The Half-Back
Ralph Henry Barbour

Part 4 out of 4

"They're offering bets of ten to nine downstairs that Yates wins,"
remarked Blair with elaborate composure.

"Are they?" responded Joel absent-mindedly, thinking the while of the
signal for the second sequence. "I thought the odds were even."

"They were until the news about Chesney's shoulder got about."

"But there isn't really anything the matter with his shoulder, is

"No. No one knows how the story got out. Whipple was taking all he could
get a while ago."

"Some one wants to see you at the door, March," called the trainer, and
Joel found Outfield West, smiling and happy, waiting there.

"How are you?" he whispered. "All right? How are the rest? Great Gobble,
Joel, but these Yates Johnnies are so sure of winning that they can't
keep still! There's a rumor here in the lobby that Yates's center is
sick. Know anything about it?" Joel shook his head. "Well, I'll see you
out at the field. We're going out now; Cooke, and Caldwell, and some of
the others. So long, my valiant lad. Keep a stiff upper lip and never
say die, and all that, you know. Adios!"

There was a cheer below, and Blair, at the window, announced the
arrival of the conveyances. Instantly the lethargy of a minute before
was turned to excited bustle and confusion. Pads and nose-guards,
jerseys and coats, balls and satchels were seized and laid aside and
grabbed up again. Cries for missing apparel and paraphernalia were heard
on every side, and only a loud, peremptory command to "Shut up!" from
the head coach restored order and quietude. Then the door was thrown
open and down the narrow stairs they trooped, through the crowded lobby
where friends hemmed them about, patting the broad backs, shouting words
of cheer into their ears, and delaying them in their passage.

Into the coaches they hurried, and as the crowd about the hotel burst
into loud, ringing cheers, the whips were cracked and the journey to the
field began. The route lay along quiet, unfrequented streets where only
an occasional cheer from a college window met their advent. Restraint
had worn off now, and the fellows were chatting fast and furiously. Joel
looked out at the handsome homes and sunny street, and was aware only of
a longing to be in the fray, an impatient desire to be doing. Briscom,
the substitute centre, a youth of twenty-one summers and one hundred and
ninety-eight pounds, sat beside him.

"I was here two years ago with the freshman team," he was saying. "We
didn't do a thing to them, we youngsters, although the Varsity was
licked badly. And all during the afternoon game we sat together and
cheered, until at five o'clock I couldn't speak above a whisper. That
was a great game, that freshman contest! It took three hours and a half
to settle it. At the beginning of the second half there were only three
men on our team who had played in the first. I was one of them. I was
playing left guard. Story there was another. He gave up before the game
was through, though. I held out and when the whistle sounded, down I
went on the grass and didn't stir for ten minutes. We had two referees
that day. The first chap got hurt in a rush, and it took us half an hour
to find a fellow brave enough to take his place. That _was_ a game.
Football's tame nowadays."

Across the coach Rutland, the right guard, a big bronze-haired chap of
one hundred and ninety-six, was deep in a discussion with "Judge" Chase,
right end, on an obscure point of ruling.

"If you're making a fair catch and a player on the other side runs
against you intentionally or otherwise, you're interfered with, and the
rules give your side fifteen yards," declared Rutland.

"Not if the interference is accidental and doesn't hurt your catch,"
replied Chase. "If the other fellow is running and can't stop in time--"

"Shut up, you fellows," growled Captain Button. "You play the game, and
the referee will look after the rules for you."

"If you go on," said Briscom, "you must be careful about holding. De
Farge (the referee) is awfully down on holding and off-side plays. Last
year he penalized us eight times during the game. But he's all right,
just the same. He's the finest little ref that ever tossed a coin."

"I fear I won't get a show," mourned Joel.

"You can't tell," answered Briscom knowingly. "Last year there were two
fellows ahead of me and I got on for twenty minutes of the last half.
Trueland bent his ankle, Chesney hurt his knee, and Condon got whacked
on the head. Watch the game every minute of the time, March, and learn
how the Yates halves play the game. Then if you do go on you won't be in
the dark."

The coaches rolled up to the players' entrance to the field, and the
fellows hopped out and disappeared into the quarters.

The time was two o'clock. The gates were still thronged, although to the
people already on the stands it was a puzzle where the newcomers were
going to find seats. On the east side of the field Yates held open
house. From end to end, and overflowing half way around both north and
south stands, the blue of Yates fluttered in the little afternoon breeze
till that portion of the field looked like a bank of violets.

On the west stand tier after tier of crimson arose until it waved
against the limitless blue of the sky. Countless flags dipped and
circled, crimson bonnets gleamed everywhere, and great bunches of
swaying chrysanthemums nodded and becked to each other. All collegedom
with its friends and relations was here; all collegedom, that is, within
traveling distance; beyond that, eager eyes were watching the bulletin
boards from Maine to Mojave.

The cheering had begun. Starting at one end of the west stand the slogan
sped, section by section, growing in volume as it went, and causing the
crimson flags and banners to dance and leap in the sunlight. Across the
field answering cheers thundered out and the bank of violets trembled as
though a wind ruffled it. In front of the north stand the Yates college
band added the martial strains of The Stars and Stripes Forever to the
general pandemonium of enthusiasm.

Then along the west stand a ripple of laughter which grew into a loud
cheer traveled, as a bent and decrepit figure attired in a long black
frock coat and high silk hat, the latter banded with crimson ribbon,
came into sight down the field. It was the old fruit seller of Harwell,
whose years are beyond reckoning, and who is remembered by the oldest
graduates. On he came, his old, wrinkled face grimacing in toothless
smiles, his ribboned cane waving in his trembling hand, and his
well-nigh bald head bowing a welcome to the watchers. For it was not he
who was the guest, for from time almost immemorial the old fruit seller
has presided at the contests of Harwell, rejoicing in her victories,
lamenting over her defeats. Down the line he limped, while gray-haired
graduates and downy-lipped undergrads cheered him loyally, calling his
name over and over, and so back to a seat in the middle of the stand,
from where all through the battle his crimson-bedecked cane waved

He was not the only one welcomed by the throng. A great jurist,
chrysanthemumed from collar to waist, bowed jovial acknowledgment of the
applause his appearance summoned. The governor of a State came too to
see once more the crimson of his alma mater clashing with the blue of
her old enemy. Professors, who had put aside their books, beamed
benevolently through their glasses as they walked somewhat embarrassedly
past the grinning faces of their pupils. Old football players, former
captains, bygone masters of rowing, commanders of olden baseball teams,
all these and many more were there and were welcomed heartily,
tumultuously, by the wearers of the red. And through it all the cheers
went on, the college songs were sung, and the hearts of youth and age
were happy and glad together.

Then the cry of "Here they come!" traveled along the field, and the
blue-clad warriors leaped into the arena at the far end, and the east
stand went delirious, and flags waved, and a tempest shook the bank
of violets.

"Rah-rah-rah, Rah-rah-rah, Rah-rah-rah, Yates!"

And almost simultaneously the west stand arose and its voice arose to
the sky in wild, frenzied shouts of:

"Har-well, Har-well, Har-well, Rah-rah-rah, Rah-rah-rah, Rah-rah-rah,
Har-well! Har-well! Har-well!"

For over the fence came the head coach, and big Chesney, and Captain
Dutton, Story, the little quarter-back, and all the others, a long line
of crimson-stockinged warriors, with Joel March, Briscom, Bedford, and
the other substitutes flocking along in the tag end of the procession.
Over the field the two Elevens spread, while cheer after cheer met in
mid-field, clashed, and rolled upward to the blue. Then came a bare five
minutes of punting, dropping, passing, snapping, ere the officials
appeared from somewhere and gathered the opposing captains to them. A
coin flashed in the sunlight, spun aloft, descended, and was caught in
the referee's palm. "Heads!" cried Ferguson, the Yates captain. "Heads
it is!" announced the referee.

The substitutes retreated unwillingly to the side lines, the Harwell men
spread themselves over the north end of the gridiron, Elton, the Yates
full-back, ground his heel into the turf and pointed the ball, the
cheering ceased, the whistle piped merrily, the bright new ball soared
aloft on its arching flight, and the game of the year was on.



That game will live in history.

It was a battle royal between giant foes. On one hand was the confidence
begat of fifteen years of almost continuous victory over the crimson; on
the other the desperation that such defeat brings. Yates had a proud
record to sustain, Harwell a decade of worsting to atone for. And
twenty-five thousand persons watched and hoped and feared as the
battle raged.

Down settled the soaring ball into the arms of Kingdon, who tucked it
under his arm and started with it toward the distant goal. But eight
yards was all he found ere a Yates forward crashed down upon him. Then
came a quick line-up on Harwell's forty yards, and first Prince, then
Kingdon, then Blair was put through the line, each for a small gain, and
the Harwell benches shouted their triumph. Again the pigskin was given
to Prince for a try through the hole between tackle and guard, but this
time he was hurled back for a loss. The next try was Kingdon's, and he
made a yard around the Yates left end. It was the third down and five
yards were lacking. Back went the ball for a kick, and a moment later
it was Yates's on her thirty-five yards, and again the teams were lining
up. It was now the turn of the east stand to cheer, and mightily the
shout rolled across the field.

Through came the Yates full, the ball safely stowed in the crook of his
elbow, the whole force of the backs shoving him on. Three yards was his.
Another line-up. Again the Yates full-back was given the ball, and again
he gained. And it was the first down on Yates's forty-five-yard line.
Then began a rout in which Harwell retreated and Yates pursued until the
leather had crossed the middle of the field. The gains were made
anywhere, everywhere, it seemed. Allardyce yielded time and again, and
Selkirk beside him, lacking the other's support, was thrust aside almost
at will. The Yates shouters were wild with joy, and the cheers of
Harwell were drowned beneath the greater outbursts from the supporters
of the blue.

Harwell appeared to be outclassed, so far as her rush line was
concerned. Past the fifty-yard line went the ball, and between it and
the next white streak, Harwell at last made a desperate stand, and
secured the ball. At the first play it was sent speeding away from
Blair's toe to the Yates mid-field, a long, clean, high kick, that led
the forwards down under it in time to throw the waiting back ere he had
taken a step, and that brought shouts of almost tearful delight from the
Harwell sympathizers. Back to her line-bucking returned Yates, and
slowly, but very surely, the contest moved over the lost ground, back
toward the Harwell goal. The fifty-five-yard line was passed again, the
fifty, the forty-five, and here or there holes were being torn in the
Harwell line, and the crimson was going down before the blue. At her
forty-yard line Harwell stayed again for a while the onslaught of the
enemy, and tried thrice to make ground through the Yates line. Then back
to the hands of Wilkes went the oval and again the heart-breaking
rout began.


ELTON, 184

Right Left
Half-Back Half-Back

BIRCH, 140

Right Right Right Left Left Left
End Tackle Guard Center Guard Tackle End
163 203 197 204 194 189 150

Left Left Left Center Right Right Right
End Tackle Guard Guard Tackle End
150 186 189 229 196 179 156

STORY, 144
Left Right
Half-Back Half-Back

BLAIR, 179


Harwell made her last desperate rally on her twenty-five yards. The ball
was thrown to Blair, who kicked, but not soon enough to get it out of
the way of the opposing forwards, who broke through as the ball rose. It
struck against the upstretched hand of the Yates right guard and bounded
toward the crimson's goal. The Yates left half fell upon it. From there,
without forfeiting the ball, Yates crashed down to the goal line, and
hurled Elton, her crack full-back, through at last for a touch-down.

For five minutes chaos reigned upon the east stand. All previous efforts
paled into nothingness beside the outbursts of cheers that followed each
other like claps of thunder up and down the long bank of fluttering
color. Upon the other side of the field no rival shouts were heard. It
was useless to try and drown that Niagara of sound. But here and there
crimson flags waved defiantly at the triumphant blue.

The goal was an easy one, though it is probable that it would have been
made had it been five times more difficult; for Elton was the
acknowledged goal kicker par excellence of the year. Then back trotted
the teams, and as the Harwell Eleven lined up for the kick-off Allardyce
at left guard gave place to Murdoch. The big fellow had given out and
had limped white-faced and choking from the field.

The whistle sounded and the ball rose into air, corkscrewing toward the
Yates goal. Down the field under it went the Harwell runners like bolts
from a bow, and the Yates half who secured the pigskin was downed where
he caught. The two teams lined up quickly. Then back, foot by foot, yard
by yard, went the struggling Harwell men. Yet the retreat was less like
a rout than before, and Yates was having harder work. Her players were
twice piled up against the Harwell center, and she was at last forced to
send a blue-clad youth around the left end, an experiment which netted
her twelve yards and which brought the east stand to its feet,
yelling like mad.

But here the crimson line at length braced and the ball went to its
center on three downs, and the tide turned for a while. The backs and
the right end were hurled, one after another, at the opposing line, and
shouts of joy arose from the crimson seats as gain after gain resulted.
Thrice in quick succession Captain Dutton shot through the left end of
the blue's line, the second time for a gain of five yards.

The cheering along the west side of the great field was now continuous,
and the leaders, their crimson badges fluttering agitatedly, were waving
their arms like tireless semaphores and exciting the supporters of
Harwell to greater and greater efforts. Nearer and nearer to the coveted
touch-down crept the crimson line. With clock-work precision the ball
was snapped, the quarter passed, the half leaped forward, the rush line
plunged and strove, and then from somewhere a faint "Down!" was cried;
and the panting players staggered to their feet, leaving the ball yet
nearer to the threatened goal line. On the blue's twenty-three yards the
whistle shrilled, and a murmur of dismay crept over the Yates seats as
it was seen that Captain Ferguson lay motionless on the ground. But a
moment's rubbing brought him to his feet again.

"He's not much hurt," explained the knowing ones. "He wants to rest a

A minute later, while the ball still hovered about the twenty-yard line,
Yates secured it on a fumbled pass, and the tide ebbed away from the
beleagured posts. Back as before were borne the crimson warriors, while
the Yates forwards opened holes in the opposing line and the Yates
halves dashed and wormed through for small gains. Then Fate again aided
the crimson, and on the blue's forty-seven-yard line a fake kick went
sadly aglee and the runner was borne struggling back toward his own goal
before he could cry "Down!" And big Chesney grinned gleefully as he
received the leather and bent his broad back above it.

Canes, crysanthemums, umbrellas, flags, carnations, hats, all these and
many other things waved frantically above the great bank of crimson as
the little knot of gallant knights in moleskin crept back over their
recent path of retreat and took the war again into the enemy's country.
Every inch of the way was stubbornly contested by the defenders, but
slowly they were pushed back, staggering under the shocks of the
crimson's attack. Chesney, Rutland, and Murdoch worked together, side by
side, like one man--or forty!--and when time was called for an instant
on the Yates twenty-five yards it was to bring Galt, the blue's left
tackle, back to consciousness and send him limping off the gridiron. His
place in the line was taken by an old Hilltonian, one Dunsmore, and the
game went on.

And now it was the blue that was in full retreat and the crimson that
pursued. Nearer and nearer to the Yates goal line went the resisting
besieged and the conquering besiegers, and the great black score-board
announced but eight more minutes of the first half remaining. But even
eight were three more than were needed. For Harwell crossed the twenty
yards by tandem on tackle, gained the fifteen in two downs by wedges
between tackle and guard, and from there on until the much-desired goal
line was reached never paused in her breathless, resistless onslaught.
It was Wesley Blair who at last put the ball over for a touch-down,
going through between center and left guard with all the weight of the
Harwell Eleven behind him. His smothered "Down!" was never heard, for
the west stand was a swaying, tumultuous unit of thunderous acclaim.

Up went the flags and banners of crimson hues, loud sounded the paean
of praise and thanksgiving from thousands of straining throats, while
below on the side lines the coaches leaped for joy and strained each
other to their breasts in unspeakable delight.

And while the shouting went on as though never would the frenzied
shouters cease, the grim, panting Yates players lined up back of their
goal line, on tiptoe, ready at the first touch of the ball to the earth
to spring forward and, leaping upward, strive to arrest the speeding
oval. Prone upon the ground, the ball in his hands, lay Story. A yard or
two distant Blair directed the pointing of it. The goal was a most
difficult one, from an angle, and long the full-back studied and
directed, until faint groans of derision arose from the impatient east
stand and the men behind the goal line moved restively.

"Lacing to you," said Blair quietly. Story shifted the ball

"More." The quarter-back obeyed.

"Cock it." Higher went the end toward the goal.

"Not so much." It was lowered carefully, slowly.

"Steady." Blair stepped back, glanced once swiftly at the cross-bar, and
stepped forward again.

"Down!" Story's left hand touched the grass, the Yates men surged
forward, there was a thud, and--

Upward sped the ball, rising, rising, until it topped the bar, then
slowly turning over, over in its quickening descent. But the nearly
silent west stand had broke again into loud cries of triumph, and upon
the face of the Scoreboard appeared the momentous word, "GOAL!"

Again the ball was put in play, but the half was soon over and the
players, snatching their blankets, trotted to the dressing rooms. And
the score-board announced:

"Opponents, 6. Yates, 6."

As the little swinging door closed behind him Joel found himself in a
seething mass of players, rubbers, and coaches, while a babel of voices,
greetings, commands, laughter, and lament, confused him. It was a busy
scene. The trainer and his assistants were working like mad. The doctor
and the head coach were talking twenty to the second. Everybody was
explaining everything, and the indefatigable coaches were hurrying from
man to man, instructing, reminding, and scolding.

Joel had only to look on, save when he lent a hand at removing some torn
and stubborn jersey, or at finding lost shin-guards and nose masks, and
so he found a seat out of the way, and, searching the room with his
gaze, at length found Prince. That gentleman was having a nice, new pink
elastic bandage put about his ankle. He was grinning sturdily, but at
every clutch of the web his lips twitched and his brow puckered. Joel
watching him wondered how much more he would stand, and whether his
(Joel's) chance would come ere the fatal whistle piped the end of
the match.

"Time's up!" cried the head coach suddenly, and the confusion redoubled
until he mounted to a bench and clapped his hands loudly above the din.
Comparative silence ensued. "Fellows," he began, "here's the list for
the next half. Answer to your names, please. And go over to the door.
Fellows, you'll have to make less noise. Dutton, Selkirk,

"Right!" The voice emerged from the folds of a woolen sweater which had
stubbornly refused to go on or off. With a smile the head coach
continued the list, each man responding as his name was announced and
crowding to the doorway.

"Chesney, Rutland, Burbridge, Barton--"

A murmur arose from the listening throng, and Chase, a tall, pale-faced
youth, his cheek exhibiting the marks of a contact with some one's shoe
cleats, groaned loudly and flung himself on to a bench, where he sat
looking blindly before him until the list was finished.

"Story, Prince--"

"Here!" called the latter, jumping from his seat. Then a sharp, agonized
cry followed, and Prince toppled over, clutching vainly at the air. The
head coach paused. The doctor and the trainer pushed toward the fallen
man, and a moment later the former announced quietly:

"He's fainted, sir."

"Can he go on?" asked the head coach.

"He is out of the question. Ankle's too painful. I couldn't allow it."

"Very well," answered the other as he amended the list. "Kingdon, Blair,

Joel's heart leaped as he heard his name pronounced, and he tried to

"March?" demanded the head coach impatiently; and

"Here, sir!" gulped Joel, rushing to the door.

"All right," continued the head coach. "There isn't time for any fine
phrases, fellows, and if there was I couldn't say them so that they'd do
any good. You know what you've got to do. Go ahead and do it. You have
the chance of wiping out a good many defeats, more than it's pleasant to
think about. The college expects a great deal from you. Don't disappoint
it. Play hard and play together. Don't give an inch; die first. Tackle
low, run high, _and keep your eyes on the ball!_ And now, fellows,
_three times three for Harwell!_"

And what a cheer that was! The little building shook, the men stood on
their toes; the head coach cheered himself off the bench; and Joel
yelled so desperately that his breath gave out at the last "Rah!" and
didn't come back until the little door was burst open and he found
himself leaping the fence into the gridiron.

And what a burst of sound greeted their reappearance! The west stand
shook from end to end. Crimson banners broke out on the breeze, every
one was on his feet, hats waved, umbrellas clashed, canes swirled. A
youth in a plaid ulster went purple in the face at the small end of a
five-foot horn; and for all the sound it seemed to make it might as well
have been a penny whistle. The ushers waved their arms, but to no
purpose, since the seats heeded them not at all, but shouted as their
hearts dictated and as their throats and lungs allowed.

Joel, gazing about him from the field, felt a shiver of emotion pass
through him. They were cheering _him_! He was one of the little band in
honor of which the flags waved, the voices shouted, and the songs were
sung! He felt a lump growing in his throat, and to keep down the tears
that for some reason were creeping into his eyes, he let drive at a ball
that came bumping toward him and kicked it so hard that Selkirk had to
chase it half down the field.

"Rah-rah-rah, Rah-rah-rah, Rah-rah-rah, Harwell! Harwell! Harwell!
Rah-rah-rah, Rah-rah-rah, Rah-rah-rah, Harwell!"

The leaders of the cheering had again gotten control of their sections,
and the long, deliberate cheer, majestic in its intensity of sound,
crashed across the space, rebounded from the opposite stand, and went
echoing upward into the clear afternoon air.

"Harwell!" muttered Joel. "_You Bet_!" Then he gathered with the others
about Dutton to listen to that leader's last instructions. And at the
same moment the east stand broke into cheers as the gallant sons of
Yates bounded on to the grass. Back and forth rolled the mighty torrents
of sound, meeting in midair, breaking and crashing back in fainter
reverberations. They were singing the college songs now, and the merits
and virtues of both colleges were being chanted defiantly to the tunes
of popular airs. Thousands of feet "tramp-tramped," keeping time against
the stands. The Yates band and the Harwell band were striving, from
opposite ends of the field, to drown each other's strains. And the blue
and crimson fluttered and waved, the sun sank lower toward the western
horizon, and the shadows crept along the ground.

"There will be just one more score," predicted the knowing ones as they
buttoned their ulsters and overcoats up at the throat and crouched along
the side lines, like so many toads. "But who will make it I'm blessed
if I know!"

Then Harwell lined up along the fifty-five-yard line, with the ball in
their possession, and the south goal behind them. And Yates scattered
down the field in front. And the linesmen placed their canes in the
turf, the referee and the umpire walked into the field, and the stands
grew silent save for the shrill voice of a little freshman on the west
stand who had fallen two bars behind in "This is Harwell's Day," and
needs must finish out while his breath lasted.

"Are you all ready?" asked the referee. There was no reply. Only here
and there a foot moved uneasily as weights were thrown forward, and
there was a general, almost imperceptible, tightening of nerves
and muscles.

And then the whistle blew.



The kick-off came into Blair's ready arms, the interference formed
quickly, and the full-back sped down the field. One white line passed
under foot--another; Joel felt Blair's hand laid lightly upon his
shoulder, and ran as though life itself depended upon getting that
precious ball past the third mark. But the Yates ends were upon them.
Joel gave the shoulder to one, but the second dived through Kingdon, and
the runner came to earth on the twenty-three-yard line, with Joel
tugging at him in the hope of advancing the pigskin another foot.

"Line up quickly, fellows!" called Story. The players jumped to their
places. "_1--9--9!_" Joel crept back a bare yard. "_1--9--9!_"

Kingdon leaped forward, snugged the ball under his arm, and followed by
Joel tried to find a hole inside left end. But the hole was not there,
and the ball was instantly in the center of a pushing, grinding mass.
"Down!" No gain.

Story, worming his way through the jumble, clapped his hands. Chesney
was already stooping over the ball. Joel ran to his position, and the
quarter threw a rapid glance behind him.

"_2--8--9_!" He placed his hand on the center's broad back.

"_2--8_--!" The ball was snapped. Joel darted toward the center, took
the leather at a hand pass, crushed it against the pit of his stomach,
and followed the left end through a breach in the living wall. Strong
hands pushed him on. Then he came bang! against a huge shoulder, was
seized by the Yates right half, and thrown. He hugged the ball as the
players crashed down upon him.

"Third down," called the referee. "Three yards to gain."

"Line up, fellows, line up!" called the impatient Story, and Joel jumped
to his feet, upsetting the last man in the pile-up, and scurried back.


"_2--9_--!" Back sped Blair. Up ran Joel and Kingdon. The line blocked
desperately. A streak of brown flew by, and a moment later Joel heard
the thud as the full-back's shoe struck the ball. Then down the field he
sped, through the great gap made by the Yates forwards. The Harwell ends
were well under the kick and stood waiting grimly beside the Yates
full-back as the ball settled to earth. As it thudded against his canvas
jacket and as he started to run three pairs of arms closed about him,
and he went down in his tracks. The ball lay on Yates's
fifty-three-yard line.

The field streamed up. The big Yates center took the ball. Joel crept
up behind the line, his hands on the broad canvas-covered forms in
front, dodging back and forth behind Murdoch and Selkirk.
"_26--57--38--19--_!" The, opposing left half started across, took the
ball, and then--why, then Joel was at the very bottom of some seven
hundred pounds of writhing humanity, trying his best to get his breath,
and wondering where the ball was!

"Second down. Three and a half yards to gain."

Again the lines faced. Joel was crouched close to quarter, obeying that
player's gesture. They were going to try Murdoch again. Joel heard the
breathless tones of the Yates quarter as he stooped behind the
opposing line.

"A tandem on guard," whispered Joel to himself. The next moment there
was a crash, the man in front of him gave; then Joel and Story, gripping
the turf with their toes, braced hard; there was a moment of heaving,
panting suspense; then a smothered voice cried "Down!"

"Third down," cried the referee. "Three and a half yards to gain."

"Look out for a fake kick," muttered Story, as Joel fell back. The
opposing line was quickly formed, and again the signal was given. The
rush line heaved, Joel sprang into the air, settling with a crash
against the shoulders of Chesney and Murdoch, who went forward, carrying
the defense before them. But the ball was passed, and even as the Yates
line broke the thud of leather against leather was heard. Joel
scrambled to his feet, assisted by Chesney, and streaked up the field.
The ball was overhead, describing a high, short arch. Blair was awaiting
it, and Kingdon was behind and to the right of him. Down it came, out
shot Blair's hands, and catching it like a baseball he was off at a
jump, Kingdon beside him. Joel swung about, gave a shoulder to an
oncoming blue-clad rusher, ran slowly until the two backs were hard
behind him, and then dashed on.

Surely there was no way through that crowded field. Yet even as he
studied his path a pair of blue stockings went into the air, and a
threatening obstacle was out of the way, bowled over by a Harwell
forward. The ends were now scouting ahead of the runners, engaging the
enemy. The fifty-five-yard line was traversed at an angle near the east
side of the field, and Joel saw the touch line growing instantly more
imminent. But a waiting Yates man, crouchingly running up the line, was
successfully passed, and the trio bore farther infield, putting ten more
precious yards behind them.

The west stand was wild with exultant excitement, and Joel found himself
speeding onward in time with the rhythmic sway of the deep
"Rah-rah-rah!" that boomed across from the farther side. But the enemy
was fast closing in about them. The Yates right half was plunging down
from the long side, a pertinacious forward was almost at their heels.
And now the Yates full was charging obliquely at them with his eyes
staring, his jaw set, and determination in every feature and line. The
hand on Joel's shoulder dropped, Blair eased his pace by ever so little,
and Joel shot forward in the track of the full, his head down, and the
next moment was sprawling on the turf with the enemy above him. But he
saw and heard Blair and Kingdon hurdling over, felt a sharp pain that
was instantly forgotten, and knew that the ball was safely by.

But the run was over at the next line. Kingdon made a heroic effort to
down the half, and would have succeeded had it not been for the
persevering forward, who reached him with his long arms and pulled him
to earth. And Blair, the ball safe beneath him, lay at the Yates
thirty-five yards, the half-back holding his head to earth.

Joel arose, and as he trotted to his position he looked curiously at the
first finger of his left hand. It bore the imprint of a shoe-cleat, and
pained dully. He tried to stretch it, but could not. Then he shook his
hand. The finger wobbled crazily. Joel grinned.

"Bust!" he whispered laconically.

His first impulse was to ask for time to have it bound. Then he
recollected that some one had said the doctor was very strict about
injuries. Perhaps the latter would consider the break sufficient cause
for Joel's leaving the field. That wouldn't do; better to play with a
broken arm than not to play at all. So he tried to stick the offending
hand in his pocket, found there was no pocket there, and put the finger
in his mouth instead. Then he forgot all about it, for Harwell was
hammering the blue's line desperately and Joel had all he could do to
remember the signals and play his position.

For the next quarter of an hour the ball hovered about Yates's danger
territory. Twice, by the hardest kind of line bucking, it was placed
within the ten-yard line, and twice, by the grimmest, most desperate
resistance, it was lost on downs and sent hurtling back to near
mid-field. But Yates was on the defensive, even when the oval was in her
possession, and Harwell experienced the pleasurable--and, in truth,
unaccustomed--exultation that comes with the assurance of superiority.
Harwell's greatest ground-gaining plays now were the two sequences from
ordinary formation and full-back forward. These were used over and over,
ever securing territory, and ever puzzling the opponents.

Joel was hard worked. He was used not only to wriggle around the line
inside of ends and to squirm through difficult outlets, but to charge
the line as well, a feat of which his height and strong legs rendered
him well capable. He proved a consistant ground-gainer, and with Blair,
who worked like a hero, and Kingdon, who won laurels for himself that
remained fresh many years, gained the distance time and again. But
although the spectacular performances belonged here to the backs, the
line it was that made such work possible. Chesney, with his six feet
four and a half inches of muscle, and his two hundred and twenty-nine
pounds of weight, stood like a veritable Gibraltar of strength. Beside
him Rutland was scarcely less invulnerable, and Murdoch, on the other
side, played like a veteran, which he was not, being only a
nineteen-year-old sophomore, with but one hundred and sixty-seven pounds
to keep him from blowing away.

Selkirk gave way to Lee when the half was two thirds over, but Burbridge
played it out, and then owned up to a broken shoulder bone, and was
severely lectured by the trainer, the head coach, and the doctor in
turn; and worshiped by the whole college. Captain Dutton played a
dashing, brilliant game at left end, and secured for himself a
re-election that held no dissenting vote. And Barton, at the other end
of the red line, tried his best to fill the place of the deposed Chase,
and if he did not fully succeed, at least failed not from want of
trying. But it was little Story, the quarter-back, who won unfading
glory. A mass of nerves, from his head down, his brain was as clear and
cool as the farthest goal post, and he ran the team in a manner that
made the coaches, hopping and scrambling along on the side lines, hug
themselves and each other in glee. So much for the Harwell men.

As for Yates, what words are eloquent enough to do justice to the
heroic, determined defense she made there under the shadow of her own
goal, when defeat seemed every moment waiting to overwhelm her? Every
man in that blue-clad line and back of it was a hero, the kind that
history loves to tell of. The right guard, Morris, was a pitiable sight
as, with white, drawn face, he stood up under the terrific assault,
staggering, with half-closed eyes, to hold the line. Joel was heartily
glad when, presently, he fell up against the big Yates center after a
fierce attack at his position, and was supported, half fainting, from
the field. The substitute was a lighter man, as the next try at his
position showed, and the gains through the guard-tackle hole still went
on. Yates's team now held four substitutes, although with the exception
of Douglas, the substitute right-guard, none of them was perceptibly
inferior to the men whose places they took.

The cheering from the Harwell seats was now continuous, and the refrain
of "Glory, glory for the Crimson!" was repeated over and over. On the
east stand the Yates supporters were neither hopeless nor silent. Their
cheers were given with a will and encouraged their gallant warriors to
renewed and ever more desperate defense. The score-board proclaimed the
game almost done. With six minutes left it only remained, as it seemed,
for Yates to hold the plunging crimson once more at the last ditch to
keep the game a tie, and so win what would, under the circumstances,
have been as good as a victory.

Down came the Harwell line once more to the twenty yards, but here they
stopped. For on a pass from quarter to left half, the latter, one Joel
March of our acquaintance, fumbled the ball, dived quickly after it, and
landed on the Yates left guard, who had plunged through and now lay with
the pigskin safe beneath him!

It is difficult to either describe or appreciate the full depth of
Joel's agony as he picked himself up and limped back to his place. It
was a heart-tearing, blinding sensation that left him weak and limp. But
there was nothing for it save to go on and try to retrieve his fatal
error. The white face of Story turned toward him, and Joel read in the
brief glance no anger, only an almost tearful grief. He swung upon his
heel with a muttered word that sounded ill from his lips. But he was
only a boy and the provocation was great; let us not remember it
against him.

The Yates center threw back the ball for a kick, and Joel went down the
field after it. As he ran he wondered if Story would try him again. It
seemed doubtful, but if he did--Joel ground his teeth--he would take it
through the line! They would see! Just give him one chance to retrieve
that fumble! A year later and he had learned that a misplay, even though
it lose the game for your side, may in time be lived down. But now that
knowledge was not his, and a heart-rending picture of disgrace before
the whole college presented itself to him.

Then Blair had the ball, was off, was tackled near the side line under
the Yates stand, and the two teams were quickly lined up again. The
cheers from the friends of the blue were so loud that the quarter's
voice giving the signal was scarcely to be heard. Joel crept nearer.
Then his heart leaped up into his throat and stood still.


There was no mistake! It was left half's ball on a double pass for a
run around right end! The line-up was within eight yards of the east
side line. The play was the third of the second sequence, in which Joel
with the other backs had been well instructed, and its chance of success
lay in the fact that it had the appearance of a full-back punt or a run
around the long side of the field. Joel leaned forward, facing the left
end. Blair crept a few feet in.

"_7--1--!_" began the quarter.

The ball was snapped, Blair ran three strides nearer, the quarter
turned, and the pigskin flew back. Joel started like a shot, seized the
ball from the full-back's outstretched hands, and sped toward the right
end of the line. The right half crossed in front of him, the right end
and tackle thrust back their opponents, the left tackle and guard
blocked hard and long. Blair helped the right half in his diversion at
the left end, and Joel, with Dutton interfering and Blair a stride
behind, swept around the end.

The only danger was in being forced over the touch line, but the play
worked well, and the opposing tackle seemed anchored. The Yates end,
from his place back of the line, leaped at them, but was upset by
Dutton, and the two went down together. The opposing left half bore down
upon Joel and Blair, the latter speeding along at the runner's side, and
came at them with outstretched arms. Another moment and Joel was alone.
Story and the half were just a mass of waving legs and arms many
yards behind.

Joy was the supreme sensation in Joel's breast. Only the Yates
full-back threatened, the ball was safely clutched in his right arm, his
breath came easily, his legs were strong, and the goal-posts loomed far
down the field and beckoned him on. This, he thought exultingly, was the
best moment that life could give him.

Behind, although he could not hear it for the din of shouting from the
Harwell stand, he knew the pursuit to be in full cry. He edged farther
out from the dangerous touch line and sped on. The Yates full-back had
been deceived by the play and had gone far up the field for a kick, and
now down he came, and Joel found a chill creeping over him as he
remembered the player's wide reputation. He was the finest full-back, so
report had it, of the year. And of a sudden Joel found his breath
growing labored, and his long legs began to ache and seemed stiffening
at the thighs and knees. But he only ran the faster and prepared for the
threatened tackle. Harwell hearts sank, for the crimson-clad runner
appeared to waver, to be slowing down. Suddenly, when only his own
length separated him from his prey, the Yates full-back left the ground
and, like a swimmer diving into the sea, dove for the hesitating runner.

There was but one thing that day more beautiful to see than that
fearless attempt to tackle; and that one thing was the leap high into
the air that the Harwell left half made just in the nick of time,
clearing the tackler, barely avoiding a fall, and again running free
with the ball still safe!

The Yates player quickly recovered and took up the chase, and the
momentary pause had served to bring the foremost of the other pursuers
almost to Joel's heels. And now began a contest that will ever live in
the memories of those who witnessed it.

Panting, weary, his legs aching at every bound, his throat parching with
the hot breath, Joel struggled on. Joy had given place to fear and
desperation. Time and again he choked down the over-ready sobs. Behind
him sounded the thud of relentless feet. He dared not look back lest he
stumble. Every second he expected to feel the clutch of the enemy. Every
second he thought that _now_ he must give up. But recollection of that
fumble crushed down each time the inclination to yield, and one after
another the nearly obliterated lines passed under foot. He gave up
trying to breathe; it was too hard. His head was swimming and his lungs
seemed bursting.

Then his wandering faculties rushed back at a bound as he felt a touch,
just the lightest fingering, on his shoulder, and gathering all his
remaining strength he increased his pace for a few steps, and the hand
was gone. And the ten-yard line passed, slowly, reluctantly.

"One more," he thought, "one more!"

The great stands were hoarse with shouting; for here ended the game. The
figures on the score-board had changed since the last play, and now
relentlessly proclaimed one minute left!

Nearer and nearer crept the five-yard line, nearer and nearer crept the
pursuing full-back. Then, and at the same instant, the scattered breadth
of lime was gone, and a hand clutched at the canvas jacket of the
Harwell runner. Once more Joel called upon his strength and tried to
draw away, but it was no use. And with the goal line but four yards
distant, stout arms were clasped tightly about his waist.

One--two--three strides he made. The goal line writhed before his dizzy
sight. Relentlessly the clutching grasp fastened tighter and tighter
about him like steel bands, and settled lower and lower until his legs
were clasped and he could move no farther! Despairingly he thrust the
ball out at arms' length and tried to throw himself forward; the
trampled turf rose to meet him....

* * * * *

"The ball is over!" pronounced the referee. It was a nice decision, for
an inch would have made a world of difference; but it has never
been disputed.

Then Dutton leaped into the air, waving his arms, Rutland turned a
somersault, and the west stand arose as one man and went mad with
delight. Hats and cushions soared into air, the great structure shook
and trembled from end to end, and the last few golden rays of the
setting sun glorified the waving, fluttering bank of triumphant crimson!



"Boom! Boom!" thundered the big drum.

"Tootle-toot!" shrilled the fife.

"Tarum! Taroom!" growled the horns.

The Harwell band marched through the archway and defiled on to the
platform. The college marched after. Well, perhaps not all the college;
I have heard that a senior living in Lanter was too ill to be present.
But the incoming platform was thronged from wall to track, so it was
perhaps as well that he didn't come, because there positively wasn't
room for him.

"What is it?" asked a citizen in a silk hat of a gayly decorated youth
on the outskirts of the crowd. The latter stared for full a minute ere
the words came. Then he cried:

"Here's a fellow who wants to know what we're here for!" And a great
groan of derision went up to the arching roof, and the ignorant person
slunk away, yet not before his silk hat had been pushed gently but
firmly far down over his eyes. Punishment ever awaits the ignorant who
will not learn.

"Glory, glory for the Crimson,
Glory, glory for the Crimson,
Glory, glory for the Crimson,
For this is Harwell's day,"

sang the throng.

"Boom! Boom! Boom!" thundered the big drum.

"Tootle-toot!" shrilled the fife.

"Now, fellows, three times three, three long Harwells, and three times
three!" shouted the master of ceremonies hoarsely.

"Rah-rah-rah, Rah-rah-rah, Rah-rah-rah, Harwell! Harwell! Harwell!
Rah-rah-rah, Rah-rah-rah, Rah-rah-rah, Harwell!" shrieked the crowd.

"Louder! Louder!" commanded the remorseless youth on the baggage truck.
"Nine long Harwells! One, two, three!"

"Har-well! Har-well! Har-well! Har-well! Har-well! Har-well! Har-well!
Har-well! Har-well!" The sound crashed up against the vaulted station
roof and thundered back. And none heard the shriek of the incoming train
as it clattered over the switches at the entrance of the shed, and none
saw it until it was creeping in, the engineer leaning far out of the cab
window and waving a red bandanna handkerchief, a courtesy that won him a
cheer all to himself.

Then out tumbled the returning heroes, bags in hands, followed by the
head coach and all the rest of the attendant train. And then what a
pushing and shouting and struggling there was! There were forty men to
every player, and the result was that some of the latter were nearly
torn limb from limb ere they were safe out of reach on the shoulders of
lucky contestants for the honor of carrying them the first stage of the
journey to college.

There were some who tried to hide, some who tried to run, others who
enjoyed the whole thing hugely and thumped the heads of their bearers
heartily just to show good feeling.

Joel was one of the last to leave the car, and as he set foot on the
platform a hundred voices went up in cheers, and a hundred students
struggled for possession of him. But one there was who from his place of
vantage halfway up the steps repelled all oncomers, and assisted by a
second youth of large proportions seized upon Joel and setting him upon
their shoulders bore him off in triumph.

"Boom! Boom!" said the big drum. And the procession started. Down the
long platform it went, past the waiting room doors where a crowd of
onlookers waved hats and handkerchiefs, and so out into the city street.
Joel turned his head away from the observers, ashamed and happy. There
was no let-up to the cheering. One after another the names of the
players and substitutes, coaches and trainer, were cheered and
cheered again.

"Out of the way there!" cried Joel's bearers, and the marching throng
looked about, moved apart, and as Joel was borne through, cheered him to
the echo, reaching eager hands toward him, crying words of commendation
and praise into his buzzing ears.

"Rah-rah-rah, Rah-rah-rah, Rah-rah-rah, March!"

"One!" shrieked a youth near where Joel soon found himself at the head
of the procession, and the slogan was taken up:

"Two! Three! Four! Five! Six! Seven! Eight! Nine! Ten! E-lev-en!"

"Now give me your hand, Joel!" cried the youth upon whose left shoulder
he was swaying. Joel obeyed, smiling affectionately down into the
upraised face. Then he uttered a cry of pain. One of the fingers of his
left hand was bandaged, and Outfield West dropped it gingerly.

"Not--not _broke_?" he asked wonderingly. Joel nodded.

"Aren't you _proud_ of it?" whispered his chum.

"Yes," answered Joel simply and earnestly.

"May I take it, too?" asked the other youth. Joel started and looked
down into the anxious and entreating face of Bartlett Cloud. He grasped
the hesitating hand that was held up.

"Yes," he answered smilingly.

And the big drum boomed, and the shrill fifes tootled, and the crimson
banners waved upon the breeze, and every one cheered himself hoarse, and
thus the conquering heroes came back to the college that loved them.

And Joel, a little tearful when no one was looking, and very happy
always, was borne on the shoulders of West and Cloud, friend and enemy,
at the very head of the procession, honored above all!


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