Ralph Barbour.

Right Guard Grant





CHAPTER I
CAPTAIN AND COACH

Although the store had reopened for business only that morning several customers had already been in and out, and when the doorway was again darkened momentarily Russell Emerson looked up from his task of marking football trousers with merely perfunctory interest. Then, however, since the advancing figure, silhouetted flatly against the hot September sunlight of the wide-open door, looked familiar, he eased his long legs over the edge of the counter and strode to meet it.

Hello, Cap! greeted the visitor. The voice was unmistakable, and, now that the speaker had left the sunlight glare behind him, so too was the perspiring countenance.

Mr. Cade! exclaimed Russell. Mighty glad to see you, sir. When did you get in?

Coach Cade lifted himself to the counter and fanned himself with a faded straw hat. About two hours ago. Unpacked, had a bath and here I am. By jove, Emerson, but its hot!

Is it?

Is it? mimicked the other. Dont you know it is? Then he laughed. Guess I was a fool to get out of that bath tub, but I wanted to have a chat with you, and Im due at Doctor McPhersons this evening. He stopped fanning his reddened face and tossed his hat atop a pile of brown canvas trousers beside him. Johnny Cade was short of stature, large-faced and broad in a compact way. In age he was still under thirty. He had a pleasantly mild voice that was at startling variance with his square, fighting chin, his sharp eyes and the mop of very black and bristle-like hair that always reminded Russell of a shoe brush. The mild voice continued after a moment, while the sharp eyes roamed up and down the premises. Got things fixed up here pretty nicely, he observed commendingly. Looks as businesslike as any sporting goods store I know. Branched out, too, havent you? He nodded across to where three bicycles, brave in blue-and-tan and red-and-white enamel, leaned.

Yes, answered Russell. We thought we might try those. Theyre just samples. Stick hasnt recovered from the shock of my daring yet. Russell laughed softly. Sticks nothing if not conservative, you know.

Stick? Oh, yes, thats Patterson, your partner here. Mr. Cades glance swept the spaces back of the counters.

Hes over at the express office trying to trace some goods that ought to have shown up three days ago, explained Russell. How have you been this summer, sir?

Me? Oh, fine. Been working pretty hard, though. The coachs mind seemed not to be on his words, however, and he added: Say, that blue-and-yellow wheel over there is certainly a corker. We didnt have them as fine as that when I was a kid. He got down and walked across to examine the bicycle. Russell followed.

It is good-looking, isnt it? Better let me sell you one of those, sir. Ought to come in mighty handy following the squads around the field!

Coach Cade grinned as he leaned the wheel back in its place with evident regret.

Gee, I suppose Id break my silly neck if I tried to ride one of those things now. I havent been on one of them for ten years. Sort of wish I were that much younger, though, and could run around on that, Cap!

Youd pick it up quickly enough, said Russell as he again perched himself on the counter. Riding a bicycles like skating, Mr. Cade: it comes back to you.

Yes, I dare say, replied the other dryly. Much the same way, I guess. Last time I tried to skate I nearly killed myself. What are you trying to do? Get a new football coach here?

Russell laughed. Nothing like that, sir. What we need isnt a new coach, I guess, but a new team.

Hm, yes, thats pretty near so. I was looking over the list this morning on the train and, well He shrugged his broad shoulders. Looks like building from the ground up, eh?

Only three left who played against Kenly.

Three or four. Still, we have got some good material in sight, Cap. I wouldnt wonder if we had a team before the seasons over. The coachs eyes twinkled, and Russell smiled in response. He had a very nice smile, a smile that lighted the quiet brown eyes and deepened the two creases leading from the corners of a firm mouth to the sides of a short nose. Russell Emerson was eighteen, a senior at Alton Academy this year and, as may have been surmised, captain of the football team.

Seen any of the crowd lately? asked the coach.

No. I ran across Slim once in August. He was on a sailboat trying to get up the Hudson; he and three other chaps. I dont think they ever made it.

Just loafing, I suppose, sighed the coach. I dare say not one of them has seen a football since spring practice ended.

Well, I dont believe Slim had one with him, chuckled Russell. I guess I ought to confess that I havent done very much practicing myself, sir. I was working most of the time. Dad has a store, and he rather looks to me to give him a hand in summer.

You dont need practice the way some of the others do, said Mr. Cade. Well, well see. By the way, were getting that fellow Renneker, from Castle City High.

Renneker? Gordon Renneker you mean? asked Russell in surprise.

Mr. Cade nodded. Thats the fellow. A corking good lineman, Cap. Made the Eastern All-Scholastic last year and the year before that. Played guard last season. If hes half the papers say he is he ought to fill in mighty well in Stimsons place.

How did we happen to get him? asked Russell interestedly.

Oh, its all straight, if thats what youre hinting at, was the answer. You know I dont like jumpers. Theyre too plaguy hard to handle, generally. Besides, theres the ethics of the thing. No, were getting Renneker honestly. Seems that he and Cravath are acquainted, and Cravath went after him. Landed him, too, it seems. Cravath wrote me in July that Renneker would be along this fall, and just to make sure I dropped a line to Wharton, and Wharton wrote back that Renneker had registered. So I guess its certain enough.

Well, thats great, said Russell. I remember reading about Gordon Renneker lots of times. If we have him on one side of Jim Newton and Smedley on the other, sir, well have a pretty good center trio for a start.

Newton? Well, yes, perhaps. Theres Garrick, too, you know, Cap.

Of course, but I thought Jim

He looks good, but I never like to place them until Ive seen them work, Emerson. Place them seriously I mean. Of course, you have to make up a team on paper just to amuse yourself. Heres one I set down this morning. Ill bet you, though, that there wont be half of them where Ive got them now when the seasons three weeks old!

Russell took the list and read it: Gurley, Butler, Smedley, Garrick, Renneker, Wilde, Emerson, Carpenter, Goodwin, Kendall, Greenwood. He smiled. I see youve got me down, sir. Youre dead wrong in two places, though.

Only two? Which two? Oh, yes, center. What other?

Well, I like Red Reilly instead of, say, Kendall. And Ill bet youll see Slim playing one end or the other before long.

Mr. Cade accepted the paper and tucked it away in a pocket again. Well, I said this was just for amusement, he observed, untroubled. There may be some good material coming in that we havent heard of, too. You never know where youll find a prize. Were any of last years freshmen promising?

I dont know, sir. I didnt see much of the youngsters.

Seen Tenney yet?

Yes, he blew in this morning. Hes going to make a good manager, I think.

Hope so. Did he say anything about the schedule?

Yes, he said it was all fixed. Hillsport came around all right. I dont see what their kick was, anyway.

Wanted a later date because they held us to a tie last season, said the coach, smiling.

Gee, any one could have tied us about the time we played Hillsport! That was during that grand and glorious slump.

Grand and glorious indeed! murmured the coach. Lets hope therell never be another half so grand! Well, Ill get along, I guess. By the way Mr. Cade hesitated. Then: I hope this store isnt going to interfere too much with football, Emerson. Mustnt let it, eh? Good captains are scarce, son, and Id hate to see one spoiled by er outside interests, so to speak. Dont mind my mentioning it, do you?

Not a mite, sir. You neednt worry. Im putting things in shape here so that Stick can take the whole thing on his own shoulders. Im not going to have anything to do with this shop until weve licked Kenly Hall.

Good stuff! See you to-morrow, then. Practice at three, Cap, no matter what the weathers like. I guess a lot of those summer loafers will be the better for losing five or six pounds of fat! And about this Renneker, Cap. If you run across him it might be a good idea to sort of make yourself acquainted and er look after him a bit. You know what I mean. Start him off with a good impression of us, and all that.

Russell chuckled. Its a great thing to bring a reputation with you, isnt it? he asked.

Eh? The coach smiled a trifle sheepishly. Oh, well, I dont care what you do with him, he declared. Chuck him down the well if you like. No reason why we should toady to him, and thats a fact. I only thought that

Right-o! laughed Russell. Leave him to me, sir. Cant sell you a bicycle then?

Huh, answered Mr. Cade, moving toward the door, if you supply the team with its outfits and stuff this fall I guess you wont need to sell me a bicycle to show a profit! See you to-morrow, Cap!

In front of the store, under the gayly-hued escutcheon bearing the legend: Sign of the Football, Mr. Cade paused to shake hands with a tall, thin youth with curly brown hair above gray eyes, a rather large nose and a broad mouth who, subsequent to the football coachs departure, entered the store hurriedly, announcing as he did so: They cant find it, Rus! The blamed things just plain vanished. Whatll we do? Telegraph or what?

Ill write them a letter, replied Russell calmly. I dare say the stuff will show up to-morrow.

Sure, agreed Stick Patterson sarcastically. Its been turning up to-morrow for three days and it might as well go on turning What was Johnny after?

Just wanted to talk over a few things. Give me a hand with this truck, will you? I want to get in an hours practice before supper. Bring some more tags along. Wheres the invoice? Can you see it?

Yes, and so could you if you werent sitting on it. My, but its hot over in that office! I suppose Johnny wasnt awfully enthused over the outlook, eh?

No-o, but he brought some good news, Stick. Ever hear of Gordon Renneker?

No, whos he?

Hes a gentleman who played football last year down on Long Island with the Castle City High School team. Won everything in sight, I think.

Who did? Runniger?

The team did. Renneker played guard; right guard, I guess; and got himself talked about like a moving picture hero. Some player, they say. Anyway, hes coming here this fall.

Oh, joy! Ill bet you anything you like hell turn out a lemon, like that chap Means, or whatever his name was, two years ago. Remember? The school got all het up about him. He was the finest thing that ever happened until hed been around here a couple of weeks. After that no one ever heard of him. He didnt even hold a job with the second!

I guess Rennekers in a different class, responded Russell. They put him down on the All-Scholastic last fall, anyway, Stick.

All right. Hope he turns out big. But I never saw one of these stars yet that didnt have something wrong with him. If he really could play, why, he was feeble-minded. Or if he had all his brains working smooth he had something else wrong with him. No stars in mine, thanks! Shove the ink over here. How about dressing the windows? Want me to do it?

Sure. Want you to do everything there is to be done, beginning with twelve oclock midnight to-night. Thats the last. Pile them up and lets get out of here. Its after five. If youll come over to the field with me for an hour Ill buy your supper, Stick. And the exercise will do you good!

CHAPTER II
TWO IN A TAXI

Something over eighteen hours later the morning train from New York pulled up at Alton station and disgorged a tumultuous throng of youths of all sizes and of all ages between twelve and twenty. They piled down from the day coaches and descended more dignifiedly from the two parlor cars to form a jostling, noisy mob along the narrow platform. Suit-cases, kit-bags, valises, tennis rackets, golf clubs were everywhere underfoot. Ahead, from the baggage car, trunks crashed or thudded to the trucks while an impatient conductor glanced frowningly at his watch. Behind the station the brazen clanging of the gongs on the two special trolley cars punctuated the babel, while the drivers of taxicabs and horse-drawn vehicles beckoned invitingly for trade and added their voices to the general pandemonium. Then, even as the train drew on again, the tumult lessened and the throng melted. Some few of the arrivals set forth afoot along Meadow street, having entrusted their hand luggage to friends traveling by vehicle. A great many more stormed the yellow trolley cars, greeting the grinning crews familiarly as Bill or Mike, crowding through the narrow doors and battling good-naturedly for seats. The rest, less than a score of them, patronized the cabs and carriages.

Leonard Grant was of the latter. As this was his first sight of Alton he decided that it would be wise to place the responsibility of delivering himself and a bulging suit-case to Alton Academy on the shoulders of one who knew where the Academy was, even if it was to cost a whole half-dollar! The taxi was small but capable of accommodating four passengers at least, and when Leonard had settled himself therein it became evident that the driver of the vehicle had no intention of leaving until the accommodations were more nearly exhausted. He still gesticulated and shouted, while Leonard, his suit-case up-ended between his knees, looked curiously about and tried to reconcile the sun-smitten view of cheap shops and glaring yellow brick pavement with what he had learned of Alton from the Academy catalogue. Judging solely from what he now saw, he would have concluded that the principal industries of the town were pressing clothes and supplying cheap meals. He was growing sensible of disappointment when a big kit-bag was thrust against his knees and a second passenger followed it into the cab.

Mind if I share this with you? asked the new arrival. He had a pleasant voice, and the inquiry was delivered in tones of the most perfect politeness, but something told Leonard that the big fellow who was making the cushion springs creak protestingly really cared not a whit whether Leonard minded or not. Leonard as courteously replied in the negative, and in doing so he had his first glimpse of his companion. He was amazingly good-looking; perhaps fine-looking would be the better term, for it was not only that his features were as regular as those on a Greek coin, but they were strong, and the smooth tanned skin almost flamboyantly proclaimed perfect health. In fact, health and physical strength fairly radiated from the chap. He was tall, wide-shouldered, deep-chested, and yet, in spite of his size, which made Leonard feel rather like a pygmy beside him, you were certain that there wasnt an ounce of soft flesh anywhere about him. He had dark eyes and, although Leonard couldnt see it just then, dark hair very carefully brushed down against a well-shaped head. He was dressed expensively but in excellent taste: rough brownish-gray tweed, a linen-colored silk shirt with collar to match, a plain brown bow-tie, a soft straw hat, brown sport shoes and brown silk socks. The watch on his wrist was plainly expensive, as were the gold-and-enamel links in his soft cuffs. What interested Leonard Grant more than these details of attire, however, was the sudden conviction that he knew perfectly well who his companion was if only he could remember!

Meanwhile, evidently despairing of another fare, the driver climbed to his seat and set forth with loud grinding of frayed gears, cleverly manipulating the rattling cab around the end of the nearer trolley car and dodging a lumbering blue ice-wagon by a scant four inches. Then the cab settled down on the smooth pavement and flew, honking, along Meadow street.

Are you an Alton fellow? inquired Leonards companion as they emerged from the jam. He spoke rather slowly, rather lazily, enunciating each word very clearly. Leonard couldnt have told why he disliked that precision of speech, but he did somehow.

Yes, he answered. And I suppose you are.

The other nodded. There was nothing really supercilious about that nod; it merely seemed to signify that in the big chaps judgment the question was not worthy a verbal reply. As he nodded he let his gaze travel over Leonard and then to the scuffed and discolored and generally disreputable suit-case, a suit-case that, unlike the kit-bag nearby, was not distinguished by bravely colored labels of travel. The inspection was brief, but it was thorough, and when it had ended Leonard knew perfectly that no detail of his appearance had been missed. He became uncomfortably conscious of his neat but well-worn Norfolk suit, his very unattractive cotton shirt, his second-season felt hat, his much-creased blue four-in-hand tie, which didnt match anything else he had on, and his battered shoes whose real condition the ten-cent shine he had acquired in the New York station couldnt disguise. It was evident to him that, with the inspection, his companions interest in him had died a swift death. The big, outrageously good-looking youth turned his head toward the lowered window of the speeding cab and not again did he seem aware of Leonards presence beside him.

Leonard didnt feel any resentment. The big fellow was a bit of a swell, and he wasnt. That was all there was to it. Nothing to be peeved at. Doubtless thered be others of the same sort at the Academy, and Leonard neither expected to train with them or wanted to. What did bother him, though, was the persistent conviction that somewhere or other he had seen the big chap before, and all the way along Meadow street he stole surreptitious glances at the noble profile and racked his mind. So deep was he in this occupation that he saw little of the town; which was rather a pity, since it had become far more like his preconceived conception of it now; and the cab had entered the Meadow street gate of the Academy grounds and was passing the first of the buildings before he was aware that he had reached his destination. He would have been more interested in that first building had he known that it was Haylow Hall and that he was destined to occupy a certain room therein whose ivy-framed window stared down on him as he passed.

The driver, following custom, pulled up with disconcerting suddenness at the entrance of Academy Building, swung off his seat, threw open the door on Leonards side and wrested the battered suit-case from between the latters legs. Then he as swiftly transferred Leonards half-dollar from the boys fingers to his pocket and grabbed for the distinguished kit-bag beyond. Leonard, unceremoniously thrust into a noonday world dappled with the shadows of lazily swaying branches and quite unfamiliar, took up his bag and instinctively ascended the steps. There were other youths about him, coming down, going up or just loitering, but none heeded him. Before he reached the wide, open doorway he paused and looked back. Straight away and at a slight descent traveled a wide graveled path between spreading trees, its far end a hot blur of sunlight. At either side of the main path stretched green sward, tree dotted, to the southern and northern boundaries of the campus. Here and there a group of early arrivals were seated or stretched in the shade of the trees, coolly colorful blots against the dark green of the shadowed turf. Two other paths started off below him, diverging, one toward a handsome building which Leonard surmised to be Memorial Hall, holding the library and auditorium, the other toward the residence of the Principal, Doctor Maitland McPherson, or, in school language, Mac. Each of these structures stood close to the confines of the campus; the other buildings were stretched right and left, toeing the transverse drive with military precision; Haylow and Lykes, dormitories, on the south flank; Academy Building in the center: Upton and Borden, dormitories, too, completing the rank. Somewhere to the rear, as Leonard recalled, must be the gymnasium and the place where they fed you; Lawrence Hall, wasnt it? Well, this looked much more like what he had expected, and he certainly approved of it.

He went on into the restful gloom of the corridor, his eyes for the moment unequal to the sudden change. Then he found the Office and took his place in the line before the counter. He had to wait while three others were disposed of, and then, just as his own turn came, he heard at the doorway the pleasant, leisurely voice of his late companion in the cab. There was another boy with him, a tall, nice-appearing chap, who was saying as they entered: Youre in Upton, with a fellow named Reilly, who plays half for us. Its a good room, Renneker, and youll like Red, Im sure.





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