Right Guard Grant
ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
They swung themselves to the top rail of the fence in the shadow between two lights and Renneker went on.
“This is confidential, Grant. I’d rather you didn’t say anything about it to any one, if you don’t mind. It might make worse trouble if it got around. Thanks. Now, let’s see. I think I’d better start at the beginning. I dare say you’ve heard that I got a bit of a reputation at Castle City High as a guard. We have pretty good teams there, and we generally manage to lick about every one we go up against. I don’t believe I was much better than half a dozen other chaps on our team, last year or the year before, but it sort of got around that I was good and the New York papers played me up. There’s a fellow named Cravath who lives in my town and he went to school here at Alton. Last summer he got after me. Told me about Alton and how much more of a chance there was for me here. I liked the high school well enough, but I’d always had an idea that I’d prefer a prep school. Besides, when it comes to going to college it’s a help if you go up from a well-known school like Alton. We haven’t much money; the family I mean. Father used to be very well off some six or eight years ago, and we grew up rather free-handed, us kids. Then he lost it. Quite a spectacular bust-up, Grant, but it wouldn’t interest you. What I’m getting at is that when it came to a question of coming here for two years the lot of us had to do some figuring.
“There are three of us; George, who is the oldest – two years older than me – Grace, who comes in between, and me. George was starting college this fall, and Grace is in school in New York. So there wasn’t an awful lot of money for me, you see. Oh, well, that hasn’t much to do with it. I’m making a beastly long story of this. Anyway, father managed to get hold of some money and said I could come up here, although he wasn’t very keen about it, I fancy. And I came. I knew that the reason Dick Cravath was so anxious to get me here was because I could play football, and I intended making good. But I haven’t done it. Oh, I’ve played, but I haven’t played the way I should, or the way I can, Grant. And I guess the main reason was because this thing’s been hanging over my head all the time. I’ve been waiting for it to break ever since the day I came up from New York.”
“Then,” exclaimed Leonard, “you knew that – that Johnny McGrath – But you couldn’t have!”
“No, all I knew was what I got from a pimply-faced fellow who sold papers and magazines on the train. I bought a magazine from him and he looked me over and winked. ‘Say, I know you, all right,’ he told me. ‘You’re Ralston. I saw you play in a game in New London.’ I told him he was wrong, but he wouldn’t have it that way. He told me all about the game. Even knew how much money the club there had paid me for playing first base. I let him talk, because I wanted to learn what he knew. When he told me I’d played against a team called the Crescents from this town I knew I was in for trouble.I was pretty sure that sooner or later some chap who had played with the Crescents would see me and recognize me. Well, I fancy that got on my mind, Grant. In fact, I know it did. I couldn’t seem to play the way I played last year. Of course, I might have turned around when I got here that day and gone back, after getting that story from the train-boy, but – oh, well, you always trust to the off chance. I don’t know now whether I’m sorry or not that I didn’t turn back. I’m out of football this year, but I like the school, and I’ve met some nice fellows. I – don’t know.” Renneker’s voice dwindled into silence.
Nine o’clock struck from a church tower. Leonard sat, none too comfortably, on the angular rail and puzzled. All through his narrative his companion had sounded an under note of resentment, as though Fate had dealt unjustly with him. Of course, it was hard luck to get dropped from the team as Renneker had, but after all he had no one to blame but himself. Leonard sought an answer to one of the features of the story that puzzled him.
“You didn’t know the Crescents came from here, then?” he asked. “I mean the day you played against them at New London.”
“What? Oh! No, I didn’t know that, Grant, because, you see, I wasn’t there.”
“You weren’t – where?” inquired Leonard blankly.
“At New London,” replied Renneker calmly.
“Then how – ” Leonard blinked at the other in the gloom. “But you’ve said you were! If you weren’t at New London, how did you play first base for the – the Maple Leaf nine?”
Leonard laughed flatly. “I guess I’m stupid,” he said.
“I’ve got your promise that this goes no further?” asked Renneker. Leonard nodded vigorously. “All right. I didn’t play on that team, Grant. I couldn’t. I’m no good at all at baseball. That was my brother.”
“Your brother!” exclaimed Leonard.
“Yes. He looks like me, a whole lot like me, although if you saw us together you wouldn’t be fooled long. He’s two years older than I am, nearly three, and he’s an inch taller but not quite so heavy. His name is George Ralston Renneker, Ralston after my mother’s folks. That’s why I knew what was up when the train boy put that name on me. George is – oh, he’s all right, Grant, but he’s a nut. Sort of crazy about some things. We’ve always been great pals, but I’ve bawled him out a thousand times. He hasn’t any idea about the value of money and he keeps right on spending it just as if we still had it. When he gets flat and father won’t come across he goes off and plays baseball or hockey or anything to get some coin. He can do just about anything fairly well, you see. I suppose it isn’t always just the money, either, for he’s nuts on all sorts of sports, and he has to keep going at something or bust. Once he rode in a steeplechase near home and got thrown and had a couple of ribs broken. There wasn’t any money in it that time. He just did it for fun, for the adventure. I fancy he’d jump off the Woolworth Tower with an umbrella if there was enough money waiting him below! Sometimes he makes quite a lot of money. Once he drew down a hundred and fifty for a ten-round preliminary bout over in Philadelphia. He boxes rather better than he does anything, I fancy. He was the ‘Trenton Kid’ that night. Usually he goes under the name of George Ralston. He’s a nut, Grant.”
Leonard digested this remarkable information in silence for a moment. Then: “But if it wasn’t you, Renneker,” he exclaimed, “why did you let them drop you from the team? I don’t see that.”
“You will in a minute,” answered the other patiently. “George is at – well, never mind the college; it’s not more than a hundred miles from here. This is his first year. I dare say it will be his last, too, for he doesn’t stick long. He went to three schools. But I don’t want him to get in trouble if I can help it. He’s out for baseball and track already, and he will probably try hockey, too. If this thing got around he’d be dished, and it would mean a lot more to him than it did to me. Of course, you can say that I’m compounding a felony or something, but I don’t care if you do. I realize that George hasn’t any right to take part in athletics at his college, but that’s between him and his own conscience. I’m not going to be the one to queer him. I’ve known all along that when this thing broke it would be up to me to be the goat. Well, it did. And I am.”
Leonard shook his head. “It isn’t right, though, Renneker. It puts you out of football – and everything else, for that matter – this year and next. Why, even when you go up to college this thing will follow you, I guess!”
“Well, I’m rather expecting that by next fall I can tell the truth,” answered Renneker. “It isn’t likely that poor old George will last more than his freshman year without getting found out. If they have something else on him one more thing won’t matter, I guess. Anyway, I mean to keep in training on the chance of it.”
“Does he know about it?” asked Leonard presently. “That you’re taking the blame for this and have lost your place on the team?”
“Oh, no. What’s the use of worrying him about it? He’d be just idiot enough to give the snap away and spoil his own fun.”
“Serve him right,” said Leonard indignantly. “I think it’s a rotten shame that you’ve got to suffer for his – his misdoings!”
“Oh, well, it isn’t as bad as that. I guess I’ve groused a good deal, Grant, but, after all, I’m glad to do it for the old coot. He’d do anything in the world for me without batting an eye-lid. Besides, I’m feeling quite a lot better now that I’ve unburdened my mind to some one. Talk does help a lot sometimes, and I fancy Providence must have sent you forth to-night to hear my tale of woe. Much obliged, really, for being so patient, my dear chap.”
“Don’t be an ass,” begged Leonard. Half an hour before he would have gasped at the idea of inferring that Renneker was an ass, but just now it didn’t even occur to him. “I was glad to listen. Just the same, Renneker, you are acting wrong in this business. I suppose I can’t convince you – ”
“Afraid not, Grant.”
“ – but it’s a fact, just the same. Aside from everything else, you owe something to the team and the School, and you’re letting them both down when you do this thing. You – you’re endangering to-morrow’s game, and – ”
“I’ve thought of all that, Grant, and I don’t agree with you. My own people come before the School or the team – ”
“But, Great Scott,” interrupted Leonard impatiently, “in this case your own people, your brother, I mean, is in the wrong! You’re helping him to get away with something that isn’t – ”
“Absolutely, but when it is your brother that doesn’t count much with you.”
“It ought to,” muttered Leonard.
“Possibly, but it doesn’t. As for to-morrow’s game, Grant, I’m absolutely sincere when I say that I believe you will do just as well as I’d have done.”
“That’s nonsense,” Leonard protested.
“No, it isn’t, really. I haven’t been playing much of a game this fall. I’ve just managed to keep my position, and that’s about all. Johnny Cade has been on the point of dropping me into the subs lots of times. I’ve seen it and I’ve had to act haughty and pull a bluff to keep him from doing it.”
“That’s all right,” persisted the younger boy doggedly, “but you say yourself that was because this business was hanging over you. Well, it isn’t hanging over you any longer, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t play to-morrow as well as you’ve ever played. Now, isn’t that so?”
“My dear chap,” replied Renneker, smoothly evasive, “you ought to be a prosecuting attorney or something. I say, what time is it getting to be? You fellows are supposed to be in hall by nine-thirty.”
“It isn’t that yet,” answered Leonard. But he slid down from the fence and fell into step beside the other. He tried very hard to think of something that would persuade Renneker out of this pig-headed, idiotic course. He grudgingly admired the big fellow for what he had done. It was chivalrous and generous and all that sort of thing, this business of being the goat for Brother George, but Leonard didn’t know Brother George and he couldn’t summon any sympathy for him. When he did speak again they were well up the broad path to Academy Hall, and what he said wasn’t at all what he had sought for.
“I do wish you’d think this over to-night, Renneker,” he pleaded.
“My dear chap,” replied the other very patiently and kindly, “you mustn’t think any more about it. It’s all settled, and there’s no harm done. If you keep on, you know, you’ll make me sorry I confided in you.” Renneker laughed softly.
“I don’t care,” persisted Leonard weakly. “It’s a rotten shame!” Then an idea came to him. “Look here,” he exclaimed, “what’s to keep me from telling Johnny?”
“Not a thing,” was the cool response, “except your promise not to.”
Leonard growled inarticulately.
In front of Academy they parted, Renneker to seek his room in Upton, and Leonard to take the other direction. The mass meeting was over and the fellows were pouring out from Memorial, still noisily enthusiastic. “Well, I hope I haven’t added to your nerves, Grant,” said Renneker. “Just remember that when the whistle blows you won’t have any, and that having them now consequently doesn’t matter one iota. That may help. I’m in Upton, you know; Number 9. Come in and see me some time, won’t you? Good night.”
“Good night,” replied Leonard. He had difficulty making his voice sound disapproving, but he managed it after a fashion. Renneker laughed as he turned away.
“Try to forget my faults, Grant,” he called back, “and think only of my many virtues!”
Upstairs in Number 12 Slim was displaying a hurt expression. He had left the meeting when it was no more than half over to hurry back and stroke the other’s head, he explained, and here the other was gallivanting around the campus! Leonard apologized. He did not, however, mention Renneker. Why, he couldn’t have told.