Ralph Barbour.

Quarter-Back Bates





Dick turned to the alcove bedroom divided from the study by curtains. There were two single beds there, two dressers and two chairs, and a single window gave light. Also, on one of the beds was an open suit-case, its contents tumbling over onto the white counterpane. One battered end showed the initials S. G. Dick wondered if the S stood for Sam. Approaching footsteps in the corridor turned his eyes toward the door, but the steps stopped at a room across the way. There followed the sound of a bag dropped to the floor and then the opposite door banged shut. Dick, back in the study, viewed it without enthusiasm. It was smaller than he liked and the furniture, while there was plenty of it two small study tables, each under its own side-light, what he mentally dubbed a near-leather couch, two easy-chairs and two straight-backed chairs was very evidently far from new. There was a faded blue carpet-rug on the floor and a short window-seat occupied the embrasure that held the end window. The original colour-scheme had been brown and blue, but the deep tan cartridge paper had faded, as had the alcove curtains and the rug. Here and there, on the walls, a square or oblong of a deeper shade showed where a picture had hung.

Dick had left the hall door ajar and now he was aware of much noise and bustle throughout the building. Doors in the various corridors opened and shut, voices called, someone further along the hall was singing, while, outside, a taxi chugged before the entrance. Dick put his hat on and went out, passing several new arrivals on the way and exchanging with them swiftly appraising glances. The Administration Building stood only a few rods away and Dicks business was soon attended to, for only a half-dozen or so were before him. Having paid his term bill and inscribed his name on a card that was handed him, he was given a booklet containing the school regulations and general information, a receipt for his money and a ruled card on which to schedule his recitations. Beside the door was a bulletin board and he paused to read some of the notices posted there. There was a reception to new students that evening at the Principals residence, a half-year course in geometrical drawing would be conducted by Mr. McCreedy for First and Second Class students and those wishing to sign on should notify him by Saturday, Mr. Nolan would not be able to see students in his advisory capacity until Thursday, subscriptions to The Leader could be left at the office here or at the room of the publication, and so on. But the notice that interested Dick most ran as follows:

Candidates for the First Football Team should report on the field, dressed to play, not later than Wednesday. Attention is called to the school regulation requiring the candidate to pass a satisfactory physical examination before joining the squad.

Stearns Whipple, Mgr.

Outside, Dick pulled the booklet from his pocket and sought information regarding physical examinations.

He found a whole page on the subject. It was necessary, it appeared, to go to the Physical Directors office in the gymnasium and make application for an appointment. Students failing to keep appointments promptly were required to make new ones. There was much more, but that was sufficient for the present, and Dick made his way back along the road to the gymnasium. Inside, he had to take his place in a line of nearly a dozen boys, and progress toward the wicket, behind which a youth not much older than Dick supplied information or made out appointment cards, was slow. Eventually, though, Dick reached the window, made known his wants and was given a slip of pasteboard which informed him that the Physical Director would see him at five-fifteen on Wednesday. That was the day after tomorrow. It looked to Dick as if he could not report for football until he had been passed by the Physical Director and could not be passed by the director until it was too late to report for football! Perhaps, however, that notice in the Administration Building didnt mean quite what it said. He would ask someone when he found the chance.

With an hour remaining before supper time and nothing better to do, he wandered across to where a score of fellows were trotting about the gridiron or kicking and catching at the further end of it. That first uninterrupted sight of Parkinson Field greatly increased his respect for the school, and he paused at a corner of the big grand stand and admired. Nearly twelve acres of level turf stretched before him. There were three gridirons, that of the First Team enclosed by a quarter-mile track, as well as several baseball diamonds and numerous tennis courts, both dirt and grass. A handful of onlookers were scattered over the stand and another handful stood along the side-line. A stout, round-faced man in an old sweater and a pair of frayed trousers had Trainer written all over him, and since at the moment he was occupied only in juggling a football from one hand to the other, Dick decided to seek information of him.

My names Bates, announced Dick, and Im going to try for the team, but I understand that Ive got to take my physical examination first. Is that correct?

Billy Goode viewed him critically before he answered. Rather to Dicks surprise the trainer seemed not at all impressed by what he saw. You can report as soon as you like, he replied at last, but you cant play until youve been o. k.d, my friend. Whats your name?

Bates, answered Dick. He had already given it once, but perhaps the other hadnt caught it. Im from Leonardville High.

Uh-huh. Played, have you?

Yes. It seemed to Dick that any live, wide-awake football trainer should have been aware of the fact. Yes, Ive played quite a little.

Uh-huh. Well, you see the manager; hes around here somewhere, or he was; hell look after you. Chandler! Thatll do for today. Jog the track once and go on in. Billy Goode turned away to meet the remonstrances of a big, heavily-built youth who had been catching punts and returning them a little further along the field, leaving Dick a trifle ruffled. This was not just the sort of reception he had expected. Of course, it was understandable that the Philadelphia papers didnt penetrate to Warne, Massachusetts, in which case the trainer wouldnt have read of him, but it did seem that a fellow who had received offers from fourteen schools and colleges should have been heard of even in this corner of the world! Dick put the trainer down as a person of a low order of mentality.

He went into the stand and sat down there and watched the practice. Evidently most of the fellows at work were last year players, for they handled the ball in a knowing way that precluded their being beginners. No one who looked anything like a coach was on hand, but a dark-haired fellow of eighteen, perhaps, who appeared in command, was probably the captain. And a short, stocky, important-looking youth who had discarded his jacket and was wandering around in a very blue silk shirt was just as probably the manager. Dick didnt seek him, for there would be plenty of time to do that tomorrow. At intervals the trainer summoned one of the candidates and sent him off, usually prescribing a round of the running track first. Dick was glad he did not have to swallow that medicine today, for the weather was extremely warm and humid. He thought that the candidates averaged both heavier and older than he had expected, and he wondered if by any chance his lack of weight would be against him. One of the quarter-backs out there, chasing a squad about in signal drill, was, however, no bigger than he, and possibly no older. Dick guessed he neednt trouble about lack of weight. Quarters didnt have to be big in order to make good. Presently the practice ended and he followed the squad toward the gymnasium and then went back to Sohmer and climbed the slate stairway to the second floor.

He remembered having closed the door of Number 14 on going out, and since it now stood wide open it was fair to assume that the unknown S. G. had returned, and Dick entered the study eager, in spite of his seeming indifference, to find out what Fate, in the shape of the school office, had assigned to him as a room-mate.

CHAPTER III
ROOM-MATES

The appearance of the study seemed to have been changed in his absence, and Dicks second glance showed that the change was in the shape of several pictures on the wall, some books on one of the study tables and a large packing case in the centre of the floor from which emerged the corner of a brilliant blue cushion and the lower half of a boy. While Dick looked the rest of the youth emerged slowly until at last, somewhat flushed of face, he stood entirely revealed, clutching triumphantly a pair of battered running shoes. At that moment his eyes fell on Dick and a surprised and very pleasant smile came to his face. He tossed the shoes to the floor, dusted his hands by a simple expedient of rubbing them on his trousers, and nodded, stepping around a corner of the big box.

Hello! he said. I suppose youre Bates. My names Gard.

He held out a hand and Dick took it as he answered: Yes. Glad to meet you. Were in here together, I take it.

Gard nodded. Yes. I got here this noon and helped myself to a desk, but Im not particular which I have. Same about the beds. We can toss up, if you like.

It doesnt matter to me, Dick replied. Suppose you take the first choice of a desk and Ill take the bed I want. That suit?

Sure. Gard was looking at Dick with frank interest, leaning against the packing case, his arms, on which he had rolled up the sleeves of a good-looking shirt, folded. Yes, thats fair enough. I took that desk because it happened to be nearest the box, and Ill keep it.

Dick laid his hat down and seated himself on the window-seat.

Its smaller than I thought it would be, he said, looking about the study.

Oh, big enough, isnt it? It is one of the small ones, though. Some of the rooms on the front are corkers, Bates. I couldnt afford one of those, though, and this is a lot better than the room I had last year in Goss.

Then you youre not a new fellow?

Gard shook his head. This is my second year. Im in the Third Class. Are you?

Yes. I think I could have passed for the Fourth, but I guess Id had to work mighty hard to keep up, and I want to play football, you see. So

Of course! Theres no sense rushing through things too much, Bates. If youd gone into the Fourth youd have been through just when you were beginning to like the school. You will like it, Im sure.

I expect to. I had a brother here five or six years ago, and hes always cracked it up high.

That so? Gard pulled the blue cushion from the box and tossed it across the room. Put that behind you. Guess Ill leave the rest of this truck until after supper. He seated himself in one of the easy chairs and stretched a pair of rather long legs across the carpet. Lets get acquainted, he added, smiling.

Dick liked that smile and answered it. But for a moment neither followed the suggestion. Gard was looking critically at the pictures he had hung, and Dick had a good chance to size him up. His room-mate was a bit taller than Dick, with rather a loose-jointed way of moving. He didnt look exactly thin, but there certainly wasnt any excess flesh about him. The running shoes suggested that he was a track athlete, and Dick surmised that he was a good one. You couldnt call Gard handsome; perhaps he wasnt even good-looking in the general acceptance of the word; but Dick liked his face none the less. The forehead was high and the lightish hair of a rather indeterminate shade of brown was brushed straight back from it. That happened to be a style of wearing the hair that Dick had always objected to, but he had to own that the fashion suited Gard very well. It emphasised the lean length of the face and added to the sharp, hawk-like appearance produced by a curved beak of a nose, thin and pointed, and the narrow jaws. But if Gard reminded Dick of a hawk, it was a gentle and kindly one, for the mouth was good-natured and the eyes, darkly grey, were soft and honest. Gard wore good clothes with no suggestion of extravagance. In age he was fully seventeen, perhaps a year more. He moved his gaze from the wall and it met Dicks. Involuntarily both boys smiled. Then each began to speak at once, stopped simultaneously and laughed.

You say it, said Gard.

I was going to ask if you were a runner.

Im a hurdler. Ive tried the sprints, but Im only as good as a dozen others. Sometimes I double in the broad-jump if we need the points. You look as if you might be fast on the track, Bates. By the way, whats the rest of your name?

Richard C. The Cs for Corliss.

That means Dick, doesnt it?

Surely, laughed the other.

All right. Mines Stanley; usually abbreviated to Stan. Have you ever done any running, Dick?

Yes, Ive done some sprinting. Whats the hundred-yards record here?

A fifth. It hasnt been bettered in years.

Thats a fifth better than I can do.

Same here. I tried often enough, too, but I only did it once, and that was in practice, with a hard wind at my back. You play football, you said?

Yes, do you?

Stanley shook his head. Too strenuous for me. I like baseball pretty well, but it interferes with track work. Guess were going to have a corking good eleven this year, and I hope youll make it, Dick.

Thanks. I may. The fellows look a bit older and bigger than I expected they would, though.

Well, they say you have a good deal of fun on the Second Team, if you dont make the first. And next year youll probably be a lot heavier. I dont know many of the football crowd, or Id take you around and introduce you. I wonder if Blash would do you any good.

Who is he?

Wallace Blashingtons his full name. He plays tackle on the team; right, I think. He might be a good fellow for you to know if Stanleys voice trailed into silence.

If what? prompted Dick.

Well, Blash is a queer customer. Hes really a corking chap, but doesnt take to many fellows. Thats no insult to you, Dick. He hes just funny that way. And hes the sort that wont do a thing if he thinks youre trying to pull his leg. Blash hated me well, no, he didnt hate me; he didnt take the trouble to do that; but he certainly had no use for me the first of last year. We get along all right now, though.

What happened? To make him change his mind, I mean.

That was sort of funny. Stanley smiled reminiscently. We had some scrub skating races last winter on the river and Blash and I were entered in the two-mile event. There were about twenty starters altogether, but we had them shaken at the beginning of the last lap and Blash and I hung on to each other all the way up the river to the finish. I just managed to nose him out at the line, and he was a bit peeved, I guess. He didnt let on, but he was. So, a little while later, when we were watching the other events, he came over where I was and said: I believe I could beat you another time, Gard. Well, perhaps you could, I answered. Maybe youll have a chance to find out. I wasnt cross, but I thought it was a bit unnecessary, if you see what I mean. Wouldnt care to try it now, I suppose? he said. I told him I was tired out, but Id race him if he liked as soon as the programme was finished. Oh, never mind the rest of it, he said. Were both through. Say we skate down the river a ways and settle the question by ourselves. So we did. We went about a mile down, beyond the flag, and Blash said wed skate a mile down and a mile back, and that wed turn at the old coal wharf. So we went off together, Blash trying to make me set the pace. But I wouldnt and so we lagged along abreast for half a mile or so. Then Blash laughed and spurted and I went after him and we had it nip and tuck all the way to the wharf. Coming back there was a wind blowing down on us and we had harder work. Blash was a half-dozen yards ahead and when we came to a turn in the river he stayed along the bank, thinking hed be more out of the wind. That seemed good sense and I hugged in close behind him. Then, first thing I knew, the ice went crack, and down went Blash. I managed to swerve out and get by, but of course I had to go back and see if he was all right.

He was about ten feet from shore, flapping around in a little squarish hole hed made for himself. I asked him if he could break the ice and get ashore and he said he couldnt, that it was too thick to break with his hands. So I laid down on the ice and crawled over to him, and he got hold of my hands and I had him pretty nearly out when the crazy ice broke again and we were both in there! In fact, I went down so far that I came up under the ice and Blash had to pull me out to the hole. By that time we were both laughing so we could hardly keep our heads out. The water was just over our depth and the ice was too hard to break with our hands, and we didnt have anything else until I thought of using a skate. That meant getting boot and all off, and Blash sort of held me up while I tried to untie the laces and everything. We were getting pretty stiff with the cold by then, Blash especially, but I finally managed to get one boot off and began hacking at the ice with the skate blade. It was slow work until I had chopped off about a yard. Then we got our toes on the bottom and after that it was easy and we crawled out. I wanted to beat it back to school as fast as I could, but Blash said that wed catch cold and have pneumonia and die. He said the best thing to do was light a fire. Of course, I thought he was joking, but he pulled out one of those patent water-proof match-safes and if youll believe it the matches were perfectly dry!

But the awful thing was that there were only two matches there! However, we got a lot of wood together and some dry marsh grass and twigs, and all this and that, and I kept the wind off, and we made the second match do the trick. In about two minutes we had a dandy hot fire going, took off our outer things and hung them around and we sat there with our backs to the mud bank and steamed. I dont believe any fire ever felt as good as that one did, Dick! Well, thats all of it. Just before dark, we started back and we never told anyone about falling into the river for months afterwards. We never found out which is the best two-mile skater, but we did a lot of chinning and got to know each other, and since then Blash and I have been quite pally.

Quite an adventure, said Dick. Its a wonder you didnt catch cold, though.

Stanley laughed. We did! For a week we were both sneezing and snuffling horribly. Tell you what, Dick. If you havent got anything better to do, we might go over and see Blash after supper. I guess this truck can wait until tomorrow. Only dont say anything about football to him. If you do he will think I brought you over on purpose, so as to well, you see what I mean.

Yes, I see. He might think I was swiping, Dick laughed. But, look here, Stan, what could he do, anyway? A fellow has got to make his own way, hasnt he?

Why, yes, I suppose so. But it does help somehow to know the crowd if youre going in for football. At least, it does with making the track team. I dont mean that theres favouritism, but oh, I suppose if you happen to know a fellow and know that hes all right, you just naturally take a bit more interest in him. Thats the way I figure it out, anyway.

Yes, but suppose this fellow Blash er

Blashington. Quite a mouthful, isnt it?

Suppose he asks me if I play football? Then what?

Oh, just say you do and change the subject. By Jupiter, Dick, its ten after six! Lets beat it over and get some supper. Say, if you see the steward tonight maybe you can get at my table, if youd like to. Tell him youve got friends there. Its Number 9. You can sit there tonight, anyway, for Eatons not back yet, and you can have his place. Know where the lavatory is? Got any towels? Here, take one of mine. Your trunk wont get up until morning, probably. They have so many of them that they cant begin to handle them all today. If you need anything let me know and Ill dig it out of the box for you.

Ive got everything I want in my bag, I think. Much obliged just the same, Stan.

Five minutes later the new friends closed the door of Number 14 and made their way along The Front, as the brick walk leading from side to side of the campus was called. Stanley named the buildings for Dick as they went along: the gymnasium, then Goss Hall, Parkinson, Williams and Alumni. Their journey ended there, but there was still another dormitory nearby, Leonard, and, beyond that, the residence of the Principal. Dick nodded, but it was food he was thinking of just then.





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