Ralph Barbour.

Right Guard Grant





Ill give you the address and you can set it down. Got a pencil? 164 Orchard street, 2nd Bell. You know, of course, that if you had played on that team, and received money for doing it, you couldnt play here, Renneker.

Naturally.

All right. When you see this chap youd better convince him that hes mistaken. We dont want him writing that sort of a letter to Kenly Hall or shooting off his mouth to the newspapers.

He wouldnt do that, would he? exclaimed Renneker with evident dismay. Talk to the newspapers, I mean.

I dont know, son. Look here, Renneker, theres something in this. Youd better come clean, my boy, and save trouble later.

There was no answer for a minute. Renneker was studying the ground intently. Coach Cade didnt like the look on his face. Finally Renneker looked up and laughed shortly.

I fancy youre right, he said. Ill hand in my togs.

What! But, great Scott, man, you dont mean to tell me

Im not telling anything, answered Renneker evenly. Im just not denying.

And you came here with this thing hanging over your head and let us waste our time on you, knowing that it was bound to come out! Renneker, Id like to to

Wrong, sir. I didnt know it would come out. Im sorry. If theres anything more I can say, Ill say it, but it doesnt occur to me at the moment. Im just awfully sorry, Mr. Cade.

He turned and went off, unhurriedly, shoulders back.

CHAPTER XX
RIGHT GUARD GRANT

Captain Emerson, Billy Wells, Bee Appel and Perry Stimson had gone over to Lakeville to watch Kenly Hall play Rutledge. Consequently Alton faced Oak Grove that afternoon minus the services of five of her best players. Kerrison took Russ place at right end, Wilde substituted for the demon tackle, as Slim called Billy Wells, Carpenter went in at quarter, a newcomer named Grant played right guard and Raleigh played left. Probably Coach Cade could have sprinkled in half a dozen third-string players beside and still seen the contest won by the Gray-and-Gold, for Oak Grove, selected for the last game but one because she was never formidable, proved weak beyond expectation. Alton piled up three scores in the first two periods, for a total of 21 points, and held the visitor to a field-goal. When the third quarter started Cruikshank was at the helm, and Goodwin, Kendall and Dakin completed the backfield. As the final half progressed other substitutions took place and when the last whistle blew only one man was on who had started the contest, and that man was Sam Butler. Leonard stayed on until the fourth period and then gave way to Falls. Two more scores, a touchdown and a field-goal by Kendall from the thirty-four yards, had added 10 points more to an impressive total. Oak Grove had, however, in the third period taken advantage of a fumble by Cruikshank and banged her way through for a touchdown, and the final figures were 31 to 10.

Leonard played a good if not startling game at right guard that afternoon.

Perhaps he would have performed better had there been more incentive, but Oak Groves inferiority had shown early in the game, and Altons first two scores had been made before the first period was done, and one doesnt fight as hard against a vanquished opponent as against one who still threatens. Besides that, Leonards adversaries there were two of them were not difficult. On the whole, that game proved scarcely good practice for the home team.

What had happened to Gordon Renneker was a question that many asked, for the former right guard was neither on the side-line or in the stand. Some insisted that he had accompanied the scouts to Lakeville, but that explanation was refused by others who had seen him at least an hour after dinner time. Leonard wondered and speculated, too, but it wasnt until Johnny McGrath dropped in at Number 12 Haylow that evening, just as Slim and Leonard were starting for the movies, that the matter was cleared up for him. Jimsy Carnochan, it seemed, had met Johnny on the street just before supper and confessed to having written to Coach Cade.

I guess he was sort of sorry hed done it, said Johnny, but he wouldnt say so. Maybe I didnt read the riot-act to him, though! We nearly had a scrap!

I hope he chokes! commented Slim bitterly. That was a swell thing to do, just before the Kenly game! Leaves us flat for a right guard, and no time to find one. He ought to be be

I guess it was more my fault than any ones, said Johnny regretfully. I shouldnt have lugged him to the game that time and let him see Renneker.

You bet you shouldnt, agreed Slim heartily. But Leonard demurred.

Piffle, he said, Johnny isnt to blame. Better blame Renneker for getting fresh the other night and getting Carnochan down on him. Maybe were taking too much for granted, anyway, fellows. Maybe Mr. Cade just kept Renneker out of to-days game while he looks into the business.

Renneker wasnt at training table for supper, said Slim. That means that hes done for. I call it a pretty rotten piece of business!

They lugged Johnny along to the pictures and discussed the matter very thoroughly both going and returning. Slim agreed eventually that maybe Leonard would hold down Rennekers position satisfactorily, but they couldnt get him to acknowledge that Mr. Cade had acted rightly in dismissing Renneker from the team. He said some very disapproving things of the coach, sneered at him for being a Lily-white and doubted that he or any one else could present adequate proof that Renneker had received money for playing baseball. Especially, however, he was bitter against Carnochan, and would have sought that gentleman out and presented him with a piece of his mind had not Leonard and Johnny dissuaded him. In the end they all agreed that it was up to them to keep what they knew to themselves, and by Monday they were very glad that they had, for Gordon Renneker was out on the field in togs coaching the guards and the news was abroad that he had been dropped because of difficulties with the Office. That was such a plausible explanation that no one doubted it, although one might have wondered how it was that he was allowed to aid in the coaching. The incident seemed to have made no great difference to Renneker. He was perhaps a bit more stand-offish than ever and inclined to sarcastic criticisms that seldom failed to get under the skin of Raleigh, who, worried over his failure to make progress that fall, was in no mood for the big fellows caustic humor. That the two never quite came to blows was chiefly due to the fact that practice came to an end just before Raleighs patience did.

Leonard had definitely taken Rennekers position. Had Leonard had any doubt about it Coach Cades announcement on Tuesday would have dispelled it. Youll start the Kenly game, Grant, said the coach after practice that afternoon, and I expect you to show me that I havent made a mistake in selecting you instead of Falls. Youve done very well indeed so far. You play a fast, heady game, my boy, and Ill say frankly that when youve two or three more inches and another twenty pounds on you youll be a mighty good guard. Youve got faults, but I hope youll get rid of most of them by Saturday. Starting before the ball is one of them. Tenney has four cases marked against you, and just because youve got by so far without being penalized doesnt mean that you wont get caught finally. And when an official once finds a player off-side he watches that player hard ever after; and sometimes he sees faults where there arent any, without meaning to. Its just a case of giving a dog a bad name. I want you to steady down and look out for that trouble. Another thing, Grant, is over-eagerness to get through. Its a good fault, if any fault can be said to be good, but it works against the play sometimes. Frequently youre across the line when you ought to be still on your own side, which means that youre out of the play when you might be helping it along. When you get your signal think what it means. Think where the plays going and what your part is in it. Dont break through and think afterwards, Grant. Youve got a good nose for the ball, but dont let it run away with you. Its a fine thing to be able to put your man out and then get down the field under a punt, but weve got ends and backs to do that trick. Your part is to guard your center until the ball is passed, on attack, and then make the hole or stop the other fellow from coming through. In other words, youre a bulldog first and a grayhound afterwards. Once youve done your duty thoroughly I dont care how hard you go after the ball, but dont skimp the duty. Sure first and then fast, ought to be your motto, my boy. How are you feeling?

Fine, answered Leonard stoutly.

The coach smiled. Good! Whats the matter with that ankle?

Ankle? repeated Leonard innocently.

Yes, the left one. Youve been limping, you know.

Oh, that! Why, nothing at all, sir. I gave it a sort of a turn, you know.

Tell the trainer to look at it, and dont forget it.

Captain Emerson and his brother scouts had brought back scant information from the Kenly Hall-Rutledge game. Rutledge had been outclassed from the first, and, without showing too much of her possibilities, Kenly had piled up 16 points against her while keeping her own goal intact. Kenly had made an average showing during the season. She had played one more game than Alton and had won all but two of them. Lorimer had beaten her decisively and Middleboro had tied her at 7 to 7. She had, for her, a light team, but one that was capable of speed and versatility. She had specialized in forward-passing during the early part of the season, but of late had fallen back on line plays for her gains, although signs were not wanting that forward-passes were still in her repertory. Briefly, Kenly Hall School was rather more of a mystery to her ancient rival this year than she generally was, and, since it is human nature to fear the unknown, there was less confidence at Alton than was usual before the big game.

The eleventh-hour loss of Gordon Renneker was a severe blow to most followers of the game at Alton. There were many who believed, not a few very ardently, in Leonard Grants ability to completely fill Rennekers shoes, but they were in the minority. It stood to reason, naturally, that a youngster like Grant, lacking size, weight and experience could not wholly take the place of an All-Scholastic star. Leonard himself agreed with the majority. Oddly enough, Gordon Renneker did not. This was divulged on Wednesday when, after a half-hour of strenuous work for the guards and tackles and centers, the little squad returned to the bench and blankets to await their call to the scrimmage. Leonard found Renneker beside him when he had pulled the gray blanket around him. So far what might be called personal intercourse between them had been limited to those few words exchanged in the taxicab on the occasion of their arrival at Alton two months before. Now, after a moment, Renneker said abruptly:

Youre going mighty well, Grant.

Thanks, Leonard stammered. In spite of himself, he still found it impossible not to be impressed and a bit awed by Rennekers imperturbable air of superiority.

I dont see why you shouldnt hold down that place as well as I could have done, the other continued thoughtfully. Hope so. Nasty trick, my getting dropped, Grant. I wouldnt want the team to suffer by it. I dont fancy it will, though, if you play the way I think you can.

Well, I dont know, muttered the other. Arent you isnt there any chance of you getting in Saturday?

Oh, dear, no, replied Renneker calmly. Not a chance.

Im sorry, said Leonard. Renneker turned a slow glance on him. Then: Thanks, but its of no consequence, he said.

He nodded carelessly, arose and sauntered away.

Leonard wondered why he had asked such an idle question. He had known well enough that Renneker wouldnt get back. He felt very sorry for him just then.

Later, he told Slim what Renneker had said, and Slim frowned and grunted: Mighty decent of him, Ill say.

Leonard assented, but with too little enthusiasm to satisfy the other. If it was me, Slim went on, I guess I wouldnt be talking like that to you. Id be feeling too sore about losing my position.

Well, but it isnt my fault hes off the team, objected Leonard, mildly.

Slim grunted again. Never mind; hes off, and thats what counts!

Leonard felt that there was something wrong somewhere in Slims point of view, but he was too tired to pursue the matter.

There was a short session against the second team on Thursday, and then the whistle blew for the last time, and the season on Alton Field was at an end. The second cheered and was cheered and, finally, followed by the onlookers, crossed back to their own field and started a fire. A battered and discarded football, bearing a leering countenance painted on with white pigment, was set atop the pyre and the scrubs joined hands and danced riotously around it. The fact that the football subsided into ruins with only a faint sigh, instead of expiring with a resonant bang, was accepted as an ill omen of Saturdays game. But the omen did not appear to affect the second team spirits appreciably!

Friday was a day of rest, but there was an hour of signal drill in the gymnasium in the afternoon and a brief blackboard lecture by the coach in the evening. The latter was over by eight-fifteen, however, and afterwards Slim tried to persuade Leonard to accompany him to the final mass meeting in the auditorium. But Leonard had no mind for it, and Slim, realizing that his friend was having a mild attack of nerves, didnt persist long. Going out, he stopped at the door to say: I wouldnt think too much about to-morrow, General; about the game, you know. Better get a good story and read. Ill be back soon.

Leonard was willing to follow the others advice, but it wasnt so easy. And when he looked for the good story it wasnt to be found. At length he decided to walk over to the library and get a book, although, since the auditorium was above the library, he had no intention of tarrying there. It was a nice night, just frostily cold and with a couple of trillions of white stars winking away in a blue-black sky. Even with his mackinaw unbuttoned he was quite comfortable. Long before he neared Memorial he could hear the singing.


Cheer for the Gray-and-Gold!
Flag of the brave and bold

A long, measured cheer followed the last strain, and then came silence. No, not silence, for Leonard was close to the building now and could hear at intervals a word or two. Some one was speaking. There was a sudden burst of applause, quickly suppressed. Then he was entering the library. The long room with its mellow warmth and its two rows of cone-shaped green shades was deserted save for the presence in a corner of a small freshman hunched absorbedly over a book. Leonard paused outside the door, suddenly distasteful of libraries and books. Then he turned back and went down the steps again. It was far nicer outdoors, he thought. He would cross the grass to River street and walk around by Academy and Meadow to the farther gate. Probably by the time he reached the room again Slim would have returned, and then he could go to bed. Not, however, that bed held any great appeal, for he was quite sure he wouldnt be able to get to sleep for hours.

Short of the first street light, that on the corner, he descried a shape ahead of him. Some one else, it appeared, scorned indoors to-night. The shape was tall and broad, and Leonard suspected one of the faculty, perhaps Mr. Screven, and hoped that he could get by without having to say more than Good evening. He couldnt imagine anything more deadly than being obliged to loll along and listen to Mr. Screvens monotonous voice. But, a few paces behind now, he saw that the solitary pedestrian was not Mr. Screven, was not, indeed, a faculty at all, but Gordon Renneker.

CHAPTER XXI
RENNEKER EXPLAINS

Leonard was still assimilating that fact when Renneker turned and recognized him in the light of the corner lamp. Hello, Grant, said the big fellow. There seemed to Leonard a tone of almost friendliness in that greeting.

Hello, he answered. He wanted to add something else, something about the weather, but it wouldnt come. It was the other who supplied the conventional observation.

Corking night, said Renneker. It looks like a fine day for the game to-morrow.

They were side by side now. Leonard wondered whether he should go on, maintaining his own pace, or slow down and suit his steps to Rennekers. It was sort of embarrassing, he thought. He agreed about the weather and Renneker spoke again.

I suppose youre trying to walk them off, he said.

Walk them off? echoed Leonard. There seemed nothing to do save fall in step with the other.

Nerves, explained Renneker. Guess thats what Im doing myself.

Oh, said Leonard a bit sheepishly. Yes, I I guess I am. At least, I suppose its nerves. Slim wanted me to go to the mass meeting, but I sort of hated being with that howling mob to-night.

Exactly. They had reached the corner and with one consent turned now and went slowly along Academy street. Funny how panicky you can get the night before a game, mused Renneker.

Leonard laughed incredulously. I cant imagine you ever getting like that, he said.

I do, though, replied the other in his even voice. Always have. Of course, its absolute rot, because you know that just as soon as the whistle blows youre going to be perfectly all right again.

Wish I knew that, answered Leonard.

You do, only you cant remember it. There was a silence then while Leonard tried to digest that statement. Then Renneker went on. Its rather absurd for me to be feeling jumpy to-night, for Im not going to play. Must be just habit, I suppose. Queer.

I wish you were going to play, said Leonard with such evident sincerity that Renneker looked down curiously at him.

You do? I shouldnt think you would. He laughed shortly. You might be out of it yourself if I did, Grant.

I know, but well, its just sort of an accident with me, while you really belong, Renneker. I dont suppose that sounds very clear.

Oh, yes. Well, I guess youll get on all right, Grant. If you do, it wont matter much about me. Of course, I am disappointed, hang it! The whole silly thing is so so He seemed almost on the point of becoming agitated, which was perhaps why he stopped abruptly. After a moment he continued with a note of amusement. Really, Grant, I dont know why Im chattering to you like this. I dont believe we ever spoke before yesterday. It must be the nerves!

Oh, yes, we have, answered Leonard. Spoken, I mean. We came up from the station together that first day.

We did? Renneker seemed to be searching his memory. Oh, then you were that chap in the taxi. Id forgotten.

Leonard believed it. I guess talking sort of does a fellow good, he said after a moment. When hes jumpy, I mean.

I dare say. There was silence again while they came to the main gate and passed it unheedingly. Across Academy street the light in Coach Cades front room was turned down. I suppose hes at the meeting, said Renneker. Sort of a decent chap, Cade.

Yes, agreed Leonard, I think so. All the fellows seem to like him.

Including me? asked Renneker dryly.

Why, I dont know, stammered Leonard. Yes, I guess so. It wasnt his fault, after all, was it? I mean I suppose he had to do it.

Do what? asked Renneker, peering down.

Why, floundered Leonard, I mean he had to to do his duty. Stick to rules, you know. He wasnt

Then you think it was Johnny who put me off?

Leonard pulled up with a start. He wasnt supposed to know a thing, and here he had been giving himself away. He sought for a way out. Renneker broke the silence.

Look here, Grant, I dont get this at all. Has Mr. Cade been talking?

No, not to me, at any rate.

Well, somebody has, pursued Renneker grimly. What have you heard, Grant? I wish youd tell me.

After an instants hesitation Leonard did so. Renneker listened in silence. None of us have breathed a word of it, concluded the speaker earnestly. Only Carnochan, and he was sore because of that scrap.

Scrap be blowed, said Renneker. There wasnt any scrap. Those fellows pushed into us and we had some words, merely joking. Then this fellow suddenly jumped at Reilly and tried to punch him and I stepped in the way and got the punch. I told him to behave and he jabbed at me again. Then I gave him one in the ribs. Thats all there was to it. As far as we were concerned, the whole thing was a joke, but that crazy Irishman lost his temper, I guess.

Yes, said Leonard, I guess, from what Johnny says, that hes sort of hot-headed.

Decidedly! And his hot-headedness has played the dickens with me, Grant. Look here, are you in a hurry? Lets sit down a minute. Youve heard part of the story, and Id like to tell you the rest of it. Itll do me good to get it off my chest to some one, I fancy.





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