Right Guard Grantñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“You’ve got to learn, Johnny,” explained Slim, “that you can’t become an aristocrat, even in this free country of ours, in less than five years. That gives you about two to go, son. Be patient.”
“Patient my eye,” responded Johnny serenely. “It’ll take more than five years to make aristocrats of the McGraths, for they’re not wanting it. Just the same, Slim, it makes me sick, the way some folks put on side just because they’ve been out of the tenements a few years. I guess the lot of us, and I’m meaning you, too, couldn’t go very many years back before we’d be finding bananas or lead pipe or something ple-bee-an like that hanging on the old family tree!”
“Speak for yourself,” answered Slim with much dignity. “Or speak for the General here. As for the Stapleses, Johnny, I’d have you know that we’re descended from Jeremy Staples, who owned the first inn in Concord, New Hampshire, and who himself served a glass of grog to General George Washington!”
“That would be a long time ago,” said Johnny.
“It would; which is why we can boast of it. If it happened last year we’d be disclaiming any relationship to the old reprobate.”
“McGrath’s right,” said Leonard, smiling but thoughtful. “We’re all descended from trade or something worse. I know a fellow back home whose several-times-great grandfather was a pirate with Stede Bonnet, and his folks are as proud of it as anything. If it isn’t impertinent, McGrath, how did your father make his money?”
“In the War, like so many others. He was a plumber, you see. He’d gone into business for himself a few years before and was doing pretty well. Joe – that’s my oldest brother – was with him. Well, then the War came and Joe read in the paper where they were going to build a big cantonment for the soldiers over in Jersey. ‘Why not try to get the job to put in some of the plumbing?’ says he. ‘Sure, we haven’t a chance,’ says my dad. ‘’Twill be the big fellows as will get that work.’ But Joe got a copy of the specifications, or whatever they’re called, and set down and figured, and finally persuaded the Old Man to take a chance. So they did, and some surprised they were when they were awarded the contract! Dad said it was too big for them and they’d have to give some of it to another, but Joe wouldn’t stand for that. He had a hard time getting money for the bond, or whatever it was the Government wanted, but he did it finally, and they did the job and did it honestly. Their figures were away under the estimate of the other firms, but in spite of that they made themselves rich. Now I say why isn’t dad as much of a gentleman as old Pete Paternos? Sure lead pipe’s as clean as rotten bananas!”
“That’s just the point,” replied Slim. “The rotten bananas are old and the lead pipe’s new. Give the lead pipe another two years, Johnny, and you can slap Paternos on the back and get away with it.”
“I’m more likely to slap him on the head with a crow-bar,” grumbled Johnny. Then: “Say, fellows, want some lemonade?”
“Not for worlds,” answered Slim promptly.
“Where is it?”
“I’ll have Dora make a pitcher in a shake of a lamb’s tail,” said Johnny eagerly, as he disappeared. Slim smiled over at Leonard and Leonard smiled back. Then the latter exclaimed protestingly:
“Just the same, he’s a mighty decent sort, Slim!”
“Of course he is,” agreed the other calmly. “I told you that across the street. Johnny’s all right.”
“Well, then, aren’t you – aren’t you afraid of hurting his feelings? Talking to him the way you do, I mean.”
“Not a bit. Johnny knows me, and he knows that what I say is for the good of his soul. We aristocrats, General, have got to make the hoi polloi understand that they can’t shove into our sacred circle off-hand. They’ve got to train for it, old man; work up; go through an initiation.”
Leonard observed Slim in puzzlement and doubt.
“Why,” Slim went on soberly, “what do you suppose old Jeremy Staples would say if he could see me now hob-nobbing with the son of a plumber? The poor old rascal would turn over in his grave, General. Bet you he’d turn over twice!”
“Oh,” said Leonard, “I thought you meant it!”
“Who says I don’t? Ah, that sounds mighty cheerful, Johnny! Sure you didn’t put any arsenic in it? My folks are English on my uncle’s side!”
“I’d not waste good arsenic on the likes of you,” answered Johnny, pouring from a frosted glass pitcher. Followed several moments of deeply appreciative silence during which visitors and host applied themselves to the straws that emerged from the glasses. Then Slim sighed rapturously and held his glass out for more.
“It may be poisoned, Johnny,” he said, “but I’ll take a chance.”
“Are you at Alton?” Leonard asked presently of his host.
“Didn’t I tell you he was?” asked Slim in mild surprise. “He certainly is. Johnny’s the one bright spot on the basket ball team. You’ll never know the poetry of motion, General, until you’ve seen him toss a back-hander into the hoop. The only trouble with him is that, true to his race, he always mistakes a basket ball game for the Battle of the Boyne. At least, I think I mean the Boyne. Do I, Johnny?”
“Maybe. I wasn’t there. Anyhow, you’re giving Grant here a wrong idea of me entirely. I’m the most peaceable lad on the team, Slim Staples, and you know it.”
“I know nothing of the sort,” protested Slim stoutly. “All I do know is that whenever you’re playing the casualties are twice as heavy as when you’re not. Oh, I know you have a foxy way of handing out the wallops, and that the referee seldom catches you at it, but facts are facts, Johnny, and I’m nothing if not factotum.”
“You’re nothing if not insulting,” corrected Johnny. “Why does he call you ‘General?’” he continued of Leonard.
“Why, he hit on that – ” Leonard began.
“Is it possible you never heard of General Grant?” demanded Slim incredulously.
“Oh, that’s it? Well,” as Slim stood up to go and Leonard followed his example, “I’m pleased to have met you. Come again, won’t you? I’ll not be asking Slim, for he’s too insulting.”
“Oh, now that I know where you live and what good lemonade you keep on draught, I’ll come frequently,” said Slim kindly. “Maybe we might drop around next Sunday afternoon about this time, or a little before. You’d better make it a point to have plenty of lemons on hand.”
“Why, if you come we’ll not be without them,” Johnny assured him sweetly.
“Fine! And now, before we go, may we see the pig, Johnny?”
“Sure,” replied the other, relapsing into a rich brogue, “it’s sorry I am, Slim my darlint, but the pig do be havin’ his afthernoon nap in the panthry, and he’d be that angry if I was wakin’ him!”
Going back down the slope of Melrose Avenue Leonard remarked: “He said there were six of them, Slim. Are there other brothers beside the Joe he spoke of?”
“There were,” answered Slim. “There’s one other now, a little chap about twelve. I don’t know his name.”
“What happened to the other brother?”
“Killed in the War,” replied Slim briefly.
“There was a citation,” added Slim. “Johnny says it’s framed and hanging over his mother’s bed. It’s a lucky thing for the country, General, that it doesn’t have to look up a fellow’s pedigree before it can let him fight; what?”
THE SEASON BEGINS
In spite of Slim’s predictions, Leonard’s calm announcement to Manager Tenney that he was a candidate for guard on the football team occasioned no evident surprise. Considering that within forty-eight hours Tenney had registered the name of a fat and pudgy junior whose consuming ambition was to play quarterback and had listened to the calm assurance of a lathe-like youth that he would be satisfied with nothing save the position of center, the manager’s absence of emotion was not surprising. Anyhow, Leonard was relieved to find that he was not to meet opposition at the outset, and took his place in Squad C quite satisfied. Football practice at Alton Academy differed from the same occupation at Loring Point High School in at least two essentials, he decided. It was more systematic and it was a whole lot more earnest. There was little lost motion during the hour and a half that the candidates occupied the field. You didn’t stand around waiting for the coach to remember your existence and think up a new torture, nor, when the coach was present, did you spend precious minutes in banter. From the moment of the first “Let’s go!” to the final “That’s all, fellows!” you had something to do and did it hard, impressed every instant with the importance of the task set you. Of course, practice was less amusing, less fun here at Alton. There was no social side to the gathering. Even after a week of practice Leonard knew almost none of the fellows he worked with. He did know the names of many, and he had a “Hello” acquaintance with a half-dozen, but there was no time for the social amenities.
He had been put down as a lineman and spent at least a half-hour daily being instructed in the duties of blocking and charging. Always there was another half-hour for each squad with the tackling dummies, of which headless opponents there were two. Generally the balance of the period was occupied in learning to handle the ball and in running through a few simple formation plays. In these Leonard was played anywhere that the assistant coach, usually acting as quarter, fancied. Generally he was a guard or a tackle, now on this side and now on that, but on two occasions he found himself cast for a backfield r?le and trotted up and down the field as a half. On Tuesday afternoon the first and second squads held the first scrimmage, and by Thursday Coach Cade had put together a tentative eleven to meet Alton High School on Saturday. No one was surprised to see Gordon Renneker occupying the position of right guard, for Renneker’s fame had already spread throughout the school.
That first engagement was played under a hot sun and with the temperature hovering around seventy-two when High School kicked off. Naturally enough, as an exhibition of scientific football it left much to be desired. High School showed lack of condition and her players were to be seen stretched on their backs whenever time was called. Alton appeared of somewhat sterner stuff, but there was no doubt that half-time came as a welcome interruption even to her. “Johnny” Cade started Gurley and Emerson at ends, Butler and Wilde at tackles, Stimson and Renneker at guards and Garrick at center. The backfield consisted of Carpenter, Goodwin, Kendall and Greenwood. But this line-up didn’t persist long. Even by the end of the first quarter “Red” Reilly was at right half and Wells was at right tackle. During the remainder of the game changes were frequent until, near the end of the final period, second– and third-string players made up the team. Coach Cade tried out much unknown material that afternoon, and it seemed to Leonard that he was the only candidate who hadn’t been given a chance. As a matter of fact, though, there were some twenty others in like case, for the squad had not yet been cut. It was when Alton was presenting her weakest line-up that High School cut loose with her second bombardment of overhead shots – the first essay, in the second quarter, had netted her little enough – and secured her lone touchdown. She failed to add a goal since her line didn’t hold long enough for her kicker to get the ball away. The final score of the slow and ragged contest was 23 to 6. Talking it over afterwards in the comparative coolness of Number 12 Haylow, Slim was pessimistic. Perhaps the fact that his own efforts during approximately half of the forty minutes of actual play had not been brilliantly successful colored his mood.
“We’ve got plenty of material,” pronounced Slim, elevating his scantily-clad legs to the window-sill, “and I guess it’s average good, but it’s going to take us a long time to get going this year. You can see that with half an eye. Look at the army of queers that Johnny tried out this afternoon. That’s what slows up development, General. Now, last year we had the makings of a team right at the start. Only three or four first-string lads, I think, but a perfect gang of experienced substitutes, to say nothing of second team fellows. Result was that we started off with a bang and kept going. You bet High School didn’t do any scoring last season!”
“But,” objected Leonard, “weren’t you telling me the other day that the team had an awful slump about the middle of the season, and – ”
“Oh, well, that had nothing to do with the start. Two or three things accounted for that. What I’m getting at is just this. It’s mighty poor policy to spend the first two weeks of a football season finding out that more than half of your material’s no good to you. If I ever coach a team there’ll be no mob under my feet after the first three or four days. Thirty men’ll be all I’ll want. If I can’t build a team out of them, all right. I get out.”
“Glad that rule doesn’t hold good now,” said Leonard. “If it did I’d be out of it already.”
“Well, I don’t know. No, you wouldn’t either! That’s what I’m getting at. You can play football. You’ve done it for two years. You’ve had experience. All right. But look at the run of the small fry that – that’s infesting the field so you have to watch your step to keep from tramping on ’em. Why, suffering cats, most of ’em won’t be ready to play football for two years yet! There are chaps out there who couldn’t stop a ball with their heads! The ball would knock ’em right over. Well, Johnny gives each of ’em the once-over, and it takes time. He knows they aren’t going to show anything. It’s just this silly policy of giving every one a chance to make good. That’s why you’re sitting on the bench and a bunch of scrawny little would-be’s are letting High School shove over a score on us.”
“You may be right,” answered Leonard, “but it seems to me that it’s only by giving every one a chance to show what he’s good for that you can be sure of not overlooking something. I’ve seen more than once a fellow who didn’t look like anything at all at the start of the season turn into something good later on.”
“Sure, that happens now and then, but what of it? If the fellow really has ability he keeps on playing. He goes to the scrubs or one of the class teams. If he makes good there he mighty soon finds himself yanked back to the first. And the coach hasn’t wasted a week or two trying to find out about him.”
“Well, I guess I’m – I’m conservative, or something,” laughed Leonard, “for I sort of like a team that starts slow and gets up its speed gradually. I know that back home our coach used to point us for our big game, the last one, and all the other games were taken as they came, more or less. Of course, when we played Delaware Polytechnic we smoothed out a bit and learned two or three new plays just beforehand, but we didn’t go out of our way much even for her.”
“Oh, that’s all right, General. I don’t want to see any team hit its stride too early. Safe and slow is my motto, too, but that doesn’t mean you’ve got to get started a fortnight after school opens. Look here, I’ll bet you that next Saturday Johnny won’t be any nearer settled on the team’s make-up than he was to-day. Well, of course, he’ll know about some positions, but he’ll still be experimenting. Rus Emerson’s the same sort he is, too; has an ingrown conscience or – or sense of responsibility toward others. If Rus had his way any fellow who could borrow a pair of football pants could have a week’s try-out!”
“Who plays us next Saturday?” asked Leonard.
“Lorimer Academy. They’re a nice crowd of chaps, and they don’t give us much trouble. Last year, though, they did sort of throw a scare into us. We got three scores to their two. It was right after that we played a tie game with Hillsport and went into a jolly slump. Say, that guy Renneker didn’t show up so mighty wonderful to-day, did you think?”
“N-no, he looked a bit slow to me. But I guess he hasn’t got used to the place yet. Either that or he was sort of saving himself.”
“Saving himself for what?” demanded Slim.
“Search me.” Leonard smiled. “Maybe he thought there wasn’t much use working too hard against a weak team like Alton High.”
Slim shook his head, looking incredulous. “All I know is that the short time we were in together he was generally ‘on the outside looking in.’ Rather gives me the impression of being a poser. Still, to-day wasn’t much of a test; and he’s pretty big and perhaps the heat stalled him some. Hope he pans out big, for we sure need a corking good guard. Smedley’s a pippin, and Raleigh isn’t too bad, but we need another. To look at Renneker you’d expect him to be a hustler, but he didn’t show it to-day. He was outside most of the plays when I saw him. Not like Jim Newton. Jim’s always in the middle of it. For a center, Jim’s a live wire. Doesn’t matter much where the play comes in the line; Jim’s always sitting on the enemy’s head when the dust clears away! Say, I wish you’d switch your game, General, and try for tackle or something, something you’d have a show at.”
“But you just said,” answered the other demurely, “that the team needed another good guard.”
Slim grinned and shook his head. “All right, son, but I’d like to see you on the team. That’s all.”
“Think one of us ought to get on, eh?”
“Huh? Oh, well, there’s something in that, too. I’m not very sure of a place, and that’s no jolly quip. Gurley’s a good end, worse luck! And there’s Kerrison, too. But I’ll give them a fight for it. They’ll know they’ve been working if they beat me out, General! Let’s go and see what they’re giving us for supper.”
Leonard met the captain that evening for the first time. Met him socially, that is to say, Russell Emerson and Billy Wells overtook Leonard and Slim on their way to the movies. Wells was one of those Leonard already had a speaking acquaintance with, but Emerson had thus far remained outside his orbit. Continuing the journey, Leonard fell to Billy Wells and Rus and Slim walked ahead, but coming home they paired differently and Leonard found himself conversing with the captain, at first somewhat embarrassedly. But the football captain was easy to know, as the saying is, and Leonard soon forgot his diffidence. Of course, football formed some of the conversation, but Leonard sensed relief on the other’s part when the subject changed to the pictures they had just witnessed. After that they talked of other things; the school, and Leonard’s home in Rhode Island – Rus, it seemed, had never been farther south than he was now – , and the faculty and some of the fellows. The captain seemed to take it for granted that his companion was familiar with the names he mentioned, although as a fact most of them were new to Leonard. Mention of “Jake,” the trainer, introduced a laughable story about Jake and a track team candidate, in which Rus tried to imitate Jake’s brogue. That reminded Leonard of Johnny McGrath, and he asked Rus if he knew him.
“Yes, I’ve met him several times,” was the answer. “I’ve been trying to get him to try football. He’s a very good basket ball player and I’ve a strong hunch that he’d make a corking half. But his folks, his mother especially, I believe, object. He had a brother killed in the War, and his mother is dead set against taking chances with another of them. Too bad, too, for he’s a fast, scrappy fellow. The good-natured kind, you know. Plays hard and keeps his temper every minute. There’s a lot in keeping your temper, Grant.”
“But I’ve heard of teams being ‘fighting mad’ and doing big things.”
“Yes, the phrase is common enough, but ‘fighting earnest’ would be better. Just as soon as a fellow gets really mad he loses his grip more or less. He makes mistakes of judgment, begins to play ‘on his own.’ If he gets angry enough he stops being any use to the team. Of course there are chaps now and then who can work themselves up to a sort of fighting fury and play great football, but I suspect that those chaps aren’t really quite as wild as they let on. There’s Billy back there. He almost froths at the mouth and insults the whole team he’s playing against, but he never loses anything more than his tongue, I guess. The old bean keeps right on functioning as per usual. Billy doesn’t begin to warm up until his opponent double-crosses him or some one hands him a wallop! By the way, Grant, you’re on the squad, aren’t you? Seems to me I’ve seen you out at the field.”
“Yes,” Leonard assented, “I’m trying.”
“Good! What position?”
“Guard,” answered Leonard stoutly.
“I beg pardon?”
Emerson smiled. “I mean, are you certain that’s the position you want? You look a little light for guard.”
“I suppose I am,” said Leonard ruefully. “I tried hard to grow last summer, but I didn’t succeed very well. Our coach back home insists that I ought to play guard and so I’m sticking to it. Probably I won’t have much of a show this year, though.”
“Have you been in a scrimmage yet?”
“No, I haven’t. I’ve been on Squad C for a week or so. I’ve been at guard and tackle, and played back, too. Sort of a utility man.”ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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