"I – I guess I am all right," he said, and with a mighty effort pulled himself together. "Did – did I gain anything?"
"Did you gain anything? Well, rather!" answered Phil. "It was a dandy play!"
Again the ball was put into play, and it went back and forth in a manner that was heartbreaking, first for one side and then for the other. Then came a warning cry:
"Three minutes more to play!"
It nerved all of the players up as never before and the struggle was the most bitter yet. But with less than a minute and a half to play Dave secured the ball and made a clever pass to Phil, who started up the field. Babcock guarded him on one side and Roger on the other, and in a trice another sensational run was on.
"Down him! Down him!" was the frantic yell from Rockville, and just as Phil, panting for breath, reached the goal-line he was caught and thrown with tremendous violence, his head striking the ground with great force.
"Oak Hall wins the game!"
It was true, the touchdown had been made, fairly and squarely. With drooping hearts Rockville came out of the mix-up. There was nothing more to be done, for all but quarter of a minute of the time was up. Phil lay on the ball motionless, his face buried in the grass.
"He's hurt!" cried Dave, bending over his chum. "Phil!"
There was no answer, and now Roger and some others came to the aid of the fallen one. They turned Phil over. His face was pale and his eyes closed. He made not the slightest sound.
"Call the doctor!" said Dave, in as steady a voice as he could command. "I – I hope he isn't hurt very much."
Water was brought and Phil's face was bathed, but still he made no sound nor did he open his eyes. Then the doctor came up and took charge.
"He has received a severe shock," said the physician, after an examination. "As yet I cannot tell how badly he is affected. His head is bleeding, and it is possible he may have fractured his skull. We had best remove him to the house."
A barn door was procured and a blanket thrown over it, and on this the hurt student was placed and six others carried him to the mansion. In the meantime there had been a great cheering over Oak Hall's victory, but this soon came to an end when it was known that Phil Lawrence had been seriously hurt.
"I hope his skull hasn't been fractured," said Dave. "He certainly came down hard. I heard the thump plainly."
"So did I," answered Babcock, and then he ran off to see how Henshaw was faring. He found the latter sitting up in an easy-chair, as pale as death itself.
"Won out, eh?" said Henshaw, weakly. "Good enough!"
"How do you feel now?" questioned Babcock.
"Oh, my stomach is better and the dizziness is gone. But I am as weak as a rag."
Through an attendant Henshaw had heard of the arrival of Dave and Babcock and of the progress of the great game. He was shocked to learn that Phil had been seriously hurt.
"This will put a damper on the celebration," said he, and he was right.
"This takes the edge off the victory," said Dave. "I'd rather lose than have anybody seriously hurt."
"Morr, we are mighty sorry for this," said the captain of the Rockville eleven, coming up. "I am sure you know it wasn't done intentionally."
"I know that," answered Roger. "But the play was pretty rough, especially towards the end."
"It was a fair tackle," said the Rockville captain, and moved off.
Those from the military academy felt their defeat keenly. Just when they had thought victory certain all their hopes had been dashed to the ground. They had to admit that Oak Hall had played fairly from start to finish.
"Boys, you did splendidly," said Dr. Clay. "The one dark spot is the fact that Lawrence has been hurt. I sincerely trust it does not prove serious."
While the doctor was doing what he could for Phil, the two schools were entertained in royal style by Mr. Mongrace. But Dave and Roger could eat little, their thoughts being constantly with Phil. Three others who did not enjoy the feast were Plum, Poole, and Jasniff.
"Hang the luck, anyway!" growled the bully, as he and his cronies walked away from the table. "Jasniff, this is the worst yet."
"Who would have thought that they could pull themselves together like that," grumbled Jasniff. "Why, I never saw such work on any field. They went at the play like demons – nothing could stand before them."
"Yes, and Phil Lawrence got a broken head for his pains," said Poole, in a tone more of satisfaction than regret.
"I don't care a continental for Lawrence," pursued the bully of Oak Hall. "What I am thinking of is the money I have lost."
"And the money I've lost, too," added Poole.
"Well, we'll have to pocket our losses, that's all," answered Jasniff. "With Porter, Babcock, and Henshaw off the list I thought we'd make a sure thing of it – but we didn't, and there you are."
"I don't know what I am going to do about the money I put up," said Gus Plum.
"Write to your old man for some," suggested Jasniff. "Tell him you lost your money, but don't say how."
"He won't let me have any more just yet – said so in his last letter."
"How about you, Nat?"
"My old man won't give up a cent until next allowance day, and that's two weeks off. I'll have to live on air till then."
A little later Poole was called away by one of the students, and Gus Plum and Nick Jasniff were left to themselves. Plum was in a quandary, for he had borrowed from several parties and now did not know how to pay the amounts back. Jasniff noticed his uneasiness.
"Don't take the loss so hard, Gus," he said. "Let us go off and have a smoke – it will settle your nerves. If we were in town we might get a drink. But we can't get it around here."
"Let's go back to the Hall, I am sick of it here," answered the bully of the school; and a few minutes later he and Jasniff started off, leaving Poole behind, in the company of several girls who had driven in to witness the football match. Poole always dressed very fastidiously, and sought the company of the girls whenever the opportunity offered.
Halfway to Oak Hall, Plum and Jasniff determined to ride on their wheels to Hampton, a small village south of Oakdale. Here they put up at the tavern, and Jasniff spent his last twenty cents for some liquor. Then they sat down in the back room, to smoke cigarettes and talk over their future plans.
"It don't feel nice to be dead-broke," said Jasniff. "Wouldn't you like to earn a little pile, Gus?"
"How?" questioned the bully eagerly.
"Oh, – I don't know exactly," drawled Jasniff, looking up at the ceiling. "But it might be done, you know."
"Well, I've got to get money somehow," answered Plum, desperately. "I am not going around without a cent in my pocket, and in debt, too."
"Will you stand by me if I show you a way to get a little pile?" asked Jasniff, lowering his voice.
"Yes, I will," answered Plum, boldly.
"All right, then; I'll let you know what I can do in a few days. I've got to consult somebody else first, though."
The celebration to follow the grand victory was a rather tame affair on account of the accident to Phil Lawrence. The ship-owner's son was a prime favorite with many of the Oak Hall students and they asked about him constantly.
"He cannot be moved at present," said the doctors. "He must remain here." And after that the sufferer was made as comfortable as possible in one of the spare chambers of the mansion. A telegram was at once sent to his parents, and they came on the following morning. Poor Phil was still unconscious but came to his senses that evening, and by the following day seemed a trifle improved.
"Oh, I do hope he gets over it entirely," said Dave to Roger. "It would be awful to think of his suffering all his life."
"That is true, Dave. I'd rather we hadn't played at all."
"And to think it came at the very end of the game," broke in Buster Beggs.
"It will stop football for this season," announced Sam Day, and he was right. Dr. Clay issued orders that very day that no more games should be played until it was certain that Phil was out of danger. Even as it was, a number of the students received word from their parents and guardians forbidding their playing any more.
Dave wrote to his uncle and to the others about the game, and received several letters in return, including one from Jessie Wadsworth which he kept to himself and prized very highly. In it the girl wrote that she was glad they had won and was sure Dave had done his full share to gain the victory, but she was sorry to learn Phil had been hurt and that Dave must be sure to keep out of harm.
"We cannot afford to have anything happen to you," wrote Jessie, "for we all think so much of you." And this made Dave's cheeks flush and his heart beat with keenest pleasure.
The letter from Dunston Porter was also interesting, but one paragraph made Dave's heart sink. In this Mr. Porter stated that as yet no word of any kind had been received about Dave's father and sister.
"It certainly is queer you don't hear from them," said Roger, when he learned of this. "If they are in Europe or in America at least one of your letters must have followed them up."
"It's a mystery to me," answered Dave, and heaved a long sigh. He was more than impatient to meet his father and sister, and who can blame him?
The two bicycles belonging to Dave and Babcock had been brought in by a farmer of that vicinity, who had found them near the fallen tree. This man was rewarded for his trouble, and Dave, Roger, and Babcock went to the spot hoping to find some clew to the mystery. They saw that the tree was decayed near the roots but that it had undoubtedly been broken off by force.
"It was surely the work of some enemies," said Dave. "The question is, Who is guilty?"
"Perhaps we'll learn some day," answered the senator's son; and there, for the time being, the subject was dropped.
As my old readers know there was a secret society at Oak Hall known as the Gee Eyes, this mysterious appellation standing for the initials, G. I., which in their turn stood for the words, Guess It. This society had its officers and its secret password, and met "semi-occasionally or oftener" as the by-laws had it. It was gotten up mostly for fun, – the said fun being largely due to the initiation of new members. Dave had joined and so had his chums, and they had aided in initiating a number of others.
For various reasons Plum, Poole, and Jasniff were out of this society. When Jasniff had wanted to join – as a newcomer to the Hall – he had been rejected with scant ceremony. This had angered him, and as a consequence he and his cronies, along with several other students, had organized a new society, called the D. D. A. Club, the initials standing for Dare Do Anything. This was supposed to meet once a month, and all sorts of inducements were offered to get the other students to join.
"I hear the Gee Eyes are going to meet soon," said Nat Poole, one day to his cronies. "Ain't it about time the D. D. A. met too?"
"Have you found a new member?" asked Jasniff.
"Frank Bond wants to join."
"Oh, he's only a little fellow," sneered Jasniff.
"Never mind, we can get some fun out of him," said Gus Plum. "I'd like something to do. Things are dead slow."
The Gee Eyes met the very next night, and hearing of this the D. D. A. Club did the same. A new student named Sultzer – a German boy – wanted to join the Gee Eyes, and Dave and Ben Basswood were appointed as a committee of two to make ready for the occasion.
"We'll have to give 'em something brand-new," said Ben.
"That will not be so easy – since we have tried nearly everything," answered Dave.
"They are building a new house over near the Grislow place. Can't we do something there?"
"Maybe we can," said Dave. "Let us look over the ground."
By the time the Gee Eyes met everything was in readiness, and Ben Basswood brought Carl Sultzer to the meeting, which was held in an old boathouse down the river. In the meantime the other members had attired themselves in cotton robes of red, with black hoods over their heads and a yellow tassel dangling over one ear. Some had wooden swords, one a wooden hammer, and others stuffed clubs.
As Carl Sultzer, a fat boy with a round, ruddy face, was thrust into the room, he was surrounded and all present began to chant:
"Hoopra! hoopra! Dilly duddy!
Here he comes so fat and ruddy!
Hoopra! hoopra! Dilly dee!
Stranger, stranger! Bend your knee!
Hoopra! hoopra! Dilly dud!
Do you want to join this club?
If you do, down to the ground,
Make to us a bow profound!"
As the chant went on Carl Sultzer was forced to his knees and was made to bow until his nose touched the floor.
"Vot is dis ding, annahow?" he asked, in a trembling voice. "Is dis der Chee Eyes Club, I ton't know?"
"This is the renowned Gee Eyes Club," came in a solemn tone.
"Wouldst thou join us, base stranger?" asked another voice.
"Yah, sure, I choin," answered Carl. "Put vot I got to to alretty?"
"Thou shalt soon see," was the answer. "Numbers Three and Six, blindfold him."
"Look here, I ton't like dis!" cried the German student, as a bag was thrown over his head and fastened around his neck. The bag had a hole in the back, so that he could get air. But he could not see a thing.
"It must be done," was the answer. "For particulars see Section 45, rule 917 of the by-laws. Are you ready to learn the by-laws?"
"Der py-laws? Vot I got to puy py der py-laws?" asked the German student, cautiously.
"You haven't got to buy anything. You must learn them."
"Which puts me in mind of a story," came in another voice. "A man once – Oh, excuse me, I forgot!" And the story came to a sudden end, as the speaker received a whack over the ear from a stuffed club.
"I believe Shadow would want to tell a story if he was at a funeral," whispered one hooded figure to another.
"Lo! the march begins!" cried a loud voice, in Carl Sultzer's ear. It made the German boy jump. Then he was caught by the arms and his hands were tied behind him. In this fashion he was marched from the old boathouse and in the direction of the new building previously mentioned.
"Vere you been daking me?" asked Carl.
"Wait, and thou shalt see."
"How I vos going to see of I got mine eyes blindfolded alretty?"
To this there was no answer, but several of the hooded figures snickered.
The new building reached, several of the boys caught up the German lad in a blanket.
"Vot is dis now?" he asked, in fresh alarm.
"Be careful now while you carry him to the top of the building," whispered one boy, but loud enough for the German lad to hear.
"Hi! vot is dis, annahow?" yelled Carl.
"A new house they are building. We are going to take you to the top," answered a member of the secret society.
"Maype I ton't vos vant to go py der dop alretty," pleaded Carl.
"It won't hurt you. Come on, fellows!"
In a twinkling the German youth was lifted up and carried along, over some wooden horses and lumber piles. He thought he was going up – he knew not where.
"Hi! ton't you trop me town," he wailed.
"No, Carl dear, we'll drop you up," came in a cheery voice, and this brought forth another snicker.
Presently the boys came to a halt, and the victim was placed on his feet on a narrow board.
"Don't lose your balance," said one boy, cautiously.
"It's about thirty feet to the ground," added another.
"Oh, my! I ton't vos vant to dumble, ain't it!" shrieked Carl, in terror.
"You won't if you are careful. Now you must walk over the beams from one end of this building to the other."
"I can't vos do dot! I vos dumble town sure!" wailed Carl.
"You have got to do it if you want to join this society. Here, let me place your foot on the next beam," and Carl's right foot was caught up and put on a beam a foot and a half in front of that upon which he had been standing.
"Look out! I vos dumble me town!" he shrieked.
"Steady now and you'll be all right," was the answer. "Forward you go!"
But poor Carl did not go forward, instead he remained standing on the two beams, his knees shaking visibly.
"Forward!" was the cry again, and now he was tapped on the back with the wooden swords and stuffed clubs.
"I dumble me town! I dumble me town sure as I vas porn!" he shrieked. "Ton't douch me!"
"Then move on. We won't let you fall," said one student, and still trembling the German lad started to walk across the beams to the other end of the building, as he thought. He passed over seven beams when, of a sudden, one fell over. Down he went, yelling wildly and clutching at the beam he had just left. Then he struck the ground, which was just under the beams, and rolled over. In another moment the sack was taken from his head and his hands were unloosened.
"Vell, I neffer!" he ejaculated, gazing around in a sheepish way. "I dink me sure I vos der top of der puilding on alretty! Und I vos on der groundt all der vile! Now ain't dot funny!" And all at once he set up a roar of laughter. The other students joined in, and the general merriment lasted for fully five minutes.
"Now, Carl, you are a full-fledged member of the Gee Eyes," said Dave, coming forward. "Let me congratulate you." And he gave Carl's hand a tight squeeze.
"Dank you," said the German lad. Then the others shook hands, each giving Carl's hand the tightest squeeze possible. Soon the youth began to dance around.
"Hi! somepody stop dot!" he roared. "I ton't vont mine hand squashed to a jelly alretty! Let go, I told you!" And after that he would do no more handshaking.
It was rather cold and soon one of the students suggested that they go back to the Hall. But the others demurred.
"Let us take a trolley ride," said one. "Just the thing in this moonlight. We can get back in plenty of time."
So it was agreed, and off the crowd set, in the direction of the trolley line, upon which they had had so much sport the previous summer. Nobody dreamed of the surprise in store for them.
While the Gee Eyes were having their sport with Carl Sultzer quite another scene was being enacted some distance away, in the vicinity of the trolley tracks.
Little Frank Bond, a pale and highly sensitive youth who had come to Oak Hall two weeks before, was being initiated into the mysteries of the D. D. A. Club by Plum, Poole, Jasniff, and several of their cronies.
Frank did not care for clubs, being a lad of a retiring disposition. But he had been "talked into it" by Plum, who thought he saw some keen sport in scaring the little fellow half to death.
"You must join by all means," said the bully of the school. "Why, life at Oak Hall won't be worth living unless you're a member of the D. D. A. Club." And very foolishly Frank agreed to submit to an initiation.
"We'll scare him out of his seven senses," chuckled Plum. "It will be a barrel of fun."
"What will you do?" questioned the others of the club.
When the bully of Oak Hall unfolded his plan several demurred, stating it would be rather severe on a lad of Frank's temperament. But they were overruled, and in the end the so-styled initiation was carried out as the bully planned it.
After a good deal of ceremony, which was great fun and rather enjoyed by the small boy, Frank was blindfolded and marched out in the direction of the trolley tracks. The club members took to a side road, where there was a single track running to a town several miles distant. On this track was a new turnout, which had been put down only a short while before.
"Where are we going?" asked Frank, timidly, as the others hurried him along.
"To the trolley tracks," was the answer. "We want to test your nerve."
"Oh, we'll put you on the tracks and let the trolley run over you," answered Plum, brutally.
"Oh, please don't put me on the tracks!" cried Frank. "I – I know you don't want to hurt me, but a trolley car might come along, and I might get struck."
"Oh, it's all right," said Jasniff. "If you're ground up we'll pick up the pieces and give you a decent burial."
This sort of talk was kept up until the trolley line was reached, and the effect was to completely unnerve the young victim. He was allowed to see the single track and then blindfolded once more, and his hands were tied behind his back.
"Now put him on the tracks," commanded Plum, roughly.
"And don't forget to chain him fast," added Jasniff, rattling a dog chain he had brought along.
"Oh, we'll chain him good and hard," said Nat Poole.
"No! no! Please don't!" cried Frank, and now he tried to break away from his tormentors. A struggle ensued, but in the end he was subdued and dragged along the track to where was located the turnout just mentioned. Here he was thrown on his back, and his hands were fastened down to one of the rails.
"Don't! Let me go! Please let me go!" he shrieked. "I don't want to be tied to the track! I don't want to join the club! If a trolley should come along I'd surely be hurt! Let me go!" And he started to struggle again.