Ralph Barbour.

Right Guard Grant





They swung themselves to the top rail of the fence in the shadow between two lights and Renneker went on.

This is confidential, Grant. Id rather you didnt say anything about it to any one, if you dont mind. It might make worse trouble if it got around. Thanks. Now, lets see. I think Id better start at the beginning. I dare say youve 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 dont 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. Theres 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 Id always had an idea that Id prefer a prep school. Besides, when it comes to going to college its a help if you go up from a well-known school like Alton. We havent 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 wouldnt interest you. What Im 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 wasnt an awful lot of money for me, you see. Oh, well, that hasnt much to do with it. Im 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 wasnt 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 havent done it. Oh, Ive played, but I havent played the way I should, or the way I can, Grant. And I guess the main reason was because this things been hanging over my head all the time. Ive 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 couldnt 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. Youre Ralston. I saw you play in a game in New London. I told him he was wrong, but he wouldnt 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 Id 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 couldnt 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 dont know now whether Im sorry or not that I didnt turn back. Im out of football this year, but I like the school, and Ive met some nice fellows. I dont know. Rennekers voice dwindled into silence.

Nine oclock 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 didnt know the Crescents came from here, then? he asked. I mean the day you played against them at New London.

What? Oh! No, I didnt know that, Grant, because, you see, I wasnt there.

You werent where? inquired Leonard blankly.

At New London, replied Renneker calmly.

Then how Leonard blinked at the other in the gloom. But youve said you were! If you werent at New London, how did you play first base for the the Maple Leaf nine?

I didnt.

Leonard laughed flatly. I guess Im stupid, he said.

Ive got your promise that this goes no further? asked Renneker. Leonard nodded vigorously. All right. I didnt play on that team, Grant. I couldnt. Im 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 wouldnt be fooled long. Hes two years older than I am, nearly three, and hes an inch taller but not quite so heavy. His name is George Ralston Renneker, Ralston after my mothers folks. Thats why I knew what was up when the train boy put that name on me. George is oh, hes all right, Grant, but hes a nut. Sort of crazy about some things. Weve always been great pals, but Ive bawled him out a thousand times. He hasnt 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 wont 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 isnt always just the money, either, for hes 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 wasnt any money in it that time. He just did it for fun, for the adventure. I fancy hed 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. Hes a nut, Grant.

Leonard digested this remarkable information in silence for a moment. Then: But if it wasnt you, Renneker, he exclaimed, why did you let them drop you from the team? I dont see that.

You will in a minute, answered the other patiently. George is at well, never mind the college; its not more than a hundred miles from here. This is his first year. I dare say it will be his last, too, for he doesnt stick long. He went to three schools. But I dont want him to get in trouble if I can help it. Hes out for baseball and track already, and he will probably try hockey, too. If this thing got around hed be dished, and it would mean a lot more to him than it did to me. Of course, you can say that Im compounding a felony or something, but I dont care if you do. I realize that George hasnt any right to take part in athletics at his college, but thats between him and his own conscience. Im not going to be the one to queer him. Ive 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 isnt 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, Im rather expecting that by next fall I can tell the truth, answered Renneker. It isnt 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 wont matter, I guess. Anyway, I mean to keep in training on the chance of it.

Does he know about it? asked Leonard presently. That youre taking the blame for this and have lost your place on the team?

Oh, no. Whats the use of worrying him about it? Hed be just idiot enough to give the snap away and spoil his own fun.

Serve him right, said Leonard indignantly. I think its a rotten shame that youve got to suffer for his his misdoings!

Oh, well, it isnt as bad as that. I guess Ive groused a good deal, Grant, but, after all, Im glad to do it for the old coot. Hed do anything in the world for me without batting an eye-lid. Besides, Im feeling quite a lot better now that Ive 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.

Dont 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 didnt even occur to him. I was glad to listen. Just the same, Renneker, you are acting wrong in this business. I suppose I cant convince you

Afraid not, Grant.

but its a fact, just the same. Aside from everything else, you owe something to the team and the School, and youre letting them both down when you do this thing. You youre endangering to-morrows game, and

Ive thought of all that, Grant, and I dont 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! Youre helping him to get away with something that isnt

Absolutely, but when it is your brother that doesnt count much with you.

It ought to, muttered Leonard.

Possibly, but it doesnt. As for to-morrows game, Grant, Im absolutely sincere when I say that I believe you will do just as well as Id have done.

Thats nonsense, Leonard protested.

No, it isnt, really. I havent been playing much of a game this fall. Ive just managed to keep my position, and thats about all. Johnny Cade has been on the point of dropping me into the subs lots of times. Ive seen it and Ive had to act haughty and pull a bluff to keep him from doing it.

Thats all right, persisted the younger boy doggedly, but you say yourself that was because this business was hanging over you. Well, it isnt hanging over you any longer, and theres no reason why you shouldnt play to-morrow as well as youve ever played. Now, isnt 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 isnt 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 didnt know Brother George and he couldnt summon any sympathy for him. When he did speak again they were well up the broad path to Academy Hall, and what he said wasnt at all what he had sought for.

I do wish youd think this over to-night, Renneker, he pleaded.

My dear chap, replied the other very patiently and kindly, you mustnt think any more about it. Its all settled, and theres no harm done. If you keep on, you know, youll make me sorry I confided in you. Renneker laughed softly.

I dont care, persisted Leonard weakly. Its a rotten shame! Then an idea came to him. Look here, he exclaimed, whats 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 havent added to your nerves, Grant, said Renneker. Just remember that when the whistle blows you wont have any, and that having them now consequently doesnt matter one iota. That may help. Im in Upton, you know; Number 9. Come in and see me some time, wont 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 others head, he explained, and here the other was gallivanting around the campus! Leonard apologized. He did not, however, mention Renneker. Why, he couldnt have told.

CHAPTER XXII
BEFORE THE BATTLE

The squad, thirty-one in all, including coaches, managers, trainer and rubbers, left Alton the next forenoon at a little after ten oclock. About every one else around the academy took the train that left at twelve-eight, partaking of an early and hurried dinner at half-past eleven. As very few were at all concerned with food just then, being much too excited, no one missed the train.

Unexpectedly, Leonard had slept exceedingly sound and for a full eight hours and a half. He had lain awake no later than eleven, while Slim, though more of a veteran, had heard midnight strike, as he aggrievedly proclaimed in the morning. Possibly it was that conversation with Gordon Renneker that was to be credited with Leonards early and sound slumber, for Rennekers affairs had driven all thoughts of Leonards from the latters mind, and instead of being nervous and jumpy he had been merely impatient and indignant and sometimes admiring and had made himself sleepy trying to think up some way of inducing Renneker to stop being a Don Quixote and act like a rational human being. He hadnt solved his problem, but he had sent himself to sleep.

Renneker, having worked hard if briefly at coaching the linemen, went along with the squad. So, too, did Mr. Fadden, who, having wrestled with the problem of the second team for some five weeks, was now in position to act, in an advisory capacity, as Mr. Cades assistant. In the hustle for seats in the special car that had been tacked onto the long train for the accommodation of the team, Leonard and his suit-case got tucked into a corner of a seat near the rear door, escape, had he desired it, being prevented by the generous bulk of Jim Newton. He and Jim talked a little, but the center had supplied himself with a New York morning paper at the station and was soon deep in a frowning perusal of the football news. That Renneker would change his mind, make a clean breast of everything and come back into the fold was something Leonard had hoped for up to the last moment of leaving school. But he hadnt done anything of the sort. That was proved by the fact that he carried no bag. You couldnt quite vision Gordon Renneker facing Kenly Hall on the football gridiron in an immaculate suit of blue serge, a pale yellow shirt and black-and-white sport shoes! So Leonards hopes went glimmering, and when Renneker, passing him on the platform, nodded and said, Hi, old chap! Leonard just grunted and scowled his disappointment.

The day was a lot colder than the evening had presaged, but it was fair and there were few clouds in the very blue sky. The car, like most railway cars, was incapable of compromise in the matter of temperature. Since it was not freezing cold it was tropically hot. Squeezed in there by the steam pipes, with Jim Newton overflowing on him, Leonard suffered as long as possible and then forced a way past the grunting Newton and sought the water tank. Of course the water was close to the temperature of the car, but that was to be expected. At least, it was wet. After two drinks from the razor-like edge of a paper cup that was enough to make one long for the unhygienic days of old, he went forward, resisting the blandishments of those who would have detained him, and passed into the car ahead. There were plenty of seats here, and, although that may have been just his imagination, the car seemed cooler by several degrees. It wasnt until he had slammed the door behind him that he saw Gordon Renneker in the first seat at the left. Renneker looked up, nodded and moved slightly closer to the window. Of course, Leonard reflected, he thinks I saw him come in here and have followed him on purpose. Well, Ill show him!

Hello, he said aloud, taking the seat after a moment of seeming indecision, I didnt know you were in here. It got so hot back there that I had to get out.

I came in here, replied Renneker, because Mr. Fadden insisted on telling me how much better football was played in his day. It seems, Grant, that ten or twenty years ago every team consisted of eleven Olympians. Every man Jack was a star of the first magnitude and a Prince among fellows. Fadden says so. Why, every blessed one of the chaps who played on his team in college is to-day either President of the United States or president of one of the big railroad systems. Every one, that is, except Fadden. I dont know what happened to him. He seems to have been the only mediocre chap in the bunch. I must ask him about that some time, Renneker ended musingly.

Leonard laughed in spite of himself. He hadnt wanted to laugh. He had wanted to make Renneker understand clearly that he was still as strongly disapproving of his conduct as ever. But Renneker was sort of different to-day. He was lighter-hearted and even facetious, it appeared. Leonard had to thaw. They talked about the game for a few minutes, but neither introduced the subject of last evenings talk until, as though suddenly reminded, Renneker said: By the way, Grant, remember what we were talking about last night? What I was, that is! He laughed gently and put a hand into a pocket of his coat. Well, I want you to read this. Its rather a joke on me, and youll probably enjoy it hugely. This came by this mornings mail.

He produced an envelope from his pocket and took forth a single sheet of twice-folded paper and handed it to Leonard. Read it, he said. Leonard opened it and saw, at the top, the name, in none too modest characters, of a New York hotel. Then he read:

Dear Gordie:

Well, were off again, old timer. Came down last night and leave in about twenty minutes for Louisiana. Saved the faculty the trouble of bouncing me. It was only an innocent childish prank, but you know how faculties are. Four of our crowd didnt like the show at the theatre and quit it cold after the first act. There was a car outside that looked good, and the fellow who belonged to it hadnt anchored it or locked it or anything. So we thought wed take a little spin and come back before the show was over. How, I ask you, were we to know that the owner couldnt stand the show either? Well, he came out and couldnt find his bus and squealed to the police and they telephoned all around and a cop on a motor cycle pulled us in about six miles out and took us back to the station. If the guy had been the right sort it would have been O.K., but he was a sour-faced pill without an ounce of compassion and insisted on making a charge against us. We got bail all right, and yesterday morning the trifling matter was settled on a money basis, but the dickens of it was that faculty got hep and we had our rather and chose to resign instead of getting fired. Townsends father has a rice farm or plantation or something in Louisiana and hes going to get me a job. Therell be lots of riding, he says, and I guess itll keep me going until I can look around. Were starting down there at eleven-thirty. Ill write when I reach the place and send the address. Ive forgotten the name of the town and Jims out getting tickets. Ive written to Dad, but you might drop him a line, too, old timer. You know what to say, you were always the diplomat of the family. Ill be fixed for coin, so he wont have to worry about that. Hope everything is hunky with you, dear old pal.

Your aff. brother,
George.

Leonard returned the epistle, staring at Renneker blankly. The latter laughed. I might have known he couldnt stick, he said. Its just like the crazy coot to have it happen a week too late, too. If hed skipped Thursday before last instead of this Thursday Renneker shook his head in comic resignation.

But but but, stammered Leonard, you can play to-day, cant you? All youve got to do is tell Mr. Cade!

My dear chap, remonstrated the other, one doesnt upset the arrangements at the last moment. Oh, I did consider it, but, pshaw, what would be the good? Everythings fixed and if I butted in Id just muddle things horribly. Besides, I really havent the courage to try to explain it all in the brief time remaining. But, honest, Grant, it is a sort of a ghastly joke, isnt it? Why dont you laugh, you sober-face? I thought it would amuse you!





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