Ralph Barbour.

Left Half Harmon





Yes, go ahead and read, answered Harmon scornfully.

And Martin Proctor, sitting on the top step outside, read. He read at some length, too. He started in with a list of Alton Academy graduates who had attained national prominence. The list included a Secretary of State, two Chief Justices, three United States Senators, numerous congressmen and a wealth of smaller fry. When he had finished Harmon inquired: No Presidents or Vice-Presidents?

I havent graduated yet, replied Martin cheerfully. Now Ill read you something from the report of the Board of Overseers.

What for? What do I care about the Board of Overseers?

Joe told me to.

When that was done Martin paused for comment, got none and began a flattering description of the Carey Gymnasium. Inside, Harmon leaned against the wall and grinned. A brief summary of scholarships and a statement to the effect that the Academy roster of year before last represented thirty-nine states of the Union, two territories and three foreign countries completed the programme.

Joe said I was to ask you if youd made up your mind, announced Martin then.

You tell him to give you an evening paper to read the next time, replied Harmon.

Say, why dont you? asked Martin persuasively. Honest, Harmon, youll like Alton a heap better than Kenly.

You go back and ask Myers what hes going to say to the faculty when I get out of here and tell my story!

Oh, weve got that fixed all right, chuckled Martin. Well, Ive got to be getting down to supper.

Hold on there! When do I eat?

I dont know. You see, if we opened the door to give you anything you might try to get out!

You think so, do you? asked Harmon grimly. Well, youve got more sense than I thought you had! How long does supper run?

Until seven. Its ten minutes past six now.

Listen, Porter

Proctors my name, old chap.

Proctor, then. Look here, now. If youll open that door and let me out Ill keep quiet about this. You can tell the others that that I asked to see that catalogue and that you went to hand it in and I knocked you down.

Yes, and theyd believe it, wouldnt they? asked Martin scornfully. Think of something better, please! Besides, Im just as much interested in saving you from your career of crime as they are, Harmon. Why, Id never forgive myself if I left one turn unstoned! Were trying to save you from yourself, old chap!

Youd much better be thinking about saving yourselves, answered Harmon, laughing.

Did you laugh then? called Martin eagerly.

Sure. It struck me as funny. Youll see the joke later.

Ill send Joe up. He said if you sounded like you were in a good temper

The lessening sounds of footsteps hurrying down the stairs finished the sentence and Harmon chuckled. After all, it was funny, the whole thing; and he might as well laugh as frown.

When it came right down to brass tacks there was no very good reason why he shouldnt change his allegiance to Alton Academy. At the present moment it meant just as much to him as Kenly did: more in fact, for he had seen Alton and hadnt seen Kenly. And he liked what he had seen. It might very well be that Kenly wasnt nearly so good a school, even discounting the biased boastings of his captors. Of course his parents expected him to go to Kenly, and so did his brother, but the choice had been his and he saw no reason why he hadnt a perfectly good right to choose over. It wasnt too late, for he had not registered at Kenly and the first quarters tuition was still in his pocket. Possibly his brother would be slightly peeved

He paused just there in his cogitating and comprehension slowly illumined his face. He jumped to his feet, thrust his hands into his pockets and grinned broadly at space. Thats it! he murmured blissfully. Ill bet thats it! He withdrew his hands, snapped his fingers and turned on a heel. After that he gave way to a spasm of laughter that left him, with streaming eyes, clinging weakly to the door frame. Oh, gosh! he gurgled. Its too good! Wait wait till they find out about it! That thought sent him off again and he finally subsided on the floor, his laughter dying away in chuckles and his eyes fairly streaming.

Recovering from his levity, he reviewed the events of the afternoon from the time of his first meeting with the Three Guardsmen. He recalled Joe Myers surprising interest in his name and the fact that he had attended Schuyler High School, and how insistently the subject of football had held the conversation. Everything coincided with his theory. He understood now why the three boys had connived at getting off the train and keeping him off, why they had gone to so much trouble to show him about the school and, finally, why they had made him a prisoner. And he understood why he had been offered a quarters tuition and a place on the team! It was all very simple and excruciatingly funny! And he was about to give way to laughter again when footsteps once more broke the silence. He pulled his face straight and waited. It was Joe this time.

Hello, in there! Harmon!

Yes?

Ive talked to four or five of the fellows and I guess its all right. Well manage to dig up enough so it wont cost you anything for tuition the first half of the year. How does that sound?

Rotten, Myers. I dont think Id care to go to a school where they do that sort of thing.

What? But you were going to Kenly! sputtered Joe.

I told you Kenly hadnt offered me money.

Yes, but Look here, Harmon, is that straight, man to man?

Absolutely.

Gosh! There was a long silence beyond the door. Then: Well, I dont understand, said Joe helplessly. How did you happen to decide on Kenly?

I told you once.

Yes, thats so, but I thought you were just just talking. Well, I dont see why you shouldnt be willing to stay here then, Harmon. If you arent getting anything from them, whats the big idea? Youre sure of a place on the team here and and if you should change your mind you could have a half-term free of cost. Mind, Id a heap rather you didnt change it, because I dont like that sort of thing any better than you say you do. We never have paid any fellow for playing on an Alton team and I dont want to begin now. Besides, if faculty ever found out about it Zowie!

Well, I dont want any favors, thanks. But suppose I did decide to stay here, Myers

Sure! Thats the talk!

Wait a minute! First thing of all, do I get any supper?

You bet you do! Five minutes after you say the word Ill have you hitched up to a swell meal!

Well, what about a room? Id want to be decently fixed that way, you know. Entering late like this I suppose Id have to take the leavings, eh?

Listen! Weve got a swell room waiting for you. The fellow that was going in with Mart isnt coming at all and Ive asked the secretary to hold it open until tomorrow morning. Its a corking room; nice big study with three windows and a fine view; on the front of Haylow; big alcove; furniture nearly new and everything!

Sounds pretty fair, commented Harmon. Maybe I wouldnt like this fellow Proctor, though: or maybe he wouldnt like me.

Rot! Everyone likes Mart, and hes bound to like you. If he doesnt Ill knock him into the middle of next Sunday! Youll get on together great!

We-ell, said Harmon unenthusiastically, maybe. And its certain that Im to make the team?

You bet it is! laughed Joe. Just as long as you can stand on your feet and play football youre sure of a job!

Suppose Im not as good as you seem to think I am?

Ill risk that, chuckled Joe.

How about the coach, though?

Johnny? Dont worry about him. He will be just as tickled as I am to get you! What do you say, old man? Its getting pretty close to seven oclock.

All right, Ill agree! Open the door!

No tricks? Youre not meaning to get out and then say I misunderstood you or something?

No tricks, Myers, I give you my word!

The bolt shot back protestingly, the door swung open and Joes delighted countenance was revealed. Gee, Im glad, Harmon! he exclaimed. Shake! Harmon shook. He, too, was smiling, but his smile was not so guileless.

You win, Myers, he said. Now lead me to that supper!

Come on! Well feed first and then you can register. I havent had anything myself yet. They sped down the stairs and across empty, twilighted corridors and finally to the cool outdoors. I didnt tell any of the fellows where you were, Joe explained as he guided Harmon around the building toward Lawrence Hall. I just said that I was in touch with you. Here we are. Its sort of late, but I guess theres plenty left. Ill take you to my table tonight and tomorrow well see if theres a place there you can have regularly.

Both boys were much too hungry to waste breath on conversation, and the meal proceeded almost in silence. There was plenty to eat and Harmon did full justice to it. When they had finished Joe took him in tow again and they went back to Academy Hall and turned to the left on the first floor and passed through a door whose ground-glass pane bore the inscription: Office Walk In. What happened was very simple. At a desk Harmon was introduced to a tall, lean gentleman whose name was Mr. Wharton. The secretary shook hands politely and scrutinized the applicant through a pair of strong glasses. Then he gave him a card and a pen and Harmon wrote on the dotted lines, going to some pains to conceal the writing from Joe. The latter, however, had no thought of looking. Then a sum of money changed hands, the secretary filled out a receipt for it, Harmon produced a certificate from the principal of the Schuyler High School and the interview ended with a long sigh of relief from Joe.

Thats done, he said as they reached the corridor again. Now Ill take you up to your room.

Haylow Hall was the last building at the left of the Green. Joe pushed his way through a group of boys on the stone steps and Harmon followed, conscious that he was being viewed with a good deal of interest by the loungers. Joe, too, noticed the fact, for he chuckled, as they started up the stairs: Guess some of those fellows recognized you, from the way they stared! There, however, Joe was wrong. The interest had been only such as would have been accorded to any fellow under such circumstances. For Joe was unaware of the glow of triumph that shone from his countenance as he guided his companion into the dormitory!

In Number 16 Martin Proctor was unpacking a trunk when Joe and Harmon entered. Martin looked questioningly from the latter to Joe, a doubtful grin on his face.

Its all right, announced Joe gayly. Hes registered, Mart! Wheres Bob?

Over at the room, I guess. He brought the bag and lit out. Say, Harmon, Im mighty glad about this. And and I hope you dont hold it against us for what we did. It was sort of rough stuff, but

Not at all, answered Harmon calmly. Its quite all right. Guess I ought to feel flattered instead of sore, anyway. Myers says Im to room here with you.

Thats right. Its a pretty fair room, Harmon. Better than lots of em, anyway. You might take your pick of the beds in there. It doesnt matter to me which I have.

Thanks. Harmon gravely inspected the curtained alcove and decided on the left-hand bed. Perhaps the fact that Martins pajamas lay there had something to do with the decision. Martin blinked but stood the blow heroically and tried to forget that the right-hand bed had a weak spring. At that moment Harmon caught sight of his kit-bag on the floor and pointed at it in surprise.

Isnt that mine? he asked. How did get here?

Bob brought it up from the station a few minutes ago, explained Martin.

You fellows must have been pretty certain of having your way! marveled the owner of the bag.

Joe nodded soberly. We had to be, he said grimly. Once we had started, we had to go through with it, Harmon.

But suppose I hadnt given in! Suppose Id gone to the principal here and told him that you fellows had kidnapped me and locked me up in a room?

Joe smiled gently. No chance of that, old man. If you hadnt decided to stay with us by midnight wed have taken you back to the station and put you on the twelve-twenty train.

Hm! And I er I wouldnt have had anything to say?

No. Joe shook his head. Thered have been three of us anyway; maybe four; and wed have fixed you so you couldnt talk much.

Harmon smiled. Still, afterwards I could have talked. I could have come back, or written a letter and spilled the beans.

Yes, you could have done that, but we argued that once away from here youd get over your grouch and forget it. Besides, a chap doesnt want to look foolish.

Thats so, agreed Harmon, and he repeated it more emphatically in the next breath. It is uncomfortable, isnt it? The arrival of Bob Newhall made a response by Joe unnecessary, although the latter wondered just a little over Harmons expression and the inflection of his voice. Bob gave a shout of triumph and joy when he saw Harmon.

A brand from the burning! he exclaimed. This is great! I just knew youd see reason, Harmon! Say, Im tickled to death!

Well, dont upset the table, warned Martin. Lets sit down, fellows. This has been sort of a strenuous day. Try the big chair, Harmon. By the way, as were going to see a good deal of each other we might as well get used to real names. Mines Martin, but Im generally called Mart.

But never Smart, interpolated Bob.

Harmon smiled at the pleasantry. And Im usually called Will and never Way, he said.

Martin looked puzzled. For that matter, so did the others.

You mean folks call you Will? asked Martin, doubtfully.

Yes. Short for Willard.

Oh! Willards your middle name. I see. Well

Hold on! exclaimed Bob. I thought your middle name was Edward!

No, my middle name is Kane. Willard is my first name. Harmon explained politely and smilingly. Joes jaw began to drop slowly.

What! cried Bob. Arent you Gordon Harmon, the fellow who played full-back last year for Schuyler High?

Harmon shook his head gently. Oh, no, thats my brother, he said.

A deep silence fell. Bob stared at Joe and Joe stared at Martin and all three stared at Harmon. And the latter met their looks with an amused smile. When the silence threatened to continue forever Bob gave an audible gulp and blurted wildly:

But I saw the name on your bag! Its there now! Gordon Edward Harmon!

Oh, replied Harmon gently, that isnt my bag. I borrowed it from my brother.

CHAPTER V
THE WRONG BOY

Another silence ensued, broken at last by a groan from Bob.

Then youre not you dont

Theres evidently been a mistake, said Willard regretfully. Still, of course it doesnt much matter whether my names Willard or Gordon, does it? As Shakespeare says, Whats in a name?

I never could stand that fellow Shakespeare, muttered Bob. Joe was still staring across the table at Willard in a strange fascination. Martins countenance was gradually assuming a broad grin. Willard went on brightly and cheerfully.

What I couldnt understand was why you chaps were so anxious to have me here. Just at first, naturally, I was a bit peevish at being locked up, but when I came to think it over, like you told me to, I realized that your wanting me to stay was a compliment. It wasnt as if I was of some consequence, as if I was a football player or an athlete or something like that. You fellows just took a liking to me and couldnt bear to see me go anywhere else. When I realized that I didnt feel as if I could disappoint you!

Oh, shut up, pleaded Joe miserably.

Willard evidently didnt hear him. And then promising me a position on the football team and getting me a nice room and arranging to pay my tuition

No, by gosh! exploded Joe. You dont come that, Harmon! Thats off! You hear me?

What do you mean? asked Willard aggrievedly. Didnt you say youd fix it so I wouldnt have to pay any tuition for the first half of the year?

No matter what I said, retorted Joe wildly. Its off!

But but you promised me a place on the team, Myers! You cant go back on that!

Cant I? asked Joe grimly. You told me you were Gordon Harmon

I beg your pardon, denied Willard firmly. I didnt tell you that. You you must have seen that label on my bag!

Never mind! I thought you were Gordon Harmon. We all did. Thats why we wanted you here. Thats why we thought Kenly had made promises and why we offered to see you through the half-year. Now, by gosh, you arent Harmon at all!

But it wasnt my fault you made the mistake! And awhile back when I said that maybe I wasnt as much of a football player as you thought I was you said youd risk it. Why, my main reason for agreeing to stay here was your promising me I could play football!

Thats right, Joe, said Martin. You did promise him that.

Joe turned scowlingly and found Martins face red with repressed laughter. Whats the matter with you? he growled. Hang it, its no laughing matter! If this chump thinks Im going to stick him on the team

Oh, take a tumble, Joe! gurgled Martin. Cant you see Harmons stringing you? Oh, gee! And Martin gave way to uncontrolled laughter.

Joe looked at Willard searchingly, a somewhat forced smile on his face. Thats right? he asked doubtfully.

Willard nodded, his gray-blue eyes twinkling merrily.

I hope you choke! said Joe. But the wish was followed by a deep sigh of relief.

Doesnt it seem fair enough, laughed Willard, for me to have my joke after youve had yours?

Sure! agreed Martin. He who laughs last laughs best!

What I want to know, declared Bob earnestly, is where that brother of yours is! Has Kenly got him?

No, hes entered the Navy. I told you, didnt I? He has always wanted to, but dad wouldnt stand for it. And a couple of months ago Gordon just lit out. He meant to go to Kenly, if he went anywhere, and thats why I decided on Kenly. I thought one of us might as well go there!

Well, said Joe, I guess the laughs on us, all right! I I suppose you mean to stay here?

Surely! Im entered now, you know. Besides, I like the place very well, probably quite as well as Id have liked Kenly. And then being sure of a place on the football team here

Have a heart! groaned Joe. Look here, have you ever played football at all?

A little. I got into a couple of games last year.

Where did you play? asked Joe.

Left half.

Joe shook his head. No good, he muttered. Weve got more half-backs than we can use. What we need is a corking good full-back; and a couple of linemen. He viewed Willard despondently. I thought you looked pretty light for a full-back.

Me, too, sighed Bob. I couldnt quite picture you smashing through a line like Gordon Harmon did!

No, Gordons four inches bigger all around than I am, and he weighs nearly thirty pounds more.

Too bad for a fellow like that to waste himself in the Navy, mourned Joe. Look here, Harmon, Ill tell you what Ill do. I cant promise you a place, old man: you must see that yourself: but Ill see that you get every chance to make good.

Willard laughed softly. Well, I wont hold you to the agreement, Myers, under the circumstances. In fact, Id rather you didnt show me any favor. Ill probably have a stab at the team, but I shant be heartbroken if I dont make it. In any case, Id rather stand on my own feet. Much obliged, just the same.

Well, thats decent of you, muttered Joe relievedly. But of course I want to do anything I can to help. Guess we got you here under false pretenses, sort of, and its up to us to to

Oh, no, you didnt, Willard assured him. I saw what was up before I consented. At first I thought you were all just crazy. Then I remembered how you had asked my name and if Id come from Schuyler High and understood. You chaps pulled a neat trick down there at the station. Ill say that. I didnt even suspect that you meant me to lose that train.

Joe nodded joylessly. That was Bobs idea. The poor simp saw the name on your bag and fell for it!

So did you when I told you, retorted Bob resentfully. Any fellow would have been fooled!

Seems to me, said Martin, its up to us to apologize to Harmon. If anyone has a right to be peeved its he.

Guess thats right, too, replied Joe. Im sorry, Harmon. Hope youll er overlook the way we treated you and and everything.

Same here, said Bob. Of course, we didnt know

Ill apologize, too, for my part in the affair, said Martin, but Im not going to pretend that Im sorry, for Im not. It was a lot of fun while it lasted, and even if we didnt capture a football star we did Kenly out of a mighty decent sort of a chap!

Hear! Hear! laughed Joe. Marts right. Harmon, we welcome you to our midst, and we trust that you will never regret your decision to er to

Join the gang, ended Martin, jumping up. Fellows, the occasion demands a celebration! He went to his partly unpacked trunk and dug out a tin cracker box which he placed triumphantly on the table. And heres the wherewithal! A generous section of a chocolate layer-cake and many doughnuts came to light and were hailed with acclaim.





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