Ralph Barbour.

Left Half Harmon





CHAPTER XXIII
MNATT TRIES PHOTOGRAPHY

Mr. Kincaid was a dapper, well-groomed little gentleman of middle age who wore a sandy mustache and squinted engagingly through a pair of gold-rimmed glasses because he was unusually near-sighted. On one occasion, when the instructor had removed his glasses to polish them and had subsequently mislaid them between the pages of a book for something like two minutes, things happened in Room G seldom witnessed! Being extremely fastidious, the instructor was a good customer of The Parisian Tailors, who occupied a small building on West Street. On the preceding Saturday, the day of the New Falmouth game, the instructor repaired himself to the tailoring shop shortly after dinner with a pair of trousers draped gracefully over one arm. He wanted those trousers nicely pressed for the next days wearing, and he must have them no later than this evening. Having enjoined Mr. Jacob Schacht to that effect, he remained a moment and watched that gentleman, who, by the way, looked most un-Parisian in feature, proceed to the long-delayed cleaning of a gray suit. It was a peculiar looking suit, Mr. Kincaid decided, viewing it through his strong lenses, and he made mention of his decision to Mr. Schacht. An odd mixture, he remarked agreeably. I dont think I ever saw one just like it, Mr. Schacht.

Them spots aint in the goods, chuckled Mr. Schacht in an un-Parisian voice. Theyre paint, Mr. Kincaid. One of the young gentlemen at the school brought this here suit to me the first of the week just like you see it. All over the front is them spots, Mr. Kincaid, and I says A fine job you bring me, I says, because, I says, paint thats already got hard like this, I says, you cant do much with it, Mr. Grainger. So much I dont like it, I keep putting it off, sir, and here now its already Saturday, and nothing aint done to it yet, Mr. Kincaid. If there was two of me Id still be working till it was midnight just like now, Mr. Kincaid.

His interest in the suit having vanished on learning that the peculiar appearance was due to specks of paint, Mr. Kincaid sympathized with Mr. Schacht in a few well-chosen words and withdrew. The incident did not again occur to him until Tuesday forenoon when his eyes again fell on the gray suit, now quite commonplace in appearance, adorning the form of Calvin Grainger. Just why at that moment Mr. Kincaids thoughts should have reverted to the last faculty meeting it is hard to say, but they did, and he recalled the case of a student, whose name he had now forgotten, which had been before the meeting for consideration. That student had used black paint to adorn the brick wall surrounding the residence of the Principal of Hillsport School, to the straining of the entente cordial existing between that school and Alton Academy. Mr. Kincaid removed his gold-rimmed glasses, closed his eyes, leaned back, and, while Rowlandson proceeded to prove how little attention he had given to todays lesson, added two and two, with the result that later on that day Calvin Grainger called at the office on request and spent some twenty minutes with Doctor McPherson.

When he left he looked chastened to a degree; chastened and very disgusted; possibly more disgusted than chastened. For, as he asked later of a very troubled roommate, what was a fellow going to do when he was asked point-blank like that?

Of course, he explained moodily, I didnt welch on you or Mart, but hell get you, Bob, because he will be pretty sure we were together. After that hell get Mart.

Hell get me, agreed Bob, with a sigh, but I dont see how he can connect Mart with the business.

You dont? Well, its funny to me he hasnt done it already. He knows that Brand and Mart room together, for one thing. Fellows who room together are generally in on things like that.

Sure, if they happen around school, but I guess it didnt occur to him that Mart would be with Brand over at Hillsport. Maybe he wont think of me, either. But there was very little conviction in his tone.

He will, though, answered Cal gloomily. Youll be on the carpet in the morning. Its a shame, too. It doesnt matter much in my case, for Im not on the football team, and Ill be off probation long before spring baseball practice starts, but you He shook his head dismally.

Oh, well! Bob shrugged. What has to be, has to be. Might as well face it. He walked to the window and looked down on the darkening Green. Cal groaned.

Its my fault, he muttered. You fellows wouldnt have thought of it if I hadnt suggested it.

It isnt your fault that we went into it, answered Bob, without turning. Dont talk like a fish.

At noon the next day it was known pretty well all over school that Bob Newhall, Calvin Grainger and Willard Harmon were on probation as a result of the black paint episode over at Hillsport. Bobs fate brought consternation to the team and one of the worst quarter-hours Bob had ever put in occurred when Joe Myers sought him out and said what was on his mind. Joe took it badly.

Martin was all for hurrying to the office and acknowledging his complicity, but the others persuaded him not to. As Bob said, the team had suffered enough, and it was Martins duty to stick as long as faculty would let him. Not that itll be long, though, added Bob pessimistically. Theyll get you, too, in a day or so.

Bob was mistaken, however, for they didnt get him until Friday. Even then they had no proof against Martin, but, knowing that he and Bob and Cal were much together, they shot at a venture and, questioned, Martin could do no less than confess. He acknowledged to Willard that it was a relief to have it over with. Ive been feeling like a thief ever since they got you, Brand, he said, and Id have gone to Mac long ago if you fellows hadnt kicked up such a row about it.

The next day Alton journeyed to Hubbardston and met Oak Grove. With Rowlandson in Bobs position and Putney playing left tackle in place of Martin, it wasnt the same team that had rolled up those 34 points against New Falmouth. The Gray-and-Gold, thanks to the spirit displayed by every fellow on the team and to some wonderful work by McNatt, managed to score a touchdown in the third period, but against that Oak Grove made two, and the score at the end of the game was 14 to 6 in Oak Groves favor.

The school felt very sore after that game and Bob and Martin and Willard were far from popular. There was a distinct atmosphere of discouragement over the Academy on Sunday, and it didnt lift perceptibly until Monday evening, when, at the third of the football mass meetings, Coach Cade made an earnest appeal for support that brought the audience to their feet, cheering madly.

Weve been hit hard, he said. There wouldnt be any sense in my denying that. But this is a fight that were in, and one blow isnt going to beat us. Its just going to get our blood up, fellows, and were going to fight harder than we ever thought of fighting. Were going into the Kenly game, maybe, beaten on paper, but were coming out of it victorious. It wont be the first time that a supposedly weaker team has won. Its spirit that counts, the spirit to fight and conquer, no matter the odds. And thats the spirit Alton is going to have next Saturday. There isnt a man on the team, from Captain Myers down to the greenest substitute, that thinks we are going to be beaten; there isnt one of them that doesnt know that we can win and will win! And I know it. And I want everyone of you fellows to know it, too, and to let the team know that you know it! Well do our part, but youve got to do yours. Will you?

The answer was convincing.

The four on probation didnt attend that meeting, nor were they able to see the efforts that Coach Cade put forth to repair the team in the few days remaining, but they heard of each, and each was affected in his own fashion. Martin stormed at his fate and got red in the face, Bob was very silent and pathetic and Willard smiled to hide a sore heart. Cal was frankly miserable, blaming himself for the mischief and taking the misfortune to the others perhaps a little harder than they did. Willard dropped in on Felix McNatt Tuesday afternoon before supper and got much inside news of the football situation.

Rowlandson will probably do very well, reported McNatt, but Putney isnt the right sort for tackle, and I wish Mr. Cade would see it. He hasnt the proper temperament, Harmon.

How about the backfield? asked Willard. How hows Mawson getting on?

Mawson is a hard worker, but hes lighter than he should be and hes not so clever at finding the holes as you were, Harmon, answered McNatt judicially. Cochran is remarkably good when at his best, but he ah fluctuates.

It doesnt sound hopeful, murmured Willard.

Oh, Ive no doubt that we will win from Kenly, answered McNatt. You see, since we lost Proctor and Newhall weve come together a lot better, and the morale of the team is much finer. Kenly, as I figure it, will enter the game fairly sure of winning. Well go in realizing that, while we may win it, weve got to play powerful football to do it. When you just have to do a thing, you do it, concluded McNatt convincedly.

Willard considered that conclusion a moment in silence, a silence broken at length by his host. I presume, he said, that theres no hope of Newhall and Proctor and you getting back on before Saturday.

Hardly, answered Willard, smiling wryly. Were on pro for the rest of the term.

I didnt know, murmured McNatt sympathetically. Just ah just what was it that happened, Harmon? I dont think I ever heard the rights of it.

So Willard told him, giving a very complete and detailed account of the affair, and McNatt listened and nodded and blinked occasionally until he had finished. Then, after a moments consideration, he said: It seems, then, that you fellows made your mistake in painting the score on the Principals wall. I mean, you did no worse than Hillsport did otherwise.

We didnt do as much as she did, answered Willard resentfully. Those fellows painted the score all over the town here; more than a dozen times, I guess; we only painted it twice.

Yes, I recall seeing the signs, McNatt reflected. Has it occurred to you as possible that a proper presentation of your case has not been made to the Hillsport Principal?

I dont know. Anyway, what he thinks doesnt worry us. Its what faculty here thinks. And they think we ought to be punished. And we are.

I see. I only thought that possibly McNatts voice trailed into silence, and he remained silent so long that Willard finally got up and took his departure. McNatt pulled the cord that operated the door bolt in a most absent-minded manner and aroused himself from his abstraction only long enough to murmur Good afternoon. Outside, Willard smiled to himself and shook his head.

McNutt! he muttered.

Usually the last hard practice preceding the big game was held on Wednesday, but this year the team was kept at it on Thursday as well. On Wednesday the second team, fight as it might, was snowed under, three touchdowns and a field-goal to nothing, and on Thursday, although Coach Cade gave the ball to the second time and again inside the firsts thirty-yard line, the latters goal was not crossed. On the other hand, McNatt twice broke away for long runs that led to as many scores. The mass meeting on Thursday evening was more enthusiastic than any that had gone before, and the cheers had a grimly determined sound usually lacking.

It was on Thursday that Martin returned to Number 16 Haylow just before dinner time from a hurried trip to West Street and, tossing his purchase on his bed and warming numbed fingers over the radiator, announced with a chuckle: McNutts got a new line, Brand.

What sort of a line? asked Willard, pushing his book away and tilting perilously back in his chair. What do you mean, line?

Photography, replied Martin. I met him over in Bagdad a few minutes ago taking pictures of the stores. Its colder than the dickens, but all he had on was a muffler around his neck.

What!

Dont play the goat. You know what I mean. He looked awfully funny, standing there winding up his little camera in the middle of the street, with the wind blowing a gale!

Whats he photographing the stores for? asked Willard, puzzled.

Search me! Some new science, I guess. Hes a queer one. Coming to dinner?

Friday was still cold and windy, with leaden skies, and after the team had run through signals for a quarter of an hour and the backs had punted and caught a few times, the players were hustled back to the gymnasium and straw was spread over the gridiron in case of a freeze.

The excitement and suspense that held the whole school that day affected Willard so that studying was an impossibility. About five, as Martin had gone over to Lykes to get Eustace Ross to help him with his algebra, Willard gave up the attempt to study and, pulling on a sweater, wandered across to Upton. Number 49 held only young Fuller, however. Felix went out early, he said in reply to Willards inquiry. About two oclock I think it was. I guess hes photographing. The boy scowled. Thats his latest. He develops the pictures himself, too. He nodded at several trays and bottles that claimed a corner of the table. This is a rotten hole to live in when he gets to messing with chemicals. Some day Ill be blown through the roof, I dare say.

I dont think photographing chemicals are explosive, responded Willard soothingly.

Well, theyre mighty nasty, grumbled the other. He stretched a string across the room yesterday and hung his films on it and they dripped all over my books!

Willard retraced his steps to Haylow, very much at a loose end, and gloomed in the darkness until Martin returned and switched the light on. After supper that evening Bob and Calvin came up and the four listened to the singing and cheering that floated faintly across from Memorial Hall where the final football mass meeting was being held, and talked desultorily about the game and Altons prospects of victory. They say, remarked Cal, that facultys holding a special meeting this evening and that Rowlandson may not play tomorrow.

Whats the matter with Rowly? asked Martin.

Back in his studies, they say.

I guess its just a scare, said Martin. Who said that faculty was meeting?

Harry Johnson told me. I think its so, too, for I saw the windows of Macs room all lighted up.

What of it? That doesnt necessarily mean that theyre after Rowlandson, said Bob. That would be about the last straw!

You hear a lot of silly yarns like that just before the game, said Martin. Fellows get so excited theyll tell you anything.

I wish I were excited, muttered Bob. Gee, its funny to think of the game being played tomorrow and not getting into it!

Not even seeing! added Cal.

Thats worse still, said Martin. I dont see why faculty needs to be so blamed mean. It wouldnt hurt them any to let us look at the old game!

Think they would if we all went and asked? inquired Willard. Doctor McPherson isnt a bad sort.

Hes all right, answered Cal grudgingly, but some of the others are pills. Id say

We might try it, interrupted Bob eagerly. Ill go if the rest of you will!

Ill go, said Martin promptly. He cant any more than turn us down. Gee, listen to that cheer! Theyre certainly humping themselves over there tonight!

Well all go, said Bob. I suppose its too late tonight. Lets do it right after breakfast. I dont see why he shouldnt, fellows.

Nor I, growled Cal, but he wont!

Long after midnight had rung out Willard called cautiously across the darkness: Mart, you awake?

Yes, I cant seem to get to sleep.

Same here, sighed Willard. He thumped his pillow and dug his head into it again. Gee, youd think I was going to play tomorrow from the way I dont get sleepy!

Last year, said Mart, making the bed squeak as he tossed himself into a new position, I was asleep before eleven. Lets light up and read awhile, Brand.

Lets try it again for awhile first, was the answer. Maybe if we stop thinking about the game well make it.

Yes, but how are you going to stop thinking of it? sighed Martin. Well

Silence fell. The half-hour struck. Presently a gentle snore came from the left-hand bed, joined a few minutes later by a second.

CHAPTER XXIV
ALTON CELEBRATES

Cloud and sun were struggling for supremacy the next morning when Willard looked out the window. The tips of the trees were swaying briskly under a southwest breeze, but it was evident that, whether fair or cloudy, the day was to be milder than yesterday. Already there was a wild hubbub from the corridor as boys raced for the lavatory, and football songs sounded bravely. Willard didnt have much appetite at breakfast; nor, for that matter, did many of his table companions display any marvelous enthusiasm for food. They were far too excited. A holiday air prevailed and laughter was louder and conversation more incessant than usual. At intervals the broad windows across the crowded hall lighted up palely, making a promise that was never quite fulfilled.

The four met in the corridor after breakfast and discussed their mission beside one of the radiators. Whos going to do the talking? asked Calvin. And what are we going to say?

Bob, answered Martin and Willard almost in unison.

Bob shrugged. I dont mind. Anyway, there isnt anything to say. All we can do is ask to be allowed to attend the game. I dont know of any any effective argument that we can put up, do you?

It seemed that no one did, and presently they started forth for Doctor McPhersons residence, the Doctor seldom going across to Academy Hall before nine oclock. They gave their names to the maid and stood in a cluster outside the library door while she disappeared in the direction of the dining-room. Guess he hasnt finished breakfast, whispered Martin. Maybe we oughtnt to have come so early.

He ought to be through it if he isnt, muttered Bob sternly. Anyhow, we can wait.

Then the maid appeared again. The Doctor says he will see you at the office at half-past ten, she reported. The four exchanged glances and filed out. Outside, Bob gave a sigh of relief.

I guess hed have turned us down, anyway, he said.

You dont know, replied Willard. Arent you going to try again?

I dont believe, said Bob. Whats the use?

Lots of use, declared Martin stoutly. Lets see it through now weve started. Come on up to our room and wait. Its nearly two hours.

In the corridor Willard stopped at the mail rack while the others went on toward the stairs. When he overtook them he held two buff envelopes in his hand. Heres a billet-doux for you, Mart, he said. Ive got one, too. Wonder whats up. He pulled out the printed slip and ran his eyes over it quickly. Thats funny! Its a date with Mac at ten-thirty!

Sos mine, announced Martin. What do you suppose

Thats why he wouldnt see us over at the house, said Bob. Say, I wonder if Ive got one of those, too! Im going to see!

So am I! exclaimed Calvin.

Left alone, Willard and Martin went on up the stairway alternately eyeing the slips and each other. Martin shook his head troubledly as they gained the second floor corridor. Ill bet its that blamed algebra, he muttered. Peghorns been mighty nasty the last two or three days.

Well, Im all right as far as I know, said Willard, frowning thoughtfully. Maybe Latin

Hurrying footsteps below interrupted, and then Bobs head came into sight. Cal followed at his heels. Both boys were plainly excited. Weve got em, too! called Bob. Same hour! Say, know what I think? I think facultys going to let us see the game!

Martin exhaled a deep sigh of relief. Gee, I hope it is that! he exclaimed. I I was getting scared!

There was still an hour and a half to be lived through, and they made themselves comfortable in Number 16 and advanced numerous theories. Willard went so far as to suggest that perhaps Mac was going to let them all off probation, but that theory found no supporters. You havent been here very long, said Bob, and so you dont know that faculty gang like I do. Its a sight more likely that Mac wants us to tell us theyve changed their minds and that were to be shot at sunrise!

Fully a quarter of an hour before the appointed time they set forth for Academy Hall, arriving there with thirteen and a half minutes to wait. They joined the group on the steps and listened half-heartedly to prognostications regarding the outcome of the game until Calvin, having referred to his watch for the sixth time, made a significant motion of his head and the others followed him inside and down the corridor to the fateful portal.

The Doctor is all ready for you, gentlemen, said the secretary when they entered. Go right in, please.





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