Ralph Barbour.

Left Half Harmon



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They went in, Bob leading the way. Doctor McPherson greeted them pleasantly and bade them be seated, and when they were he took up a paper whose folds showed it to be a letter and fixed his glasses more firmly. Then he viewed them one after another and spoke.

“This is a communication that reached me yesterday by – um – by special messenger.” Willard thought a faint smile quivered about the corners of the Doctor’s mouth. “It is from Doctor William Handley, of Hillsport School. With your permission, boys, I will read it.”

The ensuing silence gave unanimous and enthusiastic consent. The only sound was from Bob when he coughed nervously. The Doctor ran his eyes over the address and began: “The young gentleman who bears this, Mr. McNatt, has convinced me that the incident of which I wrote to you under date of the 5th instant has been wrongly construed by our faculty and that it was neither a deliberated discourtesy nor a mischievous attempt to cause property damage. In the light of Mr. McNatt’s information I can readily believe that the proceeding was no more than a prankish attempt to retaliate for acts of a similar nature performed by the students of this school in Alton a year ago, acts which, I wish to assure you, were not known of by me until today. While two wrongs do not make a right, I can sympathize with the motives which actuated your students, and it is the purpose of this letter to assure you that so far as we of the Hillsport School Faculty are concerned the unfortunate incident is fully condoned. As a personal favor will you not exercise such leniency toward the offenders as your conscience will permit? It would be a source of deep regret if, because of our somewhat hasty and, as we now conceive, too severe arraignment of the young gentlemen, the Alton Football Team should, lacking their services, meet with defeat tomorrow. In closing may I offer an apology on behalf of the Faculty of this school for the depredations caused by our students in your town last autumn? I assure you that such regrettable acts will not recur. With the most cordial greetings and assurances of my deep respect, I am, my dear Doctor, very sincerely yours, William Handley.”

The Principal placed the letter back on the desk before him and again viewed his audience, this time with a frank smile.

“That document,” he went on, “was presented to me late yesterday afternoon by McNatt, of the Senior Class. Last evening I called a meeting of the faculty, young gentlemen, and it was decided that, since the Hillsport faculty desired it, it would be ungracious on our part to refuse clemency. So it is my pleasant privilege to inform you that you are removed from probation. I need scarcely point out to you that you are chiefly under obligations to Felix McNatt.”

There was a long moment of silence. Then Bob cleared his throat. “How – how did he do it, sir?” he asked rather huskily.

“I’m not very certain myself,” replied the Doctor, smiling, “but I gathered from his story that his most potent argument was a collection of a dozen or so photographs which he took around town here and which showed that you boys didn’t exactly invent the painting of football scores on walls and buildings!”

I might devote several pages to the Alton-Kenly game, but it really doesn’t deserve it.

Seen in retrospect, it was not an uncommonly enthralling battle, although at the time there was excitement enough. You know without my telling it that Alton won. I think she would have won even without the assistance of Bob and Martin and Willard, for she had made up her mind to conquer and I don’t believe that anything Kenly could have done that afternoon would have prevented her from winning. As it was, Alton showed her superiority from the first and the outcome was never for an instant in doubt. Coach Cade had pleaded for the first score, for, like many coaches, he was a believer in the axiom which says: The team that scores first wins the game. And Alton gave him his wish when Cochran slid over the Kenly goal-line at the end of seven minutes of play for the initial touchdown.

Alton played good football that afternoon, played better football than her most hopeful supporter dared expect, and Kenly was fortunate to get the six points that came to her in the second period. Those six points constituted the only dregs in Alton’s cup of happiness, for, after McNatt had hurled himself across the last four yards that separated the Gray-and-Gold from the Kenly goal in the first few moments of the second quarter and Macon had brought the total to 14 points, it seemed to Alton that she would not only win but keep the adversary scoreless. That, however, was not to be, for Kenly, although outplayed during most of the game, enjoyed one flash of desperate, heroic and successful endeavor. Getting possession of the ball on Alton’s thirty-eight yards, she made two forward-passes good and landed on the twelve. From there, in spite of the home team’s savage defense, she smashed her way to the seven in three attacks and then threw over the line for a score.

Yet Alton avenged that insult in the third period and again in the fourth, and might have done so once again in the last few minutes had not the substitutes, thrown in helter-skelter as the end drew close, suffered three successive penalties for over-eagerness. It was hard to pick the stars in the Alton eleven, for not a man stopped short of excellence. Possibly it was McNatt who shone the brightest, for the full-back had all that the others had of skill and spirit with, besides, a certain other quality which, for want of a better name, and at the risk of ridicule, I must call science. It was McNatt who stopped the much-touted Puckhaber time and again and fairly stood him on his head. It was McNatt who twice hurled himself across the Kenly goal-line for a score. And it was McNatt who, flaming himself with a white-hot intensity of purpose, constantly encouraged the others to fairly superhuman efforts.

But to speak too much of McNatt would be unfair to the rest: to Captain Joe Myers, and to Gil Tarver, who ran the team as never before, and to Bob and Martin and, finally, Willard, who, although he didn’t see service until the third period started, played a wonderful game at left half. That run that started on Alton’s twenty-eight yards and ended on Kenly’s seventeen was made by Willard, and Willard it was who, near the last of the contest, took Tarver’s long heave down the field and added another dozen yards to it, so preparing the way for McNatt’s final touchdown. It was Alton’s day all through, and it is doubtful if there was ever a more stunned and disappointed team than Kenly when the last whistle blew and the score of 26 to 6 stared down at her from the board. That single touchdown afforded her scant comfort, it seemed.

Alton made merry that night. There was a parade that wound in and out of the town and back across the Green several times, and much singing and much cheering. It was while they were perched side by side in the rickety wagon that, serving as a chariot for the heroes, was drawn at the head of the procession, that Willard said to McNatt during a lull in the clamor: “How did you ever think of that scheme, McNatt?”

And McNatt, smiling, answered: “Well, Harmon, there’s a scientific way of doing everything, you know. And that was the scientific way of doing that!”

THE END

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