Ralph Barbour.

Right Tackle Todd





When Clem came back to school after Christmas he found a package awaiting him in the mail box. Opened, it revealed a long, flat box of small cubes wrapped in pink tissue paper. Investigation proved the cubes to be spruce gum. There was also a scrawling enclosure from Jim Todd. Wishing you a Merry Christmas, Clem read. This is the real thing. Hope you like it. Im sending it to Alton because I dont know where you are. Give some to Gray. Yours, J. T.

Mart declared that he detested gum and wouldnt chew the stuff on a bet, but after watching Clems jaws rhythmically champing for some ten minutes he perjured himself and was soon as busy as his chum. Two days later, suffering from lame jaws after almost continuous chewing during waking hours, Clem seized the box, now half empty, and consigned it to the depths of the waste basket. The pesky stuff! he grumbled. First thing we know well have the habit! Mart, one hand raised in protest, recognized the wisdom of the course and observed the sacrifice in silence. During the rest of that day he chewed scraps of paper torn from the corners of note-books. However, they lacked the insidious fascination of spruce gum and he gave them up and was cured. Of course they thanked Jim heartily a few days later, when he dropped in one afternoon, offering as conclusive evidence of their appreciation the fact that the supply was exhausted. Jim promptly promised to write to his father and get him to send some more. Perhaps he forgot it, for the new supply never reached Number 15 Haylow.

It is possible that absorption in new interests was accountable for Jims failure to make good on that promise, for it was shortly after that that Mart brought word of the Maine Society. Neither he nor Clem was eligible to membership, but that didnt detract from their interest in the Society which, as Mart had heard it from Sam Newson, had been started by Jim Todd and already, while still less than a fortnight old, had a membership of nine. The school already possessed a Southern Club and a Western Society, but a social organization restricted to residents of a single state in attendance at Alton was something new and, like most innovations, it came in for some ridicule. The notice board in Academy Hall fairly blossomed with calls for members of similar societies. Some one named Henry Clay Calhoun, which may or may not have been a cognomen assumed for the occasion, invited other residents of South Carolina to meet in Number 14 Borden to effect the organization of The South Carolina Society of Alton Academy, Devoted to the Abolishment of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution and to a Campaign of Education and Enlightenment among the Beknighted Citizens of Northern States. As Borden Hall was restricted to freshmen, the authenticity of the invitation was questionable. The same was true of a summons to resident Hawaiians, while a document phrased in pidgin English and summoning all Chinese students at Alton to meet in the school laundry and enter their names on the roster of The Chinese Tong was even more palpably insincere.

But ridicule seemed just what the Maine Society required, for a fortnight later it changed its name to the Maine-and-Vermont Society and increased its membership to thirty-one. A fellow named Tupper became president of the reorganized club and James Todd was secretary and treasurer. Meetings were held weekly in the rooms of various members at first, and then, securing faculty recognition, the Society was assigned the use of a room on the top floor of Academy Hall.

By invitation of Jim Todd, Clem attended one of the open meetings held monthly and was well entertained. The sight of Jim slowly elongating himself from behind the secretarys table to read the previous minutes was alone well worth the effort of climbing two flights of stairs to Clem. Jim was very earnest and recited the doings of the last meeting in tones that imbued them with a vast importance. Moved and seconded, read Jim weightily, that the Secretary be and hereby is empowered to contract for a sufficient supply of letter paper, appropriately printed with the Societys name and emblem, and a sufficient supply of envelopes likewise so printed, the total cost of the same not to exceed seven dollars, and the same to be paid for out of the funds of the Society. So voted. There were light refreshments later, and afterwards several members spoke informally often embarrassedly on matters of interest to citizens of the affiliated states. The best of the number was undoubtedly the secretary and treasurer. Jim was far more self-possessed than of yore and he spoke in an easy conversational style that pleased his hearers mightily. What he had to tell wasnt much; just a somewhat rambling account of a visit to a logging camp; but he made it interesting and displayed a humorous perception that Clem, for one, had never suspected him of. On the whole, Clem enjoyed the evening and was quite sincere when he said as much to Jim on their way back to Haylow. When they parted in the corridor, Clem said:

You havent been in to see us, Todd, for a long time. Were getting out of touch with events, Mart and I. Better drop in some time and cheer us up.

Jim looked as if he suspected the other of joshing. He was never absolutely certain about Clems ingenuousness. Well, he answered, Id been around before only I knew you were pretty busy with hockey and and all like that.

Oh, hockey doesnt take all my time, said Clem. For instance, I dont play much after supper.

Oh, well, I meant that being captain of the team youd likely be pretty busy one way and another. Ill be dropping in some evening soon, though, if you say so.

Wish you would. Good night!

Seeking Number 15 and a bored Mart, who had refused the invitation to the Maine-and-Vermont Society with scathing remarks, Clem marveled at the perfectly idiotic way in which he persisted in fostering the acquaintance of Jim Todd. He didnt really care a hang about the queer chap, of course, and But hold on! Was that quite true? Didnt he rather like Jim, if the truth had to be told? Well, yes, he sort of guessed he did. There was something about Jim Todd that appealed to him. Maybe and he grinned as he flung open the door of Number 15 it was just Todds quality of being different!

CHAPTER III
ON THE ICE

A few days later Clem, smashing into the boards of the outdoor rink, after a valiant effort to hook the puck from Landorf, of the scrub six, almost bumped heads with Jim Todd. It was a nippingly cold February afternoon, and Jim made one of the small audience that stamped about on chilled feet and watched the progress of the practice game. Jim, though, appeared less conscious of the cold than most of the others. He had on the old gray woolen sweater, and a cloth cap set inadequately on the back of his streaky brown locks. About him were overcoats even one or two of fur and unfastened overshoes rattled their buckles as their wearers kicked the wooden barrier or stamped about on the hard-trodden snow to encourage circulation. Jim wore a pair of woolen socks of a dubious shade of tan and low shoes that were ostensibly black. And he didnt prance about a bit. Once in a while he did rub his long bony hands together, but the action seemed an indication of interest in the hockey game rather than in the temperature. As a matter of fact, this was Jims first glimpse of such a contest, and he was, for Jim Todd, quite excited over it.

Between the halves Clem skated over to him. Arent you frozen? he asked wonderingly.

Me? No. Jim shook his head slowly. Its right cold, though, aint it? A whole lot colder than we have it in Maine, I guess. Say, whats that thing made of youre hitting around on the ice?

Rubber. Havent you ever played hockey?

No. When I was a kid we used to whack a block of wood around with sticks, but it wasnt much like this hockey. Looks like youve got almost as many rules as there are in football. Youre a pretty nice skater, aint you?

Not as good as some of the fellows, replied Clem. You skate, of course.

Jim nodded. Thats bout the only thing I can do real well, he answered. Dont believe I could get around the way you do, though; dodge and turn so quick and all like that. I aint so bad at skating fast, but Ive got to have plenty of room.

Better go into the races Saturday morning, suggested Clem. Whats your distance?

Distance?

Yes, what are you best at? Half-mile? Mile? Two miles?

Why, I dont know. Ive skated in a lot of races, you might say, but we didnt ever measure them. Wed race, generally, from the old boat-house to the inlet; on Lower Pond, you know. Guess thats about three-quarters of a mile; more or less.

Why dont you enter for Saturday, then? asked Clem. You ought to be able to do the mile if youve been doing the three-quarters, Todd.

Well, I dont know. Would you? Does it cost anything?

Not a cent, laughed Clem. Theres a list of the events over on the notice board in the gym. Better pick out a couple and get your name down.

Well Gosh, though, I cant! I didnt bring my skates. I sort of had a notion there wasnt much skating down here. I guess there wouldnt be time to send for them, either, to-day being Tuesday.

Clem leaned over the barrier and viewed Jims shoes. No, I guess not, but I think Marts skates will fit you. Drop in later and well see. He doesnt use them much.

Maybe he wouldnt like me to have them, responded Jim doubtfully. Anyway, I aint skated since last winter, Harland, and I guess I wouldnt be much good. Much obliged to you, but maybe Id better not.

Well, if you change your mind Clem hurried away to try some shots at goal before the whistle blew again.

Just before supper-time, however, Jim wandered into Number 15. He announced that he guessed hed take part in those races if it was all right about the skates. Theres a two-mile race down, I see, and I guess Id like to try that.

Two miles? Thought youd been doing three-quarters, said Clem, while Mart dug his skates out of the closet.

Yes, but sometimes I got licked, and Ive got a sort of notion I can do better at a longer distance. Maybe Ill try for the mile, too. I guess theres a lot of pretty good skaters going into it, eh?

Yes, I suppose so, said Clem, but youll have a good time. You dont mind getting beaten, do you?

Jim frowned slightly. Why, yes, I guess I do, he replied. Every fellow does, dont he?

Well, I meant to say you didnt mind much. Of course no fellow wants to take a defeat, but he has to do it just the same sometimes, you know. And theres a whole lot in taking it the right way.

The right way? inquired Jim.

Why, yes, Todd. Look here, are you joshing me? You know what I mean, confound you!

Well, I dont know as I do, said Jim doubtfully. I dont get mad when Im licked, if thats what you mean. Leastways, I dont let on Im mad. But it dont make me feel any too good to get beat!

I suppose your trouble is that youve never been beaten often enough to get used to it, then, answered Clem. Getting mad doesnt do any good, you crazy goof. You want to smile and make believe you like it.

What for?

Oh, for the love of Liberty, wailed Clem, take this fellow off me, Mart! Hes worse than a Philadelphia lawyer!

Marts return with the skates provided a diversion. They were a size too small, but after a long and admiring appraisal of them Jim declared that they would do. I never saw a pair just like these before, he confided admiringly. What they made of, Gray?

Aluminum, mostly. Light, arent they? Like them?

Gosh, yes, but I dont know if I can do much with them. They dont weigh moren a third what mine do. Im going to try them, just the same. Im much obliged to you.

Youre welcome. Just see that you win a race with them. Well go down and root for you, Todd.

I might win the two-mile race, replied Jim, if I get so I can use these right. Ill try em to-morrow.

They didnt see Jim again until the morning of the races. It was a corking day, that Saturday, with a wealth of winter sunshine flooding the world and only the mildest of northerly breezes blowing down the river. The weather and the list of events ought to have brought out a larger representation of the student body, but as a matter of fact by far the larger portion of those who had assembled at ten oclock were contestants. Clem, yielding to the solicitations of the Committee, had entered for three races at the last moment, and it wasnt until he had won the 220-yard senior event in hollow fashion from a field of more than a score of adversaries and been narrowly beaten in the quarter-mile race that he encountered Jim.

Jim had discarded his beloved gray sweater and was the cynosure of all eyes in a mackinaw coat of green and black plaid. The green was extremely green and the plaid was a very large one, and Jim presented an almost thrilling appearance. Under the mackinaw, his lean body was attired very simply in a white running shirt, and Clem addressed him sternly.

Want to catch pneumonia and croak? he demanded. Dont you know you cant skate with that states prison offense on and that if you take it off youll freeze stiff? Where were you when they handed brains out, Todd?

Jim grinned. Hello, he replied. That was a nice licking you gave all those other fellows. And, say, if youd got going quicker in that other race youd have made it, easy.

Clem was looking attentively at the mackinaw. Now he felt of it. Say, thats some coat, son. Whered you get it?

Back home.

Ill bet its warm. I never saw one made of as good stuff as that is. Any more like it where it came from?

Jim chuckled. Im going to write pop to send down a couple dozen of them, he said. Youre about the tenth fellow thats asked me that so far. I could sell a lot of em if I had em.

Joking aside, though, can I get one, Todd?

Sure. Pop sells them. Ill give you the address if you want to send for one. Ive given it to a lot of fellows already.

Oh, well, if the whole schools going to come out in them I guess Ill pass, said Clem regretfully. I suppose those are what the lumbermen wear, eh?

Jim nodded. Lots of folks wear them. Theyre mighty good coats. Only six dollars, too. Better have one. Maybe popll give me a commission.

Six dollars! I believe youre trying to make a dollar rake-off on each one! Say, what are you down for, Todd?

Down for? Oh, the mile and two miles. You?

Just the half. Ill get licked, too. See you later. But, honest, Todd, you oughtnt to skate two miles in just that cotton shirt, you know.

Warm enough. It aint real cold to-day. Hope you win.

But Clem didnt, making rather a sorry showing in fact.

There was an obstacle race for the younger chaps next, an event that provided plenty of amusement for entrants and spectators alike, and then the contestants for the mile were called. This event was a popular one, it appeared, for sixteen youths of all ages and from all classes answered. A group of freshmen, about twenty in all, cheered lustily and unflaggingly for their favorite, a small, slim, capable appearing boy named Woodside. Jim towered over most of the lot, although his bare brown head didnt top that of Newt Young, guard on the football team and a senior entrant. The seniors were represented by several others, but their hopes were pinned on Newt. The bunch sped away at the crack of a pistol and were soon well spread out.

Jim didnt have much hope of capturing that race, and certainly no one who watched him could have censured him. Jims skating was far from graceful. He didnt suggest the flight of a bird, for instance. Observing Jim, you were reminded chiefly of a windmill that had somehow got loose and was blowing down the ice, blowing fast, to be sure, but wasting a deal of motion. Jims arms did strange antics, seeming never to duplicate a single movement that was once made. And he appeared to have more than the usual number of joints in his long, thin body. He bent everywhere; at knees, waist, shoulders, neck, elbows and wrists; and some other places, too, unless sight deceived the onlookers. But at the quarter distance he was still among the first half-dozen, and when the turn was made those at the finish couldnt determine for some moments whether he or young Woodside led.

It promised to be a close finish, in any case, for behind the two leaders sped Newt Young, showing lots of reserve, and, not yet out of the race, four others followed closely. But Jim began to fall back after the race was three-fourths over, and for a hundred yards Woodside loomed as the winner, while his enthusiastic classmates howled ecstatically. Then, however, Young edged past Jim and set off after the freshman and for the final fifty yards it was nip and tuck to the line. Young won by a bare three feet, with Woodside second and Jim a poor third.

Well, feel mad, do you? asked Clem as he and Mart sought Jim.

Jim scowled and then grinned sheepishly. I could have won if Id had my own skates, he muttered. These are all right, only I aint used to them. Bet you I could beat that big fellow if I had my own skates.

Newt Young? asked Mart. Well, Newts a pretty good lad, they say.

I could beat him, reasserted Jim doggedly. He gave me a jab in the nose, too.

What? Newt did? Clem was incredulous. I didnt see it. Where was it?

Playing football, I mean, answered Jim. He was on the first squad when I was playing. He gave me a good one one day, and I dont guess it was any accident, neither.

Ah, murmured Clem sadly, I fear yours is a vindictive nature, Todd. I am disappointed in you.

Jim observed him doubtfully. Then he said Huh! Finally he grinned. Well, he didnt have any cause to hit me, he added, and I sort of wanted to beat him.

Maybe hes down for the two miles, suggested Mart cheerfully. Do you know?

Jim didnt know, but Clem did. He is, declared the latter. So go ahead and wreak vengeance, Todd. You have my blessing. And I guess theyre about ready for you, too.

Gosh, I wish I had my own skates, muttered Jim wistfully.

No alibis, Todd, said Clem sternly. Do your duty.

CHAPTER IV
CLEM GETS A LETTER

There were only five entries for the two-mile race, all senior and junior class fellows. The course was twice around the half-mile flag, which made for slower time but enabled the audience to keep the skaters in sight. The five started briskly from the mark, but this event called for less speed than had the one-mile race, and none of the contestants seemed especially anxious to set the pace. It was, finally, Newt Young who took the lead, with a junior named Peele next and Jim Todd third. That order held to the turn and all the way back to the line. Some one clocked Young at three minutes and eighteen seconds, but in view of the final figures that timing may have been wrong. The line was well strung out when it turned again toward the distant flag, with the first three skaters at four-yard intervals and the last two close together a hundred feet back. Not until the figures had grown small in the distance once more did the order change. Then the spectators saw Jim Todd pass Peele and fall in close behind the leader. That was a signal for triumphant cheers from a small coterie of devoted sons of the Pine Tree State, to whose voices Clem and Mart added theirs. Such triumph was, however, short-lived, for when Jim, still threshing his long arms about, took the turn around the flag he tried to make it too short and the watchers had a confused vision of the white-shirted youth going over and over, with legs and arms whirling, far across the distant surface.

That, observed Clem dryly, lets our Mr. Todd out of it.

The capsized one made a really astounding recovery and was on his blades again almost before the spectators had sensed the catastrophe, but Peele had passed him by that time, and Young was well away on his last dash. The other two contestants, while still grimly pursuing, were already out of the result. The half-dozen Maniacs, as Clem dubbed them not very originally, refused to own defeat for their favorite and continued to howl imploringly for Jim to Come on and win it! It is doubtful if Jim heard that demand, for he was still a long way off and there was plenty of other shouting beside that of the Maine contingent, but it did look as if he had, quite of his own accord and without prompting, made up his stubborn mind to do that very thing! He went after Peele desperately and gradually closed the distance. Then, while the growing excitement of the onlookers became every instant more vocal, he edged past his classmate and steadily widened the ice between them. Doubtless the fast-flying Young looked horribly like the victor to Jim just then; he surely looked so to those at the line; and probably the best that Jim hoped for was a close finish. In any event, Jim came hard, desperately, arms flying all ways at once, a wild, many-jointed figure that seemed somehow to fairly eat up distance.





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