Left Half Harmon
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ďYes, go ahead and read,Ē 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: ďNo Presidents or Vice-Presidents?Ē
ďI havenít graduated yet,Ē replied Martin cheerfully. ďNow Iíll read you something from the report of the Board of Overseers.Ē
ďWhat for? What do I care about the Board of Overseers?Ē
ďJoe told me to.Ē
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.
ďJoe said I was to ask you if youíd made up your mind,Ē announced Martin then.
ďYou tell him to give you an evening paper to read the next time,Ē replied Harmon.
ďSay, why donít you?Ē asked Martin persuasively. ďHonest, Harmon, youíll like Alton a heap better than Kenly.Ē
ďYou go back and ask Myers what heís going to say to the faculty when I get out of here and tell my story!Ē
ďOh, weíve got that fixed all right,Ē chuckled Martin. ďWell, Iíve got to be getting down to supper.Ē
ďHold on there! When do I eat?Ē
ďI donít know. You see, if we opened the door to give you anything you might try to get out!Ē
ďYou think so, do you?Ē asked Harmon grimly. ďWell, youíve got more sense than I thought you had! How long does supper run?Ē
ďUntil seven. Itís ten minutes past six now.Ē
ďListen, Porter Ė Ē
ďProctorís my name, old chap.Ē
ďProctor, then. Look here, now. If youíll open that door and let me out Iíll keep quiet about this. You can tell the others that Ė that I asked to see that catalogue and that you went to hand it in and I knocked you down.Ē
ďYes, and theyíd believe it, wouldnít they?Ē asked Martin scornfully. ďThink of something better, please! Besides, Iím just as much interested in saving you from your career of crime as they are, Harmon. Why, Iíd never forgive myself if I left one turn unstoned! Weíre trying to save you from yourself, old chap!Ē
ďYouíd much better be thinking about saving yourselves,Ē answered Harmon, laughing.
ďDid you laugh then?Ē called Martin eagerly.
ďSure. It struck me as funny. Youíll see the joke later.Ē
ďIíll send Joe up. He said if you sounded like you were in a good temper Ė Ē
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 shouldnít 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 hadnít seen Kenly. And he liked what he had seen. It might very well be that Kenly wasnít 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 hadnít a perfectly good right to choose over. It wasnít too late, for he had not registered at Kenly and the first quarterís tuition was still in his pocket. Possibly his brother would be slightly peeved ó
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. ďThatís it!Ē he murmured blissfully. ďIíll bet thatís it!Ē 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. ďOh, gosh!Ē he gurgled. ďItís too good! Wait Ė wait till they find out Ė about it!Ē 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 ďThree Guardsmen.Ē He recalled Joe Myersí 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 quarterís tuition and a place on the team! It was all very simple Ė 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.
ďHello, in there! Harmon!Ē
ďIíve talked to four or five of the fellows and I guess itís all right. Weíll manage to dig up enough so it wonít cost you anything for tuition the first half of the year. How does that sound?Ē
ďRotten, Myers. I donít think Iíd care to go to a school where they do that sort of thing.Ē
ďWhat? But you were going to Kenly!Ē sputtered Joe.
ďI told you Kenly hadnít offered me money.Ē
ďYes, but Ė Look here, Harmon, is that straight, man to man?Ē
ďGosh!Ē There was a long silence beyond the door. Then: ďWell, I donít understand,Ē said Joe helplessly. ďHow did you happen to decide on Kenly?Ē
ďI told you once.Ē
ďYes, thatís so, but I thought you were just Ė just talking. Well, I donít see why you shouldnít be willing to stay here then, Harmon. If you arenít getting anything from them, whatís the big idea? Youíre sure of a place on the team here and Ė and if you should change your mind you could have a half-term free of cost. Mind, Iíd a heap rather you didnít change it, because I donít 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 donít want to begin now. Besides, if faculty ever found out about it Ė Zowie!Ē
ďWell, I donít want any favors, thanks. But suppose I did decide to stay here, Myers Ė Ē
ďSure! Thatís the talk!Ē
ďWait a minute! First thing of all, do I get any supper?Ē
ďYou bet you do! Five minutes after you say the word Iíll have you hitched up to a swell meal!Ē
ďWell, what about a room? Iíd want to be decently fixed that way, you know. Entering late like this I suppose Iíd have to take the leavings, eh?Ē
ďListen! Weíve got a swell room waiting for you. The fellow that was going in with Mart isnít coming at all and Iíve asked the secretary to hold it open until tomorrow morning. Itís 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!Ē
ďSounds pretty fair,Ē commented Harmon. ďMaybe I wouldnít like this fellow Proctor, though: or maybe he wouldnít like me.Ē
ďRot! Everyone likes Mart, and heís bound to like you. If he doesnít Iíll knock him into the middle of next Sunday! Youíll get on together great!Ē
ďWe-ell,Ē said Harmon unenthusiastically, ďmaybe. And itís certain that Iím to make the team?Ē
ďYou bet it is!Ē laughed Joe. ďJust as long as you can stand on your feet and play football youíre sure of a job!Ē
ďSuppose Iím not as good as you seem to think I am?Ē
ďIíll risk that,Ē chuckled Joe.
ďHow about the coach, though?Ē
ďJohnny? Donít worry about him. He will be just as tickled as I am to get you! What do you say, old man? Itís getting pretty close to seven oíclock.Ē
ďAll right, Iíll agree! Open the door!Ē
ďNo tricks? Youíre not meaning to get out and then say I misunderstood you or something?Ē
ďNo tricks, Myers, I give you my word!Ē
The bolt shot back protestingly, the door swung open and Joeís delighted countenance was revealed. ďGee, Iím glad, Harmon!Ē he exclaimed. ďShake!Ē Harmon shook. He, too, was smiling, but his smile was not so guileless.
ďYou win, Myers,Ē he said. ďNow lead me to that supper!Ē
ďCome on! Weíll feed first and then you can register. I havenít had anything myself yet.Ē They sped down the stairs and across empty, twilighted corridors and finally to the cool outdoors. ďI didnít tell any of the fellows where you were,Ē Joe explained as he guided Harmon around the building toward Lawrence Hall. ďI just said that I was in touch with you. Here we are. Itís sort of late, but I guess thereís plenty left. Iíll take you to my table tonight and tomorrow weíll see if thereís a place there you can have regularly.Ē
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: ďOffice Ė Walk In.Ē 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.
ďThatís done,Ē he said as they reached the corridor again. ďNow Iíll take you up to your room.Ē
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: ďGuess some of those fellows recognized you, from the way they stared!Ē 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.
ďItís all right,Ē announced Joe gayly. ďHeís registered, Mart! Whereís Bob?Ē
ďOver at the room, I guess. He brought the bag and lit out. Say, Harmon, Iím mighty glad about this. And Ė and I hope you donít hold it against us for what we did. It was sort of rough stuff, but Ė Ē
ďNot at all,Ē answered Harmon calmly. ďItís quite all right. Guess I ought to feel flattered instead of sore, anyway. Myers says Iím to room here with you.Ē
ďThatís right. Itís a pretty fair room, Harmon. Better than lots of íem, anyway. You might take your pick of the beds in there. It doesnít matter to me which I have.Ē
ďThanks.Ē Harmon gravely inspected the curtained alcove and decided on the left-hand bed. Perhaps the fact that Martinís 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.
ďIsnít that mine?Ē he asked. ďHow did get here?Ē
ďBob brought it up from the station a few minutes ago,Ē explained Martin.
ďYou fellows must have been pretty certain of having your way!Ē marveled the owner of the bag.
Joe nodded soberly. ďWe had to be,Ē he said grimly. ďOnce we had started, we had to go through with it, Harmon.Ē
ďBut suppose I hadnít given in! Suppose Iíd gone to the principal here and told him that you fellows had kidnapped me and locked me up in a room?Ē
Joe smiled gently. ďNo chance of that, old man. If you hadnít decided to stay with us by midnight weíd have taken you back to the station and put you on the twelve-twenty train.Ē
ďHm! And I Ė er Ė I wouldnít have had anything to say?Ē
ďNo.Ē Joe shook his head. ďThereíd have been three of us anyway; maybe four; and weíd have fixed you so you couldnít talk much.Ē
Harmon smiled. ďStill, afterwards I could have talked. I could have come back, or written a letter and spilled the beans.Ē
ďYes, you could have done that, but we argued that once away from here youíd get over your grouch and forget it. Besides, a chap doesnít want to look foolish.Ē
ďThatís so,Ē agreed Harmon, and he repeated it more emphatically in the next breath. ďIt is uncomfortable, isnít it?Ē The arrival of Bob Newhall made a response by Joe unnecessary, although the latter wondered just a little over Harmonís expression and the inflection of his voice. Bob gave a shout of triumph and joy when he saw Harmon.
ďA brand from the burning!Ē he exclaimed. ďThis is great! I just knew youíd see reason, Harmon! Say, Iím tickled to death!Ē
ďWell, donít upset the table,Ē warned Martin. ďLetís sit down, fellows. This has been sort of a strenuous day. Try the big chair, Harmon. By the way, as weíre going to see a good deal of each other we might as well get used to real names. Mineís Martin, but Iím generally called Mart.Ē
ďBut never Smart,Ē interpolated Bob.
Harmon smiled at the pleasantry. ďAnd Iím usually called Will and never Way,Ē he said.
Martin looked puzzled. For that matter, so did the others.
ďYou mean folks call you Will?Ē asked Martin, doubtfully.
ďYes. Short for Willard.Ē
ďOh! Willardís your middle name. I see. Well Ė Ē
ďHold on!Ē exclaimed Bob. ďI thought your middle name was Edward!Ē
ďNo, my middle name is Kane. Willard is my first name.Ē Harmon explained politely and smilingly. Joeís jaw began to drop slowly.
ďWhat!Ē cried Bob. ďArenít you Gordon Harmon, the fellow who played full-back last year for Schuyler High?Ē
Harmon shook his head gently. ďOh, no, thatís my brother,Ē 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:
ďBut I saw the name on your bag! Itís there now! ĎGordon Edward Harmon!íĒ
ďOh,Ē replied Harmon gently, ďthat isnít my bag. I borrowed it from my brother.Ē