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

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                          Kingsford, Quarter



[Illustration: THE GREAT GAME.]



                          Kingsford, Quarter

                                  By

                          Ralph Henry Barbour

      Author of “The Crimson Sweater,” “Tom, Dick, and Harriet,”
                “Harry’s Island,” “Captain Chub,” etc.


                          With Illustrations

                            By C. M. Relyea


                            [Illustration]


                               New York
                            The Century Co.
                                 1910



                       Copyright, 1909, 1910, by
                            THE CENTURY CO.


                      _Published September, 1910_


                      Electrotyped and Printed by
                      C. H. Simonds & Co., Boston



                                  TO

                            CARLETON NOYES

                            AS A TOKEN OF A
                            LONG FRIENDSHIP



CONTENTS


 CHAPTER                              PAGE
     I. EVAN HAPPENS IN                  3
    II. THE BOY IN 32                   14
   III. EVAN MAKES ACQUAINTANCES        28
    IV. MALCOLM WARNE                   41
     V. EVAN IS WARNED                  55
    VI. THE HAZING                      71
   VII. UP THE MOUNTAIN                 89
  VIII. ON TABLE ROCK                  104
    IX. DINNER IS SERVED               112
     X. STORIES AND SLUMBER            121
    XI. JELLY CLIMBS A TREE            131
   XII. IN THE FOG                     145
  XIII. EVAN RETIRES                   157
   XIV. THE FOOTBALL MEETING           167
    XV. THE CONTRIBUTION-BOX           182
   XVI. ROB PLAYS A TRUMP              195
  XVII. THE INDEPENDENTS ORGANIZE      205
 XVIII. DUFFIELD TAKES HOLD            220
   XIX. DEVENS AGREES                  233
    XX. INDEPENDENTS VS. SECOND        246
   XXI. DEVENS RESIGNS                 262
  XXII. THE SCHOOL TAKES A HAND        277
 XXIII. THE INDEPENDENTS DISSOLVE      296
  XXIV. THE GAME WITH ADAMS            312



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


 The Great Game                                     _Frontispiece_

                                                             PAGE
 “Look pleasant, kid,” he continued threateningly               7

 “I play foot-ball,” answered Evan. “I want to try for the
     team here”                                                21

 “Hello!” he said. “Oh, beg pardon. Where’s Rob?”              47

 “Ever played foot-ball?”                                      57

 “Talk about your palatial mansions!” exclaimed Rob            67

 He went through the motions of kicking from placement         83

 It was a silent and very disgusted throng of spectators      199

 “If we don’t make Hop and Prentiss sit up and take
     notice before the season’s over, I’ll eat my hat!”       217

 “Now then, you fellows――I’m here to show you what I know
     about foot-ball and you’re here to learn”                229

 The game between the Independents and the Second School
     Team                                                     251

 “Then that’s settled, eh?” asked Hopkins beamingly           273

 The meeting broke up in confusion                            289

 The meeting resolved itself into a parade that made the
     round of the buildings and sang foot-ball songs          305



KINGSFORD, QUARTER



CHAPTER I

EVAN HAPPENS IN


Evan climbed the second flight of stairs, pulling his bag heavily
behind him. For the last quarter of an hour he had been wishing that
he had packed fewer books in it. At the station he had stopped to
telegraph to his family announcing his safe arrival at Riverport,
and so had lost the stage to school and had walked a full mile and
a quarter. That is ordinarily no task for a well-set-up, strong lad
of fifteen years, but when he is burdened with a large suit-case
containing no end of books and boots and other stuff that ought to be
in his trunk, and when the last half-mile is steadily uphill, it makes
a difference. Evan was aware of the difference.

At the top of the final flight he set the bag down and looked
speculatively up and down the long, dim hallway. In front of him the
closed door was numbered 24. At the office they had assigned him to 36
Holden. He had found the dormitory without difficulty, and now he had
only to find 36. He wondered which way the numbers ran. That he wasn’t
alone up here on the second floor was evident, for from behind closed
doors and opened doors came the sound of much talking and laughter.
While he stood there resting his tired arms, the portal of number 24
was flung open, and a tall youth in his shirt-sleeves confronted him.
Behind the tall youth the room seemed at first glance to be simply
seething with boys.

“Where is room 36, please?” asked Evan.

“Thirty-six?” The other considered the question with a broad smile.
Then, instead of answering, he turned toward the room. “Say, fellows,
here’s a new one. Come and have a look. It’ll do you no end of good.”

In a second the doorway was filled with curious, grinning faces.
Perhaps if Evan hadn’t been so tired he would have accepted the
situation with better humor. As it was, he lifted his suit-case and
turned away with a scowl.

“He doesn’t like us!” wailed a voice. “Ah, woe is me!”

“Where’s he going?” asked another. “Tarry, stranger, and――”

“He wants 36,” said the tall youth. “Who’s in 36, somebody?”

“Nobody. Tupper had it last year; he and Andy Long.”

“Say, kid, 36 is at the other end of the hall. But don’t scowl at me
like that, or I’ll come out there and give you something to be peevish
about.”

Evan, obeying directions, turned and passed the group again in search
of his room. He paid no heed to the challenge, for he was much too
tired to get really angry. But he didn’t take the scowl from his face,
and the boy in the doorway saw it.

“Look pleasant, kid,” he continued threateningly. He pushed his way
through the laughing group and overtook Evan a little way down the
hall. He was a big chap, good-looking in a heavy way, and seemed to be
about seventeen years old. He placed a hand on Evan’s shoulder and with
a quick jerk swung him around with his back to the wall. Evan dropped
his bag and raised his hands defensively.

“What do you want?” he demanded.

“Didn’t I tell you to look pleasant?” growled his tormentor, with an
ugly grin on his features. “Didn’t I? Well, do it!”

“You let me alone,” said Evan, the blood rushing into his cheeks.

“Of course I’ll let you alone, kid; when I get ready. Off with that
scowl; do you hear?”

“You take it off!” answered Evan, pushing the other away from him.

“The new one’s game!” cried the tall youth. The others were flocking
about them. Evan’s arms were beaten down swiftly and pinned to his
sides in a strong grip, and a hand was passed roughly over his face,
hurting so that, in spite of him, the tears rushed to his eyes. With an
effort he shook off the other’s grip, stumbled over the suit-case, and
staggered against a door. The next moment he was falling backward, the
door giving way behind him. He landed on his back, his head striking
the thinly carpeted floor with a force that made him see all sorts and
sizes of blue stars and for an instant quite dazed him. Then he heard a
drawling voice somewhere at the back of the room say:

[Illustration: “‘LOOK PLEASANT, KID,’ HE CONTINUED THREATENINGLY.”]

“Welcome to my humble domicile.”

When he opened his eyes, his assailant was standing over him, and the
group in the doorway held several anxious faces.

“Aren’t hurt, are you?” asked the cause of his mishap. “Give me your
hand.”

Evan obeyed and was pulled to his feet. He had quite forgotten his
anger. “I’m all right,” he said dully, feeling of the back of his head.

“That’s right,” said the other, with a note of relief in his voice. “I
didn’t mean to hurt you. It was the door, you see.”

“Up to your tricks again, eh, Hop?”

It was the drawling voice Evan had heard a moment before, and its
owner, a tall, somewhat lanky boy, came into view around the table.
“You’ve got the keenest sense of humor, Hop, I ever met with. Why
didn’t you drop him out of the window?”

“Oh, you dry up, Rob. I didn’t do anything to him. The door was
unlatched, and he fell against it. It’s none of your business, anyway.”

“It’s my business if I like to make it mine,” was the reply. He pulled
up a chair and waved Evan toward it. “Sit down and get your breath,”
he directed. Evan obeyed, his gaze studying the youth called Hop.

“Now, then,” said his new acquaintance quietly, “all out, if you
please, gentlemen. I’ll look after the patient. Leave him to me.”

The group at the doorway melted away, and Hop followed. As he passed
out, he turned and found Evan’s gaze still on him.

“Well, you’ll know me, I guess, when you see me again,” he said crossly.

“I think I shall,” answered Evan, calmly.

His host chuckled as he closed and bolted the door. Then he came back
and sank into a chair opposite Evan, his legs sprawling across the
floor.

“Well?” he asked kindly. “Any damage?”

“No, I guess not. My head aches and I’m sort of dizzy, but I’ll be all
right in a minute.”

“I guess so. Just come, did you?”

“Yes; I was looking for my room when that chap――”

“Frank Hopkins.”

“When he got mad because I scowled at him. We tussled, and I fell
through the door.”

“That was partly my fault. I’m sorry. You see, I’d been fixing the
latch so I could open it from bed, and I hadn’t quite finished when
you bumped against the door. What’s your name?”

“Kingsford.”

“Mine’s Langton; first name Robert; commonly called Rob; sometimes
Lanky. Glad to meet you. Nice of you to drop in so casually.”

Evan laughed.

“That’s better. Wait a minute.” Rob got up and went to the wash-stand
and dipped a towel in the pitcher. “Put that around your head,” he
directed. “It’s good for aches. Too wet, is it? Let me have it.” He
wrung some of the water out on the carpet and handed it back. “There
you are. What room have they put you into?”

“Thirty-six.”

“No good,” said Rob, with a shake of his head. “You’ll freeze to death
there. The Gobbler had it two years ago, and he did something to the
steam-pipes so that the heat doesn’t get around any more. He vows he
didn’t, but I know the Gobbler.”

“Can’t it be fixed?”

“It never has been. They’ve tried dozens of times. I have an idea what
the trouble is, and I told Mac――he’s house faculty here――that I could
fix it if he’d let me. But he never would.”

“Well, I suppose I’ll have to live there just the same,” said Evan,
with a smile.

“Oh, I don’t know. Where do you come from, Kingsford?”

“Elmira, New York.”

“Really? My home’s in Albany. We’re natives of the same old State,
aren’t we? I guess we’ll get on all right. What class are you in?”

“Junior.”

“So am I. That’s another bond of sympathy. I call this great luck! I
hate to live alone. Sandy Whipple was with me last year, but he had
typhoid in the summer and isn’t coming back for a while. And now you
happen in. Well, make yourself at home, Kingsford. It isn’t a bad room,
you see. That’s your side over there.”

“But――this isn’t 36, is it?” asked Evan.

“Not a bit of it. This is 32. I told you, didn’t I, that 36 was no
good?”

“But they’ve put me there! Won’t I have to go?”

“Of course not. I’ll settle it with the Doctor. You’re inclined to
colds, you know, and 36 wouldn’t do for a minute. You leave it all to
me. Any consumption in your family?”

“No. Why in the world do you ask that?”

“Well, if you had a consumptive uncle or cousin or something, it would
help. I’d tell the Doctor that your lungs were weak and that your Uncle
Tom had consumption. But never mind. I’ll fix it.”

“But――but do you really want me here?”

“Of course I do! Didn’t I just say that I was down in the mouth because
I didn’t have a room-mate? Besides, I like your looks. And we’re both
New Yorkers, and we’re both juniors. That ought to settle it, I should
say.”

“Well, it’s awfully good of you,” said Evan, gratefully, “and I’ll be
glad to room with you if they’ll let me. Only――”

“Only nothing!” said the other, decisively. “Fate threw you in here,
and here you stay!”



CHAPTER II

THE BOY IN 32


Rob Langton was sixteen years of age, tall, a trifle weedy, like a boy
who has grown too fast. He always seemed to be in difficulties with his
arms and legs. Even his hair, which was dark and long, looked as though
in a constant state of mutiny. There was one obstreperous lock which
stood straight into the air on the top of his head, and several thick
ones which were forever falling over his eyes and having to be brushed
impatiently back. Comb and brush and water had little effect on Rob’s
hair.

His face was thin, with a broad, good-humored mouth, a firm chin, a
straight nose, and two very kindly brown eyes. Evan liked him from the
very first moment of their meeting. And doubtless Evan’s sentiment
was returned, otherwise Rob Langton would never have adopted him on
such slight acquaintance, for Rob, while generally liked throughout
Riverport School, had few close friends and was considered hard to know.

The two boys examined each other quite frankly while they talked, just
as boys do. What Rob saw was a well-built, athletic-looking youngster,
fairly tall, with a good breadth of shoulder, alert and capable.
There was a pair of steady blue eyes, a good nose, a chin that, in
spite of having a dimple in the middle of it, looked determined, and
a well-formed mouth which, like Rob Langton’s, hinted of good humor.
Evan’s hair, however, wasn’t in the least like that of the older boy.
In the first place, it was several shades lighter, and, in the second
place, it was very well-behaved hair and stayed where it was put. Even
the folded towel which he wore around his forehead hadn’t rumpled it.

“I ought to be in the middle class,” Rob was explaining cheerfully.
“When I came last year I expected to go into the junior, but Latin
and Greek had me floored, and so, rather than make any unnecessary
trouble for the faculty, I dropped into the preparatory. The fact is,
Kingsford, I hate those old dead languages. Mathematics and I get on
all right, and I don’t mind English, but Greek――well, I’d like to
punch Xenophon’s head! Dad has it all cut out that I’m to be a lawyer;
he’s one himself, and a good one; but if I can get my way I’m going to
Cornell and go in for engineering. They call it structural engineering
nowadays. That’s what I want to do, and there’s going to be a heap of
trouble in our cozy little home if I don’t get my way. What are you
going to be?”

“I don’t know――yet. I haven’t thought much about it. My father’s a
doctor, but I don’t go in for that. I don’t like sick folks; besides,
there doesn’t seem to be much money in doctoring.”

“Well, some of them seem to do pretty well,” replied Rob, thoughtfully.
“You might be a specialist and charge big fees. When Dad was ill two
years ago we had a fellow up from New York in consultation. He and our
doctor got together in the library for about ten minutes, and then
he ate a big lunch and went home again. And it cost Dad five hundred
dollars.”

“That sounds all right,” laughed Evan, “but I guess he had to do a lot
of hard work before he ever got where he could charge five hundred
dollars.”

“I suppose so. Do you ever invent?”

“Invent? What do you mean?”

“Invent things, like――like this.” Rob began a search through his
pockets and finally pulled out a piece of brass, queerly shaped and
notched, some three inches long.

“What is it?” asked Evan, as he took it and examined it curiously.

“Just a――a combined tool, as you might say. I call it ‘Langton’s Pocket
Friend.’ Here’s a screw-driver; see? And these notches are for breaking
glass after it’s cut. Up here there’s a little steel wheel for cutting
it, only I haven’t put that in. This is just a model, you know; I filed
it out coming down on the train this morning. Then this slot is for
sharpening pencils. There’s a nail-file here, you see, only it isn’t
filed, of course, because this is just brass. The spur is for cutting
wire, or you can open a can with it if the tin isn’t very thick. Then
this end here is to open envelops or cut pages with. There are two or
three other things I’ve thought of since that I can work in. Of course,
if I ever made them, they’d be of steel.”

“That’s fine,” said Evan. “Did you think of it yourself?”

“Yes. I’m always tinkering with some silly thing. That’s the reason I
don’t cut more of a figure with studies, I guess. Dad has patented two
or three things for me, but I’ve never been able to sell the patents.”

“What are they?” asked Evan, interestedly.

“One’s a snow shovel made of wire netting like an ash sifter. It
only weighs twelve ounces and works finely. But no one would buy it.
Another’s a top with a slot just above the peg so you can put in a cap.
Then when you throw it on the ground the peg comes up against the cap
and explodes it.”

“I should think that would be a dandy idea.”

“Well, one man I tried to sell it to said if I could induce boys to
spin tops around the Fourth of July he would buy my patent. You see,
folks are so fussy now that you can’t buy paper caps except around the
Fourth.”

“I see. And what was the other thing?”

“That’s the best of the lot,” said Rob, thrusting his hands into his
pockets and sprawling his legs across the floor. “I’ve still got hopes
of that. It’s a patent match safe to carry in your pocket. It looks
just like any other match safe, but when you want a match you don’t
have to open it. You just push a little button, and a match pops out.
Maybe I’ll sell that yet. It’s a mighty good idea, and there ought to
be money in it.”

“I should think you’d want to be an inventor instead of an engineer.”

“There isn’t much money in inventions, except for the patent lawyer; at
least, that’s what Dad says. Besides, engineering is a good deal like
inventing. You have problems to solve, and there’s always the chance of
discovering a better way to do a thing. Dad says I’ve got a good deal
of ingenuity, but that if I don’t look out I’ll never be anything but a
potterer.”

“A potterer? That’s a funny name for you.”

“Yes; he means a chap who just potters around doing a lot of little
things that don’t amount to anything. How’s your head?”

“Much better. Do you think I’d better unpack my bag, or shall I wait
until I’m sure about my room?”

“Go ahead and unpack. It’ll be all right. Even if it isn’t, 36 is just
across the hall, and I’ll help you carry things over. Trunks ought to
be up pretty soon, too. Say, do you go in for anything?”

“In for anything?” repeated Evan, doubtfully.

“Yes, foot-ball or hockey or track or rowing or――”

“I play foot-ball,” answered Evan. “I want to try for the team here. Do
you think I’d stand any show, Langton?”

“Do I think――” Rob stopped and chuckled. Evan flushed.

“What’s the matter? I’ve played a good deal, and I dare say I know as
much about it as――as lots of fellows here.”

“As I do, you were going to say,” laughed Rob. “I wasn’t laughing at
you, Kingsford. I dare say you can play better than a good many fellows
on the team, but I don’t think your chances are very bright, and if you
ask me why,――well, I can only say because the Riverport Eleven is what
Dad would call a close corporation.”

“What’s that?”

[Illustration: “‘I PLAY FOOT-BALL,’ ANSWERED EVAN. ‘I WANT TO TRY FOR
THE TEAM HERE.’”]

“I’ll try again,” said Rob, thrusting his hands in his pockets and
falling into the queer drawl which he affected at times. “The team
is like a very select club, Kingsford. If you know enough about
foot-ball to kick the ball instead of biting it, and stand pretty well
with――er――the manager or captain or some of the members, you can make
it. Of course they’re always glad to have you go out and ‘try for the
team’; it looks well and sort of adds interest. And of course you’re
supposed to subscribe toward expenses. And when the team goes away
anywhere to play, they allow you to go along and yell yourself hoarse.
But don’t think for a moment, my friend, that you can make the team
here by just playing good ball.”

“That doesn’t sound very encouraging,” said Evan, with a frown.
“Especially as I don’t know a single fellow here――except you.”

“Well, at least you’ve got a speaking acquaintance with one other,”
said Rob, dryly, the smile still lurking about the corners of his mouth.

“Who do you mean? The fellow who――”

“Yes, Frank Hopkins. He’s ‘the fellow who’――”

“Well, that doesn’t help any, I guess.”

“No; no, I don’t honestly think it does,” answered Rob, with a queer
look. “Because, you see, Kingsford, Hop is the captain.”

“Foot-ball captain?” cried Evan, in dismay. Rob nodded with a wicked
grin.

“Well, if that isn’t luck!” exclaimed Evan, subsiding on the foot of
his bed to consider the fact. “I guess that settles my chances all
right, Langton.” Rob nodded.

“As I don’t want to nourish idle hopes, Kingsford, I’ll just remark
that I think you’ve got the answer.”

“Shucks!” said Evan, disgustedly. “And I thought I was going to have a
great time this fall playing foot-ball. I wish I’d stayed at home, as
my fond mother wanted me to. Say, you’re not fooling, are you?”

“Not a bit. Of course I’ve exaggerated a trifle about the exclusiveness
of our foot-ball society; it isn’t quite as bad as I made it out;
but it’s bad enough. If you happen to be a crackajack player with a
reputation behind you, one of those prep school stars that come along
once in a while, you’re all right. But otherwise, Kingsford, you’ll
have a mighty hard time breaking into Hop’s foot-ball trust. I know,
for I tried it myself last year.”

“Oh, do you play?”

“I used to think so, but after working like a horse for three weeks and
then pining away for a fortnight on the side-lines, I changed my mind.
I know _how_ to play, but I don’t _play_. You catch my meaning, I hope.”

“Yes,” said Evan, gloomily. “Still, I guess I’ll have a try.”

“Of course you will,” said Rob, cheerfully. “It won’t do any harm, and
you might even have a little fun. Besides, miracles still happen; you
might get a place on the second team as third substitute. By the way,
where do you play?”

“I’ve played quarter mostly; sometimes half. I was quarter last year.”

“On your school team?”

“Yes, grammar school. We won every game except one, too.”

“Well, you might let that information leak out in Hop’s direction;
perhaps he will give you a fair show. Only thing is, I’m afraid he’s
taken a――a sort of prejudice against you.”

“I guess he has,” laughed Evan. “And, for that matter, I’m not crazy
about him. Still, if he will let me on the team, I’ll forgive him for
mashing my nose flat.”

“It doesn’t look flat,” said Rob, viewing it attentively. “It’s a
trifle red, but otherwise normal. By ginger! I wonder what time it is.
I’m getting hungry. Oh, there’s no use looking at that clock on the
mantel there. It hasn’t gone right for months. I borrowed one of the
cog-wheels last spring, and now it has the blind staggers.”

“It’s twelve minutes to six,” said Evan, looking at his watch. “When do
we have supper?”

“In twelve minutes if we get there. I’ll wash while you get your things
out. Yes, that’s your closet. There’s some truck in there that belongs
to Sandy. Pitch it out on the floor, and I’ll ask Mrs. Crow to store it
away for him. Hold on! That vest isn’t his; it’s mine. Confound that
fellow! I looked for that thing all summer. Thought I’d lost it. You
see, Sandy Whipple and I are just the same size, and so we wear each
other’s clothes most of the time. I guess you and I can’t exchange that
way, Kingsford. Your trousers would be several inches too short for
little me. How about collars?”

“Thirteen and a half,” said Evan.

“My size exactly! Thirteen and a half, fourteen, or fourteen and a
half; I’m not fussy about collars. All through here.” Rob tossed the
towel in the general direction of the wash-stand and looked around for
his cap.

“Where do we eat?” asked Evan, filling the bowl.

“Dining-hall’s in Second House. If we hurry, maybe we can get at a side
table. I’m as hungry as a bear. I forgot all about dinner this noon. I
got so interested in that silly piece of brass that they’d stolen the
dining-car before I knew it. Ready? Sometime I’m going to fix it so we
can go down by the window. It would be lots nearer than going by the
stairs, and I’ve got a dandy idea for a rope ladder!”



CHAPTER III

EVAN MAKES ACQUAINTANCES


It was still broad daylight when they left the entrance of Holden Hall
and started across the yard, the golden end of a perfect September
day. Down the long sloping hill, beyond the athletic field, the waters
of Lake Matunuxet showed blue between the encircling foliage. Farther
east the river wound its way through marsh and meadow toward the bay,
some three miles distant. The railroad embankment was visible here
and there, and due east the little town of Riverport lay huddled. The
school buildings described a rude crescent, with Holden, the newest of
the three dormitories, at one point and the gymnasium at the other.
Next to Holden stood Second House, with the laboratory tucked in
behind. Then came Academy; then First; then the gymnasium. Behind First
House stood the principal’s cottage, and here the land sloped abruptly
upward in forest, and Mount Graytop raised its bald crown of scarred
and riven granite hundreds of feet above the surrounding country. The
elms in the yard still held green, although here and there a fleck of
russet showed. On the lower slopes of the mountain a well-defined belt
of maples was already turning yellow.

Rob and Evan were not the only boys who had recognized the advisability
of being early on hand at supper in order to choose tables to their
liking. The corridor leading to the dining-hall was pretty thickly
sprinkled with boys of all ages between twelve and eighteen. Rob was
greeted many times, and Evan was introduced to at least a dozen fellows
whose names he didn’t remember five minutes afterward. It was all very
confused and noisy and jolly, and in the middle of it the doors were
flung open, and the waiting throng surged into the dining-hall and made
a decorous but determined rush for the tables.

Evan followed Rob down the room and across to a table under one of the
broad windows. Here, however, a difficulty presented itself. The table
seated eight, and seven of the places were already occupied. Evan,
observing that, hung back, but Rob beckoned him on. At one side of the
vacant seat sat a stout, cherub-faced youth of about Evan’s age. Rob
drew back the vacant chair and fixed his gaze on the stout youth.

“Why,――Jelly,――” he drawled in mock surprise, “what are you doing here?
You’re surely not thinking of sitting with your back to the window in
all this draft, you with your delicate constitution? What would your
parents say, Jelly? No, no, out you go. We can’t have you falling ill;
flowers are too expensive.”

“I got this place, Rob, and I’ve a right to keep it,” answered the
boy. He spoke defiantly enough, but his tones lacked conviction, and
he paused in the operation of unfolding his napkin. Rob patted him
tolerantly on the shoulder.

“It isn’t a question of right, Jelly; it’s a question of what is best
for you. You know you can’t stand a draft; I know it; we all know it.
It’s your welfare we’re considering. Now if you look sharp you can
sneak across and drop into that chair that Hunt Firman has temporarily
vacated; but you want to be quick.”

Jelly was quick. He was out of his chair and around the table on the
instant; and before Firman, who had gone across to a neighboring table
to greet an acquaintance, was aware of it, Jelly had stolen his place.
A contest ensued, Firman trying to oust Jelly without drawing the
attention of the faculty, and Jelly, stable with his one hundred and
forty-odd pounds, paying no attention to threats or blandishments.

“I’ll lick you after supper!” hissed Firman.

“Wonder if we’ll have ham to-night,” remarked Jelly, serenely, to the
table at large.

“Get up, do you hear? That’s my place, you big roly-poly!”

“I smell hot biscuits, anyway. Pass me the butter, Ned.”

“You wait till I get hold of you! Rob, make him give me my seat. It’s
all your fault, anyhow. You might――”

A bell tapped somewhere, and an instant hush fell over the hall. Firman
ran to cover, subsiding in the first unoccupied chair he could find,
leaving Jelly master of the situation. The laughter died into chuckles,
the chuckles to snickers, and the snickers to silence, and from the
head of the hall came the deep voice of the principal, Dr. Farren,
asking grace.

“I’d rather be on this side, anyway,” announced Jelly, as soon as
conversation began again. “It’s too cold over there in winter, Rob.”

“Well, by that time, Jelly,” was the sober reply, “we may have you so
strong and sturdy that you can stand it over here.”

Even Jelly joined in the laugh that ensued. Evan was aware that the six
boys who, with Rob and himself, filled the table were viewing him with
unconcealed interest and was relieved when Rob proceeded to introduce
him.

“Fellow Luculluses,” said Rob, “I take pleasure in introducing to you
my friend Mr. Kingsford. Mr. Kingsford is honoring the school with his
presence for the first time. He hopes to remain with us at least until
the end of the term. Kingsford, on your right you will find Mr. Law,
of the well-known firm of Law and Order. Next, Mr. Pierce. Next, a
gentleman whose acquaintance I haven’t the pleasure――”

“Peterson,” prompted Jelly.

“Mr. Peterson. Next to Mr. Peterson, Mr. George Washington Jell; Mr.
Jell speaking eloquently, as you can see, for the excellence of the
board provided. At the other end of the table you may dimly observe Mr.
Devens. And here we have Mr. Wright, on my right. Now everybody knows
everybody, and Jelly is requested to stop taking all the biscuits, as
there are others here present.”

It was a very jolly meal, with a good deal of laughter and much
fragmentary conversation. The supper was excellent, and Evan was hungry
and did full justice to the hashed chicken on toast, baked potatoes,
cold lamb, hot biscuits, preserves, and cake. He also accepted a second
cup of cocoa at Rob’s suggestion, and then drank a glass of milk just
to make certain of keeping life in his body until morning. And while he
ate, as he took only a small part in the talk, he had opportunity to
look about him.

The dining-hall was large and cheerful and well lighted. It occupied
all one end of Second House, and so had windows on three sides.
Between the windows were pictures, most of them photographs of Roman
and Grecian ruins, while at either side of the door stood pedestals
holding, on one side, a bust of Socrates and, on the other, a bust of
Washington. There were twenty-odd tables, accommodating at present one
hundred and seventy students and the faculty and staff of the school.
Dr. Farren occupied a small table at the head of the hall with the
school secretary, Mr. Holt, and the matron, Mrs. Crane, or, as she was
called, “Mrs. Crow.”

“I don’t know how she got that name,” said Rob, as he pointed out the
dignitaries. “Maybe it’s on account of her black hair. Anyhow, it
isn’t because the fellows don’t like her. She’s a dear. That’s Holt
next to her. He’s secretary. No one knows him very well. And there’s
the Doctor. The rest of the faculty is scattered. The white-haired
chap over at the far table is just ‘Joe’; real name Alden; Greek and
Latin. The slim, youngish fellow over there is ‘Mac,’ who tries his
level best to make me discern the beauties of algebra. He also teaches
history, and it’s a cinch. The big fellow down here on your left is
‘Tommy’ Osgood. Tommy teaches chemistry and is also and likewise
physical director; and he’s a tartar. Mr. Cupples, affectionately known
as ‘Cup,’ is down there by the door. Cup pours French and German into
you. Now you know the faculty. Be kind to them and very patient. After
supper I’ll take you over to Mrs. Crow’s. You’d better get on the right
side of her, because she’s a mighty good sort and can do a lot for you
if she wants to. And I’ll try and see the Doctor and tell him about
your consumption.”

“I never had a cold in my life,” laughed Evan.

“Knock wood. And if the Doctor calls you over to the office, try and
look as delicate as possible. You might cough a little, too. A hacking
cough would help a lot.” Rob turned from Evan and addressed Gus Devens,
a large, ruddy-faced youth. “I say, Gus, what does the foot-ball
situation look like to your practised eye?”

“Like the dickens,” answered Gus, promptly and heartily.

“About the same as usual, then,” suggested Pierce. “Say, fellows, why
doesn’t some one do something?”

“Such as what?” asked Rob.

“Fire Hopkins!” blurted Jelly.

“Oh, Hop means well enough,” said Joe Law.

“Yes, he does!” answered Devens, sarcastically. “I’ll wager I could
pick a better team out of the two lower classes than Hop will get
together this fall. Adams will lick us again as sure as fate. They’ve
got almost all of last year’s team left. Hop may mean well enough――only
I don’t believe it――but he certainly doesn’t _do_ well enough. I’m sick
of seeing the school beaten every year.”

“We won year before last,” said Law.

“Yes, we’ve won once in five years,” said Rob. “I suppose that’s all we
ought to expect. They tell us that defeat is much better for us morally
than victory, victory enlarging the cranium and making us vain and
arrogant and unlovely. Remember ancient Rome.”

“What about ancient Rome?” demanded Jelly.

“Eh? Oh――oh, nothing; just remember it. I heard Mac say that once in
class, and it sounded rather well.” When the laugh had passed, Rob
addressed Devens again: “Are you going out this year?”

“Oh, I suppose so,” answered Devens, disgustedly. “This will make the
third time. But I’m sick of getting knocked around on the second team.
I’m going to tell Hop that if he doesn’t give me a fair show for the
first, I’ll quit, and he can find some one else to do the human stone
wall act for him. Look here, you fellows, you all know, every one of
you, that I can play all around Bert Reid.”

“That’s no joke,” said Wright, and the others concurred.

“Well, then, why can’t I get on? Favoritism, that’s all it is. Every
one knows it, and there’s no harm in saying it. I don’t talk like this
outside of school, of course, but――”

“What we ought to have is a coach,” declared Peterson.

“Of course we ought, and we’ve tried hard enough to get one ever since
I’ve been here,” answered Devens. “One year it’s one reason and the
next year it’s another; anyway, we don’t get him.”

“Hop said last year he’d be mighty glad to have a coach,” said Law.

“Yes, but he wanted a fellow he knew and wouldn’t talk about any one
else. If the Doctor would take a decent interest in things――”

“He always begins to hum and haw about ‘the danger of investing sport
with undue prominence,’” said Pierce, disgustedly.

“Oh, the Doctor means well, too,” protested Rob. “I’ve got an idea in
my head, you chaps, and some day soon I’ll spring it. I’m going to let
it seethe a bit first.”

“Another of your numerous patents?” asked Jelly, with a grin.

“Maybe. Look here, Gus, my friend Kingsford wants to try for the team.
I told him what he was up against, but he has the――the indomitable will
and reckless courage of his forebears, and refuses to be intimidated.
You sort of put him up to the tricks, will you? See that he doesn’t get
into any more trouble than necessary.”

“Glad to,” answered Gus Devens, with a friendly nod to Evan. “Played,
have you, Kingsford?”

“Yes, quite a little.”

“What?”

“Half and quarter; quarter mostly.”

“Whew! we certainly could use a good quarter,” said Wright. “Miller’s
the limit. I hope you get a show, Kingsford.”

“Yes, but don’t expect it,” remarked Jelly, despondently. “Just look at
the way they treated me last year!”

A howl of laughter arose, and Jelly viewed his table-companions
indignantly.

“That’s all right, you fellows, but I did as well as Ward did. He
didn’t get through me very often, I can tell you! You know he didn’t.”

“You did great work, Jelly,” said Rob, soothingly. “They ought to have
kept you on the second. I have an idea that the reason Hop dropped you
was only because he was afraid that sometime you’d fall on the ball and
squash the air out of it.”

“Oh, you run along,” growled Jelly. “I’m going to try again this year,
anyway, and I’m going to make the second for keeps.”

“Why don’t you go out and be the ball?” asked Wright, pleasantly.
Jelly pushed back his chair and walked disgustedly away, and his
departure was the signal for a general exodus. Rob’s progress was
often interrupted, and Evan had to shake hands with many more new
acquaintances, most of whom, as there were a great many new-comers
wandering around the corridors that night, shook hands with him in a
perfunctory way, muttered that they were glad to know him, and paid
him no further attention. But Evan didn’t mind. Although this was
his first experience of boarding-school, he held no romantic notions
of such places and so was not disappointed because so far nothing
romantic had happened. He drew out of the way and waited for Rob to
get through talking, thinking to himself that it would be nice to have
as many acquaintances as his new room-mate had, and making up his mind
that some day the fellows of Riverport School should be as glad to talk
to him as they now were to Rob Langton. While he stood there waiting,
Frank Hopkins passed, talking to the tall youth of whom Evan had asked
his way that afternoon. If they saw him they made no sign.

Presently Rob parted from the last of his acquaintances and, followed
by Evan, reached the door.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” he apologized. “Some of those chaps,
though, I wanted to be nice to――for a reason. I’ll tell you why some
day soon. Now let’s cut across to First House and call on Mrs. Crow.”



CHAPTER IV

MALCOLM WARNE


They found the door of the matron’s office wide open and boys coming
and going every minute. It was a good deal like a reception, Evan
thought, as Rob, taking him by the arm, guided him into the room.
The matron was a small, plump, middle-aged woman with red cheeks and
very black hair, whom every fellow liked at first glance and usually
worshiped devotedly by the end of his first term. Old boys returning
to school made a bee-line from the stage to Number 1 First House, and
shook hands with Mrs. Crow before they thought of anything else. Her
sitting-room, or office as she preferred to call it, was a veritable
museum of gifts from boys or their parents, gifts ranging from
sea-shells to the mahogany arm-chair presented to her by last year’s
graduating class. And there wasn’t a thing so tiny and trivial that
she couldn’t tell you at once the name of the giver. She had very
pleasant, kindly black eyes and a sweet voice, and loved a joke better
than her afternoon tea. Rob wormed his way into the group about her,
dragging Evan after him.

“How do you do, Mrs. Crow?” he cried, seizing her hand and shaking it
violently. “Aren’t you glad to see me?”

“Why, Rob, how you do grow! Oh, my poor hand! Of course I’m glad to see
you, even if you did forget to come and say good-by to me last June.”

“I tried to, really, Mrs. Crow, but I couldn’t stand the――the ordeal.
It would have saddened my whole summer. I want you to know my brother
Evan. Evan, this is Mrs. Crow, of whom I talked incessantly all summer.”

“How do you do?” asked Evan, taking the hand held out to him. Mrs.
Crow gazed from Evan to Rob doubtfully. Some one sniggered. Evan
felt somewhat embarrassed and looked appealingly at Rob’s beaming
countenance.

“I don’t believe it,” said the matron, finally. “He’s never your
brother, Rob Langton; he doesn’t look the least bit like you. Now is
he?”

“My foster-brother, Mrs. Crow.”

“He’s just fooling,” said Evan. “My name’s Evan Kingsford, Mrs. Crow――I
mean Mrs.――”

“Never mind,” she laughed; “they all call me that. I’m very glad to
meet you, Mr. Kingsford. I hope you’ll like us. Let me see, you’re in
Holden, aren’t you, if I’m not mistaken?”

“Yes, ma’am. I was sent there at first.”

“I remember; number 36.”

“Wrong, Mrs. Crow; he’s with me in 32,” said Rob.

“Really? But I’m sure my list says 36.”

“They had him down for there, but he’s very delicate, and 36 is such a
cold room that I rescued him. I’m going over to explain to the Doctor
about it now. Come on, Evan.”

“Well, I hope he will let you make the change,” said Mrs. Crow,
dubiously. “But you know he doesn’t like to have the rooms empty.”

“Then you tell him to let us have 36 for a parlor,” laughed Rob,
dragging Evan away.

“You must come to my teas, Mr. Kingsford,” called the matron. “Any
Friday between four and six. Don’t forget, please.”

“I think,” said Rob, when they were outside again, “that I’d better
see the Doctor alone. You go on over to the room and get your things
unpacked. I’ll be along in a few minutes. There you are, over there,
the last building. Don’t get lost.”

Rob turned toward Academy Hall and the office, while Evan picked his
way through the twilight across the yard under the elms. When he
reached the second floor he found the door of 24 open and a group of
fellows, among whom he instantly recognized Frank Hopkins and the tall
youth, standing around it. The conversation, which had been eager and
animated, died down as he came into sight. It was rather an ordeal to
pass that group, but he made the best of it, viewing them calmly and
casually as he took the last few stairs and turned down the corridor.
To his surprise, some three or four of the fellows nodded to him,
and he returned the greeting in like manner. But Hopkins only stared
disdainfully, while the tall youth grinned annoyingly and began to hum
in time to Evan’s footsteps. The latter was glad when he was in 32 with
the door closed behind him. Through the open transom, however, he heard
the talk and laughter begin again, and caught the words, “Mighty well
built, though, Hop. You’d better nab him for the team.” He couldn’t
hear the foot-ball captain’s reply, but it was evidently humorous,
judging from the laughter it summoned.

With reddening cheeks and a rather lonesome feeling he began the
unpacking of his trunk, which, with Rob’s, stood in the center of
the room. His mother had placed a letter on top of the till, and,
although it was a very sweet and dear letter, it rather increased his
homesickness as he read it. He went on with his unpacking, feeling a
little bit choky about the throat, and was glad when there came a knock
at the door.

“Come!” he called.

The boy who entered paused in surprise when he saw Evan.

“Hello!” he said. “Oh, beg pardon. Where’s Rob?”

“He’s over at the office,” answered Evan. “He will be up in a few
minutes. Won’t you wait?”

“Thanks.” He glanced doubtfully about the room and then closed the door
behind him and sat down. “Are you going in with Rob?”

“Do you mean am I going to room here?” asked Evan. “Yes; that is, I
expect to. They gave me 36, but Langton asked me to come in with him,
and he’s trying to fix it up for me with the principal. That’s what
he’s doing now.”

“Oh, I see,” murmured the other. He seemed rather disappointed, Evan
thought, and wondered why. “I suppose you and he are old friends?”
asked the stranger.

“No; I never saw him until this afternoon. It――it was very decent of
him to ask me, I think.”

“Yes,” said the other, thoughtfully. “Don’t let me stop you, please.
I’ll just wait a minute for Rob.”

Evan went on with his unpacking, catching now and then as he went to
and fro between trunk and closet and bureau a glimpse of the caller. He
was a very good-looking fellow, with dark hair and eyes and a softness
about mouth and chin that was almost girlish. He sat with elbow on
knee, and chin in hand, looking dreamily across the room, evidently
quite forgetful of Evan’s presence. After a while the silence grew
oppressive.

“My name’s Kingsford,” announced Evan. The other looked up slowly and
nodded.

[Illustration: “‘HELLO!’ HE SAID. ‘OH, BEG PARDON. WHERE’S ROB?’”]

“Thanks. Mine’s Warne.” Then he went back to his rapt study of the
opposite wall. Evan was distinctly relieved when he heard Rob’s
footsteps in the hall.

“Well,” said Rob, as he came in, “it’s all―― Hello, Mal! Where’d you
come from? Been waiting long? Kingsford, let me make you acquainted
with Mr. Warne, a particular friend of mine. Mal, this is Mr.
Kingsford. He and I are going to try it together.”

Malcolm Warne shook hands with a smile which displayed a set of very
white teeth. It was a nice smile and lighted up the somewhat serious
face very pleasantly.

“Happy to meet you,” said Warne. Then, to Rob, “So he was just saying.
I hope you will――like it――both of you.” He had a very soft voice, spoke
slowly, and had a way of chopping off the ends of his words that was
unfamiliar to Evan.

“Oh, we’ll get on all right, I think,” said Rob, easily. “Sit down,
Mal, and tell us what you did all summer. By the way, though,
Kingsford, it’s all right about the room. Doctor agreed with me that a
chap with any tendency toward colds, grippe, pneumonia, and consumption
ought not to live in 36. He got rather interested in your case, and
I shouldn’t be surprised if he sent the doctor around to-morrow to
report on you. If he comes, please cough for my sake! Well, I’ve got to
get my trunk unpacked. Go ahead and talk, Mal.”

“No, I reckon I’ll go on. I just dropped in to say howdy to you.”

“What? ‘Go on’ nothing! Sit down, you idiot, and tell me what’s been
happening with you.”

“Oh, nothing much. I had a very quiet summer. I was at home most of the
time, although we went down to Virginia Beach in August for a couple of
weeks. I’ll see you to-morrow, Rob. Good night, Mr. Kingsford. Pleased
to have met you. Get Rob to bring you over to see me soon. So long,
Rob.”

“Well, if you insist on going,” said Rob, following the caller to the
door. “What’s the matter, Mal? Anything wrong?” They passed out, Rob
drawing the door shut behind him. Evan heard their low voices outside
in the hallway for several minutes. Then Rob reappeared, looking
worried.

“Now there’s a crazy idiot,” he said, with a frown, thrusting his hands
into his trousers pockets and spreading his long legs apart.

“Why?” asked Evan.

“He wanted to come in here with me, and he never said a word about it.
Says he was waiting to make sure I hadn’t any one in view. He’s too
blamed sensitive.”

“Well, that’s easily fixed,” said Evan, lightly. “It won’t take me ten
minutes to move across to 36. That’s where I belong, anyway, Langton.
I’d rather do it, really.”

“Not much! But I’ve got an idea.”

He hurried out, crossed the hall, knocked on the opposite door, and
threw it open.

“Hello, Spalding!” Evan heard him say. “Want to use your window a
second. Oh, Mal! Come back a minute, will you?” Evidently Warne heard,
for Rob only sent one hail across the yard.

“Here’s the idea,” he went on, as he returned to 32. “We’ll get Warne
to move into 36. He never knows whether he’s hot or cold, and he’s dead
anxious to get out of the room he’s in. He’s in First House with a
chap named Gammage; decent chap enough, but he and Warne don’t hit it
off. Mal’s a Southerner, from North Carolina――or South, I’ve forgotten
which. Where _is_ Wilmington, anyway?”

“Wilmington? In Delaware, isn’t it?”

“Is it? Then I guess Wilmington isn’t the place; I’m pretty sure he’s
from one of the Carolinas. Anyway, he’s an awfully nice fellow, and I
want you to like him. Here he comes. Say, Mal, I’ve thought of a great
scheme. Sit down and I’ll unfold it. Kingsford here was booked for 36.
So that leaves 36 empty. You see the Doctor and get him to let you move
into it. You don’t mind rooming alone, do you? Besides, you can make
this room home if you like to.”

“I shouldn’t mind that a bit,” said Warne.

“Good! But I ought to tell you that 36 is a cold old hole; there’s
something wrong with the pipes――some bronchial trouble, I guess.
Anyway, in cold weather you’ll pretty nearly freeze. But you can always
study over here, you know.”

“I don’t mind a cold room. That’s one thing Gammage and I are always
scrapping about. He likes it about eighty. Do you think the Doctor will
let me change?”

“I don’t see why not. Tell him that you don’t get on with what’s-his-name;
tell him you like a cold room. He ought to be glad to have some one in
36 that won’t kick all the time for heat. He’s over at the office now.
Go ahead and tackle him before he gets any one else down for the room.
And come right back and let’s hear what he says.”

Malcolm Warne was back in ten minutes, looking very pleased.

“He said yes, Rob. My, but I’m tickled. I’d sleep in an ice-chest to
get rid of Gammage.”

“That’s fine, Mal. I told Kingsford that you were disappointed about
rooming in here, and he offered to get out. But I knew you wouldn’t
want him to do that.”

“No, indeed,” said Malcolm, warmly, glancing gratefully across at Evan.
“It was very good of you, though, Kingsford.”

“Not a bit,” murmured Evan.

“I say, you chaps,” began Rob. Then he paused doubtfully. The others
waited, looking inquiringly at him where he stood rumpling his mutinous
locks with a paper-cutter.

“Why, just this,” he went on presently. “Here are three of us, all
pretty good fellows――speaking for the rest of you, that is. Now let’s
cut out this surname nonsense. My name’s Rob, yours is Malcolm, or Mal
for short, and yours is Evan. There, that’s settled.” He tossed the
paper-knife down. “Now I want to show you fellows a little idea that
occurred to me coming back from the office a while ago. Bring up your
chairs.”

“What is it?” asked Evan, exchanging an amused glance with Malcolm.

“It’s an improved foot-scraper for doorsteps. It’s all well enough
to get the mud off the soles of your shoes, but why not clean it off
the uppers, too? Now, look here. Where’s my pad? Either of you got a
pencil? Thanks. Now then!”



CHAPTER V

EVAN IS WARNED


“What’s the name?”

It was the tall youth whom Evan had begun to thoroughly detest who
asked the question, and who, with note-book in hand and pencil poised,
impatiently awaited an answer.

“Kingsford,” replied Evan.

“What age?” continued the other, looking as though he had never seen
Evan before.

“Fifteen.”

“What class?”

“Junior.”

“Ever played foot-ball?”

“Three years.”

“Whereabouts?”

“Elmira, New York.”

“What position, I mean, you ninny!”

“Quarter――and half, a little.”

“We don’t need backs. Want to try for end?”

“I suppose so; yes.”

“Don’t do it if it’s going to hurt you,” sneered the other, turning
away to catechise the next candidate. Evan looked after him angrily
and then turned to his nearest neighbor, who happened to be Mr. George
Washington Jell, resplendent in a new pair of khaki trousers which,
because they had to be of generous proportions about the waist, fell
ungracefully half-way to his feet.

“Who’s that chap?” asked Evan.

“Edgar Prentiss. He’s manager. He’s pretty much the whole show, for
that matter. He and Hop are as thick as thieves, and Hop does about as
Prentiss says. He’s no good; I hope he stubs his toe.”

“So do I,” agreed Evan, with enthusiasm. Jelly beamed on him.

“He’s a regular cad; no one likes him――except Hop. I made a good joke
about him last year. Want to hear it?”

“Yes,” said Evan, good-naturedly. “What was it?”

“It’s a conundrum. What is a foot-ball manager? Give it up? He’s the
captain’s apprentice. See? Prentiss――apprentice?”

[Illustration: “‘EVER PLAYED FOOT-BALL?’”]

Evan had to laugh, not so much at the joke as at Jelly’s eagerness for
appreciation. “That’s all right,” he said. “What are you trying for,
Jell?”

“Guard――or ’most anything. But, say, don’t call me Jell; no one ever
does; and it sounds funny. Besides, I don’t mind. I know I’m fat, and I
can’t help it. I’d rather be fat than be a bean-pole like Prentiss.”

“Ends and backs this way!” called a voice, and Evan trotted down the
field to where a lad wearing a tattered light blue jersey and an air of
authority was impatiently awaiting.

Practice was neither hard nor long that first afternoon. Some
thirty-odd candidates had reported, of whom twenty or so represented
what remained of last year’s first and second teams. The new candidates
numbered scarcely more than a baker’s dozen. Frank Hopkins, although in
foot-ball attire, took no part in the drudgery of passing and falling
on the ball, contenting himself with wandering about the field or
talking with Prentiss on the side-line. The real work was in charge of
three of the first team members, Carter, Connor and Ward. There was
very little system in evidence, and the veterans shirked barefacedly.
Toward the end of the hour there was a good deal of rather aimless
punting across the field and then the fellows were dismissed with
instructions to report every afternoon at four o’clock.

Evan, a little tired and sore, for the day had been a very warm one and
a lazy summer had put him rather out of condition, walked up to the
gymnasium with Gus Devens and Jelly.

“How did you get on?” asked Devens.

“All right, I guess. I told Prentiss I was out for quarter or half but
he said they didn’t need those things and told me I’d better try for
end. I’ve never played end, but I suppose I could learn.”

“I dare say. How about you, Jelly?”

“I don’t know. I saw Hop this noon and told him I wanted a fair show
and he said I’d get it. Maybe I will, and maybe I won’t. All I want now
is a shower.”

“Here too,” agreed Devens. “Anything doing to-night, Jelly?”

“A little something, I guess,” replied Jelly cautiously, with a quick
glance at Evan. “I haven’t heard much about it.”

Evan looked at the others inquiringly, but asked no questions, and
Devens changed the conversation.

“That’s a nice pair of trousers you’ve got there, Jelly. Why don’t you
take a turn in them around the bottoms so as to keep them out of the
mud?”

“You dry up,” responded Jelly good-humoredly. “I had to have them big
so as I could get them around me. I guess I’ll ask Mrs. Crow to cut
them off for me.”

“I would. Maybe she can make you an overcoat of the trimmings. Got a
locker, Kingsford?”

“Yes, thanks,” Evan replied as they climbed the gymnasium steps and
pushed open the big oak door. “But I haven’t any towels yet. Can you
loan me one?”

“Sure thing――if I have any. I always forget to have ’em washed.”

But investigation proved that he had three clean ones in his locker and
he handed one over to Evan.

“Toss it in the bottom here when you’re through with it, will you?”
he asked. Evan promised and went off to get ready for his bath,
encountering on the way Mr. George Washington Jell, who, hopping around
on one foot, was pulling what appeared to be yards and yards of khaki
trouser off the other leg.

“Excuse me,” panted Jelly, as he bumped into Evan. “Oh, that you? These
fool breeches――”

“Here, sit down,” laughed Evan, “and I’ll pull them off. There you are.
I really think I’d have Mrs. Crow fix those. You’ve got about a yard
more than you need.”

“Or ankled,” growled Jelly, tossing the discarded trousers on to the
bench. “Thanks, Kingsford. I’ll do as much for you sometime maybe.”

“I hope you won’t have to,” Evan laughed.

A half-hour later he walked back alone up the hill to Holden, and as
he went he reviewed his first day at Riverport. It had been pleasant
enough on the whole, he decided. Rob had awakened him at a quarter past
seven and there had ensued a mad scramble into clothes and across to
Academy Hall for morning prayers. Breakfast had been at eight, a jolly,
leisurely meal with the big windows open and the September sunlight
flooding the tables. At nine he had gone to his first class, presided
over by Mr. Alden, or Old Joe as the boys called him. This was his
Latin class, and at eleven came Greek, with Old Joe again presiding.
Previous to that there had been a half-hour of mathematics under Mr.
McGill, and in the afternoon, at three, there was English from the
principal, Dr. Farren. In all, aside from physical training, which,
as long as he was playing foot-ball, was not required of him, he had
nineteen hours of recitations a week. This didn’t sound much, but it
was evident that the work was going to be pretty stiff and the nineteen
hours in class meant a good many other hours of hard preparation. Dr.
Farren’s English class looked formidable, and so did the Greek, which
study was entirely new to Evan.

He hadn’t seen much of Rob save at meals, for, although they attended
the same classes, their seats were in each case separated by the
length of the room, since Evan, as a newcomer, was forced to accept
whatever unclaimed space he could find. But he was sure that he and
Rob were going to get on very well together and was beginning to feel
rather grateful to Frank Hopkins for bringing about the meeting which
had resulted so fortunately. If Hopkins would let him on to the team,
thought Evan, he would be more than willing to cry quits.

It was still only a little after half-past five when he reached his
room, and so, as Rob was not there and he had it quite to himself,
he decided to write a letter home. He had finished two pages of his
epistle when there was a knock on the door and Malcolm Warne entered.

“Hello, are you all alone?” he asked. “Where’s Rob?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen him since English 3. Have you got moved?”

“Yes. I thought perhaps you’d like to come over and see my room.”

“I would,” said Evan.

“It isn’t quite as nice as my other place,” explained Malcolm as they
crossed the corridor together, “but it fixes up rather well, I think.
And it’s going to be peachy not having any one in with me.”

“Well,” exclaimed Evan as he paused inside the door of 36 and looked
about him, “I didn’t see your other room, but if it beat this it must
have been a wonder! Gee, but you’ve got a lot of dandy truck! Where did
you get all the pictures? Is that couch yours? It looks good enough to
sleep on.”

“Sit down,” invited Malcolm. “Try that wicker chair. Most of these
things I brought up with me when I came, although I’ve fetched one or
two things since then. Glad you like my pictures.”

“I like everything,” replied Evan warmly. “It looks――it looks almost
like home! I don’t see how you ever got fixed up so quickly. Why didn’t
you let me help you?”

“Oh, it wasn’t any bother, and I liked doing it. Besides, I reckon you
were pretty busy playing foot-ball, weren’t you? There’s Rob, I think.
I’ll call him in.”

“Talk about your palatial mansions!” exclaimed Rob as he surveyed the
room. “I tell you what, Evan; we’ll use this for our parlor and all
sleep in 32.”

“I’m afraid Mrs. Crow wouldn’t stand for that,” laughed Malcolm. “And
then, too, you say this is cold.”

“Cold! What of it? Who would care whether he was cold or warm when he
could lie in the midst of such luxury?” Rob stretched himself on the
leather couch and crushed innumerable pillows under his head. “We will
now have soft music and light refreshments, Mal.”

“I’ve got some crackers,” said Malcolm eagerly.

“Fetch them along. What do you think of all this, Evan? Isn’t our
little friend a――a one of those things commencing with an S?”

“Cinch?” asked Evan gravely.

Rob viewed him doubtfully.

“Cinch! That doesn’t begin―― Oh, you run away and play! Syb――sybarite!
That’s the word. What is a sybarite, Mal?”

“Oh, a man fond of good things, I reckon. Actually the Sybarites were
inhabitants of Sybaris, in southern Italy. Don’t you remember that
Seneca tells of a Sybarite who complained that he hadn’t slept well,
and when they asked him why he told them that he had found a rose petal
doubled under him and that it had hurt him?”

“Isn’t he a wonder?” demanded Rob admiringly of Evan. “Do you wonder
that he’s a whole class ahead of us stupids? Frankly, though, Mal, I
don’t recall that story of Mr. Seneca’s, but he said a whole lot of
things I’ve forgotten――or never heard of. Anyway, that’s what you are,
Mal, a sybarite, a blooming sybarite.”

[Illustration: “‘TALK ABOUT YOUR PALATIAL MANSIONS!’ EXCLAIMED ROB.”]

Malcolm passed the crackers around and they tried their best to spoil
their appetites for dinner. Luckily the supply of crackers gave out
before their end was accomplished. Rob, who, stretched luxuriously on
the couch, had been too busy eating to talk, suddenly began to moan and
grimace in a frightful manner and roll around.

“What’s the matter with you?” asked Malcolm.

“I――I think,” muttered Rob, speaking thickly because his mouth was
full, “I think there must be a crumpled rose petal under me.”

Investigation, however, proved the rose petal to be nothing more
romantic than a block of wood in Rob’s pocket, a block which, so he
declared, was to be fashioned into the model of his greatest invention
as soon as he could borrow somebody’s knife, his own having all blades
broken.

They went over to supper together and as they parted from Malcolm at
the dining-room door the latter brushed against Evan and thrust a bit
of paper into his hand. Puzzled but discreet, Evan dropped it into his
pocket and promptly forgot all about it until supper was almost over.
Then, remembering it because Malcolm’s name was mentioned, he drew it
out cautiously and read it under the protection of his napkin. The
message, written in a tiny neat hand on hardly more than a square inch
of paper, was short.

“Hazing to-night” (it ran). “Bunk in with me and they won’t find you.
Destroy this and don’t tell.”



CHAPTER VI

THE HAZING


Evan tore the note into tiny bits and scattered them under the table,
something undoubtedly in defiance of the rules. After supper, at which
the foot-ball practice was the main subject of discussion, Evan and
Rob, accompanied by Jelly, went back to Holden. Malcolm Warne had
not returned, but that didn’t prevent Rob from taking possession of
36 and doing the honors. Jelly was properly impressed with so much
magnificence and declared that next year he was going to make his folks
furnish his room just like Malcolm’s. In a lull of the conversation
Evan introduced the subject which since the receipt of Malcolm’s
mysterious warning had occupied not a little of his thoughts.

“Do they haze here, Rob?” he asked.

There was a quick interchange of glances between Rob and Jelly. Then
Rob smiled carelessly and shrugged his shoulders.

“You might call it that,” he said. “The new ones have to go through a
few stunts, but they don’t amount to much. Faculty bars real hazing,
which it ought. You’ll probably be requested to sing a song or do a
dance some night, but you needn’t be worried about it.”

“I’m not at all worried,” answered Evan quietly. “I only wanted to know
what to expect.”

“They made me recite ‘Curfew Shall Not Ring To-night,’” said Jelly,
smiling foolishly at the recollection.

“It was funny, too,” laughed Rob. “Just picture Jelly in his little
white nightie spouting that with inappropriate gestures!”

“I wouldn’t have minded if it hadn’t been for the gestures,” said Jelly
with a grin. “They made me do all sorts of fool things, like pulling
the bell-rope and clasping my hands.”

“Yes, and when it came to the last they made him swing by his hands
from the transom. I can see him yet, kicking his legs back and forth
and gurgling ‘Curfew shall _not_ ring to-night!’”

“Well, I hope they don’t ask me for poetry,” said Evan, “for I don’t
know any.”

“Better get Malcolm to coach you,” Jelly suggested. “He knows
every line of poetry that was ever written, I guess. And I _have_
thought,”――dropping his voice to a hoarse whisper――“that he even writes
it!”

“Of course he does,” said Rob. “Every Southerner reads poetry and
writes it. Southerners are romantic――whatever that is.”

Presently Malcolm returned, and Jelly took his departure, declaring
that he supposed he would have to study although he had quite forgotten
how. At Rob’s suggestion Malcolm brought his books into 32 and the
three found places about the old green-topped table and prepared their
lessons. It was hard going, though, and there were many interruptions,
and after a while Malcolm gathered up his books and declared that he
would have to go back to his own room if he was to do any work.

“Sorry, Mal,” said Rob. “It’s my fault. I can’t seem to get my mind on
lessons to-night. I’ve thought of a way to make that foot-scraper a lot
better. Supposing that instead of having the brush――”

“Never mind,” laughed Malcolm. “You tell me about it to-morrow. Good
night.”

“Aren’t you coming back after study?”

“No, I’m going to bed.” He shot a questioning look at Evan. Evan smiled
and shook his head slightly.

“What are you idiots signalling about?” asked Rob. “What’s up? Or isn’t
it any of my business?”

“It isn’t,” answered Malcolm. “You’d better change your mind, though,
Evan.”

“No, I guess not. I’m much obliged, though.”

“Well, if you do――” Malcolm left the sentence unfinished. “Good night,
fellows.”

“Good night,” they echoed. Rob was already busy with the problem of the
improvement of the foot-scraper, drawing strange lines on a fly-leaf.
Evan went back to his algebra. After a while the bell in the tower
of Academy Hall struck nine and he closed his book with a sigh and
gathered his papers together. Rob was still drawing, his unruly hair
straggling down over his puckered forehead. Evan watched amusedly for a
minute. Then,

“Got your lessons, Rob?” he asked gravely.

“Eh? What?” Rob looked up with a startled frown. “What time is it?”

“Just struck nine.”

“Jingo! I’ve got to get busy. Look at this, though, Evan. I’ve got it
dead to rights now. I’ll bet it will work finely.” So for the next five
minutes Evan listened to an explanation of the drawings and a eulogy
of the invention. Then Rob resolutely turned his mind to the Anabasis,
remarking sadly that it was all Greek to him, and Evan finished his
letter. They went to bed at ten and Rob fell promptly to sleep. Evan,
however, with Malcolm’s warning in mind, preferred to stay awake and
await developments. The dormitory was very quiet, and when fully a
half-hour had gone by, Evan began to think that Malcolm had mistaken
the date. He closed his eyes at last, for he was really very sleepy,
and was afloat in that delicious state between slumber and waking when
there sounded a quiet but peremptory knock on the door. Rob didn’t hear
it but Evan was wide awake on the instant. He slid out of bed, stumbled
across the room and fumbled at Rob’s patent latch.

“Open!” commanded a voice outside.

“All right,” answered Evan, “but you’ll have to wait until I find the
combination of this plaguey thing.”

Then the latch slipped back and the door swung inward. In the hall
were some twenty boys variously attired.

“What’s wanted?” asked Evan innocently.

Frank Hopkins, who was apparently master of ceremonies, replied grimly:

“You are. Come on.”

“What for?” asked Evan.

“Never you mind. Just come along.”

“Hello! What’s doing?” Rob appeared behind Evan, blinking. “Oh, I see.
Buck up, Evan, it’s soon over. I’ll join the mob and see the fun.”

So Evan was marched off in custody, feeling somewhat ridiculous in his
night attire. However, there were plenty of others who boasted no more
elaborate costumes than his, for pajamas appeared to be the proper
dress. There was nothing solemn in the occasion. Every one whispered
or laughed under his breath and a handful of more cheerful spirits
joined arms and did a snake-dance down the hall. Evan was conducted to
a room at the far end of the corridor, a room which, because it was
larger than most, was regularly used on such occasions. Here, standing
dejectedly about, were six other new boys, one of them, a youth of not
over twelve years, looking at once pathetic and ridiculous in a long
nightgown several sizes too large for him. Evidently Evan was the last
of the victims, for after he had entered with his captors the door was
closed and bolted. The room was crowded to its full capacity and there
was a general scramble for posts of vantage. The two beds served as
grand-stands, all those who could securing seats on the edge and more
standing up behind them. The others formed a circle about the center of
the room, the study table having been pushed aside. Evan wondered if
Malcolm was there, but failed to see him.

If Frank Hopkins was master of ceremonies, Edgar Prentiss was
undoubtedly his first lieutenant and a most able one. Hopkins looked
over the initiates disgustedly.

“A mighty small crop this year,” he said, “and a pretty poor one, too.
Who’s first, Ed?”

“Let’s have Little Nemo,” said Prentiss, pointing to the boy in the
nightgown. “Come out here, Little Nemo. Step forward and make a nice
bow to the company.”

The youth obeyed, trying very hard to smile.

“What’s your name, kid?” demanded Hopkins.

“George Winship.”

“Say ‘sir’ when addressing the Honorable Court,” Prentiss commanded.
“What are you doing here?”

“I don’t know――sir.”

“You don’t know? What did you come here for?”

“To learn, sir.”

“Good. Can you sing?”

“N-no, sir.”

“All right. Then go ahead and sing.”

“I can’t.”

“You’ve got to.” The boy looked distressedly around the circle of
amused faces. “What――what shall I sing?” he asked.

“Anything,” answered Hopkins. “Only get at it.”

“Do you know ‘Rock-a-bye, Baby’?” asked Prentiss, scoring a laugh from
the audience. The boy shook his head.

“All I know is ‘Rock of Ages,’ I guess,” he said apologetically.

“Let’s hear that, then,” said Prentiss. But there was a murmur of
disapproval and Rob growled:

“Shut up, Prentiss; that’s a hymn. Cut it out and let the kid go.”

“Hello, Lanky Rob, you here?” returned Prentiss. “Don’t butt in. Can
you recite anything, Little Nemo?” The boy shook his head again.

“Sure?” demanded Hopkins suspiciously.

“Yes――sir.”

“What can you do, then? Haven’t you any parlor tricks?” The boy
considered a moment, painfully anxious to oblige but at a loss what to
say. Then, his face lighting up,

“I can dance the Highland fling!” he announced eagerly. A howl of
amused approval went up.

“Go ahead, kid!”

“Fling away!”

“I thought all along he was a Scotchman!”

“I――I usually have music,” said the boy doubtfully.

“Sorry, but the bagpipes have just left,” said Hopkins. “Let’s have it
without music, kid.”

So young Winship danced the Highland fling for them, his face very
serious and his long nightgown flopping and writhing about him with
ludicrous effect. Some of the fellows began to hum and after that the
boy did rather well, for he knew the dance thoroughly and was light
and graceful. But it was terribly funny and even Evan had to laugh with
the others. Winship ended amidst a howl of approval and much clapping.

“You’re all right, kid,” they assured him, and Hopkins let him go to
find a place amongst the audience. The next youth was all ready with a
song, but he was much too anxious and so Hopkins refused to allow him
to sing and made him recite instead. He was a serious youth, and after
he had reeled off two verses of “The Launching of the Ship” some one
in the background threw a pillow at him and he was allowed to go in
peace. The next victim had an extensive repertoire of popular songs and
made such a hit that he was kept at it until he ran out of breath. And
so it went for almost an hour. A stout youth was made to stand on his
head――a feat which he only accomplished after innumerable failures――and
then was required to imitate the cries of every animal any one in
the audience could think of. His imitations were not successful as
imitations but they were funny, notably when he was instructed to make
a noise like an eel and whistled through his teeth. There was more
dancing and a pale-faced, red-haired boy recited “Casey at the Bat”
and won liberal applause. Evan was saved for the last, a fact which
caused him some uneasiness. He would have much preferred to have some
one other than Hopkins managing affairs. His turn came at last and
Hopkins told him to step out.

“What’s your name, little boy?”

“Evan Kingsford.”

“‘Sir!’”

“Sir.”

“Kingsford, eh? Not――not Kingsford the great quarter-back, of course?”

“No――that is, no, sir,” answered Evan, flushing a little in spite of
his determination not to let them worry him.

“Then you don’t play foot-ball?”

“Yes, sir, I do.”

“What position?”

“Quarter-back,” answered Evan good-naturedly.

“Ah! What did I tell you, Ed? It is――it really is the famous Mr.
Kingsford of whom we have all heard. There’s no use trying to
deceive us, Mr. Kingsford. All is discovered. We know you. You were
quarter-back on the All-America Girls’ Preparatory School Team last
year!”

Every one laughed at that, Evan as quickly as any.

“Now, Mr. Kingsford,” went on Hopkins, very much pleased by his
wit, “we will ask you to give us a few lessons in the rudiments of
foot-ball. A little more room, please. Ed, produce the pigskin.”

Prentiss pulled a foot-ball from under the bed. A strong cord was
attached to the lacings, and Evan viewed it with misgivings. Hopkins
placed the ball on the floor, retaining the end of the cord.

“Now, Mr. Kingsford, kindly show us how to kick. Aim the ball toward
the wall, please, so as not to break a window.”

Evan knew well enough what to expect, but he went through the motions
of kicking from placement. Of course the ball wasn’t there when his
foot swung at it, and of course the audience was vastly amused. This
performance was gone through with several times, Prentiss at each
attempt shading his eyes with his hand and announcing the distance
made, as:

“Fine work, Kingsford! Forty-five yards and excellent direction!”
“Fifty-odd that time, but a little too low. Try again.” “Better, much
better! Sixty yards at least and a beautiful corkscrew! Wonderful!
Marvellous!”

[Illustration: “HE WENT THROUGH THE MOTIONS OF KICKING FROM PLACEMENT.”]

Evan was almost as much amused as the others, and Hopkins didn’t like
that. So,

“Now, Mr. Kingsford, if you please, we will have a little falling on
the ball.” A chorus of delighted laughter greeted this announcement.
Falling on the ball wasn’t quite as funny as kicking it, to Evan at
least, although every one else enjoyed it hugely. The floor was very,
very hard and, of course, the ball was never there when he dropped,
never save once when he was too quick for Hopkins and managed to
snuggle the pigskin under his arm before the captain could yank it
away. This feat won applause from the spectators and a scowl from
Hopkins.

“Put more ginger into it, Mr. Kingsford,” commanded the latter. “You’re
not half trying. That’s better!” Evan’s elbow and hip crashed against
the floor and the foot-ball bounded out of his reach. The audience
howled approval.

“Now try a dive, Mr. Kingsford. Stand off there about six feet and let
us see what you can do with a moving ball.”

But Evan was feeling pretty sore and lame by this time, and he rebelled.

“I guess I’ve done enough,” he said good-humoredly. “This floor isn’t
quite as soft as the turf.”

“Enough,” said Prentiss, “why, we can never see enough of such clever
work, Mr. Kingsford!”

“Well, I’ve had enough, if you haven’t,” replied Evan doggedly.

“You’ll do as we tell you,” said Hopkins. “We’re managing this show.
Now you get over there and――”

“I won’t, I tell you. I’m not going to break my bones for you. I’ve
done as much as any of the others already, and I don’t intend to get
all lamed up.”

“That’s right, Hop,” said Rob, and some of the others agreed. But
Hopkins wasn’t ready to let go.

“You dry up, Rob!” he snarled. “You haven’t got anything to say about
this. You haven’t any business in here anyhow; you’re a junior. This is
upper class, and so you shut up.”

“You can make me, I guess――not,” drawled Rob.

“There are plenty of us here to run you out of the room,” answered
Hopkins angrily.

“All right, come try it. Let’s have a little rough-house,” replied Rob
smilingly. But there was an expression about his eyes and mouth that
Hop didn’t just like, and while he was hesitating some of the others
broke in.

“Oh, cut out the slanging!”

“Shut up, Lanky!”

“Go ahead with the show, Hop!”

Hopkins glared angrily at Rob and then turned his attention again to
Evan.

“Come on, fresh kid,” he commanded. “Do as we tell you.”

“I’m through,” said Evan quietly.

“Then we’ll make you! Put him over there, Prentiss.”

“Better not try it,” said Evan as the tall Prentiss came toward him. He
was still smiling, but the smile was rather set and his eyes were fixed
very steadily on Prentiss. Also, he stepped back and clenched his fists
in a very business-like way. But Prentiss was no coward, and, besides,
he was much bigger than Evan. There might have been real trouble in
another moment had not the light suddenly gone out, plunging the room
into complete darkness. A howl of laughter went up and good-natured
rough-house began as the fellows swarmed from their places. Some
one found the foot-ball and it went banging about in the darkness
regardless of heads.

“Light! Let there be light!”

“I want to go home!”

“Look out for the table, fellows!”

And above the pandemonium could be heard Hopkins angrily demanding that
some one turn the light on again. Evan, in the thick of the swaying,
laughing throng, felt a hand on his arm.

“This you, Evan?” whispered Rob’s voice.

“Yes.”

“This way then, quietly. Make for the door.” Evan followed and in
another moment they were in the dimly-lighted hall running for their
room. Once inside Rob bolted the door and closed the transom. Then,
much pleased with his strategy, he sat down on his bed and chuckled.
From the other end of the hall came the sound of stampeding youths and
from the floor below Mr. McGill’s deep voice:

“Fellows, be quiet up there! Go to your rooms!”



CHAPTER VII

UP THE MOUNTAIN


For several days after the hazing, fellows――many of whom were only
dimly familiar to Evan――accosted him as he passed with such remarks as:
“Kick it again, Kingsford!” or, “Sixty yards easy that time!” But it
was all good-natured, and Evan only smiled and went on, and presently
the joke died out. It was a very busy first week of school for Evan.
In the first place, it was no easy matter to get shaken down to his
studies, many of which were either quite new to him or presented in an
entirely new way. And there was daily practice on the gridiron after
recitation hours, and plenty of hard work in the shape of study in the
evenings. But there was fun too, and, on one occasion at least, even
adventure.

It was Malcolm Warne who suggested the trip up Graytop. Football
practice was over and as Evan started up the slope toward the
gymnasium he encountered Malcolm and Rob. Rob was lazing along with his
hands in his pockets and a good-natured grin on his face, and Malcolm
was talking earnestly to him as though striving to arouse him from his
mental indolence. It was Rob who called to Evan.

“Hello, there, you Evan! Come over here.”

“I’ve got to change.”

“What of it?” asked Rob. “You can stop a minute, can’t you? What do you
suppose this chump wants to do? You’d never guess!”

“I’m not even going to try,” replied Evan, with a glance at Malcolm’s
amused countenance. “I’m too tired.”

“Well, he wants to climb Graytop.”

“Does he?” Evan turned and let his gaze travel up the side of the
mountain. “Why not?”

“I guess you never tried it,” said Rob. “Moreover, he wants us to go
with him.”

“Now?” asked Evan, startled.

“No, to-morrow,” answered Malcolm. “It’s Saturday, you know. We can
start in the morning, take some grub and cook dinner on the top. It’s a
lot of fun. Rob is such a lazy-bones that he thinks he can’t climb it.”

“Me?” said Rob indignantly. “Why, I’ve been up there a half-dozen
times. It’s one of the easiest things I do. I was only considering
Evan. He’s young and tender and it’s a hard climb up there. You don’t
want to go, do you, Evan?”

“Sure I do,” answered his room-mate heartily. “I should think it would
be lots of fun. I love to picnic on mountain-tops.”

“Well, I’m not going to lug the basket,” sighed Rob.

“We won’t take any basket,” explained Malcolm. “I know a trick worth
two of that. We’ll divide the stuff into three lots and each of us will
take our share in a pack.”

“A what?”

“A pack; done up in a bundle and tied on our backs.”

“You must think I’m a mule,” Rob grumbled. “All right, though, I don’t
want to spoil anyone’s fun.”

And so it was finally settled that they were to start out bright and
early after breakfast the next morning. The matter of rations was left
to Malcolm because, as Rob put it, he could look pathetic and move the
cook’s heart. It was necessary to obtain permission for the expedition
and Rob attended to that that evening.

“I told Doc,” he related after supper, “that we were taking Evan up
to show him the beauties of the surrounding country. And Doc was
real pleased; said it was very thoughtful of me and showed a nice
disposition. I guess I made a hit all right.”

“What are we going to take to eat?” asked Evan.

“Steak and potatoes and bread and coffee,” answered Malcolm. “We’ll
broil the steak over the fire and bake the potatoes――”

“And boil the bread and toast the coffee,” interrupted Rob flippantly.
“You talk like a guinea-pig, Mal! Isn’t there going to be any pie or
doughnuts?”

“Yes, if I can raise them.”

“I hope you can. Doughnuts ought to be raised, oughtn’t they? I’ll
carry the doughnuts because they’ll be light.”

“You’re an idiot,” laughed Malcolm. “We’ll have to take a coffee-pot
along, too. Last year some of us went up there and took a lot of coffee
and forgot the pot.”

“And this is the chap to whom we are going to entrust our young and
innocent lives!” exclaimed Rob dejectedly. “A chap who has a record
like that! I refuse to go along!”

“Oh, you’ll go all right enough when you see the steak and things I’ll
get,” scoffed Malcolm.

“Huh! I know all about picnic steak. It’s burned black on the outside
and is all red and raw in the middle. And it tastes of smoke.”

“Not the way I cook it,” laughed the other. “You wait.”

“Oh, I suppose you do it in a chafing-dish! The worst of it is,
fellows, that after you’ve climbed up there you’re so hungry that you
can eat anything. Last time I went up I had to gnaw the bark off the
trees for the last half-mile to keep up my strength.”

“I wondered who had been blazing the trees up there,” said Malcolm
innocently.

“Somebody’s telling whoppers,” laughed Evan, “for I can see from down
here that there aren’t any trees on the top.”

“There were, but Rob ate them all down! Well, nine o’clock sharp, you
fellows――don’t forget.”

Rob groaned.

“Forget! I wish I could. I shall dream of it all night. If I have the
nightmare, Evan, please wake me up.”

“You have something that sounds like a nightmare about every night,”
answered Evan dryly. “You’re lucky you didn’t get in here with him,
Malcolm. He’s the noisiest brute when he’s asleep I ever heard.”

“I don’t believe it!” said Rob indignantly. “I never hear a sound!”

“Because you’re making too much noise.”

“He’s probably inventing things in his sleep,” Malcolm laughed from the
doorway. “Good-night.”

“Good-night. By the way, Doc says we must be careful about fires up
there, because things are so dry. Guess he’s afraid you’ll burn the old
mountain down, Mal. Well, see you in the morning.”

When morning came, and when Evan, after lying half awake for a time
with the consciousness of being disagreeably chilly, finally dropped
himself on his elbow and glanced toward the windows, it seemed that
the weather didn’t approve of the expedition, for the morning world
was gray and damp and cold. The wind was blowing out of the east and a
thin fog drifted in from the bay. Evan fumbled for his watch and found
that it was time to get up. But the idea of arising in his pajamas and
putting down the window didn’t appeal to him, so he huddled himself
under the blanket again and called to Rob.

“O Rob! Time to get up!”

There was no answer from across the room, however, and Evan tried again.

“O Rob! Get up, you lazy beggar, and close the window!”

There was a grunt and Rob flopped over and flattened himself out more
comfortably, with his face buried in his arm.

Evan threw a pillow across, but missed. A second landed on Rob’s head,
but only drew a grunt.

“Sluggard!” muttered Evan contemptuously.

With both pillows gone he could no longer be comfortable, and so, after
a minute’s hesitation, he scrambled out of bed and dashed across to
the window and sent it down with a crash loud enough to awaken anybody
but Rob. Shivering, Evan got some of his clothes on. Then he pulled
blanket and sheet from the slumberer and gleefully watched results. Rob
drew his legs up with a protesting murmur and sleepily groped for the
bed-clothes. Not finding them, he opened one eye and discovered his
plight. Then he opened the other eye and regarded Evan blinkingly.

“Huh?” he muttered inquiringly.

“Get up,” said Evan sternly.

“Huh?” Rob’s eyes closed slowly.

“Get up, you silly chump. Don’t you know you’re freezing?”

“Yes, I――know.” Rob made a supreme effort and turned over. “What time
is it?”

Evan told him. “And look at the weather,” he added. “Isn’t it rank?”

Rob cast an uninterested glance toward the windows and then sighed and
arose.

“Gee, but it’s cold!” he muttered as he went over and regarded the gray
and misty landscape. “What rotten weather,” he sighed. “Still, it’s
mostly fog and maybe it will burn off before long.”

“I suppose we might leave our climb for another day,” Evan suggested.

“Oh, this isn’t bad. I rather like a cloudy day. Besides, it will be
cooler, and climbing that old hill is rather warm work.”

“Thought you didn’t want to go.”

“Well, when I once make up my mind that a thing has to be done,”
responded Rob as he splashed and spluttered over the basin, “I like to
do it and get it over with. Br-r-rr! This water feels as though it had
ice in it.... Besides, Mal would be disappointed.”

“All right; I’m game,” Evan assented.

They were ready to start shortly after nine. Malcolm had secured his
provisions and had discovered a potato-sack in the cellar. This he cut
into three squares. Then he divided the load and wrapped the portions
up in the pieces of sacking. These were tied to the shoulders of the
three members of the expedition with pieces of twine. As they started
off towards the Doctor’s cottage they created quite a sensation among
the fellows they met and were the recipients of many inquiries, while
humorous comments on their appearance were not wanting. Mr. George
Washington Jell hailed them from the steps of Academy and hurried after
them.

“Where are you fellows going?” he asked. “Up Graytop?”

“We are,” replied Rob soberly.

“Let me go, will you, Rob?”

“No, Jelly, I will not.”

“Oh, go ahead! Why not?”

“Because I have some consideration for your welfare, Jelly. You’d be
just skin and bones by the time you got to the top――if you ever did!
And besides, I have troubles of my own, Jelly, and can’t stop to pull
you over the rocks or carry you in my arms when you get tired.”

“I won’t get tired, honest, Rob. I’m a dandy climber!”

“You look it,” laughed Malcolm.

“You don’t mind if I go, do you?” asked Jelly, turning his attention
eagerly to Malcolm.

“Indeed I do, Jelly. You see, we have only an ordinary amount of food
with us, and either you’d starve or we would.”

“If you’ll just walk slow I’ll run back and get some more,” said Jelly.
“It won’t take me but a minute. Go on, Rob, let me go along.”

Rob looked inquiringly at Malcolm and Evan. Evan laughed.

“Let him come, Rob,” he said. “The more the merrier. But he _will_ have
to get some more grub.”

“We-ll,” began Rob. But Jelly was already hurrying back toward the
kitchen. “I suppose we might as well take him,” said Rob. “He’s a
decent chap. But he will be just about all in by the time he gets up.
We’ll go ahead slow and let him catch up to us.”

But by the time they had reached the first ascent it was evident that
if they were to have the pleasure of Mr. Jell’s society on the climb
they would have to wait for him. So they perched themselves on top of
the stone wall that divides the school property from the woods and
waited.

“Let’s cut some sticks,” suggested Malcolm. “They help a lot until you
get to the rocks.”

“Right you are,” Rob agreed. “We must have some alpen-stocks. Who’s got
a good strong knife?”

Evan supplied that article, and they set out in search of suitable
branches for their purpose. By the time they had cut and trimmed four
stout sticks Jelly was in sight, toiling breathlessly up the slope with
a package wrapped in a flapping newspaper in one hand. When he reached
them he was so out of breath that they mercifully perched themselves on
the wall again and allowed him to recuperate.

“All I could get,” panted Jelly, “was bread and potatoes and six raw
eggs. Cook was grumpy as she could be. Said she’d given out all the
food she was going to. Said somebody had helped himself to a lot of
crullers from the pastry-room.”

Malcolm looked idly at the sky and hummed a song.

“I thought they were doughnuts,” murmured Rob.

“It was extremely thoughtless of ‘someone,’” said Evan. “I hope you
like eggs and potatoes, Jelly. You must be a vegetarian.”

“No, he’s a Presbyterian; aren’t you, Jelly?” said Rob.

“Don’t you worry about me,” answered Jelly with a grin. “I swiped a
pair of chops when cook wasn’t looking. I _think_ they’re veal.”

“A pair!” laughed Malcolm. “How do you know they’re a pair? Wouldn’t it
be awful if you’d got two rights or two lefts, Jelly?”

“Let us hope they’re not veal,” said Rob gravely, “because you have to
bread veal chops and serve them with tomato sauce, and our culinary
arrangements are extremely limited.”

“It was very, very wrong of you,” observed Malcolm sternly, “to steal
chops from dear cook. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you choked
yourself on the bones.”

“Aren’t any bones,” replied Jelly triumphantly. “They’re all meat.
Besides, you swiped the crullers.”

“Not at all,” answered Malcolm calmly. “The crullers were lying there
in a big pan and I merely helped myself to our share instead of waiting
until dinner-time.”

“Well, I just took my chops instead of waiting,” responded Jelly.

“I have a feeling,” said Rob, “that this excursion is going to end in
disaster. The presence of a thief in our midst will certainly work us
ill. However, as I am particularly fond of eggs, Jelly, we won’t send
you back. You may come along if you will promise never to steal a pair
of veal chops again. And now, if you have sufficiently recovered your
breath, we will proceed. Where’s my alpen-stock? Ah, here it is. I love
my little alpen-stock.”

It was not hard work for the first quarter of a mile, for the ascent
through the maple woods was easy and there was a well-defined path to
follow. The path led around the right elbow of the hill and in the
course of time reached the summit from the farther side. But to make
the ascent by the path was not considered “sporty” at Riverport, and
presently, when the maples had given place to black and yellow birches
and oaks and ashes, Malcolm, who was in the lead, swung away from the
path and started almost straight up the mountain. The alpen-stocks
proved their value now and it wasn’t long before the four boys were
puffing like porpoises and the muscles of their legs were protesting
vehemently. Jelly was soon occupying a position well in the rear, the
perspiration trickling down his face and the sound of his breathing
reaching the others like the exhaust of the steam pump in the boiler
house at school. He held his precious parcel of rations in one hand
and used his stick with the other, and there were times when he wished
heartily for a third. The clouds still hid the sun, but the morning had
grown warmer, and here in the woods what breeze there was failed to
penetrate. Suddenly there was a cry of dismay from Jelly and the others
turned anxiously.

“What’s the matter?” called Evan.

Jelly, some twenty yards down the slope, was dimly visible through the
trees. He was stooping over his bundle and pulling the paper away with
frantic anxiety.

“Anything wrong?” called Rob.

“Wrong!” shouted Jelly at last in a despairing voice. “My bundle’s
leaking! I’ve lost both chops and two eggs and a whole lot of
potatoes!”



CHAPTER VIII

ON TABLE ROCK


A howl of laughter arose from Rob and Evan and Malcolm. Jelly peered up
at them disgustedly.

“I don’t see anything to laugh at!” he cried. “All I’ve got left is two
eggs and three potatoes!”

“That’s enough for anybody,” answered Malcolm. Rob had seated himself
on a tree-root and was laughing helplessly.

“I’m going back to look for them,” called Jelly. “You fellows wait.
Don’t you run off and leave me, now!”

“We won’t,” gurgled Rob. “But――but get a move on!”

“Poor Jelly,” chuckled Evan. “He’s nearly dead already. If he can’t
find his ‘pair of chops,’ Malcolm, have we got enough for him to eat?”

“Nobody ever had enough for Jelly to eat yet,” answered Rob, wiping
his eyes on his sleeve.

“There’ll be enough at a pinch,” Malcolm replied. “Personally I’m not
sorry to get a chance to sit down a moment. This is something of a
climb, isn’t it?”

“You bet it is,” replied Evan, following the example of the others and
seating himself with a sigh. “How much further is it?”

“We’ve done about half,” Malcolm answered, “but the rest of the trip is
the hardest. What time is it, I wonder.”

It was twenty minutes to eleven.

“Time enough,” muttered Rob, leaning back against a tree, “if Jelly
doesn’t delay the game too long. Isn’t he funny with his ‘pair of
chops?’”

“There he comes, I think,” said Evan. “I hear something down there. O
Jelly!”

“Hello!”

“Did you find ’em?”

“Yes, most of them,” was the faint reply. After another minute Jelly
appeared below. Stopping to recover his parcel, he toiled up to them,
his face as red as a beet and the perspiration running down his cheeks.
He sank to the ground and puffed and panted.

“I found the chops,” he said. “And six――potatoes――but the
eggs――were――smashed.”

“Didn’t you recover any of them?” asked Rob solicitously.

“If you want them――you can――go back and――get them,” Jelly retorted with
a grin. He pulled the parcel to him, threw back the paper and exposed
his treasures; nine small potatoes, two eggs, two slices of buttered
bread and two pink chops covered with dirt and leaves. Jelly took up
the chops and lovingly cleaned them while the others looked on laughing.

“They’re perfectly good chops,” asserted Jelly, faintly indignant.

“Of course they are,” answered Rob soothingly. “A few leaves and a
little dirt will give them a fine, gamey flavor. They look like mutton
to me, Jelly.”

Jelly held one to his nose and sniffed it critically.

“N――no, I think they’re veal,” he replied gravely. “I wish these eggs
were hard boiled; then they wouldn’t have broken.”

“So do I,” said Rob. “I only allowed you to come, Jelly, because I am
extremely fond of eggs. And now you have only half an excuse for your
presence.”

“Say, Jelly,” Malcolm suggested, “you’d better stuff that truck in your
pockets. Then you won’t lose it.”

“Guess I will,” muttered Jelly. He wrapped the chops tenderly in a
piece of the newspaper and then distributed his rations about him.
“Now,” he said, “it won’t be so hard to climb.”

“Well, let’s get on then,” said Rob. “I used to think, fellows, that
I’d like to be a Swiss mountaineer and leap from crag to crag and yodel
merrily in my glee, but I’ve changed my mind. Where’s my―― Thank you,
Evan. As I said before, I love my little alpen-stock.”

A quarter of an hour later they left the trees behind them and found
themselves on a rocky slope sparsely grown with low bushes and tough,
wiry grass. Here the sticks were no longer of use and they discarded
them. Boulders and stones made progress slow and uncertain, and several
times they had to climb on hands and knees up the face of some bare
ledge. This was hard work for Jelly, and near the summit they were
forced to stop and allow him to recover. A final scramble along the
side of Table Rock and they were on top, breathless and weary but
triumphant.

On all sides the country was visible for miles, although the mist
to-day hid the further distances. South-eastward Narragansett Bay
stretched out to the Sound, dully blue. White sails appeared here and
there, and a steamer was making its way westward with a dark streak
of smoke trailing ahead. The school buildings, directly below, looked
no larger than cigar-boxes. Northward the country stretched away in
wooded hills and meadows, sprinkled with farms and tiny white houses.
Riverport was like a toy village and only a haze of smoke told where
Providence lay at the head of the bay. Lake Matunuxet wound its long
length toward the west like a wide blue-gray ribbon. The roads were
buff scratches that dipped and turned across the green and russet
landscape. The distant screech of a locomotive drew their eyes to where
a freight train crawled along the edge of the bay beyond Riverport.

“It’s a dandy view, isn’t it?” asked Evan, who had seated himself
on the edge of the great flat ledge with his legs hanging over a
sixty-foot drop.

“Yes, but it’s all-fired cold,” answered Rob. “Let’s get over on the
other side and start a fire. I’m hungry enough to eat Jelly’s dirty
chops.”

The wind which, since they had left the protection of the trees, had
been growing stronger each moment, blew coldly from the water. Overhead
the clouds were drifting fast, and now and then a faint yellow radiance
momentarily gave promise of sunlight. The others were glad to follow
Rob’s suggestion. The ledge sloped westward to a litter of giant
boulders and slabs, and among these there were traces of many former
fires. The boys set about collecting wood: small branches of bushes and
the remains of previous stores. Malcolm viewed the result dubiously.

“This isn’t going to be nearly enough fuel, fellows,” he said.
“Somebody will have to go down and get some more.”

Rob looked interestedly at the distant hills. Jelly continued emptying
the treasures from his pockets into a crevice in the rock. Evan looked
thoughtfully at the pile of wood.

“How far do we have to go?” he asked.

“Down to the trees. It’s not so far on this side. You and I will go,
Evan, and leave these lazy duffers to start the fire. I want a good
big bed of coals to cook on.”

“All right,” said Evan, “but let’s wait a few minutes more. Gee, I
haven’t really got my breath back yet.”

“I wish you’d let me go,” murmured Rob. “What a beautiful view it is,
to be sure.”

“I’d go for wood,” said Jelly earnestly, “but I’m pretty tuckered,
Malcolm. I suppose it’s being so fleshy that――”

“You’re not fleshy,” said Rob, “you’re _fat_, Jelly. Fleshy is much too
polite a name for your trouble.”

“Never mind,” said Malcolm. “You sit down and get rested, Jelly. At
least, you had the decency to _offer_ to go, which is more than I can
say for somebody.”

“I believe you are insinuating, Malcolm Warne! Your words and manner
are alike insulting. I challenge you to mortal combat, up here above
the clouds.” Rob picked up Jelly’s two precious eggs, “Behold the
weapons! Eggs _au naturel_, at a distance of forty paces!”

“Here, you put those down, Rob!” shrieked Jelly in alarm.

“I shall be glad to put them down when they’re cooked, Mr. Jell.”

“Please don’t break them,” begged Jelly. “Malcolm, make him let my eggs
alone.”

“That’s right, Rob. If you must play with those do it over the
frying-pan so they won’t be wasted. Let’s go down and get the wood,
Evan. How about it――rested enough?”

“Yes, I’m ready.”

“Just to show you that you have misjudged me sadly,” said Rob, “I will
go along and help. You start the fire, Jelly, and keep it going until
we get back with more supplies.”



CHAPTER IX

DINNER IS SERVED


Malcolm pointed out the “stove,” a hollow between three big ragged
boulders, already blackened by former fires, and Jelly set to work to
pile the fuel there. The others climbed cautiously down the ledge and
stumbled and scrambled their way to the tree line. Once there, fuel was
plentiful, but it was no easy task to make the ascent again with one’s
arms piled with splintered branches. They made two trips, however, and
assembled a fine big pile of wood on the surface of the ledge. After
that they laid themselves down flat on their backs and puffed and
panted like three steam-engines. The fire was crackling and Jelly was
feeding it assiduously. The sparks, driven by the wind, went flying
over the edge of the ledge in a shower of orange and red.

“Have a look at this, will you, Malcolm,” called Jelly. “I guess I’ve
got enough coals for you now.”

Malcolm pronounced the fire about ready for operations, and gave his
attention to the provisions. There was steak in two big slices, plenty
of potatoes for roasting, buttered rolls and a full dozen and a half of
doughnuts. There was ground coffee and an egg for clearing it, and salt
and pepper, sugar and condensed milk. The utensils included coffee-pot,
frying-pan, tin plates and cups, forks, knives and spoons. Rob viewed
the display approvingly.

“Looks good to me,” he said. “But your frying-pan isn’t big enough,
Mal.”

“Well, I didn’t want to bother with a very large one. This will do all
right. We can cook one slice at a time. Where’s the coffee-pot? Throw
it over, will you? I’ll start the coffee first, I guess. I’ll――”

Malcolm stopped suddenly while an expression of utter dismay came into
his face.

“What’s the trouble?” asked Evan. Malcolm settled back on the ground
and stared blankly at the coffee-pot.

“I――we――”

“Out with it. What did we forget to bring along?”

“We forgot to bring any water,” murmured Malcolm.

“By Jove!” said Evan.

“What do you think of that?” muttered Rob disgustedly. The three looked
at each other blankly. Finally,

“How far is it to the spring?” asked Evan.

“It’s almost half-way down the hill,” answered Malcolm.

“Thunder!”

“I don’t see how you came to forget it,” exclaimed Rob.

“I didn’t forget it any more than you did,” Malcolm defended.

“Oh, let’s do without coffee,” said Evan.

“I guess we’ll have to,” Malcolm answered. “I don’t believe any of us
want to make the trip down there.”

“I’m plumb sure I don’t,” growled Rob. “But we’ve simply got to have
something to drink. Hang it, I’m thirsty now! I didn’t realize it until
I found there was no water.”

Jelly had joined them in time to learn the catastrophe.

“I’ll go down,” he said cheerfully. “I know where the spring is; been
there twice.”

The others viewed him doubtfully, and then each other. Finally Rob
shook his head.

“That’s nice of you, Jelly,” he said, “but you’d die if you climbed
half-way up here again. I’ll go down myself.”

“No, I will,” said Malcolm. “After all, it was more my fault than any
one else’s.”

“I’d be glad to go if I knew where the spring was,” said Evan. “Perhaps
you can tell me so I can find it.” But Rob shook his head again.

“We couldn’t. I’ll go down. I don’t mind. You go ahead with dinner,
Mal. I’ll be back as soon as I can, but I guess it will take me a
half-hour.”

“Really,” protested Jelly, “I’d like to go. It won’t hurt me a bit if
I take my time coming back. And besides, I want to get my weight down.
Hopkins says I’m too fat for football. Where’s the can?”

“Haven’t any; you’ll have to take the coffee-pot. Are you sure you
don’t mind?” asked Malcolm anxiously.

“Sure. I’d rather like it. Let me go, won’t you, Rob?”

“Why, yes, if you want to. But you take it slow coming back, Jelly;
hear?”

Jelly promised, seized the coffee-pot and disappeared over the edge.
The others watched him until he had reached the woods. There he turned
and waved the pot at them cheerfully. The next moment he was out of
sight.

“He’s a good little dub,” said Rob gratefully. “I suppose I ought to
have done it myself, though.”

“It won’t hurt him,” said Malcolm. “And it _will_ take some fat off, I
guess. Well, I suppose I might as well get the potatoes in.”

“Hello,” exclaimed Rob, “what’s happened to the wind?”

“That’s so; it’s quit, hasn’t it?” Evan looked down into the valley.
“And it’s getting foggy. Look over there toward the bay, Rob.”

“I should say so! I bet it will rain before we get back.”

“Hope it will hold off until we’ve had dinner,” observed Malcolm. “I
don’t fancy sitting up here in a rain with nothing over us.”

“I don’t believe that means rain,” said Evan. “It’s just fog. The wind
has stopped and it’s sort of thickening up.”

“You talk like a weather bureau,” laughed Rob. “Anything I can do to
aid the chef, Mal?”

“Not a thing. These potatoes will want a half-hour at least, I guess.
Meanwhile we might as well take it easy.” He found a niche in the
rocks and settled himself into it with a sigh of content. The others
followed his example. Now and then Malcolm arose and added more fuel to
the fire, at the bottom of which, in a bed of glowing gray ashes, the
potatoes were hidden. They talked desultorily. It was very comfortable
lying there and watching the fire. Now that the wind had died down it
was quite warm, although there was a perceptible dampness in the air.
At the end of a half-hour Malcolm bestirred himself. Taking a stick
and shielding his face with his cap he poked around in the ashes until
he had brought to view one of the potatoes. He coaxed it away from the
fire and then broke it open.

“How is it?” asked Rob lazily.

“Pretty nearly done,” was the answer. “I’ll start the steak, I guess.”
He raked some live coals to the edge of the fire, placed one of the
slices of steak in the pan, sprinkled it with salt and pepper and
placed the pan on the coals. Then he drew more coals around it and set
about sharpening a two-foot stick.

“What’s that for?” asked Evan.

“To turn the meat with,” was the reply. “Think I want to singe my hair
off?”

“Isn’t he the haughty chef?” murmured Rob. “Seems to me it’s about
time Jelly was getting back.”

Evan arose and walked to the edge of the rock.

“See him?” asked Malcolm.

“N――no, but it’s so foggy that I can’t even see the trees,” Evan
replied. “Yes, I do, though. Here he comes. Hello, Jelly!”

“Hello!”

“Did you get it?”

“Yep. Would you mind coming down and getting it, please? I don’t
believe I’ll ever climb up the rock without spilling it.”

“All right.” Evan scrambled down and met Jelly at the foot of the ledge
and relieved him of his burden.

“You wouldn’t think a quart of water could be so heavy,” panted Jelly.
“You see, you have to hold it like this or it runs out the spout. That
makes it awkward, doesn’t it?”

“Decidedly,” answered Evan. “I don’t know whether I can get it up there
myself without losing most of it.”

But he did finally, and a minute or two later the coffee was “on the
stove.” Jelly was pretty well fagged out and they made him lie down and
rest. From the frying-pan came a heartening sizzle and, now and then,
a fragrant whiff.

“May I cook my chops next?” asked Jelly.

“You may not,” Malcolm replied. “You just lie there on your silly back.
I’ll cook them for you. You can start in on the steak, though, while
they’re frying. Wonder if those potatoes are ready to come out.”

“Well, if I’d been in there as long as they have,” said Evan, “I’m sure
I’d be ready to come out! Want me to help you?”

“Yes, will you? Get a long stick and poke around for them. But don’t
get too near the coffee-pot, whatever you do!”

“No, Evan, if you upset that coffee-pot we will descend upon you and
rend you limb from limb,” threatened Rob. “I’m so thirsty now that I
could drink suds. Are these tin cups all the same size, Mal?”

“Of course. Why?”

“I was going to pick out the biggest one,” sighed Rob. “How are the
potatoes, Evan?”

“All right, I guess. They look――er――a trifle well-done, but I suppose
they’re all right inside. Want to see one?”

Rob deftly caught the blackened object that Evan tossed him but didn’t
hold it long in his hand. “Wow!” he exclaimed. “Want to kill me?”

“Get your plates!” said Malcolm. “Dinner’s ready!”



CHAPTER X

STORIES AND SLUMBER


That dinner was worth waiting for, worth all the trouble and weariness
it had entailed. They sat around the smoldering fire, balancing
tin plates on their knees, with cups of steaming hot coffee and
buttered rolls and doughnuts and salt and pepper-boxes dotting the
immediate landscape, and did full justice to it. Malcolm’s opinion
of his culinary ability was justified by results. The steak was just
right, Jelly’s chops were cooked to a turn, the two precious eggs
were perfectly fried and the coffee――well, perhaps the coffee was a
trifle muddy, but it was hot and it was drinkable and there were no
criticisms. The potatoes belied their outward appearance and were
surprisingly white and mealy when opened. Jelly had forgotten to
provide himself with plate, cup, knife, fork or spoon and ate his
dinner from a flat stone, using borrowed implements and his fingers by
turns. Malcolm shared his tin cup with him.

“Have a piece of chop, Rob?” asked Jelly.

“No, thanks.”

“I wish you would. I had some of your steak.”

“What kind of chops are they?”

“I――I think they’re veal. Anyhow, there isn’t much taste to them.”

“Then of course they’re veal,” laughed Malcolm. “Evan, I’ll bet you
didn’t get all the potatoes out; we’re shy four or five.”

“Here’s one if you want it. I got all I could find. How’s the coffee
holding out, Rob?”

Rob seized the pot and shook it.

“Plenty here, I guess. Pass your cup.”

“It’s always well to shake it about a bit,” said Malcolm dryly. “It
makes it so nice and clear.”

“Oh, don’t be so fussy. Any one seen the canned cow? _And_ the sugar?
Thanks. Jelly, you got my spoon?”

“Yes, I’m eating egg with it. Want it?”

“Well, scarcely,” replied Evan. “Let me take yours, Rob. These are
dandy doughnuts, fellows.”

“They’re crullers,” said Jelly indistinctly by reason of the crowded
condition of his mouth. “Cook said so.”

“What’s the difference between a cruller and a doughnut, anyway?” asked
Evan.

“A doughnut is a cruller with a hole through it,” answered Malcolm.

“It’s a doughnut with a college education,” amended Rob.

“That’s an old one,” scoffed Malcolm.

“Doughnuts and crullers are just the same,” said Jelly. “It just
depends where they live what they’re called. In some places they call
them fried-cakes.”

“Well, I call them fine,” said Evan, biting into his second one. “A
cruller by any other name would taste as good.”

“Suppose you toss a couple over here,” suggested Malcolm, “if you don’t
want them all.”

“I do want them all,” was the reply, “but being generous I will allow
you one.”

“You’ll allow me a couple more presently,” responded Malcolm. “Say, I
should think there would be a big waste in making them this way; with
holes in the middle, I mean.”

“Waste? Why?” asked Rob.

“Well, what becomes of the piece that’s cut out?”

The others laughed and Malcolm looked surprised.

“What’s the joke?”

“Why, they take the dough that’s cut out and make more crullers, you
idiot,” said Rob. Malcolm considered a moment.

“Oh,” he said. “I never thought of that. I had an idea they threw that
away.”

“Wasn’t there a story,” asked Evan, “about a man who got it into his
head that if he could make the holes in doughnuts larger he’d make more
money on them?”

“There was――and is,” answered Rob gravely. “There is also a conundrum
about the reason why a miller wears a white hat. But if you had any
respect for age you’d let them both alone.”

“Say, Rob,” said Jelly, “I should think you’d invent a cruller with a
little box in the middle to hold raspberry jam. That would be swell,
wouldn’t it?”

“Why raspberry?” asked Evan.

“Oh, I like raspberry best,” answered Jelly calmly. “In that way you’d
be economizing space, Rob. It always make me feel badly to see all
that empty place in the middle.”

“Well, you won’t have any empty place in your middle,” said Rob
scathingly. “No wonder you’re fat, Jelly.”

Mr. George Washington Jell sighed comfortably. “Well,” he replied, “I’d
rather be a little bit fat and have enough to eat, Rob.”

“How about football, though?” asked Malcolm. “I thought you told us
that Hopkins thinks you’re too fat?”

“Oh, I’ll soon train down,” answered Jelly, reaching for another
doughnut. “In a week or two I’ll be twelve pounds lighter.”

“Mercy!” Rob held up his hands in awe. “Why, we’ll hardly know you!
Think of Jelly losing twelve pounds, fellows!”

“Twelve pounds of Jelly,” murmured Malcolm. “You’ll be a regular
skeleton, Jelly.”

“You’ll get rid of another pound or two going down the mountain,”
observed Evan.

“Mal, did I ever tell you about a fellow I knew back home who had a
cocker spaniel?” asked Rob.

“No, I don’t think so. What about him?”

“Well, it was a fine dog and he wanted to enter him at the dog show.”
Rob pushed his tin plate aside and stretched himself comfortably. “But
when he had the dog weighed he was eight pounds too heavy. The show
was to open the next morning and he didn’t know what to do. He tried
starving the dog and in the evening he weighed him again, but he was
still seven and a half pounds too heavy.”

“This is a pathetic tale,” muttered Malcolm.

“Well, he didn’t know what to do――”

“You said that before, Rob.”

“But he had an idea. He remembered that once he had seen a chap wrapped
up in sweaters running along the road getting his weight down. So this
chap, whose name was――”

“Smith,” suggested Evan.

“Shut up. His name was Jones. So Jones decided that if that would work
with a man it ought to work with a dog. So after dinner he wrapped the
dog――”

“What was the dog’s name?” asked Jelly.

“Smith,” said Evan again.

“The dog’s name was――was――I don’t remember.”

“That’s a crazy name,” commented Malcolm. “Why didn’t he call him
I-Don’t-Care?”

“Say, do you want to hear this story or don’t you?” Rob demanded. They
assured him that they did. “Well, shut up, then! Smith wrapped the dog
in a big woolen sweater――”

“Jones, you mean.”

“No, the dog,” answered Rob irritably. “I mean Jones wrapped――”

“Smith,” said Evan.

“Wrapped the dog in a sweater and started out with him on a leash.”

“On a what?” asked Malcolm politely.

“On a leash; the dog was on a leash.”

“Oh! What was Smith on?”

Rob found the remains of a baked potato within reach and scored against
Malcolm’s neck. While the latter was wiping away the fragments Rob went
on.

“Well, he walked that dog and walked him. Took him away out into the
country and back again into town; pulled him all around the city;
dragged him eight times up and down the City Hall steps. By that time
it was about two in the morning, and Jones――”

“Smith,” corrected Evan helpfully.

“And Smith――hang it, his name was Jones, I tell you! Jones was pretty
nearly dead for sleep. He’d taken naps as he went along. Finally he
came to a lunch-wagon and went in and got a cup of coffee. He gave
some of it to the dog――”

“Oh, come now!” Evan protested. “Dogs don’t drink coffee!”

“This dog was very fond of coffee,” replied Rob with dignity.

“Of course,” agreed Malcolm. “Did you hear Rob say he was a coffee
spaniel?”

“Well, that woke them both up and they went on walking.”

“Say, for goodness sake, Rob, get through walking!” begged Malcolm. “My
legs are just aching already. Have them sit down for a minute, won’t
you?”

“He walked that dog around until four o’clock in the morning,” declared
Rob impressively, “and when he got him home he put him on the scales,
and what do you think?”

“He’d gained another eight pounds,” said Evan.

“There wasn’t anything left but the collar,” guessed Jelly.

“No, but that dog had lost eight pounds exactly and was half a pound
under the limit! What do you think of that?”

“I’d rather not tell you,” answered Malcolm evasively.

“And did he win a prize with him?” asked Jelly.

“N――no, he didn’t. You see, when he took him around to the show he
found that he had walked two inches off the dog’s legs and they made
him enter him as a dachshund.”

There was a deep and painful silence. Then Malcolm began to whistle
softly and Evan reached out for the last doughnut and tossed it into
Rob’s lap.

“You win,” he said.

That reminded Jelly of a story that he had heard his father tell.
Moreover, he assured them seriously, it was a _true_ story.

“Well,” sighed Rob, “go ahead with it and get it off your mind.”

Whether it was true or not, it was very long and somewhat complicated
and the audience soon gave up trying to follow its intricacies. Rob
went to sleep and snored shamelessly. This annoyed Jelly and he lost
connection.

“And so――and so――Where was I?”

“The druggist was just filling the prescription,” replied Evan.

“Whereupon,” murmured Malcolm sleepily, “the goat climbed on to the
counter and ate up the nail-files, shrieking in a high falsetto
voice, ‘Death to tyrants!’ But see, who comes here? Ah, ’tis our
hero! Vaulting nimbly upon the back of his restless steed Diamond Dick
Tolliver drew his trusty bean-shooter and waving it above his head
cried――”

“Oh, shut up, Malcolm! Can’t you let me tell my story?”

“Proceed,” breathed Malcolm sweetly. “Wake me when you’re through,
Jelly.”

So Jelly went on. Ten minutes later he paused at the climax of his
narrative.

“What do you think of that?” he asked beamingly. There was no reply:
His three auditors were sound asleep. Jelly viewed them disgustedly one
after another. Then he lay down on his back, put an arm under his head
and followed the general example.



CHAPTER XI

JELLY CLIMBS A TREE


Evan was the first to awake. For some time he had been dimly conscious
of discomfort. The rocks were very hard and there was a chilliness in
the air that sent his thoughts groping sleepily toward the fire. But
when he sat up stiffly and looked for the fire he saw only a pile of
ashes and cinders from which a few curls of smoke arose. Then he looked
about him in surprise. The world was shut out by a great gray fog.
Even the farther edge of the rock, only some forty feet distant, was
scarcely discernible. He drew his hand along his sleeve and found that
his clothes were saturated with moisture. He awakened the others and it
was agreed that it was time to be going.

“We must be in a cloud,” said Malcolm. But Rob declared that they
weren’t high enough to get into clouds.

“It’s just a plain every-day fog,” he said. “But it’s certainly a
wonder. What time is it? Who’s got a watch?”

“Two twenty-three,” replied Evan. “I’ll have to hurry or I won’t get
down in time for football practice.”

“Me too,” said Jelly. “Let’s get the things packed up and start.”

“Wish that fire hadn’t gone out,” growled Rob, shivering in his wet
clothes as he helped the others collect the tin dinner service. “I feel
like a clam.”

“I say nothing of how you look,” remarked Malcolm pleasantly. “Where’s
that other piece of sacking? And where’s the string got to?”

“Blown away, probably,” said Evan. “Why not put all the things into one
bundle and take turns carrying it? It won’t be very heavy, anyhow.”

So that was done and presently they were scrambling down over the edge
of Table Rock to the boulder-littered slope below. The fog hid objects
forty feet away and presently Rob gave voice to a thought which had
occurred to all of them.

“I guess we’ll have to trust to luck to find the path,” he said. “But
we’re bound to come to it if we keep on going down hill.”

“We’ll find the bottom, all right,” answered Malcolm, “although we may
not arrive just where we want to.”

“I don’t see how we can fail to find the path,” said Evan. “And when we
come to it all we have to do is to follow it down.”

“There’s the edge of the trees,” remarked Rob. “Isn’t that spring right
here somewhere, Mal?”

“Further down and a bit to the left. Want some water?”

“Yes, I’m as dry as the dickens. Let’s have a look for it.”

“All right. I could drink a quart or two myself.”

But when they were in the thin woods and, after descending for what
seemed the proper distance, had turned to the left, it became evident
that finding the spring was not going to be an easy task. After some
ten minutes of prospecting along the slope Evan advised giving over the
search.

“Let’s get home, fellows,” he said. “It’s getting late, and we may have
to hunt here for an hour.”

“I guess that’s so,” Rob agreed. “We’ll suffer the pangs of thirst a
while longer. Let’s make a bee-line down the hill and find the path.”

When one’s legs are stiff from climbing up hill the worst punishment
one can inflict on them is to require them to take one down again.
Theoretically, descending a mountain should be as easy as rolling off
the proverbial log. Actually, it is almost as hard on the muscles as
going up. Jelly was the first to protest.

“I’ve got to sit down a moment, fellows,” he declared, suiting the
action to the word. “My legs are nearly killing me.”

“It’s not a bad scheme,” said Rob, finding a place on a dead log. “Who
wants to carry the luggage a while?”

“I’ll take it,” said Evan. “We ought to be pretty near the path, hadn’t
we?”

“Yes,” replied Malcolm. “I thought we’d have reached it before this.
But it can’t be far away.”

But when they resumed their journey the path remained elusive. They
went down for another ten minutes, dodging between trees, sliding and
slipping down the slope, tripping over roots and snags and forcing
their way through the young growth. At last Rob stopped, clinging to a
sapling, and surveyed the tiny space about them left visible by the
fog.

“There’s one thing certain,” he said, “and that is that we’ve gone by
the path. We’re in the maples now.”

“That’s so,” Malcolm agreed, “but I don’t see how we missed it. I’ve
been watching for it all the way down.”

“It wouldn’t be hard to miss, I guess,” ventured Jelly. “It isn’t much
of a path even when you’re on it.”

“No, and we’ve probably crossed right over without seeing it at all.
Well, the only thing to do is to keep on down and see where we land.”

“How much more is there, do you suppose?” asked Evan rather dubiously.

“Oh, a quarter of a mile, likely. It won’t take long. Give me that
bundle of tin-ware, Evan.”

Evan surrendered the load to Malcolm and they went on again. But it
was slow work, for the trees were thick and the undergrowth often made
detours necessary. Finally they rested again and Jelly set to work
vigorously rubbing his leg muscles.

“You know,” remarked Rob calmly, “the plain fact of the matter is,
fellows, that we’re plumb lost.”

The others nodded.

“Lost as anything,” said Malcolm. “Still, we’re bound to get down
finally.”

“Seems to me we’re about down now,” said Evan. “The ground is pretty
nearly level, isn’t it?”

“That’s so,” Rob replied. “We stopped coming down hill two or three
minutes ago. In that case we’re nowhere near school.”

“Must be over to the north, then,” said Malcolm thoughtfully. “We sort
of got off our bearings, I reckon, when we went to look for that silly
spring.”

“Wish I could see it now, though,” said Rob, running his tongue over
parched lips. “I’m beastly thirsty.”

“So am I,” said Jelly sadly. “I wish I were home.”

“Well!” Evan arose energetically. “Let’s get home. There’s no use
sitting here. I feel as though I’d taken a shower bath. Every thing
I’ve got on is sopping wet.”

“This is the foggiest old fog I ever did see,” grumbled Rob. “Come
along, Jelly. I told you fellows when we started out that something
unpleasant would happen to us if we took such a dishonest person as
Jelly along. He’s our Jonah.”

“I guess I’m not getting any more fun out of it than you are,” grunted
Jelly crossly as he arose painfully and limped after them. Ten minutes
later there was a shout from Evan, who had taken the lead.

“What is it?” asked Rob eagerly.

“Here’s a field,” was the answer. They had at last emerged from the
woods, but Rob and Malcolm viewed each other questioningly.

“Where do you suppose we are?” asked Rob. Malcolm shook his head.

“I don’t know. This isn’t the meadow back of school because there’s no
stone wall here. What I think is that we’ve got around to the north
side of the mountain, toward Hillsgrove, you know. They say that in the
woods you always unconsciously bear to the left.”

“If this old fog would only get out,” said Evan. They moved undecidedly
into the field and in a moment the woods had vanished from sight behind
them.

“What time is it?” asked Rob.

“Almost four,” Malcolm replied.

“_What?_”

“That’s right,” Evan confirmed, glancing at his own watch. “No football
for us to-day, Jelly.”

“Glad of it,” answered Jelly morosely. “I couldn’t play football if my
life depended on it.”

“Pshaw, they wouldn’t hold practice a day like this,” said Rob. “Why,
you couldn’t see the ball twenty feet away. What time did we leave up
there, Mal?”

“About half-past two.”

“Great Scott! We’ve been wandering around this fool mountain for an
hour and a half! No wonder I’m tired! Does anybody know where we are
headed for now?”

Apparently no one did.

“Seems to me,” said Malcolm, “we’d better strike off to the right.”

“Well, the fog on the right looks just as nice as that on the left,”
answered Rob philosophically. “Come on. Perhaps, though, we’d have done
better to have followed the edge of the woods.”

“That’s so,” Evan agreed. “Let’s do that.”

“First find your woods,” said Malcolm.

“They’re right back there,” said Evan, pointing.

“Get out! They’re off there!” And Rob indicated a different point of
the compass. Malcolm shrugged his shoulders.

“I guess we won’t look for them,” he said dryly. “Come on and let’s hit
up the pace. At least we’ve got level ground to walk on, and that’s
something.”

“It may be level,” Jelly muttered from the rear, “but it’s mighty wet.
My feet are sopping.”

“Take ’em off and carry them,” answered Rob flippantly. “And you might
carry the bundle for awhile, too, Mr. Jell. You haven’t had a go at it
yet, have you?”

“Hand it over,” said Jelly.

Presently they came to a little slope and at the bottom of that found a
stone wall.

“Now what?” asked Evan.

“Climb over it and keep going,” answered Malcolm doggedly. “We’ll have
to get somewhere some time.”

“So you say! Bet you we’re walking in a circle.”

“But think of the exercise we’re getting, Evan,” said Rob. “And look
at the lovely view! How beautiful are the distant hills in the sunset
glow!”

“Don’t talk hills to me,” grunted Evan, “or mountains either. I _would_
like to see a sunset glow, though,” he added.

“Hello, what’s that?” Rob stopped and peered into the fog ahead.

“A rock, you idiot,” said Malcolm.

“It isn’t; it’s a cow! And there’s another. We’re probably away out
West in the cattle country. I knew I’d walked a long distance!”

“There are dozens of them,” said Jelly as they went on. “If there are
cows there must be a house somewhere around.”

“We’ll ask one of them,” said Rob. “Good-afternoon, Mrs. Cow, will you
kindly tell me where――”

“I don’t believe,” murmured Malcolm, “that I’d have much to say to that
cow, Rob.” He pulled the other aside. “She happens to be a bull.”

“Gee, that’s so! And I don’t think he likes us. Let us alter our course
and steer around him. Nice bull, nice bull!”

They were in the middle of the herd now. The cows stopped nibbling at
the grass and viewed them with calm curiosity, some moving slowly
away. The bull, however, which was a particularly large and active
looking animal, displayed more interest. As they moved to the left he
pawed the ground and then trotted ahead as though to intercept them.

“I believe he’s going to speak to us,” murmured Rob. “Perhaps we’d
better go back.”

He was and he did. He stopped some twenty feet away, lowered his head
and bellowed. Jelly gave a yell of dismay and took to his legs. The
others didn’t waste time in vocal manifestations of alarm; they fled
silently. As there had been no agreement as to direction they put out
toward four different points of the compass. Just what it was about
Jelly that attracted the bull is difficult to say; perhaps it was the
bundle of tin plates and coffee-pot and things that rattled enticingly
as he ran. At all events, it was on Jelly that the bull centered his
attention and it was in his wake that he galloped. When the others
paused for breath, through the silent mist came the rattle of tins and
the thud of bovine hoofs. They listened in anxious suspense. Then,
farther away, there was a terrorized shriek followed by an awesome
bellow. Then silence, heavy and depressing, broken a moment later by a
great rattling of tinware. Then silence once more.

“Jelly!” cried Rob from one part of the field.

“Jelly!” called Malcolm from another. And,

“Jelly!” called Evan from another.

Faintly from a distance came an answering hail.

“Are you all right?” called Malcolm.

“Did he get you?” called Evan.

“Where are you?” shouted Rob.

“I’m up a tree,” was the answer, “and the blamed bull is waiting for me
to come down!”

Three figures moved cautiously in the direction of the voice, calling
softly to each other as they went.

“Come and drive him away!” appealed Jelly from the misty void. “I can’t
hang on much longer!”

“We’re coming,” shouted Rob. “That you, Mal? Where’s Evan?”

“Here I am. What shall we do, fellows?”

“Blessed if I know,” answered Rob, pushing his cap away from his damp
forehead and scowling. “We haven’t even a stick.”

“Much good a stick would do,” said Malcolm. “Come on, anyhow, and let’s
do something. Shout again, Jelly!”

“Over here, you――you fools!” came Jelly’s voice from nearer at hand.
“He’s trying to eat the coffee-pot!”

“Hope it chokes him,” muttered Rob as they hurried along.

“There he is!” whispered Evan, seizing Malcolm’s arm. But it was only a
peaceable cow which trotted away at sight of them. Then, dimly in the
fog ahead of them, they descried a small misshapen apple tree and a
moving object beneath. They halted.

“Is he still there, Jelly?” asked Rob softly.

“Of course he is! Can’t you see him? Aren’t you going to do anything?”

“Ye-es, certainly; only――what shall we do, Jelly?”

“Drive him away!”

“How?”

“Make a noise; scare him; do something; I can’t hold on here any
longer, I tell you! I’m slipping now!”

“Let’s all yell together,” suggested Evan. “Come on!”

“Wait!” cried Malcolm. “Let’s run toward him and yell like thunder.
That ought to scare him.”

They viewed each other doubtfully.

“Aren’t you ever going to do anything?” wailed Jelly.

“Come on!” said Rob desperately.

They charged three abreast, yelling like Comanche Indians, charged
blindly, heroically. For one instant the result trembled in the
balance. Then the bull gave a short, terrorized bellow and vanished
into the mist. And at the same moment there was a thud and a crash and
Jelly descended into a litter of tin plates and cups.



CHAPTER XII

IN THE FOG


“Are you hurt?” asked Malcolm anxiously as he helped Jelly to his feet.

“I guess not,” was the aggrieved reply. “You fellows might have hurried
a bit, though, it seems to me.” Jelly disencumbered one shoe of the
coffee-pot and felt of himself gingerly. Around the foot of the gnarled
apple-tree lay the contents of the bundle, trampled and battered. The
piece of sacking decorated a lower branch like a flag of distress.

“You silly chump,” exclaimed Rob irritably, “what did you think we were
going to do? Seize the bull by the horns and hold him while you came
down and walked home? We don’t like bulls any better than you do.”

“Maybe we’d better get out of here,” suggested Evan, casting nervous
glances into the encircling fog. “He might come back to finish the job,
you know.”

“That’s so. Maybe he’s gone off to get his friends,” said Rob. “Here,
let’s pick this stuff up. Did you throw the bundle at him, Jelly?”

“Throw it at him! There wasn’t time to do any throwing,” answered Jelly
crossly. “He nearly got me. I dropped the things and made a flying leap
at that branch. The next thing I knew he was digging his horns into the
bundle. He got one horn through the sacking and couldn’t get it off at
first. And that made him mad. So he gave a bellow and tossed it into
the tree and it just rained tin plates and frying-pans and forks and
things for a minute. Then he danced around on them and butted the tree
as though he was trying to jar me out. I’ll bet you he’s got an awful
headache! I――I’d like to shoot him!”

“I can’t find the string,” said Malcolm. “We’ll just have to hold the
sack by the corners. Come on and let’s get away from here.”

“All right, but which way shall we go?” asked Rob.

“Oh, it doesn’t matter; any old way. What’s that?”

It was the shriek of a distant locomotive. They turned toward the
sound.

“Well, that proves that the railroad is in that direction,” said
Malcolm. “Let’s head that way.”

“All right,” Rob answered, “but that train may be at Engle or it may be
ten miles north. Still, one way’s as good as another. Come along. If we
meet that bull, though, I tell you right now that I shall drop this tin
shop and run like thunder!”

They went on across the meadow through the fog which, instead of
decreasing, seemed to thicken as evening drew near. They may have
traversed a quarter of a mile of meadow or it may have been twice that
distance, but at last a row of trees loomed out of the grayness ahead.
The trees proved to be growing along a fence and on the other side of
the fence was a country road. Rob seated himself on a rock and wiped
his face with a damp handkerchief.

“Well, here we are,” he said.

“Where?” scoffed Evan.

“Why, on the road.”

“What road?”

“Oh, don’t be so inquisitive. It’s a road and that’s enough. It must
lead somewhere. I’ll vow, though, that I never saw it before. Did you,
Mal?”

“I think it’s the Hillsgrove road,” answered Malcolm doubtfully. “If it
is we want to go to the right here. That’ll take us to Riverport.”

“And if it isn’t the Hillsgrove road,” asked Evan pessimistically,
“where will it take us to?”

Malcolm couldn’t answer that.

“I don’t believe it’s the Hillsgrove road at all,” said Jelly. “I don’t
remember any row of trees like this on it.”

“I don’t seem to remember a row of trees like this on any road,” said
Rob. “But we might as well go one way as another, fellows. And perhaps
we will meet someone. Gee, but I’m getting hungry!”

“So am I,” muttered Evan dejectedly. “I wonder if we’ll get to school
in time for supper.”

“We won’t if we stay here,” said Jelly. “I’m going on.”

So they took the road and followed it as it curved through the
darkening fog to the right. After awhile their ears were gladdened
with the sound of a creaking wagon and a moment later it took shape
before them. There was a dejected-looking horse and an equally
dejected-looking driver on the seat of an ancient farm wagon.

“Hello,” greeted Rob. “Which way is Riverport School, sir?”

The man pulled his horse in and leisurely examined the boys before he
answered.

“You belong there?” he asked in a suspicious way.

“Yes, but we’ve sort of lost our bearings in this fog.”

The man chuckled.

“Well, you’re coming away from it as fast as you can,” he said. “Get
ap.”

“_What!_” they exclaimed in chorus. “Isn’t this the Hillsgrove road?”

“No,” replied the man over his shoulder as the horse broke into a slow
jog, “it’s the Lebanon Springs road, o’ course. Guess you boys don’t
study geography much.” And he chuckled some more.

“Well, what do you think of that?” marveled Malcolm.

“Say, can we have a ride?” called Rob.

“No, you can’t; my horse is tired,” was the ungracious response.

“How far is it to school?” shouted Malcolm.

“’Bout two miles or two miles an’ a half, I guess.”

“We’ll pay you for a lift,” Rob bawled after the vanishing driver. But
there was no reply and the fog swallowed man and horse and vehicle.

“Brute!” muttered Evan.

“Hope he breaks down,” said Jelly. “Hope his horse has blind staggers.
Hope――”

“That’ll do, Jelly; you’ve hoped enough. Hope for something worth
while, like a trolley-car or an automobile or a flying-machine. Gee,
fellows; two miles and a half he said!” And Rob shook his head and
looked dismally into the fog.

“I’d like to know how we ever got on the Lebanon Springs road,”
pondered Malcolm as they began to retrace their steps.

“I may be mistaken,” replied Rob, “but I _think_ we walked. Anyhow, my
legs feel that way.”

“I’m glad you think it’s such a good joke,” said Malcolm wearily. “All
I know is that when I get home, if I ever do, I’m going to get straight
into bed and go to sleep.”

“Supper first, for me,” said Evan.

“All I want is a drink,” wailed Jelly from his accustomed position in
the rear of the party. “The lake isn’t very far over there. I’ve a good
mind to look for it. I’m terribly thirsty.”

“You’ll stay right on the road,” said Rob curtly. “I don’t propose to
spend the rest of the night hunting for you, Jelly. We’ll be home in
half an hour, likely, and you can drink all you want to.”

“That doesn’t help now, though,” grumbled Jelly.

A few minutes later the rural postman clattered up from behind in his
buggy and passed them in the direction of Riverport, but not before Rob
had hailed him and asked the distance to school.

“A little over a mile, I guess,” was the reply.

That was encouraging and they pegged along. Then a dark object grew out
of the mist ahead, and when they reached it they found that it was the
dilapidated wagon and the dejected horse and the ill-natured farmer.
He had broken a trace, and as they gathered around he looked up and
scowled angrily.

“In trouble?” asked Rob sweetly.

“Can’t you see I be?”

“Well, I _am_ sorry. We’re all sorry, aren’t we, fellows?”

“Awfully!”

“Huh,” grunted the man.

“Yes, because you were so kind and accommodating,” went on Rob
genially. “Your pressing invitation to ride with you quite won our
hearts. Did it not, fellows?”

“It did――_not_,” said Malcolm.

“You get out o’ here an’ let me be,” grunted the farmer.

“Let you be what?” asked Evan from a safe distance. Jelly sniggered and
the farmer bent over his trace muttering savagely. The boys drew away
to the side of the road, smiling broadly at each other.

“What a beautiful horse,” remarked Jelly. “I’ll bet he’s got a record.”

“I’ll bet they both have,” said Malcolm.

“Look at his ears,” Evan directed.

“Who’s ears?”

“Why, the horse’s. Are they not eloquent? See how he carries one
forward and the other back. He’s listening for automobiles, I suppose.
Don’t tell me that horse hasn’t got sense.”

“Sense! I should say he had sense!” said Rob. “Why, that horse has the
sense of the whole family!”

“Well, he’s old enough to have sense,” remarked Evan. “How old would
you say, Malcolm?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t call him exactly old. I don’t suppose he’s a day over
fifty――or sixty!”

“That horse?” said Rob derisively. “Get out! Why, that horse is one
of the ancient landmarks of the locality. He was captured wild on the
slope of Graytop by the first settler.”

“Was he hitched to that wagon when they caught him?” asked Malcolm.

“I believe so. Anyway, he wore the same harness.”

“They don’t make harness the way they used to,” mourned Evan. “Look at
that trace; why, that should have lasted years yet!”

“I know; it’s a shame,” said Malcolm. “That’s a perfectly good harness.
I saw one just like it once in a museum. Well, accidents will happen!”

Meanwhile the farmer, muttering crossly, had managed to mend the break
with the aid of his knife and a piece of stout cord. Now he climbed on
to the seat again and picked up the reins.

“You think you’re smart, don’t you?” he asked venomously.

“Well,” answered Rob modestly, “far be it from us to sound our own
praises.”

“You’re a parcel of young fools, that’s what you be! Get ap!”

“Whoa!” shouted Jelly.

The horse preferred the second command to the first and remained
motionless.

“Get ap, I say! Get ap!”

“Whoa, Dobbin!” was the chorus from the road. Dobbin started and
stopped. Then the farmer found his whip in the bottom of the wagon and
Dobbin decided to go.

“If I wasn’t in a hurry I’d use this whip on you!” shouted the farmer
as the horse trotted away.

“Look out! He’s running away from you!” bawled Malcolm. Driver and
wagon disappeared and the boys took up their journey again, still
laughing. The encounter had cheered them up wonderfully. Fifteen
minutes later the gymnasium loomed through the fog at the left of the
road and their troubles and travels were over. As they cut across the
slope toward Holden Malcolm said:

“Give me the dishes and things, Rob, and I’ll leave them at the
kitchen.”

“The di――” Rob looked about in dismay. “Hasn’t anybody got them?”

“Haven’t _you_?” demanded Malcolm.

“No. I thought――Oh, I remember now. I set them down when we climbed the
fence back there. I guess they’re there yet, Mal.”

“Well, you’re a wonder! Cook will give me the dickens.”

“Oh, I’ll pay for them. They weren’t much good, anyway, after the way
Jelly dented them up.”

“After _I_ dented them up!” exclaimed Jelly. “I’d like to know what I
had to do with it. It was that silly bull!”

“Well, you gave them to him to play with, didn’t you? Now don’t try to
evade responsibility, Jelly.”

“Well, we’ll never get any more,” said Malcolm. “The next time we want
to picnic――”

“The next time we want to picnic,” said Rob severely, “I hope some one
will clap us into an insane asylum. Don’t talk about picnics to me,
Mal, or I may do you mortal injury. I’ve had enough picnicking to last
me fifty years!”

“So have I,” grunted Jelly. “The next time you fellows ask me to go
with you――”

“_The next time we ask you!_” cried Rob. But words failed him.

“I shall simply refuse,” concluded Jelly as he limped away.



CHAPTER XIII

EVAN RETIRES


By the end of the first week of the term Evan had settled down into
his appointed groove and school routine was in full swing. At lessons
Evan was neither a dullard nor a wonder; just an average student. He
soon found that if he gave a fair amount of time to study he got on
very well in class, and that if he didn’t he met with trouble. Having
a good fund of common sense he decided to keep out of trouble. At
first it wasn’t easy to buckle down in the evenings to study, for Rob
was a disturbing factor. Rob had a fashion of spending the study-hour
in working on his marvelous inventions and then burning the “midnight
juice,” as he called the electric-light, until all hours. But after
a while Evan got used to Rob’s interruptions and accustomed to going
asleep with the light shining in his face. Rob squirmed through
recitations somehow, just how Evan couldn’t comprehend, and didn’t let
the thought of impending examinations worry him. At present Rob was
very busy with a combined comb and brush for the use of travelers, the
comb working on a pivot at the end of the brush-handle and snapping
back along the top of the brush when not in use. Rob was convinced that
the invention was destined to great success and spent many hours of his
time making drawings of it. He had discarded the foot-scraper, having
discovered that the cost of manufacturing it would prohibit its use to
all save millionaires.

Meanwhile the foot-ball situation remained practically unchanged. The
team was still occupied with the rudiments, and day after day the
candidates were falling on the ball, tackling, blocking, breaking
through, passing, kicking and catching. Had there been any system
apparent Evan and some of the other dissatisfied ones might have
commended such a thorough schooling in preliminary work. But as it
was the work was gone through with in a perfunctory way and no one
seemed to understand the reason for anything. Hopkins took a hand now
and then, but for the most part was content to superintend practice
from the side-lines, leaving the brunt of the instruction to his three
lieutenants, Carter and Ward and Connor. The Second Team had organized
and Gus Devens was captain, and Evan, after four homeless days, found
himself playing substitute end on that team. It was a new position
to him and truth compels me to state that so far he hadn’t covered
himself with glory. It is possible that in the course of time, had he
had any one to coach him, he might have developed into a good end. As
it was, however, he had to teach himself by watching the other ends
and reading what he could find regarding the duties of his position.
The School Team’s first game was only a week away, and while it wasn’t
an important one Evan, for his part, couldn’t see that the team was
any nearer being a team than it had been the first day of practice. He
confided as much to Jelly one afternoon when they were changing their
togs after practice. Jelly was strenuously trying for a guard position
on the Second and was plumb full of enthusiasm.

“Why, they don’t know a thing yet,” he replied ecstatically, referring
to the members of the First Team. “You wait until they get into a
scrimmage with us. I’ll bet we’ll rip them all up the back the first
try!”

“What sort of a team has Cardiff got?” asked Evan.

“Oh, they don’t amount to anything. They don’t give us much more of
a game than we’d get in practice. They’re a light lot; just easy
pickings.”

“Well, what is the first real hard game on the schedule?”

“Mountfort High,” answered Jelly promptly. “Two weeks from Saturday.
Last year the best we could do was to tie them; 10 to 10, it was; and
it was a hard old game, too.”

“Do you think our team’s as good this year as it was last?” Evan
inquired. Jelly studied a moment.

“I guess so,” he replied finally. “But how can any one tell when they
haven’t been in action yet? Why doesn’t Hopkins get a move on and
have a scrimmage? He’s daffy this year about ‘grounding the team in
the rudiments of the game’; I heard him spouting to Prentiss about it
yesterday.”

“It’s a fine thing,” said Evan dryly, “to know the rudiments, but it
seems to me that a little squad work wouldn’t be a bad idea, to say
nothing of getting the team together in a scrimmage once in a while.”

“That’s what I say,” replied Jelly importantly. “Gus is going to have
us away ahead of the First if Hopkins doesn’t watch out.”

Perhaps Jelly’s prediction came to the captain’s ear. At all events,
the following afternoon the First, or School, team began signal
practice, and two days later the first scrimmage of the year took
place. Devens had done his work pretty well and the Second was
successful in standing off the First during two ten-minute periods.
Evan played at left end for a few minutes toward the finish of the last
half and made rather a mess of it. He recognized the fact and wished
that some one might tell him where his mistakes were. But there was no
one to do it save Captain Devens, and Devens had too much on his hands
already. The quota of candidates had swollen to over forty and just
before the first contest, that with the Cardiff High School, Hopkins
made his final cut, retaining seventeen candidates. Devens went over
what was left and retained fifteen in all. The School Team, as it lined
up against Cardiff on Wednesday afternoon, contained five of last years
veterans, while the rest had played on the Second.

The game was not exciting, Cardiff proving to be weak in every
department. On the other hand, Riverport carried off few honors.
Law’s punting was good and Hopkins at left guard, and Reid at right
tackle showed that they had not forgotten how to play. But the line,
as a whole, was slow and listless, and against a faster team would
have made a sorry showing. The backfield was rather a farce, if we
except Joe Law at left. Miller, the quarter, was neither brilliant
nor steady, and in the second half, in which Cardiff showed for a few
minutes a flash of real form, Hopkins ran the team himself. In the last
few minutes of play every substitute was used, and Grove, who replaced
Miller, seemed to put some drive into the play. On the whole the game
was featureless and rather valueless, since the opponents were not
strong enough to show up Riverport’s real weaknesses. However, nothing
much is expected of the first contest, and Hopkins seemed well enough
satisfied. At least, there was little criticism from him. Prentiss, who
spent his time making memoranda on the side-line, had a good deal to
say afterwards and was generous with stricture. But nobody paid much
attention to Prentiss. He wasn’t popular and the players resented his
meddling, since, as he didn’t play the game himself, he wasn’t presumed
to know much about how it should or shouldn’t be played.

On Thursday Evan was tried at end again on the Second. He did a trifle
better, but Devens soon took him out in favor of Abbott and he spent
the rest of the scrimmage sitting disgruntled on the side-line. Later,
in the gymnasium, Devens came over to him.

“You don’t seem to fit in at end, Kingsford,” he began kindly enough.
“You never played there much, eh?”

“Never until the other day,” answered Evan soberly. “I told you when I
started in that quarter or half was my line.” Devens nodded.

“I remember, but we have pretty good halfs and a good quarter. So I
thought maybe I could make an end of you. What do you think? Want to
try it some more?” Evan thought a minute. Then,

“I don’t believe it’s much use,” he said frankly. “If there was some
one to coach me a bit I think I could get the hang of it, but there
isn’t. I’d like to get a show at quarter, Devens; I think I could make
good there.”

“Well, we’ll see. There’s lots of time yet. You hang on, Kingsford.”

So Evan “hung on,” and, although the opportunity to prove himself at
quarter-back didn’t at once present itself, he gradually became a more
useful member of the Second. He began to push Abbott and Robins, the
first string ends, fairly hard, for he had speed, was certain on his
feet and tackled hard and surely. But there are niceties connected with
the position of end that Evan didn’t know, and there was no one to tell
him. Somerset High School was barely defeated 6 to 5. Riverport managed
to score on a blocked kick and subsequently made the 5 a 6 by kicking
a nice goal. Somerset made her score by hard work and only a narrow
miss at goal saved her opponent from a tie game. In the last half Grove
went in in place of Miller at quarter and, although not individually
brilliant, ran the team in good shape and showed some generalship. It
was difficult, though, to determine just what amount of credit was due
to Grove and what amount to Hopkins, for the captain was always taking
a hand in the running of the team.

The Somerset game was on Saturday and for the following week the
team was put through hard practice in preparation for the Mountfort
contest. On Tuesday Evan had his first chance at quarter, Devens
sending him in with the second squad for signal practice and later
putting him into the scrimmage for some ten minutes. He did well enough
considering that he had not played the position before for a year, and
got speed out of the Second. But he was a little uncertain on signals
and, with the Second on the First’s twenty yard-line and the ball in
their possession, made an error of judgment that lost them a possible
score. The Second had been making its ten yards in three downs for some
minutes through the right side of the opponent’s line and there was
apparently no reason to suppose that it could not continue to do so and
cover that last twenty yards. But on the second down Evan called for
a forward pass, got it off nicely and then saw Robins miss it on the
five yard-line. If the play had worked Evan would have been commended
for his daring. As it failed he got only criticism. Devens could find
no fault, since he had not protested against the play, and I think
that he would have given Evan other chances in the position had not
Evan made that impossible for the time by falling on the steps of the
gymnasium the next afternoon and turning his ankle. It was a bad twist,
and for the next week he was out of togs, limping around at first with
bandages and later with a rubber anklet.

He gave up his last hope then and accepted the inevitable as cheerfully
as he could. Devens was honestly sorry for him and told him so, but
Evan noticed that he didn’t say anything about staying in training and
coming back to the team. So he nursed his injury and looked forward
to the middle of October, when the dormitory teams would be formed to
fight for the School Championship. Rob was sympathetic, and so was
Malcolm, but they each treated the affair with a sort of I-told-you-so
smugness that grated.



CHAPTER XIV

THE FOOTBALL MEETING


Two evenings before the game with Mountfort High School a mass meeting
was held in the assembly hall. Notices of the meeting had been posted
for several days, but there was no wild excitement in evidence.

“You’re going over, aren’t you?” asked Evan of Rob after supper was
over that evening and the boys had returned to their room.

“Oh, yes, I shall go over and see the fun,” replied Rob. “You had
better come along. And we’ll get Mal.”

“What’s it all about?” Evan inquired. “What do they do?”

“Oh, it’s supposed to be a sort of enthusiastic gathering to show the
team that the School loves them; also to contribute little sums of
money into the coffer.”

“Oh,” said Evan. “How much should I give?”

Rob shrugged his shoulders and ran his fingers through his long hair.

“That’s up to you, Evan,” he answered. “I’d suggest, however, that you
donate about the same amount as I shall.”

“And how much shall you give?”

“Not a red cent,” said Rob curtly.

“Oh, but that hardly seems fair, does it?” Evan asked doubtfully. “I
think I’d rather contribute something, Rob.”

“All right; then give ’em a dollar. You’re just throwing your dollar
away, though.”

“What do most of the fellows give?”

“You’re supposed to give what you can afford――or what you want to give.
I used to give ’em two, but what’s the use? Let’s find Mal and go on
over.”

The hall was rather sparsely inhabited when Prentiss arose to address
the meeting. Rob and Evan and Malcolm sat together on a front bench,
and there were about seventy other chaps in attendance. Prentiss
explained that the meeting had been called in pursuance of a school
custom to acquaint the supporters of the football team with the plans
for the season and to secure from them funds with which to carry out
those plans. He informed the audience that the football treasury had
held the sum of twelve dollars and eighty cents at the beginning of the
year, that amount having been left over from the previous season.

“Of course,” he went on, “that didn’t last very long. We have had to
purchase several balls, buy lime for the purpose of marking out the
field and get quite a few little things to begin work with. We are now
without funds and it is necessary that your response to-night should
be generous. We shall need fully a hundred and fifty dollars to carry
us through the season. There will be new sweaters to purchase for the
entire team and one or two pairs of trousers. Of recent years it has
been the custom for players to supply their own shoes, but I think that
is a mistake. Lots of fellows can’t afford to pay what they ought to to
get a good shoe and the result is that they buy cheap things that don’t
give good service. And that naturally affects their playing. I think
the Football Association should buy shoes as well as clothing for the
players, and I’m sure you will agree with me. Our schedule this season
includes games with several teams that require us to travel away from
home, and the item of railroad fares will be considerable. So I hope
you fellows will respond heartily to our appeal, remembering that you
are giving to the School and aiding it in its struggle for football
preeminence. You all want to witness a victory over Adams, and the
first step toward the――the realization of that desire is to put the
Team on its feet financially. Captain Hopkins has a few words to say
before we proceed to business.”

There was a smatter of applause as the manager took his seat and Frank
Hopkins arose. Hopkins could talk very well when he was in the mood,
and he realized that to-night was a time when eloquence was needed.
The slim attendance was not encouraging, and the spirit of the meeting
evidently left much to be desired in the way of warmth and enthusiasm.
Hopkins thrust his hands into his coat pockets and viewed the audience
with a genial smile.

“Well,” he began, “what I have to say isn’t of great consequence,
fellows. You all know why you’re here. We need money for the Team. We
can’t run a football team without money. Fellows have to be clothed
and shod and we have to have balls and head-gears and nose-protectors
and other things too numerous to mention. They all cost money. And, as
the manager has just told you, we’re stoney-broke at this moment. We
couldn’t scrape up ten cents if we tried. In fact, both Prentiss and I
have had to advance small sums of money to keep things going this far.
But we’re going to have a good team this year, one that you’ll all be
proud of.”

“Yes, indeed,” called a sarcastic voice from the audience, and a ripple
of titters arose. Hopkins frowned momentarily, but quickly remembered
his role of geniality and went on:

“We’ve got enough fellows from last year’s team to form an excellent
basis to build upon. And the new material in sight is unusually good.
In short, the outlook is distinctly encouraging, and I, for one, am
quite optimistic regarding the work ahead. Adams has triumphed too
long――”

Applause, and a shrill “That’s no joke!” from somewhere at the back of
the room.

“She has triumphed too long and it is time that we show her that
Riverport is still to be reckoned with. And this fall, fellows, you’ll
see a turning of the tables. We’re going to give old Adams a drubbing
that will make up, more than make up for past defeats!”

“So _you_ say!” somebody remarked after the applause had died down.
Hopkins turned in the direction of the voice.

“I see,” he said, “that we have one or two ‘knockers’ with us. That’s
to be expected, however. There are always a few fellows sufficiently
lacking in patriotism and school spirit to think it smart to jeer.
Well, I guess that’s all I’ve got to say this evening. Except that I
hope you will help us all you can. If every one of you will give what
he is able to we, on our part, will fulfill our share of the contract.
And I’ll tell you right now, fellows, that when the season is done
you’ll have no cause to regret your generosity.”

Hopkins had made a good speech and even Rob was forced to clap a little
as the captain took his seat again. Joe Law arose and demanded “a cheer
for Captain Hopkins” and the audience responded fairly well.

“Now,” announced Prentiss, taking the platform again, “some of the
fellows will pass through the hall and receive your contributions. When
it is possible, please give cash. If you haven’t the cash, then write
your pledges on the slips of paper.”

Law and three other football men arose and started on the rounds. A
buzz of conversation dispelled the quiet of the hall.

“Guess I ought to give a couple of dollars,” whispered Evan to Rob. Rob
frowned.

“If you do, you’re an idiot,” he growled. “What are you going to give,
Mal?”

“Oh, a dollar, I reckon. I’d rather not give them anything, but it
seems rather small not to.”

“Then I’ll give a dollar, too,” said Evan as he found his pocket-book.
“If they got that much from every fellow――”

“They won’t, though,” said Rob. “A lot of them won’t give a cent. And
some think a half’s enough. If they get a hundred this year they’ll
be doing mighty well. The fellows are getting tired of paying for a
football team that never delivers the goods.”

Law passed the cap along the row and Evan and Malcolm deposited their
contributions. Law stared at Rob.

“Come on, now, Rob,” he said, “shell out.”

“Not me,” answered Rob with a smile. “I have better use for my money,
Joe. Go on with your old hat.”

“My, but you’re a tight-wad,” said Joe, with a shrug of his big
shoulders.

Presently the collectors handed their harvest to Prentiss. The audience
waited to hear the result announced. Prentiss and Hopkins counted and
figured and at last the former came to the front of the platform with a
slip in his hand.

“Doesn’t look happy, does he?” chuckled Rob.

“The amount contributed,” announced Prentiss with thinly veiled
sarcasm, “is eighty dollars and sixty cents. I want to thank the
generous donor of that ten cent piece if he will stand up where I can
see him.”

The audience laughed, but no one arose.

“Of course,” continued Prentiss, “there’s no necessity for me to tell
you that you haven’t subscribed much more than half enough money. But
that’s your look-out, I guess. If you don’t want a decent team, why,
you’re going the right way to get what you do want. To those that have
contributed generously――and a few have――I offer thanks. The meeting is
over.”

“It’s better than I thought it would be,” chuckled Rob as they pushed
their way through the throng at the door. “A long ways eighty dollars
will take them!”

“What do you suppose they’ll do?” asked Evan.

“I guess they’ll go broke. Probably make their last year’s uniforms do
instead of getting new ones. It’s all nonsense, anyway, for Prentiss to
say that they have to have a hundred and fifty dollars. A good manager
could get along with not much more than half of that. I guess they’ll
have to this year.”

“Oh, they’ll probably call another meeting,” said Malcolm, “or send
around canvassers to get after the fellows who haven’t contributed.”

“They don’t know who have contributed and who haven’t,” said Rob,
“aside from those who signed their names to pledges. All a fellow would
have to do when a canvasser tackled him would be to say that he gave
cash at the meeting to-night.”

“That’s so,” Malcolm agreed.

“I sort of wish I’d given another dollar,” mused Evan. “I’d like to see
the team wallop Adams, and if they need money to be able to do that it
seems as though they ought to have it.”

“It isn’t money they need,” said Rob, “but some good players, a decent
captain and manager and somebody to show them football. If Hop would
engage a coach he could get all the money he needed, and more too. The
trouble with those two chaps is that they’ve got it into their heads
that _they_ are the Riverport Football Team. They want to do it all
themselves. Even if Hop got a coach he’d be always interfering and I
guess Mr. Coach would stay about one week. Then he’d kick Hop and get
out.”

“This is Hopkins’ last year, isn’t it?” Evan asked.

“Yes, praises be! And Prentiss’s, too.”

“Who will be captain next year, then?”

“I don’t know. Hop and Prentiss will arrange that between them. I
think, though, that Joe Law is getting into line for the honor. Or
maybe the mantle will descend upon Miller.”

“But don’t they hold an election?”

“Sort of a one. It’s all fixed beforehand, though. Hop will tell the
fellows whom he wants elected and they’ll vote as he tells them to.
It’s rather a farce. The whole thing’s a farce. But we’re going to
change it, fellows.”

“Are we?” laughed Malcolm. “And how are we going to do it?”

Rob shook his head mysteriously.

“You wait and see,” he answered.

It was still early when they reached the dormitory and they went into
Malcolm’s room and made themselves comfortable and continued their
discussion of the football situation. Rob was extremely eloquent this
evening and derived a lot of pleasure in hauling Hopkins and Prentiss
over the coals.

“I don’t see,” he said finally to Evan, “why you want to give those
chaps money for their old team after the way they treated you.”

“Well, I dare say I didn’t do very well,” Evan replied. “In fact, I’m
sure I didn’t. I can’t play end and I told Devens so when I started.
And he didn’t need a quarter or a half――”

“The dickens he didn’t! Call that chap Hinkley a half-back, do you?
Well, I don’t. And they need a good quarter on the First Team, too.
Miller’s a frost. How’s the ankle getting on?”

“Oh, it’s all right now,” Evan replied.

“That’s good. You may need the use of it before long.”

“Why?”

“Oh, you’ll see.”

“Say, Rob, you’re beastly mysterious to-night,” complained Malcolm.
“What have you got up your sleeve?”

“Only my arm,” answered Rob. “I’ll tell you all about it, Mal, as soon
as――as my plans are perfected.”

“You and your plans!” grunted Malcolm derisively.

When Rob and Evan said good-night and returned to their own room Evan
got ready for bed, but Rob, after partially undressing, went to the
lower drawer of his bureau and began hauling things over. That lower
drawer was Rob’s workshop. There were all sorts of tools there and
spools of wire and pieces of metal and odds and ends of all kinds. Evan
called it the junk-shop. When working on one of his numerous inventions
Rob produced a board about three feet long and eighteen inches wide
from the closet and set it on his bed. Then he drew his chair up to it
and filed or hammered or whittled to his heart’s content. There was
usually a litter of shavings or metal filings――sometimes both――on bed
and floor, and Evan had long ago learned to avoid that part of the room
unless his feet were protected with slippers. It isn’t pleasant to step
on nails or screws or ends of wire, as Evan was continually doing at
first. To-night Rob emptied a cigar-box of its contents, fixed his
improvised bench in place and set to work with knife and paste-pot.

“What are you up to?” inquired Evan.

“You wait and see,” was the pre-occupied answer. Evan laid hold of a
book and threatened Rob’s head with it.

“If you say that to me again to-night, Rob, I’ll brain you!” he
declared. Rob looked up, laughed and went on with his work.

“All right, chum, I’ll tell you, then. It’s this way. Your eloquence
in behalf of the football team this evening has touched my calloused
heart, Evan. Something ought to be done to secure the money they need,
and I’m doing it.”

“Well, what’s the cigar-box for?”

“It is no longer a cigar-box; that is, it will be no longer a cigar-box
when I get through with it; it will be a contribution-box. I am making
a slot here in the lid, you see. Then I shall tack the lid down,
cover the whole with nice pink paper and adorn it with a suitable
inscription, an inscription that will wring the pennies from the
penniless.”

“Rob, you’re an awful idiot,” laughed Evan as he slipped into bed.
“Finish it in the morning and let’s get to sleep.”

“Never put off until to-morrow what can be done to-night,” replied Rob
virtuously. “You just turn your little face away from the light and
compose yourself for slumber, Evan.”

“Oh, thunder, I can’t go to sleep with that light shining!”

“Bet you you’ll be snoring inside of ten minutes.”

“Bet you I won’t. Besides, I don’t snore. You do the snoring for this
establishment, you human calliope.”

“No one ever called me that before,” said Rob sadly. “Really, Evan, I
don’t believe that I snore. I think you dream it.”

“Oh, you do, eh?” muttered Evan as he turned over. “I just wish you had
to listen to yourself sometimes!”

Rob won his wager, for Evan, if he didn’t actually snore, at least
proved conclusively within the designated time that he was sound
asleep. Half an hour later he opened his eyes during a wakeful moment
and saw Rob still at work on the cigar-box. How late he labored with it
Evan never knew, but in the morning it was finished. Evan saw it the
first thing after getting up, read the inscription and howled loudly
and gleefully, but not loud enough to awake Rob who was still sleeping
the sleep of one who has kept late hours.



CHAPTER XV

THE CONTRIBUTION-BOX


When the fellows came out from chapel the contribution-box adorned the
top of the radiator under the notice board in the corridor of Academy
Hall. It was neatly covered with pink paper, there was a slot in the
cover and these words in large black letters explained its purpose:

                         AID FOR THE HELPLESS!
                    DROP YOUR PENNIES HERE FOR THE
                            FOOTBALL TEAM!

The joke won instant approval and penny after penny went through the
slot. The School was vastly amused and the contribution-box remained
on the radiator until the middle of the forenoon, at which time Edgar
Prentiss, having heard of it, descended upon it in wrath and kicked it
across the corridor, wrecking it completely and strewing the floor
with coppers which were ultimately recovered by some of the younger
boys, for whom they undoubtedly did as much good as they would have
done the football team. Rob never acknowledged himself to have been
the perpetrator of the joke, and Evan never told, but for some reason
suspicion attached itself to him, and Hopkins and Prentiss, neither of
whom had loved him very well before, found new grounds for dislike.
Prentiss even made public display of his resentment.

Rob was standing on the steps of Academy after dinner with Malcolm and
Wright when Prentiss came along. They all nodded to him and Prentiss
responded, but as he reached the door he turned back and addressed Rob.

“Say, Langton, you think you’re smart, don’t you?” he sneered.

Rob looked at once surprised and pained.

“I do? Why do you say thus?”

“Putting that fool box in there. If you don’t want the school to have a
foot-ball team that’s your affair, I suppose. But you might act like a
gentleman and not try to ridicule the team.”

“Do you suspect me of that?” asked Rob sorrowfully.

“I don’t suspect; I know,” responded Prentiss warmly. “Any one would
think you were a prep, doing such fool stunts as that!”

“I don’t see what you’re mad about, though,” said Rob innocently. “I’ll
bet there was as much as sixty cents in that box.”

“I’ll bet you didn’t give any of it, then!” Prentiss sneered.

“You wrong me. I gave a whole bright, new penny.”

“That’s more than you gave at the meeting last night.”

“I didn’t have a penny with me then,” answered Rob sweetly. “If I had
I’d have given it, really and truly. I don’t see how you can expect
fellows to give money if you scatter it around the floor the way you
did this morning. Why, there was enough in that contribution-box to buy
half a dozen ice-cream sodas for the captain and manager!”

“Look here,” demanded Prentiss angrily, “do you mean to insinuate that
I spend the football funds on soda water?”

“Of course not. How could you when you keep a nice itemized account of
all expenditures? Let me see, you didn’t read the accounts last night,
did you?”

“I’m not required to; but if you mean to accuse me of stealing the
football money, Langton, you’d better come right out and say so.”

“He doesn’t,” interposed Wright soothingly. “He’s just talking, aren’t
you, Rob?”

“Am I? Just as you say. All right, then, Prentiss, I’m just talking.
It’s a habit I have.”

“You talk too much,” growled Prentiss wrathfully. “You’re a sore-head,
that’s what you are. You’re always trying to make trouble for Hop and
me. Just because you tried for the team last year and didn’t make it
you do nothing but knock. You make me tired.”

“That’s all right. You’re not the only one that’s tired. You’ll find
that there are a whole lot of others who are tired, too. Tired of
giving their money to a football team that never makes good from one
year to the next, tired of having you and Hopkins run the whole thing
yourselves. Oh, you’re not the only tired one, Prentiss!”

“I suppose you think you ought to manage it?”

“Well, I’m naturally modest,” drawled Rob, “but I have had suspicions
that way.” Prentiss laughed derisively.

“You’d make a dandy manager, you would. Maybe you’d like to be captain,
too?”

“Not of that team, thanks.”

“Is that so? Why, you don’t know the first thing about football, Lanky;
you’re a joke!” And Prentiss disappeared laughing hugely.

Rob smiled as he looked after him.

“What did you mean by that ice-cream soda remark?” asked Malcolm.

“Nothing much. Only last fall I was in Webster’s buying some
fountain-pen ink when Hop and Prentiss came in. They didn’t see me,
because I was at the back of the store and there was a wire rack filled
with sponges in front of me. ‘What will you have?’ asked Hopkins. ‘Oh,
ice-cream soda, I guess,’ Prentiss answered. ‘Might as well take the
best. It doesn’t come out of our pocket, Hop.’ And Hop laughed and said
he guessed that was about right; ‘Incidentals, eh, Ed?’ he asked. Oh,
of course, I don’t _know_ anything,” ended Rob dryly, “but I sort of
suspect!”

“Well, you made Prentiss mad, all right,” chuckled Mal.

“I thought he was going to light into you,” said Wright.

“Did you? I didn’t. I know him. He wouldn’t light into a flea!” Rob
smiled. “Say, why do you suppose he thinks I put that old box in there?”

“Well, didn’t you?” asked Wright. “Every one says you did.”

“How extremely absurd,” murmured Rob. “It was a cigar-box, and every
one knows I don’t smoke cigars. Let’s go in and take a fall out of
English. Mal, have you any idea what the lesson’s about? I quite forgot
to look at it last night. I――er――I was busy.”

There was much speculation as to what steps Hopkins and Prentiss would
take to secure the balance of the money needed for the team. Perhaps
I should say wanted instead of needed, for the consensus of opinion
was to the effect that eighty-odd dollars was quite as much as past
performances warranted. But curiosity was soon satisfied, for the next
morning, Saturday, the following notice appeared in Academy Hall:

    “_Contributions for Foot-Ball Team_

    “The Football Meeting held Thursday evening was poorly attended
    and the amount of money contributed toward the expenses of the
    Team is quite inadequate. The Management desires to announce to
    the School that unless more funds are placed at its disposal
    the Team will be severely handicapped at the outset of what
    promises to be a most successful season. Those who have not
    contributed are earnestly requested to do so at once to Edgar
    Prentiss, Manager. Below is a list of students’ names arranged
    alphabetically by Classes, the names of those who have already
    contributed being crossed off with red ink. If the Management
    has failed to give credit in any case the omission will be
    rectified if brought to its attention. The names of future
    contributors will be scored off on the list.

    “FRANK HOPKINS, _Captain_.

    “EDGAR PRENTISS, _Manager_.”

Then followed the list of names, and that list caused not a little
commotion all day, for there were numerous cases where fellows had
given cash at the meeting and had not been credited, since Hopkins and
Prentiss, aided by the four fellows who had passed the hats, had been
forced to substitute knowledge with surmise pretty frequently. That
notice witnessed many scenes of indignation.

“Well, what do you think of that?” some youth would ejaculate after
finding his name. “I gave two dollars to their punk old football team
and now they say I didn’t give a red! Where’s that chap Prentiss? I’ll
tell him what I think of him, you bet!”

And the indignant one would hurry away in search of the manager and
vindication.

The appeal landed a few more contributions, but was, on the whole, a
failure. Rob inveighed eloquently against it at the dinner-table that
noon.

“It’s a bare-faced attempt at intimidation and extortion,” he declared.

“Those are dandy words, Rob,” said Pierce.

“It’s――it’s blackmail, that’s what it is! If you don’t give money you
are publicly posted as mean-spirited and miserly and unpatriotic.
No one is bound to contribute to athletics of any sort, and that’s
understood. Lots of fellows can’t give money to the football team and
that list over there in Academy will show that they haven’t given and
they’ll either be shamed into doing what they can’t afford to or will
know that other chaps are despising them for being mean.”

“Oh, nonsense, Rob,” Wright protested, “it isn’t as bad as that. I’ll
acknowledge that they haven’t any business doing a stunt of that sort,
but every fellow takes it as a sort of joke; just as they’re beginning
to take Hop and Prentiss and the team, too. I wouldn’t care a rap
whether my name had a red line through it or not.”

“Maybe you wouldn’t, but there are plenty who would; young fellows
in the prep class, for instance. Lots of them don’t have more than
a quarter of a dollar a week for pocket-money and to ask them to
contribute to the football team is rank foolishness. There’s one name
on that list that hasn’t got a red line through it, though, and it
won’t have; and that’s the name of Robert Langton, Esquire.”

“Langton, you’re a dandy hater, aren’t you?” said Peterson with a laugh.

“I wasn’t going to give anything,” said Jelly, “but every one was
looking, and so――”

“You conceited little fat rascal!” exclaimed Wright. “Why, I don’t
suppose any one knew you were in the hall!”

“That’s all right,” answered Jelly imperturbably. “Anyway, I gave them
a dollar and I wish I hadn’t.”

“Isn’t it worth that to keep your place on the Second?” asked Rob.
“You know very well, Jelly, you’d get fired if you didn’t pay up. I’m
not sure that, as a member of the Second Team, you shouldn’t have given
a good deal more than a dollar.”

“I’ll give them another dollar when Gus Devens puts me in the first
line-up,” said Jelly shrewdly. “One’s enough for a substitute, though.”
The others laughed.

“For my part,” said Wright, “I feel rather sorry for Hop. He really
wants to win this year and I dare say he’s doing the best he knows how,
although it may not be a very good best. Seems to me we ought to give
him enough money to go ahead with.”

“Rot! They’ve got enough now!” Rob helped himself to another potato.
“It doesn’t need new jerseys and sweaters to win from Adams; it needs
football sense. And that’s something neither Hop nor Prentiss has got.
Why, I’d be willing to wager anything I’ve got that Mountfort will make
our team look like a set of cripples this afternoon.”

“Mountfort? Nonsense!” jeered Peterson. “Why, Mountfort’s only a high
school!”

“All right; you wait and see. As you say, Mountfort’s only a high
school and consequently we ought to beat her by two or three scores;
isn’t that so?”

“Well, two scores, maybe,” hedged Peterson. “After all, Langton, it’s
pretty early yet and we haven’t got under way.”

“It’s early for Mountfort, too, isn’t it? But we’ll say two scores,
then, Peterson. Now I’ll tell you what I’ll do. If Riverport wins from
Mountfort this afternoon by a margin of two scores――no, by Jove, by
_one_ score!――neither Jelly nor I will eat any supper to-night!”

“_What!_” shrieked Jelly in alarm. “You speak for yourself, Rob. I’m
not coming in on any silly arrangement like that. I need my supper.”

“Oh, be a sport, Jelly,” Evan laughed. “What do you care about supper
if we win?”

“We won’t win,” answered Jelly. “Pass the gravy, please.”

“Then you’re safe, aren’t you? I mean your supper’s safe.”

“I don’t believe in taking risks,” replied Jelly with a wise shake of
his head.

“Well, if Jelly throws me down,” said Rob smilingly, “I’ll go it alone.”

“Never be it said that I deserted you in your hour of need, Rob,” Evan
declared. “I will starve with you.”

“Look here, though, you two,” said Pierce. “No crackers and jam and
stuff in your room afterwards.”

“We haven’t any,” laughed Evan. “The only thing we might eat is some of
Rob’s nails and screws and such. No, this is straight, isn’t it, Rob?”

“Absolutely! If Hop’s team wins from Mountfort this afternoon Evan and
I go supperless.”

“Well, I call that a sporting proposition,” said Peterson admiringly.
“Much as I’d hate to have you go without supper, Rob, I must say I’d
like our team to win.”

“It hasn’t a show to win,” said Rob confidently. “Why, my dear,
misguided friend, our team hasn’t shown a single flash of football yet.”

“Well, we’ll see later,” responded Peterson, pushing back his chair.
“That’s right, Jelly, eat all you can now, for you’re not likely to get
anything more to-day.”

“Me?” sputtered Jelly. “I tell you I’m not in that bargain! I refuse to
have anything to do with it! I don’t have to, do I, Rob?”

“No, you may eat as much as usual, Jelly, no matter what may be the
fortunes of war. And just think, Jelly! If Evan and I do lose you’ll
have two other suppers to eat!”

“Say, may I have your preserves, Rob?” asked Jelly eagerly. “May I have
yours, Evan?”

“Yes,” Rob replied laughingly, “but I wouldn’t count on it, Jelly. I
rather fancy we’ll need our suppers ourselves.”

Faculty agreed with Rob in his judgment of the foot-ball notice and it
disappeared that afternoon. Mr. Holt, the school secretary, stopped and
read it on his way through the corridor to dinner and later brought it
to the attention of Doctor Farren.

“That,” said the Doctor, “scarcely agrees with the principles of the
school, Holt. It savors too much of compulsion. Kindly remove it and
return it to Prentiss with an explanation. It seems to me,” he added
musingly, “that athletics are growing more expensive every year. I
don’t recall that in my day we required any such sums to run our teams.
And, as I recollect, Holt, we won just about as often as we do now.”

“Quite possible,” answered the secretary cynically.



CHAPTER XVI

ROB PLAYS A TRUMP


Mountfort came along that afternoon with a big, well-drilled confident
team. Hopkins put his best line-up against it. But his best wasn’t
nearly good enough. That fact was evident almost from the kick-off,
when Riverport, having won the toss, chose its goal and gave the ball
to Mountfort.

There was a long high punt and Mountfort came charging down under it
so swiftly and earnestly that Miller, who had caught the ball on his
twelve yards, was downed almost before he could take a step. Miller
tried the center of the Mountfort line and made little impression. A
split play, with the ball going through left tackle, netted four yards.
Then Law dropped back for a kick. The defence crumpled like paper and
the best he could do was to fall on the ball for a safety, scoring 2
for Mountfort. After that it was nip and tuck for a while, with the
play ranging inside the thirty-five yard-lines and neither side getting
near enough to make a score look imminent.

Each team was weaker on defence than on offence, but Mountfort had the
better of her adversary here as in all other departments of the game.
Toward the end of the first half Miller tried an open game and got off
one forward pass that netted twenty yards and an on-side kick that was
recovered on the latter’s fifteen yard-line. The audience, comprised
almost entirely of Riverport sympathizers, demanded a touchdown and the
team tried its best to oblige. But two downs only brought eight yards
and the third lost the ball, Mountfort solving the play――a straight
plunge at center, before it was well under way.

Mountfort punted to the center of the field and her fast ends brought
down their man without trouble. A minute later time was called and the
first half ended with Mountfort in the lead, 2 points to 0. Riverport,
however, was not dismayed. She meant to go in in the last period
and win the game. And every one in the local camp expected her to.
Mountfort hadn’t showed anything but the straightest kind of straight
football and if Riverport could hold her as she had done in the first
half――barring the moment when that kick had been spoiled――there was no
good reason, or so it seemed, why Riverport should not at least score
something better than a miserable 2. But you never can tell what will
happen in a second half.

It was Riverport’s kick-off and Law sent a beauty down the field.
A Mountfort back took it and started across toward the side-line.
Riverport swung toward him. The back passed to another back and the
latter streaked up the opposite side of the field with the ball cosily
snuggled under his arm. It was an old trick, but it caught Riverport
napping. The runner had almost a clear field before the ruse was
discovered. Reid, right tackle, made a dive for him and missed, and
only Miller stood between him and a touchdown. Behind him raced friend
and foe alike, but he had little to fear from the rear. Miller made a
desperate effort to edge him toward the side-line, failed and made a
leap at him. The runner dodged, whirled, shook off Miller’s grasp and
romped between the uprights for a touch-down. The Mountfort captain
kicked an easy goal and the score stood 8 to 0.

After that Mountfort took chances and opened up a bag of tricks that
utterly confused and overwhelmed her adversary. There were forward
passes galore; short ones, long ones, expected ones, unexpected
ones; forward passes from close formation, forward passes from kick
formation; forward passes at the most unlikely times. And they worked
time and again, worked because Riverport had not been taught a proper
defence against them, because she was bewildered and confused and
because, saddest thing of all, she was tired and played out almost to
a man. Hopkins replaced man after man, and Grove took Miller’s place
and tried heroically to bring order out of chaos. But the Mountfort
quarter gave Riverport no time to recover herself. He worked his team
faster and faster until in the last five minutes of play such speed had
never been seen in the second half of a contest on Riverport Field. And
Riverport, out-played and out-generalled, weary, sore and dazed, went
down in defeat to the final overwhelming score of 25 to 0!

[Illustration: “IT WAS A SILENT AND VERY DISGUSTED THRONG OF
SPECTATORS.”]

It was a silent and very disgusted throng of spectators that straggled
back up the slope to the school. They were much too surprised as yet
to talk. The talk came later, in dining-hall at supper-time, in the
rooms afterwards. The consensus of opinion was that the Riverport
School Football Team was “pretty punk.” Not a lovely phrase that, but
it was very generally used and seemed to satisfy the requirements of
the occasion. Of course there were all sorts of theories advanced
to account for the day’s Waterloo, and fellows who didn’t know a
touch-back from a nose-guard explained the whole trouble beautifully.
In 32 Holden there was little discussion for the reason that Rob
wouldn’t discuss, while Malcolm, as he had never played football,
modestly refrained from offering opinions. All Rob would say, and he
said it in an exasperatingly mysterious manner, was:

“Wait! The hour is at hand!”

With Malcolm’s assistance, Evan got Rob down on his bed and buried him
under pillows――and then sat on the pillows. But all his reward was a
stifled: “Wait! The hour is at hand!”

The school was pretty well disgusted with the football situation, and
the disgust increased when on the following Monday the Second Team tore
up the First and scored a touch-down and a field-goal. Certainly the
fact that the First’s line-up contained five substitutes had something
to do with the Second’s easy conquest, but didn’t account for it
entirely. The fact is that the First Team was suffering from something
very much like nervous prostration. On Tuesday the feeling against
the team was manifested on the field. Some forty boys marched down
in procession and shouted derisive, unkind remarks during practice.
Hopkins came in for more attention than he relished, while Prentiss
lost his temper on several occasions. The Second held the First to
a no-score tie throughout the two periods of scrimmaging, in spite
of the fact that the First had all its best players back. Whenever
the Second gained a yard the audience cheered wildly; when the First
gained it was accorded hoots of derision. Nothing of the sort had
ever happened before at Riverport and the school that evening was
in a state of unwonted excitement. There was talk of a mass-meeting
to protest against the present conduct of football affairs, but the
project fell through because none of the upper class fellows would
consent to issue the call. They took the stand that while the situation
was pretty discouraging it was the school’s duty to stand by the team,
that only harm could result from embarrassing the management. So the
mass-meeting degenerated into a procession which marched through the
yard at nine o’clock carrying placards and hooting derisively. One
of the placards read: “We Want a Football Team”; another, “Riverport
0, Mountfort, 25”; another, “Try Jamaica Ginger”; another, “Wanted,
A Nurse. Apply to Manager R. S. F. A.” After circling the yard the
procession marched around to the rear of Holden and serenaded Hopkins
and Prentiss. I use the word serenaded for want of a better; music
is music even if it contains discords. Then there were “three long
groans for the eleven!” given with a will, and demands for a speech by
Prentiss. The latter made the mistake of losing his temper and emptied
a pitcher of water from the window. As the serenaders were momentarily
expecting some such delicate attention no one was dampened. Neither
was their ardor. The concert, which had been on the point of ending,
took a new lease of life and continued until faculty took a hand and
threatened trouble for the disturbers.

Neither Evan nor Rob took part in the demonstration, while as for
Malcolm he studied calmly through it all. Rob had been hand and glove
with the ring-leaders earlier in the evening and had himself decorated
the placards carried in the procession, but for some reason known only
to himself he had refrained from joining the parade. When Evan dropped
off to sleep that night Rob was writing busily at the table, and
although Evan didn’t know what he was up to he was fairly certain from
the concentration displayed that it had nothing to do with studies. And
Evan was right. The result of Rob’s labor appeared on the notice board
in Academy Hall the next morning.

    “A Meeting will be held this evening at 7:15 in 8 First House
    to consider the formation of an Independent Foot-ball Eleven.
    All are asked to attend, whether players or not.

    “HOWARD WELLINGTON.

    “ROBERT LANGTON.”



CHAPTER XVII

THE INDEPENDENTS ORGANIZE


Howard Wellington was a senior, a quiet fellow, much respected by the
rest of the school, with a positive passion for reforming things.
Rob was well aware of this passion and had counted on it to secure
Wellington’s coöperation in his plan. And Wellington had not failed
him. Rob had a persuasive tongue and it hadn’t been difficult for him
to convince Wellington that if anything ever needed reformation it
was the foot-ball situation at Riverport School. Wellington had held
off at first, viewing Rob’s scheme as merely a revolt on the part of
disappointed foot-ball candidates, but Rob had soon persuaded him that
the movement was purely patriotic and Wellington had enthusiastically
pledged himself to the cause.

The announcement on the notice-board created a deal of excitement
and discussion and both Wellington and Rob were kept busy parrying
questions. All either would say was: “Come to the meeting and find
out.” So they came to the meeting. The rooms in First House are fairly
good-sized, but none of them will hold a hundred-odd boys, and so by a
quarter past seven the audience was overflowing through the door into
the corridor. Neither Hopkins nor Prentiss was there, but they were
represented by two of their ablest lieutenants, Carter and Law. Besides
these there were at least a half-dozen of the First Team present,
probably out of mere curiosity. The Second Team was much better
represented. In fact, Riverport School, with the exceptions already
indicated and save for the absence of a handful of older fellows who
looked on the thing as utter nonsense, was on hand when Wellington,
jammed tightly against the window-ledge, called the meeting to order.

“Fellows,” he announced, “for some time, in fact for something over
a year, there has been a general feeling of dissatisfaction over the
condition of athletics here at Riverport.” (Loud applause greeted
this.) “I’m not prepared to say where the trouble lies, but there is
trouble.” (“There’s going to be more!” cried an irrepressible prep.)
“We have not won, either in base-ball, rowing, hockey or foot-ball,
a fair proportion of our contests. Just at present football is
the――er――dominant issue, and we will confine our attention to that.
Last year out of nine games played we won――” he referred to a paper
here――“we won five. The five, however, were all early games with weaker
teams. Of the remaining games we tied one and lost three, among them
that with our chief rival, Adams Academy. This year we have so far
played only three games, but the showing of our team has not been
satisfactory. I think most of us agree to that.” (“You bet we do!”
shouted a voice, and there was much laughter and applause.) “Langton,
who will speak to you next, has something to say as to the reasons for
our ill-success. Meanwhile I think I have said enough to show you that
there is sufficient reason for this meeting.”

“Fellows,” said Rob, when the meeting had quieted down again, “I can’t
talk like Wellington. He’s got me beat. But what I want to say is this.
You know and I know that for the last two or three years the foot-ball
teams we’ve turned out haven’t represented――haven’t――hang it, they
haven’t been the best teams we could turn out, not by a long shot! And
I challenge any one to deny it. Adams has beaten us four games out of
five in the last five years, and she will do it again this year. That
isn’t right, and it isn’t necessary. Now is it?”

“No!”

“You bet it isn’t! Why, we’ve got plenty of good material here
at Riverport, just as good, every bit as good, as Adams has. But
something’s wrong. Wellington said I was going to give my opinions
as to what the matter is. Well, I’m not. I’ve got them, all right,
but this meeting isn’t called to find out what the trouble with the
foot-ball team is. It’s called to decide whether it won’t be a good
idea to have an independent eleven that shall be representative of the
school――to form an association for that purpose. I don’t want you to
think I’m trying to be the whole thing here to-night, but I’ve been
kind of thinking it out and if you don’t mind I’ll tell you my ideas.
Then you can say what you think of them.”

“Go ahead!”

“You’re all right, Lanky!”

“Let’s hear them!”

“Well, now suppose we form an association to be called the Independent
Football Association. We elect officers. Then we issue a call for
candidates for a football team and appoint a temporary captain――”

“I suppose that’ll be you, what!” called Carter.

“Cut it out, Carter!”

“Dry up or get out!”

“It’ll be me if you want me,” responded Rob good-naturedly, “but I
guess you can find some one a lot better. We want a manager, too. Once
we’ve got going the manager will make some dates for us. It isn’t too
late to get in, say, four or five games with other schools. There’ll be
no favoritism――”

He was interrupted by loud and prolonged applause.

“And every fellow who comes out for the team will get a fair show.
We’ll make the team up of the best players we can find, no matter
whether they’re personally known to the captain or man――”

But Rob didn’t get any further, being drowned out by the howl of
laughter which arose.

“We’ll have a coach, too. I know a fellow who will come up here for a
month and be glad to do it and not charge a cent beyond his board. And
he knows football, too, a whole lot more than any of the rest of us
ever will know. I’ll tell you who he is when the time comes. We’ve been
to see Doctor Farren and he says we can go ahead. And we’ve consulted
Tom――I mean Mr. Osgood――and he thinks the idea is a good one. We can
use the scrub gridiron for practice and when the School Team goes away
to play we can use theirs. I don’t say we can turn out a finished team
this fall, because it’s already the tenth of October, but we can have
some mighty good sport and perhaps next year we’ll be able to give
the School Team something to think about. Now, then, what do you say,
fellows?”

The project took the meeting by storm and confusion reigned supreme.
But the sense of the meeting was evident, and Rob shot a satisfied
glance toward Evan and Malcolm as he edged back to his seat on the
window-ledge. Joe Law demanded recognition and finally got it. Joe was
indignant and declared that he had never before witnessed the appalling
spectacle of a school deliberately deserting its foot-ball team. Joe
waxed eloquent and a good many foot-ball fellows present applauded.

“What happened the other day?” he demanded. “Why, a lot of you chumps
stood down there on the field and hooted us. That’s no way to do!
What if we did get licked badly by Mountfort? That game wasn’t an
important one. Why don’t you stand by us and help us find our pace and
knock spots out of Adams? What good is it going to do to go and get up
another team? What will the other schools think of us? They’ll think
we’re a lot of――of――”

“Who wrote your speech, Law?” piped up a voice that sounded like Mr.
George Washington Jell’s; “Hopkins or Prentiss?”

“I’m not trying to make a speech,” cried Joe exasperatedly above the
laughter. “I’m just trying to show you fellows what a lot of idiots
you’re trying to be. Why, you can’t get up a foot-ball team, anyway!
There aren’t eleven fellows to be had!”

“We can get up a better team than the First with six fellows,” growled
Harry Pierce. Wellington interfered.

“I think we’d better get back to business,” he said. “Is it the wish of
the meeting that the plan outlined by Langton be proceeded with?”

“Sure thing!”

“Rah for Lanky!”

“Order! Order!”

“Then I suggest that you appoint a committee of, say, three fellows to
take charge for the present and draw up a plan of organization. And
since we haven’t any time to lose I think we had better meet again
to-morrow evening at the same time.”

“Meet somewhere where we can all get in,” demanded a voice from the
corridor.

“That’s so. Maybe we can get the use of the rowing-room in the gym.
The committee will post a notice in the forenoon and announce the
meeting-place. Now if you’ll nominate three fellows to――”

“Langton!” called a voice, and there was a general roar of approval.

“Wellington,” called some one else and again the choice was unanimous.

“Prentiss!” suggested some one from the depths of the crowd about
the doorway and received his reward of hoots and laughter. The third
member was finally found in Harry Pierce, and as it was by that time
close on eight o’clock, the meeting broke up. Rob remained behind
with Wellington and Pierce and the three arranged to get together in
Pierce’s room after study-hour. Evan and Malcolm walked back to Holden
with Rob.

“Well, so far so good,” said Rob with satisfaction. “I knew it would
go all right, though, as soon as Wellington agreed to take a hand. The
fellows think anything he goes in for is all to the good. At this rate
we ought to have our first practice the day after to-morrow.”

“But can we get enough fellows to make a team?” asked Evan doubtfully.

“Enough for two teams,” replied Rob. “You wait and see.”

The next evening there was a second meeting in the gymnasium and the
Independent Football Association came into existence. Wellington
was elected president, Malcolm Warne secretary and manager, Pierce
treasurer and Rob temporary captain. It was voted to collect an
entrance-fee of fifty cents from each member, the proceeds to be used
in the interests of the team. Fifty-four fellows joined at the meeting.
Mr. Osgood, the physical director, popularly known as Tommy, made a
speech and was duly elected to honorary membership. Tommy said he was
pleased to see such an interest in outdoor sports as appeared to be
developing at Riverport. He believed in athletics of all sorts and was
of the opinion that fifteen minutes of work on the turf or cinder track
was better than an hour in the gymnasium. Of course he cautioned them
against giving too much attention to foot-ball to the exclusion of
study.

“The trouble is, I have found, that too many of you carry foot-ball
and base-ball and rowing into the class-rooms with you. There’s a time
for everything and a place for everything. Athletics belong on the
field and when you leave the field you ought to leave athletics too. Of
course I don’t expect you to dismiss foot-ball entirely from your minds
as soon as you’ve had your shower; that would be expecting too much;
but just see that when study time comes and when recitation time comes
you put foot-ball out of your thoughts and get down to work. The year
before last I had a student pass in a diagram of a foot-ball play in
place of a chemistry paper. That sort of thing doesn’t do.

“And now one thing more,” continued Mr. Osgood. “Doctor Farren has
given his consent to this project, but he isn’t convinced that it’s a
good thing. He fears that there’s going to be too much foot-ball around
here. So you understand that the project is on trial, fellows, and
that you must not overdo it. Have a good time and get all the exercise
you can out of it, but don’t let it interfere with your real duties.
That’s all, I guess, except that I want to remind all of you that go in
for the team that you must come to me and be examined.”

Mr. Osgood got his round of applause and then Rob was called on to tell
the meeting about the coach he had spoken of the evening before.

“His name is Duffield,” said Rob, “and he played with Brown last year
and the year before that. He graduated last June. Some of you may have
heard of him, although, as he was a tackle, he never got into the
papers much, I guess. He was a good player and he’s a good fellow and
knows a whole lot about the game. He lives in Providence and he can
come down every day and go home again; it would only take him forty
minutes on the train. He used to live in my town and I knew him when I
was a kid. All he wants in case he does come are his expenses, that is,
room and board and fares. As there are only about five weeks more of
the season he wouldn’t cost us much, I guess.”

Rob sat down and one after another half a dozen fellows had their
say. Two of them thought a coach unnecessary, but as a whole the
Association was heartily in favor of hiring Mr. Duffield. Finally the
manager and captain were empowered to enter into negotiations with him
and secure his services if in their judgment the Association could
afford them. It was decided that fellows who made the team were to
supply their own uniforms and that gray shirts and sweaters with the
letters R. I. in green, signifying Riverport Independents, should
be worn. The manager was instructed to arrange for as many games as
possible for the remaining Wednesday and Saturday afternoons.

“I think,” said Pierce, “that as we won’t have much money after we’ve
bought footballs and paid the coach it would be well to arrange games
only with teams that are willing to come here and play. Because I don’t
see how we can pay car fares to visit other schools.”

“We might have one game away from school,” suggested Malcolm, “if it
wasn’t too far and the fellows could pay their own expenses.”

[Illustration: “‘IF WE DON’T MAKE HOP AND PRENTISS SIT UP AND TAKE
NOTICE BEFORE THE SEASON’S OVER, I’LL EAT MY HAT!’”]

This produced a laugh, but it won applause as well, and Rob got the
floor and declared that for his part he was willing to pay his expenses
and those of one other fellow in a case of that sort. So it was decided
that Malcolm was to induce teams to visit Riverport when possible and
when not possible to make dates with them anyhow. Candidates were
called for the following afternoon at four o’clock and the meeting
adjourned subject to the call of the president, with every one feeling
very well satisfied.

“And now,” declared Rob on his way back to his room, “if we can get
Walter Duffield we’re all right. And if we don’t make Hop and Prentiss
sit up and take notice before the season’s over I’ll eat my hat!”



CHAPTER XVIII

DUFFIELD TAKES HOLD


“Talk about Falstaff’s army!” exclaimed Malcolm to Evan the next
afternoon. “Did you ever see such an assortment?”

And Evan, rubbing his injured ankle reflectively and wondering whether
it would stand an afternoon’s work, had to acknowledge, as he looked
about him, that he never had. Practically every fellow who had joined
the Independent Foot-ball Association had reported for practice. About
half owned football togs and had donned them; the rest appeared in
their old clothes and sweaters. There were old boys and young boys,
big boys and little boys, tall boys and short boys, fat boys and
slim boys. But, big or little, fat or slim, each was dominated by a
splendid enthusiasm. Preparatory class youngsters shouldered their
way about looking mighty important in immaculately new togs, while on
the farthest edge of the group stood a thin, diffident senior who
had at last gathered courage to do what he had longed to do for three
years――try to be a football hero.

“Who’s the fat kid over there?” asked Malcolm. “It isn’t Jelly, is it?
I thought he was on the Second.”

“He is――or was,” Evan replied. “That’s Jelly, though. O Jelly!” And
when Mr. George Washington Jell had ambled across, grinning radiantly;
“What are you doing here with the insurgents?” Evan demanded. “You’re a
traitor or a spy, Jelly; which is it?”

“I’m a brand from the burning,” answered Jelly dramatically.

“Have you left the Second?” Malcolm asked.

“Sure! Think I’m going to stay there and work for Hopkins? Not much! I
handed in my resignation this morning to Gus.”

“What did he say?” asked Evan with a smile. Jelly’s round face
reflected the smile.

“I’d rather not tell you,” he said. “He tried to make out that I was
deserting him, but that’s nonsense, isn’t it? When you’re on the Second
you’re working for Hop and Prentiss. That’s why I quit.”

“The Second will never be the same without you,” said Evan, shaking his
head sorrowfully.

“Oh, you fade away,” answered Jelly. “Where’s Rob?”

“Somewhere about. There he is. I guess he’s looking for you, Mal.”

“Every one this way, please!” called Rob. “Get into line and give your
names to Warne. Got your book, Mal?”

Malcolm, with Rob at his elbow, passed down the lines, taking the
candidates’ names and entering them with particulars as to age, class
and experience in his red memorandum book. After each name was entered
Rob whispered “One,” “Two,” or “Three” into Malcolm’s ear and the
manager set down the fateful number opposite the entry. As fast as
a fellow gave his name he was sent into the field to make one of a
ring of candidates whose duty it was for the present to pass the ball
around. Afterwards the candidates were divided into three squads and
for the rest of the afternoon they practised the rudiments of the game.
Rob took the first squad himself, the second fell to Evan and the
third to a middle class fellow named Brimmer. Enthusiasm began to wane
among the inexperienced long before the hour was up. This was to be
expected, since passing and falling on the ball and sprinting soon grow
monotonous and tiresome. But every one stuck it out until, at shortly
after five, Rob let them go.

“Well, what do you think?” asked Rob when, later, the three friends
were skirting the School gridiron on their way back to Holden.

“I don’t know,” said Evan doubtfully. “I don’t think there were many
stars in my squad, while as for Brimmer, I thought he was going to
throw up the sponge once or twice.”

“Well, it’s too early to tell much yet,” said Rob. “There’s some good
material in my squad, though.”

“I don’t think it will be hard to get eleven fellows out of the lot,”
said Malcolm. “Of course, I don’t know much about football, but I saw a
good many chaps who seemed to know what to do and how to do it.”

“That’s right. I could pick a dozen to-morrow quite as good as the
Second Team men. You wait until we’ve had a week’s practice, Evan, and
you’ll feel more cheerful.”

“Oh, I’m cheerful enough. After all, we’re doing it for the fun of the
thing.”

“H’m, yes, I suppose so,” answered Rob. “But――well, I’ve got more in
view than just fun. I’m going to teach Hopkins and Prentiss a lesson;
the whole school, too, for that matter. I’m going to show folks that if
you want a good football team or a good base-ball team you’ve got to
give every fellow a chance and not run the show for the benefit of a
few of your particular chums.”

“How about that coach?” asked Evan.

“Coming. I got him on the telephone this afternoon. He isn’t going
to cost us a cent, either. He says he’s just bought an automobile――a
runabout――and he will come over every afternoon. Says it will only take
him about thirty minutes and he’d rather do that than live over here. I
told him all about it, just what we were trying to do, and he thought
it was a great joke and says he will fix us so we can knock spots out
of the School Team! I’m afraid he won’t be so cheerful when he sees the
material, but――well, never mind. I have hopes, fellows, that before
long we’ll get some of the Second Team chaps.”

“Gee, that would leave the First in a bit of a hole, wouldn’t it?”
murmured Evan.

“Serves them right,” said Malcolm.

“Of course before that we’ve got to show the making of a pretty good
team,” went on Rob thoughtfully. “And the question is, can we do it?
We’re going to be pretty light, I guess, and so we’ll have to make up
for that in speed. Walt Duffield is the chap to show us how, though, I
can tell you that!”

“We’ve already got one Second Team fellow,” laughed Malcolm as they
climbed the stairs. “You saw that Jelly had joined our forces, I
suppose?”

“Yes. He was in your squad, wasn’t he, Evan? How does he show up?”

“He’s frightfully willing, he knows some football and he’s got weight,”
answered Evan. “But he’s as slow as an ice-wagon. If we can knock some
speed into him I dare say he’d make a fair guard.”

“My idea exactly,” said Rob. “And that chap Brimmer is another good
one. He ought to fit in at end. Then you’ll play quarter and I’ll have
a try for half. There’s four positions filled. For center there’s
Morse――or maybe Shaler. They both look fairly good. And we’ve got
another good end in Powers. However, we’ll leave it all to Duffield. If
we’re going to make this thing go we’ve got to give him full swing and
do just as he says.”

“When is he coming over?” asked Malcolm.

“Monday. Come on in and let’s look over your list, Mal; there’s half an
hour to supper yet. By the way, Evan, remind me to get Pierce up here
this evening, will you? We’ve got to get the fellows to pay their money
into the exchequer before we begin cutting down the candidates. There’s
going to be a howl from some of them when they find they’re not going
to get on the team, and they might want to keep their half-dollars. And
that wouldn’t do, for we need the money, my friends. We’ll have to have
that scrub gridiron marked out, Mal; we can’t play without the lines.
We’ll talk about that later. By the way, have you written for any games
yet?”

“I’m going to do that to-night,” answered Malcolm, “and I wanted to ask
you where I’d better write.”

“We’ll go over that, then, after study. Now let’s see those names. Pull
up a chair. Evan, turn on the juice like a good chap. It certainly is
getting late early these days!”

On Saturday the School Team journeyed to Providence to play Bannard
and the Independents used their gridiron while Malcolm and a dozen
helpers marked off the scrub field with whitewash brushes and pails of
lime. There was a little signal work that day for the more advanced
candidates, Evan handling the first squad and a middle class youth
named Rogers playing quarter for the second. The work was decidedly
encouraging, although somewhat ragged. The Second Team, with nothing
to do, watched from the side-lines and had their fun, but it was
all good-natured. Gus Devens told Rob that he was doing wonders and
declared that he wouldn’t have thought it possible to find eleven
players as good as those in the first squad.

“Oh, we haven’t started yet,” answered Rob quietly. “Our coach comes
Monday and after that things will take a brace. One thing we need, Gus,
is a good guard. You’d better think it over.”

Devens stared.

“Meaning me? I’d look nice, wouldn’t I, throwing up my place and
leaving the Second in the lurch in the middle of the season? You must
be dippy, Rob.”

“N――no, I don’t think so. I guess they’d find some one else to take
your place. You’ve been trying for the First for three years and you’ve
got as far as captain of the Second. Maybe, if you stay where you are,
they’ll take you on the First next year as a sub. Depends who falls
heir to the captaincy, I suppose. You come over here and you can have a
guard position and next year――”

“What about next year?” asked Gus curiously.

“You won’t tell?”

“No.”

“Next year, then, you’ll find yourself on the First.”

“How do you mean?”

“I mean that this will be the First next year, of course.”

“Oh, you’re crazy, Rob. How do you figure that out?”

“Never mind how I figure it out, Gus. I’m right. You wait and see. The
school’s back of this team, my friend, and the school’s bigger than
Frank Hopkins and Ed Prentiss. Think it over.”

“Even so,” answered Gus, “I’m not the sort to quit my job now when
having a good Second Team may mean winning the big game, and you know
it, Rob.”

“Yes, but let me tell you right now that two Second Teams can’t make
Hop’s outfit win from Adams; and _you_ know _that_!”

[Illustration: “‘NOW THEN, YOU FELLOWS――I’M HERE TO SHOW YOU WHAT I
KNOW ABOUT FOOT-BALL, AND YOU’RE HERE TO LEARN’”]

“Well, it’s my duty to stay where I am.”

“All right. As long as you think that, Gus, you stay. When you change
your mind, though, you mosey over to the other gridiron and we’ll look
after you.”

The School Team came home that evening with its third victory, having
managed to win from Bannard with a score of 6 to 0. But the victory
had cost something, for Tom Reid, left tackle and one of the strongest
units of the line, had broken his collar-bone and would be out of the
game for two weeks at least.

On Monday, which fell very close to the middle of October, Walter
Duffield made his appearance at Riverport. Those who had expected a
large, stern-visaged individual were disappointed, for the former
Brown tackle was not over five feet nine inches in height and weighed
under a hundred and sixty. He was twenty-three years old, but didn’t
look it. He had a smiling, alert face, curly brown hair, a pair of
quiet brown eyes and a somewhat thin voice. He began proceedings by
giving the candidates a talk on the grandstand, away from any possible
eavesdropping on the part of the Regulars, as the Independents had
grown to call the members of the First and Second Teams.

“Now then, you fellows,” said Duffield, “I’m here to show you what I
know about foot-ball and you’re here to learn. That means that I say and
you do. Any one who doesn’t like that wants to run along right now. I’m
going to be It around here for the next month or so. You all understand
that? All right. Now then, find your squads and let me see you handle
the ball. Here, you fat boy, whatever your name is――What is it, by the
way?”

“Jell.”

“Well, Jell, you want to move faster than that or you’ll go to sleep.
Let’s see you run. That’s it! We’ll make a sprinter of you yet. Where’s
your manager, Langton? How are you, Warne? Glad to know you. You stick
with me this afternoon, please. I’ll want to ask a lot of questions
probably. Is that your Varsity Team over there?”

“Yes, School Team we call it, sir.”

“What’s the matter with them? Are they walking in their sleep? My, but
I’d like to be that quarter for a minute! All right. Now let’s have a
look at our own collection of wonders.”



CHAPTER XIX

DEVENS AGREES


For the first few days the Regulars regarded the doings of the
Independents with amused curiosity. When Walter Duffield appeared on
the scene curiosity continued but was richly leavened with resentment.
The idea of those fellows having the services of a real coach while
they had to get along as best they might with Hopkins, who, after all,
knew no more football than many of the rest of them! The idea of the
school turning its back on the regular team and lending its aid and
support to a lot of renegades! It was disgusting and annoying. The
Regulars said a good many hard things about the Independents those
days, and there was more than one challenge given and accepted and
more than one battle fought out down at the boat-house, which was the
accepted place for the settlement of affairs of honor.

Frank Hopkins’ attitude had so far been one of amused tolerance.
Prentiss, on the contrary, had let his chagrin get the better of his
temper many times, and Rob and the others had heard at second or third
hand many an unpleasant remark which had emanated from the manager of
the School Team. So far, however, Rob had avoided controversy with
either of them, although he and Joe Law had their arguments at almost
every meal. On the Wednesday following the arrival of Duffield Rob
encountered Edgar Prentiss in the corridor of Academy Hall. Rob was for
passing on with a nod, but Prentiss stopped him.

“How’s the team getting on, Lanky?” he asked with an unpleasant smile.
Rob didn’t mind being called Lanky by fellows he liked, but resented it
from Prentiss. So he answered rather shortly.

“All right.”

“Hear you’ve got a coach,” pursued the other.

“Yes.”

“Got about everything but players, haven’t you?”

“We’ve got those, too, Prentiss. If you don’t believe it bring your
team over some afternoon for practice. You’ll get it.”

Prentiss pretended to think that a pretty good joke and laughed loudly.
Rob kept his temper, although it wasn’t easy.

“Want a game, eh?” asked Prentiss. “I dare say. Well, we’ve got too
much to do, Langton; like to oblige you, but we’re busy.”

“You bet you’ve got too much to do,” answered Rob with enthusiasm. “If
you’re going to make a football team out of that aggregation of loafers
you’ve got a whole lot to do. We don’t want to play you; get that out
of your head; we’ve got all the dates we can fill; only, if you really
want to learn a little about the game you see Warne and if we have an
open date we’ll take you on. So long.”

On the steps Rob came across another Regular in the person of Gus
Devens. “Hello, Gus,” he said. “Say, I was wrong the other day, wasn’t
I?”

“I dare say you were, Rob, only I don’t recall the particular occasion.”

“When I said you wouldn’t make the First Team. I suppose it spoils our
chances of getting you to come over to us, but I’m glad of your luck.
You deserve it, Gus; you’ve tried long enough.”

Gus looked puzzled and a trifle uneasy, as though he suspected Rob’s
sincerity.

“What are you yawping about, Rob?” he asked.

“Why,” answered Rob, looking surprised, “about you making the First
Team, of course.”

“Who said I’d made it?” asked Gus glumly.

“Why――why, I don’t know. Maybe I just naturally jumped to the
conclusion. I knew that Tom Reid was out and, of course, you were the
best man for the place. So I supposed――”

“Yes, you did!” Gus growled. “You needn’t rub it in.”

“Rub it in?” exclaimed Rob with a fine show of innocence. “Do you mean
that Hop didn’t take you to the First?”

“Not that I’ve heard of. He moved Ward over from right and put Little
in Ward’s place. I guess he knows his business, but I’m blamed if I
don’t think he might have given me a show, Rob.”

“Rather!” exclaimed Rob warmly. “Why, Little can’t play tackle! He
can’t play――pinochle! Did you say anything to him? Hop, I mean.”

“Not likely. I’m not running his show. If he doesn’t want me he doesn’t
have to have me. But I’m getting tired of his nonsense, I’ll tell you
that.”

“Little’s a rather good friend of Prentiss, isn’t he?”

“I dare say. Came from the same town, I think. Gee, the way those two
chumps run things makes me tired! Maybe you’ll see me bringing my
doll-rags over to play with you fellows some day, Rob, after all.”

“Well, don’t do anything hasty,” said Rob soothingly. “Maybe you’ll
make it yet.”

Gus laughed. “You’re foxy, aren’t you, Lanky? See you later.”

Gus hurried into Academy and Rob meandered toward Holden smiling
contentedly.

The Independents stuck pretty closely to the rudiments of football for
the first part of that week, but since there was enough experienced
material in the ranks to form a first and second squad on Thursday
Duffield, much to every one’s surprise, held a ten minute scrimmage.
The first squad wasn’t made up as Rob had anticipated. Evan was at
quarter and Rob at left half, but Morse didn’t suit Duffield as a
center and of the ends Rob had selected only Brimmer found a place.
The biggest surprise came when the coach put Jelly in at center. But
strange to say, Jelly took to the place like a fish to water, and,
with Evan driving him and Duffield close on his heels every minute,
showed evidence of real speed. The first squad as composed that day
was as follows: right end, Cook; right tackle, Kasker; right guard,
Chase; center, Jell; left guard, Koehler; left tackle, James; left
end, Brimmer; quarter-back, Kingsford; right half-back, Lyman; left
half-back, Langton; full-back, Shaler.

The work was pretty ragged that first day, but that was to be expected.
Duffield scolded and threatened, and one would have thought to hear him
take on that he was deeply disgusted with the material before him. Rob
was certain of it and had visions of Duffield throwing up his position
on the spot. And so, when at the conclusion of the afternoon’s work,
the coach called him aside, Rob was prepared for the worst. Duffield
made him put his sweater on and then took him by the arm and led him to
a seat on the old grandstand. For a full minute Duffield said nothing,
only watched the First and Second Teams plugging away at each other on
the farther gridiron, and Rob’s heart sank lower and lower. At last,
however, Duffield turned and spoke.

“Well, Langton,” he said, “I don’t see why we can’t turn out a pretty
good team with that stuff.”

“Wh――what?” stammered Rob.

“Why not?” asked Duffield. “We’ve got good material; better than the
average considering age. We’re going to be light, but that isn’t
anything to worry about. Take a light team and teach them the sort of
plays that fit ’em and they’ll hold their own with a team ten pounds
heavier. I’ve seen it time and again. Look at some of our teams at
Brown; look at last year’s.”

“That’s so,” murmured Rob, wondering whether his face was expressing
the relief he felt.

“We’ve got to be fast, though, Langton, almighty fast! We’ve got to
din speed into that bunch right along, every minute. If it comes to a
choice between two men the man with ginger gets the job. You’ve got a
find in that chap Kingsford. Where’d he fall from?”

“He’s new this year. Came from Elmira and played up there on his
grammar-school team.”

“Well, how does it happen the other camp didn’t grab him?” Duffield
nodded toward the farther field.

“The same old story,” answered Rob. “They didn’t give him a chance to
show what he could do. They had him on the Second for a few days and
then he hurt his ankle and they let him slide.”

“They must be a fine set of chumps,” said Duffield disgustedly. “We’ve
got good end material, too, Langton. Cook and that other chap――”

“Brimmer.”

“Yes. They’re showing up pretty well already. Kasker’s a good man at
tackle and Koehler’s another at guard. But the others in the center
aren’t much to boast of. Still, you can’t tell what a week of coaching
will do. That little fat Jelly boy may make a good center. If he can
learn to keep awake I think he will.”

“You think he’s better than Morse?”

“Yes. Morse hasn’t any head. Football to-day needs head, Langton.
Morse is the sort that will do what you tell him but he hasn’t any
initiative; at least, that’s the way I size him up now. I may be
mistaken. You’ll do at half all right, I guess, but you’ve got to
learn to go harder and use your eyes. Lyman won’t do, but he’ll have
to stay until we can find some one better. At full-back: well, Shaler
may be the one and he may not. It will depend on the kind of game we
play. Taking the bunch in general though, Langton, it looks pretty
good. But we may be pinched for substitutes. There are only three or
four in the second squad that size up well. Powers is one of them and
there’s another chap, a shock-headed boy, who played in the backfield
to-day.”

“That’s Tanner. He played full.”

“Tanner? We’ll have to watch him. Well, you’d better run along and get
changed. I’ll see you to-morrow. By the way, I guess we’d better cut
down the bunch about Saturday.”

“Yes, I suppose so. There’ll be a lot of kicking about that time.”
Duffield shrugged his shoulders.

“Let ’em kick. Has Warne found any dates yet?”

“He hadn’t got any replies when I asked him this noon. Maybe he’ll hear
from some of them to-night.”

“All right. See you to-morrow. You’d better run up to the gym and get
warm.”

On Saturday the cut was made and all but twenty-nine candidates
were diplomatically informed that their further services would not
be required. Rob’s prediction proved true, for the disgruntled ones
had a good deal to say. But they didn’t find much sympathy except
from each other. The School Team journeyed away from home that day
and won a listless, poorly played game from Hope Hill Academy, 8 to
0. During their absence the Independents held practice on the School
Team’s gridiron and in the twenty minutes of scrimmaging the first
squad scored twice on the second, once by straight line-plunging and
once with the help of a blocked kick which Kasker captured and romped
over the line with. On Monday Malcolm announced that he had arranged
for three games, the first to be played the following Saturday with
Cardiff High School, the second with Hillsgrove High at Hillsgrove the
Wednesday after and the third with the Overbrook Academy Second Team
three days later. The Cardiff game would be an ideal one for a first
contest since Cardiff was not a strong team. The Hillsgrove game was
possible enough because Hillsgrove was only three miles distant and the
expense of getting there and back would amount to little. Rob wanted
something better than the Overbrook Second for the third contest, but,
as nothing better offered, was forced to be content with it. On that
Saturday the Overbrook First Team was coming to Riverport to play the
School Team and the Overbrook Second would accompany it and take on the
Independents as a side issue.

“That leaves us one more Saturday and Thanksgiving Day,” said Rob
thoughtfully. “I’d like to get a couple of rattling games for those
dates, Mal.”

“So would I,” answered Malcolm, “but I don’t know where to look for
them. Every team has its dates filled, you see.”

“That’s the dickens of it. We’ll have a talk with Duffield to-morrow.
Maybe he can suggest something.”

“I wish,” said Jelly, who happened to be present at the time, “that we
could have a game before Saturday. That’s a long time to wait, fellows.
Couldn’t we find someone to take us on Wednesday?”

“I’m afraid not,” said Malcolm.

“By Jove!” exclaimed Rob. “I’ve got it! I heard that on Thursday the
First’s going to lay off and take a rest for the Mifflin game; they’re
going out on the bay or some fool thing like that. Sounds like
Prentiss, doesn’t it? Well, anyway, that leaves the Second with nothing
doing. Suppose I see Gus Devens and ask him to play us a short game;
say, fifteen minute halves?”

“Great!” said Evan, and the others agreed.

“But will he do it?” asked Malcolm. “Will Hop let him?”

Rob thought a moment.

“I think he will do it if he can. You leave it to me, Mal, and don’t
anyone breathe a word of it. I’ll see what can be done. Gee, fellows,
but I’d like to take a fall out of the Second!”

“We could lick them to death,” declared Jelly stoutly.

“Well, we could try,” said Evan. “I think we might be able to do them
up, too.”

“We won’t do a thing to them!” breathed Rob softly and ecstatically.

The next afternoon, following the practice, the Independents held an
election in the rowing-room of the gymnasium and made Rob permanent
captain of the team. There were no other candidates for the honor and
the choice was unanimous. The next evening, Wednesday, Rob called on
Gus Devens after study-hour. Gus lived in Second House and shared his
room with Joe Law. Luckily for Rob’s plans Law was not at home when he
got there. After a few minutes of talk Rob remarked:

“I suppose, Gus, Hop and Prentiss make you do about as they want, don’t
they?”

“How do you mean?”

“I mean as regards your team. I suppose, for instance you couldn’t get
up a practice game with another team without asking their permission.”
Gus viewed Rob speculatively.

“Meaning with your outfit?” Rob nodded. Gus considered. Then,
“To-morrow, you mean?” Rob nodded again. Gus smiled. Then he laughed.

“They’d be as mad as hornets, Rob, but I’ll do it if I can get the
fellows together.”



CHAPTER XX

INDEPENDENTS VS. SECOND


Duffield shrugged his shoulders.

“Sure,” he said, “play ’em. But don’t expect to win. That Second Team
has been together all Fall and you chaps haven’t played together once
yet except in practice. But it’ll be good for you. What time?”

“Four-thirty,” answered Rob. “The First Team and subs are going out on
the bay. Prentiss and Hopkins think they need a rest.”

“What they need,” snarled Duffield, “is a stick of dynamite under ’em.
Four-thirty, you said?”

“Yes, sir. Devens wants to wait until Hop and Prentiss get out of the
way. He says the Second is crazy to play us.”

“H’m; well, look out they don’t use you up. Remember we’ve got a real
game the day after to-morrow. Better get busy now and run through
signals for ten minutes or so.”

A few minutes later Malcolm called the coach’s attention to the group
of fellows assembling in front of Academy. “The First is getting ready
to start, sir.” Duffield followed the other’s gaze and smiled cynically.

“They’re not going to walk all the way to the village, are they?” he
asked.

“Why, yes, sir, it’s only a mile and a quarter by the fields.”

“But in their condition!” said Duffield in simulated alarm. “They’ll
drop by the wayside, Warne! They ought to be trundled down in
baby-carriages!”

Warne smiled at the thought of Merrill and Topham and the other big
linesmen reclining in perambulators, and looked to find a reflection
of his amusement in the coach’s face, but Duffield had dived into the
mass of boys ahead of him and was already busy shuffling them back into
their positions.

“Now try that again and do it right,” he commanded sharply. “These
aren’t parlor tricks I’m teaching you. Get into it as though you meant
it. Get back, Langton, you’re too near the line. The other half has to
run in ahead of you, so give him room. Now, then, Kingsford, same play!
That’s better. Jell, you’ve got to double up better than that. Get
your head down so you can see just where the ball is going to when you
pass it. Try the left shift, Kingsford.”

The First Team and substitutes, some eighteen in all, moved across the
Yard and down the meadow slope toward the village, and five minutes
later the Second Team began to trickle out of the gymnasium. They had a
few minutes’ practice on the School gridiron and then Gus Devens walked
across in search of Rob. The latter saw him coming and called a halt,
and Duffield sent the first squad to the side-lines.

“All ready, Rob?” asked Gus.

“All ready. We’d better play over there, hadn’t we? This field is
pretty rough.”

“I guess so,” Gus replied. “Who’s going to referee for us?”

“Anyone you say. How about Duffield?”

“He will be satisfactory to us, I guess. I suppose you know I’m going
to get Hail Columbia for playing with you chaps?”

“I’ll bet you are,” laughed Rob. “Come on and meet Duffield.”

The coach was extremely polite but not genial, and Gus felt somehow as
though he were on the wrong side of the fence.

“Will you referee, Mr. Duffield?” he asked.

“If you like. Want to toss now?”

“You call it, Rob.”

“Heads,” said Rob. Duffield picked up the coin.

“Tails,” he announced.

“We’ll take the west goal,” said Gus. “Second this way!”

Two minutes later Koehler kicked off and the game was on. Peeble,
the Second Team’s quarter, caught the ball and gained nearly twenty
yards before he was downed. Then the Second began to make short but
unpleasantly steady gains through Chase, who played right guard, and
past James at left tackle. An occasional plunge at center netted
little, for Mr. George Washington Jell proved a tough proposition. The
ball crept down the field to the Independents’ thirty yard-line. There
Devens and Peeble held a whispered consultation and on the next play
Peeble tried a quarter-back run. But he chose the wrong side of the
line and Brimmer, left end, nabbed him for a loss. With twelve yards
to go and only two downs left Peeble sent the backs at the line again.
But the Independents were encouraged by their momentary success and the
gain was short. Peeble was evidently at a loss, for he twice changed
his signals and then consulted Devens.

“You’re delaying the game,” cautioned Duffield.

“Hinkley back!” called the Second’s quarter, and the team arranged
itself to protect the kicker.

“It’s a fake!” cried Rob. “Look out for a forward pass!”

The ball went back to Peeble and he bounded to the side and poised
himself for the throw. Then Brimmer squirmed through outside Devens and
hurled himself on Peeble just as the latter sent the ball away. The
pass was spoiled, Evan tipping it and then falling on it with half the
Second Team writhing about him.

[Illustration: THE GAME BETWEEN THE INDEPENDENTS AND THE SECOND SCHOOL
TEAM.]

It was now the Independents’ time to show what they could do at offense
and Evan went at it hammer and tongs. The team, even in one short
week, had learned speed, and the way the plays were pulled off was a
veritable revelation to the Second. The backs were “knifed” through the
Second’s line time and again for gains of two and three yards, being
stopped only when the secondary defence was reached. Rob distinguished
himself that day as a line-plunging back. He went in low and hard
and at top speed, and tore and squirmed and fought his way through,
keeping his feet astonishingly. On the third down, time and again, it
was Rob who took the ball and made the required distance, often with
barely an inch to spare. Had the Independents possessed at that time
any semblance of real team-play and rallied around the runner as they
should have Rob’s gains would have been considerably lengthened. But,
even as it was, the ball was soon past the middle of the field and
Devens and Peeble were imploring their men to hold, to “get low,” to
“break this up!” Almost down to their opponent’s forty yard-line the
Independents met a reverse. Lyman, right half-back, fumbled and the
Second got the ball.

Peeble sent his backs at the Independents’ line again, but now the
latter had tasted battle, had got over any stage-fright they may have
had at first and were fast learning what to do and how to do it. Two
tries netted the Second but eight yards and Hinkley punted. Lyman,
playing back with Evan, fumbled his catch but recovered it again,
eluded a Second Team end and reeled off twelve or fourteen yards before
he was brought down. There remained but a bare two minutes of playing
time and Rob, after he had torn off three yards and Shaler, full-back,
had gained two more, punted the ball down to the Second’s thirty-five.
The Second sent Hinkley back again and returned the punt on the first
down, relying, evidently, on another fumble in the Independents’
back-field. But it was Evan who made the catch this time and who dodged
at least half a dozen of the enemy and brought the ball almost to the
middle of the gridiron. Then time was called by Warne who was combining
the offices of time-keeper and linesman, and the teams trotted off.

Duffield followed his charges over to a sheltered position behind the
old grandstand and saw them well wrapped in their blankets. Then one by
one he drew the players aside and pointed out their mistakes. When it
came Evan’s turn he said:

“You did pretty well, Kingsford, all things considered. But you slowed
up a little toward the end. That’s what you’ve got to guard against.
I want you to drive the team just as hard in the last two minutes as
in the first, harder if it can be done. Remember that the other team
is as tired as you are, and perhaps a lot tireder. If they’re big and
heavy, with a little too much flesh, they’re bound to be feeling it
more than you. That’s the time to snap it along, Kingsford. Now another
thing: You’ve got to use your wits. I know we’re hard up for plays as
yet, but you can make what we have got go better if you study things a
bit. Watch how each play works. If you send a back outside of end and
find later that that end is playing wide and looking for another play
of the same sort, why, jab a runner inside of him. Or if you find he is
running in fast on plays directed at his end, take the ball yourself
and try a wide end run. Don’t get into a rut with your plays; keep them
guessing every minute. That was a good run you made after your catch.
With a little interference you might have got by. Try it again when
you get a chance and don’t let them crowd you too near the side-line.
In the next half I want you to cut out the punting unless the other
fellows have shoved you inside your twenty yards. You needn’t be afraid
of a field-goal, I guess. When you do call for a punt see that your men
are in their places and on their toes before you signal for the pass.
If you get inside their twenty yards, Kingsford, hammer Langton and
Shaler at their right guard. That chap’s soft and I think he will quit
after you’ve roughed it up with him a few times. But leave him pretty
generally alone until you’re where you can take it out of him. If you
use him up early in the half Devens will put in a substitute, and I’ll
bet the sub would be a harder proposition than the present chap. That’s
all; except this: fast, fast, _fast_!”

Duffield slapped him on the shoulder and sent him back to the others.
Then Warne announced that time was up and Duffield followed the men
onto the field again. He had made no changes as yet in the line-up,
for all the fellows had weathered the first half in good shape and he
wanted them all to have a good taste of experience. By this time news
of what was going on had reached the School and there was quite an
audience strung along the side-lines, an audience palpably in sympathy
with the Independents.

Devens had made but one change in his team, and Duffield and his
charges were relieved to observe that the new man was not a right
guard. He was a full-back, by name Putnam, and his one forte was
kicking.

“That means that they’ll try for a field-goal if we give them the
chance,” whispered Rob to Evan as they took their places.

“Then they mustn’t have the chance,” answered Evan. “Anyhow, they’ve
weakened their back-field, for Deering is a good man.”

Then Duffield blew his whistle, the Second’s center kicked off and the
second half began. For the first six or eight minutes it was virtually
a repetition of the preceding period. The ball changed hands a little
more often, perhaps, for each team played together rather better and
each rush line was stiffer. The half was more than half gone when the
spectators got their first taste of excitement. The Second worked a
pretty forward pass, quarter to left end, and left end went dodging and
scampering over four white lines before he was laid low. That brought
the pigskin to the Independents’ eighteen yard-line. A fake plunge at
center with the runner cutting past tackle gained five yards and a
mass-play on the right side of the line gained two more. Then Putnam
was sent back and the Independents set their teeth and crouched low to
get through and block at any cost.

Back went the ball and Putnam, rather nervous because he had not been
used much as yet, dropped it in front of him and swung his long leg
back. Toe and ball met, but Kasker and Jelly were through and it was
Jelly’s ample form that got between ball and cross-bar. There was
a loud thump, a mingling of cries alarmed and triumphant and a wild
scurry for the elusive oval. Up the field it bounded and trickled,
and player after player hurled himself upon it only to have it slip
from his grasp and begin a new series of gymnastics. It was the Second
Team’s left guard who finally captured it and by that time it was
back past the thirty yard-line. The audience yelled approval and Rob
thumped Jelly on the back and called encouragement. The catastrophe had
unsettled the Second and in three downs the ball changed hands again.

“How much time is there?” called Evan.

“Almost six minutes,” answered Malcolm from the side-line.

Then Evan snapped out his signals, Rob fell back as though for a punt
and Evan skirted the Second’s left end for a good twelve yards. Three
plunges at the left of the opposing line gave them their distance
again and the ball was just short of the fifty-five yard streak. Then
came some pretty playing on the part of the Independents, while the
spectators ran along the side-lines and cheered madly. Shaler, who had
been used very little so far in the half was given the ball time after
time and went fighting through for a yard, two yards, three, sometimes
even four. Three times the Independents made their distance on line
attack. Then the measuring tape showed that they had failed, and, to
Evan’s despair, the ball went to the Second. On the threshold of the
enemy’s goal luck had turned her back!

But if luck can turn once it can turn again, and it did. After one
ineffectual plunge at right tackle Peeble sent Putnam back. Again the
Second’s line failed to hold, and Putnam, with another blocked kick
threatening him, swung hurriedly and the pigskin went hurtling out of
bounds at the forty yards. Evan took up the fight again, sending Lyman
outside of left tackle for a short gain and then winning the distance
in two plunges at the tackle-guard hole on the left. The thirty yard
mark passed under foot. The Second was getting slow now and Evan, with
no mercy for his own tired men, sent his plays faster and faster.
Gus Devens began to put in substitutes: a new man at left end, a new
man at left guard, a new man at center. But Corbett, at right guard,
remained and Evan sighed with relief. Nothing about Corbett suggested
the quitter to Evan, nor did the fellow seem soft, but Evan relied on
Duffield’s judgment. It was second down now and eight to go, and the
ball was still a good five yards from the twenty yard-line. Evan pulled
Rob aside and whispered to him. Rob nodded, glancing at the cross-bar
of the goal. Then he went back, patted the ground and held his arms
out. The team formed for defence of kicker. Back went the ball, but not
to Rob, although that youth seemed to catch it and swing his leg at it.
It went to Evan, and Evan doubled himself over it an instant and then,
straightening up and dodging his way behind the battling lines, he
found an opening and went spinning through and would have had a clear
field to the goal-line had not Putnam redeemed himself and brought him
down some fifteen yards short of the last mark. Pandemonium reigned
along the side-lines. Duffield, inscrutable and impartial, allowed
himself the ghost of a smile as he waved to Malcolm and announced
“First down!”

Then, fighting like heroes, Rob and Shaler hurled themselves upon the
Second’s right guard and Duffield’s prediction came true. Corbett gave,
slowly at first, until, although the Second’s back-field rallied behind
him, he was worse than useless and Devens, crying for time, sent him
staggering off and put a new man in his place. The ball was inside the
five yards then and the spectators were imploring a touchdown.

They got it.

Evan sent Rob again at the same place, and, although the new man was
fresh and strong, and although the Second expected the play, the
Independents went through. There was a wavering, indecisive moment,
and then the defending line buckled inwards and the foe came swaying,
falling through for a touchdown and the winning score.



CHAPTER XXI

DEVENS RESIGNS


The victory was a popular one. Fellows who, left out of the teams under
Hopkins and Rob, had been bewailing the fact that there were not enough
players left in school to make up the usual dormitory elevens, forgot
their grievance. How a team which had been formed scarcely more than a
week could defeat the Second, composed as it was of veteran players, no
one could comprehend.

“And look here,” expatiated one enthusiastic junior, “the Independents
played the whole game through without a change in the line-up! Say,
that coach must be a wonder! I’ll bet you that before the season’s over
we can lick the School Team!”

“‘We!’” scoffed a middler. “Where do you come in?”

“I’m for the Independents,” replied the junior unabashed.

The news of what had taken place in their absence met the First Team
on the instant of their return just before supper-time and Hopkins and
Prentiss piled over to Devens’ room. Peeble, the Second’s quarter-back,
was there; he and Gus had been talking over the game; but Prentiss paid
no heed to his presence.

“What’s this we hear, Gus?” he demanded angrily.

“I don’t know what you heard,” replied Gus calmly, “but the score was
five to nothing; they missed the goal.”

“So you did play those fellows, eh?”

“We did our best, but it wasn’t good enough.”

“You must be crazy,” broke in Frank Hopkins. “You know blamed well you
hadn’t any right to do that. Your business is to give the School Team
practice and not play games with other teams.”

“Especially with that crowd of sore-heads!” added Prentiss.

“But, look here,” said Gus mildly, “other schools let their second
teams play real games. Why not here? As for ‘sore-heads,’ I don’t know
anything about that. Langton challenged us and we wanted a game; that’s
all there was to it.”

“Why didn’t you say something about it to me, then?” Hopkins demanded.

“I was afraid you’d raise a fuss,” answered Gus.

“You bet I’d have raised a fuss! And I’m going to raise one yet! You
needn’t think you can do what you please just because you’re captain of
that team, Devens. Langton and his crowd are doing all they can to make
trouble for us, and you know it. You’re a traitor, that’s what you are!
You don’t deserve to――to――”

“Look here, Hop,” Gus interrupted, “you’re not wearing any medals for
giving folks what they deserve. I deserved a fair show on your team and
I never got it. You don’t like me, and Prentiss doesn’t like me. I’ve
played football here for two years; this is my third; and you’ve got
half a dozen worse players than I am on the First this minute. So don’t
you spout about deserts.”

“And this is the way you get even,” sneered Prentiss. “Stab us in the
back the moment we aren’t looking.”

“Oh, come, let’s be honest,” said Gus warmly. “There isn’t any fair
reason why the Second Team shouldn’t play another team when it has
a chance. It’s just because the other team is the Independents that
you’re both sore. If it had been any other outfit you wouldn’t have
cared. Well, your quarrels aren’t anything to me. The Second never has
played with any team except the First, as far as I know, but there’s no
law against it. You go ahead and make all the fuss you want, but it’s
nonsense to stand there and call me a traitor.”

“That’s what you are,” cried Hopkins, “a low-down traitor. And you’ve
used your position as captain to make traitors of the rest of your
team.”

“That’s not so, Hopkins,” Peeble spoke up. “We didn’t have to play. Gus
told us about it and said we needn’t play unless we wanted to. Every
fellow went in on his own hook. For my part, I don’t see what you’re so
hot about.”

“I’m hot because you’ve helped Langton and his gang of trouble-makers,”
replied Hopkins wrathfully. “They aren’t the School Team; they’re just
a lot of chumps who are sore because they didn’t make it. And when you
play against them you――you give them recognition and aid them.”

Joe Law came in at that moment and looked about the group curiously.
Hopkins nodded to him and then turned to Prentiss.

“Come on, Ed.” But Prentiss wasn’t ready.

“What’s the good?” he demanded with an ugly scowl for Gus. “Let’s
settle it right now. I’m manager of the team and I don’t propose to
have my work spoiled like this.”

“We’ll settle it all right,” responded Hopkins, “but not now. You’ll
hear from us later, Gus.”

“When you like,” answered Gus as they went out.

“What’s the row?” asked Joe Law anxiously. Gus told him.

“Well, it was a funny thing for you to do,” said Joe. “You might have
known he and Ed wouldn’t like it.”

“I did know it and I didn’t care. I don’t care now. The only thing he
can do is to fire me and that won’t bother me a bit.”

But the discipline meted out to him the next afternoon wasn’t just what
he had looked for. When scrimmage time came Hopkins and Prentiss walked
over to the Second Team.

“Gus,” said Hopkins, “I guess we can dispense with your services as
captain after this.” Gus nodded, untroubled.

“Hover,” continued Hopkins, “you’re captain from now on.”

Hover, the left half, glanced at Gus and then at his feet. “I’d rather
not, thanks, Hopkins,” he said.

Hopkins stared.

“You won’t?”

“No, I’d rather not.” Hopkins turned angrily away.

“All right. It’s up to you, then, Green.”

Green, the right tackle, nodded. He didn’t look as though he was
anxious for the honor, but he said nothing. That afternoon the First
had little trouble doing as it liked with the Second, but it wasn’t
because of any special brilliancy on the part of the First. After
supper Gus Devens went over to 24 Holden. Both Hopkins and Prentiss
were in.

“I don’t believe you have any right to depose me, Hopkins,” said Gus.

“I’ve got every right,” answered Hopkins. “I appointed you, didn’t I?”

“Yes, but I have an idea that if I take the matter to faculty they’ll
decide against you.”

“Try it,” challenged Prentiss.

“Well, I’d thought of it, but I guess I won’t. Instead of that I’m
going to get out.”

“Oh!” said Hopkins uneasily.

“A good idea,” was Prentiss’ fling. “Perhaps you’ll join the
sore-heads.”

“Perhaps. Anyway, I’m done with you chaps.” And he turned on his heel
and went out, leaving Hopkins looking a trifle blank.

“I don’t like that,” said the captain.

“Pshaw!” responded Prentiss. “He won’t be missed.”

“No, perhaps not, although he is a mighty good player, Ed, and you know
that. But suppose he makes a row and gets some of the others to go with
him?”

Prentiss considered the possibility for a moment in scowling silence.
At last:

“We’ve got to do something, Hop,” he announced. “Look here, why not see
what can be done with Langton? They say he played a wonderful game at
half yesterday, and we could use another half on the First.”

“I don’t believe he’d come,” said Hopkins.

“I’ll bet he will, though. He’s always wanted to make the team. Why,
what do you suppose he started these Independents for, you idiot? He
thought you’d buy him off, of course!”

“I don’t believe so.”

“I tell you he did. And there are others on that team we might use.
We could promise them places on the First and use them as subs; let
them into a game for a minute or two; all they want is their letters.
There’s that fellow Chase; and Koehler; and――how about Kingsford?”

“Oh, he wouldn’t. He hates me like sin; you too, I guess. He hasn’t
forgotten that hazing, I suppose. Never sees me any more. They say he’s
got the making of a good quarter, too. I guess we got too funny with
him, Ed.”

“Well, let him go, then. You see Langton and I’ll talk with the others.
And we want to do it right away; to-night isn’t a bit too soon. Come
on.”

“Well, I’ll see him, but I don’t want to, and I don’t believe it will
do any good.”

Hopkins found Rob at home, but Evan and Malcolm were with him. Hopkins
hadn’t entered Number 32 since he had sent Evan spinning through the
doorway on that first day of school and he found himself confronted by
three surprised countenances. Rob, however, was politeness itself.

“Hello, Hop! Come on in. Sit down if you can find anything to sit on.
How’s it going? Going to kill Mifflin to-morrow?”

“Oh, I fancy we’ll win without much trouble,” answered Hopkins easily.
“It was in regard to that, in a way, that I wanted to see you. I’d like
your advice, Rob. Want to come down to my room a moment and let me
explain?”

“Sure,” replied Rob. “Come on.” As he passed Evan he dropped the lid
of his left eye in a portentous wink. In 24 Hopkins placed him in
Prentiss’ easy chair. Hopkins could be very pleasant when he wanted to
be and now he was as sweet as sugar.

“Look here, Rob,” he began, “things aren’t going very well on the
team――”

“You mean the School Team?” asked Rob innocently.

“Yes. We’re badly off for back-field players. Of course Law is all
right and Simpson is fair, but Leary and Hansford aren’t what they
ought to be, and――well, in short, Rob, we need a good man there, a
rattling good half-back.”

“I guess they’re hard to find,” murmured Rob.

“You bet they are. Prentiss and I were talking it over a while ago and
wondering what we could do to strengthen up there. Well, we’ve heard
what a good game you put up against the Second yesterday and Prentiss
thought――or, well, maybe I suggested it first――that perhaps you’d like
to see what you could do on the School Team.”

“Mighty nice of you,” said Rob calmly.

“Why, no, it isn’t, Rob. It’s pure selfishness. We need a good
half-back and that’s you. I suppose you’re having a good deal of fun
with that outfit of yours, but, of course, it doesn’t lead anywhere.
You come to the First and you’ll get into three big games and have your
letters. Now, what do you say?”

“Well――of course――” began Rob hesitatingly, “I’ve always wanted to make
the School Team. I tried pretty hard last year, you know, Hop.”

“I know you did. You did mighty well, too, but last year we had so much
good back-field material that I couldn’t find a place for you. I tried
hard, too.”

“I thought that was the way of it,” answered Rob gratefully. “You know
there are fellows who accuse you and Prentiss of――well, of favoritism,
Hop, but I dare say that’s not fair.”

Hopkins looked uneasy, but Rob’s face was blankly innocent.

“They don’t know what they’re talking about,” said the captain with a
fine show of indignation. “I tell you, Rob, it’s no snap being captain
and coach and everything. You know something about it yourself, I
guess, don’t you?”

Rob nodded emphatically. “It’s no cinch,” he granted. “Now as to what
you suggest, Hop; the principal trouble is here. You see I’ve made that
team up and I don’t want to disappoint the fellows. Of course, they
_might_ get on without me for awhile, but――you know how it is when――”

“Yes, but it doesn’t seem to me that it would matter much if the team
disbanded after awhile, Rob.”

“N――no, but I don’t like to leave the fellows in the lurch. Besides, I
don’t know what they’d say.”

[Illustration: “‘THEN THAT’S SETTLED, EH?’ ASKED HOPKINS BEAMINGLY.”]

“They couldn’t say anything,” said Hopkins heartily. “And, look here,
we can use two or three or maybe more good men. Of course I couldn’t
promise them regular positions on the First, but they’d be certain
of getting their letters and I’d put them with the subs and use them
whenever I could. In fact, Rob, Prentiss and I had already spoken of
two or three of your fellows we could find places for.”

“Really? Who are they?”

“Well, Chase was one, and Koehler was another, and――I don’t just
remember who the other one was.”

“There’s Shaler,” Rob suggested. “He’s a mighty good line-smasher. And
Kasker’s a good tackle.”

“All right. Anyone else?”

“No, I guess not.”

“Then that’s settled, eh?” asked Hopkins beamingly.

“What?”

“Why, that you’ll come to us and that the others we spoke of can come
if they want to.”

Rob dug his hands into his pockets, stretched his legs out from under
his chair and grinned across at Hopkins.

“No, Hop,” he said, shaking his head, “the only thing that’s settled is
that you’re a good deal of a rascal and much more of a fool than I took
you for.” He got up. “I might forgive you the first, Hop, but I hate a
fool.”

“You――you won’t!” gasped the other, surprise and dismay and anger
struggling for supremacy. Rob shook his head again, gently and
smilingly.

“Not likely,” he answered. “When I join your side-show, Hop, the snow
will be twelve feet high in the Yard and the weather extraordinarily
chilly. And now, I think, I’ll just drop in on Koehler and those others
we mentioned. And I wouldn’t be surprised to find Prentiss somewhere
around. Good-night, Hop.”



CHAPTER XXII

THE SCHOOL TAKES A HAND


The next afternoon, Saturday, foot-ball representatives of Riverport
School played two contests. The First Team met Mifflin School and the
Independents went up against Cardiff High. For the latter contest
Duffield made a few changes in his line-up. Talcott replaced Chase at
right tackle, Powers superseded Cook at right end and Pardee went in
for Lyman at right half. Pardee was an improvement, and the same might
be said of Powers, but Talcott didn’t fit and Chase was put back in the
second half. The periods were only twenty minutes long, and, although
Cardiff had wanted them twenty-five, they were long enough to prove
the superiority of the Riverport Independents. Cardiff was plainly
surprised, for she had come over expecting to pit herself against a
team of very small calibre. She began the game with five substitutes,
but they were soon replaced with regulars. In the first half the
Independents had no difficulty in scoring twice and in the last period
they crossed Cardiff’s goal-line once, the final score being 16 to
3, the visitors having made a very creditable goal from placement.
Duffield relied on straight foot-ball; in fact, the team as yet knew
little else; and all three touchdowns came as results of line plunging
varied occasionally by an end run. Of the touchdowns Rob scored two and
Shaler one. The School divided its attention between the two games, but
what cheering was done was mostly for the Independents. The Cardiff
game was over long before the School Team was through with Mifflin, or
perhaps I should say before Mifflin was through with the School Team,
and most of the Independents saw the last fifteen minutes of that game.

Hopkins’ players were plainly in the midst of a bad slump, for even
in the first game of the year they had not played so listlessly or
with so little gumption. Mifflin made them look very small before she
was through with them, piling up twelve points in the first half and
sixteen in the second. The spectators saw the contest come to an end
with scant display of interest; the defeat was so overwhelming that
censure would have been flat and unprofitable. Silence alone seemed
appropriate. Rob and Evan were moving away from the field when the
First Team members, having cheered Mifflin after a fashion, trotted by
toward the gymnasium. Rob caught Hopkins’ eye as the latter passed and
received a vindictive scowl. He smiled.

“I wonder,” he said to Evan, “by what process of reasoning Hop holds me
responsible for to-day’s defeat.”

“Does he?” asked Evan, falling into step beside his chum.

“Well, he looked at me as though he did. Jove, Evan, did you ever see
such dumb foot-ball in your life? Why if we had been in Mifflin’s place
to-day we could have wiped the field up with the First. Gee, I wish we
had a chance at Hop’s pets!”

“Let’s challenge them,” laughed Evan. Rob didn’t respond to the laugh.
Instead he remained very thoughtful as they made their way back to
school, and Evan, seeing his expression, knew that Rob was pondering
something. It was the sort of expression worn by him during the process
of evolving one of his marvelous inventions. Evan wondered what it
was to be this time; whether a monkey-wrench or an air-ship. Of late
Rob had been far too busy with football affairs to find time to invent
anything.

On Monday there was a sensation. The Second Team had learned by that
time of Gus Devens’ withdrawal and when the team reported on the field
that afternoon it was minus ten members, seven of them first string men
and three of them substitutes. Green, the newly appointed captain, was
two men short of a team!

Prentiss was fairly beside himself with wrath, while Hopkins seemed
suddenly to realize that things were going against him and appeared
thoroughly discouraged. But two First Team substitutes were placed
with the Second and practice was held as usual and went badly. On
Tuesday Gus Devens and the eight deserters from the Second reported to
Coach Duffield, the Independent Football Association having meanwhile
received nine new members and its treasury the sum of four dollars and
fifty cents.

“I can’t promise you fellows positions,” said Duffield, “but I’ll give
you all fair trials.”

“That’s all we ask,” answered Peeble cheerfully.

The next day the Independents journeyed to the neighboring town
of Hillsgrove in three big coaches to play the High School team.
The expense of that trip made a big hole in the resources of the
Association and Treasurer Pierce confided to President Wellington that
if they did this sort of thing again the treasury would be plumb empty.

Devens replaced Talcott at right guard and strengthened that side
of the line tremendously. In the second half Duffield, in spite of
the fact that Hillsgrove was leading 11 to 6, tried out numerous
candidates. Peeble went in for Kingsford at quarter and did fairly
well, but seemed unable to get speed into the team. A number of new
plays were tried with varying success, but when the last whistle blew
the score still stood 11 to 6 and the Independents had met their first
defeat. But Duffield didn’t seem to mind.

On Saturday Overbrook Academy brought her First and Second Teams to
Riverport and met her Waterloo. Hopkins’ men braced up and barely
managed to get the better of their opponents, 6 to 0. The Independents
toyed with the Overbrook Second for fifty minutes and ran up 33
points to their opponents’ 5. They had mastered the new plays and had
developed a very respectable amount of team-play. The back-field had
been strengthened by the substitution of Deering, formerly of the
Second, for Pardee at right half and the center of the line, with
Devens at right guard, Jell at center and Koehler at left guard was
invulnerable to anything Overbrook had to offer in the way of attack.
In the second half of the game Duffield sent in what was almost a new
team and demonstrated the fact that he had good substitute material
for well-nigh every position. The second string backs, Hover, Hinkley
and Tanner, made a strong combination, especially when an open game
was played. Hinkley was a clever punter and Duffield believed he could
develop him into a good drop-kicker.

The consensus of opinion after the contests were over credited the
Independents with having shown more foot-ball and better foot-ball than
the School Team and fellows began to express the wish that the former
team and not the latter was to meet Adams Academy on Thanksgiving.
As one boy put it: “The Independents are just as much our team as
Hopkins’ bunch is, and they’re a whole lot better. Why shouldn’t we
put our best team up against Adams? Gee, I’m sick of getting licked
every year; I’d like a change!”

The Independents came fast the next few days. The discouraging thing
was that only ten days remained until Thanksgiving and the close of
the football season and that in spite of all efforts Malcolm had been
unable to find any more games. Bannard School had offered to play
them the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but when Malcolm had asked for
an extension of the season the faculty had refused. But there was
next year to think of, and meanwhile there were battles royal every
afternoon between two very even elevens, and Rob had not given up hope
of finding one more foe to demolish.

On Wednesday the news spread through school that the Independents
had challenged the School Team to a practice game the following
Saturday, on which day, following established custom, the School
Team had no contest, preferring to give all her time to perfecting
herself for Adams. The news was hailed with delight and the School
waited impatiently to hear the outcome. When it was learned that the
School Team had declined the challenge there was a veritable howl of
disapproval. Rob had little to say in public, but there were frequent
conferences in Wellington’s room, and on Thursday morning there was
a notice in Academy Hall announcing a mass meeting to be held that
evening “to discuss the foot-ball situation.” The notice was signed by
prominent members of the four classes.

The assembly-hall was full when Northrup of the senior class called
the meeting to order. The rival foot-ball coteries were there in
full attendance, Rob and Wellington and Pierce and Malcolm and their
associates grouped together on one side well toward the front and
Hopkins and Prentiss with their supporters sitting across the hall.
Northrup began by explaining that the meeting had been called on
account of a general sentiment favoring an open discussion of the
foot-ball situation. “We have,” he said, “two teams here now, the
School Team and a second team known as the Independents. I’m not a
player and don’t pretend to know a great deal about the game, but as
far as I can learn the Independents are doing better playing than the
other team. A week from to-day we meet Adams and, as you all know,
Adams has been beating us right along of late. So the suggestion
has been made that it would be well for us to put against them the
strongest team we have, whether that is the so-called School Team or
the Independents. And it has been further suggested that in order to
determine which is the better team a game be played between them on
Saturday.”

Northrup sat down amid loud applause. Wellington followed and spoke to
like intent, and was in turn followed by three others, a senior and
two middle class fellows. The meeting was clearly in favor of the plan
outlined by Northrup and when some one demanded that the captains of
the two teams be asked to speak there was much clapping of hands and
stamping of feet. Hopkins got up and claimed recognition.

“We all want Riverport to win the game,” he began rather listlessly,
“and I think she will.”

Mild applause greeted this, while some one at the back of the hall
called “That’s what you said last year!”

“But as captain of the School Eleven I resent this interference by――”
he glanced across the hall――“by a lot of disgruntled fellows who have
formed what they call a foot-ball team and who all this Fall have been
doing all in their power to make trouble for me and my management and
my team.”

“It isn’t your team!” called a voice. “It’s the School’s team, Hop!”

“It’s nonsense to suppose that a team that has played together no
longer than this Independent team has can face Adams and――and win. As
for playing the Independents, why, we’re willing enough to do that――”

This announcement met with a storm of approval.

“I mean,” corrected Hopkins with some embarrassment, “that we would be
willing to if it wasn’t that we shall need all the time that is left to
us to get ready for Adams.”

“You bet you will!” yelled Jelly from a front seat.

“The School Team is the only team that has the right to represent the
School in contests with other schools and I insist on that right. And
I hope you fellows will stand by me and――and my team, and help us to a
victory.”

It was a weak effort and even Hopkins himself seemed to realize the
fact. There was some scant applause and then some one called “Langton!
What’s he say? Where’s Langton?” and Rob got to his feet and faced the
meeting with a confident smile on his face.

“All I’ve got to say,” he announced, “is that we think we’ve got a team
that can put it all over the School Eleven. You fellows have seen us
play and you know pretty well what we can do. Whether we could beat
Adams I don’t know, but I think we could. Anyway, we’d like mighty well
to try. For our part we’re more than willing to play the School Team on
Saturday, or any other day they like, and abide by the results. If they
win let them play Adams, if we win let us do it. Seems to me that’s
fair. We all want to win that game, and I don’t see that it’s going to
matter much whether the Independents or the School Team turn the trick.
The main thing is to get revenge on Adams for the drubbings she’s been
giving us.”

“Do I understand,” asked Wellington, when he could make himself heard,
“that Hopkins refuses to play the Independents?”

There was a moment of silence, and then Prentiss sprang to his feet.

“No,” he cried, “he doesn’t. We’ll play the Independents on Saturday
and show you fellows which is the better. And then, perhaps, you’ll
be satisfied and quit trying to queer things. All I’ve got to say is
that this school has got a mighty funny idea of how to go about to win
a foot-ball victory! If you’d stand by your team instead of trying to
bust it up――”

But he wasn’t allowed to get any farther and the meeting broke up in
confusion.

“Well, we’ve done it,” chuckled Rob as he tossed his cap across the
room. Malcolm closed the door of 32 and then the transom. Evan looked
at him inquiringly.

“Prentiss prowls around a good deal,” he explained, “and if the
transom’s open you can hear beautifully.”

“What he would hear outside this door wouldn’t matter, I guess,” said
Rob. “Gee, fellows, I’m tickled. I thought we might get this far next
Fall but I never dreamed we’d do it now. If we beat them we play Adams.
Think of that, Evan, you unenthusiastic beggar!”

“I’m thinking of it,” answered Evan.

[Illustration: “THE MEETING BROKE UP IN CONFUSION.”]

“‘I’m thinking of it!’” mimicked Rob. “Well, why don’t you _say_
something? Why don’t you――why don’t you do something? I don’t expect
any signs of emotion from Mal; he’s the original human icicle; if Peary
had seen him first he’d have saved himself a long trip. But you might
at least look interested.”

“I’m just wondering what’s going to happen to us Saturday,” Evan
replied. “It’s all well enough to talk, Rob, but those fellows have it
on us in lots of ways.”

“Well, how, Mr. Gloom?”

“In size and weight, for one thing.”

“Yes, that’s one weigh,” Malcolm interpolated. Evan threw a blue book
at him, but missed.

“Yes, they have us there,” said Rob, “but we even that up by speed. Go
ahead.”

“Well, but do we? If they can stop our end plays and spoil forward
passes, our speed won’t count for so much. We’ll never be able to get
through their line for consistent gains.”

“Why not? Other teams have. Why, that center trio of theirs isn’t so
much. All they’ve got is weight. If we get the jump on them we’ll have
them on the run in no time. And as for spoiling our forward passes,
why, that’s easier said than done.”

“Anyway, we need a dry field,” said Evan. “If it’s a wet day it’ll be
all up with us.”

“For goodness sake shut up! You’ve got us beaten now by about ten
scores,” laughed Rob. “Don’t you get stage-fright, Mr. Quarter; we need
your services. You take my word for it, Evan, that we can lick them.
Just wait and see.”

“I guess I’ll have to. What do you think about it, Mal?”

“Oh, I don’t know much about football,” said Malcolm modestly, “but I
think we ought to win if only on psychological grounds.”

“I beg your pardon?” asked Evan with elaborate deference.

“Just listen to him!” sighed Rob admiringly. “Isn’t he the boy wonder?
Prithee, Mr. Webster, elucidate.”

“Oh, you know what I mean.”

“We know――oh, yes, we know all right, Mal! It isn’t that we don’t catch
your drift. Psychology is an open book to us; in fact, my young friend
Evan here got out the first patent on psychology. But it’s been greatly
improved since then, and so――”

“Shut up,” laughed Evan. “What are you talking about, Mal?”

“Well, I mean that the――the mental condition of a person counts for a
lot, the condition of his mind, you know. And――”

“You’re mixed,” said Rob. “But go ahead; a short lecture on mental
philosophy by Professor Warne. The class will please come to order and
Mr. Kingsford will remove the bent pin from the Professor’s chair.”

“Don’t mind him, Mal. Go ahead.”

“Silent contempt for yours, Rob. I mean just this; Hop and Prentiss
and his whole team are worried. They’ve been losing games right along;
they haven’t got together once the whole season and they know it.
They’re――they’re disrupted――”

“Fancy that!” murmured Rob.

“And they haven’t confidence. On the other hand――”

“Is an ink-stain,” said Rob. “It’s unkind to draw attention to it,
nevertheless, Professor. I assure you that I’ve tried pumice――”

“Oh, cut it out, Rob!” begged Evan. “Mal’s right about it.”

“On the other hand,” went on Malcolm, “our team has plenty of
confidence, we aren’t worried and we believe we’re going to win. We
have public opinion on our side, too; the School believes that we are
going to win――”

“Every one except Evan,” muttered Rob sadly.

“And all that counts for us,” said Malcolm. “You take two fellows, one
cheerful and confident and another worried and doubtful, and other
things being equal the first fellow will win out every time. It’s the
same way, I reckon, with foot-ball teams.”

“That’s so,” agreed Rob soberly. “And that crowd is surely worried
and up in the air. As for Prentiss――say, Gus told me to-day that the
management’s in debt about forty dollars already and they can’t get the
fellows to shell out. And Hop’s as blue as an Adams sweater. I’m almost
sorry for him.”

“Huh!” scoffed Evan. “You’d never be sorry for a chap until you had him
down and was kneeling on his collar-bone.”

“Wrong. I’d be sorry, but I wouldn’t let it interfere with my duty. And
I’m not going to now. My duty is to show Hop that he was never intended
for a Napoleon or a Julius Cæsar. It will be a helpful lesson for him
and may save him mistakes when he gets to college. And now I’m going to
bed, for to-morrow is going to be a very, very busy day. Thank you,
Professor, for your few well chosen remarks. What have you got to say
now, Evan? With psychology rooting for us I guess we’ve got the game
cinched this minute, eh?”

“Um, maybe; but I’d swap the psychology for another sixty pounds in the
line!”



CHAPTER XXIII

THE INDEPENDENTS DISSOLVE


The Saturday before Thanksgiving dawned bleak and gray and cold and by
three o’clock, for which hour the game between the School Team and the
Independents was set, there was a biting north wind blowing across the
field and the heavy clouds were scurrying overhead. It was football
weather, and only the spectators found fault with it. On the side-lines
it was chilly waiting, and fellows wore their heaviest clothing and
stamped up and down to keep warm.

There was a hearty cheer for the Independents as that team trotted down
from the gymnasium and squirmed through the line of impatient students,
and a less enthusiastic one for the School Team when it followed a
minute or two later. The teams warmed up for ten minutes and then Mr.
Osgood, who had accepted the office of referee, summoned the captains
to the center of the field. Rob won the toss and took the east goal
and a minute later the play began.

For the first few minutes the School Team had the better of it,
the Independents’ plunges at the line being stopped without great
difficulty. Three downs failed to net the distance and the ball went
to the School Team on the opponent’s forty yards. An attempt at the
center brought no gain and Law punted. Deering caught the ball on his
fifteen yards and made ten across the field before he was downed,
Evan interfering brilliantly for the runner. The Independents tried
the School line again and again lost on downs, this time by a bare
half-yard. The School Team made first down with three plunges through
the wings and things looked bad for the defenders of the east goal. But
on their fifteen yards the Independents held stubbornly and recovered
the ball, and on third down Deering punted to mid-field. The ends were
under the pigskin all the way and Miller, School quarter, was downed
for no gain. After that, for the rest of the twenty minute half, the
ball see-sawed back and forth between one thirty yard-line and the
other. There might have been a field-goal tried on each side had the
wind been less strong. Under the circumstances neither team thought it
wise to make the attempt.

Gus Devens played opposite Frank Hopkins and the audience watched the
battle with keen relish. Perhaps Hopkins had a shade the better of
the argument, for Gus was new at guard position. At center Jelly and
Merrill were pretty evenly matched, although Jelly’s passing was more
certain. The School Team’s line was pounds heavier to a man than their
opponents, but, as Rob had predicted, the latter evened accounts by
being much faster. On the whole, in that first period, the teams showed
up about on a par, and it was evident that, barring flukes, neither
team was likely to score on its opponent by straight foot-ball. There
were a few fumbles on each side, but none proved disastrous. The half
ended with the ball on the Independents’ thirty-seven yards in School’s
possession.

The School Team trotted back to the gymnasium for the intermission,
while Duffield conducted his charges down to the boathouse. There were
a few minor injuries to be attended to, for the School players had been
none too gentle. Jelly was blissfully proud of a swollen nose, Shaler
had a cut over one eye and Powers had wrenched his shoulder. There was
a five minute lecture by the coach and then they trotted back to the
field.

The second half was different from the first, and the spectators knew
that it was going to be from the very moment that the Independents
got the ball on a fumble some three minutes after play started. Evan
began to work the School’s ends, sending the runner outside of tackle
for gain after gain until Hopkins found his wits and sent the backs to
the rescue. Then came a short forward pass, Deering to Powers, and a
twelve yard advance. Plunges at center helped but little, but Shaler
got through right guard on a split-play for four yards. An on-side kick
worked to perfection, and, while the audience shouted wildly, the two
teams lined up on the School’s twenty yard-line. But a wide end run
netted no gain, a plunge at right guard, with Shaler carrying the ball
and the whole back-field behind him, realized only four yards, and then
Deering fell back for a try at goal. The pass was good and the line
held well enough, but the wind was too much for the kicker and the ball
went wide.

School elected to put the ball in scrimmage from her twenty-five yards.
Law and Simpson and Leary hammered the Independents’ line for short
gains, but although they were able to get by the forwards the second
defence piled them up. They made the distance once and then, with three
to go on third down, Miller tried a quarter-back run and was thrown by
Brimmer for a loss.

The Independents took up the march again, playing wide-open football
and mingling line plunges with forward passes, delayed runs, fake kicks
and other plays that made School’s head swim. It was brain against
brawn now, and in the end brain won. Duffield had given his team plays
that Hopkins had never thought of and hadn’t the slightest idea how to
meet. The forward passes succeeded time after time, and when, down on
the School Team’s thirty yards, Deering, standing back as though to
try for a field-goal, passed the ball across to Rob and Rob threw it
straight down the field into Powers’ waiting hands, there was no one
near to stop the latter youth when he skipped nimbly over the goal-line
and made the first and only score of the day.

Deering kicked goal, and after that it was all up with the School
Team. Hopkins put in sub after sub in the hope of stemming the tide
of defeat but all to scant purpose. In the last ten minutes the
Independents seemed on the brink of a second touchdown after Evan had
skirted the School’s left end for a twenty-odd yard run. But on the
first play, the ball being then on School’s eighteen yards, Hover, who
had taken Rob’s place at left half, fumbled and Reid fell on the ball.
School punted out of danger and time was called before the Independents
were again within striking distance of the opponent’s goal-line.
Science and team-play (and, perhaps, psychology!) had won the day.

Things seethed that evening. There were rumors and counter-rumors.
Hopkins refused to stand by the agreement made in mass-meeting; Hopkins
had resigned the captaincy; Hopkins had quarreled with Prentiss and
was going to join the Independents; Prentiss declared he was going
to appeal to Doctor Farren; the School Team had dissolved after the
game; Prentiss was so angry he wouldn’t speak and was going to leave
school. It was all very breathless and exciting and since there was
no study-hour on Saturday night, the fellows were free to discuss
the rumors to their hearts’ content. Meanwhile in Mr. Osgood’s study
a conference was under way. Present were the instructor, Hopkins,
Prentiss, Wellington, Rob and Malcolm. Hopkins was depressed and
discouraged, Prentiss silent and sullen. Hopkins however was ready
to abide by the results of the game and, with Mr. Osgood acting as
arbitrator, matters were soon settled. Coach Duffield was to have
supreme authority. The Independent Football Association was to be
disbanded at a meeting to be held Monday evening and the Independent
first team and substitutes were to join the School Team. Hopkins was
to remain captain, but since it was doubtful whether he would play in
the Adams game save as a substitute for Koehler, Rob was to be field
captain. Members of Hopkins’ team would be used in the Adams game
whenever practicable, and those who did not get into that contest but
had played against Overbrook were to receive their letters. Prentiss
was to remain manager and Malcolm was to be assistant manager until the
next election was held. At the end of an hour the conference broke up
quite amicably, both Hopkins and Prentiss being glad to retain their
positions and realizing that the Independents had used them leniently.
The School in general was well satisfied with the arrangement when it
learned of it, the Independents claiming victory all along the line.
Some of the less promising members of the Independent second squad were
disappointed, since with the advent of the members of Hopkins’ team
their chances of getting into the Adams game were quite spoiled.

When Duffield arrived on Monday he found his hands full. He was anxious
to strengthen his team wherever possible and so spent a good deal of
time that might otherwise have been devoted to perfecting the team in
trying out various players from Hopkins’ team. Hopkins himself was
given a try at left guard, but didn’t make a showing good enough to
warrant his substitution for Koehler. Merrill did well at center in
Jelly’s place, but he lacked the other boy’s accuracy at passing the
ball back. In the end the only change made was to give James’ place
at left tackle to Tom Reid. The Second Team, however, saw numerous
changes; and, as Duffield hadn’t the heart to dismiss any of the
candidates at that late hour, a Third Team was formed. The rest of the
afternoon’s practice was spent in signal work.

That evening the Independent Football Association held its last meeting
and, amid great enthusiasm, voted to dissolve. Wellington and Rob and
Pierce and several others made speeches and were cheered to the echo.
And afterwards the meeting resolved itself into a parade that made the
round of the buildings and sang foot-ball songs.

On Tuesday there was a blackboard talk in the gymnasium before
practice, and afterwards Duffield made the fellows a little speech.
“Now you fellows realize, of course,” he said, “that foot-ball here
this season is in a pretty ragged condition. I came up here largely as
a favor to Langton to coach his team. Now, at the last moment, I find
that I’m expected to take hold and put you fellows in trim to win from
Adams. That’s a big order. If I had started in at the beginning of the
season it would be different, but I didn’t. I’ve never even seen Adams
play, and all I know about her team is what I’ve read in the papers.
But here I am, and as I can’t get out of it I’ll do my best. But you
fellows have got to do your best too. There’s no two ways to that,
I can tell you! You’ve got to buckle down and do a lot of hard work
between now and Thursday, and when Thursday comes you’ve got to go in
and play like the very dickens if you expect to win. I’d like to give
you a lay-off to-morrow, but we can’t afford it. Not only that, but
there will be signal-drill here to-night and to-morrow night at seven
o’clock. Don’t forget that, please. Every fellow must attend.

[Illustration: “THE MEETING RESOLVED ITSELF INTO A PARADE THAT MADE THE
ROUND OF THE BUILDINGS AND SANG FOOT-BALL SONGS.”]

“As near as I can learn, Adams has a rattling good team. She’s met with
only one defeat this season. She has five of last year’s team with her,
she has a good coach and she has developed a coaching system that’s
been working pretty well――as you fellows here at Riverport ought to
know. Her line is slightly heavier than ours and it’s just as quick.
Her back-field is extremely good and we’ve got nothing on her there.
And she’s got a quarter who is as good a general as there is on a
school team to-day. So team for team it looks like a pretty even thing,
with the odds slightly in favor of Adams. Of course on team-play she
must be far more advanced than we are, for her men have been playing
together for a full month while our team, as it will line up to-day,
has never played together. I’m not trying to discourage you. We’re
pretty well handicapped, I own, but we’re not beaten. These plays we’ve
just gone over ought to help. Most of them are either quite new or are
new variations of old plays. If you get so you can put them through
right I shouldn’t be surprised to find that they bothered Adams a whole
lot. Now it all depends on how you fellows take hold during the next
two days. You must work hard and use your brains. I think we can learn
a lot of football in two days if we make up our minds to it. Now, then,
all out on the run.”

Practice went well that day. The cold weather still held and put snap
into the players. To his surprise and secret distress Evan found
himself on the side-line when the scrimmage began, with Miller in his
place. Peeble followed Miller at quarter and still Evan adorned the
bench. He got in finally for the last four or five minutes and Duffield
smiled at the eager way in which he raced on to the field and pushed
Peeble aside.

“I guess,” muttered the coach to himself, “I needed to be afraid of
over-working him.”

In obedience to instructions, Evan began pulling off the new plays,
and, although the Second knew them as well as the First, she couldn’t
stop them. In three minutes of actual playing time the First scored the
only touchdown of the day, Shaler being slammed through the line for
the final three yards.

There was a good forty-five minutes of signal work in the gymnasium
that evening, the players walking or trotting through the drill in
canvas shoes. On Wednesday there was another long period of outdoor
work in the afternoon and again signal-drill at night. At the end
Duffield spoke to them.

“Well, fellows, work is over for this year. You’ve taken hold, most
every one of you, in just the way I hoped you would. You’ve worked
hard and conscientiously and I think you’ve learned a good deal. Just
how much you have learned remains for you to show to-morrow. I can’t
call you a wonderful team, for neither you nor I have had time to work
wonders, but I think if you’ll all play the best you know how to-morrow
the School won’t be disappointed in you.”

“I want you to go to bed early to-night and don’t think too much about
the game. In the morning, if it’s a fair day, be out of doors as much
as you can, but don’t try to do much walking. Keep quiet. If it’s
stormy get out for a little while and then settle down in your rooms
and read or play games. Be careful of your eating, too. Take a good
breakfast and go light at dinner. That’s all, I guess. I’ll be on hand
early to-morrow in case anything comes up. Good-night and good luck.”

Rob called for a cheer for the coach and it was given with a will.
Outside a howling mob was waiting to escort them to the meeting in the
assembly-hall, and all the way across the yard the cheers and songs
challenged the twinkling white stars.

Both Rob and Evan were somewhat silent when, after the meeting had
ended in a final burst of enthusiasm and they had retired to their
room, they were making ready for bed. “Gee,” muttered Evan finally, “I
hope I can sleep. I feel as though I had wheels inside me.”

“Same here,” said Rob. “I wish the game was over with.”

“So do I. No I don’t, either. I just wish――well, I just wish I was
asleep.”

“Well, here goes the light, chum. Good-night.”

“Good-night,” responded Evan dismally.

It was very still. Through the window, from where he lay, Evan could
see thousands of bright frosty stars sparkling in the sky. That meant
fair weather to-morrow, he told himself, and a dry field. Then his
thoughts, in spite of his utmost endeavors, went to the game, and
presently he flopped over in bed and addressed the huddled form of his
room-mate, seen dimly through the star-lit gloom:

“Say, Rob, in that number 13 play does Deering start with you around
left end or does he interfere for Shaler?”

There was no answer.

“Well, what do you think of that?” whispered Evan. “Oh, well, if he can
sleep I guess I can. Here goes.”

It didn’t seem that he really did sleep, for he was playing foot-ball
in thought all night, but the next thing he knew Rob was calling to him
and the room was flooded with morning sunlight.



CHAPTER XXIV

THE GAME WITH ADAMS


“Come on, Riverport!” called Rob; and, as he led the team on to the
field, Northrup, of the seniors, sprang in front of the throng on the
upper side of the field and, waving his light blue megaphone adorned
with the dark green R, called for “A double cheer for the Team,
fellows, and everybody get into it!”

“Rah, rah, Riverport! Rah, rah, Riverport! Rah, rah, Riverport! Rah,
rah, Riverport! Rah, rah, Riverport! Rah, rah, Riverport! Team! Team!
Team!”

From across the battle field came the long, slow cheer of the rival:
“Adams! Adams! Adams! Rah, rah, rah! Rah, rah, rah! Rah, rah, rah!
Adams! Adams! Adams!”

Adams had won the toss and had chosen to receive the kick-off.
Riverport lined itself across the turf; Powers at right end, Kasker at
right tackle, Devens at right guard, Jell at center, Koehler at left
guard, Reid at left tackle, Brimmer at left end, Kingsford at quarter,
Deering at right half, Langton at left half and Shaler at full-back.

“All ready, Adams? All ready, Riverport?” called the referee. Hoyt of
Adams raised his arm, Rob called “Ready!” and the whistle blew.

Away sped the ball, far and high, turning lazily in flight, and off
sprang the eager line. An Adams player gathered in the pigskin and
started back. Powers sprang upon him and brought him down struggling.
Adams lined up quickly and hurled her full-back at Jelly, but Jelly was
stiffer than his name indicated and there was small gain. The next play
caught Reid napping and the dark blue piled past him for five yards.
With three to go Claflin, the Adams quarter, skipped across and sent a
forward pass to the left. The Adams left end tipped it with his fingers
before he was pushed aside by Powers and finally fell upon it for a
good ten yards gain. The dark blue flags waved gleefully along the
south side.

Again Adams made her distance, sending her backs into the line for
short gains. Plainly Riverport was undergoing a spell of stage-fright,
for the secondary defence failed to back up the forwards as it should.
Evan came running in and pounded Rob on the shoulders.

“What’s the matter with you fellows?” he cried angrily. “Get in there!
Stop it right now! Buck up, Rob!” Then he went running up the field
again. Adams sent Bull, her star half-back, through between Devens
and Kasker, but Deering and Rob pulled him down before he was free of
the line. “That’s the stuff!” yelled Evan gleefully. “Nail ’em, Rob!”
Adams tried another play at Jell and again failed to move that youth
out of his tracks. Their left tackle fell back to punt and Deering
joined Evan up the field. The punt was high and long. “Mine!” called
Deering. “Yours,” responded Evan, cutting across in front of a charging
Adams end. “To the right!” He threw himself in front of the enemy and
as they both went rolling over Deering cleared them and started across
the field. One, two, three white lines passed under his flying feet and
then he was in the midst of the enemy. He squirmed free once, but the
next instant he was smothered on his thirty-three yards.

“Our ball!” called Evan, running up. “Get up, get up! Kick-formation!
12――14――36――58!” He glanced back to see that Deering was ready. “7――8――”

Back sped the ball to Deering and that youth took one step forward and
booted the oval far down the field. Away raced friend and foe, but
Brimmer, Riverport’s left end, out-distanced all and was waiting when
the ball settled into the arms of the Adams left half. Down they went
together on Adams’ forty yards. From there Adams worked the ball down
to her opponent’s forty-five yards. Most of the gains were made between
Koehler and Reid or outside the latter. Adams played fast, putting the
ball into play almost before Riverport could get into position. Time
and again it was the back-field that stopped the runner when he was
well through the line. On the forty-five yards Adams was caught holding
and was set back fifteen yards. A quarter-back run was tried with no
success and again the ball was punted toward Riverport’s goal. Evan
took it this time and managed to make a dozen yards along the side-line
before he was pushed out. Again kick-formation was called for and again
Deering punted a good forty-five yards. Adams’ quarter missed the catch
but got the ball on the bound before Powers threw himself fiercely
upon him.

“Now then, let’s take it away from them!” cried Rob. “Get down there,
Reid! Play low, every one! Spoil this! Pile them up!”

With the ball near her thirty yards Adams drew a tackle out of the line
and sent a tandem at Devens with fair success. But a similar play on
the other side of center was spoiled by Jelly, who threw himself in
front of the interference and piled up the play. With six yards to go
Adams tried an on-side kick but failed to recover it and the ball was
Riverport’s on her adversary’s fifty yards.

“All right!” cried Evan briskly. “Left formation. 27――38――14――68!
27――38――14――68――7――”

Back came the ball from Jelly, Evan turned and thrust it against
Shaler’s stomach and that youth, with Deering and Rob behind, went
through Adams’ left guard for six yards. Riverport flags waved and
Riverport voices cheered lustily.

“Kick-formation!” called Evan, and Deering dropped back and stretched
his hands out for the ball. But the play was a “skin-tackle” on the
left and Rob got four yards and first down. But the Adams line
stiffened then and the next attempt was a failure, and so Deering
punted toward the corner of the field. This time the quarter made a
fine running catch and, eluding Brimmer, got over two white lines
before Kasker reached him and pulled him down. Adams lined up almost
on her fifteen yards and, after one try at Reid which gave her a scant
two yards, punted out of danger. Deering fumbled and finally fell on
the bobbing pigskin on his forty yard-line, with half the Adams team
on top of him. Time was called while he fought for his breath, and on
the side-line Hinkley slipped off his sweater. But Deering was as good
as new at the end of two minutes. Evan sent Rob outside of left tackle
for three yards and Shaler between right guard and center for two.
Then Deering punted once more and the Adams quarter ran back to his
thirty-eight yards before he was downed.

A forward pass netted eight yards for the Dark Blue and then Claflin
got away around Powers’ end for ten more. Plunges at the line gave them
another first down and the ball was in Riverport’s territory again. The
forward pass was tried, but the ball struck the ground and Adams was
penalized fifteen yards. A punt followed and Deering caught the ball
on the run and reeled off twenty yards through a close field before he
was caught. Evan hammered the center of the Adams line for scant gains
and then called Deering to the rescue. This time there was a hole in
the Riverport line and a big tackle rushed through in time to divert
the ball as it arose from Deering’s foot. The kick went short and a
wild scramble ensued, an Adams guard finally falling on the pigskin.
For the rest of the half neither team succeeded in making a first down
and the ball was in the air most of the time, Deering gaining at least
five yards on each exchange of punts. The period ended with the ball on
Riverport’s thirty yards in Riverport’s possession.

There was fifteen minutes of cheering and singing, and then the teams
came trotting back again. It was seen that Duffield had made one change
in his line, Hopkins replacing Koehler at left guard. It was Adams’
kick-off and Rob made a clear fifteen yards before he was tackled.
Again, much to the distaste of the Riverport supporters, Deering kicked
on first down. That gave Adams the ball well inside her forty yards.
She tried the mettle of Hopkins on the first play and didn’t like the
result. It was evident at once that that side of the line had been
much strengthened, for Hopkins and Reid had played side by side all
season and knew just how to help each other. A fake quarter-back run,
with the ball going to left half for a plunge through the line, gave
Adams a few yards, and then she was forced to punt. The ball went out
of bounds at Riverport’s forty yard-line. Evan called his signals
while the pigskin was being taken in and almost before Adams had lined
up Jelly had passed and Shaler was squirming through between right
guard and tackle. He shook off two tacklers and then, with half the
Riverport team hauling and pushing, kept his feet long enough to carry
the ball a good twelve yards. Riverport went crazy with delight along
the side-line. Shaler was given the ball again and this time made
four yards before he was stopped. A scant yard by Rob outside of left
tackle left five yards to go. Deering dropped back, Jelly passed well
and the right half ran out to the left and then threw across to Powers
for twenty yards. It was a beautiful forward pass and took the ball to
Adams’ thirty-five yards. Deering and Shaler each made three through
the line and Shaler was called on to make the rest of the distance,
which he did on a split-play that fooled Adams nicely. With the ball
less than twenty-five yards from the goal-line and directly in front of
the posts Deering tried a drop-kick which missed by a few feet only.

Adams put the ball into play from scrimmage and found a weak spot on
the right of Riverport’s line, where Kasker was feeling the pace.
Two tries through him netted eight yards and a tandem on center gave
three more. In the last play the Adams full-back was hurt and Duffield
seized the occasion to take out Kasker and put in Ward. Adams replaced
the injured full-back with a fresh player and the game went on. The
ball changed hands frequently now and Deering’s punts were growing
shorter. But so were those of Spring, the Adams kicker, and observing
this, Adams’ coach took out his right half and put in a new man who
thereafter did most of the punting and was able to out-kick Deering
some five yards. Duffield responded by replacing Deering with Hinkley.
Once Adams worked the ball down to Riverport’s thirty-three yards
and tried a forward pass to the corner of the field. But Brimmer
shouldered the opposing end away and captured the pigskin. The time was
growing short and it was evident that if Riverport was to score she
must get busy. In a punting battle Hinkley could not be relied on to
gain ground. Evan did some tall thinking about then. While Riverport
had shown herself able to make good gains through the Adams line on
occasions, she was unable to make ground consistently in that way. Evan
drew Rob aside and they whispered a moment. Then,

“Kick-formation!” called Evan.

The ball didn’t reach Hinkley, however. It went to Evan and from
him to Rob, and the latter, with the rest of the backs interfering,
skirted the Adams left end on a wide run. Ten yards, fifteen――then Rob
was alone, his interference having been bowled over, with the enemy
grabbing at him and diving for his long legs. Twice he was almost down
and twice he was up again, staggering, whirling, dodging on along
the side-line. And then the Adams left guard and captain wrapped
his arms around Rob’s legs and Rob came to earth, and half a dozen
blue-stockinged warriors thumped themselves upon him.

When the pile disentangled itself Rob rolled over on his back but
didn’t seem interested in getting up. At the end of two minutes he was
being helped to the side-line, looking very white and dizzy, and Hover
was running out to take his place. Hover was fresh and eager and had
weight and fight. On the first play Shaler shot along the side-line for
four yards before he was forced out. Then the ball was carried in and
Hover was given his chance. Straight through center he plowed for eight
yards, fighting and plunging, and it was first down. Back went Hinkley
and, while the onlookers debated whether it was really to be a kick,
the ball went into his hands and, with good interference, he ran the
left end for ten yards. On the side-lines Riverport was cheering madly,
exultantly, Adams madly and imploringly. But it seemed that at last the
Light Blue had found herself, for Hover and Shaler made gain after gain
through the weakening center and Evan tore off a short end run that at
last placed the ball on Adams’ thirty-two yards.

“Kick-formation!” cried Evan hoarsely. “How much time is there, sir?”

“A little over five minutes,” answered the field judge.

“Lots of time, fellows! Kick-formation! Every one into this now!
44――54――69――18――”

“Signal!” cried Hover anxiously.

“44――54――69――18――24! Got it?”

“Yes,” was the answer as Hover dug his toes into the turf.

“9――7――8――”

Forward plunged the backs, Evan shot the ball at Shaler, Jelly and
Devens opened the hole and the play slammed through for three yards.
The same play with Hover carrying the pigskin gave three more. But
Adams was desperate now, almost under the shadow of her goal, and Evan
knew that a line attack would not give him the rest of the distance. He
debated whether to try again for a field-goal. If Hinkley made it it
would probably give them the game, but Hinkley couldn’t be depended on
like Deering. A forward pass the enemy would be looking for, and the
chances of bringing it off successfully were slim. An end run seemed
the only thing unless――!

“I’ll try it!” he told himself.

“Kick-formation!” he called. “24――87――17――41――”

Back came the ball to him and with the two halfs speeding ahead as
interference he shot toward the right end of the line as though for a
quarter-back run. Adams started to head him off. But when he had gone
some five paces Evan slowed down and, swinging around, dropped the ball
from his hands and kicked it obliquely across the field.

“Left!” he cried. “Left!”

There was no one near the ball when it came down save Brimmer, and
Brimmer let it settle into his arms and started on his ten yard journey
to the goal-line. Adams had been caught napping, but her quarter had
not gained his reputation for nothing. He reached Brimmer three yards
from that last fatal white line and bore him backwards.

“First down!” called the referee.

“Line up, fellows!” shrieked Evan. “Get a move on! Lower, you right
tackle. Now make this go, fellows. Put it over! Devens back!” Gus fell
from his place and formed into the tandem. “73――34――24――14――8――6――”

Straight at the center of the enemy charged the tandem, Hover snuggling
the ball to his stomach and grunting like an enraged bull as the lines
met. Forward he went; some one went down before him and seized one
knee; he struggled on grimly, dragging the enemy with him; for a moment
he was stopped; then something gave in front and he went falling,
staggering over the line for the touchdown amid the wild shouts of
Riverport.

It was all over shortly after Hinkley had kicked goal, and the team was
borne off the field on the shoulders of as joyously mad a throng of
fellows as ever yelled themselves hoarse over a victory.

       *       *       *       *       *

Four hours later Evan slipped out of the dining-room into the arms of a
waiting crowd that filled the corridor from side to side.

“Who’s elected, Kingsford?” they cried as they surrounded him.

“Hopkins proposed Rob,” he cried, “and――”

“Good stuff!”

“Bully for Hop!”

“But Rob refused because he was a junior.”

“Refused! Then who――”

“Gus Devens! Rob proposed him and it went with a roar! Gus is captain.
Let’s give him a cheer when he comes out. There he is. Now then,
fellows! All together!”

And as the doors opened wide and the victorious players came out they
were greeted with a roar that shook the windows of Second House and
went rolling out into the night to apprize the few absent ones that
Riverport had elected her football captain for next year.


THE END.



 Transcriber’s Notes:

 ――Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).

 ――Punctuation and spelling inaccuracies were silently corrected.

 ――Archaic and variable spelling has been preserved.

 ――Variations in hyphenation and compound words have been preserved,
   (e.g. football vs. foot-ball).





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