Right Tackle ToddŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
ďI want you fellows to take a ball,Ē said the coach, ďand practice some long passes. Start in at about twenty yards and increase the distance gradually. I want you, Tennyson, to get the overhand spiral throw down pat. You know how it should be made. Go ahead and learn to make it. Take plenty of time and try for accuracy and precision first. Speed and distance can come later. You, Todd, practice catching. Iíve seen you make several very good catches of a passed ball. See if you canít do still better. Learn to take them high and make them sure. Put in about twenty minutes of it, but quit before that if your arms get tired. Go ahead.Ē
Sam Tennyson, who was a tall and fairly heavy youth with light-brown hair and a pair of sharp dark eyes, accompanied Jim in silence after he had obtained a ball. The full-back was a quiet chap at best, and just now he had less to say than usual. About all he did say as they made their way around the empty stand was: ďSomething up, Slim. Johnnyís got a hunch.Ē
Wednesday again the pair went through the passing practice and spent nearly a half-hour at it this time. Tennyson, who had not been called on before for the trick, progressed more slowly than did Jim. He got along well enough until he tried to speed the throw. Then the ballís flight became erratic and Jim had to run three, four or five yards out of position to get it. But Tennyson had a long arm and plenty of strength and, throwing slowly, could make the oval travel a remarkable distance. The work went on each day, sometimes before scrimmage, sometimes after. On Friday, since there was only one scrimmage period, and the first-string players were dismissed a half-hour earlier than usual, Mr. Cade himself took Jim and Sam Tennyson in charge, leaving the argument between the substitutes and the second to Mr. Lake and Mr. Myers. When he had watched two throws he stopped the performance and coached Sam in holding the ball and in spinning it as it was shot away. ďNow,Ē he said, ďgo back another five yards, Todd. What do you make that distance?Ē
ďAbout forty, sir.Ē
ďOr forty-five. All right. Now, Tennyson, elbow close to your side, and donít forget to whip your fingers under. Just think that youíre pegging a baseball from the plate to second. Itís the same sort of a motion: a throw from the ear, as the catchers call it. Thatís not bad, but you went three yards at least to the left. Thatís another thing, by the way. If you must shoot to one side of the receiver, shoot to the right Ė your right, not his. But try to land the ball in his hand.Ē
Presently he walked over and joined Jim. ďI think youíd better put your hand up and signal,Ē he said. ďBetter get used to doing it. Donít signal, though, until you know that the thrower has the ball and is looking for you. If you do you advertise to the other team. Thatís it, only stretch your hand just as high as you can. Youíve got a long arm, Todd, and you might as well make use of it. Remember that the thrower has to find his target quick.
By the way, I see youíve taken the bandage off your fingers. Did it bother you in catching?Ē
ďNo, sir, but the fingers are all right now.Ē
ďThink you could catch if you had your four fingers bandaged?Ē
Jim observed the coach doubtfully. It sounded like a joke, but Mr. Cadeís face was quite serious. ďI donít know, sir,Ē answered Jim, ďbut I guess I could.Ē
ďWeíll try it Monday. Thatís the way. Take them high and pull them down quick. And freeze onto them hard, Todd. Never mind about being too particular on the throw. I donít believe youíll be on that end of it much. I want you to specialize on catching. You see, Iíve had you in view all the season as the man who might work in nicely at the other end of a long pass. You might drop around this evening after nine and Iíll tell you how I mean to use you a week from to-morrow.Ē
Saturdayís game with Oak Grove went about as predicted. The opponent was never dangerous, and this year, while the visitors put up rather a sterner defense than usual, Alton had no difficulty in scoring two touchdowns in the first period and one in the third and in keeping her own goal-line uncrossed. In fact, Oak Grove never had the ball inside the Gray-and-Goldís thirty-yard line save in the last quarter when the Alton team was composed almost entirely of first and second substitutes. Pep Kinsey, who acted as quarter-back during three periods, was the individual star for the home team, making some dazzling run-backs of punted balls and twice scampering around the Oak Grove end for long gains. Besides that he ran the team smoothly and fast, getting plays off with a celerity that more than once found the opponents completely unprepared. Frost made two touchdowns and Sam Tennyson one, and Steve Whittier kicked two goals. Steve had rather an off-day in the backfield and yielded his place to Larry Adams when the last half began. It was in Steveís absence that Kinsey missed the try-for-point after that third touchdown. The final score was consequently 20 to 0.
Nothing new was shown by Alton, although Oak Grove opened her bag of tricks wide and tried some weird plays in an effort to score in the fourth period. There was a good deal of punting, with honors fairly even, and each team tried the passing game, Alton making good four out of seven attempts and Oak Grove succeeding five times out of fourteen. Two of Altonís passes were pulled down by Jim, and only a watchful defense prevented him from getting away on long runs. He showed an almost uncanny ability to get into position unnoticed and on each occasion that the ball was thrown to him he caught unchallenged. Only alertness and speed on the part of the Oak Grove backs spoiled his chances of long gains. Jim put himself back on the football map that afternoon and finally and conclusively ousted Willard Sawyer from the position of right tackle. This fact was not known to Jim then, but he may have guessed it. Others did. Jim was a terror on offense and as solid as a stone wall on defense. He raced his end nip-and-tuck down the field under punts and was into every play it was possible for him to reach. In brief, Jim had a big day, and if half a dozen other Alton men hadnít played far better than they had played before that season he might easily have shared the honors with Pep Kinsey. But the Gray-and-Gold eleven had found its stride and Jimís work was no better than that of several others.
In the last period there was a brief scare when Oak Grove, fighting valiantly and desperately against what was almost a third-string Alton team, hurling forward-passes of all sorts to all directions, faking passes to hide off-tackle plays, using criss-crosses of every conceivable variety, worked her way to Altonís twenty-seven yards, where, meeting at last with denial, she was forced to a well-nigh hopeless try-at-goal from the thirty-six yards. The attempt failed widely and she had shot her bolt.
That game added more enthusiasm at Alton, and the mass meeting in the auditorium that evening attained unprecedented heights of emotion. There were speeches and songs and cheers, and noise and confusion enough to gladden the heart of the most irrepressible freshman. And after the adjournment the whole affair was re?nacted with only slightly less enthusiasm in front of Academy Hall, the eveningís program ending with a large and certainly hilarious parade around the campus and, finally, to Coach Cadeís residence. Learning at last, after repeated demands for a speech, that the coach had gone home over Sunday, the parade disintegrated, its component parts returning to their various domiciles in small, but far from silent, groups.
On Monday the final week of preparation for the great battle started with a hard practice for all hands. No one was spared and no one, it seemed, desired to be. The second earned a broad niche in the local Hall of Fame that afternoon if only for emerging from the two periods of fighting without casualties. The first team had found itself and was there to show the world!
CLEM DELIVERS A LETTER
Tuesday and Wednesday rushed by. Thursday lagged. Friday stood still, quite as though Time had stopped doing business. Saturday ó
Practice had been secret since the Tuesday following the New Falmouth game. That is to say, patriotic lower class fellows had daily, between the hours of three and five, patrolled the outskirts of Alton Field, warning away inquisitive townsfolk and intrusive small boys. Since it was quite possible to stand on Meadow street and see from a distance the players moving about on the gridiron, the word secret in relation to practice was an exaggeration. Also, any resident of senior or freshman dormitory whose window looked westward could, had he wished, have solved the most puzzling of the plays in which the Gray-and-Gold team was seeking to perfect itself. However, protracted occupancy of dormitory windows overlooking the field was frowned upon during the latter part of the season, and, on the whole, Coach Cade was well enough satisfied with the concealment allowed him and his works. Since the same conditions had prevailed so long as football had been played at Alton and no precious secret had ever reached the enemy the coachís confidence seemed well founded.
Tuesday and Wednesday saw long sessions for the squad, the emphasis being laid on precision and smoothness. Tuesday evening it was rumored that the first team had scored four times on the scrub, and the school found new cause for enthusiasm. Thursday witnessed a let-up in the work. Individual instruction occupied much of the time. Later there was a period of formation drill, a long practice for the kickers and, finally, a short tussle with the second team in which no effort was made to run up the score. There was, so report had it, much aerial football that day. Practice was over early and some thirty youths, unaccustomed to finding themselves foot-loose at half-past four, wondered what to do with themselves. Of course the usual evening sessions Ė ďbean-testsĒ the players called them Ė were continued right up to and including Friday.
Friday was, from the football manís point of view, a day without rime or reason. Save that the players reported in togs at four oíclock and trotted around a while in signal drill, what time the rest of the school looked on and practiced cheers and songs, there was nothing to do and too much time to do it. The second team made its final appearance and staged a ten-minute scrimmage with an eleven composed of its own substitutes and a few first team third-stringers. Then it performed the sacred rites incident to disbanding, cheered and was cheered, marched in solemn file around a pile of discarded Ė and incidentally worthless Ė apparel and at last, followed by the audience, still noisy, cavorted back to the gymnasium.
With nothing to do save await the morrow and what it might bring, Jim, like most of the other players, felt suddenly let-down. Although not of a nervous temperament, he found it extremely difficult to sit still and even more difficult to fix his thoughts on any one subject for more than a half-minute at a time. Supper was hectic, marked by sudden outbursts of laughter and equally sudden lapses to silence. Every one made a great pretense of hunger, but only a few of the veterans ate normally. Coach Cade seemed more quiet and thoughtful than usual. At Jimís end of the long table Lowell Woodruff, ably aided by Billy Frost, managed to keep things enlivened, but even so Jim was relieved when he could push back his chair and return to Number 15. Pending the ďbean-test,Ē he tried to study and failed, tried to write a letter to Webb Todd and again failed. Perhaps had he been able to find the letter that Webb had written to him, enclosing the two-dollar bill, he might have obtained sufficient inspiration, but that letter had mysteriously disappeared. At seven-thirty he went around to the gymnasium, but even Coach Cade failed him to some extent, for the Coach had little to say about plays and a good deal about playing and sent them away at eight with instructions to keep their minds off football and go to bed promptly at ten oíclock; advice far easier to give than to act on.
Jim, realizing how futile was the effort to think of anything save football, got his rules book and began to turn the well-thumbed leaves. If there was anything contained therein that he didnít know by heart and couldnít have recited almost word for word he failed to find it, and he was very glad when Clemís hurried steps sounded in the corridor and the door flew open before him. Any sort of companionship, even unharmonious, was welcome to-night.
Clem closed the door behind him and gave a triumphant grunt that sounded like ďHuh!Ē Jim, looking up inquiringly, thought that his room-mate looked awfully funny. By funny, Jim, of course, meant strange. Still keeping what amounted to an accusing glare on Jim, Clem advanced in a peculiarly remorseless manner to his side of the table, threw one leg over his chair, lowered himself into place and folded his elbows on the table edge. Then:
ďYouíre a fine piece of cheese, arenít you?Ē he demanded.
There was no insult in the words as Clem said them. On the contrary they seemed to have an undertone of affection, and Jim was more puzzled than ever, and found the otherís gaze increasingly disconcerting. The fact must have shown on his countenance, for Clem went on triumphantly: ďNo wonder you look guilty, you Ė you blamed old fraud!Ē
ďI donít know what youíre talking about,Ē grumbled Jim, uncomfortable from the fact that he knew he was looking guilty in spite of a clear conscience.
ďIíll soon tell you,Ē announced Clem. ďI went over to Artís after supper; Art Landorf, you know. Woodie was there. When I was coming away he asked me to give you a piece of paper. Said Johnny Cade had given it to him a week ago to hand to you. Something youíd left at Johnnyís one night. I asked him what it was and he said he didnít know, but he pulled it out of a mess of other truck in a pocket and handed it to me.Ē
Jim flushed a little. ďWhat was it?Ē he asked uneasily.
ďI guess you know what it was, you poor prune. It was a letter from that yegg friend of yours, Webb Todd.Ē
ďOh!Ē murmured Jim.
ďYes, Ďohí!Ē mimicked Clem unfeelingly. ďIt had some sort of a crazy cubist drawing on one side and I naturally opened it. Of course when I saw it was a letter I tried not to read it, but I had to read some of it because my eyes lighted right on it.Ē Clem looked so defiant as to appear almost threatening. Jim nodded.
ďThatís all right,Ē he muttered.
ďYou bet itís all right!Ē Clem was getting truculent. ďAnd now Iím going to read the whole of it, and youíre going to sit still and listen to it!Ē He drew the somewhat soiled rectangular object from his pocket and shook it challengingly at the other.
ďIíd rather you didnít,Ē objected Jim weakly.
Clemís laugh was derisive. ďYou go to thunder! Anyway, I read the part that matters, so Ė Ē He hesitated and tossed the letter across the table. Jim picked it up without more than a glance and buried it under a blue book. ďHe says there ĎI wasnít meaning to swipe that money, like I told you, kid, and Iím sorry I done it. I ainít a thief Ė í and a lot more guff. Now, then, what about it?Ē
ďWell, what about it?Ē asked Jim with returning spirit. ďI told you, but you wouldnít believe me.Ē
ďYes, I know,Ē acknowledged Clem somewhat shamefacedly. ďGosh, I wanted to, Jim, but it looked awfully fishy. And I asked Old Tarbox if a stranger had been up here that afternoon and he didnít remember one. He said he might have got by without his noticing, but it didnít seem to me that any one could fail to notice that queer-looking guy! But, hang it, why didnít you show me that letter when you got it? Think Iíve had a jolly time with you treating me like dirt? Why Ė Ē
ďIsnít that the way you treated me?Ē asked Jim, smiling faintly.
ďNo, sir, I treated you decently! Anyway, I tried to, but you wouldnít let me, confound you. Didnít you intend to show me that letter at all, Jim?Ē
Jim shook his head.
ďWell,Ē exclaimed Clem in outraged tones, ďthen all I can say is that youíre the doggonedest, meanest, false-pridest Ė Ē
ďYouíre another!Ē Jim was grinning now, suddenly feeling very warm and happy, and somewhat foolish. Clem grinned back. Then he laughed uncertainly.
ďYou blamed old idiot!Ē he said affectionately.
Jim blinked. ďGuess I was to blame, Clem,Ē he said reflectively. ďMaybe Iíd ought to have made you believe me; licked you until you did or Ė or something. But it didnít seem right you should think I was a thief, even if it did look like I was, and so I Ė I got sort of uppity and Ė and Ė Ē
ďDonít blame you,Ē growled Clem. ďOught to have punched my head. Wish you had. I donít know what made me so rotten mean. Anyhow, Iím mighty sorry and Ė and I beg your pardon, old son.Ē
ďAw, shut up,Ē said Jim. ďGuess we both acted loony. Letís forget it.Ē
Clem nodded. ďHope you will. I wouldnít care to think that you were holding it in for me, Jim. Funny thing is,Ē he went on in tones that held embarrassment, ďI donít know whether I got to thinking you didnít Ė didnít do it or whether I got to not caring whether you did or didnít, but Iíd have called quits long ago, two or three days after, I guess, if youíd given me a chance.Ē
ďWell, as long as you were thinking me a thief Ė Ē
ďBut I could see how most any fellow might make a foozle like that,Ē interrupted Clem eagerly. ďI said that here was that fellow youíd known and been fond of nagging you for money, and you not having any, and there was that money in the suit-case which you knew mighty well Iíd give you if you asked for it Ė Ē
ďI suppose youíd do it yourself?Ē inquired Jim innocently.
ďSure! That is Ė Ē Then Clem found Jim grinning broadly. ďWell, I might. How do I know? How does any one know what he will do when faced by Ė er Ė by sudden temptation and all that sort of thing?Ē
ďNo, you wouldnít,Ē answered Jim. ďNeither would I. Webb could have starved. But, just the same, and I think itís sort of funny, too, I didnít think anything about lying! Seems like stealing and lying arenít much different, donít it?Ē
ďWell, yes, but, gosh, a fellowís got to tell a whopper sometimes to protect a friend, hasnít he? And thatís what you did.Ē
ďI guess a lieís a lie, just the same,Ē responded Jim regretfully, ďand I didnít feel right about telling that one to the police captain that time. Only, I didnít want Webb to go to jail. Gee, I donít know!Ē
ďYou neednít have told him you gave the money to Webb, as far as that goes. They couldnít have proved it on him if I hadnít said Iíd lost it.Ē
ďGee, I never thought of that, Clem! But it was all so sort of sudden that I didnít have much time to think. Lying comes mighty easy, donít it?Ē
Well, it was just like old times in Number 15 that evening. There was a lot to be said, things that ought to have been said days and days ago and things that had been unthought of before, and almost before Jim knew that it was as late as nine the ten oíclock bell rang. Even after they were in bed the talk kept on, as:
ďSay, Jim, itís a shame to keep you awake, but Ė Ē
ďGee, I ainít sleepy. Iíd rather talk than not.Ē
ďWell, about Janus. You know we were speaking of it a while back. Youíll join, eh?Ē
ďI donít know, Clem. I ainít Ė Iím not much for society doings. Gee, I donít even own a dress-suit!Ē
ďYou donít need a dress-suit, you gump! Iím going to put you through next week, and thereís an end to it.Ē
ďWell, if you want me to, all right. Father got rid of some timberland the other day that heís been trying to sell for three or four years. He didnít get quite all he wanted, but he did pretty well. So I guess I can afford this Janus thing.Ē
Still later: ďJim, you asleep?Ē
ďYes. Whatíll you have?Ē
ďListen. About Mart coming back Ė Ē
ďI know. Thatís all right.Ē
ďHow do you mean, all right?Ē
ďWhy, you fellows can have this room or Iíll find some one else to come in here. Just as long as I donít have to pay the whole rent Ė Ē
ďYou make me sick! I never had any notion of going in with Mart. He doesnít expect me to. I just said that because you made me mad, you silly ass!Ē
ďOh! Well, I didnít Ė understand. Still, you mustnít feel like youíve got to turn Mart down, Clem.Ē
ďI donít. Iím not turning him down because he hasnít even suggested it. If you canít talk sense youíd better go to sleep.Ē
ďAll right,Ē chuckled Jim. ďGood night.Ē
Some time later Clem awoke in the darkness to find groans and heart-breaking gasps coming from Jimís bed. After a moment of sleepy concern Clem went across and shook his chum into consciousness. ďHey, wake up! Whatís the matter, old son? Got the nightmare?Ē
ďGee!Ē muttered Jim. ďThat you, Clem? Was I making a row?Ē
ďWere you! Well, rather! What Ė Ē
ďGee, it was awful! Sam threw the ball to me and I was all set for it when the crazy thing began running around my head in circles and making a noise like Ė like an automobile and I couldnít catch it! Every time Iíd make a grab it would dodge out of the way! And about a hundred fellows with big white mittens on stood and laughed at me. Gee, it was fierce!ĒŮÍŗųŗÚŁ ÍŪŤ„ů ŠŚŮÔŽŗÚŪÓ
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