty who stated emphatically that Mt. Millard should have had
that game, basing their contention on the more varied and brilliant
attack of the visitor. But there were plenty of others who stoutly
held that the better team had won, just as the better team does win
ninety-nine times in a hundred, and that even allowing Mt. Millard
less weight and a far more dazzling and puzzling offense Alton had
been there with the good old straight football stuff that wins games.
That Mr. Cade was satisfied with the team’s showing is very doubtful,
but then coaches are like that. They never are satisfied quite. Johnny
didn’t say anything to lead any one to think he was not content. That
was the trouble. He said too little. Those veterans who knew him well
understood perfectly that Johnny Cade was not mentally shaking hands
with himself!



CHAPTER XIII

AN EVENING CALL


That evening Slim, with his hand prettily painted with iodine, had an
engagement that excluded Leonard, and the latter, having no liking for
a Saturday evening alone, called up Johnny McGrath on the telephone,
found that that youth was to be at home and then walked over to 102
Melrose avenue.

Not only Johnny, but most of Johnny’s family was at home, and Leonard
was introduced to Mrs. McGrath and Mr. McGrath and young Cullen;
Johnny’s elder brother was married and lived elsewhere. Leonard liked
Mr. and Mrs. McGrath instantly. They were just what they seemed--and
vice versa--a thoroughly nice, warm-hearted couple, uncultured but wise
and shrewd and well-mannered. Perhaps Leonard took to them the more
readily because they made him see at once that they were ready and even
anxious to like him. Although Leonard couldn’t know it, Johnny had
spoken frequently of him, and any one approved of by Johnny was bound
to be welcomed by Johnny’s parents. And, another thing that Leonard
didn’t know, even if he suspected it later, very few of Johnny’s
school acquaintances ever came to his home.

Leonard wasn’t filled with instant liking for Cullen, for the younger
brother was at the difficult age of thirteen and was long of leg and
awkward of speech and movement, a freckle-faced youngster who, knowing
of the visitor’s connection with the Alton football team, viewed him
with piercing intentness and at intervals broke into the general
conversation with startlingly inopportune questions. Leonard wasn’t
quite at his ease until, after a half-hour downstairs, Johnny conveyed
him up to his room on the third floor, sternly forbidding the ready
Cullen to follow.

That room was quite wonderful, Leonard thought, comparing it to his
own small room at home. It was very large, fully twenty feet square,
with four big windows framed in gay cretonne and white muslin, two huge
closets and book-shelves that went all across one wall. Those shelves
made a great hit with the visitor. They were just elbow-high and they
had no pesky glass doors in front of them. You could take a book out
without the least effort, and you could lay it on top of the shelves
and look at it if you didn’t want to carry it to a chair. And that was
just what Leonard was doing presently. Johnny had more books than the
caller had ever seen outside a public library! And such books, too!
A full set of the best encyclopedia, all sorts of dictionaries--not
only of words, but of places and dates and phrases--and all of
Stevenson and Dickens, and Green’s and Prescott’s histories, and the
Badminton Library and lots and lots of other books in sets or single
volumes. Leonard thought of his own scanty collection of some two-score
tomes--many of them reminders of nursery days--and for a moment was
very envious. Then envy passed, and he silently determined to some day
have a library as big and complete as Johnny’s.

The room was plainly furnished, but everything in it was designed for
both comfort and use, a fact that Leonard recognized and that caused
him to realize for perhaps the first time that with furniture as with
everything else real beauty was founded on usefulness, was intrinsic
and not external. Everything in this room was just what it appeared to
be. Not a single object masqueraded as something else. Leonard liked it
all enormously and said so emphatically, and Johnny was pleased. You
could see that.

“I’m glad you like it,” he answered almost gratefully. “Dad let me buy
everything myself. I could have got stuff that looked a lot--well, a
lot grander, do you mind; things with carved legs and all that sort of
flummery; but I sort of like plainer things better.”

Leonard nodded, looking about the big, pleasantly lighted apartment.
“So do I,” he agreed, although five minutes ago, had you asked him, he
wouldn’t have known! “Some room, McGrath,” he went on approvingly. “And
there’s a light just about everywhere, isn’t there?”

It did seem so. There was a plain brass standard by the wicker couch,
two smaller hood-shaded lights atop the book-shelves, a hanging bulb
over the broad chiffonier, a squat lamp on the big, round table and
a funny little blue enameled affair on the stand by the head of the
bed. Only the table lamp was lighted, but the soft glow radiated to
every corner of the room. Leonard’s gaze went back to the many shelves
opposite.

“Did you buy all those books yourself?” he asked.

“Oh, no, only maybe a third of them. The folks gave me the others. They
know I’m fond of them. Joe always gives me books at Christmas and my
birthday.” He saw the unuttered question in Leonard’s face and smiled
as he added: “They always ask me what I want, though, first.”

Leonard got up then and prowled. He looked at the four pictures in
plain dark-oak frames: “The Retreat from Moscow”; a quaint print of an
elderly man standing before a second-hand bookstall on a Paris quay
holding a huge umbrella overhead while, with one volume tucked under an
arm, he peered near-sightedly into a second; a photograph of Hadrian’s
Tomb and a Dutch etching of a whirling windmill, with bent sedges about
a little pool and an old woman bending against the wind.

“I like that one a lot,” explained Johnny. “Can’t you just see--no,
I mean feel the wind? I’d like to go to Holland some day. It must be
fine, I’m thinking.”

Leonard had a go at the books next, Johnny pulling forth his special
treasures for him. After awhile they sat down again and talked, and
when, as was to be expected, football came up for discussion, the
discussion became animated. Although Johnny didn’t play, he was a keen
critic--and a fearless one. “There’s two or three fellows on the team,”
he declared after the day’s contest had been gone over, “that would be
better for a vacation, to my mind. Put them on the bench for a week,
maybe, and they’d come back and earn their keep.”

Leonard wanted to know the names of the gentlemen, but wasn’t sure
he ought to ask. Johnny supplied them, however, without urging.
“It’s Smedley and Garrick and that big Renneker I’m thinking of,” he
explained. “Take Smedley, now, sure he’s a good man, but he don’t ever
spit on his hands and get to work, Grant. It’s the same way with the
other two, especially Renneker. He’s asleep at the switch half the
time.”

“But I thought he played a pretty good game to-day,” objected Leonard.

“He did, but what’s a ‘pretty good game’ for a fellow who’s made the
All-Scholastic?” asked Johnny witheringly. “Sure, ’tis no game at all.
He has the height of a camel and the weight of a whale, and does he use
either intelligently? He does not! I’m no football player, Grant--or
should I be calling you General?--but I can see with half an eye, and
that one shut, that the lad isn’t earning his salary.”

“He doesn’t get any,” laughed Leonard.

“I know, that was a figure of speech,” answered the other. “Though, by
the same token, I’ll bet he’d take the salary if it was offered.”

“You mean--” Leonard stopped. Then he added: “Slim thinks you maybe
made a mistake about Renneker that time.”

“I thought so myself,” responded Johnny. “But this afternoon I got
Jimsy Carnochan to go to the game with me. Mind you, I said no word to
him about Renneker or Ralston or any one else. I just wanted to see
would he notice anything. Well, in the third quarter, when the play was
close to where we were sitting, Jimsy said to me, ‘Who’s the big fellow
there playing right guard?’ ‘On which team?’ I asked him. ‘On Alton.’
‘His name’s Gordon Renneker.’ ‘Like fun,’ said Jimsy. ‘If it is my
name’s Napoleon Bonaparte! Don’t you mind the fellow that played first
base in New Haven last summer for the Maple Leaf team? I’ve forgotten
his name, but ’twill come to me.’ ‘Ralston, do you mean?’ I asked him.
‘Ralston! That’s the guy! What’s he calling himself out of his name
for now?’ ‘Sure,’ I said, ‘you’re mistaken. There’s a similarity, I’ll
acknowledge, but this fellow is Gordon Renneker, a fine lad that got
placed on the All-Scholastic Team last year.’ ‘Maybe he was placed
on it, whatever it is,’ said Jimsy, ‘and he’s likewise placed in my
memory, for the big piece of cheese caught me with my foot off the bag,
and I’m not forgetting any guy that does that!’ Well, I told him that
he couldn’t be certain, seeing that you’re always reading about people
that look so much alike their own mothers can’t tell them apart, maybe;
and I minded him of a moving picture play that was here no longer ago
than last August where one man takes another man’s place in Parliament
and no one knows any different. And finally I said to him: ‘Whatever
you may be thinking, Jimsy, keep it to yourself, for if it turned out
that you were mistaken you’d feel mighty small, what with getting an
innocent fellow into trouble.’ So there’s no fear of Jimsy talking,
General.”

Leonard looked perplexed. “It’s awfully funny,” he said finally.
“Renneker isn’t at all the sort of fellow you’d think to find playing
baseball for money. Look at the clothes he wears, and--and the
impression he gives you. Why, he must have plenty of money, McGrath.”

“You’d think so. Still, I mind the time when I had all the good clothes
I could get on my back and would have been glad of the chance of
picking up a bit of money. Although,” added Johnny, “I don’t think I’d
change my name to do it.”

“Well,” said Leonard, shaking his head in puzzlement, “I can’t get it.
What’s troubling me, though, is this. Knowing what we do--or suspecting
it, rather--ought we to tell some one? I mean Coach Cade or Rus Emerson
or faculty.”

“I’m wondering that myself,” said Johnny, frowning. “Maybe it’s no
business of mine, though, for I’m not connected with football--”

“What difference does that make?” Leonard demanded. “You’re an Alton
fellow, aren’t you? If what you suspect about Gordon Renneker is true
he ought not to be allowed to play for Alton, and as an Alton student--”

“Sure, that’s true enough,” agreed Johnny ruefully. “I was fearing
you’d say that. I’ve said it to myself already.” He grinned across
at his guest. After a moment he continued: “There’s this about it,
though, General. I’ve no proof, no real proof, I mean. Like I told
Jimsy Carnochan, it might be I was mislead by one of those strange
resemblances that you read of.”

“Yes,” answered Leonard without conviction. “You might be. I guess
you’ll just have to do as you think best.”

Johnny’s eyes twinkled. “Sure, and how about you?” he asked innocently.

“Me?”

“Yes, for I’ve told you all there is to be told. How about you speaking
of it to the coach or some one?”

“Gee, I couldn’t!” Leonard protested. “I’m playing on the team, or,
anyway, the squad, and it wouldn’t look very well for me to--to prefer
charges against another member, now would it?”

Johnny laughed merrily. “I can’t do it because I’m not on the team, and
you can’t do it because you are!” Then he sobered. “We’ll leave it as
it is,” he decided. “I want to do what’s right, but I don’t know that
it would be right to accuse Renneker of this with no real proof to
back up the charge with. Besides, if he plays no better game than he’s
been playing, ’twill work no injustice to the teams we meet, for, with
him out of it, the coach might put in a fellow that would be a sight
better.”

“Do you think I’d better say anything to Slim about what happened
to-day?” asked Leonard.

“I wouldn’t,” said Johnny dryly. “’Twould only worry him. Slim’s all
for sticking his head in the sand, like an ostrich, and there’s no call
to be twitching his tail-feathers!”

Leonard had to laugh at that, and no more was said on the subject
that evening. In fact, the evening was about gone. At the front door,
Johnny, bidding the caller “Good night,” added a bit wistfully: “’Twas
fine of you to come and see me, Grant, and I appreciate it. I’d be
liking it if you’d come again some time.”

“Why, I liked it myself,” laughed Leonard from the steps. “And I surely
will come again. And, say, why don’t you ever come and see Slim and me?”

“Well, I don’t know,” answered Johnny. “Maybe I might some time.”

“I wish you would,” Leonard assured him. “We’re almost always at home
evenings.”

Going on down the hill, Leonard reflected that the probable reason why
Johnny had never called at Number 12 Haylow was that he had never been
asked.

The doors were still open when Leonard reached Haylow, but ten o’clock
struck just as he was climbing the stairs. In Number 12 the light was
burning and in the bed at the left Slim was fast asleep, a magazine
spread open across his chest. Leonard set about preparing for slumber
with stealthy movements. Perhaps he need not have taken so much
trouble, though, for when he inadvertently knocked a French dictionary
from the corner of the table and it fell with a slam loud enough to
make him jump an inch off the floor Slim didn’t even stir. It was not
until Leonard was in his pajamas that his gaze happened on a half-sheet
of paper pinned squarely in the middle of his pillow. He held it to the
light and read:

    “If I’m asleep when you return
       Then wake me up, I pray,
     For there is something that I yearn
       2 you 2 night 2 say.”

Leonard smiled and turned doubtfully toward the sleeper. It seemed too
bad to awaken him. Whatever it was that he had to tell could doubtless
wait for morning. Still, Slim never had any trouble getting to sleep,
and so--

“Wake up, Slim!” Leonard shook him gently. Slim slumbered on. “_Slim!_
Here, snap out of it! _Hi, Slim!_” Slim muttered and strove to slip
away from the rough, disturbing grasp. “No, you don’t! You wanted to be
waked up, and I’m going”--shake--“to wake you up”--shake--“if it takes
all night!” Slim opened his eyes half an inch and observed Leonard with
mild interest. Then:

“That you, General?” he muttered.

“Yes.”

“Good night.”

“Hold on! What was it you wanted to say to me, you silly coot?”

“Huh?”

“Come awake a minute. You left a note on my pillow--something you
wanted to say to me--remember?”

“Yes,” answered Slim sleepily.

“Well, say it then!”

“I did. That was it.”

“What was it?”

“‘Good night.’”

Slim turned his back and pulled the clothes up over his ears.



CHAPTER XIV

MR. CADE MAKES AN ENTRY


The next afternoon when Leonard clumped down the steps of the gymnasium
clad for practice a gust of cold air swept around the corner from the
north-west and reminded him that November was two days old. The sky was
gray and clouds sailed low overhead. Fallen leaves played prankishly
along the walks and eddied into quiet harbors about the buildings.
After the warm, moist air of the locker room the outdoor world felt
chill indeed, and Leonard, trudging briskly toward the gridiron, rolled
his hands in the edge of his old sweater. It was a day, though, that
made the blood move fast and called for action. Leonard, to use his own
phrase, felt full of “pep.” They couldn’t work a fellow too hard or too
fast on such an afternoon.

Practice went off at a new gait, and when, routine work over, those
who had played through Saturday’s game were released and Mr. Fadden’s
charges romped over from the second team gridiron, every one knew that
fur was going to fly. And fly it did. A fellow had to work and keep
on working just to be comfortably warm, but besides that there was
a quality in the harshly chill wind that would have made an oyster
ambitious and put speed into a snail. The second started in with lots
of ginger and smeared up Carpenter’s run-back of the kick-off, and
after that held the first and made her punt from her twenty-two yards.
After that it was hammer-and-tongs, the rival coaches barking out
directions and criticisms and hopping about on the edge of the scrap
in the most absorbed way. If every one hadn’t been too much interested
with the battle the spectacle of Mr. Fadden hopping might have
occasioned amusement!

The first presented a line-up of substitutes, with Gurley and Kerrison
playing end, Lawrence and Cash tackle, Squibbs and Falls guard, Muller
center, Carpenter quarter, Kendall and Goodwin half and Dakin full.
Leonard, huddled in a blanket on the bench, forgot the cold in the
cheering knowledge that sooner or later Johnny Cade would be sure
to call on him. Johnny Cade did, but not until the second period.
Meanwhile Lawrence and Cash took plenty of punishment from the cocky
scrubs but managed to hold out. Second was certainly on her toes this
afternoon, and nothing the first could do prevented her from scoring.
It was only a field-goal, for the first, pushed down the field to her
twenty-yard line, held gamely through three downs, but it meant three
points for the scrubs and much exulting. With a strong wind almost
behind him, the second’s left half could hardly have failed to boot the
pigskin over.

First wrested the ball away from second a minute or so later and
started a march toward the opponent’s goal. Kendall got away with a
nice run of a dozen yards, and Dakin twice got half that distance
through left guard. Goodwin plugged hard, but it was not his day.
Carpenter tried a quarterback run and made it good for eight yards,
placing the ball on second’s twenty-four. Kendall went back and faked
a try-at-goal, taking the pigskin on a wide end run that netted him
little but exercise. Then a forward-pass was tried, but, short as it
was, the wind bore it down, and first was lucky not to lose possession
of it. With two downs left, Kendall again threatened a field-goal, but
passed the ball to Dakin, and the full-back smashed through the enemy
left for four. On the same play Dakin added enough to make it first
down on the fourteen. Then, with first already tasting success, the
whistle ended the period!

The scrubs crossed the field to sit in a closely huddled group like a
lot of blanketed Indians and Leonard watched Mr. Cade hopefully. But
when the second period started the coach made but two changes in his
line-up. Raleigh went in at right guard and Wilde at right tackle.
Leonard, disappointed, looked searchingly up and down the bench. So far
as he knew he was the only tackle remaining. In fact, only less than a
dozen fellows were left now, and he didn’t think there was a lineman
among them. He didn’t wish Lawrence any bad luck, but it did seem that
he had played about long enough!

First had a streak of luck right at the start of that period, for
a second team back fumbled on his forty-four and, although second
recovered the ball, the next line-up was close to the twenty-five-yard
line. Two punches and then a punt into the gale that carried a scant
twenty yards, and the ball was first’s in scrub territory. The first
attack sent Goodwin at the enemy’s center for a two-yard gain and when
the warriors had disentangled themselves one form remained on the
ground. Jake seized water bottle and sponge and trotted out. “That’s
Raleigh,” said the fellow at Leonard’s right.

“Sure?” asked Leonard anxiously. “I thought maybe it was Lawrence. No,
there’s Lawrence. You a guard?”

The neighbor shook his head sadly. “Half,” he answered.

They had Raleigh standing up now and Jake was leading him toward the
bench. Coach Cade’s voice came imperatively.

“First team guard!” he called.

The trainer echoed the summons impatiently as he neared the bench.
“Come on, one of you guards!”

Leonard threw off his blanket and bent mutely to the neighbor and the
substitute halfback seized his sweater while Leonard pulled himself out
of it. Then he dashed onto the gridiron. Jake was a dozen feet away,
still supporting the scowling Raleigh.

“What’s the matter?” he asked. “Deaf? Didn’t you hear the coach
yelling?” Then he stared harder, at Leonard’s back now, and called
suddenly: “Here! You ain’t a guard!”

But Leonard paid no heed. Perhaps the wind bore the words away from
him. He went on, aware, as he gained the waiting squad, of the coach’s
puzzled gaze.

“I called for a guard, Grant,” said Mr. Cade.

“Yes, sir,” answered Leonard. “I’ve played guard two seasons.”

“Maybe, but you’re not a guard now. Send some one else on. Isn’t there
any one there?”

“No, sir.”

Mr. Cade shrugged. “All right. You take it then. You deserve it, I’m
blessed if you don’t! Come on now, First Team! Let’s get going! All
right, Quarter!”

Leonard stepped in between Garrick and Cash, Carpenter chanted his
signal and the lines ground together. Why, this was easy, reflected
Leonard. It was just like old times. He knew what to do here. When you
were a guard you were a guard and nothing else. You didn’t have to
understudy your next door neighbor and go prancing around like a silly
end! Of course, when a shift took you around to the other side of the
line, as it was doing now--

Leonard whanged into an opponent and tipped him neatly aside as
Kendall came spinning through. Three yards, easy. Maybe four. This
was “pie!” He got back to his place again and grinned at his second
team adversary. The scrub player answered the grin with a malignant
scowl. Leonard laughed to himself. He always liked the other fellow
to get good and peeved; that made it easier. Dakin was stopped short
on the next play and Kendall went back. A second team back tried to
sneak inside of Leonard, and Leonard gave him a welcoming shoulder.
Then there was the thud of the ball and he pushed an adversary aside
and sped down the field, the gale behind him helping him on. He was
under the ball all the way and was hard by when Kerrison upset the
scrub quarter for no gain. The pigskin was on the second’s fourteen
now, and the second realized its difficulties. Kicking into that wind
was a thankless job. If you kicked low your ends couldn’t cover the
punt. If you kicked high you made no distance. Even a forward-pass,
were you rash enough to attempt it under your own goal-posts, was
doubly risky. So second tried hard to get a half-back around an end,
first at Gurley’s post and then at Kerrison’s, and made but four yards
altogether. It seemed then that second must punt, but she had one more
trick up her sleeve. She sent an end far out to the left, shifted to
the right and sent the full-back straight ahead. Well, that wasn’t so
bad, for it added another four yards to her total. But it was fourth
down, and the wind still blew hard against her, and punt she must at
last. So punt she tried to.

That she didn’t was primarily due to the ease with which Leonard
disposed of his man and went romping through the scrub line, quite
alone for the instant. A half met him, and the impact, since Leonard
had his hands thrown high, almost drove the breath from his body.
Yet the damage was done, for the second team kicker was too hurried
to punt. Instead, he tucked the ball to his elbow and shot off to
the right in a desperate attempt to circle the first team’s end. But
there was Gurley to be considered, and Gurley dropped his man very
expeditiously and neatly for a six-yard loss. Whereupon first took the
ball, lined up on the scrub’s sixteen and hammered Goodwin and Dakin
over for the score.

Then Kendall booted a nice goal and made it seven points, and going
back up the field Carpenter and Dakin and half a dozen others whacked
Leonard on the back and pantingly told him that he was “all right,”
or words to that effect. Then first kicked off again and went after
another touchdown. You might criticize the second’s science, but you
had to acknowledge that when it came to fight she was right on hand!
Second didn’t hold with Mr. Cade or Quarterback Carpenter when they
assured the first that there was another score to be had. Second denied
it loudly and with ridicule. She dared first to try to get another
score. First accepted the challenge with ejaculations of derision and
the trouble began again.

You mustn’t think that Leonard played through some ten minutes without
receiving his share of censure from the coach and the quarterback, for
nothing like that happened. Mr. Cade showed little partiality, and
every one came in for criticism or rebuke. What Carpenter said worried
Leonard very little. Quarterbacks are always nagging a fellow. But he
did wish, toward the last, that Mr. Cade would stop barking at him. Of
course he knew that he didn’t play the position perfectly, but he was
doing his best, gosh ding it, and no one was making any gains through
him! If only he was a little bigger and had more beef he’d show Johnny
some real playing!

As it was, though, he was doing so well that the coach was secretly
marvelling. Mr. Cade viewed Leonard’s height and his none too broad
shoulders and then glanced at the big Garrick on one side and the rangy
Cash on the other and wondered. “When,” reflected the coach, “he told
me he was a guard he knew what he was talking about!” Much of Leonard’s
success this afternoon was due to following Billy Wells’ advice.
Leonard looked his man in the eye and discovered that, in some strange
fashion, he could tell what the chap was going to do a fraction of a
second before he started to do it. It was almost like mind-reading,
Leonard thought. And he profited, too, by the other tips that Billy had
given him. He couldn’t adopt Billy’s stance thoroughly, but he did try
a modified form of it and found that it gave him a quicker start. And
to-day no one drove his head back and made him see whole constellations
of wonderful stars! No, sir, the old chin was right in against the neck!

First didn’t succeed in scoring again, but she did throw a scare into
the adversary in the final minute of play. By that time Leonard’s
original opponent had been replaced by a fresher but, as it was soon
proved, no more formidable youth, and Mr. Fadden had made other
substitutions in his array of talent. So, too, had Mr. Cade, although
the latter’s resources were nearly exhausted. Cruikshank went in for
Carpenter, and a new half-back appeared. Cruikshank brought a little
more “pep” to the first, and she got the pigskin down to second’s
twenty-eight yards. There, however, the enemy stiffened and tightened
and took the ball away on downs. Wisely, she elected to punt on first
down, but there was a poor pass, and the ball was missed entirely
by the kicker. It hit him somewhere around the feet and bounded to
one side. Instantly twenty-two youths made for it. Some four or
five reached it more or less simultaneously. Of the number was the
first team right guard. How that happened was a subject of official
investigation later by Mr. Fadden. However, the second team’s troubles
are not ours. What interests us is the fact that not only was Leonard
the first man through the second team line but he was the first man
to lay hand on the ball. He accomplished the latter feat by diving
between two hesitant adversaries and, being doubtless favored by luck,
capturing the erratic pigskin during one brief instant of quiescence.
A fraction of a second later that ball would have toppled this way
or that, or jumped into the air, eluding Leonard’s grasp just as it
had eluded others’, but at the instant it had presumably paused for
breath. Anyhow, Leonard reached it and pulled it under him and tucked
his head out of the way. Then half a dozen of the opponents sat on him
more or less violently or tried to get covetous hands on the prize.
The whistle blew and finally he breathed again. Having been pulled
to his feet, his breathing was again disturbed by emphatic blows on
his back or shoulders accompanied by brief but hearty expression of
commendation. He was still fighting for breath when Cruikshank piped
his signal, and Dakin drove harmlessly into the second team line. Then,
to the intense disgust of the first and the vast relief of the second,
with the ball on the seventeen yards and a score as sure as shooting,
some idiot blew a whistle!

There was almost a scrap about that. Up in the locker room Dakin
accused Winship, the assistant manager who had acted as timekeeper, of
having cheated the first of a score. “Time,” answered Winship coldly,
“was up when the whistle blew.” “Yah,” responded Dakin impolitely.
“You’re crazy! You didn’t see straight! Bet you there was a good thirty
seconds left!” “There was not! If anything, you had a second more than
was coming to you, for the whistle didn’t blow until I’d called to
Tenney twice. No use being sore at me, Dakin. Much better have done
something when you had the ball that time!” “Is that so?” snarled the
full-back. “How’d I know you were going to cheat us out of--” “Don’t
you say I cheated!” “Well, what do you call it, you fathead? Step up to
the gym with me if you’re looking for trouble!”

But some of the others stepped in just there, and hostilities were
prevented, and somewhat later Dakin, having been cooled by an icy
shower-bath, apologized handsomely and the entente cordiale was
reëstablished.

That evening, his briar pipe drawing nicely and his feet comfortably
elevated, Coach Cade turned the pages of his little memorandum book
and made marks here and there. Once he reversed his pencil and, using
the rubber-tipped end of it, expunged a name entirely. The last thing
he did was to draw a black mark through the words “Grant, Leonard” and
through half a dozen mysterious hieroglyphics that followed them and
then, turning a page, enter the same words again very carefully in his
small characters. At the top of the latter page was the inscription
“Guards.”



CHAPTER XV

A TIP FROM MCGRATH


Leonard regretted that Slim hadn’t been at the field during scrimmage
that afternoon, for he wanted Slim to know that he had--well, done not
so badly. All he told the other, though, when they met before supper
was that Johnny had run out of guards and that he had played at right
for awhile.

“Guard?” said Slim in surprise. “You mean Johnny stood for it?” Slim
frowned. “Look here, General, let me give you a word of advice. You
never get anywhere by changing jobs. You stick to being a tackle. The
next time Johnny wants to shift you to some other position you put your
foot down.”

“It wasn’t Johnny did it, Slim. They yelled for a guard and I ran on.”

“More fool you, son. You’ve got to specialize, or you’ll just sit on
the bench forever and ever. The fellow that does a little of everything
never does much of anything, as some one once very wisely remarked. How
did you get along?”

“All right,” answered Leonard. “It was easier than tackle, Slim. I--I
was more at home there, I suppose.”

“Huh,” grumbled Slim, “don’t get to looking for the easy jobs, General.
You stay put, young feller. Why, only a couple of days ago Billy Wells
was telling me what a wonderful tackle you’d make!”

“Wells was?” exclaimed Leonard. “Get out, Slim!”

“He was, honest to goodness! Why, Billy’s a--a great admirer of yours,
General. He said more nice things about your playing than I ever heard
him say about any fellow’s--not excepting his own! And now you go and
let them make a goat of you. Too bad, son.”

“We-ell, I’ve half a notion that Johnny will let me play guard after
this,” said Leonard. It was more a hope than a notion, though. Slim
shook his head doubtfully.

“I wouldn’t bank on it,” he said. “You know, General, you aren’t quite
built for a guard.”

After supper--Slim had been eating at training table for a long while
now--Leonard was leaning over a Latin book in Number 12 when the door
opened violently and things began to happen to him. First he was
precipitated backward until his head touched the floor and his feet
gyrated in air. Then he was sat on while rude hands tweaked his nose
and the lately occupied chair entangled his feet. About that time
Leonard began to resent the treatment and got a firm hold on Slim’s
hair. But Slim wouldn’t have that.

“No, General,” he announced firmly. “Be quiet and take your medicine.
You are being disciplined, son. This isn’t a mere vulgar brawl. This is
for the good of your poor little shriveled soul.”

“Well, let up on my nose then, you crazy idiot! What am I being
disciplined for! And get off my tummy a minute so I can kick that
blamed chair out of the way!”

“Don’t vent your spleen on the poor inanimate chair,” remonstrated Slim
reproachfully. “It never did anything to you, you deceiving goof. Look
at me! In the eye--I mean eyes! Why didn’t you tell me what happened
this afternoon?”

“I did.”

“General!”

“Ouch! Quit, you--you crazy--”

“Why didn’t you tell me _all_? Look at me, consarn yer!”

“I am, Slim! Doggone it, will you quit?”

“Stop struggling! General, you’ve got to come clean. Did you or didn’t
you deceive me?”

“I did not.”

“General, you did. Since then I have learned the truth. You went and
made yourself one of these here football heroes, you did, General.
Broke through--no, crashed through the enemy line and fell on the
fumbled ball, thus bringing victory to your beloved Alma Mater! Not
once, but twice did you do this thing. I know all, and lying won’t help
you any longer. Confess, drat your pesky hide! Did you or isn’t they?”

“They is!” groaned Leonard. “For the love of Mike, Slim, get off my
supper!”

Slim removed himself, and Leonard struggled out of the clutches of the
chair and got to his feet. “For two cents,” he said, “I’d lay you over
that blamed chair and paddle you, Slim.”

“No, you wouldn’t, son. You know very well that you deserved all you
got, and a little bit more. You deceived me, me your friend! You--”

“Oh, dry up,” laughed Leonard. “What did you expect me to do? Tell you
how good I was? Those second team fellows that played against me were
dead easy, Slim. A child could have got through those chaps. Why, you
could yourself, Slim! Well, I won’t go that far, but--”

“I pay no heed to your insults, you gallery-player!”

“Shut up! There wasn’t any gallery to-day. It was too cold.”

“Gallery enough. Fellows at table spent about half the time talking
about you and your stunts. And I had to make believe I knew all about
it and keep nosing around for clews. Not for worlds would I have
confessed that I knew naught of which they spake. Fancy my position! Me
who raised you from a cradle! Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?”

“Awfully,” said Leonard. “Now will you dry up and let me get this
Latin?”

“I will not. Say, General, I wish you’d set to work and get Renneker’s
job away from him.”

“That’s likely,” scoffed Leonard. “What you got against Renneker?”

“Nothing. Only--” Slim sobered, and after a moment’s pause continued:
“Only that yarn of Johnny McGrath’s makes me sort of wonder
whether--well, if Renneker wasn’t on the team, General, there wouldn’t
be anything to worry about!”

“I thought you’d decided that there wasn’t anything in that idea of
McGrath’s.”

“So I had. I’m still that way. Only--well, I wish some one would find
out the truth of it. Or you’d beat him out for the place!”

“I’ve got a fine chance, Slim! Look here, if you think there’s a chance
that McGrath isn’t mistaken why don’t you ask Renneker about it?”

Slim shrugged. “It isn’t my funeral. Besides, what’s to prevent him
from lying?”

Leonard shook his head. “I don’t believe he would, Slim. He doesn’t
seem that sort, you know.”

“No,” agreed Slim, grudgingly, “he doesn’t. Oh, well, I should worry.
Gee, I’ve got enough to attend to without turning reformer. There’s the
class dinner Saturday, and Cash tells me only about half the bunch have
paid up so far. By the way, have you heard anything?”

“Not a thing,” replied Leonard.

“Guess you haven’t tried very hard,” grumbled the other. “I’d like to
know what the freshies are up to. They’ve got something planned. You
can see that by the knowing look of ’em. Some fool stunt the juniors
have put ’em up to, I’ll wager. Well--”

Slim relapsed into thoughtful silence, and Leonard edged his chair back
to the table. After a minute he asked: “That all?”

“Huh?” inquired Slim absently.

“If you’re quite through I’ll have another go at this Latin,” said
Leonard politely. “But of course if there’s anything else on your
mind--”

“Go to the dickens,” growled Slim.

On Tuesday the first-string players returned to a full diet of work
and, excepting Smedley, now pronounced out of football for the season,
all the guard candidates were on hand when the scrimmage started.
Nevertheless Leonard displaced Renneker in the second period and
Raleigh went in at left guard, relieving Stimson. Billy Wells greeted
Leonard heartily with a playful poke in the ribs and, “Well, here’s
the General! See who’s with us, Jim!” Jim Newton turned and grinned.
“Hello, sonny,” he said. “You get behind me and they won’t hurt you.”
Leonard, almost painfully aware of the difference in size between him
and the big center, smiled apologetically. “Thanks,” he answered, “I
will if you happen to be on your feet.” Billy yelped gleefully, and
Jim’s grin broadened. “You win, young feller,” he said.

Leonard didn’t break through to-day and capture a fumbled ball, but he
did more than handle his opponent and very early in the second period
the scrubs discovered that the right of the first team line was a
particularly poor place at which to direct attack. Leonard and Wells
worked together very nicely. Just before the end, much to his disgust,
he was forced to yield his place to Falls, and he and Raleigh, also
relieved, made their way back to the gymnasium together. Raleigh was
an excellent example of the player who is able to progress just so far
and then stands still, in spite of all that coaches can do. He had been
a second-string guard last year and had, early in the present season,
been picked as a certainty. Renneker’s advent, however, had spoiled
his chance, and since then Raleigh seemed to have lost his grip. Just
now he was not so much standing still as he was sliding backward.
He confided something of this to Leonard on the way across to the
gymnasium.

“I don’t suppose I’ll even get a smell of the big game,” he said
sorrowfully. “Renneker’ll play at right and Stimson at left, and you
and Falls will be next choice. It was that big guy that queered my
chances.”

Leonard didn’t have to ask who was meant. Instead he said comfortingly:
“You can’t tell, Raleigh. You might beat Stimson yet. And you’ll surely
have it all over me for first substitute.”

But Raleigh shook his head. “Not a chance, Grant. I know a real player
when I see him, even if I’m getting to be a dub myself. You’re a
live-wire. I wouldn’t be surprised if you got Stimson’s job before the
Kenly game.”

“Me? Much obliged for the compliment, Raleigh, but I guess Stimson
isn’t frightened much! I haven’t got the weight, you know.”

“You don’t seem to need it,” replied Raleigh enviously. “You’ve got
speed to burn. Wish I had a little of it!”

The next day Leonard was called to the training table, where he took
his place between Lawrence and Wilde and where, after his second or
third repast, he was no longer Grant but “General.” On Wednesday he
discovered with something of a thrill that Coach Cade was taking him
seriously as a candidate for a guard position, for he was given a hard
thirty-minute drill in blocking and breaking through in company with
Renneker and Stimson and Raleigh and Falls. Soon after that, just when
Leonard didn’t know, Squibbs disappeared from the football squad. It
will be remembered, perhaps, that not long before Coach Cade had erased
a name from a page of his little book.

It was on Thursday evening that Johnny McGrath appeared at Number 12
Haylow in response to Leonard’s invitation. Both Leonard and Slim
were at home, and Johnny had no cause to doubt that he was welcome.
The conversation was not particularly interesting. Or, at least, it
wouldn’t sound so if set down here. There was one subject not included
in the many that were discussed, and that was the resemblance of Gordon
Renneker to George Ralston. Just before he left Johnny said, a trifle
hesitantly: “By the way, Slim, heard anything about Saturday?”

“About the dinner, do you mean?” Slim’s eyes narrowed.

“Yes. I wondered if you’d heard any--er--any rumors.” Johnny looked
very innocent just then. Slim shook his head slowly.

“Nothing much, Johnny. Have you?”

“Why, I don’t know.” Johnny appeared undecided. “You see, I’m a junior,
Slim, and maybe I oughtn’t to give away any freshman secrets.”

“Huh,” Slim grumbled, “if it wasn’t for you fellows putting ’em up to
the mischief--”

“Sure, I had nothing to do with it,” laughed Johnny. “And what I heard
didn’t come from my crowd. ’Tis just something I accidentally came on.”

“Well, out with it. What are the pesky kids up to?”

“I’m not knowing that, Slim.”

“Well, what the dickens do you know, you Sinn Feiner?”

“All I know,” replied Johnny evasively, as he opened the door, “is that
if I was President of the Sophomore Class I’d be watching out mighty
sharp come Saturday evening.” Johnny grinned, winked meaningly and
vanished.

“Humph,” said Slim. “He does know something, the silly ass.” He started
up as if to go after Johnny, but then sat down again and shrugged his
shoulders. “He wouldn’t tell, I suppose.”

“What do you think he was hinting at?” asked Leonard.

Slim shrugged again. “How the dickens do I know? I dare say the
freshies have cooked up some plot to make me look silly. Maybe they
think they can keep me away from the dinner. All right, let them try
it!” And Slim looked grim as he began to disrobe.

On Saturday Leonard made his first trip away from Alton with the
football team, being one of twenty-six fellows who journeyed to New
Falmouth. Last fall Alton had just managed to defeat the clever High
School team by one point, and to-day the visitors weren’t looking for
any easy victory. It was well they weren’t, as events proved. New
Falmouth was too powerful for the Gray-and-Gold. With only one more
game on her schedule, and that against a rival high school of smaller
calibre, New Falmouth was in position to use everything she had in
to-day’s contest. And she certainly held nothing back. Last season’s
game, lost to her through her inability to convert two touchdowns into
goals, had been a disappointment, and she fully intended to take her
revenge.

Coach Cade started with several substitutes in his line-up, but this
was not because he held the enemy in contempt. His real reason was that
he hoped to hold New Falmouth scoreless in the first half of the game
and use his best talent to tuck the victory away in the last. But that
wasn’t to be. Before the second quarter was half-way through Johnny
Cade was hurling his best troops onto the field in a desperate attempt
to turn the tide of battle. For by that time New Falmouth had scored
twice and had 10 points to her credit on the score-board while the
visitors had yet to show themselves dangerous.

Leonard didn’t see service until the third period. Then he went in at
left guard in place of the deposed Stimson. The score was still 10 to
0, and Alton looked very much like a beaten team. New Falmouth had a
powerful attack, one that was fast and shifty and hit hard. No place
in the Gray-and-Gold line had proved invulnerable in the first two
periods, while the home team had run the ends with alarming frequency.
Only Alton’s ability to pull herself together and stand firm under her
goal had prevented the enemy’s score from being doubled.

Leonard had Jim Newton on one side of him and Sam Butler on the other
when the second half began. He had not played beside Butler before and
didn’t know the tall youth’s style of game as well as he knew Billy
Wells’, and for awhile the two didn’t work together any too smoothly.
In fact, the left of the Alton line was no more difficult to penetrate
than the right until Leonard discovered from experience that Butler
went about his business in a different fashion from that used by Billy
and began to govern his own play accordingly. Butler couldn’t be
depended on, for one thing, to back up attacks between left guard and
center. Such plays always pulled him in and left him fairly useless.
Also, he played too high much of the time, a fact that invited more
attacks at his position than Leonard approved of. Yet, when once
these facts had been learned, Leonard was able to discount them to an
appreciable extent and before the third period was more than half over
New Falmouth was less attentive to that side of the adversary’s line.

Leonard knew that he was playing football, and extremely hard football,
before the third play had been made. New Falmouth got the ball on the
kick-off and started a battering-ram attack that bore the enemy back
time and again. Leonard went through some punishment then, for the
first three plays were aimed at the Alton left guard and tackle. He
acquired a bleeding nose in the second of them and a bruised knee in
the third. About that time he got interested and began to really fight.
Captain Emerson went off with a bad limp and Kerrison took his place.
Not much later Bee Appel, after having been aimed at since the game
began, was finally downed for good and Carpenter took over the running
of the team. The third period ended without further scoring, although
the ball had stayed in Alton territory most of the time and was still
there.

A penalty for off-side set Alton back another five yards nearer her
goal just after play was resumed, and, when she had been held for
two downs on the twenty-two yards, New Falmouth tried a goal from
placement. For once, however, the line failed to hold and half the
Alton team piled through on the kicker and the ball bounded off up the
field and was captured by Reilly, of Alton, on the thirty-six yards.
Alton made first down on two plunges and a six-yard run by Menge. Then,
however, after three more attempts, Greenwood punted to the home team’s
twenty-five, where the ball went outside. New Falmouth made two through
Renneker and tore off five more around Kerrison. A third down was
wasted on a plunge at center that was repulsed. Then New Falmouth tried
her third forward-pass of the game, and the ball landed nicely in the
hands of Slim Staples close to the forty-yard line, and Slim dodged to
the thirty-two before he was stopped.

Here, it seemed, was Alton’s chance to score at last, but after
Carpenter had attempted a run following a delayed pass and had centered
the ball at the sacrifice of a yard, the chance didn’t look so bright.
Greenwood made a scant two at the New Falmouth left, and then, with
nine to go on third down, and Greenwood in kicking position, Carpenter
called for an end-around play with Slim Staples carrying. Just what
happened Leonard didn’t know, but somewhere between Jim Newton and
Slim the ball got away. Leonard heard Carpenter’s frantic grunt of
“_Ball!_” and swung into the enemy. Then he felt the ball trickle
against his foot, thrust aside for a moment and dropped to a knee.
When he got his hands on the pigskin the battle was all about him, and
cries and confusion filled the air. Yet he was able to thrust himself
up again through the mêlée, and plunge forward, and, having taken that
first plunge, to go on. He met a back squarely and caromed off him
into the arms of another, broke loose somehow and went forward again.
The goal-line was startlingly near, and he made for it desperately,
slanting first to the left and then doubling back from a frenzied
quarter. He and the quarter met and, spinning on a heel, he staggered
over the line, a New Falmouth man astride him as he fell.

Unfortunately there was no one left on the Alton team who could kick a
goal once in five times, and Joe Greenwood, who tried to add another
point to the six, failed dismally. The fault wasn’t entirely his,
though, for New Falmouth broke through and hurried the kick. But even
to have scored was something, and Leonard, still wondering just how it
had happened, was appraised of the fact in most emphatic language and
actions. Over on one side of the field a half-hundred or so of Alton
sympathizers who had accompanied the eleven were shouting ecstatically
and wildly. Denied victory, they made much of that touchdown.

The ball went to New Falmouth for the kick-off, and Leonard sprang
away to repel the invaders. Behind him, Carpenter got the pigskin,
juggled it and tried to run it back, but two New Falmouth ends downed
him fiercely. On the second play Greenwood got clean away around the
left end and made it first down on the thirty-yard line. Just as he was
jubilating hoarsely over that Leo Falls came romping on, hailed the
referee and joyfully slapped Leonard on the back.

“You’re off,” he announced. “Let’s have your head-guard.”

Leonard looked unbelievingly at him. “Off?” he gasped. “Me?” But the
referee was waving impatiently, and Leonard pulled off his helmet
and turned sadly toward the bench. The world seemed just then filled
with ingratitude and injustice, and the cheer that hailed him fell
on unresponsive ears. Jake hurried out to enfold him in a blanket,
mumbling fine phrases, and Mr. Cade said something as Leonard passed
to the bench, but the day’s hero was not to be salved so easily. From
the bench he sadly watched the game to its end and witnessed, in the
closing moments, the addition of another 3 to New Falmouth’s 10. Life
was very dark!



CHAPTER XVI

FIRST TRICK TO THE ENEMY


But time heals all wounds, and long before the special trolley had
landed the team back at Alton Leonard’s spirits were again at normal,
or perhaps a little beyond normal since, in spite of the defeat, the
Gray-and-Gold had had her big moments, and he had shared in at least
one of them. Disappointment had not prevented the other members of
the squad from giving praise where it was deserved, and Leonard had
heard a number of nice things said. Rus Emerson had been especially
complimentary, and Coach Cade, while less demonstrative than the
players, had expressed his approval quite unmistakably. So, all in all,
Leonard should have been more than satisfied with the afternoon, it
seemed. But he wasn’t, for the defeat rankled, and Slim’s well-intended
but cynical sounding advice to “forget it and wait until next year”
brought little comfort. But in spite of having failed in their quest of
revenge, the team became quite cheerful, even merry, in fact, before
they rolled into Alton, and so Leonard too regained his spirits. It
was almost dark by the time he and Slim turned into the yard and made
their way toward Haylow, although beyond the buildings the western sky
still showed a tint of faded gold most appropriate to the occasion. The
Sophomore Dinner was set for seven, and it was already well past five,
a fact that Slim mentioned as they reached the front of Academy Hall.

“I ought to get there a bit early, I suppose,” he added. “There’s
usually something that goes wrong at the last minute, and the other
fellows on the committee probably won’t show up until the last moment.”

A dim form detached itself from the shadows of the doorway of Academy
once the two had passed and loitered carelessly down the middle path in
the direction of the gate. Neither Slim nor Leonard saw this, however.
But, just as they went up the steps of Haylow, Leonard laid a detaining
hand on his companion’s arm.

“There’s a fellow behind that tree over there by the yellow house,”
said Leonard softly. “You can’t see him now. He poked his head around
just as we started up here.”

Slim looked, but the further side of Meadow street was wrapped in
shadows and the particular tree, seen between the posts of the
entrance, looked no different than other trees. Slim shrugged. “I don’t
see anything, General. Guess it was just a shadow.”

“No, it wasn’t. I saw the fellow’s head plainly.”

“Oh, well, what of it? Probably some kid playing hide-and-seek. I’ll
tell you, though. We’ll have a look from the window at the end of the
corridor. Come on.”

They climbed the stairs and then went along the second floor hall to
the casement that overlooked Meadow street. When they reached it and
peered surreptitiously out and down a dark form was proceeding townward
along the further sidewalk, beyond the tree. For a brief moment the
form was palely lighted as it passed under a street light, and Slim
grunted.

“Guess you were right,” he said. “Looks like one of the freshies.
Keeping tabs on me, I suppose. I wonder if there was anything in Johnny
McGrath’s guff. Just for fun, when we go in the room we’ll have a look
before we light up. There may be more of the varmints hiding about.”

“What do you suppose they’re up to?” asked Leonard.

“Search me,” said Slim. Then he chuckled. “Maybe they’re going to
kidnap us, General. Wish they’d try it, eh?”

“I guess they’re not interested in me,” replied Leonard a bit
regretfully. “See any one?”

He was looking over Slim’s shoulder, peering from the darkened window.
Outside the Academy yard was black save where the infrequent lights
along the walks shed a dim yellow radiance that sent elongated shadows
of the nearby trees sprawling off into the gloom. It was a time of
evening when most of the fellows were in the dormitories, and save for
a boy who passed under the window, whistling a football tune, to turn
in at the doorway beneath and come pounding up the stairway, the yard
appeared empty. Then Slim said “Humph!” under his breath.

“What?” asked Leonard eagerly.

“Look along the Doctor’s path about fifty or sixty feet from the middle
path. See anything?”

“N-no,” answered Leonard disappointedly.

“Well, I do. There’s some one under the tree there. Close up to the
trunk and-- There! Now he’s moving out a bit! See?”

“Yes!” exclaimed the other watcher excitedly. “What do you suppose--”

“Silly chumps,” muttered Slim amusedly. “Kid stuff! Oh, well, it amuses
them. He’ll have to leave there pretty soon and go home to supper,
though. That’ll be our chance to give them the slip. What time is it,
anyhow? Turn on the light, will you?”

“Twenty-two of six,” answered Leonard a moment later.

“Plenty of time, then. They can’t get out from supper in much less than
half an hour, and that’ll make it half-past. We’ll be gone by--” Slim
stopped and listened. “Thought I heard some one outside,” he explained,
turning his glance away from the closed door. “I was going to say that
by half-past six we’ll be over at Kingman’s. Gee, I’m tired, General!
How does my eye look?”

“Not so bad,” said Leonard. He felt gingerly of his own nose. “This
thing’s mighty sore yet. Would you do anything to it?”

“Your beak? No, not until we get back again. Bathe it in arnica then.
All it needs now is soap and water.”

The youth who had gone pounding up to the floor above a few minutes
earlier now came thumping down again. The dormitory was by no means
quiet, but the visitor’s passing sounded well above all else. Slim
frowned. “That’s the noisiest brute I ever heard,” he muttered. He
went over to the window and looked down, but all he could see in the
darkness was a dim shape going toward Lykes. “Must be wearing wooden
shoes, from the sound.” He peered in the direction of the watcher under
the tree and then pulled the green shade down. “I hope your feet are
cold out there,” he muttered.

Both boys laid aside the clothes they had worn to New Falmouth, since,
as one never knew just what might occur in the course of a class
celebration, it was customary to wear articles that were not highly
valued. Slim pulled a pair of gray flannel trousers from the closet and
hunted out an old white sweater. Leonard selected a veteran suit of
grayish tweed that, during the past summer, had served on Sundays and
holidays at the farm. They didn’t hurry in their preparations, since,
if only as a joke on the freshman spies, they meant to time their trip
to the village while the enemy was at supper. Besides, they were both
feeling the effects of the game in the shape of lame muscles and a
general disinclination to move faster than a slow walk.

Six o’clock struck while they were still dawdling and talking lazily
of the afternoon’s experiences, and doors began to open along the
corridors and the dwellers in Haylow set off for Lawrence Hall and
supper. Slim struggled into an old bath-robe and looked around for his
slippers. “I sort of think I’ll be ready to eat, myself, by the time
seven o’clock comes,” he remarked. “Where the dickens is that other
slipper of mine?”

“I’m ready now,” said Leonard. “I hope to goodness nothing happens to
that dinner before I get at it!”

“Don’t worry, General. Nothing’s going to happen to the food. I’ll bet
that right at this minute Kingman is mounting guard down there with a
shot-gun loaded with buckshot!”

“Well, then I hope that nothing happens to keep me from reaching it,”
amended Leonard, smiling.

Slim chuckled. “That’s different,” he said. “I’ll guarantee the feed,
General, but I won’t guarantee the guests. Ah, here you are, you
lopsided old reprobate!” He pulled the missing slipper from under the
further side of his bed and thrust a bare foot into it. “Guess we might
as well wash up,” he announced. “No use cutting it too fine. I don’t
run from trouble, but I don’t hunt for it, either, and maybe we’ll be
just as well off if we get inside that restaurant before the freshies
finish their supper.”

“All right,” assented Leonard. The hall was silent now and the last
footfall had ceased sounding on the pavement below. He picked up his
own robe and threw it over his present scanty costume. At that instant
there was an impatient exclamation from Slim.

“What the dickens is the matter with this door?” Slim demanded as he
turned the knob and pulled. Then, “Look here, where’s the key?” he
asked blankly.

The key was always on the inside of the lock, but it plainly wasn’t
there now. Slim and Leonard both looked about the floor. Then,
together, they seized the knob and pulled hard. The door didn’t yield.

“Locked!” said Leonard.

Slim nodded, and a broad smile crept over his face. “Locked is right,”
he chuckled. “The little varmints win the first trick, General!”

“But how? There’s been no one here!”

“Remember the fellow with the heavy tread? That’s who, I’ll bet. Got
the tip from the fellow under the tree, or some other fellow, and made
a lot of noise going upstairs and then came down again quiet and locked
us in.”

“But how could he have got the key without our hearing the door open
or--” Leonard blinked. “I see! They put the key in the outside before
we came home!”

Slim nodded. “Or had it in their pocket. Well, we’ve got to get out
somehow. There’s no use raising a riot, for no one will hear us, I
guess. Perhaps if we yelled from the window-- But, shucks, I wouldn’t
give those kids the satisfaction! If there was a transom--”

“How about the window?” interrupted Leonard.

“Rather a long drop, General, with a mighty hard landing. Wait a
minute! What fellows of our class are in Haylow? Let’s see. Joe
Conklin’s in Number 27, but that’s upstairs and on the back. He’d never
hear us. He’s probably on his way, too. Who else is there?”

“Wharton, in 4,” said Leonard. “Let’s raise a row and see if anything
happens.”

They did and nothing did happen. After several minutes of shouting and
thumping on the door and banging on the floor with a shoe they gave
it up. “Looks now,” said Slim, “like I wasn’t so smart in deciding to
wait! We’d have been wiser if we’d started earlier!” He crossed to
the window, threw it wide and looked down. “I guess I can do it,” he
murmured. Then he glanced to the right and said, “Huh, never thought of
that!”

Leonard, a shoe in one hand, was still staring perplexedly at the door
when Slim summoned him. “Give me a hand here, General,” called Slim.
“It’s only about five feet to the next window, and I can make it easy.”

Slim wriggled out of his robe and kicked off his slippers. Leonard
followed him through the window and they stood together on the broad
ledge, each with a hand hooked under the sash. “Glad those fresh kids
aren’t here to see this,” commented Slim. “Get hold of my wrist and
hold it close in to the wall. If anything happens, son, let go. Don’t
try to hold me. But I’ll make it. All right!”

Slim edged to the end of the ledge, and Leonard slowly followed him.
Then, with one hand tight around Slim’s right wrist and the other
holding fast to the sash, Leonard pressed his body close against the
edge of the embrasure while Slim reached out his left hand for a grip
on the stone work about the next window. After a moment he said: “Give
me another inch or two if you can.” Leonard obeyed. There was a moment
of suspense and then Slim announced: “All right, General. Let go!”
Rather fearfully Leonard released the other’s wrist and turned his head
to see. Slim was safe on the next sill, raising the lower sash. Then he
disappeared, and Leonard climbed back into Number 12. A moment later
the door of the next room opened and Slim’s bare feet padded along the
corridor. A key turned in the lock in front of Leonard and the door
swung in.

“Left the key in the lock,” panted Slim as he entered. “Say, we’ll have
to do some hurrying, General! Must be getting close to half-past.”

They hustled off to the lavatory and hustled back again and hurriedly
donned their clothes. Leonard looked at his watch the instant before he
put the light out. The hands pointed to twenty-four minutes after six.

Below, in the half-light of the doorway, Slim paused and looked about
inquiringly. There was no one in sight. But as they turned side by
side into the middle path that led toward Academy street voices behind
them announced that some of the fellows had finished supper and were
returning to the dormitories. At the far end of the row, Borden Hall,
the freshman dormitory, showed an occasional light, but, so far as
either Slim or Leonard could see, no forms were about the entrance.
They went on toward the gate, Slim chuckling softly.

“Guess we beat them to it, after all,” he said.

But a minute later Slim changed his mind.



CHAPTER XVII

SLIM RETREATS


Just short of the gate the sound of hurrying footsteps brought them
sharply around. Behind them, seen dimly, were many approaching forms.

“Let’s beat it,” whispered Leonard.

“Run from a bunch of freshies?” demanded Slim haughtily. “Not much!
We’ll turn down Academy street, though, and let them by. If they’re up
to something we can’t stop them here.”

Slim led the way sharply to the right, when they were through the gate,
and they went on for several rods to pause in the deeper shadow of a
not quite leafless tree that overhung the sidewalk. Midway between the
infrequent street lights, they were probably invisible to any one at
the entrance. A moment or two later a stream of boys appeared. That
they were freshmen was conclusively proved by the preponderance of
small youths, although quite a good many were fairly big. Some of the
throng kept straight ahead across Academy street and disappeared into
State street, beyond the corner of the white house where Coach Cade had
his lodgings. Others paused before the gate as though for a council,
and presently a dozen or more started obliquely across Academy street
and went north toward Meadow, half running. Slim and Leonard drew more
closely against the fence. The enemy detachment passed on the other
side without detecting them and an instant later were visible hurrying
around the corner of Meadow street. Meanwhile the rest of the crowd
before the gate had, it appeared, reached a decision, for they, too,
crossed the road and disappeared into State street, breaking into a
run as they passed from sight. Save for an occasional giggle from some
over-wrought youngster and a low-toned murmur now and then, the phalanx
had come and gone in silence. Leonard thought that silence just a bit
depressing!

Left alone on the empty street--empty save for the unseen presence of a
lone pedestrian trudging along somewhere in the distance toward River
street--Slim whistled softly. “Must have been fully a hundred of them,”
he marveled. “Now what the dickens are they up to?”

“Looks to me as if they were looking for you,” said Leonard.

“Sure, but what can they do if they find me? They don’t expect me to
stand any of their foolishness, do they? If it came to a scrap--” Slim
stopped and looked thoughtfully up and down the dimly lighted street.
“Well, let’s get along, General. It must be getting close to our
dinner time.”

“Something tells me,” said Leonard sadly, “that I’ll never see that
dinner!”

Slim chuckled. “Well, to tell the truth, I’m not as sure of it myself
as I was! Just the same, General, if those kids are going to keep me
away from it they’ll have to go some!” He led the way across to the
beginning of State street. “Better go this way, I guess,” he continued.
“They won’t be likely to pull any tricks where the bright lights are!”

The bright lights, however, were still a short block away, and when
suddenly a gray cat jumped down from a fence-post in front of Leonard
and scuttled away almost between his feet that youth gave a yelp of
alarm. Slim seemed to consider the incident excruciatingly funny and
laughed consumedly. Leonard maintained a haughty silence all the rest
of the way to the corner of West street. Here the stores began, and
many of them were still open, and their lights combined with the big
street lamps made the thoroughfare almost as bright as daylight. No
lurking freshman was sighted as the two turned south toward Meadow
street, although, since a good many persons were about, scouting
members of the enemy forces may have been present. The clock in
Tappler’s jewelry store proclaimed the time as 6:38 as they passed. As
they neared Meadow street Leonard called Slim’s attention to two youths
who had just come into sight from the direction of the academy. Slim
looked and nodded.

“The short fellow’s Watkins. I don’t know the other one. They’re going
to the party, I guess.”

“Wouldn’t it be a good idea to go along with them, Slim? I mean four is
better than two if--if there’s any trouble.”

But Slim shook his head. “No,” he answered, “but I tell you what,
General. You catch up with them. I’ll have a better chance to make it
if I’m alone, probably.”

“I will not,” declared Leonard indignantly. “What do you take me for?”

Slim shrugged. “All right,” he said. “I guess there’s nothing much up,
anyway. We’ve got lighted streets all the rest of--” He stopped. On the
other side of the street as they turned the corner was a group of five
older fellows making their way briskly toward the center of town: Red
Reilly, Gordon Renneker, Joe Greenwood and two others. “Juniors,” said
Slim. “Coming to see the fun, I suppose. I’ll bet Red’s had a lot to do
with this business. Don’t let them see us, General.” Slim slowed his
pace a little, and the group across Meadow street passed on, laughing
and talking gayly.

“How much further is it?” asked Leonard.

“About five blocks,” replied Slim absently. After a moment he said:
“Look here, General, I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be a clever game to
get into Kingman’s by the back entrance. It’s on Moody street, around
the corner from the front door, and I don’t believe those fellows know
about it.”

“Sounds sensible to me,” began Leonard.

But Slim disappointed him again. “No, by golly,” exclaimed Slim
suddenly, “I’m blowed if I’ll sneak up any alleys on account of a lot
of freshies! We’ll go in by the front door, General!”

“Sure,” agreed Leonard unenthusiastically. “Just as you say, Slim.”

“How are they going to stop us?” Slim went on belligerently. “They
can’t do it, by gum!”

“Of course not,” Leonard assented. “Why, there’s only a hundred or so
of them. The idea!”

“Well, suppose there are a hundred, or two hundred. They aren’t going
to--to use their fists, I guess, and if they don’t how are they going--”

“I know,” said Leonard. “You’re probably dead right, Slim, but just
the same I’d swap my right to that dinner for a ham sandwich. As the
well-known proverb says, Slim, ‘A sandwich in the hand is worth two
portions of chicken on the plate.’”

“Shut up. Here’s High street. The place is in the next block. We’ll get
there in time, too.”

High street proved to be a rather narrow thoroughfare not quite so well
lighted as the street they were leaving. The stores had a somewhat
second-class appearance and the names on the signs and windows were
frequently foreign. In brief, High street impressed one as being a
street that had seen better days. The principal shopping thoroughfare
lay one block south, and as the boys neared the corner of Moody street
the rattle and clang of Market street’s traffic was borne to them.
And as they neared that corner Leonard exclaimed: “Must be a fire or
something, Slim. Look at the crowd!”

A little way beyond the corner of the cross street was a throng that
stretched from side to side. Further on, jutting out above the sidewalk
on the right, was a gayly illuminated sign that announced in electric
lamps: “Kingman’s Restaurant.” Slim looked and slowed his steps.
“Freshies,” breathed Slim. “A whole blamed army of ’em, General!”

Leonard could see for himself now that the crowd was composed of
boys and knew that Slim was right. The latter drew him aside to the
entrance of a shop. “Let’s consider a bit,” said Slim. “Suppose
they’ve got another gang at the other side, too, eh? Must have, for
there’s probably not more than fifty in that bunch there.” He peered
down the street to confirm this statement. Then he laughed. “You’re
lucky, after all, General,” he said. “There’s a lunch room right
opposite where you can get your sandwich!”

“But what are we going to do?” asked Leonard anxiously.

“Well,” answered Slim, “I guess there’s just one thing we can do, and
that’s buck the line. There doesn’t seem much chance of running the
end, eh? Let’s go, General!”

They set forth again side by side, appearing as casual as they might,
reached the corner, paused to let an automobile pass and approached the
throng. Just then a small youth darted past them and gave the alarm
shrilly:

“_Staples! Staples!_”

A roar of cheers and laughter went up, and the freshman horde moved to
meet them. Cries of “Welcome, Soph!” “Dinner’s ready, Staples!” “Way
for the President!” mingled with jeers and cat-calls.

“Stick behind me,” counseled Slim in a low voice. Then he gently
pushed the first of the enemy from his path. “Gangway, Fresh,” he said
smilingly. But they were all about now, presenting a solid barrier.
The more Slim shoved the greater the resistance became. He knew better
than to lose his patience, however. Instead, he spoke laughingly to
Leonard over his shoulder. “Let’s go, General,” he said. “Play low and
make it good!” But although Leonard shoved and pushed there was no
advance. “A-a-ay, Soph!” chanted the defenders. Slim felt his dignity
slipping fast. He wondered why the fellows upstairs in the restaurant,
only a few rods beyond, didn’t hear and come to the rescue. But they
didn’t, and presently, breathless though still smiling, Slim paused to
parley.

“What’s the big idea, you fellows?” he demanded of one of the bigger
freshmen.

“Oh, we like you too well to let you mix in with a lot of low-down
trash like those fellows up there,” was the flippant reply. “You stay
and play with us, Staples.”

“Thanks,” answered Slim dryly. “All right, but you don’t need Grant,
too, do you?”

“We-ell,” began the boy. But Leonard settled the question himself.

“I’ll stay with you, Slim,” he announced.

“Say, Staples! Slim Staples, are you hungry?” called some one, and a
laugh followed. “Want your dinner, sonny?” “They’re just starting on
the oysters, Staples!” “Oh, you Sophomore President!”

Stung, Slim faced his tormenters. “What’ll you bet I don’t get in
there?” he demanded warmly.

“When, to-morrow?” asked one of the enemy.

“No, to-night, and before that dinner’s over,” answered Slim above the
burst of laughter that greeted the sally. “You’re pretty clever for a
bunch of freshies, but then you’re _only_ freshies, you know!” Slim
managed to smile sweetly as he said it, but that didn’t make the insult
less severe. He took Leonard’s arm and turned carelessly away while the
crowd jeered more loudly and with the first note of anger. To call a
freshman a freshman is, for some reason, the deadliest of insults.

“Sore-head!” some one called shrilly, and “Follow them, Tom!” advised a
second. “Better watch ’em!”

Slim turned and leveled a finger at the big leader of the crowd. “Come
on,” he said. “Follow us. I’d like to have you!”

But the big freshman only grinned and shook his head. “No, thanks,” he
called after them. “I’ll wait here. Come again, Staples, won’t you?
Dinner’s ready!”

Followed by Leonard, Slim walked briskly around the corner of Moody
street, but, once out of sight, he slowed down. “Any one after us?” he
asked softly.

“No,” said Leonard. “Now what, Slim?”

Slim shook his head. “There’s the back entrance, but something tells me
I didn’t do those guys justice. I’m going to have a look, but I don’t
believe they’ve left the back door unguarded.” He went down the block
about half-way and there turned into a narrow alley. Some eighty feet
beyond, the forms of a dozen or more youths showed where the dim light
from a glass-paneled door fell across the passage. Slim stopped. “You
can’t fight them,” he muttered disgustedly. “They’ve got us stopped
again, General.” The two retraced their steps, followed by a jeering
shout from the depths of the alley. “We’ll go around to Market street,”
announced Slim, “and think this over. There must be some way!”



CHAPTER XVIII

LEONARD COMES TO THE PARTY


On Market street Slim led the way into a drug store and slipped onto
a stool in front of the white marble counter where two aproned youths
were dispensing drinks. “We’ve got to cook up some scheme,” he said,
“and we might as well be comfortable while we’re at it. What’s yours?”

“Mine’s a good dinner,” answered Leonard wistfully.

“You’re in the wrong shop, General, but you can have a sandwich if you
say the word.”

Leonard looked longingly at the two tiers of sandwiches under the glass
cover nearby. “You?” he asked.

Slim shook his head sternly. “No, sir, I’m going to dine at Kingman’s
in about ten minutes.”

Leonard sighed and mentioned his choice of a beverage. The renunciation
was difficult. When their glasses were in front of them Slim lifted his
gravely. “Here’s luck,” he said.

“Success to our scheme,” replied Leonard, and drank deeply. The
concoction tasted good and he imbibed again and felt better. He glanced
at Slim. Slim was staring hard at the counter and absently tracing a
design on its smooth surface. The clock at the end of the store, above
the prescription counter, proclaimed three minutes past seven. Leonard
looked out through the big glass window and sought inspiration. The
sidewalks were well thronged, for the evening was mild for November.
A big yellow trolley car passed with a strident clanging of its gong.
Automobiles went by honking warningly to the rash pedestrians who
sought to find their way across the street. A smart looking policeman,
his fingers crooked in his belt, paused momentarily to view the
contents of the window and then continued on his beat. Leonard had
found his inspiration.

“Slim, look here,” he exclaimed. “Why can’t we get a cop to put us
through that mob back there? I just saw one go by. If we told him how
it was--”

But Slim looked instantly disapproving. “That wouldn’t be playing the
game,” he answered. “You--you don’t call on the cops to help you,
General. It isn’t done.”

[Illustration: “That wouldn’t be playing the game,” he answered]

“Isn’t done be blowed!” said Leonard. “Look here, I’m so hungry I could
eat nails. We didn’t have enough lunch to keep a canary alive, Slim. I
want my dinner, and if I can get it by hooking onto a cop--”

“You’d bring disgrace on the whole Sophomore Class,” interrupted the
other. “No, not to be thought of, General. Besides, I’ve got a better
plan.”

“It’s about time,” grumbled Leonard.

“What’s to keep us from getting a taxi and going right to the door of
the restaurant?”

“Why, you poor boob, those wild Indians would halt the taxi and see you
inside. They’ll be looking for some such scheme as that.”

“I guess you’re right,” acknowledged Slim sadly. “You’re next.”

“Well, suppose we got the restaurant on the telephone and told the
bunch that we were on the corner and couldn’t get by. Then they could
come out and rescue us.”

“Ye-es, but that would be sort of babyish, wouldn’t it? I’d a heap
rather get there by my own--er--efforts.”

“So would I,” responded Leonard a trifle impatiently, “but your own
efforts aren’t getting us there! And--and it’s getting late!”

The clock said eight minutes past now. The two subsided into silence
again. Slim set down his empty glass. “Want another?” he asked
morosely. Leonard shook his head. Half a hundred more precious seconds
passed and then Leonard gave an exclamation of triumph. “Got it!” he
declared. “Got it, Slim! At least, I think so. How does this strike
you?”

Pushing aside his glass, Leonard bent his head close and explained
his project, while Slim, at first looking dubious, at last nodded in
wholehearted approval. “Sure!” he said with conviction. “That’ll do it,
I’ll bet, General. But, hold on, how about you? That sort of leaves you
out in the storm, doesn’t it?”

“Never mind me,” said Leonard. “You’re the important one. Besides,
I’ll make it somehow later. All I ask you to do is to see that there’s
something left when I do get there.”

“Well,” said Slim, “if you don’t get in when I do I’ll take a bunch and
go out and get you.”

“Thought you said that sort of thing was babyish? No, you just see
that there’s something left, Slim, and leave the rest to me. I guess
they won’t care whether I make it or not. It’s only you, as the Class
President, who interests them.”

Slim looked doubtful, but time was passing and he had thrown down the
gauntlet to the Freshman Class. “All right,” he agreed. “Have it your
way. Let’s go.”

“Wait a minute,” objected Leonard. “We’ve got it wrong. We’d both
better try the same end of the block. They’ve seen you in that white
sweater there and won’t be looking for you in anything else. See what I
mean?”

“Yes, and I guess you’re right, General. And say, old son, as a general
you’re sure making good!”

About five minutes later the watchful-waiting throng of freshmen at the
Moody street end of the block again rushed into barricade formation,
spurred on by the joyous applause of a score of juniors who, having
stationed themselves inside the barricade in the hope of witnessing
some fun, were finding the proceedings rather tame. A rickety taxi had
swung around from Market street and was attempting to penetrate the
barrier. The freshmen rallied to the threatened invasion.

“Stop that taxi!” was the slogan. “Look inside!”

Opposed by a solid mass of humanity, there was nothing for the driver
of the vehicle to do but stop. He did so, protesting forcibly and
most impolitely. The freshmen swarmed about the dilapidated taxicab,
breasting the sizzling radiator and showering questions on the fuming
proprietor. Others peered in through the glass. Suspense and confusion
reigned. On the corner a policeman twirled his club and looked on in
good-natured amusement. On such occasions as this the Law was ever
lenient with youth. The suspense was short-lived. A cry of joyous
triumph arose and the doors of the cab were snatched open.

“Here he is!” was the cry. “Trying to sneak past! Nothing doing,
Staples! Try again, Soph!”

“Pull him out!” advised a fellow well removed from the center of the
crowd.

“Turn around, cabby! No thoroughfare, old sport! Detour by Market
street. Police orders.”

Then of a sudden triumph came to an end. A disgusted voice arose above
the joyous clamor. “It isn’t Staples! It’s only General Grant!”

“_What!_” “_You’re crazy!_” “_Let’s see!_” “_Show us!_” “_Oh, shucks!_”

Leonard was extremely dignified throughout what was, quite naturally,
an annoying experience to a peaceful traveler of the city streets. “You
fellows haven’t any right,” he said firmly, “to stop this taxi. I’ve
paid the driver to take me to Kingman’s Restaurant, and--”

“Sorry, Grant, but this street’s barred to traffic.” The snub-nosed
freshman blocking the door on one side grinned exasperatingly. Behind
him, his companions pushed and shoved in an effort to see into the dark
interior of the cab.

“Look on the floor, Higbee! Bet you Staples is in there!” some one
shouted. Hands explored the corners and one boy produced a flash
light and cast its rays about. Disappointment was writ large on the
countenances of all. “Not here!” was proclaimed.

“Where’d he go?” asked Higbee, who appeared to be one of the leading
spirits.

“Who?” asked Leonard densely.

“Slim Staples. Where’d he get to?”

“Oh, Slim?” Leonard leaned out of one door and looked up the block.
In front of the well-lighted and for the moment unguarded entrance to
the restaurant, a tall youth paused to wave a hand ere he disappeared.
Leonard laughed softly. “Why,” he went on, “Slim’s just gone in to
dinner.”

“Yes, he has!” jeered Higbee. But others had seen the incident,
although too late to interfere, and the dire news was being shouted up
and down the block.

“He got in! I saw him!” “Oh, your grandmother! How could he?” “Yes, he
did! Arthur saw him, too! He stopped at the door and waved--” “What’s
that? Staples made it? When? How could he? What? Walked right in the
door! Say, where were you guys? You were supposed to--” “Come on! Let’s
stop him! Where’d he go? Who saw him?” “They say he got in!” “Rot! He’s
in the crowd somewhere! This cab was a stall! Come on, Freshmen!”

Such a hullabaloo! Leonard, laughing, awaited his chance. It came. The
defenders of the Moody street approach forgot him entirely and went
rushing toward the door of the restaurant. Leonard slipped swiftly
from the cab and followed, taking his place in the rear ranks of the
enemy. The driver of the taxi, his fifty cents safely in his pocket,
chuckled and swung back toward Market street.

Something over a hundred freshmen came together in a confused, pushing,
shoving mass before the restaurant entrance. Accusations of dereliction
of duty were frequent. Denials answered them. The masterful Higbee,
striving to make his voice heard above the tumult, demanded proof.
Assertions and denials battled for supremacy. Staples had gone in.
Staples hadn’t gone in. Lots of fellows had seen him. They were crazy.
Higbee waved a hand in exasperation. The policeman from the corner
appeared suddenly in the scene, his good-natured voice mildly exhorting
them to “move on now and don’t be blocking the sidewalk.” Slowly they
gave back, flocking into the street. Across the thoroughfare the
group of juniors, laughing enjoyably, forgot their neutral status and
proffered wicked advice.

“Go on up and get him, Freshies! Don’t let him fool you that way!”

Fortunately perhaps, the noise was still too great for the advice
to reach the freshmen. And just then a window went up on the second
floor of the building, and the shade was pushed aside. “_Oh, Fresh!_”
Comparative silence fell, and the crowd in the street craned their
heads and sought the voice, slowly backing from the entrance in their
effort to see. “_Oh, Fresh!_” Again the mocking challenge. A mutter
arose from the throng that grew rapidly into a roar of futile rage. At
the window Slim Staples smiled benignly down and waved a gay hand.

“Who wins the bet?” he called.

“A cold dinner for you, Slim!” shouted a freshman shrilly. A shout of
approval went up, but Slim shook his head.

“Haven’t started yet,” he answered. “Oysters just coming up!” Grinning
faces appeared behind Slim’s at the window. “Now then, fellows, three
hearty groans for the Freshman Class!”

With a final wave of his hand, Slim disappeared, the window closed,
and the long white shade fell back into place. A dismal silence held
the throng below. Only the unkind laughter of the juniors disturbed
the quiet of the moment. And in that moment, made desperate by Slim’s
mention of oysters, a boy in a white sweater that was somewhat too
large for him, detached himself swiftly from the group and sped toward
the doorway. The shout of warning came too late. So, too, did the
effort of the startled policeman. The latter’s hands came away empty,
and Leonard, caroming from a corner of the doorway, righted himself
and went scurrying up the flight of stairs.

At the top he paused for an instant to glance behind. The policeman
was trying to do two things at once and succeeding. He was peering
undecidedly after the trespasser and holding back the pursuit. With
an unsteady laugh Leonard tried the knob of the door in front of him,
from behind which came the sounds of a merry party. It did not yield.
Leonard tried again and put his weight against the portal. From below
came the hoarse voice of the officer.

“Hey, youse, come down out of that before I comes up and gets you!”

Leonard beat a tattoo on the door. The policeman started slowly and
heavily and remorselessly up the carpeted steps. Behind him the doorway
was crowded with faces. Leonard kicked until the door shook.

“Let me in, Sophs! This is Grant!” he shouted.

“Come away from that now!” ordered the policeman gruffly. He was almost
at the top, and Leonard’s brief glance told him that his good-nature
was no longer to be relied on.

“I’ve got a right in here,” panted Leonard, still pounding and kicking.
“I’m--I’m one of the party!”

“Your party’s down below,” answered the officer grimly, and, topping
the last step, stretched out a massive hand. Leonard, backed against
the door now, waved weakly at the menace and tried to find words. Then,
just when the Law was about to clutch him, the door behind him opened
suddenly and unexpectedly and Leonard arrived on the scene of the
Sophomore Dinner in most undignified manner!

The door closed as quickly as it had opened, leaving a surprised
policeman to scratch his head and, finally, to retrace his steps to
the sidewalk, where his appearance empty-handed summoned a groan of
disappointment from the waiting throng. That disappointment was the
last straw, and, after a rather half-hearted cheer for themselves, the
freshmen wended their way back to school.

Upstairs, Leonard was finishing his sixth and final oyster.



CHAPTER XIX

NOT ELIGIBLE


After a day like yesterday only one thing could be expected of the
weather, and so here was a rainy Sunday. After church came dinner,
and after dinner--well, nothing, it seemed, but a long and sleepy
afternoon. Leonard and Slim found reading matter and settled down, Slim
on the window-seat because he managed to reach it first, and Leonard
on his bed, with his own and Slim’s pillows under his head. Outside
the November afternoon was dark with lead-gray clouds and a fine,
persistent rain challenged Leonard’s optimistic prediction of clearing
weather by four o’clock. Slim grunted gloomily and hunched himself
more comfortably against the cushions. “It’s days like this,” he said,
“that account for the startling prevalence of crime during the month of
November in American preparatory schools.”

At three Leonard laid down his book, yawned and looked through the
window. It wasn’t raining as it had been an hour ago; it was raining
harder! “As a weather prophet,” reflected Leonard, “I’m a flivver.”
He yawned again. Then: “Let’s put on our coats, Slim, and get out,”
he suggested. “This is deadly.” There was, however, no response, and
Leonard lifted himself on an elbow and looked across. Slim’s book
was laid flat across his chest, and he was fast asleep. “Sluggard!”
grumbled Leonard. He pillowed his head in his hands and considered. He
might go to sleep, too, but he didn’t want to. He might arouse Slim and
persuade him to go out. Or he might let poor old Slim alone and splash
over to The Hill and see Johnny McGrath. That’s what he would do!

His final act before leaving the room was to slip a piece of paper
between Slim’s gently folded hands. On the paper was written: “Gone to
Europe. Back at five. Sweet dreams.” Mrs. McGrath answered Leonard’s
ring and told him that Johnny was up in his room and that he should go
right up. Meanwhile she divested Leonard of his dripping mackinaw and
bore it off to the nearest radiator to dry. Johnny was hunched in a
big chair when Leonard reached the head of the stairway and could see
into the room. His knees were close to his chin, and a big book was
propped against them. But the book was quickly laid aside when he saw
the visitor. He pushed a chair close to the radiator and forced Leonard
into it, bidding him put his feet to the warmth, and then drew up a
second chair for himself, beaming welcome the while.

“Sure, you’re an angel,” he declared, “to drop in like this, General.
Where’s Slim that he isn’t with you?”

“Fast asleep, the lazy coot. I guess last evening was too much for him,
Johnny.” They had progressed to the stage where “McGrath” had given
place to “Johnny.” “Did you hear about it?”

Johnny nodded and laughed. “Yes, young Shawley was telling me this
morning. I’m sorry I didn’t go down and see the fun. You and Slim were
too smart for them, eh?”

“Well, we got there, although I’ll confess they had us worried for
awhile. What I don’t understand is why they locked us in the room. They
must have known we’d have got out sooner or later.”

Johnny nodded again. “I’ll tell you about that. ’Twas Reilly put the
freshmen up to it, or most of it. They had it planned, they thought,
so Slim couldn’t get to the dinner. They expected he’d start early,
and there was about twenty of the freshies waiting for him down by the
gate, where they could have got him either way he’d gone.”

“Got him?” queried Leonard.

“Oh, sure, nothing rough, you understand. But they had a fake note from
Coach Cade asking Slim to stop and see him, and one of them was to
give it to him, the rest being out of sight. The coach went away over
Sunday at five-forty, but Reilly had in some way got him to leave the
key to his rooms. Well, the plan was that Slim was to call at the house
over there on the corner, and some one was to say ‘Come in,’ and the
room would be dark and then, the first thing Slim would know he’d be
safe in the big closet for the evening.”

“But Slim knew--we both knew--that Mr. Cade was going home, Johnny.”

“Maybe, but likely he wouldn’t have remembered it, or perhaps he’d have
figured that Mr. Cade was going on a later train. Anyway, that’s how
they had it fixed. But you fellows didn’t start along early enough, and
the gang had to go to supper. So Shawley locked you in the room, to
keep you there until they could get out from supper. He’d swiped the
key earlier in the afternoon, do you see. Well, when you did start out
they knew it was too late to spring that fake note on you and so they
fixed to keep you away from the restaurant. That is, Slim. They didn’t
care so much whether you got there. You were only a--a complication, as
you might say. Remember, I tipped Slim off the other evening. I didn’t
know then what the scheme was, but I knew they were after him.”

“So that was it,” mused Leonard. “We saw the freshies hiding around
behind trees when we got back from the game, but I didn’t suppose they
meant anything much. Neither did Slim; until we found ourselves locked
in the room.”

“How was it Slim got there finally?” asked Johnny. “Young Shawley says
you were in a taxicab, with Slim’s white sweater on--”

“Yes, we changed clothes. That is, I put on Slim’s sweater and he put
on my coat and an old felt hat I was wearing. You see, they’d already
seen Slim with that sweater on, and so they’d be looking for it again.
I got in the taxi on Market street and Slim walked away around by
Morrison street, coming back on Moody. We’d fixed ‘zero hour’ at seven
fifteen so he’d have time to get to the corner when I did. Of course
the freshies thought I was Slim as soon as they saw the white sweater,
and I didn’t show myself before I had to. Slim just walked into the
crowd, with my hat pulled down over his face, and while the freshies
were all clustered around the taxi he sauntered along down the street,
no one paying any attention to him. It was as easy as pie.”

“Sure, I wish I’d been there,” chuckled Johnny. “And they say you
butted a cop out of your way afterwards and no one could stop you!”

“I didn’t butt him. He made a dive at me and I side-stepped, showing
the value of football training, Johnny.”

“Did you have a good dinner?”

“Did we? Wow! And, gee, I was so hungry I couldn’t eat fast enough. We
didn’t get through until half-past nine, pretty nearly!”

“I suppose you heard about Renneker and Jimsy Carnochan?” asked Johnny.

“No. Who’s Jimsy-- Oh, I remember! What’s happened?”

“Sure, nothing much--yet,” answered Johnny, “but I’m fearing something
may. It seems that Jimsy and a couple of other town fellows were coming
along River street last night when Renneker and Red Reilly and three or
four other chaps were coming back to school. They’d been over watching
the freshies, you know.”

“I know; we passed them,” assented Leonard.

“Well, I got it from Jimsy this forenoon after church. According to his
tell, our gang was taking up the whole sidewalk, walking five or six
abreast, maybe, and one of the fellows with Jimsy objected and shoved
into them, and there were some words. Jimsy says the juniors started
the trouble, but maybe he’s prejudiced. Anyhow, he and Renneker squared
off and punched each other a couple of times, no harm being done, do
you see, and the others shoving in spoiling it. From what Jimsy says, I
get it that Renneker laughed and wanted to shake hands, and Jimsy was
still ugly. He’s that way when he’s mad. He said something to Renneker
about ‘having the goods on him,’ and then Renneker and the others went
on. Well, now Jimsy’s awfully sore, General, and I’m fearful he’ll be
telling what he knows around town, and it’ll get to the Academy. I
argued with him, but he’s stubborn. There’s English blood in him, I’m
thinking.”

Leonard laughed. “That’s what makes him stubborn, eh?”

Johnny grinned. “Sure it is,” he answered stoutly. “Every one knows the
English are mules for stubbornness.”

“Oh, well, he’ll probably get over his grouch,” said Leonard
cheerfully. “And, even if he should spill the beans, it wouldn’t be
likely to reach faculty’s ears.”

“Maybe not,” allowed Johnny. “Not that I’d trouble much if it did,
for it looks to me like this big fellow isn’t any marvel, anyway, and
some one else might play his position fully as well and maybe better.”
He looked meaningly at Leonard, but the latter chose to disregard the
insinuation.

“Gordon Renneker’s playing a lot better game than he did awhile back,
Johnny. Yesterday he was corking in the last part of the game with New
Falmouth.”

“It might be,” Johnny admitted. “I didn’t go. But if I was you I’d be
sort of glad if Renneker wasn’t around, General.”

“Oh, nonsense! There’s still Stimson and Raleigh and Falls.”

“You’ve got Raleigh and Falls beat right now,” declared the other with
deep conviction. “And I wouldn’t wonder if you could play as good a
game as either of the others, in spite you aren’t so big.”

“You’re crazy,” laughed Leonard. “Anyway, Johnny, I’m not kicking. I
do think that Mr. Cade will give me a show in the Oak Grove game next
Saturday, and if I make good in that it’s likely I’ll get into the
Kenly Hall fracas for a time.”

“This Oak Grove game’s the last before the big one, isn’t it?” mused
Johnny. Leonard nodded. “Then you’ve got only the two weeks,” continued
the other reflectively. “Man, you’ve got to work! My money’s on you,
though, General, and whether this big fellow is playing or isn’t
playing I’ll be looking for you to be right there when the last fight
starts.”

“I wish I had your confidence, Johnny,” laughed Leonard. “Unless by
‘right there’ you mean on the bench.”

“I do not,” said Johnny decisively. “I mean playing at right guard or
left and giving the other fellows what-for!”

“Oh, well, I hope you’re right.”

“I know I’m right.”

“Any English blood in you?” asked Leonard.

Yet on Monday it almost seemed that Johnny’s hopefulness was not
without cause, for Leonard found himself treated with a new--well,
deference is hardly the word: let us say respect, although even that
word is scarcely the right one. Call it what you like, however, and the
fact remains that the new order of things entailed much harder work
than Leonard had done before. With less than two weeks remaining before
the final contest of the season, Coach Cade appeared to be striving
to present a team of worn-out and exhausted cripples for Kenly Hall’s
amusement. Yet, probably because he had brought them along fairly
slowly so far, the players proved capable of performing a lot of work
and receiving a lot of punishment in that fortnight. The time had come
to round off the corners, to smooth down the rough places, to acquire
subtleties without forgetting fundamentals. There were new plays to
learn, too, and, a little later, new signals. Perhaps Leonard worked
no harder than any one else; perhaps, because he had more to learn,
it just seemed harder. But he got on famously. There was no doubt
about that. He was fast and mettlesome and used his head. By the last
of the week he had been accepted by those in the know--and some who
weren’t--as a certain performer against Kenly Hall. When he spoke of
sore muscles or contused shins or strained ligaments Slim browbeat him
shamefully.

“What of it?” Slim would demand fiercely. “Expect to play football
without getting bruised a little? Don’t be a pill. Why, you’ve got
Renneker and Stimson lying awake nights trying to think up some way
of beating you! Here, let’s see your old leg. Where’s that bottle of
arnica? Hold still, you silly ass! Sure, I knows it hurts, but you
needn’t throw a fit about it!”

“Fit yourself!” Leonard would snap indignantly, being thoroughly weary
and sore all over. “Look at the way you went on when you got a black
eye that time!”

“It wasn’t the bruise I minded, it was simply the damage to my manly
beauty. These sore places of yours won’t ever show, General, even if
you play in a bathing-suit!”

Then, on Friday, Jimsy Carnochan returned from a brief visit to New
London and took his pen in hand, thereby considerably “gumming up” the
Alton Academy football situation.

To Jimsy’s credit be it said that he didn’t hide behind any such
anonymity as “A Friend” or “Wellwisher” or “Fair Play.” No, sir,
Jimsy came right out and signed the bottom of that chirographic
bombshell plainly with his name, thus: “James Duffy Carnochan.” It
was a bombshell, too, if for no other reason than that it exploded
so unexpectedly. It was addressed to Coach Cade, and it reached that
already harassed gentleman by the first mail delivery on Saturday
morning. It ran as follows:

    Mr. John Cade,
    87 Academy street,
    City.

    DEAR SIR:

    You might like to know that one of your football players isn’t
    eligible to play on your team. His name is Renneker but it
    wasn’t that last August when he played first baseman for the
    Maple Leafs baseball team of New London, it was George Ralston.
    He got twenty-five dollars for playing first baseman and if you
    don’t believe it please communicate with John Worrall in Care
    Broady Silk Mill, New London. Worrall managed the Maple Leafs
    and paid the money to Ralston or Renneker cash before the game
    started, as he will tell you. I guess he can’t deny it anyway,
    not if you ask him right out.

    Wishing you a successful season,

    Resply yours,

    JAMES DUFFY CARNOCHAN.

Coach Cade frowned, read the epistle a second time, laughed shortly and
thrust it into a pocket. He had received similar communications before
to-day, sometimes written in good faith, sometimes purely mischievous.
Then he reflected that here must be an example of the former sort,
since the writer had not only signed his name but, evidently as
an after-thought, placed an address on the flap of the envelope.
Nevertheless, in the press of other matters Coach Cade forgot the
letter for several hours, and it wasn’t until he pulled it forth from
his pocket when seeking another document that he recalled its annoying
existence. This was just after early dinner was over at training table,
and Gordon Renneker was still in sight by the dining hall door. The
coach excused himself to Tod Tenney and made after the player.

“Renneker,” he said, overtaking the big fellow just outside the hall,
“got a minute to spare?”

Renneker assented and followed the other along the path that led
around to the gymnasium. Coach Cade produced the letter and handed it
to Renneker. “Got that in the morning’s mail,” he explained. “I’m not
taking any stock in it, you understand, but you’d better see it.”

Gordon Renneker read the epistle through calmly and handed it back,
with a smile. The smile, however, was not quite natural, and the coach
noted the fact. “Well,” he asked, “what about it?”

“I’d say,” replied Renneker, “it’s a case of mistaken identity.”

“Probably,” agreed Johnny, eyeing him sharply nevertheless. “I presume
you never played baseball on this team?”

“No,” answered the other. The coach waited for further words, but
Renneker seemed to have finished with the subject. The coach frowned.
He put the letter back into a pocket.

“Know this fellow Carnochan?” he asked.

“No. I never heard of him before.”

“H’m, funny he has it in for you, then.”

Renneker shrugged. “He may know me, Coach,” he suggested. “I think I’ll
look the beggar up and ask him what’s on his mind. What’s the address?
Mind if I have the letter?”

“I’ll give you the address and you can set it down. Got a pencil? ‘164
Orchard street, 2nd Bell.’ You know, of course, that if you had played
on that team, and received money for doing it, you couldn’t play here,
Renneker.”

“Naturally.”

“All right. When you see this chap you’d better convince him that he’s
mistaken. We don’t want him writing that sort of a letter to Kenly Hall
or shooting off his mouth to the newspapers.”

“He wouldn’t do that, would he?” exclaimed Renneker with evident
dismay. “Talk to the newspapers, I mean.”

“I don’t know, son. Look here, Renneker, there’s something in this.
You’d better come clean, my boy, and save trouble later.”

There was no answer for a minute. Renneker was studying the ground
intently. Coach Cade didn’t like the look on his face. Finally Renneker
looked up and laughed shortly.

“I fancy you’re right,” he said. “I’ll hand in my togs.”

“What! But, great Scott, man, you don’t mean to tell me--”

“I’m not telling anything,” answered Renneker evenly. “I’m just not
denying.”

“And you came here with this thing hanging over your head and let us
waste our time on you, knowing that it was bound to come out! Renneker,
I’d like to--to--”

“Wrong, sir. I didn’t know it would come out. I’m sorry. If there’s
anything more I can say, I’ll say it, but it doesn’t occur to me at the
moment. I’m just--awfully sorry, Mr. Cade.”

He turned and went off, unhurriedly, shoulders back.



CHAPTER XX

RIGHT GUARD GRANT


Captain Emerson, Billy Wells, Bee Appel and Perry Stimson had gone over
to Lakeville to watch Kenly Hall play Rutledge. Consequently Alton
faced Oak Grove that afternoon minus the services of five of her best
players. Kerrison took Rus’s place at right end, Wilde substituted
for the “demon tackle,” as Slim called Billy Wells, Carpenter went
in at quarter, a newcomer named Grant played right guard and Raleigh
played left. Probably Coach Cade could have sprinkled in half a dozen
third-string players beside and still seen the contest won by the
Gray-and-Gold, for Oak Grove, selected for the last game but one
because she was never formidable, proved weak beyond expectation.
Alton piled up three scores in the first two periods, for a total
of 21 points, and held the visitor to a field-goal. When the third
quarter started Cruikshank was at the helm, and Goodwin, Kendall and
Dakin completed the backfield. As the final half progressed other
substitutions took place and when the last whistle blew only one man
was on who had started the contest, and that man was Sam Butler.
Leonard stayed on until the fourth period and then gave way to Falls.
Two more scores, a touchdown and a field-goal by Kendall from the
thirty-four yards, had added 10 points more to an impressive total. Oak
Grove had, however, in the third period taken advantage of a fumble by
Cruikshank and banged her way through for a touchdown, and the final
figures were 31 to 10.

Leonard played a good if not startling game at right guard that
afternoon. Perhaps he would have performed better had there been
more incentive, but Oak Grove’s inferiority had shown early in the
game, and Alton’s first two scores had been made before the first
period was done, and one doesn’t fight as hard against a vanquished
opponent as against one who still threatens. Besides that, Leonard’s
adversaries--there were two of them--were not difficult. On the whole,
that game proved scarcely good practice for the home team.

What had happened to Gordon Renneker was a question that many asked,
for the former right guard was neither on the side-line or in the
stand. Some insisted that he had accompanied the scouts to Lakeville,
but that explanation was refused by others who had seen him at least
an hour after dinner time. Leonard wondered and speculated, too, but
it wasn’t until Johnny McGrath dropped in at Number 12 Haylow that
evening, just as Slim and Leonard were starting for the movies, that
the matter was cleared up for him. Jimsy Carnochan, it seemed, had met
Johnny on the street just before supper and confessed to having written
to Coach Cade.

“I guess he was sort of sorry he’d done it,” said Johnny, “but he
wouldn’t say so. Maybe I didn’t read the riot-act to him, though! We
nearly had a scrap!”

“I hope he chokes!” commented Slim bitterly. “That was a swell thing to
do, just before the Kenly game! Leaves us flat for a right guard, and
no time to find one. He ought to be--be--”

“I guess it was more my fault than any one’s,” said Johnny regretfully.
“I shouldn’t have lugged him to the game that time and let him see
Renneker.”

“You bet you shouldn’t,” agreed Slim heartily. But Leonard demurred.

“Piffle,” he said, “Johnny isn’t to blame. Better blame Renneker for
getting fresh the other night and getting Carnochan down on him. Maybe
we’re taking too much for granted, anyway, fellows. Maybe Mr. Cade just
kept Renneker out of to-day’s game while he looks into the business.”

“Renneker wasn’t at training table for supper,” said Slim. “That means
that he’s done for. I call it a pretty rotten piece of business!”

They lugged Johnny along to the pictures and discussed the matter
very thoroughly both going and returning. Slim agreed eventually that
maybe Leonard would hold down Renneker’s position satisfactorily, but
they couldn’t get him to acknowledge that Mr. Cade had acted rightly
in dismissing Renneker from the team. He said some very disapproving
things of the coach, sneered at him for being a “Lily-white” and
doubted that he or any one else could present adequate proof that
Renneker had received money for playing baseball. Especially, however,
he was bitter against Carnochan, and would have sought that gentleman
out and presented him with a piece of his mind had not Leonard and
Johnny dissuaded him. In the end they all agreed that it was up to them
to keep what they knew to themselves, and by Monday they were very
glad that they had, for Gordon Renneker was out on the field in togs
coaching the guards and the news was abroad that he had been dropped
because of difficulties with the Office. That was such a plausible
explanation that no one doubted it, although one might have wondered
how it was that he was allowed to aid in the coaching. The incident
seemed to have made no great difference to Renneker. He was perhaps a
bit more stand-offish than ever and inclined to sarcastic criticisms
that seldom failed to get under the skin of Raleigh, who, worried
over his failure to make progress that fall, was in no mood for the
big fellow’s caustic humor. That the two never quite came to blows
was chiefly due to the fact that practice came to an end just before
Raleigh’s patience did.

Leonard had definitely taken Renneker’s position. Had Leonard had
any doubt about it Coach Cade’s announcement on Tuesday would have
dispelled it. “You’ll start the Kenly game, Grant,” said the coach
after practice that afternoon, “and I expect you to show me that I
haven’t made a mistake in selecting you instead of Falls. You’ve done
very well indeed so far. You play a fast, heady game, my boy, and I’ll
say frankly that when you’ve two or three more inches and another
twenty pounds on you you’ll be a mighty good guard. You’ve got faults,
but I hope you’ll get rid of most of them by Saturday. Starting before
the ball is one of them. Tenney has four cases marked against you, and
just because you’ve got by so far without being penalized doesn’t mean
that you won’t get caught finally. And when an official once finds a
player off-side he watches that player hard ever after; and sometimes
he sees faults where there aren’t any, without meaning to. It’s just
a case of giving a dog a bad name. I want you to steady down and look
out for that trouble. Another thing, Grant, is over-eagerness to get
through. It’s a good fault, if any fault can be said to be good, but
it works against the play sometimes. Frequently you’re across the line
when you ought to be still on your own side, which means that you’re
out of the play when you might be helping it along. When you get your
signal think what it means. Think where the play’s going and what your
part is in it. Don’t break through and think afterwards, Grant. You’ve
got a good nose for the ball, but don’t let it run away with you. It’s
a fine thing to be able to put your man out and then get down the field
under a punt, but we’ve got ends and backs to do that trick. Your part
is to guard your center until the ball is passed, on attack, and then
make the hole or stop the other fellow from coming through. In other
words, you’re a bulldog first and a grayhound afterwards. Once you’ve
done your duty thoroughly I don’t care how hard you go after the ball,
but don’t skimp the duty. Sure first and then fast, ought to be your
motto, my boy. How are you feeling?”

“Fine,” answered Leonard stoutly.

The coach smiled. “Good! What’s the matter with that ankle?”

“Ankle?” repeated Leonard innocently.

“Yes, the left one. You’ve been limping, you know.”

“Oh, that! Why, nothing at all, sir. I gave it a sort of a turn, you
know.”

“Tell the trainer to look at it, and don’t forget it.”

Captain Emerson and his brother scouts had brought back scant
information from the Kenly Hall-Rutledge game. Rutledge had been
outclassed from the first, and, without showing too much of her
possibilities, Kenly had piled up 16 points against her while keeping
her own goal intact. Kenly had made an average showing during the
season. She had played one more game than Alton and had won all but two
of them. Lorimer had beaten her decisively and Middleboro had tied her
at 7 to 7. She had, for her, a light team, but one that was capable of
speed and versatility. She had specialized in forward-passing during
the early part of the season, but of late had fallen back on line plays
for her gains, although signs were not wanting that forward-passes were
still in her repertory. Briefly, Kenly Hall School was rather more of
a mystery to her ancient rival this year than she generally was, and,
since it is human nature to fear the unknown, there was less confidence
at Alton than was usual before the big game.

The eleventh-hour loss of Gordon Renneker was a severe blow to most
followers of the game at Alton. There were many who believed, not
a few very ardently, in Leonard Grant’s ability to completely fill
Renneker’s shoes, but they were in the minority. It stood to reason,
naturally, that a youngster like Grant, lacking size, weight and
experience could not wholly take the place of an All-Scholastic star.
Leonard himself agreed with the majority. Oddly enough, Gordon Renneker
did not. This was divulged on Wednesday when, after a half-hour of
strenuous work for the guards and tackles and centers, the little
squad returned to the bench and blankets to await their call to the
scrimmage. Leonard found Renneker beside him when he had pulled
the gray blanket around him. So far what might be called personal
intercourse between them had been limited to those few words exchanged
in the taxicab on the occasion of their arrival at Alton two months
before. Now, after a moment, Renneker said abruptly:

“You’re going mighty well, Grant.”

“Thanks,” Leonard stammered. In spite of himself, he still found
it impossible not to be impressed and a bit awed by Renneker’s
imperturbable air of superiority.

“I don’t see why you shouldn’t hold down that place as well as I could
have done,” the other continued thoughtfully. “Hope so. Nasty trick, my
getting dropped, Grant. I wouldn’t want the team to suffer by it. I
don’t fancy it will, though, if you play the way I think you can.”

“Well, I don’t know,” muttered the other. “Aren’t you--isn’t there any
chance of you getting in Saturday?”

“Oh, dear, no,” replied Renneker calmly. “Not a chance.”

“I’m sorry,” said Leonard. Renneker turned a slow glance on him. Then:
“Thanks, but it’s of no consequence,” he said.

He nodded carelessly, arose and sauntered away.

Leonard wondered why he had asked such an idle question. He had known
well enough that Renneker wouldn’t get back. He felt very sorry for him
just then.

Later, he told Slim what Renneker had said, and Slim frowned and
grunted: “Mighty decent of him, I’ll say.”

Leonard assented, but with too little enthusiasm to satisfy the other.
“If it was me,” Slim went on, “I guess I wouldn’t be talking like that
to you. I’d be feeling too sore about losing my position.”

“Well, but it isn’t my fault he’s off the team,” objected Leonard,
mildly.

Slim grunted again. “Never mind; he’s off, and that’s what counts!”

Leonard felt that there was something wrong somewhere in Slim’s point
of view, but he was too tired to pursue the matter.

There was a short session against the second team on Thursday, and then
the whistle blew for the last time, and the season on Alton Field was
at an end. The second cheered and was cheered and, finally, followed
by the onlookers, crossed back to their own field and started a fire.
A battered and discarded football, bearing a leering countenance
painted on with white pigment, was set atop the pyre and the scrubs
joined hands and danced riotously around it. The fact that the football
subsided into ruins with only a faint sigh, instead of expiring with a
resonant _bang_, was accepted as an ill omen of Saturday’s game. But
the omen did not appear to affect the second team spirits appreciably!

Friday was a day of rest, but there was an hour of signal drill in
the gymnasium in the afternoon and a brief blackboard lecture by the
coach in the evening. The latter was over by eight-fifteen, however,
and afterwards Slim tried to persuade Leonard to accompany him to the
final mass meeting in the auditorium. But Leonard had no mind for it,
and Slim, realizing that his friend was having a mild attack of nerves,
didn’t persist long. Going out, he stopped at the door to say: “I
wouldn’t think too much about to-morrow, General; about the game, you
know. Better get a good story and read. I’ll be back soon.”

Leonard was willing to follow the other’s advice, but it wasn’t so
easy. And when he looked for the good story it wasn’t to be found. At
length he decided to walk over to the library and get a book, although,
since the auditorium was above the library, he had no intention of
tarrying there. It was a nice night, just frostily cold and with a
couple of trillions of white stars winking away in a blue-black sky.
Even with his mackinaw unbuttoned he was quite comfortable. Long before
he neared Memorial he could hear the singing.

    “Cheer for the Gray-and-Gold!
     Flag of the brave and bold--”

A long, measured cheer followed the last strain, and then came silence.
No, not silence, for Leonard was close to the building now and could
hear at intervals a word or two. Some one was speaking. There was a
sudden burst of applause, quickly suppressed. Then he was entering
the library. The long room with its mellow warmth and its two rows of
cone-shaped green shades was deserted save for the presence in a corner
of a small freshman hunched absorbedly over a book. Leonard paused
outside the door, suddenly distasteful of libraries and books. Then he
turned back and went down the steps again. It was far nicer outdoors,
he thought. He would cross the grass to River street and walk around by
Academy and Meadow to the farther gate. Probably by the time he reached
the room again Slim would have returned, and then he could go to bed.
Not, however, that bed held any great appeal, for he was quite sure he
wouldn’t be able to get to sleep for hours.

Short of the first street light, that on the corner, he descried
a shape ahead of him. Some one else, it appeared, scorned indoors
to-night. The shape was tall and broad, and Leonard suspected one
of the faculty, perhaps Mr. Screven, and hoped that he could get by
without having to say more than “Good evening.” He couldn’t imagine
anything more deadly than being obliged to loll along and listen to Mr.
Screven’s monotonous voice. But, a few paces behind now, he saw that
the solitary pedestrian was not Mr. Screven, was not, indeed, a faculty
at all, but Gordon Renneker.



CHAPTER XXI

RENNEKER EXPLAINS


Leonard was still assimilating that fact when Renneker turned and
recognized him in the light of the corner lamp. “Hello, Grant,” said
the big fellow. There seemed to Leonard a tone of almost friendliness
in that greeting.

“Hello,” he answered. He wanted to add something else, something about
the weather, but it wouldn’t come. It was the other who supplied the
conventional observation.

“Corking night,” said Renneker. “It looks like a fine day for the game
to-morrow.”

They were side by side now. Leonard wondered whether he should go
on, maintaining his own pace, or slow down and suit his steps to
Renneker’s. It was sort of embarrassing, he thought. He agreed about
the weather and Renneker spoke again.

“I suppose you’re trying to walk them off,” he said.

“Walk them off?” echoed Leonard. There seemed nothing to do save fall
in step with the other.

“Nerves,” explained Renneker. “Guess that’s what I’m doing myself.”

“Oh,” said Leonard a bit sheepishly. “Yes, I--I guess I am. At least,
I suppose it’s nerves. Slim wanted me to go to the mass meeting, but I
sort of hated being with that howling mob to-night.”

“Exactly.” They had reached the corner and with one consent turned now
and went slowly along Academy street. “Funny how panicky you can get
the night before a game,” mused Renneker.

Leonard laughed incredulously. “I can’t imagine you ever getting like
that,” he said.

“I do, though,” replied the other in his even voice. “Always have. Of
course, it’s absolute rot, because you know that just as soon as the
whistle blows you’re going to be perfectly all right again.”

“Wish I knew that,” answered Leonard.

“You do, only you can’t remember it.” There was a silence then while
Leonard tried to digest that statement. Then Renneker went on. “It’s
rather absurd for me to be feeling jumpy to-night, for I’m not going to
play. Must be just habit, I suppose. Queer.”

“I wish you were going to play,” said Leonard with such evident
sincerity that Renneker looked down curiously at him.

“You do? I shouldn’t think you would.” He laughed shortly. “You might
be out of it yourself if I did, Grant.”

“I know, but--well, it’s just sort of an accident with me, while you
really belong, Renneker. I don’t suppose that sounds very clear.”

“Oh, yes. Well, I guess you’ll get on all right, Grant. If you do, it
won’t matter much about me. Of course, I am disappointed, hang it!
The whole silly thing is so--so--” He seemed almost on the point of
becoming agitated, which was perhaps why he stopped abruptly. After a
moment he continued with a note of amusement. “Really, Grant, I don’t
know why I’m chattering to you like this. I don’t believe we ever spoke
before yesterday. It must be the nerves!”

“Oh, yes, we have,” answered Leonard. “Spoken, I mean. We came up from
the station together that first day.”

“We did?” Renneker seemed to be searching his memory. “Oh, then you
were that chap in the taxi. I’d forgotten.”

Leonard believed it. “I guess talking sort of does a fellow good,” he
said after a moment. “When he’s jumpy, I mean.”

“I dare say.” There was silence again while they came to the main gate
and passed it unheedingly. Across Academy street the light in Coach
Cade’s front room was turned down. “I suppose he’s at the meeting,”
said Renneker. “Sort of a decent chap, Cade.”

“Yes,” agreed Leonard, “I think so. All the fellows seem to like him.”

“Including me?” asked Renneker dryly.

“Why, I don’t know,” stammered Leonard. “Yes, I guess so. It wasn’t his
fault, after all, was it? I mean I suppose he had to do it.”

“Do what?” asked Renneker, peering down.

“Why,” floundered Leonard, “I mean he had to--to do his duty. Stick to
rules, you know. He wasn’t--”

“Then you think it was Johnny who put me off?”

Leonard pulled up with a start. He wasn’t supposed to know a thing, and
here he had been giving himself away. He sought for a way out. Renneker
broke the silence.

“Look here, Grant, I don’t get this at all. Has Mr. Cade been talking?”

“No, not to me, at any rate.”

“Well, somebody has,” pursued Renneker grimly. “What have you heard,
Grant? I wish you’d tell me.”

After an instant’s hesitation Leonard did so. Renneker listened in
silence. “None of us have breathed a word of it,” concluded the speaker
earnestly. “Only Carnochan, and he was sore because of that scrap.”

“Scrap be blowed,” said Renneker. “There wasn’t any scrap. Those
fellows pushed into us and we had some words, merely joking. Then this
fellow suddenly jumped at Reilly and tried to punch him and I stepped
in the way and got the punch. I told him to behave and he jabbed at me
again. Then I gave him one in the ribs. That’s all there was to it. As
far as we were concerned, the whole thing was a joke, but that crazy
Irishman lost his temper, I guess.”

“Yes,” said Leonard, “I guess, from what Johnny says, that he’s sort of
hot-headed.”

“Decidedly! And his hot-headedness has played the dickens with me,
Grant. Look here, are you in a hurry? Let’s sit down a minute. You’ve
heard part of the story, and I’d like to tell you the rest of it. It’ll
do me good to get it off my chest to some one, I fancy.”

They swung themselves to the top rail of the fence in the shadow
between two lights and Renneker went on.

“This is confidential, Grant. I’d rather you didn’t say anything about
it to any one, if you don’t mind. It might make worse trouble if it
got around. Thanks. Now, let’s see. I think I’d better start at the
beginning. I dare say you’ve heard that I got a bit of a reputation at
Castle City High as a guard. We have pretty good teams there, and we
generally manage to lick about every one we go up against. I don’t
believe I was much better than half a dozen other chaps on our team,
last year or the year before, but it sort of got around that I was good
and the New York papers played me up. There’s a fellow named Cravath
who lives in my town and he went to school here at Alton. Last summer
he got after me. Told me about Alton and how much more of a chance
there was for me here. I liked the high school well enough, but I’d
always had an idea that I’d prefer a prep school. Besides, when it
comes to going to college it’s a help if you go up from a well-known
school like Alton. We haven’t much money; the family I mean. Father
used to be very well off some six or eight years ago, and we grew up
rather free-handed, us kids. Then he lost it. Quite a spectacular
bust-up, Grant, but it wouldn’t interest you. What I’m getting at is
that when it came to a question of coming here for two years the lot of
us had to do some figuring.

“There are three of us; George, who is the oldest--two years older than
me--Grace, who comes in between, and me. George was starting college
this fall, and Grace is in school in New York. So there wasn’t an awful
lot of money for me, you see. Oh, well, that hasn’t much to do with
it. I’m making a beastly long story of this. Anyway, father managed
to get hold of some money and said I could come up here, although he
wasn’t very keen about it, I fancy. And I came. I knew that the reason
Dick Cravath was so anxious to get me here was because I could play
football, and I intended making good. But I haven’t done it. Oh, I’ve
played, but I haven’t played the way I should, or the way I can, Grant.
And I guess the main reason was because this thing’s been hanging over
my head all the time. I’ve been waiting for it to break ever since the
day I came up from New York.”

“Then,” exclaimed Leonard, “you knew that--that Johnny McGrath-- But
you couldn’t have!”

“No, all I knew was what I got from a pimply-faced fellow who sold
papers and magazines on the train. I bought a magazine from him and he
looked me over and winked. ‘Say, I know you, all right,’ he told me.
‘You’re Ralston. I saw you play in a game in New London.’ I told him he
was wrong, but he wouldn’t have it that way. He told me all about the
game. Even knew how much money the club there had paid me for playing
first base. I let him talk, because I wanted to learn what he knew.
When he told me I’d played against a team called the Crescents from
this town I knew I was in for trouble. I was pretty sure that sooner
or later some chap who had played with the Crescents would see me and
recognize me. Well, I fancy that got on my mind, Grant. In fact, I
know it did. I couldn’t seem to play the way I played last year. Of
course, I might have turned around when I got here that day and gone
back, after getting that story from the train-boy, but--oh, well, you
always trust to the off chance. I don’t know now whether I’m sorry or
not that I didn’t turn back. I’m out of football this year, but I like
the school, and I’ve met some nice fellows. I--don’t know.” Renneker’s
voice dwindled into silence.

Nine o’clock struck from a church tower. Leonard sat, none too
comfortably, on the angular rail and puzzled. All through his narrative
his companion had sounded an under note of resentment, as though Fate
had dealt unjustly with him. Of course, it was hard luck to get dropped
from the team as Renneker had, but after all he had no one to blame but
himself. Leonard sought an answer to one of the features of the story
that puzzled him.

“You didn’t know the Crescents came from here, then?” he asked. “I mean
the day you played against them at New London.”

“What? Oh! No, I didn’t know that, Grant, because, you see, I wasn’t
there.”

“You weren’t--where?” inquired Leonard blankly.

“At New London,” replied Renneker calmly.

“Then how--” Leonard blinked at the other in the gloom. “But you’ve
said you were! If you weren’t at New London, how did you play first
base for the--the Maple Leaf nine?”

“I didn’t.”

Leonard laughed flatly. “I guess I’m stupid,” he said.

“I’ve got your promise that this goes no further?” asked Renneker.
Leonard nodded vigorously. “All right. I didn’t play on that team,
Grant. I couldn’t. I’m no good at all at baseball. That was my brother.”

“Your brother!” exclaimed Leonard.

“Yes. He looks like me, a whole lot like me, although if you saw us
together you wouldn’t be fooled long. He’s two years older than I am,
nearly three, and he’s an inch taller but not quite so heavy. His name
is George Ralston Renneker, Ralston after my mother’s folks. That’s
why I knew what was up when the train boy put that name on me. George
is--oh, he’s all right, Grant, but he’s a nut. Sort of crazy about
some things. We’ve always been great pals, but I’ve bawled him out a
thousand times. He hasn’t any idea about the value of money and he
keeps right on spending it just as if we still had it. When he gets
flat and father won’t come across he goes off and plays baseball or
hockey or anything to get some coin. He can do just about anything
fairly well, you see. I suppose it isn’t always just the money,
either, for he’s nuts on all sorts of sports, and he has to keep going
at something or bust. Once he rode in a steeplechase near home and
got thrown and had a couple of ribs broken. There wasn’t any money in
it that time. He just did it for fun, for the adventure. I fancy he’d
jump off the Woolworth Tower with an umbrella if there was enough money
waiting him below! Sometimes he makes quite a lot of money. Once he
drew down a hundred and fifty for a ten-round preliminary bout over in
Philadelphia. He boxes rather better than he does anything, I fancy.
He was the ‘Trenton Kid’ that night. Usually he goes under the name of
George Ralston. He’s a nut, Grant.”

Leonard digested this remarkable information in silence for a moment.
Then: “But if it wasn’t you, Renneker,” he exclaimed, “why did you let
them drop you from the team? I don’t see that.”

“You will in a minute,” answered the other patiently. “George is
at--well, never mind the college; it’s not more than a hundred miles
from here. This is his first year. I dare say it will be his last, too,
for he doesn’t stick long. He went to three schools. But I don’t want
him to get in trouble if I can help it. He’s out for baseball and track
already, and he will probably try hockey, too. If this thing got around
he’d be dished, and it would mean a lot more to him than it did to me.
Of course, you can say that I’m compounding a felony or something, but
I don’t care if you do. I realize that George hasn’t any right to take
part in athletics at his college, but that’s between him and his own
conscience. I’m not going to be the one to queer him. I’ve known all
along that when this thing broke it would be up to me to be the goat.
Well, it did. And I am.”

Leonard shook his head. “It isn’t right, though, Renneker. It puts you
out of football--and everything else, for that matter--this year and
next. Why, even when you go up to college this thing will follow you, I
guess!”

“Well, I’m rather expecting that by next fall I can tell the truth,”
answered Renneker. “It isn’t likely that poor old George will last
more than his freshman year without getting found out. If they have
something else on him one more thing won’t matter, I guess. Anyway, I
mean to keep in training on the chance of it.”

“Does he know about it?” asked Leonard presently. “That you’re taking
the blame for this and have lost your place on the team?”

“Oh, no. What’s the use of worrying him about it? He’d be just idiot
enough to give the snap away and spoil his own fun.”

“Serve him right,” said Leonard indignantly. “I think it’s a rotten
shame that you’ve got to suffer for his--his misdoings!”

“Oh, well, it isn’t as bad as that. I guess I’ve groused a good deal,
Grant, but, after all, I’m glad to do it for the old coot. He’d do
anything in the world for me without batting an eye-lid. Besides, I’m
feeling quite a lot better now that I’ve unburdened my mind to some
one. Talk does help a lot sometimes, and I fancy Providence must have
sent you forth to-night to hear my tale of woe. Much obliged, really,
for being so patient, my dear chap.”

“Don’t be an ass,” begged Leonard. Half an hour before he would have
gasped at the idea of inferring that Renneker was an ass, but just now
it didn’t even occur to him. “I was glad to listen. Just the same,
Renneker, you are acting wrong in this business. I suppose I can’t
convince you--”

“Afraid not, Grant.”

“--but it’s a fact, just the same. Aside from everything else, you owe
something to the team and the School, and you’re letting them both down
when you do this thing. You--you’re endangering to-morrow’s game, and--”

“I’ve thought of all that, Grant, and I don’t agree with you. My own
people come before the School or the team--”

“But, Great Scott,” interrupted Leonard impatiently, “in this case
your own people, your brother, I mean, is in the wrong! You’re helping
him to get away with something that isn’t--”

“Absolutely, but when it _is_ your brother that doesn’t count much with
you.”

“It ought to,” muttered Leonard.

“Possibly, but it doesn’t. As for to-morrow’s game, Grant, I’m
absolutely sincere when I say that I believe you will do just as well
as I’d have done.”

“That’s nonsense,” Leonard protested.

“No, it isn’t, really. I haven’t been playing much of a game this fall.
I’ve just managed to keep my position, and that’s about all. Johnny
Cade has been on the point of dropping me into the subs lots of times.
I’ve seen it and I’ve had to act haughty and pull a bluff to keep him
from doing it.”

“That’s all right,” persisted the younger boy doggedly, “but you say
yourself that was because this business was hanging over you. Well,
it isn’t hanging over you any longer, and there’s no reason why you
shouldn’t play to-morrow as well as you’ve ever played. Now, isn’t that
so?”

“My dear chap,” replied Renneker, smoothly evasive, “you ought to be a
prosecuting attorney or something. I say, what time is it getting to
be? You fellows are supposed to be in hall by nine-thirty.”

“It isn’t that yet,” answered Leonard. But he slid down from the fence
and fell into step beside the other. He tried very hard to think of
something that would persuade Renneker out of this pig-headed, idiotic
course. He grudgingly admired the big fellow for what he had done. It
was chivalrous and generous and all that sort of thing, this business
of being the goat for Brother George, but Leonard didn’t know Brother
George and he couldn’t summon any sympathy for him. When he did speak
again they were well up the broad path to Academy Hall, and what he
said wasn’t at all what he had sought for.

“I do wish you’d think this over to-night, Renneker,” he pleaded.

“My dear chap,” replied the other very patiently and kindly, “you
mustn’t think any more about it. It’s all settled, and there’s no harm
done. If you keep on, you know, you’ll make me sorry I confided in
you.” Renneker laughed softly.

“I don’t care,” persisted Leonard weakly. “It’s a rotten shame!” Then
an idea came to him. “Look here,” he exclaimed, “what’s to keep me from
telling Johnny?”

“Not a thing,” was the cool response, “except your promise not to.”

Leonard growled inarticulately.

In front of Academy they parted, Renneker to seek his room in Upton,
and Leonard to take the other direction. The mass meeting was over and
the fellows were pouring out from Memorial, still noisily enthusiastic.
“Well, I hope I haven’t added to your nerves, Grant,” said Renneker.
“Just remember that when the whistle blows you won’t have any, and that
having them now consequently doesn’t matter one iota. That may help.
I’m in Upton, you know; Number 9. Come in and see me some time, won’t
you? Good night.”

“Good night,” replied Leonard. He had difficulty making his voice sound
disapproving, but he managed it after a fashion. Renneker laughed as he
turned away.

“Try to forget my faults, Grant,” he called back, “and think only of my
many virtues!”

Upstairs in Number 12 Slim was displaying a hurt expression. He had
left the meeting when it was no more than half over to hurry back
and stroke the other’s head, he explained, and here the other was
gallivanting around the campus! Leonard apologized. He did not,
however, mention Renneker. Why, he couldn’t have told.



CHAPTER XXII

BEFORE THE BATTLE


The squad, thirty-one in all, including coaches, managers, trainer and
rubbers, left Alton the next forenoon at a little after ten o’clock.
About every one else around the academy took the train that left at
twelve-eight, partaking of an early and hurried dinner at half-past
eleven. As very few were at all concerned with food just then, being
much too excited, no one missed the train.

Unexpectedly, Leonard had slept exceedingly sound and for a full eight
hours and a half. He had lain awake no later than eleven, while Slim,
though more of a veteran, had heard midnight strike, as he aggrievedly
proclaimed in the morning. Possibly it was that conversation with
Gordon Renneker that was to be credited with Leonard’s early and sound
slumber, for Renneker’s affairs had driven all thoughts of Leonard’s
from the latter’s mind, and instead of being nervous and jumpy he had
been merely impatient and indignant--and sometimes admiring--and had
made himself sleepy trying to think up some way of inducing Renneker to
stop being a Don Quixote and act like a rational human being. He hadn’t
solved his problem, but he had sent himself to sleep.

Renneker, having worked hard if briefly at coaching the linemen, went
along with the squad. So, too, did Mr. Fadden, who, having wrestled
with the problem of the second team for some five weeks, was now in
position to act, in an advisory capacity, as Mr. Cade’s assistant. In
the hustle for seats in the special car that had been tacked onto the
long train for the accommodation of the team, Leonard and his suit-case
got tucked into a corner of a seat near the rear door, escape, had he
desired it, being prevented by the generous bulk of Jim Newton. He
and Jim talked a little, but the center had supplied himself with a
New York morning paper at the station and was soon deep in a frowning
perusal of the football news. That Renneker would change his mind, make
a clean breast of everything and come back into the fold was something
Leonard had hoped for up to the last moment of leaving school. But he
hadn’t done anything of the sort. That was proved by the fact that he
carried no bag. You couldn’t quite vision Gordon Renneker facing Kenly
Hall on the football gridiron in an immaculate suit of blue serge, a
pale yellow shirt and black-and-white sport shoes! So Leonard’s hopes
went glimmering, and when Renneker, passing him on the platform,
nodded and said, “Hi, old chap!” Leonard just grunted and scowled his
disappointment.

The day was a lot colder than the evening had presaged, but it was
fair and there were few clouds in the very blue sky. The car, like most
railway cars, was incapable of compromise in the matter of temperature.
Since it was not freezing cold it was tropically hot. Squeezed in
there by the steam pipes, with Jim Newton overflowing on him, Leonard
suffered as long as possible and then forced a way past the grunting
Newton and sought the water tank. Of course the water was close to the
temperature of the car, but that was to be expected. At least, it was
wet. After two drinks from the razor-like edge of a paper cup that
was enough to make one long for the unhygienic days of old, he went
forward, resisting the blandishments of those who would have detained
him, and passed into the car ahead. There were plenty of seats here,
and, although that may have been just his imagination, the car seemed
cooler by several degrees. It wasn’t until he had slammed the door
behind him that he saw Gordon Renneker in the first seat at the left.
Renneker looked up, nodded and moved slightly closer to the window. Of
course, Leonard reflected, he thinks I saw him come in here and have
followed him on purpose. Well, I’ll show him!

“Hello,” he said aloud, taking the seat after a moment of seeming
indecision, “I didn’t know you were in here. It got so hot back there
that I had to get out.”

“I came in here,” replied Renneker, “because Mr. Fadden insisted on
telling me how much better football was played in his day. It seems,
Grant, that ten or twenty years ago every team consisted of eleven
Olympians. Every man Jack was a star of the first magnitude and a
Prince among fellows. Fadden says so. Why, every blessed one of the
chaps who played on his team in college is to-day either President of
the United States or president of one of the big railroad systems.
Every one, that is, except Fadden. I don’t know what happened to him.
He seems to have been the only mediocre chap in the bunch. I must ask
him about that some time,” Renneker ended musingly.

Leonard laughed in spite of himself. He hadn’t wanted to laugh. He
had wanted to make Renneker understand clearly that he was still as
strongly disapproving of his conduct as ever. But Renneker was sort
of different to-day. He was lighter-hearted and even facetious, it
appeared. Leonard had to thaw. They talked about the game for a few
minutes, but neither introduced the subject of last evening’s talk
until, as though suddenly reminded, Renneker said: “By the way, Grant,
remember what we were talking about last night? What I was, that is!”
He laughed gently and put a hand into a pocket of his coat. “Well, I
want you to read this. It’s rather a joke on me, and you’ll probably
enjoy it hugely. This came by this morning’s mail.”

He produced an envelope from his pocket and took forth a single sheet
of twice-folded paper and handed it to Leonard. “Read it,” he said.
Leonard opened it and saw, at the top, the name, in none too modest
characters, of a New York hotel. Then he read:


    “DEAR GORDIE:

    “Well, we’re off again, old timer. Came down last night and
    leave in about twenty minutes for Louisiana. Saved the faculty
    the trouble of bouncing me. It was only an innocent childish
    prank, but you know how faculties are. Four of our crowd didn’t
    like the show at the theatre and quit it cold after the first
    act. There was a car outside that looked good, and the fellow
    who belonged to it hadn’t anchored it or locked it or anything.
    So we thought we’d take a little spin and come back before the
    show was over. How, I ask you, were we to know that the owner
    couldn’t stand the show either? Well, he came out and couldn’t
    find his bus and squealed to the police and they telephoned all
    around and a cop on a motor cycle pulled us in about six miles
    out and took us back to the station. If the guy had been the
    right sort it would have been O.K., but he was a sour-faced
    pill without an ounce of compassion and insisted on making a
    charge against us. We got bail all right, and yesterday morning
    the trifling matter was settled on a money basis, but the
    dickens of it was that faculty got hep and we had our rather
    and chose to resign instead of getting fired. Townsend’s father
    has a rice farm or plantation or something in Louisiana and
    he’s going to get me a job. There’ll be lots of riding, he
    says, and I guess it’ll keep me going until I can look around.
    We’re starting down there at eleven-thirty. I’ll write when I
    reach the place and send the address. I’ve forgotten the name
    of the town and Jim’s out getting tickets. I’ve written to Dad,
    but you might drop him a line, too, old timer. You know what to
    say, you were always the diplomat of the family. I’ll be fixed
    for coin, so he won’t have to worry about that. Hope everything
    is hunky with you, dear old pal.

    “Your aff. brother,

    “GEORGE.”

Leonard returned the epistle, staring at Renneker blankly. The latter
laughed. “I might have known he couldn’t stick,” he said. “It’s just
like the crazy coot to have it happen a week too late, too. If he’d
skipped Thursday before last instead of this Thursday--” Renneker shook
his head in comic resignation.

“But--but--but,” stammered Leonard, “you can play to-day, can’t you?
All you’ve got to do is tell Mr. Cade!”

“My dear chap,” remonstrated the other, “one doesn’t upset the
arrangements at the last moment. Oh, I did consider it, but, pshaw,
what would be the good? Everything’s fixed and if I butted in I’d just
muddle things horribly. Besides, I really haven’t the courage to try
to explain it all in the brief time remaining. But, honest, Grant,
it is a sort of a ghastly joke, isn’t it? Why don’t you laugh, you
sober-face? I thought it would amuse you!”

Leonard viewed him scathingly. “Honest, Renneker,” he replied with slow
and painstaking enunciation, “you give me an acute pain!”

Renneker smiled more broadly. “Good boy! Speak your mind! However, if
you’ll stop being peeved and think a minute you’ll see that it wouldn’t
do to upset Johnny’s apple-cart at this late hour. Besides, I haven’t
brought my togs, and couldn’t play decently if I had. Why, I haven’t
practiced for a week, Grant.”

“You don’t need practice,” responded Leonard earnestly. “A fellow like
you--”

“The dickens I don’t!” scoffed Renneker. “I’m as stiff as a crutch. Be
a good fellow, Grant, and stop scolding.” Renneker looked at the letter
in his hand, returned it to its envelope and placed it back in his
pocket with a smile of resignation. “Just plain nut,” he said. “That’s
what he is.”

Leonard, watching, was suddenly realizing that this new acquaintance
of his was a very likeable chap and that, although he did feel
thoroughly out of patience with him just now, he was getting to have
a sort of affection for him. Of course he wouldn’t have had Renneker
suspect the fact for an instant, but there it was! The big fellow’s
story seemed to explain a good deal, such as, for instance, that the
calm superiority affected by him had really been a blind to conceal
the fact that he was secretly in a state of nervous apprehension, in
short a colossal bluff that not even Coach Cade had had the nerve to
call! It must have been, Leonard reflected sympathetically, rather a
job to play good football and know that at any moment exposure might
occur. And, after all, that letter of George Renneker’s had rather won
Leonard. Of course the fellow was an irresponsible, hair-brained ass,
but, nevertheless, the reader had seemed to find something likeable in
the writer of that amazing epistle, and he understood somewhat better
why Gordon had felt it worth while to protect George even at the cost
of his own undoing. He wasn’t frowning any longer when Renneker looked
back from a momentary inspection of the flying landscape beyond the car
window. Renneker must have noted the change, for he asked:

“Decided to overlook my transgressions?”

Leonard nodded, smiling faintly. “Yes, although I still think you’re
all wrong. Let me tell you one thing, too. If--if”--he stumbled a
little there--“if you’re doing this because you think I’d be--be
disappointed about not playing, Renneker, you can just quit it right
now. I never expected to play in this game--anyhow, I haven’t for a
good while--and it won’t mean a thing to me if I don’t. So if that’s
it, or if that has anything to do with it--”

“My dear chap,” replied Renneker soothingly, “when you know me better
you’ll realize that I’m not a Sir Launcelot or a--a Galahad. Rest quite
easy.”

It wasn’t, though, a positive denial, and Leonard was by no means
convinced. He looked doubtfully, even suspiciously at the somewhat
quizzical countenance of the other and subsided. And then a trainman
banged open a door and shouted “La-a-akeville! Lakeville!” and Leonard
hurried back for his suit-case.

They went to the hotel for luncheon, walking up from the station and
pretending they didn’t know that they were objects of interest all
the way along the five blocks. There remained the better part of an
hour before the meal was to be served, and after depositing their
bags in the room that was to serve them for dressing purposes, most
of the party descended again to the street and set off to see the
town. Slim claimed Leonard as his companion, but Leonard begged off
rather mysteriously and Slim set out a trifle huffily in company with
Appel and Menge. Leonard then set out to find Mr. Cade, and after
several unsuccessful inquiries had failed to discover that gentleman,
Tod Tenney came skipping down the stairs and, his escape blocked by
Leonard, revealed the fact that Mr. Cade and Mr. Fadden were in Room
17. Leonard, likewise scorning the snail-like elevator, climbed the
stairs and found the room. Mr. Cade’s voice answered his knock. The
coach and his associate were sitting in straight-back chairs in front
of a long window, their feet on the sill and pipes going busily. Mr.
Fadden looked around, waving the smoke clouds from before him with the
newspaper he held, and said sotto voce: “One of the boys, Cade.”

“Can I speak to you a moment, sir?” asked Leonard.

Mr. Cade’s feet came down from the sill with a bang and he swung
around. “Oh, hello, Grant! Why, certainly. Anything wrong?”

“No, sir. It’s about--” He hesitated and glanced dubiously at Mr.
Fadden.

“Oh, that’s all right,” laughed Mr. Cade. “You can speak before Mr.
Fadden. Pull up that chair and sit down first.”

Leonard obeyed, occupying, however, only some six inches of the chair’s
surface. “It’s about Gordon Renneker, sir,” he began again.

“Renneker?” The coach looked interested at once. “What about Renneker,
Grant?”

“Well--” Leonard stopped and started anew: “Wouldn’t it help us a lot,
Mr. Cade, if he played to-day?”

“Probably, but I thought it was understood that Renneker was--er--out
of football. What’s on your mind?”

“I can’t explain it very well,” answered Leonard, “because I promised
not to speak about--about part of it. That makes it--difficult.” He
looked at Mr. Cade and then at Mr. Fadden as though seeking assistance.
Mr. Cade frowned perplexedly.

“I’m afraid I can’t help you, Grant, for I don’t know what you’re
trying to get at. If you’re troubled about Renneker not playing, why,
I’ll have to tell you that there isn’t anything you can do about that.
We’re looking for you to see to it that he isn’t missed, Grant. And we
think you can do it.”

Leonard shook his head. “That isn’t it, sir. I know something that
I can’t tell, because I promised not to.” He stopped and strove to
arrange matters in his mind. He wished he had composed a statement
before coming. Regarding all that Renneker had revealed to him last
evening his lips were sealed. It was only about what had transpired
this morning that he was not sworn to silence. It was, though, hard to
keep the two apart, and he didn’t want to break his promise. Mr. Cade,
watching him intently, waited in patience. Mr. Fadden puffed hard at
his pipe, silently friendly. Leonard rushed the hurdle.

“If you’ll tell Renneker that you want to read a letter he received
this morning, sir,” he blurted, “you’ll understand.”

“Tell him I want to read a letter he received?” repeated the coach in
puzzled tones. “But why should I, Grant?”

“Why, because when you do read it, and Renneker has explained it,
you--he--why, sir, he can play this afternoon!”

“Oh!” said Mr. Cade thoughtfully. After an instant he said: “Look here,
Grant, you must know a whole lot about this business of Renneker’s.”

Leonard nodded. “Yes, sir, I know all about it. I--I knew about it
before you did.”

The coach gazed at him curiously, opened his lips as if to speak,
closed them again and glanced questioningly at Mr. Fadden.

“Better see Renneker and get it cleared up,” said the second team coach
oracularly. “Where there’s so much smoke there must be some fire. Let’s
get at it.”

“All right.” He turned to Leonard again. “I suppose you realize that if
Renneker plays right guard to-day you don’t, Grant. At least, not long,
probably.”

“Yes, sir, but Renneker’s a lot better than I am, and if he can play it
doesn’t matter about me, does it?”

“H’m, no, I suppose it doesn’t. Well, I’m much obliged to you, my boy.
Whether anything comes of this or doesn’t, I quite understand that
you’ve tried to help us. Do you know where Renneker is just now?”

“No, sir, not exactly. He went out right after we reached the hotel.
I--I guess I could find him.”

“Do it, will you? Tell him--tell him whatever you think best. You know
more about this mystery than we do. Only see that he gets here right
away. Thanks, Grant.”

“Could I tell him that you and Mr. Fadden want to see him to talk to
him about the game?” asked Leonard. “If he suspected anything he might
not want to come.”

“The mystery deepens!” sighed Mr. Cade. “But tell him that by all
means. It’s totally and literally true. Just see that he comes
a-running!”

Lakeville was in gala attire. Cherry-and-black pennants and bunting
adorned the store windows, and beyond the casement of the town’s
principal haberdasher the appropriate colors were massed in a
display of neckties and mufflers. Here and there the rival hues of
gray-and-gold were shown, but it was not until the arrival of the
Alton rooters that Lakeville became noticeably leavened with the
brighter tints. Leonard encountered Billy Wells and Sam Butler just
outside the hotel, but neither of them had seen Gordon Renneker lately,
and Leonard went on up the busy street on his quest. He discovered Slim
and three others admiring the contents of a bake shop window and bore
Slim away with him.

“We’ve got to find Renneker,” he announced anxiously.

“I don’t see why,” objected Slim. “I’m going to be just as happy,
General, if I never set eyes on him again.”

“Dry up and come on. Mr. Cade wants him right off.”

“Mr. Cade has strange fancies,” murmured Slim, but he accelerated his
steps. “Been over to the school grounds?”

“No, I haven’t had time. Isn’t that--no, it isn’t. It did look like
him, back-to.”

“It looks like him front-to,” replied Slim, “except that this guy is
about forty-five and has different features and has lost some of his
hair and wears glasses--”

“Oh, for the love of mud, shut up, Slim! And do look around, can’t you?
I tell you this is important.”

“I do wish I could feel it so,” said Slim exasperatingly, “but I
just can’t get up any enthusiasm for the chase. Besides, it’s getting
perilously close to chow time, and we’re going in the wrong direction
and--”

“There he is!” Leonard left Slim abruptly and darted across the
street, narrowly escaping the ignominy of being run down by a rattling
flivver adorned with cherry-and-black pennants. Gordon Renneker had
just emerged from a doorway above which hung a black-and-gold sign
announcing “Olympic Lunch Room--Good Eats,” and still held in one hand
the larger part of a cheese sandwich.

“Say, what the--” Renneker stared in amazement from Leonard to the
sandwich now lying in unappetizing fragments on the sidewalk.

“Awfully sorry,” panted Leonard, “but you’re wanted at the hotel right
away. Room 17.”

“I’m wanted? What for?” Leonard saw suspicion creeping into Renneker’s
eyes.

“Mr. Cade and Mr. Fadden,” he answered quickly and glibly. “They told
me to tell you they wanted to see you about the game right away.”

“Flattering,” said Renneker. “Oh, all right. Wait till I get another
sandwich--”

“You mustn’t,” declared Leonard. “It’s almost lunch time, and they’re
waiting for you, and they’ll be mad if you don’t come quick!” He
pulled Renneker away from the lunch room doorway and guided him rapidly
toward the hotel. From across the street a perplexed and insulted Slim
watched them disappear.

“Abandoned!” he muttered. “Adrift in a strange and cruel city! Heaven
help me!”



CHAPTER XXIII

“FIFTY-FIFTY!”


Leonard sat on the bench on the Alton side of the field and watched
the kickers at work. There had been a good ten minutes of signal drill
for both squads and now only the punters and drop-kickers remained on
the gridiron. The game was about to start. Across the field the Kenly
Hall sections were cheering loudly each member of their team in turn.
The officials were talking earnestly on the side-line. Something white
fluttered across Leonard’s shoulder from the stand above and behind
him and settled at his feet. He stooped and picked it up. It proved
to be the two middle pages of the official program. He looked around
to see if any one would claim it. But no one did and he settled back
and regarded the thing. On each page, where they had faced each other
before they had torn loose, were the line-ups of the teams, Alton to
the left, Kenly Hall to the right, each boxed in by advertisements
of local enterprises: “White Swan Laundry--Special Rates to Academy
Men--You Can’t Go Wrong, Fellows!” “Bell and Falk, Photographers to
All Classes Since 1912.” “Lakeville Pressing Club--Best and Quickest
Service in the City--” Leonard’s attention wandered to the column of
names in the center of the page. “Alton,” he read. “Staples, left
end; Butler, left tackle; Stimson, left guard; Newton, center; Grant,
right guard; Wells, right tackle; Emerson, Capt., right end; Appel,
quarterback; Menge, left halfback; Reilly, right halfback; Greenwood,
fullback.”

His gaze crossed to the opposite list: “Hanley, left end; Pope, left
tackle; Tinkner, left guard; Henderson, center--” Interest waned, and
he returned to the first row of names; especially to the fifth from
the top. This was the first time Leonard had ever seen his name in a
regular program, to say nothing of one with a colored cover and costing
fifteen cents, and he was pardonably thrilled. It was, he reflected,
something to have your name down in the line-up, even if you didn’t
play!

And Leonard wasn’t going to play; at least, not much. He felt pretty
confident of getting into the game long enough to secure his letter,
and, if luck was with him, he might even play for five minutes or ten,
supposing Renneker or Stimson failed to last. But, in spite of the
official program, Renneker was right guard to-day and not Grant.

Leonard didn’t know what had taken place in Room 17 just before
luncheon, what arguments Mr. Cade had used, but he did know that
Renneker had capitulated. He hadn’t spoken to Renneker since, for
they had sat at different tables at luncheon and afterwards all had
been hurry and bustle, with some of the fellows riding to the field
in jitneys and others walking. Leonard had walked, with Slim and
Perry Stimson and Red Reilly. The conversation had been mostly about
Renneker, for that youth had appeared a few moments before in a
football costume of borrowed togs and Manager Tenney had spread the
joyous news that the big fellow was to play. Stimson and Reilly did
most of the speculating, for Slim, although clearly puzzled, knew so
much that he was afraid to discuss the matter lest he say too much, and
Leonard kept discreetly silent and was supposed by the others to be too
disappointed to find words. Slim evidently suspected Leonard of being
in the know, but there was no chance to charge him with it. Stimson and
Reilly were much pleased by the reinstatement of Renneker, although
they charitably strove to disguise the fact out of sympathy for Leonard.

Only once had Leonard come face to face with Gordon Renneker, and
then it was in the crowded lobby of the hotel. Leonard’s look of
mingled defiance and apology had been answered by an eloquent shrug of
Renneker’s broad shoulders and a hopeless shake of the head. But the
big fellow wasn’t really angry, and Leonard was glad of that. Leonard
had had several qualms of conscience since that visit to Room 17, and
it had required much argument to convince himself that he had not,
after all, violated a confidence.

Across the sunlit field the Kenly Hall band of seven pieces broke into
sound again, and a drum boomed loudly and a cornet blared and the
cheering section was off on a ribald song that ended with:

    “And the foe turned Gray when it came to pass
     What looked like Gold was only brass!”

The gridiron emptied. From the further side-line a man in a white
sweater advanced with a khaki-clad youth whose stockings were ringed
with cherry-red and black. Captain Emerson walked out and met them. The
rival leaders shook hands. A silver coin caught the sunlight as it spun
aloft and dropped to the turf. Captain Growe, of Kenly, pointed toward
the west goal and the little group broke up. A minute later the teams
were in place and the cheering was stilled. The referee’s voice floated
across on the northerly breeze:

“Are you ready, Captain Emerson?... Ready, Captain Growe?”

A whistle piped and Kenly kicked off at two minutes past two.

Twenty-five minutes and some seconds later, when the first period
ended, several facts had become apparent to Leonard, watching
unblinkingly from the bench. One was that Alton and Kenly were about as
evenly matched in power and skill as any two teams could be. Another
was that, whichever won, the final score was going to be very small.
And the third was that Gordon Renneker was playing the kind of football
to-day that had won him a place on the All-Scholastic Team!

With the wind, scarcely more than a strong breeze, behind her in
that first quarter, Kenly played a kicking game. But with the rival
ends as closely matched as they were to-day her punts won her little
advantage. Cricket Menge and Bee Appel always ran them back for fair
distances before they were thrown, and Joe Greenwood, returning the
punts, got almost equal ground. Each team tried out the opposing line
systematically without discovering any especially weak places. Each
team found that running the ends was no certain way to gain. The ball
changed hands again and again, hovering over the middle of the field.
Twice Alton made her first down and twice Kenly did the same. Alton was
penalized once for holding and Kenly was set back twice for off-side.
Each team made two attempts at forward-passing and each failed to
gain a foot by that method. When the quarter ended honors were even.

The second period started out to be a duplicate of the first. There
was a heart-thrilling moment when Dill, of Kenly, made the first real
run of the day by leaking past Captain Emerson and eluding Reilly and
placing the pigskin eleven yards nearer the Alton goal. Yet, to counter
that, the Kenly attack was thrice spilled before it got well started
and the Cherry-and-Black was forced to punt again. Menge was hurt in
a tackle and Kendall took his place. Alton braced near her thirty-one
yards and carried the ball across the center line, concentrating on the
left of the enemy’s line and alternating with Kendall and Greenwood.
But just inside Kenly territory the advance petered out and a long
forward to Slim Staples grounded and Kendall punted over the goal-line.

A few minutes later Alton again got the pigskin on her forty-seven
and began a punting game. With the wind behind him, Kendall was good
for something more than five yards better than the Kenly punter, and
after four exchanges the wisdom of the switch was evident, for Alton
found herself in possession of the ball on Kenly’s thirty-eight yards,
following a four yard run-back by Appel. An attack on left tackle
netted a scant two yards, and on second down Kendall once more went
back to kicking position. The play, however, proved a short heave over
the line that Reilly couldn’t reach. From the same formation Kendall
tried to get around the left on a wide run but was forced out for
no gain. With the ball too far over on the side of the field for an
attempt at a goal, Greenwood took Kendall’s place and Kenly covered her
backfield for a punt. But Appel was crafty, the enemy had scattered
her secondary defense and the unexpected happened. The ball went to
Reilly, and Red dashed straight ahead through a comfortably wide hole
opened for him by Renneker and Wells and put the pigskin down on the
twenty-seven!

Pandemonium reigned on the south stands. Alton hoarsely demanded a
touchdown and Gray-and-Gold pennants waved and fluttered. On the
bench below, Leonard clenched his hands on his knees and watched with
straining gaze. There was time out for Kenly and a fresh player went
in at right half. Then Alton lined up again and Appel’s shrill voice
called the signal.

It was Kendall back once more, but Greenwood got the ball and dug
through for something less than two yards. On the same play he got one
more, placing the pigskin just over Kenly’s twenty-five-yard line.
Then a play designed for just such a situation, a play that had been
practiced until it went as smoothly as a lot of oiled cogs, was called
for. Kendall was still eight yards back, Appel knelt before him to
take the ball from Newton and Kenly was on her toes to break through.
And then something happened. One of the cogs slipped, perhaps. At all
events, the ball never arose from Kendall’s toe, and when the whistle
blew the Alton quarterback was found at the bottom of the pile with the
pigskin desperately clutched in his arms. The perfect play had gone
agley, and instead of a deceptive end run by quarter, with fullback
swinging at empty air, it was fourth down for a six yard loss!

[Illustration: On the same play he got one more]

And then, while the Alton stands were blankly confronting the sudden
change in affairs, while Leonard was heaving a sigh that had seemed to
come from the very cleats of his shoes, Appel was piping his signal
again, undismayed, as it seemed by the misfortune. Now it was Captain
Emerson back, with Kenly somehow suspecting a forward-pass instead of
the threatened drop-kick. Well, a drop-kick from somewhere around the
thirty-seven yards, even with a breeze behind the kicker, did look
fishy. And yet that is just what followed. If Jim Newton had been at
fault before--and he may not have been, for all I know--he was perfect
now. The ball went back breast-high, was dropped leisurely and sped off
and up and over! And Alton had scored at last and some four hundred
wearers of the Gray-and-Gold became hysterically joyful!

The half ended almost directly after that, with the score-board bearing
a single numeral still, a “3” following the word “Alton.”

Leonard went back to the dressing room with the others and sat around
and listened and talked and was very excited and jubilant. Slim had a
beautiful swelled lip and couldn’t say much because he had to laugh
every time he heard himself speak. Renneker waved a hand across the
room at Leonard, but didn’t come over. He had a nice broad ribbon of
plaster under his right eye. Plaster, indeed, seemed quite a popular
ornament. Mr. Cade talked for a minute while Tod Tenney stood at the
door watching the hands on his watch. Leonard didn’t hear what he said
very well, but he cheered as loudly as any at the end. Then they piled
out and started back.

Going along the bench, Leonard heard his name called and looked up
the slanting stand to where a youth with a Gray-and-Gold flag draping
his shoulders waved wildly. It was Johnny McGrath, Johnny very hoarse
from much shouting, who was greeting him. Leonard grinned and waved
back to him. Then, suddenly, the battle was on again, Kenly took
the ball on the kick-off and ran it back to her twenty-eight before
Billy Wells placed the runner on his head. Kenly smashed at the
Alton right, stopped and formed again. Once more the teams crashed
together. Kenly had made a yard. The whistle blew. Some one was still
down. “Greenwood!” exclaimed Leonard’s left-hand neighbor. Then: “No,
Renneker, by gum!” Jake, the trainer, was bending over the injured
player. A minute passed. Jake signaled to the bench. Mr. Cade jumped
up and looked down the line until his eye met Leonard’s. His head went
back and Leonard disentangled himself from his blanket and obeyed the
motion. On the field, Gordon Renneker, his head wobbling from side to
side, was coming off between Jake and Rus Emerson.

“All right, Grant,” said the coach. “You know what to do without my
telling you. Go to it!”

There were cheers from the stand behind him as he sped on, cheers for
Renneker and for Grant, short, snappy cheers that made a fellow tingle.
Leonard eyed Renneker anxiously as he drew near the little group. The
big fellow seemed to be just about all in, he thought. He didn’t like
the way his head lolled over on his shoulder, or those closed eyes of
his. He hoped that-- Then he stared. Renneker’s eyes had opened as
Leonard had come abreast, and then one of them had closed again in a
most amazing wink! Leonard asked himself if he had imagined it. He
turned his head to look back. Some one had taken Emerson’s place, but
Renneker’s head still lolled and wobbled. He must have imagined that
wink, and yet-- No, by jiminy, he hadn’t! He understood all at once.
Renneker was faking! He had pretended an injury so that Leonard might
have his place!

“Hey! Report to the referee, General!”

Appel’s voice brought him out of his amazed thoughts. He looked for
the white sweater, found it and slipped into the line. A whistle blew
again and--well, after that he was very busy. The game went on, hard,
gruelling. Alton advanced and retreated, Kenly won ground and lost it.
The ball hurtled through the air, feet pounded the turf, bodies rasped
together, tired lungs fought for breath and aching legs for strength.
The third period came to an end, the score unchanged.

Leonard was playing better than he had ever played, better than he
had thought himself capable of playing. His victories were not easily
won, for his opponent was a big, hard-fighting fellow, but won they
were. The right side of the Alton line was still holding firmly, and it
continued to hold right up to those last few minutes of the game when
the Cherry-and-Black, desperate, reinforced with fresh players, ground
her way inexorably to the twenty-yard-line and, with Kenly throats
imploring a touchdown, thrice threw her attack at the enemy line and
was thrice repulsed almost under the shadow of the Alton goal.

The end was close then, the time-keeper had his eyes on his watch
more often than on the game and all hope of a touchdown by rushing
tactics was abandoned by the home team. Either a pass over the line or
a field-goal must serve. Thus far Kenly’s forward-passes had almost
invariably failed, and this fact doubtless brought the decision to try
for a tied score rather than a victory. At all events, Kenly placed her
drop-kicker back, arranged her defenses and set the stage for the final
act. The kicker was on the twenty-seven yards, no great distance now
that the breeze had died away. The signal came, the ball shot back, the
lines met.

Then it was that Leonard had his great moment. He went through, the
first of his line to start when the ball was passed, the only one to
penetrate that desperate wall in front of the kicker. Quite alone he
charged, almost in the path of the ball. An enemy was met and evaded
with a quick swing to the left. Hands clutched him, but too late.
He was off his feet now, arms upstretched, leaping high in the air.
Something swam toward him against the sunset light, brown and big,
turning lazily in its flight. An arm swept into its path. Leonard was
down in a writhing mass, had found his feet, was tossed aside. The
battle was up the field now, back near the thirty-five-yard line.
Leonard scrambled breathlessly up and staggered in the wake of the
swarming players. A whistle blew and a voice, the referee’s, was
shouting:

“_Alton’s ball! First down!_”

They were back in the hotel, the cheering and the tumult left behind
for the while. The dressing room was crowded, full of confusion and
excitement. Every one was talking, laughing, shouting at once. A
wonderful sense of complete happiness held Leonard as he tugged at
his laces. Just then it seemed as though nothing could ever possibly
happen that would matter one bit. They had beaten Kenly Hall! And he
had helped! Fellows were bumping into him, fairly walking over him, but
he didn’t mind. He didn’t mind even when some one placed a big hand at
the back of his head and bore down until it hurt. He looked up when
he could, though. It was Gordon Renneker. Leonard sought for words,
beautiful, big, round, insulting words, but the best he could do was
only:

“You--you blamed old faker!”

Renneker rumpled Leonard’s damp hair rudely, grinning down.

“Fifty-fifty,” he said.


THE END



_This Isn’t All!_


Would you like to know what became of the good friends you have made in
this book?

Would you like to read other stories continuing their adventures and
experiences, or other books quite as entertaining by the same author?

On the _reverse side_ of the wrapper which comes with this book, you
will find a wonderful list of stories which you can buy at the same
store where you got this book.


_Don’t throw away the Wrapper_

_Use it as a handy catalog of the books you want some day to have.
But in case you do mislay it, write to the Publishers for a complete
catalog._



Football and Baseball Stories

=Durably Bound. Illustrated. Colored Wrappers.=

=Every Volume Complete in Itself.=


The Ralph Henry Barbour Books for Boys

In these up-to-the-minute, spirited genuine stories of boy life there
is something which will appeal to every boy with the love of manliness,
cleanness and sportsmanship in his heart.

    LEFT END EDWARDS
    LEFT TACKLE THAYER
    LEFT GUARD GILBERT
    CENTER RUSH ROWLAND
    FULLBACK FOSTER
    LEFT HALF HARMON
    RIGHT END EMERSON
    RIGHT GUARD GRANT
    QUARTERBACK BATES
    RIGHT TACKLE TODD
    RIGHT HALF HOLLINS


The Christy Mathewson Books for Boys

Every boy wants to know how to play ball in the fairest and squarest
way. These books about boys and baseball are full of wholesome and
manly interest and information.

    PITCHER POLLOCK
    CATCHER CRAIG
    FIRST BASE FAULKNER
    SECOND BASE SLOAN
    PITCHING IN A PINCH

    THIRD BASE THATCHER, By Everett Scott


GROSSET & DUNLAP, _Publishers_, NEW YORK



THE TOM SLADE BOOKS

By PERCY KEESE FITZHUGH

Author of “Roy Blakeley,” “Pee-wee Harris,” “Westy Martin,” Etc.

=Illustrated. Individual Picture Wrappers in Colors.=

=Every Volume Complete in Itself.=

“Let your boy grow up with Tom Slade,” is a suggestion which thousands
of parents have followed during the past, with the result that the TOM
SLADE BOOKS are the most popular boys’ books published today. They
take Tom Slade through a series of typical boy adventures through his
tenderfoot days as a scout, through his gallant days as an American
doughboy in France, back to his old patrol and the old camp ground at
Black Lake, and so on.

    TOM SLADE, BOY SCOUT
    TOM SLADE AT TEMPLE CAMP
    TOM SLADE ON THE RIVER
    TOM SLADE WITH THE COLORS
    TOM SLADE ON A TRANSPORT
    TOM SLADE WITH THE BOYS OVER THERE
    TOM SLADE, MOTORCYCLE DISPATCH BEARER
    TOM SLADE WITH THE FLYING CORPS
    TOM SLADE AT BLACK LAKE
    TOM SLADE ON MYSTERY TRAIL
    TOM SLADE’S DOUBLE DARE
    TOM SLADE ON OVERLOOK MOUNTAIN
    TOM SLADE PICKS A WINNER
    TOM SLADE AT BEAR MOUNTAIN
    TOM SLADE: FOREST RANGER
    TOM SLADE IN THE NORTH WOODS


GROSSET & DUNLAP, _Publishers_, NEW YORK



THE ROY BLAKELEY BOOKS

By PERCY KEESE FITZHUGH

Author of “Tom Slade,” “Pee-wee Harris,” “Westy Martin,” Etc.

=Illustrated. Picture Wrappers in Color.=

=Every Volume Complete in Itself.=


In the character and adventures of Roy Blakeley are typified the very
essence of Boy life. He is a real boy, as real as Huck Finn and Tom
Sawyer. He is the moving spirit of the troop of Scouts of which he is
a member, and the average boy has to go only a little way in the first
book before Roy is the best friend he ever had, and he is willing to
part with his best treasure to get the next book in the series.

    ROY BLAKELEY
    ROY BLAKELEY’S ADVENTURES IN CAMP
    ROY BLAKELEY, PATHFINDER
    ROY BLAKELEY’S CAMP ON WHEELS
    ROY BLAKELEY’S SILVER FOX PATROL
    ROY BLAKELEY’S MOTOR CARAVAN
    ROY BLAKELEY, LOST, STRAYED OR STOLEN
    ROY BLAKELEY’S BEE-LINE HIKE
    ROY BLAKELEY AT THE HAUNTED CAMP
    ROY BLAKELEY’S FUNNY BONE HIKE
    ROY BLAKELEY’S TANGLED TRAIL
    ROY BLAKELEY ON THE MOHAWK TRAIL
    ROY BLAKELEY’S ELASTIC HIKE
    ROY BLAKELEY’S ROUNDABOUT HIKE


GROSSET & DUNLAP, _Publishers_, NEW YORK



THE PEE-WEE HARRIS BOOKS

By PERCY KEESE FITZHUGH

Author of “Tom Slade,” “Roy Blakeley,” “Westy Martin,” Etc.

=Illustrated. Individual Picture Wrappers in Color.=

=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

GROSSET & DUNLAP, _Publishers_, NEW YORK



THE WESTY MARTIN BOOKS

By PERCY KEESE FITZHUGH

Author of the “Tom Slade” and “Roy Blakeley” Books, Etc.

=Individual Colored Wrappers. Illustrated.=

=Every Volume Complete in Itself.=


Westy Martin, known to every friend of Roy Blakeley, appears as the
hero of adventures quite different from those in which we have seen him
participate as a Scout of Bridgeboro and of Temple Camp. On his way to
the Yellowstone the bigness of the vast West and the thoughts of the
wild preserve that he is going to visit make him conscious of his own
smallness and of the futility of “boy scouting” and woods lore in this
great region. Yet he was to learn that if it had not been for his scout
training he would never have been able to survive the experiences he
had in these stories.

    WESTY MARTIN
    WESTY MARTIN IN THE YELLOWSTONE
    WESTY MARTIN IN THE ROCKIES
    WESTY MARTIN ON THE SANTA FE TRAIL
    WESTY MARTIN ON THE OLD INDIAN TRAILS


GROSSET & DUNLAP, _Publishers_, NEW YORK



THE LITTLE WASHINGTONS SERIES

By LILLIAN ELIZABETH ROY

=Handsomely Bound. Colored Wrappers. Illustrated.=

=For Children 6 to 12 Years=


This series presents early American history in a manner that impresses
the young readers. Because of George and Martha Washington Parke, two
young descendants of the famous General Washington, these stories
follow exactly the life of the great American, by means of playing they
act the life of the Washingtons, both in battles and in society.

THE LITTLE WASHINGTONS

Their thrilling battles and expeditions generally end in “punishment”
lessons read by Mrs. Parke from the “Life of Washington.” The culprits
listen intently, for this reading generally gives them new ideas for
further games of Indian warfare and Colonists’ battles.


THE LITTLE WASHINGTONS’ RELATIVES

The Davis children visit the Parke home and join zealously in the games
of playing General Washington. So zealously, in fact, that little Jim
almost loses his scalp.


THE LITTLE WASHINGTONS’ TRAVELS

The children wage a fierce battle upon the roof of a hotel in New York
City. Then, visiting the Davis home in Philadelphia, the patriotic
Washingtons vanquish the Hessians on a battle-field in the empty lot
back of the Davis property.


THE LITTLE WASHINGTONS AT SCHOOL

After the school-house battle the Washingtons discover a band of
gypsies camping near the back road to their homes and incidentally they
secure the stolen horse which the gypsies had taken from the “butter
and egg farmer” of the Parkes.


THE LITTLE WASHINGTONS’ HOLIDAYS

They spend a pleasant summer on two adjoining farms in Vermont. During
the voyage they try to capture a “frigate” but little Jim is caught and
about to be punished by the Captain when his confederates hasten in and
save him.

GROSSET & DUNLAP, Publishers, NEW YORK



Jerry Todd and Poppy Ott Series

BY LEO EDWARDS

=Durably Bound. Illustrated. Individual Colored Wrappers.=

=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 like the Jerry Todd
stories with their belt-bursting laughs and creepy shivers. So he took
Poppy Ott, Jerry Todd’s bosom chum and created the Poppy Ott Series,
and if such a thing could be possible--they are even more full of fun
and excitement than the Jerry Todds.


THE POPPY OTT SERIES

    POPPY OTT AND THE STUTTERING PARROT
    POPPY OTT AND THE SEVEN LEAGUE STILTS
    POPPY OTT AND THE GALLOPING SNAIL
    POPPY OTT’S PEDIGREED PICKLES


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


GROSSET & DUNLAP, _Publishers_, NEW YORK



     *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber’s note:

 --Printer's, 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.

 --Except for the frontispiece, illustrations have been moved to
   follow the text that they illustrate.





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