Left Half Harmonñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
Today’s Hillsport eleven was not by any means the team that had worsted Alton last fall, and Alton’s victory was nothing to be very proud of. It was, consequently, satisfaction from revenge achieved rather than pride of performance that caused the visiting crowd to cheer and sing with such unction when the game was over. Alton “rubbed it in” a little, I fear, and, since the Hillsport fellows didn’t take defeat any too gracefully, it looked at one time as if there would be trouble before the marching victors left the field. However, a clash was averted, and Alton, waving gray-and-gold banners and still cheering, took herself across the grounds to the car line. Better accommodations were afforded for the return trip to Darlington and no one had to walk.
The Alton team had dressed in the field-house, a small wooden structure built under one of the grandstands, and by the time they were once more in street clothes the spectators had long since vanished. Willard and Martin had shared the same suitcase and when, having reached the waiting trolley car, some three blocks distant from the field, it was discovered the suitcase was missing each laid the blame on the other.
“I thought you had it,” said Martin.
“I thought you had it,” replied Willard. “You were at it last.”
“I was? I’ll bet you! I’ll match you to see which of us goes back for it.”
“I don’t mind going,” said Willard, “but I’ll miss the car, I guess.”
“We’ll wait for you,” said Bob, who, with Cal Grainger, had been enjoying the joke. “There’ll be another car pretty quick. Get a move on, Brand!”
Willard found the field-house locked when he reached it again, and no one was in sight. There was just one thing to be done, and he did it. Finding a flat piece of iron amongst the litter behind the little building, he forced a window and crawled through. Rather to his surprise, the suitcase was just where they had left it, and, leaving as he had entered, he closed the window again and hurried back across the school grounds. It was well after five o’clock and lights were showing in some of the dormitory windows. At the main entrance a group of three awaited him; Martin, Bob and Cal. The special car had gone, but Bob assured him that there would be another one along pretty soon, and so, their bags at their feet, they perched themselves on the coping of the wall and waited. At intervals Hillsport youths passed through the gateway, eyeing them with a disfavor that brought chuckles from Bob.
“Gee, they’re a sore bunch,” he said. “We could get up a scrap without half trying.”
“Don’t see what they’ve got to be sore about,” observed Cal Grainger belligerently. “We haven’t daubed green paint all over their town!”
Willard held his watch to the light and inquired uneasily: “What time does that train go, fellows?”
“Quarter to six,” answered Martin. “What time is it?”
“Nearly half-past five,” replied Willard.
Bob whistled. “We’ll never make it,” he laughed.
“When’s the next one? Anyone know?”
No one did. Cal remarked that even if the car came right then it wouldn’t get them to Darlington in time for the train that the others were taking.
“What do we care?” asked Bob. “We don’t have to get back until ten if we don’t want to. Look here, let’s get some supper here and go home afterwards!”
“Might as well,” agreed Martin. “We couldn’t possibly get to school before seven. Got any money? I’m broke.”
“A couple of dollars,” answered Bob. “How about you, Cal?”
Cal confessed to being the Croesus of the party, having the magnificent sum of four dollars and some cents on his person, and, unlike some wealthy persons, he was quite willing to share his riches. So, all being agreed, they set forth for the center of town, following the car-track for guidance. The long-awaited car overtook them presently, but, although Bob was for taking it because of his suitcase, he was overruled, Cal relieving him of his burden. Half a mile from the school a quite pretentious restaurant rewarded their search and they trooped in and took possession of a table for four. Having ordered rather an elaborate repast, it was decided that Cal should go out and gather information regarding the train service, and Cal, hastily swallowing the rest of the slice of bread that he was engaged on, went. He returned five minutes later grinning broadly.
“What’s the trouble?” asked Bob. “Spill it, son. I know that grin of yours!”
“There was a train two minutes ago,” chuckled Cal, “and the next one doesn’t go until eight-thirty-three!”
“What do we care?” asked Bob. “That’ll get us home long before ten.”
“Sure, but what’ll we do for two hours in this benighted burg?” asked Martin.
“Maybe there’s a movie house. There’s bound to be,” said Bob.
“I didn’t see any,” Cal replied. “I guess they don’t allow ’em here.”
“We’ll ask someone.” Bob hailed a waiter.
“Movies? No, sir, not in Hillsport. There’s two good ones over to Warner, though,” replied the waiter.
“How far’s Warner?”
“Three miles by the trolley. It takes about twenty minutes.”
“Great green grasshoppers!” exclaimed Cal. “What a place to live in! What do you do at night here?”
“Well, there’s a pool-room on the street above and a bowling-alley across the square,” chuckled the waiter. “Mostly, though, we go to bed!”
“I don’t blame you,” muttered Martin. “Only thing to do is eat as much as we can and take our time about it. How long before those steaks’ll be here?”
“Guess they’re ready now, sir. I’ll go see.”
When the waiter had departed Cal took another piece of bread, levied on Willard’s butter and spoke thickly. “Listen, fellows,” he said. “Tell you what we can do. We can get back at Hillsport.”
“Get back at it!” jeered Martin. “Get out of it’s what we want!”
“I mean we can do a little celebrating,” continued Cal, lowering his voice, although the tables were empty on each side of them. “Get me?”
“Not clearly,” answered Bob. “Elucidate, please. Also, kindly keep away from my butter, you big hog!” Bob removed his modest pat to a safer place, and Cal, foiled, ate the remainder of the slice unbuttered.
“Have you forgotten what they did to us last year?” he demanded indignantly.
“Hardly! They licked us. And then they painted the score all over – I get you! By jiminy, that’s a corking scheme, Cal! We’ll do it! We’ll make this old burg as pretty as a picture! We’ll – ”
“We’ll get in a peck of trouble,” interrupted Martin. “Not for me, thanks!”
“Oh, don’t be a piker,” begged Cal. “They did it to us and didn’t get into any trouble. What’s sauce for the sauce – I mean – ”
“Is sauce for the saucer,” aided Bob. “Righto! We get your meaning, son. I see no reason why we shouldn’t be allowed some slight – ah – evidence of our joy. Hillsport got away with it, so why shouldn’t we?”
The arrival of supper interrupted further discussion of the matter, and it was not until the first intense pangs of hunger had been appeased that Martin returned to the subject. “We’d have to have paint and brushes,” he said discouragingly, “and we couldn’t get them at this time of night.”
“We’d only need one bucket of paint and one brush,” replied Bob. “And how do you know we can’t get them? This is Saturday night, and there’s sure to be some place open.”
“Well, we couldn’t get gray and gold in one bucket, you lobster,” returned Martin impolitely.
“We don’t need gray and gold, you shrimp. They wouldn’t show up well enough. We want a nice quart can of black. That’s the ticket! Nice, black black! Who’s going to have pie?”
It appeared that as many as four of their number were going to indulge in that delicacy, and that Martin, having consumed one large glass of milk, was in the market for a second. He had the forethought, though, to count his money before giving his order, and, finding he was safe, added: “How much does paint cost? I’ve only got carfare left.”
“Cal’s got a dollar yet, haven’t you?” answered Bob. “Paint isn’t expensive. Maybe seventy-five cents for a quart. A brush oughtn’t to be more than a quarter, had it?”
“You can buy a toothbrush for a quarter,” said Cal, “but I guess a paint brush costs a heap more. I’ve got a dollar and sixty cents left, though, and I’ll gladly devote it to the cause. Finish your eats, fellows, and let’s get started.”
Willard followed doubtfully when the repast was over. “I’ll go along,” he said, “but I’d rather not have anything to do with the game. It doesn’t look healthy to me.”
Martin laughed. “It’s all right if we don’t get nabbed, Brand. I’d like mighty well to see the expressions on the faces of some of these chaps over here tomorrow!”
As Bob had pointed out, it was Saturday night, and even in Hillsport most of the merchants kept their shops open. As it was considered unwise to ask the location of a hardware store, the quartette was some time finding one. But success rewarded their efforts presently and, lest numbers create suspicion, Bob was delegated to do the purchasing alone. Cal emptied his pocket of all it contained except sufficient to pay his fare back to Alton and Bob pulled his cap down and entered the store. In a very few minutes he emerged, a paper-covered package under one arm, and strolled casually along the street to a dimly lighted corner where the others awaited him.
“Get it?” whispered Martin.
“Sure! Also and likewise a brush.” Bob pulled the latter article from a trousers pocket and waved it triumphantly. “Here’s the change,” he added.
Cal held the few coins that dropped into his palm to the uncertain light of a distant street lamp. “Huh, there isn’t much of it,” he said.
“Paint’s high, owing to – to – I forget what,” answered Bob cheerfully. “But the brush was only thirty cents. That was cheap, eh?”
“It must be a wonder!” commented Cal. “Bet you the bristles all come out before we get through with it.”
“We ought to soak it in water first,” said Bob, “but I guess there isn’t time.”
“You’re a swell little guesser,” answered Martin. “Which way do we go?”
“Back the way we came,” said Cal. “The nearer the school, the better, I say.”
“That’s right. I wonder should we stir this stuff up.” Bob tore off the disguising paper and revealed a quart can. “Guess we’ll have to. Let’s get the cover off and find a stick or something.”
Getting the cover off was not difficult, Cal prying it up with his locker key, but finding a piece of wood with which to stir was more of a problem. They searched and poked around in the gloom of the back street without success until Martin found a broken fence picket and pulled off a nice long splinter. Then, in the added darkness of a tree, they put the can on the sidewalk and proceeded to mix the ingredients thoroughly. Once a passer on the other side caused them to straighten up and assume casual attitudes, but for the rest they were undisturbed. Even on the business thoroughfares Hillsport was not a crowded town tonight. Presently they set off, Bob bearing the paint and Cal the brush, keeping to the darker streets until the center of the town was left behind. Then they crossed to the residence avenue by which they had returned from the school and began to look for blank walls or fences appropriate to their purpose.
After some five blocks had been traveled Bob voiced disparagement. “This is a punk town for decorating,” he said. “Nothing but iron and picket fences.”
“What’s that over there?” asked Martin, pointing. It proved, when they had crossed the street, to be the clapboarded side of a stable or garage set some three feet back from the fence. Bob gloated fiendishly and called for the brush. But, although until that instant scarcely half a dozen persons had been sighted, now the long street suddenly became densely populated, or so it seemed to the vandals. A man came out of a house across the way, a boy and a dog appeared from a cross thoroughfare and two ladies appeared from the direction of the shopping district. Bob deposited the paint can against the fence and the boys stood in front of it in negligent attitudes. Cal whistled idly and unmusically. The boy passed unsuspiciously, but the dog showed signs of curiosity until Martin lifted him swiftly but mercifully from the vicinity with a dexterous foot. Then the man, having lighted a cigar very deliberately, took himself off and the two ladies passed, casting nervous glances at the quartette, and the street was again quiet.
Bob dipped brush in paint and reached toward the immaculate whiteness of the building. Willard looked on dubiously, but forebore to remonstrate. It was a difficult reach and Bob was grumbling before he had formed the big A that started the inscription. But, although the black paint ran down the handle of the brush and incommoded him vastly, he persevered and in a minute the sign stood forth in the semi-darkness, huge and startling:
One brief instant they tarried to admire, and then they hurried away from the place. It seemed to them that those big black letters and numerals were visible for blocks! By common consent they turned the next corner and dived into the comparative blackness of a side street. Presently they stopped and exchanged felicitations.
“Swell!” chuckled Cal. “Gee, I wish I could see the Hillsport fellows tomorrow when they catch sight of it!”
“So do I,” said Bob. “Didn’t it show up great? Who’s got a handkerchief he’s not particular about?”
“Wipe your hands on your trousers,” advised Martin coldly.
“What’s the matter with your own handkerchief?” inquired Cal. “You get too much paint on your brush, anyway.”
“Well, you can’t be very careful when you’ve got to hurry,” grumbled Bob. “You can do the next one, seeing you know so blamed much about it! Gosh, the silly stuff is running up my sleeve!”
“I’ve got an old handkerchief you can have,” said Willard.
“Thanks, Brand. You’re the only gentleman in the bunch. Excepting me,” added Bob as Martin laughed.
“Where next?” asked Cal while Bob wiped his hand.
“Let’s paint a good one somewhere near the school,” Martin suggested. “Seems to me there was a brick wall across from where we were waiting for the car that would be just the ticket.”
“Lead me to it,” begged Cal. “This is my turn.”
They got back to the main street a block farther on and a few minutes’ walk brought them in sight of the main entrance to the school. “We don’t want to stay around too long,” said Willard. “It’s nearly eight o’clock now.”
“Guess we’ll have to do one more and call it a day,” replied Bob. “I never saw such a punk town for – for decorative purposes!”
Three Hillsport fellows, returning to school, overtook them as they neared the entrance and, as it seemed, viewed them very, very suspiciously. But the four kept their heads down, and Cal, now carrying the pot of paint, was careful to keep it hidden. The three entered the school grounds and were lost to sight and the conspirators breathed more freely. The wide street ended at the campus. A cross street ran right and left and for a block in each direction the high iron fence of the school bore it company. From the right the street car line came, turning in front of the gate. As, however, they had seen but one car since they had started forth on their expedition, interruption from that source seemed unlikely. The brick wall of which Martin had spoken could not have been placed more advantageously. It surrounded the small premises of a residence on the left-hand corner, and, as Bob triumphantly pointed out, a sign painted there would be the first thing seen by anyone coming through the school gate.
“That’s all right,” returned Cal dubiously, “but it’s awfully light here.” And so it was, for just inside the gate an electric arc lamp shed its blue radiance afar.
“I’ll stand at the gate,” volunteered Bob, “and Mart and Brand can watch the streets. If anyone comes we’ll whistle.”
“What about the folks in the house?” Cal’s enthusiasm was rapidly waning. The residence was brightly lighted and the strains of a piano came forth.
“They can’t see through the wall, you lunkhead,” answered Bob, “and if anyone comes out we’ll see ’em and let you know. All you need to do then is set the paint pot down and just walk away, careless-like.”
“We-ell, but you fellows watch,” said Cal resignedly.
Bob posted himself across the street at the entrance and Martin and Willard took up positions from where they could see anyone approaching on either street. Then Cal set to work. Painting on the rough surface of a brick wall is not so simple as painting on wood, and Cal made slow progress. Now and then the others heard disgusted murmurs from where, a darker form against the shadows, he stooped at his task. Several minutes passed, and Willard, concerned with the fact that train time was approaching, grew nervous; which, perhaps, accounted for a momentary lapse from watchfulness. At all events, the approaching pedestrian, coming along on the school side of the cross street, was scarcely a dozen yards distant when Willard saw him. The latter’s warning might, it seemed, have been heard a mile away.
“Beat it!” yelled Willard.
Afterwards he explained that shouting was quicker than whistling, and that if he had taken time to pucker his lips they would never have got away without being seen.
They came together a block down the main thoroughfare, breathless and hilarious. “He – he went in the gate,” panted Bob. “I saw him. Looked like one of the faculty, too. Gee, it was a lucky thing he didn’t catch us! D-did you get it done, Cal?”
“Just! I was going over the naught a second time when I heard Brand yell. I had the paint can in one hand and the brush in the other and I just heaved ’em both over the wall and ran!”
“I’ll bet it looks great,” chuckled Martin.
“I know it does,” answered Cal proudly. “I made the letters and figures as big as that.” He held his hands nearly a yard apart. “It took most of the paint, too. Brick’s awfully hard to work on. What did you do with Brand’s handkerchief, Bob?”
“Gave it back,” said Bob.
“No, you didn’t,” denied Willard.
“Didn’t I? I thought I did. Meant to, anyway. Must have dropped it somewhere, then. Wipe your hands on your own hanky. That’s what you told me to do!”
“I will like fun,” muttered Cal. “I’ll bet the stuff is all over me, hang it!”
“You can wash up at the station,” said Martin. “Who knows when the cars run over to Darlington?”
An uneasy silence followed. Then Bob said: “What about it, Cal? You asked, didn’t you?”
“I asked when the trains went,” replied Cal. “I – I suppose the cars go every ten minutes or so, don’t they?”
“What time is it now?” asked Martin bruskly.
“Five to eight,” answered Willard.
With one accord the four broke into a trot. “If we miss that train we’re dished!” said Bob. “Seems to me you’d find out something, Cal, while you were at it! What time does the train go?”
“Eight-thirty-eight,” replied Cal. “You didn’t ask me to find out about the trolley. I thought you knew about it. How was I to know – ”
“Save your breath for running,” advised Bob coldly. “If we can’t get a trolley we’ll have to foot it.”
“Gee, we’ll never do it in thirty minutes!” exclaimed Martin.
“We’ll have to,” said Bob grimly, “if we can’t get a car. If we’re not back at school by ten we’ll get fits. And then, if the faculty over here makes a fuss about those signs, why, we’ll be nabbed!”
“I told you it was too risky,” mourned Martin.
“Well, you took a hand in it, didn’t you?” asked Bob shortly. “Shut up and get a move on! Isn’t that the square ahead there?”
It was, and when, very much out of breath, the quartette reached it, a car obligingly swung around a corner and paused in front of a waiting station a block away. “Come on!” yelled Cal. “That’s ours!”
Of course, having reached it and staggered breathlessly inside, they had to sit there for quite ten minutes before the car resumed its journey. But they were too grateful to mind that, and, although Willard looked at his watch frequently and anxiously, the conductor assured them that, if they didn’t burn out a fuse or run off the track or if the power didn’t give out, they would reach the Darlington station eight minutes before train time. Bob advised Cal to keep his hands out of sight and Cal hung them down between his knees all the way. The conductor’s prediction proved correct, and, as there were no misadventures on the journey, Cal was able to eradicate most of the paint from his hands before the train arrived. To his disgust, however, he discovered that his coat and trousers were liberally specked with black, and when Bob told him cheerfully that the paint wouldn’t be very noticeable on mixed goods he became quite angry. In the end they reached the Academy well before ten o’clock and unobtrusively sought their rooms, everyone very weary and, if the truth must be told, rather short-tempered by now.
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