Quarter-Back BatesŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
ďYou played quarter-back?Ē Dick nodded. ďHm.Ē Warden rubbed a cheek reflectively. ďWhatís your weight?Ē
ďYou look lighter. Thatís your build, though. I liked the way you handled that bunch of dubs today, Bates. Ever done much punting?Ē
ďNot very much. We had a full-back who was pretty nifty at that. Iíve done some drop-kicking, though.Ē
ďCan you do two out of three from the thirty yards?Ē
ďYes, if the angle isnít too wide.Ē
Warden got up. ďI wouldnít be surprised, Bates, if Driscoll took you onto the first squad some day soon. Keep on the way youíre going, will you? Letís see if we canít prove him wrong. You know, Driscoll insists that you canít make a prep-school player from a high-school fellow. He says they always know too much. Think itís that way with you?Ē
Dick looked haughty for an instant. Then he smiled. ďWhy, I donít believe so, Warden. Thatís a funny idea of his, though.Ē
ďHe says heís never had much success with high-school fellows,Ē said Warden thoughtfully. ďI know what he means, too. Maybe you wouldnít notice it, Bates, but itís a fact that most chaps who show up here from high schools have mighty good opinions of themselves. Half the time theyíve been captains of their teams, you know, or crack half-backs or quarters, and they donít take kindly to new ways and hate being told anything. I know two or three cases myself. By the way, you werenít captain, were you?Ē
ďNo.Ē Dick didnít explain that he might have been had he remained in Leonardville! ďI would say, though, that it depended on the fellow, Warden, and not on the fact that heíd been playing with some high-school team.Ē
ďYes, maybe. Well, see you again, Bates. And, by the way, you did just right to drop that chap this afternoon. So long.Ē
When he had gone Dick sat and nursed one bare foot for several minutes and wondered what Wardenís interest portended. He felt rather cheered-up when he finally went on with dressing himself. Wardenís remark about Coach Corliss and the first squad sounded good to him.
PAGING MR. BLASHINGTON
There were two more pennies awaiting him on the letter rack, each enclosed in a business envelope. One envelope bore the inscription, ďAfter Five Days Return to The Warne Gas and Electric Company, Warne, Mass.,Ē and the other purported to have come from the ďStevens Machine Company.Ē But the handwriting was suspiciously the same on each envelope. Upstairs, Dick handed the two to Stanley and told about receiving the previous three pennies. For a moment Stanley seemed as puzzled as Dick. Then, however, a smile spread itself slowly over his face and he chuckled.
ďAnybody owe you any money?Ē he asked.
ďNot that I know Ė Ē began Dick. Then comprehension dawned. ďBy Jove! You mean Blashington?Ē
ďOf course. Itís just the crazy sort of thing heíd do. He owed you twelve and a half cents, didnít he? Well, heís paying his debt.
But where he manages to get hold of all these bum pennies is beyond me. There isnít one of the five, Dick, that you could pass on anyone but a blind man!Ē
ďWell, itís putting him to a lot of trouble, Iíll bet,Ē said Dick grimly. ďIf he can stand it I can. Funny, though, I didnít think of him. I thought yesterday it was Rusty Crozier. Thatís why I showed them to you last night. Crazy ape!Ē
ďHand me a scrap of paper and a pencil, Dick. Anything will do. Thanks.Ē Stanley wrote a few lines, folded the paper many times and handed it back. ďJust for fun, Dick, when Blash has made his last payment, you read what Iíve written there,Ē he directed.
ďGee, youíre as bad as he is for silly jokes,Ē grumbled Dick. But he opened the drawer in his desk and dropped the paper inside. ďAnd that reminds me that I ran across another crazy idiot this afternoon. His nameís Halden. He wanted to punch me because I called him down for balling up a play in signal drill. Know him?Ē
ďSanford Halden?Ē Stanley nodded. ďKnow who he is, yes. Heís a sort of a nut. Goes in for everything and never lands. Used to think he was a pole-vaulter. Then he tried the sprints and Ė well, I guess heís had a go at about everything. The only thing I ever heard of his doing half-way well is basket-ball. I believe heís fairly good at that. Usually gets fired, though, for scrapping. They call him Sandy. Heís a Fourth Class fellow.Ē
ďIs he? I thought he was probably Third. He must be older than he looks then.Ē
ďI guess heís only seventeen,Ē said Stanley. ďHeís smart at studies. Heís one of the kind who always knows what heís going to be asked and always has the answer. Itís a gift, Dick.Ē And Stanley sighed.
ďHeís going to have another gift,Ē laughed Dick, ďif he gets fresh with me! Talk about your stupids! He was the limit today. Had hold up the whole squad while he was being taught the simplest play there is. Then he had the cheek to threaten to punch my nose! I hope they let me run a squad tomorrow and put him on it!Ē
ďCalm yourself, Dickie. Haldenís a joke. Donít let him bother you. Letís go to supper. Donít forget this is movie night.Ē
Going to the movies was a regular Saturday night event at Parkinson and usually a good half of the school was to be found at one or the other of the two small theatres in the village. Tonight, perhaps because of the heat, the stream that trickled across the campus to the head of School Street as soon as supper was finished was smaller than usual, and Dick and Stanley, Blash and his room-mate, Sid Crocker, commented on the fact as they started off.
ďThe trouble is,Ē hazarded Sid, ďthey donít have the right sort of pictures. Gee, they havenít shown Bill Hart since íway last winter!Ē
ďHow do you know! They may have had a Hart picture while weíve been away. What I kick about is this educational stuff. I suppose it doesnít cost them much, but Iím dead tired of Niagara Falls from an airplane and gathering rubber in Brazil Ė or wherever they do gather it Ė and all that trash.Ē Blash shook his head disgustedly. ďHope theyíll have a real, corking-good serial this year. Nothing like a good serial to keep a fellow young and zippy.Ē
ďThey give us too much society drool,Ē said Stanley. ďPictures about Lord Blitherington losing the old castle and his string of hunters and going to America and stumbling on a gold mine and going home again and swatting the villain and rescuing the heroine just as sheís going to marry the old guy with the mutton-chop whiskers. I wish theyíd let her marry him sometimes. Guess it would serve her right!Ē
ďWell, theyíve got a pretty good bill at the Temple tonight,Ē said Dick. ďThat Western picture looks great.Ē
ďYes, but whoís this guy thatís in it?Ē demanded Sid suspiciously. ďWho ever heard of him before?Ē
ďEveryone but you, you old grouch,Ē Blash assured him sweetly. ďCome on or weíll have to stand up until the first pictureís over.Ē
Adams Street was quite a busy scene on a Saturday night, for the stores kept open and the residents of a half-dozen neighbouring hamlets came in to do the weekís buying. While they were making their way through the leisurely throng Sid had a fleeting vision of Rusty Crozier, or thought he had. Stanley said it was quite likely, as Rusty was a great movie ďfan.Ē Then they were part of the jam in the entrance of the Scenic Temple, and Blash, because of superior height, had been commissioned to fight his way to the ticket window. Followed a scurry down a darkened aisle and the eventual discovery of three seats together and one in the row behind. Blash volunteered for the single one and since it was directly behind the seat occupied by Dick the latter subsequently shared with Stanley the benefit of Blashís observations and criticisms. A news weekly was on the screen when they arrived, and Blash had little to say of the pictured events, but when Episode 17 of ďThe Face in the MoonlightĒ began he became most voluble. Stanley kept telling him to shut up, but Dick, who didnít find the serial very enthralling, rather enjoyed Blashís absurdities. A comedy followed and then came a Western melodrama with a hero who took remarkable chances on horseback and a heroine who had a perfect passion for getting into trouble. There were numerous picturesque cow-boys and Mexicans and a villain who, so Blash declared delightedly, was the ďdead spitĒ of Mr. Hale, the instructor in physics. Just when the picture was at its most absorbing stage the piano ceased abruptly and after an instant of startling silence a voice was heard.
ďIs Mr. Wallace Blashington in the house? Mr. Wallace Blashington is wanted at the telephone!Ē
The piano began again and the usher, a dimly seen figure down front, retreated up the aisle like a shadow. The three boys in front turned to Blash excitedly.
ďWhat is it, Blash?Ē asked Sid.
ďBetter go see,Ē counselled Stanley.
ďAre you sure he said me?Ē whispered Blash. He sounded rather nervous.
ďOf course he did! Beat it, you idiot! Come back if you can. Ask the man next you to hold your seat, Blash.Ē
ďWe-ell Ė but I donít see Ė Ē muttered Blash. Then he got up, dropped his cap, groped for it and found it and pushed his way past a long line of feet, stepping on most of them. At the back of the theatre an usher conducted him to the ticket booth and he picked up the telephone receiver.
ďHello!Ē he said. ďHello! This is Blashington!Ē
ďHello! Is that you, Mr. Blashington?Ē asked a faint voice from what seemed hundreds of miles away.
ďYes. Who is talking?Ē
ďMr. Wallace Blashington?Ē
ďYes! Who Ė Ē
ďOf Parkinson School?Ē
ďYes! What Ė who Ė Ē
ďHold the line, please. Baltimore is calling.Ē
Then followed silence. Blash wondered. He tried to think of someone he knew in Baltimore, but couldnít. He felt decidedly nervous without any good reason that he knew of. Through the glass window he saw the doorman watching him interestedly. Beside him the girl who sold tickets pretended deep absorption in a magazine and chewed her gum rhythmically, but Blash knew that she was finding the suspense almost as trying as he was. After what seemed to him many minutes a voice came to him. It might have been a new voice, but it sounded to Blash much like that of the first speaker.
ďThat you, Wallace!Ē
ďYes! Who are you?Ē
ďThis is Uncle John.Ē
ďUncle John, in Baltimore.Ē
ďUnc Ė Say, youíve got the wrong party, I guess! Who do you want?Ē
ďIsnít this Wallace?Ē
ďThis is Wallace Blashington!Ē Blash was getting peevish. ďI havenít any Uncle John in Baltimore or anywhere else!Ē The ticket girl sniggered and Blash felt his face getting red. ďI say I havenít Ė Ē
ďYes, Wallace? I canít hear you very well. Iíve just had word from Dick, Wallace, and Ė Ē
ďDick who? I say Dick who!Ē roared Blash.
ďYes, Wallace, Iím sure you do. Well, this is what he says. Iíll read it to you. ĎTell Blash Ė í He calls you Blash. ĎTell Blash he neednít bother Ė íĒ
ďNeednít bother! ĎTell Blash he neednít bother to send the other Ė í Are you there, Wallace? Did you get that?Ē
ďYes! But who is talking? What is Ė Look here, I donít understand Ė Ē
ďYes, Wallace, Iíll speak more distinctly.†Ė ĎNot to bother to send the other seven and a half cents!íĒ
ďWhat cents? Say, look here! Who is Dick? Dick who? What Ė Ē
ďDick Bates,Ē answered the ghostly voice.
Blash stared for an instant at the instrument. Then he said: ďYou Ė you Ė Ē in an oddly choked voice, banged the receiver back on the hook and bolted through the door. He was aware that the ticket girl was giggling and that the doorman eyed him amusedly as he hurried into the theatre again and he wondered if they were parties to the hoax. In the darkness at the back of the house he paused and fanned himself with his cap, and as he did so he chuckled.
ďNot bad,Ē he whispered to himself. ďNot a-tall bad!Ē
Then he made his way down the aisle, located his seat after much difficulty and crawled back to it over many legs and feet. Three concerned faces turned sympathetically.
ďNo bad news, I hope?Ē said Stanley in an anxious whisper.
ďAnything important?Ē asked Sid.
Dick looked but said nothing, and Blash, his lips close to Dickís ear, hissed threateningly: ďOne word from you, Bates! Just one word!Ē
Instead of speaking, however, Dick turned his face to the screen again, his shoulders shaking. Further along, where Sid sat, there was a faint choking sound. Then Stanley said: ďOh, boy!Ē and fell up against Dick. Again that queer choking sound, then a gurgle, followed by a muffled explosion of laughter from Dick, and Stanley was on his feet, pushing Sid ahead of him, and Dick was following weakly on his heels, and a second after all three were plunging wildly up the darkened aisle.
ďEx-excuse me,Ē muttered Blash. He clutched his cap and wormed his way past a dozen exasperated, protesting members of the audience and pursued his friends. He found them in the lobby outside. Stanley was leaning against the side of the entrance, Sid was draped over a large brass rail, and Dick, midway, was regarding them from streaming eyes, one hand stretched vainly forth for support. The contagion of their laughter had involved doorman and ticket girl, while a small group of loiterers beyond were grinning sympathetically. On this scene appeared Blash. Stanley saw him first and raised one arm and pointed in warning. Dick looked, gave forth a final gasp of laughter and fled on wobbling legs. Sid and Stanley followed and Blash brought up the rear.
Down Adams Street in the direction of the railroad station went hares and hound, the hound gaining at every stride. Dick took to the street early in the race, the sidewalk being much too congested for easy progress, and had hair-breadth escapes from cars and vehicles. To him the station came into sight like a haven of refuge, and there he was run to earth in a dim corner of the waiting-room. When Stanley and Sid reached the scene, outdistanced by Blash, Dick was lying on a bench and Blash was sitting on him in triumph.
ďApologise!Ē panted Blash. ďSay youíre sorry!Ē
ďI Ė I Ė Ē gurgled Dick.
ďSay it, you lobster!Ē
ďíPologise!Ē grunted the under dog. ďSorry I Ė Oh, gee!Ē And, Blash arising from his prostrate form, Dick went off again into a paroxysm of laughter, while Stanley and Sid sank weakly onto the bench and wiped their eyes.
ďWho did you get to do it?Ē asked Blash a few minutes later when they were making their way back to school. ďWho was on the íphone?Ē
ďRusty Crozier,Ē chuckled Dick.
ďRusty! And I didnít recognise his voice! I guess, though, he put a pebble under his tongue or something.Ē Blash laughed. ďSay, fellows, Iíd have sworn he was a thousand miles away!Ē
ďHe Ė he stood away from the íphone,Ē Dick explained.
ďOh!Ē Blash was silent a moment. Then: ďI suppose you two silly pups were in on it,Ē he accused.
ďI was,Ē acknowledged Stanley. ďDick and I hatched it up at supper. Sid didnít know until youíd gone out to the telephone. Rusty went to the theatre first and found out what time the big picture was coming on. We passed him on Adams Street and I was afraid youíd see him and suspect something. But I guess you didnít.Ē
ďNo, I didnít see him. Where did he telephone from, Stan?Ē
ďThe hotel, right across the street. He said he could watch you from there while he talked!Ē
ďWait till I get hold of him!Ē said Blash. Then he laughed again. ďWell, it was pretty cute, fellows. The joke was on me that time!Ē
Of course the joke was too good to keep, and two days later Blashís friends Ė and he had a good many Ė developed a disconcerting fashion of greeting him with: ďIs Blashington in the house?Ē Blash, however, could take a joke as well as play one. Dick had secret doubts as to his right to accept credit for the conspiracy, for without Stanley it could never have been born. Still, like a great many other great ideas, it had, in a manner of speaking, fashioned itself, and perhaps Dick had had as much to do with it as Stanley.
On the following Monday Dick found himself again in charge of one of the squads in practice. He had a suspicion that Harry Warden had said a good word for him to the coach, for more than once he found the latter watching him. With this encouragement Dick buckled down and worked very hard with the somewhat discouraging material supplied him. Halden was not with him today, but there was an excellent understudy for him in the shape of a chunky youth named Davis. Davis was just as slow as Halden had been, but he didnít gloom or grouch. He was cheerful and apologetic and really tried hard, and Dick took a good deal of trouble with him and was extremely patient. When the squads were called in and the scrimmage began Davis insinuated himself between Dick and a neighbour on the bench.
ďSay, Bates, Iím mighty sorry I was so stupid. And it was white of you to let me down easy the way you did.Ē
ďOh, thatís all right. You tried, and thatís more than some of them did. Look here, Davis, why donít you brush up on the signals a bit before tomorrow? You didnít seem to remember them very well.Ē
ďThe trouble is that I canít think quick enough, Bates. You say ĎSix! Twelve! Fourteen!í and I know that Iím going to have the ball Ė Ē
ďNo, youíre not!Ē laughed Dick. ďNot on those signals!Ē
ďEh? Oh, thatís right! Well, ĎFive, twelve, fourteen, then. What I mean is, that while Iím getting the first number you call the third and then the ball is snapped and I havenít found out where Iím going with it!Ē
Dick laughed. ďCanít think quick enough, eh? Youíll have practice on that then. Look here, Davis, who told you you were made for a back?Ē
ďNo one, but you see I sort of wanted to play there. You donít think I can?Ē
ďOh, I donít want to say that,Ē answered Dick kindly, ďbut I do think youíd do better work in the line. Seems to me youíd fit in pretty well at guard.Ē
ďI guess Iím too short,Ē said Davis sadly. Then, brightening: ďBut I wouldnít have to remember so many figures, would I?Ē he asked.
ďWell, anyway, youíd have another second or so to think about them,Ē chuckled Dick. ďWhy donít you tell the coach youíd like to try playing guard? You are a bit short, but youíve got weight and you look husky. How old are you? Sixteen?Ē
ďSeventeen. I donít look it, do I? Say, I suppose you wouldnít want to speak to Mr. Driscoll, would you?Ē
ďMe? It wouldnít do any good, my speaking to him, Davis. Iím just one of the dubs like the rest of you.Ē
Davis appeared to doubt that. ďI thought Ė Well, you wonít be long. Anyone can see that you know the game. Maybe Iíd better ask Bob Peters, though. Iím sort of scared of Mr. Driscoll.Ē
ďAll right, Davis, go to it. Neither of them will bite you, I guess. Were you here last year?Ē
Davis nodded. ďAnd the year before. Iím in the Third.Ē
ďOh, are you? Well, how does Mr. Driscoll stand with the fellows?Ē
ďStand with them? Oh, ace-high, Bates,Ē answered the other earnestly. ďHeís a corker! Donít you like him?Ē
ďI donít know him, but it seems to me heís sort of old for the job. And he doesnít seem to Ė Ē Dick stopped. ďOh, I donít know, but he acts a bit stand-offish, and football seems so much of a business here! I guess I canít explain just what I mean.Ē
Evidently he hadnít, for Davis looked blank. ďHe isnít though,Ē he affirmed. ďStand-offish I mean. I like him immensely. Most everyone does. And he can turn out good teams, Bates.Ē
ďWell, thatís the main thing. I wonder if we have punting practice after the scrimmage. Who is the skinny chap that was in charge of the punters Friday?Ē
ďGaines. Heís playing on the further squad there. See him? At right half: the fellow with the new head-gear. Heís pretty good, too. He played right half last year. Iím no use at punting. Guess my legís too short.Ē
ďThat canít be my trouble,Ē laughed Dick.
ďOh, you! I thought you were mighty good at it,Ē said Davis approvingly. ďI wish I could do half as well as you did.Ē
ďWell, I can get distance sometimes,Ē acknowledged Dick, ďbut Iím just as likely to kick to one corner of the field as the other! Direction is the hard thing.Ē
ďI suppose so, only itís all hard for me.Ē After a moment of silence he said: ďDo you know, Bates, half my trouble today was that I was scared. I was afraid youíd jump me the way you did Sandy Halden the other day.Ē
ďYou werenít on the squad that day,Ē answered Dick, puzzled.
ďI was trailing behind. When you let Sandy go I wanted to take his place, but I was pretty sure Iíd do even worse! You ought to have heard Harry Warden chuckle when you slammed Sandy.Ē
ďDid he? Well, I had a lot of cheek to do that, because I wasnít supposed to change the line-up. But Halden was too much for me. Has he played before this year?Ē
ďOh, sure! Sandy tried last year, but they dropped him to the Second and he got peeved and quit. Heís always trying something. He had the golf bug last Fall and thought he was going to do wonders. But that petered out, too. Nobody would play with him after awhile because he was always blaming things on them. If he topped a ball he said the other fellow had coughed or moved or something. He was playing with Rusty Crozier one day: Rustyís a mighty good player: and he was fiddling over his ball on a tee when Rusty began swinging his club behind Sandy. Sandy told him he should keep still when his adversary was playing. Rusty had heard a lot of that and he got mad. ĎThat so?í he asked. ĎLet me show you something, Sandy.í He pushed Sandy aside, and took a fine long swing at Sandyís ball and sent it into the woods over by the old quarry. ĎThere,í he said. ĎNow you go hunt for that, Sandy, and when you find it try to swallow it. Maybe youíll choke on it!íĒŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
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