Ralph Barbour.

Quarter-Back Bates





CHAPTER I
THE DEPARTURE OF A HERO

It cannot be truthfully said that Dick Bates was overwhelmingly surprised when he reached the railroad station that September morning and found fully a score of his schoolmates assembled there. Wally Nourse had let the cat out of the bag the day before. Wally was one of those well-meaning but too talkative youths such as we have all met. But Dick played the game perfectly this morning, descending from the carriage Mr. Bates was one of the very few persons left in Leonardville who could afford an automobile and still drove horses with an expression of questioning surprise. He realized that too much surprise would suggest that he knew the assemblage was there to do him honour; and if, as some said, Dick was conceited, at least he was always careful not to seem so.

Mr. Bates handed the lines to Hogan, the coachman, who had ridden in the back seat surrounded by Dicks luggage, and followed his son to the platform with a satisfied smile on his seamed, good-humoured countenance. It pleased him that this younger son of his should be popular and sought after. To a certain extent he accepted it as a compliment to himself. Dick was already surrounded by the little throng of high school boys and girls for the gentle sex was well represented, too and his father heard him telling them in that pleasant, rather deep voice of his how unsuspected and undeserved it all was. Mr. Bates wasnt deceived, however. Dick had confided to him on the way from the house that there might be a few of the fellows there to see him off. Instead, he chuckled to himself. You cant beat him at the diplomatic stuff, he thought proudly. Then his smile faded. Wonder if he isnt a little too good at it! Then Doris Ferguson had spied him and was clinging to his arm and telling him how mean and horrible he was to let Dick go away and leave them, and the other girls, seven in all, were chiming in, and everyone was talking at once. And that pleased Mr. Bates, too, for he liked Doris and, having no daughters of his own, wished he had a girl just like her. He patted her hand and beamed down at her from his six-foot height.

Now dont you take on so, young lady. Just you remember youve still got me. Course, I cant play one of those half-portion banjos like Dick can, but Im just as nice as he is other ways!

Sumner White had drawn Dick apart. Sumner was this years football captain, and the other boys, watching and trying to appear not to be, felt that words of weight and wisdom were being exchanged over there by the baggage-room door, and wouldnt have interrupted for worlds. What Sumner was saying just then may have contained wisdom, but certainly wasnt very weighty.

If you run across any real good plays or wrinkles, Dick, I wish youd put me on, eh? I guess they play pretty near college football at Parkinson, and you know how it is here. If Murphy ever had a new idea hed drop dead! Of course I wouldnt give anything away.

You can trust me to keep mum, old chap.

Why, yes, I will, Sum, if I can. But I may not get near the team, you know. I guess they have a raft of corking good players at Parkinson, and

Oh, pickles! jeered Sumner. I guess they wont have so many good quarters that youll be passed up! Bet you anything youll be playing on the Parkinson team before youve been there a week! Gee, I sort of wish you werent going, Dick. Its leaving us in a beast of a hole. Say, honest, do you think Rogers could ever learn?

I think Sams the best we the best youve got, Sum. All he needs is a whole lot of work. Of course you can try Littleton if you like, but you know my opinion of him.

Ye-es, I know. But Sams so blamed dumb! Gee, you have to use a sledge to knock anything into Theres your train, I think. She whistled down by the crossing. Well, say, Dick old scout, I sure wish you the best of luck and everything. Youre going to make us all mighty proud of you, or I miss my guess! Well all be rooting for you, you know that. Well, guess the othersll want to say good-bye. Wish youd drop me a line some time, eh? Ill write, too, when I get a chance. But you know how its going to be this fall, with a lot of new fellows to break in and Murphy away moren half the time, and

Sure, Sum, I know, but youll get by all right. I wish I could be here when you play Norristown, but I suppose Ill be busy myself. So long!

After that there was much confusion. Wade Jennings shoved a package tied with blue and white ribbon, the high school colours, into Dicks hands and tried to make the presentation speech he had been practising for two days. But everyone talked at once, the train came thundering in, and his stammers were drowned in the tumult. Dick had to shake hands all around, darting across the platform at the last moment to say good-bye to Hogan, and then listening to his fathers final instructions as to tickets and changing at Philadelphia. A grinning porter took charge of his luggage and Dick followed him up the car steps and from the platform smilingly surveyed the laughing crowd below. Afterwards it came to him that Wally Nourse had been the only one who had looked really sorry, that the others were merely merry and excited! Of course he excepted his father. Poor old dad had really looked quite down at the mouth when, pursued by the high school cheer, the train had pulled out. Tommy Nutting, true to the last to his r?le of school jester, had blown kisses from the summit of a baggage truck, and Doris Ferguson had pretended to wipe tears from her eyes. The rest was a confused memory.

Dick found his seat in the parlour car and watched the frayed and tattered hem of Leonardville disappear: the brick-yards, the carpet factory, the blocks of monotonous, square, lead-hued houses of the operatives, the tumble-down quarter known as Povertyville, and then, at last, the open country still green and smiling. His last glimpse was of the slender steeple of the Baptist church, white above the old elms around it. He changed his straw hat for a light-weight cap and opened a magazine he had tossed into his bag at the last moment. Then, however, his eyes fell on the ribboned package and he picked it up eagerly. The next moment he remembered his neighbours up and down the aisle and so he pretended to suppress a yawn as he struggled with the entwined ribbons. When the covering was off he found a pair of silver-backed military brushes hidden amidst much rustling white tissue and a folded sheet of paper. The brushes werent half bad, and although he already had a pair, he made up his mind to use them. The message read: To Richard Corliss Bates from his friends and fellow-members of the L. H. S. M. C. Then followed some thirty names, the complete roster of the High School Musical Club, and, in a lower corner, in Wade Jennings uncertain writing, the further message: There wasnt time to have them marked, but theyll do it the first time you come home.

Dick was pleased in a complacent way. The brushes were nicer, in better taste than he had expected they would be. Of course he had known they were coming: trust Wally for that! But even if Wally hadnt talked, Dick would have expected a gift of some sort. He was the sort who got gifts, not through any effort of his, but because folks liked him and seemed to want to do things for him. He never went out of his way to gain popularity. He didnt have to. But he enjoyed it thoroughly, and, having known it for some time, had become to regard it as his right. Today, the silver brushes pleased him not because of their value, which, after all, wasnt great, but because they stood as a further tribute to his popularity.

Dick was seventeen, the right height for his age, slender in a well-muscled, athletic way, and undeniably good-looking. His features were regular, with a rather high forehead and a well-cut straight nose. His eyes were brown, a warm brown that held a suggestion of red, and matched his hair. He had a fair complexion with plenty of healthy colour in the cheeks. It was one of the few sorrows of his life that he didnt tan readily, that he had to go through a beastly period of sunburn and peeling skin before he could attain a decent shade of brown. He seemed unaware of his personal attractions, whether he was or not, and his smile, which was not the least of them, won where mere good looks failed. He always stood high in his class, for he learned easily. He had a gift for music and could play any instrument at least passably after a surprisingly short acquaintance. He had a pleasant speaking voice and sang an excellent tenor on the school Glee Club. But it was perhaps in the less polite pursuits that he excelled. He had a record of ten and two-fifths for the hundred yards and had done the two-twenty under twenty-four. He was a fair high-jumper, usually certain of third place in the Dual Meet. In the water he was brother to a fish. He had played baseball one season not at all badly and could fill in at basket ball if needed. But, when all is said, Dicks line was football. He had played two years on the High School Team at quarter-back. Last year he had been offered the captaincy without a dissenting voice and had refused it, announcing, what he had kept a secret until then, that he was leaving at the end of the school year, and nominating Sumner White. That Sumner was promptly elected was a further proof of Dicks popularity, for ordinarily Sumner would scarcely have been thought of. As a football player Dick was really brilliant. He had a collection of fourteen epistles, which he was not averse to showing to close friends, from as many preparatory schools and smaller colleges urging him to consider their advantages to a person of his scholastic attainments. Parkinson School, however, was not represented in that collection, perhaps because Parkinson was too far away for his fame to have reached it. Dick had chosen Parkinson for the completion of his preparation for college only because his brother Stuart had graduated from there some five years before. Stuart had talked of Parkinson so much that Dick felt that he knew the school and that he was certain to like it. He might have entered two years ago, but had chosen to remain at the high school until he could go to the preparatory school with a fair chance of making the football team. He believed now that the time had arrived. Although he had belittled his chances in conversation with Sumner White, secretly Dick entertained few doubts of his ability to make the Parkinson team.

He was entering the Third Class and had been assigned a room in Sohmer Hall. Brother Stuart had advised Sohmer, since it was the newest of the dormitory buildings, and Dick had made application the year before. To his regret, he had not been able to get a room to himself, but the fact didnt trouble him greatly. In fact he recognised certain advantages accruing from a room-mate. Who that person was to be he had not yet learned.

His train reached Philadelphia at a few minutes before eleven and he had just time to buy a morning paper before the New York Express left. He didnt waste much time on the front page of the journal, soon turning to the football and athletic news. A hair-breadth connection in New York put him on the last lap of his journey, and, after a deliberative meal in the diner and the perusal of one story in the magazine, it was time to gather his luggage together. The train slid into Warne at three-fifty, and Dick, not a little excited under his appearance of perfect calm, alighted.

CHAPTER II
WASHINGTON P. QUIGGLE

Stuart had instructed him so thoroughly that Dick knew just which way to turn in order to find a conveyance to carry him to the school, but Stuart had spoken of carriages and Dick found nothing but chugging flivvers manned by eager and noisy youths to whom he hesitated to entrust his life. Automobiles, he presumed, had arrived since Stuarts time. Dick remained so long in doubt that, almost before he knew it, all but one of the throbbing taxies had found their loads and gone rattling off over the cobbles. He made his way to the remaining conveyance quickly then, but not so quickly as to reach it first. A boy a year or so older already had a hand on the door when Dick arrived.

Goss, Eddie, Dick heard the boy say. And dont spare the horses!

But Eddie, who Dick had earlier decided was the least attractive of the half-dozen drivers, was not losing any chances.

Yes, sir! Parkinson School? Step right in. The gentleman inside wont mind. What building, sir?

Sohmer, answered Dick. And then, to the occupant: Mind if I go along? he asked. This seems to be the only taxi left.

Not a bit. The more the merrier! Besides, he continued as the car shot away from the platform with a jerk, wheeled suddenly to the left and dashed headlong over the cobbles, it makes for economy. They put the fare up last spring. It would have cost me a half if Id gone alone. By the way, are you in a great hurry?

Why, no, answered Dick.

Well, I am. He leaned toward the open window in front. Take me to Goss first, Eddie, he directed.

He was a tall, rather thin and very long-legged youth with a nose that matched the other specifications, and a pair of blue-grey eyes that, in spite of their owners grave and serious expression, seemed to hold a twinkle of amusement or perhaps of mischief. He had placed a very battered suit-case before him on the floor of the car and now put his feet on it, settled to the small of his back and turned a look of polite inquiry on Dick.

My names Quiggle, he said, Washington P. Quiggle. He made a feeble motion toward a pocket. I havent a card with me, I fear. I have, believe me, no desire to thrust my acquaintance on you, but since Fate has thrown us together like this He paused apologetically.

Thats all right, said Dick. Very glad to meet you. My name is Bates. He smiled. Rather to his surprise Washington Quiggle didnt smile back. Instead, he put his head a bit on one side and seemed to regard Dick speculatingly.

Showing the teeth slightly, he murmured. At least, thats what Dick thought he said, but as there was no sense in the remark, perhaps he was mistaken.

I beg pardon?

Oh, did I speak? asked Quiggle. A lamentable habit of mine, Mr. Bates, unconsciously giving utterance to my thoughts. A habit inherited from my grandfather on my mothers side. Most annoying at times and likely to lead to an erroneous impression of my mentality. And speaking of my grandfather, a most worthy and respected citizen in spite of the misfortune that overtook him in his later years: I refer, of course, to the loss of his mind, accompanied, or should I say superseded, by homicidal mania; speaking of him, then, suppose I relieve myself of my portion of the expenses of this placid journey, thus. He dug a hand into a trousers pocket and produced a twenty-five cent piece which he handed to Dick. It will save time and I was about to say money and trouble if you will settle with Edward for us both. I thank you.

Of course, murmured Dick. By now he was rather hoping that Goss Hall would be reached before his companions perfectly evident insanity took a violent turn! For there was no doubt in Dicks mind but that Mr. Washington P. Quiggle was what in the everyday language of Leonardville was known as a nut. Quiggle had closed his eyes and appeared to be on the verge of slumber, and after a moments concerned observation of him Dick turned his gaze to the town through which the car was speeding. The cobbles had given place to asphalt and while Quiggles choice of the word placid was not entirely justified, at least the car was running much more quietly and far more smoothly. There were some decent looking shops on each side of the street and a fairly imposing office building occupied one corner of the street into which the taxi suddenly and disconcertingly turned. The lurch may have brought momentary consciousness back to Quiggle, for his eyes opened and closed and he remarked quite distinctly:

Hard a lee! Man the water-butt! Aye, aye, sir!

A pleasant wide thoroughfare opened to view right and left at the end of a block, and Dick caught sight of attractive houses set back from the street and lawns and gardens between. Then, without diminishing its twenty-five-miles-an-hour speed, the taxi dashed between two stone gate posts and scurried up a gravelled road bisecting a wide expanse of level turf. Trees grew on each side, but between them Dick had occasional glimpses of the school buildings which, for the most part, were spaced along the further side of the campus. Parkinson Hall he recognised readily from the picture in the school catalogue, a white marble edifice surmounted by a glassed dome, but which was Sohmer he wasnt certain. Having crossed the width of the campus, the taxi swerved perilously to the right in front of Parkinson and dashed on until, with a sudden and unexpected application of the brakes, the driver brought it to a tottering stand-still before the entrance of a brick building. The jar aroused Quiggle and he sat up.

Ah! Home again as we perceive! Back to the classic shades of our dear old Alma Mater! he exclaimed as he opened the door on his side by the pressure of one bony knee against the handle and seized his bag. Mr. Bates, I sincerely trust that we shall meet again. Should you care to pursue the acquaintance so so dare I say fortunately brought about, you have but to inquire of any resident of this palatial dwelling in order to learn of my place of abode. Id tell you the number of my room were it not that, owing to an inherited weakness of memory, I cannot at the moment recall it. Eddie, the gentleman within will pay your outrageous charge.

Yeah, I know, but

Edward, interrupted Quiggle sternly, the gentleman has my fare and will deliver it to you with his own. Drive on!

After a moment of indecision and muttering, Edward drove on. Looking back through the rear window of the car, Dick saw Quiggle wave grandly, beneficently ere, bag in hand, he disappeared into Goss.

There was another turn, again to the right, and once more the car stopped. Here you are, sir, announced the driver. Sohmer Hall. Youll excuse me if I dont take your bag in for you, but we aint allowed to leave the car.

Thats all right, said Dick, emerging. Here you are. He held forth a half-dollar. The driver observed it coldly and made no effort to take it. Quit your kiddin, he said.

Well, thats all youll get, replied Dick warmly. Thats the legal fare.

It is, eh? Say, where do you get that stuff? Listen, kid. The fares fifty cents a person, seventy-five for two. Get me?

What! Why, that other fellow said it was Anyway, he gave me a quarter for his share of it!

The driver nodded wearily. Sure he would! Thats him all over. Youre lucky he didnt stick you for the whole racket. Come across with another quarter, young feller!

Grudgingly, Dick did so. If you knew Quiggle was that sort he began aggrievedly.

Who? asked the driver, a grin growing about his mouth.

Quiggle. The fellow you left at Goss Hall. I say, if you knew

His name aint Quiggle, jeered the driver. Gee, thats a peach! Quiggle! What do you know about that?

What is his name then? demanded Dick haughtily.

His names Well, it ought to be Slippery Simpson, but it aint!

Whereupon there was a deafening grinding of gears, a snort, and the flivver swung about on two wheels and went charging off.

Dick looked after it disgustedly and then, taking up his suit-case, mounted the steps of Sohmer.

Ill Quiggle him when I catch him! he muttered. Fresh chump!

In consequence of the episode, Dick reached his room on the second floor decidedly out of sorts. He didnt mind being cheated out of twelve or thirteen cents, but it disgruntled him to be made a fool of. He wasnt used to it. At home no one would have though of attempting such a silly trick on him. He experienced, for the first time since leaving Leonardville, a qualm of apprehension. If Quiggle, or whatever his silly name really was, was a fair sample of the fellows he was to meet at Parkinson, the outlook for being treated with the respect that he was accustomed to was not at all satisfactory. Unconsciously he had journeyed to Warne under the impression that his appearance at school would be hailed with, if not excited acclaim, at least with measurable satisfaction. And here the first fellow he had run across had played a perfectly rotten joke on him! Dicks dignity was considerably ruffled.

Number 14 proved to be a corner study, but not on the front. It wasnt a bad room, Dick decided a bit patronisingly, and the view from the windows was satisfactory. On one side he looked across a bit of the campus and over to the wide street that was lined with gardens and lawns: Faculty Row it was called, although Dick didnt know it then. From the other window he saw a tree-shaded, asphalt-paved road and one or two old-fashioned white dwellings beyond, and a corner of a square brick building set at a little distance just inside the grounds. That, unless he was mistaken, was the Administration Building, and he must go there shortly and register.





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