Ralph Barbour.

Quarter-Back Bates





Oh, go to the dickens, muttered Dick. You make me tired. Then, after a moment, he added: Maybe that was cheeky, Stan. Im sorry. Guess Ive had it too easy.

Thats all right, son. Its just as well to know where we stand, though. Any other little thing I can do for you?

Yes, you can close your silly mouth, was the answer.

By Saturday Dick felt almost like an old boy. His courses promised to be only mildly difficult, and the instructors seemed a very decent lot, notably Old Addicks who knew so much of ancient languages that he looked like an elderly, benignant Greek philosopher, and Mr. McCreedy, who taught mathematics. Through Stanley he met a great many of the fellows, and he picked up a few acquaintances himself. Of these latter, one was Rusty Crozier. He was a Fourth Class fellow who preferred to live in the town, and occupied two comfortable rooms in a house on Maple Street, just below the school. He was a jolly, light-hearted chap with a perpetual smile and hair of that peculiar shade of red that we associate with rusted iron: hence his nick-name. Dick met him in classroom. Rusty borrowed Dicks fountain pen for a minute. After class they came together in the corridor and walked a little way along The Front. That began it. When Dick asked Stanley if he knew Crozier, Stanley nodded.

Everyone knows Rusty, he said. But if you want to tread the straight and narrow, Dick, keep away from him.

What do you mean? Isnt he all right?

Oh, yes, Rustys all right. That is, theres nothing vicious about him. In fact, hes a very decent, very clean fellow. But hes gifted with a talent for discovering trouble. And a talent for squirming out of it! If he wasnt hed have left Parkinson long ago. Id say that Rustys trouble was an over-developed sense of humor.

I rather liked him, mused Dick.

You would. So do I. Everyone likes Rusty. But wise guys say him nay when he suggests one of his innocent amusements. It was Rusty who closed traffic on Main Street in the middle of a busy Saturday one day last year, only faculty doesnt know it.

Did what? asked Dick.

He borrowed two carpenters horses and a sign and placed em across the middle of Main Street, near School, about one oclock one day last spring. He found the sign somewhere, I dont know where. It said Street Closed by Order of Selectmen. Then he went over and stood in Wileys drug store and watched the fun. It was almost an hour before they discovered that it was a hoax. The paper was full of it, and the selectmen made an awful rumpus, but everyone else thought it was a pretty good joke.

And he wasnt found out!

No. At least a score of people must have seen him set the barrier up, but no two of them agreed as to what he looked like. Some said he was a labourer in blue overalls, and others said he was a tall man with whiskers, and so on. Thats just one of Rustys innocent ways of amusing himself.

But doesnt he ever get caught? asked Dick incredulously.

Oh, yes, heaps of times, but he always manages somehow to show that he was actuated by good intentions or that circumstances worked against him.

Like the time he dropped the parlour match heads all over the floor in Room G and every time anyone put his foot down, one of the things went pop! He showed Jud the hole in his pocket where the things had fallen out. If it hadnt been for the hole, he claimed, it wouldnt have happened. He got off with a months probation, I think.

Dick laughed. He must be a cut-up! Well, Ill keep away from him when he feels frolicsome.

Trouble is, said Stanley, you never can tell when Rusty is going to spring something. He smiled and then chuckled. Three or four of us walked over to Princeville two years ago to the circus. It was one of those little one-ring affairs, you know, with a mangey camel, and a moth-eaten lion and a troop of trained dogs. It was rather fun. Rusty was one of us, and he was as quiet as a mouse until near the end. Then he began flicking peanuts at the ring master. We tried to stop him, but he wouldnt quit. Every time the ring master turned his back, Rusty would land a peanut on him, and the crowd got to laughing and gave it away. So they hustled us all out, and we didnt see the performing dogs. Has he asked you over to his room at Spooners?

Yes, said Dick, suspiciously. Is there any trick in that?

Oh, no, answered Stanley, smilingly. He has very jolly quarters. If you like well go over together some evening.

All right. Only I dont like that catfish grin of yours. I suppose he has a trick staircase that folds up and lets you down in a heap or something?

No. Rustys fun is pretty harmless. Well wander over there tonight if you like.

Well, but Im going to keep my eyes open just the same, Dick laughed Youre too anxious to go along, Stan!

That afternoon Dick found a letter in the rack downstairs. It bore the Warne postmark, and was addressed to him in a very dashing hand: Richard C. Bates, Esq., Sohmer Hall, Parkinson School, Town. Wondering, Dick opened the envelope. Within was an oblong of pasteboard punched with three holes of varying sizes. In one of the holes was an ancient looking cent so badly corroded that it was hard to read the lettering. Dicks thoughts naturally fell on Rusty Crozier, although what the joke meant, he couldnt make out. But he smiled and dropped the coin in a waistcoat pocket, and presently forgot about it. Returning from football practice at five, however, he found another missive awaiting him. The envelope was different and the writing different, but there was just such another coin-card within and in the card was a second penny. This one was bright enough, but it had been badly bent. Dick, puzzled, added the second coin to the first, resolved to find out the meaning of the prank that evening.

He and Stanley went across the campus and down Maple Street about eight. Spooners was a large, square house standing almost flush with the sidewalk. Like many of the residences thereabouts, its upper floors were tenanted by students unable or disinclined to secure rooms on the campus. Stanley pulled open a squeaky screen door and entered. At the foot of the staircase, he paused and lifted his voice.

Oh, Rusty! he shouted. Rusty-y-y!

Somewhere above a door opened and a voice answered.

A-a-ay! Come up!

Stanley led the way again up two flights, and then to a door at the front of the house. Oddly enough, it was closed tightly, which fact, since it had been opened a moment before, struck Dick as peculiar. Stanley knocked and a voice called Come in! Somehow Stanley managed to get behind Dick, and it was Dick who turned the knob and pressed the door inward. The next instant he was precipitated into a glare of light. The knob had jerked itself out of his hand, and something he supposed at the moment the something to have been Stanley had banged against his heels and pushed him violently into the room. He stopped to find himself asprawl over an armchair with a placard bearing the word WELCOME a few inches from his nose.

Good evening, said Rusty amiably from across the room.

Hello, gasped Dick. Then he looked back at the door for Stanley. Stanley was not there. But at the instant the door opened again and Stanley appeared. He was grinning broadly, but Dick was too much interested in the door to see it. The door was not opening like any door Dick had ever seen. In the first place it was turning on pivots at top and bottom, half of it coming in, and half of it going out, so that the aperture for entrance was scarcely wider than Stanley. In the second place, Stanley was holding hard to that knob and being fairly dragged through, for above the sill and below the lintel was a coiled spring that, so soon as the knob was turned, swung the door swiftly on its axis from left to right. Dick stared in surprise.

Just a little idea of my own, Bates, said Rusty, coming forward and removing the placard from the back of the chair to a place on the wall. Have a chair.

Dick looked from the proffered chair to Rusty and then to Stanley and shook his head. No, thanks, he muttered. Ill stand!

However, Stanley assured him on oath that the chair was quite safe and wouldnt double up under him and he consented to try it, although not without anxiety. But he was up again a moment later, demanding to be shown the working of the amazing door.

Quite simple, laughed Rusty. First I unlock it, thus. Then I stand clear of it. Then the unsuspecting visitor outside turns the knob. He turned it from the inside, stepping quickly out of the way, and the door leaped open, swung once around and stopped as the latch snapped again into its socket. Thats all there is to it. I place the cushioned chair here to receive the caller and place the Welcome sign where he will be sure to see it. Most all the fellows know about it now, though, and I have to rely on newcomers like you, Bates, for a bit of fun. He locked the portal again.

Well, but but suppose you want to go out? asked Dick.

I go out the other door. Rusty indicated the adjoining bedroom. In fact, he added with a twinkle, I seldom use this entrance myself. I keep it locked until I am expecting a distinguished visitor.

Still, I dont see how you knew I was with Stan, Dick objected.

Youll have to ask Stan about that, laughed Rusty.

I told him, explained Stanley, grinning.

Oh! Then thats why you were so anxious to come with me. Dick fixed his room-mate with an accusing eye. All right. Ill get even with you, old son, if it takes my last if it takes my last two pennies! He looked quickly at Rusty, but there was nothing to show that the latter had grasped the allusion. Maybe, continued Dick, youd like to see them. He fished the two cents from his pocket and held them forth. Stanley viewed them interestedly and so did Rusty.

Whats the idea? asked the former. Do you mean that youre down to those? Stony broke, Dick?

Rustys innocent, uncomprehending expression remained and Dick began to think his suspicions wrong. No, those are just just pocket-pieces, he answered flatly.

Wouldnt be very useful to you in a pinch, observed his host. Well, find seats, fellows. Hope you didnt mind the reception, Bates. But I guess you didnt. You look like a fellow who can take a joke.

No, I didnt mind, said Dick. Guess I was too surprised to mind! He looked about the room. This is pretty comfortable, Crozier.

Not bad. Ive had these rooms ever since my first year. Got two nice windows in front and one on the side there, and two more in the bedroom. Mrs. Spooner is a corking old soul, and doesnt mind a bit of noise now and then.

Stanley chuckled, and when Dick looked across inquiringly he explained. Mrs. Spooners as deaf as a haddock, Dick. If she wasnt she couldnt live in the same house with Rusty!

Run away! Im not noisy. Sometimes my guests are, but I do all I can to restrain them. Haynes gives me more trouble than Mrs. S. He has the room under this on the floor below, Bates, and insists on studying at the times I feel playful. There are four other fellows in the house and you couldnt pry any of us loose. You chaps can have your dormitory rooms. I dont want them, thanks.

Do you take your meals here? Dick inquired.

No, Mrs. S. doesnt give meals. She used to, but that was before my time. I eat around. Usually at The Eggery. Sometimes at Thachers. Stan says youre out for the football team. Going to make it all right?

I dont know, Im sure. Im going to try to. Do you are you

No, Im not athletic, Bates. My favourite sport is mumblepeg. Besides, my studies prevent. Oh, shut up, Stan! Let me make a good impression on Bates, cant you? What time is it, anyway? Look here, lets go to the movies. What do you say?

Not for me, answered Stanley. Ive got to beat it back and do some work tonight. Besides, the last time

Oh, that! laughed Rusty. Wasnt it silly? Such a fuss about so little, eh?

Oh, yes, very little! Stanley turned to Dick. He and Blash stretched a rope across the aisle and tied it to the arms of the seats ahead of them. Being fairly dark, some confusion ensued!

During which, if I remember correctly, you and Joe and Blash sneaked out. Just shows what a guilty conscience will do, Bates. I remained, secure in my innocence, and saw the show through.

Yes, you rotter! said Stan indignantly. You put the blame on us, and every time I go there now the doorman looks at me unkindly.

Well, you were out of the way and I wasnt. Besides, I wanted to see the rest of the picture.

Rusty, if you got your deserts, said Stanley, feelingly, youd be shot at sunrise. Well, I must beat it. Coming along, Dick?

Dick went, in spite of Rustys pleas. They left by way of the bedroom and Dick watched the hall door very, very carefully. It proved to be a perfectly normal door, however. Rusty told Dick to call again and held conversation with them over the banister until they had reached the street door, while from a second floor room came howls of Shut up, Rusty! Shu-u-ut u-u-up!

Its only Haynes, called Rusty reassuringly. Dont mind the poor fish. Come again, fellows! Good night!

In the letter rack in Sohmer was another envelope addressed to Dick and within was a third penny.

CHAPTER VI
DICK MAKES AN ENEMY

That was on Friday. The next afternoon Parkinson played her first game, with Mapleton School. Mapleton had started the Parkinson schedule for several years, invariably providing just the amount of fight desired, and today was no exception to the established rule. Four ten-minute periods were played and Parkinson managed to run up seventeen points. It was a slow and uninteresting game from the spectators standpoint, and the afternoon was scorchingly hot for the last of September. Babe Upton, who weighed well over a hundred and eighty and played centre, affirmed afterwards that he could feel himself melting away like a candle. Indeed, although none of the team was allowed to remain in the contest for more than two periods, there were many who found it hard medicine. Dick, who as a member of the squad was supposed to look on and learn, watched the game from the Parkinson bench and sweltered uncomplainingly for the better part of an hour and a half. Naturally enough, his interest concentrated itself on Stone and, later, Cardin, the quarter-backs. He secretly thought that Cardin, with sufficient instruction, could be developed into a better quarter than Gus Stone, for Cardin was a quick, gingery youngster who drove his team hard, while Stone, although more experienced and heavier, had a tendency to go to sleep on his feet, and the plays always dragged just when they should have been run off at top speed. A third candidate, a thin ramrod of a youth, was tried out for a few minutes just at the end of the game. A neighbour told Dick that his name was Pryne, adding facetiously that it ought to be Prune. Pryne had scant opportunity to show whether he deserved the latter appellation, however.

When Mapleton had gone away and the stands had practically emptied, the members of the squad who had taken no part in the game were called out for an hours work. Coach Driscoll did not remain, and the job fell to Harry Warden, who because of a weak ankle had been out of his place at left half on the team that afternoon. By some chance the running of one of the three makeshift teams fell to Dick, and, with a few of the candidates who had failed to get placed on the squads following, he started off. The simplest sort of plays were being taught, straight line bucks and runs, outside ends and a rudimentary set of signals was used. At first the men moved hardly faster than a walk. Then, having presumably learned their duties, they were allowed to trot. It seemed to Dick that he was burdened with the stupidest aggregation on the field, and one of the backs, a shock-haired, long-nosed youth named Halden, outdid them all. No matter how many times Halden was walked through a play, the instant speed was called for he forgot all he had learned. Finally, after he had gummed up a simple two-man attack on left guard for the third time, Dicks exasperation found voice.

You! Eight half! What good do you think you are? Youre supposed to go in there and clear out that hole, and instead of that you let the runner ahead of you and then walk all over his heels! Cant you understand that play? Dont you get the signal, or whats your trouble?

I thought full-back went ahead, grumbled Halden.

You thought! Great guns, havent you been through that play often enough? Come on, now! Try to get it right this time.

Halden did get it right, but the effort so unnerved him that he stopped as soon as he was clear of the line and the full-back ran into him.

All right as far you got, commented Dick, bitterly, but theres supposed to be an opposing line in front of you, Halden. Keep on going! Here, well switch that play to the other side and you watch how its done. This time the right half cleared the hole on his own side and the full-back, ball hugged to his stomach, plunged after him. Get it? asked Dick of Halden.

Sure, growled the left half.

Well, try it then. All right! 7 15 18 7

Halden started off much too soon, beating the signal by a yard, and a trickle of laughter arose from the squad. Fine! called Dick. Thats great work, Halden! But its usual to wait until the ball is snapped! Here, you drop out and let someone else in here for a while.

Youre not running this, objected Halden, angrily.

Im running this squad, and I dont intend to waste everyones time trying to drive a simple idea into that concrete dome of yours! Dick turned to the followers. Any of you fellows play half? he asked.

A volunteer stepped forward and Halden, muttering and angry, dropped back. It was at that instant that Dick noted the presence of Warden. If he had known the Varsity man was there, he might have been slower in assuming authority, but, having begun, he kept on with it. All right. Left half, please. Now then, fellows, lets get going again. Mind the signals!

Of course when he called on right half to take the ball on a run outside, tackle one or two made the mistake of supposing it was the unsuccessful play that was called for and acted accordingly, but that was to be expected. I told you to mind signals, scolded Dick. Dont try to guess whats coming. Listen to me! When the goal line was reached and they swung around for a trip back up the field, Dick saw that Warden had taken himself off again and was somewhat relieved. He had more than half expected a calling-down for sending Halden out. Toward the end of the signal drill the squad worked fairly well, although Dick persisted in the belief that he had fallen heir to the most stupid bunch on the field. When dismissal came they trooped over to the benches to get sweaters, and as Dick pulled his on he heard Haldens voice at his shoulder.

Next time you bawl me out like that Ill hand you a punch on the nose, growled the half-back candidate. You wouldnt have done it if that big fellow hadnt been there!

Dicks head emerged from his sweater and he viewed Halden coldly. Son, he said in as low a voice as the others, if you try any tricks with me Ill hurt you badly. And any time Im playing quarter where you are and you dont show any more intelligence than you did today, youre going to get roasted. You make the most of that, Halden!

You try it! hissed the other like a villain in a melodrama. You think youre somebody, dont you? Well, youll get yours if you try to make a goat of me!

Oh, piffle! said Dick disgustedly, elbowing away. Keep your temper if you want to play football.

Yes, and Ill be playing football when youre kicked off, answered the other.

Dick shrugged and went his way, Halden following gloweringly to the gymnasium. In the locker room, Harry Warden crossed over and seated himself beside Dick on the bench in front of his locker. Say, Bates, he began, youve done that sort of thing before, havent you?

What sort of thing? asked Dick, a twinkle in his eye. Fired a fellow off the squad without authority?

Wardens sober countenance showed the faintest ghost of a smile: or perhaps it was only the eyes that smiled. I meant run off signals. I thought you showed a good deal of familiarity with the job.

Why, yes, Ive done it before, quite often. Ive played three years, two of them on my high school team. We all had to take hold and coach at times, Warden. Our real coach couldnt give us a great deal of time. He worked in a hardware store, you see, and his boss didnt care a great deal about football. Dick smiled. We couldnt pay him anything and he couldnt afford to lose his job.

What school was that? asked Warden.

Leonardville, Pennsylvania, High. Dick watched to see if the information aroused recollection. It didnt. Evidently Fame didnt travel into New England.





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