Ralph Barbour.

Left Half Harmon





Moraine, supplied Bob.

Yes, moraine. He dug a place big enough for a cellar, I heard, but he never found anything but rocks. Hes a wonder, is Felix McNatt!

Is his name really Felix? asked Martin.

Sure! And hes got a middle name thats worse, only Ive forgotten it.

Felix Adelbert, said Don: Felix Adelbert McNutt I mean McNatt!

McNutts better, laughed Bob. It suits him perfectly. Remember the time last spring, wasnt it? when he was raising toads and one of them got into bed with the chap who rooms with him

Rooms with the toad? asked Martin incredulously.

No, with McNutt, you jay! Whats his name, Joe?

McNutts? asked Joe, with a wink at Martin.

Oh, you make me tired! Fuller, thats the chap! Fuller crawled into bed one night and found a toad there ahead of him and told the hall master the next day. He said he didnt mind having toads hopping around the room, but that having to share his bed with them was almost too much. And faculty agreed with him and McNutt had to get rid of his toads.

What the dickens did he want with the things, anyway? asked Don in disgust. I wouldnt touch one for anything!

Oh, toads are all right, answered Joe. Quite harmless and friendly. McNutt was raising them, it seemed. Hed read somewhere that an able-bodied toad would eat seven million, three hundred and eighty thousand, nine hundred and thirty-three bugs a year. Im not absolutely certain of the exact number, but it was something like that. Anyway, McNutt figured that if he could raise a few hundred toads he could sell them to farmers and get rich. He said he was trying to develop an improved strain of toads that would be particularly er insectivorous: I believe thats the word.

In justice to the gentleman, said Bob, it should be stated that it was the the scientific interest of the thing rather than the pecuniary reward that attracted him. Science is McNutts long suit!

I think Fuller, or whatever his name is, was most unreasonable, laughed Don. Why, the world might be rid of insects by this time if he hadnt been so cranky! Do toads eat mosquitoes, Joe?

I guess so. I know they eat flies, anyway. I saw one do it once. He stopped about a yard away and the fly didnt even know he was about. Then zipout went Mr. Toads tongue, like you uncoiled the mainspring of a watch, and the fly was gone!

Flew away, probably, suggested Martin.

He did not, son! He was in Mr. Toads tummy.

You say the toad was a yard distant from the fly when the when the shot was fired? asked Don.

Well, maybe a couple of feet, Joe compromised. It was a long way.

Take off another eighteen inches, begged Bob earnestly. I want to believe you, Joseph but two feet He shook his head sadly.

Go to the dickens! It was two feet if it was an inch. Anyone will tell you that a toads tongue is remarkably long.

Nobody has to tell me, after that yarn, replied Bob gravely.

All Im wondering now is where the toad keeps his tongue when hes not using it!

I told you he coils it up, laughed Joe, like a watch spring.

Its a mighty good thing toads cant talk, observed Willard. With a tongue like that, theyd never stop! McNatt asked me to come and see him. He said he had a fine collection of minerals in his room.

Minerals? Boy, hes got enough rocks there to build a house! And bird nests and butterflies and beetles and and things in jars that make you shudder to look at em! Joe shuddered merely at the memory. Hes always trying to hatch out moths and things in cigar boxes. Once he had some silk-worms, I remember. Mr. Screven got him to bring them to class one day. Funny things, they were. They didnt live very long, because McNutt couldnt get the right sort of leaves for them to eat. They should have had mulberry leaves, I think, and he thought some other sort ought to do just as well, and the worms got mad and went on a hunger strike! Fuller told me once that the room is so full of rubbish that he cant turn around. Said he was forever finding a family of white mice or striped lizards tucked away in one of his bureau drawers and that he always had to look before he sat down for fear of sitting on something he shouldnt!

When the laughter had subsided Willard told of McNatts theory regarding scientific football. He found that, as he told it, it didnt sound as plausible as it had when McNatt explained it, but it certainly aroused amusement. Joe drew a picture of Gil Tarver pulling out a memorandum book and looking up the right play. Because, you see, not even Gil could ever remember two hundred was it two hundred, Brand? three hundred plays. Probably theyd make a rule that a quarter-back must find his plays unassisted and must not consume more than three minutes looking them up! Gil would have a pocket built on his jacket to keep the book in, I suppose.

Gosh, suppose it dropped out! exclaimed Don. Would he be allowed time-out to look for it?

Probably a center would be picked for his light-finger ability, suggested Bob. It would be part of his stunt to reach through or around the opposing center and steal the quarter-backs memorandum book, thus placing the enemy hors de combat!

Come on, Brand, begged Martin. This is getting wild.

Did McNatt ever play football? asked Don.

I think so, Joe answered. Yes, I know he did. He was out for the team the first year I was here. You remember him, Bob?

Bob shook his head. No, but Ive heard that he did play.

Yes, and I think he played the year before that. Something happened to him, though, my freshman year. I guess he had an accident or got sick. I know he wasnt around long. Seems to me he was trying for half-back. Hes not a bad old scout, Felix Adelbert. Only trouble is, I guess, his brains are sort of scrambled.

Addled, maybe, suggested Martin. Addle-bert McNutt. Come on, Brand, Im getting it too!

I think Ill accept his invitation some day, said Willard, as they crossed to Haylow. Id like to see that room of his!

The occasion didnt present itself that week, however, for Willard found that life on the football gridiron had suddenly become both real and earnest. Although Coach Cade had four good half-backs at his command, Willard was not overlooked. But Friday he was on an equal footing with Mawson and Moncks, to all appearances, and was certainly in line for first substitute. He didnt want anything serious or painful to happen to either of those excellent chaps, but he couldnt help reflecting sometimes that if one or the other was to develop something mild, like whooping cough or German measles, he could bear it with equanimity! Failing the likelihood of anything of the kind happening, however, he set himself earnestly to outdo those rivals in practice. After all, while Mawson was rather a better punter and Moncks was shiftier in a broken field, neither was unbeatable, and Willard kept that fact resolutely in mind and worked hard.

Banning High School came on Saturday and put up a very pretty game against the Gray-and-Gold. In fact, Banning sprang several surprises on the home team, and for a time, during the first of the contest, it looked as though Alton was in for a defeat. Banning was light but fast, and instead of relying on a forward-passing game as she was expected to rely, she met Altons own tactics and, from a close, three-abreast formation, shot her backs through the opposing line with discouraging ease. Any place outside guards pleased her, and Alton saw her tackles and ends completely outplayed during the first two periods. Bannings speed was the secret of her success, and the Gray-and-Gold, heavier and slower, seldom stopped the plays until they were well through her line.

Banning scored first when, near the end of the second quarter, she recovered a short kick on Altons forty-six and plunged and knifed her way down to the thirty-one. Fast, snappy playing took the ball there in just seven downs. Mr. Cade ran in a substitute left end and a substitute left tackle then, and Banning slowed up. But she reached the twenty-five-yard line before she was halted. There, it being fourth down, with four to go, she made elaborate preparations for a placement kick. Naturally enough, while guarding against a fake, Alton expected a kick, and team and spectators were alike surprised when, the ball having flown back to quarter and the kicker having swung his long leg, there followed a long side-pass from the quarter to an end, just as Alton charged! It looked to those on the sidelines as if the pigskin went between the legs of the Alton end and tackle as they swept around, but probably it didnt. In any event, the waiting Banning end caught it neatly and had covered ten yards of the intervening thirty before he was challenged. He shot around the Alton left half and was only brought down when Gil Tarver tackled on the eight yards.

The line-up was squarely on the five, and although the Gray-and-Gold fought desperately there, it took the enemy just three plays to put the ball over. A plunge at the center, with the whole Banning backfield behind the quarter, who carried, yielded most of two yards. Then the full-back ripped around left tackle for as much more, and, on third down, with the other backs running to the right, that troublesome Banning quarter shot through between guard and tackle on the left and put the pigskin just over the last white streak!

The half ended with the score 6 0 in the visitors favor, and the home team came in for a panning from the stands that, deserved or not, was decidedly enthusiastic. However, the team was not suffering for lack of criticism just then, even if it couldnt hear what the spectators were saying. Coach Cade, although mild-mannered, had a fair command of language and could use it when needs be, and the players listened to some home truths during the half-time.

When the team came back to the field it was noted that Moncks had replaced Cochran at right half, Hutchins had taken Tarvers place at quarter and a third-string fellow was playing left tackle. Perhaps, though, it was the talk they had listened to rather than the change in the line-up that produced results, for certainly Hutch played no better game behind center than Gil had, and the new tackle was far too green to be of much use. That as may be, Alton showed speed from the start and Bannings backs were stopped at the line instead of beyond it. Also, the Gray-and-Gold took the offensive when the third quarter was a few minutes along and kept it throughout the rest of the game, with the result that the score was tied in the third period, when Moncks got away for a thirty-yard run and a touchdown, and untied at the beginning of the last quarter, when Alton hammered her way from well within her own territory to Bannings eight yards and then tossed the ball over to Macon between the goal posts. Oddly enough, when Lake kicked an easy goal after the second touchdown, the score became 13 6, which was the score of last weeks contest, and 13 6 it remained. Martin said he guessed thirteen-six was a habit, but when Mt. Millard School got through with Alton, seven days later, he changed his mind!

CHAPTER XI
THE FIRST DEFEAT

When October was a week old Willard had become as much a part and parcel of Alton Academy as if he had spent a year there instead of a scant three weeks. For a time he had wondered whether he had made a mistake in substituting it for Kenly Hall, but as he became more and more at home that speculation ceased to trouble him. Even if he had made a mistake, and had known it, the bewildered letter he had received from his mother would have reconciled him to the fact. That letter had amused him for days. For the joke of it, he had carefully abstained from explanations and had merely written: Here I am at Alton Academy, everything unpacked and quite settled. I think I am going to like it immensely. Of course there had been much more, but he had described the school in such a matter-of-fact way that his mother and father, on reading the letter, had almost doubted their memories.

Your father, wrote Mrs. Harmon, says that we may have misunderstood, but I am very, very certain you meant to go to Kenly School. You talked about it so frequently that Im sure I couldnt be mistaken. Kenly School is at Lakeville, for Ive looked it up in a magazine, and your letter was posted at Alton, and your father says the two places are fully ten miles apart. I do hope everything is all right, but I simply cant understand why you didnt explain more fully in your letter. Do let me hear from you right away, dear, and tell me just what happened.

Of course Willard had answered the appeal promptly and explained fully, emphasizing the real or imaginary advantages of Alton over Kenly, and had received a second letter from home that was not nearly so sympathetic as it might have been. It was his father who wrote this time, and Mr. Harmon dwelt, at what Willard thought was undue length, on the latters Lamentable Lack of Serious Purpose, pointing out that attaining an education was not a pursuit to be governed by levity. That epistle had the effect of making Willard rather more devoted to his studies for awhile at least and so was not written in vain.

His studies, though, promised to cause him scant worry, for he had come well prepared for the Alton junior year. Greek, which he had elected to make up the required number of hours, was new to him and so presented some difficulties, but he was consoled with the knowledge that by taking the course this year he could, if he wished, drop it the last half of his senior year. Martin, who had left Greek severely alone, his motto being Dont Look for Trouble, told Willard that he was a chump and dwelt at length on the merits of Science 4 as a snap course. To which Willard virtuously replied that he was attending the Academy to acquire an education and not to spend his time in slothfulness. Whereupon Martin upset him onto the bed, placed a pillow over his head and sat on it.

About this time Martin was making Bob Newhalls life a burden to him by solicitous inquiries regarding his health. Martin had a way of observing Bob anxiously and attempting to feel his pulse that the latter found very trying. Of course Bob could refuse to have his heart action investigated, and could and did decline to put out his tongue for Martin to inspect, but he couldnt prevent Martin from eyeing him narrowly on all occasions and shaking his head sorrowfully over what he pretended to believe were the ravages of disease. I dont like those deep circles under your eyes, Bob, Martin would say gravely. Sleep pretty well, do you?

About nine hours, thanks, Bob would reply shortly.

I was afraid of that! Thats one of the unmistakable symptoms. Feel tired in the morning? Sort of worried and oppressed without knowing why?

Not until I run across you! And then I know why blamed well!

Irritable, too! Dear, dear! Bob, why dont you drop in at the doctors some day and just let him look you over? Of course there may be nothing serious, nothing that cant be remedied if taken in time, but Id feel a lot easier about you if you saw someone, honest I would!

Youll feel easier if I hand you a wallop, growled Bob. Say, if you played guard half as hard as you work that silly tongue of yours you might amount to something!

Martin spent a whole hour in the library one morning and emerged with a fine fund of information regarding the sleeping sickness and the ravages of the tse-tse fly, and after that he became doubly obnoxious to Bob. Martin may or may not have been correct in connecting the bite of the tse-tse with the sleeping sickness, but the way in which he drove the flies away from Bobs vicinity proved that he meant to take no chances. Strangely, the object of his solicitous care resented this manifestation of it more than any other, and Martin had only to fix a piercing gaze on the tip of Bobs nose and begin a cautious approach with uplifted hand to throw Bob into a paroxysm of lamentable anger. Martin, repulsed, would explain in hurt tones that never having seen the tse-tse fly he couldnt be supposed to know it from the common or house-fly, and that he consequently was using only excusable caution. Naturally enough, Willard and Joe enjoyed the nonsense and egged Martin on, but when the latter began flooding Bobs mail with patent medicine circulars and stories of miraculous cures clipped from the newspapers, Bobs patience became exhausted and he vowed revenge.

Im going to get good and even with you, Mart, he declared one afternoon when Martin had drawn his attention to an advertisement extolling the merits of a net to be worn over the head to the utter confusion of mosquitoes and flies. When I get through with you, my humorous young friend, you wont know theres such a word as fly in the English language. And youll be good and sick yourself, believe me!

Martin, however, professed to believe the threat only the empty ravings of a mind affected by disease, and was quite interested by what he declared was an unusual manifestation of the malady. But Bob looked unusually grim and exhibited such unaccustomed patience that Martin confided to Willard later that he guessed he had got old Bobs goat at last.

Youd better watch out that he doesnt get yours, laughed Willard. I believe he means to try it.

Its the last stage before the final breakdown, replied Martin gravely. He wont last much longer, Im afraid!

That pessimistic prophecy was made on Friday night, and the next afternoon Alton traveled to Warren and played Mt. Millard School. Some eighty or ninety fellows accompanied the team and were present at the Waterloo. Willard watched the game from the bench, dressed for play, and saw his chance of getting into it dwindle into nothingness as Mt. Millard piled up her score. It is the historians privilege to avoid such events as he may consider unworthy of inclusion in his narrative, and the present historian gladly avails himself of that privilege. Suffice it to say that Mt. Millard out-rushed, out-punted and out-generaled Alton and won a lopsided contest by a score of 19 0. Joe Myers summed it all up on the way home when he said briefly: Funeral from the late residence. No flowers.

Later that game was looked on as extremely good medicine, for it proved one or two things most conclusively; as, for instance, that a backfield wanting the services of a good plunging full-back was a far from complete institution, and that the forward line of a football team, like a chain, was as strong as its weakest unit, and no stronger. At full-back in that Mt. Millard game, Steve Browne had proved himself a failure. Nor had Linthicum, who had taken his place at the beginning of the third period, done any better. The following week saw the search for a likely successor to Browne take on new ardor. The substitute bench was combed carefully without satisfactory results and Greenwood was brought over from the second team and given a try-out. Greenwood did his level best to please, but that he failed was apparent from the fact that he was back on the second three days later. Of course Coach Cade tried the old game of switching, but Bob Newhall, Leroy, who played left tackle none too well, Lake and Mawson all fell down. Even Martin was considered and passed over, and on Thursday the full-back problem was no nearer a solution than at any time that fall.

The left end of the line was causing trouble, too. Leroy, at tackle, appeared to be miscast badly, and Sanford, at end, was no match for his opponents at any time. Putney and Rhame, the most promising tackle and end substitutes, were far from satisfactory. That week was a week of experiments and confusion, and Coach Cade had a worried look quite foreign to his countenance. Three days of wretched weather added to the difficulties, for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were each cold and rainy, and by the last day the gridiron was not much better than a bog. Under these circumstances the team would scarcely be expected to make much progress, nor did it. Joe Myers was extremely peevish most of the week and Don Harris, visiting Number 16 Haylow one evening, remarked feelingly that he would be mighty glad when football was over for the season.

It was the miserable weather on Thursday that sent Willard over to Upton Hall. There had been an hour of indoor practice in the gymnasium, but the slippery ground and relentless downpour of rain had prohibited any use of the field, and at half-past four Willard found himself at a loose end. Martin had gone up to one of the society rooms in Academy Hall to play pool, and, although he had asked Willard to go with him, the latter, not being a member, had thought it best to decline. On the porch of the gymnasium he watched the swishing rain and the inundated paths and wondered what to do with himself. The answer came when his disconsolate gaze, roaming the cheerless world, lighted on Upton Hall. Recollection of Felix McNatt and his invitation came to him and, turning up his collar, he plunged into the deluge. He didnt remember the number of McNatts room, but he could find it, he supposed. On the second floor, he knocked on a nearby door and obtained the information from a surprised occupant. Number 49 proved to be on the third floor, and Willards knock elicited a muffled Come in! As the door was locked, however, Willard did not immediately accept the invitation. Wait a moment, please, came McNatts voice from within. Then a chair was overturned, footsteps approached and the door was thrown open.





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