The Half-Back
Ralph Henry Barbour

Part 2 out of 4

It was Saturday afternoon. The day was bright and sunny, and in the
shelter of the grand stand on the campus, where the little east wind
could not rustle, it was comfortably warm. The grass still held much of
its summer verdancy, and the sky overhead was as deeply blue as on the
mildest spring day. After a week of dull or stormy weather yesterday and
to-day, with their fair skies, were as welcome as flowers in May, and
gladness and light-heartedness were in the very air.

On the gridiron Westvale Grammar School and Hillton Academy were trying
conclusions. On the grand stand all Hillton, academy and village, was
assembled, and here and there a bright dress or wrap indicated the
presence of a mother or sister in the throng. The Westvale team had
arrived, accompanied by a coterie of enthusiastic supporters, armed with
tin horns, maroon-colored banners, and mighty voices, which, with small
hopes of winning on the field, were resolved to accomplish a notable
victory of sound. On the side-line, with a dozen other substitutes whose
greatest desire was to be taken on the first eleven, sat Joel. Outfield
West was sprawled beside him with his caddie bag clutched to his breast,
and the two boys were discussing the game. West had arrived upon the
scene but a moment before.

"We'll beat them by about a dozen points, I guess," Joel was
prophesying. "They say the score was twenty to nothing last year, but
Remsen declares the first isn't nearly as far advanced as it was this
time last season. Just hear the racket those fellows are making! You
ought to have seen Blair kick down the field a while ago. I thought the
ball never would come down, and I guess Westvale thought so too. Their
full-back nearly killed himself running backward, and finally caught it
on their five-yard line, and had it down there. Then Greer walked
through, lugging Andrews for a touch-down, after Westvale had tried
three times to move the ball. There's the whistle; half's up. How is the
golf getting along?"

"Somers and Whipple were at Look Off when I came away. I asked Billy
Jones to come over and call me when they got to The Hill. I think
Whipple will win by a couple of strokes. Somers is too nervous. I wish
they'd hurry up. We'll not get through the last round before dark if
they don't finish soon. You'll go round with me, won't you?"

"If the game's over. They're playing twenty-minute halves, you know; so
I guess it will be. I hope Blair will let me on this half. Have you
seen Cloud?"

"Yes; he's over on the seats. Who has his place?"

"Ned Post; and Clausen's playing at right. I'm glad that Blair is doing
such good work to-day. I think he was rather cut up about getting beaten
this morning."

"Yes; wasn't that hard luck? To think of his being downed by a cub of a
junior! Though that same junior is going to be a fine player some day.
He drives just grand. He had too much handicap, he did. Remsen didn't
know anything about him, and allowed him ten. Here they come again."

The two elevens were trotting out on the field once more, and Joel stood
up in the hope that Blair might see him and decide to take him on. But
Joel was doomed to disappointment, for the second half of the game began
with practically the same line-up. The score stood six to nothing in
favor of Hillton. The playing had been decidedly ragged on both sides;
and Remsen, as he left the team after administering a severe lecture,
walked past with a slight frown on his face.

"Well, I guess I'll go over and see if I can hurry those chumps up
some." West swung his bag over his shoulder and turned away. "When the
game's done, hurry over, March. You'll find us somewhere on the course."
Joel nodded, and West sauntered away toward the links. The second half
of the game was similar to the first, save in that Remsen's scolding had
accomplished an awakening, and the first put more snap into its playing.
Six more points were scored from a touch-down by the Hillton right end,
after a thirty-yard run, followed by a difficult goal by Blair. But the
Westvale rooters kept up their cheering bravely to the end, and took
defeat with smiling faces and upraised voices; and long after the coach
containing them had passed from sight their cheers could still be heard
in the distance toward the station.

The bulk of the spectators turned at the conclusion of the match toward
the links, and Joel followed in his football togs. At Home Hole he found
Whipple and West preparing for the deciding round of the tournament, and
the latter greeted him with a shout, and put his clubs into his keeping.
Then Whipple went to the tee and led off with a long drive for the first
hole, and the round began. West followed with a shorter shot and the
march was taken up.

The links at Hilton consists of nine holes, five out and four in. The
entire length of the course is a trifle over one and a half mile, and
although the land is upland meadow and given to growing long grass, yet
the course is generally conceded to be excellent. The holes are short,
allowing the round to be accomplished by a capable player in thirty-two
strokes. The course has thirteen bunkers of varying sizes, besides two
water hazards at the inlet and outlet of the lake. The lake itself is
spoiled as a hazard by the thick grove of trees on the side nearest the
Academy. Sometimes a poor drive lands a ball in that same grove, and
there is much trial and tribulation ere the player has succeeded in
dislodging it from the underbrush.

While generally level, the course is diversified by slight elevations,
upon which are the putting greens, their red and white flags visible
from all parts of the links. As has been said, the holes are short, the
longest, Lake Hole, being four hundred and ninety-six yards, and the
shortest, the first, but one hundred and thirty-three. Outfield West
once spent the better part of two weeks, at great cost to his class
standing, in making a plan of the links, and, while it is not warranted
accurate as to distances, it is reproduced here with his permission as
giving a clearer idea of the ground than any verbal description.

Play had begun this morning at nine o'clock, and by noon only Somers,
Whipple, and West had been left in the match. Blair had encountered
defeat most unexpectedly at the hands of Greene, a junior, of whose
prowess but little had been known by the handicapper; for, although
Blair had done the round in three strokes less than his adversary's
gross score, the latter's allowance of six strokes had placed him an
easy winner. But Blair had been avenged later by West, who had defeated
the youngster by three strokes in the net. In the afternoon Somers and
Whipple had met, and, as West had predicted, the latter won by
two strokes.

And now West and Whipple, both excellent players, and sworn enemies of
the links, were fighting it out, and on this round depended the
possession of the title of champion and the ownership for one year of
the handicap cup, a modest but highly prized pewter tankard. Medal
Play rules governed to-day, and the scoring was by strokes.

[Illustration: Plan of Hilton Academy Golf Links]

Whipple reached the first green in one stroke, but used two more to
hole-out. West took two short drives to reach a lie, from which he
dropped his ball into the hole in one try. And the honors were even. The
next hole was forty yards longer, and was played either in two short
drives or one long drive and an approach shot. It contained two hazards,
Track Bunker and High Bunker, the latter alone being formidable. Whipple
led off with a long shot that went soaring up against the blue and then
settled down as gently as a bird just a few yards in front of High
Bunker. He had reversed his play of the last hole, and was now relying
on his approach shot for position. West played a rather short drive off
an iron which left his ball midway between the two bunkers. Whipple's
next stroke took him neatly out of danger and on to the putting green,
but West had fared not so well.

There was a great deal of noise from the younger boys who were looking
on, much discussion of the methods of play, and much loud boasting of
what some one else would have done under existing circumstances. West
glanced up once and glared at one offending junior, and an admonitory
"_Hush!_" was heard. But he was plainly disturbed, and when the little
white sphere made its flight it went sadly aglee and dropped to earth
far to the right of the green, and where rough and cuppy ground made
exact putting well-nigh impossible. Professor Beck promptly laid down a
command of absolute silence during shots, and some of the smaller youths
left the course in favor of another portion of the campus, where a boy's
right to make all the noise he likes could not be disputed. But the harm
was done, and when play for the third hole began the score was: Whipple
7, West 8.

Even to one of such intense ignorance of the science of golf as Joel
March, there was a perceptible difference in the style of the two
competitors. Outfield West was a great stickler for form, and imitated
the full St. Andrews swing to the best of his ability. In addressing the
ball he stood as squarely to it as was possible, without the use of a
measuring tape, and drove off the right leg, as the expression is.
Despite an almost exaggerated adherence to nicety of style, West's play
had an ease and grace much envied by other golf disciples in the school,
and his shots were nearly always successful.

Whipple's manner of driving was very different from his opponent's. His
swing was short and often stopped too soon. His stance was rather
awkward, after West's, and even his hold on the club was not according
to established precedent. Yet, notwithstanding all this, it must be
acknowledged that Whipple's drives had a way of carrying straight and
far and landing well.

Joel followed the play with much interest if small appreciation of its
intricacies, and carried West's bag, and hoped all the time that that
youth would win, knowing how greatly he had set his heart upon so doing.

There is no bunker between second and third holes, but the brook which
supplies the lake runs across the course and is about six yards wide
from bank to bank. But it has no terrors for a long drive, and both the
players went safely over and won Academy Hole in three strokes. West
still held the odd. Two long strokes carried Whipple a scant distance
from Railroad Bunker, which fronts Ditch Hole, a dangerous lie, since
Railroad Bunker is high and the putting green is on an elevation, almost
meriting the title of hill, directly back of it. But if Whipple erred in
judgment or skill, West found himself in even a sorrier plight when two
more strokes had been laid to his score. His first drive with a brassie
had fallen rather short, and for the second he had chosen an iron. The
ball sailed off on a long flight that brought words of delight from the
spectators, but which caused Joel to look glum and West to grind the
turf under his heel in anger. For, like a thing possessed, that ball
fell straight into the very middle of the bunker, and when it was found
lay up to its middle in gravel.

West groaned as he lifted the ball, replaced it loosely in its cup, and
carefully selected a club. Whipple meanwhile cleared the bunker in the
best of style, and landed on the green in a good position to hole out in
two shots. "Great Gobble!" muttered West as he swung his club, and fixed
his eye on a point an inch and a half back of the imbedded ball, "if I
don't get this out of here on this shot, I'm a gone goose!" March
grinned sympathetically but anxiously, and the onlookers held their
breath. Then back went the club--there was a scattering of sand and
gravel, and the ball dropped dead on the green, four yards from
the hole.

"Excellent!" shouted Professor Beck, and Joel jumped in the air from
sheer delight. "Good for you, Out!" yelled Dave Somers; and the rest of
the watchers echoed the sentiment in various ways, even those who
desired to see Whipple triumphant yielding their meed of praise for the
performance. And, "I guess, Out," said Whipple ruefully, "you might as
well take the cup." But Outfield West only smiled silently in response,
and followed his ball with businesslike attention to the game.

Whipple was weak on putting, and his first stroke with an iron failed to
carry his ball to the hole. West, on the contrary, was a sure player on
the green, and now with his ball but four yards from the hole he had
just the opportunity he desired to better his score. The green was level
and clean, and West selected a small iron putter, and addressed the ball
with all the attention to form that the oldest St. Andrews veteran might
desire. Playing on the principle that it is better to go too far than
not far enough, since the hole is larger than the ball, West gave a long
stroke, and the gutta-percha disappeared from view. Whipple holed out on
his next try, adopting a wooden putter this time, and the score stood
fifteen strokes each.

The honor was West's, and he led off for End Hole with a beautiful
brassie drive that cleared the first two bunkers with room to spare.
Whipple, for the first time in the round, drove poorly, toeing his ball
badly, and dropping it almost off of the course and just short of the
second bunker. West's second drive was a loft over Halfway Bunker that
fell fairly on the green and rolled within ten feet of the hole. From
there, on the next shot, he holed out very neatly in eighteen. Whipple
meanwhile had redeemed himself with a high lofting stroke that carried
past the threatening dangers of Masters Bunker and back on to the course
within a few yards of West's lie. But again skill on the putting green
was wanting, and he required two strokes to make the hole. Once more the
honor was West's, and that youth turned toward home with a short and
high stroke. The subsequent hole left the score "the like" at 22, and
the seventh gave Whipple, 25, West 26.

"But here's where Mr. West takes the lead," confided that young
gentleman to Joel as they walked to the teeing ground. "From here to
Lake Hole is four hundred and ninety-six yards, and I'm going to do it
in three shots on to the green. You watch!"

Four hundred and ninety-odd yards is nothing out of the ordinary for an
older player, but to a lad of seventeen it is a creditable distance to
do in three drives. Yet that is what West did it in; and strange to
relate, and greatly to that young gentleman's surprise, Whipple
duplicated the performance, and amid the excited whispers of the
onlookers the two youths holed out on their next strokes; and the score
still gave the odd to West--29 to 30.

"I didn't think he could do it," whispered West to Joel, "and that makes
it look bad for your uncle Out. But never mind, my lad, there's still
Rocky Bunker ahead of us, and--" West did not complete his remark, but
his face took on a very determined look as he teed his ball. The last
hole was in sight, and victory hovered overhead.

Now, the distance from Lake Hole to the Home Hole is but a few yards
over three hundred, and it can be accomplished comfortably in two long
brassie drives. Midway lies The Hill, a small elevation rising from
about the middle of the course to the river bluff, and there falling off
sheer to the beach below. It is perhaps thirty yards across, and if the
ball reaches it safely it forms an excellent place from which to make
the second drive. So both boys tried for The Hill. Whipple landed at the
foot of it, while West came plump upon the side some five yards from the
summit, and his next drive took him cleanly over Rocky Bunker and to the
right of the Home Green. But Whipple summoned discretion to his aid, and
instead of trying to make the green on the next drive, played short, and
landed far to the right of the Bunker. This necessitated a short
approach, and by the time he had gained the green and was "made" within
holing distance of the flag, the score was once more even, and the end
was in sight.

And now the watchers moved about restlessly, and Joel found his heart
in his throat. But West gripped his wooden putter firmly and studied the
situation. It was quite possible for a skillful player to hole out on
the next stroke from Whipple's lie. West, on the contrary, was too far
distant to possess more than one chance in ten of winning the hole in
one play. Whether to take that one chance or to use his next play in
bettering his lie was the question. Whipple, West knew, was weak on
putting, but it is ever risky to rely on your opponent's weakness. While
West pondered, Whipple studied the lay of the green with eyes that
strove to show no triumph, and the little throng kept silence save for
an occasional nervous whisper.

Then West leaned down and cleared a pebble from before his ball. It was
the veriest atom of a pebble that ever showed on a putting green, but
West was willing to take no chances beyond those that already confronted
him. His mind was made up. Gripping his iron putter firmly rather low on
the shaft and bending far over, West slowly, cautiously swung the club
above the gutty, glancing once and only once as he did so at the distant
goal. Then there was a pause. Whipple no longer studied his own play;
his eyes were on that other sphere that nestled there so innocently
against the grass. Joel leaned breathlessly forward. Professor Beck
muttered under his breath, and then cried "S--sh!" to himself in an
angry whisper. And then West's club swung back gently, easily, paused an

Forward sped the ball--on and on--slower--slower--but straight as an
arrow--and then--Presto! it was gone from sight!

A moment of silence followed ere the applause broke out, and in that
moment Professor Beck announced:

"The odd to Whipple. Thirty-two to thirty-three."

Then the group became silent again. Whipple addressed his ball. It was
yet possible to tie the score. His face was pale, and for the first time
during the tournament he felt nervous. A better player could scarce have
missed the hole from Whipple's lie, but for once that youth's nerve
forsook him and he hit too short; the ball stopped a foot from the hole.
The game was decided. Professor Beck again announced the score:

"The two more to Whipple. Thirty-two to thirty-four."

Again Whipple addressed his ball, and this time, but too late to win the
victory, the tiny sphere dropped neatly into the hole, and the throng
broke silence. And as West and Whipple, victor and vanquished, shook
hands over the Home Hole, Professor Beck announced:

"Thirty-two to thirty-five. West wins the Cup!"



The last week of October brought chilling winds and flying clouds. Life
at Hillton Academy had gone on serenely since West's victory on the
links. The little pewter tankard reposed proudly upon his mantel beside
a bottle of chow-chow, and bore his name as the third winner of the
trophy. But West had laid aside his clubs, save for an occasional hour
at noon, and, abiding by his promise to Joel, he had taken up his books
again with much resolution, if little ardor. Hillton had met and
defeated two more football teams, and the first eleven was growing
gradually stronger. Remsen was seen to smile now quite frequently during
practice, and there was a general air of prosperity about the gridiron.

The first had gone to its training table at "Mother" Burke's, in the
village, and the second ate its meals in the center of the school dining
hall with an illy concealed sense of self-importance. And the grinds
sneered at its appetites, and the obscure juniors admired reverently
from afar. Joel had attended both recitations and practice with
exemplary and impartial regularity, and as a result his class standing
was growing better and better on one hand, and on the other his muscles
were becoming stronger, his flesh firmer, and his brain clearer.

The friendship between him and Outfield West had ripened steadily, until
now they were scarcely separable. And that they might be more together
West had lately made a proposition.

"That fellow Sproule is a regular cad, Joel, and I tell you what we'll
do. After Christmas you move over to Hampton and room with me. You have
to make an application before recess, you know. What do you say?"

"I should like to first rate, but I can't pay the rent there," Joel had

"Then pay the same as you're paying for your den in Masters," replied
West. "You see, Joel, I have to pay the rent for Number 2 Hampton
anyhow, and it won't make any difference whether I have another fellow
in with me or not. Only, if you pay as much of my rent as you're paying
now, why, that will make it so much cheaper for me. Don't you see?"

"Yes, but if I use half the room I ought to pay half, the rent." And to
this Joel stood firm until West's constant entreaties led to a
compromise. West was to put the matter before his father, and Joel
before his. If their parents sanctioned it, Joel was to apply for the
change of abode. As yet the matter was still in abeyance.

Richard Sproule, as West had suggested rather more forcibly than
politely, was becoming more and more objectionable, and Joel was not a
bit grieved at the prospect of leaving him. Of late, intercourse between
the roommates had become reduced to rare monosyllables. This was the
outcome of a refusal on Joel's part to give a portion of his precious
study time to helping Sproule with his lessons. Once or twice Joel had
consented to assist his roommate, and had done so to the detriment of
his own affairs; but the result to both had proved so unsatisfactory
that Joel had stoutly refused the next request. Thereupon Sproule had
considered himself deeply aggrieved, and usually spent the time when
Joel was present in sulking.

Bartlett Cloud, since his encounter with Joel on the field the afternoon
that he was put off the team, had had nothing to say to him, though his
looks when they met were always dark and threatening. But in a school as
large as Hillton there is plenty of room to avoid an objectionable
acquaintance, so long as you are not under the same roof with him, and
consequently Cloud and Joel seldom met. The latter constantly regretted
having made an enemy of the other, but beyond this regret his
consideration of Cloud seldom went.

So far Joel had not found an opportunity to accept the invitation that
Remsen had extended to him, though that invitation had since been once
or twice repeated. But to-night West and he had made arrangement to
visit Remsen at his room, and had obtained permission from Professor
Wheeler to do so. The two boys met at the gymnasium after supper was
over and took their way toward the village. West had armed himself with
a formidable stick, in the hope, loudly expressed at intervals, that
they would be set upon by tramps. But Remsen's lodgings were reached
without adventure, and the lads were straightway admitted to a cosey
study, wherein, before an open fire, sat Remsen and a guest. After a
cordial welcome from Remsen the guest was introduced as Albert Digbee.

"Yes, we know each other," said West, as he shook hands. "We both room
in Hampton, but Digbee's a grind, you know, and doesn't care to waste
his time on us idlers." Digbee smiled.

"It isn't inclination, West; I don't have the time, and so don't attempt
to keep up with you fellows." He shook Joel's hand. "I'm glad to meet
you. I've heard of you before."

Then the quartet drew chairs up to the blaze, and, as Remsen talked,
Joel examined his new acquaintance.

Digbee was a year older than West and Joel. He was in the senior class,
and was spoken of as one of the smartest boys in the school. Although a
Hampton House resident, he seldom was seen with the others save at the
table, and was usually referred to among themselves as "Dig," both
because that suggested his Christian name and because, as they said, he
was forever digging at his books. In appearance Albert Digbee was a
tall, slender, but scarcely frail youth, with a cleanly cut face that
looked, in the firelight, far too pale. His eyes were strikingly bright,
and though his smiles were infrequent, his habitual expression was one
of eager and kindly interest. Joel had often come across him in class,
and had long wanted to know him.

"You see, boys," Remsen was saying, "Digbee here is of the opinion that
athletics in general and football in particular are harmful to schools
and colleges as tending to draw the attention of pupils from their
studies, and I maintain the opposite. Now, what's your opinion, West?
Digbee and I have gone over it so often that we would like to hear some
one else on the subject."

"Oh, I don't know," replied West. "If fellows would give up football and
go in for golf, there wouldn't be any talk about athletics being
hurtful. Golf's a game that a chap can play and get through with and
have some time for study. You don't have to train a month to play for an
hour; it's a sport that hasn't become a business."

"I can testify," said Joel gravely, "that Out is a case in point. He
plays golf, and has time left to study--how to play more golf."

"Well, anyhow, you know I _do_ study some lately, Joel," laughed West.
Joel nodded with serious mien.

"I think you've made a very excellent point in favor of golf, West,"
said Digbee. "It hasn't been made a business, at least in this school.
But won't it eventually become quite as much of a pursuit as
football now is?"

"Oh, it may become as popular, but, don't you see, it will never become
as--er--exacting on the fellows that play it. You can play golf without
having to go into training for it."

"Nevertheless, West," replied the head coach, "if a fellow can play golf
without being in training, doesn't it stand to reason that the same
fellow can play a better game if he is in training? That is, won't he
play a better game if he is in better trim?"

"Yes, I guess so, but he will play a first-class game if he doesn't

"But not as good a game as he will if he does train?"

"I suppose not," admitted West.

"Well, now, a fellow can play a very good game of football if he isn't
in training," continued Remsen, "but that same fellow, if he goes to bed
and gets up at regular hours, and eats decent food at decent times, and
takes care of himself in such a way as to improve his mental, moral, and
physical person, will play a still better game and derive more benefit
from it. When golf gets a firmer hold on this side of the Atlantic,
schools and colleges will have their golf teams of, say, from two to a
dozen players. Of course, the team will not play as a team, but the
members of it will play singly or in couples against representatives of
other schools. And when that happens it is sure to follow that the
players will go into almost as strict training as the football men
do now."

"Well, that sounds funny," exclaimed West.

"Digbee thinks one of the most objectionable features of football is the
fact that the players go into it so thoroughly--that they train for it,
and study it, and spend a good deal of valuable time thinking about it.
But to me that is one of its most admirable features. When a boy or a
man goes in for athletics, whether football or rowing or hockey, he
desires, if he is a real flesh-and-blood being, to excel in it. To do
that it is necessary that he put himself in the condition that will
allow of his doing his very best. And to that end he trains. He gives up
pastry, and takes to cereals; he abandons his cigarettes and takes to
fresh air; he gives up late hours at night, and substitutes early hours
in the morning. And he is better for doing so. He feels better, looks
better, works better, plays better."

"But," responded Digbee, "can a boy who has come to school to study, and
who has to study to make his schooling pay for itself, can such a boy
afford the time that all that training and practicing requires?"

"Usually, yes," answered Remsen. "Of course, there are boys, and men
too, for that matter, who are incapable of occupying their minds with
two distinct interests. That kind should leave athletics alone. And
there are others who are naturally--I guess I mean-unnaturally--stupid,
and who, should they attempt to sandwich football or baseball into their
school life, would simply make a mess of both study and recreation. But
they need not enter into the question of the harm or benefit of
athletics, since at every well-conducted school or college those boys
are not allowed to take up with athletics. Yes, generally speaking, the
boy who comes to school to study can afford to play football, train for
football, and think football, because instead of interfering with his
studies it really helps him with them. It makes him healthy, strong,
wide-awake, self-reliant, and clearheaded. Some time I shall be glad to
show you a whole stack of careful statistics which prove that football
men, at least, rather than being backward with studies, are nearly
always above the average in class standing. March, you're a hard-worked
football enthusiast, and I understand that you're keeping well up with
your lessons. Do you have trouble to attend to both? Do you have to
skimp your studies? I know you give full attention to the pigskin."

"I'm hard put some days to find time for everything," answered Joel,
"but I always manage to make it somehow, and I have all the sleep I want
or need. Perhaps if I gave up football I might get higher marks in
recitations, but I'd not feel so well, and it's possible that I'd only
get lower marks. I agree with you, Mr. Remsen, that athletics, or at
least football, is far more likely to benefit a chap than to hurt him,
because a fellow can't study well unless he is in good health
and spirits."

"Are you convinced, Digbee?" asked Remsen. Digbee shook his head

"I don't believe I am, quite. But you know more about such things than
I do. In fact, it's cheeky for me to argue about them. Why, I've never
played anything but tennis, and never did even that well."

"You know the ground you argue from, and because I have overwhelmed you
with talk it does not necessarily follow that I am right," responded his
host courteously. "But enough of such dull themes. There's West most
asleep.--March, have you heard from your mother lately?"

"Yes, I received a letter from her yesterday morning. She writes that
she's glad the relationship is settled finally; says she's certain that
any kin of the Maine Remsens is a person of good, strong moral
character." When the laugh had subsided, Remsen turned to West.

"Have you ever heard of Tommy Collingwood?"

"Wasn't he baseball captain a good many years ago?"

"Yes, and used to row in the boat. Well, Tommy was a good deal better at
spinning top on Academy steps than doing lessons, and a deal fonder of
playing shinney than writing letters. But Tommy's mother always insisted
that Tommy should write home once a week, and Tommy's father wrote and
explained what would happen to Tommy if he didn't obey his mother; and
as Tommy's folks lived just over in Albany it was a small thing for
Tommy's father to run over some day with a strap; so Tommy obeyed his
parents and every week wrote home. His letters weren't long, nor were
they filled with a wealth of detail, but they answered the purpose in
lieu of better. Each one ran: 'Hillton Academy, Hillton, N.Y.,' with
the date. 'Dear Father and Mother, I am well and studying hard. Your
loving son, Thomas Collingwood.'

"Well, when Christmas recess came, Tommy went home. And one day his
mother complimented Tommy on the regularity of his correspondence. Tommy
looked sheepish. 'To tell the truth, mother, I didn't write one of those
letters each week,' explained Tommy. 'But just after school opened I was
sick for a week, and didn't have anything to do; so I wrote 'I am well'
twelve times, and dated each ahead.'"

Digbee accompanied the other two lads back to the yard, and he and March
discussed studies, while West mooned along, whistling half aloud and
thrashing the weeds and rocks with his cudgel, for the tramps refused to
appear on the scene. He and Digbee went out of their way to see Joel
safely to his dormitory, and then Joel accompanied them on their
homeward way as far as Academy Building. There good-nights were said,
and Joel, feeling but little inclined for sleep, drew his collar up and
strolled to the front of the building, where, from the high steps, the
river was visible for several miles in either direction. The moon was
struggling out from a mass of somber clouds overhead, and the sound of
the waters as they swirled around the rocky point was plainly heard.

Joel sat there on the steps, under the shadow of the dark building,
thinking of many things, and feeling very happy and peaceful, until a
long, shrill sound from the north told of the coming of the 9.48 train;
then he made his way back to Masters, up the dim stairs, and into his
room, where Dickey Sproule lay huddled in bed reading The Three
Guardsmen by the screened light of a guttering candle.



Joel arrived at chapel the following morning just as the doors were
being closed. Duffy, the wooden-legged doorkeeper, was not on duty, and
the youth upon whom his duties had devolved allowed Joel to pass without
giving his name for report as tardy. During prayers there was an evident
atmosphere of suppressed excitement among the pupils, but not until
chapel was over did Joel discover the cause.

"Were you here when it happened?" asked West.

"When what happened?" responded Joel.

"Haven't you heard? Why, some one cut the bell rope, and when 'Peg-leg'
went to ring chapel bell the rope broke up in the tower and came down on
his head and laid him out there on the floor, and some of the fellows
found him knocked senseless. And they've taken him to the infirmary. You
know the rope's as big as your wrist, and it hit him on top of the head.
I guess he isn't much hurt, but 'Wheels' is as mad as never was, and
whoever did it will have a hard time, I'll bet!"

"Poor old Duffy!" said Joel. "Let's go over and find out if he's much
hurt. It was a dirty sort of a joke to play, though I suppose whoever
did it didn't think it would hurt any one."

At the infirmary they found Professor Gibbs in the office.

"No, boys, he isn't damaged much. He'll be all right in a few hours. I
hope that the ones who did it will be severely punished. It was a most
contemptible trick to put up on Duffy."

"I hope so too," answered West indignantly. "You may depend that no
upper middle boy did it, sir." The professor smiled.

"I hope you are right, West."

At noon hour Joel was summoned to the principal's office. Professor
Wheeler, the secretary, and Professor Durkee were present, and as Joel
entered he scented an air of hostility. The secretary closed the door
behind him.

"March, I have sent for you to ask whether you can give us any
information which will lead to the apprehension of the perpetrators of
the trick which has resulted in injury to Mr. Duffy. Can you?"

"No, sir," responded Joel.

"You know absolutely nothing about it?"

"Nothing, sir, except what I have been told."

"By whom?"

"Outfield West, sir, after chapel. We went to the infirmary to inquire
about 'Peg'--about Mr. Duffy, sir." The secretary repressed a smile. The
principal was observing Joel very closely, and Professor Durkee moved
impatiently in his seat.

"I can not suppose," continued the principal, "that the thing was done
simply as a school joke. The boy who cut the rope must have known when
he did so that the result would be harmful to whoever rang the chapel
bell this morning. I wish it understood that I have no intention of
dealing leniently with the culprit, but, at the same time, a confession,
if made now, will have the effect of mitigating his punishment." He
paused. Joel turned an astonished look from him to Professor Durkee,
who, meeting it, frowned and turned impatiently away. "You have nothing
more to tell me, March?"

"Why, no, sir," answered Joel in a troubled voice. "I don't understand.
Am I suspected--of--of this--thing, sir?"

"Dear me, sir," exclaimed Professor Durkee, explosively, turning to the
principal, "it's quite evident that--"

"One moment, please," answered the latter firmly. The other
subsided.--"You had town leave last night, March?"

"Yes, sir."

"You went with Outfield West?"

"Yes, sir."

"What time did you return to your room?"

"At about a quarter to ten, sir."

"You are certain as to the time?"

"I only know that I heard the down train whistle as I left Academy
Building. I went right to my room, sir."

"Was the door of Academy Building unlocked last night?"

"I don't know. I didn't try it, sir."

"What time did you leave Mr. Remsen's house?"

"A few minutes after nine."

"You came right back here?"

"Yes, sir. We came as far as Academy Building, and West and Digbee went
home. I sat on the front steps here until I heard the whistle blow. Then
I went to my room."

"Why did you sit on the steps, March?"

"I wasn't sleepy; and the moon was coming out--and--I wanted to think."

"Do you hear from home very often?"

"Once or twice a week, sir."

"When did you get a letter last, and from whom was it?"

"From my mother, about three days ago."

"Have you that letter?"

"Yes, sir. It is in my room."

"You sometimes carry your letters in your pocket?"

"Why, yes, but not often. If I receive them on the way out of the
building I put them in my pocket, and then put them away when I
get back."

"Where do you keep them?"

"In my bureau drawer."

"It is kept locked?"

"No, sir. I never lock it."

"Do you remember what was in that last letter?"

"Yes, sir."

"Was any one mentioned in it?"

"Yes, sir. Mr. Remsen was mentioned. And Outfield West, and my brother,
and father."

"Is this your letter?" Professor Wheeler extended it across the desk,
and Joel took it wonderingly.

"Why, yes, sir. But where--I don't understand--!" Again he looked toward
Professor Durkee in bewilderment.

"Nor do I," answered that gentleman dryly.

"March," continued the principal, as he took the letter again, "this was
found this morning, after the accident, on the floor of the bell tower.
Do you know how it came there?" Joel's cheeks reddened and then grew
white as the full meaning of the words reached him. His voice suddenly
grew husky.

"No, sir, I do not." The words were spoken very stoutly and rang with
sincerity. A silence fell on the room. Professor Wheeler glanced
inquiringly at Professor Durkee, and the latter made a grimace of
impatience that snarled his homely face into a mass of wrinkles.

"Look here, boy," he snapped, "who do you think dropped that letter

"I can't think, sir. I can't understand it at all. I've never been in
the tower since I've been in school."

"Do you know of any one who might like to get you into trouble in such
a way as this?"

"No, sir," answered Joel promptly. Then a sudden recollection of
Bartlett Cloud came to him, and he hesitated. Professor Durkee
observed it.

"Well?" he said sharply.

"I know of no one, sir."

"Humph!" grunted the professor, "you do, but you won't say."

"If you suspect any one it will be best to tell us, March," said
Professor Wheeler, more kindly. "You must see that the evidence is much
against you, and, while I myself can not believe that you are guilty, I
shall be obliged to consider you so until proof of your innocence is
forthcoming. Have you any enemy in school?"

"I think not, sir."

The door opened and Remsen appeared.

"Good-morning," he said. "You wished to see me, professor?"

"Yes, in a moment. Sit down, please, Remsen." Remsen nodded to Joel and
the secretary, shook hands with Professor Durkee, and took a chair. The
principal turned again to Joel.

"You wish me to understand, then, that you have no explanation to offer
as to how the letter came to be in the bell tower? Recollect that
shielding a friend or any other pupil will do neither you nor him
any service."

Joel was hesitating. Was it right to throw suspicion on Bartlett Cloud
by mentioning the small occurrence on the football field so long before?
It was inconceivable that Cloud would go to such a length in mere spite.
And yet--Remsen interrupted his thoughts.

"Professor, if you will dismiss March for a while, perhaps I can throw
some light on the matter. Let him return in half an hour or so."
Professor Wheeler nodded.

"Come back at one o'clock, March," he said.

Outside Joel hesitated where to go. He must tell some one his trouble,
and there was only one who would really care. He turned toward Hampton
House, then remembered that it was dinner hour and that Outfield would
be at table. He had forgotten his own dinner until that moment. In the
dining hall West was still lingering over his dessert. Joel took his
seat at the training table, explaining his absence by saying that he had
been called to the office, and hurried through a dinner of beef and rice
and milk. When West arose Joel overtook him at the door. And as the
friends took their way toward Joel's room, he told everything to West in
words that tumbled over each other.

Outfield West heard him in silence after one exclamation of surprise,
and when Joel had finished, cried:

"Why didn't you tell about Cloud? Don't you see that this is his doing?
That he is getting even with you for his losing the football team?"

"I thought of that, Out, but it seemed too silly to suppose that he
would do such a thing just for--for that, you know."

"Well, you may be certain that he did do it; or, at least, if he didn't
cut the rope himself, found some one to do it for him. It's just the
kind of a revenge that a fellow of his meanness would think of. He won't
stand up and fight like a man. Here, let's go and find him!"

"No, wait. I'll tell Professor Wheeler about him when I go back; then if
he thinks--If he did do it, Out, I'll lick him good for it!"

"Hooray! And when you get through I'll take a hand, too. But what do you
suppose Remsen was going to tell?"

Joel shook his head. They found Sproule in the room, and to him West
spoke as follows:

"Hello, Dickey! You're not studying? It's not good for you; these sudden
changes should be avoided." Sproule laughed, but looked annoyed at the
banter. "Joel and I have come up for a chat, Dickey," continued West.
"Now, you take your Robinson Crusoe and read somewhere else for a while,
like a nice boy."

Sproule grew red-faced, and turned to West angrily.

"Don't you see I'm studying? If you and March want to talk, why, either
go somewhere else, or talk here."

"But our talk is private, Dickey, and not intended for little boys'
ears. You know the saying about little pitchers, Dickey?"

"Well, I'm not going out, so you can talk or not as you like."

"Oh, yes, you are going out, Dickey. Politeness requires it, and I shall
see that you maintain that delightful courteousness for which you are
noted. Now, Dickey!" West indicated the door with a nod and a smile.
Sproule bent his head over his book and growled a response that sounded
anything but polite. Then West, still smiling, seized the unobliging
youth by the shoulders, pinioning his arms to his sides, and pushed him
away from the table and toward the door. Joel rescued the lamp at a
critical moment, the chairs went over on to the floor, and a minute
later Sproule was on the farther side of the bolted door, and West was
adjusting his rumpled attire.

"I'll report you for this, Outfield West!" howled Sproule through the
door, in a passion of resentment.

"Report away," answered West mockingly.

"And if I miss my Latin I'll tell why, too!"

"Well, you'll miss it all right enough, unless you've changed mightily.
But, here, I'll shy your book through the transom."

This was done, and the sound of ascending feet on the stairway reaching
Sproule's ears at that moment, he grabbed his book and took himself off,
muttering vengeance.

"Have you looked?" asked West.

"Yes; it's not there. But there are no others missing. Who could have
taken it?"

"Any one, my boy; Bartlett Cloud, for preference. Your door is
unlocked, he comes in when he knows you are out, looks on the table,
sees nothing there that will serve, goes to the bureau, opens the top
drawer, and finds a pile of letters. He takes the first one, which is,
of course, the last received, and sneaks out. Then he climbs into the
bell tower at night, cuts the rope through all but one small strand, and
puts your letter on the floor where it will be found in the morning.
Isn't that plain enough?" Joel nodded forlornly. "But cheer up, Joel.
Your Uncle Out will see your innocence established, firmly and beyond
all question. And now come on. It's one o'clock, and you've got to go
back to the office, while I've got a class. Come over to my room at
four, Joel, and tell me what happens."

Remsen and the secretary were no longer in the office when Joel
returned. Professor Durkee was standing with his hat in his hand,
apparently about to leave.

"March," began the principal, "Mr. Remsen tells us that you were struck
at by Bartlett Cloud on the football field one day at practice. Is that
so?" Joel replied affirmatively.

"Does he speak to you, or you to him?"

"No, sir; but then I've never been acquainted with him."

"Do you believe that he could have stolen that letter from your room?"

"I know that he could have done so, sir, but I don't like to think--"

"That he did? Well, possibly he did and possibly he didn't. I shall
endeavor to find out. Meanwhile I must ask you to let this go no
further. You will go on as though this conversation had never occurred.
If I find that you are unjustly suspected I will summon you and ask your
pardon, and the guilty one will be punished. Professor Durkee here has
pointed out to me that such conduct is totally foreign to his conception
of your character, and has reminded me that your standing in class has
been of the best since the beginning of the term. I agree with him in
all this, but duty in the affair is very plain and I have been
performing it, unpleasant as it is. You may go now, March; and kindly
remember that this affair must be kept quiet,"

Joel turned with a surprised but grateful look toward Professor Durkee,
but was met with a wrathful scowl. Joel hurried to his recitation, and
later, before West's fireplace, the friends discussed the unfortunate
affair in all its phases, and resolved, with vehemence, to know the
truth sooner or later.

But Joel's cup was not yet filled. When he returned to the dormitory
after supper, he found two missives awaiting him. The first was from
Wesley Blair:

"DEAR MARCH" (it read): "Please show up in the morning at Burke's for
breakfast with the first eleven. You are to take the place of Post at
L.H.B. It will be necessary for you to report at the gym at eleven each
day for noon signals; please arrange your recitations to this end. I am
writing this because I couldn't see you this afternoon; hope you are all
right. Yours,


Joel read this with a loudly beating heart and flushing cheeks. It was
as unexpected as it was welcome, that news; he _had_ hoped for an
occasional chance to substitute Post or Blair or Clausen on the first
team in some minor game, but to be taken on as a member was more than he
had even thought of since he had found how very far from perfect was his
playing. He seized his cap with the intention of racing across to
Hampton and informing West of his luck; then he remembered the other
note. It was from the office, and it was with a sinking heart that he
tore it open and read:

"You are placed upon probation until further notice from the Faculty.
The rules and regulations require that pupils on probation abstain from
all sports and keep their rooms in the evenings except upon permission
from the Principal. Respectfully,

"CURTIS GORDON, Secretary."



One afternoon a week later Outfield West and Joel March were seated on
the ledge where, nearly two months before, they had begun their
friendship. The sun beat warmly down and the hill at their backs kept
off the east wind. Below them the river was brightly blue, and a skiff
dipping its way up stream caught the sunlight on sail and hull until, as
it danced from sight around the headland, it looked like a white gull
hovering over the water. Above, on the campus, the football field was
noisy with voices and the pipe of the referee's whistle; and farther up
the river at the boathouse moving figures showed that some of the boys
were about to take advantage of the pleasant afternoon.

"Some one's going rowing," observed Outfield. "Can you row, Joel?"

"I guess so; I never tried." West laughed.

"Then I guess you can't. I've tried. It's like trying to write with both
hands. While you're looking after one the other has fits and runs all
over the paper. If you pull with the left oar the right oar goes up in
the air or tries to throw you out of the boat by getting caught in the
water. Paddling suits me better. Say, you'll see a bully race next
spring when we meet Eustace. Last spring they walked away from us. But
the crew is to have a new boat next year. Look! those two fellows row
well, don't they? Remsen says a chap can never learn to row unless he
has been born near the water. That lets me out. In Iowa we haven't any
water nearer than the Mississippi--except the Red Cedar, and that
doesn't count. By the way, Joel, what did Remsen say to you last night
about playing again?"

"He said to keep in condition, so that in case I got off probation I
could go right back to work. He says he'll do all he can to help me, and
I know he will. But it won't do any good. 'Wheels' won't let me play
until he's found out who did that trick. It's bad enough, Out, to be
blamed for the thing when I didn't do it, but to lose the football team
like this is a hundred times worse. I almost wish I _had_ cut that old
rope!" continued Joel savagely; "then I'd at least have the satisfaction
of knowing that I was only getting what I deserved." West looked
properly sympathetic.

"It's a beastly shame, that's what I think. What's the good of
'believing you innocent,' as 'Wheels' says, if he goes ahead and
punishes you for the affair? What? Why, there isn't any, of course! If
it was me I'd cut the pesky rope every chance I got until they let up on
me!" Joel smiled despite his ill humor.

"And I've lost half my interest in lessons, Out. I try not to, but I
can't help it. I guess my chance at the scholarship is gone higher
than a kite."

"Oh, hang the scholarship!" exclaimed West. "But there's the St. Eustace
game in three weeks. If you don't play in that, Joel, I'll go to
'Wheels' and tell him what I think about it!"

"It's awfully rough on a fellow, Out, but Professor Wheeler is only
doing what is right, I suppose. He can't let the thing go unnoticed, you
see, and as long as I can't prove my innocence I guess he's right to
hold me to blame for it."

"Tommyrot!" answered West explosively. "The faculty's just trying to
have us beaten! Why--Say, don't tell a soul, Joel, but Blair's worried
half crazy. They had him up yesterday, and 'Wheels' told him that if he
didn't get better marks from now on he couldn't play. What do you think
of that? They're not _decent_ about it. They're trying to put us _all_
on probation. Why, how do I know but what they'll put _me_ on?"

Outfield hit his shoe violently with the driver he held until it hurt
him. For although Joel was debarred from playing golf there was nothing
to keep him from watching West play, and this afternoon the two had been
half over the course together, West explaining the game, and Joel
listening intently, and all the while longing to take a club in hand and
have a whack at the ball himself.

"That's bad," answered Joel thoughtfully. "It would be all up with us
if Blair shouldn't play."

"And that's just what's going to happen if 'Wheels' keeps up his present
game," responded Outfield. "Who are those chaps in that shell, Joel? One
looks like Cloud, the fellow in front." Joel watched the approaching
craft for a moment.

"It is Cloud," he answered. "And that looks like Clausen with him. Why
isn't he practicing, I wonder?"

"Haven't you heard? He was dropped from the team yesterday. Wills has
his place. Post says, by the way, that he's sorry you're in such a fix,
but he's mighty glad to get back on the first. He's an awfully decent
chap, is Post. Did you see that thing he has in this month's Hilltonian
about Cooke? Says the Fac's going to establish a class in bakery and put
Cooke in as teacher because he's such a fine _loafer_! Say, what's the
matter down there?"

The shell containing Cloud and Clausen had reached a point almost
opposite to where West and Joel were perched, and as the latter looked
toward it at West's exclamation he saw Cloud throw aside his oars and
stand upright in the boat. Clausen had turned and was looking at his
friend, but still held his oars.

"By Jove, Joel, she's sinking!" cried Outfield. "Look! Why doesn't
Clausen get out? There goes Cloud over. I wonder if Clausen can swim?
swim? Come on!"

And half tumbling, half climbing, West sped down the bank on to the
tiny strip of rocks and gravel that lay along the water. Joel followed.
Cloud now was in the water at a little distance from the shell, which
had settled to the gunwales. Clausen, plainly in a state of terror, was
kneeling in the sinking boat and crying to the other lad for help. The
next moment he was in the water, and his shouts reached the two lads on
the beach. Cloud swam toward him, but before he could reach him Clausen
had gone from sight.

"What shall we do?" cried West. "He's drowning! Can you swim?" For Joel
had already divested himself of his coat and vest, and was cutting the
lacings of his shoes. West hesitated an instant only, then
followed suit.

"Yes." Off went the last shoe, and Joel ran into the water. West, pale
of face, but with a determined look in his blue eyes, followed a moment
later, a yard or two behind, and the two set out with desperate strokes
to reach the scene of the disaster. As he had taken the water Joel had
cast a hurried glance toward the spot where Clausen had sunk, and had
seen nothing of that youth; only Cloud was in sight, and he seemed to be
swimming hurriedly toward shore.

Joel went at the task hand over hand and heard behind him West, laboring
greatly at his swimming. Presently Joel heard his name cried in an
exhausted voice.

"I--can't make--it--Joel!" shouted West. "I'll--have to--turn--back."

"All right," Joel called. "Go up to the field and send some one for
help." Then he turned his attention again to his strokes, and raising
his head once, saw an open river before him with nothing in sight
between him and the opposite bank save, farther down stream, a floating
oar. He had made some allowance for the current, and when in another
moment he had reached what seemed to him to be near the scene of the
catastrophe, yet a little farther down stream, he trod water and looked
about. Under the bluff to the right Cloud was crawling from the river.
West was gone from sight. About him ran the stream, and save for its
noise no sound came to him, and nothing rewarded his eager, searching
gaze save a branch that floated slowly by. With despair at his heart, he
threw up his arms and sank with wide-open eyes, peering about him in the
hazy depths. Above him the surface water bubbled and eddied; below him
was darkness; around him was only green twilight. For a moment he
tarried there, and then arose to the surface and dashed the water from
his eyes and face. And suddenly, some thirty feet away, an arm clad in a
white sweater sleeve came slowly into sight.

With a frantic leap through the water Joel sped toward it. A bare head
followed the upstretched arm; two wild, terror-stricken eyes opened and
looked despairingly at the peaceful blue heavens; the white lips moved,
but no sound came from them. And then, just as the eyes closed and just
as the body began to sink, as slowly as it had arisen, and for the last
time, Joel reached it.

There was no time left in which to pause and select a hold of the
drowning boy, and Joel caught savagely at his arm and struck toward the
bank, and the inert body came to the surface like a water-logged plank.

"Clausen!" shouted Joel. "Clausen! Can you hear? Brace up! Strike out
with your right hand, and don't grab me! Do you hear?"

But there was no answer. Clausen was like stone in the water. Joel cast
a despairing glance toward the bluff. Then his eyes brightened, for
there sliding down the bank he saw a crowd of boys, and as he looked
another on the bluff threw down a coil of new rope that shone in the
afternoon sunlight as it fell and was seized by some one in the
throng below.

Nerved afresh, Joel took a firm grasp on Clausen's elbow and struck out
manfully for shore. It was hard going, and when a bare dozen long
strokes had been made his burden so dragged him down that he was obliged
to stop, and, floundering desperately to keep the white face above
water, take a fresh store of breath into his aching lungs. Then drawing
the other boy to him so that his weight fell on his back, he brought one
limp arm about his shoulder, and holding it there with his left hand
started swimming once more. A dozen more strokes were accomplished
slowly, painfully, and then, as encouraging shouts came from shore, he
felt the body above him stir into life, heard a low cry of terror in his
ear, and then--they were sinking together, Clausen and he, struggling
there beneath the surface! Clausen had his arm about Joel's neck and was
pulling him down--down! And just as his lungs seemed upon the point of
bursting the grasp relaxed around his neck, the body began to sink and
Joel to rise!

With a deafening noise as of rushing water in his ears, Joel reached,
caught a handful of cloth, and struggled, half drowned himself, to the
surface. And then some one caught him by the chin--and he knew no more
until he awoke as from a bad dream to find himself lying in the sun on
the narrow beach, while several faces looked down into his.

"Did you get him?" he asked weakly.

"Yep," answered Outfield West, with something that sounded like a sob
in his voice. "He's over there. He's all right. Don't get up," he
continued, as Joel tried to move. "Stay where you are. The fellows are
bringing a boat, and we'll take you both back in it."

"All right," answered Joel. "But I guess I'll just look around a bit."
And he sat up. At a little distance a group among which Joel recognized
the broad back of Professor Gibbs were still working over Clausen. But
even as he looked Joel was delighted to see Clausen's legs move and hear
his weak voice speaking to the professor. Then the boat was rowed in,
the occupants panting with their hurried pull from the boathouse, and
Joel clambered aboard, disdaining the proffered help of West and
others, and Clausen was lifted to a seat in the bow.

On the way up river Joel told how it happened, West throwing in an eager
word here and there, and Clausen in a low whisper explaining that the
shell had struck on a sunken rock or snag when passing the island, and
had begun to sink almost immediately.

"And Cloud?" asked Professor Gibbs. There was no reply from either Joel
or Clausen or-West. Only one of the rowers answered coldly:

"He's safe. I saw him on the path near the Society Building. He was
running toward Warren." A silence followed. Then--

"You've never learned to swim, Clausen?"

"No, sir."

"But it is the rule that no boy is allowed on the river who can not
swim. How is that?"

"I--I said I could, sir."

"Humph! Your lie came near to costing you dear, Clausen."

Then no more was said in the boat until the float was reached, although
each occupant was busy with his thoughts. Clausen was helped, pale and
shaking, to his room, and West and Joel, accompanied by several of their
schoolmates, trotted away to the gymnasium, where Joel was put through
an invigorating bath and a subsequent rubbing that left him none the
worse for his adventure. The story had to be told over and over to each
new group that came in after practice, and finally the two friends
escaped to West's room, where they discussed the affair from the
view-point of participants.

"When I got back to the bluff with the other fellows you weren't to be
seen, Joel," West was saying, "and I thought it was all up with poor old
Joel March."

"That's just what I thought a bit later," responded Joel, "when that
fellow had me round the neck and was trying to show me the bottom of
the river."

"And then, when they brought you in, Whipple and Christie, and you were
all white and--and ghastly like, you know"--Outfield West whistled long
and expressively--"then I thought you _were_ a goner."

Joel nodded. "And Cloud?" he asked presently.

"Cloud has settled himself," responded West. "When he thought Clausen
was drowning he just cut and ran--I mean swam--to shore. The fellows are
madder than hornets. As Whipple said, you can't insist on a fellow
saving another fellow from drowning, but you can insist on his not
running away. They're planning to show Cloud what they think of him,
somehow. They wouldn't talk about it while I was around. I wonder why?"
Outfield stopped suddenly and frowned perplexedly. "Why, a month or six
weeks ago I would have been one of the first they would have asked to
help! I'm afraid it's associating with you, Joel. You're corrupting me!
Say, didn't I make a mess of it this afternoon? I got about ten yards
off the beach and just had to give up and pull back--and pull hard.
Blessed if I didn't begin to wonder once if I'd make it! The fact is,
Joel, I'm an awful dab at swimming. And I ought to be punched for
letting you go out there all alone."

"Nonsense, Out! You couldn't help getting tired, especially if you
aren't much of a swimmer. And now you speak of it I remember you saying
once that you couldn't--" Joel stopped short and looked at West in
wondering amazement. And West grew red and his eyes sought the floor,
and for almost a minute there was silence in the room. Then Joel arose
and stood over the other lad with shining eyes.

"Out," he muttered huskily, "you're a brick!"

West made no reply, but his feet shuffled nervously on the hearth.

"To think of you starting out there after me! Why, you're the--the hero,
Out; not me at all!"

"Oh, shut up!" muttered West.

"I'll not! I'll tell every one in school!" cried Joel. "I'll--"

"If you do, Joel March, I'll thrash you!" cried West.

"You can't!--you can't, Out!" Then he paused and laid a hand
affectionately on the other's shoulder as he asked softly:

"And it's really so, Out? You can't--" West shook his head.

"I'm afraid it's so, Joel," he answered apologetically. "You see out in
Iowa there isn't much chance for a chap to learn, and--and so before
this afternoon, Joel, I never swam a stroke in my life."



Wallace Clausen's narrow escape from death and Joel's heroic rescue were
nine-day wonders in the little world of the academy and village. In
every room that night the incident was discussed from A to Z: Clausen's
foolhardiness, March's grit and courage, West's coolness, Cloud's
cowardice. And next morning at chapel when Joel, fearing to be late,
hurried in and down the side aisle to his seat, his appearance was the
signal for such an enthusiastic outburst of cheers and acclamations that
he stopped, looked about in bewilderment, and then slipped with crimson
cheeks into his seat, the very uncomfortable cynosure of all eyes.

Older boys, who were supposed to know, stoutly averred that such a
desecration of the sacred solitude of chapel had never before been heard
of, and "Peg-Leg," long since recovered from his contact with the bell
rope, shook his gray head doubtfully, and joined his feeble tones with
the cheers of the others. And then Professor Wheeler made his voice
heard, and commanded silence very sternly, yet with a lurking smile, and
silence was almost secured when, just as the door was being closed,
Outfield West slipped through, smiling, his handsome face flushed from
his tear across the yard. And again the applause burst forth, scarcely
less great in volume or enthusiasm, and West literally bolted back to
the door, found it closed, was met with a grinning shake of the head
from Duffy, looked wildly about for an avenue of escape, and finding
none, slunk to his seat at Joel's side, while the boys joined laughter
at his plight to their cheers for his courage.

"You promised not to tell!" hissed West with blazing cheek.

"I didn't, Out; not a word," whispered Joel.

Many eyes were still turned toward the door, but their owners were
doomed to disappointment, for Bartlett Cloud failed to appear at chapel
that morning, preferring to accept the penalty of absence rather than
face his fellow-pupils assembled there in a body. But he did not escape
public degradation; for, although he waited until the last moment to go
to breakfast, he found the hall filled, and so passed to his seat amid a
storm of hisses that plainly told the contempt in which his schoolmates
held him. And then, as though scorning to remain in his presence, the
place emptied as though by magic, and he was left with burning cheeks to
eat his breakfast in solitude.

Joel and Outfield were publicly thanked and commended by the principal,
and every master had a handshake and a kind and earnest word for them.
The boys learned that Clausen had taken a severe cold from his
immersion in the icy water, and had gone to the infirmary. Thither they
went and made inquiry. He would be up in a day or two, said Mrs.
Creelman; but they could not see him, since Professor Gibbs had charged
that the patient was not to be disturbed. And so, leaving word for him
when he should awake, Joel and West took themselves away, relieved at
not having to receive any more thanks just then.

But three days later Clausen left the infirmary fully recovered, and
Joel came face to face with him on the steps of Academy Building. A
number of fellows on their way to recitations stopped and watched the
meeting. Clausen colored painfully, appeared to hesitate for a moment,
and then went to Joel and held out his hand, which was taken and
gripped warmly.

"March, it's hard work thanking a fellow for saving your life, and--I
don't know how to do it very well. But I guess you'll understand
that--that--Oh, hang it, March! you know what I'd like to say. I'm more
grateful than I could tell you--ever. We haven't been friends, but it
was my fault, I know, and if you'll let me, I'd like to be--to know
you better."

"You're more than welcome, Clausen, for what I did. I'm awfully glad
West and I happened to be on hand. But there wasn't anything that you or
any fellow couldn't have done just as well, or better, because I came
plaguey near making a mess of it. Anyhow, it's well through with. As
for being friends, I'll be very glad to be, Clausen. And if you don't
mind climbing stairs, and have a chance, come up and see me this
evening. Will you?"

"Yes, thanks. Er--well, to-night, then." And Clausen strode off.

After supper West and Clausen came up to Joel's room, and the four boys
sat and discussed all the topics known to school. Richard Sproule was at
his best, and strove to do his share of the entertaining, succeeding
quite beyond Joel's expectations. When the conversation drew around to
the subject of the upsetting on the river, Clausen seemed willing enough
to tell his own experiences, but became silent when Cloud's name was

"I've changed my room, and haven't seen Cloud since to speak to," he
said. And so Cloud's name was omitted from discussion.

"I'm sorry," said Clausen, "that I made such a dunce of myself when you
were trying to get me out. I don't believe I knew what I was doing. I
don't remember it at all."

"I'm sure you didn't," answered Joel. "I guess a fellow just naturally
wouldn't, you know. But I was glad when you let go!"

"Yes, you must have been. The fellows all say you were terribly plucky
to keep at it the way you did. When they got you it was all they could
do to make you let go of me, they say."

"The queerest thing," said West, with a laugh, "was to see Post
standing on shore and trying to throw a line to you all. It never came
within twenty yards of you, but he kept on shouting: 'Catch hold--catch
hold, can't you? Why don't you catch hold, you stupid apes?'"

"And some one told me," said Sproule, "that Whipple took his shoes,
sweater, and breeches off, and swam out there with his nose-guard on."

"Used it for a life-preserver," suggested West.--"Did you get lectured,

"Yes, he gave it to me hard; but he's a nice old duffer, after all. Said
I had had pretty near punishment enough. But I've got to keep in bounds
all term, and can't go on the river again until I learn how to swim."

"Shouldn't think you'd want to," answered Sproule.

"Are you still on probation, March?" asked Clausen.

"Yes, and it doesn't look as though I'd ever get off. If I could find
out who cut that rope I'd--I'd--"

"Well, I must be going back," exclaimed Clausen hurriedly. "I wish,
March, you'd come and see me some time. My room's 16 Warren. I'm in with
a junior by the name of Bowler. Know him?"

Joel didn't know the junior, but promised to call, and West and Clausen
said good-night and stumbled down the stairway together.

The next morning Joel dashed out from his history recitation plump into
Stephen Remsen, who was on his way to the office.

"Well, March, congratulations! I'm just back from a trip home and was
going to look you up this afternoon and shake hands with you. I'll do it
now. You're a modest-enough-looking hero, March."

"I don't feel like a hero, either," laughed Joel in an endeavor to
change the subject. "I'm just out from Greek history, and if I could
tell Mr. Oman what I think--"

"Yes? But tell me, how did you manage--But we'll talk about that some
other time. You're feeling all right after the wetting, are you?" And as
Joel answered yes, he continued: "Do you think you could go to work
again on the team if I could manage to get you off probation?"

"Try me!" cried Joel. "Do you think they'll let up on me?"

"I'm almost certain of it. I'm on my way now to see Professor Wheeler,
and I'll ask him about you. I have scarcely any doubt but that, after
your conduct the other day, he will consent to reinstate you, March, if
I ask him. And I shall be mighty glad to do so. To tell the truth, I'm
worried pretty badly about--well, never mind. Never cross a river until
you come to it."

"But, Mr. Remsen, sir," said Joel, "do you mean that he will let me play
just because--just on account of what happened the other day?"

"On account of that and because your general conduct has been of the
best; and also, because they have all along believed you innocent of the
charge, March. You know I told you that when Cloud and Clausen were
examined each swore that the other had not left the room that evening,
and accounted for each other's every moment all that day. But,
nevertheless, I am positive that Professor Wheeler took little stock in
their testimony. And as for Professor Durkee, why, he pooh-pooed the
whole thing. You seem to have made a conquest of Professor
Durkee, March."

"He was very kind," answered Joel thoughtfully. "I don't believe, Mr.
Remsen, that I want to be let off that way," he went on. "I'm no less
guilty of cutting the bell rope than I was before the accident on the
river. And until I can prove that I am not guilty, or until they let me
off of their own free wills, I'd rather stay on probation. But I'm very
much obliged to you, Mr. Remsen."

And to this resolve Joel adhered, despite all Remsen's powers of
persuasion. And finally that gentleman continued on his way to the
office, looking very worried.

The cause of his worry was known to the whole school two days later when
the news was circulated that Wesley Blair was on probation. And great
was the consternation. The football game with St. Eustace Academy was
fast approaching, and there was no time to train a satisfactory
substitute for Blair's position at full-back, even had one been in
reach. And Whipple as temporary captain was well enough, but Whipple as
captain during the big game was not to be thought of with equanimity.
The backs had already been weakened by the loss of Cloud, who, despite
his poor showing the first of the season, had it in him to put up a
rattling game. And now to lose Blair! What did the faculty mean? Did it
want Hillton to lose? But presently hope took the place of despair among
the pupils. He was going to coach up and pass a special exam the day
before the game. Professor Ludlow was to help him with his modern
languages and Remsen with his mathematics, while Digbee, that confirmed
old grind, had offered to coach him on Greek. And so it would be all
right, said the school; you couldn't down Blair; he'd pass when the
time came!

But Remsen--and Blair himself, had the truth been known--were not so
hopeful. And Remsen went to West and besought him to induce Joel to
allow him (Remsen) to ask for his reinstatement. And this West very
readily did, bringing to bear a whole host of arguments which slid off
from Joel like water from a duck's back. And Remsen groaned and shook
his head, but always presented a smiling, cheerful countenance in
public. Those were hard days for the first eleven. Despair and
discouragement threatened on all sides, and, as every thoughtful one
expected, there was such a slump in the practice as kept Remsen and
Whipple and poor Blair awake o' nights during the next week. But Whipple
toiled like a Trojan, and Remsen beamed contentment and scattered
tongue-lashings alternately; and Blair, ever armed with a text-book,
watched from the side-line whenever the chance offered.

Joel seldom went to the field those days. The sight of a canvas-clad
player made him ready to weep, and a soaring pigskin sent him wandering
away by himself along the river bluff in no enviable state of mind. But
one day he did find his way to the gridiron during practice, and he and
Blair sat side by side, or raced down the field, even with a runner, and
received much consolation in the sort of company that misery loves, and,
deep in discussion of the faults and virtues of the players, forgot
their troubles.

"Why, it wouldn't have mattered if you were playing, March," said Blair.
"For there's no harm in telling you now that we were depending on you
for half the punting. Remsen thinks you are fine and so do I. 'With
March to take half the punting off your hands,' said he one day, 'you'll
have plenty of time to run the team to the Queen's taste.' Why, we had
you running on the track there, so you would get your lungs filled out
and be able to run with the ball as well as kick it. If you were playing
we'd be all right. But as it is, there isn't a player there that can be
depended on to punt twenty yards if pushed. Some of 'em can't even catch
the ball if they happen to see the line breaking! St. Eustace is eight
pounds heavier in the line than we are, and three or four pounds heavier
back of it. So what will happen? Why, they'll get the ball and push us
right down the field with a lot of measly mass plays, and we won't be
able to kick and we won't be able to go through their line. And it's
dollars to doughnuts that we won't often get round their ends. It's a
hard outlook! Of course, if I can pass--" But there Blair stopped and
sighed dolefully. And Joel echoed the sigh.

The last few days before the event of the term came, and found the first
eleven in something approaching their old form. Blair continued to burn
the midnight oil and consume page after page of Greek and mathematics
and German, which, as he confided despondently to Digbee, he promptly
forgot the next moment. Remsen made up a certain amount of lost sleep,
and Whipple gained the confidence of the team. Joel studied hard, and
refound his old interest in lessons, and dreamed nightly of the Goodwin
scholarship. West, too, "put in some hard licks," as he phrased it, and
found himself climbing slowly up in the class scale. And so the day of
the game came round.

The night preceding it two things of interest happened: the eleven and
substitutes assembled in the gymnasium and listened to a talk by Remsen,
which was designed less for instruction than to take the boys' mind off
the morrow's game; and Wesley Blair took his examination in the four
neglected studies, and made very hard work of it, and finally crawled
off to a sleepless night, leaving the professors to make their
decision alone.

And as the chapel bell began to ring on Thanksgiving Day morning, Digbee
entered Blair's room, and finding that youth in a deep slumber, sighed,
wrote a few words on a sheet of paper, placed this in plain sight upon
the table, and tiptoed noiselessly out.

And the message read:

"We failed on the Greek. I'm sorrier than I can tell you.--Digbee."



There is a tradition at Hillton, almost as firmly inwrought as that
which credits Professor Durkee with wearing a wig, to the effect that
Thanksgiving Day is always rainy. To-day proved an exception to the
rule. The sun shone quite warmly and scarce a cloud was to be seen. At
two o'clock the grand stand was filled, and late arrivals had perforce
to find accommodations on the grass along the side-lines. Some fifty
lads had accompanied their team from St. Eustace, and the portion of the
stand where they sat was blue from top to bottom. But the crimson of
Hillton fluttered and waved on either side and dotted the field with
little spots of vivid color wherever a Hilltonian youth or ally sat,
strolled, or lay.

Yard and village were alike well-nigh deserted; here was the staid
professor, the corpulent grocer, the irrepressible small boy, the
important-looking senior, the shouting, careless junior, the giggling
sister, the smiling mother, the patronizing papa, the crimson-bedecked
waitress from the boarding house, the--the--band! Yes, by all means,
the band!

There was no chance of overlooking the band. It stood at the upper end
of the field and played and played and played. The band never did things
by halves. When it played it played; and, as Outfield West affirmed, "it
played till the cows came home!"

There were plenty of familiar faces here to-day; Professor Gibbs's, old
"Peg-Leg" Duffy's, Professor Durkee's, the village postmaster's, "Old
Joe" Pike's, and many, many others. On the ground just outside the rope
sat West and a throng of boys from Hampton House. There were Cooke and
Cartwright and Somers and Digbee--and yes, Wesley Blair, looking very
glum and unhappy. He had donned his football clothes, perhaps from force
of habit, and sat there taking little part in the conversation, but
studying attentively the blue-clad youths who were warming-up on the
gridiron. A very stalwart lot of youngsters, those same youths looked to
be, and handled the ball as though to the manner born, and passed and
fell and kicked short high punts with discouraging ease and vim.

But one acquaintance at least was missing. Not Bartlett Cloud, for he
sat with his sister and mother on the seats; not Clausen, for he sat
among the substitutes; not Sproule, since he was present but a moment
since. But Joel March was missing. In his room at Masters Hall Joel sat
by the table with a Greek history open before him. I fear he was doing
but little studying, for now and then he arose from his chair, walked
impatiently to the window, from which he could see in the distance the
thronged field, bright with life and color, turned impatiently away,
sighed, and so returned again to his book. But surely we can not tarry
there with Joel when Hillton and St. Eustace are about to meet in
gallant if bloodless combat on the campus. Let us leave him to sigh and
sulk, and return to the gridiron.

A murmur that rapidly grows to a shout arises from the grand stand, and
suddenly every eye is turned up the river path toward the school. They
are coming! A little band of canvas-armored knights are trotting toward
the campus. The shouting grows in volume, and the band changes its tune
to "Hilltonians." Nearer and nearer they come, and then are swinging on
to the field, leaping the rope, and throwing aside sweaters and coats.
Big Greer is in the lead, good-natured and smiling. Then comes Whipple,
then Warren, and the others are in a bunch--Post, Christie, Fenton,
Littlefield, Barnard, Turner, Cote, Wills. The St. Eustace contingent
gives them a royal welcome, and West and Cooke and Somers and others
take their places in front of the seats and lead the cheering.

"Rah-rah-rah, rah-rah-rah, rah-rah-rah, Hillton!" The mighty chorus
sweeps across the campus and causes more than one player's heart to
swell within him.

"S-E-A, S-E-A, S-E-A, Saint Eustace!" What the cheer lacks in volume is
atoned for by good will, and a clapping of hands from the hostile seats
attests admiration. Hillton is warming for the fray. Greer and Whipple
are practicing snapping-back, the latter passing the ball to Warren,
who seizes it and runs a few steps to a new position, where the play is
repeated. The guards and tackles are throwing themselves on to the
ground and clutching rolling footballs in a way that draws a shudder of
alarm from the feminine observer. Stephen Remsen is talking with the
ends very earnestly under the goal posts, and Post and Wills are aiming
balls at the goal with, it must be acknowledged, small success.

Then a whistle blows, the two teams congregate in the center of the
field, the opposing captains flip a coin, the referee, a Yates College
man, utters a few words of warning, and the teams separate, St. Eustace
taking the ball and the home team choosing the northern goal. Then the
cheering lessens. St. Eustace spreads out; Cantrell, their center,
places the ball; the referee's whistle sounds, the pigskin soars aloft,
and the game is on.

In charity toward Hillton let us pass over the first half as soon as may
be. Suffice to tell that the wearers of the crimson fought their best;
that Whipple ran the team as well as even Remsen could desire; that Post
made a startling run of forty yards, had only the St. Eustace full-back
between him and the goal--and then ran plump into that full-back's arms;
that Greer and Barnard and Littlefield stood like a stone wall--and went
down like one; that Wills kicked, and Post kicked, and Warren kicked,
and none of them accomplished aught save to wring groans from the souls
of all who looked on. In short, it was St. Eustace's half from kick-off
to call of time, and all because Hillton had never a youth behind the
line to kick out of danger or gain them a yard. For St. Eustace was
heavier in the line than Hillton and heavier back of it, and with the
ball once in her possession St. Eustace had only to hammer away at
center, guard, or tackle with "guards back" or "tandem," to score
eventually. And that is what she did. And yet four times did Hillton
hold St. Eustace literally on her goal-line and take the ball. And each
time by hook or crook, by a short, weak punt or a clever, dashing run
around end, did Hillton win back a portion of her lost territory, only
to lose it again at the second or third attempt to advance the ball.

The halves were twenty-five minutes long, and in that first twenty-five
minutes St. Eustace scored but once, though near it thrice that many
times. Allen, St. Eustace's right half-back, had plunged over the line
for a touch-down at the end of fifteen minutes of play and Terrill had
missed an easy goal. Then the grand stand was silent save for one small
patch, whereon blue flags went crazy and swirled and leaped and danced
up and down as though possessed of life. And over the field sped, sharp
and triumphant, the St. Eustace cheer. And the score stood: St. Eustace
5, Hillton O.

The first half ended with the leather but ten yards from the north goal,
and a great murmuring sigh of relief went up from the seats and from
along the side-lines when the whistle sounded. Then the Hillton players,
pale, dirty, half defeated, trotted lamely off the field and around the
corner of the stand to the little weather-beaten shed which served for
dressing room. And the blue-clad team trotted joyfully down to their
stage, and there, behind the canvas protections were rubbed down and
plastered up, and slapped on the back by their delighted coach
and trainer.

In the Hillton quarters life was less cheerful during the ten minutes of
intermission. After the fellows had rubbed and redressed, Remsen talked
for a minute or two. There was no scolding, and no signs of either
disappointment or discouragement. But he cautioned the team against
carelessness, predicted a tied score at the end of fifteen minutes, and
called for three-times-three for Hillton, which was given with reviving
enthusiasm. A moment later the team trotted back to the field.

"Touch her down,
Touch her down,
Touch her down again!

chanted the wearers of the crimson; and--"St. Eustace! St. Eustace! St.
Eustace!" shouted the visitors as they waved their bright blue banners
in air. The whistle piped merrily, the ball took its flight, and it was
now or never for old Hillton!

Stephen Remsen joined the string of substitutes and found a seat on the
big gray blanket which held Browne and Clausen. From there he followed
the progress of the game.

Outwardly he was as happy and contented, as cool and disinterested, as
one of the goal posts. Inwardly he was railing against the fate that had
deprived Hillton of both the players who, had they been in the team,
could have saved the crimson from defeat. Wesley Blair joined him, and
with scarce a word they watched St. Eustace revert to her previous
tactics, and tear great gaping holes in the Hillton line, holes often
large enough to admit of a coach and four, and more than large enough to
allow Allen or Jansen to go tearing, galloping through, with the ball
safe clutched, for three, five? or even a dozen yards!

No line can long stand such treatment, and, while the
one-hundred-and-fifty-pound Greer still held out, Barnard, the big
right-guard, was already showing signs of distress. St. Eustace's next
play was a small wedge on tackle, and although Barnard threw himself
with all his remaining strength into the breach he was tossed aside like
a bag of feathers and through went the right and left half-backs,
followed by full with the ball, and pushed onward by left-end and
quarter. When down was called the ball was eight yards nearer Hillton's
goal, and Barnard lay still on the ground.

Whipple held up his hand. Thistelweight--a youth of some one hundred and
forty pounds--struggled agitatedly with his sweater and bounded into the
field, and Barnard, white and weak, was helped limping off. For awhile
St. Eustace fought shy of right-guard, and then again the weight of all
the backs was suddenly massed at that point, and, though a yard
resulted, the crimson wearers found cause for joy, and a ringing cheer
swept over the field. But Littlefield at left-guard was also weakening,
and the tackle beside him was in scarce better plight. And so, with
tandem on tackle, wedge, or guard back, St. Eustace plowed along toward
the Hillton goal, and a deep silence held the field save for the squad
of blue-decked cheerers on the seats.

Remsen looked at his watch. "Eighteen minutes to play," he announced
quietly. Blair nodded. He made no attempt to disguise his dejection.
Clausen heard, and suddenly turned toward the coach. He was pale, and
Remsen wondered at his excitement.

"Can't we tie them, sir?" he asked breathlessly.

"I'm afraid not. And even if we could they'd break loose." Clausen paid
no heed to the sorry joke.

"But they'll win, sir! Isn't there anything to do?" Remsen stared. Then
he smiled. "Failing an extraordinary piece of luck, my lad, we're
already beaten. Our line can't hold them; we have no one to kick, even
should we get a chance, and--"

"But if Blair was there, sir, or March?"

"It might make a difference. Hello! there they go through tackle-guard
hole again. Lord, six yards if an inch!" Blair groaned and rolled over
in despair. The whistle sounded, and as the pile of writhing youths
dissolved it was seen that Tom Warren was hurt. Out trotted the rubber.
The players sank exhausted to the ground and lay stretched upon the
sward, puffing and panting. Two minutes went by. Then Whipple called
for Clausen.

"Clausen," cried Remsen turning, "go in and--" But Clausen was not to be
seen. "Clausen!" cried a dozen voices. There was no response, and Browne
was taken on instead, and Warren, with an ankle that failed him at every
step, struggled off the field.

"What's become of Clausen?" asked Remsen. But no one could answer.

The play went on. With the ball on Hillton's twenty-yard line a fumble
gave it to the home team, and on the first down Browne gathered it in
his arms and tried to skirt St. Eustace's left end, but was thrown with
a loss of a yard. A similar play with Wills as the runner was tried
around the other end and netted a yard and a half. It was the third down
and four and a half yards to gain. Back went the ball to Post and he
kicked. But it was a poor performance, that kick, and only drove the
pigskin down the side-line to the forty-yard line, where it bounded in
touch. But it delayed the evil moment of another score for St. Eustace,
and the seats cheered.

"Twelve minutes left," announced Remsen.

Relentless as fate the St. Eustace forwards surged on toward the
opposing goal. Two yards, three yards, one yard, five yards, half a
yard, always a gain, never a check, until once more the leather reposed
just in front of the Hillton goal and midway between the ten and
fifteen-yard line. Then a plunge through the tackle-guard hole,
followed by a tandem on guard, and another five yards was passed. The
cheering from the wearers of the blue was now frantic and continuous.
There was two years of defeat to make up for, and victory was hovering
over the azure banner!

"Eight minutes to play," said Remsen. "If we can only keep them from
scoring again!" Suddenly there was a murmur from the seats, then a cry
of surprise from Remsen's side, then a shout of exultation that gathered
and grew as it traveled along the line. And around the corner of the
stand came a youth who strove to lace his torn and tattered canvas
jacket as he ran. Remsen leaped to his feet, dropping his pipe
unnoticed, and hastened toward him. They met and for a moment conversed
in whispers.

"It's Joel March!" cried Blair. "He's going to play!" exclaimed a dozen
voices. "But he can't," cried a dozen others. "He's on probation." "He
is! He is! He's going on! He's going to play!"

And so he was. Whipple had already seen him, and had sunk to the ground
nursing an ankle which had suddenly gone lame. "Time!" he cried, and
obedient to his demand the referee's whistle piped. "Give your place to
Post, Wills!" he commanded, and then, limping to Joel, he led that
youth apart.

"Can you play?" he asked hoarsely.


"Then get in there at full-back, and, O March, kick us out of this
bloody place! I'll give you the ball on the next down. Kick it for all
you're worth." He gave Joel a shove. "All right, Mr. Referee!" The
whistle sounded.

Forward charged St. Eustace. But, gathering encouragement from the
knowledge that back of them stood a full who would put them out of
danger if the opportunity were given him, Hillton stood fast.

"Second down, five yards to gain!" cried the umpire.

Again the wearers of bedraggled blue stockings surged and broke against
the line. And again there was no gain. Back of Hillton, less than eight
yards away, lay the goal-line. Desperation lends strength. Huddled
together, shoulder to shoulder, the backs bracing from behind, the
crimson-clad youths awaited the next charge. It was "the thin red line"
again. Then back went the ball, there was a moment of grinding canvas,
of muttered words and smothered gasps, of swaying, clutching, falling,
and "Down!" was heard.

"Hillton's ball; first down," announced the umpire.

What a cheer went up from the grand stand! What joy was in Remsen's
heart as the St. Eustace full-back went trotting up the field and Greer
stooped over the ball! Then came a pause, a silence. Every one knew what
to look for. Squarely between the posts and directly under the cross-bar
stood Joel March, his left foot on the goal-line. Back came the ball,
straight and low into Joel's outstretched hands. The line blocked long
and hard. One step forward, an easy, long swing of his right leg, and
Joel sent the ball sailing a yard over the upstretched hands of the
opposing line and far and high down the field.

There it was gathered into the arms of the St. Eustace full-back, but
ere that player had put his foot twice to ground he was thrown, and the
teams lined up on St. Eustace's forty-five-yard line. Then it was that
the god of battle befriended Hillton; for on the next play St. Eustace
made her first disastrous fumble, and Christie, Hillton's right end,
darted through, seized the rolling spheroid, and started down the field.
Five, ten, fifteen, twenty yards he sped, the St. Eustace backs trailing
after him.

"A touch-down!" cried Remsen. "No, the half's gaining! He's got him! No,
missed him, by Jove! A-ah!"

The run was over, and Christie lay panting on the ground, with the
triumphant St. Eustace half-back sitting serenely on his head; for,
although the latter had missed his tackle, Christie had slipped in
avoiding him. But cheers for Christie and Hillton filled the afternoon
air, and the two elevens lined up near St. Eustace's twenty-five-yard
line, yet well over toward the side of the field.

"If it was only in the middle of the field," groaned Blair, "a
place-kick would tie the score. How much time is there, Mr. Remsen?"

"About two and a half minutes," answered Remsen. "But I've an idea that,
middle or no middle, Whipple's going to signal a kick."

"It can't be done," answered Blair with conviction, "drop or placement!
March is only fair at goals, and at that angle--"

"What's the matter with the man?" cried Remsen; "what's he up to?" For
the Hillton backs were clustered well up behind the line as though for a
wedge attack. And as Remsen wondered, the ball was put in play, the line
blocked sharply, and Christie left his place at right end, and skirting
behind the backs received the ball by a double pass _via_ right
half-back and ran for the middle of the field, the backs helping the end
and tackle to hold the St. Eustace right line. Christie gained the
center of the gridiron and advanced a yard toward the opponent's goal
ere the St. Eustace right half-back reached him. Then there was a quick
line-up, and Joel took up his position for a kick.

"Well done, Whipple!" cried Remsen and Blair in a breath.

"But the time!" muttered Remsen, "does he know--"

"One minute to play!" came the ominous announcement.

Then, while a snap of the fingers could have been heard the length of
the field, Whipple glanced deliberately around at the backs, slapped the
broad back of the center sharply, seized the snapped ball, and made a
swift, straight pass to Joel. Then through the Hillton line went the St.
Eustace players, breaking down with vigor born of desperation the
blocking of their opponents. With a leap into the air the St. Eustace
left-guard bore down straight upon Joel; there was a concussion, and
the latter went violently to earth, but not before his toe had met the
rebounding ball; and the latter, describing a high arc, sailed safely,
cleanly over the bar and between the posts! And then, almost before the
ball had touched the ground, the whistle blew shrilly, and apparent
defeat had been turned into what was as good as victory to the
triumphant wearers of the Hillton crimson!

Hillton and St. Eustace had played a tie.

And over the ropes, rushing, leaping, shouting, broke the tide of
humanity, crimson flags swirled over a sea of heads, and pandemonium
ruled the campus!

And on the ground where he had fallen lay Joel March.



"But how did it all happen?" asked Outfield West breathlessly.

He had just entered and was seated on the edge of the bed whereon Joel
lay propped up eating his Thanksgiving dinner from a tray. It was seven
o'clock in the evening, and Dickey Sproule was not yet back. The yard
was noisy with the shouts of lads returning from the dining hall, and an
occasional cheer floated up, an echo of the afternoon's event. Joel
moved a dish of pudding away from Outfield's elbow as he answered
between mouthfuls of turkey:

"I was up here studying at the table there when I heard some one coming
up stairs two steps at a time. It was Clausen. He threw open the door
and cried: 'They're winning, March, they're winning! Come quick! Remsen
says we can tie them if you play. It's all right, March. We'll go to the
office and I'll tell everything. Only come, hurry!' Well, of course I
thought first he was crazy. Then I guessed what was up, because I knew
that Eustace had scored--"

"You couldn't have known; you were studying."

"Well, I--I wasn't studying all the time, Out. So up I jumped, and we
raced over to the office and found Professor Wheeler there asleep on the
leather couch under the window. 'It was Cloud and I, sir, that cut the
rope!' said Clausen. 'I'm very sorry, sir, and I'll take the punishment
and glad to. But March hadn't anything to do with it, sir; he didn't
even know anything about it, sir!' Professor Wheeler was about half
awake, and he thought something terrible was the matter, and it took the
longest time to explain what Clausen was talking about. Then he said he
was glad to learn that I was innocent, and I thanked him, and he started
to ask Clausen a lot of questions. 'But St. Eustace is winning, sir!' I
cried. He looked at me in astonishment. 'Indeed, I'm very sorry to hear
it,' he said. 'But it isn't too late now, sir,' said Clausen. 'For
what?' asked 'Wheels.' 'For me to go on the team,' said I. 'You know,
sir, you put me on probation and I can't play.' 'Oh,' said he, 'but you
were put on probation by the faculty, and the faculty must take you
off.' 'But meanwhile Hillton will be beaten!' said Clausen. 'Can't he
play, sir? He can save the day!' Wheels thought a bit. 'What's the
score?' he asked. Clausen told him. 'Yes,' he said at last, 'run and get
to work. I'll explain to the faculty. And by the way, March, remember
that a kick into touch is always the safest.'"

"Isn't he a rummy old guy?" exclaimed West. "And then?"

"Then I struck out for the gym, got into my canvas togs somehow or
other, and reached the field just about in time. Luckily I knew the
signals. And then after I'd kicked that goal that big Eustace chap
struck me like a locomotive, and I went down on the back of my head; and
that's all except that they brought me up here and Professor Gibbs
plastered me up and gave me a lot of nasty sweet water to take."

"And Clausen?"

"From the little I heard I think Cloud cut the rope and made Clausen
promise not to tell. And he kept his promise until he saw Hillton
getting beaten yesterday, and then he couldn't stand it, and just up and
told everything, and saved us a licking."

"Didn't I tell you Cloud did it? Didn't I--" There came a knock on the
door and in response to Joel's invitation Professor Wheeler and Stephen
Remsen entered. West leaped off the bed--there is a rule at Hillton
forbidding occupying beds save for sleep--and upset Joel's tea.
Professor Wheeler smiled as he said:

"West, you're rather an uneasy fellow to have in a sick-room. Get
something and dry that off the floor there, please.--Well, March, I
understand you got there in the nick of time to-day. Mr. Remsen says you
saved us from defeat."

"Indeed he did, professor; no one else save Blair could have done it
to-day. That goal from the twenty-five-yard line was as pretty a
performance as I've ever seen.--How are you feeling, lad?"

"All right," answered Joel. "I've got a bit of a headache, but I'll be
better in the morning."

"Your appetite doesn't seem to have failed you," said the principal.

"No, sir, I was terribly hungry."

"That's a good sign, they say.--West, you may take your seat again." The
professor and Stephen Remsen occupied the two chairs, and West without
hesitation sat down again on the bed.

"March, I have learned the truth of that affair. Bartlett Cloud, it
appears, cut the bell rope simply in order to throw suspicion on you. He
managed to secure a letter of yours through--hem!--through your
roommate, who, it seems, also bears you a grudge for some real or
fancied slight. Clausen, while a party to the affair, appears to have
taken no active part in it, and only remained silent because threatened
with bodily punishment by Cloud. These boys will be dealt with as


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