Left Half Harmonñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
M’NATT 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 day’s 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 don’t think I ever saw one just like it, Mr. Schacht.”
“Them spots ain’t in the goods,” chuckled Mr. Schacht in an un-Parisian voice. “They’re 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 that’s already got hard like this,’ I says, ‘you can’t do much with it, Mr. Grainger.’ So much I don’t like it, I keep putting it off, sir, and here now it’s already Saturday, and nothing ain’t done to it yet, Mr. Kincaid. If there was two of me I’d 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. Kincaid’s 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 today’s 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 didn’t welch on you or Mart, but he’ll get you, Bob, because he will be pretty sure we were together. After that he’ll get Mart.”
“He’ll get me,” agreed Bob, with a sigh, “but I don’t see how he can connect Mart with the business.”
“You don’t? Well, it’s funny to me he hasn’t 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 didn’t occur to him that Mart would be with Brand over at Hillsport. Maybe he won’t think of me, either.” But there was very little conviction in his tone.
“He will, though,” answered Cal gloomily. “You’ll be on the carpet in the morning. It’s a shame, too. It doesn’t matter much in my case, for I’m not on the football team, and I’ll 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.
“It’s my fault,” he muttered. “You fellows wouldn’t have thought of it if I hadn’t suggested it.”
“It isn’t your fault that we went into it,” answered Bob, without turning. “Don’t 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. Bob’s 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 Martin’s duty to stick as long as faculty would let him. “Not that it’ll be long, though,” added Bob pessimistically. “They’ll get you, too, in a day or so.”
Bob was mistaken, however, for they didn’t “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. “I’ve been feeling like a thief ever since they got you, Brand,” he said, “and I’d have gone to Mac long ago if you fellows hadn’t kicked up such a row about it.”
The next day Alton journeyed to Hubbardston and met Oak Grove. With Rowlandson in Bob’s position and Putney playing left tackle in place of Martin, it wasn’t 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 Grove’s 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 didn’t 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.
“We’ve been hit hard,” he said. “There wouldn’t be any sense in my denying that. But this is a fight that we’re in, and one blow isn’t going to beat us. It’s just going to get our blood up, fellows, and we’re going to fight harder than we ever thought of fighting. We’re going into the Kenly game, maybe, beaten on paper, but we’re coming out of it victorious. It won’t be the first time that a supposedly weaker team has won. It’s spirit that counts, the spirit to fight and conquer, no matter the odds. And that’s the spirit Alton is going to have next Saturday. There isn’t a man on the team, from Captain Myers down to the greenest substitute, that thinks we are going to be beaten; there isn’t one of them that doesn’t 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! We’ll do our part, but you’ve got to do yours. Will you?”
The answer was convincing.
The four on probation didn’t 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 isn’t the right sort for tackle, and I wish Mr. Cade would see it. He hasn’t the proper temperament, Harmon.”
“How about the backfield?” asked Willard. “How – how’s Mawson getting on?”
“Mawson is a hard worker, but he’s lighter than he should be and he’s 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 doesn’t sound hopeful,” murmured Willard.
“Oh, I’ve no doubt that we will win from Kenly,” answered McNatt. “You see, since we lost Proctor and Newhall we’ve 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. We’ll go in realizing that, while we may win it, we’ve 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 there’s no hope of Newhall and Proctor – and you – getting back on before Saturday.”
“Hardly,” answered Willard, smiling wryly. “We’re on pro for the rest of the term.”
“I didn’t know,” murmured McNatt sympathetically. “Just – ah – just what was it that happened, Harmon? I don’t 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 moment’s consideration, he said: “It seems, then, that you fellows made your mistake in painting the score on the Principal’s wall. I mean, you did no worse than Hillsport did otherwise.”
“We didn’t 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 don’t know. Anyway, what he thinks doesn’t worry us. It’s what faculty here thinks. And they think we ought to be punished. And we are.”
“I see. I only thought that possibly – ” McNatt’s 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 first’s thirty-yard line, the latter’s 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: “McNutt’s 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. It’s colder than the dickens, but all he had on was a muffler around his neck.”
“Don’t 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!”
“What’s he photographing the stores for?” asked Willard, puzzled.
“Search me! Some new science, I guess. He’s 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 Willard’s inquiry. “About two o’clock I think it was. I guess he’s photographing.” The boy scowled. “That’s 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 I’ll be blown through the roof, I dare say.”
“I don’t think photographing chemicals are explosive,” responded Willard soothingly.
“Well, they’re 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 Alton’s prospects of victory. “They say,” remarked Cal, “that faculty’s holding a special meeting this evening and that Rowlandson may not play tomorrow.”
“What’s the matter with Rowly?” asked Martin.
“Back in his studies, they say.”
“I guess it’s just a scare,” said Martin. “Who said that faculty was meeting?”
“Harry Johnson told me. I think it’s so, too, for I saw the windows of Mac’s room all lighted up.”
“What of it? That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re 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 they’ll tell you anything.”
“I wish I were excited,” muttered Bob. “Gee, it’s funny to think of the game being played tomorrow and not getting into it!”
“Not even seeing!” added Cal.
“That’s worse still,” said Martin. “I don’t see why faculty needs to be so blamed mean. It wouldn’t hurt them any to let us look at the old game!”
“Think they would if we all went and asked?” inquired Willard. “Doctor McPherson isn’t a bad sort.”
“He’s all right,” answered Cal grudgingly, “but some of the others are pills. I’d say – ”
“We might try it,” interrupted Bob eagerly. “I’ll go if the rest of you will!”
“I’ll go,” said Martin promptly. “He can’t any more than turn us down. Gee, listen to that cheer! They’re certainly humping themselves over there tonight!”
“We’ll all go,” said Bob. “I suppose it’s too late tonight. Let’s do it right after breakfast. I don’t see why he shouldn’t, fellows.”
“Nor I,” growled Cal, “but he won’t!”
Long after midnight had rung out Willard called cautiously across the darkness: “Mart, you awake?”
“Yes, I can’t seem to get to sleep.”
“Same here,” sighed Willard. He thumped his pillow and dug his head into it again. “Gee, you’d think I was going to play tomorrow from the way I don’t get sleepy!”
“Last year,” said Mart, making the bed squeak as he tossed himself into a new position, “I was asleep before eleven. Let’s light up and read awhile, Brand.”
“Let’s try it again for awhile first,” was the answer. “Maybe if we stop thinking about the game we’ll 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.
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 didn’t 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. “Who’s 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 don’t mind. Anyway, there isn’t anything to say. All we can do is ask to be allowed to attend the game. I don’t 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 McPherson’s residence, the Doctor seldom going across to Academy Hall before nine o’clock. 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 hasn’t finished breakfast,” whispered Martin. “Maybe we oughtn’t to have come so early.”
“He ought to be through it if he isn’t,” 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 he’d have turned us down, anyway,” he said.
“You don’t know,” replied Willard. “Aren’t you going to try again?”
“I don’t believe,” said Bob. “What’s the use?”
“Lots of use,” declared Martin stoutly. “Let’s see it through now we’ve started. Come on up to our room and wait. It’s 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. “Here’s a billet-doux for you, Mart,” he said. “I’ve got one, too. Wonder what’s up.” He pulled out the printed slip and ran his eyes over it quickly. “That’s funny! It’s a date with Mac at ten-thirty!”
“So’s mine,” announced Martin. “What do you suppose – ”
“That’s why he wouldn’t see us over at the house,” said Bob. “Say, I wonder if I’ve got one of those, too! I’m 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. “I’ll bet it’s that blamed algebra,” he muttered. “Peghorn’s been mighty nasty the last two or three days.”
“Well, I’m all right as far as I know,” said Willard, frowning thoughtfully. “Maybe Latin – ”
Hurrying footsteps below interrupted, and then Bob’s head came into sight. Cal followed at his heels. Both boys were plainly excited. “We’ve got ’em, too!” called Bob. “Same hour! Say, know what I think? I think faculty’s 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 haven’t been here very long,” said Bob, “and so you don’t know that faculty gang like I do. It’s a sight more likely that Mac wants us to tell us they’ve changed their minds and that we’re 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.”ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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