Quarter-Back Batesñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
TOWN HONOURS HER HERO
Leonardville, Pa. – Twenty thousand citizens in monster outdoor meeting pay tribute to famous athlete, Richard Corliss Bates.
BLASH EVENS THE SCORE
While Dick still stared, unable to believe his eyes, the title whisked itself away and a picture took its place. A sea of upturned faces surrounded a flag-draped stand on which a large gentleman was gesticulating. Seated figures flanked him and on every haughty chest fluttered a ribbon badge. In the background what looked to be a mile-long factory building stretched. There was an outburst of cheering and waving from the throng, the speaker smiled benevolently and the picture faded from sight!
Not until then was Dick aware of the absorbed regard of his companions. Turning amazedly he looked into the eloquent countenance of Blash. “You never told us!” exclaimed Blash in an awed and choking voice, and: “Oh, Dick!” whispered Rusty hoarsely. “Ain’t it grand?”
For one dazed, blank moment Dick stared back into Blash’s strangely working face. Then the light dawned. He gave a gasp and —
“Stop it, Dick!” gurgled Blash. “We’ll be put out, you s-s-silly ass! Grab him, Rusty!”
And Rusty grabbed him and, breathing heavily, he was forced back into his seat.
“Be good!” begged Rusty in a strangled voice. “Remember you’ve g-g-ot a reputat-repu —Oh, gosh!”
“As a public character,” began Blash. “Quit it! There’s an usher coming, Dick! Be good, won’t you?”
“I – I – I’ll break every bone in your body,” sputtered Dick. “I’ – ”
“What’s the trouble there?” asked a stern voice from the aisle. “You’ll have to cut out that noise, fellows, or leave the theatre.”
“It – it’s all right, Usher,” panted Blash. “The – my friend had a slight attack of – of – ”
“Vertigo,” supplied Stanley. “He’s all right now. Feel better, Dick? Yes, he says he feels better, thanks.”
“You let go me,” growled Dick, writhing in the grasp of Blash and Rusty. “What do I care about the usher? Let go my arms, you pups!”
“Just keep your eyes closed,” said Rusty soothingly. “You’ll be all right in a second. I’ve got an aunt who’s just that way. Every time she goes to the movies – ”
“Hang your aunt!” exploded Dick. “I tell you to let go of me!”
The usher flashed a suspicious beam from his pocket-torch on the convulsed features and muttered doubtfully: “Looks to me like he was havin’ a fit!”
“Usher! Usher, there’s nothing the matter with him!” exclaimed an indignant voice from the row behind. “Those boys have been acting up ever since they came in, and you ought to make them behave. It’s no pleasure for others to have to be annoyed like this and – ”
“Oh, madam!” exclaimed Blash, turning an injured countenance. “How can you say so? I assure you – ”
“You tell your friend to come out of it,” said the usher doggedly. “Either that or you all get out! That goes, see?”
“Oh, thanks so much,” said Stanley gratefully.
“He’s quite all right now. You’re all right, aren’t you, Dick? Yes, he says he’s feeling ever so much better. Maybe – ”
“O you Bates!” cried a voice from across the darkened house. “O you famous athlete!” Laughs and chuckles followed. The usher gazed about him bewilderedly. From the balcony came a further interruption. “What did you pay for it, Dick?” inquired an earnest voice. Laughter unrestrained arose from many quarters. A shrill falsetto joined in. “Regular cheers for Bates, fellows! One, two, three!” Someone accepted the challenge and, interspersed with laughter, a ragged Parkinson cheer broke forth: “Rah, rah, rah! Rah, rah, rah! Rah, rah, rah! Bates! Bates! BATES!” And, “Hero!” added a solitary voice upstairs. Dick slumped into his seat, all fight gone from him.
Three ushers, reinforced by a stout gentleman from the front, hurried along the aisles and begged or commanded silence, and gradually the laughter subsided to chuckles and the chuckles died away. Blash whispered contritely in Dick’s ear: “Sorry if I’ve made you mad, Dick. It was just a joke, you know. Thought you’d take it like a good sport.”
“All right,” answered Dick glumly. “Shut up, please.”
The comedy was half finished and Dick tried hard to put his thoughts on the humours of it but met with scant success. He blamed Stanley for breaking his promise and telling Blash about that article in the Leonardville Sentinel and about Sumner White’s letter. For of course he had told Blash. Otherwise, how could Blash have known and have concocted that horrible joke? Gradually resentment against Blash – and Rusty, too, since it was apparent that Rusty had known beforehand – waned, for, after all, it was nothing to get angry about. Blash had merely paid him back in his own coin, a little more cleverly. Dick even found heart to grin once in the darkness and to wonder how Blash had managed to persuade the movie manager to present the ridiculous thing! But Stanley – Dick scowled. He wouldn’t forgive Stan very soon!
Of course he wouldn’t hear the last of it for a long time. Evidently Parkinson fellows were scattered freely through the house and every one of them would return to school with a hilarious version of the incident. Well, that didn’t matter. A fellow had to take jokes as well as perpetrate them, and after awhile it would be forgotten. But Stanley had no business to tell. Dick was firm as to that. When the feature picture came on Dick had recovered his equanimity and was able to enjoy it, although he took pleasure in letting Blash and Rusty remain in ignorance of his forgiveness. Afterwards, going out, he had to play the good sport and meet the laughing gibes of acquaintances with smiling unconcern, but he was glad when they were in the less brilliant stretch of School Street. He purposely avoided Stanley and chose Blash as his companion on the way back to school. Blash was inclined to be apologetic and remorseful.
“Maybe it wasn’t so pesky smart, after all, Dick,” he said. “I didn’t think about the other fellows being there. I’m afraid you’ll get a lot of ragging.”
“Oh, I don’t mind,” answered Dick. “You had to when we sprung that one on you, you know. But how the dickens did you work it, Blash? Honest, I thought I was seeing things when they flashed that rot on the screen! Thought my – my mind had given way or something! And I didn’t get onto it for ages; not until I saw you trying not to explode! How’d you work it?”
“It wasn’t hard,” said Blash with restored complacency. “I just told the fellow who runs the theatre, McCready, a very decent sort of chap, that I wanted to spring a harmless joke on one of the fellows. Let him in on it enough so’s he’d appreciate the stunt. Then I slipped a couple of dollars to the guy who operates the machine up there and he faked up the title and got hold of an old film showing an outdoor meeting of operatives at some shoe factory or something during a Fourth of July celebration. And, gee, it went great, didn’t it? That is, it did if you’re sure you’re not huffed about it, Dick. There’s no fun in a joke that goes sour, though!”
“I’m not huffy, Blash. It was a bit of a jolt at first, though! Seeing my name flash out at me like that – was sort of startling! What I don’t understand, though, is what – is how – ”
“Back to your mark! Start over, Dick.”
“Well, then, what put the idea of a – a – where did you get that stuff about my being a hero and all that?” floundered Dick.
“Oh, one hears things,” Blash chuckled. “Fame has its – ah – penalties!”
“Yes, I guess one does hear things,” said Dick bitterly with a resentful glance at the dimly seen form of Stanley, ahead.
They dropped Blash at Goss and went on to Sohmer, Rusty choosing the longest way home for the privilege of enjoying their society, as he explained. Blash’s joke was further discussed, Rusty declaring with a reminiscent laugh that he would never forget the expression on Dick’s face when the title was flashed on the screen! Then Rusty took himself off across the turf on a shortcut to Maple Street and Dick and Stanley climbed the stairs in silence to Number 14.
When the light was going Stanley looked questioningly at his chum. “What’s the matter, Dick?” he asked. “Did that business jar you too much?”
“No, I didn’t mind it, thanks,” replied Dick, rather stiffly. “Of course,” he added after a pause, “everyone in school will think me an awful ass, but I suppose that won’t matter. It won’t to you, anyway!”
“Just what does that mean? Why to me?”
“Well, it won’t, will it?” asked Dick defiantly. “If it had you’d have kept your mouth shut.”
“Meaning you promised to and you didn’t. You had to go and tell Blash.”
“Oh, that’s it!” Stanley sounded relieved. “Well, let me tell you that I haven’t spoken a word to Blash or to anyone else about that business. I thought you had, though.”
“I’d be likely to!” Dick looked incredulous. “If you didn’t, how did Blash know?”
“Search me, Dick. Maybe he doesn’t know. Maybe he just hit on that by chance.”
“I don’t believe it. Perhaps he saw that thing in the Sentinel– But he couldn’t! Well, I’m sorry I suspected you, Stan.”
“Don’t mention it,” replied the other cheerfully. “And look here, don’t get worried over the fellows hearing about it. Of course they will, and of course they’ll rag you a bit, but it’s only a good joke, Dick, and that’s all they’ll think it. It isn’t a patch on the things some fellows have had to stand!”
“N-no, I suppose it isn’t. But – did you hear one idiot there tonight ask how much I paid for it? Maybe they’ll think I did pay for it, Stan?”
“Oh, rot! That guy was just having some fun with you. They all know it was a joke, and they saw Rusty and Blash with us, and they’ll lay it to one of them. As a matter of fact, Dick, it’s a pretty good sign to have something like that sprung on you, because it means that you are somebody. If fellows don’t like you they don’t trouble to work practical jokes on you, old top! There’s that satisfaction if you want it!”
TWO SCRAPS OF PAPER
Time seemed to fly that next week. Sunday vanished almost before Dick knew it was there, and he scarcely found time to write his letters, one to his father and one to Sumner White. The latter was rather a difficult missive, for he couldn’t manage to get all the cordiality into it that he thought Sumner would expect to find. The words looked all right, but they sounded insincere. Then Monday fled quickly, the afternoon occupied with much hard work on the gridiron for the second-string players and a light warming-up for those who had borne the brunt of the battle against Chancellor. Tuesday brought everyone back into strenuous practice and the afternoon was given over to trying out five new plays against the Second and to a grilling signal drill. The evening sessions continued as well. Mass meetings became almost nightly occurrences and Parkinson sang and yelled and became daily more enthusiastic and more filled with football spirit. Every line of news or rumour from Kenwood was avidly read and discussed and the tide of patriotism ran high. Wednesday noon brought another epistle from Sumner White, a brief and rather chaotic note which was as follows:
“Don’t pay any attention to the Whitworth game. We weren’t out to win and we saved our best men for Thursday. At that the score wasn’t bad and Whitworth wouldn’t have scored the second touchdown if we hadn’t had most of our subs in. Well, it’s all settled for next Friday. Charlie and Will and Jim are coming, and one other. That’s five of us. Theo can’t go. His mother’s sick. Went to the hospital today. And Townsend’s backed out. Some of the girls are crazy to go, but of course they can’t. Everything lovely here. We’re going to win on Thanksgiving, that’s final, Dick. Well, see you Saturday, old scout. So long. Sum.”
Dick wondered who the “one other” might be and why Sumner hadn’t told, but the question didn’t occupy his thoughts long. He read that letter to Stanley, watching ferociously for any sign of levity, and was a bit disappointed when he saw none. He was in a mood to have welcomed a scrap!
That afternoon he and Stone alternated at driving the big team against the Second in the last scrimmage before the final game, and it proved to be the hardest and most blood-thirsty encounter of the season. The Second, with nothing to lose, was resolved to finish in a blaze of glory, and the way they went at the enemy was a marvel. Before scrimmage and after it they might be friends and well-wishers, but while the battle was on friendship was at an end and they fought like wild-cats. They scored in the first ten minutes, pushing straight through the First’s line for a clean touchdown and kicking a goal afterwards, and they scored again from the field within twenty seconds of the final whistle. And the best the First could do in retaliation was to get two touchdowns without goals. So the score at the end was 12-10 and the Second viewed the result as a nominal victory and ended the training season in a condition of wild triumph, parading around the field, singing and cheering, to their own delight and the amused approval of the school at large.
Dick emerged from the fracas with a damaged nose and several painful but unimportant contusions, and scarcely anyone else fared much better. The Second Team players were tattered and disfigured and gloried in their wounds. Altogether, it was a disreputable and motley bunch of vagabonds that gathered in the locker room after the trouble was over, and, having buried the hatchet, discussed the late unpleasantness in all its details and speculated as to its bearing on the big game. The coaches, for Mr. Driscoll had been assisted by two and sometimes three enthusiastic graduates during the past week, wore expressions of satisfaction, just such expressions, as “Short” Davis, confided to Dick, as the spectators doubtless wore in ancient Rome after a particularly gory entertainment in the arena! Dick accidentally heard one of the assistant coaches confide to another that “whether those chaps can lick Kenwood or not, Perry, they sure can fight!”
Perhaps some of the fighting mood remained with Dick after he had washed away the stains of battle and was on his way across to Sohmer in the deepening twilight. At all events, the theory serves as an explanation of what happened when, just outside the hall, Sandy Halden and another fellow encountered the returning gladiator.
“Behold the world-famed athlete!” declaimed Sandy, adding a laugh that was far more annoying than the words. His companion laughed, too, but somewhat embarrassedly. Dick scowled and pushed past toward the steps. But Sandy wasn’t through. “Hicksville’s Hero!” he went on grandiloquently. “He says so himself!”
What happened then was performed so quickly that Dick was nearly as surprised as Sandy. Sandy was prone on the grass well beyond the edge of the walk, his companion was a dozen yards away in flight and Dick was standing supreme on the first step at the entrance. Presumably Dick had pitched Sandy where he lay, but Dick had little recollection of having done so. Or of having regained the steps afterward. He had given way to a sudden and overmastering anger and had acted without conscious thought. Now, however, the anger was gone and in its place was a wholesome amusement.
“Better get off the grass, Halden,” he volunteered cheerfully. “That’s just been seeded there.”
Halden got off, but he didn’t resent the attack. Instead, he brushed himself silently and unnecessarily, avoiding a glance at Dick until he straightened up again. Then with a look so malevolent that Dick wondered at it, he said in a low voice that shook with passion: “All right, Bates! That settles you!”
Dick laughed, but not with much amusement. Somehow, the threat conveyed in the other’s tone precluded amusement, even though, as Dick reasoned a moment later, Halden had no power to harm him. Sandy turned and rejoined his waiting but discreet companion and went his way without further notice of his assailant. Dick, already ashamed of his fit of temper, went on upstairs. Fortunately, perhaps, none had seen the swift incident, and he was very glad of it. He didn’t say anything about it to Stanley although that youth was doubled up on the window-seat reading.
Dick had heard a good many gibes, generally good-natured, about his “heroism” and athletic fame, for the story of the happening at the movie house Saturday night had swiftly gone the rounds of the school, and had shown no resentment until Sandy Halden’s taunt. He had meant to keep his temper under any provocation, for the best way to banish ridicule is to laugh at it, but Sandy had somehow managed to touch him on the raw. Perhaps had he been less tired and less sore he would have treated Sandy’s taunt with the same smiling insouciance with which he had accepted others. For some undefined reason the incident bothered him all the rest of the evening, even during the blackboard lecture in the Trophy Room when his thoughts ought to have been given entirely to Coach Driscoll’s expositions. Afterwards he viewed that uneasiness as a premonition.
It was at eleven on Thursday that the blow fell. A hurry call led him from a Latin recitation to Coach Driscoll in the gymnasium office. The coach looked unusually solemn, Dick thought, as he pushed open the door and entered. Mr. Tasser, the physical director, was there as well, but he went out immediately, leaving his room to the coach and Dick.
“Sit down, Bates,” began Mr. Driscoll. “I’ve got rather an unpleasant matter to discuss, my boy.” He took a long white envelope from a pocket and from it produced two pieces of paper which he handed to Dick. “Ever see those before, Bates?” he asked.
Dick accepted them wonderingly. One was a fragment of letter paper, much creased, the other the lower right hand corner of an envelope, roughly matching the scrap of letter paper in shape, suggesting that the latter had been in the envelope when torn and that both had subsequently been crumpled up together. The fragment of envelope bore the words:
The envelope had been torn in such manner that the name of the addressee was lacking. Dick studied the two fragments in puzzlement. Then he handed them back.
“I’ve seen this before, sir,” he answered. “It’s the corner of a letter I wrote and didn’t send. This piece of envelope doesn’t belong with it. The writing is not mine and I never saw it before.”
Mr. Driscoll shot a sharp glance at the boy which Dick met unflinchingly. “You’re quite certain of that, Bates?” he asked.
Mr. Driscoll looked thoughtfully at the fragments in his hand. “These have every appearance of belonging together,” he objected. “You say, however, that this is not your writing on the envelope.”
“No, sir, it isn’t,” answered Dick positively. “You can see the difference yourself.”
“Perhaps, but frequently one unconsciously alters the appearance of his writing when addressing a letter. One uses rather more care in an effort toward legibility, Bates. At least, the two writings are much alike, aren’t they?”
“Yes, sir, in a general way. But I never make a capital K like that. I don’t think I could. And the A isn’t much like mine either.”
“I see. Now in this letter, Bates, there seems to have been a good deal about football. At the bottom here I read: ‘call this the Two-Over and use it only when other fellow is playing his backs well out.’ That refers, I presume, to the tackle-and-half-over play that we’ve been using in practice lately.”
“Who were you writing to Bates?”
“Sumner White, sir. He’s captain of our high school team at home.”
“And home is somewhere in Pennsylvania?”
“Leonardville. You see – ”
“One moment, please, Bates. Have you been in the habit of writing to this fellow White about our plays?”
“No, sir, not exactly. He asked me when I came away to tell him about anything new that he could use. There wasn’t much, though. I explained our defence for the ‘big shift’ and told him about a lateral pass and about this ‘two-over.’ I guess that’s all, sir. I suppose I shouldn’t have done it, but it never occurred to me that there was any harm in it. You see, Mr. Driscoll, the coach at home isn’t much. He doesn’t know about new stuff, and he just pegs away at the things folks used five years ago. And the teams we play – I mean that the High School plays – are pretty up-to-date. So I tried to help the fellows by telling them about anything I learned here that might be useful. I – I guess I oughtn’t to have, though.”
“No, you ought not to have done that, Bates,” agreed the coach gravely. “You see, you never can tell where a secret is going to land. It would seem safe to say that Kenwood would pay no attention to anything going on in a place like Leonardville, away off in Pennsylvania; would never hear of it. But suppose, for instance, some fellow in your town had a friend at Kenwood and wrote him that the local high school had a pretty nifty play and sent him a diagram of it.”
“I’m pretty sure there isn’t any fellow in Leonardville, though, like that, Mr. Driscoll.”ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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