Ralph Barbour.

Left Half Harmon

Oh, hello! greeted McNatt cordially. Come in. Sorry to keep you waiting, but this things out of order somewhere. He leaned down to examine a bolt on the door frame, and then followed with his eyes a wire that proceeded from the bolt to the ceiling and across the latter, through a number of screw-eyes, to a point above the study table in the middle of the room. From there it descended to within convenient reach of a person seated at the table, terminating in a wooden knob. Willard viewed it with amused interest.

Quite a scheme, he said. Your invention, McNatt?

Yes, it saves time, you see. Trouble is, though, it will get out of order. Ought to have small wheels for it to run on instead of those eyes. Lets see now. He pulled the knob down and the bolt slipped obediently from its socket with a business-like click. McNatt shrugged expressively. All right now, you see. It binds somewhere, I guess. Sit down, Harmon. He indicated a Morris chair in need of repair and Willard seated himself and looked around. The rooms in Upton were slightly larger, it seemed, than those in the newer dormitories, and Willard considered it a most fortunate circumstance, since a smaller room would never have accommodated all the articles that met his gaze. Besides the ordinary furnishings, there were two bookcases, a set of book shelves that hung on a wall and several boxes up-ended to serve as auxiliary tables. McNatt was telling Willard of his failure to find information regarding the use of the diving-rod in the location of metals and saying some bitter things about the reference department of the Academy library, but Willard was too much interested in the room to pay much heed.

The place looked like a compromise between a museum and a laboratory. Stuffed birds and small animals peered down with glassy eyes from all sides, a badly mounted pickerel on a board presented a hungry mouth, a snake skin depended from the corner of a framed picture that showed, in colors, what was probably a quiet Sunday afternoon in the Garden of Eden. It was an engaging picture, and Willard studied it curiously before his gaze went past. All the animals of which he had ever heard were depicted in it, and all were grouped about in peace and friendliness, even the lions in the foreground smiling on the beholder with truly benevolent countenances.

Methods of saving time or labor were apparent on every hand in the shape of mechanical appliances. A complicated arrangement of cords allowed of the lowering or raising of the window shades without approaching the windows; although Willard could not see that it was any farther from the table to the windows than it was to the side of the room where the cords hung! On the chair in which he sat a home-made bookholder was attached to one arm, while, by reaching underneath, one could pull forth an extension that accommodated ones legs and feet, though probably not very comfortably. Later he discovered that a switch attached to the wall beside the head of McNatts bed in the alcove allowed that ingenious youth to put on or off the electric light without arising.

The bookcases held all sorts of things except books, although there were plenty of the latter distributed about in such unusual places as the window-seat and the tops of the two chiffoniers.

Indeed, a set of encyclopedias of ancient vintage found lodgment along the baseboard on the floor. The bookcases had been consecrated to Science, it appeared, for in the nearer one dozens and dozens of birds eggs peered forth from cotton-batting nests and in the other McNatts collection of minerals was installed. The study table overflowed with a motley d?bris of books, papers, a microscope, pieces of wire, bits of wood, a blowpipe, a specimen-jar half filled with a dark-brown liquid that from its appearance and odor was plainly working, a mouse-trap empty, as Willard was relieved to discover and so many other things that it would be useless to attempt an enumeration of them. Willard was still looking about when McNatt interrupted his inspection.

Would you like to see my minerals? he asked.

Willard politely replied that he would and McNatt opened the doors of the case and thereupon held forth for some ten minutes, during which time Willard pretended interest in various specimens and said Really?, Is that so? and Indeed! dozens of times. When it came to the birds eggs he had the courage to say that he wasnt very much interested, and McNatt passed them by. Im thinking of getting rid of them, he announced. I need the space for other things. If you hear of anyone whod like a nice collection I wish youd let me know. Willard agreed and was shown some choice things in cocoons, an extensive collection of butterflies and moths which occupied the two lower drawers of McNatts chiffonier, several specimens of tree-fungus, a cigar-box full of shells gathered along the river, a pair of chameleons in a shoe-box, a number of small phials filled with liquids of various hues which McNatt assured him were vegetable dyes, another phial of whitish powder that its exhibitor called kaolin, and numerous other wonders. McNatt was quite impressive about the kaolin.

I guess Im the only one who knows about it, he said, lowering his voice and looking guardedly toward the door. Its immensely valuable, you know.

Is it? asked Willard.

Oh, yes. Its what they make porcelain from. China clay they call it sometimes. Theres a big deposit of it where I found this, and maybe some day Ill buy the land and develop it. Meanwhile, of course, Im keeping very quiet about it.

Of course, murmured Willard.

And heres another thing, continued McNatt. Take these vegetable dyes. There isnt one of those you couldnt make just as well as I did, Harmon!

You dont say?

Yes, sir! And every one is made of something that grows right beside your door, as you might say. Now take this. He shook a phial until the sediment at the bottom turned the liquid to a muddy purple as seen against the light. Nothing but poke-berry! I dont mind letting you in on that because lots of people know about getting color from poke-berry. But heres one, by ginger, you wont often see! He held up a second bottle and Willard gazed on a quite gorgeous crimson. Hows that for color? asked McNatt. You dont find anything finer than that, Ill bet!

Mighty pretty, responded Willard. Whats that made from?

McNatt chuckled, winked portentously and shook his head. Thats a secret. Id tell you only I might want to go into the business some day, Harmon. Not as a life-work, you understand, but Know anything about mycology?

No, what is it?

The study of mushrooms and fungi. Awfully interesting. Im just taking it up. Some of them make wonderful dyes, and thats what started me. Ive found thirteen varieties of mushrooms already, and Ive been out only four times. He looked approvingly out at the rain. Therell be lots of them tomorrow, I guess. I found a giant puff-ball over near where I met you that day, only it was rotten. Theyre delicious eating. Some day when I find one thats in good condition Ill let you know and well have a feast. Ive got a little alcohol stove in there that you can cook almost anything on. I had a few the other night and they were mighty good. Winfred Winfred Fuller, you know; he rooms here with me Winfred said they made him feel sort of sick, but I guess it was more likely something he had for dinner.

Still, some mushrooms are poisonous, arent they? inquired Willard doubtfully.

Lots of them, but it isnt difficult to tell them from the others, you know. Ive got a book that tells all about it. Where is it? McNatt looked rather hopelessly about him. I dont see it just now. Winfreds mixed my things up again, I dare say. Hes a very decent fellow, but he hasnt any idea of orderliness. Next time you come it will probably be around.

Their travels had brought them back to the corridor end of the room and Willards attention was attracted by a small bottle hanging by a string from a thumb-tack beneath the electric light switch. Whats that for? he asked.

Eh? Oh, that? McNatt removed it as he spoke. Thats no good any more. I had a glow-worm and a firefly in there, but the firefly ate the glow-worm, or maybe it was the other way around: I forget now; and then the one whod eaten the other one died, too. He took the stopper from the bottle and inverted it, allowing the dried remains of some small occupant to fall out. Besides, he added, you can buy little dinkuses made of radium thatll do the same thing now.

Well, but but what was it they did? asked Willard.

Oh, they glowed, you know, in the dark, and showed where the switch was. McNatt tossed the empty bottle to the table. Trouble was they didnt always glow when you wanted them to and sometimes you had to stand around and wait quite a while.

Seated again, McNatt tilted back in his chair and observed Willard thoughtfully for a moment. Then: Returning to the subject we were discussing the other day, Harmon, he announced, Ive been sort of outlining a system along the lines we spoke of. I havent gone into it thoroughly, of course, but Ive estimated that the number of possible situations in a football game approximate one hundred and sixty. I may be slightly in error, of course, for I havent played recently and there have been several alterations in the rules, but Im not far out of the way. That number includes situations occurring both in attack and defense. Ive got a rough summary here somewhere. He began to rummage over the table. Its a piece of yellow paper. Is it on your side anywhere? Now I wonder what I did with it. Well, never mind, itll show up again some day. Anyway, my idea would be to ah catalogue them, as one might say, according to their locations on the field of play. Id divide the gridiron into, say, ten zones longitudinally and three zones laterally, giving thirty areas in all. Numbering perhaps lettering would be better, though: lettering such area Have you got to go?

Yes, Im afraid so, replied Willard. I its getting along toward six oclock. Id like to hear about it some other time, though, McNatt. I say, why dont you come over to my room some evening and let Mart Proctor hear it? Hed be awfully interested, Im sure. Marts on the team, too, you know; plays guard. I wish you would.

Why, I dont visit around much, answered the other hesitantly, as he reached for the knob that unbolted the door. I dont have time, you see, and just now Im most interested in mycology, Harmon. By the way, dont forget about that mushroom supper were going to have!


Friday dawned fair and warm, and Willard, looking forth from a window while dressing, smilingly pictured McNatt, far afield, gathering mushrooms from the sunlit meadows. One thing, however, was certain, Willard reflected, and that was that the enthusiastic McNatt would never induce him to partake of that mushroom supper! Yesterday he might perhaps have taken a chance, but today life was too well worth living.

In the afternoon, contrary to custom, there was a hard and prolonged scrimmage between the first and second teams. Ordinarily the day before a contest was given over to formation drill, with only a brief line-up, but today, with Lorimer Academy looming dangerously ahead, Coach Cade couldnt afford to be lenient. One radical change in the first team line-up was apparent when the two teams faced each other. Arnold Lake, the regular left half-back, was at left end in place of Sanford, and Mawson was at left half. Doubtless it was only an experiment and might not prove satisfactory, but Willard saw, with a quickening of his pulse, that if the change became permanent he would be one notch nearer the realization of his hopes. With only Mawson and, perhaps, Moncks ahead of him, the position of first substitute was just over the horizon. And events that day certainly fostered optimism, for before the practice game was over Mawson was relegated to the bench and Willard took his place. For something like ten minutes life was very strenuous for him. The first was thrice given the ball on the seconds twenty-yard-line and thrice failed to take it over, although Coach Cade stormed and Gil Tarver commanded and Captain Bob Myers implored. The second fought desperately and would not yield the final few feet. In those assaults Willard played his part well, making up in speed and aggressiveness what he lacked in weight. If he didnt perform any outstanding feat, at least he gained as certainly as Cochran, beside him, and more surely than Steve Browne, again restored to full-back position for lack of a better man. The nearest thing to a mishap befalling Willard was his failure to hold a short forward-pass over the left of the line that might possibly have produced the desired score. But he was sorely beset and, jostled and badgered by the second team backs, he could not make the ball secure after it reached him. That came in the last attack, and afterwards, when Cochrans desperate attempt at the left of center had failed to carry him over by two feet, the ball was given to the second and Greenwood, standing behind his goal, kicked to safety. It is quite possible that Willard looked for some slight expression of commendation from captain or coach when the whistle blew, for he was under the impression that he had done none so badly for a first appearance on the big team, but the only mention of his part in the fracas that he heard was made by the quarter-back. Probably Tarver had no intention of being unkind, but his regrets haunted Willard for the rest of the day.

Too bad you couldnt hold that forward, Harmon, Tarver said on the way back to the gymnasium. Gee, wed have had a score sure if you had!

Seeking sympathy, Willard repeated the remark to Martin that evening, expecting Martin to tell him that it wasnt his fault and that Gil Tarver was unreasonable. But Martin only shook his head as he replied cheerfully: Yes, it was a shame, Brand. Still, I dont believe first would have scored. Gil threw too short and you were five yards from the line.

We-ell, said Willard, you think I ought to have caught it?

What? Oh, I dont know about that. Youve got to be mighty quick to get your hands around a forward or else youll miss it. And its a heap easier than it looks, usually.

Willard went to sleep that night somewhat disheartened by the conclusion that Fortune had given him an opportunity to prove his ability and he had failed. Doubtless, he thought, another such opportunity would be long in coming. He lived over that disastrous attempt to catch the forward-pass and wondered whether, had he leaped an instant sooner, he would have held it; whether, in short, anything he could have done and didnt would have insured success. He tried to comfort himself with the reiterated assertion that no one, not even Captain Myers, whose work on the receiving end of forward-passes was phenomenal, could have done any better, but he fell asleep before reiteration produced conviction and passed through a number of unpleasant dreams before he awoke again to a bright and brisk October morning.

Lorimer was always an uncertain quantity when it came to the yearly gridiron contests with Alton, and, since the red-legged invaders had nosed out a victory over the Gray-and-Gold last fall, it was held to be highly desirable that a conclusive defeat be handed them on the present occasion. And there appeared to be no good reason why Alton shouldnt win, for, while Lorimer was well coached and knew plenty of football, she had sustained two defeats so far this season and had but one victory to her credit.

To Willard, observing proceedings from the bench, sandwiched between Martin and Ned Richards, the playing of Lake at left end again brought renewed encouragement. At least it was evident that Mr. Cade believed well enough of the experiment to give it a thorough trial, and all during the game Willard rooted hard, if silently, for the ex-half-back and prayed that he would make good as an end! Lorimer took the kick-off and at once showed her running ability when a tow-headed right half reeled off nearly thirty yards before Cochran brought him down. The enemy showed several novel variations of old plays and twice made first down before she was finally forced to kick on Altons forty-two yards. She was master of the shift and sent her plays at the long or short side of the line with beautiful and confusing impartiality. Also, her backfield was composed of slim, fast and elusive youths who had a remarkable faculty of slipping out of the opponents clutches. In brief, it became apparent during the first few minutes of play that the home team was destined to have her hands full that afternoon and would be supremely fortunate if she kept her goal-line inviolate. The first quarter, however, passed without either team reaching scoring distance. There was much punting, at which Alton was slightly superior, and many attempts at end running by Lorimer, some of which succeeded. Only one forward-pass was tried, and that, by the enemy, went wrong and landed the ball in Altons hands. The latter made her distance five times and Lorimer four, and at the end of the first twelve minutes an unbiased critic would have said that on performance the opponents were about equal. He might have added, however, that the Red somehow gave the impression of having more in reserve than the Gray-and-Gold, and if he had said so he would have been proved correct by future events.

Alton started a brave advance in the second period and, with Cochran and Mawson alternating on attacks between tackles and Gil Tarver scampering around the ends, thrice made it first down in enemy territory. But on Lorimers twenty-seven yards, Lake became too eager and Alton was set back for off-side, and after a futile attempt to make up the lost ground, Tarver fell back and kicked to the three yards. Lorimer punted on second down and the pigskin fell into Tarvers hands in midfield and that hustled back seven yards before he consented to stop. Alton took up the journey again, while some three hundred brazen-throated adherents cheered encouragingly from the stand. Halted on the thirty-six, Browne threw overhead to Joe Myers and Joe caught brilliantly and was toppled for an eight-yard gain. Lake, skirting around, took the ball from Tarver and tried hard to make good on the farther side, but was run back for a two-yard loss. Another forward grounded, and Tarver, with twelve to go on third down, faked a kick and carried outside right tackle to Lorimers sixteen for the distance. The Gray-and-Gold shouted jubilantly and chanted her desire for a touchdown. But, although Mawson got three through Lorimers left and followed it with two more off tackle on the other side, again Fortune turned her thumb down. Stacey Ross was caught holding and a stern referee paced the pigskin back an interminable fifteen yards. Tarvers run from kick formation failed to fool the enemy and he regained but twelve of the fifteen. Perhaps a forward-pass would have gained the distance, but Tarver chose to try for a field-goal, and, standing near Lorimers twenty-five-yard line, he held out his hands while the stands grew still. The angle was not severe and if Leroy, at left tackle, had held firm, the quarter would probably have scored three points that later in the day would have loomed large. But Leroy gave before the desperate onslaught of the foe and Tarver was hurried. The ball had height and distance, but not direction, and passed a foot to the right of the nearest upright.

The half ended a minute later with the pigskin in Lorimers possession near her forty.

Willard trotted back to the gymnasium with the rest and hugged the knowledge that Arnold Lake had shown himself a valuable man at the end of the line. Willard could have told you almost every move that Lake had made during those twenty-four minutes of playing time! Coach Cade was sparing of criticism today, for no glaring faults had been apparent and the fighting spirit had been evident. He did warn against infractions of the rules, however, pointing out that had it not been for Rosss holding Alton would now be at least six points to the good. We lost thirty yards by penalties, and Lorimer lost only ten. The twenty yards difference may mean the loss of the game. Guard against being off-side, fellows, and against holding. Dont lets make the opponent any gifts! Youve got to fight harder this half and run your plays off quicker. Youre up against a heady bunch of fellows and youve got to outwit them as well as outplay them if youre going to win. I want to see the backs start a little quicker and hit the line with more steam. That applies to you especially, Browne. You have a rotten tendency to slow up at the line, just when you should be going the hardest. You miss two and three yards regularly on every play by that sort of thing. See if you cant put more slam into it!

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