Ralph Barbour.

Right Tackle Todd





The Judge knew football, too. There wasnt any doubt as to that. He had played it in school and college, and, although that had been a good twenty years before, he still followed the game and was an ardent fan; and traveled many miles each November to see his college meet its ancient rival. He hadnt missed an Alton game so far this season, he told Jim, but he didnt believe hed be able to make the trip to New Falmouth this afternoon. Then he asked if Jim was going to play, and Jim said he expected to, and the Judge sighed and pushed his newspaper aside and made finger spots on the polished mahogany surface of the desk and moved his hands hither and yon and explained to Jim in detail the way in which he had got away around the enemys right on a certain blustery afternoon many years ago and sped twenty-six yards for the touchdown that had won the game. And Jim, watching and listening, saw the picture clearly and said Gee! once or twice with bated breath and sighed with vast relief when the Judge only, of course, he wasnt the Judge then tore loose from the last tackler and fell across the blurred white line!

Then there was a knock on the door that led to the court room and the Judge straightened himself back in his chair and looked very judge-like on the instant. When the Clerk entered the Judge shook hands with Jim and walked to the corridor door with him. Im glad to have met you, Mr. Todd, he said in his best judicial tones. Good morning. But the Judges hand pressed Jims very hard, and so Jim found courage to ask before the door closed behind them: And about about Webb, sir? Youll be easy with him, sir?

My boy, answered the Judge, looking just a bit pompous and severe, his case will be judged absolutely on its merits. I can say no more than that.

After which, while the Clerk of the Court coughed deprecatively in token that the Judge was due on the bench, the Judges right eye-lid, without in the least altering the expression of his face, closed slowly down over the steel-gray eye.

Comforted, indeed rather happier than he had been since yesterday afternoon, Jim passed into the court room and took a seat at the rear. The rest of the audience counted no more than two dozen. Jim had never been in any sort of a court before, and he was a little disappointed at the almost casual way in which the cases were disposed of. But the offenses were all minor ones and so probably deserved little ceremony. The Judge strangely enough, Jim didnt yet know his name sat very straight behind his desk and looked unemotionally stern and gave his verdicts in crisp, terse words. Jim began to be a little uneasy. It seemed to him that the Judge was absolutely unable to say Discharged! Instead, it was Ten days in jail or You are fined fifty dollars or Sentenced to thirty days: sentence suspended. The prisoners were a dejected looking lot until Webb Todd stood up in his turn. Webb was perhaps more rumpled and seedy-looking than his predecessors, but there were no signs of dejection about him.

Indeed he had a rather jaunty air as he faced the Judge, in spite of his unshaven face and cheap, skimpy, frayed clothes. The Judge viewed him keenly and at greater length than usual. The charge was read.

What have you got to say for yourself, Webster? asked the Judge.

Not much, your Honor, Webb answered easily. Just that I aint guilty. Ive been here three or four days looking for work, but I aint a vagrant.

Where did you work last?

Manchester, New Hampshire, sir.

How long ago?

About a month. Nearly five weeks.

How did you happen to come here?

I was going to Norwalk. I got a job promised me in Norwalk. I got out of money and I had a friend here and I stopped to make a touch.

Succeed?

Yes, sir.

When?

Yesterday afternoon.

Before that? The Judges eyes bored hard. Webb stroked his chin.

A couple of days ago, sir.

Why didnt you go to Norwalk when you got the first money from this friend?

I I guess I felt lazy, said Webb. He smiled engagingly, and the Judge frowned.

Wheres your home?

New York City.

Ever been in Maine?

Yes, sir.

Four Lakes?

Jim could see the sudden stiffening of Webbs thin form at the far end of the room. Yes, sir, answered Webb after a moment.

As a matter of fact, Webster, thats your home, isnt it?

It used to be, Judge. I I guess I aint got any now.

The Judge stared intently at Webb for a long while across the desk, and, to his credit be it said, Webb returned the look unflinchingly. If I let you off, Webster, will you promise me to leave this town before night and secure work inside of twenty-four hours?

Ill say so, Judge.

Think you can secure work?

I know it.

The Judge leaned back. Discharged, he said. Next case.

Jim followed Webb into the corridor and went down stairs with him. Gee, Im awfully glad, Webb! he said.

Pshaw, he didnt have nothin on me, kid. What did I tell you? But, say, I forgot about you seeing him, and when he asked me about Four Lakes I got a swell jar! Did you bring the money, kid?

Yes. You get what they took away from you, Webb, and well trade.

Webb didnt seem enthusiastic about that, but he disappeared and after a few minutes returned with his possessions. Fifteen dollars, he said, offering Jim three five-dollar coins.

Sixteen, forty-one, said Jim implacably. Webb sighed, grinned and found the balance.

Gee, kid, youre a regular Shylock, aint you?

This isnt my money, Webb. Remember that Ive got to pay back the difference, too.

Thats right. Say, Im sorry, kid, honest I am. I aint used you right, and I know it. Comin along to the railway station with me?

No, answered Jim. I havent time, Webb. Heres five dollars. Youll be able to eat for a few days if you dont get that job right off.

Kid, youre a prince! But Ill get the job, all right. And say, this aint any promise, cause I aint good at keeping promises, but maybe Ill be sending you that money back before long.

I hope you will, replied Jim soberly. Anyway, Ill be expecting you to, Webb, for you really owe it to me, you know.

Help! said Webb. Well, thats right, too. So long, kid. See you again some day likely.

They shook hands; they were at the corner now; and Jim said: Youll keep your promise, wont you, Webb? I mean youll really go to Norwalk and get work.

Take it from me, kid, answered Webb, grinning, it aint going to be healthy for me in this town after to-day. That Judge back theres a hard-boiled egg, or I miss my guess! So long, kid!

CHAPTER XV
LOWELL IS WORRIED

Too late for a ten oclock recitation, Jim went back to Haylow and deposited Clems money in a drawer. At twenty minutes to eleven he went to his last class of the day, and when he returned to Number 15 Clem was there ahead of him. Jim took the money from his drawer and laid it on Clems chiffonier.

Thats yours, he stated.

Clem nodded carelessly. Yes. Much obliged. Presently he arose and took the money and placed it back in the suit-case, dropping the bunch of keys back into the chiffonier drawer as before. It is possible that the act was well intended. Perhaps he meant to convey to Jim that, despite what had happened, he still trusted him. But Jim read it differently. To Jim the proceeding announced: Youve been caught once, so I guess you wont try it again! Since last night the two had not had much to say to each other, and what conversation there had been had sounded lame. Probably in another day or two the feeling of constraint on each side would wear off, but just now it was far easier to remain silent than to make their remarks sound natural. After a few minutes, though, Clem looked at his watch and asked:

Arent you going with the team, Jim?

Jim started and hurriedly consulted his own timepiece. Gosh, yes! he ejaculated. Id forgotten! He hustled about and finally made for the door.

Good luck, said Clem. Hope you trim them.

Thanks, Jim called back.

There was an early dinner, at which Jim was late, and then the squad piled into two buses and were trundled to the station. New Falmouth was not far, but the train was a slow one and, to-day, was twenty minutes behind schedule besides. It was well after two when they reached their destination. Mr. Cade had taken twenty-six players, and these with coaches, managers, trainer and rubber made quite an addition to New Falmouths population and caused considerable stir in the little town.

The game started at three oclock and went the visitors way from the kick-off. New Falmouth High School was a team that varied from very good to extremely poor with the seasons. This year it was an aggregation of big, husky youths who seemed to have a lot of football inside them but couldnt get it out. That, at least, was the way Lowell Woodruff put it to Jim on the way home. Alton confined herself to straight plays and had so little difficulty making ground through the opponents line that she was not called on to play an open game. Rolls Roice made the first score when he picked up a fumbled ball and dashed nearly thirty yards with it. Billy Frost added a second touchdown six minutes later. Pep Kinsey, who started the game at quarter, kicked both goals and the first period ended with Alton 14 and New Falmouth 0.

Mr. Cade began substitutions with the beginning of the next quarter. Latham took Peps place, Plant went in for Billy Frost and Benning displaced Cheswick at center. A long march put Alton on the home teams eight yards where a mistake in signals set her back to the fourteen. Two drives by Tennyson, at full-back, netted five and, with ten to go on fourth down, Latham tossed to Levering, left end. But the ball grounded and went to the enemy. It was not until the half was nearly over that the Gray-and-Golds next invasion yielded a profit. Then Plant broke through from New Falmouths twenty-seven yards and wormed through a crowded field to the twelve. From there it took the visitors just five plays to put the pigskin across, Tennyson making the final plunge straight through center. Whittier missed the goal. By that time Altons line was largely composed of second and third string players, and during the few minutes that remained New Falmouth made her second first-down and kept the ball in her possession.

Jim didnt see service until the third period started. His opponent was a big heavy youth, but he was correspondingly slow, and Jim didnt have much trouble with him. Yet, somehow, Jim played listlessly to-day. Usually he was surprisingly quick after the ball, and had not infrequently beaten his own ends down the field under punts, but this afternoon he and the pigskin were more like strangers and he was forever running into the interference instead of around it. He was not the only one who failed to show his best form, however, for there was a noticeable let-down in aggressiveness as the score grew. Mr. Cade used every man he had brought along before the end, but re-instated several first-string fellows in the final period. Jim was one of those who retired then. He didnt much care, for some reason. Perhaps, because when your side is 30 and the other side is 0, some of the zest of playing is lacking.

New Falmouth made her single score while Jim was still in as a result of abandoning her off-tackle and around-the-end plays, which had netted her little, and taking to a passing game. Twice she tried long passes and failed, largely because the thrower waited so long that Alton easily covered the receivers. Finally, though, having caught a short punt on Altons forty-seven yards, she changed her tactics and used a short pass across the line from a moving formation by which the pass was well screened. Possibly she would have found less success had the Gray-and-Gold team not been at the time composed largely of substitutes. As it was she managed to fool the opponents very neatly by varying the passes with end runs. Several times Altons back-field followed across to the apparently threatened territory only to find that a run had suddenly developed into a forward pass that sent them doubling back, usually too late. Once Smith, who had taken Gus Fingals place, saved the day by pulling down the receiver from behind. On three other occasions New Falmouth got the pass to the runner almost unchallenged, and only the fact that the receivers seemed incapable of getting off quickly kept the home team from crossing Altons goal-line. As it was, New Falmouth swept from the forty-seven to the fifteen, losing a yard now and then on end plays and gaining from eight to twelve on passes across the line.

On the fifteen-yard line, however, Alton, reinforced by two first-string backs, stopped progress. New Falmouth shot a forward to the left only to have it knocked down by Billy Frost. A plunge off tackle gained less than a yard. Faking a try-at-goal, the invaders tossed over the middle of the line and in the wild scramble that ensued the pigskin again went to earth. With one chance left New Falmouth put it up to the toe of her full-back and, although Alton tried desperately to break through, and although both Jim and Hick Powers actually did succeed in almost reaching the kicker, he made good and sent the pigskin neatly between the uprights for New Falmouths single score of the day. In revenge the visiting team took the ball a few minutes later and, strengthened by the return of many of her players who had started the contest, walked down the field for the last tally, sending Steve Whittier over for the fifth touchdown just before time was up. Steve added the 1 to the 6 a moment later, and, since she had previously scored a field-goal, Alton Academy returned home in the November twilight with a 37 to 3 victory.

On the train Lowell Woodruff sat with Jim and was very talkative on the subject of the contest and the lessons to be learned from it. Jim, feeling rather glum, would much rather have watched the gray landscape and thought his thoughts, even if they werent very cheering. But he managed to make Lowell think he was attentive, and, since Lowell never demanded too much of his listeners, he had little opportunity to commune either with Nature or with Jim Todd during that forty-minute train ride. We dont want to get proud and haughty about this game, was part of the wisdom imparted by the manager. Of course, it wasnt so bad, and if wed played our best men all through we might easily have scored a couple more times and kept our own slate clean. But the point is that those raw meat eaters back there are slow as cold molasses. And their brains are sort of torpid, too. If they had a chance to make a gain they went into conference, you might say, and by the time theyd reached a decision some one of our crowd spilled the beans. I wouldnt wonder if they had a pretty fair team by the end of the season, but any fast bunch could tie knots in em. Thats one thing we showed ourselves to be to-day, Slim, fast. Yes, sir, were plumb sudden the way we get started and move around. And Johnny Cade was mighty pleased, too. I guess there was a whole lot he didnt like, but the speed we showed had him tickled to death. All weve got to do is keep up the speed, work out a nice running and passing game, and walk right away from Kenly Hall.

You think we can do it? asked Jim, who, having heard no more than half of Lowells remarks, was driven by compunction to a show of interest. Lowell grunted and looked past Jim into the gathering darkness.

I think we can beat Kenly, but I dont think it the way I talked then, he replied slowly. Thats the trouble with these easy games. They make you see things that aint. Kenly licked the boots off us two years ago and tied us last, and I dont see why she shouldnt do it again. That is, if we arent a hundred per cent better than we were when she did it before. Were some better already, but were a long way from twice as good. Kenlys got most of her last year crowd on hand again, and you know weve had to build almost a new team. Anyway, Id rather see Kenly win than tie us. Theres something beastly unsatisfactory about a game that neither side wins. Seems as if all the seasons work and planning had been wasted. Its like a crazy dream I had once. I dreamed I was climbing up a lot of ladders hitched together at the ends. There were dozens of em, and I kept on climbing, rung over rung, scared blue all the time. And then when I finally reached the top of the last ladder I was just where Id started!

Jim laughed. Then: Tie games never come together, though, he said knowingly. I noticed that when I was reading the football records the other day.

I dare say thats so, said Lowell. I think weve only played three of them with Kenly since the fun started. Anyway, I dont want to see another one this year. How did you get on to-day?

All right, I guess, answered Jim without much conviction in his tones. Not so well as sometimes, maybe. Guess I didnt feel very zippy to start with.

I dare say. Every fellow has an off-day now and then. Probably ate something. Take it easy to-morrow and be good to yourself. You know, Todd, Im kind of banking on you to finish the season strong. Slim and Victorys my motto!

Shucks, muttered Jim. I aint much good, I guess.

That, responded Lowell, is just your modesty. The fact is, he added benignantly, you play your position just as I should if I were a football man, Todd. I can think of no greater praise!

Jim was glad that he had a meeting of the Maine-and-Vermont Society to interest him that evening. Anything was preferable to sitting alone in Number 15, and the companionship of Clem offered even less attraction.

Clem had spent a dull afternoon. When it was too late he wished that he had followed his first impulse and journeyed to New Falmouth for the game. After sitting listlessly in the room a while, trying to write a letter and failing, trying to read and again failing, he started downstairs with the intention of finding some one who, like himself, had the afternoon on his hands. But the sight of Mr. Tarbots open door produced a sudden impulse and he stopped and knocked.

The instructor was at his desk, but he greeted Clem cordially and asked him to sit down. Clem seated himself in the attitude of one who has but a moment to spare. Mr. Tarbot, he asked, did you notice a fellow pass your door yesterday afternoon?

A fellow? inquired the instructor, smiling.

Well, a stranger, sir, sort of a smallish, thin chap in gray, with a cloth cap; awfully seedy-looking.

No, I dont recall him, replied Mr. Tarbot, but then so many go in and out, Harland, that I pay very little attention.

If youd seen this fellow I think youd have remembered him, said Clem. I mean youd have seen he wasnt one of us, sir.

Probably. At least, I trust so. As a matter of fact, Harland, I find myself as I grow older contracting the odd habit of seeing things with my eyes but not with my brain. For instance, had I been facing the door when you went past I should probably have raised my eyes and seen you quite clearly, but if you asked me five minutes later if I had seen you Id have had to say no. So it isnt beyond possibility that your friend with the cloth cap did go past here. I assume that my habit of seeing without realizing is a natural and usual symptom of approaching senility.

Mr. Tarbot, although he looked somewhat older, was still well under forty, and Clem laughed. Well, I guess youd have noticed this fellow, he said. He probably didnt come here.

Theres nothing wrong, I hope? said the instructor.

Clem shook his head. Of course there was a good deal wrong, but he couldnt tell Mr. Tarbot so. Outside, he felt at once disappointed and satisfied; disappointed because, as thoroughly as he disbelieved Jims version, he would have been glad to find it true; satisfied because it is human nature to relish confirmation of ones convictions. He spent the subsequent twenty minutes or so trying to find an acquaintance with whom to cast in his lot for the afternoon, but each room he visited was deserted, and finally he went back to Haylow and tried to make the best of the four empty hours ahead.

Already Jims crime looked less heinous to Clem. Of course, he assured himself, he could never feel toward Jim quite as he had before, but his first severity had waned. He even sought excuses for the other. Probably Webb had worked on Jims sympathies until the latter had become desperate and on impulse, without sober thought, had taken the only way to satisfy Webbs demand that was possible. Perhaps, he told himself, even he, placed as Jim had been placed, would have done the same. But he couldnt convince himself of that. And he was certain that had he stolen that money he could never have sought to escape suspicion by throwing the blame on another. That, in Clems eyes, was the deadliest sin.

He determined that so far as was possible he would put the affair out of his mind and behave as though nothing had ever happened. At least for the rest of the term. Perhaps after Christmas recess there would be a chance to move into Lykes. Lykes was the senior dormitory and if there was a vacancy he would be eligible for it. Of course the matter of getting Jim into Janus Society was at an end. Doubtless Jim would understand that. Clem felt a little bit happier and perhaps a trifle heroic after his decision, and he was all prepared to carry his plan into effect when Jim returned from the game. But Jim went right from the station to supper and, although Clem waited in Number 15 until nearly eight oclock, didnt get back to the room until ten. By that time Clem was feeling somewhat disgruntled, as well as sleepy, and in the few words that were exchanged constraint was as much in evidence as ever.





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