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Title: In the Line
Author: Dudley, Albertus T.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "In the Line" ***

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------------------------------------------------------------------------

                          Transcriber’s Note:

This version of the text cannot represent certain typographical effects.
Italics are delimited as _italic_. Bold characters are delimited as
=bold=.

The few footnotes have been moved to follow the paragraphs in which they
are referenced.



                              IN THE LINE



                     =The Phillips Exeter Series.=

                             --------------

                         BY ALBERTUS T. DUDLEY.

                             --------------

=FOLLOWING THE BALL.=

    Illustrated by CHARLES COPELAND. Price,
      $1.25.

=MAKING THE NINE.=

    Illustrated by CHARLES COPELAND and from
      Photographs of Scenes at Exeter. Price,
      $1.25.

=IN THE LINE.=

    Illustrated by CHARLES COPELAND. Price,
      $1.25.

[Illustration: DOWN THE TWO WENT IN A WHIRL OF LEGS.—_Page 290._]

                         PHILLIPS EXETER SERIES

    ----------------------------------------------------------------

                              IN THE LINE



                                   BY

                           ALBERTUS T. DUDLEY

               AUTHOR OF “FOLLOWING THE BALL” AND “MAKING
                               THE NINE”

                   _ILLUSTRATED BY CHARLES COPELAND_

[Illustration]

                                BOSTON.
                       LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.



          COPYRIGHT, 1905, BY LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD COMPANY.

                        Published, August, 1905.

                                -------

                         _All Rights Reserved_

                                -------

                              IN THE LINE.



                           PRINTED IN U.S.A.



                       TO MY ADVISERS AND HELPERS

                         F. P. D. AND W. P. D.



                                PREFACE


IN THE LINE is a story of school life and football rather than of
football and school life. In its football it is meant to supplement
FOLLOWING THE BALL, as WITH MASK AND MIT in its baseball will supplement
MAKING THE NINE, each book emphasizing a different department of play.
The story is in no sense history, and no attempt has been made to
describe actual persons.

The case for football presented in Chapters XX and XXII is believed to
be a fair and candid statement of facts with regard to the game as they
are known to those most familiar with it. American Rugby football is
here, and here to stay, not because of its æsthetic virtues, but because
it appeals irresistibly to the Anglo-Saxon heart. In twenty years,
against ignorant criticism and bitter opposition, it has established
itself in every section of the country. It has merits which can neither
be argued away nor overborne by abuse; it has conspicuous faults.
Eliminate “dirty football” and the playing of unfit or unfairly matched
men, provide for the players proper supervision in their practice and
strict officials in their matches,—and the dangers of the game, with all
serious grounds of objection, will be removed.

Particular thanks for helpful suggestions as to guard play are due Mr.
Joseph T. Gilman, a veteran of the Dartmouth eleven, whose mastery of
the technique of his position has been proved in many a hard contest and
against many a clever antagonist.

                                               ALBERTUS T. DUDLEY.

BOSTON, April, 1905.



                                CONTENTS

                               CHAPTER I
                                                                 PAGE
  RAW MATERIAL                                                      1

                              CHAPTER II

  ACQUAINTANCES                                                    12

                              CHAPTER III

  THE NEW MANDOLIN                                                 25

                              CHAPTER IV

  WEIGHED AND MEASURED                                             33

                               CHAPTER V

  IN THE GYMNASIUM                                                 42

                              CHAPTER VI

  INDUSTRIES OF THE TWINS                                          52

                              CHAPTER VII

  NO THOROUGHFARE                                                  64

                             CHAPTER VIII

  POLITICS                                                         75

                              CHAPTER IX

  THE CONCERT AT EASTHAM                                           84

                               CHAPTER X

  VICTIMS                                                         105

                              CHAPTER XI

  BUYING TACKS                                                    113

                              CHAPTER XII

  THE HALO FADES                                                  124

                             CHAPTER XIII

  RED RETRIBUTION                                                 136

                              CHAPTER XIV

  PATRON AND CLIENT                                               150

                              CHAPTER XV

  THE SILENT PARTNER                                              164

                              CHAPTER XVI

  A CELEBRATION                                                   181

                             CHAPTER XVII

  BACK AGAIN                                                      194

                             CHAPTER XVIII

  FOOTBALL                                                        207

                              CHAPTER XIX

  MORE FOOTBALL                                                   219

                              CHAPTER XX

  A ROUND ROBIN                                                   231

                              CHAPTER XXI

  A LOOPHOLE                                                      240

                             CHAPTER XXII

  EXPERT OPINION                                                  252

                             CHAPTER XXIII

  THE FIRST HALF                                                  263

                             CHAPTER XXIV

  THE GAME ENDS                                                   284

                              CHAPTER XXV

  ON THE WAY HOME                                                 297



                             ILLUSTRATIONS

  Down the two went in a whirl of legs                 _Frontispiece_
                                                                 PAGE
  Durand ... walked deliberately back to the                       47
    cushioned space

  “Pick up that hat, do you hear!”                                118

  The pile that covered the ball three yards beyond               271

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                              IN THE LINE

                               ----------

                               CHAPTER I
                              RAW MATERIAL


Wolcott Lindsay Senior, with Wolcott Lindsay Junior, and Wolcott
Junior’s Mamma, arrived in Boston on New Year’s day, after buffeting for
sixty hours against a furious northwest storm that left the great
ice-coated liner looking like a glass ship taken from a globe on the
nursery shelf and magnified a thousand times. Wolcott Junior, being a
healthy, vigorous youth, with thousands of footpounds of energy running
hourly to waste, and having the overweening confidence in his own powers
which distinguishes some otherwise very attractive specimens of American
boyhood, had found the restraint of the cabin extremely irksome. Had the
voyage lasted much longer, he must have discovered some means of getting
by the barriers which kept him in safe imprisonment. In that case there
might have been no Wolcott Lindsay Junior, and no story of “In the Line”
to be written.

“Junior,” as his mother called him, was not one to slip by a sentinel
unobserved. Five feet eleven in height, unshod; one hundred seventy-five
pounds in weight, unclothed; with heart and lungs unstrained by growth,
and muscles already swelling in significant bunches and bands, he looked
more like a college junior than a raw boy not yet eighteen, still unripe
for entrance examinations.

“Ridiculous,” his father had said, lifting his eyes from their
five-foot-six-inch level and measuring the whole length and breadth of
his offspring,—“perfectly ridiculous to be so big! Why, if you keep on
at this rate you’ll be as much out of place in an average house as a
rhinoceros in a garret. And not yet even a sub-freshman!”

“Now, Wolcott!” expostulated Mrs. Lindsay, “you know that’s not fair. If
you had told us we were going to stay in Hamburg two years instead of
six months, we should have put him in a good school or had a tutor for
him. It isn’t his fault if he’s behind; he hasn’t had a fair chance.”

At this the expression on the face of Lindsay père changed. “He shall
have chance enough when we get home. No more conversation lessons in
French and German, or reading novels for vocabulary, or going to the
theatre for pronunciation, or rowing on the Elster with that learned
fool, Herr Doktor Krauss; but old-fashioned Latin and Greek and
mathematics in some good, stiff school, under a clear-headed American
teacher. Too bad that the boy couldn’t have had a touch of the Hamburger
Gymnasium!”

At this suggestion that hard things were in store for the young man,
Mrs. Lindsay looked worried, and Junior assumed an air of indifference
that cloaked his real feeling, which was one of joy to be coming home
again to boys of his own race and kind, and of willingness to put up
with any school or any work, however “stiff,” so long as it was American
and with Americans.

Aunt Emmeline met them at the dock. Aunt Emmeline was Mr. Lindsay’s
sister, like him and yet differing from him as sisters are wont to
differ from brothers. Both were in a sense aristocrats; both thought
much of the family name and the family history, but their points of view
were widely variant. Mr. Lindsay felt strongly that the possession of
ancestors who had served their generation faithfully and well, pledged
the descendants to the same ratio of achievement. His constant fear was
that he should fail to maintain the standard which the forefathers had
set. Aunt Emmeline, on the other hand, regarded the family past as a
legacy bequeathed for the glorification of the present. Gentle and
charitable and good, she yet loved to think of the Lindsays as an
essentially superior race, whom it behooved to keep themselves aloof
from the common modern herd, and contemplate in reverence the ancient
family greatness.

Both Mr. Lindsay and his sister were experts in the family genealogy.
The brother loved to tell of the Lindsay who left a comfortable English
benefice to guide a little flock in the wilderness; of the farmer who,
with his two sons, ambushed a dozen Indians who attacked his house in
the Pequot wars; of the young lieutenant who followed the desperate
fortunes of Paul Jones, and was cut in two by a cannon-ball from the
_Serapis_. Miss Emmeline took little interest in the pioneers and the
farmers of the family tree. Her tales were of the laces and jewels of
Barbara Wolcott, wife of the attorney-general; of the splendid plate
lost in the mansion of the great-great-uncle in New Jersey, when
pillaged by the Hessians; of the fine estate of the one Tory member of
the family, whose daughter became the wife of Lord Stanley of Stanley
Hall, Roebuckshire. Aunt Emmeline hoped that Wolcott would exemplify the
fine manners and superior breeding of his be-ruffled ancestors; Mr.
Lindsay that he might show some traces of the good sense, courage, and
sterling worth of the builders and defenders of the colony. And in this
hulking, overgrown fellow, no longer a boy and not yet a man, both felt
some disappointment.

A few days were required to get the family used to solid earth again,
and for picking up the threads of existence severed two years before.
Meantime Mr. Lindsay made inquiries for a school for his son. He himself
believed in the public schools, not as some of his neighbors, in theory
and for other people’s children, but in theory and for his own. Mr.
Lindsay had ever the courage of his convictions. So strong was this
faith that Mrs. Lindsay, who favored a private school, and Aunt
Emmeline, who adored St. Susan’s, had each abandoned her own pet scheme
for “little Wolcott,” in the conviction that the public school was
inevitable. When, therefore, the head of the family returned one day
with the news that Junior, on account of the irregularity of his
previous training, and the inflexible system which the public schools
maintained, could not prepare at the Latin School without great loss of
time, the discussion of schools over Junior’s head, or rather under his
nose, became serious. With the public school out of the field, each lady
thought to see her own choice adopted. Miss Emmeline’s arguments, boiled
down, were that Dr. Cummin, at the head of St. Susan’s, was “such a good
man” and some very nice boys went there,—boys, that is, of approved
mothers and grandfathers,—and they certainly came back with lovely
manners. Mrs. Lindsay urged that the private school offered good
instruction, the companionship of boys of the neighborhood, and what was
to her of much more account, the opportunity to keep the fledgling a
little longer at home. Mr. Lindsay listened, questioned, and like a wise
man took time to consider and talk with his friends.

And here was the undoing of both the fond mamma and the solicitous aunt.
Mr. Lindsay met Friend Number One at his club at luncheon.

“Do you know anything about schools?” asked the father. “I am looking
for the best place in which to put my son. I hear that St. Susan’s is
very highly recommended.”

Number One looked at him a moment in thoughtful silence. “Do you? Yes, I
suppose some people must recommend it.”

“I infer that you do not. What do you know against it?”

“I know this,” replied the man, energetically; “my nephew entered
Harvard last fall from St. Susan’s with a reputation for piety and
goodness that any saint might have envied. In three months that fellow
had gone to pieces in the temptations of the unaccustomed life like a
rotten ship dashed by a hurricane against a reef. He was about as well
fitted for the freedom the college offers as I am for the prize ring.
Why don’t you put your boy into a good private school right here in the
city?”

A little later Mr. Lindsay fell in with Friend Number Two. “Do you know
anything about private schools in Boston?”

“Private schools? Yes, there are two or three good ones here,—a little
snobbish, of course, but good schools none the less. Ask Tom Smith about
them. He’s got two boys in one of them.”

But Mr. Lindsay had no intention of consulting Tom Smith. Snobbishness
was his pet aversion; the very mention of the possibility aroused a
vehement prejudice. Without stopping to inquire whether the charge were
true or false, he abandoned all thought of a private school for the
lordly Wolcott Junior, and drifted on to Friend Number Three with mind
swept clear of all prepossessions.

Friend Number Three had positive convictions. He was an enthusiastic
partisan of the rah-rah sort, alive to the merits and blind to the
faults of the school of his boyhood. He knew exactly the place for
Wolcott Junior, democratic, cosmopolitan, of high standard of
scholarship, with a system of government tending to develop moral
independence, and boasting a history rich in names of men of action and
service. It happened that the merits which the loyal alumnus ascribed to
Seaton were precisely those which Mr. Lindsay thought it most important
that a school should possess. It happened also that the next two men
consulted gave opinions which either negatively or positively supported
Number Three. As a result and despite the preferences of the ladies of
the family, Wolcott’s school future was determined. Within a week after
his arrival in Boston he was packing his trunk for Seaton.

It need hardly be said that this method of selecting a school, while
unquestionably typical, would not always lead to the same result. Friend
Number Four, for example, might have contradicted Number Three and
Number One, and by lauding St. Susan’s to the skies, have sent the son
of the house to the school of Aunt Emmeline’s choice. Or, if the case
had been thoroughly investigated, the private school might easily have
won the favorable decision. As it was, Mr. Lindsay, in considering the
boy and his needs as well as his own ideals, proceeded rather more
rationally than the average parent. Many a boy is placed in a particular
school merely on the strength of a specious advertisement. Some are
ejected from home rather than sent to school, the destination being of
much less consequence to the selfish parents than their own relief from
responsibility. Others again, through unwholesome dread of evil
influences, are turned over to a family of under-masters who wait on
them and think for them and keep them in prolonged infancy. But these
are extremes of neglect or solicitude. In the end the school is but the
opportunity, the vital force is the boy. If the boy is wrong, no school
can make him right. Given the right boy in the hands of competent,
conscientious men, and the form of the school makes little difference.
So thought Mr. Lindsay as he said good-by to his strapping son at Seaton
station; and he boarded the train with a clear conscience.



                               CHAPTER II
                             ACQUAINTANCES


Lindsay was registered as a middler. Being weak in Latin and Greek, and
strong in French and German, he found himself spread over three classes,
pushed ahead in modern languages, and degraded among the juniors in
classics. To this mixture of classes and associates he resigned himself
the more readily, as he honestly purposed to do what the school
authorities advised, maintain his position in the middle and senior
subjects and work his way up out of the junior class. But the experience
of the first few days did not strengthen his confidence. To hear these
young boys rattle off declensions and principal parts, run through
synopses as he might run through the alphabet, give glib translations of
passages through which he must toil his slow and painful way; to see how
with every question on ablative or subjunctive, the air quivered with
the hands of those eager to answer—all this, with the distractions of
strange boys and their stranger acts added to the bewilderment of
unfamiliar surroundings, plunged him in despair.

In the junior class were the Peck twins, Duncan and Donald. If ever two
lads started in life with an exactly equal chance, it was this
light-haired, snub-nosed, solemn-eyed pair. Externally as much alike as
bullets cast in the same mould, they wore clothes of the same material
and cut, bought neckties and hats by pairs, and from the spirit of fun
which twinship seems to develop even in the sedatest couple, habitually
appeared in the same dress at the same time. In actions, too, they were
a unit; they attended the same recitations, held the same views, trained
with the same set, and, in general, shared each other’s joys and sorrows
and stood by each other in time of trouble in a manner most unusual to
brothers.

Unfortunately, however, alike as were their appearance and interests,
nature had endowed them with very different mental characteristics.
Donald was an excellent scholar, in fact almost bookish, easily ranking
among the best. Duncan on the contrary, who inclined decidedly to
heaviness, bumped along at the bottom of the class, carried by the
general momentum. If he ever was ready with an answer in the class room,
the chances were that he knew as much about it as the receiver of a
telephone knows about the message which passes through it. A prompt and
correct answer in Duncan’s mouth was suspicious; it usually came from
Donald, or some other sympathetic friend who understood the art of
conveying information undetected, and who shared the delusion that in
this way he was performing a neighborly service. Among boys who really
knew the twins, the heavy Duncan with his slow, droll ways and never
failing good nature was unquestionably the favorite. As a rule, however,
since the majority could not distinguish them when they were together,
and only their most intimate friends could identify them singly, the
qualities of the brothers were lumped together in a composite, and
credited to “the Pecks.” That this represented the just point of view,
the conduct of the pair clearly showed, for each was a loyal admirer of
the other, and inevitably shared in the other’s glory or disgrace.

The system of mutual coöperation which the twins regularly followed was
responsible for Lindsay’s first failure in recitation. It occurred in
junior Greek. The Pecks sat side by side as subdued as sleeping kittens,
while Mr. Warner passed along the row with his questions. Donald
responded promptly and correctly. The instructor beamed with
satisfaction over the success of his method of instruction; the answers
were flawless. Then Tom Riley—Wolcott did not know him at that time—had
doubts about a contraction, and persisted in his doubts until Mr. Warner
was forced to leave his chair and chalk the forms in plain view upon the
board. The moment the instructor’s back was turned, the twins quietly
shifted places, and waited in complacent patience until Riley was
satisfied, when a second flawless recitation was credited to the Peck
family. And while Wolcott was staring and trying to make out what was
happening and which boy was reciting, the questions had passed from the
twins’ row to his own, and he suddenly heard his own name called, felt
the blood rush to his face as he strove to find the place and fix his
fluttering attention. There was a moment of terrible silence, while the
lines of type blurred themselves over the section marks, and the page
seemed to swell and decrease like a landscape behind a moving lens; then
the impatient hands began again their furious waving, another boy gave
the answer which was hovering on Wolcott’s lips, and the fire of
questions swept on to another row. It was certainly the fault of the
twins.

In the middle class Lindsay sat between Laughlin and Marchmont, two
neighbors as opposite as north and south, while just beyond was Poole.
Laughlin was captain of the Eleven for the next year, a big,
broad-shouldered, heavy-featured fellow of twenty-one, with a face on
which rested the glow of rare physical health, and massive hands in
which any book but the biggest lexicon seemed out of place. His clothes,
though neither of fine quality nor of good fit, were well brushed and
clean, and the broad thumb which lay at the folding of the book,
covering completely the double margin, if roughened and hardened by
exposure and labor, still gave evidence of the personal neatness of its
owner. David Laughlin had not a quick mind,—that one could read in the
expression of his face, in which honesty and determination were more
apparent than alertness. But he learned his lessons as thoroughly as he
knew how, gave his whole attention to the class-room work, and as a
result ranked above many who were by nature cleverer.

Marchmont, Lindsay’s other neighbor, has been called the opposite of
Laughlin. He was tall and slim, possessed delicate, intelligent features
and white, shapely hands; wore clothes of fine material which in
smoothness of fit and moderation of style showed the skilled hand of the
city tailor; took a negligent interest in the recitation, and answered
questions addressed to him with sufficient readiness to satisfy the
instructor without displaying an unseemly eagerness for learning.

At the first glance Wolcott made up his mind that he should like
Marchmont and dislike Laughlin. The impression which the latter
conveyed, of roughness and brute force and determination to make his way
in spite of early disadvantages, was repellent to the young man fresh
from a European city where distinctions of class and wealth are
everywhere magnified. Marchmont, on the other hand, had the appearance
and manners of one familiar with the usages of good society.

Lindsay passed out of his first recitation with the middlers feeling
much alone among the jostling crowd of chattering boys. Many glanced at
him with curiosity, taking quick measure of the newcomer, but few wasted
words upon him; an unknown boy stands at zero in the Seaton world.
Laughlin brushed against him, nodded, said “Hello!” and asked if he had
ever played foot-ball. When Lindsay modestly answered “a little,”
Laughlin gave a sharp look at his shoulders and arms, and turned,
apparently indifferent, to talk with another boy. Poole, a quiet,
dignified lad, whose importance in the school world one could guess from
the eagerness with which others addressed him, seemed disposed to be
polite to the newcomer, gave him his hand and the information that he
was “in the best class in school.” Marchmont joined him in the corridor
and accompanied him to the entrance of Hale, where Wolcott had slipped
into a room recently vacated. Yes, Marchmont was decidedly the most
attractive fellow he had seen.

A senior, named Tompkins, living next door, was our hero’s first caller.
The visit was an unusual honor, had Wolcott but known it, for new boys
are ordinarily left alone until they have shown themselves worth
knowing. Tompkins introduced himself and straddled a rocking-chair.

“Well, how do you like it as far as you’ve got?” asked the senior,
glancing around the room to see what kind of things Lindsay had brought
with him, and then making a general summing-up on the new boy himself.

“Pretty well,” replied Lindsay. “I don’t feel quite at home yet.”

“You’ll be homesick for about a week, dead homesick. After that you’ll
begin to get used to things, like a prisoner to the jail. In two or
three months you’ll think you’ve always lived here, and by the time
you’ve been here a couple of years you’ll be so fond of the place that
you’ll hate to leave it to go to college. Where do you live when you’re
at home?”

“Boston.”

“Why, you’re right in your own dooryard! You’ve no call to be homesick.
It might be different if you lived in a cañon twenty-five hundred miles
away, as I do.”

“I didn’t say I was homesick,” protested Lindsay.

“That’s a fact, you didn’t! I wonder how I got the idea we were talking
about homesickness.”

Wolcott looked sharply at Tompkins, suspicious, as every new boy in
strange surroundings, that he was being played upon. But Tompkins merely
blinked in return with his blank four-cornered eyes, and Wolcott’s
suspicions vanished.

“I should think it would grow monotonous after a while,” he said, “just
studying and reciting and going to chapel and the gymnasium.”

Tompkins grinned. “Beastly monotonous; but that programme doesn’t exist
outside the school catalogue. The fact is there’s so everlasting much
going on that it seems wicked to waste time on such ordinary things as
studying and going to recitations. That’s what Smith and Wilder
thought.”

And as Lindsay naturally wished to know about Smith and Wilder, Tompkins
consented to explain.

“They had this room earlier in the year. Smith came all the way from
Omaha for the benefits of the institution. He cut four recitations in
two weeks and the third week he was on his way back to the West. Then
Wilder turned up and took the room. He wasn’t a strong boy, his mother
said, and she got him excused from gymnasium on a doctor’s certificate.
I never heard whether all the cigarettes he smoked were on the doctor’s
certificate, too, but he proved too sickly to stand the strain, and
after a couple of months was sent home to his mamma. You’re the third.”

Lindsay smiled uneasily. “I hope there isn’t a hoodoo on the place.”

“Oh, no, nothing special. They fire here by platoons. According to Tom
Riley this is a record year,—fifty-two to date—and the firing season is
just under way. What are you, middler or senior? I saw you to-day in
senior French.”

“I’m a mixture of senior and middler, with two subjects in the junior,”
replied Lindsay, who was beginning to feel ashamed of his amphibious
position.

“Then you must be with the two Pecks. I’d give a silver dollar to be
with that combination. They’re more fun than a box of monkeys!”

“They room in this entry, don’t they?” asked Lindsay.

“Very much so, and they’re always running in and out, singly and in
pairs, and always up to some shine or other. If you didn’t know that
there were only two, you’d feel sure there was at least a bushel of
them.”

“Instead of half,” said Lindsay, smiling.

“Just half,” returned Tompkins. “Know any fellows yet?”

“Two or three have spoken to me. Marchmont, who seems a very nice
fellow, and Poole, and that big Laughlin.”

Tompkins rose. “You’d better be a bit careful about making friends until
you know who’s who. In a school like this it isn’t so easy to shake
friends as it is to make ’em. But you won’t be going wrong to tie up
with Phil Poole, if he gives you the chance.”

But Lindsay’s thoughts were not so much with the present members of the
school as with the exiles. “If they fire as many as you say, I shouldn’t
think there’d be any bad ones left.”

“Oh, bless you! fellows aren’t fired merely because they’re bad! Some
are unlucky, and some are lazy, and some are considered better off
elsewhere, and some are too big blockheads to keep. There are really
only two punishments in this school, firing with warning and firing
without. So they drop off pretty fast. The main thing, if you want to
stay here, is to behave yourself and do your work. Come and see me.”

And Tompkins withdrew his body from between the door and jamb, where it
had been resting during his last speech, leaving the new boy with many
unuttered questions on his lips and much wonderment in his mind.



                              CHAPTER III
                            THE NEW MANDOLIN


Wolcott’s acquaintance grew apace, though limited mainly to fellows of
his own class section or dormitory entry, or of his own table at the
dining hall. His section presented a wide range of Seaton personality.
Tompkins, who having failed his preliminaries had fallen into this
section in two subjects, declared that it had samples of everything the
place offered except Japanese, Cubans, and twins—and the privilege of
twins Wolcott enjoyed in another class.

There were the few greater athletes—members of the school teams; the
many minor athletes—members of the class teams; the natural students who
did nothing but study; the natural loafers who studied as little as
possible; the son of the multi-millionaire with resources unlimited; the
son of the laborer, with no resources except his own head and hands; the
religious boy with a strong purpose, who helped keep on a high level the
moral tone of the school; the rattlehead without purpose, always on the
verge of expulsion; the literary boy, the musical boy, the embryo
artist, the natural clown, the politician. With most of these Wolcott
was soon on speaking terms, aided in his knowledge of them by the
personal anecdotes with which any general conversation bristled.

Marchmont’s desire to be friendly was shown in an early recitation, when
in a very inconspicuous way he supplied Wolcott with a date for the
question in Greek history which the instructor had suddenly shot at him.
To tell the truth, Wolcott was not entirely satisfied with this method
of reciting. He meant to inform Marchmont that he preferred to answer
his own questions without assistance. After the recitation, however,
Laughlin presumed to take him aside and tell him in very plain language
that it wasn’t a good plan to let fellows prompt him in class; it was
against the rules and risky, and anyway didn’t pay in the long run.
Wolcott thanked the giver of this unasked advice with cool politeness
and head held high. And when, immediately after, Marchmont appeared at
his elbow and invited him to “come up to the room for a few minutes,” he
accepted with ostentatious alacrity, merely to show his disapproval of
the liberty which the football player had taken.

Marchmont’s very attractive quarters, on the second floor of a private
house, were fitted up in unusually good taste. The occupant was indeed a
very different fellow from Laughlin. It was evident that he had not
spent his summers at manual labor, and his winters in hard study and
close economy. Marchmont’s family belonged to the more pretentious
circles of New York society. He himself had already been in several
schools, had travelled more extensively than Wolcott, and spoke with an
air of worldly experience and wisdom with which the new boy could not
but be impressed. As Wolcott hurried home for the geometry lesson, for
which he had meant to save two good hours, he was dismayed to find that
his call had extended well into the second hour.

The next day Marchmont made a return visit. On Lindsay’s table lay the
mandolin which he had hardly touched since he entered school. Marchmont
took up the instrument and lightly fingered the strings.

“Has a good tone,” remarked the visitor. “Get it in Hamburg?”

“Yes. Do you play?”

“A little. I belong to the Mandolin Club. Play something.”

He held out the mandolin to its owner, who took it with reluctance and
with some clumsiness of touch, due rather to shyness than inability,
drummed through one of the modern banjo airs which all amateurs
inevitably learn.

Marchmont nodded approval. “That’s good. Do you play by note?”

“Yes, I think I can do better with the notes,” replied Lindsay, sinking
back in his chair with obvious relief. “I don’t remember things very
well.”

“You ought to be in the Mandolin Club,” said Marchmont. He took up the
mandolin and played over a few bars of the music that Lindsay had just
performed—carelessly and with his thoughts evidently upon some other
subject, yet with an ease and finish that called to Lindsay’s lips an
exclamation of admiration.

“It’s the proper club to belong to, if you’re musical,” went on
Marchmont; “has the nice fellows in it, you know—fellows like Poole and
Planter and Reynolds. The common crowd go into the Glee Club. Laughlin
is head bellower there.”

“Can he sing any?” asked Lindsay, smiling.

“About as you would expect from a big, rough bull like him. You know it
takes something more than a deep voice and a big chest to make a
singer.”

“I don’t suppose I could get into the Mandolin Club,” said Lindsay,
longingly.

Marchmont considered. “It’s pretty hard to get a fellow in at this time
of year. Of course, if you are a cracker-jack, the one and only great
player, the Club would probably stretch a little and let you in.”

“But I’m not,” said Lindsay.

Marchmont considered further. “I’ll tell you what,” he said at length,
“I have some influence in the Club, and I’ll try to persuade them that
you ought to come in. What can you play best?”

Lindsay enumerated the half-dozen tunes of his repertoire which he was
least likely to bungle.

“You take ‘Bluebell’ and practise it until you can do it asleep. Then
I’ll give Poole and Reynolds the notion that you’re a mandolin artist,
and bring them round to hear you. They’ll ask you what you can play, and
when you name several things, I’ll call for ‘Bluebell.’ You can have an
encore ready in case it’s demanded, and I’ll plan it so that the bell
will ring, or something happen to break off the trial at that point. I
think we can work it all right.”

Lindsay hesitated. “That doesn’t seem exactly a square deal.”

“Oh, it’s all right. You’ll do as well as most of ’em when you get in
and have some practice.”

For the next few days Lindsay toiled over “Bluebell,” until the occupant
of the room above began thumping on the floor whenever the familiar
strains sifted through to his ears. Then came the appointment of an hour
for the hearing, and the dreaded visitation of the critics. It was a
serious moment for the musician, when, after the little introductory
farce which Marchmont had arranged, he took his mandolin and boldly
launched forth on the hundredth presentation of “Bluebell.” What
mattered it if the last bars did receive a staccato accompaniment by
heels on the floor above? The committee were suitably impressed, heard
the encore with approval, and adjourned with the assurance that the
candidate should have their unanimous commendation—and the commendation
of the committee, Marchmont confided to him later in the day, was always
equivalent to an election. Lindsay shook his hand in a fervor of
gratitude.

That evening Poole walked up from the post office with Laughlin and
Durand.

“At last we’ve got another mandolin,” said Poole; “that new Lindsay. You
know we’ve been looking for one a long time.”

“Any good?” asked Durand.

“Not remarkable, but decidedly better than nothing. We’ve simply got to
have some one to make the balance. Marchmont has promised to help him,
too.”



                               CHAPTER IV
                          WEIGHED AND MEASURED


From this time on Wolcott began to feel himself a part of the Seaton
life. Through the Mandolin Club he added several very agreeable fellows
to his list of acquaintances, while his vanity was flattered by the
thought that he was no longer the last of four hundred, but one of a
selected few. As an immediate result he was thrown much more with
Marchmont, with whom he undertook to practise regularly, and soon became
intimate.

There was much in the character of Marchmont to impress the new boy. His
attitude was always that of a person superior to those about him. He
seemed to look up to no one,—instructor, scholar, senior, or athlete.
The faculty he regarded as good enough in their way, but narrow-minded.
Laughlin he either derided as a country boor, or contemptuously praised
as a Roman noble might have praised a successful gladiator. Tompkins was
a cowboy, Poole a prig, Planter a very decent sort of a fellow. Lindsay
he seemed to count as one of his own class—a distinction of which
Wolcott was made to feel the whole complimentary force.

In his general point of view Marchmont differed wholly from the average
Seatonian. He had no particular ambition, unless to get through school
without being expelled, or to slip safely into college. He cared little
about lessons, but much about the condition and the perfection of his
attire. He had no interest in athletics except as a passing show; his
notion of proper exercise was horseback riding and fencing. He could
talk, when necessary, on almost any subject, but his favorite topics
were automobiles, horse-races, and the theatre. While the democratic
spirit of the school did not please him and he found few fellows wholly
to his liking among his classmates, his chief grievances seemed to be
the food served at his boarding-house, and the necessity of getting up
for eight o’clock chapel. The first he tried to remedy by little messes
prepared in his room on a chafing dish; the second, being irremediable,
he had to endure. He was not popular, for his manners were too
supercilious to please the average boy, who is instinctively democratic
and always admires the fellow who can do something rather than the
fellow who claims to be something; but in a certain small coterie he
ranked as king.

Lindsay’s introduction to work in the gymnasium was a novel experience.
Here he was stripped, weighed, measured in height, girth of limbs and
chest; tested in strength of back and arms and legs. Later he was given
a chart with his measurements and strength plotted in lines upon it, so
as to show his relative condition compared with the average for his age;
and a card with directions as to the particular exercise which he needed
to develop his weaker parts. All this the boy took, as he took much that
was new to him in the school, with curiosity and temporary interest.

There was one circumstance, however, in connection with the examination,
that made a deeper impression. When the measurements and the testing
were over, Mr. Doane asked, “Did you ever play football?”

A week before entering school Wolcott would have answered immediately
“yes.” But he had heard so much, in the few days that he had spent at
Seaton, of the hard games played, of the great contests with Hillbury
about which the athletic life of the school centred, of the high
standard of the school teams, and what “playing football” really meant
to the Seatonian, that he had almost said “no.”

“A very little,” he replied.

“I think you have football in you,” went on the director. “By that I
mean that you have fine, solid organs, and muscles developing well;
while from the little I have seen of you, I should judge that you might
be quick. A heavy man who is quick is a prize to a football team. Should
you like to play?”

Wolcott’s eyes brightened. “Of course I should!”

“Then try to build yourself up as your card directs. You must strengthen
those abdominal muscles, and harden up your legs and arms. I suppose you
have heard of Nowell, who fitted here?”

“The old Harvard tackle?” asked Wolcott, eagerly.

The director nodded. “He was a fine type of the hard trainer. Whenever I
think of Nowell the picture in my mind is of a solid, brawny, determined
boy standing in the corner of the gymnasium where the heavy dumb-bells
lie, and swinging his pair of three-pounders the appointed number of
times. He did that in addition to his class exercise without shirking,
day in and day out, for months—stuck to it while the other fellows were
amusing themselves, till he got to be a regular gymnasium joke. Many a
time I’ve seen some rascal standing in front of him mimicking his
motions, and laughing at him. It was his turn to laugh when he made the
Harvard Varsity the second week he was on the field.”

“There aren’t many fellows with Nowell’s ability,” said Lindsay.

“There are not many with his determination,” corrected the instructor,
with a smile.

The next day Laughlin stopped Lindsay outside the academy. “I’ve been
talking with Mr. Doane about you,” said the captain. “He thinks you are
good material for football. I want you to take hold with us and try hard
to get yourself in shape to do well in the fall.”

“I don’t believe I could do much,” Wolcott replied doubtfully. In
reality he felt flattered and eager; yet the dictatorial abruptness of
the speech disconcerted him, and Marchmont’s criticisms of the plebeian
captain had left their impression on his mind.

“It is a question of trying, not of doing,” said Laughlin, seriously.
“You can’t tell what you may turn out to be, if you try. It’s a great
thing to win a Hillbury game; it’s fine just to play in one, but to
win,—win fairly and squarely, because your team’s better and plays
better,—why, it’s like winning a great battle.”

“But you didn’t win last fall.”

Laughlin’s heavy jaws came together. “No, we lost, and deserved to lose.
But it mustn’t happen twice. It won’t, if we take hold of it right and
get every man out ready to do his best and help the school on, whether
he makes the team or not. If you don’t make the first, you can play on
the second and learn football all the time and help a lot. A good second
goes far toward making a good first. Take hold with us and try, try as
Nowell did, and Melvin did, and big Curtis and all those fellows who
used to be here. It doesn’t so much matter whether you make the team or
not; if you don’t make it, a better man than you will, and the better
you are the better he’ll have to be to beat you out.”

Lindsay’s was one of those temperaments which kindle slowly from within;
the internal fire must burn fiercely before the blaze appears. The
captain’s words appealed to him and stirred him; and yet as his eye
rested on the gray flannel shirt, neat and fresh though it looked with
the harmonious black tie, and eminently appropriate as it really was to
the work that Laughlin was on his way to do, Marchmont’s sneers at the
“coal-heaver captain,” and sweeping condemnation of all attempts to tie
up socially “such fellows and fellows of our class,” came instantly to
his mind. Theoretically he had not accepted Marchmont’s sentiments;
practically they were already affecting the atmosphere of his ideas. The
thought of the cynic’s scornful laugh smothered his enthusiasm like a
wet blanket.

“I’ll think it over,” he said indifferently. “There really won’t be much
of anything to do until next fall.”

“There’s where you’re wrong,” replied Laughlin, earnestly. “What you can
do next fall depends on what you do now. Ask Doane, if you don’t believe
me. Every time you do your gymnasium work you want to think: this work
is for the eleven and the school. And when you’re tempted to do things
outside that you’d better not do, you want to think: this is the place
where the ‘no’ counts three times, for myself and the eleven and the
school. That’s the way Melvin did when he learned to kick, and he made
the Harvard Varsity in his freshman year just on his punting. That’s the
way we’ve got to do here. Football players don’t grow wild like
huckleberries in a pasture. They’re made, and made with hard work.”

“I’ll do what I can,” said Wolcott, carried away by the other’s
earnestness.

“Good! That’s the talk. Now I must be getting a move on, for I have two
furnaces to clean out this morning. We’ll talk about it some more in a
day or two.”

Later in the day Wolcott had a practice hour with Marchmont.

“I see you’re getting thick with Laughlin,” observed Marchmont, as he
adjusted the strings of his mandolin. “Going in for football?”

“He wants me to try,” answered Lindsay, non-committal.

“I hope you may like it,” returned Marchmont. “The idea of lying in the
mud with two or three foul, sweaty porkers clutching me by the neck
doesn’t appeal to me. There’s one good thing about athletics for such
fellows.”

“What’s that?”

“They get a bath a good deal more often than they otherwise would. Shall
we try something new to-day?”



                               CHAPTER V
                            IN THE GYMNASIUM


The winter gymnastic exhibition occurred in Lindsay’s third week at
school. Influenced by Marchmont’s contemptuous declaration that such
things were a bore, he had at first decided to stay away; but a lack of
more attractive occupation for the half holiday, and a strong though
unconfessed curiosity to see what was doing, drove him to a change of
plan. In the gymnasium he found himself in good company, for Poole and
Tompkins, who had seemed rather inclined to let him alone since his
intimacy with Marchmont had developed, sat near him, and in their common
interest in the events were more cordial and friendly than they had ever
been.

Everything was novel and delightful to the new boy; and the older ones,
who had seen the same thing before, seemed as much interested as he.
What struck him most was their enthusiasm, their eager interest that
every boy should do well, the pride they showed in the work of their
fellows because they were their fellows, because what they did was in a
way a school achievement.

First came some kind of a squad drill. Then Guy Morgan and Durand,
seniors, and Eddy, a middler, gave a performance on the horizontal bar.
The first was the expert, as every one knew, but he kept himself in the
background until the others had shown their skill, when, after a few
less difficult feats, he brought the event to a pleasing end by his own
peculiar triumph,—the giant swing. He was the only boy in school who was
master of that swing, and though many had seen him perform it a dozen
times, they were never tired of watching him.

To-day, with the exhilaration of the public performance, the lithe,
strong body seemed alive with nervous elasticity. A quick snap brought
him waist to the bar; a hard fling with his feet backward lifted him
into position for the downward swing, which in turn was to furnish the
momentum necessary for the rise on the other side. Downward he swept at
full length, rigid yet mobile, keeping his feet well behind; up he
floated on the other side of the circle until nearly at the zenith, when
a quick shift of hands on the bar and a cunning snap of the body carried
the dragging feet suddenly forward and left the gracefully curving
figure for an instant poised on the hands aloft in perfect balance. Then
slowly the athlete gathered headway again for the new descent and the
new rise to another balance. It was no less the accuracy in calculating
the momentum to be gained in the downward rush and spent in the upward
rise than the grace and strength and deliberateness of the motions that
gave the performance its perfect finish.

“That was just right!” Tompkins was saying, as the applause died away.
“And how dead easy it looked! You’d never think it took him two years to
learn it, would you?”

“I don’t know,” Poole answered thoughtfully. “As far as I can make out,
it takes a lot of hard work and practice to do anything in athletics,
anyway. That’s why so few really try. Most of them are too lazy to do
the plugging.”

“How that little Eddy has come on!” said Tompkins, taking up another
subject with the usual boy abruptness. “You’d never think he was the
same fellow that used to dope around Bosworth’s room last year. You’ve
had a hand in that change, I guess.”

Poole smiled and shook his head. “It’s no work of mine. All I’ve done is
to encourage him occasionally.”

“Well, he hangs to you like a Man Friday, anyway,” answered Tompkins.

So they chattered on through the tumbling and parallel bars, the rope
climbing and the pyramid building. At last the centre was cleared and
the mats were adjusted for the wrestling. There were only two or three
bouts, and these short—just enough to show the quickness and strength of
the contestants. The last pair were Durand and a larger fellow named
Frieze. For a few seconds they eyed each other like two warlike cats,
each crouching slightly with arms held close to the chest, and edging in
a short arc of a circle round his antagonist. Then Durand made a feint,
Frieze caught for a hold, and in an instant they were flopping on the
mats like two puppies at play; yet apparently to no purpose, for both
were soon on their feet, breathing harder and again cautiously edging
for an opening. Frieze made the next start, leaping for a neck hold.
Durand ducked under, and Frieze, folding his body down on the back of
his opponent so that the two together formed an animated vaulting-horse,
and putting all his strength into the effort to sweep Durand off his
legs, rushed him furiously across the cushioned space. In a moment more
they were two yards off the mat on the hard floor of the gymnasium.

[Illustration: DURAND ... WALKED DELIBERATELY BACK TO THE CUSHIONED
SPACE.—_Page 47._]

The official reached out to stop the absorbed strugglers and bring them
back to safer territory. But Durand suddenly straightened up, still
clutching the legs of his bewildered antagonist, and lifted him on his
shoulders like a bag of meal. Thus balanced head downward in the air,
Frieze clung fast, not knowing what to do in the unusual predicament;
while Durand with rare presence of mind walked deliberately back to the
cushioned space and threw his helpless burden flat on the mattress with
a force that carried the thrower himself in a somersault over the
prostrate form.

A burst of spontaneous applause smote the timbers of the roof.

“Wasn’t that great!” cried Poole, turning with glowing face to Lindsay.
“Why, if Durand had smashed him on the floor out there, he’d have broken
every bone in the fellow’s body. That’s the bully thing about Durand: he
always knows what he’s about. What a quarter-back he’d make if he were
only big enough for the game! Just think what he’d be if he were as big
as you are!”

“A second Nowell,” said Tompkins.

“Such a fellow would have a reputation in school, wouldn’t he?” asked
Wolcott.

“You can bet your hat he would,” replied Tompkins, “and out of school,
too.”

“Tommy knows,” observed Poole, with a meaning smile. “He’s pitched on a
winning nine.”

“And never will again,” declared Tompkins, tragically.

The words were evidently spoken in jest, yet underneath, but half
covered by the air of mock tragedy assumed, rang clear the real tone of
bitter disappointment and regret. Poole said not a word in reply.
Wolcott himself, unfamiliar as the school spirit still was to him,
understood partially, and was silent. He had heard among the first items
of school gossip that Tompkins, who had pitched for the school the year
before, had failed his preliminaries and been forbidden by the Faculty
to play again. The tale, related among a dozen others, had at the time
made little impression on him. Now, with the example before him of the
glory of what was really but minor athletic achievement; with these two
gloomy faces beside him, heavy and despondent at the reminder of
Tompkins’s disability, he got his first true notion of the serious part
played by athletics in the life of the school.

Instantly Laughlin’s words came back to him, “It is a great thing to win
a Hillbury game; it’s fine just to play in one!” The gymnasium suddenly
stretched to the dimensions of a football field; the circle of
good-natured spectators swelled to a mighty crowd, filling the benches,
tier on tier all about the great rectangle, enthusiastic, wild, hoarse
with cheering; and in the centre, watched by thousands of eyes, he
stood, Wolcott Lindsay, holding his place in the line of red. The signal
is for him, the ball comes back, with one tremendous impulse in which
his whole body seems to bound like a mighty steel spring he sweeps his
antagonist back and opens a way for the ball!

It was the impulse of the athletic temperament, the call to action of
nerves and muscles yearning for the conflict. But Wolcott knew only that
it was a vision—a vision that quickly faded, leaving him to the sad
reaction of fact. There was no Lindsay the football player, but only
Lindsay the tenderfoot, the calf, who had no more chance of making the
eleven than Marchmont or the twins or little thirteen-year-old Simmons,
who sat in the corner seat among the juniors, and answered all the
questions.

Outside he met Laughlin, flannel-shirted and mittened.

“How was the show?” asked the captain. “Good?”

“Fine! Weren’t you there?”

“No; had to shovel snow all the afternoon.”

Laughlin went whistling on to his room and his lessons.

“Snow shovellers and furnace cleaners!” thought Lindsay, bitterly.
“Those are the fellows who make football players. I guess March isn’t so
far out when he calls them brutes and bullies. It can’t be a gentleman’s
game.”

Almost unintentionally he took the direction of Marchmont’s room.

“Well, how did it turn out? Dull as a sermon, wasn’t it?”

“Not exactly,” replied Lindsay, hesitating to own his opinion in the
face of authority. “Some of it I thought pretty good.”

Marchmont laughed: “That’s because it’s new to you. The poorest circus
has it beaten by a mile. I’ve read a novel ’most through this
afternoon.”

Lindsay moved toward the door. He really had no reason for a call, and
many reasons for being at home at his desk.

“What’s your hurry? You can’t study after the dead strain of that kind
of a show. Let’s have a couple of hands of poker. We’ll make the ante
small.”

Marchmont opened a drawer for the cards, while Lindsay picked up his
hat.

“I really must go,” said the visitor, shamefacedly. “I’ve got work I
really ought to do.”

“Well, sorry you can’t stay,” replied Marchmont, smiling politely.
“We’ll try it some other day.”

Lindsay trudged home in ill humor, cursing himself for not having the
courage to say frankly that he did not play cards for money, and
conscious that Marchmont understood him full well. All together it had
been an afternoon of very mixed impressions.



                               CHAPTER VI
                        INDUSTRIES OF THE TWINS


On the Sunday after the gymnasium exhibition came a snowstorm. It began
long before dawn and piled the snow higher and higher all through the
hours of daylight, slackening only as the early twilight fell. Marchmont
was not the only student who found in the weather an excuse for staying
away from church; but he was possibly alone in preparing his luncheon at
home, and so establishing his excuse on a consistent basis. At his
boarding-house the Sunday dinner came fortunately at night.

Wolcott tucked his trousers into his high arctics and ploughed joyously
through the heavy drifts, his cheeks tingling, his heart beating strong,
his whole muscular system delighting in resistance to the elements.
There were few people at church. Tompkins presently came in and dropped
into a place at the end of the pew bestowing on Wolcott a nod and a
droll, friendly smile. In that droll smile of Tompkins, Lindsay could
measure the progress of his five weeks in school. Very different had
been its effect a month before, as it had flashed abruptly over the
Westerner’s puggy countenance in that same pew. Now Wolcott could
receive it as from a friend, and return it with some sense of equality.
Then his cheeks had burned deep red with humiliation at the trick which
had been played on him.

It was a very simple trick. On his first Sunday in Seaton, Wolcott had
found on entering church a pew with a single occupant, a light-haired,
broad-faced fellow in the somewhat worn clothes which Tompkins clung to
by preference, as to old friends. The rusty youth politely moved along
to make room, and Wolcott took his seat close by the aisle. As the
ushers appeared with the plates for the offering, Wolcott, whose father
had instructed him to do his part toward supporting the church which he
attended, glanced guardedly about to learn if possible the standard of
giving which prevailed among the Seaton students. His neighbor, whose
appearance certainly gave no indication of wealth, drew out a bill and
held it in conspicuous readiness for the plate. The newcomer reasoned
quickly, “If that fellow gives a dollar, my part is at least two.” He
had just time to reach this conclusion, and hurriedly fish a bill from
his pocket, when the plate was before him. Dropping his two dollars into
it, with a sense of dignity maintained and duty done, he passed it on
for his schoolmate’s contribution. The latter, however, had suddenly
changed his purpose. He took the plate gravely, deposited a cent upon
it, and solemnly handed it back. Then, with a half-perceptible wink at
his gaping neighbor, and his droll smile breaking for a brief moment the
expressionless expanse of his face, he composed himself for the rest of
the service. As for Wolcott, he did not need to hear the smothered
chuckle behind him to be assured that his neighbor had deliberately
cajoled him. He did not regret the money, for it was spent in a good
cause; but to prove easy game for a booby like that was a serious blow
to his dignity.

The next day, knowing that the incident would go the rounds, he had
decided to make the best of it and start the tale himself. Poole heard
it with a broad grin of genuine delight.

“Just like Tommy! You ought to have seen him last year before Melvin
squelched him. We were all dead sure he’d be fired. He’s comparatively
harmless now.”

“I just wish he’d tried some one else, that’s all,” said Lindsay,
haughtily.

Poole laughed and glanced keenly at his companion. “You mustn’t take it
so seriously. There’s nothing personal about it.”

“I suppose he thought I looked rather simple,” said Wolcott, with a
smile that seemed a bit forced.

“Not at all. He knew you weren’t used to things yet, and so he tried his
little game. You ought to see him and the twins. There’s nothing simple
about them!”

“Does he try his tricks on them?”

“Does he? Well, I guess! They’re giving it back and forth all the time.
There hasn’t been a week since the Pecks entered school when Tommy
wasn’t laying for the Pecks or the Pecks for Tommy. Just keep tabs on
’em and you’ll see.”

And for the next few days Wolcott had kept tabs, as well as was possible
for a fellow who was still groping bewildered in the maze of new
experiences. One evening he dropped into the Pecks’ room to ask about a
lesson. The boys were laboring at their desks with a great air of
diligence. They looked up eagerly as he opened the door, and then
glanced at each other and laughed.

Wolcott, with the self-consciousness of a new boy, and with the
recollection of his increased contribution still fresh, turned violently
red. “What are you laughing at?” he demanded, determined that at any
rate these two youngsters should not flout him.

“Oh, nothing,” returned Peck Number One, whom Wolcott assumed to be
Duncan. “We thought it was some one else.” Then the pair laughed
together, and Wolcott knew that his fears were groundless.

“Just stay here awhile and you’ll see some fun,” said Number Two.
“There, they’re coming out now!”

A door opened farther up the hall, there was the sound of voices, then
of stamping and loud words.

“They’re trying to get ’em up!” said Number One, giggling excitedly.

Number Two tiptoed to the door and opening it slightly let in the sound
of scraping and maledictions. “For editors of the _Lit_, they use pretty
poor language,” he said.

Wolcott could repress his curiosity no longer.

“I think I’ll go out and see what’s up,” he said. “If there’s anything
doing, I should like a sight of it.”

In front of Tompkins’s door was a group of four, bending over several
pairs of rubbers. Tompkins on his knees was laboring with a screw-driver
to loosen one from the floor.

“Can I help you?” asked Lindsay, with mock politeness. The contribution
trick still rankled in his memory.

“Yes, go and drown those two Pecks!” growled the irate Tompkins, as he
freed one rubber from the floor and attacked another. “They’ve screwed
down the whole lot. I’d like to wear out every blessed rubber on their
backs!”

“How do you know they did it?” asked Lindsay, much interested.

“Because I saw one as I came up,” said Planter, eagerly. “I was late to
the meeting and almost ran over one of them right near the door.”

“Which one?”

“Yes, which!” grumbled Tompkins, “the one with the mole on his
shoulder-blade or the one without? Of course he doesn’t know which.
They’re as much alike as two leaves on a tree. The only thing to do is
to lynch them both.”

Lindsay returned to the Pecks’ room, where the twins were waiting in
gleeful suspense.

“Who are they, anyway?” asked Wolcott.

“The editors of the _Literary Monthly_,” answered Donald, pompously,
“meeting for the first time with the new member, Mr. Tompkins.”

“I wish they’d print their parting remarks on the rubber question,”
chuckled Duncan. “I guess ’twould be the last number of the _Lit_ that
board would publish.”

The sounds from without now indicated that the rubbers had been rescued,
and on the feet of their owners were travelling down the stairs.
Presently the door shook under a tremendous thump, and the angry
Tompkins appeared on the threshold. He was really angry, there was no
disguising the fact. The twins looked and trembled,—momentarily
trembled,—for the presence of their heavy-limbed caller soon reassured
them, and their awe before the senior’s wrath was no match for their
glee at his discomfiture. So they grinned up at him with tantalizing
coolness, and Donald, who was nearest the door, invited him to sit down.

“I didn’t come here to sit down,” Tompkins began furiously; “I came to
punch your two heads for you!”

“Very kind of you, I’m sure,” said Duncan. “You don’t mind telling us
why, I hope?”

“I don’t need to. You know what I mean too blamed well. You screwed down
those rubbers in front of my door. Planter caught one of you at it.”

“Which one?” asked Donald, with a snicker.

“How does he know?” retorted the angry senior. “It makes no difference,
anyway. One’s as bad as the other, whichever did it. If I thrash you
both, I can’t go far wrong.”

“That wouldn’t be square,” said Duncan. “If one of us did it, that one
ought to be punished; but you’ve got to prove him guilty. Isn’t that
right, Lindsay?”

Lindsay nodded; he owed Tompkins one himself.

Tompkins snorted. “If you think you’re always going to crawl out of that
hole, you’re mistaken. Just keep on with your monkey tricks, and one of
these days one of you’ll wake up with a black eye, and then for a couple
of weeks you can be told apart.”

On this prospect the Peck brothers had no comment to offer. So Tompkins
continued less violently: “I don’t care so much about what you do to me;
when you strike at my friends, it’s a different matter. They come to see
me, and get their rubbers punched full of holes. I tell you I won’t
stand for it.”

“I’ll tell you what, Tommy!” exclaimed Duncan, swelling with a great
idea, “let’s start a subscription to buy them some new ones. We’ll get
two long sheets of foolscap, head them ‘Subscriptions to buy new Rubbers
for the Editors of the _Lit_,’ and send them round. A cent apiece all
over school will pay the bill and more.”

“I guess that won’t be necessary,” said Tompkins, who had no desire to
become a school joke. “The thing can’t be settled in that way.”

“It’ll pay up for that gym scheme you put up on us,” suggested Donald.

“Overpay,” said Tompkins, significantly, as he turned to go. “I’m owing
you now.”

Only a few weeks had passed since these things happened, and yet, as
Wolcott sat in church that stormy morning waiting for the service to
begin, these scenes and others flitted before his mind like
recollections of a remote period. He had learned much in the short
interval of ways and places and fellow-students. Poole, Durand, Planter,
Tompkins, and the twins he counted friends; and with Marchmont he was
intimate. The teachers he knew in name and lineage, history,
peculiarities, faults, and virtues. He no longer mentioned them to his
associates as Professor A and Dr. B and Mr. C; they were Peter and
Swipesy and Moore, and so on down to the unfortunate latest comer, Mr.
Owen, who struggled thrice daily against fearful odds in Room 10.

On the next day the sky was again clear, and Wolcott as soon as his
first recitation was over put on his snowshoes and started out for an
experimental tramp, in preparation for the expedition of the Snowshoe
Club in the afternoon. Being out of practice, and quite well aware that
he presented a not altogether graceful figure, he took a cross-cut over
the garden fences to an outlying field. As he passed the boarding-house
where Laughlin waited on table, he glanced up at the kitchen window, and
beheld the broad chest and massive face fronting a dish pan, and the big
hands working with cloth and plates. The captain nodded cordially, but
Wolcott hardly returned the greeting.

Dish washing! That was certainly the limit. A school captain washing
dishes! Shovelling snow, tending furnaces, could be forgiven; but dish
washing, never!



                              CHAPTER VII
                            NO THOROUGHFARE


That same afternoon Marchmont and Whitely were amusing themselves in
Stone’s room; that is, Whitely and Stone were pretending to study, while
Marchmont, who was above such pretences, was twirling Stone’s geometry
on the point of a pencil.

“Did you fellows know that Rogers isn’t coming back?”

Stone looked up from his work. “Let that book alone, can’t you!” he
exclaimed, as he snatched the geometry from Marchmont’s pencil. “Drill
holes in your own books!—How do you know that?”

“Jack Butler had a letter from him this morning. He’s gone abroad with
his family.”

“Too bad,” said Whitely. “Ted was a blamed nice fellow. There’ll have to
be a new class president elected to take his place. I suppose they’ll
just move up the vice.”

“That’s Laughlin,” observed Stone.

“Laughlin!” sneered Marchmont. “Is that jay always going to carry us
round in his pocket? I think it’s about time we struck for a decent
man!”

“Butler would make a good president, wouldn’t he?” remarked Stone. “I
wish he had some one to back him.”

“Why shouldn’t he have some one to back him?” demanded Whitely, starting
up. “And why shouldn’t we have some voice in naming the officers of the
class? Laughlin got the football captaincy away from Butler; it’s right
that But should be president. Let’s put him in!”

“Can we?” asked Stone.

The trio made a hasty count of the forces to be relied on. “How about
Poole?” asked Whitely.

“Oh, he’s for Laughlin, sure,” answered Stone.

“Then Eddy’s gone, too. And Benson?”

“We might get him,” said Stone, “if he’s worked right.”

“And that new fellow, Lindsay,” continued Whitely, turning to Marchmont.
“You’ve got him well in hand, haven’t you?”

“I guess so,” returned Marchmont, smiling. “He’s rather green and
innocent, and has some kindergarten notions which he’ll have to get rid
of, but he’ll come round in time. I think I can deliver the goods there
all right.”

So they ran over the catalogue of their intimates. It appeared that
about a dozen could be counted on at the outset.

“Let’s pledge these and gradually build up a party,” said Whitely, when
the list of sure men was at last complete. “I believe we can get such a
start before the election that they can’t get near us.”

“It would be great to give that fellow a good, hard fall,” declared
Marchmont, with enthusiasm. “He certainly needs it.”

In the evening Wolcott dropped in, as happened frequently nowadays, for
a half hour with Marchmont.

“Kind of all-round man, Laughlin is, isn’t he?” commented Marchmont, as
Lindsay sprawled on the couch before the open fire and recounted some of
his experiences of the day. “Football captain, scholar, musician, pillar
of the church, butler, furnace tender, dish-washer—it isn’t every fellow
from the woods who has a record like that. I don’t think I should want
him to handle my china.”

“What I don’t understand is why the fellows generally seem to have such
a high opinion of him,” said Lindsay.

“It’s the fashion to be democratic here,” answered Marchmont, wisely.
“And then he’s a football player, and that makes up for almost
everything. He oughtn’t to have been captain; there’s where the mistake
was made. Of course you’ve got to encourage such fellows, and it’s very
creditable in them to try to make something of themselves and all that;
but when you come to the important offices, they ought to go to fellows
of a better class, who could represent the school decently.”

“Perhaps he was the only candidate.”

“No, there was Butler, who played guard on the other side. He’s an
awfully nice fellow, though perhaps not so good a player as that big
bruiser. The choice lay between the two, and Laughlin got it.”

“He certainly thinks he’s all right,” remarked Lindsay, a little
spitefully. “He’s given me advice, on several occasions, about what I
ought to do and not to do here in school.”

“And whom you ought to know, and where you ought to go, and how you
ought to amuse yourself, and so on. He’s probably advised you against
smoking, and told you always to tell the truth when you report.”

“That’s about it,” confessed Lindsay.

“That reminds me: have I ever shown you my postern gate?”

Lindsay stared blankly. “Postern gate!”

“Yes, my secret entrance. Come here.”

Lindsay followed his companion into a closet, where Marchmont lifted the
oilcloth and showed a rectangular outline on the floor where several
boards had been sawed through. These boards, which had been fastened
together underneath to form a trap door, he lifted, disclosing a square
opening between the floor timbers into the closet below.

“That shelf under there takes out, so as to give room to get through,”
explained Marchmont, proudly; “and the box on the shelf prevents the old
lady from getting on to the game.”

Wolcott gazed into the dark, mysterious hole in amazement. The job was
cleverly done, and yet of what use could the hole be?

“Who rooms underneath,” he asked; “Salter?”

Marchmont nodded.

“I didn’t know you were so thick with him.”

“I’m not. I don’t care a rap for him. This isn’t meant for his benefit,
it’s for my own. Salter’s a virtuous chump, who’s always in at ten
o’clock, and always tells the truth when he reports. He’s a good little
boy, but not good enough to volunteer information. If I come down into
his closet and go out his window, he isn’t bound to tell of it, and of
course nobody asks him whether his ceiling’s tight.”

“I still don’t see much use for it,” said Wolcott, slowly. “If I am out
after ten, I simply say so, and tell why; I don’t mind that.”

“Supposing you don’t want to tell why,” replied Marchmont, dryly, as he
replaced the oil-cloth and led the way back into his room. “Supposing
you’re on probation or study hours or something of that sort, and want
to be out. All you have to do is to say good night to Mrs. Winter, lock
your door, and you have your evening.”

“You’ll have a chance to use the thing pretty soon, if you’re only
waiting for probation,” said Wolcott, laughing. “You’re getting below my
level in some studies, and that’s mighty close to the danger line.”

“If I never get below your level, I shan’t care,” returned Marchmont.
“I’m tutoring now with Haynes White. He’ll probably pull me up before
probation comes. If he doesn’t, let it come. I’ve been there before.”

Wolcott gathered up his hat and gloves. A full evening’s work lay before
him, and fortunately he was ambitious enough or proud enough or loyal
enough to his father to resist the influence of Marchmont’s easy-going
indifference to school duties.

And Marchmont never insisted that his friends should follow his
practices. He was always self-possessed, always indolent, always
enjoying the sense of his superiority, and, to those whom he favored,
always extremely agreeable. There was no room in school which to Wolcott
seemed as attractive as Marchmont’s. The hodge-podge of little pictures,
photographs, emblems, signs, posters, German favors, pipes, mementos,
athletic trophies, inharmonious furniture, staring carpets, which in
various forms and degrees filled the rooms of other classmates, was not
to be found here. Marchmont’s rugs were few but fine in quality—soft old
Persians which he had brought from home. A big leather sofa stretched
before the generous old-fashioned fireplace. The substantial bookcase
was crowded with volumes, though hardly such as would help a schoolboy
in his daily tasks. The cheap desk which his landlady furnished was
glorified by a quaint set of writing tools bought at the Nijni-Novgorod
fair. The scattered ornaments on the walls and mantel were unique and
striking, picked up in odd corners of Europe and the West. Altogether
this room and the easy hospitality with which it was opened to him were
strong elements in the attraction which drew our hero to Marchmont.

“You’ll stand pat with us on the election, won’t you?” said Marchmont,
between pulls of his pipe. “We want to put an end to this flannel-shirt
rule. Butler is just the man to be president of the class.”

“I’ll help you all I can,” replied Lindsay. “I’ll vote right, of course;
but I’m afraid I can’t do much else.”

“Try Poole and Benson. They’re our worst enemies, because they really
ought to be on our side. Benson’s got some grouch against Butler; and as
for Poole, that man Melvin who was here last year spoiled him.”

Lindsay’s eye fell on a copy of the _Literary Monthly_ lying on a table.

“Oh, I read your poem on ‘The Unknown Ship at Sea’ in the last _Lit_,”
he said with eager cordiality. “It’s fine!”

“Much obliged,” returned Marchmont, apparently flattered. “I don’t think
it’s much, myself, but they seemed to like it.”

“It’s the best thing I’ve ever known them to have,” exclaimed Wolcott.
“How did you get hold of the idea?”

Marchmont, who appeared unexpectedly embarrassed by his friend’s praise,
hesitated. “Oh, something that happened the last time we went over put
it into my head. I jotted down some lines at the time, and the other day
it occurred to me to fix them up and send them in.”

“You had something in it last month, too,” continued Lindsay. “I guess
you’ll make the board all right. I’ve sent in two things to the
_Seatonian_, but they didn’t print either of them.”

“I suppose there’s more competition for the _Seatonian_,” said the poet.

Lindsay opened the door and turned for a last word.

“I’m going to send my _Lit_ home to my family to show them what we can
do here,” he said. “My aunt is stuck on poetry, and she’s got a notion
that we don’t do anything here but play ball. This will set her right.
Good night.”

“Oh, don’t bother them with it,” called Marchmont; but Lindsay was
already out of hearing.



                              CHAPTER VIII
                                POLITICS


The middlers’ class meeting came a few days later, interjecting two days
of excitement into the dulness of winter. When Rogers, who had been made
president in the fall, unexpectedly left school, the natural course
would have been to advance Laughlin, who was vice-president, and elect a
new man to succeed him. This might have been done without the least
flurry of excitement in a two-minute meeting called after a recitation.
The plot hatched in Stone’s room made such a course impossible.

Let it not be for a moment supposed that the Whitely-Marchmont
combination kept their movements secret. The partisanship was too
violent to bear restraint. In the hour when an eager but unwise member
of the Butler faction undertook to canvass a natural follower of
Laughlin, a Laughlin party came suddenly into existence, and on vague
hints of a conspiracy had a wondrous growth.

In the old days of small classes every boy would have been pledged
beforehand, and brought personally to do his duty at the polls. With a
class of more than a hundred to deal with, this was not so easy. Some
were too lazy and indifferent to be stirred by entreaty; a few serious
plodders scorned the whole agitation; a larger number still, either from
actual indecision or through a desire for fun, declined to commit
themselves in advance. Nevertheless, when Marchmont and his companions,
who had been hustling all day like busy ward heelers, gathered their
pledged followers for an imposing entry into the assembly room, they
constituted a truly formidable body.

“It’ll be close,” said Marchmont to Lindsay, on the way in; “but I think
we can turn the trick. Our fellows are well organized, and this bunch
will influence a lot of the wavering chaps who want to be on the winning
side. We’ve got a neat little game to spring on them when the time
comes.”

“What’s that?” asked Lindsay.

“Stone’s going to nominate Ware to split up the Laughlin crowd. Ware is
sick and can’t get here to decline, and he’ll take votes away from the
other side, and we’ll win on the plurality vote. See?”

Lindsay saw, but for some reason did not greet the scheme with
enthusiasm. Ware was a well-known man in the class, a high-ranking
scholar, editor of the _Seatonian_, and a prize winner. He belonged
rather to the “grinds” than to the “sports”; but he was generally
respected, and on a less momentous occasion would have commanded
Lindsay’s own vote. It seemed not altogether worthy of the superior
pretensions of the party to take this method of defeating their
opponents; but Lindsay the partisan was stronger than Lindsay the
moralist. “All’s fair in love and war—and politics,” he said to himself,
reassuringly. “The dish washer needs a lesson.”

The secretary called the meeting to order, and Ransome was made
chairman. Then Whitely nominated Butler in a grandiloquent speech, in
which he called his candidate “a gentleman known and admired by all, who
has labored for the school on the gridiron and on the athletic field,”
repudiated the principle that class office should be given to a man
because he was captain of a school team, and declared no one worthier or
more capable of representing the class than Sam Butler. He sat down in a
burst of applause that began on Lindsay’s side, and extended over the
whole room.

Then Poole had his turn at speech making, and in language somewhat less
florid, but just as laudatory, set forth the merits of candidate
Laughlin, and explained the opportunity the class now had of honoring
itself by honoring him. Poole also was generously applauded, for those
who were opposed to his candidate were not opposed to him personally,
and were quite willing to show their feeling by cheering him.

As Wolcott looked round for the next move in the game of politics, he
thought he saw Laughlin starting to rise. His attention was distracted
at the moment, however, by Stone, who had gained the attention of the
chair and was already well started in his task of praising a third
nominee, Ware. This new nomination, unexpected and inexplicable to most
of the class, produced the greater consternation on the Laughlin side,
as the eulogy was delivered with apparent seriousness and with a
semblance of authority which in Ware’s absence could not be disputed.
Guy Morgan, who was standing near the door, disappeared early in the
speech, as soon as it was evident what the new nomination was to be; the
other Laughlin leaders whispered and questioned in perplexity.

A silence followed for a few moments, as the chairman, full of the
dignity of his position, made formal pause for further nominations. He
was just opening his lips to declare the nominations closed when a big
figure rose in one of the back rows.

“Mr. Chairman.”

“Mr. Laughlin.”

“It seems hardly necessary for me to say that I am deeply grateful to
the members of this class who have shown a desire to have me as their
president. It is the highest honor from the largest and best class in
school. Ever since I first learned that this contest was likely, I have
been considering: first, whether I am a fit man for the position; and
second, whether, with the responsibility for the football which the
school has put upon me I ought to assume anything else. I had about made
up my mind when I came here to-night. The speeches and nominations which
have been made have merely strengthened me in my purpose. There are
others in the class better fitted to represent you than I am. There is
nothing in my career to give me place over a dozen fellows that I can
name. One responsibility I have assumed and cannot shirk. Until I can
come before you with a victorious eleven, I neither deserve nor want any
further honors at your hands. It is impossible for me to accept the
nomination which you have so kindly made.”

Laughlin took his seat, wiping his heated face. His followers sat
dismayed, almost indignant that he should suddenly desert them at the
last moment. The Butlerites whispered together in doubt, and cursed the
Ware nomination as a boomerang, an idiot’s trick. Without it their man
would be alone, and the office would be his. Then the door opened, and
Ware, muffled to his ears in an ulster, his face pale from several days’
confinement to his room, shuffled with Morgan’s help to a position near
the front.

“Mr. Chairman,” he began in a weak voice.

“Mr. Ware.”

“I understand that I have been nominated here to-night for president of
the class. I have given no one permission to use my name in this way; I
positively decline to be a candidate. Whoever nominated me did it
without my authority for the purpose of drawing votes from a better
candidate. It’s a mean trick which I hope won’t succeed. I withdraw my
name in favor of Laughlin.”

Ware sat down and unbuttoned his heavy coat. The partisans of both sides
stared at each other in silence; the less serious began to snicker; the
plot was becoming too complicated to unravel. A grinning supporter of
Butler leaned forward and called jeeringly to the waiting Ware:—

“Laughlin declined long ago, you Rip van Winkle. Go home and go to sleep
again.”

Instantly Ware straightened up. “Who are the nominees, then?”

“No one but Butler,” replied the jubilant heeler. “He’s got it all his
own way.”

Ware did not hesitate a moment. “Mr. Chairman,” he called, rising
eagerly, “are the nominations closed?”

“They are not,” returned the presiding officer.

“Will you kindly tell who have been nominated?”

“Butler, Laughlin, and Ware have been proposed. The names of Laughlin
and Ware have been withdrawn.”

“Then I nominate—” Ware hesitated and ran his eye hastily over the
astonished audience “—then I nominate Poole. He needs no recommendation
and no eulogy. You know him too well. If you don’t happen to know him,
ask any one who was here last June how the Hillbury game was won; and if
you don’t hear Poole’s name in connection with it, don’t vote for him!”

With that Ware dropped into his seat, and a din of howling and whistling
and stamping of feet arose that proved Ware’s simple harangue an
inspiration of genius. Twice Poole struggled to his feet, apparently
with an important message to deliver, and twice he was pulled down again
by his coat tail, ignominiously and hard.

The chairman then declared the nominations closed, appointed the
tellers, and called for votes. Not a soul, except the thirty fellows
pledged, voted for Butler. Laughlin received two votes, Ware five, and
Poole sixty-two. Butler moved that the vote be made unanimous, and
Laughlin escorted the president-elect to the chair, where Poole
stammered his thanks, and received and put to vote a motion to adjourn.
Thus ended the most exciting election of the class of 19—.



                               CHAPTER IX
                         THE CONCERT AT EASTHAM


“Had a hot time at your class meeting, I understand,” said Tompkins, who
was killing a quarter of an hour in Wolcott’s room. “I wish I’d been
there. Which side were you on, the kickers or the kicked?”

“I voted for Butler,” replied Wolcott, with dignity.

“Oh, you belong to that bunch! What’s the matter with Laughlin? Isn’t he
good enough for you?”

“He’s all right in his place. I don’t think he ought to be president of
the class. He isn’t enough of a gentleman.”

“Oh, isn’t he? Who is, then? Marchmont?”

“Yes, or at least he looks like one and acts like one,” returned
Wolcott, warmly.

Tompkins stared. “Laughlin’s no dude, I’ll admit,” he said after some
deliberation. “He’s never been able to get money at a bank just by
signing a check, and I don’t suppose he’d feel entirely at home in a
Fifth Avenue ballroom. But he’s worth as many Marchmonts as you can pile
in that bedroom there—and a pile of Marchmonts would settle a good bit;
they’d be pretty flabby.”

“Please remember that Marchmont’s a friend of mine,” said Wolcott,
haughtily.

“Is he?” said Tompkins, coolly. “I’m not so sure of that.”

This remark Wolcott received with chilling silence.

“There’s one thing Marchmont can do all right,” went on Tompkins.

“What’s that?”

“Play the mandolin. He’s ’most as good as a nigger minstrel.”

“There’s another thing he can do,” replied Wolcott, quickly, “write
poetry. You’re mighty glad to get it for the _Lit_.”

“Yes, there was some verse in the last number over his name,—rather
streaky, I called it. Four stanzas were good and one was bum. The fellow
who did the four good ones wasn’t a bad fist at writing rhymes.”

“Well, Marchmont wrote them, didn’t he?”

“Have I said he didn’t?” responded Tompkins, with an exasperating grin.

“And he had a prose article in the January number.”

“That horse business? Yes, that wasn’t bad. He wrote it as a theme and
had to rewrite it twice afterward before Bain would accept it. By the
time it got to us it was fairly readable.”

“It’s better than the stuff you write,” declared the indignant Lindsay.

Tompkins smiled and nodded. “Quite likely; I’m not the only paying mine
in the cañon. Going to Eastham with the band to-morrow night?”

“Yes,” replied Wolcott, sullenly, “the Glee and Mandolin clubs are both
going.”

“I should like to go myself if I didn’t have to hear the concert.—Well,
there’s the bell. Always be a good boy and stand up for your friends,
especially if they have good clothes and nice ladylike manners. So
long!”

And Tompkins sauntered forth, not forgetting to keep a sharp lookout for
any missile that might follow him, and leaving the middler choking with
helpless indignation. When Tommy was in this mood, he was unbearable.
Mean, spiteful, envious, fresh—these were adjectives that occurred to
Wolcott’s agitated mind; he had feelings which he knew no words to
express. He didn’t like Laughlin, and he would not have the fellow
crammed down his throat, though he might be the greatest football player
who ever handled a ball; he did like Marchmont, and he wouldn’t be
bullied out of his opinion if all the cowboys in Montana joined together
to deride him.

Wolcott was still of this opinion when the evening mail brought a letter
from Aunt Emmeline. He read it, and reread it, and then read a certain
portion a third time. It ran as follows:—

“Thank you so much for sending me the copy of the _Literary Monthly_. I
had no idea that the boys could write so well. The poem by your friend
Marchmont is extremely good. It reminds me so much of one written by my
dear friend, Alice Codman, many years ago. It was published, I think, in
the _Atlantic_. Every one said that she had a great poetic gift, and she
certainly wrote some very sweet and beautiful poems. She died in 1870,
only twenty-four years old. It was very sad that one so talented and
full of promise should be taken away so early.

“How fortunate you were to meet such a nice, refined boy as Marchmont
immediately after you arrived; it almost reconciles me to Seaton.
Tompkins and Laughlin must be perfectly dreadful. I hope you will
associate as little as possible with such underbred persons. Of course
one owes it to one’s self to be polite to all classes, but one chooses
one’s friends.”

The last part of this extract for some reason stirred Wolcott’s bile, in
spite of the fact that he was at that moment feeling inimical to both
the underbred fellows against whom his aunt warned him. He gave little
attention, however, to this objectionable passage, but the reference to
Miss Codman suggested several disquieting questions.

Could anything be wrong with Marchmont’s poem? Did Tompkins mean to hint
that the verses published under Marchmont’s name were really not
Marchmont’s? He had not said so in so many words, and his remarks, as
Wolcott reviewed them, did not necessarily imply such a meaning; but the
tone of contempt and blind hostility which Tompkins used in reference to
Marchmont proved him capable of any mean suspicion. Could it be possible
that Marchmont had used some lines of Miss Codman’s as a model for his
own work? Absurd! The poem was suggested by something that he himself
had seen. And then, what could he have known of Miss Codman or anything
she ever wrote? He read French novels—in translations—by the dozen; but
old _Atlantics_ never! And though he might not always be fussy about the
authorship of his Latin composition exercises, or the perfect accuracy
of his reports, it was only because he drew a line between school
authorities and the rest of the world, not because he lacked the sense
of honor which a gentleman should possess. Marchmont would never steal a
poem and call it his own. It was an outrage to suggest such a thing!

With four horses and a big barge on runners, the Glee and Mandolin clubs
set out on their ten-mile drive to Eastham. It had required some effort
on the part of the chorus master, Mr. Leighton, to obtain permission for
the clubs to leave town. Such permissions were not lightly granted, and
Mr. Leighton, to win his cause, had both to show that the boys deserved
the favor, and to assume responsibility for them on the trip. It was a
bitter cold afternoon. Monotonous leaden clouds covered the sky, and
occasional flakes fell deliberately, like dilatory messengers from the
storm king. But old Jim, who sat on the box muffled in his dogskin coat,
opined that it would “prob’ly be about like this for a day or two,”
while the boys, crowded hilarious into the long, parallel seats, had
little concern for the weather that was to be. It was enough that the
wind was not blowing, that the snow was not falling, and that they were
slipping easily over the hard-beaten road to a lark and a show.

Two hours later, as the hungry travellers gathered round the two long
tables at the Eastham inn and with united voice demanded the whole bill
of fare, whatever discomfort the journey had involved was forgotten.
Marchmont turned with a chuckle to Wolcott and called his attention to
Laughlin, who was sitting at the opposite side of the second table,
complacently waiting for his order, with napkin spread wide across his
chest and tucked carefully down over his collar.

“The style at Liberty, Maine, I suppose,” he whispered.

“Waiting for a shave,” returned Wolcott, in the same vein.

Just then Laughlin looked across to the other table and caught the
mocking gaze of the two fixed upon him. For an instant he stared back in
unconcern, but presently, instinctively following the direction of their
looks, he seemed to guess the cause of their amusement. An unmistakable
flush overspread his big features as he turned with a pretence of
interest to his neighbor. Wolcott also blushed and looked away in
embarrassment. His mother had explained to him more than once that to
notice an error of etiquette was a greater fault than to make the error.
What his father would say if he were present,—in fact, had said on a
similar occasion when displeased by the son’s superior airs,—he did not
like to dwell upon. Marchmont, who felt no such embarrassment, enjoyed
the spectacle hugely.

“Just look!” he whispered again, “the lobster has taken off his bib.”

But Lindsay would not look. He had never enjoyed Marchmont’s society
less than at that very moment.

The details of the Eastham concert do not concern this narrative. The
Eastham Relief Society for which the entertainment was given had sold
tickets in blocks to the charitably inclined, so a good audience was
assured in spite of the weather; and fewer people left the hall before
the end of the performance than might perhaps have been expected. The
Glee Club had the last number, and while they were struggling to keep on
the key, and leave a parting impression of harmony rather than of
discord on the ears of their patient hearers, the mandolinists were
packing up their instruments and making ready for departure. Dearborn
pressed his forehead against the window pane, and, sheltering his eyes
with his hands, peered out into the darkness.

“It’s snowing again, by George! and the wind is howling to beat the
band. I see where we’re going to get it in the neck on the way home.”

“That’s the Glee Club’s pianissimo you hear,” remarked Poole. “If it’s
snowing, the chances are that it will be warmer.”

“It’s dirty mean to make us go back to-night in weather like this,” said
Marchmont, taking a turn at the window. “We shall be frozen to death. We
ought to stay over and go back in the morning. If Leighton weren’t such
a dub, he’d let us do it.”

“I’d rather go back to-night,” said Poole. “And I can tell you one
thing: if anything goes wrong on this trip, it will be the last
permission the Glee and Mandolin clubs will get while you’re in school.”

“The way to make it go wrong is to drive down there with this load
to-night,” retorted Marchmont. “Old Jim will be half full, and won’t
know whether he’s in the road or on the fences.”

“Oh, shut up with your croaking!” called Planter, impatiently. “If
you’re afraid of the cold, beg off, but don’t speak for the rest of us.”

The singers came pouring into the dressing room, excited and noisy. Mr.
Leighton, who was detained a few minutes to receive the thanks of the
Relief Society, appeared at the door to urge haste. “The barge will be
here in ten minutes,” he said, “and we must not keep the horses waiting
in the wind. Don’t forget anything.”

Stone and Marchmont drew him aside. “It’s a terrible night, Mr.
Leighton,” said Marchmont. “Don’t you think we’d better stay over? We
should only lose one recitation.”

“Nonsense!” replied the teacher, curtly. “I’ve promised to deliver the
whole party safe in Seaton at twelve o’clock, and I shall try to keep my
word.”

“I don’t feel very well,” said Marchmont. “I thought perhaps you
wouldn’t mind if I stayed over. Stone has offered to stay with me.”

Dearborn, who stood near, snickered violently. Mr. Leighton looked
sharply into Marchmont’s face.

“What is the matter?”

“Headache. I often have very bad ones, when I have to go to bed.”

“If you really think it necessary, I’ll send for a doctor, and if he
decides that you are unable to go home, I will stay over with you
myself, and send the barge back in charge of some one else. There is no
other way.”

“I couldn’t think of putting you to that trouble,” replied the invalid,
with ill-concealed chagrin. Turning abruptly away, he picked up his bag
and mandolin and left the room.

As the barge drew up a few minutes later, Marchmont, who stood with a
little group inside the door of the building, whispered to Wolcott,
“Make a dash when it stops: the first in have the warmest places.”

The next moment Wolcott was thoughtlessly skurrying in the van of the
crowd for the entrance of the barge. Stone and Marchmont got the seats
immediately behind the elevated driver’s box, one on either side.
Wolcott sat next to Marchmont. The others flocked in behind them; the
two long benches filled rapidly.

Laughlin appeared on Wolcott’s side. “Move down and let Ware in there,
can’t you?” he called to the heads of the lines. “He’s been sick, you
know, and ought to have as sheltered a place as he can get.”

“We’re all packed in here so tight we can’t move,” replied Marchmont.

“He can have my seat,” cried Wolcott.

“Don’t be a fool!” muttered Marchmont in his ear; but Wolcott paid no
heed. The thought that the despised Laughlin should be lingering outside
finding places for others, while his high-bred self had greedily
scrambled for the best, shamed and angered him. He descended over the
side and helped Laughlin boost the protesting Ware into the vacant seat.
Then Wolcott and Laughlin crowded into the two last places, Jim tucked
himself up on the box, and the barge moved off into the teeth of the
wind.

For a time the occupants kept one another lively with songs and jokes.
Then the two ends lapsed into silence, the middle gradually succumbed to
the example of the ends, and soon the sound of a voice was scarcely to
be heard in the barge except from Jenkyns and Wood, two chatterboxes
whose lips were never silent. Old Jim evidently kept the whip steadily
going, for the horses plunged recklessly down the short inclines, and
the long, narrow barge slewed sometimes the width of the roadbed, like a
double-runner on a steep bend.

“I hope these sled runners are strong,” said Laughlin to Mr. Leighton,
who was beside him. “Jim seems to think they’re all right.”

“He’s taken several drops too much to-night, I am afraid,” returned Mr.
Leighton. “But he knows the road and he knows the horses, and ought to
get us home safely. I will never go on such an expedition again without
a driver who can be trusted.”

The barge dipped suddenly over another crest; the leaders dashed blindly
forward, out of the road at the curve and into it again with a sudden
jerk, snapping the back sled like a whiplash far to the left, where the
runner crashed violently against a rock. While the boys on the right
were extricating themselves from the arms of those on the left, while
the whole barge load was shouting and pushing and scrambling and
demanding what had happened, Laughlin freed himself from the mêlée and
ran to the horses’ heads. Jim, sobered by the calamity, soon had them in
hand, and Laughlin, with the driver’s lantern, hastened back to the
injured sled. The runner was broken completely off.

“I was afraid of that,” he said to Mr. Leighton, who stood in the midst
of a knot of boys about the sleigh, examining the damage.

“I see where we get a long walk,” said Wood, to whom belonged one of the
heads projecting over the edge of the barge. “It’s five miles in, if
it’s an inch!”

“I speak for the little bay leader,” said Jenkyns.

“Shut up, won’t you, fellows!” called Planter from below. “This isn’t a
time for nonsense.”

“May as well laugh as cry,” returned Webster. “There’s Marchmont
whimpering in the corner.”

“It’s a bad job,” concluded Mr. Leighton, after his inspection—a
conclusion which every one else had drawn at first sight.

Jim was brought around to give his opinion.

“That sled’s done for,” he pronounced with solemnity.

“Can it be cobbled up so that we can get home?” asked the teacher.

Jim shook his head. “I don’t know nothin’ to do to it; I ain’t no
wheelwright.”

Mr. Leighton was visibly excited. “We must do something. We can’t stay
here all night, and we can’t walk home.”

“I think I can fix it up so that we can get home in it,” said Laughlin.
“I’ve got out of worse holes than this down in the Maine woods.”

Mr. Leighton turned eagerly toward him: “Can you? How?”

“By rigging a temporary runner. We passed a house a little way back,
where the dog barked at us. If some one will go back with me, we can
probably get something to block the sled up with. The rest of you had
better get into the barge and keep warm.”

It was a despairing man indeed who could fail to gain courage from this
sturdy giant, with his honest face and quiet, confident voice.

“I’ll go with you,” cried half a dozen at once.

Laughlin glanced at the half dozen, and took Lindsay. Why he did this,
of course he did not explain, and it did not occur to Wolcott even to
ask himself the question. He strode along at Laughlin’s side, silent and
curious, but having no doubt as to the outcome.

With the assistance of the barking dog they woke the farmer, who put his
head out the window and demanded what was wanted.

“We’ve broken a sled runner, and want a couple of poles to patch up
with,” said Laughlin. “Can you lend us an axe?”

“There’s an axe at the woodpile by the shed,” answered the farmer, as he
hurriedly closed the window.

Laughlin pulled out the axe from a log, gave the lantern to Wolcott, and
selected two sticks from the pile of sled-length wood. One of these, a
smooth hardwood pole, was perhaps ten feet long and two or three inches
in diameter at its larger end. The other was much shorter and thicker.
He cut out a notch a few inches from the end of the short piece and
another near the middle of the longer one. By this time the farmer
appeared at the shed door, shivering in overcoat and top-boots.

“Have you an auger handy?” asked Laughlin.

While this was being found, Laughlin laid the short piece on the ground,
placed the pole across it at right angles, fitting notch to notch; and
from a short piece of dry wood chipped out a pin. In the meantime the
farmer had produced the auger, and Laughlin now bored through both
pieces at their intersection and drove in his pin, joining them firmly
together.

“Got any fence wire?” was the next question.

“There’s a piece somewhere round, left from the fence, but I can’t just
lay my hand on it now.”

“Let us take a couple of yards from the fence, then,” urged Laughlin;
“we’ll pay for it.”

The farmer hesitated, blinking at the pair in perplexity.

“Well, ’tain’t quite the right thing to do, but I guess I can make out
to fix it up again. I don’t want no pay for it. Hope you’ll get home all
right.”

The boys thanked the good man with all the fervor of which they were
capable, said good night, selected from the woodpile a pole for a lever,
and with their booty tramped back to the barge.

They arrived none too soon, for the impatient musicians, left in utter
darkness and biting cold, were already breathing maledictions against
Laughlin, whom they fancied warming himself in the farmer’s kitchen.
While Wolcott was hacking off a piece of wire from the fence and
breaking it into proper lengths, Laughlin cleared the boys out of the
barge, lifted the side of the sled with his lever manned by sceptical
but willing volunteers, and shoved the pole into the place of the broken
runner so that the end of the crosspiece rested on the top of the
opposite runner, where a piece of wire soon secured it. Other pieces of
wire served to fasten the pole to the framework of the broken sled. It
remained to tie the forward end of the pole to the body of the sleigh
with hitching ropes, and to stay the whole after sled with all available
straps.

“All aboard!” cried Laughlin at last, and the weary boys, raising a
feeble shout of joy, settled again into their places.

Laughlin did not get in. “I’m going on the seat with Jim,” he said
quietly to Mr. Leighton. “I want to see that my work is given a fair
show.”

“But you’re not dressed for driving,” protested the teacher. “You will
freeze stiff.”

Laughlin gave a sniff of contempt. “I’m not a baby,” he said. “It’s only
my hands that will trouble me, and I guess they’ll stand it for an
hour.”

Wolcott pulled off the thick fur gloves that he had brought with him
from Hamburg. “Take these,” he said. “They’re big enough even for your
hands. Take them, I say,” he insisted, as Laughlin hesitated. “I’ll wear
yours instead. If my gloves are working, I shall feel as if I were doing
something myself.”

Laughlin obeyed, and Wolcott, drawing on the thin woollen gloves,
plunged his hands into his pockets and wondered how the fellow could
think of facing the wind with hands so poorly protected. Long before the
carefully driven sleigh reached the edge of the town Wolcott’s fingers
were numb.

Laughlin’s sled came safely, though belated, to the home stable. The
next morning the musicians turned out at an early hour to see what kind
of a vehicle it was that had brought them home. And when they had
examined it, they brought their friends and explained to them the
marvel. Only Marchmont showed no interest; he had had quite enough of
sleds the night before.



                               CHAPTER X
                                VICTIMS


“Hello!” cried Marchmont, as Lindsay opened his door a few evenings
after the Eastham concert. “Thought you were dead.”

“I’ve been busy,” replied Wolcott; “I’m on for a debate at the Laurel
Leaf Saturday, and I’ve been studying up my side.”

“So you belong to that, do you?” commented Marchmont, with good-natured
contempt. “I suppose you joined to please the old man.”

“Partly,” answered Wolcott; “and partly because I thought I might get
some good out of it.”

“I was thinking of putting you up for the Omega-Omicron. Like to join?”

“I don’t know,” said Wolcott, with an indifference more honest than
polite.

“I shan’t urge you,” said Marchmont, significantly. “What’s the matter
with you to-night? You look as solemn as your friend Laughlin.”

“Solemn or not, he was a pretty good friend to us all the other
evening,” remarked Lindsay.

“I don’t see why the fellows made so much of that broken-runner
business. Any common teamster could have done as well.”

Lindsay made no reply.

“I’m getting sore on this monotonous life,” continued Marchmont. “Can’t
we stir something up? I got a check to-day which I should like to
celebrate on before I go on probation. Let’s go to Rivermouth.”

“What for?”

“Oh, see the town and have some fun—anything to break away from this
place.”

Lindsay shook his head: “It doesn’t sound attractive. I’ve no wish to
get fired.”

“You’re afraid!”

At another time Wolcott might have felt the sting of this taunt. The
Eastham ride, however, which had not presented Marchmont exactly in the
light of a hero, had considerably lessened the spell of superior
cleverness and experience which the idealized boy cast over his
follower. Marchmont’s merits were no less commendable in Wolcott’s eyes;
but his faults were no longer wholly overlooked.

“Yes, I am, if that will please you. There are some things it’s well to
be afraid of.”

“What a good boy!” said Marchmont, covering his sneer with a smile. “You
must be the delight of your mother’s heart! I really thought you had
more spirit in you.”

But Lindsay to-night was beyond the reach of Marchmont’s wiles. “Go to
bed and take a long snooze,” he said, laughing; “it will do you lots
more good than trying to think of some way of getting into trouble.”

As he passed Salter’s room on the way down, Salter was just coming out.

“Going over to the Yard?” asked Wolcott.

“Yee-up,” replied Salter. He was a queer person, this Salter, a little
of a calf, a little of a sissy, a great deal of a scholar,—in fact, one
of the best in the class,—yet a favorite with no one. He was under
medium size, fat and clumsy in build, with girlish movements, a manner
shy even to timidity, and modesty that was a fault. His fellows took him
at his own estimate. The only occasions on which his society seemed
really desired were just before recitation, when one boy would jostle
him into a corner and demand, “Here, Sal, what’s the answer to 38?” Or
another would pluck him roughly by the shoulder and insist on being told
immediately how to “do these two lines at the bottom of the page.” These
attentions were due, as Salter was of course aware, not to friendship
but to necessity. The very persons whom he helped, nicknamed him “Sal”
and “Marm,” called him a grind, made him the butt of jokes, and even
used him as an example of “the kind of fellow who has no school spirit,
never does anything for the school.” If the words escaped Salter’s ears,
the general attitude told the story just as plainly. Salter was not
happy in his school life.

“I’ve seen your private way to Marchmont’s room,” remarked Lindsay, as
they walked down the street.

“It’s not mine!” returned Salter, with an emphasis quite unnatural to
him. “If it were, I’d nail it up so tight it never could be opened
again.”

“But you let March use it,” pursued Wolcott.

“I let him use it because I can’t help myself, not because I like it.
It’s bound to get me into trouble sooner or later, but that’s nothing to
him.”

“He probably doesn’t think you really object,” suggested Wolcott.

“I’ve told him twenty times at least that I do object,” responded
Salter, almost tearful. “I don’t see what more I can say. Of course I
can’t report him, and I’m not strong enough to fight him. If I were as
big as you, I’d know what to do fast enough! As it is, some one is
likely to see him going through my window ’most any time, and then I
shall get it.”

“I wouldn’t worry about that,” said Wolcott. “You aren’t supposed to see
him.”

“I don’t see him, you can depend on that, and I try not to hear him; but
I know who’s going through the window just the same, and I can’t say I
don’t without lying.”

Wolcott climbed the stairs to his room, feeling very sorry for Salter
and very much grieved with Marchmont. It seemed hardly possible that
March could be so inconsiderate. If the grieving friend could have heard
a conversation which took place in Marchmont’s room that same evening,
other and stronger feelings might have mingled with his grief.

Wolcott had been gone scarcely ten minutes when a timid knock evoked
from Marchmont a surly “Come in!” and Haynes White’s gaunt figure edged
its way into the room.

Marchmont nodded coolly. “Good evening.”

“Good evening,” returned White. “I’ve come to ask about that money.”

“I haven’t got it yet,” replied Marchmont, testily. “I told you I’d pay
you when I got the money; you won’t lose it.”

“But I need it now,” continued White, insistently. “I really need it.”

Marchmont laughed. “So do I, and I’ve never seen the time when I didn’t.
I can’t keep a dollar two days. If I could, I never should have borrowed
that twenty. Don’t worry, you’ll be paid. I’m not trying to cheat you.”

“I don’t suppose you are,” returned White, “but I want the money now.
It’s mine and I propose to have it.”

“Oh, you’re going to report me, are you?” exclaimed Marchmont, in a
different tone. “That’s about what I might have expected. Here I tutored
with you for several weeks at your own price, though you didn’t teach me
a blamed thing; and now you come and threaten to report me because I
don’t pay spot cash. Why, there are people in New York who could buy up
this whole town, who only pay their bills once a year and then merely as
a favor. If you report me, you’ll never get a cent out of me; I’d leave
school first.”

“I’ve got to have something or I’ll starve,” said White, solemnly. “Pay
me that twenty you borrowed, anyway. That was my own money that I had
earned and saved. I must have that.”

Marchmont had risen. “Why, I’m going to pay you all of it as soon as I
can. You won’t starve; people don’t starve nowadays. You can get credit
as well as I can. And don’t fuss about the money; it’ll be all right.”

And White went home to his chilly attic room at old Miss Rolfe’s, which
he paid for by tending the furnace and shovelling the paths, and tried
to prove to his satisfaction in black and white that by cutting meat out
of his dinner four times a week he could save enough to carry him
through to the end of the term, when the scholarship payments would be
made. He had already been boarding himself for a fortnight, the dining
hall having proved too expensive for his shrivelled purse.



                               CHAPTER XI
                              BUYING TACKS


Not every one in school was in trouble, as the last chapter would seem
to indicate. Tompkins and the Pecks, for example, were not bored by the
monotony of life, had no unwelcome visitors descending into their
closets by rope ladders, and enjoyed three square meals every day. Since
the affair of the rubbers, the Pecks’ dormitory entry had seen days of
peace. With Tompkins’s vague threats of retribution still ringing in
their ears, the twins had walked circumspectly and left the senior’s
dignity unassailed. But with every day of delay in the coming of that
retribution the threats were losing effect.

The Pecks were sauntering aimlessly down the dormitory path, when
Tompkins overtook them.

“Where are you going, Tommy, and what for?” demanded Duncan.

“I’m going to Horne’s to buy a paper of tacks, my sweet half bushel,”
responded Tompkins, who was in fine humor. “May I have the pleasure of
your company?”

“Sure!” said Donald, and Duncan seemed at first to be of the same mind,
but after a few paces stopped abruptly. “I think I won’t go,” he said.

“Better come on and see how it’s done,” said Tompkins. “You may want to
buy tacks sometime yourself.”

“You can show Don, he’s the better scholar,” Duncan rejoined, as he
turned back toward the dormitory.

But Tompkins and Donald were no sooner out of sight around the corner
than Duncan suddenly wheeled, and scampering down a side street and
through a back yard, emerged among the stores on Water Street. He
stopped at Horne’s hardware store, peeped in, and then boldly walked
down to the middle of the store, where old Mr. Horne himself was sitting
behind the morning paper. It was the noon hour and customers were few.

“Got any tacks?” asked Duncan.

“Yes,” replied Mr. Horne, slowly, eying the boy over his spectacles as
he folded up his paper.

“Then sit on them!”

With that Duncan turned abruptly and hastened away, leaving the old man
speechless with indignation. Outside the store he dodged into an alley
long enough to avoid Tompkins and Donald, who were approaching, and then
made full speed for Parker’s, the next hardware store above.

Meantime Tompkins and Donald had entered Horne’s. Donald lingered near
the door, looking at the knives and revolvers in the showcase, while
Tompkins went on toward a fierce-looking old gentleman who glared at his
approaching customer in a markedly inhospitable fashion.

“Got any tacks?” asked Tompkins, innocently.

Mr. Horne’s face grew red and white in spots. His eyes glittered behind
his spectacles. Clutching his paper in a trembling hand, he shook it
violently before the face of the astonished Tompkins.

“You can’t ketch me again, you young scapegrace! You git out of this
store as fast as you can git. I know what you’re here for. That sassbox
out there has been puttin’ you up to it, but it won’t go down again. You
git out o’ here as lively as you can step it, or I’ll call the police
and have you put out!”

Tompkins stared dumfounded while Mr. Horne unbosomed himself of his
strong emotions; then a half smile broke over the would-be customer’s
face. Donald was grinning from ear to ear; this was fun that he had not
expected.

“It seems to me your manners are a trifle brusque,” remarked Tompkins,
more amused than angered. “Is this your usual way of treating
customers?”

“Customers! You didn’t come here to buy anything, you came to insult
me.”

“Sorry to differ from you,” replied Tompkins. “I wanted to buy when I
came in, but I don’t want to now. I don’t feel at home with crazy
people. Come on, Don!”

And the senior strode out of the store indignantly, followed by the
snickering Peck.

“Is that the way you buy tacks?” asked Don, as they reached the street.

Tompkins did not answer, but headed for Parker’s, a few doors above.

Here also was but a single salesman, a tall young man with a thin
mustache and a circle of baldness on the top of his head, who was
sorting screws behind the counter. Donald again remained near the door,
but this time gave no heed to the showcase, while Tompkins strode
defiantly up to the waiting clerk.

“Do you keep tacks?”

The clerk rested his hands on the counter, looked quizzically into the
solemn face confronting his, then glanced at the boy standing near the
door, who was already tittering in expectancy.

“No, we don’t keep tacks and we don’t sit on them!” he answered, smiling
and clipping his words short. With the last word he swung his arm
suddenly forward and sent Tompkins’s hat spinning among the nail kegs.

This was too much. Tompkins emitted a whoop and sprang for the nearest
weapon, which happened to be a pitchfork. Holding this before him, as a
soldier would hold a bayonet for a charge, he shouted:—

“Come on, you blamed counter-jumper, and I’ll spear you like an eel! You
pick up that hat and pick it up quick, or I’ll put three holes through
you that I can see through. They shoot men for smaller things than that
out in my country. Pick up that hat, do you hear!”

As the clerk looked into those blazing eyes and saw the tines brandished
before his nose, the jocose mood suddenly abandoned him. He ran round
the counter, picked up the hat, brushed it with his sleeve, and handed
it back to the ferocious knight of the pitchfork.

“I didn’t mean anything, really I didn’t,” he said humbly. “I thought
you were joking, especially as you came in with that fellow—that
gentleman there. Do you want some tacks? What size, eights?”

“I want nothing,” growled Tompkins, lowering the fork. “I wouldn’t buy a
rivet in this place if you’d give me the whole store and throw in the
clerks to sweep up and open the nail kegs. Come on, Don!”

[Illustration: “PICK UP THAT HAT, DO YOU HEAR!”—_Page 118._]

“I’m learning fast,” declared Donald, on the sidewalk, after several
vain efforts to control his laughter so as to make himself intelligible.
“What’s the next lesson going to be?”

Tompkins was too busy thinking to pay attention to poor jokes. “You stay
out of the next store—do you hear?” he said threateningly.

At Cutler’s, Tompkins merely put his head inside. The clerk sat in a
chair near the door, passing the noon hour in idleness. Tompkins held up
a coin.

“I’ve five cents or ten cents or a quarter or whatever is necessary, and
I’d like to buy a paper of tacks. If you can sell me some without
hitting me or calling me names, I’d like to come in and buy. There’s
something queer about the tack business in this town.”

“I think I can,” replied the man, good-naturedly. “Come in.”

As the salesman produced the laboriously sought tacks, Donald, whose
curiosity was beyond control, opened the door and slipped in.

“You keep out!” cried Tompkins, warningly.

“Oh, he’s here again, is he?” said the clerk, laughing.

“Has he been here before?” demanded Tompkins.

“Yes, about five minutes ago.”

“That lad here five minutes ago? Why, he hasn’t been out of my sight for
the last half hour.”

The clerk shook his head. “He was here not five minutes ago. He asked me
if I had tacks, and when I said yes, he said, ‘Sit on them,’ and lit
out.”

“By George!” said Tommy, slowly, as the truth came home to him, “the
little rat has scored again, and scored hard, too. They are twins, you
see,” he vouchsafed in explanation to the only man in town who would
sell him tacks, “they are twins, and one of them, knowing I was after
tacks, has gone around and stirred up a hornet’s nest in every store.
Then when I came along with the other twin, I got stung.”

When Tompkins issued forth from the store of the willing salesman,
Donald was nowhere to be seen. Where the latter had gone, or why, it is
perhaps superfluous to explain. He bounded up the dormitory stairs,
panting a continuous stream of exclamation and chuckle. Duncan was
standing on the threshold of Number Seventeen, a picture of ecstatic
expectancy.

“Did it work?” he asked eagerly.

“Work!” repeated Donald, casting on his brother a look of admiration.
“It couldn’t have worked better if you’d spent a week in planning it.
The old duffer we struck first swelled up like a hot balloon and
threatened to call a cop to pinch him. The second fellow, the lean chap
with the bald head, got funny and knocked Tommy’s dip off on to the
floor. Tommy got crazy and grabbed a pitchfork, and I thought sure there
was going to be murder.”

Duncan was giggling joyously. “If I could only have been there! Tell it
to me from the beginning, Don, and be sure you don’t leave anything
out.”

Donald had just finished his second detailed description when Tompkins’s
knock was heard, and the victim appeared. He walked solemnly into the
room and turned directly to Duncan, a single glance at the two
expressive faces having betrayed the guilty one.

“By rights I ought to get mad as a hatter,” he said, “and run amuck
among the Pecks for about twenty minutes; but I’m not going to do it.
The trick was so good that I’m going to forget about it. But let me tell
you two fellows once for all, I’ve had all the things to forget that I
want. The next time that you try any of your little games on me there’ll
be a peck of trouble,—do you understand?—and a Peck in trouble. I’m
giving you a last warning.”

“Much obliged,” returned Duncan, grinning broadly. Now that the storm no
longer threatened, his courage and delight were returning.

“Now tell me what put you next that trick?” demanded the senior.

“That’s my secret,” replied Duncan.

“He invented it himself, of course,” declared Donald, proudly.

That afternoon, at the slightest chuckle from Peck Number One, Number
Two burst into a violent titter. And they both had poor lessons. Mr.
Moore was actually forced to interrupt the recitation in order to inform
the Pecks that their conduct was most reprehensible, and that their
recitations were good proof that silly faces and empty heads were
usually found together. All of which the Pecks received with becoming
humility.



                              CHAPTER XII
                             THE HALO FADES


If Marchmont underestimated White’s urgent need and conveniently ignored
him, there were others who interested themselves in his welfare. Ware,
who sat near him in the class room, first began to suspect that the boy
was not getting enough to eat. He took counsel with Poole, but Poole was
as helpless as Ware. Either would have been glad to advance money to
White, but neither could see a way of approaching him. If White, without
giving any hint of his condition to school authorities or
fellow-students, was denying himself sufficient food, it was either
because he was too proud to have his distress known or unwilling to
incur obligation. In either case the boys were likely to give offence by
offering aid. They finally decided to put the matter in Laughlin’s
hands, in the hope that White would prove more amenable to arguments
presented by one who, like himself, was earning his way through school.
Laughlin lost no time in carrying out the commission.

“Well, what about it? Were we right or wrong?” demanded Poole, as the
familiar big shoulders and the square, serious face loomed up in his
doorway.

“You’re right about his starving himself, if that’s what you mean,” said
Laughlin, dropping heavily upon the window-seat, which he always
considered the safest resting place in the room.

“Would he take anything?” asked Ware.

Laughlin shook his head soberly. “I didn’t dare ask him. He says he has
plenty to eat, but all he had to-night for supper was mush and milk,
which he pretends to be very fond of.”

“That’s nourishing, isn’t it?” asked Poole.

“Of course it’s nourishing,” replied Laughlin, “but he can’t live on it
entirely. He isn’t a pig or a chicken.”

“What are we going to do about it?” demanded Poole. “Must we leave him
to his mush and milk?”

“To his mush and milk and me,” returned Laughlin, quietly. “There’s
something back of all this that hasn’t come out yet. I don’t understand
why he should be so short. He had some money at the beginning of the
year, as I happen to know. Since then he’s had a scholarship payment,
has done considerable tutoring, and apparently hasn’t spent anything. He
ought to have money left.”

“Tutored Marchmont, didn’t he?” asked Poole.

“I believe so,” Laughlin replied.

“I wonder if he got his money,” remarked Ware.

Laughlin glanced sharply at the speaker as if a new idea had struck him.
“I don’t know about that,” he said; “I’m not through with the case yet.
He’s going to take one of my furnaces, that will give him a dollar a
week more; and perhaps by the end of another week we can find where the
trouble lies.”

“But you want the dollar a week yourself, Dave,” cried Poole,
indignantly. “That’s like you. You start out to discover how Ware and I
can help White: the first day you give him some of your work, the second
you’ll be doing your work and his too. Where do we come in, I’d like to
know?”

“I’ll let you fellows know when there’s a chance for you,” said
Laughlin, smiling. “At present I’m the whole team.”

“He’s scabbed our job,” said Ware, in disgust.

Two or three days after this Laughlin hunted up Poole and informed him
that his time had come. Underfed, overworked, worried, White had at last
given out, and he now lay in bed, feverish and weak, and desperate at
the thought that a long illness might be before him. In his helpless
state his lips had been unsealed and he had spoken freely and fully of
his affairs. It was Marchmont’s long-continued delay in paying the debt
that had forced him to these privations.

“The thief!” cried Poole. “Think of his borrowing money from a poor
fellow when he was in debt to him already, and then coolly letting him
starve! If that isn’t the lowest-down trick for a fellow of his front!”

“Here is where you come in,” said Laughlin. “I wanted him to let me go
to Mr. Graham and get his help to collect it; but White wouldn’t hear of
it—he thinks it wouldn’t be the right thing, you know. The only way to
keep that fellow out of the hospital is to make Marchmont pay the bill,
and you’re the man to do it.”

“No, I’m not,” replied Poole, slowly. “Marchmont wouldn’t do anything
for me if he could help it, and I should be mad before I’d said ten
words.”

“And I’m not, either,” sighed Laughlin. “I’ve never spoken to him a
dozen times in my life, and yet he seems to hate me as if I were his
worst enemy.”

A few minutes later Lindsay looked up in surprise to see Poole and
Laughlin walk solemnly into his room. The former had made very
infrequent visits of late; the latter had never appeared there before.

“We’ve come for help in a charity case,” said Poole. “Will you give it?”

“I guess so,” replied Wolcott, cautiously. “It depends on the case.”

“Laughlin will explain. Fire away, Dave!”

And Laughlin rehearsed White’s tale as he had heard it, briefly, without
adjectives or exclamation points to weaken the effect of the simple
details, ending with an account of the victim’s present condition and
the need of prompt action if he were to be saved serious illness. When
he finished, Wolcott was sitting straight up, with eyes fixed on the
narrator’s lips and a red spot burning on either cheek.

“Do you mean to tell me that Marchmont still owes that money?” he
demanded.

Laughlin nodded: “That’s what I mean. He still owes it and is likely to
owe it indefinitely.”

“Unless some one can get it out of him,” added Poole. “White won’t let
us put it in Grim’s hands, and we have no influence with the fellow.”

“Then it’s up to me,” said Wolcott, jumping to his feet with a look of
determination in his face. “I’ll have a try at him myself.” And before
the others could utter a word, he had seized his hat and dived out the
door.

The visitors looked at each other and laughed.

“Dead easy,” said Phil. “He’s the right kind, isn’t he? How quickly he
caught on!”

“I always liked him,” returned Laughlin. “The trouble is, he doesn’t
like me.”

Marchmont looked up from his cigarette and his novel into Wolcott’s
stern face and understood that something had gone wrong. He did not ask
what, for his visitor left him no opportunity.

“Do you owe Haynes White any money?”

“I believe I do,” answered Marchmont, unpleasantly startled at this
abrupt opening; “but that’s our business.”

“It’s other people’s business now,” retorted Wolcott, hotly. “He’s in
bed sick. He’s sick because he hasn’t had enough to eat. He hasn’t had
enough because you have taken the money he needed for food and won’t
return it to him. Now you can cough up that money, or I’ll put the case
into Grim’s hands to settle as he chooses. I won’t see a fellow like
that fleeced of his money and starved to death without putting up some
kind of a howl. It’s robbery!”

Marchmont gasped. The look of bravado had suddenly left him. “I didn’t
know it was as bad as that, really I didn’t,” he said eagerly. “Here,
I’ll give you all I’ve got left. It will cover the twenty dollars,
anyway, and I’ll send for more to-night. You don’t think I’d keep money
from a starving man, do you now? You must know me better than that.”

“I should hope you wouldn’t!” said Wolcott, whose indignation was
somewhat appeased by the ready offer of the money, while the pleading
tones affected him as the defiant ones had not. “How much more do you
owe him?”

“About twenty,” answered Marchmont.

“How long will it take you to get it?”

“A week.”

“He’ll expect it, then, next Thursday night; and I hope, for your sake
as well as his, that you’ll have it ready for him. Good night!”

Ten minutes after he had left his room, Wolcott opened the door again,
walked to the table, and deposited the money upon it. “There’s the
twenty,” he said coolly; “he’ll have the rest in another week.”

Laughlin stared; Poole shouted aloud. “How did you do it?” he cried;
“shake it out of him?”

“I told him I wanted it, and he gave it to me. He didn’t know White
really needed it.”

“What do you say to that, Dave?” demanded Poole, turning with a comical
grimace to his companion.

“I say he was lying,” replied Laughlin, quietly.

After the callers had departed, Wolcott sat for some minutes striving to
define his opinion of Marchmont and to determine his future attitude
toward him. Clearly there were other characteristics to be considered in
the fellow than the graceful manners and airs of superior gentility
which had so imposed upon the new boy. He was absolutely selfish,
indifferent to the rights and happiness of others, and at heart a
coward. There was as great a contrast between this weak, self-indulgent
character and the rugged, generous, downright honesty of Laughlin as
between the two exteriors: the ratio of values was inverse to that of
appearances.

“I’m afraid Tommy was nearer right than I that day when he was ranting
about a pile of Marchmonts,” he said to himself in no happy frame of
mind, as he started to clear up his desk. “I’ve been well taken in by
that fellow.”

His Aunt Emmeline’s unanswered letter appeared from under a pile of
papers. He opened it again and read it through, then seized his hat and
hurried forth.

Two minutes later a hulking six-footer, with face rosy from rapid
walking, presented himself at the delivery window of the Seaton library.

“Have you bound copies of old _Atlantics?_” he asked, with an eagerness
quite unusual in searchers of by-gone periodicals.

“We have a complete set from the beginning,” replied the librarian,
promptly. This set she had herself completed by researches in the
garrets of the villagers, and she was proud of her achievement.

“I should like to look at several around 1870,” said Wolcott. “May I
begin with ’67?”

The two volumes were brought, and he eagerly scanned the table of
contents. Miss Codman’s name was not to be found among the contributors
of poetry. Then another year was examined, and still another. It was in
the second volume of the fourth year, which he had mentally resolved
should be the last he would ask for, that the title “A Sail! A Sail!” in
roman followed by _Alice Codman_ in italics, at length caught his eye.
Hurriedly he fluttered the leaves to page 873, as the index directed.
Alice Codman’s poem contained four stanzas,—identical with four of the
stanzas published in the last _Lit_ over Marchmont’s name!

Wolcott shut the book with a bang, noted the page and volume on a
library slip, and returned the books to the librarian.

“Can you tell me whether any student has had this volume in the last two
months?” he asked.

“We keep no record after a book has been returned,” replied the
librarian. “These old periodicals are seldom called for, but I remember
that a student took out several old _Atlantics_ and _Littells_ four or
five weeks ago. I have forgotten his name. He was tall and slender, very
well dressed, and with extremely polite manners.”

“Was it Marchmont?”

“That’s the name—Marchmont.”

Wolcott’s expressions of gratitude to the librarian as he left the
delivery window, if not as polite as Marchmont’s, were at least as
sincere. On the way home he stopped at the post-office, where he mailed
a postal card bearing Tompkins’s address on one side, and on the other:

“Consult _Atlantic Monthly_, Vol. 25, page 873.”

Then he strode home, reiterating his resolution with every step. His
intimacy with Marchmont was over.



                              CHAPTER XIII
                            RED RETRIBUTION


It must be confessed that the generosity of Tompkins in forgiving the
twins for their second victory over him was very poorly appreciated. A
dog that merely barks frightens only those who are afraid of barking.
The twins, while holding bites in wholesome dread, were brave regarding
barks; and collectively they looked upon Tompkins as a barker.
Individually, their opinions differed. Donald had his doubts as to the
advisability of pressing Tompkins farther. Duncan, however, in whom the
love of mischief was far stronger than discretion, argued that Tommy was
a bluffer, that he was only waiting for his chance to get back at them,
and that the team that takes the offensive usually wins the game. So
Donald yielded to plausible arguments, and the Peck solidarity remained
unbroken. As a concession to the demand for some distinguishing token,
however, they began to wear different-colored neckties, Donald blue,
Duncan red.

Now it happened on a certain Saturday night that Tompkins had a part in
the debate at the Laurel Leaf on that favorite subject for debating
societies,—the advisability of choosing United States senators by
popular vote. The meeting was an open one, and Donald, impelled as much
by natural taste as by curiosity to witness his neighbor’s performance,
was among the spectators. Duncan, to whom debate smacked too much of the
recitation room to be attractive, even with Tommy as a performer,
preferred to stay at home.

Tompkins had the opening. His task was to show that the present system
was a failure. He was just about to begin, when he noticed that the
volume of Bryce’s “American Commonwealth,” from which he intended to
quote a clincher to his argument, was not among his books of reference.
He walked down to Donald and whispered a few words in his ear, whereat
the blue-necktied twin nodded, took up his hat, and disappeared.

“Tommy’s had to send me back for one of his books,” said Donald, a
minute or two later, putting his head in at the Peck door. “He’s just
going to start off.”

“Does he look rattled?” asked Duncan. “If I knew he was going to slump,
I’d go over.”

“I guess there’s no danger of that,” replied Donald, bringing the book
nearer the light. “I hope I’ve got the right volume.”

“How many volumes are there?” demanded Duncan, suddenly.

“Two.”

“Bring the other, then, while I change my tie!” commanded Duncan,
jumping up and pulling vigorously at his necktie.

Donald stared.

“It’s the best thing yet,” chuckled Duncan. “Get a hustle on, there’s no
time to lose.”

Donald, with the puzzled expression still on his face, obediently
returned to Tompkins’s room and brought the other volume. “I told him
I’d get him Number Two,” he said doubtfully. “I can’t take the wrong
one.”

“No, but I can,” declared Duncan, giving the last touch to his blue
cravat, which was an exact duplicate of his brother’s. “How long has he
to spout?”

“Seven minutes.”

“You just stay here three, and then come along with the right book, as
you agreed to. I’m going over with the wrong one. Where d’you sit?”

“Two rows from the front in the aisle seat,” answered Donald, still
bewildered.

Tompkins was greatly relieved to see the door open and the twin with a
blue tie walk to the seat in the second row, bearing the familiar volume
of Bryce under his arm. The speaker’s argument had been planned to lead
up gradually to an effective climax in a final quotation from a great
authority. For this quotation Tompkins had been nervously waiting.

“And now in proof of my contention that the prevailing system of
choosing United States senators is a failure,” he went on confidently,
“that it advances to the highest legislative position not the best and
the ablest, but the richest and the trickiest, the millionaires and the
political bosses, I will add that our wisest foreign critics lay
especial emphasis on this perilous weakness. Let me quote in conclusion
from that fair and sympathetic student of our institutions, Mr. James
Bryce. On page 492 of the second volume of his ‘American Commonwealth’
he says:—”

Here the orator, abandoning his notes and leaving his sentence suspended
in the air, took the book from the twin’s hand and thumbed the leaves to
page 492. It bore the unfamiliar heading, “State Finance.” He consulted
his notes once more, then looked at pages 490, 494, and 497. There was
nothing on these pages which he had ever seen before. He turned to 392
and 592, and to the end of the book to find the index. There was no
index! He whipped the book over and discovered that he was using Volume
I.

By this time the debater’s face was crimson, the listeners were grinning
broadly, and even the presiding officer, whose sense of dignity was
enormous, found difficulty in controlling his countenance.

“You’ve brought the wrong book,” said Tompkins, angrily, to the smiling
twin. “I told you Volume II!”

“You didn’t tell me anything,” replied Duncan, composedly.

Tompkins glared; the audience craned their necks to get sight of Duncan
and snickered aloud.

“I’ve just come in,” continued the twin.

At this the whole company, Tompkins excepted, burst into a roar which
increased rather than diminished as the tardy Donald opened the door,
walked to the front of the room, gravely placed a book on the table
before the outraged debater, and took a seat near his brother.

“I am sorry to say, Mr. Tompkins,” said the chairman, after he had at
last brought the meeting to order, “that your time is up. Perhaps in
view of the peculiar interruption, the negative may be willing to give
you another minute,” he added, with a glance at Richardson, who was to
open for the negative.

Richardson smiled and nodded; and Tompkins read his quotation from the
right book, and finished his speech with the rhetorical flourish which
he had prepared. But Mr. Bryce’s opinion and Tompkins’s rhetoric both
fell on unheeding ears.

At the first opportunity the twins slipped away to their room, and
locking the door securely, waited in awful anticipation for Tompkins’s
knock. It did not come. The next day they ventured cautiously forth, and
sought the protection of numbers when there was danger that the injured
senior might suddenly appear from around a corner and wreak vengeance.
But Tompkins, when he passed them, nodded pleasantly as if nothing had
happened. On the third day he even dropped in after his old manner for a
brief and friendly call. On the fourth he appeared with a comic paper in
which he wished to show an amusing caricature, and spread it out on the
desk. It was then that Nemesis came—swift, unexpected, terrible. As
Duncan leaned guilelessly over the table, feasting his eyes on the
cartoon, he felt the hair on the back of his head suddenly brushed up as
by the hand of the barber testing its thickness. At the same time he
heard a noise as of the sop of a sponge, and felt the chill of a cold
liquid wetting his head and streaming down his neck.

“There!” said Tompkins, backing away and holding out a crimson sponge
like a shield before him. “There’s a red that can’t be changed like a
necktie. It’s good dye, this is, warranted to stand washing and not to
wear off. I think I shall know you, my friend, the next time I see you.”

With these words the senior escaped, leaving the unhappy Duncan to make
his toilet as best he could. There was much bathing that day in the
twins’ abode, and shampooing that in point of thoroughness would have
put to shame the efforts of an expert. The results were not encouraging.
The crimson became but a shade lighter; while the scalp, scraped and
worn by the process, showed vivid pink beneath. When it became apparent
that home treatment would not avail to remove the glaring stain, they
adjourned to the drug store, where they pleaded for advice and received
only ridicule. A friendly barber finally came to their relief with the
promise that by clipping off Duncan’s red locks and dying the stubble to
match the rest, he could make him over as good as new. When the boy got
down from the chair, however, he was horrified to find that though the
gory hue had disappeared, the clipped portion was several shades darker
than the color nature had intended it should bear, and of a different
tone; and through the dark patch the skin still glistened a rosy pink.

“It’ll grow out in three or four weeks and I can cut it to the right
color,” said the barber, with doubtful comfort. “People won’t notice it
now till they git pretty clost.”

And herewith came an unforeseen break in the Peck solidarity. Donald
declined absolutely to have his own hair cut and dyed to match; the
weather was too cold and the bull’s-eye effect too conspicuous. Duncan
must either grow hair or get a wig. All of which Duncan considered very
unbrotherly and unfeeling. And Tompkins, having proved himself a dog
that could bite as well as bark, was baited no longer.


Meantime Wolcott, having given up the society of Marchmont, was seeing
more of others whom in his intimacy with the polished New Yorker he had
neglected. There was no one of these whom he liked better to visit than
Poole, partly because of the attractive personality of Poole himself,
partly because of the pleasant company who habitually gathered in his
study. Planter and Ware he often met there, while Durand, Morgan,
Tompkins, Richardson of the _Seatonian_ board, and Saybrook who drew the
funny caricatures, also belonged to the set. Laughlin was made welcome
as often as his many occupations would permit. With his different
experience of life and greater seriousness, he was not an adept at the
gay banter current among care-free fellows to whom the pleasant things
of life came without effort. His presence, however, was never a damper
on the merriment, while in the discussion of graver matters his opinion
always carried weight. With Wolcott he talked chiefly about football,
with the result that the interest and ambition of the new boy were
constantly growing.

It was on the last evening before the school recess that Wolcott was
publicly committed to the captain’s projects. A group of kindred spirits
had gathered in Poole’s room, talking athletics as vigorously as if the
subject had not been fundamentally discussed a hundred times before.

“The outlook is certainly bad,” Planter was saying. “The football is
gone, and while we don’t want to think that we are going to lose the
baseball too, the chances are certainly against us, and we haven’t any
great show for track. If Dickinson and Todd and all those fellows could
only tie Hillbury last year, I don’t see what we can expect with a green
team. This looks like a mighty bad year for us, doesn’t it?”

“You oughtn’t to talk to a member of the nine about the nine’s losing,”
Laughlin remarked with a jerk of his head toward Poole. “That’s not the
spirit to begin the season with.”

“I suppose, then, if any one asks about your next football season,
you’ll say you’re going to win,” retorted Planter.

“I certainly shall,” replied Laughlin. “There’s going to be no
expectation of defeat on my team. We mean to win if it’s possible.”

“So do we,” said Poole.

“What about that man Strong? Isn’t he going to do something in the
sports?” asked Wolcott.

“He has run the hundred in ten and a fifth, according to Roberts. That’s
fast enough to win ’most anything,” said Durand.

“Some one said he was on probation for not keeping up with his work,”
added Poole.

“Then I don’t believe he’s much of a runner,” commented Laughlin. “These
fellows who haven’t sand enough to do passable work, haven’t sand enough
to run a hard race.”

“That doesn’t always hold true,” Planter protested. “Curtis was no
scholar at all, and yet on the gridiron he’d hustle to beat the band.”

“I wish he were here now,” sighed Laughlin. “It’s hard to get hold of
such fellows. Lindsay here is the only good recruit that I’ve caught for
the line next year.”

Wolcott reddened as the eyes of the company were turned curiously upon
him.

“I’m going to try, that’s all,” he said humbly. “I don’t know that I
shall be able to play.”

“And I’m going to try, though I know I shan’t be able to play,” lamented
Durand. “If I could gain about forty pounds this summer, there would be
some hope for me.”

Laughlin and Lindsay came downstairs together a few minutes later.

“I’ve committed you now before witnesses,” said Laughlin. “You see you
have your work cut out for you.”

“So you guarantee me a place in the line, do you?” asked Wolcott,
smiling.

“Not much!” the captain retorted. “Guarantee you nothing but the chance
to work for one.”

The next day school closed for the spring recess. The grip that Wolcott
gave to Laughlin’s big fist was an earnest of growing regard as well as
a measure of self-defence. He went out of his way to say good-by to
Salter, whose loneliness was the more apparent amid the boisterous
leave-takings of friends. For Marchmont he had but a brief word, and yet
a month before he had written for permission to bring Marchmont home
with him at this very time. Fortunately the invitation had never been
given.



                              CHAPTER XIV
                           PATRON AND CLIENT


The spring term was but a few days old when Salter received a summons to
present himself at the Principal’s office immediately after his morning
recitation. Such invitations were not frequent with Salter, who, as we
have seen, led a particularly inoffensive life, gave scrupulous heed to
the rules, and did his work with exemplary regularity. His record was
clear of all sins of omission and of commission; but on the score of
permission he was not so innocent. He had a gloomy presentiment, as he
dragged himself up the walk to his destination, that the long-deferred
reckoning for the trap-door and the nocturnal exits through his window
was now at hand. He went hopeless and helpless in the horns of his
dilemma, forbidden by the perverse principle of school honor to confess
the truth, yet bound to be credited with deception and wrong-doing if he
did not.

“Salter,” began the Principal, with the cautious deliberateness which he
habitually used in his interviews with suspected boys, “you were allowed
to occupy Mrs. Winter’s lower room because you were considered
trustworthy, were you not?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And in taking that room you were put on your honor to conform to the
school rules.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Explain, then, your absence from your room last night and your return
through the window at half-past twelve.”

“I wasn’t out last night at all, sir,” replied Salter in a low voice,
but without raising his eyes to meet Mr. Graham’s searching gaze.

“When did you go to bed?”

“About ten.”

“You did not go out or come in by your window last night?”

“No, sir.”

“Or this morning early?”

“No, Sir.”

“And no one else did?”

“I didn’t see any one, sir.”

“Did you lock your door when you went to bed?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Was it locked when you woke this morning?”

“Yes, sir.”

Mr. Graham rested his forehead on his finger tips and gazed for a few
moments into the fire. He was a wise man, exceptionally successful in
ruling boys, largely because he treated them with common sense and
justice, neither suspecting them unnecessarily nor by guileless
benevolence inviting deceit. As he always made it a point whenever he
dealt personally with the boys to state his views with a clearness
impossible to misunderstand, and never to act until he was sure of his
premises, he was never charged with underhand dealing, and made few
mistakes.

In the present case the Principal’s caution served him well. He had
already visited Mrs. Winter and learned that she herself tried
Marchmont’s door at 10 P.M., and found it bolted within—it had no key.
Marchmont, therefore, was beyond suspicion. It followed, then, that
Salter was lying, or that John Drown, the man who had reported the entry
by the window, was mistaken, or that all the facts in the case were not
yet known. From his knowledge of Salter and Drown, Mr. Graham inclined
to the last supposition.

“Salter,” he said, looking fixedly at the boy’s confused face, “you are
keeping something back that I ought to know. What is it?”

Salter made no reply,—what reply could he make without telling the whole
truth or lying?—but stared at the floor while his face burned hotter and
his eyes swam, and a lump formed in his throat.

“I won’t press you,” said the Principal at last, breaking the terrible
silence; “but this I want you to promise me to do: choose the best boy
in school, the strongest, manliest, most honorable fellow you know;
confide to him all that you won’t confide to me, and act on his advice.
Will you do it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“That is all, then.”

With the feeling that he had escaped a great peril, Salter sat down in
his room and meditated on the interview. He had told no lies; he had
made no confession; he had given no hint that could be so twisted as to
suggest Marchmont. But how was he to fulfil his promise to seek out an
adviser and follow his advice? And who was “the strongest, manliest,
most honorable fellow you know”? Certain names occurred to him
immediately,—names with which we are already acquainted: Poole,
Laughlin, Ware, Planter. No one of these fellows had ever taken much
notice of him. They had been polite to him,—all but Planter the senior,
who probably didn’t know him by sight,—but in his timid soul he shrank
from imposing on any of them his private troubles. Who, then, was this
adviser to be? If he consulted his inclination, it would be Lindsay,
with whom he had already discussed the affair of the closet, and whose
later treatment of him invited confidence. And why not Lindsay, indeed?
Lindsay was a gentleman, and strong and kind-hearted; had in three
months won a position in the social life of the school which Salter
himself could never hope to reach; knew Marchmont well, and yet was not
of his sort. Lindsay it should be.

In response to a knock Wolcott looked up from his books that afternoon
to see Salter standing before him.

“I want to talk with you about something,” said the visitor, timidly.
“May I?”

“Sure!” returned Wolcott, encouragingly. “Sit down, won’t you? What’s
up?”

“You remember what I said to you about that trap-door in my closet, that
sooner or later I should be pulled up for it? Well, it came to-day.”

“Tell me about it!” cried Wolcott, interested at once.

And Salter, whose memory never failed him, went over the conversation
with Mr. Graham verbatim. “He told me to choose an adviser, and to
follow his advice,” Salter remarked in conclusion, “so I’ve chosen
you—that is, if you don’t object,” he added immediately, as he saw the
color rush into Lindsay’s face.

He need have felt no uncertainty. Wolcott’s cheeks flushed, not from
anger, but with pride that, with all the school to choose from, this
fellow had come to him, a new boy, for advice and help; and instantly,
under the generous impulse that animates every true man when a weaker
cries for protection, he had adopted Salter’s cause as his own. If he
hesitated, it was only for effect; he knew immediately what he wished to
say.

“If you want my advice, here it is: go to Marchmont and tell him the
thing has got to end, and end now; that if he goes through your room
again, you won’t be responsible for what happens.”

“But what can happen?”

“You could lock him out, if you wanted to, and let him shift for
himself. But it won’t come to that. Tell him you won’t have it! Put up a
stiff front, and he’ll back down. I’ve seen him do it before now.”

Salter looked discouraged. “I’m not good at stiff fronts. He’d know it
was a bluff, and talk me out of it before I’d been there two minutes.
When it comes to talking, I’m no match for the fellow at all.”

“I’ll go with you,” cried Wolcott, springing up. “You’ve got to make a
stand, or he’ll run over you completely. Spunk up and take your
medicine; it’s the only way.”

Marchmont was at home, and obviously puzzled as the pair filed into his
room, the shrinking Salter pushed forward by the more aggressive
Lindsay. As Salter never had ventured to visit his classmate of the
second story, while Lindsay until recently had been a frequent visitor,
Marchmont naturally looked to the latter for an explanation of the call.

“I’m here only as a friend of Salter’s,” said Wolcott, significantly.
“He has something to say to you.”

“I just wanted to say that I was called up to-day to explain how some
one came through my window at half-past twelve last night; and it seems
to me high time for the closet business to stop.” Salter got through
with this very well.

“But you got off easily enough, didn’t you? Of course the man who
thought he saw you was mistaken.” Marchmont’s tones were smooth and
persuasive.

Salter rallied his courage and went blindly forward. “It doesn’t make
any difference how I got off. The thing must end or I’ll not be
responsible for the consequences.”

Marchmont laughed. “There won’t be any consequences. You aren’t mean
enough to squeal.”

“I’ve advised him to give you warning, and when you go through again,
lock you out,” said Wolcott, coming to the rescue. “He’s put up with it
long enough.”

Marchmont turned coldly: “So you’re butting in again, are you? I don’t
see that this concerns you in the slightest.”

“As Salter’s backer in case he needs my help it may concern me a good
deal,” retorted Wolcott. “Shall we go now?”

Salter eagerly assented, and the pair retired with the honors of battle.

The next day Salter again appeared to consult his adviser.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about that hole. It ought to be closed up. He
may keep out for a time, but I never shall feel safe as long as it’s
there.”

“Get a carpenter to close it up,” Wolcott answered promptly.

“It would be all over town in a day. I’d like to do it on the quiet.”

“Can’t you do it yourself?” asked Wolcott.

“I don’t know a thing about tools,” lamented Salter.

“Neither do I,” confessed Lindsay in turn. “I’ll tell you who can help
us,” he added after a pause, as the incident of the trip to Eastham
suddenly occurred to him. “Laughlin! He’s a corker with tools—almost as
good as a carpenter.”

“Will you ask him?” suggested Salter, dubiously.

“Certainly! I’ll send him round to you.”

Laughlin presented himself that very afternoon at Salter’s room, and
made his examination.

“It’ll be dead easy,” he said in a reassuring tone.

“Must you go into Marchmont’s room in order to fix it?” Salter asked
uneasily.

“No, I can do everything from here. All you have to do is to put two
long strips across the opening underneath the trap-door and screw them
tight to the door. That’ll prevent his lifting it up. Then we’ll nail
some cleats on the sides of the joists and tack boards to the cleats so
as to fill up the hole in the ceiling of the closet.”

Salter pretended to understand. “Can you come Thursday afternoon? Mrs.
Winter and her niece who helps with the housework are going to a church
club meeting at three o’clock, and the house will be clear.”

“All right,” replied Laughlin, cheerfully. “I have the measurements, the
school carpenter will give me boards, and I’ll get them ready beforehand
so that we can whack them right up. You can smuggle the things in
Wednesday evening, can’t you?”

“Sure!” cried the boy, delighted at the apparently easy solution of the
difficulty.

On Thursday afternoon Laughlin and Lindsay sauntered in, the former
bearing nails and screws, the latter with hammer and screwdriver bulging
his hip pocket.

“Coast clear?” asked the architect.

“They’re both gone, but Marchmont’s up there,” said Salter, nervously.

“Don’t care if he is,” responded Wolcott. “Go out on the steps and watch
for Mrs. Winter. We’ll attend to this end.”

The first part of the work went forward noiselessly, as the screws,
driven by Laughlin’s powerful wrist, drew tight together the trap-door
and the bars which locked it beneath the floor. When he came to the
cleats, however, and the boards which were to cover the hole in the
closet ceiling, the house resounded with the blows of the hammer.
Laughlin was just fitting in his last board when Wolcott, turning round,
saw Marchmont peering over his shoulder into the closet.

“What’s going on here?” demanded the newcomer, in the tone which might
be used by a householder who had suddenly come upon unauthorized workmen
busy on his premises.

Laughlin threw a single look at the questioner and returned to his
hammering. Wolcott was silent.

“I could cut through that in ten minutes,” said Marchmont,
contemptuously.

“You won’t, though, if you know what’s good for you,” replied Laughlin,
preparing to nail down the shelf. “You’re not dealing with Salter now.”

Marchmont muttered something under his breath, of which Wolcott caught
but the single word “mucker.” That one word, however, was sufficient to
swing him suddenly around and bring him one threatening step nearer the
sneering face. “Repeat that, will you!” he called, his fists
instinctively doubled.

“I said that your friend was a very excellent workman,” replied
Marchmont, smiling mockingly, as he edged away. “I was wondering what
union he belongs to.”

Again Wolcott found the polished man and the backwoodsman contrasted,
and the comparison was not to the advantage of the “gentleman.” As the
spring days went by, he saw more and more of Laughlin, and gradually
came to appreciate better the spirit of the independent, determined, yet
wholly sweet-souled giant. If to be a gentleman was to be gentle and
kindly at heart and every inch a man, Laughlin’s claim to the title was
clear.



                               CHAPTER XV
                           THE SILENT PARTNER


“Did you get it off?” cried several boys, pressing round Strong as he
came out of the Principal’s office.

“No, I didn’t,” he replied gloomily, “and I don’t believe I ever shall!
You’ll have to count me out this year.”

Exclamations and laments rose from the sympathetic audience.

“But won’t they give you another chance?” demanded Roberts, the track
manager, who took the case especially to heart. He couldn’t let a
ten-and-a-fifth-second man slip through his fingers like this.

“Oh, yes, they’ll give me another trial in May—if I am here then,” said
the runner, sarcastically. “But what good is that? Haven’t I had a tutor
for a month, and failed?”

“Well, try him some more,” said Freund, the captain of the team.

“I can’t afford it,” was the dismal answer. “It isn’t any use, either. I
don’t believe the man did me any real good. He showed me how to do some
problems and helped me along with translations, but he didn’t seem to
strike the weak spot. I guess what I need is a new head. I’d swap my
legs for one any day.”

In his present state, Strong was unmanageable, and his friends abandoned
him to his own unpleasant reflections. With hands plunged in pockets and
head sunk between shoulders, the discouraged fellow walked slowly away,
viciously kicking an occasional pebble from his path.

Around the corner of Carter Hall, Salter appeared. He glanced bashfully
at Strong slouching along moody and ill-humored, and catching the
dragging step, loitered along at the runner’s side.

“The track ought to be in fine condition after the rain,” began Salter,
in a high-pitched voice that suited well his figure and gait.

“I suppose so,” growled Strong, his tone indicating a decided lack of
interest in both questioner and question.

Salter, rebuffed, tried to explain. “Don’t they say a hard rain is great
for a track after it has been well smoothed and rolled in the spring?”

“Perhaps they do,” Strong replied wearily. “It don’t matter much to me
anyway. They’ve held me up again with their confounded probations.”

“Same subjects?” asked Salter.

“Yes, German and Latin,—two nightmares! I can’t pass ’em if I stay here
a hundred years.”

“Of course you can,” returned Salter, in a clumsy effort to console.
“You’ve brains enough.”

“Not the kind they want,” retorted Strong, with a sneer, “not book
brains.”

For the few steps remaining before they reached the entrance to the
dormitory nothing was said by either boy, and they parted as silently.
The last words of the disappointed runner’s surly retort followed Salter
home, and still echoed with humiliating clearness in his ears long after
he had seated himself in his own study chair. Salter possessed “book
brains.” He wasn’t good for much else in the opinion of the school, but
he could get marks. He was careful, did not think one thing and write
another, always recognized clearly the principle involved, and kept
ticketed and shelved in some convenient lobe of his brain a store of
exceptional forms and expressions, of formulas and important facts, on
which he drew for recitation and examination as one might draw on an
ever increasing bank balance for the petty expenses of the day.

And yet in spite of these remarkable gifts which his fellows used
without hesitation when it suited their needs, poor Salter, as we have
seen, was neither popular nor happy. Why was it, he often asked himself,
that while he was doing so unquestionably well that which apparently all
boys were sent to school to do, he must forever be rated in the school
life as a drone and a non-combatant among workers and warriors? It
wasn’t just and it ought not to be, but how could he help it?

An hour later Strong stalked into the corridor before recitation room
No. 7, where a couple of fellows were holding up poor Salter on
sentences in Latin Composition which each was convinced, by inscrutable
analysis of chances, that he was to “get” at the forthcoming recitation.
Swift looked over Whitely’s shoulder as the latter scribbled down the
last words of the corrected Latin. “_Bellum gerebat_,” said Whitely.

“_Gereret_,” corrected Salter.

“How’s that?” demanded Whitely.

“Indirect question,” said Salter.

“Oh, yes! And _dies_, what case is that?”

“Accusative, time how long,” returned the patient Sal.

“Why, of course! I knew that all the time,” declared Whitely, folding
his paper with the air of one who had had information forced upon him.
“I’m ready for him now.”

The recitation took its usual course. Strong flunked his question with a
sullen resignation that drew a sharp look from the instructor. Whitely
kept in the background until they had got well on toward the sentences
which he had especially prepared, when he suddenly developed an intense
interest in the recitation, fixed his eyes on Mr. Lovering’s face and
brandished his arm aloft. But Mr. Lovering, who was near-sighted,—his
colleagues said he always knew what not to see,—looked directly past the
waving arm and challenging face to the silent, moody figure behind.
Strong received the sentence which Whitely had so carefully prepared;
and Whitely, with a face on which chagrin and disgust were so visibly
pictured as to stir the merriment of the soberest, dragged himself to
the board with a sentence which he had considered beyond the danger line
and so not worth while to study.

“Did you have any assistance on that sentence, Strong?” asked Mr.
Lovering, peering a little suspiciously over his spectacles. There had
been but one mistake in the work, and that a slight one which Strong
himself had recognized as soon as his attention was called to it.

“Not in the class, sir,” replied Strong. “I heard it talked over
outside.”

“Explain the mood of _gereret_.”

“Subjunctive in indirect question,” answered the runner, promptly.

“And the case of _dies_?”

“Accusative, duration of time.”

Mr. Lovering nodded approvingly. “You seem to understand it, at all
events. Now, Whitely, we’ll hear yours.”

And Whitely, flushed and confused, blundered through his poor
translation, correcting slight errors by gross ones, and sitting down at
last in the dismal consciousness that he had committed two of the
particular sins of construction which, in Mr. Lovering’s eyes, were most
unpardonable.

After the recitation, while Whitely was defending himself from the
jeering congratulations of his friends, Strong found himself again at
Salter’s side. This time he was in better humor for conversation.

“Well, Sal, what now?” he called jocosely after the dumpy figure mincing
along with the peculiar gait which had suggested one of his nicknames.
“Going to improve the shining hour, I suppose.”

“Yes,” replied Salter. “I’ve most of the German to do.” He hesitated a
few moments, lifted a cautious glance toward Strong’s face, and added,
“Don’t you want to come over?”

For an instant Strong stared in amazement. “Why, yes,” he said with a
refreshing cordiality; “just wait till I get my books.”

Salter finished his preparation of the lesson that afternoon
sufficiently early to have some minutes to devote to his visitor. It is
a fact well known to schoolmasters that a pupil will often perceive the
true inwardness of his fellow’s difficulty when the master has failed to
discover it. To Salter things were so perfectly evident and clear in the
lesson that it was a matter of interest to make out why they were not
equally evident and clear to his companion. Before the recitation bell
rang he thought he saw the obstacle; by the end of the Latin hour on the
following day he was sure of it. Strong had a superficial quickness in
learning forms and elements which had prevented his mastering them. What
he learned one day was gone two days after. His foundation crumbled away
beneath the structure he was striving to build upon it.

Like a good doctor studying a troublesome case, Salter, having located
the weakness, set to work to remove it. Without special arrangement,
almost without previous appointment, the sessions before the German and
Latin recitations became regular. As we have learned, Salter’s room was
not a place where boys were likely to gather. The friends who used to
lounge in at Strong’s to pass an agreeable half hour now found the door
frequently locked and their bird flown. It was weeks before they knew
that he was “living at Salter’s.” They did not know, could not know, how
much Salter was doing for their unscholarly friend; how he kept poor
Strong reviewing, reviewing, reviewing, until certain forms and facts
were stamped into his brain in ineradicable lines; how faithfully the
list of frequently missed words was kept; how Strong himself at last
grew so much interested in the constant struggle to master the elusive,
mocking, fugitive vocabulary, that with every new word struck from the
black-list he felt a triumph as of a well-won race.

Out of doors also the two began to appear together. When Strong did his
work on the track, Salter was likely to be there also, to hold the
sprinter’s sweater, or give him practice starts, or try to catch his
time with the stop-watch. Collins, the trainer, came at last to expect
them to appear together, and having found that Salter was developing
skill in timing, not infrequently asked the “second” for other services.
To his own surprise, Salter became aware that his society and his
stop-watch were both in growing demand.

And so two months slipped by, and the day of the school meet came.
Strong could not run, for he was still under the ban of probation. He
watched the sports at Salter’s side, and felt the tingle of eagerness
for the fray as he saw other fellows take the races which he might have
won; and his heart throbbed with an overmastering yearning like that of
the hunting-dog held back by a cruel leash when the pack is starting.
The more fervently did he hammer away that night at his treacherous old
enemies—the Latin constructions and the German vocabulary—while the boys
discussed the games, on the dormitory steps.

A few days later the news flashed about the school that Strong had
“passed off” his conditions. Wolcott and Poole knew how he had done it;
others who had noticed his steady improvement in recitations were not so
much amazed. But after all, the feeling uppermost seemed to be that his
chances for the Hillbury meet were not what they had once been. At the
Hillbury school contests the week before, Howes had done the hundred in
ten and two-fifths, while Joslin had won the two-twenty in phenomenally
fast time. So of these two races, which in the earlier estimates of the
year had been credited to Strong, Seaton could hardly expect to win more
than one. The school was discouraged, and so was Strong; but in answer
to all the chatter of question and doubt, Salter and the trainer smiled
wisely and imitated Brer Rabbit in saying nothing. They had held the
watch on their man too many times to fear a newspaper hero.

The Seaton-Hillbury games that year were among the closest ever held by
the rival schools. Strong won the hundred yards early in the contest,
proving to the doubters that he really could run in ten and a fifth.
Joslin of Hillbury won the quarter mile. And then, as the hurdles and
distances were run and the field events yielded their slow results, the
figures posted on the great announcement board showed as leader now
Hillbury, now Seaton, with every patriotic lad guessing from event to
event in a delightful thrill of hope and apprehension. When the
two-twenty, the last race of the day, was reached, the score stood
Hillbury 40½, Seaton 39½, the schools having tied for third place in one
event.

Hillbury was jubilant, for was not this Joslin’s own event? The first
prize counted five points, the second and third together but three. If
Joslin won, Hillbury was victorious; if Joslin lost—but he could not
lose! There was his record made but a few days before; no one now in
Seaton had come near it. The timid Seatonian hushed his cheering and
prepared himself for defeat; the braver cheered the more loudly to keep
up his spirits.

“If we only had Dickinson again for just five minutes,” said Poole, as
he sat with Lindsay and Planter on the top bench, “I could enjoy every
second of this race. As it is, I wish it were over. I’m terribly afraid
Strong hasn’t sand enough to keep ahead of that Joslin on a long
stretch. It would be horrible to get so near and then lose.” He drew a
long breath and passed his hand hurriedly over his eyes to dispel the
blur into which the strain of intense watching had plunged the distant
figures.

“Oh, pluck up!” returned Planter, whose less impetuous temperament stood
better the strain of waiting. “A fellow who could lift himself out of
probation as Strong has done has sand enough.”

Wolcott smiled at the idea of Strong’s lifting himself out of probation,
but he made no comment, while Poole was too intent on the white-clad
figures across the end of the track to heed anything else.

Meanwhile another and more serious conversation was going on at the
starting line, where Salter stood with his champion to give him a last
encouraging slap on the back and a last word of good cheer.

“It’s yours, Bill; you can beat him,” Salter was saying. “The two-twenty
belongs to the hundred yards man, not to the quarter miler, remember
that!”

“It’s the last two hundred feet that I’m afraid of,” returned Strong.
“He’s used to the longer distance, and may be going his fastest when I’m
giving out.”

“Get away from him at first, then, but not too far. Keep something in
reserve for a spurt.”

The starter called the men, and Strong settled upon his mark. Joslin had
the inside—a great advantage when the course begins with a turn, like
the two-twenty stretch on the Hillbury track. At the start the four men
rose together, but a second later two were ahead,—number one and number
three. The outside man was moving a little faster, just enough to keep
his position at the side of number one, as the two on the same radius
swept round the circular end of the track, neck and neck, until they
reached the straight stretch, where Strong forged two yards ahead and
hung. It was this hanging, this apparent inability to increase his lead,
that set the Hillbury contingent to yelling like crazy men; for here was
being accomplished what the Hillbury coach had promised—that Strong
would run himself out in the first two-thirds of the race and let Joslin
pass him at the finish.

And Strong sped onward, seeing nothing, hearing nothing, yet feeling and
knowing that his rival was gradually creeping up, was even, was a
foot,—two feet, ahead. Thirty yards from the finish line, when the race
seemed Joslin’s,—as safely as any race can be counted before the yarn is
broken,—when Hillbury flags were already waving in the exultant disorder
of triumph, the Seaton runner, drawing on his last reserve of strength,
dug his spikes into the track, and with a burst of speed like the
convulsive spurt of a forty-yards man, overhauled Joslin, passed him,
threw up his arms for the line of colored yarn, and fell, limp and
gasping, into the arms of waiting friends.

Salter still stood alone at the starting line watching the mob that,
wild with joy, poured down tumultuous from the Seaton benches, and with
crimson banners flashing in the sunlight swarmed about the panting
victor. Why was it that the very event for which he had longed so
ardently and labored so faithfully should now, as an accomplished fact,
find him so lukewarm in his emotion? Salter knew well the cause, and,
heartily ashamed, strove to throw off the feeling of depression stealing
over him.

“What are you thinking of, you fool?” he demanded of himself angrily.
“Did you expect them to come and carry you off on their shoulders? Of
course it’s over, and they’ll forget that you had anything to do with
it; but you had, all the same, and some of them know it. So behave
yourself and get into the game.”

He went forward bravely to find a place in the triumphal procession that
was now streaming toward the station. But envious thoughts still haunted
him. The victory was won; he had helped to win it. The period of anxious
longing was now at an end; and so, too, were the only really happy days
his school life had known—those pleasant weeks when he had been
something more to his fellow-students than a dictionary to be consulted
and thrown aside.

As he neared the throng two fellows came striding toward him: one big
and square-shouldered, with round, smooth face aglow with joyful
excitement and straw hat tipped back over light, disordered, hair; the
other shorter and more slender, with snapping black eyes, and face
burned by exposure on the diamond.

“Here he is!” shouted Wolcott.

“You good-for-nothing Sal, why are you sneaking off by yourself?” cried
Poole, almost simultaneously. “Come, you belong in this!”

And the two swept him off in the wake of the crowd. No one at that
moment—not Strong the victorious, nor Freund, the captain of the
team—was prouder or happier than Sally Salter.



                              CHAPTER XVI
                             A CELEBRATION


They swarmed forth that evening, in jerseys and old trousers and shoes
that feared neither mud nor dust, from every dormitory entrance and
every student lodging house; and, like Parisian revolutionists flocking
to the barricades, gathered to the sound of the drum on the street
before the academy yard. After the football game in the fall, while the
victors were romping and rah-rah-ing through the streets of Hillbury,
the Seaton lads had gathered in forlorn little groups, and sadly argued
the possibly different result if A had done this and B had not done
that. Now the tables were turned. While the good people of Hillbury were
looking forward to the usual quiet evening, the Seaton citizen resigned
himself to the glare of red fires and the din of bells and yells.

With much clamor and vociferation of orders the procession started.
Ahead were torch-bearers, red-light artists, and cannon-cracker
performers; then the town band, or as much of it as could be got
together—it mattered little what, as long as there was a cornet to lead
the songs and a drum to stir the blood; then the barge, loaded with
victorious athletes and drawn by scores of eager hands tugging at the
long ropes; then ranks of boys locked arm in arm, romping in zigzagging
lines back and forth across the road, singing and cheering and shouting
in the hilarious delight which no staid grown-up can understand. Wolcott
and Laughlin guided the flopping pole, Tompkins and Planter led the
cheering from the driver’s seat above, Salter and Poole were at the
ropes forward, while the twins trained with the artillery in the van.

So, illumined by crimson light and the flash of explosives which
drowned, in continuous and hideous din, their own cheering and songs and
the music of the band they had hired, the celebrants took their way by
the houses of certain favored teachers to the hill where the bonfire was
to be. At the houses the leaders throttled the disorderly racket, the
crowd cheered, the teachers appeared, made their facetious speeches, and
retired, the mob yelled applause, the hubbub broke forth again, the
procession moved on. Many a wretched pun and poor, undignified joke was
bitterly repented that night when Dr. X and Professor Z at last laid
their weary heads to rest, longing to amend their remarks as the
regretful congressman amends his faulty speech in the Record by striking
out everything he has said and substituting something wholly different.

But the pith and marrow of the celebration was about the big bonfire on
Jady hill, where proceedings might vary between the war dance of an
Indian tribe and an open-air meeting of the Peace Society. The proper
mean lay between these extremes of the extravagant and the tame, and Mr.
Graham, by throwing responsibility on the older boys, by insisting that
the festivity be public, and by taking a share in it himself, kept the
merriment in bounds. To-night, after the individual members of the team
had been cheered, the Principal set the pitch for the evening’s song of
triumph in a brief, sensible speech; and Freund, captain of the team,
followed with a disclaimer of personal desert and an eulogy on “the work
of all the fellows,” delivered with proper modesty and the usual
schoolboy lack of finish and superabundance of vigor. After Freund,
Collins the trainer had his turn; but after expressing surprise and
delight that the boys should have done so well, and declaring that he
had known all along that they could do it, he struck hard on the
irreconcilability of these statements, and went down in a burst of
cordial applause. Then a friendly townsman of a humorous vein took a
hand, and after the humorist, Mr. Lovering was demanded. The teacher had
the advantage that jokes were not expected of him, so when he declared
that “this is indeed a day on which the battle has been to the strong
and the race to the swift,” the audience laughed in pleased surprise,
and gave sympathetic hearing. The speaker then expressed the pleasure he
had felt in seeing Strong win his two hard races, and passing from this
naturally to the ban of probation and the fine way in which the runner
had removed it, preached a neat little sermon of half-a-dozen sentences
on the value of persistence and grit.

“Strong! Strong!” yelled the crowd. “Speech! speech!”

And then a queer thing happened that was down on nobody’s programme.
Instead of hanging back in confusion or disappearing altogether, as his
friends expected, Strong came promptly forward. There was a look of
seriousness on his face, and he confronted the crowd boldly, as if he
really had something to say.

“For all that has been said about my two races, and all the help I’ve
had from Collins and a lot of others, I’m much obliged. I did the best I
could, and certainly ran in great luck. But there’s one fellow here who
isn’t getting his share of the glory. We should have lost the meet
to-day if any one had missed on his points. Howes and Joslin would have
won my events if I hadn’t got off probation; and I never should have got
off probation in this world if Sally Salter hadn’t spent days and weeks
in driving things into my head. So with all respect to Mr. Lovering, you
see I can’t honestly stand for that probation.”

At this point Strong, suddenly becoming conscious that he was making a
speech, broke abruptly off. Some one in the inner circle sprang forward
and swung his hat. And Salter, Sally Salter, Marm Salter, to his own
intense surprise, was actually cheered.

The celebration was over. Turning reluctantly from the fast-dwindling
fire, the participants in motley company trooped back to rooms and beds.
The band straggled home by twos in silence; the multitude, which with
unfailing enthusiasm had tugged the heavily loaded barge up the long
hill, was now scattered; and only a conscientious few aided by certain
faithful members of the team had a thought for the borrowed state
carriage and the credit of the school. Wolcott was among the forgetters.
In the confusion of the break-up he missed his companions and floated
away with the crowd.

On a side street a dozen yards from the lamp post a knot of students
were watching the figures pass beneath the light.

“There’s Lindsay,” said Whitely. “He’s big enough to hold a man on his
shoulders as steady as a church. Let’s not try to find Bert. O Lindsay!”
he called.

“He’s no use, you chump!” exclaimed Marchmont, sharply; but Wolcott was
already turning back. “What is it?” he asked, straining his eyes to
distinguish the faces.

“Don’t go home yet; there’ll be more doing before long.”

“What do you mean?” repeated Wolcott, eagerly.

He questioned, not from prudence, but from eager curiosity. The noise,
the blaze of lights, the fervor of enthusiasm, the dazzle of
hero-worship, the hilarity, the freedom and comradeship of the
merrymaking, had piled their impressions on his excited brain till his
personal patriotism flamed and roared; his chief desire for the time
being was to lose nothing of this night of exultation. If he recognized
Marchmont among the group, no suspicion of evil occurred to him. He felt
only that it was a great day for Seaton, that all Seatonians were
brothers, and that at this time of universal joy all differences should
be forgotten.

“We’re going to show John Drown how to celebrate,” replied Whitely.
“Come on and see the fun.”

The troop started, and Wolcott, who was out to see, started with the
troop down Hale Street and toward the stables whence the barge had gone
forth early in the evening. As they passed the stable entrance they met
a big, square-shouldered fellow whom Wolcott recognized in the
semi-darkness as Laughlin, and who by the same token recognized Wolcott
overtopping by half a head his nearest neighbors.

“Lindsay!” called Laughlin, sharply, halting and turning round.

“Well, Dave,” called back Wolcott, jovially, “fall in if you want some
fun.”

“Come here a minute, won’t you, please?” continued Laughlin.

The exclamations which this interruption called forth in Whitely’s
company, Wolcott did not notice.

“What are you up to with those fellows?” demanded Laughlin, earnestly.

“We’re going over to get a rise out of John Drown,” replied Wolcott,
innocently.

“Who are they?”

“Oh, Whitely and Reeves, and Marchmont, I think, is with them. Want to
come along?”

Laughlin laid his hand on Wolcott’s arm. “Wolcott, don’t do it. You’ll
get into trouble or do something you’ll be everlastingly ashamed of when
you wake up to-morrow. They aren’t out to-night on any good errand.
Don’t go with them!”

“Nonsense!” cried Wolcott. “I shan’t do anything out of the way. It’s
just a little fun.”

“I know better about that than you do. It’s something wrong, or they
wouldn’t be in it. Let it alone and come back with me.”

“Come on, if you’re coming,” called Whitely. “We can’t stay here all
night.”

“It’s all right,” insisted Wolcott, dropping his arm to free himself
from Laughlin’s grasp. The strong fist merely clutched the tighter.

“It isn’t all right. You’re going back on your word. You promised to try
your hardest to make the eleven, and now you’re doing something that may
prevent your making it at all, whether you play well or not.”

“I don’t see that,” said Lindsay.

“If you get into trouble and get fired you can’t make it, can you?
You’re taking a risk that no football man ought to take, and taking it
in spite of warning.”

The conspirators were moving. “Good-by, darling,” shouted Reeves.
“Always do what Nursey says!” Wolcott muttered an angry something that
he would have preferred no one should hear. Laughlin clung to his
purpose.

“It’s for your own sake and my sake and the eleven that I ask it,
Wolcott,” he pleaded. “Let them go without you.”

The sound of footsteps and voices died away down the street.

“Well, they’re gone!” said Wolcott, in sullen tones, after an interval
of silence. “Now you’ve had your way, I hope you’re satisfied.”

“I am,” replied Laughlin, coolly, “and you’ll be to-morrow. Good night.”

Next morning rumor flew that Drown, the night watchman, had waked to
find the front of his house unexpectedly decorated. Wolcott came home
from church by a roundabout way to see what the conspirators of the
night before had accomplished. Above the first-floor windows, across the
whole front of the house, had been daubed in red paint the score of the
games, and underneath an adjective of personal application to Drown
himself.

Wolcott stared and grew suddenly pale. So this was the “fun” that he had
been invited to share! But for Laughlin’s interference, he might have
been involved in this contemptible act of vandalism. With eyes blazing
and cheeks burning he strode away, indignant but humble, toward
Laughlin’s room. His first lesson in football discipline was learned.

Two days later Marchmont and Reeves severed their connection with the
school. Why these two were punished when Whitely and others escaped was
not clearly explained. The strokes of school discipline are not always
infallible, though it is safe to say of them as of the judgments of the
criminal courts, that few innocent are punished, though many a guilty
man goes free. It is possible that Mr. Drown identified one or two of
the vandals; or that Mrs. Winter, when in the course of Monday morning’s
cleaning, she at last discovered the patched closet ceiling and the
trapdoor hidden under the oilcloth, also found fresh spots of paint on
Marchmont’s clothes.

It was the only celebration of the year. The nine went to Hillbury,
supported by a numerous though half-hearted company praying for a
miracle. But the wicked Hillburyites fell on the hopeful Seaton pitcher
as the Philistines on Samson shorn of his seven locks. When he put the
ball over the plate they hit it; when he kept it out of their reach,
they made runs on balls. The defeat was crushing.

Wolcott sat all the way home in fierce and gloomy silence, broken only
to answer some unavoidable question. Laughlin watched him for a long
time without a word.

“How would you like to be on a defeated eleven?” he asked at last with a
wise smile.

Wolcott answered and set his lips tight together. “All I ask is the
chance to get at them.”

Whereat Laughlin laughed with pleasure, and said no more.

But time and new interests dull disappointment. The end of the school
year arrived with its fêtes and ceremonies; the college examinations
enforced their exacting demands. Then came a day when Laughlin and
Lindsay stood together at the station and exchanged a fervent good-by
and words of advice.

“Don’t spend all your time sailing and playing golf; rowing and swimming
are what you need,” said Laughlin.

“And don’t wear yourself out at that hotel, throwing trunks,” cried
Wolcott. “Light labor is what _you_ need. If you get a chance, come over
to the Harbor and see us.”



                              CHAPTER XVII
                               BACK AGAIN


All day long on the fourteenth of September the trains disgorged batches
of young studiosi upon the platform of the Seaton station. The older
boys, veterans of at least a year, hallooed jubilantly over the heads of
the crowd to their returning friends, and in joyous groups which rapidly
formed and dissolved, clinched grips and thrashed each other’s arms
about in gestures quite contrary to the latest rules of etiquette. The
newcomers, awed and diffident, threaded their way ungreeted through this
waste of welcomes. Some came with mammas, who viewed the boisterous
crowd with disapproval and skirted it in haste; some with papas, who
looked and smiled and wished their own lads among the merrymakers; some
with older brothers, who knew the station agents and the townspeople,
but not the boys; and some like Dick Melvin of old and Laughlin of two
years before, alone, unknown, with little money in the purse, but in
their hearts a valiant purpose to accept the opportunity the school
offered and climb the hard path others had climbed before them.

“Where’s Dave Laughlin?” was Wolcott’s first cry as he jumped from the
car steps and was seized on one side by Durand and Ware, and on the
other by the twins.

“Over there smashing baggage,” said Ware, pointing down the platform.
“He’s delivering trunks round town.”

“I’ll take him your order,” said a Peck.

“I’ll take it myself, thank you,” answered Wolcott, scanning the two
sunburned faces. “You’ve grown different during the summer. I can tell
you apart now.”

“Well, which is which?” demanded Durand.

“That’s Donald. He’s the one that has the mole on his back,” Wolcott
replied promptly, pointing to the twin who had spoken.

The Pecks chuckled. Durand hooted: “Wrong! And they’ve both grown moles
by this time, I’ll bet my hat!”

“How’d the exams go?” asked Ware, coming to Wolcott’s aid.

“Fine. I got eighteen points, a lot better than I expected. How were
yours?”

“Fair,” replied Ware.

“Four honors, that means,” put in Durand.

“Butler here, and Pope and Jackson?”

“Yes, all back, and every old football man except the three who
graduated last June. Buist’s failed and is coming back for another year,
so the old back field will be here. If we have any kind of luck, we
ought to have a great team this year.”

Ware’s words were meant to bear a message of good news, but they brought
instead a quiver of disappointment to Wolcott’s heart. If the ranks were
so full, the chances for new men were certainly small. He was ashamed of
the feeling as soon as he recognized it, and he threw it off with a
sudden jerk of the head, as a swimmer shakes the water from his hair.

“That’s bully,” he said. “The best is none too good for us. I’m going to
find Dave.”

Laughlin was standing beside the pile of baggage, in cap and overalls,
receiving checks and addresses and making out receipts. Two big wagons
were backed up to the platform, and two assistants were clumsily lifting
in the heavy trunks.

“That’s mine, Dave,” called Wolcott, calmly reaching over the heads of
the row of fellows who in jolly bustle and with unconcealed desire to
rattle the amateur baggageman were insisting each on immediate
attention.

The big fellow looked up and squared his broad face, dripping with
perspiration, toward the familiar voice. Over his features spread a
smile fairly glowing with the spirit of welcome.

“Hello, Wolcott!” he cried, grasping the outstretched hand by the
knuckles and shaking it vigorously. “Awfully glad to see you.”

“Then take this check,” said Wolcott. “I’m at the old place.”

But Laughlin only nodded shrewdly and retorted: “No, sir! You take your
turn at this shop.”

With this uncompromising reply on his lips, the deliverer of trunks
turned to one of the half dozen who were shouting: “Here!” “Here!” “I’m
next!” and gave himself up to business. Wolcott, thus forced to wait his
proper time, waited still longer and watched the scene.

The two assistants stumbled with a heavy trunk. The boss pushed them
aside, grasped the unwieldy thing and tossed it into the wagon.

“What a hand you’d be in a baggage car, Dave!” cried Wolcott.

“I’ve done it before,” answered Laughlin. “It’s not so hard if you know
the trick.—Here, you fellows, get into the wagon and push ’em up while I
throw ’em in.—I’ve got a lot of things to say to you, but I can’t say
’em now. I’ll be over this evening sometime.”

It was nearly ten o’clock when Laughlin at last came slowly up the
stairs and with a sigh of satisfaction stretched out on Wolcott’s sofa.

“About as hard a day’s work as I ever did,” said the truckman. “One
hundred and eight trunks since six o’clock this morning! I could have
done a lot more if I had had another outfit.”

“I hope you made a good pile out of it,” said Wolcott, “and that all the
fellows will pony up.”

“They paid cash,” replied Laughlin, shrewdly, pulling out a fistful of
halves and quarters. “If they ever have ready money, it’s when they come
in the fall. One hundred and eight trunks at twenty-five cents each is
twenty-seven dollars. Taking out two dollars for each of the fellows who
helped me, and six dollars for the wagons, I have seventeen left. How’s
that for a day’s work?”

“Great! I haven’t earned as much money in all my life. You won’t do it
soon again either, unless you get paid for playing college football,” he
added with a teasing smile.

“Then I never shall,” returned Laughlin, quietly. “Those fellows down at
X have been after me again.”

“Same offers?” asked Wolcott.

“Better ones. I can have the earth. They promise to find me a place to
work where all I have to do is to draw my pay, and they’ll see to it
that my expenses don’t worry me. It amounts to an offer to get me into
college, keep me there, and find me a job when I get out. All I have to
do is to play football.”

“Going?” asked Wolcott, laughing.

“Going!” repeated Laughlin, as he snapped himself up into a sitting
position on the sofa and stared reproachfully at his questioner. “Not if
I know myself! There isn’t money enough in the whole institution to buy
me. And what’s more, I’m not going to a place where they do business in
that way. I’d rather not go to college at all than hire myself out to
play football.”

Wolcott gazed at his big friend in silence, but the admiration which his
lips failed to express was revealed by the gleam of feeling in his eyes.
Laughlin had toiled away the vacation weeks as porter in a summer hotel.
His school life was but a routine of close study and hard manual labor,
of plugging at lessons and furnace tending and snow shovelling and odd
jobbing. The time given to football involved a personal sacrifice to be
made good by greater effort after the season closed. The future had
nothing in store for him except what his own hands and brain could
provide. What a temptation, then, this promise of an easy and glorious
college course!

“There seems to be a wrong notion of me going round,” continued
Laughlin. “I don’t see why they should keep after me so. Even if I were
willing to sell myself, I doubt if I could deliver the goods. I’m really
only a fair sort of player. They seem to think I belong on an
all-American eleven.”

“You’ll make it some day if you keep on,” declared the admirer, his
ardor of feeling finding expression in emphasis rather than in words.

“Whether I do or not makes mighty little difference to me at present.
All I ask is to win the Hillbury game.”

“Oh, you’ll do that fast enough. Just look at the old men you’ve got
back.”

“I’ve looked at ’em,” the captain answered sagely. “Some of ’em will be
better than they were last year and some worse, and all harder to
control. It looks like just the kind of a veteran team that gets done
up. You’re coming out to-morrow, aren’t you?”

Wolcott reddened with pleasure. “Yes, if you want me.”

“Want you! We want everybody. Give us your hand.”

Wolcott reached out his hand and clasped the other’s brawny, callous
fist.

“Squeeze!” commanded the captain, tightening his grip.

Wolcott squeezed. His summer, though wholly unlike Laughlin’s, had not
been spent in idleness, and he met pressure with pressure. Second
followed second, and still the two hands trembled in the clasp, while
eye searched eye for sign of wavering. Wolcott’s muscles were failing,
his hand was growing numb; but he marshalled his nerves to reënforce his
muscles, determined not to show the white feather if his hand were
crushed to pieces, and holding his own against his antagonist. It was
Laughlin who ended the ordeal by suddenly wrenching his hand loose.

“You’ll do. What have you been doing all summer—rowing?”

“Yes, lots of it, and swimming and hauling sails.”

“How much do you weigh?”

“One hundred and seventy-nine, stripped.”

Laughlin nodded thoughtfully. “That’s not much in these days. I’m under
my usual weight at two hundred and ten. Is that the outside wall there,
behind the sofa?”

“Yes,” answered Wolcott, with wonder.

“Let’s pull the sofa out, then; I don’t want to smash a partition.”

The sofa out of the way, Laughlin began again. “You know how to charge?”

Wolcott nodded assent.

“A good way to practise it is to charge against a wall. You ought to do
it outside, and of course if you have a charging machine with a padded
surface to smash against, it isn’t so hard on the wrists; but I can show
you what I mean right here.”

Laughlin crouched on the floor a yard from the wall, resting on his
finger-tips and toes, with one foot somewhat behind him. Then he counted
three and at the last number suddenly lifted and threw himself forward,
catching himself with the palms of his hands against the wall.

“That’s a charging exercise. It’s hard on the wrists, but it’s good
training. The main thing is to hold your head up and go like a shot when
you hear the word. Try it with me.”

They stooped side by side on the imaginary line. At first Dave counted,
afterward Wolcott. Each time, however, the old player, in spite of his
weight, got off first and was the first to strike the wall.

“I beat you,” said Laughlin, reproachfully, “and they call me slow.”

“I’ll learn it,” declared Wolcott, resolutely.

“I don’t doubt you will,” Laughlin said, as they resumed their seats,
“for you’re naturally quick. It isn’t all the game by a long shot, but
it’s much better to start right. The same holds true about tackling. You
don’t want to make a single bad tackle the whole season through. That
means that the first time you try it, and every time you try it, you go
straight for the man’s knees. If you follow that scheme in everything,
you won’t have bad habits to come back at you later on.”

Wolcott nodded understandingly, and seeing that Laughlin, weary though
he was from his hard day’s work, was still inclined to talk, smothered
the questions on his lips and listened.

“I believe that most of the end-of-the-season careless playing comes
from poorly learned elements like tackling, charging, and dropping on
the ball. You see, at the start-off, everybody, old and new, is
hammering away at these things, and they all do pretty well. Then weeks
afterward, when we’re working at signals, and practising combinations,
and everybody’s attention is on the team work and not on the elements,
there’s likely to be a big slump. The poor tacklers go high, and the
fumblers juggle the ball, and the linesmen get interested in their men
and don’t watch the ball, and break for the wrong bunch. It’s about then
that the new man who has got the elements so sure that he does them
right automatically elbows the old player off the field.”

“I think I’ve learned the elements,” said Wolcott, cautiously.

“Learn them over again, then,” returned Laughlin, “and keep learning
them till you’d no more do them wrong than you’d walk backward over to
recitation. It’s one thing to do a thing right when your mind is on it;
it’s a very different thing to do it right always, whatever your mind is
on. Take a fumbling back, for example. Let a coach give a fumbler an
awful rake-down before a game, and the probability is he won’t do any
fumbling; but he won’t do anything else either. His mind is on the
fumbling.”

“I’ll do my best. What had I better try for?”

“Guard,” replied Dave, instantly. “You are rather light, but I’ve had a
quick, light guard keep me working my hardest to stop him. We’ve three
fair tackles now, but we need a guard to play second to Butler. If you
work hard through the season, you may get a chance for your ‘S’ in the
Hillbury game. Well, good night. Be out at three, sure!”



                             CHAPTER XVIII
                                FOOTBALL


Wolcott was out on the next afternoon at the appointed hour, feeling at
first a little sheepish under the scrutiny of the critical crowd at the
side-lines, but soon oblivious to everything except the work to be done
and the directions of the coachers. On this first day the candidates
practised little except the simplest elements, such as tackling and
falling on the ball. The prudent coach sent them all down early, when to
Wolcott it seemed as if the work had just begun. The next day the same
programme was followed, the green linesman receiving in addition
personal instruction from the veterans in the rudiments of line play:
how to stand, how to charge, how to use the hands, or, what was perhaps
more important, how not to use them. Wolcott was not altogether without
experience, or he would have made little out of this amateur coaching.
He kept his eyes open, however, watching the motions rather than trying
to follow the words of his instructors, and seeking to learn what was
most worth learning. Laughlin gave him a suggestion now and then as he
went among the squads, and Lauder, the coach, devoted a few minutes to
him. He did not need to be told that a guard plays close up to the
centre on the offence and loose on the defence; that he must keep his
head up and his play low, meet the other man harder and quicker than the
other man meets him, throw himself into the enemy’s country at the
earliest possible instant, and always watch the ball. All this as theory
was tolerably familiar to him,—so familiar, in fact, that he almost
resented being held down like a greenhorn to a primary course when he
was capable of going higher. But when, after a few days, he got into his
first line-up, and in five minutes of play got offside through
overhaste, charged into the air, lost sight of the ball, rushed his man
away from the play which he was supposed to stop, and leaped twice at a
runner’s throat instead of at his shins—he despised the primary course
no longer.

“It does no good to jump around unless you’re helping some one on your
side or stopping some one on the other,” said Laughlin, reproachfully,
as he talked over the day’s practice afterward. “You want to be lively,
but every step ought to tell. Always strike for the ball or the bunch
where the ball is. You made a terrible mess when you tried to tackle
Fearns!”

“I know it,” replied Wolcott, humbly. “I’m afraid I lost my head.”

“I wish you’d do what I told you the other night,” continued the
captain: “make sure of the rudiments whether you know anything else or
not. If you’re good at those, there’ll always be a place for a fellow of
your size on the second; but if you take to making neck tackles and
shutting your eyes in a scrimmage, you won’t be of any use anywhere.”

“I won’t do so any more,” said Wolcott. And then he added, with an
accent of discouragement, “You think I can make the second, don’t you?”

Laughlin understood the tone quite as well as the words. “Of course you
can if you try, and I don’t mean that you can’t make the first either.
You’ve got to make the first by way of the second. The second is just
the place for you, or for any one else who wants to learn; it’s the
regular training-school for the first. You’re on the field every day,
you play against a better man who can’t help giving you points, and
you’re right where you can be watched. Don’t you worry about the first.
Just play your hardest all the time, make the man opposite you work to
keep you under, learn his game and improve on it, and then, if you beat
him out, you’ll be taken on to the first in his place. But don’t ask now
whether you’re going to land in the first or the second. You’ve got a
chance during the next six weeks to learn the game and show what you can
do. That’s all any one can ask.”

Wolcott was silent, but he was not at all convinced that the mere
opportunity to play on the second was in itself all he could ask for,
and his later experiences rather confirmed his doubts. To begin with, he
got but little personal coaching, for the coachers devoted themselves
especially to the first, helping the second, for the most part, only
incidentally. Then he was pitted against Butler, an experienced man,
fifteen pounds heavier, who had the support of the best line in school
and the best secondary defence. Bullard, who played centre on the first,
was not counted a great player, but he was certainly better than
thick-headed, heavy-limbed Kraus, who usually occupied the corresponding
position on the second, and who was likely either to topple over on
Lindsay’s back, or fall in his way, or in some other inexplicable
fashion deprive the new guard of the fruit of his efforts. Durand was
captain of the second, as clever and quick and “scrappy” a quarter as
one could desire. But what could the cleverest quarter do with a centre
who couldn’t get the ball back, and a line which wouldn’t hold long
enough to allow the backs to get started? At the end of a week of play,
Wolcott began to suspect that the second had no other reason for
existence than to be tossed and mauled about for the good of the first,
as the punching-bag suffers to harden the boxer’s muscle.

Another week went by, and the new player’s ambition began to wane. He
didn’t mind the hard knocks and the hard words; he was willing to work
and wait and play with all his might; but it did seem an unfair handicap
to pit him against a veteran player, a stronger and better-trained line,
the head coach and the captain, and still expect him to distinguish
himself. Laughlin had paid him but little attention during the last
week. The captain still made occasional suggestions, mostly in the form
of frank and unadorned condemnation of methods that were wrong, with now
and then a word of praise as a relish; but the old intimate relation in
which they had discussed the football campaign as a thing in which the
two had a similar interest, no longer existed. Was Laughlin too much
absorbed to notice him? Or had he already made up his mind that Lindsay
was of no use?

“Why didn’t you try for tackle, Lindsay?” asked Jackson, the
quarter-back, that afternoon, as the two stood briskly rubbing
themselves in the corner of the shower-bath drying room. “There isn’t
much show at guard against a man like Butler.”

“Because Dave wanted me to play guard,” answered Wolcott, sharply. He
had been puzzling over that very question himself.

“Did he?” answered Jackson, in a tone of surprise. “I wonder why.” And
then, after considering a few seconds, he added: “I guess he thought
’twould be better to have a good solid centre on the second to buck
against than another green tackle for the first. I guess he’s right,
too. It’s rather hard on you, though, isn’t it?”

Wolcott forced a laugh. “It makes no difference to me where I play. I
never expect to get beyond the second, anyway.”

Wolcott’s attention wandered in the recitation that afternoon, and he
went to his room after dinner in distinctly low spirits. He had dreamed
of making the eleven. Indifferently as he had spoken to Jackson, he
could not deny that the hope had been in his heart daily for the last
six months. All the labor and training of the summer had been undergone
with this prize before his eyes. If Dave was disappointed in him, he was
still more disappointed in himself; but in any case he must bear his
fate like a man, not whine over it like a child. After all, if he did
his best, his absolute best, and did not compass his ambition, he had
nothing to be ashamed of. He certainly wanted the best team put into the
field, and if his greatest service to the team lay in his furnishing a
“good, solid centre on the second for the first to buck against,” why
should he hesitate?

No, he would think no more of the first eleven. His place was on the
second. But on the second he would do something worth doing. He would
play his game to the end, without shirking or shrinking, to the best of
his ability in the place where he was put. And the second eleven should
be a good eleven, as far as he could make it, or help others to make it!

Full of a new purpose, Wolcott seized his cap and hurried over to
Durand’s room. Durand was writing names on a sheet of paper.

“Hello!” said Durand, “did you meet Dave?”

“Dave? No! Why?”

“He’s just been in here. He was going over to see you. He wants us to
brace up the second.”

Wolcott uttered an exclamation. “That’s just what I was going to talk
with you about.”

“Dave says we’re of no use, and we can’t deny it. He’s given me a free
hand to get out the best team we can. What do you think of this
combination?” And he read his list of names.

On the following day there were some new faces on the second. Kraus was
put to running laps on the track, and into the centre went Scates, a
burly White Mountain villager who had never touched a football until he
arrived in Seaton that September. They planted him in the line, told him
that the opposite centre was his personal enemy, bade him stand like a
rock, put the ball back when required, and then pile into his enemy as
if he were pushing a log into the Androscoggin. When the other side had
the ball, he was to smash through and get it. Milliken, a big
Pennsylvanian who had been vainly trying to stop Laughlin, was pulled
out of his position and set to bucking the line. The practice that
afternoon was lively, if nothing else.

The next day was Saturday, and the Bates College team appeared for their
annual game. Wolcott lounged at the side-lines in football clothes with
the rest of the big squad, on the extremely small possibility that a
sufficient number of accidents would occur to bring him into the game.
As the substitutes lounged, they watched and commented.

“Butler is putting it over his man all right,” observed Conley, who sat
at Wolcott’s elbow, in characteristic slang.

Wolcott was watching. Both Butler and his Bates opponent, though
starting low, charged upward, meeting nearly erect. Then Butler, who was
heavier and stronger, would push the other back or throw him aside, and
pass quickly through. Why did they rise like that? The movement was
instinctive, of course, but why did not the lighter man keep on the
ground where his advantage lay, and not be tempted into the air?
Interested in the pair, Wolcott followed the play along the side-lines,
catching glimpses from time to time of the attitude of the two men as
they clashed. The advantage was always on Butler’s side.

In the second half Butler faced a new foe, who for a time fared no
better at his hands than his predecessor. But presently a change was
perceptible. The new guard did not rise to meet his enemy’s charge, but
instead dodged past the Seaton man close to the ground on the defensive,
and charged his hips on the offensive. Gains behind Butler became less
frequent; twice his man stopped the Seaton play behind the line.

Wolcott kept his own counsel after the Bates game, but his treatment of
Butler when he next lined up against him was different. When the first
had the ball, instead of dashing himself against his opponent, he dived
past him on his knees. Twice he overran the ball because he did not keep
his head up to see where the play was going; twice he lost his footing,
and was useless; but several times he was through in season to smash the
interference as it was forming, or drive the runner in a wasteful
circuit. When his own side had the ball, the play was not so easy; but
by diving into his opposite the very instant the ball moved, he at least
succeeded in keeping him out of the way.

“It was a good game you put up to-day, Lindsay,” said the coach, as the
line broke. Lindsay thanked him, beaming with joy.

On the way down Laughlin joined him. “Good work you did to-day; keep it
up.” Wolcott nodded and smiled again. But the smiles and the joy were
not due to the compliments, nor to the reawakening of fatuous hopes of
swift promotion to the school eleven. His present ambition was centred
on holding his own against Butler, and now he knew he had his man.



                              CHAPTER XIX
                             MORE FOOTBALL


From that day there was in practice a growing trouble on the left of the
school centre. The plays on that side frequently went wrong. Some one
would rise in the path of the ball from beside Butler’s knees, or there
would be no hole between tackle and guard when it was called for, or
when a hole was made, big Milliken would be found crouching behind it,
with Lindsay scrambling free from his opponent within striking distance.
And occasionally, even when the play was aimed at Laughlin’s side,
Lindsay would dive through, wheel round the centre and tear away the men
who were pushing behind, just at the moment when their impulse was most
needed.

He was not always so successful. Sometimes Butler would fall squarely
upon him, and so give Buist or Wendt a chance to hurdle them both.
Sometimes Butler would catch him badly balanced on his feet, and throw
him before he could steady himself. At times, also, the older player
would resort to more violent methods, especially when the second had the
ball and the first were free to use their hands, and would charge
open-handed at Wolcott’s eyes, or with a sudden upward sweep of his
forearm bring the head of his crouching opponent up to the desired
level. But Wolcott kept both his temper and his wits. When a new trick
was used against him, he devised a way of meeting it. He learned to hold
his head up long enough to detect the course of the play, and safely
down when he went for the ball; to start like a flash without false
moves; to strike his opponent, with his feet not one behind the other or
in each other’s way, but well apart and strongly braced; to fall, when a
heavy man tried to flatten him, not helpless with legs and arms
outstretched, but on his hands and knees in a crawling position; to turn
his opponent’s direction by a dexterous twist; and, above all, to play
his game on the ground. It was a personal contest day after day between
the old and the new guard to see which should prevail over the other—a
contest which, though not bitter, was yet hard and fierce and exciting.
And every day, though the coachers behind the first exhorted and
reviled, Lindsay’s advantage grew.

The second was transformed. The efforts and example of Durand and
Lindsay and Milliken had put life into the whole faint-hearted flabby
set. Their plays often did not work; the right side of their line
regularly broke after a momentary struggle, to let Laughlin through. But
on the other side Lindsay and Peters, his tackle, could usually open
some kind of a hole; and when Milliken hugged the ball in his two arms
and butted, bull-like, at an opening, something usually gave way. And
now and then Durand would get a chance to run back a punt, or would slip
round the school tackle on a quarter-back run, and with the jerky,
zigzag, dodging movement that made him disappear under the hand like a
flea, would work his way a third the length of the field. Such
occurrences were, however, exceptional; the practice of the second was
mainly on the defence.

“It’s too good to last,” said Durand, mournfully, after a game in which
the second had made an unusually good resistance. “They’ll soon be
taking Milliken away from me, and swapping Butler for you. That’s the
trouble with a second eleven: as soon as you develop a good man, they
steal him.”

“Well, they won’t steal me,” returned Wolcott, laughing. “I’m more
useful to them where I am.”

On the next day there was a “shake-up” on the second. Milliken was put
on the first, and Lindsay was transferred to left guard, opposite
Laughlin.

“You see I was right,” he said to Durand, as the players shifted
positions. “I’m the animated tackling dummy for the first to practise
on. When one man’s got enough of me, they turn me over to another. Well,
here goes! My work’s cut out for me this time all right.” And he went to
his place with the spirit of battle burning like a fire within him.

There was fierce struggling that day between right guard on the first
and left guard on the second. Wolcott early found that the methods used
with success against Butler would not all serve against Laughlin.
Sometimes the captain lifted him up and threw him over; sometimes he
simply swept him back by his immense strength and weight. Only by
extreme rapidity of attack could Wolcott scramble by his enemy on the
defensive; only by playing on his knees and charging low could he keep
the heavier man from the play. The fight took all his strength and all
his attention. It was lift and smash, and smash and lift, regardless of
time or distance. He did not know whether one touchdown had been made or
four; whether he was doing well or ill: he merely played his man to the
limit of his powers. And when the whistle finally sounded, and he gave a
last look into Laughlin’s face before turning to hunt up Ware and his
sweater, he noticed for the first time how the perspiration was pouring
down the captain’s face and the big body shook with panting.

Wolcott went to bed that night at eight o’clock, completely tired out,
but supremely content. He had given Laughlin the hardest tussle that the
doughty veteran had faced in many a long day.

On Saturday came a match, and Wolcott played in Butler’s place during
the second half. The crowd at the side-lines made various comments on
the merits of the two players. But a guard occupies an inconspicuous
place. With the centre he forms the backbone, the anchor of the line;
but his best work is hidden by the scrimmage. It may have been merely
because they were in better training than their antagonists that Seaton
played a so much stronger game during the second half; it may have been
due entirely to his freshness that Lindsay was so effective in holding
up his men and dragging them along, after they were tackled, several
times to a first down. The bleacher critics were uncertain, and the
coachers, who knew best, would not commit themselves.

Again Wolcott took his practice opposite Laughlin. The head coach was
most of the time behind the second; and though he kept close watch on
the general game, he always had one eye on Laughlin and Lindsay. Wolcott
had lost something of his fear of his redoubtable antagonist. As the
game advanced, he discovered that though he could not stand before the
captain in a contest of strength, Laughlin was inclined to be slow, and
when once started in a given direction could not quickly change his
course. With this new light to guide him, he succeeded in giving the
dread guard a most lively and absorbing ten-minutes bout. At the end of
that time Lauder took him out and put him in Butler’s place on the
first. In the signal practice that followed the general game, Lindsay
found himself still occupying Butler’s position.

“He must play with the first from this time on,” said the coach that
evening, as he discussed Lindsay’s case with Laughlin. “We’ve only ten
days more of good practice left, and that allows us little enough time
to work him well into the attack. He’s good enough on the defence now.”

“I suppose you’re right,” responded Laughlin; “but I’d like to have one
or two more tries at him. He’s the toughest proposition I’ve struck this
year. The second’s been the making of that fellow. If we had put him on
the first as soon as he began to show what was in him, he wouldn’t be
half so good.”

“Give me that man for two years, and I’d make him the greatest guard
that ever played!” cried Lauder, who had the true trainer’s enthusiasm
for his pet athlete. “Light as he is, he’s a match for ’most any man
twenty pounds heavier, and he’s growing all the time. Why, he’s all you
can handle now, and just think how green he is!”

“That’s the trouble with Wolcott,” said Laughlin, thoughtfully, “he’s
had so little experience. The Hillbury game is a pretty hard strain on a
green man. If he only keeps his head!”

“He’ll do it, I’m sure,” the coach answered with confidence. “He’s a
natural player, and fellows of that kind play by instinct; they think
more with their nerves than with their minds. We’ll see how he gets
along with that Harvard Second man.”

The game with the Harvard Second was at the same time Wolcott’s glory
and his undoing. He had opposite him a player of the familiar college
type,—big, strong, experienced, well versed in the tricks of the trade,
but without the power or the brains or the temperament necessary to make
a first-class varsity man. He played a game of smash and drive, much
like that which Wolcott had learned to expect from Butler,—high in the
air and slow. The ease with which the Seaton left guard did the work
expected of him set the coaches on the side-lines dancing with joy. So
unsuccessful was the bulky Harvard man in stopping his troublesome
opponent that toward the end of the second half he lost his head or his
temper; and in his struggles, by accident or design, one of his fists
landed smartly on Wolcott’s nose. As luck would have it, in the same
scrimmage, Wolcott also received a hard, numbing blow in the leg from
some heavy Harvard boot. Though the limping fellow protested that he was
quite able to play, Laughlin, fearing to take risks with a valuable man,
sent him to the side-lines and called in Butler to finish the game.

“Lindsay’s nose wasn’t broken, was it?” asked Mr. Graham, meeting the
school physician a few hours later.

Dr. Kenneth laughed. “Oh, no; he had nothing worse than nosebleed. His
thigh will be lame for a day or two from the kick that he got in the
last scrimmage, but neither injury requires my care.”

And while Wolcott was having his leg rubbed, and gossiping joyously with
Laughlin about the work of the eleven of which he was at last a
full-fledged member, the professional disseminator of evil tidings was
preparing the following “story” for the Boston _Trumpeter_:—

“The Harvard Second went to Seaton yesterday and received a drubbing to
the tune of 16 to 0. It wasn’t as easy as the score seems to indicate,
for the game was a fight from start to finish, only the gilt-edged
training and splendid team work of the Seatonians enabling them to pull
out a victory. Milliken was the sledge hammer most successfully used to
smash the Harvard line, though Buist also proved no slouch in pushing
the pigskin forward. Laughlin was as invincible as usual, while Lindsay,
Seaton’s new left guard, put up an especially lively, scrappy game,
until he was carried off the field near the end of the second half, with
the blood streaming down his face. It is to be hoped that his injuries
won’t keep him permanently off the gridiron, as he seems to be the great
find of the season.”

Wolcott read the account the next morning when he returned from his
first recitation, and hooted with amusement. Mr. Lindsay read it at his
breakfast table and shuddered. He carried the paper down town with him
to his office to keep it out of Mrs. Lindsay’s hands; and all the way
down he grew more and more indignant. The first thing he did at the
office was to call up the school authorities at Seaton and demand a
report of his son’s condition. The reassuring answer did not change his
purpose. He sat down at his desk and wrote the misguided youth a letter,
ordering him peremptorily to play football no more. Then, having by
parental ukase rescued his son from threatening peril, he took up with
relief the business of the day.

Wolcott received the letter that afternoon, as he came in from the field
where he had been watching the practice. He read it through in
amazement. He reread it with quickened breath and a mist forming before
his eyes. And then, big fellow as he was, he threw himself on his bed
and wept.



                               CHAPTER XX
                             A ROUND ROBIN


There was keen unhappiness at the training table that night, and
discussion rampant. It was no longer a question of losing one man who
was a little better than another, but of parting with a star. Butler was
no worse than he had been all through the season; but to play Butler now
in place of Lindsay was like playing a substitute. And in student
opinion it was not only unfair and unnecessary, but preposterously
silly, to take a strapping, husky lad like Lindsay out of the game, when
during the whole season, as an inexperienced learner, he had been mauled
up and down the field by heavier men and rougher teams, and had emerged
smiling and strong, with red cheeks and clear eyes, and every joint
working as if on ball-bearings. This opinion was general. Only Lindsay’s
presence and Lindsay’s evident respect for his father, even when he felt
that his father was hopelessly wrong, checked the more violent
expression upon the tongue.

Various were the suggestions offered. “Don’t receive the letter,”
advised Hendry. “It was lost in the mail.”

“Say nothing and keep right on playing,” counselled Read. “It’s only
nine days to the game now.”

“Play under an assumed name,” urged Milliken. “He won’t be there to
see.”

All this Wolcott received with a contemptuous smile, and Laughlin gave
no heed. Both knew that the advisers were not serious.

“I’ll be over about eight with Poole and Ware,” said Laughlin, as they
rose from the dinner table, “and we’ll see if there isn’t some way out
of the hole. I don’t propose to give you up till we’ve tried every
chance there is. I’m going over now to consult Grim. He may know of some
way of influencing Mr. Lindsay.”

But at eight o’clock, when the captain appeared with his two
counsellors, he had a discouraging report to lay before the meeting. Mr.
Graham declined to interfere. Mr. Lindsay had not consulted him, and he
certainly should not assume unasked the responsibility of urging that a
boy be exposed to what a parent considered a dangerous strain.

“Never mind,” said Ware. “I didn’t expect any help from him, anyway.
It’s up to us to convince Mr. Lindsay, if he’s to be convinced. Now,
Wolcott, first tell us exactly what the trouble is. Are you weak
somewhere, or is your father scared by newspaper stories, or what is the
matter? Did he ever see a football game?”

“I don’t think he ever did,” replied Wolcott, answering the last of the
triple volley of questions. “The fact is, he never has liked the modern
system of college athletics. He says that in his time they used to sit
under the trees and talk of what they were going to do in the world, and
a prize oration was the highest honor of college life; now the ideal is
a professional ball player or a pugilist; and instead of gathering to
listen to a debate or an essay, they troop to the field and howl for a
lot of gladiators. I’ve heard that kind of thing so many times that I
can repeat it word for word,” he added with a melancholy smile. “Most
athletes, according to his idea, are an inferior lot who never are heard
of after they leave college. And then, as you say, he reads all the
stories of injuries in the papers and takes them all for gospel truth.”

“Does he refuse to let you go out in a sailboat with a proper skipper,
because so many greenhorns try to sail boats and are upset; or to go
driving, because horses run away?” demanded Poole, addressing himself
vigorously to the argument implied in Wolcott’s words.

Wolcott smiled grimly, but made no reply. It seemed a bit hard to be
held responsible for his father’s views.

“That’s no use, Phil,” said Laughlin. “You aren’t arguing with Mr.
Lindsay. What we want to do is to present our case so that he’ll take
our point of view. Now in the first place, how many accidents have we
had here in Seaton with about a hundred fellows playing every fall?”

“None this year,” said Ware. “Elkins broke his collar-bone last year,
and the year before a fellow smashed his nose. Of course there were
bruises and lame shoulders, but they don’t amount to anything.”

“Both these fellows you mention were green men,” said Laughlin. “That’s
the point we want to make. It’s the green, untrained boys who get
hurt—fellows who haven’t had proper care and teaching, and who go
floundering into the game without knowing how they ought to dress or
what to do with their arms and legs, or how to tackle or how to fall.”

“A good many of the cases of accident in the newspapers are fakes,” said
Ware; “the dead man is attending recitations the next morning. Most of
the real accidents happen to absolute greenhorns—fellows playing for the
first time, without the slightest knowledge of the rudiments of the
game,—and it’s almost always off in some remote place where they don’t
know much about football, not in the centres where the game has been
going on for a long time.”

“Put those things down,” said Laughlin to the last speaker. “You act as
secretary, Dan.”

“There are some accidents in games where little, young fellows are
played against heavy teams,” said Poole; “but that’s the fault of the
management.”

“None of these conditions are found here,” commented Laughlin, “and as a
result we don’t have accidents of any account. Got that down, Dan?”

“There’s one thing you’ve forgotten,” suggested Wolcott. “There are the
accidents that come from foul play.”

“Dirty football!” ejaculated Laughlin. “That’s true; but we shan’t have
that in the game with Hillbury.”

“Put it down, just the same,” said Poole. “Let’s give him all the
facts.”

“Now about the newspaper stories,” said Ware, looking up after a few
minutes of scribbling, during which he had translated “dirty football”
into terms less concise but more comprehensible to Mr. Lindsay.
“Wouldn’t it be well to send him Walter Camp’s investigations of
football accidents reported in the newspapers, and those figures that a
Western college professor[1] got out? I have them both somewhere.”

-----

Footnote 1:

  Professor Edwin Grant Dexter, of the University of Illinois, in the
  _Educational Review_, April, 1903.

-----

“That’s good,” said Laughlin, “and give him a good straight statement of
this poor chap’s condition. Collins said to-day he never saw a fellow
thrive on the game like Lindsay. Gaining all the time, aren’t you,
Wolcott?”

Wolcott nodded without a smile. His heart was wholly with the arguments,
but that they would prove effective he had little hope. He knew well the
strength of his father’s convictions, the honesty and sincerity of his
desire to do the best possible for his only son. He could hardly be
imagined as yielding to the arguments and sentiments of a lot of boys.

“Who’ll explain about that slap in the head and taking him out of the
Harvard Second game?” asked Ware.

“I’ll do that,” said Laughlin, “in my part.”

The meeting broke up after arranging for a round robin in three
sections, Ware to set forth the facts as to accidents, Laughlin the
exigency of the school, and Wolcott a plea from his own point of view.
He sat down to this after the others were gone, and put into his letter
all the longing and disappointment of his heart. He went back to the
year before, when he had gradually learned to appreciate the manly,
forceful character of the captain, and had caught the eagerness of his
ambition for the team; he dwelt on his hard work through the summer to
strengthen himself to take a place in the line; he told modestly of his
laborious pushing up through the list of candidates; of his study of
himself and his position and the men he had to meet, and his final
unquestioned triumph. He had grown under the discipline, not rougher and
more brutal, but stronger and firmer physically, and more collected,
more resolute, more capable mentally. The great climax of all his labor
was but a week away. He was perfectly able to play; the team needed him.
There was but the slightest chance of physical injury. To drop out now
would be a terrible sacrifice. He was ready to make it, of course, if
his father insisted, but would he not reconsider and let him play the
season out?

In the morning the trio gathered after chapel and put the three missives
together in an envelope. Laughlin’s contribution was the shortest,
Ware’s the longest. Ware weighed the package and affixed two stamps.

“Will he read all this?” queried Laughlin, suspiciously, as he poised
the heavy envelope in his hand.

“Sure! every word of it,” replied Wolcott, promptly.

“Will it have any effect on him, do you think?” demanded Ware.

Wolcott smiled ruefully. “I’m afraid not. You’d better not count on me
any longer in the game.”

“Come out and watch the signal practice, anyway,” said Laughlin. “That
can’t hurt you. Keep up the training, too, and take a little exercise
every day. I’m not giving up yet.”



                              CHAPTER XXI
                               A LOOPHOLE


There was not the slightest chance that Mr. Lindsay’s reply could reach
Seaton that night. None the less, three heavy-hearted fellows escorted
Wolcott to the carrier’s window at the post-office, after the evening
mail had arrived, and gazed eagerly over his shoulder while the clerk
drew a bundle of letters from a certain pigeonhole, and, after rapidly
slipping one over another, bestowed on the waiting students the
regretful nod and smirk of sympathy familiar to disappointed applicants
at post-office windows. From the office they crossed the street to the
telephone station, and asked if Wolcott Lindsay had been called up by
Boston. Receiving here also a negative answer, Wolcott demanded to talk
with his father. When the connection was made, Ware squeezed into the
booth behind him, while Laughlin, hopelessly crowded out of the narrow
quarters, projected his head through the partly closed door.

“Is this you, father?” asked Wolcott. “Did you get my letter?”

Laughlin heard dimly the sound of a voice in reply; Ware caught a few of
the words.

“You’ll decide it to-night, won’t you?” went on Wolcott. “It’s awfully
important—you can’t possibly understand without being here how
important. I’m really as sound as a nut. And they do need me. It seems
as if I couldn’t possibly crawl out now.”

The answer this time came more distinctly; Ware at the words and
Laughlin at the tone felt their hearts drop within them. On Wolcott’s
face settled an expression of black despair as he listened with hurried
breath to his father’s sympathetic yet unyielding response.

“But you’ll surely write to-night,” said the boy, when his chance to
speak came; “and think of it as favorably as you can, won’t you? And
remember that there are lots of competent judges who don’t agree with
you. It can’t be as bad as you think if it has done me so much good.”
Wolcott hung up the receiver and rose.

“What does he say?”

“It’s no go, I’m afraid. He will decide to-night, and write so that the
letter will get to me to-morrow morning. The only good thing he sees
about football is that the players are capable of getting up so good a
brief for a bad cause.”

“Does that mean that he’s laughing at us?” demanded Poole.

“No, he was in earnest. He’ll give the arguments a fair hearing, and
then decide against me.”

“It won’t be a fair hearing,” said Ware, “if his mind is already made
up.”

Wolcott turned sharply. “He’ll do what he thinks is right, anyway—that
I’m sure of.”

Laughlin gave his manager’s arm a tug that pulled him half across the
room. “Come home, Dan, and let Wolcott alone. You can’t gain anything
now by arguing. We’ve just got to take what Mr. Lindsay says and make
the best of it.”

They parted for the night with few words. Wolcott, who would not listen
to criticism of his father’s judgment from his friends, yet felt a very
human resentment that he should be treated as a child whose opinion was
valueless, in a matter with which he was familiar and his father
obviously not, and that his father’s prejudices should be the only guide
to the momentous decision. Great as was his mortification and his sense
of ill treatment, he betrayed it openly to no one; and never had he the
slightest notion of defying his father’s command.

The letter-carrier was waylaid next morning as he turned into the
schoolyard and forced to deliver instantly. With the fatal scroll in
their possession, the four boys hurried upstairs to Poole’s room, which
lay nearest on their way, and sat in solemn silence while Wolcott read.
The letter was as follows:—

  “MY DEAR BOY: I regret extremely to write that after carefully
  considering your letter and the letters of your friends, Ware and
  Laughlin, I cannot see a sufficient reason for changing my opinion
  with regard to your playing football. Your appeal touches my heart,
  but the arguments offered impress me as clever efforts to make the
  best of a bad cause, rather than as _bona fide_ reasons for a reversal
  of my decision. The evening paper, which I was reading when you called
  me to the telephone, reports among the day’s football news that
  Harvard has several good men ‘among the cripples’; that ‘Yale’s
  hospital list is large’; that Jones of Dartmouth will be out of the
  game for a fortnight at least with his shoulder; while Smith of
  Princeton is laid off with water on the knee, which will prevent his
  playing again the present season. These _may_ be ‘insignificant and
  temporary injuries,’ as your friends maintain, but they seem to be
  real enough to affect the prospects of the teams concerned. Cripples
  and the hospital are not terms which I like to hear habitually
  mentioned in connection with a sport in which my only son is engaged.

  “Now don’t misunderstand my position. I am no champion of effeminacy.
  I do not ask that you be shielded and coddled—in your own words
  ‘wrapped in lamb’s wool and shut up in a bureau drawer.’ I want you
  able to take your share in the rough things of life. There are hard
  knocks to be endured in almost all athletic exercises; in many, such
  as riding, sailing, swimming, there is actual risk. But the risk in
  these sports is slight and occasional—not much greater than that
  incurred in the ordinary course of life. In football the danger seems
  to be serious and constant. It is by no means necessary that you
  should play on the Seaton eleven; there are other sports in which you
  can develop strength and skill; there are other boys ready to take
  your place on the team. Desirous though I am to gratify your wishes in
  every reasonable way, it seems to me that I have no right to allow you
  to risk life or limb in a dangerous pastime.

  “It may be that, as you say, many other competent—I might perhaps add
  more competent—observers do not hold my views. I am inclined to think,
  however, that the older men, who are unaffected by the glamour of the
  arena or who have opportunities to trace the results of these ‘slight
  injuries,’ will be found on my side. At the same time I do not wish to
  seem arbitrary or tyrannical. If you can find among the best
  half-dozen surgeons in the city—men like Hinds or Rawson or Seaver or
  Brayton—a single man who can assure me that you are risking nothing or
  little by playing the game, I will waive my objection. I want to be
  reasonable and sympathetic. I would not hold you, in the present-day
  conditions, to all the limitations of school and college life which I
  look back upon as proper and beneficial in my own boyhood; but I would
  not have you pay the price of a single broken bone or twisted sinew
  for all the football trophies of the season.

  “Kindly thank your friends for the interesting and clever letters they
  have written me, and express to them my appreciation of their loyal
  friendship to you. I trust they will forgive me for not yielding to
  their arguments, and that you may not find the sacrifice I am
  requiring of you as hard as you fear.

                                            “Affectionately,
                                                       ”W. LINDSAY.”

“That settles it,” said Ware, heaving a sigh as Wolcott ceased reading.
“When your father makes up his mind that his facts are the only ones,
you may as well knuckle under.”

Laughlin and Wolcott said nothing. The former was cudgelling his brains
to discover some new point of attack; the latter, convinced that the
final decision had been made, sat dumb and hopeless, crushed by the
weight of disappointment. At that moment nothing in the world seemed so
wholly desirable as the privilege of playing in the Hillbury game, and
no fellows so wholly enviable as those whose parents were undisturbed by
anxieties as to broken joints and twisted sinews. He was roused from his
fit of sullen brooding by Poole’s voice.

“Read it again, Wolcott,” commanded Phil, who was standing erect before
his chair, his face bright with a new idea. “Read it again, or at least
that part where he speaks of other competent judges.”

Wolcott found the place and reread the latter portion of the letter.

“Will he stand by what he says there, that if one of them will say you
risk little or nothing, he’ll withdraw his objection?” demanded Poole.

“Of course he will!” returned Wolcott, hotly. “What kind of a man do you
take him for?”

“Do you know any of these doctors?” continued Poole, paying no attention
either to the indignant question or to the offended tone.

Wolcott shook his head sadly. “Only old Dr. Rawson who lives near us. He
set my collar-bone five years ago, when I broke it falling down the
front steps.”

“I’m surprised your father let you go down such a dangerous place,”
remarked Ware. “I suppose he made you avoid danger after that by coming
in the back way.”

“Shut up, Dan, I’m doing the talking now,” ordered Poole, wheeling
quickly upon the interrupter. Then, turning to Wolcott again, he added,
“Dr. Rawson would be likely to help you out, wouldn’t he?”

Wolcott made no reply unless the melancholy smile that appeared on his
face at the suggestion of help from Dr. Rawson could be considered an
answer.

“I believe there’s one man who will help us,” persisted Phil. “That Dr.
Brayton is a Seaton alumnus, and knows football down to the
ground—everything about it good and bad. If any one of the four doctors
your father mentions will back you up, it’s Brayton. The thing for you
to do is to get Grim to let you off for a day, and go up to Boston and
see Brayton. If you tell him the story, and let him look you over, it’s
an even chance that he’ll give you a clean bill of health. If he does,
your father will have to back down.”

Wolcott leaned suddenly forward in his chair and fixed his eyes eagerly
on Poole’s, while an expression of intense joy lighted his face. In a
moment, however, the flash of hope had passed, and he sank back into his
old position more despondent than ever.

“Is he the Brayton who was on the Seaton-Hillbury athletic committee
last year?” asked Ware.

“Yes, and he helped save Dickinson for the team when they were trying to
run him off, on a perfectly false charge of professionalism,” said
Poole. “Dr. Brayton is as square a man as ever lived, and what’s more,
believes in athletics.”

“I don’t suppose father knew that,” observed Wolcott.

“I don’t care whether he did or not,” retorted Poole, sharply. “All I
say is, that if your father has agreed to take Brayton’s opinion, and
there’s a chance of its being favorable, you’re a great fool if you
don’t try to get it—unless you really don’t care to play.”

“He wants to play fast enough,” said Laughlin, taking the words out of
Wolcott’s mouth, “and I’ll see that he tackles Dr. Brayton. If anybody
thinks I’m going to play a poor man in that game when I can get a good
one, he’s mistaken. The best we can scare up may not be good enough to
beat Hillbury.”

Wolcott smiled feebly. “Of course I’ll try it, but I don’t expect
anything to come of it.”

That night he arranged by telephone for an interview with Dr. Brayton,
and on Saturday took the early train for Boston. It was a forlorn hope,
but a hope none the less; and that was enough for the sanguine friends
who gave him godspeed on his way. As for Wolcott’s own feelings, he had
already suffered so much from suspense and disappointment that he went
indifferent, expecting nothing good, fearing nothing bad.



                              CHAPTER XXII
                             EXPERT OPINION


Wolcott was waiting in Dr. Brayton’s reception room. Dr. Brayton had
been delayed at the hospital, the maid explained, but would soon be in.
So Wolcott, curbing his impatience, gazed with half-hearted curiosity at
the decorations of the room, and alternately wished that his father
would act like other fathers, and wondered what kind of a man Dr.
Brayton would be. There were books and magazines on the table, but at
this moment books and magazines offered no attraction. Through a door
opening into another room he caught a glimpse of one end of a framed
diploma, and as he moved restlessly to the next chair, two photographs
of football teams hanging one above the other came into view.

Now framed diplomas had no possible interest for Wolcott Lindsay, Jr.,
but pictures of football teams, probably famous teams, belonged to an
entirely different category. He strained his eyes to make out the
letters on the jerseys and sweaters, for the elevens were of the period
when uniforms always bore the college initial. Failing in this, he
advanced to the door, and, still tempted, boldly crossed the room and
stood face to face with the pictures. Yes, they were Yale and Harvard
elevens. Odd that the two should be hanging together like this! They
were fine-looking fellows, beyond a doubt, but light! Not one in either
picture looked a match for Laughlin.

An authoritative voice from behind startled him.

“Well, what do you think of them?”

Flushing deeply at being discovered in a place where he was perhaps not
expected to be, Wolcott turned round upon his questioner. Before him
stood a man a little shorter than himself, though heavier, whose breadth
of shoulders was not due to tailor’s padding, nor his girth of chest to
shirt front. He looked like the older brother of one of the players in
the upper picture. The head prematurely bald, the streaks of gray in the
close-clipped mustache, the serious lines about the mouth significant of
heavy responsibilities faithfully borne—all this befitted a man well on
in middle life. But the figure was still alert and young, the complexion
still fresh, and the eyes still shone with the vivacity and friendliness
of youth.

“They look rather small for members of big college elevens,” answered
Wolcott. “They must have been quick, though, and I don’t suppose they
needed to be so heavy for the game they used to play then.”

The surgeon’s gaze swept him from head to foot, resting fleetingly on
his chest and thighs, and returning again to his face.

“It was a more open game in those days,” said Dr. Brayton, “and less
elaborate. The crushing wedge attack and the complicated system of
interference hadn’t yet been developed. So the play was livelier, less
dangerous, and I think more interesting to watch.”

“So he calls it dangerous, too,” thought Wolcott, with a sinking at the
heart. Depressed at the doctor’s words, and shy under the searching gaze
of the strange eyes, he turned again to the pictures, rather to hide his
embarrassment than because his interest in them was still keen. In the
moment of silence that followed it occurred to him that this was a
strange way in which to conduct himself in the office of a distinguished
man who had interrupted his daily programme to give him a special
hearing, and still more dissatisfied with himself he swung round again
and opened his mouth to explain his business. Just then Dr. Brayton
began to speak, and the formal phrase on Wolcott’s lips took flight.

“Yes, as players they may not—I say _may_ not—have been the equals of
the football heroes of to-day; but your heroes of to-day will have to be
something more than football players to match the work some of these
little fellows are doing now.”

“What are they doing?” asked Wolcott, eagerly. Here was one of his
father’s criticisms anticipated.

“Their part in the world,” Dr. Brayton answered. “Take the backfield of
that Harvard team, for example. The full-back is head of an important
city church; the right half-back is manager of one of the great Western
copper mines; the other half is perhaps the cleverest surgeon of his age
in Boston; one of the quarter-backs is professor at Columbia, and the
substitute half is president of one of the largest publishing houses of
the country. The team has been out of college considerably less than
twenty years.”

“You don’t say anything about yourself,” said Wolcott, with
complimentary naïveté.

Dr. Brayton laughed. “I belong to the second class—those who have been
faithful in small things.”

“Have the Yale men done as well?” asked the young man.

“I don’t know so much about them. That man holding the ball is a full
professor at Yale. The man at his left is governor of the Hawaiian
Islands.”[2]

-----

Footnote 2:

  These records of Harvard and Yale ex-football players are taken from
  the teams of a certain year between 1885 and 1890—teams with which the
  author happens to be familiar. They are quoted not as remarkable, but
  as typical.

-----

“I’m much obliged to you for telling me all this,” said Wolcott. “My
father thinks football players are an inferior kind of men, who never
will amount to anything, and I’m glad to know some facts that prove the
contrary. I suppose I ought to introduce myself,” he added, his shyness
suddenly recurring.

“You don’t need to do that,” replied the doctor, laughing pleasantly.
“When I have an appointment with a young man who wants an examination
for football, and I find a stalwart youth in my inner room so absorbed
in studying old football pictures that he doesn’t hear me come in, it
isn’t difficult to guess who he is. But now for business. What is it
that you wish me to do?”

Wolcott explained his situation. He wanted Dr. Brayton to look him over
and see what condition he was in, and then he hoped—he really had no
hope—that the report to his father might in some way permit him to slip
back into the game.

“If you have any idea that I’m going to say that football is not a
dangerous game, you are mistaken,” said the doctor, gravely, poising his
stethoscope in his hand. “It is a dangerous game; but while for some the
danger is considerable, for others it is insignificant—not greater than
in any sport where physical strength and endurance are severely tested.
In my judgment football doesn’t compare in risk with bicycle riding or
automobiling, or sailing or swimming. Given the right man in the right
conditions, and the danger is trifling. The only question is whether you
are the right man, and whether you play under the right conditions.”

For some minutes the thumping and sounding went on. When at last the
stethoscope went back into the drawer, Wolcott asked eagerly, “Am I the
right man?”

But Dr. Brayton, instead of answering, started a series of questions as
to how long he had played, what injuries he had received, whether he had
gained or lost in weight during the season, how he felt at the present
time, whether listless and tired, or elastic and eager for the game;
whether the coach and trainer were capable and trustworthy men, what
kind of a game was played at Seaton, and between Seaton and Hillbury;
and a dozen similar questions. The last question touched on the
accidents of the season.

“There have been hardly any at Seaton this year,” said Wolcott. “A
few have been out for a while with bad ankles or Charley Horse, and
one fellow had a football ear. Why, the manager told me this morning
that the doctor’s bill for the care of the first and second
elevens—thirty-five men—for seven weeks was only nineteen
dollars.”[3]

-----

Footnote 3:

  The bill for medical and surgical attendance on the school football
  squad (thirty-five men) at Exeter in the season of 1904, reckoned at
  full rates, was twenty-two dollars. The injuries were mainly muscle
  bruises and strained ankles. The most troublesome case was a neglected
  scratch on the foot. The trainer reports for the same season, among
  the one hundred and twenty-five fellows playing football on the
  various school and class teams, “practically no injuries at all.” The
  record for the year 1903 was much the same. In a private school in
  Boston, where seventy-five to one hundred boys, from ten to eighteen
  years old, were engaged during the fall of 1904 in playing football,
  the only accident of the season was a broken nose, suffered by a boy
  who did not wear a nose guard. At Harvard, after a peculiarly
  unfortunate season, in which, it is feared, men were sometimes played
  when not in the pink of condition, those best acquainted with the
  facts could still report in January, 1905, “We had no injuries that
  could be called serious.” From New Haven a most trustworthy authority
  writes: “We have been fortunate here for many years in having no
  serious accidents. The most incapacitating accidents this season have
  been muscle bruises, generally called ‘Charley Horse,’ which, while in
  no sense permanent and, as the surgeons would put it, with a
  distinctly favorable prognosis, cripple a man’s speed so much as to
  make it almost impossible to use him if he is a player in the
  backfield. For this reason Yale’s backs in the Harvard game were
  different from those who faced Princeton a week before. Yet though
  these two hard contests came close together, no Yale man left the
  field in the Harvard game, and no time was taken out on Yale’s
  account.”

  It is safe to say that no harder football is played in the country
  than at Exeter and Yale; yet the reports from these centres of the
  game bear little resemblance to the lurid tales of murder and
  mutilation which newspaper correspondents delight in. The worst
  injuries from football known to the writer have occurred in games
  played by workingmen out for a holiday, or by untaught, unfit lads
  trying what they imagined to be football.

-----

Dr. Brayton stared incredulously. “I shouldn’t want that doctor’s job.
You must have a good trainer.”

“We have,” said the boy, simply.

The interview was apparently over. Wolcott put on his coat. “Would you
mind telling me what kind of fellows it is dangerous for?” he asked.

“The overtrained and the undertrained; the weak and the flabby; and the
man who plays against dirty football.”

“What about me?” asked Wolcott.

But Dr. Brayton would not answer. “I’ll see your father this evening,
and he may hand on to you my opinion, if he chooses. If he _does_ let
you play, I shall expect of you two things: first don’t get hurt;
second, beat Hillbury, as in my day we sometimes failed to do.”

That evening Wolcott hovered within sound of the door-bell, and watched
from a retired place as the parlor maid opened the door. He heard Dr.
Brayton ask for Mr. Lindsay and saw him shown into the reception room.
After an endless half-hour he was ushered out, and Wolcott went boldly
in. Mr. Lindsay was standing in deep thought.

“I want to know my fate, father,” said the son, looking eagerly down
into his father’s eyes.

“Do you still want to play in that foolish game?”

“There is nothing in this world I want more.”

“Then if you hold me to my promise I shall be forced to let you do it,
though it is against my better judgment. Brayton has gone back on me.”

Wolcott’s face shone with joy. “It’s awfully good of you to give in.
Can’t you come to the game? You’ll see that it isn’t so bad as they
pretend.”

“Thank you for the invitation, but it is unnecessary,” said Mr. Lindsay,
grimly. “I shall be there! And if I’m convinced in the course of the
contest that you are risking life or limb, I shall take you out, Dr.
Brayton or no Dr. Brayton.”

There was joy in the football clique on Monday morning when Wolcott
returned with the good news. He joined in the practice once more that
afternoon, and went into his game like a storage battery recharged, full
of fire and dash and strength. The head coach and the trainer took his
case to heart in their after-practice consultation, and the result was
that the work of the last week was materially lightened. The last signal
practice left the team fresh, vigorous, and eager for the fray.



                             CHAPTER XXIII
                             THE FIRST HALF


Mr. Lindsay sat in one of the upper rows of seats close to the cheering
sections, and gazed with amazement at the streams of people pouring in
through the gates and along the side of the white-checked rectangle. It
was a beautiful sight in the bright sunlight of this clear, cold
November day, the circle of sober buildings keeping dignified watch on
the hillside, the slopes thronged by an impatient crowd, and the wide
circumference of field animate with floating banners, gay-ribboned
dresses, and eager, joyous, expectant faces. Around him on every side
were merriment and youth and a fulness of vigorous, happy, hopeful life.
Men whose schooldays lay a dozen years behind them hallooed to their
mates over his shoulder; college boys revived school memories in his
ears; at his knees sat the “kid brother” of some Seatonian, awed into
silence by the importance of the occasion; while the boy’s elder sister,
excited by the novel scene and less concerned for the outcome, chattered
gayly with her escort. In these surroundings, with his antipathy to the
whole proceeding strong within him, Mr. Lindsay felt like a survivor of
a past generation, as isolated as a man who knows only his own language
in the strange babel of a foreign port.

A few tiers below, the solicitous father caught sight of a fringe of
gray beard appearing on either side of a round, fur-capped head. Here at
last must be a kindred spirit, mourning with him this squandering of
money, this waste of time, this wanton imperilling of young lives. But
the fur cap revolved, and a merry, smiling face turned toward the seats
above—the youngest, happiest, jolliest face in all the Seaton sections!
Mr. Lindsay was discouraged. He lost hope of sympathy from this
audience—more like Spaniards at a bull-fight than reasonable, civilized
Americans.

From the hill beyond came the sound of a low-pitched staccato chant,
growing gradually clearer till from behind the red-steepled building
emerged a dark, compact line of advancing boys. It was the Seaton school
marching to a man to support their team. They came slowly on, four
abreast, planting the left foot to each letter as they spelled the
school name, chanting their way around the field to the cheering
sections. It was the chant of conquerors,—strong, hopeful, revealing and
inspiring confidence. Mr. Lindsay thawed a little under the warmth of
the general enthusiasm as he watched these stanch followers crowd to
their seats.

“They evidently believe in their team,” he thought to himself, and he
felt a natural touch of pride as he recalled the praises of Wolcott
contained in those letters from Ware and Laughlin. The present scene
threw a new light on their earnestness.

Meantime on the Hillbury side the band appeared, with the whole
contingent of Hillburyites trooping after. They pushed on to their seats
in silence, leaving to the music a free hand; but once established,
their cheers rang sharp and clear across the field. Mr. Lindsay watched
with admiring interest the four distant cheer leaders swinging their
batons with identical stroke, and ruling the three hundred voices as a
conductor rules an orchestra.

“They are better cheerers,” he was thinking,—the crowd across the field
always seems to cheer the better,—“yes, they are certainly better
cheerers, but our marching was more effective.” And while he was
laughing softly to himself that he should thus identify himself with
these youthful, misguided lunatics, a great roar rose about him at the
sight of a score of strapping, brown-suited, red-legged wild men who
came tumbling over the side ropes into the field. Here they divided, a
knot of eleven following the ball in signal practice up the field, while
the rest in red blankets and sweaters streamed across to the Seaton
side-lines.

The Seaton volley of welcome was still reverberating when over the same
side ropes leaped the Hillbury squad, looking massive in heavy,
blue-lettered sweaters, and a knot of blue legs flashed down the field
behind another ball. And now were heard cheers and counter
cheers,—cheers of Hillbury by Seaton and of Seaton by Hillbury, cheers
for both captains from both sides, cheers for the general cause, cheers
to keep up the spirit, cheers of hope and of defiance. The practice
squads broke up; big blue legs and big red legs met in the centre of the
field; the gladiators shook each other by the hand, and turned to a wiry
little man wearing a white jersey with a college letter upon it, who
tossed a coin into the air and examined it as it lay upon the ground.
Red-legs said something, the referee nodded, the captains hurried to
their men, sweaters came off, headguards went on, the players scattered
to their places. When the field cleared itself of sweater bearers,
sponge holders, and water-pail carriers, the Hillbury side was singing
its well-learned song of defiance which Seaton was straining its vocal
chords to drown. The Hillbury tackle was propping the ball with a bunch
of moist earth for the kick-off, and the Seaton eleven was sprinkled
over the field with their backs to wind and sun.

Mr. Lindsay looked across the field at Laughlin and marvelled; he looked
at Wolcott, whose place was nearer, and admired. Laughlin was ponderous
and powerful, built for strength but also for slowness; Wolcott was
alert, graceful even in his clumsy clothes, his face aglow with perfect
health, his every movement showing physical strength, but the strength
of the horse, not of the ox.

The referee lifted his arm: “Ready, Seaton?[4] Ready, Hillbury?”

-----

Footnote 4:

  The Seaton line-up. Line from left to right: Read, Hendry, Lindsay,
  Bullard, Laughlin, Bent, Pope; quarter-back, Jackson; half-backs,
  Wendt and Buist; full-back, Milliken.

-----

The captains cast a final look behind them and nodded. The referee’s
whistle sounded. Davis, who kicked off for Hillbury, dashed at the ball
and sent it flying up to the Seaton ten-yard line, speeding after it
with the whole heavy Hillbury line. Buist caught the ball, dropped it,
picked it up again, and twisted his way behind the backs a dozen yards
down the field. Here he went down on the ball with half a dozen upon
him, and the first scrimmage was on.

The shouts died on Seaton lips as the partisans waited for the first
prophetic play. They could not cheer, for their hearts were in their
throats, and no one regarded the cheer leaders, and the cheer leaders
regarded only the lines poised for the spring. Would the Seaton attack
penetrate? Would Hillbury’s strong line hold? Wolcott, resting on his
knee, with eyes fixed on the ball, waited for the signal. He knew what
it was to be, for the plan had already been made to send the first
assault beyond him, not on Laughlin’s side, where it would be expected.
At the first number of the signal he was on his finger-tips and toes. As
the ball moved he shot forward, caught the heavy man opposite with full
momentum just as the latter was getting under way, and forced him back
upon the line half. When, an instant later, Buist came smashing into the
hole with the one hundred and eighty pounds of bone and muscle known as
Milliken driving behind him, Wolcott, abandoning his man, swung round to
meet the back, and holding him up with the aid of Milliken and Read,
swept him on yard after yard until the Hillbury men finally dragged them
all to the ground together. For the fraction of a second the two elevens
became two squirming heaps and a connecting link—a heap where the ball
had been, a heap where it now was, and a trail of prostrate bodies
marking the route of advance.

“Terrible, terrible!” thought Mr. Lindsay, as he gazed fascinated at the
unintelligible scene. But the Seaton supporters thought it anything but
terrible, for they cheered and cheered again in ecstasy at the ten-yard
gain, while the heaps of bodies resolved themselves as by miracle into
two lines of very vigorous men. At the next signal Wendt bucked the line
beyond Laughlin, by which three yards were gained; and Milliken ripped
through the narrow crack between Lindsay and Bullard, and falling his
length beyond the line, made the first down. Then Jackson tried a
quarter-back run to open up the line, and thanks to his interference, to
his surprise and joy, got round the end and ran out a dozen yards down
the field.

[Illustration:

  THE PILE THAT COVERED THE BALL THREE YARDS BEYOND.
  _Page 271._
]

The play was now near the middle of the field, bringing the rear of the
Seaton line for the first time within Mr. Lindsay’s line of vision. He
saw Milliken receive the ball and leap at the line like a tiger
springing on its prey. He saw the centre open and take him in, saw the
struggling mass behind the Hillbury line and the pile that covered the
ball three yards beyond; but he had not seen that it was the Seaton left
guard who opened the way and made the play possible. Around him the
spectators were exclaiming and chuckling with delight, and exchanging
explosive praises of the irresistible Milliken. On the side-lines,
however, where the experts were gathered, another name was mentioned
first, the name of the Seaton guard who was “handling” his heavy man.

The team was going now with the momentum of success and hope. Buist
drove his way through behind Laughlin. Wendt found a hole inside left
end, Jackson called back his right tackle and sent him through the left
side for a decided gain; then he brought back the left tackle, and
apparently started a similar play for the other side. The interference
charged hard and fought desperately as they struck the line, but the
ball was not with them. Jackson, after pretending to pass to the tackle,
had held it a moment and tossed it to Wendt, who sped through the centre
unexpected, and with Wolcott at his side, and Read, the Seaton end, not
far away, seemed for a moment likely to get by the last Hillbury back
and score a touchdown. Wendt, however, slowed down to let Wolcott
interfere, and a Hillbury pursuer overtook him and laid him low.

“Twenty yards now to a touchdown,” said the Harvard student on Mr.
Lindsay’s right. “They’ll make it in about six downs if they can only
hold the ball.”

Mr. Lindsay nodded and smiled. He still disapproved, but he was enjoying
where he could not wholly understand and did not at all wish to enjoy.
He turned to his friendly neighbor with a question on his lips, but
before the question was out, the game again drew his whole attention and
that of his neighbor. In some strange way the ball had slipped from the
grasp of the Seaton back, and the quick Hillbury tackle had thrown
himself upon it. The blue-stockinged back, who had been playing far in
the rear, came running up to the Hillbury line, while Jackson turned and
scampered back to the centre of the field. A groan ran along the Seaton
benches; the ball was Hillbury’s!

“What a rotten fumble!” ejaculated the Harvard student. “Who made it,
Bill?”

“Milliken,” snapped back the disgusted Bill. “He ought to be hung!”

On the field no one asked that question, but the men in the line said
things under their breath; and sore at heart that the fruit of their
toil should be lost just as it seemed within their grasp, turned
discouraged but dogged to their defensive game. “Never mind, fellows,”
rang out Laughlin’s voice. “We can hold ’em. Get into the game, every
man. Watch the ball!” And they stooped to their places, determined to
hold the ground they had gained.

The first attack was straight at centre, but the Seaton trio played low,
and the Hillbury runner struck a wall and stopped short. Then came a
double pass for an end run by Joslin, the speedy back; but Hendry, the
Seaton tackle, burst through and drove the runner into Read’s arms with
a loss of a yard. So Hillbury was forced to punt, Jackson got under the
ball in the centre of the field, and was downed in his tracks by the
Hillbury end.

Then began another series of short advances toward the Hillbury
goal-line, through Laughlin, through Lindsay, Hendry through the other
side, an attempt at an end run, a wing shift with Milliken plunging
outside tackle, Hendry again, another delayed pass, left guard back, and
straight hard smashes of backs through the centre. The result of the
experimenting was that Wolcott’s side of the line was the more
frequently called upon, especially the hole between guard and tackle.
Hendry and Read did not always succeed in boxing their end. Wolcott
sometimes failed to get his man where he wanted him; the Hillbury
secondary defence often nullified his efforts; but for some reason
Jackson found that here was the line of least resistance. On the defence
no one held like Laughlin. On the attack he was always sure, always
eager to do his own work and help out Bent, crushing his way like an
ice-breaker through the line. Two yards behind Laughlin were always to
be counted on with assurance. His very weight and strength and hardness
made him terrible. Yet the gains through Wolcott were often greater. He
blocked no one’s way; he made his hole and turned in it to drag the
runner on; he got into plays for which he might have shirked the
responsibility; he was where the ball was, where it was going to be the
next instant, wherever his strength and help were needed, pushing and
pulling and dragging and keeping his men on their feet.

They were on the ten-yard line now. The spectators around Mr. Lindsay
were excitedly guessing on the distance yet to be covered, which some
put at five yards, others at fifteen. On the Seaton side not a cheer was
uttered. The whole student audience hung on the play in tense and eager
silence. Hillbury was shouting full and strong and regular, “Hold! hold!
hold!” which fell on the ears of the Hillbury champions like a rallying
trumpet call. Hendry came flying from his post, took the ball from the
quarter, and swung hard into the line, beyond the other tackle. Down he
went without an inch of gain. Laughlin dropped back and drove Buist
through Hall. “Three yards! The third down!”

“Hold! hold! hold!” Into these syllables the whole Hillbury cheering
force was concentrating its strength and hope. The Hillbury line heard
and gathered themselves together for a final desperate resistance.
Wolcott heard and heeded not, for the signal was ringing in his ears,
and he knew that the last responsibility was upon him. Laughlin was back
once more, this time to play the shunting locomotive for Milliken. The
track lay over the spot on which Wolcott was standing. Hendry did his
work well. Wolcott’s shoulder was at Moore’s hip almost before Moore had
moved; the tandem jammed its way into the narrow opening, over the line
half-back, like a squadron of horse over a thin line of infantry, and
down in a wild heap of friend and foe four yards farther on!

It was a first down with but three yards to the goal line!—three yards
in three downs, an easy task for a strong line flushed with victory,
which had already battered its way from the middle of the field. Wendt
made a yard outside of right tackle in a cross buck. Then Hendry fell
back for the ball, and the heavy wedge, with Laughlin at its apex,
Hendry in the centre driven along by Buist and Milliken and Jackson
pushing behind, piled the Hillbury defence on either side of its course
as a snow-plough masses the snow right and left as it drives its way
through a heavy drift. Hendry was yards across the goal-line when the
wedge broke.

While Jackson was bringing out the ball and adjusting it for Bullard’s
kick for goal, Wolcott with dry lips and panting breath, but joy
unspeakable in his heart, was watching the antics of the Seaton
audience, which danced and yelled and cheered and waved flags in a
frenzy of delight. Somewhere in section D was his father, in what state
of mind he hardly dared guess; but he remembered with relief that but
few stops had been made on pretence of injuries, while not one on either
side had left the field; and he fervently hoped that his anxious father
was observing the scene of carnage without distress. As a matter of
fact, Mr. Lindsay was at that moment thinking very little about carnage
and very much of the possibility that Bullard would fail to kick the
goal. The ball sailed between the tips of the goal-posts, the crowd
shouted, the players scattered to their new places, and Mr. Lindsay
resigned himself with surprising cheerfulness to a continuation of the
brutal contest. Above him the enthusiastic Harvard men were extolling
the Seaton line in general, and in particular the solid centre, where
the big captain and “Beefy Bullard” and that green man Lindsay, “as
quick as nine cats and strong as a bull,” held the line with an anchor
that wouldn’t drag.

Seaton kicked off and Joslin of Hillbury got the ball and zigzagged back
to the twenty-five-yard line. Thence Hillbury worked ahead a dozen yards
and punted. Jackson, who received the punt, was too eager to get away,
and fumbled. In an instant the Hillbury end was upon the ball. Now the
bank of blue ribbons had something to cheer for, and the vehemence and
volume and splendid evenness of the mighty chant which swept across the
field put hope into the hearts of the blue, and suggested to the red
that the first score might after all have been a mistake. Wolcott
remembered Laughlin’s remark of the night before, that a punter and two
good ends, with the help of a fumbling back on the other side, could
beat the best line that ever played; and felt his heart sink. Had
Hillbury detected the Seaton weakness? But Laughlin showed no sign of
discouragement.

“Hold ’em, fellows, hold ’em! Stop ’em right here!” And the first charge
was downed in a heap as it struck the line. The ball went back to Cates,
the Hillbury quarter, who dashed toward the end of the line.

“Quarter! quarter!” yelled Laughlin, bursting through at Cates’s heels.
The whole Seaton line poured after Cates. But Cates had held the ball
only a moment, and shot it to Joslin, who darted for the other end of
the line, where one of his backs and the end and tackle were in waiting.
The Seaton end fell before the assault, and Joslin, running clear, raced
down the field with Brooks, the Hillbury end, before him, and only
Jackson between himself and the goal-line.

What happened then happened quickly. Jackson flung himself at the
critical moment straight at the man with the ball. His arms enclosed
three legs, two belonging to Brooks and one to the man with the ball. He
went down with the two legs tightly clasped, but the one tore away; and
Joslin, free and swift as an arrow, sprinted over the white chalk-line
to the Seaton goal-posts.

A few minutes later, with the score six and six, Hillbury lined up for
the third kick-off. Wolcott felt relieved as he saw the ball settle into
Read’s grasp, for Read was safe. The ball was down on the thirty-yard
line, and the heavy Seaton machine started immediately to hammer its way
down the field. A delayed pass gave ten yards, a quarter-back run
another ten, but the advance was mainly by steady driving of strong men
in unison against a desperate, but yielding defence. Now on one side,
now on the other, with Laughlin back, or Lindsay or Hendry locked in an
irresistible interference with Milliken, Wendt, and Buist, the ball drew
nearer the Hillbury goal. Now a swaying mass rolled its way through the
struggling line as a steam shovel eats into a sandbank; now a narrow gap
would open and a single man be dashed into it, as an express train into
a tunnel.

Mr. Lindsay watched, fearful yet fascinated. What strength! what
splendid unity of action! what perfection of training! The admiration
for physical strength and vigor inherent in the Anglo-Saxon race, the
love of a fair fight in an open field, was asserting itself in him. He
apprehended something of the absorbing joy of the game. Here was a
contest of men, not in jugglery and sword play, not at arm’s length and
with dainty tricks of hand and wrist, but face to face and breast to
breast, with foot-pounds counting double and weakness a sin.

Again the ball drew near the Hillbury goal. The half was nearly over; a
score if made must come soon. On the fatal ten-yard line Jackson again
fumbled, and though Buist fell on the ball, his quickness was of no
avail, for it was a fourth down. With despair in their hearts the
panting Seaton line saw the fruit of their labors wrested from them.
Hillbury took the ball, Rounds fell back and waited with outstretched
hands for the pass.

“Through on him now!” cried Laughlin. “Wolcott!”

In the last word was an appeal which wrung Wolcott’s heart. He had
broken through in practice games and blocked kicks, but here it seemed
impossible. Taking in the position of his adversary at a single glance,
he riveted his eyes on the hands that held the ball, and waited tense as
a coiled spring. As the Hillbury centre’s hands contracted on the ball,
he leaped forward, caught Holmes by the left arm and jerked him around,
and shot by toward the ball.

The pass was high. Rounds reached for it and drew it down into position
for a punt. As he caught the ball Lindsay struck the quarter and bowled
him over; as the ball rose Lindsay rose, met it squarely with his chest
and sent it bounding beyond the goal-posts against the fence which
separated the spectators from the end of the field.

The Seaton rushers had streamed through the broken Hillbury line at
Wolcott’s heels, and without slackening speed raced for the ball; the
Hillbury backs were no less quick. Together they dived for the ball,
covering it in an instant under a heap of bodies which were still
squirming when the referee’s whistle called a peremptory stop. Little by
little the tangle was loosened. At the bottom lay Hendry and under
Hendry the ball! The half closed a few minutes later with the score
eleven to six.



                              CHAPTER XXIV
                             THE GAME ENDS


In the short intermission both teams took account of stock and heard
some vividly suggestive words from the coaches. The problem for Seaton
was to keep the score as it was. A successful trick play, the fumble of
a punt, a lucky end run by the fleet Hillbury back, might turn the
present advantage into ultimate ruin; for from two touchdowns and two
goals results a score of twelve points, while the two touchdowns and one
goal which Seaton had achieved had yielded but eleven.

“If they get another touchdown, they’ll beat us,” declared Laughlin;
“we’ve simply got to hold ’em.” And the others nodded emphatic
agreement, and in various forms repeated the sentiment. There was no
lack of comprehension of the situation.

The coaches drew the captain into a corner apart.

“I’ll bet you’re going in,” whispered Wolcott to Durand. “These fumbles
have sewered Jack, and they’re afraid of a punting game. If you do go
in, try to forget where you are and play just as you did last Tuesday on
the second. Yell your signals good and loud, and don’t try to be so
terribly fast. I’ll risk you for tackling and hugging the ball.”

Durand didn’t answer, but he felt a thrill from crown to toe, a sudden
uplift of joy, and as sudden a reaction of doubt and fear.

The coaches turned. “Durand starts at quarter,” said Laughlin. “No
fumbling now! If we get the ball, hang to it like death and fight for
every inch. Hold ’em on the first down, and we’ve got ’em licked.”

Jackson winced under the pitying glances. He had failed,—failed
terribly; but for that blocked kick? the score would now be a precarious
tie. Yet it was hard to be cut off from any chance to retrieve himself;
to know in advance that his error, though forgiven, would not be
forgotten; that whatever befell the team, his own defeat was assured. He
turned hard round to wink back the tears that would well into his eyes;
but a moment later he was running over the signals with Durand and
trying to help him to a knowledge of the weaknesses of the men against
him.

Hillbury was already out, the men alert and hopeful, as if the odds were
in their favor; for their coaches had laid out a plan which was to lead
to victory. A new man was in guard’s place opposite Wolcott; but the
Seaton player had less thought for his opponent than for Durand’s
experiment, and less for Durand than for the game to be played. He
charged fiercely down on Bullard’s kick-off, as if he felt no heaviness
in his weary limbs. The Hillbury end got the ball and dashed furiously
down on Wolcott’s side; but the Seaton guard caught him squarely and
low, and downed him hard. Then Hillbury tried a double pass for an end
run, and finally smashed her way through left tackle to a first down.
After that Seaton held and Rounds punted. The ball went to the new back,
of course; and Durand, though he held the ball, was pulled down before
he had run it back across the second chalk-line. Seaton pushed up the
field again a dozen yards and was forced to punt, and Hillbury had a
chance again on her forty-yard line.

Hillbury tried a single quick dash outside Bent, gaining three yards
with apparent ease, then unexpectedly kicked. It was a long sailing
punt, that seemed to float on and on with the help of the wind as if it
were never to drop. Durand, who was playing well back, whirled suddenly
and ran, then turned and gathered the ball in. Squeezing the precious
thing tight in the hollow of his arm, he shot forward, sidestepped clear
of the Hillbury end, who lunged at him, and tacking in and out of the
loose swarm of friend and foe, he threaded his way with erratic,
darting, shuttlelike movement beyond the middle of the field. When he
went down, every spectator around Mr. Lindsay was on his feet yelling
admiration.

“Now’s our chance,” cried the Harvard student jubilantly, as he resumed
his seat. “Rip ’em up there, quarter-back; smash ’em through the centre;
put another knot in that score!”

But instead the quarter sent Buist at the end. The Hillbury end dodged
into the interference and threw the Seaton runner back a yard. Through
the centre only two were gained, and Seaton, fearing to lose the ball,
punted. Howe got it on his ten-yard line and carried it valiantly back
across several white lines.

The Hillbury full drew back to punt. Buist was already scuttling into
his back field when Hendry, who saw something in the attitude of the
backs to arouse suspicion, exclaimed sharply, “Fake! fake!” But it was
too late. While he was speaking the ball was snapped, the Seaton guards
ploughed through to block the expected kick, and Joslin with the ball
under his arm, and two interferers beside him, darted for the right end.
Hendry was boxed; Read got tangled in the interference; Wendt just
touched the runner with his finger ends as he flung himself at the
fleeting mark; and Joslin, the fastest sprinter, barring one, in both
the schools, had almost an open field to the Seaton goal-posts.

The “almost” was the little quarter-back crouching in the distance, his
eyes glued upon his fast approaching foe. It was an awful moment; the
Seaton sympathizers caught their breaths and sent their hope in a single
mighty yearning to the aid of the last defender of their goal. Durand
saw nothing but the man charging with the ball, felt no fear of the
critical instant, but only intense eagerness to meet the man squarely
and get his arms around those flashing legs. Step by step he moved
forward, in catlike watch of every movement of his opponent, who was
bounding toward him in strong, free leaps. A dozen yards away Joslin
swerved suddenly to run around his man. At the moment Durand shot
forward to cut the runner’s path. For one critical instant only was the
Hillbury man within his reach; but that instant Durand felt in every
nerve of his body, and his body acted of its own volition. He did not
reason nor question; it was as if some mysterious electric force
suddenly caught him with irresistible impulse and launched him against
his foe. Down the two went in a whirl of legs; and only when Durand had
disentangled himself from the quickly formed heap and scrambled to his
feet, did his mind awake to the success of the play.

But the stop to the Hillbury advance was only temporary. Three yards
were gained through Bent, and on a second trial three yards more. They
had “found” Bent. Laughlin tore off his head-guard and flung it far away
to the side-lines, hoping to see better where to strike. He played still
farther out to support the weak side. Again the Hillbury charge went
crashing through the Seaton tackle. When the players extricated
themselves from the mêlée, one big form still lay outstretched upon the
ground. It was Laughlin!

The trainers came hurrying in with water-pail and sponge and liniment.
The fallen man was got upon his feet, his face mopped, his condition
eagerly inquired for. A bruise at the edge of his hair above his eye
showed the mark of a heavy boot.

“Dizzy?” asked the trainer, anxiously.

“A little,” responded the player; “but it doesn’t amount to anything. I
can go back now.”

“You’d better take your head-guard again,” urged the trainer.

But Laughlin tore himself away from the solicitous group. “I’m all
right,” he declared savagely. “Play the game!”

The lines formed again amid tremendous applause from the Seaton side, as
the injured man went bravely back into the fray.

The Hillbury quarter, shrewdly guessing on the probabilities, drove his
heaviest back against the Seaton captain. For the first time in the game
a hole was found at right guard, and when Milliken and Buist stemmed the
charge, the ball lay six yards down the field. The next attack was at
Bent, the third through Laughlin. The fourth in the same place stretched
the Seaton captain again upon the ground.

“Dave, you’re hurt! You oughtn’t to go on,” pleaded Wolcott, taking
Laughlin’s head in his lap. The captain’s eyes moved uncertainly; he
seemed suddenly stripped of his strength. In a moment, however, the old
spirit returned, and he rose determined.

“I’m all right,” he insisted. “I’m all right; play the game!”

Laughlin was the captain; his orders were not to be questioned.

A plunge at the Seaton left was squarely met, another on the right
penetrated five yards. Laughlin was down again. Time was called, and
Collins came running in with his water-pail.

“Tell him to go off,” urged Wolcott. “He doesn’t know what he’s about.
It’s cruel to let him stay here!”

The trainer shrugged his shoulders; he was not master on the field.
Laughlin lifted himself unsteadily to his feet. The applause on the
Seaton side had ceased; instead, ominous shouts of “Take him out! take
him out!” were heard along the bank of crimson and gray.

“I’m all right,” persisted the captain; “I can play;” and he started
back to his place. Wolcott grasped his arm.

“Dave!” he cried in despair, “you aren’t fit to play. Go off and let us
finish the game. You aren’t yourself at all. Do what I say, please!”

But Laughlin snatched his arm away and turned toward the line.

Wolcott threw himself before him. “Answer me one question, and I won’t
say another word. Where are you going to college, Harvard or Yale? Just
answer me that.”

With stupid eyes Laughlin gazed into his friend’s face. “Harvard or
Yale? Harvard or Yale?” he repeated. “It’s one or the other, but I don’t
seem to know which—” Then straightening up, he shouted: “We’re wasting
time! Set ’em going there! Get into the game!”

But Wolcott’s test question had shown convincingly Laughlin’s
incapacity. The coach was allowed to come on the field, and together
they labored with the bewildered but stubborn fellow, who, like the
famous Spartan captain, refused to retreat while the enemy was still
before him.

Only when Poole and Ware were called in, and their personal appeal was
added to the pleas of Wolcott and the coach, did the dazed captain give
way, and allow his friends to lead him from the field. Wolcott, who had
sometimes played on the right side, went over into Laughlin’s place,
Butler succeeded Wolcott, and Conley replaced Bent.

“Lindsay will act as captain,” said the coach, as he left the field.

“Hold ’em, fellows, you can do it! Keep watch of that ball!” The new
captain took naturally to his duties.

The Hillbury quarter tried the new guard, but Butler was fresh and
strong, and determined to prove his value; he charged hard and quick,
and the attack was thrown back as a sea wave from a cliff. Joslin was
sent at Pope’s end; but Conley went through and shattered the
interference, and Pope downed the sprinter before he had reached the
line. Then the Hillbury full-back retired for a try at goal, and the
Seaton guard on one side and tackle on the other sifted through the line
and plunged upon him. The ball went wide; Durand, getting it safely,
touched it behind the goal-line, and the team went back to the
twenty-five-yard line. A sigh of relief, like the whisper of the wind,
soughed audibly along the Seaton benches, as the ball was punted far up
the field, and the play started once more in less dangerous territory.

The game was now near its end. The sun was setting; darkness would soon
descend upon the field. Hillbury, discouraged at the failure to score
when the opportunity had seemed so bright, played with less fire and
speed. On the third down, with but a yard to gain, a Seaton linesman
scented the play and tackled the runner behind his own line. The ball
was in Seaton hands in the middle of the field. Wolcott whispered to
Durand, the signals rang out, the quarter-back took the ball, dodged
around Hendry, edged by the Hillbury back, and behind Lindsay and Wendt
twisted his jerky, slippery course past half-a-dozen frantically
grasping Hillburyites to the open field. Here, if his speed had equalled
his agility, Durand might have carried the ball directly to a touchdown;
but Joslin caught him from behind, and throwing him without mercy,
strove to wrench the ball from his hands. Durand clung to it
desperately, and Seaton had the ball on the twelve-yard line. From here
across the goal-line was but a question of half-a-dozen determined
drives.

After this third touchdown there was no more anxiety on the Seaton side.
The followers cheered from happiness now, and assurance that the great
contest was won—not because the team needed support. It was hearty
cheering, but tumultuous and ragged.

Across the field Hillbury, undaunted to the end, with full volume and in
splendid unison, sent forth their exhortation. And when, a few minutes
later, with the weary lines still struggling in mid-field, the referee’s
whistle announced the end, the Hillbury sky-rocket call was still
sounding clearly in Seatonian ears.



                              CHAPTER XXV
                            ON THE WAY HOME


Mr. Lindsay climbed stiffly down the tiers of seats, and edged his way
past the side-lines into the field, over which the exultant crowd had
suddenly scattered, like leaves flung broadcast by a whirlwind from the
gardener’s neatly ordered pile. He wanted to make sure that Wolcott was
unhurt and to congratulate him upon his escape. This, at least, was his
avowed object. Within his heart, however, lurked another motive, less
definite and unacknowledged, to show some recognition of the work the
boy had done; some appreciation of the skill, the physical power, the
coolness and alertness of mind, the tremendous persistence, which had
marked Wolcott’s play from the beginning. There are boys before whom a
teacher must sometimes feel like standing uncovered, so much more
faithful and sufficient do they seem in their places than he in his.
Some such impulse of respect Mr. Lindsay felt, as he pushed by the
stragglers toward the groups about the players. It was not the
victory,—he cared nothing for that,—nor the silly boys’ enthusiasm for
an athlete; the play as an achievement, as an example of what training
and determination and hard endeavor could accomplish, appealed to him in
spite of himself.

But to know where Wolcott was to be found was one thing, to get at him
another. Around each group of players crowded the hero-worshippers, who,
though they shifted and squirmed and danced in and out of their places,
still kept a serried line of backs to the outer world, and offered no
practicable opening to a middle-aged intruder, awkwardly conscious that
he was out of place. As he stood wavering on the outskirts of the
throng, there passed within his reach an eager, glad-faced youth, with a
red badge on the lapel of his coat, a megaphone in his hand, and, as Mr.
Lindsay discovered on addressing him, a hoarse voice in his throat. The
youth halted, heard the stranger’s appeal, and dived unceremoniously
under the elbows of the outer circle. Soon the circle parted again and
Wolcott popped forth, making haste a little stiffly, and showing a face
on which smears of mud were streaked by rivulets of sweat, but shining
with exultation.

“We did it, father, didn’t we?” he cried, as he caught Mr. Lindsay’s
clean glove in both his grimy hands. “Oh, it was splendid! You can’t
imagine the fun; I wouldn’t have missed it for anything! Didn’t Milliken
buck the line, though? When he once got his nose by my shoulder, they
simply couldn’t stop him. And Hendry was all over the lot—there seemed
at least two of him. And Paul Durand! Wasn’t that the cleanest tackle
that ever was made? If Joslin had got by that time, I believe we’d have
been done for. You’ll never see anything better than that if you go to a
hundred games!”

“I dare say not,” calmly interposed Mr. Lindsay, who had no desire to
see one more game, not to mention a hundred. “Did you get hurt?”

“Not a bit!” answered the young man, cracking the smooch of mud by a
sudden laugh. “I’ve a scratch or two, and my left hip seems to work as
if it needed a little oiling, and I’m pretty tired, but that’s all. How
did you like it? Wasn’t poor Dave in hard luck to have to go out just
when we needed him most? It was dead silly in him to throw away his
head-gear like that!”

“I’m glad it wasn’t you,” observed Mr. Lindsay, dryly.

“He’s all right now except for a headache,” went on Wolcott, eagerly.
“He really didn’t know what he was about when he went off. The first
thing he asked when he came to himself was whether Hillbury got the
touchdown.”

“Come, Lindsay, don’t be hangin’ round here, gettin’ cold,” interrupted
an authoritative voice from behind. “Hustle over to the gym, there, and
get a bath and rub-down as soon as ever you can.”

Mr. Lindsay turned in surprise and beheld a businesslike man in a
sweater, whom he immediately recognized as the guardian of pail and
sponge, who had so suddenly scurried into the field on several occasions
when an ankle was to be rubbed or a face bathed.

“This is Mr. Collins, our trainer,” said Wolcott, looking ruefully at
his father. “I shall have to do what he says. You’ll find me over at the
gymnasium if you care to come.”

And while Wolcott trotted slowly away toward the Hillbury gymnasium, the
trainer continued, as if his interruption needed excuse: “It’s risky for
’em to be hanging round in sweaty clothes after a game like that; but
they will do it. You have to watch ’em all the time, if you want to keep
’em up to the mark. They’re boys, not men, and it’s sometimes pretty
hard to make ’em take proper care of themselves.”

“I judge that you have succeeded,” remarked Mr. Lindsay. “They seem to
be in excellent condition.”

A smile of perfect satisfaction lighted Collins’s face. “Right on edge!
That son of yours played the game to-day. I knew it was in him. He’ll
make a great player in college if they don’t spoil him.”

Mr. Lindsay received this prophecy with less enthusiasm than might have
been expected of a proud father, and turned to watch the boys gathering
for their triumphant march to the station. They were off now in a long
line, proudly counting the score as a marching chant. They counted loud
and strong as they circled the field; they counted up the hill and past
the brick buildings on its crest. And as they filed away into the
twilight on the other slope, the sound of their counting still came back
to vex the much-enduring ears of Hillbury.

The trainer’s last words were in Mr. Lindsay’s mind as he wended his way
toward the gymnasium, following the direction given him by a sad-eyed
Hillbury lad. He knew little about football,—though more perhaps than he
wanted to know,—but he had heard enough and seen enough to be sure that
Wolcott had contributed quite as much as any one else to the Seaton
success. Yet not a word had passed the boy’s lips that showed any
consciousness of superiority. “Fine!” thought the father, with pride.
“But that is in the boy, not in the game. It’s the old strain
reappearing. The Lindsays have always been men of action rather than
braggarts.”

At the gymnasium door he proved his right to be admitted, and some one
showed him to the Seaton quarters. There he found Wolcott with a towel
about his loins, and Milliken similarly clad, Hendry just getting into
his shirt, and Durand dressed still more simply in nature’s garb of
muscles and sinews, with a most glorious smile crowning his athletic
figure, like the laurel wreath of a Greek victor. The boys greeted him
cordially, and went on undisturbed with their rubbing and dressing,
gloating over the grand events of the day. Over in the corner, propped
against the wall, sat Laughlin, nursing a splitting headache, but
clothed and in his right mind, and keenly interested in every
reminiscent detail. Presently Poole came in, and accompanied Mr. Lindsay
to a more convenient waiting-place outside. There after a time Wolcott
joined them, and together they strolled toward the station at a pace
adapted to the supposedly weary condition of the player.

Here was hilarious confusion. The little station was full, the platform
thronged, while the constantly increasing crowd were straggling over the
tracks indifferent to danger. The cheer leaders saw their opportunity,
and bellowing through their megaphones, kept the way clear for the
passing trains. In the press on the platform Wolcott found Mr. Graham,
whom his father was glad to meet again; also Mr. Lovering, and Tompkins,
who had of course come out from Boston to see the game. Later Poole
presented Ware, and while Mr. Lindsay exchanged compliments with the
manager, Poole laid hands on a passing Peck, and brought him to be
displayed.

“This is Donald Peck, Mr. Lindsay,” said Poole. “You have probably heard
of him from Wolcott.”

“Oh, of course,” answered Mr. Lindsay, who during the exciting afternoon
had seen so many boys, dressed and undressed, and heard so many names,
that he was not quite certain where to place the newcomer. “I am very
glad to meet you. Were you one of the players, too?”

“Oh, no!” said Donald, shocked at the assumption. “I never could get on
any team. I’m not man enough.”

“You are probably just as well off,” replied Mr. Lindsay. “I don’t
entirely believe in this athletic craze.”

Poole now ventured a remark, and Donald slipped away. A moment later
Wolcott appeared from the other side with another lad in tow.

“Here is Duncan Peck, another of my friends. He rooms on the same floor
with me.”

“I’m very glad to meet you, sir,” said Duncan, who, slow though he might
be in the classroom, was always ready with a polite phrase. “You came to
see your son play, I suppose.”

But Mr. Lindsay was not to be taken in. “I am happy to meet any of your
friends, Wolcott,” he said, “but this young gentleman hardly needs a
second introduction. Poole brought him up a moment ago.”

“Oh, no, sir,” replied the smiling Duncan, promptly. “You must have
mixed me up with some one else. I am sure that you have never seen me
before.”

Mr. Lindsay stared blankly at the glib youth, wondering what could be
the object of this evident falsehood.

“This is Duncan,” explained Wolcott. “It was another copy of him named
Donald, that Poole introduced. You really must see them together.
They’re the pride of the menagerie.”

At this moment Poole brought up the fugitive again, and standing him
beside his brother, asked Mr. Lindsay to tell which he had first met.
And while Mr. Lindsay stood in puzzled amusement, there was a scream
from a near-by locomotive, and the cheer leaders began shouting through
their megaphones again: “KEEP OFF THE TRACK! THIS IS NOT OUR TRAIN! THIS
IS THE TRAIN FOR BOSTON! KEEP OFF THE TRACK!”

“That’s my train,” said Mr. Lindsay.

“Come back with us and see the celebration!” cried Wolcott.

For a moment Mr. Lindsay felt tempted, not by the celebration, of
course, but by a desire to linger in the society of these friendly lads
among whom he felt the full charm of vigorous, light-hearted, unsoured
youth. Second thoughts came quickly. “I think I have had about all the
celebration that is good for me; I am as tired now as if I had played
the game.”

The train crept cautiously in. Mr. Lindsay said good-by, and, jostled by
other passengers eager for seats, climbed the steps of the platform. The
circle of boys at his back cried good-by again and waved their hands.
Behind them still others roguishly took up the shout, and violently
swung their arms, until the whole platform seemed to be waving salutes
and shouting adieus. And Mr. Lindsay, squeezed by the crowd and deafened
by the shouts, dropped into a seat exhausted, thankful for the
comparative quiet of the rumbling train. After all it seemed hardly as
dangerous for a boy to play football as for his father to attend the
game.

The happy throng left behind by the departing train waited, patient
though by no means silent, for its own long line of cars.

“I say, Wolcott,” said Tompkins, sidling up for the fifth time with
congratulations; “this isn’t much like our funeral here last June, is
it? That was a terribly sour-looking bunch! There wasn’t a man in it who
didn’t look like a yaller dog born with a tin can tied to his tail.”

Wolcott laughed, not at Tompkins, but from pure joy of heart. At the
moment there flashed into his recollection the words Laughlin had
uttered when the possibilities of football had first presented
themselves to the new boy. “It’s a great thing to win a Hillbury game;
it’s fine just to play in one, but to win,—win fairly and squarely,
because you’re a better team and know more football,—why, it’s like
winning a great battle.” He understood it now, understood it all; and
his face sobered as he contrasted the joy of an accomplished victory
with the uncertainty and discouragement of the heavy task which Phil was
facing, as captain of the nine, with but a scanty nucleus of a beaten
team to support him.

Some such thought must also have entered Tompkins’s ecstatic brain, for
he turned toward Phil, who was staring in solemn vacancy out across the
tracks, and dropped his hand affectionately on the ball player’s
shoulder.

“It won’t happen again, will it, Philly? You’re going to give us a
winning nine!”

“I’m going to try to,” replied Phil, quietly.

How he tried, and what came of the trying, will be told among other
things, in the next volume of the series, “With Mask and Mit.”





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